Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (Another Straw Drawn for Director Fuqua)


“Olympus Has Fallen” feels like an episode of “24” meets “Air Force One.”  The film looks decent, is well-acted, but lacks the intensity and emotional force brought about by modern action films.  When the bar has been set so high in recent years by films such as the “Bourne” trilogy and “Inception,”  “Olympus Has Fallen” is weighed down by predictable writing and contrived plot points.  More importantly, for me, this represents another straw drawn by director Antoine Fuqua, as he was unable to take this huge budget and strong cast and turn it into a stand out film.

Since making “Training Day,” Fuqua’s films have been treading the line just above mediocrity.  “Training Day” was followed by “Tears of the Sun,” which was pretty good, but largely carried by one of Bruce Willis’ better performances.  “King Arthur” and “Shooter” were ‘okay’ at best.  Fuqua made “Brooklyn’s Finest” after “Shooter,” which I view as his best film since “Training Day.”  But that film’s ending was disappointing compared to the rest.  Similarly, “Shooter,”  which starred Mark Wahlberg, was not bad until the last fifteen minutes, which made no sense compared to the rest of the movie.

The lack of a payoff from the build up in “Shooter” was unfortunately also the case in “Olympus Has Fallen,” where Fuqua establishes a strong antagonism between Gerard Butler’s character and the main villain.  There was even a scene involving Butler practicing boxing with Aaron Eckhart, who plays the President of the United States, that could have been used as a foreshadow into the film’s climax in the final act.  But nope, the final act was as formulaic as it gets.

The film also feels slightly out of date.  The days of  ‘stop the bomb from blowing up’ story lines are passed, and I even felt slightly nostalgic when I saw that a bomb device in this film has a digital ticker that sets the bomb off when it reaches zero.  But I don’t think nostalgia is the feeling the film wants the audience to have, it being a modern action picture.

“Olympus Has Fallen” isn’t bad at all; in fact, I’d recommend it for people who are just looking for a simple story with some well-staged action sequences.  The performances by Butler and Eckhart were as good as the script allowed.  Morgan Freeman cashes in another good pay check doing what he does best.  But when a director has made so many films after “Training Day” and the posters for “Olympus Has Fallen” still tags the line “From the director of Training Day,” I for one am out of patience in hoping to see Fuqua return to his “Training Day”… days.

Osama Bin Laden Dead: World Leaders Hail Al Qaeda Leader’s Death But Fear Revenge

Read the article and quotes on the HuffPost here

While Hamas might have been compelled to issue a statement like it did for please its base, perhaps they could’ve done so in a less blatant tone. While trying (at least on the surface) to present themselves as the leaders of a near-natio­nal entity, their words just made it that much harder for the internatio­nal community to stomach and recognize them as legitimate­.

Cut The Pentagon Budget. Pretty Please?

I had previously not known that the Pentagon budget amounts to half a trillion dollars. The number gets even more ludicrous when the money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are factored in, which raises the total to around 700 billion dollars.

I remember being in awe of the statistic that the United States not only has the highest defense budget in the world, but spends more on its military than the next 14 countries combined

Where is the threat? Terrorists? North Korea? Iran? None of these proposed ‘threats’ justifies such a ridiculous amount of expenditure on the military. In spite of all the talk about nuclear proliferation, preventing ‘rogue’ nations from getting nuclear weapons, or even defending regions abroad that are of America’s interest, I really don’t see the world descending into a major military conflict. Nations are too economically attached; and even if that is not the case, nothing good ever comes out of a war: people die, economies crumble, legitimacy of rule is often called into question.

With this in mind, and with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, I really think that Congress could make a substantial dent in the military budget. Even a 10% reduction in the 550 billion budget would be quite significant.

It’s not like we have no places to spend the extra money: Imagine, instead of buying 55 billion dollars worth of guns, bullets, and tanks, we spend all of that on creating jobs for Americans, or bolster the depleting medicare / medicaid, or, better yet, help alleviate the federal debt / deficit.

That’s why I was pleased to see that some Republicans are actually breaking from tradition and saying that they might consider cutting the Pentagon budget when considering cutting overall spending.

Check out the New York Times report here, which discusses the awkward position some newly-elected, Tea Party-supported Republicans are in because, while Republicans traditionally are very reluctant to cut military spending, they were elected on a platform to cut spending and grab a hold on the deficit.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ proposal to cut defense spending by $78 billion over the next five years is a good start, but maybe they can trim the military budget down so that it is only more than the next ten countries combined?

It is also quite comforting to know that Colin Powell has the sense to say that cutting the military budget is a possible way to tame the deficit, as supposed to defunding the NPR or the National Endowment for the arts, which only serves as rhetorical posturing and does next to nothing in reducing the deficit.

It’s my belief that part of the unwillingness to slash the military budget can be attributed to the notion that a sizable number of Americans believe that their country could go to war at any minute, and that we need to be completely dominating all other countries in order to feel safe. This presents a perplexing image of America, as it tries to display confidence by boasting a strong military where in fact Americans end up appearing as insecure and paranoid about being attacked.

America is sliding down the world rankings in the education realm; it is beginning to lag behind in science and technology development. President Obama addressed parts of the issue in his State of the Union address. If the President wants America to once again lead the world, it can only do so with a strong economy, and, more importantly, a healthy and educated populace.

Americans And ‘Islamophobia’

This post is inspired by an article written by MJ Rosenberg.  It was posted on the opinion section of the Al-jazeera news website, and on Foreign Policy Matters before that. You can read it here.

It discusses the gross generalizations that many Americans are making nowadays, mainly likening extremist terrorist Islamic groups with the broader Muslim community, the former of which barely makes up an iota of the Muslim population.

It’s a great column, not because of the brisk and to-the-point writing (that’s a given), but because of the dark humor it carries.

Consider this section where Rosenberg points out the hypocrisy behind Americans’ discrimination against Muslims:

Then there is David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee. Under his leadership, the American Jewish Committee issued a study “proving” that, contrary to the commonly used estimate of six million American Muslims, the correct number is 2.8 million.

And why is Harris worried about Muslim population estimates?

“Six million has a special resonance,” Harris wrote in a May 21 article in Jerusalem Report magazine. ”It would mean that Muslims outnumber Jews in the US and it would buttress calls for a redefinition of America’s heritage as ‘Judeo-Christian-Muslim,’ a stated goal of some Muslim leaders.”

That is some scary “stated goal”.

Even more, Harris is worried that the perception that there are as many Muslims as Jews would give Muslims additional political clout, leading Congress to occasionally actually pay attention to them (but unfortunately, that is not how it works).

This quote exemplifies the level of stupidity and ignorance many Americans possess when it comes to understanding Islam. What is scary is that even major elected officials and media pundits are also in on this misleading notion of Islamophobia.

I took numerous courses on the history of Islam and of Muslims (distinctly different) when I was at University and I believe it’s safe to claim that the religion is every bit as complex as Christianity and Judaism, and its history every bit as rich and fascinating.

The history of a religion differs greatly from the history of the people who follows that religion. This is quite clear within the context of Islam, a religion that was born in the 7th century and spread like wildfire. Within a few hundred years, the religion of Muhammad had grown to becoming the main competing religion against Christianity, culminating into a crusades that lasted over two hundred years.

From a demographic perspective, Islam spread throughout the Middle East, a region that was ethnically immensely diverse. Muslims lived on land that stretched from India to central Europe. For quite a long period of time (14th to early 20th century), the epicenter of the Muslim community arguably resided in the Ottoman Empire, the capital city of which was Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), while the center of the Islamic faith remained in Mecca.

At the same time, the two main denominations within Islam, Shii and Sunni, began to take hold of different parts of the region. Note that the antagonistic nature (note that the two sects were often not in conflict at all) between Shiite and Sunni Muslims that has been discussed by the mainstream media within the context of the Iraq war has been ongoing for hundreds of years.

Fast forwarding to the 20th century, we see the internal conflict between Muslims visibly expand from the religious into the ethnic realm. In the 1950s, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian President, envisaged and adopted the concept of Pan-Arabism, the notion of unifying the entire Arab world. A few decades later, Shiites in Iran overthrew the pro-Western Shah and established an Islamic Republic. Interestingly, though, many Iranians today prefer to refer to themselves as Persian rather than Muslim of any kind.

Of course, cramming over a thousand years’ worth of history into a few paragraphs doesn’t do it justice, but what I am arguing is that the histories of Islam and of Muslims are so dynamic that generalizing any topic concerning them can seriously mislead the reader into jumping onto the wrong conclusions.

On this note, I would assume that many Christians, even those who are devout and study the history of Christianity, would humbly say that they know very little about the history of their centuries-old religion. So what makes the politicians and media pundits think that they have the knowledge or credibility to make the utterly unreasonable assumption that radical Islam is Islam?

An ignorant population doesn’t just materialize out of thin air, and it certainly won’t suddenly disappear, either. Ignorance can only be tackled through education; and only by studying history, that is, history of religion and of people, will people cease to make damning generalizations and assumptions.

China State Dinner PHOTOS: Arrivals, Herbie Hancock, And Who Was Best-Dressed? (PICTURES, POLL)

Look at the photos on the HuffPost article here

Why are Anna Wintour and Vera Wang attending a dinner for President Hu? It’s not like there aren’t enough rich Chinese going on shopping sprees to buy super expensive fashion products.

On another note, that dinner set up looks so cramped up you’d think that Chris Christie would need to take up three spots just to be able to move his arms.

I tend to think that state dinners like these are usually quite awkward, seeing as: there are politicians who have to pretend they like each other; celebrities who have to pretend to know why they’re there (ex. Jackie Chan, Yo-Yo Ma); influential businessmen looking for places to spend their money; lobbyists pretending to be participatory but in fact looking for opportunities to further their cause; and the hosts and the guests pretending to have a good time while probably distracted by their country’s affairs (that, or perhaps their time is better spent with family).

It could be a combination of the above, as well. For example, what were Edwin Lee and Jean Quan, the Asian mayors of San Francisco and Oakland, respectively, doing at the Washington State dinner? Other than the fact that they’re Asian Americans who hold major political offices, I have no idea why they would be invited to President Hu’s state dinner hosted by President Obama.

Iran Resumes Nuclear Talks… Again.

Iran and six world powers met for a meeting in Geneva to discuss mainly the issue of Iran’s new nuclear capabilities, such as domestically mining and enriching uranium.

Read the HuffPost Article here:
Iran Resumes Nuclear Talks

Everyone generally knows that Israel has a large ‘undeclared / unofficial’ nuclear arsenal and pretty much dares the international community to really call them out on it. Countries can ask Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but they can’t exactly do much when Israel says ‘no’.

I tend to think that Israel is living in the past, militarily-speaking. Yes, the country has continued to experience major military conflicts, but the acquisition of nuclear weapons is the reflection of a Cold War-induced ‘mutually-assured-destruction’ nostalgia, by which I mean the notion that the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’ has become obsolete. I mean, does anyone today seriously think a country will drop an nuclear bomb on another country? The negative consequences easily outweigh the positive, hence the chances of it happening are slim to none.

The only thing we need to watch out for are states with leaders whom are potentially volatile and unpredictable, but we only have a handful of those. Even they would know what would happen to them if they nuked another country.

I’m not sure how hard Iran has been suffering from the sanctions, or whether if this is the major reason for this meeting. But with Ahmedinejad leading the country, best to expect the unexpected, and not get our hopes too high.

Senator gets in way of Obama’s US-Russia Nuclear Pact

Read the article here:
Obama’s Hopes For Russia Nuclear Pact Fade

It is quite frustrating to see a lone politician get in the way of resolving matters of international security.

Maybe President Medvedev, or better yet, Prime Minister Putin, ought to have a chat with Senator Kyl.