Mini-Reviews: White House Down, The Heat, Much Ado About Nothing

White House Down:

White House Down is a Roland Emmerich film about domestic terrorists taking over the White House. This isn’t a plot summary– it’s the review. By now, if you’ve seen Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012 (among others), you know precisely what Roland Emmerich’s film is going to be like, and you either know you’ll thoroughly enjoy its popcorny goodness or you’ll find it a trying experience. Put me in with the former camp: by now, I appreciate the scenes that go too long, the jokes that try too hard, the needless special effects. This is actually the smallest-scale Emmerich film to date, with only a couple of moments of large-scale destruction. The twists are obvious (James Woods as an alleged good guy is the most obvious case of eventual traitor casting ever), and some twists are bizarre (a few henchmen-related subplots, left on the cutting room floor, that still receive resolution), but others are quite welcome to this genre, such as the scene where the President– realistically– is willing to let a little girl be executed before giving away the nuclear codes. The action is crisp and executed with the typical Emmerich energy, also showcasing the valuable lesson he learned during Godzilla: shoot every action scene and special effect in full sunglight. Channing Tatum is just likable and bland enough to make for the ideal Emmerich lead, but the real star is Donnie the Tour Guide as comic relief, who waltzes away with every scene. Why are you still reading? You know what Emmerich brings to the table: either see it or don’t. As an Emmerich fan, I give White House Down a thumbs up.

The Heat:

Melissa McCarthy is a force of nature. She carries the inherent sweetness of John Candy, yet her words are full of aggressive reckless abandon. In The Heat, she’s found another perfect vehicle for her skill set… if only the movie gave her more *jokes.* Paul Feig, who directed McCarthy’s breakout comedy Bridesmaids, pairs her with Sandra Bullock here as a pair of mismatched cops working a case. Guess which one is an insecure tightly wound neat freak and which one is an overly confident loose cannon slob? I’ve read some gripes that the set-up and execution is too formulaic– nonsense. Few comedy set-ups are more pleasurable with the right cast than the odd-couple formula. The film’s problem is, unfortunately, part of what makes it so affable: Feig lets the character improvise and riff endlessly, and he leaves so much of it in the final product that scenes and set-pieces go on and on. Depending on whether you find the proceedings continually funny, this is either a joy… or a drag. Plenty of these choices work, but enough don’t that the film does seem overstuffed at points: too many characters, too many riffs, not enough stream-lining. It seems counter-intuitive to say the film should cut side characters and the laughs they get in order to make the film better, but I couldn’t help but wonder (I was in the camp that thought Bridesmaids was about fifteen to twenty minutes too long too, so feel free to ignore me). Bullock and McCarthy’s chemistry is top-notch enough to keep the film afloat even when pacing tries to sink it and when the jokes are too often limited to hurled obscenities. Most importantly, the film is an R-rated comedy about two women, which, sadly, makes it feel fresh in today’s marketplace. The Heat is the type of film, even with its draggy spots, that we absolutely need more of.

Much Ado About Nothing:

Rarely does the title of a film match the output closer than Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a humble black-and-white lark of a movie. If it feels like Joss Whedon simply gathered up his buddies to drink wine and shoot a film for two weeks… well, that’s because that’s exactly what happened. Which is totally fine, except I’m not convinced a movie should *feel* that casual. I’m conflicted, because to some degree, a casual take on Shakespeare is welcome relief from the usual contemporary film adaptations of Shakespeare comedies (and dramas, for that matter), in which a variety of actors attempt vainly to out-ham and out-shout one another. However, especially in Much Ado, in which characters make insanely over-the-top horrific decisions on impulse, such a casual reading of the film only underscores said insanity. Claudio has rarely been more of an asshole for his slut-shaming, Leonato has never been more of an unreasonable turncoat on his family, and Beatrice’s request to have him killed has never appeared more irrational. When handled in such a contemporary and casual fashion, it somehow makes the inherently theatrical behavior even less grounded– the characters clearly aren’t drunk enough nor remorseful enough upon sobering to justify their decision-making. Still, it *is* Shakespeare, so the dialogue is top-notch and full of lovely moments. Amy Acker is superb as Beatrice; it’s unfortunate that Ed Helms clone Alexis Denisof can’t hold his own against her as Benedick. The black-and-white is surprisingly unstylish for the most part, though some party scenes have a nice casual energy and Whedon’s music is lovely. While it may be but fluff… you could do far, far worse than seeing Shakespeare at the multiplex.

~ by russellhainline on July 11, 2013.

One Response to “Mini-Reviews: White House Down, The Heat, Much Ado About Nothing”

  1. Realy looking forward to watch White House Down and The Heat. I saw a clip in the movie theater and got really excited =D

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