San Andreas

May 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Brad Peyton (“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”)
Written by: Carlton Cuse (debut)

Disaster movies are so late-‘90s. When photorealistic computer-generated graphics really tightened their grip on the summer box office blockbusters, filmmakers couldn’t wait to use these pixels to destroy major cities and landmarks the world over. From “Independence Day” to “Deep Impact” to “Armageddon,” we spent our summers watching the world get destroyed over and over again. Alas, the fad died down and something else took over…historical action-adventure epics, maybe? Anyway, with “San Andreas,” we’re thrust back into the 1998 style of tent pole filmmaking: amazingly-realized destructo-porn special effects and a story with the depth of an empty swimming pool.

As an LAFD rescue helicopter pilot, Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) is introduced doing what he does best: saving a young woman from a car perched perilously on a cliff face. But when a massive earthquake destroys the Hoover Dam—a phenomenon grimly predicted by Paul Giammati’s Cal Tech scientist using magnetic pulses or something—Gaines has to skip out on driving his estranged daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to college in order to go save lives in Nevada. Blake instead hitches a ride with her mom’s (Carla Gugino) billionaire architect boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) to San Francisco, only to be abandoned by the suddenly-evil Daniel when a huge earthquake traps her in a limousine. Blake manages to make a cell phone call to Ray, who promptly whips his chopper around to pick up his ex-wife from a collapsing Los Angeles high rise and hauls ass toward San Francisco.

While the effects are well done and Johnson is as likeable as ever, “San Andreas” lacks any tension at all. The obstacles Johnson faces in an effort to save his daughter would be harrowing if it didn’t feel like he was playing in God mode in a video game—we know he isn’t going to die, but he still has to get through all of the levels in order to finish the game. Crash-land a helicopter? Yep, hold on! Disarm a man with a gun to his head? Yeah, no big deal. Parachute out of a small plane into the infield at AT&T Park? Easy. Power a small motor boat over a goddamn tsunami before it crests in San Francisco Bay? You’d better goddamn believe it! But hey, it’s summer, it’s hot outside. Might as well go watch The Rock and company narrowly dodging falling skyscrapers for a couple of hours.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

February 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens
Directed by: Brad Peyton (“Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”)
Written by: Brian Gunn (“Bring It On Again”) and Mark Gunn (“Bring It On Again”)

Dear Dwayne Johnson,

While I was never a fan of wrestling, I’ve always been a fan of yours. Even if I didn’t smell what the Rock was cooking or respect the People’s Elbow, I recognized your talent was too big for the squared circle, and I looked forward to your inevitable transition into movies. You were the perfect post-modern action hero: beefy and intimidating, yet funny and self-aware. Your easy charm would have been a welcome presence as action movies evolved away from the bombastic cheese of the ’80s. You started off with smart choices, like when Arnold Schwarzenegger unofficially passed the torch to you in “The Rundown,” or when you stole the show in the otherwise-terrible “Be Cool,” especially when you performed the monologue from “Bring It On.” You even took crazy chances, working with a madman posing as a director to play a dual role is the psychotic fever dream “Southland Tales.”

So…what happened?

Look, I’m well aware this isn’t your first family movie, but this seems to be a new low. I’m no Hollywood insider, but my guess is that any project that features as much pre-production drama as “Journey 2” had is fairly creatively compromised. In case you weren’t aware, Brendan Fraser passed on this sequel out of loyalty to the original film’s director (Eric Brevig, who wasn’t finished with post-production on “Yogi Bear” in time to start shooting). Didn’t more red flags raise when the studio replaced Brevig with “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” director Brad Peyton just to meet the their desired release date? I mean, look at that murderer’s row of crappy movies and add that to the fact that Brendan Fraser, who obviously never says no to anything, said no to this.

And you said yes.

But hey, no one’s ever backed up a dump truck full of money in front of my house asking me to take over something Brendan Fraser decided not to do, so I really have no point of reference. Heck, maybe you read the script and saw you’d be filming in Hawaii for a few months and you read the part about punching that giant lizard square in the face and thought, “Eh, why not?” Sure, you probably rolled your eyes at the expository dialogue your character would have to spout, like the nonsense about recognizing soil liquefaction thanks your time in the Navy and such, but you probably just cracked a smile and shook your head, because it’s just a stupid family movie, right?

Maybe you wanted to work with Michael Caine, who hasn’t slummed it this bad since “Jaws: The Revenge.” He’s got two Oscars, after all. By taking the part you get to spend a big chunk of the movie trading jokes and insults with him. That’s cool. And Luis Guzmán seems like a great guy to work with. He’s super funny. His Polynesian(?!) helicopter pilot Gabato provides some much-needed laughs that aren’t about how ridiculous some plot points are, like how our adventurers are somehow able to pilot giant bumblebees like they were Sopwith Camels (it’s a fighter plane, Dwayne). For all I know you’ve been wanting to work with Vanessa Hudgens. Who wouldn’t? She’s a gorgeous actress. Or, I don’t know, maybe you’re a “Sex and the City” fan and wanted to work with Kristen Davis. Maybe you just loved the first movie so much you wanted to work with that kid…you know…the one that was in the first movie, for some reason runs from the cops on a motorcycle at the beginning of this movie…hold on–

Josh Hutcherson. His name is Josh Hutcherson.

Why, Dwayne? Why would you sign on to a ham-fisted, Jules Verne-defiling sequel filled with lousy special effects and idiotic leaps of logic? You’re the hero we need, Dwayne. Please, for Pete’s sake, never sign on to another movie where you punch a reptile in the face, the upcoming “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” notwithstanding.

Your pal,

Jerrod

P.S. At least you can take comfort in knowing you had nothing to do with the blasphemous computer-animated 3D Daffy Duck short, “Daffy’s Rhapsody,” that preceded “Journey 2.” Yeah, it featured the voice of the late Mel Blanc and Elmer Fudd firing an honest-to-goodness shotgun, but rendering Looney Tunes characters in three dimensions should be grounds for deportation.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

July 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate
Directed by: Brad Peyton (debut)
Written by: Ron J. Friedman (“Chicken Little”) and Steve Bencich (“Chicken Little”)

Aptly named “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” in reference to the character played by actress Honor Blackman in 1964’s “Goldfinger,” the new talking-animal sequel doesn’t have nearly enough bark or bite for anyone to take notice. Despite the number of James Bond references director Brad Payton and screenwriters Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich try to inject into it, the spoof is still as annoying, useless, and lightweight as the pet dander you’d find fused to a couch cushion.

In “Kitty Galore,” a sequel to the first film in 2001, Bette Midler lends her voice to the title character, a hairless, villainous feline who has come up with a dastardly plan to turn all the dogs of the world against his or her owners by broadcasting a high-pitched sound that will cause all canines to go insane.

Enter the team of secret cat and dog spies who put aside their differences and join forces to stop Kitty before she takes over the world. This includes Diggs (James Marsden), a former hot-shot police dog who is released from the force for his risky behavior; Butch (Nick Nolte), a snippy old hound who recruits him; and Catherine (Christina Applegate), a stealthy cat with ninja skills. Even a pigeon named Seamus (Katt Williams) joins up as a feathered informant who might be able to lead them to the bad kitty.

As far as talking-animal movies go, “Kitty Galore” could be worse. Remember the fluffy special agent gerbils in the terrible animated movie “G-Force” last year? At least “Kitty” is able to use a combination of real and CGI pets instead of relying completely on computers to create their heroes. Some of the dogs are huggable enough to capture a kindergartener’s attention, but without any real humor and charm coming from any of these fuzzy characters, it’s difficult to defend a movie that simply refuses to be even a bit original.

Instead, Peyton’s only concern is in how many 007 jokes and references he can squeeze into the short 75-minute runtime (even Roger Moore cheapens his link to Bond to be part of this). After those fail, Peyton goes for the obvious, witless gags: cat nip, dogs sniffing butts, fur balls. There’s even an uncreative parody of “Silence of the Lambs” that turns up for no real reason except to maybe jolt parents from dozing off by giving them something they’d recognize.

As easily forgettable as the original, “Kitty Galore” will trigger some reaction from the youngest moviegoers (probably in the form of “look at the doggy, mommy!”), but even a caboodle full of cute kittens isn’t reason enough to drag the entire family out for a weekend matinee.