BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011)
Flick has Earth once again invaded by an aggressive alien army. This movie focuses on the city of Los Angeles, in particular the efforts of Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckart) and his platoon of Marines, to hold off the invaders and rescue as many civilians as they can.
Sure Chris Bertolini’s script has all of the combat/invasion flick clichés accounted for, but Director Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Wrath of the Titans), takes them and turns them into a first rate, kick-ass action flick, that also has the dramatic impact to back up all the explosions and FX. Those FX are top notch, too, along with a strong cast led by Aaron Eckart and Michelle Rodriguez. Eckart proves his diversity again, by playing an everyman action hero with a performance filled with heart, soul and plenty of two fisted heroics when called for. The supporting cast, including Michael Peña, is also equally up to the challenge and this flick is a first rate example of how talent in front of and behind the camera, can turn a cliché ridden script into an intense thrill-ride. This flick blows the shallow and dated Independence Day right out of the water! Highly recommended!
I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014)
Basically if you took the first Underworld movie and threw it in a blender with Stephen Sommers’ delirious cheese-fest Van Helsing… I, Frankenstein is what you’d get. And that isn’t all bad as I quite enjoyed Van Helsing for it’s audacious ridiculousness. I, Frankenstein is co-written by Underworld co-creator Kevin Grevioux based on his graphic novel and produced by the producers of the series that made Kate Beckinsale and latex catsuits a fanboy dream come true. The story tells of a war waged for centuries between the guardian Gargoyles and Hell spawned Demons lead by their prince Naberius (Bill Nighy). The creation of Dr. Frankensteins’s Monster (Aaron Eckhart) adds a dangerous twist as Naberius and the Demons seek to find out the legendary scientist’s secret of re-animating corpses so, they can create soulless vessels to host the spirits of all the Demons that the Gargoyles have vanquished, thus brining their souls back from Hell. Still with me? Now they have pursued the creature, named Adam by the Gargoyle queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), through two centuries into modern day as the monster has steadily been vanquishing them in return for bothering him. But, now with the help of a naive scientist, Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) the Demons have literally thousands of corpses stored ready for the time when they possess the creature or his creator’s journal and they can unleash their army of possessed corpses upon the world… and that time has come, as the journal is in their possession and Adam seeks to thwart their plans if the Gargoyles don’t destroy him first to keep him from their enemies’ hands. Whew! I think that’s it!
Despite the utterly ridiculous and convoluted plot, the movie can be fun at times especially due to the fact that it is taken so seriously by the filmmakers and cast despite being quite silly. Director Stuart Beattie (who co-wrote with Grevioux) does a really good job almost making you buy the ludicrous premise and stages the action well and keeps the melodrama at a level that doesn’t ever spill over into camp… though it skates close… and actually gives it a bit of weight. The film can be a little too serious at times considering it is about Frankenstein’s Monster caught between Gargoyles and Demons in a centuries old conflict between good and evil. And the film could have used a bit more ‘over the top’. Also, if the film added a conflict within Eckhart’s creature as to which side he should take, it might have been more interesting but, despite his reluctance to take sides, he seems to be leaning toward the anti-demon stance as they do want to take him apart to see how he ticks. Beattie has a really good cast. Eckhart is a proven good actor and he really gives a good performance in a cartoonish role that makes a superhero out of one of the most famous monsters in history. His going along with it and treating it with respect makes his Adam work despite the preposterousness. Nighy once again proves he is simply a great actor by giving strength and majesty to a cartoonish character similar to his Viktor in Underworld. The man can do no wrong in my book and can make any role work as he does here. Strahovski doesn’t do much but, look concerned, bewildered and pretty but, since that’s all she’s required to do, she does it well. Rounding out the cast is Miranda Otto giving regality to a cartoonish fantasy character, that of the Gargoyle Queen Lenore. A classy actress giving her all in a comic book part and she makes it work, too. We also have Jai Courtney in a supporting role as chief Gargoyle warrior Gideon. He gives the role a nobility but, the character really doesn’t amount to much when all is said and done. And, as with Underworld, Grevioux has a supporting role as a bodyguard. The SPFX are well done, there is some weak CGI but, most is quite suitable and the budget is used quite well in giving the film a lavish Gothic fantasy look to support the action.
So, I, Frankenstein was not the disaster that it’s weak box office led one to believe. It is a comic book style movie with a ludicrous plot and has the audacity to take itself very seriously when it could have easily been played for laughs. The story is ridiculous but, has some solid action and a great cast who give the cartoonish events and characters respect and play it straight. And despite the preposterous goings on, the solid cast and more then competent direction almost had me going along with it… almost. Not a great film by any means but, it passed the time and I did have a little fun with it. Not as audacious as Van Helsing but, close and if you were able to chuckle at that, give this a spin.
2 and 1/2 gargoyles
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)
Olympus is a far fetched but, action packed flick that basically follows the Die Hard formula with a lone hero fighting terrorists in a besieged White House. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a former Secret Service agent and friend of President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who is busted down to a desk job when rescuing the President during a car accident allows the First Lady (Ashley Judd) to be killed. But, old habits ‘Die Hard’ when a well organized and armed North Korean terrorist, Kang (Rick Yune) takes over the While House and with it, the President and his cabinet hostage. Banning gets himself inside and becomes the country’s only hope of rescuing the President and stoping Kang’s plan for nuclear destruction and forcefully uniting the Koreas. As directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, Olympus moves fast and keeps the action flying along with the bullets and blood providing a solid two hours of sometimes gruesome and brutal entertainment. And this is a good thing as, when all is said and done, the flick is ridiculous and filled with plot holes but, Fuqua keeps us from thinking too much about that with all the carnage that gets hurled our way. The cast are all good with Butler returning to bad ass action star after a string of sub-par romantic comedies. He kicks some major ass and it’s fun to watch him take out the Korean bad guys with brutal efficiency. The rest of the cast are good with Eckhart playing the type of cool President we wish we actually had and Morgan Freeman as The Speaker Of The House, who takes control of the Presidency once Asher and his cabinet become hostages. Rounding out the fine cast is Yune making a sophisticated yet appropriately slimy terrorist, Dylan McDermott as a traitorous ex- agent, Angela Bassett as The Director of the Secret Service and veteran Robert Forester as an army General who doesn’t quite have faith in the one man army already on the inside. Everyone takes their roles seriously and it helps us suspend our disbelief though, I wish Fuqua would have lightened up just a bit and had a little more fun with the outlandish premise. Sometimes Olympus takes itself a little too seriously. The biggest drawback with this flick, however, is that the action is marred by some really sub-par CGI FX with a lot of phony looking CGI blood and bullet hits to go along with the fake looking planes and explosions but, all in all it is an entertaining enough time on the couch and definitely better then the latest Die Hard sequel that was also released earlier this year. Fun as long as you go with it and don’t expect a classic.