“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” (2013) Review

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“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” (2013) Review

When it first hit the movie theaters during the summer of 2013, “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” received a good deal of flak from movie critics determined to justified its failure to become a box office hit. But there were others who had offered another reason why the movie flopped in the U.S.  And that reason centered around the release of another film some three months earlier called “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”.

Like the Gerard Butler film, “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” focused upon an assault and invasion of the White House by a group of paramilitary terrorists. The movie begins with U.S. President James Sawyer proposing a controversial peace treaty between allied countries to remove military forces from the Middle East. One of the opponents of the treaty is Speaker of the House, Congressman Eli Raphelson, who is guarded by U.S. Capitol police officer John Cale. Hoping to impress his estranged daughter Emily following his divorce, John attempts to apply for a job with the U.S. Secret Service. He takes Emily to the White House for an interview with his former college schoolmate, Secret Service schoolmate, Carol Finnerty. Unfortunately for John, Carol rejects his application, claiming that his lack of respect for authority and inability to follow through with official reports makes him unqualified for the job.

Following his interview, John joins Emily on a tour of the White House, a paramilitary terrorist sets off a bomb in the rotunda of the Capitol building. Both Congressman Raphelson and Vice-President Alvin Hammond are among those who manage to safely escape. However, the Capitol bombing proves to be a distraction for a more important mission for his colleagues – namely the takeover the White House. Although the latter is officially locked down by the Secret Service following the Capitol bombing, a paramilitary group consisting of ex-servicemen and a computer hacker that managed to infiltrate the White House as janitors, proceed to take over the White House. Their leader is a disavowed ex-Delta Force member named Emil Stenz, who proved to be a hot head. Not only do the terrorists take a group of tourists – including Emily – hostage; they nearly kidnap President Sawyer with the help of Secret Service Agent Martin Walker, Head of the Presidential Detail. Walker sought revenge for the death of a son who had died in an aborted black op mission for the U.S. Army. Fortunately, John manages to rescue President Sawyer before Walker and the terrorists can use him to access the nuclear football for nefarious means. Unfortunately for John and Sawyer, they are trapped inside the White House with no way to get out.

Unlike a good number of moviegoers, I did not readily accept the opinion that “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” was a bad movie. Yes, it had its flaws. After all, it is a Roland Emmerich film. And like other Emmerich films, it possessed the usual cliches – a divorced main character, an annoyingly precocious child character, and slightly cheesy dialogue. The biggest flaw in the movie proved to be a plot point that allowed John and his daughter to get swept into the action inside the White House – a tour of the latter. Apparently, screenwriter James Vanderbilt forgot that White House tours have been a thing of the past since the September 11 attacks, twelve years ago. And I found Carol Finnerty’s presence with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Speaker of the House something of a stretch, considering that she is not the Secret Service’s Head of the Presidential Detail, let alone head of the agency. But despite these flaws, I still enjoyed the movie.

“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” had its virtues. First of all, it benefited from a strong chemistry between leads Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, who portrayed John Cale and President James Walker. Two, Vanderbilt’s script did not make the mistake of turning the President Walker character into a highly skilled action man, like Harrison Ford in “AIR FORCE ONE”. Although he managed to avoid spending most of the film as a hostage, Foxx’s Walker made mistakes that struck me as natural for one not to used to violent action. “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” also featured some first-rate action. My favorite scenes turned out to be the initial takeover of the White House by Stenz and his men; John’s rescue of President Walker; and the chase sequence on the White House lawn, with John and President Walker inside a Presidential limousine. The biggest virtue of “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” is that the terrorists managed to infiltrate the White House with inside help – namely Secret Service Agent Walker. In the post 9/11 world, I would have found it impossible to accept a terrorist takeover of the White House without such help.

Despite the occasionally cheesy dialogue that marred “WHITE HOUSE DOWN”, I was relieved to see that the cast managed to rise above such flaws. As I stated earlier, the movie did benefit from a strong chemistry between Tatum and Foxx. And both actors gave first-rate performances that blend good, solid comedy with well-acted drama. I also found the development of their on-screen relationship very satisfying. And Foxx managed to utter one of my favorite lines in the entire film. Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a strong performance as the no-nonsense Carol Finnerty. I could also say the same about Lance Reddick, who portrayed the equally no-nonsense Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General Caufield. I do not recall ever seeing Jason Clarke in a villainous role before, but I must admit that he gave a scary performance as leader of the terrorist, Emil Stanz. Jimmi Simpson, on the other hand, was quite funny as computer hacker Skip Tyler. And Richard Jenkins struck me as very effective in his performance as Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson, who found himself with more authority than he was used to. There were a few performances that did rub me the wrong way. I think Zoey King, who portrayed Emily Cale, is a talented actress, but I feel that not even she was able to rise above the precocious dialogue and scenes that Vanderbilt dumped on her. Nicholas Wright’s performance as White House tour guide Donnie did not strike me as funny . . . only annoying. Kevin Rankin’s portrayal of the uber-aggressive terrorist Carl Killick seemed both hammy and wince-inducing to me.

When I saw “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” at the movie theater, the audience broke into an applause when the film ended. Minutes later, I found myself in one of the theater’s restrooms and overheard a woman claimed that although she liked the movie, she noticed that it bore a strong resemblance to “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”. And she was right. Both movies were about terrorists taking over the White House in order to gain control of the President and his defense codes. Both movies featured female Secret Service personnel trying to help the hero. Both movies featured the Vice-President getting killed and the Speaker of the House becoming the new Head of State. And both featured American elite forces making a failed attempt to save the White House from terrorists. I liked “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”, but I feel that it was marred by one major flaw – the North Korean terrorists lacked any real inside help and was able to acquire top-secret military technology on their own. This led the Gerard Butler movie resembling some one-note anti-Communist propaganda film. “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” managed to avoid this major trap by allowing the terrorists – who were American-born – receive some serious inside help from within the U.S. government. And this is why I rate “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” over “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”.

“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” had its flaws. But it also possessed a decent story, first-rate action and some solid acting by a cast led by Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx; thanks to director Roland Emmerich. And although its virtues outweighed its flaw, I suspect that in the end, “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” became a victim of bad timing. Pity. I feel it deserved a better fate.

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“OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” (2013) Review

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“OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” (2013) Review

During the late winter/early spring of 2013, the American public found itself bombarded with constant media coverage of militaristic chest thumping from North Korea. By some strange coincidence, Hollywood released two movies featuring the North Koreans as the main villains between September 2012 and March 2013. One of those movies turned out to be the recent action thriller called “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” told the story of a disgraced U.S. Secret Service agent forced to rescue the President of the United from North Korean terrorists that have infiltrated and taken over the White House. I might as well start from the beginning. The movie begins with former Army Ranger-turned-Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is serving as lead agent for the Presidential Detail that guards President Benjamin Asher and the latter’s wife and son. During a drive from Camp David, the car conveying President Asher and First Lady Margaret Asher crashes against a bridge railing. Banning manages to save the President, but the vehicle falls into the river before he and the rest of the detail can save the First Lady and two other agents. Because the sight of Banning triggers President Asher’s memories of his wife’s death, Banning is taken off the Presidential Detail.

Eighteen months later, President Asher finds himself facing a state visit from South Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Tae-Woo. Korean-led guerilla forces launch a combined air and ground attack upon Washington D.C. and more specifically, the White House. The attack, led by an ex-North Korean terrorist named Kang Yeonsak, results in the murder of Prime Minister Lee and the capture of President Asher, Vice-President Charlie Rodriguez and Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan. Kang wants the U.S. forces in South Korea to withdraw from the Korean Pennisula and the access codes to the Cerberus system: a fail-safe device that self-detonates any U.S. nuclear missiles during an abort. Meanwhile, Banning was on his way to the White House to ask the President to allow him back on the detail, when he gets caught up in the attack. Banning participates in the defense of the White House led by fellow Agent Roma, but nearly all of the defenders are killed. However Banning manages to get inside the White House and establish contact with Head of the Secret Service Lynne Jacobs, Speaker of the House Allan Trumball, and Chief of Staff General Edward Clegg. Then proceeds to find a way to save the President and other hostages.

The plot for “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” sounds very exciting. It also sounds very familiar. Some critic or blogger once compared it to some other movie I have never seen. But “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” reminded me of the 1997 Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman movie, “AIR FORCE ONE”. Let me be frank. I despised “AIR FORCE ONE” when I first saw it in the theaters. I still despise it. There is nothing more ludicrous than the President of the United States as an action hero.“OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” has its own share of flaws. But I am so relieved that screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt did not transform President Asher into an action hero. But the two movies do share a good number of similarities:

*Both movies feature the U.S. President and personnel being held hostage.
*The hostage situation in both movies are in the presidential settings of either the White House or Air Force One.
*The Vice-President becomes head of state in the 1997 movie. The Speaker of the House becomes head of state in the 2013 film.
*Kazakhstan terrorists disguised as foreign press infiltrate Air Force One. North Korean terrorists disguised as South Korean diplomats infiltrate the White House.
*A Secret Service agent is a mole for the Kazakh terrorists in the 1997 film. A former Secret Service agent is a mole for the North Korean terrorists.

But despite these similarities, I still liked “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”. Somewhat. For me, the movie’s major virtue proved to be its more plausible hero. Instead of using the President of the United States as the main hero, the leading man for “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” turned out to be a former Army Ranger-turned-Secret Service agent. And the movie’s action struck me as very exciting and well directed by Antoine Fuqua. I was especially impressed by the long sequence that featured the North Korean terrorists’ attack upon and takeover of the White House. The movie also benefitted from the emotional connection between Banning and President Asher, thanks to Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart’s performances. The pair’s connection reminded me of the Jack Bauer/President David Palmer relationship from FOX-TV’s“24”. What made the Banning/Asher’s relationship more interesting is that it was nearly severed by the First Lady’s death in the film’s first twenty minutes. Rothenberger and Benedikt’s screenplay proved to be somewhat decent. But I do feel it may have been somewhat undermined by certain sequences and plotlines.

While watching the first half of “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”, I assumed that the North Koreans’ takeover of the White House would prove to be a plot for something bigger – to generate a war between the U.S. and North Korea, resulting in the fall of Communism on the Korean Pennisula. The reason I had made such assumptions was due to my misguided belief that the Hollywood studios had learned to overcome such one-dimensional demonization of another country – especially one that did not harbor Western or non-Communist beliefs. I really should have known better, considering the release of the 2012 remake, “RED DAWN” and the media’s continuing penchant for villifying all Muslims – regardless of whether or not they are terrorists. As much as I had enjoyed the action and relationships in “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”, a part of me felt disappointed by the realization that Kang and his followers were behind the attack and the hostage situation all along. I also felt somewhat perplexed.

Think of it. Two (or three) of Kang’s people managed to steal a U.S. military plane for an aerial attack on the White House. The theft of the plane was never discovered or reported by the U.S. military. Nor was the plane detected, until it was flying over the capital’s airspace. And the U.S. sent only one fighter jet to force it down. And all of this happened in a story set in the post-9/11 world. Are you kidding me? It gets worse. During the movie’s last half hour, Kang’s surviving men post a stolen advanced anti-aircraft called Hydra 6 on the White House roof to kill approaching teams of U.S. Navy SEALs being conveyed to the presidential home by helicopters. Once again, the terrorists managed to steal advanced U.S. military weaponry in the country’s post-9/11 era. No wonder I had originally assumed that some kind of high-level American conspiracy was involved with the terrorists.

Some of the performances in “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” struck me as first-rate. Gerard Butler made an excellent and likable action hero in his portrayal of Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. And if I must be honest, I have not really enjoyed a performance of his in four years. Considering that Aaron Eckhart is ten years younger than Harrison Ford was when the latter portrayed a U.S. president in “AIR FORCE ONE”, I am surprised that the screenwriters and Fuqua did not allow him to indulge in some kind of heroic action. But I must admit that he conveyed his usual intensity and top-notch acting skills in portraying a head-of-state in a dangerous and vulnerable state. Angela Bassett proved to be equally intense and entertaining as Banning’s immediate supervisor and head of Secret Service Lynne Jacobs. Actually, I enjoyed her performance in this film a lot more than I did her take on a C.I.A. station chief in “THIS MEANS WAR”. Rick Yune gave a subtle, yet menacing performance as leader of the North Korean terrorists, Kang Yeonsak. It is a pity that he has been limited to portraying villains most of his career. With his looks and presence, he should be garnering “good guys” roles by now. Ashley Judd had a brief role as First Lady Margaret Asher and did a very nice job with it. Cole Hauser, whom I last saw in “A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD”, portrayed Banning’s Secret Service colleague, Agent Roma. Fortunately, he managed to last a bit longer on screen than he did in the former movie. And even more fortunate, his Agent Roma died at the hands of the terrorists with style and balls. I can only hope that his next screen appearance will last even longer.

And there were the performances that did not exactly impress me. Some of them came from actors and actresses for whom I usually have a high regard. I love Morgan Freeman, but his performance as Speaker of the House Allan Trumball struck me as somewhat . . . tired. He spent a good deal of the movie either looking tired or reacting to someone else’s dialogue with a stare of disbelief. I am also a fan of Melissa Leo, but her portrayal of Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan seemed a little hammy or frantic at times. I realize that her character was trying to be tough in the face of the terrorists, but . . . well . . . she struck me as a bit hammy. Speaking of hammy, Robert Forster’s performance as Chief of Staff General Edward Clegg was in danger of going far beyond over-the-top. Perhaps his performance seemed unusually aggressive in comparison to Freeman’s tiredness. Then again . . . who knows? Radha Mitchell gave a nice performance as Banning’s wife, Leah. But if I must be honest, she came off as a second-rate Cathy Ryan from the Tom Clancy movies – especially since her character was a nurse. Worst of all, she did not have enough screen time, as far as I am concerned. And finally, there was Dylan McDermott, who portrayed ex-Secret Service Agent Dave Forbes, who became a private bodyguard and mole within the South Korean detail. Hmmm . . . how can I say this? McDermott did not exactly put much effort in hiding his villainy from the audience in the movie’s first half. One glance at his shifty expressions led me to correctly guess that he would be working for the terrorists. And McDermott is usually more subtle than this.

I realize that in the end, “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” came off as a somewhat strident message against North Korea, leading me to compare it to one of those old anti-Communist films from the 1950s or even the 1980s. So . . . why do I still like it? One, screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt wrote a decent story, despite some flaws. Two, Antoine Fuqua handled the movie’s action, pacing and a good number of performances with great skill. Three, there were some pretty good performances in the movie – especially from Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett and Rick Yune. But most importantly, “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN” did not follow the ludicrous example of “AIR FORCE ONE” by allowing its Presidential character engage in heroic actions. For that I am truly grateful to the screenwriters and Fuqua.

Favorite Romantic Comedies

Below is a list of my favorite romantic comedies in chronological order: 

FAVORITE ROMANTIC COMEDIES

1. “It Happened One Night” (1934) – Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert won Oscars in this Best Picture comedy about a newspaper who escorts a runaway bride to her husband from Miami to New York. Oscar winner Frank Capra directed.

2. “The Awful Truth” (1937) – Cary Grant and Irene Dunne co-starred in this screwball comedy about the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, that go to great lengths to try to ruin each other’s romantic escapades. Leo McCarey directed.

3. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) – Howard Hawks directed Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in this wild and funny tale about a scientist winding up in various predicaments involving a woman with a unique sense of logic and a leopard named Baby.

4. “The Lady Eve” (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda co-starred in this funny and sexy tale about a beautiful con artist who falls in love with a bumbling millionaire. When he dumps her after learning the truth about his profession, she comes back into his life, disguised as an English aristocrat in order to torment him. Charles Coburn and William Demerest co-starred.

5. “The Palm Beach Story” (1942) – Preston Sturges also wrote this hilarious tale of a young wife who decides to raise money for her inventor husband by leaving him and finding a millionaire as a second husband. Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor co-starred.

6. “Pillow Talk” (1959) – A man and woman who share a telephone line end up despising each other, until he decides to have fun by romancing her, disguised as a Texas millionaire. Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall co-starred in the first of their three films together in this Oscar winning comedy.

7. “Lover Come Back” (1962) – Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall reunite in this slightly more raucous comedy about advertising executives from rival companies who become embroiled in romance and deceit. Stanley Shapiro earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay.

8. “French Kiss” (1995) – Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline are hilarious in this tale about an uptight woman with a fear of flying, who flies to France to confront her straying fiancé, but gets into trouble when the charming crook seated next to her uses her for smuggling. Timothy Hutton and Jean Reno co-starred.

9. “Kate and Leopold” (2001) – Meg Ryan, Golden Globe nominee Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber and Breckin Meyer co-starred in this charming story about a 19th century English duke who travels through time from 1876 New York to the present and falls in love with a career woman in the modern New York.

10. “The Ugly Truth” (2009) – Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler co-starred in this surprisingly funny and raunchy story about a Sacramento morning show producer who is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. His clever ploys, however, lead to an unexpected result.

“THE BOUNTY HUNTER” (2010) Review

“THE BOUNTY HUNTER” (2010) Review

When I first saw the preview trailers for both ”THE BOUNTY HUNTER” and ”COP OUT”, I had naturally assumed I would prefer this new action/romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my opinions of the two movie proved to be reversed. I am not claiming that ”COP OUT” was an exceptional action/comedy film. Trust me, it was not. But I consider it a piece of cinematic artistry in compare to the incoherent ”THE BOUNTY HUNTER”.

To my knowledge, ”THE BOUNTY HUNTER” told the story of a New York journalist named Nicole Hurley, who jumped bailed and ignored a court summons over an altercation with a cop in order to pursue a promising story about a suicide that smelled suspiciously like a murder. Hot on the journalist’s trail is her ex-husband, a former cop-turned-bounty hunter named Milo Boyd. He had been given the assignment to find her and turn her over to the police. Once Milo found Nicole, the two were forced to contend with another former cop, who also happened to be a killer; and a pair of hired thugs who worked for a bookie to whom Milo owned money.

Judging from the plot’s outline, one might assume that it was not that complicated. I wish I could say that the movie was not complicated. After all, there were aspects of it that I enjoyed. For instance, I enjoyed the bed-and-breakfast scene where Nicole and Milo a moonlight dinner on the hotel’s terrace. Not only did it featured first-rate acting by Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, but also allowed their characters to reflect upon their error in getting a divorce. I also enjoyed the rather humorous scene in which the pair tracked down a golf caddy, who could provide information on the killer, to a country club. And Nicole and Milo’s encounter with the killer on the road back to New York City, was filled with both humor and good action. I must almost admit that director Andy Tennant did a solid job in pacing the film, despite the unnecessary plotlines in the script. One last thing . . . I enjoyed Oliver Bokelberg’s crisp and colorful photography of Manhattan, Atlantic City and other parts of New Jersey and New York State.

As for the plot . . . what in the hell happened? What led screenwriter Sarah Thorp to take a straightforward plot and screw it up? What problem did I have with the story’s plot? Its execution made no sense whatsoever. I had no problems with the idea of a bounty hunter searching his bail jumping ex-wife. However, I had a problem with how Thorp handled the entire story. In the movie, it took Milo a few hours to track down Nicole from her Manhattan apartment, to her singer/mother at an Atlantic City hotel and finally to a race track. But once Milo caught up with Nicole, it took them two days to return to Manhattan. Why? Because Thorp had side tracked the couple with some unnecessary adventures.

One, Nicole and Milo stopped at an Atlantic City casino-hotel to gamble at the craps table. Milo had made a deal with Nicole that if she served as his good luck charmed and enabled him to win at least $5,000 (the money he was receiving for her capture), he would let her go. He ended up winning $8,000, she walked away, he eventually lost the money with more gambling and they ended up spending the night together at the casino-hotel. Their second day on the road included a close encounter with the killer (unmemorably portrayed by Peter Greene), a side trip to a country club to interrogate the golf caddy and an unnecessary stop at the very bed-and-breakfast where they had spent their honeymoon. Meanwhile, the movie also focused upon a pair of hired thugs for a female bookie portrayed by Oscar nominee Cathy Moriarty, to whom Milo owned money due to his gambling habit. A good deal of mistaken identity ensued when the thugs picked up Nicole’s newspaper colleague, whom one of them had mistaken for Milo. Finally, the movie ended with a showdown with the killer and Milo’s ex-partner. The entire sequence was nothing more than a vague, yet convoluted mess that left me feeling dissatisfied.

Some critics have complained about a lack of screen chemistry between Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. I would have to disagree with that opinion . . . somewhat. I must admit that the two stars had failed to produce any sparks in their first scene together. Fortunately, Aniston and Butler managed to create some kind of chemistry, as the movie progressed. But they did not have the kind of chemistry that Butler had with Katherine Heigel in ”THE UGLY TRUTH” or Aniston had with Vince Vaughn in ”THE BREAK UP”. In fact, Butler’s role seemed like a remake of his Mike Chadway character in ”THE UGLY TRUTH”. Whereas his Chadway character had managed to perfectly contrast with Heigel’s prissy character in the 2009 comedy, his Milo Boyd character failed to do the same with Aniston’s more sardonic and extroverted personality in”THE BOUNTY HUNTER”. But the pair still managed to create some chemistry.

Only a handful of the supporting cast actually impressed me. Dorian Missick did a solid job of portraying the ambiguity of Detective Bobby Singer, the police detective who was Milo’s ex-partner, the couple’s close friend and of whom they suspected of being corrupt. Christine Baranski was charming and funny as Nicole’s mother, a nightclub singer at an Atlantic City casino. Siobhan Fallon was equally funny as the wife of the bail bondsman that Milo works for. Christian Borle gave a hilarious performance as the country club golf caddy who reluctantly gave Milo and Nicole the information they needed on the killer. I would have included Jason Sudeikis’ hilarious portrayal of Nicole’s wacky colleague and former one-night stand, Stewart. But once he got caught up in the useless bookie storyline, he became a nuisance and I eventually lost interest in him.

In the end, I do not know if I could really recommend ”THE BOUNTY HUNTER”. A forgettable villain and numerous subplots that made the movie’s story convoluted prevented it from going anywhere. Pity. The movie could have been a first-rate comedy in the vein of 1988’s ”MIDNIGHT RUN”. Instead, it turned out to be a second-rate movie with too many flaws.

“TOMORROW NEVER DIES” (1997) Review

I just recently watched Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as James Bond in this 1997 movie that co-stars Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher.

“TOMORROW NEVER DIES” (1997) Review

I wish I could say that my opinion of the movie has improved over the years . . . but I would be lying. Mind you, TOMORROW NEVER DIES did have some highlights, but unfortunately, it possessed more negative traits than positive ones. I think it would be best if I list both the good and the bad about this movie:

Positive

*Michelle Yeoh

*Bond’s romantic scene with Danish linguist was rather sexy

*Foreign locations – Hamburg and Thailand (as Vietnam) never looked lovelier

*Bond and Wai-Lin’s escape from Caver building in Vietnam – great stunt
*Motorcycle chase – well done

*Pierce Brosnan – seemed natural . . . when he was acting in scenes with Yeoh

*Vincent Shirerpelli as Dr. Hamburg – oddly enough, I had rather liked him. He was a lot more interesting than Mr. Stamper. And his death was even more interesting, as well.

*Mr. Gupta – seemed like a pretty sharp and cool guy.

Negative

*Pierce Brosnan – his angsty scenes with Teri Hatcher seemed stiff and unnatural. And his voice tend to sound odd, when he’s giving the impression of supressing his emotions. Why did the director, Roger Spottiswode, have him shooting machine guns two at a time during the final confrontation on Carver’s boat? He looked like a walking action movie cliché.

*Jonathan Pryce – one of the most overbearing and annoying villains in the Bond franchise. Only Sophie Marceau in the latter half of THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH surpassed him.

*Plot – Is it just me or is the plot of this Bond movie seemed like an extended rip-off of a LOIS AND CLARK episode from its first season? Perhaps learning of Teri Hatcher’s casting must have given the screenwriters the idea.

*Moneypenny’s Little Sexual Joke – why is it that nearly every sentence directed by Moneypenny to Bond sounded like some kind of sly sexual joke? It got very annoying.

*Bond and Q’s Meeting in Hamburg – All Q was doing was handing over a car to Bond, and the director turned it into a hammy production number. What a bore and a waste of time!

*Mr. Stamper – a second-rate version of Red Grant. Where are Robert Shaw or Andreas Wisnewski when you need them?

*Car Chase Inside Hamburg Parking Structure – Bond uses a remote control . . . ah, never mind! The whole scene was a bore. Even worse, it happened after the marvelous Bond/Kaufman scene. What a waste of my time.

*Final Confrontation on Carver’s boat – Despite all of the gunfire exchanged and the other action, I found it to be too long . . . and boring.

*Wade – I did not need to see him again. Joe Don Baker was wasted in this film.

*Bond’s Cover as a Banker – I am beginning to suspect that Bond makes a lousy undercover agent. By opening his mouth and hinting at Carver’s boat, he ended up exposing himself. What an idiot!

*Teri Hatcher – She was wasted in this film. And she and Brosnan do not do emotional angst together, very well.

Also, TOMORROW NEVER DIES did managed to produce a few favorite lines of mine:

Favorite Lines

“Believe me, Mr. Bond. I can shoot you from Stugartt and still create the proper effect.” – Dr. Kaufman to Bond

BOND: “You were pretty good with that hook.”
WAI-LIN: “That’s from growing up in a rough neighborhood. You were pretty good on the bike.”
BOND: “Well, that comes from not growing up at all.”

“No more absurd than starting a war for ratings.” – Bond to Carver

KAUFMAN: “Wait! I am just a professional doing a job!”
BOND: “So am I.” (Then kills Kaufman)

Despite some of its virtues, TOMORROW NEVER DIES is not a favorite movie of mine. In fact, it is my least favorite Brosnan movie. It is more or less a generic burdened by an unoriginal plot and one of the hammiest villains in the franchise’s history.

“THE UGLY TRUTH” (2009) Review

”THE UGLY TRUTH” (2009) Review

Romantic comedies – at least those I have personally found entertaining – have become increasingly difficult to come across in the past decade or two. In fact, I can honestly say that I can count at least five or six romantic comedies that I have truly liked during this period. And recently, ”THE UGLY TRUTH” became one of them. 

Directed by Robert Luketic, ”THE UGLY TRUTH’ told the story of Abby Ritcher, a romantically challenged producer of a television morning show named with slowly declining rating. In an effort to boost ratings, her manager hires a cynical and slightly crass television personality named Mike Chadway, who gives seemingly chauvinist comments about love and marriage to boost ratings. The two commence upon a rocky relationship. But when Abby falls for her next door neighbor, a handsome doctor named Colin, Mike persuades her to follow his lead. She agrees to his helpful advice and if he can get her the man she wants, proving his theories on relationships she will work happily with him. But if Mike fails, he agrees to quit.

I might as well put my cards on the table. I really did not expect ”THE UGLY TRUTH” to be entertaining. But much to my surprise, it was. And most of the entertainment came from the screen chemistry that generated between Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. On screen, the pair was a basket of firecrackers, as they traded barbs, looks and kisses between each other. Heigl gave a deliciously funny performance as the uptight Abby, who stubbornly refuses to give up her ideal views on romance and especially in what she construed as the perfect man. And Butler was a hoot as the cynical, crass and yet witty Mike, whose views on romance and both genders came off as refreshingly honest.

Both Heigl and Butler were ably supported by a solid cast. Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins were hilarious as Georgia and Larry, the married co-anchors of Abby’s morning show, whose marriage was saved by some blunt advice given by Mike. Bree Turner gave a sly performance a Abby’s assistant, Joy, who lived vicariously through Abby and immediately sensed the chemistry between the latter and Mike. Nick Searcy provided stability to the cast as Abby’s no-nonsense manager, Stuart, whose decision to hire Mike would change Abby’s life. The only bad apple in the bunch came from Eric Winter’s performance as Colin, the object of Abby’s desire. Let me be clear . . . Winter did not give a bad performance. He simply had the bad luck to be saddled with a dull and one-dimensional role created by the screenwriters.

Robert Luketic did an excellent job of not only generating hilarious and first-rate performances from his cast. He also did justice to the screenplay written by Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith and Nicole Eastman. And I must commend the screenwriters for creating a hilarious and entertaining romance. But I am also amazed that three female writers managed to avoid indulging in constant male bashing jokes (I said constant, for there were a few) and reveal that both men and women are guilty of bringing their own particular baggage to relationships. As I had stated earlier, their only misstep was the creation of the Colin character. Surely they could have created a more interesting rival for Abby’s heart.

Most critics gave ”THE UGLY TRUTH” mixed reviews. Some claimed that Heigl and Butler had no chemistry. Others claimed that Lutz, Smith and Eastman’s screenplay did not live up to the leads’ talent. They are entitled to their opinions. But I prefer to form opinions of movies on my own. And as far as I am concerned, I found ”THE UGLY TRUTH” – especially Heigl and Butler’s performances – to be very entertaining.