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

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln - Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Release Date: June 22, 2012

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper

Runtime: 105 min

Tagline: Are you a patriot or a vampire?

Who would have thought a sort of Van Helsing was once ruler of the free world…

At the age of 9, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses his mother being killed by a vampire, Jack Barts. He swears a route of vengeance, where he unsuccessfully tries to kill Barts ten years later. In the process, he meets Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) he becomes his mentor on how to kill the vampires of the night. There’s a catch: Lincoln may only kill those vampires that Sturgess says he can. He then moves to Springfield, where he gets reunited with his long-time friend, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and he meets his future wife, Mary (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Eventually, when he becomes the President of the United States, he learns that vampires are the real opponents of his own forces. As a result, he mounts a campaign to defeat them and the man behind the plan, Adam (not a good vampire name, eh? He’s portrayed by Rufus Sewell).

So, apparently… Lincoln is the Paul Bunyan of vampire hunters? Who would have thunk it! Being a vampire hunter comes with its costs though – they can’t have any family or friends. Of course, Abe eventually breaks that promise. He has to be honest, though, right? This does offer sort of a fun twist on one of America’s greatest leaders.

However, it often tries to juggle historical accuracies and the pure myth of Lincoln being a freaking vampire hunter. It just doesn’t work out too well. It feels lob-sided in areas, and that isn’t good for this sort of fun film that’s supposed to be exciting and not thought-provoking at all. We don’t want to think, and it should focus more and Lincoln hunting vampires. It does try to develop the plot and the characters, so for that, it’s easy to respect. It certainly is better than 2010’s Jonah Hex. However, they definitely should have thrown most historical accuracies, they tried to stay true to, completely out the window. Or, simply just scrap them altogether like Quentin Tarantino did with Inglourious Basterds.

The relationship between Lincoln and everyone else often gets peculiar. In real life, he seems like he would have been more open to those around him – even though he would have been quite busy. He wouldn’t have been this peculiar towards them, but he is a vampire hunter, of course… The plot is actually well-developed, and it isn’t just mindless vampire hunting (well, it sometimes is, but it has a certain purpose [mainly entertainment]) but it loses its preferrable balance of pacing toward the latter part of the film. The writers probably ran out of ideas. Lincoln, in the earlier parts of the film, was a character bent on vengeance, because of his mother’s death – but then he changes and becomes peculiar. The way they do the ending (Lincoln’s assassination; no need for a spoiler alert here, friends) is just okay, I would have loved to see a vampire assassinate him. That would have added some true gritty material to it all.

The casting is not done well. Benjamin Walker is not a very well-known actor, and all the other actors take the focus away from him. Anthony Mackie’s a big star, but he wouldn’t have been a right choice for Lincoln. I feel as if Dominic Cooper and Ben Walker should have switched roles. That way, the focal point would be the better known actor – Cooper. The focus is simply stolen from Cooper, and the casting director is to blame. The performances are pretty good, but the roles just do not feel right.

All that aside, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter offers a pretty fun, gruesome time. It’s a cool concept that is executed fairly well, but it has a few obstacles that tripped it up along the way. The writing feels lazy at times, but it tries to develop the characters and plot a bit, and for that – it’s admirable. However, when they do try to develop the characters or plot, it is often talky and mildly boring. The performances and the make-up are both fine. It gives us solid entertainment for what it’s supposed to be, anyone who likes gritty vampire flicks will love it – but history buffs, don’t be fooled by just Abraham Lincoln – there’s VAMPIRE HUNTER right in the title.