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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Contact (1997)


If It Is Just Us, Seems Like an Awful Waste of Space.

When I was looking through my DVD collection to pick out my favorite science fiction movie, I found it fairly difficult.  I had already done a lot of the bigger and more popular movies in the science fiction genre, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Back to the Future.  But then I saw this movie and decided, “Okay, so people are probably going to piss all over this being my favorite science fiction movie, but I’m gonna do it anyway.”  But look here, people.  This movie has space travel and aliens in it.  That definitely makes it a science fiction movie.  And it’s based on a book written by Carl Sagan.  So fuck your faces.  This movie is Contact, based on a novel by Carl Sagan, written by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, William Fichtner, David Morse, Jena Malone, Angela Bassett, Jake Busey, and Rob Lowe.

Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway (Jodie Foster as older Ellie, Jena Malone as younger Ellie) is a promising scientist that spends all of her time working on the SETI project (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence); having been inspired to do so by her late father (David Morse).  She works for a while at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico until Government scientist David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt) pulls the funding because he believes she’s wasting her talents.  Ellie is undeterred and takes her team, including her blind friend Kent Clark (William Fichtner), to find other funding, leaving behind the guy she met that she was getting too involved with, Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey).  After months of searching, she finally finds funding in the eccentric billionaire S. R. Hadden (John Hurt), giving her the ability to use the Very Large Array in Socorro County, New Mexico.  Years later, Drumlin pokes his head in again to screw things up for her.  On their last day with the array, Ellie finds a signal coming from the star Vega of repeating prime numbers.  The government gets involved, bringing Drumlin and National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (James Woods) into the picture.  On further analysis, they find that there are plans in the signal to build a transport device, but who will be the one to go?

I really like this movie.  Yes, it’s arguably not the most sci-fi movie ever, but it still definitely counts in my opinion.  It’s got a whole bunch of science in the movie, and it never happened so it’s also fiction.  Add in the travel through space and time and a brief appearance by aliens and I say it totally counts.  Deep down, I feel that I like this movie so much because of its religious undertones.  Or overtones, in some parts.  Personally, I believe in God, but I’m also big into science.  I’d equate myself with the Palmer Joss character.  I have my religious beliefs, but I don’t usually argue with people about theirs and I consider myself more fond of the search for truth.  This movie doesn’t take a strong stance in either the direction of belief or science, it more takes a stance that the over the top crazies in both directions are the jerk faces.  Jake Busey’s character, for instance, is a big jerkface.  But, on the other side, Ellie could kind of be a jerkface as well.  It’s a fairly accurate characterization from many atheists I’ve met that they seem to think they’re so superior to those stupid people that believe in a big man in the sky.  When Ellie and Palmer were in bed talking about it and she started saying things like, “Did you ever think that might not have been God,” he tolerated it.  I would’ve said, “Look, I didn’t criticize you for all your ‘I love stars and little green men’ bullshit!”  I liked it when later in the movie she says that she’d need proof to believe in God and he comes back with, “Did you love your father?  Prove it.”  Booyah, bitch!  I did feel bad for Ellie when she didn’t get taken on the transport at first because she doesn’t believe in God, but it also made sense.  If they’re supposed to be sending someone to represent Earth and 95% of Earth believes in a god of some sort, then they probably shouldn’t send someone that thinks the other 95% is stupid.  At the end of the movie, it all gets thrown back in her face in a really cool way, when no one believes what she’s saying about the transport because she has no proof and all her Occam’s Razor stuff is thrown back in her face, it’s very satisfying.  And just as satisfying that all the people who don’t believe her are basically criticizing something she believes, even though that’s what got her kept off the transport in the first place.  They don’t point it out, but the audience is well aware of what’s going on.  The movie doesn’t answer any questions when it comes to religion, but it doesn’t really try to.  It just poses a lot of questions that I found really thought-provoking and made me appreciate the movie.  The rest of the story was also very good to me.  I liked the science in the movie and it all seemed very sound as far as I could tell.  The drama aspects of the movie also succeeded with me.  The part of young Ellie calling into the Ham radio to try to talk to her recently deceased father broke my heart.  And you feel pretty shitty for Ellie in the other parts of the movie, especially when Drumlin keeps getting control and credit for her historic find.

The look of the movie holds up pretty damned well.  It’s not that old of a movie, but the graphics are mostly sound in the movie.  The opening of the movie was both a cool idea and a really good look.  They started out looking at Earth, listening to radio transmissions.  Then they backed up through the galaxy, playing older and older transmissions until silence.  They also put Bill Clinton into a bunch of scenes.  Adding his face to the scenes was convincing, but it obviously dates the movie a little bit.  The older and older this movie gets, the more likely it will be that people wouldn’t know who that was supposed to be.  Also, the graphics of travelling through the wormhole were really cool looking.

I really liked all of the performances in this movie.  For the most part, they stuck to some really good actors, so it wasn’t really a shock.  I think the world knows that Jodie Foster is a good actress, or at least was twice when she got her two Academy Awards.  But she was very good in this movie as well.  Foster is really believable and cute in her role, being able to convey her character’s excitement when she talks about the stars and the planets, and it’s very endearing.  This movie is probably the only occasion that I can think of that I was not annoyed by Matthew McConaughey.  His character in this movie was the one I identified with the most, and he did a good job doing the acting that was required.  The best example for me was the part where he had to ask the question that he knew would get Ellie disqualified.  The conflict is very evident on his face.  John Hurt was another character I liked.  He was definitely eccentric, and I liked the fact that he always seemed to know more than he was letting on.  Tom Skerritt was a very unlikeable character throughout the movie, but he did a good job at it.  He was always trying to steal Ellie’s thunder, but he did get me to start warming up to him near the end, which made what happen slightly after more effective.

All things being equal, the simplest answer is that this movie is really good.  The slightly more complicated answer is that I really liked the story, the look, and the bulk of the performances in the movie and it made for an interesting and thought-provoking movie.  I really recommend the movie, even though the inevitable outcome is the bulk of you saying that I can’t consider it a science fiction movie, let alone my favorite one.  Well to hell with you too.  Contact gets “I think it’s worth a human life” out of “You could call me a man of the cloth, without the cloth.”

Congratulations goes to Loni, who won the long battle to try and figure out this controversial choice for my favorite non-reviewed science fiction movie.  And more congratulations goes to her for being wise enough to say it was a good movie.  To hell with the rest of you!

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.

Surf’s Up (2007)


A real man is strong enough to admit when he’s wrong. Now, I don’t know if I’d say I was wrong, per se, but … oh wait. Never mind, I was totally wrong. So, in my previous review I revealed that I had rented 2 computer animated movies about birds, and that I had decided one would be crap and the other one would be alright (which was revealed yesterday to be Rio). What I was wrong about was that today’s movie, Surf’s Up (with the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Jon Heder, Diedrich Bader, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, and Brian Posehn), would be crap.

Cody Maverick (okay, we can knock a few points off for giving TheBeef that name) is an aspiring surfing penguin living in Antarctica with his mother and his brother (Brian Posehn). A bird of some kind rides a whale up to Antarctica looking for surfer’s for a yearly contest held in tribute to Big Z, a famous surfing penguin who died some years back while surfing, and also happens to be TheBeef’s inspiration. Cody begs his way onto the whale and catches a trip down to … wherever the Hell it took place. It’s not important, okay?! On the whale, he meets a surfing chicken, name Chicken Joe (voiced by Napoleon Dynamite himself, Jon Heder) who is on his way to the competition and seems to be either constantly stoned or brain damaged. They reach the contest and meet the douchey contest manager, Reggie Belafonte (James Woods), the much more douchey previous year’s champion, Tank Evans (the amazing Deidrich Bader, who had never let me down in a movie until I sat through Meet the Spartans), and the love interest, Lani (Zooey Deschanel, whose name I really resent having to type). Anyway, TheBeef challenges Tank because Tank was douching it up to Chicken Joe, but TheBeef is not that good of a surfer and crashes, gets pummeled by waves, and inevitably gets knocked out by hitting his head against a rock. Lani rescues him and takes him back to her house for treatment from her uncle, Geek (The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges). Can TheBeef learn to surf and win the competition? Tune in to the movie to find out! Same Bat time, same Bat channel!

I completely went in to this movie with low expectations and this movie was able to blow those expectations out of the water (pun intended). The voice acting really suited their parts. You need a kind of annoying teenage sounding person? TheBeef! You need three people that can act (?) stoned and loopy? Bridges, Heder, and Zooey! I mean, with a name like Zooey, how can you not be interested in mind-altering substances? Need two douchebags? Woods and Bader can play that! And you need a sarcastic older brother type? Well I WISH Posehn was my older brother! Completely perfect cast. Although this movie does make me wonder about Bridges in a way I may have mentioned on my review of the Big Lebowski. Had I not seen True Grit, I would think Bridges is a fantastic actor … while playing characters that are basically The Dude. Both Tron’s, Surf’s Up, and of course Big Lebowski; all of them The Dude. Thankfully I have seen True Grit so I know the man has range. I need to see more Jeff Bridges movies to either solidify or destroy the idea that he can only do one character really well. I don’t want to start thinking he’s Danny McBride or something. OH! Low blow?

Anyway, just like Rio and completely opposite Alpha and Omega, this movie is really well animated. Just having seen the few trailers I had, I also would not have realized that the movie was meant to look like someone was filming a documentary, but it was and this was used well in the movie. Not too much so that it’d be annoying, but also using that to comic effect in itself. The animation was also great. The animation gave a lot of personality to the characters and, most importantly, had really beautiful and realistic water effects. Non-gamers may not realize how important water effects can be. When you see a game whose animation cannot pull off water, it’s bothersome, but if it does it right, you notice it. I feel like I pay attention to water in video games a lot because it can be quite the sign of the dedication of the programmers. One problem with the animation is that sometimes you’d lose track of the characters because there’s not a whole lot you can do with penguins to individualize them.

The story was fine, but as is pretty usual in movies, it’s not entirely original. I guess you could say it’s original in that it’s a competition where the main character learns how to win and also learns about himself, but then make them penguins. And I wouldn’t say that the movie is laugh out loud funny either, as I don’t recall laughing myself. The jokes and comedy of the movie were just kind of there. I noticed them, they waved, but they never ran over and raped me into laughter. Wow that’s an awful metaphor. One thing I did think about the story is that, being animated, it seemed more for kids, but I don’t know that a kid would enjoy this beyond seeing penguins. So, whereas Rio was probably more enjoyable to kids than adults, I would say this one would be more for adults but the kids probably wouldn’t think much of it. Maybe I just don’t know what kids think. If I did, I probably wouldn’t hate them so much.

So there you have it, I sometimes assume incorrectly. But, I may also have been thinking this was Happy Feet when I rented it. Thankfully, it wasn’t. But when I eventually see Happy Feet, we shall see if that movie can overcome my pessimism as Surf’s Up did. I give this movie “Give it a look-see” out of “TACOS!!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.