On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 5, 2013

I've never been a huge fan of director Roland Emmerich as he's come to be known for making things go boom while his more horrible efforts like Godzilla and 10,000 BC tend to be overlooked for his box office successes, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Two years ago though, when nobody went to see Anonymous I found a very stylized and elaborate film with a director yearning to do something more than craft gigantic action sequences. He wanted to work with character and not have it's point of conflict be where to run next. Granted, it wasn't a great film and it still allowed for a certain amount of camp, but it also took an interesting myth and made a game of politics out of it. There is much of this in that first part of White House Down while the latter meshes that with what the director does best. The fact Emmerich has not become stagnant by this point is reason enough to celebrate, that he is trying to push himself to do more is even better and in that respect he gets an A for effort. To be more specific though, the lush supporting cast paired with the chemistry of leads Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx help the story rise above the standard beats it hits along the way as well as avoiding any tendency the film might have to try and take itself too seriously. What surprised me most here, and likely differentiates it most from Olympus Has Fallen, is the fact that saving the President is not the climax of the film, it isn't the ultimate goal that our hero is working towards (though getting him to safety is certainly part of it) but instead of being left to wait for help to come as Aaron Eckhart's President Asher was Foxx's President Sawyer is made a part of that action. He doesn't turn into a superhero who knows all there is to know about weapons and hand to hand combat, that is what Tatum's John Cale is there for, but he knows the grounds and the bad guys of course want him alive so he is able to play the value card throughout that saves them more than once. Full review here. B-

What happens when a movie doesn't center around its most interesting character? That is only one of the issues facing the latest Kristen Wiig film, Girl Most Likely. I'm not sure what I expected from Wiig after she officially "made it" with Bridesmaids a few years ago, but she certainly hasn't attempted to capitalize on her heightened status as much as co-star Melissa McCarthy. No, I'm not sure what I expected of her, but I know it was more than this. Before that leading role in Bridesmaids it seemed Wiig was everywhere in small, supporting parts (Extract, Adventureland, Whip It, MacGruber, Date Night, Paul) but since she has done nothing in the way of mainstream films besides lending her voice to animated work (most notably Despicable Me 2) while her only major film roles have been the one under review here and the favor that was Friends with Kids. All of this is to say that while Girl Most Likely is a passable film with a cast too good for its material there was a level of expectation for Wiig's career and in many ways this is the kind of film that begins to deflate those expectations. There is still time as plenty of people won't have even heard of this film until now as they venture out to Red Box's to try and fins something they might like and Wiig has several projects lined up including the Anchorman sequel and the Ben Stiller-directed re-make of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty both of which come out in December and will do nothing but boost her star, but these will again be supporting roles and people are anxious to see her take the lead again, just not like this. We want to see her head up a mainstream comedy with mass appeal that still allows her brand of humor to seep in and we want to see her play a different kind of character. The Imogene of Girl Most Likely is so much like the Annie of Bridesmaids we begin to wonder if this is what might have happened in an alternate universe. Wiig is known for being able to play a variety of characters, I just hope she shows that on the big screen soon. Full review here. C

There is a certain disconnect between myself and the time period in which Lovelace takes place. The early-70's are a time I've completely come to know through there representation in films and the popular music of that time. Watching a film set around that period and concerning the star of one of the most popular adult movies in history is like coming to fully realize the underbelly of the time period while at the same time getting to know a character who might have just as easily been the subject of a Lifetime movie. Essentially this is what Lovelace becomes as the real story of Linda Susan Boreman is one of an abusive marriage as well as a testament to the type of control people can subject others to. While this is certainly nothing to be made light of and it becomes clear just how tragic Linda's story really is, this standard bio pic account does nothing to make us feel much for Linda other than the inherent sympathy anyone would feel for a woman who has been part of an abusive relationship. The only thing that differentiates Lovelace from being featured on the television for women station is the caliber of talent involved and the vulgarity that comes along with Linda's profession. The only other film I've seen in which directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were at the helm is the similarly low key biopic of poet Allen Ginsberg, Howl. While I wasn't particularly attracted to that film either it at least conveyed the story in a way that would have likely made the subject proud. It had an element of originality to it and intertwined real interviews, animation, and heavily documented re-enactments that at least flowed together to create an interesting piece of work. When compared to that inventive approach Lovelace is completely straightforward with only a structural shift in the middle of the movie that is more jarring than effective. I didn't mind the film, but I didn't necessarily enjoy it. Linda is an interesting person and has a story worth telling and there is enough talent invested in her portrayal and the people around her that make this movie worth seeing if not just to see how a soul can become so easily lost, but for how success can look different to the people on the outside and the person at the heart of it all. Full review here. C+

While I expect a certain amount of engagement with inherently intriguing material such as this, my main issue with Parkland was the fact it never connected with me, it never felt like it held the weight of the seismic events it was discussing. It was as if I'd been debating religion or love with a person who had an opposing view but left no impression on me because they didn't know how to best formulate their thoughts. It is almost unbearably frustrating because you know, despite the lack of cohesion or organization, that there is something there, some kind of potential that in the right hands could be made to be something much more profound or at the very least make a valuable contribution to the ongoing conversation. That is not to say first time feature director Peter Landesman isn't capable of directing feature films, but that he needs an editor or a distributor that will back up from such a large project and say this is going to be a massive film or even better, that this story and the approach you are using might better be suited for a mini-series a la Band of Brothers or others in that vein. I think it would have not only benefited the character development and the overall arc of the film, but it would have allowed the audience to see why these separate stories build so well on top of one another. There is genuine tension in much of these scenes, especially those involving the hospital sequences, from which the movie draws its title, where Nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) and Doctors Charles Carrico (Zac Efron) and Malcolm Perry (Colin Hanks) attempt to revive the President after being taken completely off guard by his arrival and unaware of what had just happened to him during the parade. These scenes are chock full of interesting aspects that if given more time might be afforded the ability to go into more detail and discuss not simply the "how" of what happened on that day, but the mechanics of why things turned out the way they did. Each of these matters are worthy of more time than is devoted to them in the film and that is only one of at least four equally engaging angles from which the film approaches this definitive event. Full review here. C-

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