Roland Emmerich

White House Down (2013) [DVD]

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Terrorists breach the White House and only one US Capitol police officer remains alive inside to save the President and his own young daughter.

Wait! Wait! Hang on, didn’t we do this one already? You’d be forgiven for a powerful sense of déjà vu at this point, because it’s only four months since we used a near-identical introduction to Olympus Has Fallen. It’s a rare but not unprecedented case of films with virtually the same premise hitting the theatres independently just a few months apart (see also Deep Impact/Armageddon and Dante’s Peak/Volcano for starters) but having already reviewed the first of this double bill back in September it seemed incumbent upon me to see it through and review White House Down now that the other shoe had finally fallen with the release on DVD this week.

Inevitably, watching the films becomes as much a process of ‘compare-and-contrast’ as it is a stand-alone review so let’s start with a little recap. Olympus Has Fallen won the race to be released first, which undoubtedly will have cost White House Down at the box office – how many filmgoers decided not to see the second film after understandably thinking “Nah, I’ve seen that one already.” It’s an easy mistake to make: the two films have the same setting, similar titles, almost identical posters, and at the end of the day are both very much summed up as ‘Die Hard in the White House’, although in practice the two films implement this high concept in slightly different ways. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 (Blu-ray)

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Director Roland Emmerich and his collaborator Harald Kloser are used to blowing up the world: they did it with aliens in Independence Day and the environment in The Day After Tomorrow, and along the way wrecked a fair portion of New York by unleashing Godzilla.

If you’ve seen any of those films, you’ll know just what to expect from 2012, which is global doomsday via Mayan prophecy (oh, alright then – by solar flares, if you will.)

Emmerich isn’t one for abandoning a tried and tested template, so you get the same sprawling cast, their initially disconnected lives eventually overlapping and linking up to form the narrative. And along the way, some eye-popping visual effects are unleashed as the world gets quite literally torn apart.

It’s basically standard B-movie stuff, but with a big budget. It’s very bit as clichéd and schmaltzy as its Emmerich forebears: remember how you cringed when President Bill Pullman gave his All-American rousing speech before the final battle? There’s a similar heart-tugging script beat here, too. It’s obvious who will live and who will die (and frankly, a little disturbingly so – it’s not good to be anything but a nice middle class American nuclear family in these films, so Indians and Russians have a very slim survival chance.) But the dog survives, as ever – it’s an Emmerich trope.

Also as is typical with these films, there’s some really great casting going on. John Cusack is always watchable whether in an indie film or a big budget blockbuster; Chiwetel Ejiofor is a new name and face to American audiences, but the young British actor is excellent and assured here, while Amanda Peet and Thandie Newton do well to bring life to the inevitable “supporting wife/girlfriend/daughter” roles. Add lovely turns from old stagers like Danny Glover, Oliver Platt and George Segal, and mix in a scene stealing Zlatko Buric as a Russian oligarch and you have a very agreeable mix.

All in all, then, it’s rather enjoyable as end-of-the-world stories go, and perfectly entertaining. It doesn’t try to do anything more, which puts it one ahead of the painfully worthy The Day After Tomorrow with its po-faced climate change message; and it much better done overall than the lazy, bloated Godzilla. It just about puts it into the three star category.

The Blu-ray disk on the other hand is something else. The film looks absolutely fantastic in high definition even on my relatively pokey 32″ screen, and the CGI sequences are so astonishingly well rendered with such level of detail that they’ll leave you well and truly eye-popped. And while I don’t have a sophisticated sound system, the way that the audio track threw an immersive, all-encompassing soundscape around me was really impressive and the best I think I’ve heard at home.

Not sure if I’d call it “reference quality” – I reserve that for Pixar releases, to be honest – but this Blu-ray still really surprised me by how good it was. It almost made me want to re-watch the film again just by how good it looked and sounded, the quality of the film itself almost irrelevant.