THE HEAT. I'm sorry I doubted you, Paul Feig. During every preview for The Heat, the Bridesmaids director's sophomore feature, I moaned and groaned, complaining about Sandra Bullock playing yet another character who balances her femininity with her professionalism, as she's done in nearly every movie since Miss Congeniality.
"It could be OK; it is Paul Feig," said my more optimistic friends. Still, I entered the theater with a brain full of preconceptions. Within minutes of the opening credits I was eating my own words.
The Heat is by no means a groundbreaking comedy, nor is it destined to be a classic. But it outshines nearly every other comedy of 2013 so far (especially you, The Hangover Part III). Feig teamed with up-and-coming writer Katie Dippold (TV's Parks and Recreation) to give the buddy-cop template a female twist. It's a little bit Cagney & Lacey and alotta bit The Odd Couple, and the combination works well.
Straight-laced FBI Agent Ashburn (Bullock) has her eye on a promotion, while crass Boston Police Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids' scene-stealer) wants to clean up the streets, no matter the cost. Together they must take down a drug lord who's constantly evading the clutches of the law. Eventually, the two polar opposites manage to combine their contradictory styles and make the collar. It's an old plot, but the jokes are fresh.
The Heat is not without some problematic gender role messages (you mean she's a lady and a badass cop?!), but Dippold toys with the concepts with side-splitting dexterity. It's not not sexist, but it satirizes the stereotypes it employs. The success of The Heat's humor can largely be attributed to the parade of cameos, which run the gamut from SNL legend Jane Curtin to newer comedic faces such as Kaitlin Olson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Though McCarthy is hilarious, she and Bullock couldn't have pulled off this comedy without the help of a huge supporting cast.
The list of successful female comedy writers has been too short for too long. The Heat will likely not be the last thing we see from Dippold, and for that I'm grateful. R. 117m.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN. Director, producer and sometimes writer Roland Emmerich knows a thing or two about saving the world — or saving the part that Hollywood deems worth saving ('Merica!). In 1996 he stole the hearts and minds of 12-year-olds everywhere with Independence Day. Then his career took a nose dive. (That Godzilla re-make? Unforgivable.)
I used to wonder why he went downhill so quickly; how did the guy who made Stargate go on to make crap like 2012 and 10,000 BC? One day I realized Emmerich's work didn't get worse; I just got older. Kids don't need action films to be compelling or well-written. They just need jokes, explosions and victory. As an adult, I know Hollywood can do better (e.g. Die Hard, Red and just about every Tarantino film).
Emmerich's latest, penned by James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man), is a feeble attempt at Hollywood blockbusterdom. White House Down follows a tired action-movie formula. Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a divorced father trying desperately to land his dream job and win the love of his pre-teen daughter, but no one will give him a chance to prove himself. He dreams of working with the Secret Service, but he's too much of a loose cannon. No one seems to recognize his unpolished potential.
When a terrorist group invades the White House, killing hundreds of people and quickly eroding the state of the nation, Cale's unorthodox and ridiculously unrealistic methods are the only thing that can save the day. He'll save the president, uncover a government conspiracy and win the respect of his daughter in one fell swoop.
The clichéd plot could be forgiven if it was dressed up a little — if the dialogue was punchier or the explosions more awe-inspiring. But Emmerich and Vanderbilt don't serve up any tasty extras. The dialogue is corny, the jokes are groaners and the action scenes overuse slo-mo as if it's some dazzling new technique.
Action movies can get away with being implausible if they make you care about the characters. But even with a talented cast that includes Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Richard Jenkins, I gave no shits about anyone. The characters in White House Down, like the plot, are as threadbare as Tatum's tattered tank top. PG13. 131m.
THE LONE RANGER. Johnny Depp puts a bird on it as Tonto in this 2 ½ -hour film version of the classic TV Western. Armie Hammer costars as the man behind the mask in what promises to be a weird buddy movie. PG13. 149m.
DESPICABLE ME 2. Formerly villainous Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) returns with his girls and his hyperactive, peanut-shaped minions to battle the evil Eduardo. How evil? He's voiced by Al Pacino.
If Sunday's Humboldt Crabs game against the Seattle Studs gives you testosterone overload, head over to the Arcata Theatre Lounge at 6 p.m. for A League of Their Own, the 1992 comedy about the first female professional baseball league, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna. PG. 128m. Next Wednesday's Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night feature is the creepy-sounding Quartermass and the Pit, a British horror/sci-fi involving psychic disturbances and dead Martians. Doors at 6 p.m.
FAST & FURIOUS 6. The sixth outing has earned the cars-and-crime franchise's best reviews and biggest box office numbers. Part seven's on the way! PG13. 130m.
MAN OF STEEL. Is the latest Superman re-boot too big to fail? Maybe not. PG13. 140m.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. Pixar's prequel to Monsters, Inc. finds Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) in scare school. G. 104m.
NOW YOU SEE ME. A group of magicians rob banks and run from the law in this breezy, enjoyable escape. PG13. 116m.
THIS IS THE END. Seth Rogen and friends go out with a bong and a whimper in this uneven stoner's tale of the apocalypse. R. 107m.
WORLD WAR Z. The global zombie outbreak forgot about one thing: Brad freakin' Pitt. PG13. 116m. •