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Begin Again [Blu-ray]
Begin Again [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Keira Knightly
Price: $19.96
10 used & new from $13.12

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exhilarating companion piece to "Once", September 11, 2014
This review is from: Begin Again [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The other starting-over character study from this summer that “Begin Again” is bound to be compared to was Jon Favreau’s “Chef,” which I liked. “Begin Again” is just as delightful as “Chef” was, and there really is no comparing the two. John Carney, director of “Once,” has made another charming and delightful music film that goes far on the chemistry of its two leads.

Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is an aging alcoholic music producer who just told his boss to shove it. Dan is divorced and has a poor relationship with his daughter and ex-wife (Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener.) Gretta (Keira Knightley) is reeling from her breakup with successful musician Dave (Adam Levine). Gretta sometimes wrote the songs and was torn to pieces by the breakup.

After her brother makes her sing at an open mic night, Dan just happens to be in the same bar the night his life has fallen apart. He uses his last bit of good will at the record label to get Gretta her big break. The record label people are skeptical. Dan and Gretta get musicians together and make an album on their own, simply because they have a mutual passion for the music. In the process, they both help each other start over and find where they’re supposed to be in life.

"Begin Again" is really nothing more than a decent character study with some great music. Keira Knightley can sing - who knew? Her voice isn’t a revelation, but it’s perfect for the kind of music they do in "Begin Again" and doesn’t sound autotuned. Adam Levine (who I didn’t even know was in this movie) did a serviceable job as an actor, but is really just here to sing a few times.

"Begin Again" is small and grand, an intimate spectacle, just the way it should be. It follows almost the exact same plot line as "Chef," up to the end, except instead of food, the focus is music. "Begin Again" was made before, or maybe during production of "Chef", so plagiarism isn’t an issue. Also, neither of these stories are exactly original. But "Begin Again" never hurts from feeling too familiar or predictable.

Knightley is the perfect yin to Ruffalo’s yang, and even the supporting players get a considerable chance to shine. “Begin Again” is bigger and maybe even better than Carney’s cult classic “Once.” But even those two movies feel wrong to be compared. They’re both great for different reasons. I feel like 20 years from now, people will be watching both movies in certain circles. And that’s special, right?

Grade: A

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [Blu-ray]
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jessica Alba
Price: $24.96

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fans of the original should love it, others need not apply., August 29, 2014
2005’s “Sin City” is one of my favorite movies. I saw it when it came out - I probably shouldn’t have, as I was only 12 years old. Even then, I knew what noir was. I adored the style, and the way the characters came across. I knew female empowerment when I saw the ladies of Old Town. I knew and loved the the just-any-guy-with-nothing-to-lose character that “Sin City” was stuffed with. So, I’d been waiting for the sequel that director Robert Rodriguez promised for almost a decade. As the years passed, it seemed less and less likely this sequel would get off the ground. I’m glad it finally did, but…

"Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" mostly falls on the same level as the original. The visuals are striking and beautiful, the violence is plentiful and almost joyous, the characters are the same great noir archetypes from the original, but a few things went wrong. Granted, it’s only a few things.

"A Dame To Kill For" follows three intertwined stories featuring many of the same sordid characters from the original. Damsel in distress no more, Nancy (Jessica Alba) teams up with Marv (Mickey Rourke) to take down Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), who was responsible for the downfall of Nancy’s lover Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Meanwhile, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) also plans to kill Roark, but not after defeating him at his own game. Also, Dwight (Josh Brolin this time, not Clive Owen, not that the two actors look alike) could be taken down by his ex lover Ava Lord (Eva Green,) the classic noir femme fatale.

Green also starred in the hit-or-miss sequel (spinoff?) “300: Rise of an Empire,” where she was the real star of the show. She’s devilishly good here too as another big bad. She reminds us, once again, that sometimes the villains are more interesting than the heroes.

But nobody’s really a hero in the world of “Sin City.” Everyone exists in a moral gray area, which makes the character’s adventures all the more interesting. But nobody is really here for groundbreaking storytelling. The inimitable style that flooded the first film is still all over the place in this sequel, and it’s only enhanced by 3D visuals that actually heighten the experience, rather than detract from it.

There are a few problems in this sequel that push it down a notch from the original. Three major parts are recast, most noticeably Clive Owen’s Dwight. Josh Brolin does a fine job, but he looks nothing like the character from the first film. Clive Owen didn’t die or anything - why wasn’t he available to reprise his role?

Also, the movie is just too short. The first felt more complete in comparison, even though it’s only about 25 minutes longer. It felt like “A Dame To Kill For” started and ended in the same breath. I wish it would have given the characters and actors a little more time to breathe and evolve their characters a little more. I was pleased that Nancy (Alba) was given room to become a dynamic character, but I can only imagine what she could have done with a little more.

Maybe this is going to be a trilogy, and this represents the somewhat lesser middle part of the saga. I wasn’t let down, necessarily by “A Dame To Kill For.” I didn’t get bored and check my watch once the whole time. Fans of Rodriguez and the original should love it. Others need not apply.

Grade: A-
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2014 12:28 AM PDT

The Giver Blu-Ray + DVD + UltraViolet
The Giver Blu-Ray + DVD + UltraViolet
DVD ~ Jeff Bridges
Price: $19.99

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A magical story is lost in translation..., August 23, 2014
Friends of mine had read Lois Lowry’s children’s novel “The Giver” in school growing up. I had not. But I make a point of it to read the book before I see the movie - this goes for anything. It turns out “The Giver” is just about the perfect book for children, because not only will it make children want to read more, but it will also persuade them to question what they read - to question everything. If a young reader takes away what is intended from “The Giver,” they should be able to smell BS from a mile away.

When a book gets better with age, like “The Giver” has, the eventual feature adaptation needs to be as good as it can possibly be. Does “The Giver,” as a movie, stand up to the book that inspired it, and will it stand the test of time as the book has?

Simple answer: no.

Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is a 16-year-old kid living in a Utopian society where everybody looks and acts the same as anyone else. On a young person’s sixteenth birthday (twelfth in the book) they go to a big ceremony where they basically find out what they are to do the rest of their life. The Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) selects Jonas as the receiver of memories - this means Jonas will meet with the Giver (Jeff Bridges) and learn of his memories of the past - to the very beginning of time. In this (literally) black-and-white society, no one thinks of the past, because no one knows what came before them. They also are not capable of feeling emotion or anything that might seem a little too human. Soon enough, Jonas comes to find that this Utopian society is anything but.

I suppose if I hadn’t read it before seeing the film, I may have enjoyed it more. But after being sucked into this compelling of a story, I had certain expectations going into the movie. It boasts a very talented pedigree and sure looks great, but in the end, far too many changes were made from the book. The lead characters are 16, and not 12, which makes sense I suppose. The producers (the Weinsteins, of course) were probably most interested with appealing to as broad a demographic as possible, not appeasing those who really just wanted the book on screen. There’s also the (now-prerequisite for teen movies) love story subplot that wasn’t anywhere to be found in the book, and feels very out of place here.

That isn’t to say that all of the changes failed. Streep’s character, who appears in one scene of the book, is expanded nicely. The ending also provides closure, when the book’s ending was intentionally ambiguous. This could be a plus to some people, but I like when an author lets me draw my own conclusions, rather than setting every last detail in stone.

The script is the real problem here - I’m surprised Lowry, who produced the film, let so much of the story be deviated. A story this magical and innovative ought to feel original, and not like every other YA book-to-movie. Phillip Noyce does nice work behind the camera - everything looks great, especially the prolonged transition from black and white to color.

Those who haven’t read the book may have plenty to talk about, as some of the book’s great ideas aren’t butchered on film. It’s good food for thought, but it could have been so much more.

Grade: C

Get On Up (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD)
Get On Up (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD)
DVD ~ Chadwick Boseman
Price: $24.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed portrait of a flawed man..., August 18, 2014
Tate Taylor made one of 2011’s best films (according to me,) “The Help.” Its tricky source material became an effortless instant classic on film. Taylor was good friends with the book’s author, and his commitment to her may have been why that film worked as seamlessly as it did. But what happens when you find this director outside of their comfort zone?

I don’t really know. “Get On Up” and “The Help” are somewhat similar, at least thematically. They both deal with racial unrest and underdogs that surprise everyone. But that shouldn’t imply that these two movies share a great deal in common.

"Get On Up" is the story of James Brown, the eponymous "hardest working man in show business." Chadwick Boseman, who recently played Jackie Robinson in the well-received "42", does a commendable job playing Brown from ages 20 to about 65. He truly embodies Brown, and makes his character easy to love and root for, despite all of the trouble he causes.

Taylor brings back Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, his two leading ladies from “The Help.” Davis plays Brown’s mother, who left him with his abusive father when he was only a child. Spencer is his aunt, who only shows up every now and again to impart some words of wisdom. Both of these ladies do fine work, but neither of them are in enough of the movie. Davis, nonetheless, looks tragically authentic in her old-age makeup later on in the movie.

This is the biopic that Clint Eastwood’s recent “Jersey Boys” should have been. Taylor obviously cares about the music, and making it extravagant. Musical numbers feel exactly as they should feel - big, exuberant and monstrously enjoyable. A movie about James Brown simply would not have worked if the music wasn’t the top priority. And even though Boseman isn’t really singing, and let’s face it, he shouldn’t - leave Brown’s great voice alone - he appears to be - expressing emotion in each musical number.

The fault with “Get On Up” lies in its script. While Boseman does a better job than anyone could have expected, the narrative feels off. We jump back and forth through different periods of time, but yet the narrative is mostly linear, which provides for an odd feeling. If they wanted to make this a non-linear narrative, they should have stuck with it, instead of telling the story chronologically for a while and then moving back to when he was a child for no apparent reason. Also, the story lags in bits. Ten or fifteen minutes could have been trimmed.

There’s a lot that worked in “Get On Up” and I think anyone who remembers what James Brown did for music will get a lot of enjoyment out of this film. Young people should see it too, to see how the kind of music they love came to be. The music and acting are stellar, but narrative lulls keep “Get On Up” from really getting on up.

Grade: B
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2014 1:27 AM PDT

Wish I Was Here (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD)
Wish I Was Here (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD)
DVD ~ Zach Braff
Price: $21.98
9 used & new from $16.98

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "If there's a next time, I'll do better.", August 18, 2014
Zach Braff had a tiny little masterpiece on his hands with 2004’s “Garden State.” It was the kind of rare movie that got better with each viewing. “Wish I Was Here,” his Kickstarter-funded follow-up, arrives about a decade later.

It has been the subject of a lot of misplaced criticism, because it tends to drive through similar narrative traffic as Braff’s previous film. But, if you liked “Garden State” as much as I did, this is hardly a problem.

The film follows Aidan (Braff), a struggling actor who has been encouraged his whole life to follow his dreams. He hasn’t had a real acting job in some time now. His wife (Kate Hudson) works a crummy office job, and never quite has the courage to push him in the direction of a more real and permanent job. After being told his father Saul (Mandy Patinkin)’s cancer is back, and he likely does not have long to live, Aidan begins to ponder the meaning of life, and tries to figure out what is most important in that big mystery called life.

The questions “Wish I Was Here” raises about life are really relevant to just about anybody. And this is what keeps the film from feeling self-indulgent and vain. These are issues we all deal with. What should we prioritize most in our lives? What is more important than being happy? What will we regret about our lives when we’re about to die? All solid questions, and yet, nothing remarkably original either.

"Wish I Was Here" is basically just a film about a man’s midlife crisis, in the same way "Garden State" was about a similar man’s quarter-life crisis. Both deal with characters who are forced to come to grips with their own mortality when facing the impending death of a loved one. But, both of these characters are fairly easy to like.

Like “Garden State,” it’s the supporting actors who really steal the show here. Mandy Patinkin is great as the father who has been a jerk for so long, but simply needs some tenderness when he comes face-to-face with death. Kate Hudson is also better here than she’s been since “Almost Famous.” She acquired a stigma for playing dumb blonde roles, and it’s nice to see that she can play a real and relatable woman, and do it quite well.

The third act of “Wish I Was Here,” of course, packs quite the emotional wallop. It’s really quite a funny film, but you’re likely to cry as well as laugh. Many cliches about death and dying are on display in “Wish I Was Here,” but I can forgive those, because the themes stay very real and very true-to-life. Was anyone expecting this to be truly original?

"Wish I Was Here" is basically "Garden State," 10 years later, and I think that’s all right. Both are humor-filled movies that bring on the waterworks when you least expect it. Both are gorgeously filmed and both have some really great music. Both are profound, deep and kind of life-affirming. Both are tiny classics in their own right.

Grade: A-

Boyhood (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
Boyhood (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Patricia Arquette
Price: $34.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell Me The Story Of Your Life..., August 15, 2014
A traditional beginning-middle-end narrative is just fine for a movie. The audience doesn't expect to be stuck in a theater for more than an hour and a half to two hours. Anything over 135 minutes is pushing it. But every now and again, you see a gorgeous movie that creeps into your soul and becomes a part of you. If this is a long movie, you find you don't care if it goes on forever. And when it finally does end, you find you wanted more.

"Boyhood," Richard Linklater's mammoth passion project started in 2002, when he started filming the somewhat fictitious life of "Mason," a young child played by an uncommonly excellent Ellan Coltrane, a young actor that I see doing incredible things. He could very well become the next Tom Cruise. The project was to document Mason's life from grade 1 to grade 12, ending with him going to college.

Coltrane, Patricia Arquette (the mother,) Ethan Hawke (the father,) and Linklater stuck with this project for twelve years, while each of them pursued other projects in the meantime, but they all came back for "Boyhood." Fun fact: it is illegal for a person to sign a work contract that lasts more than seven years. So, theoretically, any actor could have dropped out of "Boyhood." The finished product is exactly why nobody did.

Expecting a different kind of movie, I expected some kind of major tragedy - event - to occur that would change everything. Every scene in a car, I was wary that it could crash. I expected a house to burn down, or one of the two alcoholic stepfathers to kill someone accidentally, but none of those things happened. An hour or so into the movie, I realized that this is the story of a life - the story of someone's formative and most important years, and I enjoyed the movie much more when I realized what kind of story it was.

In the average person's life, they experience a series of milestones and end up wondering, what was the point of it all? We rarely look back on the experiences that made our lives special - particular moments that were crucial in the people we became. I was born in 1992, and I grew up at around the same time Mason did. I experienced many of the same things - moments that define who you are going to be as an adult. The window dressing is different, but at its core, we all experienced moments in our own lives that are depicted in this movie. You don't have to be a '90s baby to relate to the themes in "Boyhood," either.

The themes are so universal, to an extent where anyone - male or female - old or young - can find truth and meaning to it. It doesn't hurt that the acting is absolutely stellar. I would be shocked if Coltrane didn't become a household name in the coming years. Patricia Arquette is dynamic as the mother who is just trying to do the best she can, forever a victim of circumstance. Ethan Hawke is also great as the one relatively positive male figure in Mason's life.

The incredible thing about "Boyhood" is that it is truly like no other movie you have ever seen. The story-of-a-life narrative has been done in movies like Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but neither of these were quite like this. Every event, no matter how small, in this movie, is crucial because it leads to how Mason became the person he becomes. And, at the end, he isn't even a hero of any kind. He's a college kid who is as confused about life as any of us. But his future is full of possibility.

"Boyhood", in the end, is an experimental film that hits every right note, the kind that will likely not be upstaged anytime soon, if ever. It's an exuberantly intimate epic that unfolds like a scrapbook - image after image from an ordinary life, which when put together, makes something extraordinary. One of the best movies I've seen not only this year - but this decade. There are no adjectives that really do it justice. It isn't to be missed.

Grade: A+

Sex Tape [Blu-ray]
Sex Tape [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jason Segel
Price: $22.96
12 used & new from $13.12

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Occasionally hilarious, occasionally stupid sex comedy..., July 27, 2014
This review is from: Sex Tape [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Comedy is alot like jazz - a lot of factors have to work in tandem with one another to make for a satisfying final product. The actors have to have good chemistry and play off one another well, the writing has to be quick, witty and not stupid. The timing has to be right, and the players must have the capacity to be genuinely funny. When something is off, the whole thing is off.

"Sex Tape" sounds like something that shouldn’t even be playing in an American multiplex - it aspires to be a modern Hollywood filthy movie - a "sex comedy." This kind of comedy hasn’t worked in many years. For every "Bridesmaids" or "Knocked Up," there’s ten "Gigli"s. "Sex Tape" falls somewhere in between the two.

Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) are a couple that used to have an animalistic attraction to one another in college, but two kids and fifteen years or so of marriage later, they are more like roommates than spouses. In an attempt to get some of the sizzle back to her marriage, Annie suggests that the two film themselves having sex - what could possibly go wrong?

In this day and age, the way something can circulate on the internet is a truly terrifying thing. Their “home movie” goes into the cloud, which leads to a frantic effort to try to get the thing erased and save their reputations.

Diaz and Segel play off each other quite well, and the jokes are sometimes quite funny. But it’s never original, and infrequently memorable. The film boasts quite a few belly laughs that aren’t even shown in the trailers. It’s also never gratuitous or tasteless in the sexy moments. At the heart, it’s about a couple that is trying their best to keep their romance alive. It’s really more sweet than salty, for better and for worse.

There’s nothing truly bad about “Sex Tape,” and leaves the viewer in a warm-fuzzy place. It’s just never as good as it could have been.

Grade: B

The Purge: Anarchy
The Purge: Anarchy
DVD ~ James DeMonaco
Price: $18.96
8 used & new from $14.96

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just about everything you could have wanted from the first movie, July 27, 2014
This review is from: The Purge: Anarchy (DVD)
Last year’s “The Purge” was a standard Hollywood thriller with a stellar premise. A good ten years into the future, unemployment is way down and violent crime is practically non-existent thanks to a yearly event called The Purge. For twelve hours every year (7PM-7AM, sometime in March), all crime including murder is legal. Emergency services are turned off. This tends to weed out the poor, the homeless, or “non-contributing members of society.”

The first film focused on an affluent family whose home was broken into by others jealous of their wealth. It made for a serviceable home invasion thriller, but was truly a missed opportunity given the rich concept. “The Purge: Anarchy” feels like what the first film should have been. It’s not much different than “Crash,” where unrelated characters and stories come together and create a common bond among vastly different people.

An unnamed hero (Frank Grillo) saves two sets of people, a working class mother and daughter, and a couple on the verge of separation, both of whom were unluckily thrown out on the streets in the midst of the annual purge. The unlikely gang has to work together to save each other from certain death.

The concept is so interesting because of its plausibility. America is a country obsessed with violence, and everyone in this getting more and more angry with society. We blindly follow rules and regulations that the government swears are in our own best interest. “Anarchy” features a radical group of Youtube-bloggers whose mission is to expose the world to the truth that it is apparently too lazy to see.

In this world, the very rich (the 1%, if you will) hold ‘auctions’ on purge night, where people bid on strangers on a stage, the highest bidder getting to kill whoever they bid on. How reprehensible is that? The scariest thing is that, if something like the purge ever came into reality, this is exactly how things would go. But I think, as American citizens, we’re really far away from anything like that being a reality. Right?

The film is suspenseful and fast enough to forgive its stock characters and mid-grade dialogue. Details of the plot are paid heavier attention than dialogue, which I can live with. This one kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. While the home-invasion version of this story was fine, this is the story that should have been told the first go around. There’s civil unrest and abhorrent violence at every turn, but there’s also justice for the bad guys, and mercy for those who don’t deserve to die that way. If you haven’t seen the first “Purge”, you can still see this one without missing anything. In fact, if you haven’t seen the first film, I would recommend watching this one first. It’s much better and far more satisfying.

Grade: A
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 16, 2014 11:48 PM PDT

Lucy (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
Lucy (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Scarlett Johansson
Price: $22.99

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Knowledge doesn't cause chaos, ignorance does.", July 26, 2014
Luc Besson has made a wide variety of great and terrible movies. I was one of the few who liked his last film, “The Family” (Robert De Niro mob comedy from last fall) for what it was.His new “Lucy” is the kind of movie we don’t see nearly enough of. Suspenseful, funny, stupid and sort of brilliant in all the right ways, “Lucy” can satisfy intellectuals as well as the lowest-common-denominator audience, if the viewer knows how to dissect it.

Scarlett Johansson is Lucy, an everygirl who sort of becomes a god.

After Lucy, a college student living in Taiwan is forced by her boyfriend of one week to deliver a mysterious package to somebody, somewhere, she is lured into a horrifying criminal underground. She wakes up with a bag of a weird blue powdery drug implanted into her stomach. After being kicked around, the bag begins to leak into her body. It turns out this drug allows a person to use more of their cerebral capacity than anyone ever has, or can. She enlists the assistance of a professor (Morgan Freeman…who else?) to figure out exactly what is happening to her, and what will happen if and when she reaches 100%.

The film’s main concept, culturally accepted as fact, is mainly a hypothesis. We don’t know exactly how much of our cerebral capacity is used. But as Lucy becomes more powerful, she is consistently aware of how much of her capacity is being used. One might think Lucy would want to go back to her simple life before all of this happened to her. One might also think her main mission would be to get revenge on those who wronged her, but one would be wrong. Once she accepts her situation, she finds a far more powerful calling. She could stand to be a tremendously important figure in history.

The science of “Lucy” is probably way off, but you’d enjoy this movie more if you aren’t looking for facts to nitpick. Nobody said it was a documentary. It raises some very fascinating points about life, knowledge, humanity and how it can be lost, but at its heart, “Lucy” is an edge-of-your-seat action movie.

Scarlett Johansson is a big reason why “Lucy” flies off the screen. Even though the audience doesn’t always know, Johansson knows exactly who “Lucy” is, even as she deals all that is thrown her way. Allegedly, Angelina Jolie was originally going to play Lucy. I’m glad she didn’t. Johansson shines from beginning to end.

"Lucy" is a very fast, very suspenseful and very short movie. It only runs about 85 minutes, but it doesn’t waste a second. It takes longer to figure out an opinion of the movie than it does to watch it. One could call it messy, and it could have used another 20 minutes or so to better illustrate a back story of Lucy’s character, but you won’t find a more satisfying and thrilling movie at the cineplex right now,

Grade: A-
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2014 4:19 PM PDT

White House Down (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
White House Down (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Channing Tatum
Price: $9.96
90 used & new from $2.60

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A big, loud, dumb, unoriginal mess., July 6, 2014
Sometimes I’m not interested in a movie enough to pay to see it in the theater. When this happens, the public library is particularly useful. The other day, I took out “White House Down,” released last summer. I don’t regret missing it in the movie theater, since it really was the picture of a not-so-special movie.

Ronald Emmerich is semi-famous for directing large-scale blow-crap-up movies that have little in the way of interesting storytelling. “2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” and “Independence Day” were only partially enjoyable, mainly due to the actors’ chemistry. Spectacle, of course, is a big deal in these movies that are mainly driven by special effects. His movies also tend to have phoned-in screenplays.

"White House Down" is basically "Die Hard"-lite, this time with a black president. The untalented box-office sure thing Channing Tatum is John Cale (John McClane - really??), a wannabe secret service agent who happens to be in the right place at the right time when a terrorist attack threatens the president (Jamie Foxx). John must save the day and also rescue his precocious daughter (Joey King) from near certain death.

There is not a single speck of anything remotely original in “White House Down.” The film goes a few places on the easy chemistry of Tatum and Foxx, but only that can go so far. Tatum is not a good actor. He can’t sell the dramatic scenes if his life depended on it. Joey King (the young daughter) is even worse, annoying in every scene, that you almost hope she gets blown up in the film’s third act.

In an attempt to be politically correct, the president of the United States is an African-American man. Couldn’t it have been a woman? I didn’t buy Jamie Foxx as the leader of the free world for one second. Put Meryl Streep in as a kind of Hillary Clinton-y character. With someone unexpected like her in this kind of film, it may have almost been worth it.

"White House Down" has a terrible screenplay, and doesn’t inspire any slightly memorable moments. It’s all kinds of generic, yet it probably made all kinds of money, because this is just the kind of loud, stupid film that Americans love. If you’re looking for something unpredictable, memorable, cinematic, or enjoyable in any way, I say avoid this thing like the plague.

Grade: D-

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