New Releases Double Reviews: World War Z & White House Down

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WORLD WAR Z

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Based on a popular novel by Max Brooks, this big budgeted film was plagued with troubled production and ran well over its original budget, reportedly somewhere around $170-200 mil (the original budget was set around $150 mil). The film was scheduled to open last December but because of rewrites and reshoots of the film’s third act, it got delayed for six months. Now it’s ready for audiences all over the world to see. I want to mention that the film doesn’t have anything to do with the book, besides the title and premise the film has nothing to do with its original source. Just thought I mention that for fans of the novel.

The film opens with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family going to some family trip. While stuck in traffic on the streets of Philadelphia, suddenly chaos broke out. If you’ve seen the countless trailers and clips, you already know what happened. The scene was pretty intense and exciting to watch. Gerry and his family was able to escape and drove all the way to New Jersey.

Later on Gerry got a call from his former colleague, Theirry Umuntoni (Fana Mokoena), he explained what has been happening all over the world and needs Gerry’s help. Gerry agreed and Theirry told him to wait somewhere overnight and in the morning he’ll send over a helicopter to pick him up. Gerry and his family found a refuge with a family who still lives in an apartment building in New Jersey. After Gerry and his family were rescued, they were flown to a ship outside of the States where the US Navy set up their command post. He found out that US President was killed and most of the government officials have either died or missing. Since Gerry has experience in working all over the world, he’s been asked by the US Navy Captain to help them find out what cause the outbreak. First he was hesitant because he didn’t want to leave his family but after the Captain told him that the only reason he and his family are on the ship was because he’s useful to them, if he doesn’t want to help, he and his family have to leave. I don’t like to give out too much plot points on my reviews so I’ll just say that for the rest of the film, Gerry went on an adventure trying to find out what cause people to turn into zombies.

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As I mentioned earlier, the film doesn’t have anything to do with the book, but they did include sequences that were similar to some section from the book, some fans might appreciate that, I know that I did. I’m not the biggest fan of Marc Forster but I thought he did a really good job of staging some really cool action set pieces and even made me jump a few times. I thought the first half of the film was pretty great, I was involved in the story and thought it could one of the best films of the summer. Unfortunately the film’s second half was a letdown.

There were five screenwriters who were credited on this film and I blame all of them for the lackluster second half. Apparently studio folks weren’t too thrilled with the first cut that Forster had delivered to them and hired Damon Lindelof to rewrite the ending and order re-shoots. Unfortunately what he came up with was pretty lame in my opinion, of course I won’t spoil it but it’s clear they want sequels. In fact, Brad Pitt said in an interview that he wants to turn this film into a trilogy. I think had they stuck with the original ending, the film might work out better. I hope they include that original ending on Blu-ray/DVD or better yet, integrate it into the eventual director’s cut release. If you want to find out what the original was like, go and read this excellent article that chronicled the film’s troubled production.

Performance-wise, Pitt was pretty decent in the lead role. Make no mistake, this is his film. He appeared on the screen pretty much 99% of the time. Mireille Enos who played his wife had some good scenes in the first 30 minutes or so but unfortunately her role was reduced to just being the worried wife while her husband was out saving the world. The only other major character in the film was an Israeli soldier played by Daniella Kertesz, she sort of became Pitt’s sidekick throughout most of the film.

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I was a bit disappointed that they decided to make it a PG-13 zombie movie. I’m not a gore freak but I expected to see blood and some gore when it comes to film about zombies. I know that when they agreed to turn the book into a movie, it was under contract that it couldn’t be R-rated, that’s one of the reasons why they had to change the original ending. Apparently it’s too violent and the film would’ve gotten an R-rating. I understand it’s done for financial reasons but seriously, there was a scene in the film where Pitt’s character chopped another character’s hand off but we didn’t see anything because they had to cut away. Also, if you cut someone’s hand off, there would be blood everywhere! The film couldn’t show that of course. Just a minor complaint though, there were many intense scenes that worked despite its PG-13 kid friendly rating.

Even with the lackluster second half and lack of blood and gore, I still recommend it. I think some of the big spectacle sequences should be seen on the big screen and the 3D effects were pretty good. This coming from a guy who doesn’t care about 3D. Also, I thought the soundtrack was pretty great, especially the theme song by Muse.


3 out of 5 reels

WHITE HOUSE DOWN

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The second film about the White House under attack this year is now ready for audiences everywhere, the first being Olympus Has Fallen which opened back March. This one stars Channing Tatum as the reluctant hero who has to save the day and Jamie Foxx as the POTUS. The premise is pretty much the same with exception that the villains in this film were domestic terrorists while the bad guys in Olympus were foreigners. I would say White House Down really reminded me of Michael Bay’s The Rock, which was basically Die Hard at Alcatraz.

The setup for these kind of films are pretty similar, we were introduced to the main characters who will be involve in the story. There’s the hero John Cale (Channing Tatum), he’s basically a bodyguard to The Speaker of House, Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). Then there’s the President (Jamie Foxx), head of the security in the White House Martin Walker (James Woods), secret service agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) and Cale’s daughter Emily (Joey King). The story begins as Cale is taking his daughter to the tour of the White House, we learn that he and his daughter aren’t that close and she’s sort of hate his guts. So in order to impress her, he told her that he’s being interview for a position as secret service agent. You see his daughter is somehow crazy about politics and she even has her own political blog and she also loves the President.

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Once they got to the White House, Cale got call in for the interview and found out Carol will be the one who’s interviewing him for the job. Apparently the two of them had some of history back in college and she thinks of him as a loser. Of course he didn’t get the job but he lied to his daughter that he might get it. By now we get to see some of the potential bad guys have also arrived at the White House and gearing up for their attack. The group’s leader is Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke). Later on, the bomb went off at the Capitol Building and Emil’s group started killing all the security people at the White House. During this attack, Cale was able to rescue the President and the film became sort of buddy action. There were lots of shoot outs, hand to hand combats and of course big explosions. If you’ve read my reviews on this site then you know I don’t like to give out plot points and you know what, the plot for these kind of films aren’t that important. You’ve seen them many times before and you just have to go along with the ride and I can tell you it’s a fun ride.

The film was directed by Roland Emmerich who seems to love to blow up Washington DC buildings in many of his films and well he did the same thing here. But unlike his other disaster spectacle films, this one was his first shoot’em up action flick since Universal Soldiers. I thought he did a great job of building up the tension and staged some really cool and fun action set pieces. There’s a big car chase that took place in front of the White House’s lawn, it’s the most ridiculous action scenes I’ve seen in a while but it’s fun nonetheless. He also understands that he’s making an action movie so he kept the tone light and not make it overly serious.

As for the actors, I thought everyone did a good job, although Foxx tried a bit too hard to imitate our real President Obama. Tatum was good as the not-so-smooth action hero, he’s more goofy than most action heroes. I was surprised Cale’s daughter played a big role in the movie and the young Joey King did a pretty good job as the know-it-all kid. I give the casting director big props for finding a young actress who actually looks like Channing Tatum. The rest of the cast did pretty well too, again thanks to Emmerich’s direction, none of them took their part too seriously.

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So how does it compare to Olympus Has Fallen? Well in my opinion this one was a much better film because it didn’t try to be more than an action summer flick. I thought Olympus took itself way too seriously, it tried too hard to be dark, edgy and violent as opposed to just being an action movie. Also, the effects in this film were much better than Olympus’, well to be fair White House Down has a bigger budget. But still Olympus’s budget was around $80mil and yet the effects in the film looked like something from the late 90s.

Of course there were some flaws in this film, I was expecting some new motivations from the villains, not the same old thing we’ve seen in the past. Even though I enjoyed the action scenes, I thought the hand to hand combats were badly-staged and the always bloodless violence sort of bug me a bit. When people get shot or blown up, there should be blood everywhere. Also, there’s a scene during the climax of the film that involved Cale’s daughter and a flag that was kind of odd and I wish they’d rewrite that sequence. I think people will either laugh out loud or just go WTF!? I think you might agree with me when you see it.

Overall I thought the film was a lot of fun and it’s one of the best action films I’ve seen in a while. If you’re a fan of Die Hard, The Rock or Olympus Has Fallen then you’ll enjoy this one.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


– Reviews by Ted S.


Have you seen either one of these? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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42 thoughts on “New Releases Double Reviews: World War Z & White House Down

  1. So true about the flag thing. Her character was so uneven. Sometimes she was really funny or clever. Other times they just had her cry in the background or do that insanely corny thing. Overall, I agreed a lot with what you said on both movies.

    • Thanks Jess, yeah I almost laughed out loud when his daughter grabbed the flag and ran out trying to stop the jet from bombing the White House, it just looked too silly to me.

    • I do recommend you see it on the big screen, there were some cool action sequences that looked great. But again when it hits BD/DVD, they might include the alternate ending so then you can decide which version is better.

  2. Good stuff Ted. I got to say I loved WWZ for what it was. I quite liked the ending mainly because of its open and and for the fact that the stakes were still high. I don’t want to spoil anything but it really worked for me. I thought it gave a very committed performance and I love that they didn’t make him into a one-man-army. Sure there were those silly instances of luck that only movies can provide but overall I had tons of fun with it.

    • Thanks Keith, I didn’t think it was a bad ending just the shift in tone bugged me. Like I said I thought the first half of the film was excellent but when it went from action/adventure to suspense/thriller, it threw me off a bit. Hopefully they’ll release the original ending on BD/DVD.

  3. Nice reviews, Ruth. I can wait for them both to come out on DVD. You raise a good point about PG-13 Zombie movies. They ought to be ripping, gorging, bleeding all over the place or what’s the point? Then I remember ‘I am Legend’ with Will Smith and I LOVED the zombie creatures. They were freaky enough for me and the film didn’t need a R rating for it.

    • Yeah, like I said I’m not a gore freak but when you make a movie about zombies attacking people, you have to at least show some of that gruesome stuff. I mean The Walking Dead TV show has more blood and guts than WWZ.

  4. Yeah, I’d say you’re just about right on both of them, Ruth. WWZ does fall apart in the second half… I’m not quite as thrilled about White House Down as you seem to be, but a grade of 3.5 is fair enough for it. ;)

    • Thanks Fogs, I hope we get to see the more intense original ending of WWZ on BD/DVD.

      It’s funny that both White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen received about the same rating on Rottentomatoes, I guess both are equally bad but I prefer the more fun White House Down.

  5. Despite the average reviews for WWZ, I’m still keen to see it. And I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen for its purely stupid take on White House incursions, so I will look forward to my eventual viewing of WHD with eager anticipation.

    • Both films were quite entertaining so I think you’ll like them both. White House Down is much more lighter in tone than Olympus but both are Die Hard ripoffs and so I think you’ll enjoy it.

  6. Hi, Ted:

    So, you have two large budgeted films that don’t achieve of deliver expectations.

    Replace FMZs (Fast Moving Zombies) and huge, loud explosions, tired and old evil white bad guys, (a standardized fallback for witless Hollywood writers) with a coherent, cohesive plot and and some character development and things might have played out differently.

    Just another less than stellar summer day that ends in “y” in cinema.

    • Hey Jack, yeah this summer’s flicks are kind of underwhelming. These two films aren’t what I call great flicks for the summer season, they’re just entertaining enough for matinee.

  7. I think you were the audience World War Z was going for Ruth, a zombie film that lacked the blood and gore we usually see in the genre. Cause I know that stuff grosses you out. :)

    • Yeah, the lack of blood and gore kind of ruined the fun for me. But as I mentioned in the review, even with the PG13 rating, some of the more intense scenes had me on the edge of my seats.

    • Ahah, that might be true Chris. I know lots of people prefer gory zombie movies but I think it’s interesting that they made this one as more of a geopolitical thriller.

  8. Seeing how I’m really annoyed by Tatum and I freaking hate Jaime Foxx I don’t think I’d survive watching that second movie :) But I’m gonna check out World War Z on DVD, I really like Pitt and he is rarely in movies I find awful or unwatchable :)

    • If you don’t like the two lead than you will definitely won’t like White House Down. I’m not that big a fan of either of them but I thought they were good in the film though.

      Hey if you wait for the DVD then you might get to see the alternate ending of World War Z.

  9. Good reviews, Ted. I haven’t seen White House Down, but I was also disappointed with World War Z. I’m not sure I could handle a trilogy of it. :)

    • I don’t think we’ll have to worry about seeing the WWZ sequels since the film needs to make at least $400mil to break even, but you never know. Hollywood tends to keep making sequels to moderate hit films. LOL.

  10. White House Down is little more than looney political propaganda disguised as an action movie wrapped around a black-white buddy movie. So it’s really three bad movies in one. If you think of Barack Obama as an action hero, then this movie is for you. Otherwise, stay home and pop your own corn.

    • Well you saw a different movie than I did, what I saw was a silly fun action movie and although there were some political “agendas”, it didn’t hit me over the head with it. But again we all see films in different light, you seem to think it has political agenda, I didn’t. Also, most of the action scenes involved Channing Tatum, so I don’t know what you meant by Barack Obama as an action hero? He’s more of a supporting character.

  11. I really cannot wait to see World War Z (despite the mixed reviews). It has just come now, so I want to see if I can get to it this weekend!

  12. Pingback: » Movie Review – Olympus Has Fallen Fernby Films

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