Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Like a sizeable portion of its fans, I didn’t really “get” The Fast and the Furious franchise until about the fourth entry or so, when the films started to embrace the cheese and its own ludicrousness. The crazy action kept ramping up unapologetically as the cast became a likable “family” fans could root for. The fun culminated in a Puthy climax in Furious 7, where we bid a tearful farewell to Paul Walker (“It’s been a long day without you my friend…”)

I thought it was a good place to end the franchise, but of course that was never going to be the case when the Furious 7 made over 1.5 billion dollars at the box office. And thus when Mini-Me on steroids (Vin Diesel) announced that Fate of the Furious would kickstart the “final trilogy” of the franchise (who the hell does that?), no one was surprised. The question was, would they be able to continue upping the action and stakes when things were already cranked up to 11?

The Fate of the Furious is a lame name, but I was still optimistic because they were bringing back Jason Statham and adding Charlize Theron as the villain. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know Dom (Diesel) turns to the dark side this time around for some reason and takes on his old “family” alongside Charlize. You also knew that the reason would be incredibly contrived.

The film starts off in Havana and appears to be paying homage to the franchise’s roots with an exciting drag race featuring Dom, but very soon the film returns to the heist formula that has worked so well for it in recent years. Kurt Russell is back as Mr. Nobody, and Clint Eastwood’s offspring, Scott, is introduced as a new comic relief character to add a bit of freshness to the cast. Familiar faces such as Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese and Ludacris are also back, as is The Rock and the aforementioned Statham.

There are a lot of things to like about The Fate of the Furious, directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) which does pare things back a little but manages to add some very creative ideas to make up for the relatively less intensive action of its predecessors. There is one lengthy sequence featuring unmanned vehicles that should end up as one of the best action scenes of the year, albeit with some shaky CGI at times. To satisfy its core audience, there are still sexy girls in skimpy clothes and plenty of cheesy humour, neither of which really worked for me most of the time because it comes across as trying too hard.

My favourite dynamic of the film remains the feud between The Rock’s Luke Hobbs and Statham’s Deckard Shaw, who somehow goes from irredeemable villain (for killing Han) to just another lovable member of the family. The prison sequence in the trailer is as good as advertised, and Statham has a well-choreographed solo sequence later on that stands as probably the most fun part of the film.

My biggest problem with the movie is still the character of Dom and Vin Diesel, whose head just keeps growing bigger and bigger with each installment of the franchise. Diesel can’t seem to stop playing these characters who have no flaws and are supposed to be so righteous, suave, cool and sexy all the time and loved by everyone. When The Rock does it, I can almost let it go because he has the charm to pull it off. When Diesel does it, I just find it cringeworthy. It’s almost embarrassing because we all know he only gets to play such characters because he’s a producer. I had just watched Diesel take his insufferableness to another level in the latest XxX movie, so perhaps that heightened my aversion to Dom even more than usual.

In the end, The Fate of the Furious turned out better than I had expected, largely due to Statham and Theron, but it’s still a step down from both a pure action level as well as an emotional level compared to the last couple of entries in the franchise. I enjoyed it overall, though I’d say it was probably one of the weaker installment in the franchise since Tokyo Drift (which I liked more than most because I’m a fan of drifting and I love Tokyo and Lucas Black).

3.5 stars out of 5

Moana (2016)

Once a man has children, he’s going to start watching more animated movies. And look, there are some animated films that I absolutely adore, but in general, my interest level in them is quite low.

This brings us to Moana, the latest Disney animated feature about a girl in a Polynesian tribe (the eponymous Moana, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho in her debut) who embarks on a mystical sea quest with a demigod voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to give back a stolen stone to a goddess. It’s really a lot simpler than that sounds.

I took my five-year-old son to see it today and he thought it was great. I was surprised by how long the movie was — 107 minutes, pretty long for an animation — but he was able to sit through it without a problem. It was me, actually, who needed to go to the toilet and fell asleep for a few minutes toward the end (I was really tired!). But that’s not to say Moana is not a decent movie. As animated films go, it’s actually pretty good, and I think it gives Kubo and the Two Strings (my review here) a run for its money as the favourite for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars next month.

In typical Disney fashion, Moana is spectacular to look at, especially with its abundance of bright colours and beautiful sea views. Kubo is beautiful in its own way because of the stop-motion animation, though for me, Moana is one of the most visually dazzling animations I’ve seen this year or any year. The film also boasts plenty of singing, action, cute characters, comedic moments, and a nice little message about believing in yourself and having the courage to make a change, etc etc. It’s a fun family affair with catchy tunes (“How Far I’ll Go”, in particular, is a winner and a threat to one of the La La Land songs at the Oscars), comedy for all ages, and a dash of heart. You should know the Disney formula by now.

So yeah, it’s another enjoyable, feel-good animated movie that didn’t really blow me away or connect with me on a deeper emotional level (like say Up or Toy Story 3). It was humorous, sure, and of course action packed, though I didn’t feel like the film’s performance in these two departments elevated it above any of the other popular Disney flicks in recent years (Big Hero 6, Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen and Tangled). That being said, I really don’t have much to complain about the movie other than that it’s a tad on the long side, with a couple of moments that I felt dragged on and could have been trimmed to keep up the pace. Apart from that, all good.

3.5 stars out of 5

San Andreas (2015)

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From the introductory scenes of San Andreas I could already tell that it was going to be big and stupid. But I also hoped that it would be big and stupid popcorn excitement and fun. Call it mission half-accomplished.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an LA Fire  Department Air Rescue pilot unstoppable at rescuing people apart from himself, as he’s on the verge of divorce from his wife Emma, played by Carla Gugino. Emma’s moved on already with a mega wealthy property developer played by the original movie Mr Fantastic, Ioan Gruffuld, though fortunately for The Rock he’s still on good terms with his stunning daughter Blake, played by the stunning Alexandra Daddario.

Of course, a major disaster strikes the Bay Area and The Rock must do everything humanly possible (and let’s face it, inhumanly possible too) — including misappropriating government property for personal use at the time of a major disaster — to save his family. Cue epic action music!

The first thing I’ll say is that this movie is painfully predictable. It follows the archetypal disaster blockbuster template to a T. It’s as though director Brad Peyton (best known for, er, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) and screenwriter Carlton Cuse (showrunner and writer on the campy sci-fi TV series The Strain) were handed a list of standard disaster plot points and characters and had to tick them off one by one.

Consequently, if you’ve seen any disaster movie before, you’ll likely be able to guess in this movie what will happen next, which characters will live and which will die, and how the character relationships and conflicts will be resolved. It’s actually quite funny.

The second problem is that the film takes itself far too seriously. I was hopeful in the beginning because the introductory sequence had a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone, though the remainder of the movie suffers from a serious dearth of laughs and had one too many cringeworthy “dramatic” heart-to-heart scenes. Unintentional humour aside, there are really no jokes or gags in the film. Were they trying to balance the tone since millions of people probably died? Whatever the reason, it saps a lot of fun out of the experience. I’ve always stuck with the philosophy that if a film’s going to be cheesy it might as well go all in.

The action sequences are indeed well-executed and occasionally heart-thumping. San Andreas clearly takes a page out of the Fast and Furious franchise in that everyone lives in a world where the laws of physics do not exist and humans are borderline indestructible  — when the plot calls for it. They smash, they crash, they explode and get tossed all over the place, and most of the time they escape with nothing more than a scratch or two.

I later found out that the movie was shot primarily in Queensland, though it really could have been shot anywhere as it’s obvious the vast majority of action scenes were CGI. The effects were decent for a modern blockbuster, though there are times when it’s obvious we’re watching green-screen creations. There’s just something about the textures of the buildings and the landscape that doesn’t look quite realistic. There was also one shot of a photo where it was blatantly obvious that a young Daddario was photoshopped in.

Apart from the core cast, the lead supporting actor would have to be Paul Giamatti, who plays the scientist no one believes when he says the world is going to end. The weird thing is that, if we’re being honest here, he didn’t even have to be in the movie at all. I guess it was on the checklist. Aussie actor Hugo Johnstone-Burt also has a pretty big role as a Brit with a convincing accent, while Kyle Minogue (I was like WTF?! when she appeared) makes a jarring cameo to round out the local contingent cast.

The saving grace of San Andreas is The Rock, who has a magnetic charm and screen presence that instantly makes any movie more watchable. Surprisingly, he doesn’t get to do nearly as much as he has done — from a physical standpoint — in other recent action blockbusters he has been in, though just the fact that he’s on screen makes you feel like you’re in safe hands. Moreover, you’re never going to hear me complain whenever Alexandra Daddario is on screen.

Other positives include a welcome narrow focus — essentially just one family — which reduces the number of pointless characters, a manageable running-time of 114 minutes, and of course the spectacle of the whole thing. The sweeping catastrophe scenes aren’t jaw-dropping anymore because we’ve seen them so many times, but the visuals and execution are at least to be on par with other modern disaster flicks.

On the whole, San Andreas is a fairly typical disaster blockbuster in the vein of 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, Into the Storm and so forth. It’s predictable, corny as hell, ridiculously unrealistic and fuelled by CGI special effects. The presence of The Rock elevates it above average, though it really could have been a lot better had they just lightened up a little and embraced the cheese.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Hercules (2014)

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Let’s get something straight. This is Hercules starring The Rock, not The Legend of Hercules, the wannabe effort starring Twilight alumnus Kellan Lutz. The Legend of Hercules, released at the beginning of the year, was an appetizer: the cast was B-grade, the budget was relatively small (US$70 million) for “blockbuster standards,” and the overall effort felt underwhelming. Directed by Renny Harlin (of Die Hard 2 fame), it’s not anywhere near as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes 3% rating suggests, but everyone knew it would pale in comparison to the main course: the Brett Ratner version with The Rock in the titular role.

True to predictions, Hercules is a vastly superior film to The Legend of Hercules. That said, the two are very different movies in that apart from the name of the central protagonist, everything else is completely different.

The Legend of Hercules is a typical origins story that depicts Hercules’ life from conception to birth to rise. It’s a typical Hollywood endeavor that follows a straight, predictable line all the way through just like you’d expect.

Hercules, on the other hand, turned out to be unlike what I anticipated. When I saw the trailer, I had expected the film to follow a similar trajectory to The Legend of Hercules, just with a better lead actor, bigger budget, and skilled execution of both drama and action. When I actually saw the film, I realised how misleading the trailers were. Strangely, the Hercules in this film is much more grounded in reality. He does have amazing strength and skill as a soldier, but it leaves the truth of his legendary feats up in the air. Did they really happen, are they blatant exaggerations, or are they completely made up to fuel his reputation? The film lets us draw our own conclusions on these questions, and even asks whether it really matters.

And the film has a whole lot of fun too. The trailers made the film look like a straight-shooter, but it is actually full of wisecracks and tongue-in-cheek jokes. Everything about it surprised me. It was not what I thought it would be, and yet it was the right way — probably the best way — to go about making a film on the legendary demi-god.

The story, based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars from Radical Comics, begins when Hercules is already a legend leading a band of mercenaries that includes a prophet (Ian McShane), a feral warrior (Askel Hennie), a knife-throwing thief (Rufus Sewell), and Amazonia archer (Nicole Kidman lookalike Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and his nephew/propaganda chief Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Legend has it that Hercules, who has already completed the Twelve Labors, is the son of Zeus, and it’s a legend that served the mercenaries well in getting a new job from Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who wants them to train the Thracian armies to defeat the warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann).

I don’t mean to shit on anyone, but The Rock is a much better Hercules than pretty-boy Lutz, who may look more like the traditional Disney version but is so wooden he might as well be portraying Annabelle (the demonic doll). And I like Lutz a lot. I think he’s a humble, hardworking guy doing his best.

The Rock makes Hercules flesh and blood, and uses his charisma to turn the demi-god into a likable protagonist who is more self-aware than he should be. I liked the idea of him having a loyal team to support him so that he has people he cares about and fights for, and luckily for the film, each of the team members are developed sufficiently so we know who they are and how to distinguish them.

The action scenes are done well, with the right amount of special effects, though they do fall short of the epic scales of other battle films in recent years. The Rock’s presence always makes fight scenes more explosive than they otherwise would be, but on the whole the film failed to deliver anything we haven’t already seen on battlefields before.

Hercules falls well short of the classic I had been hoping for because it fails to excel in either the action, drama or plot. That said, it is solid in all those respects and does not take itself too seriously, allowing The Rock to take care the rest by carrying the film on his insanely buffed shoulders. A breezy popcorn movie that’s never as good as it should be, but good enough for a fun time. It’s not a must-see by any means, but it’s the no-brainer pick if you plan on seeing only one Hercules flick this year.

3.25 stars out of 5

Recent Movie Reviews: Part VI

I’m back with some more reviews of 2013 films I watched in recent months.

The Grandmasters (2013)

Grandmasters

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai is regarded as an artist with classics such as Chunking Express and In the Mood for Love on his impressive resume. So when I heard he was directing The Grandmasters, about the life of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man (played by Tony Leung, though Donnie Yen previously played the role in the eponymous Ip Man films), I had reasonable expectations for something with more beauty and depth than some of the manufactured Hollywood wannabes I’ve seen, such as Hero, The Promise and Curse of the Golden Flower, all of which felt like they valued style over substance by a considerable margin.

The film has been selected as Hong Kong’s entry for Best Foreign Film at next year’s Oscars, but I don’t think it is quite good enough to secure a nomination (though what the hell would I know?). The good thing about Grandmasters is that it has some of the most beautiful fight scenes ever filmed. While they have a strange air of authenticity to them due to the genuine Wing Chun moves, they are really more art fantasy than anything else, and I think that’s a good thing. The performances of Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi are also strong and you could have fooled me into believing that they both had years of martial arts training.

The bad thing about The Grandmasters is that when the characters aren’t fighting the film crawls along at a snail’s pace with lots of pretty images, which is fine but could put a lot of people to sleep. I was also kind of shocked that the story itself wasn’t more interesting. On a side note, I found the casting of Korean star Song Hye-kyo, who rose to fame in the TV drama Full House with Rain, a complete distraction. I had no idea what she was doing there as Ip Man’s wife, and it seems she didn’t either, as she said in an interview that there was “a bit of friction and misunderstanding” during filming with the director.

Overall, there are positives and negatives to take away from The Grandmasters. I’ve seen parts of the second Ip Man film and that was complete trash. The Grandmasters also wipes the floor with most of the other ambitious and flashy kung fu films I mentioned above. But at an unnecessarily long 130 minutes (I watched the full Chinese version) and with so many flaws, it really a great film? I think it falls short.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Heat (2013)

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I like Melissa McCarthy (photoshopped or not) and I can tolerate Sandra Bullock, but both are actresses I can’t see too much of at once, or else I’d get sick of them. This is why I wasn’t initially enthused about their action comedy buddy movie, The Heat, about a couple of FBI agents trying to take down a mobster.

They basically play versions of characters they have played before. Bullock is the uptight, goofy, ditzy detective who is dorky but adorable. McCarthy is the foul, abrasive loudmouth with the sharp one-liners and insults. Surprisingly, they have fairly good chemistry and as a result the movie was better than I expected.

Still, this is a formula movie that progresses as you would expect – the initial wariness, the bonding, the fallout, and the best buddy reunion just in time for the climatic finish. The Heat has some good laughs, some of which at the expense of an albino and McCarthy’s dysfunctional hillbilly family, but there is nothing gut-bustingly hilarious or memorable about it or even just specific scenes or conversations.

For me, I had a reasonably amusing time with it, but somewhere along the final third the film started to run out of steam and I wanted to more than the same clichés and jokes they were throwing at me.

2.75 stars out of 5

Snitch (2013)

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Snitch is about an “ordinary” father who would do anything to save his son from a lengthy prison sentence and decides to put his life on the line by going undercover to gather evidence on dangerous drug lords to get his son a plea bargain.

The problem is, the dad is played by The Rock, who despite his best efforts to look scared and vulnerable, is still THE ROCK. Apart from this weird casting choice, however, Snitch is a pretty solid crime drama that is heavy on the grit and the atmospheric tension, though at the end of the day it’s not as riveting or exciting as I hoped it would be.

Much of the film centers on The Rock’s efforts to infiltrate the drug world with the help of one of his employees, Jon Bernthal from The Walking Dead, who is alive and well this time. And it’s a scary world with lots of bad people with guns and intimidating faces, though you would have to assume that in real life they would take one look at The Rock and scamper in the opposite direction.

On the side of the “good guys” are Barry Pepper, who plays a bearded agent, and Susan Sarandon, who plays the US attorney who can cut a deal for The Rock’s son. Good actors and good performances, but I thought their characters were poorly written, with Sarandon’s in particular a real cardboard cliché.

I suppose director Ric Roman Waugh went for dark realism in this one, which means you don’t get to see The Rock kicking ass and doing his thing, even though there are shootouts and car chases. You get to see his amazing “acting” muscles in action instead.

It’s a thoughtful film about the way the justice system works but I think it could have been better had the execution been sharper and the direction less muddled. As a result, it kind of works as a crime drama but is not a particularly effective action movie.

3 stars out of 5

Curse of Chucky (2013)

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One of my favourite horror movies growing up was the 1988 classic Child’s Play, which kept me up at night and made me forever fearful of dolls. I was also a fan of the next two sequels which kept the straight-laced horror, but then the franchise took a turn towards comedy with the next two installments, Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky (the latter of which I haven’t seen). I think Chucky lost a lot of his cache with those two films (a mixed bag at best), which is why I was happy to see the straight-to-DVD Curse of Chucky, a welcome return to darker tone of the original.

Brad Dourif is back as the voice of Chucky, who for whatever reason is not dead (again) and arrives in the mail for Nica (played by Dourif’s real-life daughter Fiona), a wheelchair-bound girl living with her mother in a giant mansion. Chucky makes real quick work of the mother and Nica is left to grieve with her older sister, the sister’s husband, daughter and live-in nanny – all just more victims for Chucky to have some fun with.

Bearing in mind that this is a straight-to-DVD sequel, Curse of Chucky is not all that bad. It’s got the usual clichés but it does have some surprises, scares and gory moments which bring back memories of Chucky’s glory days. There is also a back story that takes us back to the original and helps us understand some of Chucky’s madness. And if you stick around for the credits there is a cool cameo from Alex Vincent, the kid who played Andy in the 1988 original.

It’s not exactly a great horror flick but unlike most of these relatively low budget sequels Curse of Chucky doesn’t take a dump on the franchise and in the scheme of things is actually not a bad addition that could open the door for a new generation of Chucky films. Just don’t expect too much from it.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Pain & Gain (2013)

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I had no idea Pain & Gain was a Michael Bay film until the credits started rolling at the end. I was surprised, because the film was, for the most part, perfectly adequate. Even fun.

Supposedly based on a true story from the 90s, Pain & Gain follows three dimwitted body builders — Marky Mark Wahlberg, The Rock and Anthony Mackie — who kidnap their dickwad of a wealthy client (Tony Shalhoub from Monk) and try to steal everything he owns. Naturally, being nitwits, their plan goes all kinds of wrong, especially as a private detective (Ed Harris) starts looking into the case. It’s a cautionary tale about how the American Dream can become the American Nightmare — if you are a moron.

It’s one of those “so crazy it’s gotta be true” stories. Being a rather violent kidnapping film, Bay could have tackled Pain & Gain as a really sharp dark comedy in the vein of say Fargo, though he decided to make a straight-up crime goofy comedy. The problem is that in taking this route, Bay had to make our protagonists likable — albeit immensely stupid — dudes, even though from their motivations and actions we can tell they are clearly some nasty people. Misguided and naive, perhaps, but still difficult to root for. Just because you find their stupidity amusing doesn’t mean you have to like them. Sure, their victim is a twat, but there’s only so much a director and good actors can do to make this trio affable. The rest is up to the audience’s disposition and tolerance.

Marky Mark, The Rock and Anthony Mackie are, under ordinary circumstances, a fun trio to be around. The Rock, in particular, stands out as a thick-headed and tick-bodied lost soul trying to balance his violent temper with his desire to please God. Marky Mark, on the other hand, shows a bit more of a mean streak as the ringleader, while Mackie kind of fades to the side a little more, getting overshadowed even by his own love interest, played by the always-brilliant Aussie gem Rebel Wilson. The other female role, a semi-retarded Russian bimbo (played by Bar Paly) is also a hoot, though neither female character does much to improve the perception of how Bay treats women in his movies. (Also gotta mention Ken Jeong, who does his best Ken Jeong impersonation in a small role as a motivation speaker.)

That said, for a Michael Bay film, Pain & Gain is actually pretty good. It’s fairly funny, especially in the first hour or so, and the satirical bite had a surprisingly strong edge to it. The mood was light despite the violence, though the further the film progressed the more serious — and less compelling — it got. At 129 minutes, it was also far too long, and my interest waned dramatically as the film stumbled to a predictable conclusion. However, on the whole, and by Michael Bay standards, I’d still call Pain & Gain a relative success.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Fast Five (2011)

Here’s the deal.  I’ve only watched the odd numbered films in the Fast and Furious series (being the original and the third one, Tokyo Drift), and it doesn’t bother me at all that I haven’t seen the other two.

I mean, they’re all the same — fast cars, hot girls and a loose crime plot that involves something no one really cares about.  But this fifth one, Fast Five, looked pretty good.  It has the original stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, plus some of the guys from the other films, including Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang (who died in the third film — the chronology is out of whack), Ludacris, and supermodel Gal Gadot (who literally looks like a smoking hot stick figure).  Most of all, it features Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as some supercop on their trail and the rumour was that he takes on Vin Diesel in one heck of a meathead showdown.  Sounds like a riot.

To be honest, I don’t really remember the other films of the series I’ve seen, probably because they were forgettable and crap (and I’m not into cars).  Which is why I am shocked to say that I thought Fast Five was pretty good, if you go into it knowing what you’re going to get.

This one has a bit more of a plot (just a bit more).  Paul Walker’s FBI agent dude is now on the run with Jordana Brewster, after having broken Vin Diesel out of a prison van (is it just me or does Vin Diesel look like a big, fat version of Mini-Me on steroids?  Nothing against him but I can’t take him seriously, whether it’s his hilarious voice or his attempts to be cool).  They need cash and some corrupt drug kinpin in South America has a lot of it.  Bingo!  Let’s rob the douche and ride off into the sunset.

Of course, it’s not easy, and in comes a bunch of characters from the previous films to help them pull off the job of the century.  As mentioned earlier, The Rock is brought in to hunt them down, and assisting him is a hot latino police officer played by Elsa Pataky (who is married to Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth).  There’s loads of action in this film — gun fights, chase scenes, heist scenes, hand-to-hand combat, car chases — and most of them were pulled off with expertise from director Justin Lin (who has been at the helm since Tokyo Drift).

It’s all outrageously ridiculous and very little of it makes any sense (it’s one of those films where people just gun each other down in the streets, they blow everything up in sight and people punch the living daylights out of each other without even getting a bruise) — but if you can put all of that aside and just go along for the ride, Fast Five is an enjoyable treat that’s fun, cheesy and a car lover’s wet dream.  The only thing I will say is don’t get your hopes up for the Diesel/Rock showdown — unless you like watching two all-beef patties tackling each other through walls and windows for a couple of minutes.

This is not saying much, but I think Fast Five could very well be the best one in the franchise.

3.25 stars out of 5

PS: Upon further review, it appears I’ve seen the fourth film as well, Fast and Furious.  There you go.  It’s not often that I don’t recall anything about a film I’ve seen.

PPS: Remember to stay after the credits — there is a little ‘twist’ scene with Eva Mendes (who is apparently in the second film) that gives you a decent indication of what the next film will be about.

Movie Review: Faster (2010)

Faster is a strange film.  It has the feel of a classy production.  The director (George Tillman Jr — who directed Notorious) seems to know what he is doing.  There is a certain dark, noir-ish mood infused throughout.  It features a star studded cast — Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (looking bulkier than in recent times), Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Moon Bloodgood and Maggie Grace.  And yet, I found the whole thing incredibly uninspiring and forgettable.

Perhaps it’s the couldn’t-be-any-simpler plot — a guy (The Rock)  is just released from prison and decides to go on a killing rampage against the people that put him there in the first place (oh, and killed his beloved big brother).  There’s cops (Thornton and Gugino) chasing him.  And a hired assassin.  You get the drift — kill, chase, investigate and repeat until final climax.

Speaking of which, perhaps it’s the silly subplot with the beautiful genius assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and his lovely girlfriend (Maggie Grace) that spoiled it.  The dude is supposed to be some super-overachiever who needs a challenge to keep himself going — but they tried to be too cute with it and it came off looking contrived.  And besides, Jackson-Cohen can’t act.  He looked good but was horrible.

But perhaps the worst part was that the whole time, the secret mastermind behind everything was so obvious it stuck out like dog’s balls.

Accordingly, I had the bizarre feeling when watching Faster that I should be watching something that’s a lot better than what’s before my eyes.  It wasn’t awful, but it kept me wondering what all these stars saw in the script.  The gun-fight scenes were okay, as were the obligatory car chases.  Ultimately, however, I suppose the title of the film is apt, because I wanted it to end ‘faster.’

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Other Guys (2010)

I would say Will Ferrell‘s unique brand of humour is a combination of randomness, awkwardness and absolute stupidity.  When it works (and it sometimes does), it really works.  But when it doesn’t, it’s just tedious and unfunny.

In my opinion, The Other Guys is both the best and worst of Will Ferrell.  There are times when the film is genuinely hilarious, reminiscent of Ferrell at his best (think Anchorman), but when the jokes fall flat, there’s just no nice way to say it — it sucked.  Thankfully, I think the good outweighed the bad in this one by a not insignificant margin.  And that makes The Other Guys one of Will Ferrell’s better films.

The Other Guys is a buddy/cop comedy, what you could probably call a ‘spoof’.  Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a ‘forensic accountant’ in the police department.  His partner is Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg) a highly capable detective who is stuck with Gamble due to an unfortunate incident 7 years ago that made him lose all credibility (it’s a ripper).  Together, they are the ‘other guys’ to the supercops in the department, played by Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson (ie the Rock).

Rounding out the impressive cast are Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes and Steve Coogan, and there are a number of cool cameos thrown in too.

Ferrell, as expected, was perfect for the role of the socially retarded Allen Gamble, but Mark Wahlberg was surprisingly good as his straight-faced partner.  Though they have personalities at opposite ends of the scale, the two characters have an authentic chemistry that provides plenty of laughs.

As usual, the trailers revealed way too many of the best jokes in the film — and the one thing with Will Ferrell’s comedy is that it’s never as good the second time around.  That said, there were still a number of random and bizarre but comically successful scenes that will no doubt please Ferrell fans.  As a bonus, the action sequences were quite decent too.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, many jokes (including some of the best ones) were milked way too far.  Let it go!  At times it was like beating a dead horse.  It was the most frustrating thing with an otherwise fairly good comedy.

2.5 stars out of 5