What’s playing in Madison theaters, June 28-July 4, 2013


All week

“The Heat” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — Watch your back, Rizzoli & Isles! You’ve got company in the female buddy-cop genre with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as the typical Odd Couple fighting crime. The trailer doesn’t look great, but it’s directed by Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame, so here’s hoping.

White House Down” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — My full review is here. Channing Tatum plays a wannabe Secret Service agent who rescues the President (Jamie Foxx) when mercenaries storm the White House. It’s a surprisingly fun time at the movies, witty and just smart enough not to insult your intelligence. Plus lots of stuff blows up.

Ambikapathy” (Star Cinema) — A Hindu boy recalls his doomed love for a Muslim girl in this Bollywood hit, now dubbed into Tamil.


“Rooftop Cinema: Adventures in Space and Time” (Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St., 9:30 p.m.) — The last of the June series is an eclectic collection of shorts that all have to do with perspective in some way, including a witty short that looks at an odometer turning from 99,999 miles to 100,000. (It was more impressive in the analog days, kids.) FREE! for MMOCA members, $7 for everyone else.


Muppets From Space” (Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m.) — Well, it’s “Muppets FROM Space” not “Muppets IN Space,’ which is a little bit of a letdown. Gonzo’s alien brethren come to Earth to find him in this ’90s movie, which features a lot of ’70s funk on the soundtrack for some reason. I’m sure twentysomethings remember it fondly the way they do “Space Jam,” but the 2011 “Muppets” reboot couldn’t come fast enough for me. FREE!

Django Unchained” (Star Cinema, 10 p.m.) — AMC Theatres has a nifty “Summer Nights” promotion going on this summer. See some of your favorite recent movies for $3 Monday through Wednesday nights, with proceeds going to benefit autism research. This week’s offering is Quentin Tarantino’s bloody and riotous mash-up of the Western and blaxploitation genres, which ends up facing America’s racist past more honestly than a lot of much more polite films.


Django Unchained” (Star Cinema, 10 p.m.) — See Monday listing

Opens Wednesday

Despicable Me 2” (Eastgate, Point, Star Cinema) — Steve Carell returns as the lovable supervillain turned superdad Gru, who must foil the plot of his former comrades-in-badness. The first one was a unexpectedly enjoyable animated movie, and as long as there’s a return appearance of the “fart gun” my kids will be happy.

The Lone Ranger” (Eastgate, Point, Star Cinema) — Johnny Depp is Tonto and Armie Hammer is the Masked Man as Gore Verbinski tries to translate the success of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies to the Western genre. Anybody else getting a “Wild, Wild West” vibe off of this?

Django Unchained” (Star Cinema, 10 p.m.) — See Monday listing

“White House Down”: Four score and twenty bullets ago . . .


“White House Down” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate, and Star Cinema. PG-13, 1:56, three stars out of four

It was right about the time Channing Tatum was doing donuts in the presidential limo on the south lawn of the White House, tearing up turf as the bad guys chasing him fired from roof-mounted machine guns, that I suspected “White House Down” would not be a nuanced film about geopolitics.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Right about the moment I saw the words “A Roland Emmerich Film” during the opening credits, I knew I was in for something ridiculous. This is a director, after all, who has assaulted the world with aliens, Godzilla, flash-freeze global warming, and a Mayan calendar that as it turns out was not all that accurate. And the thing you have to shake your head and kinda admire about a Roland Emmerich film is that he creates such goofy CGI mayhem so humorlessly, as if the world desperately needs to see itself flattened and fricaseed again and again.

Except for “White House Down.” Though assuredly as nutballs as its predecessors in the Emmerich oeuvre, this is a really fun action movie, and acutely aware it’s a really fun action movie. Unlike the sober R-rated “Olympus Has Fallen” of just a few months ago, “White House” down is fleet-footed and enjoyable, finding room for plenty of laughs within the mayhem.

While “This Is The End” fans know this could only be the second-best Channing Tatum film of the summer, he exudes movie-star aw-shucks charisma as John Cale, a Capitol Security agent protecting the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins). Cale wants to move up to the White House, mostly to impress his disaffected 11-year-old daughter Emily (Joey King), who is a freak for presidential trivia. (I mean, what 11-year-old girl isn’t, am I right, parents?) He takes her a long on his job interview at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and while they’re there, all CGI hell breaks loose.

Mercenaries led by the glowering Jason Clarke of “Zero Dark Thirty” take over the White House in a manner that’s just plausible enough to be unsettling, their sights on President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Apparently Sawyer’s plan for a major peace treaty that involves pulling all U.S. troops out of the Middle East doesn’t sit well with defense contractors. But Cale rescues the president, and the pair sneak around the White House, from the residence on the top floor to the catacombs where JFK allegedly smuggled in Marilyn, trying to stop the bad guys and save the day.

Yes, it’s “Die Hard in the West Wing,” and “White House Down” isn’t shy about driving the comparison home, having Tatum storm the halls in a very McClane-esque white wife-beater, and making one villain, a fey hacker, awfully fond of Beethoven (but Beethoven’s Fifth, not “Ode to Joy.”) Truth be told, “White House” could teach a few lessons to the sputtering “Die Hard” franchise. Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt effectively use the enclosed spaces of the building to create tense, well-staged action sequences, and effectively crosscut with plucky young Emily’s attempts to send info about the mercs to the outside world, as well as lots of frowny-faced officials in various control rooms. Michael Murphy, who recently charmed audiences at the Wisconsin Film Festival, even gets to play the Veep, although he spends most of the movie on Air Force Two and may be up for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor on Skype.

But what makes the movie click is the connection between Tatum and Foxx, who both sell the audience on the stakes involved while still being a very funny team. The movie loses a little of its zip about two-thirds of the way through, when plot requirements force Cale and Sawyer to split up, and Emmerich starts getting more concerned with large-scale destruction and a “fate of the free world is at stake” escalation in the plot. Although, it may be considered a newfound sign of maturity in Emmerich that only the free part of the world risks annihilation this time around, and not the whole enchilada.