Tag Archives: jamie foxx

White House Down (2013)

White House Down

Roland Emmerich likes to do things to famous buildings in his movies. In Independence Day (1996), he blew up the White House. In The Day After Tomorrow (2004), he buried the Statue of Liberty in snow up to her waist. In 2012 (2009), the White House is destroyed by the USS John F. Kennedy coasting into it via tsunami. Nothing new is brought to the table in his latest directorial effort, White House Down – the White House and Capitol buildings are both severely damaged and nearly destroyed, but hey, at least we have fun along the way.

Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a US Capitol police officer, a man who has struggled to hold a steady job and to be a good father to his daughter, Emily (Joey King), who is obsessed with politics and the current US president, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Cale takes Emily to the White House when he goes to apply for the president’s Secret Service, but he is rejected by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Dejected, he and Emily join a tour through the White House when the worst happens: domestic terrorists take over both the Capitol and the White House, gathering the tour group as hostages and trapping the president in the building. John must find a way to help protect both the president and his daughter before time runs out.

I’d never seen a Channing Tatum film before this, and I found that I didn’t hate him, so great for you, Mr. Tatum. Sure, he’s not spectacular, but he could have been a lot worse. The important thing is that he does the action well, and there are even a few moments when his character’s relationship with his daughter feels at least kind of close to genuine. Speaking of his daughter, Joey King, who I’d only seen as the young version of Marion Cotillard’s character in The Dark Knight Rises (my review), is charming here, if not a bit too smart for her age, but who cares? She’s sweet, she brings the proper mindset and stubbornness of a preteen, and she provides Tatum’s character with great (if not a little bit over-the-top) motivation. Jamie Foxx does a great job as always as President Sawyer. He carries the air of authority well, and his likable personality in the role brings a lot to the film. Lastly, Jason Clarke proves yet again that he can play the crazy character well, though this time he’s not torturing suspected terrorists (Zero Dark Thirty) or shooting a rich man who ran over his wife (The Great Gatsby); this time, he’s a mercenary who takes over the White House…and apparently he can hold quite the grudge. He does well with it, though, and I like him as the villain. Other notable performances come from James Woods, who plays Martin Walker, the head of Presidential Detail, and Nicolas Wright, who plays a quirky White House tour guide who serves mostly as comedic relief. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also in the movie, and, though I’m not really a fan of hers, she isn’t awful here.

For the first bit of the film, I tried too hard to take it seriously: I thought that it was trying to make a political statement or teach a valuable lesson, and I thought that the circumstances were incredibly ridiculous, but the frequent inclusion of (quite effective and humorous) one-liners and the tendency for things to be just a bit too convenient for our protagonists – and sometimes for our antagonists as well – helped me to realize that even the movie wasn’t taking itself too seriously. Once I realized this, I started having a lot more fun, which is what I really think the purpose is here. Is there a message or a political statement to be found somewhere? Yeah, sure, probably – maybe a comment on how dedicated people can be to the people (or country) that they love? –  but that’s not the point of the film…the point is for it to be a fun action film, and it does a great job at pulling that off. Don’t go in expecting a whole lot of substance, but also know that the action isn’t mindless either. White House Down is good for what it is and good for what it isn’t; it’s not spectacular, and it’s not endless pointless explosions, but it is good for a few laughs and a few decent dramatic moments, and it succeeds the most at being what it’s meant to be: a fun summer action flick.

Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image


Django Unchained (2012)

My experience with Quentin Tarantino films is pretty limited. Before this, the only one of his films that I had seen was Inglourious Basterds, which, I admit, I don’t remember much of because I was working on homework and such while watching. Despite that, my current quest to see all nine Best Picture nominees for the 85th Academy Awards brought me to Django Unchained, a film that I had meant to see quite a while ago but only just managed to watch. And wow…it was worth the wait.

At the start of the film, Django (Jamie Foxx) has just been separated from his wife Brumhilda (Kerry Washington) after the two of them tried to escape from the place where they were slaves together. He is being taken to a new place to work, but plans change when a bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) shows up looking for Django, who he believes can identify three men who have prices on their heads. Dr. Schultz doesn’t like the idea of slavery, so his relationship with Django is as more of a partnership, with him treating his new friend as a person with the same rights as he does. The pair embarks on a journey to first find these men and then others before they travel to the plantation of one Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is Django’s wife’s new owner, where they come up with an elaborate scheme to buy Brumhilda back from Candie so that her and Django can be reunited and free together.

For me, the best part of this film beyond a doubt is Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz. His dialogue is fantastic, his character is fascinating, and his overall onscreen likability is fervent. From the very moment in the film when he first appears, he takes control of the situation, managing to show both his aggressive and compassionate sides from the start. Throughout the film, he treats white and black people with the respect they all deserve as humans, which is hugely admirable amid so much racism and hatred. Foxx’s character is likable as well, with his obvious passion for his wife acting as his motivation for everything that he does or, in some cases, what he doesn’t do. In fact, there are several points in the movie when Django “sees” his wife with him, such as when he is bathing in a hot spring or while riding his horse to Candie’s plantation. This sort of hallucination seems to serve as a reminder that everything he is doing, whether it’s killing men for a bounty or ignoring the plight of the enslaved black men around him, is done with the purpose of reuniting him with his wife. As for DiCaprio’s character, I don’t have much to say about him aside from the fact that DiCaprio did a wonderful job with it.

The action in Django is visually incredible, though it’s certainly overly bloody and gory. Bullets often pass completely through the recipient’s body in order to maximize the amount of blood spewed everywhere, and, while it’s certainly gruesome, it’s also quite a spectacle to behold. However, I do have one concern; in the last half hour or so of the film, all of the action is done as a mechanism of revenge from Django’s hand, and it certainly seems to be a bit overglorified. Django is supposed to be our hero, a man who would do anything for his wife, but the eventual acquisition of his wife (you knew it would happen, so I feel no guilt regarding spoilers) doesn’t stop the constant flow of killing and violence. It would have been nice to see him do what had to be done and then leave somewhat peacefully, but, of course, that doesn’t finish with enough of a bang for Tarantino, so he goes instead for something a little bit more…explosive.

This concern, while certainly something to consider, does not overshadow everything else that is great about this film, though, which can be summed up in one word: “fun.” I had a great time watching this film throughout, minus a couple of scenes that were obviously not intended to be enjoyable, but that is another part of what makes it so good: it provides commentary on such important topics as slavery, racism, revenge, and love without losing its entertainment value. The movie lacks a traditional film score (as all Tarantino films do), but the music composed for and used in the film is excellent, and the style of the film is much in the feel of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western…there is even a song written by composer Ennio Morricone, who composed the scores for Leone’s films. Overall, Django Unchained is a fine film with important social criticism, a well-executed script, and a talented cast of actors who make everything come together in an exceptional way.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity