Recess: School’s Out (2001)

Recess Schools OUtReleased: February 16, 2001. Director: Chuck Sheetz. Stars (voices): Andrew Lawrence, Rickey D’Shon Collins, James Woods. Runtime: 82 min.

In elementary school, I’d rush home after school to catch one of my favourite after-school shows, Disney’s “Recess”. If only I had a PVR (the Canadian Tivo) back then so I didn’t have to rush home. And back then I got off school at 3:45 and practically my whole day was gone. Anyway, Disney is a studio that likes to give their children’s audience a movie of the famed show, as a sort-of farewell, in most cases. And it gives them a little extra money, not that they need it nowadays – since they own basically every property in Hollywood. (Their family channel has taken a serious dip in quality if you ask me, as “Gravity Falls” is the only decent show still making new episodes.)

“Recess: School’s Out” is one of the finest movies based on their TV show in the Disney vault, without much competition (“Vacation with Derek,” “Hannah Montana: The Movie”). The plot is very simple, much like the show itself. The trouble-making TJ Detweiler (Andrew Lawrence) is left behind by all his friends as they go off to summer camp for the first bit of summer vacation. After seeing some ominous goings-on at Third Street Elementary, and after Principal Prickley is “kidnapped,” he enlists his help of his pals to save him. And little do they know it at the time, to save their summer vacation.

The main villain James Woods has well-explained motivations for his villainous plan. He wants to get rid of summer vacation by altering the weather to make it always cold “like Canada and Antarctica.” (By saying Canada, that just shows how silly the writing can be. We have f*cking hot summers!) And his villainous plot just goes to show how easily holes can be poked through the writing. Summer vacation is still going to happen – rain or shine (or snow). Granted, they won’t be able to swim or anything – but it’s still no school. These plot holes won’t be prominent to the majority of children, but to anyone in the double digit age range, it’ll be obvious.

This movie is still entertaining and a good way to pass 82 minutes. It probably would be better enjoyed watched at the beginning of summer. (Which makes me think that initially releasing this movie in the middle of February is SO stupid.) It’s a usually funny ride with a cool music number at the end, and will be better enjoyed by the kids who grew up watching the TV show and are familiar with the antics of the Third Street School crew. To use one of TJ Detweiler’s coined phrases, this movie doesn’t whomp.


White House Down (2013)

White House DownRelease Date: June 28, 2013. Director: Roland Emmerich. Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Runtime: 131 min.

Apparently infiltrating the White House is so easy, everyone’s doing it! (And they just finished re-building it, too!) All you have to do is rally up a bunch of people who are angry at the government, spend a day planning, synchronize your watches, and go to town. But be careful, there’s going to be a highly-decorated police officer of some kind standing in your way.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol police officer on tour of the White House with his daughter Emily (Joey King). He is also interviewing for a spot on the Secret Service, protecting President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). On that very day, because the President issued an international Peace Treaty, a paramilitary group invades the White House; now John must save his daughter, the President, and the country.

Whether it be Channing Tatum vs. a 25-person paramilitary group or Gerard Butler vs. North Korea’s entire 300 person army, both action guys are forces to be reckoned with. “Olympus Has Fallen” had to face comparisons to “Die Hard” back in March, so compared to this, it is living on easy street. Now, this has to face comparisons to both “Die Hard” and “Olympus.” Will it stand strong through all of it? Probably not.

“White House Down” is the better movie in some ways – but “Olympus” has the benefit of being released first. The former is superior to the latter in the CGI-effects department, the higher-profile director, and the cast. Even against the likes of Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Melissa Leo; once you have Tatum, Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal and then add the extra oomph of James Woods, Richard Jenkins and Jason Clarke; there’s no competition. But “Olympus” wins in many other aspects.

“Olympus” embraces its over-the-top brutality and the insane premise of a terrorist group taking down the most heavily protected house on Earth in a matter of minutes. That movie is a lot of fun. This is only mildly fun. It has fun with the premise, but its aspirations of becoming a great buddy action comedy feel forced. This feels too serious at times, which doesn’t work to the film’s benefit with so many frustrating “Okay, that’ll never happen!” moments. Granted, this premise will never happen – but if it does ever happen, we should all hope that the actual John McClane is taking a tour of the White House that day.

The antagonists’ motives are explained well for the most part. Cale’s motivations to stay at the White House to save his daughter are evident as well, even if those motivations are cookie-cutter. But that isn’t bad for this type of movie, because audiences are there for the action. There just isn’t enough of it.

The build-up takes too long, and this type of movie needs to have tension building that doesn’t take forever. There’s a lot of drama there, and we just want the action. And the bits of humour. Thankfully, there’s quite a lot of that, too. One of the members of the paramilitary group (the amusing hacker, Jimmi Simpson) has a lot of charisma, so he is the best antagonist in the movie – even better than the boss man (who I won’t reveal, even if (s)he’ll be blatantly obvious). There’s a prominent buddy comedy aspect, and even if the jokes aren’t so memorable, they provide big laughs at the time.

“White House Down” is familiar and forgettable, but it’s not a horrible way to pass 131 minutes. It just doesn’t bring enough to the table to be noteworthy. Since it’s so familiar, there are few surprises hiding away, and the antagonists are obvious from the get go. Apparently, if you’ve seen one Die Hard in the White House movie; you’ve seen them all.

Score: 58/100