"Olympus Has Fallen"
Having worked briefly in Washington, D.C. as a legislative staffer in my 20s, I have to resist the constant urge to debunk unrealistic scenes in films that attempt to portray the workings of government.
In the many failings of this movie -- including misspelling "White House" in the text crawling at the bottom of a fictional cable TV news report -- the factual inaccuracies rank at the very bottom of the list. Instead, thoughtful viewers are more likely to be aghast as the stupefying dialogue, hurried acting and wake-me-when-it's-over action sequences. This is truly one of the worst movies foisted upon the public in many moons.
Gerard Butler stars as a Secret Service agent who tries to single-handedly repulse a North Korean attack on the White House. Hostages are taken, Oval Office fights are held and secret passages traversed. The delightful Morgan Freeman co-stars as the Speaker of House in one of the most superfluous roles of his career. Just as a cook who realizes he's prepared a patently unappealing dish might toss some parsley on the plate in a desperate attempt to distract from the pain about to be ingested, so too did the filmmakers here throw in Freeman, hoping his gravitas would mitigate the movie's putrid stench. It does not.
The peril and violence make this best for kids 12 years old and up. The lousiness makes it best for those subsentient. (R: Violence and language). 2 hours.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 1 star
Teens: 1½ stars
Adults: ½ star
Seniors: 1 star
Should you watch it? No -- staring at the ceiling would be a better use of your time.
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Despite the pre-Oscar buzz this hunt-for-Osama bin Laden film received, I avoided seeing it for fear the much-discussed torture scenes would leave my fragile soul in emotional torment.
I know now I was being too sensitive. Yes, the waterboarding and other forms of degradation by CIA agents on terrorist detainees were hard to take. But they are not nearly as tough as the beach landing in "Saving Private Ryan." "Zero" takes us back into the near-past to follow a young CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) as she single-mindedly tries to hunt down Bin Laden by finding the courier who serves as his communications link to the rest of the al-Qaida network. Part detective film, part war film, part emotional drama -- put together, it's superb.
The intensity the actors bring to their roles is inspiring. At the same time, director Kathryn Bigelow manages to tell a sweeping, complex story with fluidity and clarity. And the realism of the exterior shots is stunning; you can almost smell the symphony of scents from the Pakistani market. Whether you know all of the details of the story or not, this is a must-see movie. The brutality will be too much for sensitive adults or teens younger than 15. (R: Strong violence and language). 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 3½ stars
Teens: 2½ stars
Adults: 3½ stars
Seniors: 3 stars
Should you watch it? Yes -- a gripping retelling of the quest for Bin Laden.
J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.