Sunday, June 30, 2013

Movie Review: White House Down

Check your knowledge of civics and government at the door, and go into White House Down purely for the action. Do it that way and once it gets going, you’ll have a good time; otherwise, you’ll end up saying “WTF???” over and over again.

Starring and executive produced by Channing Tatum, Channing plays John Cale, a Capitol policeman who wants to be a Secret Service agent and who won’t be winning Dad of the Year. His precocious 11-year old daughter Emily (Joey King) calls him John. But he’s trying to win points with her by taking her on a tour of the White House (she’s a political junkie and knows as much about the White House as the obviously flustered tour guide). Meanwhile, head of Secret Service Finnery (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is wishing her mentor Walker (James Wood) a happy retirement. President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is brokering a controversial Middle East peace plan. And then … well … and then all hell breaks loose.

Led by homegrown terrorist Stenz (Jason Clarke) and uber-hacker Tyler (Jimmi Simpson), first the Capitol and then the White House go under full assault.

It took a while to get going. In fact, there was way too much exposition. We got it five minutes in. The president is working on a controversial peace plan. After looking at my watch (theoretically because I don’t really own a watch and it is rude to do the phone thing in a dark theater) several times, the action finally started rolling. And when it did, it never really stopped.

I truly hope the people guarding the president and the members of congress are more skilled than what we saw in this film. It is if the baddies just walked in and killed EVERYONE on the president’s detail without breaking a sweat. Seriously, they made it look easy. Not to mention, there is one glaring plot hole at the end. And I usually get swept away in the movie enough to gloss over a few plot holes so this one had to be major (and it was).

Yet, Tatum and Foxx have great chemistry and little Joey King held her own as the plucky, smart daughter. But the plot took itself way too seriously and got increasingly over-the-top as it went on. The politics were a little too obvious and easy. President Obama Sawyer … good, anyone that doesn’t agree with him … bad. In this movie, not agreeing with the president makes you an extreme right-winger hell bent on destroying the country. It was just a little too pat for me.
The casting almost made it too easy to tell who would end up being a bad guy. There are just some actors that you know, right off the bat, will end up on the wrong side by the end. That was true in spades here. As characters made their first appearances, I knew they'd end up bad just based on casting.
I enjoyed it but that is because I saw it at an early matinee. Not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I had paid full price.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

 Before I get into the review, I have two things to say. First, within the ‘monster universe’ I like Zombies the least. At least vampires are seductive and sexy. Werewolves are animalistic and .. sexy. Ghoest are terrifying but kind of cool. Zombies? Zombies are unattractive, not especially bright, have no charm to speak of and their cannibals… Gross!

Having said that, I went into World War Z with an open mind. As always, I saw it at a morning show. It’s always a good thing for a film’s box office when a 10:15 a.m. has a healthy audience. It is also good for the film when there is spontaneous applause when the credits begin to roll. What that says to me is that regardless of what the critics say, if this is your kind of movie. Then you’ll probably like it.

We never find out exactly how World War Z started. Basically former UN operative Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his wife Karen (Mireille Enos) are the happy parents of two happy daughters. While taken then to school, all hell breaks loose. Really it does. A traffic jam turns into madness and mayhem when zombies take to the street and begin turning people into zombies.

Brad Pitt gets called back to duty and before we know it, he’s jet-setting around the world – from South Korea to Israel to Europe in search of Patient Zero or some kind of cure.

The action starts and never stops. However, there is a great deal of humanity to the activities that make the action more than just gratuitous scenes action for the sake of action. I also appreciated the fact that the gory was kept to a minimum. Flesh-eating zombies can give filmmakers carte blache to get all bloody and gory and gross. Thankfully, they didn’t go that route.

Can’t say I loved it but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Superman is not the easiest hero to bring to the screen. Lately, with Iron Man, Spiderman, and of course, Batman, it was achingly obvious that he was the one most in need of a reboot. What makes Superman so hard to bring to the screen is his perfection. While we all strive for perfection, no one wants to see a movie about a perfect flawless hero. Batman is just dark. Spiderman has teenage angst, awkwardness and the guilt from losing Uncle Ben to contend with. Iron Man has to grapple with his ego and his daddy issues. And the Hulk? Well, it would be an understatement to say that he has anger issues. Superman with his chiseled good looks, strong morals and indestructibility, makes for difficult character development.

So, with Man of Steel we begin again. We see how Clark Kent a.k.a  Kal-El (Henry Cavill) got to earth. We meet his parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue). As their planet imploded, they sent their newborn Kal-El off into the unknown while they perished with their planet. However, before their demise, they thwarted a last minute coup from General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his group of power hungry Kryptonians. Zod and crew escaped the end of their civilization by being sent away in a prison shuttle doomed to an eternity of frozen solitude.

We see Clark’s earthy parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). And as a child and young adult, he struggled with his powers and, more importantly, with hiding his true nature (and strength) from the residents of Smallville, Kansas who wouldn’t know what to make of this superhuman alien in their midst.

So as an adult, Clark roams. From fishing boatman to busboy, he bounces from scene to scene. Once he displays his powers – to save a group of men on an exploding oil rig or to come to the aid of an overworked waitress – he has to move on.

He ends up at the South Pole, helping a group of military types who have an unidentified object on their hand. It piques his interest and it should. It’s the last vestiges of his home planet. There, he meets his father, or his memory, and is able to learn about the last days of his people. As fate would have it, a nosy reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is on this case and follows Clark. She learns the truth about him, though no one wants to believe her. Meanwhile, Zod has managed to locate Clark on earth. He holds the planet hostage until they can get a hold of him.

Christopher Nolan, of The Dark Knight Trilogy, produced Man of Steel, but he clearly didn’t direct it. I wanted desperately to love this movie. Henry Cavill was a solid Superman and a very good casting decision. I even liked Crowe, Costner and Lane as his parents. Normally, I can take or leave Amy Adams but she was a plucky Lois Lane. So what was the problem?

I enjoyed the scenes on Krypton and as Clark was growing up. They had heart. However, that heart was lost of the modern day scenes. And heart was needed in the Kent-Lane relationship, in particular, and in these scenes in general. The last half-hour is just a series of explosions and special effects. It went on so long that the intensity was replaced with boredom.

A little romance, or at least a little levity would have been nice. Because Superman is not a Dark Knight, it would have been appropriate to have a little bit of humor. My introduction to Superman wasn’t the comics. It wasn’t the George Reaves of the old black-and-white television show. It was Christopher Reeve, whose Superman was romantic and charming.  A dose of that would have gone a long way in this film.

Having said all of that, I will be back in my seat, munching on my popcorn when the next installment comes out. Speaking of being in your seat, you can leave yours when the credits start as there is no post-credit scene to wait around for.