Olympus Has Fallen



Olympus Has Fallen
Runtime 119 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart in “Olympus Has Fallen.”

From l, Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart in “Olympus Has Fallen.”

This film is a blatant ripoff of the Bruce Willis Die Hard movies that pit one-man against enormous numbers of people to save the world as we know it. Even if it is hopelessly duplicative and basically unbelievable, and even though Gerard Butler is no Bruce Willis, director Antoine Fuqua takes the original story by first timers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt and creates an action film that is, well, full of action.

This is another film where millions of bullets are shot, sprayed all over the place, killing everyone inside but our hero Gerard. Despite the low odds against anyone surviving all the bullets shot at him, Gerard is the star and he perseveres.

The cast is replete with big names, Aaron Eckhart, Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, and Dylan McDermott. But this film is not about acting. It’s about blowing up the White House, killing everyone in sight, and generally causing as much mayhem as possible.

The one performance that stood out was that by Radha Mitchell, who is so little prized by the producers that she isn’t even listed in the cast published on IMDB. But she gives a terrific performance as Butler’s wife. Mitchell is as beautiful as anyone in Hollywood and it’s always amazed me that she hasn’t been able to get more roles. Maybe this will help her because her performance certainly stands out above the others, most of which are little more than cameos since all the screen time belongs to Butler.

If this movie stands for anything, though, it’s that music can make a mediocre movie entertaining. The score by Trevor Morris is award-quality. But the director and producers are so tone deaf about what makes a movie work that they don’t single Morris out for credit in the production notes that are handed out to critics. His name was buried in the credits that you see rolling at the end of the film. Morris has worked mostly in TV, producing scores for TV shows like The Firm, an underappreciated thriller that depended quite a bit on the music to enhance the tension. Unfortunately, it was not renewed after one season. The score Morris wrote for this film allows it to rise above the mundane.

Adding to the score are the sound effects (Mandell Winter & David Esparza). I saw this in a small screening room and the room shook at times with the explosions, and even when a jet flew over. Whether that was because of the small room and it wouldn’t be reflected in a theater, I don’t know.

This isn’t a movie that’s going to live in anyone’s memory, but it’s still an entertaining trip.

Runtime 111 minutes.
Not for children.

Christa Theret and Michel Bouquet in “Renoir.”

Christa Theret and Michel Bouquet in “Renoir.”

This is the story of the last days of the life of the great Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera in 1915. While the film is inordinately slow, it is a richly photographed, lovingly told capturing of an era strangely untouched by the massacres of World War I.

The story revolves around Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret) who later was known as Catherine Hessling, Renoir’s last model who becomes romantically involved with Renoir’s middle son, Jean (Vincent Rottiers), and was the inspiration for this unmotivated son to become a renowned filmmaker.

Although Renoir was known for his Impressionist landscapes, he spent the last years of his life drawings nude feminine bodies floating in nature. Director Gilles Bourdos tried to make the fictional story as close to real life as possible. The actual painting on screen was done by Guy Ribes, a forger, who had just been released from prison when he took the job. Ribes doesn’t copy originals. Rather, he paints new, nonexisting works, by great painters. So all the painting scenes were done on the set in real time with the hand of Ribes.

I’ve seen the documentary Ceux de Chez Nous by Sacha Guitry that filmed Renoir during this period of his life which shows him painting with the paintbrush taped to his hand. Watching Bouquet and Ribes re-create the real Renoir was so realistic Renoir would have approved.

All the characters in the film were real people as graphics at the end of the film inform. While Buordos brings them to life, the film is so slow and action–free that it is sometimes difficult to maintain concentration. On the positive side, the cinematography by Mark Ping Bing Lee is an artistic achievement in itself, and worth the price of admission. The nudity is also enticing. Heuschling’s body looks a work of art, as does the body of the other model who appears late in the film and whose name I don’t know.

It comes close to breaking my heart to give this well-made, beautifully photographed movie such a low rating, especially when the acting by the three main characters is so good. But it is so slow and so long, one must be extremely patient and understanding.


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