White House Down Is Better Than You Might Expect. Much Better, Actually.

White House Down.
Director:
Roland Emmerich.
Writer: James Vanderbilt.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Where's it playing? Various Metroplex megaplexes!

Let me start this review off by fully acknowledging that, on paper, nothing about this movie should work. Seriously. Not a goddamn thing.

Let's run down the potential problems. For starters, you've got Channing Tatum starring as an aspiring secret service agent. Then you have an Obama-esque President played by Jamie Foxx. Together, the plot finds these two in a buddy-cop scenario in which they're forced to take down some terrorists who have taken over the White House and who are threatening the safety of the entire world. Oh, and did I mention it's helmed by Roland Emmerich, the director of destruction who has obliterated the Earth time and time again in everything from Independence Day and Godzilla to 2012, among many others.

Everything about White House Down should add up to a disaster bigger than aliens destroying The White House.

Perhaps ironically, though, on paper is also exactly where this film does work. The script, which comes courtesy of James Vanderbilt (The Rundown, The Amazing Spider-Man), is actually pretty great. It's well-written and tightly woven.

And Emmerich, much to his credit, very much brings Vanderbiltâ��s script to life — in only a way that a master of disaster like he could, with over-the-top action sequence after over-the-top action sequence, a formula that never seems to let up until the very end of the film. The rest of the credit here goes to Tatum and Foxx, who together boast enough bromantic on-screen chemistry to carry this film through its genre-bending scenes.

Does it ever get cheesy? Damn right it does. Is it a grab-bag? Yeah, of course it is. This film is melty, oozing action piled high atop a bed of comedic chips, with a little dramatic salsa thrown on top for spice. But who doesn't love a good pile of nachos from time to time? A visit to the movies doesn't always have to be the equivalent of a fine steak dinner.

And, somehow, White House Down finds that perfect temperature on the microwave — one that many films of the action genre attempt seek but miss so badly. This film, in many ways, is a near-perfect blend of action and comedy. It knows where to take itself totally seriously, and it knows the right moments when to poke fun at its own audacity.

Tonally, it just works. Beyond logic or reason.

A fitting throwback to the action comedy greats of the '80s and early '90s. the Die Hard comparison is all too obvious here. Here's the thing, though: White House Down is leaps and bounds better than the last few Die Hard films.

I guess what I'm saying is this: You shouldn't veto this film blindly.

Score: 8 out of 10 crashing helicopters.

Also in theaters this week…

The Heat.
Director:
Paul Feig.
Writer: Katie Dippold.
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir.
Where's it playing? Various Metroplex megaplexes!

From the director of Bridesmaids comes this buddy-cop comedy starring Sandra Bullock as a straight-laced FBI agent and Melissa McCarthy as a loose-edged Boston cop. Here, the two are forced to be partners so they can take down a drug lord. I think you can figure out who's who in the ol' good cop, bad cop routine here. The film is currently sitting in the 60 percentile for critics on Rotten Tomatoes (and at around 80 percent for the audience) so I'd say this one might be worth checking out. While predictable, it probably doesn't disappoint, considering McCarthy is the star and Feig directed it.

Deep Red (1975) in 35MM.
Director:
Dario Argento.
Writers: Dario Argento, Bernardino Zapponi.
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia.
Where's it playing? The Texas Theatre.

If mainstream buddy-cop films aren't your thing, then I'm sorry. That's all that's coming out this weekend. Fortunately, the Texas Theatre has something else for you. Not quite a buddy-cop film — but close enough, really — this 1975 X-rated cult classic from Dario Argento (Suspiria) tells the tale of a musician and a feisty reporter who team up to solve the murder of a famous psychic by a mysterious killer with a secret. He's probably not a very good psychic if he couldn't foresee his own murder, though. Right?

Escape from New York (1981).
Director:
John Carpenter.
Writers: John Carpenter, Nick Castle.
Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine.
Where's it playing? Friday and Saturday at midnight at The Inwood Theatre.

John Carpenter's 1981 classic starring Kurt Russell as the cycloptic badass Snake Plissken is back on the big screen at The Inwood this weekend. So I guess the theme of the weekend is not only buddy-cop duos but saving the president, too? Sure. Fun fact about this film: Carpenter co-wrote Escape with Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers in Carpenter's Halloween.

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