White House Down

White House Down is an Emmerich movie through and through, but amidst all the gunfire and explosions and stuff, this flick hits all the emotional setups and payoffs we want it to. Sure, there are some somewhat ‘interesting’ political ideas included in the movie, but they’re easily overlooked.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released June 28, 2013

Written by James Vanderbilt

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joey King, Rachelle Lefevre, Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Lance Reddick, Jason Clarke, Jimmi Simpson, James Woods, and Richard Jenkins

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Cale (Tatum) is a Capitol policeman who is divorced with a sassy early teen daughter named Emily (King). Cale has a bit of a rough history and is trying to get onto the Secret Service, partly because Emily is obsessed with the White House and the current president, Sawyer (Foxx). Of importance is the fact that Emily has a vlog (video blog) and she gets lucky by getting the president on a video during a tour of the White House.

The film starts with scenes that introduce the major players in the story we’re going to watch. Cale is the primary character, followed by Finnerty (Gyllenhaal), who is the White House chief of staff. She ends up having to lead out on the efforts by external forces to retake the White House after it falls. There is also Walker (Woods), the Secret Service White House detail boss who might just have a plan to do terrible things. Stenz (Clarke) is definitely a bad guy, and he’s a smart, determined guy.

We also have a few smaller characters, notably Donnie the tour guide (Wright), General Caulfield (Reddick), who has to face the implications of a compromised president, and the Speaker of the House, Raphelson (Jenkins), who could use more screen time.

The story unfolds as Cale takes his daughter with him to the White House while he is interviewed for a spot on the Secret Service. Thereafter, as we watch scenes of the bad guys, including a hacker (Simpson) executing what appears to be a complex plan to infiltrate the White House, Cale and Emily end up on a tour of the White House.

Bad timing, of course, as the baddies start shooting up the place and killing people, blowing things to bits in the doing. And just before it begins, Cale and Emily are separated.

Now Cale needs to find Emily before something awful happens. He also ends up having to protect the president. In the meantime, Finnerty has to try to establish and maintain a connection with the president in the occupied White House and keep the country from spiraling out of control, while also tracking down exactly what the bad guys’ agenda really is.

Critique

White House Down is a preposterous, totally ridiculous idea for a film. But what’s astonishing is that it’s all kinds of fun, its characters are totally emotionally accessible, the conflicts have great emotional impact, and every setup has a fun, satisfying payoff.

The images, explosions, quantity of bullets flying, and dialogue are all Emmerich. The dialogue is not fully natural or organic or authentic, but it’s correctly tuned to the moments and scenes and interactions. The pacing is steady, speedy, and very well calibrated to heighten the tension and stakes and allow some breathing space so audiences don’t get burned out.

Action fans, cheesy satisfying flick fans, and pretty good acting fans are going to love White House Down. While it might seem like a dumb actioner on its face, it’s actually very intelligently done, with solid twists and interesting villains making things particularly interesting and engaging.

White House Down is all kinds of surprising fun. The characters who deserve a messy end get it and the characters we care about get to redeem themselves and work through solid heroic moments.

Content warnings: Some salty language and quite a lot of explosive violence, most of it fairly bloodless.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 4

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The Favorite Contest Results

We didn’t get a lot of entries for this contest, but the entries we got were appreciated and awesome. Thank you all for your participation. (Sorry, no participation medals here.)

Here are the results:

3rd prize: Krista Jensen! (Shall I link to http://kristalynnejensen.blogspot.com/?)

2nd prize: Loran Cook! (We can talk about a guest review and a link.)

1st prize: Rob Wells! (Now I need your address and I will link to your author site by the end of the day. I’ll email you.)

Let this be a lesson to you all. Rob was the first to enter this contest and thus, Karma showed him some love.

We will have another contest in the next quarter. Stay tuned and as always, pass this website along to your friends and enemies.

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The Favorite Contest

Announcing the first-ever ReviewsbyJared©®™ contest of all time in the history of the world.

Let’s lead off with the prizes, shall we?

 

3rd prize: A link to your website/blog in my blogroll on the right column 

2nd prize: A guest review on ReviewsbyJared and a link to your website/blog in my blogroll

1st prize: A $25 Cinemark movie gift card plus a link to your website/blog in my blogroll

 

Isn’t that exciting?

To win one of these prizes, you just have to put your name in the hat and then hope that luck favors you. So put your name in the hat a lot.

 

The Favorite-ing

This is simple, my friends. Just check out the tabs above which rank the movies I’ve seen in the last 4 years. Find a movie that you really liked. Comment on this post with the name of that movie.

Boom.

You just entered this contest.

What? You want more entries? Read on.

 

The Sharing

You can get 1 extra entry for tweeting once about this contest. Two extra entries for tweeting twice. And so on up to five bonus Twitter entries. Make sure your tweet includes my @jaredgarrett (two Rs and two Ts in that surname!) handle. If you don’t, I won’t know you tweeted and can’t count the extra entries.

Posting about this contest on Facebook earns 1 entry as well per post, up to 5 bonus entries. Make sure you let me know you did that and also share the link to your Facebook post here, and then I will put your name in the hat again!

PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOU ONLY SHARE THIS CONTEST, YOU WIN MY ETERNAL FAVOR, BUT GET NO ENTRY INTO THIS CONTEST. YOU MUST POST IN THE COMMENTS SECTION WITH ME TO GET AN ENTRY.

It is called the Favorite Contest, after all.

All of your entries will be totaled, leading us to…

 

The Winning

After all the entries are in, all the names repeatedly put in my virtual hat, I will draw names to determine the winner. Thus, the more entries you have, the more chance you have to win.

The first name I pull will win 3rd prize. The 2nd I pull will win 2nd prize. And the 3rd name I pull wins 1st prize!

So post your favorite film in the comments and share. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

 

Contest Duration: 

The contest re-begins today, Monday, July 1st and goes through Monday, July 8th, at midnight Mountain Standard Time.

 

What are you waiting for? Get favoriting! And get sharing. And thus, all of your dreams will come true.

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The Last Stand

The Last Stand depends entirely on Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s ability to carry a fairly formulaic action flick on his shoulders. Luckily, he’s still got great timing and charm to spare. This is a fun film.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released January 18, 2013

Written by Andrew Knauer

Directed by Kim Jee-Woon

Starring Jaimie Alexander, Christiana Leucas, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Luis Guzman, Zach Gilford, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton, Eduardo Noriega, and Genesis Rodriguez

Rated: R

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Story

Ray Owens (Schwarzeneggar) is a former LAPD vice cop who left the big city scene after a traumatic experience, moving to Sommerton Junction to become the Sheriff of the tiny border town. He has three deputies, Sarah (Alexander), Mike (Guzman), and Jerry (Gilford), and lives a fairly peaceful life.

Agent John Bannister (Whitaker) is the FBI agent in charge of transferring a terrifying drug cartel kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Noriega) from a holding cell to another location. But Cortez escapes custody in an imaginative way, taking Bannister’s fellow agent Ellen Richards (Rodriguez) hostage in the process. Now Cortez is in a souped up, faster-than-a-helicopter car, heading for the border, living his dream of being a race-car driver and Bannister can’t catch up, because Cortez has planned for everything the FBI might do.

Meanwhile, Owens is dealing with two suspicious truckers who made his spidey-sense tingle. One of these is Burrell (Stormare), who it turns out is working for Cortez and is making a way for the drug kingpin to cross the border right outside Sommerton Junction. When Owens sends his deputies Sarah and Jerry to figure out what’s happening on a farm outside of town, things hit the fan. Then Bannister calls Owens and tells the tired sheriff that there’s a bad guy on the way and that Owens needs to get out of the way or face death.

But Owens has reason to fight and he recruits a couple of locals, one of whom is a gun nut (Knoxville), to help batten down the town and prepare for war with Cortez and his baddies.  Luckily, the town is mostly empty due to an out of town football game.

This, of course, leads to an explosive showdown that involves fast cars, lots of guns, and appropriately timed zingers.

Critique 

Starting with what The Last Stand gets right, it makes sense to discuss Arnie. He’s getting on in years and is simply nowhere near as powerful-looking as he used to be. But he’s still got a square jaw and his acting has only improved. It helps that the movie makers accept his age and slowed-down state openly and use it to enhance the scenes where he is required to be physical. In his fights, he doesn’t depend on speed or special moves: he uses brute strength and sheer meanness and determination to win.

So Arnie is still a win due to his charm, presence, and simple professional action hero resume.

Add to Arnie a pretty good supporting cast who has to fill out the formulaic roles as well as possible. Zach Gilford is particularly enjoyable as the deputy with his eyes on a big-city cop prize, with Jaimie Alexander delivering a performance that truly helps the audience see these small-town folks as totally over their heads in their conflict with sophisticated, ruthless, and better-armed bad guys.

Luis Guzman could use some better material, as he keeps ending up playing something of a goofy sidekick, but at least he’s good at it. Whitaker also does well as a frustrated, growing-desperate agent who can’t figure out why he can’t catch the drug kingpin.

Then there’s the writing. Setting aside rather convenient timing issues when it comes to geography and distances, the film builds the tension well, allowing viewers to get a feeling for at least the principal characters, as well as to gain an appropriate distaste for Cortez, the bad guy. Cortez’s escape is creative and Sheriff Owens’ group is also creative and true to their characters in their attempts to stop this bad guy. Owens does as much as he can within the law and only goes all Terminator on these guys when they force his hand.

If for no other reason than to see Arnie back in, literally, action, The Last Stand is worth a watch. Action fans will particularly like the movie, as there is plenty of eye candy with the ultra-fast car, some nifty fight scenes, and heroism all around. 

Content warnings: plenty of salty language and violence, some of it bloody

Writing: 4          Acting: 4          Overall: 3.5

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