Tag Archives: White House Down

A Week In Film #565: Freezing cold open air

White Boy Rick title screen
White Boy Rick
So-so based-on-a-real-story drama about a young drug dealing gun runner in 80s Detroit. A case of director Yann (’71, Top Boy, Dead Set) Demange’s reach most certainly not exceeding his grasp. Strong cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, RJ Tyler and Jonathan Majors.

Charlie Wilson’s War title screen
Charlie Wilson’s War
Dislikably manipulative movie lauding dislikable and manipulative American policy hawks and cynical politicians using Afghanistan as their playground. Mike Nichols directing from Aaron Sorkin’s script, with Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts and Amy Adams.

White House Down title screen
White House Down
Fun modern remix of Die Hard, with Channing Tatum as a blue collar schlub taking on terrorists targeting the President’s ends; fun turns from Jamie Foxx, Jimmi Simpson and Kevin Rank are rounded out by more straight performances by James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke. Roland Emmerich directs from James Vanderbilt’s script.

Doomsday title screen
Doomsday
Where it went wrong for Neil Marshall – trying to mash together too many things without having a solid script in place, it would seem. Mad Max, Escape From New York, The Crazies, Assault On Precinct 13, Aliens, The Warriors… All thrown into the blender, but without a coherent vision or a tight enough narrative, it’s just scenes slid up to each other, plot points in search of characters to initiate them, and stunts seeking reason. A shame – a strong cast (Rhona Mistra, MyAnna During, Alexander Siding, Adrian Lester, David O’Hara etc) is wasted.

Bohemian Rhapsody title screen
Bohemian Rhapsody
Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic (as completed by Dexter Fletcher) is certainly watchable, and listenable, but very definitely a PG, vanilla, sanitised, jumbled-about version of the truth. Still, Rami Malek is committed in the lead role, and Tom Hollander has a nice cameo as lawyer-turned-manager Jim ‘Miami’ Beach.

A Week In Film #445: Fullers

City Hall title screenCity Hall
An old faithful, with Harold Becker directing John Cusack, Al Pacino, Danny Aiello and Bridget Fonda against a backdrop of New York politicking and corruption. Never quite hits a proper climax, but enjoyable nonetheless, with a great score from Jerry Goldsmith, and strong writing from a bunch of New Yorkers (former Deputy Mayor Kenneth Lipper, mob-friendly journalist Nicholas Pileggi, Taxi Driver’s Paul Schrader, and Broadway playwright Bo Goldman).

Kuffs title screen
Kuffs
Silly stuff with Christian Slater doing his Jack Nicholson impersonation/mugging to camera thing as a slacker who visits San Francisco to see his brother Bruce Boxleitner, a private cop (under a peculiar Gold Rush-era ordinance), only for murder and shenanigans to occur. Milla Jovovich plays his girlfriend. Entirely disposable with nothing distinguishing about it.

Reasonable Doubt title screenReasonable Doubt
Up until a certain point, a quite enjoyable if inconsequential thriller, about a golden boy prosecutor (Dominic Cooper) who finds himself trying a man (Samuel L Jackson) accused of a crime he himself committed. That point will be obvious to you when you get there; it’s worth noting that Jackson is black, and Cooper white – this makes it all the more distasteful. Directed by Peter Howitt (yes, Joey from Bread, then the SAS officer in Some Mother’s Son, and after that the writer/director of Sliding Doors).

Alien: Covenant title screen
Alien: Covenant
It’s not an Alien(s) film, it’s a Prometheus sequel. Now, that film was not great, but it had visceral moments. This is just Ridley Scott shitting on his own legacy, rinsing audiences with callbacks to the xenomorph movies that he treats with such contempt. Michael Fassbender as synthetic human David, and now also Walter, is fine; and the crew of the terraforming ship Covenant does at least gel together more convincingly that that of its predecessor; but it’s like a Top Of the Pops LP, all reconstituted hits (Egg! Facehugger! Chestburster! Tunnel chase! Dropship through storm! Trying to set up comms! Powerloader fight! etc). Frankly, boring. I paid nearly £25 for two tix too!

White House Down title screenWhite House Down
Enjoyable Die Hard-style romp, with Channing Tatum as a recently-divorced blue collar shlub trying to repair his relationship with his daughter (Joey King) whilst trying his best to get a job in the Secret Service, who gets caught up in a terrorist attack on Washington. Roland Emmerich directs with a sense of humour and fun, and in all areas it’s a superior effort to the similarly themed Olympus Has Fallen.Nice turns from Jason Clarke, James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Rankin.

Hot Fuzz title screenHot Fuzz
Edgar Wright directs his old Spaced pals Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the second of the ‘Three Cornettos’ trilogy – here with a metropolitan super-cop (Pegg) sent to sleepy Cotswold town Sandford, where he soon encounters rum happenings. Great cast of older British character actors (Edward Woodward, Billie Whitelaw, Jim Broadbent, Paul Freeman, Timothy Dalton, Kenneth Cranham, Stuart Wilson, Anne Reid), plus younger upstarts (Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Olivia Colman, Rory McCann) and Wright stalwarts like Julia Deakin, Bill Bailey and Bill Nighy. Silly, slightly overlong, but fun.

Yojimbo title screen用心棒 AKA Yojimbo
Kurosawa’s tale of a ronin-with-no-name (Toshiro Mifune) arriving in a town beset by two feuding gangs who sees an angle. Great samurai action interspersed with comedy and tragedy.

Jack Reacher title screenJack Reacher
So-so noir-flecked action adventure, with Tom Cruise as a mysterious ex-Military Policeman digging around into a spree killing in Pennsylvania apparently carried out by a soldier he had previously investigated for similar sniper murders in Iraq. Hardly ground-breaking, but with plenty going on. Director Chris McQuarrie throws in some signature long dialogue scenes, an argument outside a bar and a grumpy old man (here Robert Duvall). With Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins and Werner Herzog.

Enemy At The Gates title screenEnemy At The Gates
Visually impressive, this is basically just a love triangle (Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Joseph Fiennes) played against the backdrop of the Battle of Stalingrad, with Bob Hoskins in fake bad teeth as uncouth Party apparatchik Khruschev. Looks pretty, but Jean-Jacques Annaud doesn’t seem to have much to say about anything.

Brooklyn’s Finest title screen
Brooklyn’s Finest
Antoine Fuqua attempts a Robert Altman/Thomas Anderson-style intercut lives affair, with Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle and Richard Were a trio of differently burned-out NYPD cops who are heading for a collision on Brooklyn’s most dangerous streets. Watchable if not memorable.

A Week In Film #245: Fan down

Olympus Has Fallen title screen

Olympus Has Fallen
Po-faced and leaden action adventure about a Secret Service agent weighed down by guilt having to step up and rescue the day when the White House is attacked by terrorists and the President endangered.

Gerard Butler as the hero is alright, but hardly in the John McClane liveability league. A shame, seeing as it blatantly borrows from the Die Hard concept. Well, that and Air Force One, In The Line Of Fire, 24 etc. That said, the actual storming of the White House was very effectively handled.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, so about par for the course. Aaron Eckhart is irritatingly square-jawed as the Commander in Chief, though nice to see Homicide alumna Melissa Leo in a fairly decent role. Having North Koreans as the bad guys was a bit lazy.

White House Down title screen

White House Down
Now, this was the film Olympus Has Fallen should have tried to be – you know, action but also humour.

Channing Tatum is the slightly rubbish DC cop who tries to become a Secret Service agent to impress his estranged daughter, who is obsessed by the President (Jamie Foxx) and all things White House-related. In the course of attending his interview – with none other than his old schoolmate Maggie Gyllenhaal, who of course remembers him as a slacker – terrorists attack, place the President in jeopardy, separate cop from his daughter etc.

And that’s how you do it. Likeable reluctant hero with human goals, not a superhuman super agent whose idea of a bon mot is to threaten to stick a knife in your head.

Amusingly, despite not going the North Koreans-as-the-enemy route, White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen both share some key plot points – the importance of the PEOC bunker, reliance on traitors, authority being passed to the Speaker after the Vice President, women Secret Service agents being in charge (Gyllenhaal here, Angela Bassett in the other one), that sort of thing.

The steals from Die Hard are impressive: here our main man sports a McClane-ish white vest; there’s a great team of oddball terrorists; there’s a lift scene; jolly quips; a feisty family member; and a twisty bit right at the end (though massively signposted).

Directed by Roland Emmerich, and probably the first of his I’ve ever actually liked. Well orchestrated, except for the aftermath scenes with masses of uniformed extras wandering around like they’re at a county fair rather than securing the area around the site of the world’s most spectacular terrorist incident. Small quibble, though.

Joh's Jury title screen

Joh’s Jury
I had for some considerable time been trying to get hold of a copy of this film, which dramatises the deliberations of twelve men good and true in the 1991 perjury trial of former Queensland premier, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen.

An Australian TV movie, with all the limitations that implies, about a somewhat obscure (in the global scheme of things) political footnote, I found it to be an absorbing drama. My viewing companion thought otherwise (“The most boring thing you’ve ever made me watch”). The familiar tropes – arguments in a small room – of a jury panel picture were all there, but so too was a unique sense of tension, where there were no miraculous conversions, no sudden epiphanies over the evidence, no magic bullets. Instead, a dozen pretty ordinary people, none amazing orators, none Machiavellian geniuses, none heroes or villains, squabble and shout and argue and go round and round in circles.

Written with panache by Ian David, who also penned the seminal Aussie inspired-by-true-events crime drama Blue Murder, as well as Police State and Police Crop, two more teleplays in a similar vein also apparently well-regarded. More recently he wrote the Killing Time series based on crims’ lawyer-of-choice Andrew Fraser.

In the director’s chair – and this is not a movie of great visual flair – is Ken Cameron, who also worked with David on Police Crop, but is probably better known to UK audiences from such imported series such as Brides Of Christ and Bangkok Hilton. On top of those, I also enjoyed his The Clean Machine, a fictionalised film about a new squad of police ‘untouchables’ rooted in the real life corruption scandals that rocked Queensland in the 1980s and which inform the background of Joh’s Jury.

In terms of actors, there are some familiar faces: an early turn for Noah Taylor as irritable younger juror Brad; Norman Yemm – an Aussie TV exemplar of the values of mateship in shows as diverse as The Sullivans, Prisoner and Neighbours; John Jarratt (Wolf Creek); Malcolm Kennard (Matrix Reloaded; and so on.

 Skyfall title screen

Skyfall
Very happily surprised at this – with the usual caveats. The nice rebooting-the-reboot touches were not overly signalled. The action scenes were well managed (and thankfully the stuff that was in the trailer appeared mostly to be top loaded into the first third of the film). Excellent villain. Less turning for the camera. Not gadget-heavy. And beautifully staged and photographed – the Shanghai wet job punch up, the Scottish night time finale, the deserted island all looked particularly splendid – by director Sam Mendes and DP Roger Deakins.

On the downside – and yes, it is a Bond movie – Mallory chairing the ISC despite apparently not being a Parliamentarian grated, as did the very public holding of the hearing, the crap security and all that. Given the clear efforts to build up the part of Silva into more than just a cut-out baddie, one would hope that the rest of the script could also have been tightened up to be less cartoonish.

Enjoyed Bond (mostly) keeping his trousers on, M being a bit crap, Bardem owning the screen, and both Fiennes and Whishaw laying down his marker.