Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

Odd Size Spies

Kevin Hart & Dwayne Johnson are mismatched pair in comedy-action caper

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

Central Intelligence

Starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

PG-13

If comedy is art, Central Intelligence wants to make sure the canvas is well covered—it’s got a big, tall brush, a short, little brush and some very funny painters.

Dwayne Johnson is Bob Stone, a formerly chubby, friendless high-school loser mercilessly bullied by his classmates and shown kindness by no one—except the school’s star football player, student council president and all-around over-achiever, Calvin “the Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart).

A cruel practical joke during a pep rally becomes a distant memory as the year pass. Joyner marries his high-school sweetheart (Danielle Nicolet) and settles into a dull job at an accounting firm, fretting that he peaked in 1996 and that his life is going nowhere. Stone, on the other hand, sheds his adolescent flubber, packs on the muscle and becomes a CIA agent—on a dangerous, rogue, off-the-grid mission.

CI-0117rWhen the two reconnect on Facebook, out of the blue, their reunion creates a spontaneous combustion of hilarity as Stone pulls Joyner onto a wild ride of slam-bang shoot-outs, dizzying double crosses and daring escapes in a race to track down a notorious international trader and stolen encrypted computer codes.

Very quickly, Joyner doesn’t feel like his life is a dead end anymore—even though he may not like where it’s taking him!

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber knows a thing or two about comedy, as he demonstrated in Dodgeball and We’re The Millers. His fellow writers, Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen, honed their funny bones on television’s The Mindy Project and Madtv, and the script zips, zaps and zings with smart, sharp quips, clever set-ups and solidly crafted gags that often get extra bonus mileage when they pop up for a second—or third—laugh line.

Johnson and Hart make quite a pair, starting with the yin and yang of their odd-couple appearance. The former pro wrestler known as The Rock towers over his co-star by more than a foot, and they both find the hysterics as well as the humanity and the heart in their roles, and in the film’s anti-bullying subplot. The movie has some riotously funny scenes, like the one in which Joyner and his wife go to marital counseling, and another involving a stolen airplane, a picnic cooler and a hilarious spiel about an organ transplant.

Sprinkled around, like movie candy, are wily Hollywood meta-references and nods to other films. Stone thinks Joyner looks like “a snack-size Denzel.” Joyner tells Stone, whose attire of baby-blue unicorn tees and a fanny pack belies his lethal skills, that he’s a “Jason Borne in jorts.” There’s a great running Breakfast Club gag, riffs on Roadhouse and Jake Gyllenhaal, and a sly Goodfellas line.

And I won’t spoil things by revealing the pair of big-name stars in super-secret cameos. You’ll be pleasantly surprised—in vastly different ways—by both.

But the real reason to see Central Intelligence: Two very funny actors who might not be anywhere near the same size, but who are perfect alignment for this hilarious spy-spoof assignment.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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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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Need For Speed

A masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem

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Furious 7

Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Jason Stratham

Directed by James Wan

PG-13

Fast cars and stunt driving have always been Hollywood staples, but nothing raised need-for-speed thrills to the level of pop-art success like the Fast and Furious franchise, which began almost 15 years ago, spawned six sequels and became a $2 billion-plus property—one of the most lucrative ever—for Universal Studios.

Now, in the seventh installment, Vin Diesel and his virtually indestructible crew of pedal-slammers reunite to save the world from more devious dudes, including a super-bad Brit (Jason Statham) out to avenge the death of his brother from a previous movie. But the plot’s just so much air whizzing by from the dozens of vehicles that zoom, smash and sail across the screen. Don’t worry about following a storyline: Just sit back and marvel at the masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem, a dose of high-octane escapism ramped up to ridiculous, fantastical extremes.

Furious 7

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

In addition to Diesel (who’s also one of the franchise’s producers), the parade of gear-jamming, road-ripping all-stars includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, rapper-turned-actor Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, all of whom will be very familiar to anyone who buckled up for previous F&F joyrides. Kurt Russell comes aboard as a slick, mysterious quasi-governmental deep-cover operative, Mr. Nobody, who needs Diesel & crew’s help to put the brakes on an international criminal (Djimon Hounsou) who’s kidnapped a mastermind computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanual, who plays Missandei on TV’s Game of Thrones).

Director James Wan, the maestro of horror and suspense whose resume includes Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, creates some absolutely stupefying set pieces, jaw-dropping scenes of stunts and special effects. In one, cars drop from a cargo plane, parachute onto a winding mountain roadway and roar off to assault a heavily armored convoy, leading to a literal cliffhanger—then keep going! Another features the world’s most expensive car racing through—and I do mean through—the world’s tallest building.

And, as usual, the car scenes are broken up by equally impressive fight scenes, magnificent, crashing, smashing slam-o-ramas, choreographed to perfection and shot with inventive, topsy-turvy camera angles that bring you right along for the tosses and tumbles. Mixed martial arts fighting champ Ronda Rousey and Muai Thai warrior Tony Jaa both have bone-crunching cameos.

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Paul Walker

But for all the speed and spectacle, something else truly makes this one special for Fast and Furious fans—and that’s the final appearance of Paul Walker, one of the series’ top stars, who died (ironically) in a car crash in 2013 while it was still in production. Using footage already shot, digital effects and body doubles as stand-ins, the filmmakers were able to complete all the scenes—and amazingly, most viewers will likely never be able to spot any trickery.

Rather than simply a character, Walker’s role is a cornerstone of the entire movie, which actually becomes a eulogy and a tribute to him. At the end, as Vin Diesel’s character rides, literally, into the sunset and says farewell, literally, to his old friend, a montage of scenes from their previous movies plays. It’s not fast, and certainly not furious, and it may make your eyes misty, for just a sweet moment or two, from something other than gravel dust, exhaust fumes and the head-spinning speed at which the next sequel, number eight, is already being readied to head our way.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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