Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: Under the Ember Star by Charles Gramlich

When it comes to publicity, those of us who do our own thing often feel an obligation to pay it forward. If a fellow author writes a good review of one of our books, we often feel obligated to go out and read one of theirs, and if the work warrants it, return the favor. I don't feel this is in any way underhanded or "cheating"; take a look at the cover copy of a lot of bestselling fiction out there, and you'll often see quotes from authors in the same genre extolling the book's virtues. Hell, Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, Dale Brown, and Harold Coyle were a veritable Mutual Appreciation Society of military techno-thriller writers who all praised each others' latest works.

When Operation Bedlam was released, blogger and writer Chris La Trey was kind enough to write me a review, both on Amazon and on his blog. The blog post contained a couple of other works, all of which I immediately went out and bought. One of these was Charles Gramlich's science fiction novel, Under the Ember Star. I'd read Gramlich's fantasy short story, Harvest of War, and enjoyed it, but like a chump, I'd never written a review. Feeling guilty, I sat down a couple of nights ago and began reading Gramlich's novel. Allow me to quote from Amazon's product description:

"Ginn Hollis was fourteen when her father's mysterious death left her alone on the planet Kelmer. She's grown up since then. Kelmer is a harsh world, an old world: its people are ancient, its civilization long fallen and dimly dreaming under a brown dwarf sun the natives call the Ember Star. But now, long dormant forces are beginning to stir on Kelmer, forces that could destroy the planet forever...or bring it back to life. One being stands at the center of the turmoil. His origins are veiled, his destiny is unclear. Everyone wants a piece of him. Only Ginn Hollis can protect him from both sides--if she can save herself first...."
Although a relatively short novel, Gramlich's book definitely punches above its weight. Within a couple of chapters we have a strong, vivid feel for the world of Kelmer - the dry, ancient planet kept alive by a life support system of unknown, alien origin. We also get an immediate feel for Ginn Hollis, our heroine - a tough, smart young woman who's handy with a blaster pistol, deftly handles a hoverbike, and isn't afraid to punch first and ask questions later. It's easy to fall into cliche with a "tough angry chick" stereotype, but Gramlich is a deft enough storyteller to avoid that trap and keep Ginn Hollis fresh and interesting enough to keep our attention.

Overall, Under the Ember Star feels like a much older work, like a battered old gem of a pocket paperback from the 60's or 70's dug out of the stacks of a used bookstore and bought for a dollar. It reminds me of the works of Leigh Brackett or C.L. Moore; part gritty sci-fi adventure fiction, part epic space opera, with more than a touch of classic Western and maybe even a pinch of detective noir mixed in for good measure.

If you're looking for a quick, enjoyable read to get you back into the mood for more science fiction, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Hot Pursuit by Paul Bishop

I'd downloaded this book perhaps a year ago, but never got around to it until earlier this month, and now I'm sorry I waited so long. Paul Bishop is, according to his Amazon product description...

"A thirty-five year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, Paul has twice been honored as Detective of the Year. Aside from his numerous novels, he has written scripts for episodic televison and feature films. As a nationally recognized interrogator, he appears regularly on the hit ABC reality series Take The Money And Run."

So if anyone knows how to write a novel about LAPD cops, it should be this guy. Now, I'm not a big fan of police procedural books, or stories about cops in general. There's no particular reason, it just doesn't whet my whistle the way other stories can. However this is definitely not a typical cop story, nor are Calico Jack Walker and his partner Tina Tamiko typical cops. The Amazon product description covers it all nicely:

"It’s 1977 and veteran L.A.P.D. cop Calico Jack Walker and his rookie partner, Tina Tamiko, are planning to make Calico’s last shift on the job something special – but plans, as they do, come apart because Walker and Tamiko are good cops no matter what the cost . . . even if they're L.A. cops, in uniform, in their patrol car, on duty, and way out of their jurisdiction on the Las Vegas Strip.

When a major crime is going down, good cops never hesitate."

HOT PURSUIT involves the following elements that definitely make for an exciting story:

- Guns
- Fast cars
- Bull Riding
- Port-A-Potty Shenanigans 
- An Enormous Crazy Man-Child
- Prison Assassins
- Vegas, Baby!
- Biker Gangs
- Crazy Ex-Wives

Pick up HOT PURSUIT and give it a read. It's set in the late 70's, which gives the story a bit of a twist if you're not expecting it, but the period nature of the novel doesn't detract in any way from the storyline. It's a fast read and definitely a page-turner, without a lot of expository padding or laborious side quests that take away from the heart of the plotline.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Warhammer 40K Space Marine Armor: All Right, Let's Get Cracking

A friend of mine just shared with me this video taken at a Science Fiction convention in Stockholm back in December. A lot of people who play Warhammer: 40,000 talk about whether or not the armor worn by Space Marines would ever actually fit or articulate for a normally-proportioned human being (although Space Marines  are genetically altered, and much larger/stronger than normal people). There are models and poses that simply appear to contorted or impractical to work in "real life".

I think this video answers the question.

So...let's get cracking on this, people. Bolters and Power Armor for everyone!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Game Review: Bolt Action WW2 Miniatures Wargame

People have been playing World War Two wargames since...well...since probably before World War Two even took place. I suppose it all depends on your definition of "wargame" - from very theoretical strategic-level "what-if" scenarios to training exercises to mathematical equations. And of course, after the war and ever since, young men (and some young women) have pitted toy soldiers against each other to battle it out for control of the free world.

So while to comes as no surprise that yet another WW2 wargame has been published, I have to say that Warlord Games' Bolt Action is the first WW2 wargame to really catch my eye. Don't get me wrong - I think Flames of War is a cool game, and I want to eventually get into it, but I do feel a preference for the individual-soldier model scale of BA as opposed to the squad-stand scale of FoW. Perhaps it is my prior Games Workshop models experience biasing me in that direction, for better or for worse, but the idea of having one model represent one individual soldier just appeals to me more.

Let me back up for a second. Bolt Action is a 28mm ("heroic") scale WW2 miniatures wargame. Each side plays a force vaguely built around a reinforced infantry platoon - typically a Platoon Leader and 2-5 squads of 5-12 men apiece, plus additional support elements such as machine gun teams, mortars, anti-tank weapons, snipers, transports, as well as other elements such as artillery and armor. Your average Regular infantryman for all armies is 10 points per model, but adding in extra goodies such as your officers, medics, air or artillery forward observers, heavy and special weapons, as well as vehicles, and you can quickly spend 1,000 points (the default game size) without the need for a hundred-plus models (A King Tiger tank with Veteran crew is over 600 points).

Coming from a Games Workshop background, I was able to quickly grasp the basics of how the gameplay is handled - setup, movement, shooting, close assault, morale, line of sight, use of cover and so forth. I won't get into too many nitty-gritty details but I think the game handles all elements quite well, in many cases better than GW's Warhammer: 40,000. Rather than a "I move/shoot/attack with all my guys, then you go with yours", each player puts a number of colored action dice into a bag, one die per unit. At the beginning for the turn a die is pulled from the bag. Whoever has that color for their action dice picks a unit, gives the unit one of six orders (corresponding to one of six die faces), puts the die next to the unit, carries out the order, and then another die is drawn. This means that order of action is pure chance - you could activate and use all your units before your opponent gets to do anything, or you could be the one left standing there doing nothing, or it could be a very even back-and-forth of move and counter-move. It's all up to luck, and I like that idea a lot.

Moving and shooting is all pretty standard. Weapons are grouped into broad categories, with the occasional special rule for those particular weapons that need them. For example, all "rifles" are the same, but US infantry ignore shooting-on-the-move penalties because of the superior firepower of the M1 Garand compared to other armies' bolt-action rifles. This more generic handling of weapons keeps the endless "the MP-38 was far superior to the Sten MK II" debates to a dull roar, and helps remind the players that this is a game definitely designed for fun, casual gameplay. It is, very specifically, not a win-at-all-costs sort of wargame, where being a dick to your opponent and arguing every rule to death is just one more weapon in your arsenal. 

The Bolt Action rulebook is a nice, compact hardcover containing all the rules needed to play, as well as how to build an army, abbreviated army lists for all major European Theater forces (US, UK, Germany, and the Soviet Union). There are a lot of great diorama shots using painted models and terrain, as well as a ton of Osprey Publishing artwork (I'm not exactly certain of their relationship - I think Osprey owns Warlord Games). The rules are easy to read and strike a good balance between realism and gameplay. For example, there can be only one outcome in a close combat - complete wipeout of the losing unit. If a draw is achieved, the fight immediately goes on, until one side loses and gets wiped out. This doesn't necessarily mean every member of the losing side is killed - perhaps they surrender, play dead, or flee - but the unit ceases to exist. As a GW player, I can appreciate the decisive nature of this rule, as it prevents "tar pit" units locking two units together for multiple turns and bogging down the game. Another good rule states that if the model directly using a support weapon is killed off, the rest of the weapon team is eliminated and the unit is taken off the board. This might be unnecessarily harsh, but it prevents tiny ineffectual units of 1-3 infantry from cluttering up the board, and remember - every "unit" has an action die in the bag.

Beyond the main rulebook, there are currently (as of today) army books for the US, UK, and German armies. These repeat and refine the units given in the core rulebook, as well as add further units, weapons, and a few special rules. You could certainly play the game with just the lists provided in the core book, but the individual army books add a lot more flavor, and provide a much deeper dive into the armies over the course of the war (a number of units have "early" war and "mid-late" war versions). Vehicles especially have an almost endless variety of marks and versions that changed over the course of the war and the theater they were in. This allows for players who want to carefully tailor an army list to a specific time, theater, and unit to do so.

As for Warlord Games' line of miniatures, I think they are quite good. Perhaps not at the quality of Games Workshop's current line, but given the insane costs of most GW armies today, I think the slightly loss of quality is more than made up for in the much lower price, at least price per "army". Putting together a starter list of British Commandos, I was able to build a Platoon with one Officer, two infantry squads, two special weapon teams, a medium machine gun team, and a mortar team for about sixty bucks. That's seven units, and about 650 points. Another box of infantry and perhaps one vehicle (at about 20-35 bucks apiece, depending on what you get) would bring me to 1,000 points, for a total of perhaps a little over a hundred dollars. Given that a "cheap" Warhammer: 40,000 army would probably run you somewhere in the vicinity of $300-600, and the difference is readily apparent. Also, unlike GW games, Bolt Action doesn't actually require you to play using their own models. If you have a bunch of other WW2 infantry and vehicles lying around, as long as they can be based one model per base (or you and your friends agree on rules for multi-model bases), you can use anyone's models, even if they aren't 28mm scale. For the money-conscious gamer, this is a great deal.

So far I haven't actually gotten around to building or painting my Bolt Action miniatures, much less play out a game, but I'm really looking forward to it. Who knows, maybe those of you who've read my Commando novels will recognize a familiar face or two when I've finished getting my British army read for battle!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston - Bloody but Unbowed

I was going to write a much longer piece this morning, but I decided to keep it short and simple. Boston is a little city with a big attitude. Sometimes this comes in the form of drunken Townies raising hell and making a ruckus after a big loss at Fenway Park. Other times, it comes in the form of drunken Townies dressing up as Indians, raiding a merchant ship in the harbor, dumping its cargo of tea overboard to protest some taxes, and starting a revolution.

Either way, if there's one thing this town is known for, it's attitude, and I'm certain that over the next few months, Boston is going to show the world that we can take a cheap shot and come back swinging with the best of them. And as for those who are responsible for the bombings - well...I'd say you better hope the Law finds you before the drunken Townies do, but...c'mon. Haven't you seen The Departed?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Pirates of Alnari: Free Through Friday, 4/12

My friend and fellow writer/blogger Dan Eldredge is running an Amazon Promotion for his gritty, violent fantasy novel, The Pirates of Alnari. If you're a fan of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones and that sort of hard fantasy, I think you'll enjoy this book.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

COMMANDO: Operation Bedlam Now Available in Kindle and Paperback!

Although the book has had a week-long "soft launch", I wanted to let everyone know that Operation Bedlam, my second WWII British Commando novel, is now up and available for purchase in both Kindle ebook and trade paperback formats. You can click on the cover to the right of this article to go to Bedlam's Amazon page.

Thankfully, I've already had two early readers - Mark Hall and Chris La Trey, provide me with great reviews on Amazon. The ebook is already selling in both the US and the UK, which is a great relief, and I'm hoping that within a month or two it'll be chugging along nicely, just like Arrowhead is right now.

I wrote Arrowhead while wrapping up the first draft of Killer Instincts, as a way of clearing my head. It took me just over a month to write, but I wound up sitting on it for nearly a year, only releasing the book in August 2012. Since then it has done very well (by my standards), and in November I decided to write the sequel. I typed up the first draft of Bedlam from November through January, and immediately got it into the hands of my Beta readers. Within two months, I had incorporated all the great feedback I'd received, had it edited and proofed, and the book was on sale just about five months after I started writing it.

Reading about the timeline involved in traditional publishing, I'm amazed at what can be accomplished these days through indie publishing tools and with a little motivation. For a no-name author such as myself to take a book from non-existence to being "on the shelf" and ready to buy in five months would be laughable under a traditional publishing model. Hell, I'd not have even seen a penny of my royalties from my previous two books!

So, if you liked Operation Arrowhead, give Bedlam a try - I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pirates of Alnari gets an Awesome New Cover!

My friend Dan Eldredge's book, The Pirates of Alnari, has recently received some TLC in the form of a great new cover by Ander Plana, the artist who did the covers for both of my COMMANDO books and my Nanok short story. Ander is a real pleasure to work with - fast, communicative, receptive of author input, and just a really great guy to work with overall. I was a little hesitant to send Dan to Ander without a letter of introduction, so I made a tentative inquiry for him, but Ander has told me that he's more than willing to talk to other authors about commissions. If anyone wants his contact information, please drop me an email and I'll pass it along.

Dan also took the time to give his book another formatting pass, hunting for any errors and tidying up the book's presentation, especially in print. He's also added a newer, slicker map, and a clickable table of contents in the ebook version.

One of the great things about publishing on your own (at least I think it's great) is that as time goes on, you can always revisit a project and tweak it a little here and there. Some might argue that a work should never go out a door until it is "done right", but I disagree in part because "right" doesn't always mean "final". You might put out a book that's a great read, well-edited and so forth, but then a few months later decide that you want to add a foreword, or an author's note, or change how the linking is done. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't do this, and in fact Amazon makes it very easy.

If you're a fan of Game of Thrones - style fantasy stories, as well as anything having to do with Pirates (and really, who doesn't like Pirates?), you should check out Dan's novel over on Amazon. A great book - violent, smart, and well-written - at a solid price, too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

This movie was such an overblown piece of crap. I'm going to have some "spoilers" (if you can call them that) in this review, but if you think that this movie warrants me actually keeping plot points in the dark for some reason, please whack some sense into your head with the nearest blunt instrument.

First off, this movie is, no joke, a complete rip-off of Die Hard. Actually, I think it's almost better to say it's a rip-off of Die Hard mixed with Under Siege, because Gerard Butler's character is more akin to Steven Segal's character than Bruce Willis', employing the whole "Unjustly demoted ultra-badass who saves the day by stepping up to do the job they used to have" gimmick. Butler plays Banning, a Secret Service agent who was kicked off the presidential detail by saving the President, but since the First Lady died in the car accident, the President didn't want Banning around reminding him of the accident. So, he gets sent to work at the Treasury Building. Sadly, all his old buddies regularly run into him and make awkward small talk, constantly reminding Banning of his disgrace. Banning, of course, still has a boner for the White House and pretty much pouts like a little baby every chance he gets because he's not guarding the President.

Anyhow, on to the real plot. The President is going to meet with the South Korean Prime Minister. Too bad for the SKPM, it turns out most (all?) of his entourage are actually North Korea-aligned terrorists. Good job, South Korean Intelligence! When a C-130 equipped with a belly full of Vulcan cannons starts blowing the crap out of D.C. the President and the senior cabinet at hand, plus all of these South Koreans, get escorted to the "Bunker" underneath the White House. Of course, now the President and cabinet members are all locked in with a bunch of terrorists. I'll just point out one gaping plot hole here: One of the bad guys is a former Secret Service agent. They NK terrorists are apparently relying on his intelligence to pull this off. But when the attack occurs and the Secret Service moves to take the President to safety, he insists, AGAINST PROTOCOL, on bringing the SK delegation with him. So my question is, did the turncoat know that, despite all regulations to the contrary, the President would violate this protocol and let a bunch of foreign nationals into the most secure facility in America? And of course, these NK guys are unarmed, and they naturally assumed they'd be able to overpower and kill all the Secret Security guys in the Bunker with their Kung Fu.

As an aside, the Secret Security turncoat pulls a stunt right from Die Hard, when he goes hunting Banning, only to run into him and pull that "Oh wow man, glad you found me, I was able to escape!" bit, just like Hans Gruber. I mean, come on people. Of course, you then learn that he's not REALLY a turncoat...the NKs have his kid. Wahhh.

But I digress. Let's focus on what happens outside the White House. C-130 starts blowing up crap, including the fighter escort that tries to stop it. Then the White House missile launchers try to shoot it down, but the C-130 deploys flares. Guess they never planned to shoot down more than one plane, because they only shoot two missiles at the C-130, which blow up on the flares. As one reviewer put it, classic example of Hollywood problem solving - if you try something once, you can NEVER TRY IT AGAIN. They finally scramble "reinforcements"...which means just one more jet, which shoots the plane down almost without trying. Of course, not before the C-130 shoots up the White House (including the American Flag - had to make sure we saw that), and then crashes...but not before clipping the Washington Monument. Of course. Take that, America!

All the while Banning is running the whole way from the Treasury Building to the White House, completely ignoring his job of, you know, protecting the Treasury Building. As every single thing around him gets shredded, blows up, etc. he's perfectly fine of course. When he gets to the White House the plane has since crashed, when it's time for Phase 2. All those Asian tourists standing around? BAM - TERRORISTS. They suicide-vest the White House fence and start whipping out a vast arsenal of automatic weapons, RPGs, pistols, you name it, and they begin to swarm the White House lawn. This is where I start to get really annoyed, because in classic stupid Hollywood fashion, all those Secret Service agents essentially beg to be shot and killed. No one goes prone, almost no one uses cover. No one is apparently wearing body armor, either. Of course, body armor would help no one in this movie, because throughout the course of this film, more people get headshotted than an entire season of The Walking Dead. Probably 2/3rds of everyone who dies in the movie takes one through the brain.

The assault on the White House continues. The NK terrorists drive two dump trucks right up along side the fence, where they become instant bunkers, equipped with heavy machineguns. These guys begin hosing the front of the White House down with heavy auto-fire, and the highly trained Secret Service agents respond to this threat by running out the front door and into a hail of high-powered bullets, like lemmings running off a cliff. Seriously, there's a scene where at least twenty agents run out of the White House and immediately die, piling up on the front steps like something out of the Normandy Landing sequence in Saving Private Ryan. At this point the White House is almost completely emptied of agents, and the NKs swarm the building, easily killing off everyone inside, who again, aren't wearing any body armor and/or get shot in the head. If this is how easy taking over the White House would be, I can't imagine why someone hasn't done this like, fifty times already. I mean geez, the Soviets should have pulled this off back in the 80's.

So now literally everyone who isn't in the Bunker is dead, except for Banning, whose managed to get into the White House. he sneaks around, ducking NK patrols and killing the odd guy here and there. He gets in contact with the Pentagon after doing a whole bunch of crap with the security systems that any half-decent role-based security system should have kept him from doing. I mean, hmmm, why is this guy whose job is way over in the Treasury Building trying to turn off all the security cameras in the White House? Maybe we should prevent that kind of access? Apparently any Secret Service agent can do anything, anywhere. Moving on...

We now find out that the reason the bad guys are doing this is to get the "Cerberus Codes". This whole plot point is so, so, SO stupid that it makes the rest of the movie literally unwatchable. This gimmick, taken right from Dr. Strangelove, involves a special failsafe that will self-destruct any nuclear weapon in our arsenal, anywhere on Earth. Apparently there are three codes, you need all three codes, and all three people who had the codes went into the bunker. There is no way to change the codes except by using this one computer in the Bunker, and apparently you can't, you know, disconnect the wifi or bluetooth or whatever it is that lets you INSTANTLY destroy every nuclear weapon we have. I mean, what's up with this belief Hollywood has that every single weapon we have has a "self destruct" switch built into it? This whole plot device, the idea of some ultra-capable and yet incredibly-limited gimmick that surely the bad guys will never be able to...oh. Whoops. It just REEKS of shitty writing.

Anyhow, the NKs try to get the code from Dude #1 (the Veep maybe? Hard to tell) and he's not going to give it to them, but the President tells the guy to give it to them, because they'll NEVER GET HIS CODE. So the guy gives it up and then they do this with the Secretary of Defense, and they start kicking the crap out of her, and she says she'll never give it up, but the President "orders" her to tell them, because they'll NEVER GET HIS CODE. And of course, they then run your typical Hollywood code-breaking thingy and get his code in a couple of hours. Apparently no one thought to set a lock-out that prevents invalid code attempts after the first 10,000 or so tries.

What really burns my bacon is that sure, you don't want to kill the two people who have the other two codes, but there are a bunch of other hostages, and frankly since the President is such a gigantic pussy as to not even let his Veep get killed, the NKs should have simply gotten the code from one person, then put a gun to that person's head and told the President they'd kill the person if he didn't give up his code. Since he asked them to give up THEIR code to spare their life, one can only assume he'll give up HIS code to spare their lives, right? OR, how about if we design a really dumb system like this, everyone agrees to NOT give up the code even if threatened with death? I mean, the Veep and the SecDef were more than willing to die to protect their code, and the President is the dude who wimps out. Brilliant plan, that.

Oh, and did we mention that this self-destruct mechanism apparently sets off the nuclear warheads? Yeah, this ingenious device is so well made that, to prevent a nuclear warhead from being used in the event of an accidental launch, it sets off the warhead. Kind of stupid, since detonating a nuclear warhead in the upper atmosphere can, you know, slap an entire continent with an EMP pulse that throws us back to the stone age. A simple command that shorts out a circuit board is probably a smarter idea...

The stupidity goes on and on. The President of course has a young boy, whose BFFs with Banning and misses his buddy when his dad banishes him to the Treasury Building. The kid is smart enough to hide, but then we're stuck on this 20-minute long subplot of needing to get the kid out so the NKs can't use the kid as leverage to get the President's code. Thankfully this only takes up 20 minutes, and the kid doesn't tag along, Sidekick-style, for the entire movie. Although there is a moment that brings up one of my pet movie peeves - people who empty high-capacity full-powered firearms in an enclosed space and then, seconds later, hold whispered conversations and hear faint sounds nearby. I think every Hollywood movie maker needs to stand in a small room while someone empties a .45 automatic or M-4 carbine right next to them, and then let them try to have a whispered conversation. Oh well, the technical adviser for this movie didn't do his job right anyhow, as Banning, a Special Forces Ex-Ranger superman, can't even carry his MP-5 right, walking around pointing it at the floor most of the time. The guys on Cinemax's Strike Back look like bona fide Delta Force guys next to Banning, who displays all the combat training of TJ Hooker.

So over and over, stupid crap happens. Like in Die Hard and Under Siege, we try to send in the "strike team" and they get wiped out because no one does any kind of intelligence gathering, as some dude in a boardroom has a kill-boner a mile long. The NKs set up some kind of top secret American-made anti-aircraft turret that shoots down six Blackhawk helicopters filled with SEALs in about 30 seconds. Why some sniper with a Barret .50 doesn't just shoot that thing until it stops working, I don't know. Just like Die Hard, it's up to the Lone Hero to handily destroy the device. Of course, now we can't send in any more good guys...for some reason.

Fast forward some more. For some reason we grab the Secretary of Defense and drag her out to the front of the White House. The bad guys clearly plan on doing the old "make her walk and we shoot her in the back" thing because they are stupid and fall right into Banning's trap of luring them all away from the Bunker where he can kill them. Hilarity insues when, as she's being dragged through the White House to her death, the Sec Def starts SHOUTING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. I don't know about you, but if I'd seen first hand how moronically we maintained our national security and the protection of our nuclear arsenal, I don't think that'd be the last words I'd be uttering. And of course, Banning manages to kill almost every guy EXCEPT the main bad guy. Whoops.

So now, instead of just letting the President sacrifice himself (after he insists they do so) the bad guys get their requested chopper on the lawn, and with a play stolen directly from Die Hard, blow up the chopper after everyone (wearing hoods so you can't tell who the terrorists and hostages are) gets on board. But, OF COURSE, the President and the main bad guy are left behind, just like the "blow up the top of the building and fake our deaths while we sneak away with the money" ruse in DH. For some reason, even when they assume the President and all the terrorists are dead in the helicopter crash, the White House isn't immediately swarmed with good guys. No, Banning is left to fend for himself to get the President out. And of course, he does save the day in the end, stopping Cerberus with only a few seconds left on the clock (yawn). Did I mention he kills the bad guy by stabbing him in the brain with a knife, JUST LIKE HE PROMISED? Yet another pet peeve - movies where the good guy tells the bad guy some time in Act 2 how they're going to kill said bad guy, and then they somehow manage to kill the bad guy EXACTLY like they promised? Why do screenwriters keep doing this? Do they think it makes us like the film more that the good guy is so badass that not only does he kill the badguy, but that he does it just like he said he would hours or even days later? I can't stand how contrived and just plain lazy this feels.

Anyhow, bad guy stabbed in the brain, bombs not 'sploded, America saved. Last shot of sunlight streaming through a waving, non-bullet-riddled American flag as triumphal music plays. The End.

We'll have to see how Roland Emmerich handles this exact same idea this summer, with his disaster movie, White House Down. I'll be sure to give you all a scathing review of that film, too. Really Hollywood, this is all we're capable of, even today? That Olympus Has Fallen is an Antoine Fuqua movie should have been my first clue, but I actually enjoyed Shooter and Training Day, and while Tears of the Sun had some problems, it wasn't AWFUL. This, however, was just trash. Lowest common denominator, junk-scripted, flag porn. I saw the new G.I. Joe movie later that day, and while it was just as dumb, at least it's based on plastic army men...

EDIT: Here's Badass Digest's review of the movie. I'm not alone...