Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” Review (✫✫1/2)

You’d be crazy running for a second term, Mr. President.  

Now here’s a movie that would give President Obama a heart attack.  White House Down, much like a film released earlier this film called Olympus Has Fallen are both about the same thing.  The white house is under attack by a group of professional terrorists, the president is in danger, and our brawn yet brave hero must step in to save him.  All you need is a ripped shirt, a clean-shaven face, and a lot of guns on this guy (not just automatic) and you’re all set.

Unfortunately, that’s all the information I can give you.  This movie is so thinly written that that’s the deepest I can go without giving any spoilers.  The only other information I can provide that could give you any clue on to what this movie is like is that the brawn, brutish hero is played by Channing Tatum,  the president is played by Jamie Foxx, and Tatum owns a daughter portrayed by the sweet and talented Joey King.

I’m going to get this out of the way: Channing Tatum should never play the lead in any movie ever.  He cannot act.  There is no sincerity in his voice, no fluid movement of his body, no expression on his face to show he’s feeling anything except for when he’s shooting at something.  The fullest his acting capability reaches in the movie is the eyedrops you see in his cornea when he’s “crying” for his daughter. I’m not even kidding.  His acting is so terrible, the only use Tatum is in the movie is to provide meat for the female viewers in the audience.

(And I will admit my jealousy here: I will never look as good as Channing Tatum does.  I don’t think its possible for any man to).

Where was I again?  Ah yes, Tatum’s acting.  As always he is a stiff, awkward, and uncomfortable actor, a perfect reason why he should never be the lead character in a movie.  Admittedly though, the dialogue isn’t helping him much.  His best lines in the movie involve something like: “You have to go out there and be President”, or “If this guy keeps making those sounds, I’m going to start looking at him.”

If the above description makes this movie sound appealing to you, you should see it.  White House Down is a big case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get: a movie filled to the brim with excessive action, big explosions, cheesy dialogue, and mediocre acting, with the minor exception of Jamie Foxx, who has the most patriotic and humorous dialogue out of any other character in the movie.  In one scene, he’s reciting the history of America so beautifully to his secretary of defense over the phone that one could mistaken him as a Lincoln who underwent skin surgery.  In another scene, he’s following Tatum up an elevator shaft to evade capture when this exchange happens between them:

Foxx: What you do, I do.

(Channing Tatum ninja moves across elevator).

Foxx: I ain’t doing that.

Foxx’s character was the most appealing, the most intelligent, and the most charismatic character out of the entire movie.  Everyone other character was overly charismatic and grossly unrealistic.  One radical baddie is so stereotypical and so overpumped with tattoos, facial hair, ego, and steroids that I expected him to rip off his skin and reveal that he’s the Terminator.  A tour guide portrayed by Nicholas Wright is more worried about fine china and precious artifacts than he is about his own life and well being.  Tatum’s daughter, however, is probably the most frustrating.  She comes off as annoying, careless, and extremely absent-minded in this film.  You might say this is because she’s a child, but tell me something: how realistic is it that a teenage girl like this is smart enough to run her own youtube channel and know more about the white house than the tour guide, and yet, she doesn’t know when to stay in the bathroom or to leave a building when its going to blow up?

I remember an argument I had with a friend of mine in my first year of college.  He was an experienced videographer who understood more about the film industry than any of the professors did in that department.  We were arguing about the differences between film and art, and he told me a direct yet simple statement:

“Film is not an art” he argued.  “Film is a business.”

While I desperately want to prove him wrong through films such as Inception, Life Of Pi and Beasts Of The Southern Wild, it is movies like White House Down that remind me that the industry does in fact exist and operate like a business intended for profit.  At least Roland Emmerich didn’t release this film in 3-D: that wouldn’t have helped my side of the argument one bit.

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“LINCOLN” Review (✫✫✫✫)

A man, not a monument, named Lincoln.

I’m rarely made more aware of what Lincoln was in history than what this powerful biopic reminds me: Lincoln was a man.  He wasn’t a fable.  He wasn’t a myth.  He wasn’t some sanctified holy figure that was crowned with solely freeing the slaves.  He wasn’t even technically honest Abe.  Abraham Lincoln was, solely, earnestly, realistically, the 16th President of the United States.  He was for the Union, he despised slavery, he was humble on approach, and he always fought intently for the things that he believed in: the things that he thought were right.

Depicting the final months of Lincoln’s presidency, including the end of the civil war and the abolishment of slavery, Lincoln is a very personal view of the final months of Abraham Lincoln’s life.  In that period Lincoln pushed for african freedom, dealt with conflicting opinions of his cabinet, sought peace negotiations with the confederacy, managed an entire union, and was in a state of emotional grief with his family after the recent death of Lincoln’s middle child, Willie.  If you told me that Lincoln had an easy time during his term as American president, I would call you grossly inaccurate.

In this drama-driven biopic, Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Abraham Lincoln.  When you watch him in this movie, I guarantee you that you won’t recognize him.  Day-Lewis doesn’t just portray the famous president: he embodies and embraces Lincoln’s spirit on every possible level, from the weariness in his voice to the hunch in his back.  His performance is so acute, there is barely any indication that he even is Daniel Day-Lewis.  For two and half hours he disappears into his role, and we briefly witness the miraculous resurrection of Lincoln through Daniel Day-Lewis.  The film lives and breathes on Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance.

Even then, a great actor cannot do anything without great material.  Enter Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner.  Kushner, who co-wrote Spielberg’s earlier history epic, Munich returns here to compose a story that is as complex and insightful as it is dramatic and informative.  Speilberg obviously needs no introduction.  For a decade-defining career as Speilberg’s, and for a project as personal to Spielberg as Lincoln, its obvious he would pay as much attention and focus to this era as he would with Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan.

Even then, I’m surprised at Spielberg’s role in this movie.  He’s effective as a director with this film, but he’s not the highlight.  He kind of takes a backseat to Kushner’s screenplay and Day-Lewis’ performance, with him serving as the production’s moderator rather than their visionary.

Which believe me, I’m fine with that.  At times, a director must learn to step back and just let the production flow into place.  Here, Spielberg is a great moderator, carefully directing Day-Lewis through Kushner’s fragile, elaborate script and always making sure he never takes the wrong step along the journey.  It isn’t like Spielberg’s previous films where it relies on flashy effects and CGI: this film is carefully paced through revealing dialogue and personal character development.  While it’s a step out of Speilberg’s comfort zone, it more than works for this production.  Lincoln is one of Spielberg’s most personal and most effective works to date.

The film’s only problem: pace.  Because this film relies on dialogue and performance as its greatest assets, there are times where the film becomes so muddled within its political kurfuffle and babbling that at times its hard to keep track of all at once.  You should know what I’m talking about: Senators and Congressmen shout and babble about to each other in such incoherent conversation that our ears zoom out for a bit and miss some key information we’ll need to remember later on.  This will be a problem for some viewers in the audience, as it will be difficult for some people to be hooked on the beginning of Lincoln’s story because of its slow, slow, slow pace.

But even then, I’m so absorbed into Lincoln’s story and Day-Lewis’ performance that I don’t even care about this minute fault.  The one thing that defines this film, the one thing Spielberg, Kushner, and Day-Lewis got right more than anything else is Lincoln’s compassion, his character, and his humanity.

I remember an interview Speilberg and Day-Lewis gave to Yahoo!Movies earlier this year.  When asked about the gravity of the challenge of bringing Lincoln’s legacy to life on the big screen, Spielberg had this to say about his lifelong dream project:

“…we have a big responsibility in telling the story,” Spielberg said. “And we determined that we didn’t want to make a movie about a monument named Lincoln, we wanted to make a movie about a man named Lincoln.”

A man.

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