Review: San Andreas (2015)

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California crumbles in San Andreas, an overblown, preposterous and only intermittently entertaining disaster film that benefits considerably from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s proven screen presence. In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, rescue pilot (Johnson) and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) reunite to save their daughter (Alexandra Daddario), who’s trapped in the middle of San Fransisco. Continue reading “Review: San Andreas (2015)”

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Review: Pain & Gain (2013)

Pain and Gain

Leaving the ludicrously successful world of sentient robotic beings destroying the world bit-by-bit (otherwise known as Transformers), director Michael Bay lends his hand to dark satire Pain & Gain, the bizarrely true story of a mid-90s plot that saw three bodybuilders extort and blackmail their way to success. It’s regrettable, then, that what is, at times, a well performed and deliciously dark deconstruction of the American Dream, quickly becomes a distasteful and hard-featured botch job thanks to Bay’s inability to be anything but over-the-top and overambitious.  Continue reading “Review: Pain & Gain (2013)”

Review: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

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Twelve years after the first instalment crashed into cinemas, and the absurdly over-the-top Fast & Furious series is still plumbing new depths in a bid to entertain, dazzle and satisfy its audiences burgeoning expectations. It’s a relief, then, that Fast & Furious 6 matches expectations to earn its place as a worthy, if not better, successor to Fast Five and a preposterously rousing blockbuster on its own merits. Continue reading “Review: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)”

Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

G.I. Joe Retaliation

Though G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra was considered by many to be a complete and utter write-off, it also had a cartoonish and flippant sensibility that resulted in a decent box office haul, making its sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, inevitable. The sequel, however, which finds new director Jon M. Chu and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick attempt to overhaul the series, loses that camp buffoonery and replaces it with an all-too serious military realism that’s sluggish and irritating. Continue reading “Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)”

Review: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

A sequel of sorts to Journey To The Center Of The Earth, albeit with only one returning character (Josh Hutcherson as young explorer Sean Anderson), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is breezy fare at best, neither offensive nor game-changing.

When Sean decodes a signal sent by his missing grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine), he recruits his mum’s new boyfriend, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), to accompany him on an adventure. Enlisting Gabata (Luis Guzmán) and his Continue reading “Review: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)”

Review: Fast Five (2011)

Directed by Justin Lin, Fast Five is the fifth instalment in the globally successful Fast & Furious franchise, and stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Jordana Brewster.

Former cop Brian O’Conner (Walker) partners with ex-con Dom Toretto (Diesel) from the opposite side of the law. Ever since Brian and Mia Toretto (Brewster) broke Dom out of custody, they’ve blown across borders to elude authorities. Now backed into a corner in Rio de Janeiro, they must pull one last job in order to gain their freedom.

As they assemble their elite team of top racers, the unlikely allies know their only shot of getting out for good means confronting the corrupt businessman who wants them dead. But he’s not the only one on their tail. Hard-nosed federal agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) never misses his target.

When he is assigned to track down Dom and Brian, he and his strike team launch an all-out assault to capture them. But as his men tear through Brazil, Hobbs learns he can’t separate the good guys from the bad. Now, he must rely on his instincts to corner his prey… before someone else runs them down first.

The plot – while obviously simple, heavily flawed, and packed full of ludicrously clichéd dialogue – has a certain charm that helps every moment of inept absurdity slide and encourages you to lose yourself in the dumb action.

Kudos goes to Lin, who directs with passion. Despite his tendency to blurriness in action sequences, the stunts are practical and realistic while being viscerally powerful and hugely entertaining. The car scenes, in particular, are shot with a superb attention-to-detail. He clearly knows his crowd, and has tailor made the film to appeal squarely to them.

As far as performances go, it’s an entirely mixed bag. Diesel is solid as Dom, and Johnson is a welcome addition as the heavily aggressive yet darkly humorous Hobbs. Meanwhile, Walker feels out of place, like his character’s been worn too thin, and while the inclusion of past characters is welcome – helping you to ignore the gaping plot holes – they simply don’t have enough screen time to be anymore than that.

Fast Five is, for long-standing fans of the Fast & Furious franchise and action lovers, simply an unabashed popcorn entertainment flick. For those adverse to the genre, however, it’s pretty non-descript.

Review: Faster (2010)

Faster is a new action-thriller from director George Tillman, Jr.

The film centers on an ex-con, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), who sets out to avenge his brother’s death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he’s tracked by a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and an egocentric hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

While the premise has several notable elements of intrigue, the treatment, by writing duo Tony and Joe Gayton, is every bit as bleak and lackluster as expected; weighed down by exposition, formulaic direction and clichéd plot points.

It’s not at all helped by the screenwriters’ tendency to shift emphasis onto pointless, misleading subplots, like Killer’s backstory: a character that simply lacks the urgency needed to occupy such a large part that bears little importance to the main plot’s overall direction.

Tillman Jr’s unwillingness to take advantage of the narrative’s innately fun, B-movie potential guarantees that Faster – aside from the odd car chase and shoot-out – is every bit as intolerable as audiences have come to expect with such a conventional genre, the complete opposite of what Drive Angry, a film similar in ideas, achieved.

Johnson is – somewhat surprisingly – Faster’s greatest assest, in a role that proves he possesses the charm and presence needed to excel in the action genre. Here he’s the tough guy he needs to be, delivering a truly menacing performance: reticent, destructive and unrelenting.

It’s easily one of Johnson’s most compelling performances – certainly enough to redeem him of his recent fare of deplorable “family-comedy” roles.

Thornton looks annoyed and every bit reluctant to be in such frivolous fluff, but in a decidedly head-scratching way this informs his on screen persona, Cop, in an interesting, alluring and slick fashion.

Aside from Thornton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Carla Gugino – as one of the men on Driver’s hit list and a detective after his head respectively – are the only two supporting cast members who distinguish themselves and carve out plausible characters you can empathise with – and that’s miraculous considering their shamefully limited screen time and laughable dialogue.

The rest of the supporting troupe – including the barely seen Jennifer Carpenter, Maggie Grace and Jackson-Cohen – are trivial and wholly disposable.

Faster is a passable yet mediocre and highly forgettable action-thriller, salvaged only by Johnson’s surprisingly rousing performance.