White House Down (2013)

White House DownRelease Date: June 28, 2013. Director: Roland Emmerich. Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Runtime: 131 min.

Apparently infiltrating the White House is so easy, everyone’s doing it! (And they just finished re-building it, too!) All you have to do is rally up a bunch of people who are angry at the government, spend a day planning, synchronize your watches, and go to town. But be careful, there’s going to be a highly-decorated police officer of some kind standing in your way.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol police officer on tour of the White House with his daughter Emily (Joey King). He is also interviewing for a spot on the Secret Service, protecting President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). On that very day, because the President issued an international Peace Treaty, a paramilitary group invades the White House; now John must save his daughter, the President, and the country.

Whether it be Channing Tatum vs. a 25-person paramilitary group or Gerard Butler vs. North Korea’s entire 300 person army, both action guys are forces to be reckoned with. “Olympus Has Fallen” had to face comparisons to “Die Hard” back in March, so compared to this, it is living on easy street. Now, this has to face comparisons to both “Die Hard” and “Olympus.” Will it stand strong through all of it? Probably not.

“White House Down” is the better movie in some ways – but “Olympus” has the benefit of being released first. The former is superior to the latter in the CGI-effects department, the higher-profile director, and the cast. Even against the likes of Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Melissa Leo; once you have Tatum, Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal and then add the extra oomph of James Woods, Richard Jenkins and Jason Clarke; there’s no competition. But “Olympus” wins in many other aspects.

“Olympus” embraces its over-the-top brutality and the insane premise of a terrorist group taking down the most heavily protected house on Earth in a matter of minutes. That movie is a lot of fun. This is only mildly fun. It has fun with the premise, but its aspirations of becoming a great buddy action comedy feel forced. This feels too serious at times, which doesn’t work to the film’s benefit with so many frustrating “Okay, that’ll never happen!” moments. Granted, this premise will never happen – but if it does ever happen, we should all hope that the actual John McClane is taking a tour of the White House that day.

The antagonists’ motives are explained well for the most part. Cale’s motivations to stay at the White House to save his daughter are evident as well, even if those motivations are cookie-cutter. But that isn’t bad for this type of movie, because audiences are there for the action. There just isn’t enough of it.

The build-up takes too long, and this type of movie needs to have tension building that doesn’t take forever. There’s a lot of drama there, and we just want the action. And the bits of humour. Thankfully, there’s quite a lot of that, too. One of the members of the paramilitary group (the amusing hacker, Jimmi Simpson) has a lot of charisma, so he is the best antagonist in the movie – even better than the boss man (who I won’t reveal, even if (s)he’ll be blatantly obvious). There’s a prominent buddy comedy aspect, and even if the jokes aren’t so memorable, they provide big laughs at the time.

“White House Down” is familiar and forgettable, but it’s not a horrible way to pass 131 minutes. It just doesn’t bring enough to the table to be noteworthy. Since it’s so familiar, there are few surprises hiding away, and the antagonists are obvious from the get go. Apparently, if you’ve seen one Die Hard in the White House movie; you’ve seen them all.

Score: 58/100

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Olympus Has FallenRelease Date: March 22, 2013Director: Antoine FuquaStars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan FreemanRuntime: 120 min.

Die Hard is one of the very best action movies ever made. It’s well-made, has a very simplistic plot, and it’s one hell of a fun movie. It’s also an essential viewing for any guy. It has inspired many fun, action movies; most recently Olympus Has Fallen.

Mike Banning is a disgraced former Presidential guard who finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack. He must use his knowledge to work with national security and rescue the President from his kidnappers.

As far as action movies inspired by Die Hard, this is memorable. Though, I’m not sure how vibrantly it will stand out in any of these cast members’ filmographies (especially Freeman’s and Eckhart’s). This is a decent movie for Antoine Fuqua, because his style fits the movie very well. Rick Yune is forgettable as the terrorist mastermind behind it all, mostly because he sports a look of anger the whole time. He’s ruthless and he looks like the smartest guy in the room, but aren’t all terrorists? Personality would have helped the guy. When he takes off his glasses, you know shit’s about to hit the fan.

Aaron Eckhart makes a fine President. Gerard Butler rocks his role, but he ain’t Bruce Willis. At least he doesn’t crack-wise when he’s about to snap someone’s neck, or have a catch phrase, like “Boo-ya, b*tch!” It’s not like this mirrors Die Hard in every possible way. Butler uses a lot of guns, but he is also great with hand-to-hand combat and his knife. There are many kills where he stabs the guy in the brain or the bottom of the neck. It’s great to see Butler as a complete bad-ass again. It’s he against many North Koreans, about three hundred, I’d say. So practically the entire North Korean army. (To any readers from North Korea: Relax, don’t be offended. It’s a joke. Hardy-har-har.)

This is an entertaining movie, albeit brutal. The only truly boring part of the movie is the first fifteen minutes or so, but it heats up fairly quickly. Also, some might not find the entertainment in a helicopter’s machine gun shooting at civilians on the streets of Washington. I didn’t dig that part so much, but this is usually awesome and there’s lots and lots of blood. It feels long, but a movie like this cannot be rushed. The poor visuals make it look like a video game, because, really, it’s a movie that would make a very fun video game. This is Die Hard meets The Raid: Redemption.

It’s pretty awesome. If you want a movie with great characterization, plot development, a generally original plot, and memorable jokes, look elsewhere. If you seek a movie that has a simple and ridiculous (yet awesome) plot, brainless action, clever (but forgettable) one-liners, a lot of blood, an enormous body count, tons of bullets, and a lot of F-bombs and real bombs; then this shouldn’t disappoint.

Score70/100

Erin Brockovich (2000) Review

Erin Brockovich

Release Date: March 17, 2000

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Stars: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart

Runtime: 131 min

Tagline: She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees.

 Erin  Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is an unemployed single mother, who has hit a bad streak of unemployment. She gets in a car accident, and attempts to sue but after that ultimately fails – she tried to get work from her public defender,  Ed Masry (Albert Finney). With a lot of persistence and determination, she lands a job as a legal aid. Her wardrobe and attitude are constantly frowned upon,  so she would like to prove herself. Along with her determination, she starts an investigation of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which may just be a health hazard for a small town near to her.

                  Erin Brockovich is actually a pretty sweet and inspirational true story, with an incredible titular performance from Julia Roberts. Most of the characters were great and the story was pretty good.

The story was inspirational because of her [Erin’s] care for the citizens, and her passion for the law case she got herself involved with. It was also a little sad because she worked so much, and she didn’t have a lot of time for her children. The only characters I really only liked was Erin because of her charisma (but I didn’t like that she didn’t spend enough time with her children), and Ed Masry because he had a nice fair share of charisma. The other ones I didn’t care for dearly, mostly because I can’t remember all of them. Erin’s job did definitely affect her outside life, which made some scenes fairly poignant.

At times the story wasn’t overly interesting and it drag in some areas. If the film was just pure drama, it wouldn’t have been very great. There’s a lot of style and great humour offered, that makes it the most enjoyable. The humour is never hit-and-miss, it’s really all a great hit – and a lot of the jokes are quite memorable.

Erin Brockovich offers solid humour, a bit of poignancy, a great performance, and some dragged–out scenes and a sometimes-not-totally-interesting story. It’s really a film that can make one get on the verge of tears at some scene, and then have their face hurt from laughter in another.

 80/100