White House Down (2013)

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Directed By: Roland Emmerich

Written By: James Vanderbilt

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal,  Joey King, James Woods, Jason Clarke, and Richard Jenkins

The White House is under attack. And no… It’s not Arabs, which the movie takes a couple pokes at. Readers might be thinking: Didn’t this movie come out in March? Well, yes it kind of did. The March release was Olympus Has Fallen, but the differences between the two do not outweigh the overwhelming similarities. Regardless of the remarkable similarities between the two, they are two of the action movies that Hollywood has thrown at us during the first half of this year. The premise does not need to stretch much beyond that; however, as the simple storyline is that a bunch of  (white) American haters have attacked the White House seeking revenge on the entire nation.

Writer James Vanderbilt (writer of The Amazing Spiderman) did one thing very right with White House Down, he did not allow the story to take itself too seriously. With a very touchy subject such as terrorism, it is very difficult to find a balance between what is acceptable and what is not. Many would argue that a movie that involves a terrorist attack on the president should never be made. This reviewer’s argument would be that it can be made, but only as long as it takes itself with a punch in the should now and again. The film is full of cheesy one-liners and unrealistic scenarios, which would be a flaw for most films, but it actually adds to the entertainment value of White House Down. The script even takes pokes at some classic White House legends, which is highly comical in and of itself. The unrealistic action scenes and the remarkably convenient timing also adds to the fun of the film. My hat goes off to Mr. Vanderbilt for taking a nearly impossible topic, and making it immensely entertaining.

Let's see how much fun the CGI guys over at Sony can have with this bad boy...

Let’s see how much fun the CGI guys over at Sony can have with this bad boy…

The key thing that viewers need to see with White House Down was that it was never trying to get your vote for best action story or most realistic action thriller. It knew its place, which was what I seemed to struggle with when I reviewed Fast & Furious 6 on Tuesday. I think some action movies try too hard to please everyone. White House Down knew what it was going for, and it achieved its goal quite well.

Director, Ronald Emmerich, does a great job of continuing James Vanderbilt’s vision. He crafts the action scenes, and leaves it to his visual effects buddies to make the magic happen. He takes a liberty in showing viewers the inside of the White House, while not allowing the artifacts to conflict with his vision.

White House Down might be the movie that officially establishes Channing Tatum as an A-Lister. His name is quickly going around worldwide, and I have to be honest in saying that he’s not half bad. Jamie Foxx is completely unconvincing as the leader of a nation, but he manages to have fun with his role. The villan’s are pretty spot on with their performances, and present a hatable very well.

Perhaps I’m being overly generous to White House Down because I walked into it, and expected the worst. I was genuinely entertained by an action movie with a decent length running time (131 min), and did not check my watch once.

Overall, viewers need to enter White House Down with one goal: to be entertained. If viewers begin to attempt to think through all the illogical plot point in the story, they will not have a good time. Take it for the fun ride that it is, and accept it for what it is. White House Down did all that I could have expected for a mid-summer release, but nothing more.

Rotten Tomatoes: 49%

Metacritic: 52/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 65/100

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In Theaters this Week (March 29-April 4)

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Expectation: 20/100

What was Paramount thinking? After the disaster that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was both critically (34% on Rotten Tomatoes) and financially (income of $150 million on a $175 million budget) one would think that they would realize that this whole G.I. Joe idea is one to throw away, but nope. After the June 2012 release date was pushed back to expand upon Channing Tatum’s character due to his new level of stardom, it was clear that there was very little faith in this film. Dwayne Johnson will continue to attempt (and fail) to prove himself as an action star. It looks like it will be more of the same for the G.I. Joe series (not a good thing), and all that we can do as viewers is hope that this is the last time Paramount wastes their money on this failed reboot of a previously successful franchise. G.I. Joe was cool in the 80’s, but not anymore.

Expectation: 40/100

Expectation: 40/100

Based upon a novel coming from one of the most famous modern authors, Stephenie Meyer, is The Host. What else did she write, you ask? Ever heard of Twilight? No way! Hold up, it can’t be that bad can it? I don’t think so. I’m not saying it will be good, but it would have to be quite the disaster if it ended up as bad (and successful) as Twilight. It will attempt to follow the same path as Twilight with the ” teen epic romance” genre, which is a disaster of a genre as it is (see: I am Number Four). At least it doesn’t have Kristen Stewart in it :p. I’m having trouble finding positive or negative things about The Host, so I expect it to be as mediocre as the prologue and trailer suggest it to be.

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Expectation: 10/100

What is Tyler Perry? Is he an overweight old woman? Is he a comedy writer? Or is he a dramatic director? Some would say all the above, but personally I think he should stick to being an old woman. The fact that he must put his name on everything that he does just shows how desperate he is for people to recognize him as a legitimate filmmaker. All of his films are embarrassments to the screens that they are shown on, and don’t expect Temptation to be any different. In fact, if it is different, it might even be worse. Keep trying Tyler, maybe you will finally make a film worth watching, but that film will not be Temptation. Actually, maybe he should just stop trying.

Expectation: 90/100

Expectation: 90/100

As I said in my previous edition of ‘In Theaters this Week’ my most anticipated movie of 2013 comes out this week. That movie is The Place Beyond the Pines. With my newfound respect for Bradley Cooper as an actor and my never-ending appreciation for Ryan Gosling, the cast looks very strong. The only questionable decision was the casting of Eva Mendes, but from what I’ve heard, she does a decent job in her role. The entire epic vision behind ‘Pines’ is really what gets me excited. I’m also a big fan of movies that take place over an extended period of time, and this film takes place over a 19 year period. Yes, the prologue and trailer did scream Drive to me too, but if you were to ask me what my favorite 2011 film was, it would be Drive, which makes the idea of “Drive with a twist” sound pretty damn good to me. Not to mention that Blue Valentine was a true piece of beauty, which makes director Derek Cainfrance’s name one that instantly grabs my attention. It should be noted that March 29th is the limited release (April 12th wide release), and it will only be playing in four theaters (two in LA and two in NYC).  I am fortunate to live within 4 miles of one of those four theaters, but I am on vacation in Chicago until Tuesday, so don’t expect a review until Thursday. I will be sure to also include this in my April 12th edition of ‘In Theaters this Week’.

An interesting fact is that my average expectation for March was a 47. All we can hope is that April is something that gets March out of our minds.

This week starts a string of three weeks in a row where there is a film that will have above a 75 expectation rating :D!

Side Effects (2013)

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Direction, Cinematography, and Editing by: Steven Soderbergh

Written By: Scott Z. Burns 

Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum

Side Effects

Deemed as a psychological thriller, Side Effects takes you on more twists and turns than any roller coaster at your local theme park.

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Steven Soderbergh

Allow me to start with the bad news, we are going to have to bid farewell to Steven Soderbergh in cinema. He has announced that this will be the last film of his career. I think he’ll be back, but it won’t be anytime soon (give it 8 years). So what’s the good news? He went out with a bang. Side Effects has Soderbergh running through its veins. It has the amazing camera work that I have learned to expect with all of Soderbergh’s movies. The shots that he does never seize to amaze me, and his work behind the camera will always be remembered as one of the best. One thing that is credit to both the directing and the writing is that the film respects the viewers’ intelligence, which is something that is very lacking in modern cinema.

The highlight of this twisty thriller is the writing. Scott Z. Burns takes us on a magnificent ride through the imperfections of humanity. It shows how we, as humans, are subjects to depravity, sex, corruption, and most of all greed. Told from a third person point of view, there is no favorite character. Every character is developed perfectly, which only adds to the viewers’ interest.

Jude Law is playing the same role that he has played in movies such as Sherlock Homes and Contagion. In the past I have criticized him for being the same character in every film, but in Side Effects it works. Channing Tatum continues to surprise me, and now seems like he can do just about anything. Rooney Mara has been good in every movie that she has been in: from her small role in The Social Network, to her leading role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and now her role in Side Effects. Lastly, Catherine Zeta-Jones shines in her role as Dr. Siebert. She brings an underlying intelligence to the film, that without her performance would have been missing

Viewers are a full two months into the year, and Side Effects is the best picture. It’s a masterfully crafted thriller that takes you through a story full of twists and turns.

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 84

Metacritic: 75

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 79