Cinema Scoop  

New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday August 13.

     Olympus Has Fallen

When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a terrorist mastermind and the President is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) finds himself trapped within the building. As the national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger crisis.

Even though this unoriginal film could easily be retitled Die Hard in the White House, it was surprisingly nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Now, if you take this movie for what it is and are in the mood for a high-octane, formulaic action film filled with copious amounts of gun violence then you could do worse than to see Olympus Has Fallen. But don't get me wrong, this isn't a great movie either. It has a pretty ridiculous and implausible premise and it contains some horribly written dialogue that is almost laughable at times. Unintelligent script aside, however, it features some very exciting and well done action sequences that will keep you gripped to your seat and for the most part are quite entertaining.

These well staged action sequences come courtesy of director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter), who does a decent job of moving the film along at a fairly brisk pace. There's not a ton of down time, and it held my interest for the majority of its duration. The film definitely earns its R rating as well, as there is a level of violence on display here that is both brutal and unflinching.

There are some solid performances in the film by the strong supporting cast which includes Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Rick Yune and Ashley Judd.

The issues I had with the film stem mostly from the clichéd and hackneyed script. There are some definite eye-rolling moments and the level of plausibility is stretched to its limits at times, but I suppose that is to be expected from most movies in this particular genre.

The bottom line is, if you enjoy these types of slam-bang action films where you can essentially shut your brain off for 2 hours and just be entertained, then Olympus Has Fallen will likely do the trick for you.

     The Big Wedding

This romantic comedy is about a charmingly modern family trying to survive a weekend wedding celebration that has the potential to become a full blown family fiasco. To the amusement of their adult children and friends, long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton) are once again forced to play the happy couple for the sake of their adopted son's wedding after his ultra conservative biological mother unexpectedly decides to fly halfway across the world to attend. With all of the wedding guests looking on, the Griffins are forced to confront their past, present and future - and hopefully avoid killing each other in the process.

Despite its all-star cast of talent, which in addition to De Niro and Keaton also includes the likes of Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes, Topher Grace and Robin Williams, The Big Wedding is a monumental failure and easily one of the worst movies of the year. This giant bowl of suck has all of the trappings of a generic sitcom complete with groan worthy broad comedy and syrupy sentiment. It is so totally lame.

I can't stand these types of comedies where none of the characters act like real people and all of the situations and dialogue are forced and contrived. It's actually embarrassing watching these talented actors flounder amidst such god-awful material. What a complete and utter waste of time this film is.

The Big Wedding is to be avoided at all costs. What a pile of crap!

     The Company You Keep

The story centers on recent widower and single father, Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a former Weather Underground anti-Vietnam War militant wanted for a bank robbery and murder, who hid from the FBI for over thirty years posing as an Albany attorney. He becomes a fugitive when his true identity is exposed by Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), an aggressive young reporter. Grant must find his ex-lover, Mimi (Julie Christie), the one person who can clear his name, before the FBI catches him. Otherwise, he will lose everything, including his 11-year-old daughter Isabel (Jackie Evancho). While Ben struggles with ethical issues as a journalist, Jim and his old friends from the Weather Underground must live with the consequences of their radical past.

This politically charged dramatic thriller is the latest directorial effort from legendary Hollywood actor Robert Redford. He assembled a tremendous cast including Susan Sarandon, Terrence Howard, Nick Nolte, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins and Sam Elliott.

I enjoyed this slow burn drama for the most part and even though it tends to drag slightly at times, I still found it to be a compelling and interesting story. It's an intelligently written and very well acted piece of filmmaking which doesn't surprise me in the least given the quality track record of the material that Redford usually associates himself with.

The Company You Keep won't necessarily be for those looking for a dose of action in their thrillers as there's not much to be had here, but if you're the type that enjoys smartly written character driven films then I would suggest you give this film a shot. It reminded me in many ways of some of the excellent political thrillers that were released in the 1970s. 

It may not be among the best films of the year, but it's a solid effort nonetheless. Check it out!

Also out this week is the highly acclaimed British film The Angel's Share, the Thai drama At the Gate of the Ghost, the 2nd season of HBO's Girls and the 2nd season of HBO's Enlightened.

     Blast From the Past

This week I thought I would shine a spotlight on Robert Redford who has amassed a tremendous body of work over the past 50 years. Not only has he starred in a plethora of exceptional films but he has also become an accomplished director having made the Oscar winning Ordinary People, A River Runs Through It, Quiz Show, The Horse Whisperer and of course this week's release The Company You Keep. You can pretty much always count on quality where his films are concerned, but I don't think that anyone would argue against the fact that his absolute best time period was in the 70s. With that in mind, here are 5 of my favourite Robert Redford films that I highly recommend you seek out.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) - Set in the mid 1800s, Redford plays a man who is tired of living amongst people and society so he decides to trek out into the wilderness and live as a mountain man. Of course, things don't go quite as planned and he ends up having a series of setbacks which include a running feud with a tribe of native Indians. This is a beautifully shot film by director Sydney Pollack and it features a superb performance by Redford as a man who must struggle in his battle against nature. It's a harrowing tale of survival, revenge and redemption. Seek it out!

The Sting (1973) - Four years after starring in the great western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Redford, Paul Newman, and director George Roy Hill re-teamed for this absolute classic. Set during the depression era, Redford and Newman play a couple of expert con artists who set out to pull an enormous scam on a man who murdered Redford's mentor and friend. The villain is played by the awesome Robert Shaw who played Quint in Jaws. This film is full of twists and turns, funny, brilliant dialogue, a great ragtime music score courtesy of Marvin Hamlisch, and basically every ingredient you need to make a wonderfully entertaining movie. I loved everything about The Sting and think that it is one of the absolute best of that decade.

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) - This one will certainly appeal to all of the aviation enthusiasts out there. In his third collaboration with director George Roy Hill, Redford plays an ex-WW1 pilot who has taken up barnstorming in order to earn a living. He eventually teams up with a rival barnstormer, played by Bo Svenson, to develop aerial stunts so that they can perform in a flying circus. It's a fun and entertaining drama that really captures that particular time period, but the true highlight of the film is the aerial stunt work and flying sequences. A really solid film!

Three Days of the Condor (1975) - This was one of the best spy thrillers of the 70s. Redford plays a CIA researcher who returns from lunch one day to find all of his co-workers have been assassinated. Fearing for his life, he's now on the run to get to the bottom of this conspiracy and he doesn't know who he can trust. Also starring Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Cliff Robertson and John Houseman, Three Days of the Condor is a taut, tense thriller that really feeds into the paranoia of that post-Watergate era. This was another collaboration with director Sydney Pollack, who Redford worked with 7 times. If you enjoy intelligent conspiracy thrillers with plenty of twists and turns, then you should definitely seek this one out.

All the President's Men (1976) - Speaking of conspiracy films, this might be the one that tops them all from that era. I doubt that there has ever been a better film made about journalism - that's for sure. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman both give tour de force performances as Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein, who famously exposed the Watergate scandal which ultimately led to the downfall of the Nixon administration. With a stellar cast of supporting actors that included Jason Robards, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook (as the infamous Deep Throat), Stephen Collins and Ned Beatty, All the President's Men is an expertly crafted mystery drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It's an absolutely fascinating and riveting study of a particularly tumultuous time in American politics. A must see!

New out on DVD/Blu-ray is brought to you by Leo's Videos, 2680 Pandosy St. (250) 861-8437 

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About the Author

Just to give you a little background on my qualifications, I've been a film buff my whole life and I enjoy all different genres.

I especially have a passion for classic cinema.

I spent most of the past 17 years working for Rogers Video, so not only have I seen an immense amount of movies, but I've recommended many films to people over the years.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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