Tag Archives: Art Parkinson

All Shook Up

Earthquake flick makes a major mess of things…again

SAN ANDREAS

San Andreas

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino & Paul Giamatti

Directed by Brad Peyton

PG-13

No need to look at the calendar: If the world is about to end, you can be pretty sure that summer’s almost here. As the temps rise, so do the odds that you’ll see some really big things blow up, be swept away or get pulverized—again. Alas, London. Nice knowin’ ya, New York. Woe is Washington, D.C.

In San Andreas, named for the famous fault line that runs through much of California, a monstrous earthquake turns both Los Angeles and San Francisco into pancake-like piles of rubble, creates a tsunami that takes out the Golden Gate Bridge and—symbolism cue—dramatically reunites one “split-apart” family.

This adrenaline-pumping summer blockbuster really busts some blocks, literally. It starts off with a rockslide, and in just a few minutes, we’re watching the Hoover Dam explode in a heaving, slo-mo convulsion of concrete, rebar and water.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is Ray, an L.A. helicopter-rescue pilot, whose plans for a pleasantSAN ANDREAS weekend drive to take his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) back to college are disrupted by gaping chasms, toppled, flaming skyscrapers and collapsed, crumbled interstates (not to mention what must be countless victims that, curiously, never seem to require his services).

Ray’s wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) has filed for a divorce and is about to move in with a filthy-rich real estate developer (Ioan Gruffudd), who turns out to be every bit the weasel the movie leads you to think he’ll be.

Before the big shake-and-bake, Blake meets a couple of oh-so-charming Brits, a resourceful young engineer (Hugo Johnson-Burt) and his bright little brother (Art Parkinson). In movies like this, meetings like this usually pay off later, and this one certainly does.

SAN ANDREAS

Duck! Paul Giamatti takes cover with a TV reporter (Archie Panjabi from TV’s ‘The Good Wife’).

Paul Giamatti is a data-streaming seismologist who predicts the Big One. (“No one listens to us until the ground shakes,” he glumly tells a TV reporter.) Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue has one scene, in a fancy, high-rise restaurant, where she basically gets to chat, scream, run and plummet.

The earth shakes, the oceans rise, buildings topple and fall. But this is clearly The Rock’s show, which is why the screenplay by Carlton (Lost, Bates Motel) Cuse weaves plenty of personal drama into the disaster, and much of movie concerns Ray and Emma’s search for their missing daughter-in-distress. And believe me, if the world is ending, The Rock is the guy I want on my team: A mountain of muscle with a heart of gold, he can rappel out of a hovering helicopter and leap from a zooming airplane, hotwire a pickup truck and pilot a boat through a tsunami, and even bring someone back from the dead. He’s The Rock and The Man.

SAN ANDREAS

Art Parkinson, Alexandra Daddario and Hugo Johnson-Burt stay afloat.

Some of the effects are impressive, but really: We’ve seen it before. And we’ll see it again. “So, what now?” ponders Emma as she surveys the CGI rubble and ruin. Ray, looking out over San Francisco Bay at the exact moment a gigantic American flag is unfurled from the wreckage of the Golden Gate Bridge, has the answer.

“We rebuild,” he says. Yes! In time next summer, and the next disaster movie!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Bat Man

Dracula Untold

Misguided Dracula mash-up has few teeth, even less bite

Dracula Untold

Starring Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper & Sarah Gadon

Directed by Gary Shore

PG-13

Dracula, the world’s most famous vampire, has spread all across the pop-cultural spectrum, from Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel and actor Bela Lugosi, to goofball cartoons and the inspiration for chocolate breakfast cereal. Historically, he’s been linked—at least in name—to the 15th century Romanian ruler Vlad III, “the Impaler,” whose grotesque signature touch was decorating the Balkan countryside with the writhing bodies of his enemies stuck on poles.

This misguided monster mash of a movie tries to bring the two legends together, in a tale that seems like a 90-minute episode of TV’s Game of Thrones garnished with lots of computer-generated bats.

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Luke Evans and Sarah Gadon

We meet Vlad (Luke Evans, a “days of yore” veteran of two Hobbit movies, Immortals, Clash of the Titans and The Three Musketeers, plus Fast and Furious 6) after his “impaling” days are over and he’s settled down as a benevolent monarch, carving out a kingdom and making peace with the neighboring Turks that were once his favorite Pinterest subjects. But when pushed again toward an unjust war, he makes a desperate deal to protect his castle, his people, his wife and his son.

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Charles Dance from TV’s ‘Game of Thrones’ places an ancient vampire.

That “deal” is the back story of how Vlad became count Dracula, and it involves an encounter in a bat-filled cave with an ancient über-vampire (Charles Dance from Game of Thrones), who offers him a “test drive” of supernatural powers—with a devil of a catch-22. If Vlad can last three days without feeding on human blood, all is well. If not, he’ll become an undead bloodsucker for eternity.

Vlad’s new powers include super-strength, super-speed, super-hearing, super-sight, and the ability to summon bats, control bats, become a swarm of bats, or un-become a swarm of bats.

One of the movie’s major misfires is trying to meld “historical” Vlad into “mythical” Dracula. It just doesn’t work—the handsome Evans makes his character seem way too nice to ever be convincing as someone who terrorizes his opponents by putting them up on pikes by the thousands. First-time director Gary Shore never finds the right tone—be it frightful, funny, funky, horrifying, shocking or sexy—that viewers would expect from a modern flick about the most neck-fetish-ed, nocturnal daddy-o of them all. The whole production looks pieced together from murky videogame graphics, cable-TV soundstage sets and leftover Lord of the Rings costumes.

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The mostly British cast also includes Dominic Cooper (from Captain America: The First Avenger), Zach McGowan (TV’s Black Sails), Sarah Gadon, and young Art Parkinson (another import from Game of Thrones). The movie ends with a couple of jarring leaps, one of them into what’s reportedly intended to be the beginning of a new modernized “monster squad” franchise based on the iconic beasties of Universal Studios, which also includes the Wolf Man, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster.

“Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero,” says Vlad. “Sometime it needs a monster.” And sometimes it needs a monster movie—hopefully one with a bit more bite than this one.

 —Neil Pond, Parade and American Profile Magazines

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