Tag Archives: Dwayne The Rock Johnson

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Remember when the Fast & Furious gang were street racers who dabbled in highway robbery? Because the franchise’s writers seem to have totally forgotten. The street races are long gone, replaced with international espionage, world-devastating weapons, and an ever-growing cast of action heroes.

Two of those additional action heroes, Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham), are now spinning off from the main storyline and saving the world without any help from the rest of the franchise’s former street racers. This time, Idris Elba plays the unstoppable cyborg bad guy who’s racing against Hobbs and Shaw to track down a supervirus that Shaw’s superspy sister (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself with. Luckily, the supervirus takes 72 hours to take effect, giving Hobbs and Shaw a chance to find a way to extract it…if only they could put aside their differences and find a way to work together.

Of course Hobbs and Shaw will find a way to work together, but it takes longer than you’d expect. Probably because Vin Diesel isn’t around to remind everyone that they’re family.  That’s Hobbs & Shaw in a nutshell: a very competent (though brainless) action movie that more than anything will make you miss Diesel and the rest of his Fast & Furious family.

No matter how many explosions or dune buggies are involved in a showdown with the villain’s helicopter, Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t measure up to the other instalments in this franchise. At best, it’s a teaser trailer for Fast & Furious 9, but the energy that went into Hobbs & Shaw probably would have been better spent on something involving the whole crew. Because when it comes to big, dumb action films, bigger is better, and that’s a lesson I thought this franchise had learned a long time ago.

 

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Skyscraper

It’s no Die Hard.

That’s my four-word review of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s latest action film, in which he plays an ex-FBI agent turned security consultant who has to rescue his family from the world’s tallest building when it’s set on fire by robbers.

The fact it’s no Die Hard is not entirely a bad thing, because at least it isn’t a blatant rip-off of one of the best action movies ever. But it’s partly a bad thing, because Die Hard is amazing and Skyscraper clearly wants to remind me of it (Skyscraper may also be trying to remind me of other movies like The Towering Inferno if I’d ever seen it, but since I haven’t, you get to hear only about Die Hard).

Skyscraper falls well short of Die Hard for a lot of reasons, but the main difference is this: while both movies are ridiculous, Die Hard fully embraces its implausibility. Bruce Willis is right there with us when we’re thinking that it should never have come to him jumping off a hundred story building with a fire hose tied around his waist. Conversely, the Rock is not with us at those moments, because he’s The Rock, a character that can do anything. When the Rock pulls a very similar stunt to Willis, as far as the Rock is concerned, it is not because things have escalated beyond the point of believability.  It is because that is one of the things the Rock can do that no one else would even try (and, incidentally, whether one is brave enough to attempt a stunt like that is not a measure of one’s love for family, because if you really want to save your family, you have to NOT DIE, and by my count any real human being died about eight different times during the Rock’s rescue effort).

As well, it is an unfortunate sign of our times that the two-minute rope sequence, like almost every other dramatic moment in this movie, somehow is captured live on news cameras, for the benefit of a cheering and live-streaming crowd, and also on monitors throughout the very building that the Rock is trying to sneak into and rescue his family from. This not only adds about 15 minutes of pointless  crowd footage to a movie that feels much, much longer than its 1 hour 49 minute run time, but it also takes away from the cat-and-mouse dynamic because at all times the bad guys can easily find the Rock in this massive 220 story building by watching 30 seconds of live news.

Even then, I was tolerating this movie and willing to give it a pass until the end, when everyone involved had run out of half-baked ideas and just hit the reset button to find a way out of the fire. I shouldn’t have expected any more than that, so don’t ask me why I got my hopes up, and now I owe an apology to Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Rampage

dimsI didn’t know what to make of this movie after seeing the trailer but I had a bad feeling this would be one of those movies that Jay uses as leverage against me. But I knew I would drag her to anyway. You see, when I was a kid one of my favourite quarter-munching arcade games was Rampage, because it let me be Godzilla, smashing buildings, eating army guys, and grabbing helicopters out of the air. So when I did not realize this movie was based on that videogame until the title popped up at the very end of the trailer, I was more than a little skeptical.

After seeing the movie, I can confim my skepticism was totally warranted. Rampage is just another middling entry in the Rock’s mindless action movie portfolio. It’s not a standout as an action film generally, and not even noteworthy when compared to the Rock’s other action films. At least Rampage knows it’s dumb and has some fun at its own expense (a Rock specialty), and it actually feels quite a lot like the videogame once the action starts.

images (1)Where Rampage fails is that it takes FOREVER for the action to start, which is the worst thing a dumb action movie can do. That plodding pace is particularly egregious when the video game version is as light on exposition as anything ever made, while the movie wants to include a lentghy origin story for the monsters. I didn’t care how the monsters came to be (“radiation” has always been a good enough reason) and I definitely didn’t care to spend time with a sociopathic brother-sister team who made this DNA modifying thingamajig that fell from the sky. Three city-destroying monsters fighting the Rock would have been enough. No more was needed.

So Rampage manages to be too dumb for someone like Jay, who doesn’t like dumb action movies, and not dumb enough for someone like me, who just wanted to see an old mindless videogame become a new mindless blockbuster. If you liked the game you could do worse when Rampage is available on Netflix (but probably also do better), and if you didn’t know Rampage was a game until reading this review then you should probably skip this one altogether.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

636866-jumanji-dwayneThe trailers for this movie set the bar so unbelievably low that I thought Jumanji could not possibly disappoint. The only surprise this movie has to offer is that it is a sequel not a reboot. Otherwise, it is completely by-the-numbers, including lots of CG animal stampedes and even more cliched character growth. In short, it is the perfect counter-programming for liberal propaganda like Spielberg-Streep-Hanks snoozers about fake news. More on that later.

The rules of Jumanji were well-established in the first film and Jumanji so compulsively follows those rules that it’s scary. The only difference between the two movies is that Jumanji 2.0 takes the form of a video game rather than a boardgame. That way, there can be lots of jokes about video games, which comes in handy because the main character is a video gaming nerd so when he becomes the Rock we can be reminded that he is still a nerd and he can explain to the other characters and the audience how video games work.

I can’t remember if Jumanji 1.0 had as much explanation about board games but I feel like even it aimed slightly higher than this. I guess that’s why it is a “classic” that has now spawned a “franchise”. Putting those words in quotes is the only thing keeping my head from exploding.

I hate to play the movie snob card and honestly, I never imagined I would be this guy, but there are a ton of really good movies in theatres right now, it being Oscar season and all, and Jumanji is not one of them. Nonetheless, Jumanji is by far the biggest box office draw right now. That’s not surprising, North America, since we are just the worst right now (LIKE, THE WORST), but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s resolve as a continent to stop making bad decisions in 2018. Let’s do things differently. Let’s stop dumbing things down. Let’s start thinking critically. Let’s challenge ourselves. Let’s watch films like The Post, The Shape of WaterLady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, instead of mindless, vapid and soulless fare like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Saying no to Jumanji is one small step toward a better world.

 

Baywatch

So bad.

Baywatch the movie doesn’t know what to do with itself. Based on a TV show that mysteriously combined crime-fighting lifeguards with slow-motion running, the movie struggles to find a leg to stand on. 21 Jump Street was able to successfully satirize the show it was based on while also paying it homage. It was funny. Baywatch just flounders about in shallow water.

I don’t think any of the actors knew if they were in a drama or a comedy either. They would sometimes recite lines that sounded self-aware, only in a deadpan way that made baywatch-cast-shot.jpgme certain they weren’t aware at all. The thing is, lifeguards save people who are struggling in the water. They have no business fighting crime. They shouldn’t touch dead bodies in a crime scene let alone attempt to solve the murders themselves. These lifeguards, however, take it upon themselves to impersonate doctors, take down drug lords, go undercover, break into morgues, confiscate evidence, and they do it all while on the clock, abandoning their actual jobs on the beach in order to do the jobs of police officers who don’t take the intrusion too kindly – although, in actuality, not unkindly enough. Because, you know, the lifeguards, instead of guarding lives, are actually putting them at risk, constantly, by doing this work.

But that’s the LEAST of Baywatch’s problems. I remember thinking how strange it was in the commercials that The Rock was playing Mitch Buchannon, which is the character David Hasselhoff played in the original series. It seemed to me easy enough to update it by just having a new set of lifeguards in the Baywatch tradition, but no. Old Mitch is still pounding the waves, looking a little more tan (though not a lot more – David Hasselhoff was always pretty wizened) and a lot more buff. But then David Hasselhoff pops up in the movie and he’s playing his character Mitch Buchannon too. So there are two Mitches, which no calls bullshit on, and two CJs now that you mention it, and a lot more problems besides.

Sean and I gave it the old college try, we really did, but there is genuinely no way in which to enjoy the movie. It’s never intentionally funny, and the mistakes aren’t even laughable they just make you want to tear your hair out. But it’s also way, way too ridiculous to be taken seriously, but none of the campiness that made the television series a guilty pleasure. The jiggly boob factor is alive and well, but there’s also a lot more penis in the movie than is strictly advisable.

The Fate of the Furious

1488423016_80f557346e9c57a769fa41a2b284345aAs a movie franchise adds new instalments, we expect (and even demand) that the stakes get higher, that the setpieces get bigger, and that the payoff be greater when our heroes win in the end. Normally, the need to maintain some level of realism constrains the film in some way. Not so with the latest entry in the Fast and Furious franchise.

The Fate of the Furious is absolutely ridiculous from start to finish. There is only one law of physics in this world, and it is this: our heroes must succeed.  So if for Vin Diesel to win a race, a car needs to go faster in reverse than in drive after doing a 180, then that’s what is going to happen. That is always part of the pact that action movies (and action sequels in particular) make with their audience: accept the rules being bent now and again and in exchange, receive that elevated payoff I mentioned earlier. By and large, we are willing to accept that sort of thing in service of those higher stakes I mentioned. What sets the Fate of the Furious apart from most movies is that it doesn’t bend the rules at the climax; rather, it breaks them in the opening sequence. Right from the start, we know that absolutely anything goes, and it just gets more ridiculous from there.

If, like me, you can accept that in the service of entertainment  then you will enjoy this movie. On the other hand if, like Jay, you have no tolerance for big, loud, dumb action movies then you will want to choose some other form of entertainment. Because Fate of the Furious is among the biggest, loudest and dumbest movies ever made. It is also among the most gleeful, and I thoroughly enjoyed every over-the-top set piece, each of which is spectacular in its idiocy.

The Fate of the Furious is exactly what it aims to be, no more and no less. It was never going to reach the emotional heights of Furious 7, and it was never going to bring something fresh to the genre. It is a fun experience (especially in 4DX, which made this movie even more of a rollercoaster ride) but ultimately it’s a flashy, forgettable movie. Which may otherwise have been enough if I had not just seen Baby Driver at SXSW and been reminded how great an action movie can be when it is truly innovative instead of a formulaic eighth entry in a franchise that was all style, no substance right from the start.

The Fate of the Furious gets a score of six Lamborghinis on ice out of ten, with the caveat that if you have a time machine then jump to June 28 and see Baby Driver instead.

 

Central Intelligence

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson meet up at their 20th high school reunion. Hart, voted most likely to succeed, once the prom king and a popular athlete, is now a mild-mannered accountant living in a nice comfortable rut. Dwayne Johnson is ecstatic to reconnect. A high school loser, he’s gone through life without many friends despite the fact that he’s central1reformed himself and leads a life of intrigue. Unfortunately for Hart, that intrigue’s about to hit a little close to home.

The movie opens with a fat joke. A 7 minute, visual fat joke. I didn’t laugh. I’m uncomfortable laughing at any joke where the punch line is somebody’s body. Dwayne Johnson IS the fat joke, seen dancing in a CGI fat suit, butt-naked, in a high school locker room. You’ve seen the previews, haven’t you? It’s brutal. That pivotal high school prank has haunted him his whole life, even now that he’s big and buff and rippling with impressive muscle (we’re supposed to feel like getting fit has made him a more worthy person, even though to lose the weight he’s quite clear that he had to be obsessive and unhealthy about it…not exactly a cause for celebration). So Central Intelligence and I got off on the wrong foot. But you know what? I’m glad I stuck with it.

This movie is essentially a piece of fluff. It won’t be remembered in the annals of history, or even among the annals of comedy, or possibly even the annals of The Rock’s filmography. But for an evening at the cinema, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are a comedic duo that had to happen (their 13-inch height difference is often played for laughs – a bit of a barb in my side, reminding me how ridiculous I look standing beside Sean, who is 15 inches taller than myself). Their Screen-Shot-2016-03-17-at-1.30.47-AM-750x375-c.pngcharacters are one-note but a pleasure to spend an hour and a half with. The movie is action-comedy, which means there is never quite enough comedy, and the action itself becomes part of the farce and thus has no real consequence. But if you can put that aside, Kevin Hart is as good as we’ve seen him at the movies to date, even if he’s basically relegated to being The Rock’s straight man. Say what??? Yes – you read that correctly. The Rock is bringing the giggles. Together have crackling chemistry and they bro down in some pretty unexpected ways.

Sean said he could have used “a little less story” and it’s true it gets a little bogged down with the constant action, but man this movie does move along like Sean’s Mustang through a yellow light. Like Jay on an out of control, brakeless bike down a tree-lined hill. Like The Rock’s chest muscles after he’s been tazed.

There are even some well-chosen cameos; one was such a little nugget of happiness that it garnered spontaneous applause in the theatre. Don’t look it up. Just go and be surprised. Life is hard. The winter was tough. The news is sad. You deserve a little treat, a few hearty chuckles, and maybe even an ice cream sundae afterward. Yeah, I said it. Go ahead. You deserve it.