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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Rundown (2003)

Stay at home. It’s less violent.

Beck (Dwayne Johnson) may be, in certain words, a “retrieval expert”, but really what he is, is a very trained, very specialized and when push comes to shove, very violent assassin who is always and capable of getting the job done without a scratch. However, while these jobs do bring in the dough, what Beck really aspires to be is an owner of his own restaruant, where he can tangle with all sorts of lovely and exotic food, where he doesn’t have to answer to anyone else, except for himself. But until then, Beck’s going to have to put up with a lot of garbage from those he works for, like for instance, his latest mission where he has to go looking for the son (Seann William Scott) of an underworld kingpin, after he disappears in the Amazon looking for a priceless artifact. While Beck does find the guy right away, the two soon realize that they’ll both have to fight their way through the Brazilian jungle, running into all sorts of dangerous characters, one of whom is a wealthy mine owner (Christopher Walken), who doesn’t take kindly to outsiders.

The Rundown looks a lot like every lame action-comedy from the early-aughts that tried so hard to relive the charm and fun of the 90’s and 80’s, but sadly, doesn’t come even close. Heck, it was even one of the first films WWE Studios ever produced, so if that doesn’t already tell you what to expect, then lord knows what will.

Who needs a Rose?

Who needs a Rose?

But surprisingly, it’s a tad bit smarter than what it appears to be and sometimes, that creates the best action and comedy.

For the most part, the Rundown gets by solely on the fact that it never seems to take itself all that seriously. From the very beginning, we get to hear the inner-monologue of Johnson’s character and realize that, “Oh, this is going to be a silly movie.” However, it’s not that kind of faux-silliness we see most of these movies try to get by with, but just seem so phony and fake, it doesn’t quite connect. Peter Berg has definitely made a name for himself taking on hard-hitting, emotionally complex true life events for the big-screen, but back before all of that, he got his start directing a pretty goofy action-comedy that feels like a product of the era it’s trying to emulate, as opposed to the one that it came out of.

Of course, this is something that perhaps only true action-nerds will care about, but it’s what matters most as it gives a little something more to all of the violence, bloodshed, guns, action, explosions, and cursing going on. Not that there’s anything wrong with having all of those elements in the first place, but sometimes, it’s best to have a little something more going on underneath it all to make it seem like you’re not just going for all of the action and intensity, but also trying to tell something of a story, with good characters and a nice, simple message about friends, family, and love.

Or then again, maybe not.

In the case of the Rundown, it doesn’t quite matter, because the movie does get the small things right. Even though the movie itself had to go through some re-edits to secure something of a PG-13 rating, it doesn’t quite show; some blood and gore may have been digitally taken out and oh yeah, cursing has definitely been dubbed over, but regardless, it doesn’t feel like the heart and soul of this movie has been taken from it. It seems like it was always meant to just be a fun movie, regardless of how much viciousness there originally was within it and sometimes, that’s all you need for your action movie to succeed at what it’s doing. It doesn’t matter how formulaic, or silly you can get, but how well you can keep the action moving and sustaining each and every person’s attention-span for the time being.

Which yes, the Rundown does a very fine job with doing, formula and convention aside.

When you've got a Scott? Seann William, to be exact?

When you’ve got a Scott? Seann William, to be exact?

Like I said with Berg, though, can be said about Johnson – while he’s definitely seen as the biggest star in the world we’ve got, there was, at one point in time, when studios were trying their absolute hardest to pass him off as anything but the Rock. In fact, the Rundown feels like a nice little piece of history, seeing how all the charisma and spunk that he shows just about every single second, of every single day, wasn’t quite worked-out just yet; Beck is a sympathetic and silly character, but he’s also got a little bit of a heart to him that Johnson tries to take on, but can’t quite nail. It’s a good performance from Johnson, but as we all know, he would continue to toy away and away at it, eventually nailing that screen-persona we all know and love nowadays.

Same goes with Seann William Scott who has, unfortunately, seems nowhere to be found. Regardless, he’s good here and has a very good chemistry with Johnson, playing off the fact that he’s smaller and less chiseled than his co-star, but without making it seem too gimmick-y. Christopher Walken also shows up and seems to be having a very joyous time playing a bad guy for once and Rosario Dawson’s here, too, who is, unfortunately, not very good. However, it seems to be the case that her character wasn’t quite there to begin with, but because producers probably got worried by the idea of having a whole movie dedicated to two, sweaty and dirty dudes in the jungle together, there needed to be a romantic love-interest thrown in there somewhere for good keeping. Dawson tries with what she’s got, but yeah, the movie may have been able to live on without her.

Sorry, Rose. You still rock.

Consensus: Without taking itself too seriously, the Rundown can be a very fun and charming action-comedy that showcases what was to come of Dwayne Johnson.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and you've got a Rock, too.

Oh yeah, and you’ve got a Rock, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert, Explosions Are Rad, This or That Edition

Moana (2016)

Tattooed-men aren’t so scary after all.

Ever since she was just a little girl, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has always longed for the outside world. She, her family, and the countless other folks have been living on this one single island, far away from the rest of the world, surviving all on their own and never running into any issues. However, it seems like all of their worst nightmares are coming true, when all of a sudden, the food starts to go bad on the island and the fish are nowhere to be found. Moana believes that the best way to get this finished is to set out and find the once-mighty demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who may be able to finally save their island and ensure that nobody dies. But getting from point A, to point B, is very difficult and along the way, both Maui and Moana run into all sorts of issues, whether it’s with fellow travelers, or with one another.

Disney princess? Maybe.

A Disney princess to kick all of the other’s asses.

No matter what, there’s no denying that Moana has some pretty great tunes. Getting Lin-Manuel Miranda definitely helps as all of the songs, whether serious or funny, all have a very fun sound and feel to them, that not only shows that some real effort was put into them, but they weren’t just used for filler. Most of the time, with these musicals, it can sometimes feel like the songs barely serve a purpose, other than to just have the voice-actor show off their pipes, but here, each and every song serves a purpose, whether it’s to give insight into a certain character, or give us a better idea of just what the hell they’re thinking at that one exact moment in time.

Sure, there’s no “Let it Go” to be found here, but is that such an issue?

Regardless, the music of Moana is so good that, honestly, it wasn’t hard to wish that the whole movie had just been one, long musical, from beginning to end, without any breaths, pauses, or sighs anywhere to be found. Cause despite all of the hype surrounding it, not only is Moana a very conventional tale that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it can also get kind of boring and random; after awhile, all of the fantasy elements seem to come out of nowhere in a way that makes you think that the people behind the flick are just making things up because, well, why not. After all, they’re making a movie for little kids and sometimes, making sense or having a rhyme/reason for doing the things that you do, just shouldn’t matter.

But yeah, to be honest, Moana itself is a little boring – the adventure can sometimes be fun and the various evil-doers that they meet along the way do prove some real creativity and spark within the writer’s room, but for the most part, it felt very plodding to me. It honestly seemed like they had the songs written, performed and knew what they were working with, so instead of creating a great story first and throwing all of the songs in there, they just used the songs to connect the dots. I could definitely be wrong, but from afar, this seems to have happened, with a good portion of the story seeming like an excuse just to get to the next musical-sequence and keep everyone awake.

The ocean just spoke to her. Or something weird and sort of insane like that.

The ocean just spoke to her. Or something weird and sort of insane like that.

And yeah, I get it, I’m definitely a Grinch for not being in love with this movie. I get it.

It’s not even like the movie isn’t great to look at, because it is; Disney seems to be getting more and more visually appealing each and every time, combining different animation styles, almost to the point of where things begin looking like real life. And the voice-acting from the whole gang, especially Johnson as the sometimes prickish Maui, is actually all good, but honestly, they’re sort of wasted on a story that does random things for the sake of moving itself along. It has a clear objective that we can all see from the start, which is normally fine, but getting there doesn’t have to be such a slog, does it?

Better yet, it doesn’t have to be such a conventional one, right? Either way, Moana reminds me why animated movies can sometimes be real great when they have a smart head on their shoulders and actually care about what they’re doing, and why they can be so annoying to watch when the exact opposite is happening. Hopefully this isn’t a constant thing with Disney.

Consensus: With great visuals and some very catchy tunes, Moana can be entertaining, however, also has a very conventional story that sometimes doesn’t make sense, nor seem like it wants to, all in favor of just getting to the next track.

6 / 10

Yeah, don't mess.

Yeah, don’t mess.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

Central Intelligence (2016)

Buddy-comedies are severely lacking in muscle-bound weirdos.

Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was the most popular guy in high school. His nickname was “the Golden Jet”, he was homecoming king, and he did this awesome back-flip that made everyone go crazy. Essentially, he was the man. However, after high school, he never really amounted to much. He works as a drone at an accounting firm and seems to be having problems with his wife. But now with the 20 year reunion looming on the horizon, Cavin gets a random message from a former classmate of his – the nerdy and obese Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), who hasn’t been seen, or heard from since he was publicly shamed at the homecoming pep-rally. Now, though, Bob is jacked, muscular and absolutely willing to kick anyone’s ass, even if he’s still a little weird and really clingy to Calvin. Why? Well, because Calvin was the only nice kid to Bob when nobody else was. And when they’re hanging out, Calvin and Bob are having the times of their lives, until the CIA rolls up, guns a blazin’, wanting Bob’s life, and accusing him of all sorts of wrongdoings, with poor Calvin in the middle of it all.

Get it? He's more muscular and manly than him! A ha!

Get it? He’s more muscular and manly than him! A ha!

If there was ever a comedian whose stand-up I absolutely love, adore and get a kick out of, every time I watch it, it’s Kevin Hart. However, if there was a comedian whose stand-up I love, but whose movies are pretty awful, it’s still Kevin Hart. Dwayne Johnson is sort of in the same boat; while I love his persona in and out of the ring, his movies tend to be “meh” at the very best. Sure, he’s had some winners, but really, they don’t always offer a lot for him to do, except occasionally be charming, yet, always look big, tough and as muscular as a normal human being can look.

You’d think that together, they’d make a movie that’s just as lame as their own respective projects, which, if you did, you’d be wrong.

In fact, I was quite wrong here and you know what? I’m glad. See, Central Intelligence is the typical blockbuster, big-budget, buddy-action flick that’s going to make tons of money because of its stars and that’s all fine and dandy, but honestly, we’ve seen that manipulative system been done before. Does it make the studios richer? Well, yes, but it still takes away from the fact that you have two great stars, teaming up together in something and you give them absolutely nothing to work with.

And sure, you could sort of make the same argument about Johnson and Hart in Central Intelligence, but honestly, it’s a tad different. For one, they both have some funny material to work through, even if it doesn’t always deliver or hit the right notes. While some of the jokes are standard and never really laugh-out-loud material, what Hart and Johnson are able to do, what with their charismatic and lovable personas, is make the material better by just being together, side-by-side, on the screen, and appearing as if they’re having the greatest times of their lives.

That’s why a lot of Central Intelligence works – these two are so fun and lovely to watch, that when you put them together, it’s actually quite joyous to watch as they’re chemistry builds and builds over time. Although Hart is playing the straight man here, he still dials it down to just the right notch where he isn’t a totally boring simpleton; a lot of the yelling, the fast-talking, and schticky things that we usually know and sometimes, love, him for, are here, but they aren’t dialed-up to eleven, as they have been in other movies that solely rely on him. Central Intelligence isn’t that movie, because, after all, it has Dwayne Johnson to work with and he’s having an absolute ball.

And everyone’s better off because of it.

Get it? He's goofier than him! A ha!

Get it? He’s goofier than him! A ha!

Johnson’s very funny here, as he has definitely been in the past; imagine him in Be Cool, but with some better jokes and plotting for him to roll with. But there’s more to the character of Bob, that makes Johnson’s performance better. For instance, the fact that Bob himself is still, when you get down to it, a sad, lonely and embarrassed 18-year-old chubby kid, even if he does look like the Rock. It’s quite funny and could have definitely been overplayed, but Johnson finds just the right fit for this role because he fully commits himself to this kind of silly, effeminate role, without ever making it seem like he’s above the material, or actually in on the joke that’s happening.

And yes, it deserves to be said that Central Intelligence, when it isn’t featuring a whole bunch of car-chases, guns, shootings, and bloodless, PG-13 violence, it does try to be serious and melodramatic, and it doesn’t quite work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see that there was an effort on the part of everyone involved to make this more than just your typical broad, buddy-comedy, but at the same time, it still doesn’t quite hit its mark. If anything, the movie can sometimes feel like it’s straining itself to be “important”, or “about something”, and it just feels honed in.

Granted, I didn’t want to be bothered with anymore of the CIA-conspiracy plot, but still, there’s definitely some stuff that could have been trimmed-down here, or at the very least, taken out altogether. Still, I’ll take what I can get with this summer and if that’s the case, then Central Intelligence was just fine.

Fine enough to make me forget that Kevin Hart movies tend to suck.

Consensus: Building off the wonderful and playful chemistry between Johnson and Hart, Central Intelligence isn’t always funny, but definitely features some nice bits of humor, to weigh out all of the senseless action, twists, and turns that we don’t really care about in the first place.

6 / 10

Get it? He's taller than him! Woo-wee!

Get it? He’s taller than him! Woo-wee!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

San Andreas (2015)

Can’t help but wonder how another Johnson may have survived.

Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) makes a living off of saving people’s lives. Not only is it his calling in life, but it’s what he loves to do. However, because of this love in his life, he’s sort of forgotten about other loves in his life that may mean a lot more, such as his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), and wife (Carla Gugino), who has now just handed Ray divorce papers, even while she’s spending time with new boyfriend, Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). While this is all happening though, an a monstrous earthquake is forming right underneath everyone and throws all of California into an insane frenzy. While Ray has a job to do, his first and most important priority is finding his daughter and his wife, which he will try and complete using all of the smarts and skills that he has at his disposal. However, as local seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) soon figures out: There may not be enough time to save yourself.

Believe it or not, San Andreas was not directed by Roland Emmerich. And honestly, I’m so happy for that. It’s not because director Brad Peyton does such a stellar job that he should be praised for days-on-end, but it’s because Emmerich’s kind of disaster movies seem to get so tired, old, and repetitive, that by the time all of the destruction and mayhem is over, it hardly even matters. While the same situation could have easily happened with San Andreas, Peyton finds a smart way to keep that from happening, solely by just keeping all of the destruction and mayhem as fun, exciting and insane as possible, therefore, hardly ever allowing for it to lose its muster.

"Come with me if you want to Rock."

“Come with me if you want to Rock.”

Something that, once again, Roland Emmerich wouldn’t be able to contain himself away from.

But that isn’t to say that Peyton gets away from this movie clean and free, without any problems to be found whatsoever, because that just isn’t the truth. In fact, there’s a lot about San Andreas that doesn’t feel right; like, for instance, the fact that one moment, we could be cheering because of a heroic action that a character just made, and then, moments later, see digital human beings be utterly destroyed by whatever carnage just so happened to find them. In a way, it’s almost like, rather than focusing on this one, small story, we should be focusing on the whole grand spectrum, and how basically each and every person in California is being wiped out beyond belief.

Also, there’s an odd feeling that even though we’re told and shown that Ray’s main job is to help save people from any sorts of disasters, we sort of see him abandon this job once all of the earthquakes begin. This is understandable, because obviously, family comes first, but what about the few ten or fifteen people you see along the way of finding your family that may or may not need some saving? Are they not good enough? Or significant? Or did the budget not allow for anymore actors to be hired?

Whatever the reason may have been, it’s a bit odd.

Then again, though, San Andreas is just another silly blockbuster, that also happens to be a disaster movie and doesn’t let up on that later element. And thankfully so, because this is actually what begins to save the fact that a lot of what happens is nutty, but it hardly ever becomes numbing. Though earthquakes occur quite often in the near-two hour time-limit, they never bummed me out. Part of that has to do with the fact that it took us away from more moments where the movie tried to make itself into a touching, heartfelt message movie about fathers, daughters, and marriage, but also, because Peyton find some new, impressive ways to make sure that all of the odds were stacked-up against our protagonists.

Does that mean they weren’t able to defeat them? No, but hey! It’s hard to care for all of that when you’re just having a good time.

Once they both realize she's the girl from True Detective, things will get a whole lot more interesting.

Once they both realize she’s the girl from True Detective, things will get a whole lot more interesting.

And with Dwayne Johnson, how could you not? Honestly, if you weren’t already convinced that Johnson is one of the most unabashedly charming fellas on the face of the planet by now, check out San Andreas and come back to me. This doesn’t mean that Johnson himself is doing anything ground-breaking with his work here, but it’s hard to not break a smile on your face whenever he’s around. Sometimes, he says something witty and makes you laugh, other times, he’s actually showing that there’s something of a heart and soul underneath all of that muscle and testosterone.

But Johnson helps make a lot of this movie work because he at least adds some legitimacy and fun to what happens here. Whereas the movie could have easily been a boring, uneventful slug of one disaster sequence, after another, Johnson finds ways to pop up, remind you that he’s around, and that, no matter how much destruction occurs, he’s always around to save the day. Also, surprisingly, he and Carla Gugino share a solid chemistry together that works even when they’re fighting, or when they’re coming back together as a couple; something that made the movie a little bit more interesting.

Then, of course, there’s Paul Giamatti who, like Johnson, is just here to remind everybody that he’s able to make whatever he does, better just by showing up. Giamatti doesn’t have much to do here other than yell, warn people about upcoming Earthquakes, and hide underneath desks, but he does so well with it, that it never gets old. And despite playing a character nearly nine years younger than her own self, Alexandra Daddario does a solid job as Blake, showing that she isn’t the damsel in distress who always needs somebody to save her life; she can figure situations out and more often than not, outsmart those around her.

The perfect woman, basically.

Consensus: As silly as it may be, San Andreas is a lot like other disaster movies in that it doesn’t hold back on all of the insane destruction or mayhem, but also benefits from the always engaging presence of Dwayne Johnson.

6.5 / 10

Prepare for plenty of Rock Bottoms, Earth's core.

Prepare for plenty of Rock Bottoms, Earth’s core.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Furious 7 (2015)

People can be violent, but cars are nearly worse.

The gang’s all back, but this time, it’s personal! Soon after their buddy is killed by a notorious thug by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – a brother of one of their former foes – Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) realize that it’s time to get vengeance in the only way they know best. But before doing so, they get a proposition from a special agent (Kurt Russell): Help him retrieve a piece of spy software from a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and he will more than make sure that Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew get that sweet taste of revenge that they’ve been clamoring for after all of this time has passed. However, there are other problems going on from within the group where Dom can’t seem to get Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to remember their past together for what it was, nor can Brian seem to tear himself away from the wacky, wild life of crime that’s always attracted him for so long, even if he’s know settled-down with a wife (Jordana Brewster) and kid. Will the crew stay fast? Furious? Or neither?

So yeah, already going into this installment, there’s plenty to be discussed. With the tragic passing of Paul Walker nearly a-year-and-a-half ago, everything that was initially planned for Furious 7, from the release date, to the plot, were all scrapped and made anew. Which makes total sense. Walker wasn’t some sort of bit player in this franchise that showed up every so often to utter some witty line that would get the whole crowd laughing at how likable he is; he was, literally, the heart and soul of this franchise. Without him, it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it has, which is both a blessing and a curse.

And they're not beating the hell out of each other, because.......?

And they’re not beating the hell out of each other, because…….?

A curse because the movie’s are dumb, over-the-top, ridiculous, and represent everything that is wrong with American’s society of masculinity. On the flip-side, though, it’s also a blessing because these movies, at least in the case for the last three installments, are so much fun, seem to never lose sight of just how illogical they are, and hardly ever apologize for it. Fast & Furious movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, and that’s where the real charm lies.

Hence why Paul Walker, all of his acting talents aside, was perfectly-suited for this franchise, no matter what it threw at him, or where it threw him.

With that being said, Furious 7 is a pretty raucous time. While I may not be saying anything new that hasn’t already been uttered by millions and millions of people from around the world, there’s still something interesting to note about a franchise in which the movies seem to constantly get better and one-up the one that came before it. Fast Five started this trend of the franchise going towards more action-fare, rather than just making it all about hot cars, hot men, hot women, and hot bodies, and the sixth film absolutely went for it all and, for the most part, came out on top.

While Furious 7 may not be better than the sixth movie, it’s still pretty damn close because it never forgets what it is: A mindless piece of action-fare that audiences will pay dozens of dollars for. Though this sounds easy (because, quite frankly, Michael Bay’s been doing it for the past two decades now), looking at some films, it’s actually not. Last year’s utterly forgettable and boring Need for Speed tried so desperately to pull-off the same sort of magic that the Fast franchise has been pulling off for quite some time and it failed miserably. That movie wanted to be silly, insane and ludicrous beyond belief, whereas the Fast movies are exactly that, but they don’t ever seem to be trying.

Not to mention that they actually do feature a dude a named Ludacris.

But because Furious 7 knows what it’s all about, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t. Though there are a chock-full of scenes dedicated to these thinly-written, one-dimensional characters breaking down all sorts of barriers and getting dramatic with one another, these scenes are quickly dismissed as soon as they show up. Also, too, it makes sense that we need at least some sort of character-development to help make things seem fully rounded-out and not just *crash*, *bang*, *boom* all of the darn time. While this would have been fun, let’s be realistic here: No movie franchise with its seventh-installment is going to totally shelve its characters for their beyond-nuts action sequences.

Just get used to it and move on. That’s what I did and it worked well.

It worked well because, once I realized that every problem these characters had didn’t really matter much in the grander scheme of things, the action just got a whole lot better and more exciting. Though you’d think these movies would have already run-out of ideas on how to set-up action sequences and still, somehow, be able to utilize automobiles in some sort of fashion, director James Wan proves you damn wrong. With scenes depicting cars flying through the sky with parachutes and even scenes where cars go flying through three buildings, this franchise continues to give us something new and fun to feast our eyes and ears onto.

Not a Rock Bottom, but it'll do.

No Rock Bottom, but it’ll do.

And honestly, the sky is the limit from here on out. No matter how many times this movie tries to break actual science, it won’t lose any bit of respect because the rules have already been set-in place: There are no rules. Cars can literally fly through the sky; people can literally shoot their guns till the cows come home and never run out of ammunition; jets can literally glide around downtown LA without there being hardly any interference from the Army of any sort. Literally, anything can happen in these movies and because of that, they never lose an ounce of momentum; they just continue to build up and up on it some more until it feels like, you know, we may have had enough adrenaline for one day.

And really, the same rules apply to the characters, as well. Like I said before, none of these characters here are inherently interesting or well-written, but they exist in a universe that loves them all so very much, that it’s hard to look down upon them for being “types”. Like the movies they exist in, you just accept them for what they are, let them do their thing and move on.

It’s quite easy, really.

Meaning, when you accept them, you have to accept Vin Diesel’s garbled growling; Michelle Rodriguez’s resting bitch face; Dwayne Johnson to be wearing Under Amour every time he is on-screen and trying so hard not to break kayfabe; Jordana Brewster just being “there”; Ludacris and Tyrese to be the goofy sidekicks that everyone can rely on for comedy and not really anything serious to contribute to the plot; and, most of all, Paul Walker’s ability to just be the “everyman” in every scene he’s in. Because even though newcomers to this franchise like Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and especially, a deliciously evil Jason Statham all acquit themselves perfectly into this movie, strut their stuff and show us what they’re more than able to bring to the creative table, it’s Walker who still leaves the most lasting impression. He isn’t trying to, either – he just is.

And somehow, there’s a small bit of beauty in that.

Consensus: Like every other installment of the franchise, Furious 7 is as ridiculous and nonsensical as you can get, but still a whole bunch of fun, treating fans to everything that they could ever want with one of these movies, and then some, especially with the emotional tribute to Paul Walker – the one true face of this franchise.

8 / 10

Ride on, brotha.

Ride on, brotha.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hercules (2014)

The stone age totally needed a whole lot more Rock Bottoms.

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) was born as a demigod; meaning he was both a human, as well as powerful, immortal God. And while there have been constant stories whispered in the shadows about him and all of the numerous battles he has won, not everybody’s sure as to what the true story is. Is he a human after all, that can live and die just like us? Or, is he simply a God-like human who was put on this Earth to protect those who need him the most? He doesn’t answer that, nor does any of his long legion of trusted associates, who join him along on every mission/task he has. Their latest “adventure” of sorts, is from Cotys, King of Thrace (John Hurt) who propositions them with a hefty amount of gold, in which all they have to do is train his army to be the most ruthless, fearless army on the planet, as well as be able to help him overtake these other armies that have been ruining his various lands. Hercules doesn’t like to be considered a “mercenary”, even though he totally is, but he takes the job anyway and somehow finds himself connecting with the King’s daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) and starting to realize that something may not be all that fine with this mission. Something rather mysterious seems to be going on, actually.

Apparently, earlier in the year, there was another big-budget Hercules reboot that starred Kellan Lutz and while I heard nothing special about it, nor had any intentions of seeing it (it was January after all), it made me think about how, once again, Hollywood seemed to be running out of original/innovative ideas. Last year, it was two “secret-service-men-saves-president-from-terrorists” movie; now this year, it’s two Hercules movies. One starring a male model, the other, starring the Rock.

"Who turned the lights on?!?!?"

“Who turned the lights on?!?!?”

Which one do you think is better?

My thoughts exactly.

See, because while I do sneer at the fact that this is a movie directed by Brett Ratner, for some reason, that never bothered me during this movie. Sure, Ratner doesn’t necessarily have a certain style or trademark that allows his movies to be considered “his own” (except that most of them blow), but you know when you’re watching a movie and it happens to be bad, which as a result, also ends up being directed by Brett Ratner. So when I actually walked into this movie, I wasn’t feeling to happy. Dwayne Johnson (I guess I’ll give up and just call him that from now on) is always somebody I can smile about seeing, but Brett Ratner? No thank you very much on that!

Somehow though, the movie worked for me, which may, or may not have anything to do with the fact that Brett Ratner was the one sitting behind the camera (presumably doing cocaine off of hooker’s asses). A part of me wants to say it is, but another part of me still wants to fight it and not give into the idea that a movie coming from the sweaty, hairy palms of Brett Ratner, might actually be considered “good”. And the only reason why I highlight this fact so much, is because the movie’s a whole bunch of fun and shows that, despite his terrible reputation amongst those in the biz, Brett Ratner is capable of directing a “good” movie; better yet, he’s actually capable of a directing a “fun” movie.

And with the story of Hercules and Dwayne Johnson in the lead, you really do need some element of fun to keep everything moving surely and fine. Which, here, usually consists of us watching as Johnson lurks around the screen like the huge, HGH-fueled monster that he is, occasionally making jokes, cracking a grin, patting little aspiring boys on their heads, and, every once and a blue moon, freaking out from his troubled-past. But, for the most part, this movie just consists of him kicking ass with every inch of his square body and if you’re like me and grew up on seeing that occur on a daily basis, then yeah, this movie’s going to be a total blast for you.

If you aren’t used to seeing the People’s Champion lay the smackdown on some jabronis, then you may want to watch the 1995 Disney-animated flick. That has a lot more substance than this movie, and is perfect if you’re looking for something with more of a deeper meaning. Because here, you’re not really going to find it, although the movie totally does try and ultimately, fails. In fact, the only times where I really felt like I may have lost total interest, is exactly when the characters started talking, getting all dramatic and focusing on Hercules’ problems. I get that the movies needs those elements in order to round the character out some more and not just be an non-stop barrage of violence, action, and arrows, but it could have been done slightly better. Then again, you could say that about any movie really.

"Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!"

“Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!”

Like I was saying about Johnson earlier though, the man is perfectly fine as Hercules – he’s never really called on to do any heavy-lifting that may result in him popping a blood vessel or pulling a groin muscle – he’s mostly just told to look tough, be his usual charming-self whenever the script calls on it, and be willing to kick anybody’s ass. He does that oh so perfectly here, which isn’t really a surprise at all, considering he’s done it for about his whole entire career. And we, as a society, are so much better for it, too. Wrestling fans, or not.

And like how it is for Johnson in the lead role, the rest of the cast isn’t really called onto do much either. Except this time, they have to be a bit more cheery and likable. Which, when you have a supporting cast that includes the likes of John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, and Ian McShane, do you really expect much else? No, not really. Just like you sure as hell don’t expect Brett Ratner to make something that could be considered “good”, but hey, here we are.

The world is chock full of surprises, ain’t it?

Consensus: With Brett Ratner at the helm, and Dwayne Johnson in the lead sporting a loincloth and a club by his side, Hercules is exactly what you’d expect from it to be, except maybe a tad too heavy on the drama.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion.....

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fast Five (2011)

Everything you would expect from a car-racing movie: except for the cars.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are back together again but this time, are hiding out in Rio de Janerio after breaking out of prison. However, they still want to pull off that one, last heist before they head-out into the sunset forever. Problem is, they got one man standing in their way: a tough, and rough federal agent, played by Dwayne “Don’t Call Me Rock” Johnson. It’s everybody’s favorite group of illegal street-racers, versus the police in a knock-out brawl to the end to see who can get the money, who can pull off the job, and who can drive the fastest car.

When you go out to see a Fast and Furious movie, you know you have to expect loudness, cars going “vroooom!”, people skewing out terrible lines, and plenty of moments where men just stare each other down in a deeply sexual, but tense way. It’s what we come to know with this series and so far, it’s been okay considering every one of these movies seem to continue to kick ass at the box-office. Somehow though, they decided that maybe, just maybe, cars aren’t really what’s the most interesting thing for when you do an action movie. Thank the lord for that realization.

Director Justin Lin doesn’t do something that’s by any means ground-breaking, original, or life-changing with his direction, but what he does do is actually inject some energy and fun to a series that quite frankly, needed it in order to it to continue breaking records. In order to broaden up the audience of this flick, they steered (teehee) away more from the whole car-culture aspect of these movies, and made it more of an action/adventure type of movie full of guns, shooting, babes, and heists. In all honesty, it was a great decision because it really keeps the adrenaline going and allows there to be more exciting action scenes, rather than just having two guys go head-to-head in CGI cars.

Meet me on the top of some roof, it's going down.

Meet me on the top of some roof, it’s going down.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any driving in this film, because there is, but there’s not a whole lot to the point of where you feel like the next time you hear a car turn on, you’re going to blow it up yourself. Lin adds just the right amount of car racing fun into this movie, while still allowing all of the craziness of the other action to follow in and quite frankly, kept my eyes on the screen the whole time. Do the scenes defy logic? Totally. Do they look as if they could never, ever happen in a real world we have a little thing called “gravity”? Of course. However, does that make it a whole lot more fun and entertaining to watch? Hell to the yeah! Lin seems like he knows what he’s doing with action scenes and it makes me feel a bit safer knowing he’s taking over the franchise now and not giving it to Ghetto-lover John Singleton. Honestly, why the hell did the guy do that movie?

Despite all of this insane amount of fun action that goes beyond just cars and racing, there’s still a part of this movie that drags and drags on pretty long, too. The opening scene starts things off perfectly and gets you pumped right up, and the ending does the same thing, but there’s a middle-act here that just doesn’t do much with itself other than feature a bunch of people talking about what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do with it their heist. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t action every little bit here and there, but for the most part, it seems like they may have ran out of money or just edited out one big action sequence, and saved up all of their time for the last 20 minutes. Not to say that’s a terrible thing, but it did have me yawn every once and awhile, something I would not be expecting from a big movie that is in fact named after fast-ass cars.

But since this movie is from the same franchise that gave us Cole Hauser as an evil kingpin, you have to expect this film to not really be the intensely smart and witty script we’d want with something of the same nature like a Tarantino or Kevin Smith movie. However, you don’t also want it to be this bad. There’s cheap one-liners here that are unintentionally hilarious, characters who come out to say something stupid and meaningless to the plot or certain situation they are in, and melodrama that’s supposed to really enhance the tension and emotional-factor for this story, but just feels like a cheat to tack-on more time the audience has to spend with these characters. It just goes to show you that sometimes parents don’t need to get on their young kids’ cases about not having jobs, because they can always apply for a screen-writing job for these Fast and Furious movies. Dare to dream, kids. Dare to dream.

But where the fun and charm really lies within this flick is the fact it has the whole gang back (with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez, who is supposed to be dead!!!!), and they are all fun to watch. Vin Diesel does his usual stoic, scary-looking big guy act as Dom Toretto and can practically play the role in his sleep. Actually, sometimes it seems like he is doing just that but it doesn’t matter because the guy can still nail the same notes with this role, as he can with any other piece of shit script that gets tossed right at him. Paul Walker is also here making all of that cash money flow from his pockets by appearing in another one of these movies, when in all honesty: he does barely anything for them. The guy that stands in the background and always has to look serious just for the sake that his character is so damn stern and compelled by what is happening. If there is anything I have to give the guy, it’s the fact that he is quite the natural at it, almost as much as I am a natural at winning pong while I’m drunk. It happens, I forget about it the next day, and live my life. That’s about it in a nutshell.

"Hey, we said no head-starts!"

“Hey, we said no head-starts!”

Also, the side characters that you may, or may not, remember from those other flicks are here to just do their thang and have fun. It’s fine to watch them as they all fight with one another, give their own two cents on what the next best plan would be, and whether or not they should drive fast cars. It’s all stupid and unneeded, but hey; at least it’s fun to see old friendships reconvene, and new ones be formed right in front of your own very eyes. It’s sort of like my Sweet 16, without all of the Ke$ha and Katy Perry songs in the background. No, I was not the DJ, for the record.

Even though everybody’s pretty good with what they’re given, the one who really stands out the most is probably Dwayne Johnson as the angry, federal agent that just wants to take these racing-mofos down. As soon as Johnson pops up into the movie, you can tell the guy is ready to do some business and he gives that type of serious, tough-guy role that made him so popular in the first place with wrestling fans all-over-the-world. He’s dead-on serious with all of his lines, but it isn’t distracting in the least bit and somehow works to his, as well as the rest of the movie’s advantage by giving us a real dude that seems like he could actually take down each and every one of these illegal-racing bandits. Another side you could take on his performance, is that it’s pretty surprising how it shows us that maybe this guy isn’t going to be one of those crooked cops we always see in movies like this, and actually just does his job because it’s what he feels is right. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this obvious character, but I know one thing that’s for sure: Johnson kicks some ass with this role and I look forward to seeing him take this role on longer and longer as this franchise goes into it’s 100th movie in the year 2099. Yes, it most likely will go on that long, as you can see by what’s coming out this Friday and what’s already being discussed. Everybody will be quite fast, and furious, even until the day they day. Even when cars are practically extinct for cool gizmos like this.

Dare to dream, kids. Dare to dream.

Consensus: Stupid, loud, and terribly-written, Fast Five is exactly what you would expect from a movie in this franchise, but it’s still fun, entertaining, filled with life, energy, and a bunch of charming performances that makes this the best offering of this whole franchise.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Think about it, this was one of the last movies to be "ok'd" by Apple for advertisement, when Steve Jobs was still alive. Yup, my way of ending on a downer.

Think about it, this was one of the last movies to be “ok’d” by Apple for advertisement, when Steve Jobs was still alive. Yup, my way of ending on a downer.

Pain & Gain (2013)

Steroids will kill you. But also will guns, lies, sex, drugs, murder, and leading a whole life of crime.

Three dimwitted body-builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie) make a living teaching other people how to put their body’s into shape. But they’ve had enough of it and want more out of life like money, fame, and drugs. You know, the American Dream. They decide to reach for this goal by kidnapping and extorting money from a very rich and powerful man (Tony Shalhoub). It sort of works, but as time goes on and their ego’s and utter stupidity seem to get in the way of things, they lose their way to figuring out just how the hell to keep their heads up and out of jail.

Oh yeah, and it’s all based on a true story. Don’t believe me, then seriously; go check this out and come back. See what I mean? Real shit.

The fact that this is all apparently happened, was directed by Michael Bay, and considered to be a passion project of his, really has me scratching my head still, even to this very sceond where I’m typing. However, being the “esteemed” critic that I am, I knew I had to be open to seeing something that Bay actually had been wanting to do for awhile and I think I stand with everybody else when I say that it’s time we saw something new from this guy. At least, I think so anyway. I hope I’m not alone.

I wonder if they need help with their luggage.

It’s Miami, in the 90’s. So chill, fashion police.

I knew something was “up” with this movie once it began. It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t interesting or that I wasn’t wondering what this was all going to be about, it was that something didn’t feel right. The movie begins with Marky Mark doing sit-ups on a ceiling  then sees a bunch of cop cars, yells out “fuck”, and begins to run away, all to a narration that’s supposed to be funny, but isn’t. That’s how the whole movie actually plays out, in fact. Most moments are supposed to be done for laughs in the way that we point and chuckle at these bumbling fools trying to pull off robbery, but it doesn’t work. Instead, it seems like the movie is trying too hard to be funny, and failing at it so miserably so. It gets better, but very slightly.

The problem with this movie isn’t that it isn’t really funny, because once the first hour comes and goes, it begins to find it’s funny-footing, but it’s just “off” in ways that’s hard to explain. This a true story, about people that did bad stuff, tried to get away with it, and came close to doing so as well, so why the hell should all of this shit be played-up for laughs? I get that Bay wanted to have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek approach with this story and get all goofy on us, but he’s not the type of director that can make the transitions from drama to comedy seamless. You notice when the movie is trying too hard to be funny and too hard to be serious, and it just ends up coming out like a weird mixture of eggs and chocolate. Never tried that combo before, but something tells me it doesn’t mix well.

That’s not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining to watch, because it is, it just doesn’t feel like anybody can make up their right minds as to what type of film they want to make. The screenwriters wanted a dramedy; Bay wanted a buddy comedy, with a bunch of grit; the actors wanted a loosey-goosey comedy; and Marky Mark just wants to show the ladies that he’s still got the looks. Everybody is playing at their own pace, with their own rules, and their own ways of getting shit done. It honestly isn’t as bad as I may make that sound; it really isn’t. It’s actually interesting to see, considering you never know where it’s going to go next, in terms of story and tone. And even though not all of it fits right in the way you’d expect, it’s still fun for that aspect alone.

Other than problems with tone and pace, Bay still seems to be having fun here and I was glad. When this movie wants to be wild and crazy; it’s a blast of fun. You never know where it’s going to go, where it’s going to end up, and what these crazy mofos are going to try next. Well, that is unless you don’t already know the story beforehand. If you do, then you’re sort of left out a bit of all of the fun, but not fully. If you like watching a movie, not having a darndest clue what the people involved are going to show you next; then this may be the trip for you. It has the humor; it has the action; it has the performances; and it has the fun-feel to it, but you still can never seem to get past the fact that almost everybody involved with this movie was on some sort of coke or something. More strange, than it is crazy, but still interesting to watch. I’m not sure if I’m selling this movie well at all, but don’t be worried because it is a good movie; just a very odd one at that.

But if you really want to see something insane: then, just watch these performances. Seriously, every cast member seems like they are either high off of their asses, or having the time of their lives. Sometimes, even both at the same time. Marky Mark is as fun and electric as he has ever been as Daniel Lugo, “the mastermind” (use that term very loosely) behind the whole wheeling and dealing operation. Wahlberg’s manic energy really plays well with this character because it allows him to be a nut-job, just about the whole time. He’s a guy that likes to poke fun at himself, even when he is doing curls for the girls with 50 lb.’s in each hand. It’s hard for a guy to be sexy, charming, and self-knowingly goofy at the same time, but Wahlberg pulls it off perfectly, as usual.

Then, there’s Dwayne Johnson as his fellow-partner, Paul Doyle. If anybody seems to be having any bit of fun in this movie: it’s The Rock (whoops!). Rocky has always been one of these guys that’s been wanting to break free for the longest time and it’s just so great to see him do it now, do it loud, and best of all: do it proud. Doyle’s character is a funny one because he’s constantly on either side of the fence. He’s a holy man that’s been sober for awhile and believes in the higher-power, yet, is all caught up in these deadly-shenanigans that he can’t make up his mind as to whether or not he wants to partake in it or not. But at other times, the character totally loses his idea of sensibility and is just balls to the walls from there on. That’s where Johnson really exceeds well, and kept me laughing my ass off, even when the movie didn’t seem to be working with any funny material whatsoever. Just watching him act like an ass and make fun of himself as well, was funny enough to give me joy and laughter. Sort of like Christmas Day, but instead of presents; it’s just some roided-out freak who likes to make goofy faces. Goofy faces that worked, so I guess I can’t talk too much shite.

Monk's rich and not putting up with anybody's shit.

Monk’s rich and not putting up with anybody’s shit.

Even though he isn’t advertised all that much as partaking in the crimes, Anthony Mackie is also here for the wild ride and is good for what he has to do to keep up with these two. Not only can he flex-up when need be, but he can also joke around about his look and style as well, which is always needed. However, it’s abundantly clear that he does not have as much material to work with, like Dwayne and Marky Mark do. That still doesn’t mean that he isn’t funny or entertaining to watch; because he is. It’s just that the guy’s jokes are more obvious and more about him being black than anything else. Hopefully, Captain America 2 will start getting him some finer-roles like he deserves.

Other actors that show up in this seem to be having fun, even if they are as nutso as you can get. Tony Shalhoub plays the mean and cruel rich guy that these body-builders decide to target and is good because he always stays funny, without ever drawing out the sympathy card. We don’t like his character and we don’t really care for him, which was sort of the point. That’s why it’s so fun to see Shalhoub just take a role like this, and revel in the unsympathetic-nature of it. Ed Harris also shows up as the detective that helps him out and is good, but it’s Ed Harris. What else is there left to say? But trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from and they are all just as wacky as the leads. And I also have to give credit to Michael Bay for giving Rebel Wilson a chance to be funny again, even if she lost all of my respect after last Sunday. Lord, I still feel the pain from that.

Consensus: Most of Pain & Gain is meant to be seen, just for the sake of bragging-rights and pure experience. But with that said, it is still fun for what you see with it’s random bits of comedy, drama, crime, and action, all rolled into one piece of wild popcorn fare. Also, it’s a Michael Bay film with no robots. So just be happy dammit!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

ROCK BOTTOM!!! ROCK BOTTOM!!

ROCK BOTTOM!!! ROCK BOTTOM!!

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Yo Joe! Get a better release date next time!

After almost all of the G.I. Joe’s are wiped-out after a sneak-attack from Cobra hit them, the ones that are left must build a team, get the professionals, and be strong enough to defeat their mortal enemy. The only problem is that they need help, and with the assistance of the government and a General named Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), they may find a possible way of a victory after all. However, just like you always used to fantasize when playing with the toys: it’s not always an easy match. That is, unless you played with Barbies, then don’t even bother reading this synopsis, this review, or this movie!

No matter what I say about this movie from now until the end of this review, just know that I am so mad at this movie for what it did to me last year. I mean, I not only was really looking forward to it, I even went so far as to put it as one of my most-anticipated for the Summer, IN MY HIGH-SCHOOL NEWSPAPER! That’s right, for all of my high-school to see and then when they actually buzzed out on me and decided to take it back to the next year (meaning today), not only did I look like an ass, but actually was a little upset because I wanted to still see it. But noooooo! Hollywood has to get those bigger bucks, had to make sure everything had an extra dimension, and worst of all, had to make sure Channing Tatum got five more minutes of screen-time. That’s right people: he’s only in this for a total of ten minutes, then gets killed, and is never seen again. Nice job. Glad the re-shoots and delays were worth it.

His 15 minutes of fame, minus 5.

His 15 minutes of fame, minus 5.

I’m not going to lie to you all, I actually liked the first G.I. Joe movie. Yeah, it had it’s fair share of problems, it was corny, it was stupid, and it was sure as hell loud, but it was still fun and that’s all that mattered to me. However, it seems like the people behind this sequel, feel as if that movie was so damn terrible, that they not only need to kill-off almost all of the characters from that movie, but do away with everything else about it as well. The first one had this over-the-cop, campy-feel to it that was surprising, considering the G.I. Joe cartoons and comics have always been serious, but this one sort of loses that edge about half-way through.

For instance, when we are first introduced to Duke and Roadblock, we see them goofing around with one another, spouting-out one-liners, and overall, just having a good time without getting too jokey and forgetting about the action. Then, as soon as the original Joe members are all killed-off, then things get a tad too serious, and not in the fun way either. The jokes are still there, the action is still around, and the over-the-top look and feel is still present at moments, but it’s not what you’d expect.

Where this movie seems to lose itself is that it not only focuses way too much on plot, but also forgets that this is a mindless action movie, made off of what is essentially a bunch of action figures that all the cool kids played with, when the girlies were off making sure that Ken and Barbie got it on. A lot. To try and make a serious story out of something like that, is ridiculous in it’s own right. To lose that sense of fun or craziness, just seemed like a slap in the face to the audience that grew up loving and watching G.I. Joe’s but also a waste of a good budget, and a good cast that knows how to have fun, be witty, and be cool, all at the same time. Jon M. Chu isn’t a bad director to be chosen for this material, but at the end of the day: something felt like it was missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it just yet, but it may have something to do with the fact that everybody seems to melodramatic, without getting loose and shaking things up. The original wasn’t a ground-breaker by any stretch, but at least it had fun for the time being. This one just tried way, way too hard.

But don’t be fooled by all of this shit-talking I’m doing, it’s still a fun movie and will most likely bring out the kid inside of you: for better or worse. Yes men, this is the movie that you want to see with your buddies, whether or you be drunk or not. Just make sure that you don’t bring your ladies or else she may come around the next day, asking for when the best time for her is to pick up her stuff. Trust me, it’s that type of movie. It’s filled with a bunch of fun, action, and excitement, and even though I have to say that almost every single trailer and commercial has spoiled the big,  insane shit that was supposed to wow us into the new year, it’s still fun to watch and enjoy, especially when you’re around as much machismo, as was in this movie. Oh and that is a lot. That’s fo damn sho.

Dwayne Johnson (fine, I guess I’ll take his ass seriously for now) is pretty bad-ass as Roadblock because not only does he have that lovable charm that makes you feel like he could win over anybody with that million dollar smile of his, but the smarts to beat Cobra and take back the country that was rightfully his in the first place. When it comes to the action, Dwayne is awesome and proves us why he is the perfect man for a job when it comes to beating the tar out of people, spitting on their faces, and always having the tongue left to say something witty. I mean, hey, that’s how the guy got famous in the first place, right?

What a dick.

What a dick.

I was still bummed to see Channing Tatum go away so quick, let alone, at all in this movie, but I guess it’s fine for what we see of him. Still, I was pissed that they got rid of him, in place of D.J. Cotrona as Flint who is as dull as they come. He barely has a personality, anything cool or insightful to say, nor does even have a specialty that makes him stand-apart from the group of other Joe’s with him. He’s just regular, old Flint that nobody seems to care about, let alone remember once the shit hits the fan. The one person I did remember was Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye who does a nice job at conveying that sense of what it takes to be a female and still kick-ass, but yet, still have to stay and be able to hang with the big boys in town. She’s actually good in the role and not a joke like she could have easily been. Bruce Willis is also here as recently-retired sergeant Joe Colton and is fine, but this is no John McClane. He’s just there to be old, a bit witty, and the type of guy who can handle a gun. Willis is always likable, but he seems bored here. I don’t blame him.

On the opposite side of the fence, the baddies are okay, but nothing special. Cobra is Cobra and always a bad-ass, who somehow seems to get away just in the nick of time. Ray Stevenson plays Firefly, the type of dude that has a solution to every problem and is good doing what it is that he does. However, the one that really stole the show for me, especially on the flip side of things, was Jonathan Pryce as he played a dual-role as the U.S. President, when he was good and when he was bad. What makes Pryce so much fun to watch is that he seems to be having a freakin’ turkey of a time just being evil, mean, and sadistic, but never goes over-board with it all. Instead, he seems smart, calm, and collective, even when stuff seems to get very serious for him and the others around him. Very surprised with Pryce here and somehow, he made this old dude seem like the type of guy that could get away with this all in the end.

Still have no idea why the hell RZA showed up here in a old-man, kung-fu outfit, but damn does he love his kung-fu or what?!?!?

Consensus: Though it’s a tad bit better in some ways than the first one, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still takes itself a bit too seriously in terms of plot and characters, to be considered an all-out action fest of guns, explosions, bullets, hot ladies, and even hotter dudes, but does what it can and is entertaining for that fact.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"You really expect me to say it, in a PG-13 movie?!?!"

“You really expect me to say it, in a PG-13 movie?!?!”

Snitch (2013)

Would you really call the People’s Champ “a snitch” to his face. Think about it and choose your words wisely, ya jabroni.

A suburban father (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) decides to risk everything and go undercover as an informant in order to help the authorities build a case against a high-ranking drug dealer. Why does he do this? Well, because he’s the greatest daddy ever apparently and just wants to reduce his son’s 30 year mandatory drug sentence. If that doesn’t scream “Daddy of the Year Award”, I don’t know what the hell will.

It’s coming towards the end of February, therefore it means that the Hollywood production companies are going to start throwing more and more crap at us, up-until the Summer hits and they’ll be throwing more crap at us, except with the cool breeze of Summer in the air. With that being said, this movie was definitely nowhere near my must-see, but surprise, surprise! It ain’t half-bad as I was expecting it to be, except just a little dumb. Just a little.

The fact that this movie is based off a true story, definitely gives it some lee-way in terms of what it can and cannot do with it’s story, and still make it seem believable. For instance, the whole idea that the DEA would be willing to actually allow this suburban-daddy to get involved with this drug world, in order to thrown some prime-time players in jail, definitely seems like a bit of a stretch, even for a movie starring The Rock (yes, that T is still capitalized). However, this movie isn’t all about the facts, it ain’t all about the truth, and it ain’t even all about the fun. It’s surprisingly about the story and what a simple premise can do, when you give it a simple and normal-look.

Directed Ric Roman Waugh did a similar-film like this a couple of years ago called Felon, where he took a regular, everyday man and put him into an atmosphere he has never been involved with ever before. That movie was pretty damn good, and even though this one doesn’t reach the heights of that, it still has the same look, feel, and emotions going-on. For example, instead of making this movie all about the guns, the drugs, the violence, and the action that usually happens in these movies where people get involved with the underground world of drug-trading, we actually get a story that means something here. You know, a story with real and heartfelt emotions.

Just give me a little bit of the People's Eyebrow. Just a tiny bit.

He’s trying so hard to give us the People’s Eyebrow.

The fact that this movie is being advertised as another, slam-bang action-thriller in the same vein as Faster or the Rundown, is a real sin. Because once you get past the fact that you aren’t going to see blood, bullets, and octane (Joe Carnahan has nothing to do with this movie, but it’s still pretty cool to say) the whole-time, then you can actually enjoy this movie and see where it’s going with itself. The movie gives it’s story more meaning by setting itself up, showing us the characters, who we are dealing with, and what’s really at-stake here. Yeah, it does seem a little obvious at-times, but the movie is about showing the connection these people have when there’s a shit-load on-the-line.

I’ll never go so far as to say that this movie touches on a lot of emotional truths and hardships that’s going to make the insides of you weep for a hug, but I will say that it will surprise you with where it goes, and how it gets there. Waugh is about giving us characters we care for and can believe in, and that’s ahead of all of the foolery of the violence we expect from this cast and crew. If there is any credit I have to give to Waugh, it’s that he took the higher-road and decided to give us more substance, than we usually expect from movies like this. You care for these people, you care for this story, and ultimately, you care for this movie. That is, up until the movie starts to lose itself and get all action-y. I mean, come on! Did you really think they were going to have people hugging, crying, and kissing each other for the whole 2 hours? Hell no!!

When the action gets introduced into the story, it feels forced which was unexpected because the movie actually built-up a nice amount of suspense and tension throughout. The movie makes you feel like some real and crazy shit is going to happen any time now, and in a way, it does, but it doesn’t feel legitimate. It feels like the film makers of this movie saw the final-cut, and decided that there needed to be more action, more explosions, and more guns involved, so all of the dudes that went-out to go and see this Dwayne Johnson flick, wouldn’t start to question their sexuality. That idea is so cynical, but for Hollywood, it’s just money baby. That’s what bothered the most about this flick and it seemed like if they kept it a real, near, and dear drama the whole-way through, did a couple of cuts, and re-cast some people, then they would have really had a keeper here. Instead, they decided to take the low-road and stay with the cast, stay with the original-cuts, and keep some of the drama in, but mostly action as well. Hey, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. In today’s day and age, you got to take what you can get.

Now, here I come to the saddest-part of my whole review: The Rock. Yes, I know he’s Dwayne Johnson, I know he wants to be taken seriously, and I know he’s trying so damn hard to shine away from his wrestling-days (even though he was just recently the champ, I think), but he will always and forever be The Rock to me. He’s one of, if not, my favorite wrestler of all-time and just has the look, the charm, and the personality to make any movie he does work. That’s why it comes as such a surprise to me to see that the guy isn’t anything really special here, and sort of came-off like a bit of a miscast problem.

They come runnin' just as fast as they cancause every girl is crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

They come runnin’ just as fast as they can,
cause every girl is crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Don’t get me mistaken, The Rock is mostly good in this movie. He has a dramatic-range that is surprising and can actually cool himself down when he needs to let the drama and the story take a hold (pun intended), but he seems to be trying too hard as well. There’s a lot of scenes that seem like they call on him to just be use his expressive-eyes and facial-expressions to give the motives of this character more meaning than they should have, and seems like he’s over-emoting. His line-reading isn’t bad, but it does leave a lot to be desired, especially when you think about how bulky and scary his character is. I get that he doesn’t want to be playing his usual, bad-ass type of role where he kicks people’s asses, does The Rock Bottom, and throws his arm-band out at the crowd (still haven’t grabbed one of them yet), but he feels out-of-place here. He tries to play wimpy, he tries to play the family-man, and he tries to play innocent, but the guy looks just too scary and intimidating to really be construed as that. When a guy comes at him, he’s actually scared. The Rock that I know, The Rock that I love, and The Rock that I believe in, would layeth downeth the Smackdowneth on that person’s candy ass and not just stand there in fear. Come on Rocky! There’s so much more to you than this. I know it.

But where The Rock loses, everybody else succeeds. The main reason why I was looking forward to this movie as much as I actually was, was because of Jon Bernthal and seeing what he could do outside of Shane from the Walking Dead. Thankfully, the guy delivers and shows us that he can play a nice, civilized, family-man that may have a bit of a history, but still wants to do the right thing. Bernthal can play that sick, sinister-type oh so damn well, but when he has to come back down to Earth and keep it real; he’s still very believable and makes you feel more for this guy, than you do for Rock’s character. I can tell that if there is anybody from the Walking Dead that’s going to have a shinier career, it’s this dude and I can’t wait to see what he has in-store for us next.

Everybody else is pretty damn good as well. Michael Kenneth Williams is, as you would expect, playing a drug-dealer that smokes, deals, and kills for a living. But also a bit more to him than you’d expect, and the last couple of scenes we get with him is where I was really shocked at the type of dimensions this movie was able to explore, especially for such conventional-characters like “the black drug-dealer”. Benjamin Bratt feels underused and a bit stupid as the head of the Mexican cartel, but still does what he can with material such as this; Barry Pepper shows up in his ZZ Top get-up, is very sympathetic, very bad-ass, but also very believable and does his best at making us all forget about Broken City and how he had the disprivilege of ever touching that crap; and last, but sure as hell not least, is Susan Sarandon as the prosecutor that’s only slightly-less evil than half of the drug-dealers that she’s trying to arrest, but still revels in the material and in a way: fits her like a glove. A firm, lovely glove that I wish I helped her put on. Rawr!

Consensus: Believe it or not, the only real reason why Snitch isn’t as good as it should be, is because of the very same thing that the movie advertises itself as: a thriller. A thriller with guns, action, blood, guts, drugs, and crime is not what this movie’s all about; it’s more about the characters, what they’re going through, what they have to do, and how they can all come out of this problem alive, well, and prosperous for the future. Okay, maybe it’s not that in-depth, but it still is a lot more-developed than any other action-thriller that’s come out this year, so far.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.