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In the Heart of the Sea, based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s non-fiction book documenting the events that inspired Moby-Dick, totally needed more big fish-on-man action. What we end up with is a rather sentimental shipwreck movie with one very aggressive, but elusive, sperm whale.
After seeing him flex his broken arm to break off his cast in Furious 7, I’m really no longer sure what to make of Dwayne Johnson whenever I see him in a movie. It’s a bit like seeing a cartoon character like the Tasmanian Devil take the lead in The Day After Tomorrow.
Case in point, Johnson’s latest summer tentpole, San Andreas. Even the trailers were hard to take seriously. (And adding worse to wear, how the hell did Roland Emmerich NOT direct this movie?!) With special effects that look straight out of Adobe Photoshop, it’s difficult not to surmise that we were in some sort of strange holding pattern earlier this summer, just waiting for Jurassic World and Terminator Genisys. And Ant-Man. And in a car crash-kinda way, Fantastic Four.
The Big One hits California and everything falls apart. (Isn’t it odd how this summer movie season was pre-occupied with humanity’s extinction? Avengers? Mad Max? Tomorrowland? Not to mention that Terminator flick. The kids are gonna have nightmares about their mortality. Perhaps that’s the point? Make the world a better place while there’s still time? Man in the mirror?)
Dwayne Johnson plays a fire and rescue worker with one mission: to save his wife (Carla Gugino) and then his daughter (Alexandra Daddario). They all act properly panicked and anxiety ridden. Paul Giamatti is a scientist who predicts the giant earthquake and when he realizes how bad the devastation will be, someone asks him who they should call. The camera zooms in and with a straight face he says, “EVERYBODY!”
Yeah, it’s that kind of disaster flick. But the fault really isn’t in our stars for once. (Get it? San Andreas? Fault? Oh never mind.) Speaking of the fault itself, armchair scientists are going to have a field day spotting all the logistical inconsistencies and have the most fun doing it since Gravity. “Oh that couldn’t happen. Oh that couldn’t happen either!” Colton Haynes from Arrow, who was only in the first five minutes of this movie, showed up to the premiere in a completely pink suit. That happened. So really, who is to question what madness lies deep in the crevices of this production?
Surprisingly, for the mainland, there’s very little looting going on. Just one scene in a hick-ish town outside the urban proper. What’s really troubling is when an elderly couple on the side of the road with a broken axle yells at Johnson and Gugino to stop and pull over. They keep going and almost drive over a chasm. Only then do they turn back and offer their gratitude. But it works out for them because that elderly couple happens to own an aviation yard with one working plane.
Later the couple motor boat through the tsunami-ed waters of San Francisco. (I gave up counting when Johnson stole his third undamaged vehicle.) They see people drifting around in random boats and debris, but they keep going. In fact, the only time Johnson the professional rescue workers actually offers help is to yell a whole bunch of people to the safety of AT&T Park. But he probably only did that because wifey was gonna get smooshed by a falling building as well.
But one isn’t here to debate the morals of San Andreas. At least I hope not. That would result in a web article longer than what Chris Hemsworth is packing in the red band Vacation trailer.
Oddly, for once the 3-D here is surprisingly effective and present. Most often in simple scenes where actors are in both the foreground and the background, and especially during a canyon helicopter rescue that opens the movie. Oddly not so much when skyscrapers crumble, cable bridges twist and come undone, and helpless people get splatted by huge chunks of rubble. After Avengers (both of them), if you’ve seen one building crumble, you’ve seen them all crumble.
San Andreas made over $150 million dollars at the domestic box office. I feel like Paul Giamatti. Perhaps you will listen to my warnings and make the proper preparations to see Mad Max: Fury Road again. And who should you take with you? EVERYBODY!
San Andreas is now available to own on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital download.
After the CGI douche-theatrics of Furious 7, the pop spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the riveting post-apocalyptic reality-based pyrokinetics of Mad Max: Fury Road, the arrival of Tomorrowland seems at its best, quaint. But at its worst, underwhelming and obvious.
Perhaps the lack of surprise and/or the intensity of its sense of adventure is because, bottom line, Disney has made a film for kids. (Vaccinated) kids who will pester their parents to take them to see the real Tomorrowland. The marketing genius even shows in what is likely to be the most easily attainable movie tie-in toy—a lapel pin that gives our heroine a glimpse of Tomorrowland, emblazoned with the letter “T”, approximately $10 on Amazon and perfect for sticking on the outside of a school backpack.
In the film itself, we get flying jetpacks, cute but effectively deadly robots, a gloriously tech-booby-trapped house, and a new use for the Eiffel Tower, but it’s all so blah since there’s no infinity stones involved. Nothing in the conflict quite feels truly at stake. Tomorrowland itself, white and shiny, kinda looks like an Apple store without the employees in t-shirts. This magical realm is actually a parallel universe/dimension/thing where all humanity’s best and brightest gather to nurture great ideas and create and imagine unimaginable feats of technology. A lot of marijuana smoking probably goes on behind closed doors.
Hugh Laurie is on hand as the villain who wants to destroy the “real” Earth since it’s basically destroying itself anyway. That kind of megalomania seems a bit excessive since he’s in charge of the most perfect place in existence anyway but whatever. A plot to revive Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body would have been cooler.
Sadly, this may be Brad Bird’s most uninspired movie yet. After his live-action debut with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and especially his animated efforts, The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, somehow, we just expect more from him. The action scenes aren’t particularly exciting or witty; nothing seems to stay in the memory and the biggest let-down, we catch a glimpse of Space Mountain in the skyline but we don’t get to experience it. (Instead we get It’s a Small World. Don’t ask.) Wouldn’t it have been great if our heroes were trapped in a vehicle chase inside Space Mountain and then everything shuts down and the lights go on and you’re just looking at steel girders? Sorry. I’m still bitter how a certain incident during a childhood vacation ruined the illusion.
And we expect more from George Clooney too, and here, as a genius who was exiled from Tomorrowland a long time ago, he just seems to be going through the rumply, crankily charming motions. Feminists and Black Widow-Gate/Supergirl-Gate conspirators should be thrilled “the chosen one” for the planet’s future is a plucky teen girl, played by Britt Robertson, who is probably fielding offers for a young adult film adaptation at this very moment. The real casting find though is Raffey Cassidy as a young Tomorrowland android that protects the heroic humans and has a genuinely poignant backstory with Clooney’s character. She’s like the Terminator, but little.
At Tomorrowland’s gleaming, wanna-be vintage heart, there is an old-fashioned (too) strong message about going green, saving the environment and how the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. With $10 pins. Barf.
Tomorrowland is now playing in theaters everywhere.
There’s nothing all that wrong with Insurgent. It’s actually a somewhat competent sequel in the Divergent series that doesn’t suffer middle chapter syndrome: there’s some action and the storyline moves. It’s just that… What were we talking about again?
Oh. And there you go.
Somehow, Insurgent is just not memorable. We’ve seen all of this before in Twilight, The Hunger Games, Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures, The Maze Runner, The Running Man, and of course, Battle Royale. And by now, unless the young adult book adaptation movies do something drastic with their female heroines and post-apocalypse imaginings (or lack thereof), the genre is just about as burnt-out as the landscape in Mad Max.
In fact, I can barely bring myself to re-cap the last film, much less do a synopsis for this one. Frankly, I completely forgot Divergent and actually had to rent the film to watch again the night before the screening of its sequel. And once the lights went down and the screen lit up, I still did not have total recall. And no, I wasn’t drunk.
Here’s my best try: In the future, to keep the peace, a walled city kinda like the one in Attack on Titan or Mega City One in Dredd is broken into five factions of society. Or was it seven? I’m too lazy to look it up so we’ll just go with five, yes, five factions. Our heroine Tris, used to belong to the self-less, government-ruling Abnegation but when she hit puberty, she decided to join Dauntless, a group in charge of policing the city and they like to hoot and holler, get tattoos and run around a lot.
Oh, and Tris took a test that revealed she is a Divergent—she can fit into more than one faction. So by the first movie’s end, Tris’s parents died, and she, her brother Caleb, her new boyfriend Four, Four’s abusive father, and a kidnapped member of Dauntless played by Miles Teller are on the run. The new film opens with them taking shelter in Amity, a faction devoted to peace and love. Actually, I’m not sure what the difference is between Amity and Abnegation except Amity seems more hare krishna-like because they offer good tidings when they give you your plate at the buffet line.
You know, this is actually really (too) complicated. I forgot to mention Kate Winslet, leader of the smart people, Erudite, who wants to rule the city like Donald Sutherland in The Hunger Games. She needs Tris to unlock this box that looks like the Tesseract from The Avengers. Once unlocked, the box will reveal some sort of big thing. This all takes place in this room with tentacles that stab into Tris like the ones from The Matrix and Tris enters this simulation like the one in The Matrix and she does all these tasks and things explode slowly in a nice computer-y way like The Matrix and…
What were we talking about again?
I just don’t wanna type anymore. I’m tired. The actors, Buddha bless them, don’t seem to mind relentless cinematic thievery though. Teller plays the ruthless, kidnapped Dauntless baddie Peter with the proper sense of bullying and self-loathing. Ansel Elgort plays Tris’s conflicted brother Caleb. And Shailene Woodley plays Tris with a determined ambition to not be pegged as a Jennifer Lawrence wanna-be. (Interestingly enough, Woodley slept with Teller in The Spectacular Now. She also slept with Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. At this rate, by the end of the decade, at least on screen, Woodley could possibly sleep with the rest of the series’ male cast.)
Oh and everybody in the theater squealed when Daniel Dae Kim popped up as the leader of Erudite. He conducted himself with great dignity. (Does anybody still watch Hawaii Five-0? Oh wait yeah…my mom.)
I think we’ve come to the point where we must simply acknowledge that these films were made from books that were made for young adults. Particularly young adults who haven’t seen many other movies. I think I’ll stop here. I’m tired of writing about it and to paraphrase the wise words imparted by Taylor Swift, I should just shake it off.
One more thing. They’re also planning to split the final book in the series, Allegiant, into two movies. Like Harry Potter. And The Hunger Games.
I’m trying to just breathe and relax. And shake it off.
Insurgent is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Jupiter Ascending is the latest sci-fi, CGI-filled behemoth from the Wachowskis and sadly, it is their most uninspired effort yet.
One way or another, you still gotta give it up to the sibling writers/directors. From Bound to Cloud Atlas, they’ve dedicated themselves to trying to show us something neato on the screen. Even their unfairly reviled entries, The Matrix Revolutions and Speed Racer, are overly-knocked on bits of screen sumptuousness; in this video game era, they still manage to give us pretty things. If anything, they range from a bit derivative to very derivative, but then again, at this point with big budget studio popcorners, who isn’t? Yet, as fascinating as Jupiter is to occasionally look at, it is obvious that we have seen everything before and for once, the Wachowskis have managed to rip off even themselves.
Mila Kunis is Jupiter, a hard-working janitor who wishes for something greater. She’s also the most beautiful performer to ever be filmed scrubbing a toilet. One day, her cousin comes up with a scheme to sell her eggs and while in the operating room, she discovers aliens are trying to kill her.
Luckily, Channing Tatum, a human/werewolf soldier of fortune hybrid, comes roller-blading in on anti-gravity boots and spirits her away to his ex-collegue Stinger’s safehouse. (Stinger is played by Sean Bean, who instantly makes us worry for his character’s life.) Soon Jupiter discovers that she is the genetic reincarnation of universal royalty and that there is a whole new world (or worlds) other than our own. Faster than you can say “Neo-Morpheus,” she finds herself in space, trapped between three competing siblings who all what to use her to continue their reins of power, along with their mysterious immortality. (The secret of their longevity is also the second major plot point the Wachowskis rip off from themselves.)
At this point, we are just left with watching the pretty, shape-shifting spaceships firing at each other as well as Tatum flying around shooting and stabbing various beings ranging from simple humans, giant bipedal komodo dragons straight out of Halo, and little green men who look like vicious extras from Close Encounters. (Incidentally, for a movie that looks so pretty, Tatum’s waist seems a bit puffy. Perhaps he was in some sort of “bulking” phase for Magic Mike XXL.)
Best Actor Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) plays one of the villainous monarchs and he speaks with a whisper and occasional scream that is more goofy than threatening. And there’s also these anti-gravity boots that move like roller-blades which— Oops. That’s been mentioned already.
Actually there really isn’t anything else worth mentioning about Jupiter Ascending. No wonder it was released in February. For their next project, the Wachowskis should work with a script of adapted material. They seem to do better ripping other people off and that would just cut out the middle man.
Jupiter Ascending is now playing in theaters everywhere.