White House Down


Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum are in the crosshairs (almost).

Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum are in the crosshairs (almost).

(2013) Action (Columbia) Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke, Joey King, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachel Lefevre, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven, Jake Weber, Peter Jacobson, Barbara Williams, Kevin Rankin, Garcelle Beauvais, Falk Hentschel, Romano Orzani, Jackie Geary. Directed by Roland Emmerich

Okay, stop me if you heard this one before: a guy walks into the White House and then a terrorist attack helped out by traitorous elements from within go after the President with the apparent goal of getting nuclear launch codes from him, but that turns out to be a mere diversionary tactic for something far worse…

That’s pretty much the plot for White House Down which it shares with a Gerard Butler movie from earlier this year. Here, we’ve got Channing Tatum in the Gerard Butler role. So who will come out on top?

Well, both movies have a few things worth noting. Here you’ve got Jamie Foxx as President, a sometimes irreverent but well-meaning liberal sort who has pissed off the wrong people when he announces a treaty that will get all U.S. troops out of the Middle East. Those darned military-industrial sorts simply have no sense of humor and decide that a change in plan is needed. But rather than do it the old-fashioned way – by buying Congressmen to block the treaty’s ratification – they decide they’d rather have their own guy in office. So they decide to take the White House by force with an inside guy close to the President making it happen.

There’s a pretty decent cast here, all in all – Richard Jenkins as a hangdog-looking Speaker of the House with Jim Boehner-like politics (although he seems to have a much more cordial relationship with President Jamie than Boehner does with President Obama), James Woods as a wise Secret Service mentor who’s about to retire, Maggie Gyllenhaal as his protégé who used to have a thing with Tatum’s D.C. Cop character who applies (and is turned down) for a job in the Secret Service.

Tatum actually does a pretty decent job. He’s still not the most expressive of actors but he’s getting better and his likability quotient is also improving. Joey King plays his politically precocious daughter with whom he’s trying to repair his relationship with. There’s a pretty decent dynamic between the two although King’s character is so annoying that you almost root for the terrorists to win so she can be executed. Does that make me a bad person?

The movie telegraphs most of its plot points as if the writers were of the impression that nobody who goes to see this movie will have ever seen another movie before. Early on in the movie you’ll figure out where the betrayal is coming from unless you’re stone deaf, flat blind and plenty stupid. There are a few grace notes – Nicolas Wright’s neurotic tour guide who knows everything there is to know about the Presidential Palace – except what Joey King’s character knows but then there’s always one of those on every tour. Jimmi Simpson has carved out a nice niche as the wisecracking tech guy and here plays a…wait for it…wisecracking tech guy.

There are some nice visuals of wanton destruction and some nifty stunts – Emmerich who has done big budget summer movies for decades knows how to keep the testosterone flowing. I have to say that Foxx also does a great job; generally when he’s onscreen the interest level picks up. Emmerich realizes that this is very much an action buddy movie with Foxx and Tatum and he wisely emphasizes that aspect of it.

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the believability aspect of this is pretty much nil; if a bomb went off in the U.S. Capitol (as it does here) the President wouldn’t be holed up in the Oval Office waiting for a situation report – he’d  be already on his way to a safe location outside of Washington before the sound of the blast had done echoing away. And even if he didn’t get out, once the White House was in enemy hands there’d be no question – he would be stripped of his Presidential Powers and the next in line of the succession would be President Pro Tem until the situation resolved. It isn’t the man, folks, it’s the office that is being protected and that’s why something like this would never work.

Still, all in all it’s pretty entertaining in a mindless way and sometimes that’s all a body needs. It just doesn’t really add anything to the genre so you’ll get that feeling of déjà vu all over again. Mindless fun has its place, and I don’t have a problem with a filmmaker creating a highly skilled entertainment, even one as derivative as this one is but I can’t necessarily say that the moviegoer doesn’t have better options available out there either.

REASONS TO GO: Plenty of testosterone-churning action. Foxx is fun.

REASONS TO STAY: Extremely predictable. Doesn’t hold up with similarly-themed movies released earlier this year.

FAMILY VALUES:  Plenty of bang for your buck – lots of violence, gunfire and explosions. There’s also a brief sensual image and a bit of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jimmi Simpson may best be known for playing Lyle the Intern on the David Letterman show.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/7/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 47% positive reviews. Metacritic: 52/100; the movie got mediocre reviews.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Olympus Has Fallen

FINAL RATING: 5.5/10

NEXT: The Heat

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New Releases for the Week of June 28, 2013


White House Down

WHITE HOUSE DOWN

(Columbia) Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Joey King, Jimmi Simpson, Matt Craven. Directed by Roland Emmerich

A DC cop who had just been turned down for the secret service is touring the White House when it comes under a terrorist attack. Don’t you hate when that happens? In any case, he needs to rescue the president, keep his daughter safe and keep our country from collapsing. All in a day’s work, right?

See the trailer and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of  action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image)

20 Feet from Stardom

(Radius) Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Bruce Springsteen. The world’s greatest backup singers of the rock and roll era get together to reminisce on their careers as some of the most recognizable voices in music whose names you don’t know. A big hit  as the opening night film at this year’s Florida Film Festival. Catch my review here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Music Documentary

Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language and sexual material) 

Copperhead

(Brainstorm) Billy Campbell, Angus Macfadyen, Peter Fonda, Francois Arnaud. A pacifist farmer in upstate New York defies his neighbors and his government in 1862 as the Civil War rages. The resulting schism in the community thoroughly illustrates the fact that war isn’t only fought by its combatants and it can have a terrible cost on the community at large.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Historical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for an unsettling sequence) 

Fill the Void

(Sony Classics) Hadras Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chaim Sharir. A Hassidic family in Tel Aviv is rocked to the core when the eldest daughter dies in childbirth. When it looks like the widower will be matched with a Belgian woman, taking their only link to their deceased child with him, the family proposes that the younger daughter (who is betrothed to someone else) instead marry the widower. She now must choose between family duty and the call of her heart.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG (for mild thematic elements and brief smoking)

Ghanchakkar

(UTV) Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Sanjay Dutt, Rajesh Sharma. A master safe cracker decides to do one last heist before retiring and so he does – the big score he’s always dreamed of. The gang decides to split up and lie low until the heat dies down. However, when they reunite to collect their cash, they realize the safe cracker has had some sort of accident and has completely lost his memory. Or is he paying a rather dangerous game? They must stick around and find out which it is.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

The Heat

(20th Century Fox) Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans. An uptight FBI agent and a loose cannon Boston cop team up to take down a ruthless drug lord – if they don’t end up killing each other first. Oh and by the way – said agent and cop are women. This could get real ugly.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Buddy Cop Comedy

Rating: R (for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence) 

Four-Warned: June 2013


Man of Steel

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. MAN OF STEEL (1.0)
2. THIS IS THE END (1.3)
3. WORLD WAR Z (1.6)
4. WHITE HOUSE DOWN (1.8)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE ATTACK (1.0)
2. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM (1.1)
3. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1.3)
4. A HIJACKING (1.4)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JUNE 7, 2013

 

 

AS COOL AS I AM (Radiant Films International) Genre: Dramedy. A middle aged couple, married too young, try to recapture their lost youth while their teenage daughter struggles to define who she is. Release Strategy: Limited . RATING: 2.4 Claire Danes and James Marsters make a compelling couple and Sarah Bolger has near-limitless potential.
EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A look at one of the early conservative TV pundits. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.9 A train wreck, sure, but one we should all know to understand modern media politics.
FINDING JOY (Kreate) Genre: Comedy. A writer uses his eccentric family to help make the life of a dying woman better. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks pretty offbeat – maybe too offbeat.
HEY BARTENDER (4th Row) Genre: Documentary. In this era of craft cocktails, bartending has changed and this film looks at two very different bartenders; one an injured war veteran trying to realize his dreams, the other trying to keep a neighborhood bar afloat. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks far more fun than Cocktail.
THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. A pair of out of work salesmen who are somewhat old school get an internship at Google realizing this might be their last chance. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 I liked Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Wedding Crashers but this doesn’t look half as good.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A pair of mismatched lovers tumble headlong into love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Shakespeare as interpreted by Joss Wheden? Color me intrigued…
PASSION (eOne) Genre: Thriller. Two women – a mentor and her protégé – fight for corporate dominance and for a shared lover. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A remake of the French thriller Love Crime with Brian DePalma at the helm and Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in front of the camera – sounds like a winner to me.
THE PURGE (Universal) Genre: Thriller. In the near future, one night a week crime is neither policed nor prosecuted and Americans retreat into heavily fortified bunkers but when one family open up theirs to a desperate man, they put all their lives at risk. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Looks not unlike The Strangers meets Hostage.
RAPTURE-PALOOZA (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. After the rapture actually occurs, those who remain behind discover that the post-Apocalypse is nothing like what they thought it’d be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Great idea but the trailer doesn’t look particularly funny.
SYRUP (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. A wide-eyed college graduate enters the world of marketing and discovers that his quest for fame and fortune may cost him more than his integrity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Does the world need a movie about how cynical marketing is? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel isn’t it?
TIGER EYES (Freestyle) Genre: Drama. A teenage girl mourning the violent death of her father meets a teenage Native American boy who leads her to find her inner strength and the path into life and love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Based on a Judy Blume-penned bestselling novel for young adults and directed by her son Lawrence.
VIOLET AND DAISY (Cinedigm) Genre: Comedy. Two teenage assassins take a surreal and violent trip through New York City. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks like something that defies categorization and with a cast including Saoirse Ronan and James Gandolfini could be worth a look.
THE WALL (Music Box) Genre: Fantasy. A woman, left with only her dog for company after a mysterious invisible wall cuts her off from the rest of the world, embarks on a journey of spiritual growth. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles June 14) RATING: 1.8 Sounds a lot like Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” until you realize that the Marlen Haushofer novel that this is based on predate King.
WISH YOU WERE HERE (eOne) Genre: Thriller. The lives of two couples are irrevocably changed on a fateful night during a vacation in Cambodia. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A clever-looking Australian film starring super-hot Joel Edgerton.

JUNE 10, 2013

 

 

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER (HBO) Genre: Documentary. Three young Russian women, an art collective known as Pussy Riot, performed a 20 second Punk Prayer in the main cathedral in Moscow and would be put on trial for religious hatred. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 A very thought-provoking conversation on freedom of speech, the limits thereof and whether laws protecting that freedom actually prevent it.

JUNE 12, 2013

 

 

MORE THAN HONEY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Markus Imhoof looks at why bees worldwide seem to be going extinct and the disturbing answers he discovers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A chilling message beautifully photographed.
THIS IS THE END (Columbia) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. The apocalypse is visited upon us during a really good party at actor James Franco’s house. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Could very well be the best comedy of the year – at least it looks like the least self-indulgent.

JUNE 14, 2013

 

 

APOSTLES OF COMEDY: ONWARDS AND UPWARDS (XLRator) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A look at Christian stand-up comics. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Not really my thing but some of the acts looked pretty funny.
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A sound engineer working on an English horror film in 1976 begins to blur the line between film and reality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Has the vibe of the European thrillers of the late 60s and 70s; could have been a Polanski film back in the day.
THE BLING RING (A24) Genre: Crime Dramedy. Based on actual events, a group of bored Southern California teens begin burglarizing Hollywood stars for the connection to their fame. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sofia Coppola’s commentary on our obsession with celebrity taken to extremes.
THE GUILLOTINES (Well Go USA) Genre: Martial Arts. Assassins for the former emperor of China have become hated and feared by the new regime; they relocate to a small village where they will be attacked by both sides. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 I have a soft spot for these martial arts epics and with Andrew Lau at the helm it should be a particularly good one.
HATCHET III (MPI/Dark Skies) Genre: Horror. Survivor Marybeth teams up with a vengeful cop and his ex-wife to end the hatchet-wielding madman’s reign of terror in the Louisiana swamps once and for all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks pretty much like standard slasher fare. Nice to see Zach (Gremlins) Gallagher onscreen again though.
MAN OF STEEL (Warner Brothers) Genre: Superhero. The legend of the iconic American superhero Superman is retold. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Zack Snyder looks like he’s hit a home run with this one.
STORM SURFERS 3D (XLRator) Genre: Documentary. A pair of surfing legends track huge Pacific storms to find the ultimate waves to ride. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Not a big surfing fan; it will depend on how engaging the subjects are.
THE STROLLER STRATEGY (Rialto) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When a baby unexpectedly enters the life of a bachelor, he pretends to be its real father in order to win back the heart of an ex-girlfriend. Release Strategy: New York city only. RATING: 2.4 Meh. The French excel at this kind of thing but the trailer left me flat.
TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM (Radius) Genre: Documentary. The most heralded and respected backup singers in the history of rock are profiled in a “you know their voices but not their names” celebration. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 This year’s opening night film at the Florida Film Festival; you can read my review of it here.
VEHICLE 19 (Ketchup) Genre: Action. A parolee picks up the wrong rental car and realizes that the woman tied up in the trunk is being chased by corrupt city officials who want to silence her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A Luc Besson-style action film; could be good.

JUNE 21, 2013

 

 

A HIJACKING (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. When Somali pirates hijack a freighter, a psychological game of cat and mouse ensues between the pirates and the cynical CEO of the company that owns the freighter with the crew caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks absolutely riveting; could well be one of the best movies out there this month.
THE ATTACK (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A Palestinian surgeon living in Tel Aviv is shocked to discover that his wife, who perished in a suicide bombing, may have been the bomber. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Wow! Incredibly intense trailer, wrenching concept, might this be the movie of the year?
BETWEEN US (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Two couples who’ve known each other a long time discover that their lives haven’t gone according to plan. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 While listed as a comedy, this looks more like a drama; good cast, worth checking out.
LIARS ALL (Phase 4) Genre: Psychological Thriller. A party game goes horribly wrong when it turns out that one of the players is a killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Dunno bout this one; has the air of a generic thriller about it.
MANIAC (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. The women of Los Angeles are stalked by a serial killer who was abused by his own mother. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A remake of a 1980 horror classic but this time the killer is…a hobbit?!
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. Future scarer Sully and his handler Mike Wazowski are initially rivals in college but must work together in order to get themselves reinstated after their rivalry gets out of control. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 Is it just me or is Pixar getting a little too involved with sequels lately?
RUSHLIGHTS (Vertical Entertainment) Genre: Thriller. A pair of delinquent teen lovers try to falsely claim a dead friend’s inheritance in a small town in Texas and get in over their heads in a web of corruption and greed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 While I generally like Aidan Quinn, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be the top of my list of my favorite movies that he’s in.
UNFINISHED SONG (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. An elderly curmudgeon finds solace singing in a choir. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 One of the more moving films from this year’s Florida Film Festival.
WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) Genre: Horror. A United Nations employee must race against time to save the world from a zombie plague that threatens to end life as we know it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 While I’m eager to see this, I have to admit the buzz on this hasn’t been positive.

 

SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU: A CONCERT FOR KATE MCGARRIGLE (Horse) Genre: Musical Documentary. The late folksinger is honored with a concert organized by her children. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 A genuinely moving tribute but I have only been able to catch a brief excerpt of the film.

JUNE 28, 2013

 

 

A BAND CALLED DEATH (Drafthouse) Genre: Musical Documentary. In the mid ’70s, an African-American rock trio bucked convention by making violent, loud, fast music that would later be called punk but the world wasn’t ready for it quite then. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A testament to family and great music; initially I was wary of it but after watching the trailer I’m really curious to see it.
BYZANTIUM (IFC) Genre: Gothic Horror. Two mysterious woman take refuge in a crumbling resort turn out to be vampires. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Neil Jordan is an amazing filmmaker and the trailer tells me this might be one of his very best.
COPPERHEAD (Brainstorm) Genre: Drama. A stubborn farmer in upstate New York defies neighbors and state in the early days of the Civil War. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 From the director of Gods and Generals comes a look at those who opposed the war and the consequences they faced.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Genre: Buddy Cop Comedy. A by-the-book FBI agent and a loose cannon Boston cop reluctantly join forces. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make about as odd a couple as they come but I’m fond of both actresses.
I’M SO EXCITED! (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. When mechanical problems imperil a flight bound for Mexico City, the passengers and crew work out their own personal problems in unique ways as they wait for salvation – or death. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 Director Pedro Almodovar is something of an acquired taste but at his best he’s amazing.
LAURENCE ANYWAYS (Breaking Glass) Genre: Drama. A loving couple find their relationship challenged when the man reveals his desire to live as a woman. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Xavier Dolan has some of the most potential of any director in North America.
REDEMPTION (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. After returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, a homeless vet gets caught up in a web of crime and revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Could well be one of the best performances of Jason Statham’s career.
SOME GIRL(S) (Leeden Media) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A successful writer on the eve of his wedding travels cross country to make amends to various romantic interests that he wronged in some way. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A pretty decent cast actually; hopefully this one turns out a cut above most of the rom-coms we’ve seen lately.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Drafthouse) Genre: Action. While touring the White House with his daughter, a cop rejected for the Secret Service may be America’s only hope when the building is attacked. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The second of two similarly themed movies to be released this year will do well if it’s as good as Olympus Has Fallen.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Internship, Much Ado About Nothing, The Purge, This is the End, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Unfinished Song, World War Z, The Heat, Redemption, White House Down