Posts Tagged ‘Dwayne Johnson’

Pearl of Destruction

Skyscraper

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Roland Moller, Tzi Ma, Byron Mann

How do you make an American action star appeal to an Asian market? Cast Dwayne Johnson in an action thriller entitled Skyscraper set in Hong Kong.

Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer an American security expert who is hired by a Hong Kong Tech billionaire to assess the security of his latest project – a 220 story skyscraper named the Pearl built in Kowloon, Hong Kong, a sophisticated high rise which dwarfs other structures of its size like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Empire State Building in New York.

Before the upper levels of the lavish Pearl can be occupied, extortionist terrorists led by Kores Botha played by Roland Moller set fire to the 96th floor. Sawyer’s wife Sarah played by Neve Campbell (The Company, Scream, 54) and young children are trapped in the upper floors.

Despite having a prosthetic leg and not completely physically able, Sawyer manages to hijack a crane and enter the skyscraper to find out exactly what plot is afoot.

If this plot sounds far-fetched it probably is, but director of Easy A and We’re the Millers Rawson Marshall Thurber does not give the audience time to contemplate the technicalities as he gleefully recreates a fusion of Die Hard and The Towering Inferno in the action packed and sure to thrill, Skyscraper aided by exquisite cinematography by Oscar winner Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood).

Den of Thieves star Pablo Schreiber has a brief appearance as Sawyer’s friend Ben, but the main hero besides Dwayne Johnson in this film, is the actual skyscraper itself an elegantly designed super structure with a pearl at the top which miraculously turns into a visual hall of mirrors surely inspired by the opening sequence from the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

Audiences should leave their self-doubt at the door and go and watch the action packed Skyscraper which effectively makes use of the 3D viewing to give cinema goers a justified sense of vertigo.

Skyscraper is packed with brilliant sequences that are sure to leave audiences gasping, neatly wrapped up in under two hours and perfectly set in an exotic location like Hong Kong. Cleverly plotted, well-filmed and superbly marketed Skyscraper is another reason why Dwayne Johnson has become one of the 21st century’s leading action stars.

Skyscaper gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will definitely be a hit with action fans that love a certifiable thrill ride.

Live Fast, Die Harder

Fast and Furious 8

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivuju, Elsa Pataky

As if there weren’t enough Fast and Furious films, there has to be an eighth film less the appearance of actor Paul Walker who tragically died in a car accident in California in 2013, just after filming The Fast and Furious 7.

The Italian Job director F. Gary Gray assembles an international cast featuring most of the actors from the previous films including Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty along with Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Chris Bridges as Tej Parker. This time the chief villain is South African born Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster) as ruthless hacker Cipher who entices Dominic into working for him after she approaches him in a Havana Street. Cipher’s hold of Dominic turns to be blackmail and she constantly manipulates his familial duties and his bond to his gang of drivers.

To add some muscle to the cast are Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs and action man Jason Statham as Deckard who are recruited by a covert intelligence officer aptly identified as Mr Nobody played by Kurt Russell who is definitely experience a resurgence in his career. Mr Nobody’s sidekick Little Nobody is played by Scott Eastwood (Fury) son of veteran actor Clint Eastwood.

Let’s face it the screenwriters are not exactly imaginative with character names. Suffice to say is that audiences that enjoyed all the other Fast and Furious films will definitely enjoy this international joyride as the action swiftly moves from Havana, Cuba to New York and then onto an icy showdown in Russia which involves a nuclear submarine among all the fast cars and snowmobiles. The Manhattan action sequence might be implausible but is definitely not an advert for the benefits of self-driving cars which can be remotely hacked. See it to believe it.

Considering that Fast and the Furious 8 was number one at the South African box office for three consecutive weeks since its Easter weekend opening and that the action film has grossed over a $1 billion dollars worldwide there is definitely enough fan support to sustain this fast-paced action franchise for further films to come.

Judging by the packed cinema when I watched the film, Fast and Furious 8 or the Fate of the Furious has the winning combination of fast cars, gadgets, beautiful women and a healthy dose of Hollywood cameos. This is popcorn cinema at its most formulaic and these films certainly keeps many actors employed.

As the characters live fast and some of them die harder, Fast and Furious 8 is a fun-filled action film but don’t expect anything too highbrow. Audiences should look out for Game of Thrones stars Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey and Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivuju as Toretto’s musclebound enemy Rhodes.

Fast and Furious 8 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. If you enjoyed the other films, then this film will satisfy even the most ardent speed racers who can visually salivate at fast cars and daring stunts.

California Fault Lines

San Andreas

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Director: Brad Peyton

Cast: Dwight Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Archie Panjabi, Hugh Johnstone-Burt, Will Yun Lee, Alexandra Daddario, Colton Haynes, Kylie Minogue, Ioan Gruffudd

Canadian director Brad Peyton’s homage to American patriotism is brilliantly captured in the Hollywood blockbuster San Andreas starring Dwight Johnson (Hercules), Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) and Carla Gugino (Sucker Punch, American Gangster, Sin City).

California literally splits in two in San Andreas as the fault line which separates Nevada and California erupts and causes a mammoth series of earthquakes along the entire San Andreas fault from the Hoover Dam in Nevada right to Los Angeles and up to San Francisco, where the film echoes the devastating 1906 earthquake which rocked the Bay area.

Audiences should not expect any intelligent dialogue, with possibly the best lines being spoken by seismologist Lawrence played by Paul Giamatti (Sideways) and tough News reporter Serena played by The Good Wife star Archie Panjabi.

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San Andreas focuses on a broken nuclear familiar whose own personal fault lines mirrors that of those which occur naturally. Dwight Johnson and Carla Gugino play a couple, Ray and Emma on the verge of divorce and she has met a shady smooth talking property developer Daniel Riddick played by Ioan Gruffudd (Amazing Grace, The Fantastic Four).

The San Andreas fault brings epic chaos to the entire state of California and like most natural occurrences which bring a family together, this film is a familial drama set within a broader context of a national American tragedy played out on the big screen with spectacular visual effects.

Whist the storyline and plot are certainly contrived, San Andreas relies heavily on stunning visual effects as all the characters play second fiddle to the earth erupting around them and complete obliteration of some of California’s most iconic landmarks including the Hollywood sign above Los Angeles and The Golden Gate Bridge.

This is a disaster film with a massive budget and audiences will certainly not be bored by the fantastic aerial shots of the San Francisco bay area rippling under the weight of a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami. San Andreas is the 21st century answer to The Towering Inferno.

Watch out for a doomed cameo by Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue who plays a bitchy L. A. blonde, Susan Riddick. Australian actor Hugh Johnstone-Burt and Alexandra Daddario play the young beautiful couple Ben and Blake who manage to survive all sorts of treacherous earthquake related events including being trapped in a newly built skyscraper known as The Gate, situated in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill suburb.

San Andreas is a spectacular show and is recommended for audiences that enjoyed films like Poseidon, although at times it’s a bit too heavy on its American patriotism, especially when everything will still be peachy despite too major cities being completely obliterated. The main thing is that all the wholesome characters survive the earth shattering ordeal relatively unscathed.

Thracian Turmoil

Hercules

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Ingrid Borso Berdal, Rebecca Ferguson, Aksel Hennie

After Hercules completes the 12 labours, the demi-god gets involved with a civil war in Thrace http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrace. Based upon the graphic novel, Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, director Brett Ratner (After the Sunset, Tower Heist, The Rush Hour Trilogy) brings to glossy cinematic life this ancient loincloth adventure which shows Hercules played by Dwayne Johnson (GI Joe, Rise of the Cobra) along with a band of mercenaries including Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Amazon archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and his nephew storyteller Iolaus played by Reece Ritchie in various Thracian turmoils.

Hercules and his bloodthirsty and feral band of misfits are approached by Ergenia played by upcoming Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson on behalf of her father, the duplicitous Lord Cortys played by veteran British actor John Hurt to quell a civil war brewing in Thrace, supposedly led by the gruesome insurrectionist warlord Rheseus played by Norwegian actor Tobias Santelmann.

As the battle ensues it soon emerges that Lord Cortys has a secret alliance with the evil King Eurystheus who is wonderfully played by Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) who tormented Hercules with the notion that he was responsible for the murder of his own wife and children, which resulted in his subsequent exile.

Painted by Pieter Paul Rubens

Painted by Pieter Paul Rubens

With superb cinematography by Dante Spinotti, director Brett Ratner brings a lavish eye to these mythological battles and while Johnson might not be as believable as Hercules, he is in terms of acting, he is so in terms of strength and brute force, quite opposite to the scantily clad Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules.

Viewers shouldn’t expect Game of Thrones or 300 style gore or bloodshed in the battle scenes, as Ratner has deliberately chosen to make Hercules palatable to a teenage audience and has spared scenes of gratuitous nudity and gruesome violence.

Unlike the earlier film The Legend of Hercules, this version of Hercules portrays the man as more mature and hardened warrior famed for completing the 12 labours of Hercules and now embroiled in what is seemingly a Grecian civil strife.

Reece Ritchie 10 000 BC and The Lovely Bones fame does a superb job as the loquacious storyteller Iolaus, nephew of Hercules and the acting stakes are held up by British actor Rufus Sewell (Carrington, Tristan and Isolde) along with Scottish actor Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), who seamlessly blend humour and bravado as they embark on their less than gruesome Thracian battles.

Hercules is a well narrated fun filled mythological adventure film with some stunning action sequences especially the closing battle and the toppling of the massive statue of Hera. Lovers of mythological films such as Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, will definitely enjoy Hercules, even if Dwayne Johnson’s acting leaves much to be desired.

This version of Hercules is recommended viewing and suitably classical complete with Grecian costumes and fantastic scenery where myth and legend blend to become a more plausible historical reality.

Moscow vs Hollywood

Get Smart

get_smart_ver4

Director: Peter Segal

Cast: Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Terry Crews, Terence Stamp

Review originally published in July 2008

After Anne Hathaway’s wonderful performances in Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada and Becoming Jane, I was intrigued to discover her cast opposite comedian Steve Carrell (The 40Year Old Virgin) for the Spy adventure, Get Smart, a big screen adaptation of the 1960’s American comedy TV show.

Get Smart started off as quite an amusing film, more spoof than serious action, but what occurs is that the first half of the film, making excellent use of its initial stylish Moscow and Russian locations, fares better than the second half, set in a tired-seen-it-before downtown Los Angeles. With Mel Brooks famed for such classic comedies as To Be or Not to Be as an executive producer, I was expecting a comedy, however the joke in Get Smart starts running thin to such an extent that by the end of the film, it seems to be more on the audience who actually spent time and effort sitting through a two-hour movie, than on this half-hearted affair comprising of a mismatched pastiche of James Bond and Mission Impossible films, with scenes reminiscent of Octopussy and Entrapment combined with more high-octane car and plane chase sequences certainly suggestive of the Terminator movies.

Steve Carrell is a talented actor as noted in such independent films as Little Miss Sunshine, yet his particular style of comedy is confusing at times, sometimes serious, but capably funny. His lack of desire at playing the character completely straight or inanely goofy, gives the audience a mixed idea of Get Smart’s main protagonist Maxwell Smart, a desk-bound covert analyst who gets the opportunity to experience the long-anticipated thrills of dangerous espionage fieldwork.

Anne Hathaway, who makes the best of the material of this shallow spoof whose greatest flaw is not taking itself too seriously, seems almost lost as to how to play the super-efficient Agent 99, deadpan or with a comedic wit, leaving her floundering as the better half of a miscast screen couple. Either way she is left grappling for a more meaningful character, not to mention storyline, only to be left smirking on the sidelines, almost acknowledging herself that Get Smart falls short of the mark, which is clearly a waste for such a talented actress.

In the hands of a more astute director such as the brilliantly comic Blake Edwards, this film could have been a really witty sophisticated and stylish spy-drama in the vein of the classic Pink Panther movies, especially given the talents involved. Director, Peter Segal whose previous Adam Sandler movies, The Longest Yard and Anger Management, fails to pool the adequate acting resources and whilst there are too few genuinely hilarious moments in Get Smart, most notably the lavatory scene in the airplane and the sequences set in Russia, particularly Moscow, while the Hollywood finale leaves one wishing for a more substantial filmic experience.

Such great character actors like Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp are wasted in this poorly directed film, which could have been so much sharper than what it was aiming for. Get Smart saving grace is that it portrays Moscow as smarter than Hollywood, which inevitably is always worth a laugh.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

GI Joe: Retaliation

All Braun and no Brains

All Braun and no Brains

Following on the success of 2009 GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra, featuring Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller, comes the delayed release of GI Joe: Retaliation directed by Jon M. Chu teams Dwayne Johnson with Bruce Willis along with some newcomers including D. J. Cotrona as Flint and Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye and is supported by Ray Stevenson (fresh from playing a Ukranian gangster on the series Dexter) as a fiendishly deranged Southerner, Firefly the muscle for the Cobra group and a little seen Channing Tatum as Duke, one of the original GI’s and Ray Park as Snake Eyes.

With a convoluted plot involving an imposter American president played with evil cynicism by Jonathan Pryce, reprising his megalomaniac villain Elliot Carver from the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, this film is nothing more than a homage to all the weapons of mass destruction, and to a male-orientated obsession with weaponry, arms and naturally testosterone fueled combat. All types of weapons are on display in this film from samurai swords to high-calibre machine guns and whilst GI Joe: Retaliation is a great action packed film to watch, one hopes that it does not inspire some unwanted teenager to randomly gun down a group of strangers in a Mid-Western American mall. Sadly in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut and the massacre at the Aurora Theater in Colorado both in 2012, Gi Joe: Retaliation‘s overemphasis on weaponry surely points to a society which is unwilling to relinquish its right to bear arms despite the many casualties.

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Gi Joe: Retaliation action spans the globe from Pakistan to North Korea, from Washington DC to South Carolina, and whilst the plot resembles a twisted version of Diamonds are Forever without the glamour and whilst there are some great moments provided by Willis and Stevenson, most of the film is filled with explosions, knife fights, infinitely explosive gun battles, exhilarating boat and car chases and perfectly provides a cinematic reason to showcase all the weapons of retaliation stockpiled by any of the G8 nations, a fill arsenal of destruction, capable of flattening any major capital city in the globe, from London to Tokyo.

Fun to watch, without much thought behind it, GI Joe Retaliation will definitely find a following in its target audience and is not as good or slick as the original film, the slightly more sophisticated GI Joe, Rise of the Cobra. GI Joe: Retaliation has some fantastic sequences in it especially the ninjas on a Japanese mountain and the odd quirky dialogue naturally involving Bruce Willis, but the script is a bit too outlandish to be taken seriously and should really be viewed in the context of a some fun Saturday afternoon entertainment. Definitely recommended mainly for bored teenage boys and young men who like the action thick and fast without much thought.

 

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