Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

“Baywatch”

LOUISA: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

Please don’t think I’m a weirdo, but I actually had high hopes for the dreadfully unfunny “Baywatch,” the big screen version of the popular ’90s California lifeguard television series. Oh, how I wanted the film to take the campy road, loaded with silly sight gags and over-the-top acting. Sadly, this movie plays it completely straight and is completely awful.

In what feels like a completely unfunny, half-baked straight to video mystery, hulking lifeguard Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) butts heads with a prettyboy new recruit Brody (Zac Efron). The rest of the lifeguard team, including spunky Summer (Alexandra Daddario), sexy CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), and I’m just here to be the butt of everyone’s lame wisecracks chunky nerd Ronnie (Jon Bass) must set out to uncover a dastardly criminal drug empire that threatens to overdevelop the bay. (Yeah, that’s the actual plot of this drek).

The story is mediocre and, in an attempt to make the most of its R-rating, the film goes a bit overboard with unnecessary nudity and language. Not that this is offensive: the most offensive thing about this project is the total waste of Johnson. Even in the worst of films Johnson is still a charismatic, lovable guy. He plays it straight and has a great sense of comedic timing, but even he can’t save this disaster.

As expected, “Baywatch” is a dumbed down recipe of mean-spirited, gross-out humor and lame action sequences. It’s so god-awful that I wish I had walked out. What a waste.

“The Fate of the Furious”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

As a car lover and a huge fan girl of the entire franchise, I set the bar almost unfairly high for “The Fate of the Furious.” As started with “Furious 7,” the films have been slowly evolving towards more of an action-packed cyber thriller than a classic parade of drool-worthy dream cars and engine-revving stunt driving.

So what does that mean for you? Well, it means newbies should have no trouble following along with the story or figuring out who’s who, but longtime fans aren’t ignored either. While there aren’t quite as many car-centric scenes as I’d like, the film remains true to its characters in the familial fashion for which the series is known. There are also plenty of fun throwback references to the old films and surprise cameos for die-hards too (you’ll know when they turn up based on the audience cheers and applause).

Initially I was very disappointed in the direction this film takes, fantasizing about how I wanted to grab director F. Gary Gray by the shoulders and shake him while hollering “less tech plot, more cars!” But as the story progressed, I realized something: if you just let go and embrace this movie as more of an action blockbuster than a gearhead race picture, all will be right with the world. If you are expecting heart-stopping stunt driving and racing throughout, you’ll find this installment to be a bit of a letdown. There are nearly as many bullets flying as there is rubber burning.

And that’s where the majority of the criticism I have for this film lies: it NEEDS MORE CARS. If you’re going to make a Fast and Furious movie, you need to have it packed with flashy driving scenes that employ actual stunt drivers. For example: one of the most creative and exciting scenes involves zombie cars that are obviously animated with CGI, which is a far cry from “Furious 7” where the production crew dropped actual vehicles from the cargo bay of a plane — but I’ll let it slide this time because the idea behind it is So. Freaking. COOL!

The car scenes unfortunately feel more like bookends than a fundamental core of the movie. It starts out with a spectacularly boisterous nitrous-fueled drag race through the streets of Havana and ends with a not-long-enough car chase across a frozen lake involving a hijacked Russian nuclear submarine, a million dollar neon orange Lamborghini Murcielago, and heat seeking missiles. Both scenes had me sitting up in my seat and whooping with glee, making me forget all of the plot filler that is stuffed in the middle. There are several truly amusing sequences sprinkled throughout though, from an entertaining as hell (yet oddly bloodless) prison riot to a baby-juggling fistfight on an airplane. What is truly incredible is that while it’s undeniably over the top, none of this feels THAT ridiculous.

The acting is mildly hammy but fun (with Michelle Rodriguez once again delivering the standout performance as Letty). The majority of the dialogue consists of musclehead rivals Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) hurling insults at each other while Tej (Ludacris) and everyone’s favorite alpha-male Roman (Tyrese Gibson) exchange their trademark barbs for comic relief. Dom (Vin Diesel) doesn’t have all that much to do in this installment and for the first half it’s the Statham and Johnson show. Charlize Theron is a welcome addition as cyberterrorist Cipher, and both Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel reprise their roles as government agent Mr. Nobody and hacker Ramsey. One new casting choice that rubbed me the wrong way was the addition of Scott Eastwood as agent Little Nobody who (obviously) is also an expert driver. He is likable enough, but it really, really felt like he was brought in as an attempt to replace Brian (Paul Walker). I just wish the series would address that Brian is gone for good and retire his character in an honest and respectful way. I know it hurts (I was crying like a blubbering baby after Walker’s untimely death), but Brian needs to be killed off.

The plot has a few trademark surprise revelations (which I won’t spoil here), including a twist that creates an opening for a beloved character come back in future installments (fingers crossed)! But don’t stick around after the movie ends, as there’s no post-credit sequence.

What anchors this franchise is the exceptional chemistry from its cast, who have an overwhelming sincerity and loyalty to their onscreen personas as well as to each other in real life. The fact that these guys all truly love each other (with the exception of Johnson and Diesel, who famously had a big fight on set) leaps off the screen. The films are thrilling but they are also all about family, and you can’t help but smile, buckle in, and hang on for the next ride.

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“Moana”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Disney’s animated musical “Moana” is formulaic. Happily, it’s the new Disney formula rather than the old fashioned Disney formula. That’s to say that our strong, independent heroine doesn’t just sit around and wait for her prince charming.

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is a teenager living in the Pacific Islands with her sheltered family. When the natural reef, flora and fauna begin dying in her homeland, she sets off on an adventure (after being “chosen” by the ocean itself) to find the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in order to save her people. The feisty Moana is strong-willed, intelligent and kindhearted young woman, and is sure to be an inspiration to little girls (and boys) everywhere. There’s no Prince Charming love interest, and there’s a fun, magical focus on Polynesian culture and a distinctive sense of place.

Everything in this movie screams high quality, and all with an overwhelming sense of care and passion (several attributes that have been lacking from many recent Disney and Pixar films).

Cravalho and Johnson voice their characters with a contagious enthusiasm, both giving first-rate vocal performances. There are plenty of big, rousing musical numbers with catchy original tunes by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i. The music in this movie is going to be tough to beat because the songs are so creative in their lyrical rhythms and arrangements. The animation is magnificent and dazzling, and the visuals are textural, gorgeous to look at, and incredibly refined. At times I forgot I was watching an animated movie, and I longed to dip my toes in the crystal clear ocean where Moana and Maui sailed.

The movie isn’t dumbed down for idiot audiences either (okay, so there is an extended senseless scene with a tribe of warrior coconuts that had me rolling my eyes). Overall the entire film is a sophisticated, elegant and polished adventure.

“Central Intelligence”

LOUISA:  2 STARS  MATT:  3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are two of the most likeable people on the planet. I struggle to think of one person who doesn’t love either one or both of these men. Their charisma is one of the only things that works in “Central Intelligence,” the latest half-baked buddy comedy / action movie that Hollywood has churned out.

Johnson plays Bob, a former fat nerd who has since “worked out 6 hours a day, every day, for the last 20 years” and is seriously buff. When Bob travels back to town for his high school reunion, he looks up Calvin the “Golden Jet” (Hart), a popular jock who was always kind back in the day.

You can probably guess where this film is going — Calvin gets tied up in Bob’s CIA troubles, there’s some double crossing, lots of confusion, good guys are bad, bad guys good, yadda yadda yadda. The simple plot is pretty weak; I really wish these two guys had a better movie to work with. The movie is predictable, dumb and the laughs are scarce, but the two leads have a strong appeal that makes it impossible to totally hate this movie.

While the film simply sails along without much going on, there are still two things to like about it (other than the two leads). First, there’s a very strong and positive anti-bullying message at the core of the story. The movie teaches that it’s always right to do the kind thing, and I don’t think anyone can argue with that. Second, I thoroughly enjoyed some of the inspired surprise acting cameos.

There’s simply not enough that works to recommend the movie, but at least it’s good natured and has a heart of gold.

MATT SAYS:

The odd couple of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart team up to solve a mystery featuring espionage, intrigue, and plenty of double- and triple-crossing. Or something. Does it really matter? You had me at “Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.”

Seriously, who doesn’t like these guys? It was no surprise to me that the movie did huge business on Father’s Day: having gone to the movies that day, we saw packed theater after packed theater of dads out with their families, all of them seeing “Central Intelligence.”

So does it live up to expectations? Sort of. Both are likeable as always, and Johnson gets to do a bit of comedy – which has always been one of his strengths – and Kevin Hart does a good job playing off of him. I had some good laughs early on, but those started to gradually taper off towards the middle, virtually disappearing by the movie’s end. As a comedy, it’s a bit of a wash. No worse than your average Hollywood big summer action-comedy, but not much better, either.

Apart from the laughs, the story is just interesting enough to hold your attention, but it’s no “Pulp Fiction,” either. When the guys start to unravel the clues to figure out who is behind the attempted frame-up of Johnson’s characters, things get increasingly ridiculous and start to try your patience. Fortunately, it’s short enough that it never becomes completely boring.

“Central Intelligence” pairs well with a HALL 2013 Cabernet Franc. Yum!