White House Down (2013)


Special Agent Todd Keeps Making Those Sounds, I’m Gonna Start Looking at Him.

White House Down (2013)I decided that I needed something to watch, and my response to that whimsy is ever to check with my old friend RedBox.  The movie I was most excited about is one we’ll get to later, but I also saw today’s movie and decided it needed to be done as well.  Some people might argue that I’ve already reviewed this movie when I reviewed a movie called Olympus Has Fallen.  Many have argued that this is the exact same movie.  And I’m always excited by the proposition of reusing old reviews.  It makes my life so much easier.  Well we’ll find out if that’s a possibility as I review White House Down, written by James Vanderbilt, directed by Roland Emmerich, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Joey King, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Nicolas Wright, and Rachelle Lefevre.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) tries to repair his damaged relationship with his daughter Emily (Joey King) by getting the job that she would think is the coolest job in the world: Secret Service to the President of the United States, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).  He interviews with a former college acquaintance who heads the Secret Service, Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and even gets a pass for Emily to come with him into the White House, but Carol decides that he’s unqualified for the job because of his tendency to show a lack of respect for authority and lack of follow-through as mentioned in his military record.  While on the tour, John and Emily get separated when the Head of the Presidential Martin Walker (James Woods) leads a raid on the White House with ex-Delta Force operative Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) and hacker Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson).  John must try to save Emily AND the President before all Hell breaks loose.

Sure, this wasn’t that great of a movie, but I would say I found it preferable to Olympus Has Fallen.  They are basically the same movie, but this is the more fun version of that movie.  Sure, it was dumb, but Rolland Emmerich has a great gift for winning me over with plenty enough fun to overcome the potentially crippling stupidity in the scripts that he chooses.  I’m even able to ignore the super-obvious moments in the scripts.  Like this whole played out “Daughter calling her father by his first name until the time is right for an emotional moment to call you Dad” thing.  That’s been done to death, and the second I heard her call him John I started a mental stopwatch for my smug satisfaction at being right yet again.  The same could have been said about the part where the President is talking about the pocket watch he carries next to his heart that was a gift from his wife.  The only reason I didn’t realize how that would turn out at the end of the movie is because it had been so long since they initially introduced the watch that I had forgotten that I had already predicted the result of it.

Most of the performances in this movie were decent.  They got some great actors to be in the movie, and most of them seemed like they were giving at least 50%.  Good enough!  Channing Tatum manages to be funny and charming enough.  I don’t get some of his character’s choices though.  What does John have against picking up guns from the people he’s killed?  He’s always running out of ammo.  Those guns probably have bullets.  Those dead bodies probably have extra ammo on them as well.  Is it a moral thing?  I think most people would be okay with this particular form of theft.  Jamie Foxx is usually entertaining, but I felt he was a little tuned down for this.  Also, he got bitch-smacked unconscious by an old ass James Woods.  When Jamie had the drop on him!  Thug shit, homie!  I found myself entirely unconvinced by Joey King as Tatum’s daughter.  She just didn’t do a good job, and I tried to give her a pass.  But every time she tried to emotionally yell, “DAD!” I just wasn’t buying it.  It’s never good to be able to see someone trying to act when they just should be acting.  Also there was that flag-waving thing she did at the end of the movie.  That shit was cheesier than Mac and Cheese commercials act like their product is.  And that is the cheesiest.  I did like that girl Jackie Geary, who played the assistant to the VP, but her negotiation skills need work.  She said her payment for getting Tatum an interview for the Secret Service was a date where Tatum had to at least attempt to get to second base.  When he upped that favor, it is only fair that you up your compensation to at least a finger blasting.

White House Down (much as almost everything Rolland Emmerich does) was stupid, but it was enjoyable in how aware of its stupidity it was.  Emmerich is gifted at overcoming stupid with fun, which sets this movie above Olympus Has Fallen, where the director did not possess such gifts.  The story is predictable, but most of the performances are decent, and I had enough fun watching it.  I could at least recommend this movie for a RedBoxing, but just barely that.  White House Down gets “I lost the rocket launcher” out of “As the President of the United States, this comes with the full weight, power and authority of my office.  Fuck you.”

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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


You Seriously Think I’m a Cop in a Skintight Red and Blue Suit?

Another week has come when I’ve been able to secure a free Tuesday and used it to get to a movie theater for a double feature.  If I had planned it better, I might have been able to make it to three movies, but I don’t plan things.  I just showed up for the first show of one movie I wanted to see and then found out what the nearest other movie I wanted to see.  That problematically meant that I’d have to sit around outside for an hour proofreading old reviews, but I’ll get to that second movie later.  The first one is a movie I was first not excited to see because they were just rereleasing a comic book movie origin story with a different set of actors, but then trailers for the movie won me over.  And it’s a comic book movie, so I was going to see it either way.  Let’s find out if you should go as I review The Amazing Spider-Man, based on characters created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves, and starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka, Irrfan Khan, C. Thomas Howell, and Stan Lee.

Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz) dump their young child off with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and leave, seemingly in a hurry and never to be seen again.  Later, he grows into Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield).  Well, he was Peter Parker before he grew up, but you know what I meant.  He’s in high school later in the movie, where he’s a nerd who is bullied by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is the object of his affections.  At home, Peter finds a briefcase owned by his father, and in it finds paperwork from his studies with herpetologist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).  He goes to OsCorp to see what Connors is working on and, while he’s exploring the facility, gets bitten by a genetically modified spider, which helps him develop spider-like abilities like wall crawling, enhanced strength and agility, and a danger-sensing spider sense.  No one could have seen any of this coming.  Well these powers will invariably bring great responsibility, ones that he chooses to ignore when he decides not to stop a robbery because the clerk was a dick and that leads to Uncle Ben being shot and killed.  Peter embarks on a vigilante crusade to find the killer.  Meanwhile, Dr. Connors takes his experiments to help regenerate his arm to the next level by testing on himself, and it winds up turning him into a giant lizard.  Can this man-spider put aside his own quest to defeat this lizard-like creature?  Yeah, probably.

I liked this movie, but some of the stuff fell pretty flat with me.  The story was fine, but I think a lot of the dialogue needed a lot of work.  The story is a bit of a reimagining of the classic Spider-Man story that the majority of us – and certainly the nerdiest of us – have heard numerous times.  Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider that’s been tested on somehow, he gets special powers, his uncle gets killed in some way that is arguably Peter’s fault, and he becomes Spider-Man.  That’s all the same.  This time the story was a little more modernized as genetic engineering is more of a today thing than radioactivity.  That was a big deal closer to the time Spider-Man was created and that’s why that was 90% of their origin stories.  They also go with a common store robbery to get things started instead of having Spider-Man be ripped off by his wresting promoter.  I have a feeling the store robbery is a more common thing there too.  The only problem with that is that I’m with Peter: I would’ve let that dude rob that douche hole of a store clerk too.  Sure, it worked out poorly for him this time, but the lesson needed to be learned.  But I’m not the kind of nerd that thinks things can’t be changed because they’re gospel, but I am still pleased that they stuck to the basics.  The Tobey McGuire movie stuck more towards the story I knew, but this movie also had the web shooters instead of Peter making webs out of his own wrists.  It was perhaps a little shaky in how they made Peter intelligent.  He was indeed smart, but he also left his camera with “Property of Peter Parker” written on the back of it for an enemy to find, so I’d say he’s not quite smart enough.  He also takes off his mask far too much for my liking.  I’ll take your word for it that it’s still Peter, but what’s the purpose of wearing a mask if you can’t go five minutes without taking it off in front of a kid or the police?  They also didn’t go for the Mary Jane character in this movie, probably because Kirsten Dunst already uglied up that role a while ago.  Gwen Stacy is an acceptable substitute.

I’d say the biggest problem I found with this movie is the dialogue.  Spider-Man had a good couple of one-liners in him that were amusing, but much of the dialogue just falls flat.  I feel like it’s most evident whenever Peter and Gwen were talking.  I understand that they’re supposed to like each other and probably be nervous with each other, but it just seemed like no one actually wrote dialogue sometimes, telling the actors to go out there and make it up as they go along, but neither one had anything to say.  The best example is the scene they show after the credits, where a hidden figure asks Connors if Peter knows about his father and Connors just says, “No.”  Good one, bro.  I did like the use of Peter’s cell phone to listen to the voicemail from Uncle Ben posthumously.  It felt like Superman listening to the message from his father, Jor-El, after his death.  Maybe it’s just because Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando were in Apocalypse Now together.

The look of the movie was also great times.  There were no parts of the movie that were horribly computer generated as in the first Spider-Man movie, so crawling up the walls looks great.  The suit looks just as good as always, and I really liked how they unveiled it slowly, piece by piece, until the full reveal after seeing Spider-Man through a first-person perspective that finally revealed it by having him land on a reflective building.  They use reflection to good effect later on too when Connors is standing by a glass door and looking at his reflection in a way that looks like he has both of his arms.  I didn’t like this door later because seeing “Curtis” in a reflection apparently makes me read “Citrus” for a while and get really confused.  There’s also a part of the movie where Spider-Man is trying to find the Lizard in the sewers and shoots webs down all the different tunnels and waits in the web until one of them vibrates to tell him something is down there.  I thought this was a really clever idea on the part of the writers, taken straight from nature.  I liked all of the action scenes in the movie too.  Spider-Man never used his webs so well in a fight in the other movies.  He balls up the lizard with them, pulls himself through the lizard’s legs, and pretty much uses his webs in every imaginable way.  It was all very exciting.

I liked all the performances in this movie, but it seems like they got some pretty solid actors to do this stuff.  I think I prefer Tobey McGuire, but Andrew Garfield did a commendable job.  He had all the wit and charm as Spider-Man, and all the nervousness and lack of confidence as Peter.  I much prefer Emma Stone to Kirsten Dunst, though.  I’ll go into it more when I get around to the first three Spider-Man movies, but Mary Jane was supposed to be a supermodel whereas Gwen Stacy was just a regular girl.  I suppose they went with Emma Stone because they couldn’t find many actresses uglier than Dunst.  Yeah, I said it!  Maggie Gyllenhaal was probably unavailable.  Well they just got tired of looking so they hired someone good looking instead.  And she’s incredibly cute and charming in this movie.  I also liked how she used every man’s weakness against her father when she was trying to hide the fact that Peter was in her room.  Women probably already know this, but if you start talking about cramps and menstruation stuff, most men (myself included), will curl up into a ball and start humming to themselves while crying.  I really liked Denis Leary as her father too.  He was funny while still being intimidating to Peter in every way.  I think the Lizard was a great villain to go to, the other big ones already having been used in the other movies.  I was also a fan of him because my dad was a herpetologist, which makes them the best kind of people.  Rhys Ifans also does a great job at it.  One could expect that Stan Lee would also be popping in for a bit in this movie.  I say make sure you look out for his scene, because it’s phenomenal, and quite possibly the best scene he’s ever been in for one of these movies.

Though I don’t necessarily feel that Spider-Man required a reboot so soon, they did a pretty good job of it.  The story is the same one we’ve seen in the comic books for the most part, but the changes they made were welcome and added a little bit more modern feel to the Spider-Man story.  The look was great, the action was fantastic and exciting, and I liked all of the performances, some even better than the original movie (Kirsten Dunst!).  The only complaint I have about this movie is that there is a large amount of dialogue that falls flat.  Altogether, I was satisfied with the rebooted Spider-Man, and I think you will be too.  It’s worth catching in a theater, but I’m guessing it won’t blow your mind.  The Amazing Spider-Man gets “I think he’s trying to do something maybe the police can’t” out of “Your father and I were going to change the lives of billions.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Rundown (2003)


I’d Offer You a Beer, But It Seems You Blew Up My Bar.

The first day of my challenge leading up to my birthday gets things kicked off with a bang.  I’ve picked my favorite movie in the action genre.  There are a few things I’d like to make clear when it comes to these selections.  First, I’m not saying that today’s movie is the hands down best action movie ever made.  I’m saying it’s my favorite.  It’s my birthday and I’ll review what I want to!  Second, it also had to be a movie that I haven’t already reviewed because it wouldn’t really count as one a day if I just copied and pasted a previous review.  And third, I didn’t want them to cross categories.  Also, I kind of just looked through my DVD’s and grabbed any candidates that occurred to me.  So yeah, I may have forgotten about movies like Terminator 2 and Predator, but I’m comfortable with the decision I made.  Like I said before, it’s not necessarily the best action movie, but certainly a favorite of mine.  And so, I bring you my review of The Rundown, written by James Vanderbilt and R.J. Stewart, directed by Peter Berg, and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, Rosario Dawson, William Lucking, Ewen Bremner, Ernie Reyes Jr., and Jon Gries.

Beck (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a retrieval expert who is pretty damned good at what he does, even though he’s not that into his profession.  He only does it to pay off a debt that he owes his boss, Billy Walker (William Lucking) and to get enough money to open his own restaurant.  Billy offers Beck one more job to clear his debt and earn enough money to achieve his goal.  That job: go to South America and retrieve Billy’s son, Travis (Seann William Scott), who is down there searching for a golden artifact called “el Gato Diablo”.  Beck catches a ride with an eccentric pilot named Declan (Ewen Bremner) and starts his search.  Beck’s even kind enough to pay a visit (and a lot of money) to the corrupt de facto owner of the town, Cornelius Bernard Hatcher (Christopher Walken), to make sure he’s not stepping on any toes.  He finds Travis at a bar owned by Mariana (Rosario Dawson), but he also finds trouble when Hatcher decides that Travis was close to finding the Gato and he no longer feels like Beck should take him.

I guess this contest is not going to be bringing any surprises when it comes to my opinion, so the fun will have to lie in the justification.  I love this movie.  I will grant the conceit that things in this movie have been done before, and the movie also seems disinterested in surprising you along the way.  What it wants is fun, and it delivers that throughout.  But, as always, we’ll focus on story first.  The basic idea of the story is a combination of various things that have been done many times in the past.  It’s a bounty hunter movie, it’s a rebellion against oppressive forces movie, it’s a buddy picture, and it’s even kind of a love story that they start and don’t finish.  In fact, the greater majority of the buddy picture parts of this movie seemed straight out of my dim recollection of the Damon Wayans/Adam Sandler movie Bulletproof; a movie that I kind of want to watch now that I’ve thought about it.  But that will have to wait until after the contest is finished.  But we already know that it’s the journey and not the destination, and the journey is very well done.  Loads of good action, great scenery to put around it, and some clever dialogue to boot.  When Beck was talking to his boss in the beginning about not wanting to get the money from the starting lineup of a football team, not because he’s worried about injury for himself but because he’s worried that he’ll hurt them and “they have a good chance of repeating”, it’s funny and lets us know that this guy is a badass.  A good amount of the funny that came from Travis seemed like it was improvised.  Seann William Scott talked a lot, but a decent enough portion was funny.  Calling Beck “Wolfgang Stuck” amused me.  I also liked when he played the rebels against Beck.  The baboons humping Beck’s face was a little low-brow, but that’s not to say I didn’t think it was funny.  I felt like they could’ve tried harder with the rebels.  They seemed to try to rush us to caring about them with a quick conversation and the handing over of a necklace, but we didn’t have enough time to get to know them to actually care about what would happen to them.

I loved the action in this movie.  On occasion, I’d say I’ve had my fill of shootouts in movies.  They’re usually not that visually interesting.  I get the feeling that Peter Berg agrees with me to some degree because he made his main character refuse to use guns.  People would pull guns, but he’d quickly disarm them and get to the beatings.  And who would’ve known that a fight with “Get Your Freak On” by Missy Elliot playing in the background would work?  Not me before this movie did it, I’ll tell you that much.  But Beck was so against using guns that he found other creative ways to use guns.  The one I liked the most was when he tripped Travis by popping the clip out of the gun, causing it to slide across the floor and underneath his foot, causing him to fall on his ass.  There are also two possible outcomes to your main character having an aversion to guns.  The first one is that he’ll have a sappy, mopey story about how a gun killed his wife or some shit, and the second is that he’ll pick up guns and be epic with them.  Thankfully, they chose the latter.  We know it’s coming, but he uses those guns in such awesome and creative ways – ways I’ve never seen guns used before or after – that I don’t give a damn.  Some of the things that Beck does in the movie border on superhuman, but I actually believe it from the Rock.

I loved every single performance in this movie.  For someone with a less than admirable job, the Rock always came off as extra charming. This first occurred to me when he was accidentally getting the autograph from the quarterback in the beginning of the movie.  He had such happiness on his face, like a child getting an autograph from Mickey Mouse.  He doesn’t keep that innocence for long because it quickly becomes time to beat some ass.  For some reason, the Rock is really good at fake fighting.  I can’t figure it out.  Probably just a natural gift.  Seann William Scott was playing a lot more for comedy.  He wasn’t always funny, maybe landing on about 70% of the random things he said, but he was still good.  What helped it more was that he and the Rock had a great chemistry that made all of their parts together that much better.  Christopher Walken is fantastic in this movie.  He’s definitely funny, especially coming from someone who knew he was watching a movie and that this character wasn’t real.  But, even though he was funny, I get the feeling that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere around that character if he was real.  He pulled off intimidation very well.  But it’s Christopher Walken.  What do you expect?  I get the feeling that Rosario Dawson wasn’t really trying to be sexy at all in this movie.  Thankfully, she has no say in the matter.  You’re gonna be sexy and you’re gonna like it, missy!  She also had a great character.  She was also very charming and certainly no damsel in distress.  Ewen Bremner was the comic relief character and you know what I generally say about comic relief people: only this guy has done it without annoying me that I can presently think of.  His big joke was mainly his super thick accent, but he worked it well.

I love the Rundown and I don’t care who knows it.  This is one of the best, and most fun, action movies that I can think of.  The story is basic, unsurprising, and it’s been done before, but some great writing, fantastic action, and outstanding performances elevate it to be one of my favorite action movies ever.  Of course you should watch this movie!  You should own this movie!  And you should fuck yourself if you disagree with me.  The Rundown gets “Establish dominance!  Establish dominance!” out of “Have fun.”

Congratulations goes to my friend Eric for being the one who finally guessed the movie.  And a special shout out goes to Chris and Fabio for trying so hard.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.