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I just saw one of the most ridiculous movies

I’ve ever seen. Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler, is a film that is only exciting if you know absolutely nothing about global politics, nuclear missiles, or, say, math. As usual, Hollywood spared no expense on blood squibs and body count (this is a terribly violent movie but, given the subject matter—the takeover of the White House—it would really have to be). The special effects are off the chain. Action sequences amazing without being outright preposterous. Cinematography pristine, music and sound without par. But, as usual, they either forgot to buy a script or, as Hollywood tends to do, edited the script by committee until it was dead on arrival. The story is so cliché-ridden that you can easily predict each and every scene, each and every plot twist, before it happens. To be fair, you could do that, for the most part, with Die Hard as well. But, as preposterous as it was, Die Hard had one thing Olympus (Die Hard In The White House) did not: it had Bruce Willis. Not that Willis is a great actor (he is certainly not), but Willis is a great star. He has star quality. He is incredibly watchable. He’s in on the joke, “Relax, folks, it’s only a movie.” Olympus, on the other hand, takes itself way too seriously. Gerard Butler, with his concrete jaw, is near completely void of humor except for a cringe inducing final moment before the end credits where, as you likely would predict, the rescued president pauses outside of the ruined White House and makes a pun to his Secret Service rescuer. Mind you, the White House steps and lawn are littered, at that moment, with the corpses of hundreds of dead Secret Service and Capital Police officers. For all its alleged seriousness, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) could not resist one last cliché: the clever comment as the hero walks off into the sunset or dawn. Morgan Freeman and the luminous Angela Bassett are completely wasted in this film which spends the entirety of its second act with two parties sitting in disparate rooms talking, you guessed it, through a viewscreen. There is always a viewscreen. High-def, with the sneering villain uttering clever threats as both groups fret and push buttons. Nine dollars, please. Oh, and there is a Spunky Kid. There’s always a Spunky Kid whose ingenuity and genius helps save the day.

click To PlayI mention Olympus because its basic plot—an inexplicably huge and well-financed “splinter group” from North Korea takes the U.S. president hostage in order to force him to withdraw U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula—ironically mirrors this winter’s latest global tummy ache over the actual North Korea. Every year about this time, the U,S, and South Korea engage in joint military exercises while, every year about this time, North Korea has a temper tantrum and threatens us all with nuclear annihilation. It is a threat the U.S. typically doesn’t take seriously, mainly because the global consensus is North Korea is usually staging these antics for the benefit of their own people. This time is a bit different, however. The new plot twists: (1) South Korea’s new, tough, conservative Woman President, Park Geun-hye, is clearly fed up with North Korea’s bullying and the U.S.’s traditional demands for restraint on the part of the South, even when North Korea has bombed unarmed fishing villages full of peasants who mean no one any harm. (2) The new U.S. President, Barack Obama, is a completely different fish from any who have come before him. Neither bellicose nor jingoistic, Obama is a cagey and inscrutable type who seems bent on breaking political and diplomatic patterns that have polarized U.S. foreign and domestic policy. He’s been met with wall after wall of resistance, and his successes (like Obamacare and now entitlement reform and gun safety) have been fairly half-a-loaf. What most people miss is, any success, no matter how incremental, is another crack in the wall of how-we’ve-always-done-it.

In terms of North Korea, how-we’ve-always-done-it has worked like this: North Korea, for reasons absolutely no one can fathom, suddenly gets upset and threatens retaliation and revenge. “Revenge?” Nobody’s doing anything to North Korea. Nobody is bombing them, nobody is threatening them. The moronic, syphilis-infected leader seems to just wake up one morning and threaten war on, well, everybody. To keep peace in the region, the U.S. usually writes them a big check, and the threat is resolved. Not this time. Unless he’s talking out of his hat, Barack Obama does not seem inclined to continue the sad legacy of appeasing despots with U.S. cash. This is the real crux of the real crisis with North Korea: a U.S. president calling North Korea’s bluff.