White House Down: a group of mercenaries storm the White House leaving an aspiring Secret Serviceman as the President’s – and America’s – only hope. They’ve only gone and made “Die Hard in the White House”, again! It’s easy to confuse this with Olympus has Fallen, but in a duel for the oval office this one wins hands-down, mostly due to the entertainment-factor; it’s the true embodiment of the term ‘action romp’. Everything that can do so, explodes during big set pieces that punctuate the movie, and is generously littered with laughs too – by the end I was even guilty of a few fist-pumps. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the kind of movie that – at least on paper – we should all hate: big, loud, dumb, derivative, but the director seems to know this, and fully embraces it – cheesing everything up to 11. The only real downside is that it’s a tad on the long side (for the kind of film it is). If you want a cheesy 80s/90s big-budget one-man-army taking on waves of despicable henchmen, look no further. Fly this DVD up your flagpoles, ‘MURICA!
The Expendables 2: when they’re ambushed during a simple job the team have to avenge a fallen comrade… and shoot the crap out of anything that gets in their way. First off, the costume department deserve a medal; these guys are going in to action with cardigans, wooly jumpers, trench coats, French berets, designer jeans, cashmere scarves – they’re the most metrosexual mercenaries on the planet! The action is a whole other level of ace… blood, guts, explosions, limbs flying, heads exploding, bullet-riddled bodies dropping everywhere – only downside is that everything from the weapons to entire set pieces feel like copy/paste jobs from recent Call of Duty games. The majority of the runtime is like eating a cheese sandwich, made with cheesy bread whilst drinking mozzarella brine, but in a totally knowing, tongue in cheek fashion – like Willis and Arnie mocking each others characters and catchphrases. Lundgren should be singled out as a great sport, being the butt of almost every scene & joke. My only
real petty concern is that there’s only one big/famous baddie – and considering some of the iconic action villains over the years, it’s the only thing they could really have done with upping. Having a real director makes such a big difference – everything is improved, although the comic timing is so far out that it’s embarrassing to watch (but does help add to the cheese-effect). The Expendables is essentially the male equivalent of Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve – an ensemble of big names that puts an entire demographic’s bums on seats, and where everything else is secondary. In saying that, there’s still something inherently satisfying and watchable about seeing Willis / Arnie / Norris and co firing big guns at things. Expendables 2 is a highly enjoyable Action/Comedy romp – it’ll be difficult to top.
Space Dogs [Blu Ray]: family friendly, fast-and-loose re-telling of the Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka, who were sent up in Sputnik 5 and became the first animals to return from space in one piece. As a grown up, this film wasn’t pitched at me – the characters are a large-headed, squeaky-voiced, constantly kinetic mixture of animals on spectacularly dazzling adventure. Needless to say, that description ticks every box on the “child entertainment requirements” checklist. Being presented by the Russian Centre of National Film and Ministry of Culture Office there’s a lot of interesting, educational national pride, history, facts and even a mini tour of the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue – which is quite refreshing. The Blu Ray presentation and sound are both impressive; it’s bright, colorful, detailed and sharp. Although missing the multi-generational appeal that Pixar seem to have perfected, Space Dogs looks great, has a simple “happy ever after” story and would be a neat stocking filler for young children this Christmas!