White House Down

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So here is the fight we have been talking about for a long time, as the 120 minute long Olympus Has Fallen has finally met its archenemy, its evil twin brother who is longer by 17 minutes. The ruler of the underworld compared to the shorter one’s claim over Mount Olympus, has arrived in the form of White House Down. As I had already written about Olympus Has Fallen (https://moviesofthesoul.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/olympus-has-fallen/), and it was the first one to be released, it is that movie which I would consider the prototype for the list of White House attacking movies which can get a little longer as long as this one is not annihilated in a battle here against the opponents RED 2 and Turbo, along with already existing Pacific Rim and Man of Steel; not to forget the movies in all those languages including Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi. The former had no tough competition when it was released though, with a few weeks delay after the United States release. The delay has followed this movie too, along with the image of white building going down and only one man standing as a barrier in front of the ultimate success of the terrorists. It had fallen earlier, and now it is down, and there is no doubt about the fact that the first of the two had the best title, but the second has got the name which can connect better with the audience and stays close to action.

So the seat of the President of the United States of America needs to be saved again. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) was the former secret service agent in our last adventure of this type and here, John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a U.S. Capitol Police officer looking to be part of the secret service. John already has trouble connecting with his daughter Emily (Joey King), and believes that he can impress her by getting a job with the Secret Service and also by taking her to the place, but fails in the interview is conducted by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a former college acquaintance of his who knew him to be disrespectful to the authority and irresponsible, unable to stick to what he is doing and thus not good enough for the job. He tells Emily that there is still chance and they join with a tour group around the White House. Soon, there is a bomb explosion which separates the father and daughter, followed by a group of armed mercenaries taking control of the White House. The President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is in trouble, and we know that his only hope is the man who was refused his chance to be the saviour once, and the action begins in a few minutes. The situation is pretty much similar to Olympus Has Fallen, as one might have figured it out by now.

That fictional protagonist portrayed by Bruce Willis in Die Hard, John McClane doesn’t really seem to leave this world of the one-man shows, as here comes another one of too similar a name, John Cale – what he does is no different either. McClane’s marriage and the relationship with his children in a constant state of crisis, and his disregard for authority keeps him close enough to trouble – not the kind of things Cale can disagree with. Here, we have the typical Die Hard protagonist who is just at the wrong place at the wrong time, and continues to be there so that he can save the day with almost no outside support at all. Being the lone wolf who is the right person to do it, the two Johns are one and the same, and if this new John is a cheap imitation of the old, that is for the audience to decide. Strangely enough, Channing Tatum has to battle Bruce Willis in the multiplexes here for the supreme position, as RED 2 is surely attracting enough people, and the elder legend is surely the more popular and the more talked about figure in this part of the world. It is louder and less interesting than the first four Die Hard movies most of the time, but it is better than the fifth movie of the series by a long distance. This could have been Die Hard 5, if Olympus Has Fallen can’t be the same, and even if that position is abdicated, there is always the chance to call itself Die Hard 6.

6.5 out of 10 in IMDb and 48% rating in Rotten Tomatoes for Olympus Has Fallen, and 6.3 out of 10 in IMDb and 48% rating in Rotten Tomatoes for this one clearly describe these two movies, and gives a vague report about how close their impact has been, and how much such a theme can affect the audience and the critics. It is a good thing that they are three weeks apart in their attack on the brains of the viewers, as they could have even destroyed one another if released close enough. Gerard Butler’s 300 + Gamer effect would surely give the former an advantage, but Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman would not stand a chance against the invisible fan club of Jamie Foxx which is bigger than it would seem to be from the surface, thanks to that strange effect which Django Unchained had created. This is how these movies come so close to being the same on impact. But our new movie seems to be struggling to fight against this week’s wave as well as the existing waves. There are less number of shows, and there is the need for a twist of fate for this one to bring the fight of money to its twin brother. But it has already proved that fight is on, even as victory is not within sight; the battle shall go on even as the causalities won’t be that interesting for this side.

This is closer than the similarities between the volcanic eruption related Volcano and Dante’s Peak, and the Earth-bound asteroids showing their power in Deep Impact and Armageddon. Even as Gerard Butler wins the battle as the hero and gets all the attraction, Channing Tatum does a great job in this one, but the movie remains lesser than him and Jamie Foxx. The two actors are undoubtedly bigger than the movie as they do defy the movie in what they do and so does the whole world inside the movie in one way or the other. The whole scenario might be stranger in this movie, but Foxx handles it so well that even the situations which seems to be going the wrong way turns out to be funny and interesting – those moments when Olympus Has Fallen takes the back seat. But there is still too much about his character, and there is too much of a strange ruler in the person, may be being closer to Django than the President of the United States. But people do love that kind of a President in the movies, that is for sure. Joey King’s character is cute and interesting most of the time, but annoying at times; there is no controlled environment out there and in the middle of such a hostage situation, that should be more than just agreeable, for kids no longer remain kids these days, and Lord of the Flies was never belonging that much to fiction.

Jason Clarke does manage to make a powerful impact at the same time, and being the stylish evil guy who takes over the place, he comes with some very good fight sequences with the hero. His presence would seem to extend the world from beyond the two-man show. James Woods works his villainy as the mastermind behind all these next. This movie also loses in violence, something which was not expected in the beginning, as right from the bomb explosion, something nasty was expected to come up, but it goes on more as destruction for the sake of demolishing rather than creating that impact of shock in the senses. There is no shortage of action sequences though, and the attempt to escape with a presidential limousine, the fall of the airplane and helicopters and tank v/s rocket launcher battle, they all make the destruction list go high. With the former Duke from G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Django of Django Unchained has held this one from falling deep, but its success in its genre won’t reflect in its box-office collection. That episode of the life of this movie is with the audience and until now, from what can be read, there is trouble for this one in catching up-to Olympus Has Fallen, or even most of the much expected movies of this season. These are bleak times indeed, but this movie has wasted its chance and therefore, blaming the audience or other movies is not the thing – a little adjustment might have saved this one as it is a good addition to its genre.

The movie lacks in a number of things compared to Olympus Has Fallen, as the most important thing is patriotism, and the next but almost equally important thing may be in being clever – there has been more silliness in this one, but there has still been enough control between the two sides of mindless action and saving the world. Emmerich’s works have been interesting, from Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and my personal favourite, The Patriot. But he had to deal with being there second, and that would have been difficult. To add to it, the movie’s need to match up with the other White House take-over would have created a situation from where there is no escape. This movie is thus a wasted opportunity on one side, and a work which could live even with all its flaws on the other hand. It is on this dual nature that this movie can work on, but that won’t help its cause. It needed something special, and it has managed to achieve the same only through its leading actors, but even in their case, this is not their best performances. When White House Down looks up from its world deep down the underground, Olympus Has Fallen might be looking from the top of the Mount Olympus which it had created from its success at the box-office, and in the OHF v/s WHD battle, the war of the down-fallen houses, we have only one winner, and its name starts with O.

Release date: 19th July 2013 (India); 28th June 2013 (United States)
Running time: 137 minutes
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Michael Murphy, Joey King, Rachelle Lefevre, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Lance Reddick, Barbara Williams

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Die Hard V

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We had a hostage situation in 1988 on screen; that was what Die Hard brought with itself – one of my favourite action movies of all time and may be something superior to most of the rest when I first watched it. When they took over the airport in Die Hard 2, this sequel was not something which could have failed, and it didn’t. Actually, there were moments which made this one seem to try and overtake the first. Then came Die Hard 3, which did the exact same thing as Transporter 2 did to The Transporter – it brought the level of magnificence down from the firmament; still distant from being the worst imaginable sequel, for it became a lesser thing only due to the power of the first two movies. It took the series twelve years to come back as Live Free or Die Hard – not a bad return for something which seemed to have disappeared long ago. It was quite certain at that moment that we hadn’t seen the last of the series, and here we have Die Hard 5 a.k.a A Good Day to Die Hard. May be John McClane is forever; like the T-virus. But a virus infection would make another bloody story – and the same is the case with an immortal McClane; therefore, lets keep that away.

John McClane is back; this time in Russia – the man with his own style of facing everything, from near-death situations to almost-life situations. He is the man who is always in the middle of a crisis, whether it is a complicated family problem or an extremely simple shoot-out which might even include helicopters and fighter planes. He is specialized in being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it might be something hereditary. The one thing that the viewer could be sure about, is that his character is not that far away from a superhero status. He faces his villains with more confidence than the superheroes – one simple thing which has to be kept in the mind before watching Die Hard V. Well, there are not many other heroes of this calibre – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand made me think about intentionally feeling otherwise, but one has to come to the conclusion that McClane belongs to another genre; a similar but another area of interest. Our men of the video games, featured in the movies Hitman and Max Payne, might have a shot in future though.

The scene has shifted to Moscow. The name of the villain is Yuri Komarov – brings to me the memories of Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece Doctor Zhivago with its Yuri Zhivago and Komarovsky. Other than thinking about these two names which strike a similarity with this one name, there is nothing to be mentioned about this movie related to the Nobel prize winning novel and its critically acclaimed movie adaptation by David Lean. No, that was not even a comparison but something which caught my attention. The other villain is named Viktor Chagarin, not a name I am going to identify with some other character of another work. It is in the battle between these two, that the hero’s son Jack McClane is caught. John McClane who has not been in touch with his son for years, makes a visit to Russia to get him out of trouble – or in his words, he goes on a vacation to Moscow. Jack had ended up in prison, but escapes with Komarov. Even as the father and the son never seems to get along in the beginning, they slowly begins to work together and solve the problems.

The son turns out to be a CIA agent (his father would address him as the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey), and his undercover operation would turn out to be a lesser twist than what Komarov and his daughter Irina would have to offer for them. Fortunately, there is no twist over twist, like that one Bollywood movie, Race 2. Still, to take the story to another level (or to a rather strange idea which could have surely taken a better twist) action would soon shift to Chernobyl, Ukraine; uranium, radio-activity and weapons. There are some twists and betrayals coming close to creating an impact, but most of the time, what saves the movie is its action scenes and the one-liners. There is enough fun and mindless action to keep this running. The McClane family problems would surely be solved in the end. Jack had said that “We’re not a hugging family” before the first half, and one knows that the family is united by the end, and can guess that “the hugging problem” might be solved before a possible Die Hard VI.

Bruce Willis stands strong as John McClane. He has continued with his “everyman” action star who seems to be drifting away a little from that status. One can only remember K’naan’s lines “When I get older I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag” – something which I heard a lot during the 2010 FIFA World Cup run of the Spanish Armada; McClane is just like that, for he has only got stronger with the age. But the doubt might be about his strength and durability which is reaching a new level with experience of old age, something which reminds me of those video games. That takes away that one McClane of the earlier century who was more vulnerable and prone to errors. The age has surely caught up with McClane, but it has had a positive impact on him, both physically and intellectually. Expendables 1 and 2 had similar impact on its characters, and as Bruce Willis played one of them, one has to doubt if that element has stayed as far as Die Hard V.

Yuliya Snigir looked extremely good out there, but should have had a better role to play in this one; as her character couldn’t create that impact which one of the two main antagonists could have come up with. The twists basically revolved around her, and there was mystery surrounding her until the Chernobyl scene, but the character of Irina had to suffer due to the action-centered approach to the movie. Actually, one has to wonder what has been there for the character in the movie- a typical one-dimensional character, a title for which even John McClane might be suitable someday. There is nothing wrong in the performances, but there is that absence of three-dimensional character elements throughout the movie. Even among these confusions, the best part of the movie was undoubtedly the car chase scene, and it powers the experience from the beginning. The end-action might be a little overdose, but still not unsuitable for the style of the movie. The support of good special effects make even the ordinary action scenes worth a watch.

We surely miss that skyscraper; also that airport. But still, Die Hard series would stay alive. When John McClane says that he is on vacation, it is a fact. This is a vacation which is slightly below the quality of the other movies of the series. But still, there are gun-shots everywhere, and high-speed car chases end up in heavy destruction of property, and even the flying machines join the action. So, in simple words, this is his vacation. If that means that there is even better to expect when he is out of vacation, that would be quite a treat. Die Hard IV was an improvement from Die Hard III and therefore, there is no shortage of expectations which can be put on the shoulders of this series. Even if one might have the tendency to call it a dumb action movie, I would say that it is just because it belongs to that genre and it has performed its duty. There was Expendables 1 and 2 along with many others which could have deserved that title in an even better way. Come back, Die Hard; come back stronger.

Release date: 13th February 2013 (USA); 22nd February 2013 (India)
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: John Moore
Starring: Bruce Willis, Yuliya Snigir, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Radivoje Bukvić, Cole Hauser

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.