Tag Archives: dwayne johnson

The Unfunny ‘Baywatch’ Isn’t Worth a Watch

Baywatch_posterStudios really need to stop trying to capture the “21 Jump Street” lightning in a bottle…


“Baywatch” is the R-rated big screen adaptation of the 1990s television series. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario star as members of a Florida lifeguard team that find drugs on their beach and take it upon themselves to investigate. Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass and Ilfenesh Hadera also star as Seth Gordon directs.


Adapting old TV shows into movies is nothing new, and taking a premise of a series and turning it into an over-the-top PG-13 or R-rated romp isn’t revolutionary, either. But ever since “21 Jump Street” burst onto the scene in 2012, studios have been trying (and failing) to duplicate its commercial and critical success. Even two months ago we had “CHIPS,” an unfunny and mean spirited film based on the California cops show from 1980. This time, we have Paramount casting Zac Efron and The Rock and sinking $69 million (more on that insane budget in a second) into a property they think people will recognize, however what they fail to do is surround their attractive cast with anything funny or exciting to do.


I guess I’ll start with what little good there is. Most of the cast is solid and seem to turn in relatively committed performances; at least considering the material they were given. I’ve been an Efron apologist for years and the “Neighbors” films showed that the man can in fact be funny, and here he is intermediately amusing. Dwayne Johnson is as charmable as ever with his big muscles and even bigger smile, although he continues to choose projects that are undeserving of his talents. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (say that five times fast) is probably the film’s bright spot, starring as the cop who keeps having to remind Johnson and company to stay in their lane and let the actual police do their jobs. He reminded me of Bashir Salahuddin from “Snatched” because while he only has a few scenes, he leaves the biggest impression and I can’t wait to see him in more.


The rest of the cast members are solid enough, but the females are mainly here to look attractive in two-piece bathing suits and tight dresses (of which they succeed) and the men are just supposed to look stupid and/or have good bodies (which, again, job well done on that front).


Most everything else here is a mess. I loved Seth Gordon’s “Horrible Bosses,” it’s one of my favorite comedies of all-time, but his other films are stinkers. I’m not sure if he is a one-hit wonder or what, but the man doesn’t seem to know how to direct a scene (or a film for that matter) to have any sort of rhythm or flow, and as such sequences drag on for far too long. A good comedy knows its purpose and each line of dialogue exists simply to build to the punchline. Films like 2016’s “Ghostbusters” are sluggish and unfunny because of all the riffing and randomly inserted insults in conversation; it ruins any flow. “Baywatch” goes for the easy laugh more often than not, and when you can see a joke coming it lessens its impact.


And ok. So this film’s budget. Apparently this cost $69 million to produce. Ignoring that I am 100% convinced the actual budget was $70 million but the producers found a way to save $1 million just so their budget would read “69,” this film shouldn’t cost that much. Hell, it shouldn’t cost half that much. I know Johnson is the highest paid actor in Hollywood so his quote is around $15 million but this film looks like it was made in 2004 for $20 million. The greenscreen is awful and distracting (how hard would it be to shoot on location in an actual boat?) and the fightscenes are way too up close and shaky. “Deadpool” cost $58 million and we all saw how (relatively) polished that turned out to be.


Look, “Baywatch” isn’t good. For some, it may have a guilty-pleasure way about it and sure, there were a few members of my audience who were dying laughing and clapped when the credits started rolling. But even for me, who has a record of going easy on comedies and chuckled enough throughout this to not hate it, there isn’t enough here to recommend you even check this one on cable. I guess you could say this is one bay that ain’t worth watching…


Critics Rating: 4/10

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

‘Fate of the Furious’ Too Dumb for its Own Good

fate of the furiousSomeone needs to start a petition to make studios put subtitles on the screen every time Vin Diesel speaks, I can only make out every fifth word that man says…

“The Fate of the Furious” is the eighth installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise (take a moment to let the fact we’re eight films and 16 years deep into this thing sink in), and follows Dominic Torretto (Diesel) who is blackmailed by a cyberterrorist (Charlize Theron) to go rogue against his team and steal weapons. Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood also star as F. Gary Gray takes over directors duties.

The best part of this film, much like the previous one, is Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. They both play off each other well and seem to be the only actors who truly know what kind of film they’re in and enjoy every minute of it; Kurt Russell also chews scenery as the covert ops leader. Russell, Johnson and Statham have other films and properties to fall back on and have excelled in comedies (I still think Statham didn’t get enough love for “Spy”) so they don’t take themselves too seriously and they’re great fun. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson have some witty banter back-and-forth, even if sometimes it comes at inappropriate moments or the jokes fall flat.

Like I said up top, Vin Diesel is as inaudible as ever and mumbles his way through another performance in the series that made him a household(ish) name. Some lines go completely undetectable while others are overacted and if it wasn’t for Scott Eastwood, Diesel would be the worst performance in the film (Eastwood is so annoying here).

The action is, for the most part, top notch as we’ve come to expect. F. Gary Gray takes over the director’s chair from James Wan and he stages some incredibly impressive set pieces, including one of the most ambitious of the series to date; let’s just say ludicrous isn’t just the name of a cast member. Ranging from a street race in Havana to a hundred car pile-up in New York City, the series has officially jumped the shark (if it somehow hadn’t already) and we are one step closer to “Fast and Furious in Space.”

The biggest problem “Fate of the Furious” has (aside from its acting, plot and dialogue) is its pacing; clocking in at 136 minutes, you certainly feel every second of the runtime. Scenes go on too long or just feel aimless, and by the time the climax is reached you’re close to exhaustion. And that aforementioned climax, much like “Fast & Furious 6” or “Furious 7,” features an elongated chase that just gets repetitive after a while, and at times defies even the most suspended of belief.

“The Fate of the Furious” is a hard film to critique because it’s a bad movie, but it knows it’s bad, and that’s part of its charm. With a $250 million budget it looks great and features some impressively staged sequences, but all too often I found myself teetering towards bored and that shouldn’t happen in a film that features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hanging out of a car to shove missile towards a submarine in artic Russia. Here’s the bottom line: if you love these movies, you’re going to like this one. If you’re like me and these films are just alright, then this is certainly one of the weaker installments. And if you enjoy logic and films obeying the laws of physics and gravity…well then you checked out about five movies ago.

Critics Rating: 5/10


‘Central Intelligence’ Funny but Tad Underwhelming

CentralIntelligencePosterTrying to decide if this movie is “Twins 2” or “Ride Along 3”…


“Central Intelligence” stars Dwayne Johnson as a former high school outcast who grows up to join the CIA and gets in contact with the coolest kid from his class (Kevin Hart) to help him on a mission. Amy Ryan also stars as Rawson Marshall Thurber directs and co-writes.


This was on my list of 2016’s most anticipated. I have jumped on The Rock’s bandwagon (the dude is just so damn charming), I enjoyed director Thurber’s first two efforts (“Dodgeball” and “We’re the Millers”) and even though I have only like him in small doses, I continue to hold out hope Kevin Hart has a great movie in him. This may not be that great movie, but overall it is one of Hart’s better ones.


If you’ve seen the trailers for this then you know exactly what you’re getting into. Kevin Hart will do his shrieking thing, Johnson will smile and wink while flexing his muscles and they’ll stroll through a simple buddy cop plot. The film makes no (intentional) efforts to throw any wrenches into the formula so depending on how forgiving a filmgoer you are, this could be a fun summer time at the movies.


Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have solid chemistry together, which is good because if they hadn’t this thing would have collapsed on top of itself. Hart actually tones it down and doesn’t go on many high pitched rants as normal, and instead plays the straight man of the duo. It was a nice change of pace which made his trademark outbursts even more enjoyable.


As good as he is interacting with Hart, Johnson is more of a mixed bag. His character is a big man-child and when we first meet his character I thought it was just a charade; but nope, he talks like he is 12 for the entire film. It works in some scenes, and you can somewhat empathize with him because of how he was bullied in high school, but it teetered on annoying for most of the film.


Like I said earlier, I enjoy Thurber’s other two films. Both “Dodgeball” and “Millers” are gleefully stupid, but they have so many laughs and run at such a quick pace that you overlook the lack of intelligence (CENTRAL intelligence! *clears throat*) because they’re so damn enjoyable. This time around, as many solid belly chuckles as there are (and the film has its fair share), there aren’t enough big laughs to make you forgive the formulaic plot or lazy handling of the narrative. The middle of the film drags and the whole thing feels longer than 107 minutes.


The best way I can summarize “Central Intelligence” is like this: Kevin Hart’s character goes from prom king and voted “most likely to succeed” to working as an accountant. While he admits it isn’t a bad job, he feels he isn’t reaching his potential. That it “Central Intelligence;” it is a fine enough film that does its job, but given the talent assembled it could have been great.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘San Andreas’ a Rock-Solid Disaster Flick

San_Andreas_posterWell, my California summer vacation plans may have just have taken a hit.

“San Andreas” follows Dwayne Johnson as a rescue-helicopter pilot who must travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) to save their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) after the San Andreas Fault causes largest earthquake of all-time. Brad Peyton directs.

Contrary to what you may think, it isn’t easy to make a dumb, fun disaster film; Roland Emmerich has been trying and failing for years. But “San Andreas” manages, for the most part, to be an engaging and visually awe-inspiring tale of mayhem and natural destruction, thanks to a charismatic lead and some steady direction.

On paper, “San Andreas” looks like just another Emmerich film, ala “2012” or “The Day After Tomorrow”. You have a huge, unstoppable natural disaster that is going to wipe out important cities, and a father figure must race through the chaos to save his child. However there is one thing this film has that no Emmerich film ever has: a larger-than-life lead actor holding everything together.

Dwayne Johnson is the perfect actor for this role, and the film needed someone charismatic and physically dominating like Johnson at its center, as half the film is him driving, whether it is in a helicopter, truck, or plane (he eventually rides a boat, too, to complete the “Will The Rock Drive Every Type of Vehicle?” game). Of the flaws this film has, certainly none of them are Johnson’s…fault. [drops mic]

[picks up mic in order to continue the review]

From a visual perspective, Peyton and his crew deserve major props. We’ve seen earthquakes tear down towers and tsunamis wash out major cities before, however there was just something about the way “San Andreas” is shot that really makes you feel the magnitude (ha. Puns) of the situation. There was one shot in particular (it’s in the trailer but no less awesome) of Los Angeles literally rolling like a flag on a windy day. It’s a massive shot, but intimate all at once, as if you look at specific parts you see buildings exploding or palm trees falling.

Now as much as I have talked this film up, let’s get one thing straight: this is still a dumb disaster film. The dialogue is cheesy, the plot and characters are cookie-cutter, and some narrative points are lacking. Example of all three:

Dialogue: when Paul Giamatti’s scientist character realizes the quake is about to strike, his colleague asks who they should call. Out loud I said “please don’t say ‘everyone’”. But of course he said it, and all that was missing was him turning to the camera and removing glasses before delivering the line.

Cookie-cutter: there is the resourceful daughter, the reluctantly divorced dad, the jerk new boyfriend; you name it, and the character is in here. And they all live about how long you think they will in a movie like this.

Narrative: both LA and San Francisco are rocked by massive earthquakes simultaneously. Instead of implementing real-world post-earthquake problems like fires, looting, or lack of supplies, the film decides it will double down and announce to the audience (thus erasing even the element of surprise) that an even bigger quake is coming, just so it can showcase more destruction (and it starts to feel like an afterthought by the film’s climax).

For what it is, I really enjoyed “San Andreas”, even as a single tear rolled down my face watching my precious Los Angeles being torn apart—er, I mean, as I got pumped with testosterone watching things blow up. Look, here’s the bottom line: if you are able to overlook the scientific impossibilities of the film (which start early on as the Hoover Dam is destroyed by a 7.1 earthquake despite being built to stand up to an 8.0—just saying), then this film is for you.

It isn’t art and it won’t rock your world (THAT WAS A DWAYNE JOHNSON *AND* EARTHQUAKE PUN!), but if you can overlook its clichés and by-the-numbers storytelling and look at it for what it is, “San Andreas” is solid. Rock solid.

Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Hercules’ Much More Brawn than Brain

Hercules_(2014_film)            Because there truly are no original ideas left in Hollywood, we now have the second film in 2014 about the legendary mythical character of Hercules. The first movie, which few people remember and even fewer liked, was released in January. This second attempt features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the titular role, so it should be awesome right? (That was rhetorical)

Directed by Brett Ratner, “Hercules” follows The Rock as a sword-for-hire, having completed his legendary twelve labours. When a king’s daughter approaches Hercules to save her father’s kingdom, his skills will be put to the test. Ian McShane and John Hurt costar.

Walking into a film directed by Ratner and starring Dwayne Johnson in a loincloth and sandals, one shouldn’t have very high expectations. However I still expected more than what this film ends up delivering.

The world of Greek myths and gods is an incredibly immersing one, and has created some amazing stories and movies. And this telling of Hercules takes an interesting twist on the legend, implying that perhaps Hercules really is a mortal man, and his legendary triumphs are just that: legend. But instead of taking these questions somewhere, the film breezes over all of the stories and confirms them as fact or fiction in the first 10 minutes of the film, leaving the rest of the time for you to simply wonder what could come next. No, literally wonder what could be possibly be next; most everything shown in the trailers are part of the opening montage.

Johnson does a solid job as Hercules however he is given surprisingly little to do. He is pretty one-note, just having to play the solider with bulging muscles who yells things during battle. Many of the other performances range from hammy to awkward, especially those of the princess and her son. Both shriek and scream most of their dialogue (in distracting British accents, I might add), and you actually debate rooting for the villains when the two are put in danger. Plus, a lot of the characters have that forced, unfunny Brett Ratner humor, which rivals Michael Bay for the worst in films.

There are two main battle sequences in the film, and both are shot well by Ratner, especially by PG-13 standards, so I must give him props there. There isn’t an overabundance of shaky-cam or slowmo, and there are a few fun camera shots that put you in the action. However in both instances the scenes overstay their welcome, and become redundant and derivative instead of exciting and invigorating.

The special effects are nothing special, the dialogue is at times abysmal and the story flips between rushed and underdeveloped. I went in wanting an over-the-top sword-and-sandal blockbuster and “Hercules” doesn’t delivery even that. The Rock tries his best but it was just too big a Herculean task (pats self on back) to save this drawn out, and awkwardly paced, adventure that we’ve seen many, many times before.

Critics Rating: 4/10