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Why ‘White House Down’ Is the Most Underrated Roland Emmerich Movie

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Why ‘White House Down’ Is the Most Underrated Roland Emmerich Movie

2013 delivered two different action movies centered on recognizable movie stars saving the President of the United States during an attack on the White House. One of these was Olympus Has Fallen, the first of these two films to hit theaters and the one that turned into a sizable box office hit. Olympus proved lucrative enough to spawn two further sequels. The other White House action movie that year was White House Down, a box office non-starter that got drowned in the deluge of blockbusters that graced the summer of 2013. That’s a downright tragedy because White House Down isn’t just the superior movie of the two. It’s also the most underrated title in director Roland Emmerich’s catalog.

In hindsight, White House Down is an anomaly in the action blockbuster track record of Emmerich. Typically, this filmmaker embarks on global apocalypse movies like Independence Day, 2012, or the new motion picture Moonfall. If you hand Emmerich a sizable budget, he’s going to blow up every nook and cranny on Earth. Meanwhile, White House Down is a Die Hard pastiche that largely confines its action to its titular location rather than taking the action across multiple continents. The imagery on-screen is channeling classic 1980s action schlockfest, not natural disasters.

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Though a departure from those blockbuster standards, this is a boon for White House Down, as it informs several advantages to the feature that other Emmerich projects, like The Day After Tomorrow, simply couldn’t do. For one thing, the comparatively smaller-scale scope of the story allows for the emphasis of the production to be on the comedic rapport between leading men Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. Without a barrage of VFX-laden scenes of big cities going boom to lean on, White House Down has to find its pleasures in the simpler, and more satisfying, things.


RELATED: ‘Moonfall’: Watch the First Five Minutes of Roland Emmerich’s Latest Earth Destruction Movie

In another welcome departure from its director’s blockbuster norms, White House Down isn’t a pervasively downbeat exercise. Despite being known for his crowd-pleaser fare, Emmerich’s works often get plagued by tonal issues that torpedo potentially fun concepts. Something like 10,000 B.C. was dragged down from being enjoyable popcorn fare by a morose tone that felt ill-suited to a movie where people in loincloths dart around the thundering footsteps of mammoths. The same could be said for The Day After Tomorrow, which mistook solemn melodrama for captivating drama you could get invested in.

White House Down, by contrast, is full of jokes and light-hearted wit. Though it doesn’t lapse into parody, it isn’t afraid to deliver the kind of jokes and earnest silliness you want out of an action movie like this. Just look at one of the movie’s most memorable moments concerning a previously dweeby White House tour guide. This figure concludes his character arc in the third act by cocking a shotgun and bellowing, “Alright folks! Tour’s over!” Meanwhile, the day, and America itself, eventually gets saved by Joey King using her flag-twirling skills on the White House lawn, a development played without a single wink to the camera.


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Maybe these moments will make you roll your eyes, maybe it’ll make you cheer at the uninhibited corniness occurring before your pupils. Whatever your response, you can never say that White House Down is a tonal slog to sit through.

Much of the light-hearted fun comes from the surprisingly delightful chemistry between Tatum and Foxx. Modern Hollywood has a bad habit of making subpar movies like Passengers that just assume two people that are both famous will automatically sizzle together. Thankfully, that’s not the case with White House Down. Tatum and Foxx prove to be a delightful combo, particularly in their comedic back-and-forth that punctuates the personality details in their respective characters. The latter performer is especially great as a classy President who can jab people in the neck with pens if the occasion calls for it. With performances this endearing, it’s hard not to get swept up in the infectiously fun atmosphere Tatum and Foxx concoct.


Plus, the duo’s rapport is yet another way White House Down becomes a stand-out in the world of Emmerich’s filmography. Save for Independence Day, how many of this man’s movies have you walking out of the theater complimenting the performances of the actors? Often, this man’s productions just have flesh and blood people reacting to CG carnage happening just off-screen. In White House Down, those same people are the stars of the production, and putting them center-stage allows an entertaining dynamic between Tatum and Foxx to blossom.

Speaking of the advantages of dealing with human beings, White House Down proves an enjoyable deviation from Emmerich’s standards in how it defines antagonism. Usually, a feature from this auteur creates the concept of looming threats through CG tidal waves coming over mountains or New York City getting covered in snow. These elements can create pretty-looking imagery, but they don’t deliver a Hans Gruber or Loki, a distinctly human villain you can love to hate. Human-based foes in these larger disaster movies are usually just weaselly government officials who could’ve wandered in from any other movie.


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White House Down, meanwhile, provides a barrage of welcome distinctly human adversaries in the form of a gaggle of white supremacists, hackers, and other ne’er-do-wells, led by James Woods and Jason Clarke, the latter playing a diabetic mercenary. This collection of foes chews up the scenery and provides lots of entertainingly repulsive people for our heroes to face off against. Woods especially excels at playing a spurred Secret Service agent. His dialogue deliveries are just drenched in entitled anger and Emmerich smartly keeps the camera focused on just this performance rather than letting this principal antagonist get overwhelmed by a deluge of CGI chaos.

Above all else, there’s a sense of affection between the characters that makes White House Down such a pleasant surprise. Some of Emmerich’s other works, namely 2012, get so caught up in delivering bigger and bigger sequences of disastrous mayhem that the humans get lost in all the apocalyptic devastation. Everyday people only exist to get crushed by buildings, there’s no acknowledgment of the human cost of all this mayhem. This can make the bloated runtimes of such movies a chore. Why should audiences get invested in the melodrama of these people if the film they inhabit is zoning out?


The smaller-scale nature of White House Down, not to mention the fact that the plot is spurred by a hostage situation, means that this film has to be conscious of the human cost of its action scenes. This doesn’t intrude on the zippy tone of the feature as a whole, but it does mean there’s less of a detachment between the humans in the frame and the action scenes happening around them. Though this element and other critical aspects of White House Down are largely a deviation from what’s become known as Roland Emmerich’s standard filmmaking, that’s also why this project is both the most underrated and one of the strongest titles in this man’s filmography. Can the considerably more forgettable Olympus Has Fallen claim that?


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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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