Summer epics don’t get any dumber than San Andreas; as buildings crumble so do your brain cells.
San Andreas is visually striking and nothing more. If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson running from one crumbled building to the next is your definition of popcorn fun … go crazy! Besides the splendid visuals we get so-so performances, zero plot-line and laughable dialogue. But yet again, many people want big summer escapism with lots of cool computer-generated mayhem, for which I would tell them to go see the exhilarating car chases and collisions in Mad Max: Fury Road. That film alone would be more satisfying in the long run.
Here, we get Johnson bursting around to save the left side of the states. His charisma was a treat to watch on the big screen, but not enough to save the film from slowly plummeting. Johnson teams up with Brad Peyton (director of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, okay?) to engulf the entire state of California in one setting. Johnson plays Ray Gaines, an LAFD helicopter pilot who specializes in search-and-rescue operations in Los Angeles.
Cue the paranoid seismologist know as Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), who is predicating a massive earthquake along the titular fault line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Nobody believes him, of course, until it happens. Oh the humanity! What’s Johnson to do? Save his family of course. That would be his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario). Oh yea, and a handsome Brit named Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his younger bother, Ollie (Art Parkinson).
As for the rest of the citizens you may ask? In the wise words of Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” So there you have it, Johnson and his family running for their lives while the rest of humanity falls into the unknown. Slap that with some awe-worthy visuals and you have San Andreas. In the end, Johnson with his charisma and muscle power was able to save two stars for the film, while the rest of the stars crumbled along with the buildings.
San Andreas is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.
Coming from director Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), I was expecting something with a little more bite …
While Bird’s film was ever the more ambitious, still, it lacked the storytelling and actual presence of Tomorrowland. But the optimism throughout the entire film makes you want to root for it even when the damn thing stumbles. After several critically acclaimed films from Bird’s past, it was heartbreaking to see Tomorrowland not compare. Rightfully so, Bird kept the plot under wraps from wondering hands until the premiere.
So here we go: George Clooney plays Frank Walker, a shabby and grumpy inventor who has isolated himself off from the world on his New York farm. When we first meet Frank played as a kid (Thomas Robinson), he’s bursting with ideas and is a bright, happy champ trying to show off his primitive jet pack at the 1964 World’s Fair. Scientist David Nix (Hugh Laurie) doesn’t buy Frank’s childish ideas and shuts him down. Frank is searching for a symbol and that very symbol comes through utopia know as Tomorrowland.
Frank meets a girl, Athena (the gifted Raffey Cassidy), who granted him with a magic pin that zapped him into Tomorrowland. Fast-forward to grumpy Clooney, where he meets Casey (Britt Robertson) who has also been gifted with the very last pin from Athena, but she doesn’t know. From there, Bird’s film tries to fly into the PG family enjoyment but never fully takes off. The audience’s are shown corruption, doomsday and a hint of propaganda. Naïve? Maybe, but that’s what Bird and co-scriptwriter Damon Lindelof (Lost) were aiming for. Tomorrowland makes the audience think about its message even if it has been recycled before.
Tomorrowland is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.
Far From the Maddening Crowd is a cinematic beaut, backed by a powerful chemistry between Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.
Praise to the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) for brining Thomas Hardy’s 1874 classic novel to life. Vinterberg worked diligently to capture the true breathtaking landscape of Victorian England and grow a raw relationship between a sheepherder and a woman. Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan) is an independent and headstrong woman who is attracted to three suitors (Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge).
The audience will surely be rooting for the sheepherder, Mr. Oak (Schoenaerts), to take Everdene’s heart.
Vinterberg cleaned off the edges from the dusty novel and poured vivid life into the film through its beautiful cinematography and heart-beating storyline. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Submarino and The Hunt) captures the elegance of Victorian England, while also showing the allure between Mr. Oak and Everdene’s relationship. Unfortunately, Everdene can’t make up her mind because she is too strong willed and denies Mr. Oak’s marriage proposal at the beginning of the film.
Then it’s a gentle farmer named William Boldwood (Sheen) who’s stunned by Mulligan’s grace and practically proposes on sight. Everdene refuses. "I'd like to be a bride at a wedding," she says, "but without a husband." But it ends up being hotheaded Sgt. Troy (Sturridge) who Everdene falls for. This cheeky sword-swinging snub is a bad call for Everdene. But Vinterberg gives it time and in the end Everdene realizes who her true love really is. From the polished countryside of England too the star-studded performances by Mulligan, Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge, Far From the Maddening Crowd is a historic love affair.
Far From the Maddening Crowd is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some sexuality and violence.
While paying homage to the 80s’ classic, still, this Poltergeist remake lacks originality to stand on its own scary terms.
The 1982 Poltergeist helped pave the way for modern horror films that we know and love today. Years after, this smartly filmed horror tale had many directors eagerly striping elements away to use in their own modern horror films. Movies like The Conjuring or Insidious have taken important scare techniques to incorporate into their eerie setting. Where does the remake fit into this you may ask?
It got stuck in a rut and added nothing new or scary from the original, which was the most disappointing. Sadly, there were too many half-baked horror set pieces and unfrightening moments because we have seen this all before. Nothing felt fresh or alive besides Sam Rockwell’s performance. Poltergeist 2015 is not a complete disaster and that is only thanks to Mr. Rockwell himself. Poltergeist 2015 contemporized the classic tale about the Bowen family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces. Cue the little girl putting her hands on the TV and saying “They're here …”
But when the terrifying apparitions escalate their attacks and hold the youngest daughter, Madison (Kennedi Clements) captive, the Bowen’s must come together to rescue her before she disappears forever. After that, the rest is predicable. Director Gil Kenan (Monster House and City of Ember) throws no punches. We get the typical PG-13 scares and jitters coming at us, while, Kenan’s rapid pacing is unsettling.
There was a moment when Kenan had a few tricks up his sleeves with the smart placement of that terrifying clown. God I hate clowns. Ultimately, this poltergeist affair is forgettable and in my opinion just watch the original if you’re in the mood for a good old scare. Unfortunately, the phrase “They’re here …” doesn’t have the same affect that it did 33 years ago. In the end, this poltergeist came and squandered.
Poltergeist 2015 is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense frightening sequences, brief suggestive material, and some language.
The Water Diviner brings out the best from Russell Crowe as an actor and director.
From the start, The Water Diviner pulls you in and shows us a courageous story man searching for his three MIA (Missing In Action) sons. This impressive directorial debut from Crowe, 51, proves a new area of talent and craft from the actor. Crowe takes on the lead role as Joshua Conner, an Australian farmer who voyages to Turkey four years after WWI battles at Gallipoli to find his three lost sons. This was the dying wish of Joshua’s wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), to bring her boys home even if just for burial. Inspired by a true story, Crowe hits a striking chord with the audience and emotionally draws them in.
Scriptwriters Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios channel in the sentimental effect for the film as Crowe leads with not only his directing but also his acting. At times, The Water Diviner may try too hard to push the envelop of a father sacrificing everything for his sons, but Crowe hits hard on this moral composition. We see flashbacks of his sons — Arthur (Ryan Corr), Henry (Ben O'Toole) and Edward (James Fraser) — charging the bloody battlefields against the Turkish forces. Crowe’s reality never looses focus and gives the audience a sense of respect and solemn.
Along the way in Constantinople, Joshua stays at a hotel where he meets Muslim widow, Ayshe (a beautiful Olga Kurylenko). Joshua begins to build a bond with Ayshe and her son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades). Joshua gives the film a grieving soul as he befriends with the enemy, Major Hasan (an excellent Yilmaz Erdogan), a Turkish officer who helps Joshua escape roadblocks put up by the British and by Aussie officer Cyril Hughes (a stern Jai Courtney), who's in charge of the Imperial War Graves unit.
Major Hasan does this out of respect for Joshua, as he’s the only father who came looking for his sons. In the end, Crowe’s directorial debut is simplistic but well crafted as we see the pain aching in Joshua’s heart for his three lost sons. War is brutal and affects not only nations but families as well. Crowe sees these affections and transcends them into raw storytelling and because of that his story succeeds.
The Water Diviner is rated R (Restricted). For war violence including some disturbing images.