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.
Seven Psychopaths: whilst working on his screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths” a struggling writer gets caught up in his best friend’s dog-snatching scheme. This film takes crime-thriller genre head on, and turns all of the well-worn tropes on their heads for fun, and to make a stale genre more entertaining. More than anything else, the film is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – to the point where, if you like the absurd, risqué and offensive humour, you will have a sore face by the end: the epic imagined gunfight/showdown in the graveyard had almost everyone in the cinema crying with laughter. There’s lots of top acting from the leading men (Rockwell storms the film, although he does have the best character and funniest lines) but the ladies on the other hand – other than Walken‘s wife – don’t get much of a look-in. So there’s an entertaining story, good characters, lots of jokes – but there’s a catch: the film is let down by trying to be far too self-aware and ‘filmy’ to the point of being a quite ‘wanky’. There’s a scene in the middle film where the characters have just had a load of action and are driving to the desert, while talking about the middle of the ‘seven psychopaths’ script, where the characters are driving to the desert after an action-packed first half… I was almost chewing my fingers off with cringery. Seven Psychopaths ends up being a violent, sweary, funny and entertaining black comedy caper, with a promising ‘real’ plot is hampered by the quirky/indie emphasis of the ‘film-within-a-film’ sub-plot.
1. She thinks she’s hot Shih Tzu
2. The non-violent one
3. The seemingly normal one
4. He won’t take any Shih Tzu
5. The Passive-aggressive girlfriend
6. The one with the bunny
7. The one with issues
Spartacus Blood and tits Sand: 150% testosterone-fueled 13-part swords and sandals epic – It’s essentially what would happen if the cast of 300 violated the story and actresses of BBC‘s Rome. I’ll get the controversial stuff out of the way first. Violence, there’s literally GCI bucketloads of flying limbs, heads, blood and teeth every time someone grabs a weapon – most memorable; a gladiator cuts a dead opponent’s face off and wears it as a mask in his next fight – awesome… just awesome. Secondly, Spartacus is a celebration of Skin; it’s a conveyor belt of gratuitous Spartan chests, fake and real breasts, naked men fighting, women getting rammed, guys getting tugged off and gay gladiators bumming each other – most memorable; Lucy “Xena Warrior Princess” Lawless getting her gobstoppers out! Thirdly, the Dialogue sounds like 20 drunk sailors sat at a whiteboard and played the ‘best insult ever’ competition – some of the combinations are so imaginative and foul that they even impressed this sweary Scotsman. Controversy aside the actually story is so, so epic, and nowhere as linear or predictable as you’d expect – it twists and turns right to the last scene with endless betrayals, story developments and murders. The acting is also startlingly good given that there’s very few big names, so many characters, and everyone falls into either i) meat-head gladiators (for action) ii) sexed-up women (for skin) or iii) slimy political figures (for progressing the story). Other than a couple of slower episodes Spartacus is an absolute hit, that gets better as the series progresses: my lady even went from “this is so ridiculous” to a total convert, no mean feat for a series aimed at 15 year old boys! When the show works, it totally works – and if you can see past the gratuitous violence, skin and language – at the heart of Spartacus lies a compelling, well-written and well-executed story. Brilliant mix of drama, action and trash!