Dwayne Johnson

San Andreas: review

Don't worry, he's on his way

Don’t worry, he’s on his way

San Andreas is the new film starring Dwayne Johnson and imagines what would happen if the biggest earthquake ever recorded struck in California, devastating Los Angeles, before travelling along the San Andreas faultline to wreak destruction on San Francisco.  It is one of many disaster movies that we’ve all watched over the years, so it’s quite a crowded space that San Andreas is joining.  So how does this movie stack-up and what can you expect?  Playing Ray, a helicopter pilot and search and rescue worker, Dwayne Johnson has to make his way from LA to San Francisco with his estranged wife (played by Carla Gugino) in order to rescue their daughter Blake.

I’ll kick things off by saying how much I liked this movie!  With there being a lot of choice in the disaster-film niche, it’s important that there is something to grab the viewer and for it to become more than just two hours of CGI.  Personally, I need more than action set-pieces; I need to get behind the lead characters and for their story to be what keeps my interest.  Happily in San Andreas, this is delivered.  In fact the film almost operates three distinct stories: Paul Giamatti as the seismologist who discovers the true nature of the quakes, Blake and her own journey to find a safe place for Ray to save her and finally, her parents’ journey to find their daughter.  these are interwoven quite nicely indeed and in Dwayne Johnson, there is someone that we hang on to as the film progresses.  There is also an appearance by Iaon Gruffudd as the step-father to Blake, but as amusing as it is, we can count this role as that of the pantomime villain.

After the opening which I thought was a weak spot in the movie, things really get going with a scene at the Hoover dam – which doesn’t last long!  It is amazing to see the Hoover dam busting and breaking and this sets the scene for greater things to come.  As Los Angeles is levelled there are some genuinely tense moments with Ray rescuing Emma from the top of a collapsing building.  We then switch between Blake and Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) as the action slows down for a breather.  But this in no way slows the feel of movie which marches forward at a great pace, never letting the viewer get bored at all.  In particular and as much as I like Paul Giamatti in anything, it is good that his character is pretty much sidelined.  Not because he’s terrible but because his character isn’t meant to be the hero and possesses no qualifications to be the man who saves the day.  This is a frequent problem in movies of this kind – like asking a teacher to grab a gun, shoot some terrorists and rescue the hostages – and San Andreas is much the better for not doing this.

That is not to say there aren’t things I don’t like: some lines are clunky and some events are almost too crazy or not quite that believable.  I am also not sure what the point of a blink and you miss it cameo appearance from Kylie Minogue is, but hey-ho, always good to Charlene Ramsey from Neighbours in something other than a music video.  That said, if you place your faith in the story and characters, then you will be rewarded with a great movie.  It’s very easy to make these things over-long so a running time of 114 minutes feels like a breeze and adds to the pacy feel.  There are some jaw-dropping scenes of destruction and they’re all highly watchable with a tremendous perspective given to the viewer; nothing complicated and you can always understand what is happening and for why.  Sit back, eat the popcorn, guzzle the soda and enjoy a great movie which doesn’t seek to do anything other than entertain.  Highly watchable but on the proviso that you may not want to see another building collapse on-screen for quite a while!

San Andreas opens in cinemas today and you can get a taste of the awesome from the trailer below.

 

 

HERCULES – NEW ‘ARMED FOR BATTLE’ FEATURETTE : The Rock throws a horse!

I’m trying to rack my brain when I was last excited for a Brett Ratner movie, it might have been Kites, how young and innocent were we back in those days? But Hercules has me totally psyched, The Rock can do no wrong and he has been preppring this movie and pushing it on Social Media for what seems ages.

Here they are both talking about some of the weapon and action choices:

 

1401801723-HerculesIntlTeaserOnline

 

Synopsis:
Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ film HERCULES, starring Dwayne Johnson, bows on July 25. Based on Radical Comics’ ‘Hercules,’ this ensemble-action film, featuring an international cast, is a revisionist take on the classic myth set in a grounded world where the supernatural does not exist. HERCULES also stars Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt.

HERCULES muscles into cinemas in the UK and Ireland on JULY 25th 2014

Hercules Teaser: The Rock Roars!

Since I follow the Rock on twitter (who knows when he might hint at another super secret military intervention before the president of the US) we have been seeing his dedicated transformation to become the mythical superhero Hercules.

Directed by Brett Ratner (he who is hated so much by the geek community) and focussing on the Thracian Wars, unlike Renny Harlin’s Legend Of Hercules (releasing to much less fan fare this friday in the UK) which was much more a prequel to the godly character.

The Rock is awesome even if he looks quite silly with a lion’s head on his head, but I’d watch pretty much anything with the man in it.

This is a short teaser but I’m sure we’ll be hearing and seeing quite a bit more around the July 25th when the movie hits our shores.

Synopsis:
Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ film HERCULES, starring Dwayne Johnson, bows on July 25. Based on Radical Comics’ ‘Hercules,’ this ensemble-action film, featuring an international cast, is a revisionist take on the classic myth set in a grounded world where the supernatural does not exist. HERCULES also stars Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt.

@asimburney

 

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EP 83 Empire State Review, Bat-Fleck and a dissapointing summer of movies- Upodcast

If the Chinese celebrated more than just animals in their yearly zodiac, then 2013 wouldn’t be the year of the snake, it would be the year of The Rock.  Our latest podcast talks about one of Dwayne Johnson’s many movies this year, Empire State.  Also featuring the lesser-spotted Hemsworth (Liam) and a largely irrelevant Emma Roberts, Dito Montiel’s early ’80s throw back about a real life heist in New York is our featured film.  The box-cover promises much, but will it take its place in the pantheon of classic heist movies, such as Riffifi, Heat, Inside Man, or even The Bank Job?  We’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much!

Here is the trailer of Empire State:

Ahmed brings a sad note to proceedings with news of Burn Notice’s farewell season. A great show and clearly the 21st century Magyver. That said, all good things must come to an end…but where will we go now for our fix of funnies, Bruce Campbell and impromptu lessons in how break locks and make bombs from kitchen supplies?

As the summer draws to a close, we start by reflecting on a somewhat lacklustre season of box office smashes. A few have delivered: Man of Steel & Iron Man 3, but instinctively we’re left underwhelmed, despite evidence that Hollywood is in fact up on last summer with its blockbusters AND the notable flops – The Lone Ranger and RIPD. New markets – Asia most notably – have helped score big time, but for how long can the studios get away with releasing the same movie twice? That means you Olympus has Fallen and Whitehouse Down.

No wonder then that Martin has been spending a lot of time at the British Film Institute in recent weeks, this time catching up on the restored silent Hitchcocks.  The Lodger, Blackmail, The Ring etc. – all from the earliest part of his career, in the 1920s.  However, of much more importance, was that Asim talked about the Twitter and Blog shredding news of Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman in the upcoming Superman films.  Batfleck or whatever you want to call him seems to be a uniquely Marmite choice in that you love it or hate it.  Ahmed then introduces us to Graceland – a new US TV show about undercover cops and FBI agents living in the confiscated house of a convicted Elvis-fanatic drug lord.  How does that not sound good?

More cerebral matters are up next with a chat about Keanu Reeves’ excellent doc. Side by Side, which charts the technological evolution of movies from 35mm film, through to today’s multi-platform, lack of common standards digital era.  That ought to be the high point…but Upod is also happy to bring you Mermaids.  Not the Cher/Danny de Vito/Winona Ryder effort from the early ’90s, but a documentary that seeks to prove their very existence.

Author rolls on floor laughing.

You can download/listen/ stream our latest Upodcast Episode below:

Pain and Gain review: Michael Bay’s best film?

Your pain, their gain, our laughs

A good title for this movie I have to say.  Adapted from a truly horrific real life story Michael Bay‘s newest on screen adventure is a crime-comedy starring Mark WahlbergDwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie. The film is based on a story published in a 1999 series of Miami New Times articles written by Pete Collins and compiled in his book Pain & Gain: This is a True Story, which details the kidnapping, extortion, torture, and murder of several victims by criminals that included a number of bodybuilders affiliated with the Sun Gym.

After being inspired by motivational speaker Johnny Wu (a hilarious Ken Jeong character) and his women, money, boats etc, Lugo persuades John Mese, the gym’s owner (Rob Corddry) to be part of his scheme, as a notary.  With the other beefcakes along for the ride, things start to get ugly.

Things I liked about P&G abound – there’s a lot to like.  Dwayne Johnson (Paul Doyle) is excellent and Marky Wahlberg  (Daniel Lugo) perfectly cast.  Ever wanted to see Dwayne Johnson as an evangelical Christian, recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict?  To be fair, that thought had probably never crossed your mind, but now’s your chance.  Anthony Mackie (playing Adrian Doorbal) who I’d not really seen in anything other than Hurt Locker is excellent as the even less bright 1 of the 3, playing the part of an impotent steroid-using body builder.

Ed Harris (Ed Du Bois III) has his moments and is as convincing as can be as the private detective who takes up the case after the local police dismiss the complaints of Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) as the ravings of a madman.  It is this that I found perhaps the most interesting.  Whilst he is utterly abused and tortured, there is very little sympathy for him.  Not in the sense that he deserves it perhaps, but that he is such an unpleasant man, that even his employees prefer Lugo as their boss. In turn, I ended up siding with the bad guys.

Quite clearly it pays to be inept at crime.  For a short while at least.

Also livening-up proceedings is Rebel Wilson (Robin).  This time she plays Doorbal’s love interest.  And when she is scorned, boy does she not hold anything back – her line in the court scene near the end is brilliant.

So, that’s what’s hot, but what’s not?  Not much to be fair.  I understand some of the criticism levelled at the movie has come from its light-hearted take on what is of course a terrible story.  However, whilst Pain and Gain takes the less horrendous aspects and presents them accordingly, it is by no means played exclusively for laughs. Michael Bay does still find time for some lovely shots of helicopters, which are frankly unnecessary and I think it’s quite natural that those more familiar with the true story will object to the portrayal of 3 hugely despicable human beings.

Other criticism has been that there is perhaps too much poetic licence…that for example we have a made-up character and a semi-made-up character in key roles.  To this, I say nonsense.  Using our podcast to come for example, about Empire State, this would have worked so much better if someone had tried to be inventive or creative with an existing story.  Just because something is true, doesn’t necessarily make it interesting straight out of the can.

In light of this and my blog’s title, it’s interesting to note that this only cost $26 million.  Partly because Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson are taking profit-share and of course partly because there are so few complicated action set-pieces, car chases, guns and special effects.  All credit to Michael Bay for directing this and for apparently loving the project from day one.  I am notoriously hard on “Michael-every shot’s a shot-Bay” but I genuinely believe this is his best film.  I do love The Rock  and Bad Boys, but they take themselves very…way too seriously.  Perhaps this is the dawn of a era for Bay.  Enough of the robots and the excessive CGI; get some budget, some great casting, a believable storyline & decent script and show us what you’ve got.  The camerawork has never been my contention in his films and Pain and Gain shows how effective he can be without all of the nonsense a $100m+ budget can bring.

Thanks Mike, for this one.

Pain and Gain previews this week and opens August 30th in UK cinemas.  Enjoy the trailer below

 

 

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New Poster Pain & Gain flexes it’s muscles

Released back a couple of months ago  and quite a success in the US, Michael Bay “smaller personal” movie Pain & Gain is set for a UK screens on August 30th.

Starring along Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne The Rock Johnson, we also have Anthony Mackie, Rob Corddry, Tony Shaloub, Rebel Wilson and Ken Jeong.

Based on a true story Walhberg and Johnson play a set of Miami bodybuilder that come up with a quick rich quick scheme involving a rich business man that goes horribly wrong.

Probably one of the best reviewed Michael Bay movies in a long while, and defintely one we are looking forward to.

We will most likely have a review for you when the movie comes out but until then, enjoy the new clip and the poster!

 

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