‘San Andreas’ brings back bad memories: Dwayne Johnson

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dwayne Johnson rocks in disaster flick ‘San Andreas’.

Dwayne Johnson says he has no problem channelling the sense of family and drama in his upcoming blockbuster movie “San Andreas” because he has lived through similar life-or-death moments. (Source: Movie Still) Dwayne Johnson says he has no problem channelling the sense of family and drama in his upcoming blockbuster movie “San Andreas” because he has lived through similar life-or-death moments. Every summer, we get at least one big knuckle-headed popcorn movie that rises above lame plotting, dopey dialogue, gratuitous carnage and unbelievable action because it makes the effort to be likable.

When “Earthquake” was released in 1974, it not only had Sensurround but also a cast led by Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold, Richard Roundtree and Walter Matthau. The WWE wrestler-turned-actor, 43, said the movie has brought back the bad memories relating to his encounter with the natural disaster, reported Contactmusic. “I’ve been through natural disasters. This season “San Andreas,” an old-fashioned, if also outlandish disaster movie about earthquakes leveling Los Angeles and San Francisco, is that film, and a large part of the credit must go to Dwayne Johnson, whose likability goes for miles and miles in this big-budget B-movie.

San Andreas, where a gigantic earthquake hits California, carefully spaces out its big moments: the Hoover Dam goes early, followed by the Hollywood sign, but after the scene shifts to San Francisco director Brad Peyton makes us wait, teasingly, for the moment when the Golden Gate Bridge twists like a ribbon and slides into the sea. I was down in Miami and I lived down there for Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which was a category five (hurricane),” he said. “It was a tough, tough time. So I think the idea of coming together like we were showcasing in our story resonates with people and I think if there is any connection for me, it would be that.”

The fault co-stars with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “San Andreas,” a 3D thriller rumbling into 3,777 theaters nationwide today, according to Box Office Mojo. In fact, this disaster flick avoids being a complete disaster and a cliche thanks to Johnson’s star turn and mind-boggling, highly detailed special effects. At home, Ray tries to maintain a close relationship with his college-age daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario, “True Detective”), while being divorced by his beautiful wife (Carla Gugino), who is about to move in with super-rich architect Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). The star once known as The Rock has the magnetism and muscle, literally and figuratively, of two or three actors, and the visual effects are so remarkable and realistic that it seems as though you’re watching horrifying news footage at times.

But where Arnie always seemed uneasy combining these roles, to the Rock it comes naturally: he’s the ultimate idealised dad, a human shield protecting America from harm. Can the tectonic line, which runs about 800 miles on land from the Mendocino coast to the Salton Sea, actually do what’s depicted in computer-generated glory onscreen? The disaster movie opens with a search-and-rescue helicopter crew from the LA Fire Department trying to pluck a young woman from her car, which somersaulted over a cliff and is teetering on the rocky hillside. The title, of course, refers to the San Andreas fault line that runs about 1,300 kilometres long and whose seismic activity has kept Californians and their home-insurance rates on edge for decades.

A fair amount of intelligence has gone into San Andreas – but not into the extremely corny dialogue, which seems designed to make the audience groan. Which brings us to what makes this summer extravaganza so ridden with fault lines, but first taking a stab at the story — Ray (Johnson) is a search and rescue pilot with Los Angeles Fire Department whom we see saving a damsel in distress in the opening scene of the film. Ray and Emma are on a race against time because things in San Francisco go from bad to worse to “oh, come on!” San Andreas is swamped with disaster movie clichés – selfish/evil characters, unnecessary dramatic pauses, a hero who lost someone in the past, a fractured family, computer readings that forecast disaster and landmarks demolished in slow motion.

Ray’s ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) is the focal point of the most hectic set-piece, where the camera follows her efforts to flee a crumbling skyscraper for several minutes without a cut. His wife Emma (Carla Guigino) is divorcing him and moving in with her rich boyfriend whom we are sure we will find as the villain of the piece pretty soon. But experts hope the takeaway for moviegoers, and for all Southern Californians, is remembering that earthquakes are real in California and it’s worth making safety preparations. “I like a fun movie, and sometimes movies with terrible science are still entertaining,” said David Oglesby, a professor in the Earth Sciences Department at UC Riverside. “But the kinds of things you see in this movie are not realistic.” For one thing, the movie’s title star isn’t as big as portrayed – hardly a first for Hollywood.

The former wrestler plays Ray, a Los Angeles rescue helicopter pilot who, despite his lifelong career as a first responder, just wants to save his family when disaster strikes. Paul Giamatti, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as the anti-Rock, a jittery seismologist who seems on the verge of tearing his remaining hair out as he warns of what’s to come.

After the first quake scene when we are treated to a wide shot of the ground under Los Angeles doing the worm, followed by Ray’s helicopter maneuvering around falling buildings like they’re debris on the street, the action in the film gets repetitive. Giamatti and Johnson never share a scene, but their characters’ aims are wholly compatible: the blue-collar war veteran and the egghead, working side by side to save the day. Had it been not for the sweet boy from across the Atlantic Ben (Hugo Johnstone Burt) and his younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), she would have been dead. It felt like watching the same sports highlights on different channels – there’s some variation between each station but it’s basically the same thing.

But if ever a screenplay was created by a software program, this literary piece of low-hanging fruit from Carlton Cuse (“Bates Motel”), Jeremy Passmore (“Red Dawn”) and newcomer Andre Fabrizio is it, right down to the groan-inducing “Let’s go get our daughter.” But if you want to see Hoover Dam hit by a 9.6-magnitude earthquake accompanied by canned disaster-movie music from Andrew Lockington (“City of Ember”) and a bogus shout-out for FEMA, this is the place. Indeed, Giamatti’s character is the film’s real hero, since his expert pronouncements succeed in drastically reducing the quake’s death toll – freeing us to enjoy the spectacle of catastrophe without too many qualms.

At the 5.11 Tactical Store in Riverside, which features emergency, off-the-grid supplies including freeze-dried food, water filters and rucksacks sized for 24 to 72 hours in the field, retail manager Jessica McGrady expected business to increase after the movie’s release. “Especially living in California – people don’t think about it too often because we haven’t had a big earthquake in a while,” she said. Borrowing tropes from such cautionary tales as Jan de Bont’s poetic “Twister” (1997) and Roland Emmerich’s under-rated “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), in which a climate scientist (Dennis Quaid) in D.C. tries to reunite with a son stranded in New York City, “San Andreas” holds no surprises.

It’s off to the rescue races as Ray turns into a veritable Superman, minus the cape and with the ability to fly although in a chopper or plane or boat skimming over churning, debris-infested waters. It is on this pedantic note that San Andreas chastises the arrogance of Silicon Valley’s tech boom and San Francisco’s skyrocketing real estate market. The interview for Jules Sebastian’s Tea With Jules web series was filmed ahead of the singer’s Eurovision performance last week and has been watched nearly 300,000 times. The store has a “Load Out” section dedicated to survival supplies, she said. “You need to have an emergency preparedness bag in the car and in the house,” she said. “These movies do get you thinking about what could happen, so it’s good for people to be prepared.” The hero is a blue-collar man who labours with his hands instead of in abstractions like “design,” “brand” and “bitcoin.” His prize is not venture capital, but the nuclear family. (Completing Ray’s family portrait is Carla Gugino as Emma, the ex-wife-turned-reunited-love-interest.) Although there have been discussions around the film’s marketing and release in light of the recent earthquake in Nepal, the crisis has had seemingly little effect on San Andreas’s premiere.

The couple, who’ve been married for seven years, appeared to fight in the staged interview, with Sebastian becoming increasingly frustrated with his wife’s questions about everything from his trademark afro to his weight. In the middle of all this, Giamatti’s Lawrence keeps on popping up, warning a reporter (Archie Punjabi) that there is one even bigger quake on its way.

Chief among them is its aforementioned cast, including Johnson — who appears to have a funny little boy hiding inside that enormous warrior exterior — Gugino, Johnstone-Burt, Parkinson and Daddario, who maintains a cheerful, can-do demeanor, however much the camera brazenly ogles her. While the video was mostly well-received, many people were left scratching their heads over the purpose of the video and why the singer and his wife had staged a fake argument. “We staged a fight and I got her to ask me all the things I’ve literally been asked a million times in interviews, things about my afro and the moment I won Idol and how I felt and all that stuff,” Sebastian said. “You don’t walk around changing people’s lives with your Celine bag,” Sebastian says to his wife in the clip. “Who did I marry? Giamatti’s character to provide a scientific explanation for what’s happening (it’s big and it’s bad, with egghead talk kept to a minimum) the movie is almost all action all the time with the dam disaster just the ominous opening act for what’s to come in the Golden State. Outside of Ray ripping off a car door in the film’s opening scene and rescuing his wife (both happen in the first 3o minutes), he’s pretty useless.

A couple of scenes — notably with actors in the foreground, catastrophic destruction in the background — seem like a marriage of real and reel, but the panoramic shots look authentic and a water-logged rescue may have you holding your breath. “San Andreas,” directed by Brad Peyton (“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”) and available in 2-D or 3-D, is like the disaster movies of old, which followed a set formula. The inaugural Australian Idol winner arrived home in Sydney overnight after placing fifth in the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, with his song Tonight Again storming up the European iTunes charts.

Instead of lifting rocks, carrying four people at once to safety, or stopping a car from going off a cliff by holding onto its bumper, Ray spends most of his screen time mumbling about his daughter and arguing with his estranged wife. The only nod to the emerging technologies that have shaped the country’s new economy is a hacking scheme that is quickly introduced by a Caltech professor (played by Paul Giamatti, because why not?) and just as swiftly dropped.

When the Nepal Earthquake took place a month before the release of San Andreas, the production house went in a huddle debating how to market this film. This time the film does not evoke Titanic, but rather the highly publicized engagement of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, which took place on that exact spot two years ago. Despite a good cast, the one-dimensional script, the guffaw-worthy dialogues and cheesy plot devices ensure that you end up laughing at the wrong places. The scene perfectly captures the film’s warring sense of what makes the United States (and San Andreas) exceptional – it is glossy and ostentatious, but sombre and traditional, too. In fact, there are times when you actually miss Roland Emmerich (2012, Independence Day) and his wizardry of making mayhem so plausible and convincing.

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