The one thing I kept thinking when I watched Olympus Has Fallen this weekend was that this was the Die HardA Good Day To Die Hard for a lot of reasons but the main one is that it didn’t feel like a Die Hard. it was just Bruce Willis cashing a big check because people will still pay to see him as John McClane in the same way we’ll have Fast and the Furious 12 in the next couple years. Studios are smart enough, and actors are desperate enough, to keep plunging away because big franchises pay well. It’s one of the new dynamics of Hollywood.
Characters are important but actors aren’t.
It’s why Vin Diesel and Paul Walker will keep coming back to Fast and the Furious until it gets rebooted and they’re given a farewell role to “pass the torch” in Fast and the Furious: The Next Generation or however they entitle it. And it is why Olympus Has Fallen feels like such a wasted opportunity for a Die Hard sequel. You can read my full review here.
It’s easy to think of John McClane being in D.C for any reason. Throw in his kid as a Secret Service he runs into on a tour of the White House when it all goes down and it nearly writes itself. When everything goes down John and his kid are trapped inside after the beginnings of a father/son argument and you could even have the Pentagon do a “Nakatomi Tower” reference, having someone explain it to a 20 something analyst who wasn’t alive when it happened. Violence ensues and John McClane and his son save the day like Michael Banning did.
There was nothing in Olympus Has Fallen that Bruce Willis couldn’t have had in a Die Hard sequel instead of the near crime against humanity that Die Hard 5 wound up becoming. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy Gerard Butler on the silver screen, dispatching bad guys all savage like, but Olympus is a film that should’ve been a Die Hard sequel.
A Movie A Week – The Challenge
This Week’s DVD – Such Great Heights
“When you come at the king … you best not miss.” – Omar Little, The Wire
We value championships in sports because they’re rare. If everyone gets to call themselves the NBA champion we wouldn’t care about the Miami Heat winning a year ago, for example. Being the best at our profession, and recognized as such, is a big to do in sport. Dan Marino lost in a Super Bowl early in his career and he once remarked that it didn’t bother him nearly as much then as it did now; he always thought he’d get another chance at winning one. The Dolphins would never make it back to the highest level of the NFL. For many people that one chance at being a world champion in anything is something that’ll never happen; those that challenge for the chance to be the best in the world is a small group.
It’s tremendous cinema when we follow someone who rises to the top and wins that distinction of being the best in the world. But what happens when you fail? That’s what Such Great Heights chronicles: the failed chance of Jon Fitch to unseat Georges St. Pierre from the UFC welterweight title at UFC 87.
We follow Fitch, after a brief look at his back story, as he preps for GSP at his home at the American Kickboxing Academy. With some brief detours to discuss MMA with his teammates, and coaches, it’s a look at the life of Fitch (and his teammates to a lesser degree) as they help him get ready for what’ll wind up as the biggest fight in his career.
Fitch would get dominated by the champion for five rounds, never finished but close to it multiple times, and the film kind of skirts around this fact. It’s made out to be closer than it really was; Fitch took a whooping and didn’t quit. It was the story of the fight; GSP thrashed him for 25 minutes but couldn’t quite seal the deal.
The film gives an interesting look at the guy that loses that big shot at permanent glory. The aftermath is telling; Fitch gave everything he had and had everything going his way going into the fight. Yet GSP came out and dominated that fight. The look in Fitch’s face, and those of his coaches and family, tell you everything you need to know about that fight.
It’s a pretty good documentary, too. It is one thing to be able to go back and look at someone who succeeded, the ecstasy of winning and such, but it’s another to capture all the work that goes into a losing effort at the highest levels. To see how hard Fitch worked going into fight, how he put so much into this one effort at being called a champion, is fascinating because it’s a glimpse into the life of someone at their peak professionally as an athlete right before they fail to make it to the top of their profession.
The film’s only problem is that it’s fairly padded out. This is a film that stretches to hit longer than an hour and it shows as it wants to be about this incredible atmosphere at AKA (which wound up getting a TV show of some quality) while also chronicling the lead up to Fitch/GSP. It’s not quite Like Water … but it’s on par with a film like Fightville. Good but not brilliant.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
G.I Joe Retaliation – Cobra has taken over the White House and is hunting the G.I Joe team down. And since Channing Tatum is kind of light in the loafers as an action star it’s up The Rock to save the day for him.
See it – Anytime you have a fairly successful franchise and the sequel features everyone from the first film being shunted for The Rock you know the quality level is going in either direction by significant margins. I’m not sure which way BUT it’ll be something, all right.
The Host – The gal who wrote “Twilight” is back … this time aliens have taken over or something.
Skip it – It’s the gal who wrote “Twilight” behind this and let’s be honest; when you craft an entire film franchise about how the country song “I love her with my fists” isn’t quite explicit enough you can expect this to be similar. This looks like it’s going to be “Yeah aliens may have taken over but nothing is more important than being with a boy.”
Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor – Tyler Perry’s latest about a marriage counselor who doesn’t know who to choose from in the “who should take me to pound town” vacation: her husband she’s bored with or some mogul who’s loaded.
Skip it – Watching a Tyler Perry film is like not watching Tommy Toe Hold. You just die a little inside each time something new comes out.
The Place Beyond the Pines – Ryan Gosling is a crook who robs banks. Bradley Cooper wants to bring him to justice.
See it – It’s been getting rave reviews and substantial good press, plus has a great cast. It’s only in a handful of theatres but if you’re near one check it out.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .