Review: San Andreas

Dwayne-Johnson-San-Andreas

 

DIR: Brad Peyton • WRI: Carlton Cuse • PRO: Beau Flynn • DOP: Steve Yedlin • ED: Robert D. Yeoman • MUS: Andrew Lockington • DES: Barry Chusid • CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Paul Giamatti, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson

 

Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) is an ace chopper pilot for the LAFD, and we meet him when he squeezes his bird down the side of a mountain overhang and – of course – has to strap on the harness to save his buddy and the driver of the SUV that hangs by a thread….

 

It’s an impressive start to what’s clearly going to be an action/adventure/thriller and, like many of the best disaster movies, will see Los Angeles and San Francisco come under the hammer – in this case, not one but two massive earthquakes, and then a tsunami for good measure.

The destruction starts at the Hoover Dam in Nevada though, and right there is earthquake expert Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), whose worst fears are confirmed: there are hotspots aplenty and the San Andreas fault is ready to snap; he races onto live TV and sends out a warning.

 

But snap it does. In LA, Ray’s almost-degree-nisi wife Emma (Carla Gugino) is having lunch at a high-storey hotel when the quake hits. Destruction follows, but luckily Ray is in the air and, with some fancy flying and some athletics from Emma, he manages to save her from the roof.

 

In San Francisco, their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) has just said goodbye to her new friends – stuttering Brit Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his cheeky/irritating little bruv Ollie (County Donegal-born actor Art Parkinson) – when Frisco gets flattened, and she’s trapped in car in an underground car park.

 

Smitten Ben and plucky Ollie go to help, and now the story splits: this trio are trying to head for higher ground, while Ray and Emma have decided to fly tout de suite to save their daughter – but there are many, many obstacles to overcome before they’ll even get close….

 

Not known for their scientific accuracy, this disaster movie certainly doesn’t disappoint in that area – though of course what we’re there to see is the (movie) world of these California landmarks falling about our ears (even in 3D).

 

Of course, there are many, many moments when logic, reason and rationality just leave the building (and “dramatic” moments that just get a laugh). We don’t see much blood, lost limbs or crushed people either, and as for “The Rock”, he has a Superman-like ability to fly a plane, a helicopter, to skydive, to dive underwater, to steer a speedboat – all without a scratch. In fact our family and their new British friends get barely a scratch despite enduring unimaginably dangerous circumstances.

 

It’s what we expect though, and while Johnson and Daddario try their best with the halting, awkward, cheesy moments – and nothing’s ever said about Gaines taking the LAFD helicopter and flying it away from all the L.A. citizens he is paid and legally avowed to help save – it can’t be argued that there are plenty of “oh my god” moments here. What did you expect?

 

James Bartlett

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

114 minutes

San Andreas is released 29th May 2015

San Andreas – Official Website

 

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Hercules

hercules-dwayne-johnson-screaming

DIR/Brett Ratner • WRI: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos • PRO: Sarah Aubrey, Beau Flynn, Barry Levine, Brett Ratner   DOP: Dante Spinotti   ED: Mark Helfrich, Julia Wong  DES: Jean-Vincent Puzos MUS: Fernando Velázquez  CAST: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but there’s one thing for sure, this Dwayne Johnson vehicle is as cynical as it gets.

I had previously been very optimistic about the casting of Johnson in the title role, with the main reason being that he looks the part, but also because he’s proven himself an extremely charismatic lead in the past. Unfortunately, this is the worst I’ve ever seen Johnson, playing the role of Hercules without an ounce of wit or vigour, and it’s the first time he’s looked like a juiced up wrestler trying his hand at movies. His lacklustre performance is made all the more confusing by the fact that this was reportedly a passion project, leading him to turn down the lead role in the established Transformers franchise.

The storyline shamelessly cobbles together plot points from other movies, with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator proving to be a wonderful source of material. The story follows Hercules after he has completed his Legendary twelve labours.  He has since become a sword for hire, travelling Greece with a crew of highly trained warriors, each with their own special skill. The crew is hired by King Cotys to help defeat a tyrannical war Lord, and we find out through flashbacks why Hercules has been reduced to living his life as a sell sword.

I would have found it a lot easier to accept this movie for what it is, if there had been any self-awareness present. Unfortunately, there isn’t, and we in the audience are expected to take what we see at face value, which I can only take as an insult to our intelligence. I must admit that I did laugh numerous times during the film, aided and abetted by a fellow sitting to my left at the press screening. The laughs. however. came at what were clearly intended to be some of the most poignant parts of the film, comically contrived moments. Hercules is about one degree away from being a decent lampoon of the sword and sandals genre, and maybe if it had been marketed as such I could have got on board.

Here’s hoping that poor box office results will put an end to what Johnson and co. are hoping will be a long running franchise.

Michael Rice

12A (See IFCO for details)
97 mins

Hercules is released on 25th July 2014

Hercules – Official Website

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Cinema Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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DIR: Jon M. Chu • WRI: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick • PRO: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Brian Goldner • DOP: Stephen F. Windon • ED: Roger Barton, Jim May •  DES: Andrew Menzies • CAST: Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Channing Tatum

 

A sequel that surely not too many people asked for, G.I. Joe: Retaliation belatedly follows 2009’s summer blip G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, arriving in cinemas almost nine months after it was originally due. The party line is that this delay was entirely to convert the film to 3D, although rumours circled on the internet of rewrites and reshoots. But there’s no evidence of any post-shoot tightening in this sluggish, unambitious schlockbuster. And the 3D’s not even that great either.

Following the events of Rise of Cobra, the evil Cobra Commander remains imprisoned in an impenetrable high-tech facility and the Joes are still the world’s No.1 defence force. Channing Tatum’s Duke now runs the show, backed up by Dwayne Johnson’s human sandbag Roadblock. But, as none of you will remember from the first film, the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) remains a hostage of Cobra, and their evil stand-in Zartan has his finger on all the triggers. Soon Cobra Commander is unleashed and the Joes are being wiped out in an impossibly well-planned attack that kills off (off-screen) all the characters whose actors refused to return to the franchise. Only a handful of the elite soldiers remain to try and defeat the plans of Cobra Commander and his evil POTUS. You can imagine how it goes.

G.I. Joe 2 corrects many of the mistakes of the first film, reducing the degree of sci-fi chicanery in favour of fists-and-bullets action. However, where the first film had some very basically sketched characters (backstories, flashbacks and everything!) and an infantile but to-the-point narrative momentum, Retaliation has almost no character development and its second act is a disaster of storytelling. As Roadblock and his team try to build a guerrilla unit in the US with retired general Bruce Willis and his band of G.I. Joeriatrics, martial arts expert Snake Eyes (the boundlessly athletic Ray Park, still silent and fully masked) must journey to somewhere in Asia to fight all the ninjas that ever were. Remember that bit in Iron Man 2 where Agent Coulson leaves to go to New Mexico and deal with the events of Thor? Now imagine if those two films were intercut with one another. That’s how jarring the mismatch of quests in this film is.

Character-wise this film is bankrupt. A bit of bromantic banter between Tatum and The Rock in the first act adds up to nothing. Willis manages to be just slightly less spaced out than he was in A Good Day to Die Hard. The female Joe (Adrianne Palicki) has daddy issues and looks good in tight clothes. The white male Joe (D.J. Cotrona) may actually not have any lines for all you can tell. Snake Eyes can’t even speak, let alone demonstrate facial expressions, yet he still out-acts his sidekick girl ninja (Elodie Yung). In some bizarre casting, RZA shows up as blind martial arts master Blind Master (the G.I. Joe series was never very subtle with its character names), bringing the rapper’s charisma-less movie career to a new low by drudgingly rattling off exposition like a screen between video game levels.

The villains have far more fun. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been replaced as Cobra Commander by It Doesn’t Matter You Can’t See His Face, Lee Byung-hun and Ray Stevenson have plenty of fun as evil ninja Storm Shadow and Southern-fried pyromaniac Firefly, respectively. But when it comes to delivering Cobra’s (actually inspired) end game, it is Jonathan Pryce who delivers, hamming it up beautifully as President Zartan in an epic game of nuclear chicken. Twice as over-the-top as he was in Tomorrow Never Dies, Pryce is undoubtedly the film’s highlight.

But with the exception of the big bad plan, the story is a mess, and much of the dialogue is cringe-worthy to the point of spasm-inducing. The Joes have gone from an international fighting team to a deadly serious Team America, while no one seems to bat an eyelid when the President hires Cobra as his elite bodyguard unit, despite the world’s most dangerous terrorist being called “Cobra Commander”.

Not even The Rock, who is finally being taken seriously as a charismatic action lead thanks to Fast Five, cannot save this film from floundering. Somehow, in spite of its near-$200m budget, director Jon M. Chu (most known for some of the Step Up dance movies and a Justin Bieber concert film) has managed to make a cheap-looking action movie. The effects look flimsy. The rapid cutting and dim lighting seem to be hiding uncompleted sets, while also causing the 3D to blur frantically. The final skirmish is not on a scale anywhere near as huge as the first film’s climax, while the images of Roland Emmerich-scale city destruction are so brief there’s hardly a frame of it in the film not featured in the trailer. Compare to the ridiculous but amusing Eiffel Tower sequence from Rise of Cobra and you realise big money clearly does not go as far as it used to.

A brainless popcorn movie for a cold night in with a DVD if ever there was one, G.I. Joe: Retaliation cannot live up to its promise of mayhem and The Rock and ninjas. And surely that was an easy one to get right.

David Neary

12A (see IFCO website for details)

110mins
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is released on 29th March 2013

 

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2YMu52MfqA

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Tooth Fairy

Tooth Fairy

DIR: Michael Lembeck • WRI: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Randi Mayem Singer • PRO: Jason Blum, Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray• DOP: David Tattersall • ED: David Finfer • CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews, Stephen Merchant, Billy Crystal

Dwayne Johnson might not have the most high-brow repertoire but the poster image of the wrestler-turned-actor sporting giant fairy wings with the tagline ‘The Tooth Hurts’ is ridiculously silly, even for him. Oddly, the thought of ‘The Rock’ being stuck in the role of the tooth fairy did tickle my funny bone somewhat. That, coupled with the fantastic supporting cast which includes Julie Andrews, Billy Crystal and Stephen Merchant made me think this film could have a proper sense of humour.

The film starts off well and as we are introduced to a thoroughly unlikeable Derek Thomson (Johnson), a small-time hockey player with the nickname ‘Tooth Fairy’ – named for his propensity for bashing other player’s teeth out during games. He is arrogant, rough and most hatefully he doesn’t believe in having dreams. An early scene sees him verbally bashing a small child who dreams of being a pro hockey player when he grows up. Despite being a horrible person, Derek is playing house with kind, beautiful single mother Carly (Judd) and her son and daughter. After an incident in which he nearly tells the daughter that there’s no tooth fairy, Derek is recruited to become the tooth fairy himself.

After being magically transported to Fairyland, an unfortunately rather officious place, Derek is introduced to Lily (a ridiculously beautiful for her age Julie Andrews) and Tracy (Merchant, who proves he should stick to writing) who are in charge of explaining his new role as tooth fairy for one week. He also meets Jerry (Crystal) who supplies him with his magical tools for the job, such as invisibility spray and a shrinking elixir. Crystal plays a small role but is the funniest thing about the film so he easily steals the show early on.

As the story clunkily progresses there are some amusing set-pieces and some cute moments but generally, this is a lacklustre effort by all accounts. The third act becomes unbearably schmaltzy and loses any of its original charm. With five writers on board, the script lacks any semblance of personality and suffers from ‘too many cooks’ syndrome. As the film lags, the storytelling gets lazy, creating connections between people without any explanation. Derek and his handler Tracy, for example, who hated each other, were suddenly best friends without the necessary arc of begrudgingly coming to respect each other. Perhaps the writers simply forgot to write it in but didn’t think we would notice because it’s such a cliché that the audience would automatically expect it to happen.

This is an amusing set-up with some, but not nearly enough, charming moments. Dwayne Johnson has hit a new low with this film and his usual charisma didn’t come through at all. Kids might have a giggle at this but it is ultimately lazy and uninspired. What a waste of The Rock in a tutu!

Charlene Lydon
(See biog here)

Rated PG (See IFCO website for details)
Tooth Fairy is released on 28th May 2010
Tooth Fairy – Official Website

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