London Has Fallen
½ out of four stars
Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout.

Pursuing next year’s Razzies worst film award at a mad gallop, Gerard Butler gives us his second torturously bad film in a week. Popular opinion has declared the intolerable “Gods of Egypt” DOA. “London Has Fallen” will trigger a dissenting opinion. It is far worse.

Butler plays a Secret Service bodyguard, a tough-as-testosterone he-man whom President Aaron Eckhart can barely resist clasping in a long bro hug. When the death of Britain’s prime minister draws Air Force One to the state funeral, Middle Eastern assassination squads rapidly take out a vast list of world leaders.

Earlier in the film, a drone strike in Pakistan blew up the marriage of an arms dealer’s daughter. Because “vengeance must always be profound and absolute,” he has filled the English capital with an army of terrorists to get revenge on the world’s leaders. Cue a long montage of cars falling from exploded bridges, killers in impossibly effective disguises and exploding landmarks.

Butler strikes back with the kind of two-fisted ferocity that a chest-pounding mountain gorilla would envy. Eckhart’s president is identical to most adventure films’ damsel in distress; there’s even a gag about him coming out of the closet when he hides in there from the big, bad villains. Aiming to trigger a spontaneous chant of “USA! USA!” after every bloodbath, this is a xenophobic pile of dead body parts in search of a movie.

I don’t know the best way to deal with America’s enemies, but I suspect a jingoistic macho-porn slaughterfest is not likely to win hearts and minds. Morgan Freeman makes an appearance as the vice president, looking extremely troubled. I think he was realizing what sort of a movie he had signed on to.



The Wave
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for some language and disaster elements.
Theater: Uptown.

Nestled in western Norway’s Sunnmøre region, the Geirangerfjord is so scenically spectacular it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a magnetic tourist draw with towering waterfalls and sky-high mountains, where shifting tectonic plates continually threaten to crumble into the water, throwing a Godzilla-sized tsunami over residents and visitors alike. The great vistas get wasted in this underwhelming Nordic disaster movie, which I would give 1.5 on the Richter scale.

Kristian is a geologist finishing up his last day at the local warning center. You know what happens next: As fast as you can say unstable substrata, a collapsing mountain sends a giant wall of water toward town, and his family, with just 10 minutes to escape.

Borrowing heavily from “Titanic” and lesser catastrophe films, character development plummets and dialogue is reduced to the usual run of “Save my babies!” and “No, save me first!” debates. His wife swims like a Navy SEAL and plays a part in the movie’s biggest conflict as she deals with a quarrelsome, cowardly Danish tourist. What becomes of him will surely move Norwegians and Swedes to applause, cheers and whistles.



Rabin, the Last Day
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: In Hebrew with English subtitles.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.

On Nov. 4, 1995, after addressing a peace rally in a Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was assassinated. The following year, a commission of inquiry documented lapses in security on that night.

Amos Gitai’s film attempts to measure the lingering effects of Rabin’s death. It is a somewhat ungainly blend of documentary and historical re-enactments. Apart from archival news clips and retrospective interviews with Shimon Peres, the former Israeli prime minister, and Rabin’s wife, Leah, the film often feels more like theater than cinema. It is a series of speeches and depositions, a whirlwind of discourse surrounding a terrible and confounding act of violence.

A.O. SCOTT, New York Times


The Boy and the Beast
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for some violence and language.
Theater: Lagoon.

In this new Japanese animated feature, a street urchin is taken in and raised by anthropomorphic animals. But it is the world of man, not beast, that makes this coming-of-age movie most touching. The son of divorced parents, 9-year-old Ren takes to the streets after his mother dies in an accident. He stumbles onto a parallel world, where he’s taught discipline by Kumatetsu, a volatile bearlike creature who wears clothing and speaks. Think: “The Karate Kid.”

Unfortunately, the character design of the animals is underdeveloped. As Ren grows, he must ultimately choose between living in the world of beasts or humans, while learning to navigate rivalries between and within those worlds. Despite the film’s fantastical elements, his choice is easy: The human conflicts are more resonant.

PAT PADUA, Washington Post


⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for language and brief graphic nudity.
Theater: Edina.

“Rams” is named not only in honor of the sheep that are central to its story but also because of two hardheaded men who are devoted to the sheep but can’t stand each other. It is the latest in a series of excellent films to come out of Iceland. Serious and moving but also with a bleaker than bleak Scandinavian sense of humor, “Rams” is so much its own film that figuring out where its unusual, unpredictable plot will end up is difficult if not impossible.

The two men in question are bearded bachelor brothers who haven’t spoken to each other in 40 years even though they’ve spent all that time living on adjoining sheep farms. It is a severe shock to the entire area when an affliction known as scrapie is discovered in the herds. Scrapie is an incurable infectious disease that attacks an animal’s brain and spinal cord, and the only way it can be controlled is to kill every sheep in the vicinity. The story of rivalry and hostility in “Rams” is not without its moments of bizarre humor, such as the way the brothers communicate by using a message-carrying dog named Sami. It’s a cold world up there, and the absurd is never very far away.

KENNETH TURAN, Los Angeles Times