Tag Archives: roland emmerich

‘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



‘Godzilla’ Roaring Good Fun

Godzilla_(2014)_posterRemember how excited (and relieved) you were when “Batman Begins” was released in 2005 because it helped to give you closure after the atrocity that was “Batman and Robin”? Well we now have “Godzilla”, which should put to rest the pain that the 1998 film of the same name left more than a decade ago.

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen, this reboot is yet another American take on the classic Japanese monster. Gareth Edwards, who directed the 2010 indie film “Monsters”, directs his first Hollywood picture here.

The 1998 Godzilla film wasn’t just bad; it has become a pop culture punchline. Directed by Roland Emmerich, the man known for disaster films, the film itself was a disaster.  It was stupid, loud and dumb, but above all else it did not do the title character justice. Luckily almost all is forgiven because the 2014 adaption had nowhere to go but up.

The 2014 Godzilla design itself is a return to form, and a very cool one at that. It looks more like a reptilian dinosaur, not whatever the heck the other thing was back in 1998. I don’t want to go into too much detail (I personally avoided trailers before seeing the film), but I think fans of the series and the creature will not be disappointed. They brought back the iconic Godzilla roar, and when he emerges from the ocean or through a cloud of smoke you can’t help but have shiver shoot down your spine.

Strangely enough, however, for a movie entitled “Godzilla”, the film focuses more on the human characters than Godzilla himself. Its a lot like how in “The Walking Dead” it isn’t about the zombies–sorry, walkers, its about the humans living in a world that happens to have walkers in it. If a monster movie is going to take that route then you have to be sure that you make the audience care about your characters and they are multi-dimensional. And does “Godzilla” do a good job with this? Well, yes and no.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, known for kicking ass in “Kick-Ass” (see what I did there? Yah, you get me), plays a soldier who is trying to get back to his family in San Francisco, but gets caught up in the military’s plan to destroy Godzilla. You care about Johnson as a person but you only see him with his family for one 10 minute scene, so it is hard to get an emotional attachment to them. It’s a lot like Brad Pitt in “World War Z”; you are told that he’s a family man and if he fails his mission it will be the end of the world, but in the end you only want him to succeed because he’s the main character.

The direction and cinematography of the film are both really solid, particularly when buildings are getting destroyed by Godzilla, and some of the shots that show one of the main characters locking eyes with the creature are very effective. The film’s biggest problem is pacing, which derives from an excess of subplots. The Army seems to have a few different plans to save the world but never feel obligated to share them with the audience, and then you have Bryan Cranston being a conspiracy nut and Taylor’s wife running around in the rain (seriously, about 80 percent of her screen time is running). If they had shrunk everything down and compacted it, I feel this would have been a much tighter and more enjoyable film.

“Godzilla” isn’t perfect, but it is better in every single aspect than the 1998 film, and is in fact everything I wanted “Pacific Rim” to be. The direction is creative, the acting is solid and the effects and designs are top notch. It may not be the king of the summer movie season, but “Godzilla” does get it off to a roaring good start.

Critics Rating: 7/10