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

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Movie Review: “White House Down”

Starring
Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Jason Clarke
Director
Roland Emmerich

Twenty-five years ago, Sandra Boynton wrote a greeting card where a cat tells his or her paramour, “What I lack in finesse, I make up with raw enthusiasm.” It’s a cute sentiment, and it also serves as a shockingly good description of director Roland Emmerich’s filmography (“2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Independence Day”). His movies are not what one would call subtle, but they’re infused with a relentlessness that carries them through even the darkest plot hole and corniest joke.

None of Emmerich’s movies, though, works as hard as “White House Down.” This is a script that feels like it was born from a weekend binge session of caffeine and ‘90s-era Jerry Bruckheimer movies, capped off with about 30 minutes of Wikipedia searches on the layout of the White House and the succession of the chain of command during wartime. And yet, somehow, it (mostly) rises above its shortcomings to deliver an entertaining shoot ‘em up. Channing Tatum should get the lion’s share of the credit for this, thanks to his effortless charm, but it doesn’t hurt that he and Jamie Foxx have good chemistry as well.

Former soldier John Cale (Tatum) is trying to land a job with the Secret Service, and he brings his estranged political junkie daughter Emily (Joey King, who looks like the little sister of Alia Shawkat) with him to his interview at the White House in the hopes of buttering her up. While they are there, a group of goons infiltrates the grounds and dispatches with White House security rather quickly. John and Emily were apart when the attack takes place, and as John looks for Emily, he winds up locating and rescuing President Sawyer (Foxx), though both are still trapped inside the White House. Cale and Sawyer try to sort out why the siege is happening and who could be responsible, but more importantly for Cale, he needs to find Emily.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

june_movies

Though the summer movie season is typically reserved for the kind of big blockbuster action films that dominated theaters last month, June offers a more eclectic assortment of movies, including star-studded comedies, small indies, and yes, another helping of big blockbuster action films. From the return of Superman to the end of the world (twice), there are plenty of good reasons to get out of the sweltering heat and be entertained this June.

“THE INTERNSHIP”

Who: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne and John Goodman
What: Two salesmen whose careers have been ruined by the digital age get internships at Google, where they must compete against young, tech-savvy geniuses.
When: June 7th
Why: It’s been almost a decade since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up for “Wedding Crashers” – which, along with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” helped revive the R-rated comedy – so there’s a certain degree of excitement about seeing them together on screen again. Of course, “Wedding Crashers” was actually funny, whereas “The Internship” doesn’t look quite as promising. The studio clearly believes that just by reuniting the two actors, the laughs will automatically flow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Director Shawn Levy’s previous comedies have been pretty tame in comparison to the duo’s last film, and many of the jokes in the trailer feel about five years past their sell-by date, Still, the Vaughn/Wilson reunion is simply too enticing to pass up, so I wouldn’t count out “The Internship” just yet.

“MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING”

Who: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond and Nathan Fillion
What: A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.
When: June 7th
Why: Most directors would take a much deserved vacation after wrapping on a movie as massive as “The Avengers,” but not Joss Whedon, who used his short break between filming and post-production on the Marvel blockbuster to shoot a modern day version of “Much Ado About Nothing” with some friends at his house. The movie is packed with familiar faces from the director’s so-called Whedonverse, with every one of his former TV shows represented in some capacity. Shot entirely in black and white, the film looks about as close to a low budget indie as you’re bound to find, but Whedon and Shakespeare are such a great fit (both celebrated for their sharp and witty dialogue) that it’s a wonder the latter didn’t attempt an adaptation of the Bard’s classic any sooner.

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