Monday, 22 July 2013

Pacific Rim - Review

Director: Guillermo del Toro Writers: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro Studios: Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman Release Date (UK): 12 July 2013 Rating: 12A Runtime: 131 min

“Pacific Rim” is a mega-budgeted summer blockbuster about giant robots doing battle with giant alien monsters, and it puts Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies to shame. Inspired by the Japanese anime franchise “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and the Godzilla and Mothra B-movies of the '50s and '60s, it imagines a near-future world in which towering bioluminescent beasties emerge from an interdimensional portal deep beneath the Pacific and kill millions upon reaching land. In an effort to deal with the growing alien threat, humanity unites and initiates the Jaeger program, in which piloted, skyscraper-sized rock-em sock-em robots are constructed to go fist-to-face with the invading “Kaijus” and rescue mankind from the impending apocalypse.

This inevitably leads to senseless, city-destroying carnage and billions of dollars-worth of property damage, but unlike in Bay’s soulless cash cows, there’s a beating heart to be found amongst the wreckage. This is to be expected from director Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican filmmaker who gave us the enchanting dark fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the giddy comic-book actioner “Hellboy.” In the sequel to that last film, 2008’s “The Golden Army,” del Toro also paid loving tribute to the creature feature genre in a surprisingly poignant scene where a newborn fifty-foot plant-creature attacks a city — upon its death, there’s not joy but sadness, as it’s revealed that the exterminated creature was the last of its kind.

It’s that same heartfelt sense of humanity that fuels “Pacific Rim,” though you won’t be shedding any tears for these big ugly brutes: loud and ferocious, insectoid and crustaceous, the Kaijus are proper movie monsters who’ll turn a city and its entire population to dust without a second’s thought. You might, however, become misty-eyed in a scene where a frightened young Japanese girl named Mako flees from an attacking Kaiju in the street and cowers teary-eyed behind a bin in an alleyway. Years later (now played by Rinko Kikuchi), she’s a rookie Jaeger pilot who joins forces with the more experienced but recently washed-up Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), who’s been left troubled after watching his brother (and former co-pilot) die at the hands of a Kaiju. Together, they pilot one of the last remaining Jaegers and make a last-ditch effort to defeat the Kaijus once and for all when a plan is devised to destroy the portal linking their world and ours.

Fun support comes from Idris Elba, who chews scenery just as much as the Kaijus demolish it as he plays the stern head of the Jaeger program, while Charlie Day and Burn Gorman provide rib-tickling comic relief as a pair of bickering rival science geeks. But stealing the show even from the destructive Jaeger-on-Kaiju action is the unbeatable Ron Perlman, who plays the strikingly monikered Hannibal Chau, a black market trafficker of harvested Kaiju parts — not even a mountainous mecha-bot bashing gargantuan hellspawn over the head with a full-sized cargo ship, as awesome as that may be, can top Perlman’s toothy grin and grizzled growls.

This film is enormous fun, perfectly capturing the boundless, boisterous spirit of a Saturday morning cartoon show and directed with such irresistible affection and enthusiasm by del Toro that only the grumpiest of grumps will struggle to get caught up in the fun of it all. Del Toro has said in interviews that working on this project reawakened his inner 11 year old — and now, thanks to its release, “Pacific Rim” can do the same for audiences worldwide.

Rating: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Metacritic Score: 64/100
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Internship - Review

Director: Shawn Levy Writers: Jared Stern, Vince Vaughn Studios: 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, Wild West Picture Show Productions, 21 Laps Entertainment, Dune Entertainment Cast: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Aasif Mandvi, Max Minghella Release Date (UK): 4 July 2013 Certificate: 12A Runtime: 119 min

The glorified 120-minute Google ad “The Internship” might just be the most obscene piece of movie product placement since Ronald McDonald and a bunch of kids spontaneously danced their way through a McDonald’s restaurant in “Mac and Me” in 1988. A studio buddy comedy, it stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as Billy McMahon and Nick Campbell, a pair of recently out-of-work fortysomething watch salesmen who — get this, right — apply for an internship at Google. Vaughn and Wilson are good together, their comic chemistry strong, but viewers expecting another “The Wedding Crashers” will instead be greeted with the much less fun and much more cynical “The Google Pluggers.”

It’s telling that they play salesmen. All throughout the movie, Google products are name-dropped with stupefying regularity: those being Google Search, GMail, Google Maps, etc. Once accepted, Billy and Nick must complete a series of Google-centric challenges if they are to win a coveted position in the company: creating a Google app, for one, and convincing a local business to join Google’s amazing advertising system. Meanwhile, Google Headquarters, which looks to be the meeting point between a workplace and a children’s playground, is repeatedly praised as “the greatest place to work in America,” probably because it has a slide in its lobby. Vaughn (also a co-writer and producer) has essentially made a career out of being the salesman (as he was in “Couples Retreat” and “The Dilemma”), but never before has this been so blatant or shameless.

Good support comes from Aasif Mandvi, playing the whip-cracking head of the intern program, and the always splendid Rose Byrne in an otherwise thankless role as Wilson’s love interest. The central gag — two dinosaurs surrounded by tech-savvy geeks in one of the world's biggest tech companies — gets stale somewhere around the halfway point, while messages about overcoming your limitations and fulfilling your dreams drown in the sea of Google signs and Google products. I’d complain about the whole thing being 30 minutes too long, but given the film’s true intentions this really shouldn’t have lasted longer than 30 seconds.

Rating: 4/10

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%
Metacritic Score: 42/100
IMDb Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Now You See Me - Review

Director: Louis Leterrier Writers: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt Studios: K/O Paper Products, Summit Entertainment Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fischer, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine Release Date (UK): July 3 2013 Rating: 12A Runtime: 115 min

Pitched as a collision of “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Prestige,” the elaborate crime caper “Now You See Me” is a ludicrous, overplotted muddle that, while dazzling along the way, gets lost in its own self-created labyrinth of twists and turns. Like the earlier (and much more satisfying) “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” it’s set in the world of magic, and sees four gifted, loosely connected tricksters (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fischer and Dave Franco) assembled, Avengers-style, by a mysterious hooded figure to become master thieves.

One year later they’re the superstar illusionists The Four Horsemen, who pull off daring bank robberies on-stage and shower the audience in the stolen loot - during their lavish, sold-out Vegas act, for example, they seemingly teleport a randomly selected audience member to his bank in Paris and suck up millions of dollars worth of Euros from its locked-up vault. Catching the eye of the authorities, they’re soon the targets of Mark Ruffalo’s scruffy FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes and Melanie Laurent’s fetching Interpol detective Alma Dray, who with the aid of Morgan Freeman’s wise and all-knowing magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley, attempt to solve the Horsemen’s tricks before their grand finale, where things really should amaze.

If only that were so. French action maestro Louis Leterrier - the man behind the fun “Transporter” movies and the rotten “Clash of the Titans” remake - directs the magic shows with plenty of flashy panache, but lacks the cinematic sleight of hand to pull off the film’s logic-defying plot turns. The self-satisfied script by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricouri isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is, and the whole thing is undermined by an overuse of crummy CGI that ruins any sense of wonder the stage tricks would otherwise have had. It all comes down to a final twist that, while certainly unexpected, is more likely to leave viewers feeling cheated rather than amazed.

Rating: 5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%
Metacritic Score: 50/100
IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Monsters University - Review

Director: Dan Scanlon Writers: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon Studios: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Steve Buscemi Release Date (UK): 12 July 2013 Certificate: U Runtime: 104 min

In “Monsters University,” studios Disney and Pixar pay a grand revisit to the world of workaday boogeymen first brought to the big screen twelve long years ago in the wonderfully inventive computer-animated hit “Monsters, Inc.,” where the monsters in our closets were revealed to be harvesting our screams of terror to power their city. A belated prequel to that 2001 gem, this delightfully witty and thoroughly engaging follow-up transports us back to the college years of future best buds Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan, who before becoming the top scare team at the Monsters, Inc. factory were enrolled at the prestigious Monsters University with the same determined goal: to become the biggest scarer in all of Monstropolis.

Once again voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman respectively, the walking, talking, hopelessly neurotic eyeball and blue-furred gentle giant initially clash heads in the institution's famous “scare program”: Mike is the brainy, unscary nerd with his eye always buried in a textbook while Sulley is the jockish party animal skating along on natural talent (and his loud, ferocious growl). When their classroom bickering goes one step too far and sees them unexpectedly booted from the program, the collegiate rivals decide to join forces along with a ragtag fraternity of misfits to win the annual Scare Games in a bid to prove to the tyrannical, dragon-winged, centipede-legged Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, “Hitchcock”) that they truly are scarers worthy of MU.

Along the way are the expected nods and winks to coming events seen in the previous film — Steve Buscemi’s slithering future-nemesis Randall is greeted with a villainous music cue before he’s cheekily revealed to be a nervous dweeb — but unlike most tampering movie prequels, this leaves little to snarl at as it seamlessly expands upon the universe and character backstory of the first film while standing mightily on its own two furry feet. Writer-director Dan Scanlon and co-writers Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird have fun in paying homage to other, more adult-oriented campus comedies — older viewers will be reminded of the likes of “Animal House” and “Revenge of the Nerds” — while filling the screen with colourful characters sporting jagged fangs and multiple heads.

Messages about the values of teamwork and honesty are touching and well delivered, but where the film’s throbbing heart truly lies is in the growing central relationship between Mike and Sulley, whose bromance blossoms once the Scare Games begin and whose friendship in the original “Monsters, Inc.” is enriched rather than spoiled by this heartfelt and often hilarious origin tale — that is, after all, what prequels are supposed to do, aren’t they? Worries that Pixar had lost their way following the clunky mechanics of the needless “Cars 2” should now be well and truly dispelled: this, alongside their enchanting 2012 feature “Brave,” helps recrown the computer animation company as the undisputed kings of American animation.

Rating: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Metacritic Score: 64/100
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Monday, 24 June 2013

Man of Steel - Review

Director: Zack Snyder Writer: David S. Goyer Studio: Warner Bros. Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane Release Date (UK): 14 June 2013 Certificate: 12A Runtime: 143 min

A common criticism of “Superman Returns,” director Bryan Singer’s spiritual 2006 follow-up to Richard Donner’s triumphant 1980 comic-book sequel “Superman II,” is that at no point during the film’s sizable 154-minute length does Brandon Routh’s titular superhero get to throw a punch. Instead, he’s far too busy lifting a series of increasingly heavy objects: he starts, ambitiously, with a free falling jumbo jet and slowly but surely works his way up to an entire island made of solid Kryptonite. All impressive feats of physical strength, I’m sure you’ll agree, but viewers were left dissatisfied with the film’s disappointing lack of blood-pumping action: where’s the excitement, the summer crowd cawed, and where exactly is the punching?

It’s a complaint that cannot and will not be launched against “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder’s bombastic, $225 million blockbuster which acts as a reboot of both the three-decades-old film franchise and the iconic DC Comics character who has prevailed for three quarters of a century. In it, Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer retell Supe’s well-known origin story — an alien infant from the dying planet Krypton is sent to live on Earth, where he grows up to become the colourfully costumed protector of mankind — with the straight face of Christopher Nolan’s masterfully handled “The Dark Knight” trilogy (Nolan serves as producer here) and the grandiose, pumped-up stylisation of Snyder’s previous two comic-book adaptations: those being his blood-splattered big-screen renditions of Frank Miller’s “300” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.”

“Man of Steel," of course, isn't as icky or gooey as either of those last two films — it is, after all, rated a teen-friendly 12A — but what is shares with them is a bare-knuckle brawniness and a testosterone-pumped energy the likes of which have never before been seen from the Last Son of Krypton. Here, Superman hurtles between — and often through — the skyscrapers of Metropolis with a jet trail behind him and a sonic boom at his feet, Snyder staying true to the age-old notion that Supes is faster than a speeding bullet. The result is exhilarating and redefines Superman as an absolute badass: “Superman Returns” detractors will be thrilled to hear that in 2013, Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way primarily by bashing badguys in the face.

Taking over the red cape and S symbol (but thanks to a nifty costume update, not the Y-fronts) from Routh is Henry Cavill, a Brit best known for his supporting role in historical TV drama “The Tudors.” Cavill has the look, the voice and the gravitas to pull off playing a godlike super-being, if perhaps not the authoritative, wholesome charm that Christopher Reeve brought to the role in 1978 — though to be fair, that is a tough act to follow. Following the dizzying spectacle of the opening half-hour, in which Superman/Kal-El's birth to proud parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe, a terrific replacement for Brando) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer, “Angels & Demons”) is depicted against the explosive and vividly rendered backdrop of a dying, war-torn alien planet, the film settles down, and we fast-forward thirty years or so to find that Cavill’s Clark Kent is a drifter, wandering from town to town and job to job, searching for clues to his true identity and occasionally saving endangered civilians from a burning oil rig or two.

It is in this section, which is interspersed with flashbacks to Clark’s childhood as he is raised on a rural Kansas farm by foster parents Jonathan (Kevin Costner, “The Company Men”) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane, “Secretariat”), that the title becomes important, as “Man of Steel” focuses on the man behind the costume, the man who is a troubled outsider, the man who wishes to do good with his powers, the man told by Costner's Pa Kent to hide and keep his true nature a secret until both he and the world around him are ready. It is in these quieter, more grounded scenes that “Man of Steel” is at its most poignant and arguably its most effective (Clark’s classroom freak-out is a touching highlight), even if the clunky, back-and-forth flashback structure stifles some forward momentum.

It's not long before the action picks up again, as General Zod (Michael Shannon, “The Iceman”), a mutinous Kryptonian military man who has recently escaped from imprisonment in the Phantom Zone, arrives on Earth and demands over the airwaves that the fugitive known as Kal-El turn himself in... or else. As played by Shannon, whose trademark wide-eyed intensity makes for bone-chilling viewing, Zod is a terrifying nemesis, capable of acts of savage cruelty and fitted with a fierce determination to protect his people no matter the cost — even if that means wiping out an entire population (say, oh I dunno, the people of Earth?) to make way for a brand new Krypton.

He's also capable, it turns out, of kicking Superman's ass, as is proven in an epic and jaw-slackening 45-minute finale in which the two, along with Zod’s team of Kryptonian cronies, go toe-to-toe, and fist-to-face, amidst the crumbling skyscrapers of downtown Metropolis. Fuelled by Hans Zimmer’s thunderous score and Snyder’s clear love of cataclysmic destruction, it’s a chaotic and thoroughly exhausting showdown which gives the geek-tastic, New York-busting climax of Joss Whedon's "The Avengers” a run for its money (and that's quite a hefty sum).

Even when it does at points become so noisy and overblown that it teeters dangerously close to dreaded “Transformers” territory, it's difficult not to get caught up in the awesome grandeur of it all. Like the rest of the movie, it's best to just sit back and let it all wash over you, and the shining spectacle dazzle your eyes, and the colossal weight leave you breathless. This is Superman redefined for a whole new generation, Snyder, Goyer and Nolan having boldly reinvented the mythos and character for the 21st century, and in doing so making the man in the bright blue tights exciting again. Perhaps it doesn't quite soar to the towering heights of Nolan's brilliant “Batman Begins” (the balance between action and drama falls a little too heavily on the former), but if Warner Bros. are looking to kick-start their next big superhero franchise — and, if the rumours are true, a “Justice League” movie — they’re off to a solid and promising start.

Rating: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
Metacritic Score: 55/100
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Iron Man 3

And so Marvel’s Phase Two begins, with a crash, a bang, a wallop and, strangely enough, the unmistakable, toe-tapping intro to Eiffel 65’s late-’90s Europop hit, “I’m Blue (Da Ba Dee, Da Ba Da).” “Iron Man 3” is Marvel Studio’s first theatrical release since their epic superhero team-up “The Avengers” kicked movie-goers’ butts in the summer of 2012 (and in doing so, raked in over $1 billion at the international box office), and it was feared that everyone's favourite man-in-a-can would crumble under the immense weight of Joss Whedon’s huge-scale juggernaut - just how would Tony Stark’s next solo outing fare without the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes tagging along for the ride?

Quite well, it turns out: co-written and directed by legendary “Lethal Weapon” scribe and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” helmer Shane Black - as should be obvious from the get-go, what with Robert Downey, Jr.'s meta-riffic opening narration and the otherwise inexplicable Christmastime setting - this first film in the build-up to 2015’s “The Avengers 2” stands sturdily and mightily on its own two feet, bursting with personality, sizzling with wicked humour, soaring with high-octane thrills and packing an almighty wallop of a plot twist that’s guaranteed to split the comic-book crowd in two - in the age of pesky internet spoilers and overly revelatory studio marketing, it’s refreshing to see a blockbuster with genuine shocks and surprises in store.

Most surprising of all though, is how mature Marvel’s latest output is - have you ever seen a superhero movie tackling the harrowing effects of PTSD? That’s what super-snarky superhero Tony Stark is having to deal with, and it’s turned his high life upside down: following his near-death experience in New York (i.e. the alien-busting finale of “The Avengers,” wherein Tony travelled through a wormhole into space), the self-described “genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist” is now an insomniac, frightened for the safety of his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), crippled by anxiety attacks and spending his nights in the basement of his ocean-view pad, obsessively building new armours to help keep his mind busy and distracted.

As it turns out, he has more to worry about than panic attacks and sleep deprivation: hooded, ethnically nondescript terrorist mastermind The Mandarin, played with chilling, scenery-chewing menace by British thesp Sir Ben Kingsley (clearly having a ball), is hijacking the American airwaves, broadcasting hyper-edited videos in which he threatens to teach the American populace a lesson or two - chiefly by bombing the US to kingdom come. Aiding the Mandarin in his reign of terror is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, “Lockout”), a slimy, devilishly handsome scientist whose science experiment Extremis is sure to get Tony hot under the collar: a biological enhancement, it either a) transforms its subject into a nigh-unstoppable, auto-repairing T-1000 crossed with a lava lamp, or b) turns its subject into a walking lava bomb, a bug the Mandarin has been using to stage untracable terror attacks.

And when a loyal friend is caught in one of these attacks and sent into a coma, Tony publicly swears revenge, a move that sees his swanky Malibu home visited by a trio of attack-choppers, blasted by missiles and sent hurtling down the side of a cliff. This is portrayed in a spectacular action set-piece - one of many - which leaves Tony armourless, homeless and stranded in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee, forced to rely on his wits rather than his fire-power to survive.

This is a development that’s crucial to the success of “Iron Man 3:” though its predecessors solved the potential problem of the Iron Man exoskeleton being an impersonal CG creation with the ingenious device of an in-helmet face-cam, “Iron Man 3” goes one step further, keeping Tony out of his metal suit for the majority of the action. This leaves Downey, Jr. to be Downey, Jr., stripped of the armour he so naturally outshines and given a few extra doses of vulnerability. Add to that the possibility of Tony’s recent mental instability meaning he could at any second be reduced to a quivering wreck, and you’ve got yourself a compelling action hero, faults and all.

Also crucial is the involvement of Black, whose dialogue (written alongside Scottish newbie Drew Pearce) fizzes with wit and who brings to the proceedings a subversive quality: constantly, expectations are defied, be it through Tony’s amusingly harsh remarks to a friendless, fatherless boy he’s just befriended (young Ty Simpkins, wonderful), or through a rug pull that catches us off-guard and instantly reshapes our entire understanding of the plot. Then, of course, there’s the buddy-cop element for which Black is most famous, and which he practically invented in 1987, here shared between loose-cannon Tony and straight-arrow Rhodes (Don Cheadle), aka War Machine, aka Iron Patriot; bantering and bickering together amidst fiery chaos, they’re like a 21st century Riggs and Murtaugh, albeit clad in weaponised metal suits.

And then, of course, there’s the grand finale, which leaps and dives through the levels of an abandoned oil rig and which damn near gives “The Avengers"' climax a run for its money (and that’s quite a hefty sum): it may not have a Hulk, but it has a Hulkbuster, along with the rest of the toys Tony’s been tinkering with in his basement, finally taken out for a spin to do battle with indestructible volcano people. It was a problem with director Jon Favreau’s previous instalments that their climaxes consisted of monotonous, “Transformers”-esque robot-bashing-robot action. This one blows the both of them out of the water, with Tony out of his armour, bloodied and bashed, and fighting like a human being - for once, an “Iron Man" movie nears its finishing line with a genuine sense of peril, and we’re gripped at every second.

It’s hinted at in the film’s final moments that this may be the final “Iron Man” movie. If this is true (and one doubts it very much), then Mr Stark has gone out on an all-time high: “Iron Man 3” is the best of the “Iron Man” movies, Black giving the clunky “Iron Man 2” a good, hard kick up the backside and tying up the trilogy in a neat and tidy bow while looking ahead to the future. It’s not perfect - Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen, an old flame of Tony’s and employee of Killian, is cruelly short-changed with minimal screen-time - but it’s difficult to imagine Phase Two getting off to a more exciting start. Put simply, Cap, Thor and the yet-to-be-unveiled Guardians of the Galaxy have their work cut out in topping Tony’s third, and possibly final, adventure. But if anyone can do it, it’s Marvel.


Monday, 22 April 2013

Olympus Has Fallen

‘“Die Hard” in the White House’ was presumably the six-word pitch for Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” a brawny action blockbuster which, given how piss-poor John McClane’s 2013 Russian vacation turned out, can pride itself as the best darn “Die Hard” movie of the year so far. Standing in for Nakatomi Plaza, 1600 Penn is under siege: following a devastating airborne assault on D.C. that results in the legs-crossing destruction of the famously phallic Washington Monument, North Korean goons armed with guns and grenades storm the White House and take hunky President Asher (Aaron Eckhart, “Rabbit Hole”) hostage in the building’s impenetrable underground bunker.

Their goal: get the US government to order the retreat of Western forces in Korea while extracting nuclear launch codes from the President and his staff. If the government fails to comply, Mr President gets it in the back of the head. Enter Mike Banning (Gerard Butler, “Playing for Keeps”), an ex-Secret Service agent who sneaks in through the front door unnoticed during the initial attack and whose very particular set of skills sure come in handy: one by one, he takes out the terrorist scumbags like an unstoppable cross between John McClane and Jack Bauer, albeit with a Scottish brogue dancing merrily on the tip of his supposedly all-American tongue.

Watching “Olympus Has Fallen," one can’t help but recall just how great John McTiernan’s ‘88 action masterpiece really was: not just thrilling Friday-night entertainment, it boasted a bravura, star-making performance from Bruce Willis and was particularly impressive in how it maintained a perfect balance between McClane’s cocky heroics, Cali’s clueless police force and Alan Rickman’s smarmy villainy. Fuqua’s film doesn’t quite nail that balance, with Banning’s butt-kicking not as prominent as it should be, and frankly, Butler’s no Brucie. Yet the film is enjoyable, with the action refreshingly brutal and bloody, Rick Yune (“Die Another Day”) making for a coldly sinister villain and Butler getting in some memorable wise-ass cracks: “How about we play a game of fuck off?” he snaps at Yune’s terrorist mastermind via walkie talkie. “You go first.” Fuqua, meanwhile, keeps the action tough, tense and pleasingly preposterous, though it’s often let down by crummy VFX — considering the $70 million budget, you’d think Fuqua and his crew could afford digital effects rendered after the turn of the century.

Coincidentally, another ‘“Die Hard” in the White House’ flick is coming in September: Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” which, in a bold move, dresses leading man Channing Tatum in McClane’s iconic muddied wife-beater. Beating “Olympus Has Fallen” in the fun department would be a fair, if not extraordinary feat, but topping its corny, flag-waving jingoism will be tough: count the number of times Old Glory is seen fluttering majestically in the wind while a drum-martial score thunders triumphantly in the background. Oh, and there’s a scene in the Oval Office where Butler bashes a badguy’s brains in with an iron bust of Abraham Lincoln. God bless America.