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Blu Tuesday: White House Down, Parkland and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“White House Down”

WHAT: While on a tour of the White House with his daughter (Joey King), Capitol policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) is forced into action when the building is invaded by a group of paramilitary mercenaries looking to kidnap the President of the United States (Jamie Foxx).

WHY: When it was announced that there were two movies in production about the White House coming under attack, I would have put my money on Roland Emmerich to deliver the more entertaining film. But while “White House Down” is amusing in an over-the-top sort of way, Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen” just barely edges it for me. Whereas that movie was a little more practical with its premise, Emmerich’s film wears its craziness on its sleeve, perhaps best illustrated by an outlandish chase sequence on the White House lawn. It also features more moles than a season of “24,” leading to some pretty impracticable twists. However, “White House Down” does benefit from some great chemistry between Tatum and Foxx, and the supporting cast is excellent, even if many of the actors are wasted in throwaway roles. At the end of the day, though, the two films are actually quite different despite their similar setups. While “Olympus Has Fallen” owes a lot to stealthy action thrillers like “Die Hard,” “White House Down” is a balls-out explosion extravaganza that’s the epitome of popcorn filmmaking.

EXTRAS: There’s no shortage of bonus material on the Blu-ray release, with 13 short featurettes – ranging from production, to casting, to special effects – and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Parkland”

WHAT: On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This is the story of the individuals involved in that tragic day, including the hospital staff at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, the Secret Service and FBI, the unwitting cameraman (Paul Giamatti) who captured it on film, and the family of Lee Harvey Oswald.

WHY: For as many times as the JFK assassination has been covered in cinema, it’s refreshing to see a film that offers a unique perspective on the matter, much in the same way that Emilio Estevez did with “Bobby.” Unfortunately, “Parkland” is a tale of two halves, and while the former is comprised of some powerful moments as the doctors, Secret Service agents and others scramble amid the chaos of the situation, the latter portion focusing on the days after the shooting isn’t nearly as interesting. The movie’s biggest problem is that there are so many characters that none of them are ever fully developed, though Giamatti’s Abraham Zapruder and James Badge Dale’s Robert Oswald are given more to do than most. With that said, it’s pretty incredible at how many great actors writer/director Peter Landesman was able to cast in the film – some of whom play such small, peripheral roles that they’re only in a scene or two – because it’s the quality of the talent that makes “Parkland” worth watching.

EXTRAS: There’s a director commentary and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Clear History”

WHAT: When Nathan Flomm (Larry David), a marketing executive at a start-up electric car company, gives up his 10 percent in shares after an argument with the car’s inventor (Jon Hamm), he’s publicly humiliated when the company becomes a massive success. Ten years later, Nathan has adopted a new identity and rebuilt his life in Martha’s Vineyard, but when his old boss shows up and fails to recognize him, he plans to get his revenge.

WHY: It’s been a couple of years since the last season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and while Larry David has remained mum about his plans to continue the show, his HBO movie “Clear History” should satisfy most fans for the time being. That’s because although the made-for-TV film exists completely separate from the “Curb” universe, David is essentially playing the same type of character, albeit one that’s obviously fictional. It was also co-written by David and three of his fellow “Curb” staffers, so the humor is very similar as well. Where “Clear History” falters slightly is with its 99-minute runtime, mostly because David’s brand of comedy works better in half-hour segments than a feature-length format. Nevertheless, it’s still a really funny movie that boasts a great supporting cast (including Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton and Amy Ryan) as well as David at his neurotic, petty best. It’s not quite “Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Movie,” but honestly, they probably could have called it that and no one would have noticed.

EXTRAS: Unless you consider a digital copy a bonus feature, nada.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Girl Most Likely”

WHAT: When failed playwright Imogene (Kristen Wiig) is dumped by her longtime boyfriend and fired from her job, she’s forced to move back home to New Jersey with her mother (Annette Bening) and eccentric brother (Christopher Fitzgerald) in order to get her life back on track.

WHY: I’m constantly amazed how movies like “Girl Most Likely” make it past the script stage, because it’s probably one of the least funny comedies of the year. I use the term “comedy” loosely, however, as there’s nothing particularly humorous about this film. A lot of that blame falls on Michelle Morgan’s awful screenplay, which can’t seem to decide what kind of movie it wants to be, teetering between broad comedy and a darker character piece. Kristen Wiig’s protagonist is so insufferable that she gives Hannah Horvath a run for her money, while the rest of the supporting characters (particularly Matt Dillon’s live-in boyfriend and Christopher Fitzgerald’s crab-obsessed brother) are just plain dumb. And don’t even get me started on the whole mollusk exoskeleton subplot, which is almost laughable in its lame attempts at symbolism. I expect as much from Wiig, who isn’t nearly the comic genius some might lead you to believe, but it’s incredibly disappointing to see that the same duo responsible for “American Splendor” could make something as dull and predictable as this.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette, gag reel and deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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