San Andreas: After a massive earthquake hits the Californian coast a rescue-chopper pilot needs to – literally and figuratively – save his family. Finally, The Rock, HAS COME BACK… to California! The opening car crash rescue sets an unfairly poor tone of the film with laughably bad CGI, physics, and silly stunts. The rest of the film however is all about epic (and impressive) biblical-scale devastation: buildings, streets, and entire cities rippling, twisting, and breaking at the mercy of megathrust earthquakes and a megatsunami. Along with this comes Titanic levels of tiny people being dropped, squashed, battered, and maimed at every opportunity: but you’re not supposed to care about the millions – AND MILLIONS – of dead Californian jabronis, or that The Great One shirks his emergency callout to steal (and wreck) a rescue helicopter in order to save his EX(!!)-Wife!! You’re also not supposed to worry about the dodgy ‘quake science, or that for no reason it’s set in a whole bunch of places – Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Hoover Dam, Bakersfield (which is soooo geographically confusing for non-Americans) – yet named after a fictional city from a computer game. The central trio are paper-thin characters with a family dynamic lifted straight outta Taken; and they’re surrounded by a bunch of IT DOESN’T-MATTER-WHAT-YOUR-NAME-IS stereotypes like a token bumbling English gent; slimy cowardly businessman, and the ‘Basil Exposition’ science guy (played so, so intentionally hammy by Paul Giamatti). San Andreas is a blockbuster movie propped up by THE MOST ELECTRIFYING MAN IN MOVIE ENTERTAINMENT, 9/10 CGI effects, and Daddario-oh-ohhh playing a just-old-enough-to-be-sexy daughter for the lads and dads. It’s not a great film by any measure, but it’s undeniably entertaining and impressive, which easily makes it the best Epic Action Disaster Movie (is that a genre?) in recent memory.
Ides of March: a brief glimpse behind the cameras and curtains of American politics as an idealist media mogul and presidential candidate get dragged through the dirt on a campaign trail. This has a serious political-thriller script and so many (old and new) big actors involved – which is why it’s unfortunately one of the dampest squibs of the year. The plot is strong, and a good insight into modern politics and politicians… but they’re somewhat of an easy target these days. There’s some great acting on display… but you’re still left wanting more screen time from the likes of Hoffman, Giamatti and Clooney. The direction’s good… but it’s nowhere near as slick or smart as direction of a political film needs to be. With all of these ‘buts’ The Ides of March is definitely weaker than it should be – sorely missing that additional thump that makes good films great, and political stories engaging.
The Hangover Part II: Take my review of the first film – change mentions of ‘Vegas to Bangkok and it’s a job well done! Realising that the one-man wolf pack and Leslie Chow (the only two that pull off ‘funny’) were the best things about The Hangover, these two characters get even more screen time and gags than before. Once again, the humour is very Lad / Frat friendly and doesn’t appeal to everyone. Not much else to say other than it’s even more crass and offensive than the first, and seemed to have longer periods where nothing amazingly funny was happening. It’s good, but definitely more of an expansion pack than a new addition. Kudos to the people responsible for taking Hangovers for from a low-budget comedy to the biggest comedy of all time in 2 films!
Win Win: A lawyer-cum-wrestling coach gets more than he bargained for when assuming custody of an elderly client. From the very first scene this is clearly an Indie Flick, but you can also tell straight away that it has more potential than most. The casting is very strong: Giamatti‘s looking a bit jowly but does his everyman thing; the main kid actor (Shaffer – first film role) is very watchable – great presence already; not-quite-Billy-Zane/Andy-Garcia (Cannavale) also plays a blinder with an amazingly dark undertone. Although it’s a textbook underdog / misunderstood intentions story it’s very watchable, and the family aspect in particular is compelling. More than anything else, Win Win is subtly funny, and enjoyable to watch.
Shoot ‘em up: bit of a let down, especially after reading a load of reviews saying how mental / violent / bloody / gorey it was (and that it was the most fake blood used in a film ever!). So I sat through the whole film waiting for the mother of all gunfights… but it never kicked off! Clive Owen is once again cast to play another gritty hard man, he must be getting bored of doing these roles. Overall it’s a ridiculous over-the-top action-fest of a film, with little plot and awful one-liners. More watchable than Crank, but Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti are definitely better than this!