Terminator Genisys

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2015

Skydance Productions/Paramount Pictures

Directed by Alan Taylor

Produced by David Ellison/Dana Goldberg

Written by Laeta Kalogridis/Patrick Lussier

Based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd.

I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. After the dismal “Terminal Salvation” and the utterly boring television series “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” I swore off any and all “Terminator” movies. After the extraordinarily disappointing “A Good Day To Die Hard” I resolved to never again pay money to see Jai Courtney in another movie. I’m sure he’s a fine gentleman and we’d probably have a great conversation over beers. But to date I’ve never seen the man give a performance I’ve liked. He’s got zero chemistry on screen with everybody I’ve seen him act with.

But the lure of Arnold Schwarzenegger proved to be too strong. And to give him his credit, Arnold is a lot of fun to watch in TERMINATOR GENISYS. I think it’s a testament to his growth as an actor that he makes a robot the most human character in the movie. Arnold’s been doing this for so long that he knows how to make us root for The Terminator and how to use the character to get all the laughs in the movie with turning The Terminator into a buffoon or an object of ridicule. I just wish he’d been able to impart some of his acting experience to his co-stars.

Director Alan Taylor and his writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier appear to have drunk 40 ounce sized bottles of J.J. Abrams brand Kool-Aid since the whole premise of TERMINATOR GENISYS is that an entirely new timeline has been created due to a Terminator having been sent back in time to 1973 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a T-1000. When Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) arrives in 1984 via time machine he expects to find a Sarah Connor who’s unaware of Terminators or that she’s the mother of mankind’s savior.

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Instead, he finds a battle-hardened warrior who is just as proficient with weapons and hand-to-hand combat as he is. She knows all about Judgment Day and the future war with Skynet and its machine army. In addition, her backup is The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has raised Sarah as if she were its daughter. She even affectionately calls The Terminator “Pops”

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Pops has built a time machine himself and Sarah intends to use it to go to 1997 and prevent Judgment Day, the day when Skynet attacked humanity. Due to him remembering the timeline that no longer exists, Kyle insists that they have to go to the year 2017 instead. But when they get there they find a new Terminator. The most advanced Terminator yet since this one is based on nanotechnology. But that isn’t even the worst because this Terminator has a very personal tie to both Sarah and Kyle as it’s their son, John Connor. And before you start foaming at the mouth and screaming; “Spoilers!” let me point out that this very important plot twist is spoiled in the trailers for the movie. It’s a plot twist that definitely should have been kept as the biggest secret in the movie. Just like Schwarzenegger’s iconic “I’ll be back” should have been kept out of the trailers. When we hear him say it in the movie, it should have been a stand-up and cheer moment. But since we’ve seen that scene umpteen times in the trailer we’ve been watching since last year, it’s as dead as yesterday’s fried chicken. There’s no heat behind it. No emotion. And movies run on emotion.

I broke down the plot to its simplest elements because if I took time to adequately explain it in detail, this review could easily run somewhere between three and five thousand words. But if you decide to see this movie the characters will explain it to you over and over and over again. It is amusing to see scenes from the first “Terminator” movie replayed in TERMINATOR GENISYS and there’s some laughs to be had when Kyle meets up with a Sarah Connor who knows more than he does but it quickly goes flat as Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke have no chemistry at all. But as I said earlier, he doesn’t have it with anybody. And it really suffers that the actor playing John Connor (Jason Clarke) also has zero chemistry as well. Given what we know about the relationship between Kyle Reese and John Connor you think that the casting director would have picked a couple of actors who can convince us that they like each other.

Emilia Clarke is no Linda Hamilton, plain and simple. She goes through the movie looking like a little girl playing grown-up and she’s got none of the inner toughness that Linda Hamilton had and was able to project so well. J.K. Simmons shows up late in the movie to provide some much needed humor and it’s too bad that there wasn’t a way his character could have been introduced into the story earlier.

Left to right: Jai Courtney plays Kyle Reese, JK Simmons plays Detective O’Brien, and Emilia Clarke plays Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

As usual, it’s up to Arnold Schwarzenegger to save the day. He’s become a master at the art of deadpan humor and as such, he supplies most of the funny in the movie. The running gag here is that even after all the time he’s spent taking care of Sarah, he’s still learning how to fit in with humanity. And while he’s been presented as a killing machine in past movies, this Terminator has an IQ that would put Reed Richards to shame. He builds time machines. He formulates elaborate plans in 1984 that won’t come to fruition until 2017. He rattles off quantum mechanics and the theory of mutable timelines as if he invented them. Quite a change from the original “Terminator” where Schwarzenegger only has 100 words. In TERMINATOR GENISYS he talks so much that at one point Kyle asks Sarah if he has an off switch.

And by the time I got to the after credits scene it occurred to me that by now, Skynet is the technological equivalent of Michael Myers and Jason Voohees. No matter how many times it seems like its beaten or defeated, it always manages to find a way to come back in the next movie. Which makes me even less inclined to see the two sequels set in this new timeline.

So should you see TERMINATOR GENISYS? Only if you have nothing else to do and just want to get out of the house for a couple of hours. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. Just a completely unnecessary one and it serves no other purpose than to be chewing gum for your brain. If that’s all you want, go see it with my blessing.

PG-13

Rated PG-13

Sometimes Salvation

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2015

Global View Productions

Written and Directed by Thor Moreno

Produced by Annette Duffy/Chris McAninch

It says somewhere in The Gospel of Matthew that God causes rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous. And that’s a pretty good way to describe the Film Noir genre because in Film Noir movies really bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. With no rhyme or reason. It matters not your station in life or your rationalizations for why you do what you do. One day you’re walking along minding your business and life gives you a knockout punch like Muhammad Ali on his best day.

Now, I say that to say this; Thor Moreno’s latest film, SOMETIMES SALVATION is very much a Film Noir in that the characters inhabiting the movie have some pretty rotten things happen to them. Some of them they bring on themselves. Some they don’t. It’s a movie that on the surface is constructed like a crime thriller because we’ve got cops, gangsters, drug dealing, murder and domestic abuse in the mix but that’s only to hook us. Underneath there’s a really interesting character study about people in serious emotional and psychological pain and the lengths that they’re willing to go through to alleviate that pain. It’s about the decisions they make to achieve that alleviation. And since this is a movie taking place in a Film Noir universe, none of those decisions are good ones.

Kelsey (Preshia Paulding) is a woman who due to the strain of losing her husband to a debilitating disease is a walking exposed nerve end. To maintain the illusion of keeping it together she’s taking narcotics she buys from Mandy (Annette Duffy) a nurse who steals drugs from the hospital where she works and sells them to people under the guise that she’s doing it to help them get through their grief. Hah.

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Mandy is one of the links that ties Kelsey to Dusty (Shawn McAninch) a cop with a truly terrifying temper that manifests itself in alcohol fueled abuse of his girlfriend (Lyndsy Darland) and her son Evan (Ian Harrison) And to be very blunt about it, Evan is sick of Dusty’s shit and has a plan to take care of him for good. Evan is the other link tying Kelsey to Dusty as she is one of Evan’s teachers and can’t help but want to know why he’s coming to school with black eyes. The situation worsens with Kelsey’s realization that Dusty is tied into a possible murder that he can pin on her. And when Kelsey becomes privy to Evan’s plan for Dusty it comes down to one really major decision she has to make. Maybe it’s too late for her soul and it damn well sure is far too late for Dusty’s but if she makes the right decision, then Evan’s can be saved.

There’s an awful lot of plot and story in the 65 minutes it takes to tell but Thor Moreno doesn’t waste a minute of it. Wonderful actors who are really committed to their characters assist him. Preshia Paulding is outstanding. Even in the quiet scenes she has she communicates the wretched agony her character his going through. Kelsey is a woman two steps away from losing it for good and Preshia Paulding never lets us forget it. Shawn McAninch steals the movie though. Dusty is an intriguing character due to his anger issues and his alcoholism but yet, Dusty has an unshakable moral code when it comes to his job. He reacts with disgust when he’s asked to do something illegal on two occasions but he can make his domestic abuse sit right in his belly. He takes the character through a truly fascinating arc during the course of the movie, ranging from psychotic rage to the blackest of humor when he’s forced to negotiate with a legbreaker looking for money Dusty owes his boss. I couldn’t help but laugh during that scene and the one that immediately followed as McAninch looks like he could be Louis C.K.’s older, meaner brother. Paulding and McAninch have one totally riveting scene together that really messed with my head as I didn’t know if it was going to end in a seduction, a rape or a murder.

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So should you see SOMETIMES SALVATION? I certainly recommend that you do so. On the strength of the three movies he’s written and directed I’ve seen, Thor Moreno has become one of my favorites.

Jurassic World

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2015

Amblin Entertainment/Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

Directed by Colin Trevorrow

Produced by Frank Marshall/Patrick Crowley

Screenplay by Rick Jaffa/Amanda Silver/ Derek Connolly/Colin Trevorrow

Story by Rick Jaffa/Amanda Silver

Based on characters created by Michael Crichton

I’m going to step up on my soapbox here for just two minutes to give my $1.25 worth on some of the BMW I’ve heard/read about JURASSIC WORLD. If you’re not interested in me pontificating then please feel free to drop on down three paragraphs and read the review. I won’t be offended, I assure you.

Here’s the first thing: I’ve read reviews complaining about the lack of characterization and the predictable plot. You don’t go to a movie like JURASSIC WORLD looking for deep and meaningful characterizations. If they are there then that’s a bonus, sure. But if you pay your money and go in specifically for that then you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and got nobody to blame but yourself. And as for the predictable plot….I mean, really? Aren’t all four of the movies in the “Jurassic Park” series basically the same movie?  They play out like this: People go to island full of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs break loose. People lose their minds and run around screaming. Dinosaurs chase people. People get et. Predictable? Sure is. Half a billion bucks worth of predictable at the box office, baby. And that ain’t dinosaur poop.

And here’s the second thing: the complaints about the lack of scientific accuracy. Sigh. Really? JURASSIC WORLD is a monster movie, plain and simple. It aspires to do nothing more than be an entertaining summer spectacular that gives you a thrill ride for two hours. It is not supposed to be a documentary.

But at the same time, it’s not entirely brain dead. If you pay attention I think you’ll see that JURASSIC WORLD, while itself being a summer blockbuster movie makes a statement about summer blockbuster movies and how audiences are constantly demanding for summer movies to be bigger and louder with more stunts and even more explosions. I have no idea if the writers and director directly intended for that to be in there and if they did, it’s a wonderfully subversive element to add in there. Okay, time for me to step off my soapbox and get to the review.

Brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) are packed off to stay with their aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) while their parents work out some marital problems. It’s not as much of a bad deal at this may seem seeing as how Aunt Claire is the Operations Manager of Jurassic World, a dinosaur theme park located on Isla Nublar (cue the John Williams theme song) Claire is much too busy trying to woo potential investors with the lure of bigger and better dinosaur attractions. Dinosaurs genetically modified by the park’s Chief Geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) And his latest one is a doozy. He calls it Indominus Rex and it’s a biological killing machine as he used the DNA of half a dozen predatory dinosaurs to create the thing.

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The Indominus Rex proves to be a lot more intelligent than anyone ever thought it could be as it manages to escape it’s enclosure and begins slaughtering its way across the island, killing humans and other dinosaurs alike as it makes its way straight to the park where the real feast awaits.  It up to Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and his hunting pack of Velociraptors to track down the Indominus Rex and stop it before it busts into the park.

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We’re not talking about a plot that you have to burn up brain cells thinking about. We’ve got Vincent D’Onofrio as Hoskins, the head of Security Operations who has some nebulous hair-brained idea that he can weaponize the Velociraptors for military use but he’s not the real bad guy here. He’s more of an annoyance. It’s Indominus Rex that is the true villain as it demonstrates a scary feral intelligence that gives it an unpredictability factor that goes off the charts.

Chris Pratt really impressed me here as he didn’t just fall back on doing a version of his Star-Lord/Peter Quill character from “Guardians of The Galaxy” Owen Grady is his own character in his own right and a lot of that had to do with the character’s body language. Since Grady’s hand signals, his stance and arm gestures are his way of communicating with the raptors he tends to stand absolutely still when talking with humans, not using his hands to emphasize his speech at all as most of us do. But when he’s with the raptors, his gestures and movements are very animated. It’s a small thing, I know. But to me it said a lot about the character and how he sees the raptors and his relationship to them.

I honestly don’t know if I liked Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance or not. She doesn’t have much chemistry with Pratt and she seemed to be going back and forth as if she herself wasn’t sure if her character was supposed to be the movie’s comedy relief or not. But she’s right there in the middle of the action along with Pratt and she has some pretty good lines in the scenes where Claire and Owen are in the jungle looking for her lost nephews.

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I would never have guessed that Colin Trevorrow had this kind of action movie in him based on “Safety Not Guaranteed” which is a completely different type of science fiction movie and one I heartily recommend. He does an absolutely terrific job of channeling Steven Spielberg here, swiping shots from the first two “Jurassic Park” movies left and right. It’s an impressive directing job. He knows how to keep the plot moving and how to invest us in his characters and care about what happens to them.

The bottom line is this: you want to go to see JURASSIC WORLD because in the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.”

And that’s all it is. Enjoy.

124 Minutes

PG-13

Nora Prentiss

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1947 

Warner Bros. 

Directed by Vincent Sherman

Produced by William Jacobs

Screenplay by N. Richard Nash

Story by Paul Webster/Jack Sobell

“A type of crime film featuring cynical malevolent characters in a sleazy setting and an ominous atmosphere that is conveyed by shadowy photography, dark shadows and lighting to show the complicated moral nature of the subject and foreboding background music.”

Now that’s the Merriam-Webster definition of Film Noir. I’ve got a simpler definition: some Poor Slob gets into a situation way over his head involving murder and or/theft. Mainly through and because of his relationship with a Dame and/or Femme Fatale that he had no business messing around with in the first place. By the time he realizes he’s up to his neck in You Know What, our Poor Slob is either dead, dying, soon to be dead or wishing he was dead.

The Poor Slob in NORA PRENTISS is Dr. Richard Talbot (Kent Smith) He’s an extremely successful and highly respected physician. He’s got a great house in the suburbs, a lovely wife (Rosemary DeCamp) and two marvelous children that love and respect him. But Talbot is a profoundly unhappy man, bored with the predictable dull routine of his life.

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That all changes when he meets The Dame. Nightclub singer Nora Prentiss (Ann Sheridan) is struck a glancing blow by a speeding truck and since Talbot’s office is closer than a hospital, she’s taken there for treatment. Turns out she’s just bruised a little. But Talbot is quite taken with the charm and beauty of this woman and it isn’t long before he’s spending his nights in the nightclub, listening to Nora sing. The relationship progresses as you may well figure that it does as Talbot’s infatuation with Nora develops into love.

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Talbot just can’t bring himself to ask his wife for a divorce and when one of his patients drops dead right in his office, Talbot sees a way out. He puts his wedding ring on the man’s finger and identification in the man’s pockets. He changes clothes with the dead man and places the body in his car, sending it over a cliff. Talbot tells Nora he’s getting a divorce and they move from San Francisco to New York. Seems like Our Poor Slob has gotten away with it and will live happily ever after, right?

Don’t you believe it. Talbot starts drinking heavily and becomes increasingly more and more paranoid as he finds out his death is being investigated. He’s in a constant state of terror that isn’t helped by Nora’s old boss from San Francisco (Alan Alda’s dad Robert Alda) showing up in New York. Talbot is convinced Nora is cheating on him and that thought makes him even crazier. And like any good Film Noir, just when it looks like things couldn’t get any worse; it does in a plot twist worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.

First of all, let’s talk about the look of the film. The cinematographer on NORA PRENTISS is the master of cinematography himself; James Wong Howe and as a result NORA PRENTISS looks absolutely marvelous. The acting is equally magnificent. I have to admit that I never paid much attention to Ann Sheridan before and that’s my loss because she owns this movie from start to finish. I especially liked how Nora is the one with the common sense and brains in the relationship. She tells Talbot this is an old and well-traveled road that they’re on and it’s not going to end well for either one of them. But there’s something about this man that is irresistible. Maybe it’s because he really listens to her when she talks. Maybe it’s because he took the time to be her friend before he became her lover. Whatever it is, it’s got her bad.

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Kent Smith I’ve seen in a few movies and he always struck me as a pretty bland actor. It’s a quality that actually works for him in this movie as Talbot is a bland, boring man until he falls in love with Nora. It awakens emotions in him that he hasn’t felt in years. And it’s his inability to handle these emotions that dooms him. And the final scene Smith has with Sheridan is quietly devastating as Talbot explains with a terrifying calmness to Nora exactly why he has chosen the fate he has and why she must go along with it and never, ever tell the truth.

NORA PRENTISS was one of the movies that kicked off Turner Classic Movies “Summer of Darkness” on June 5th in which they’ll be showing Film Noir movies every Friday during the month of June and July. You’ve still got plenty of time to jump on board and here’s a link to the schedule so that you can catch your Film Noir favorites or make plans to catch one you’ve never seen before. And make a note to watch NORA PRENTISS the next time it’s shown on TCM. You won’t regret it.

111 Minutes

Love, Sex & Eating The Bones

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LOVE, SEX & EATING THE BONES

2003

ThinkFilm/Velocity Home Entertainment

Written and Directed by David “Sudz” Sutherland

Produced by Jennifer Holness

Watching movies recommended to you by your friends is always a tricky proposition, isn’t it? Mainly because people are so passionate about their movies that if they recommend one to you and you don’t like it they are truly and honestly upset about it. It’s almost as if by saying you don’t like their choice of movies, you’re rejecting them.

Of course, if you’re as open-minded as me, you pretty much roll with it and just sit back and determine to be completely and totally objective about a recommendation. Even when it’s a romantic comedy, not my favorite movie genre, I assure you. But LOVE, SEX & EATING THE BONES got my attention for three reasons: first, it’s a romantic comedy with a primarily black cast. Second, it’s set in Toronto and I was highly curious to see if the movie would provide me with insight into African-Canadian culture. And third, it stars Hill Harper, an exceptional actor who I’ve seen in movies for years and years now and never seems to have hit upon that one breakout movie that will make him a star. This is truly a shame because I’ve never seen him in a movie where I didn’t enjoy his performance and I greatly enjoyed his performance in this movie as well.

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Michael Joseph (Hill Harper) is an aspiring photographer making ends meet by working as a security guard in a parking garage. It’s not a bad job. The work isn’t demanding and he mainly hangs out with his co-workers/best buds Sweets (Mark Taylor) and Kennedy (Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies) Since his job is so undemanding he’s got plenty of time for his two true passions in life: his photography and his pornography.

Yep, you read that right. Michael is a full tilt boogie porn addict. He’s got stacks and stacks of porn tapes in his apartment and his particular porn star obsession of Amazonian proportions named Lisette (Meriaka Weathered) who he fantasizes about while he’s uh…ahem…harrumph….cough cough.

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He doesn’t see his porn addiction as a problem until he starts dating the gorgeous and stylish marketing executive Jasmine LeJeune (Marlyne Afflack) who coming off a long period of celibacy and is looking to make up for lost time. They date and there’s an honest connection there. This makes it all the more surprising for them and hilarious for us when Michael is unable to perform in the bedroom. In fact, unless he’s watching porn, his soldier refuses to stand to attention at all.

It also doesn’t help that Jasmine’s sister Peaches (Kai Soremekun) is aware of Michael’s porn addiction since in one of those coincidences that romantic comedies couldn’t exist without, she works in Michael’s favorite XXX video palace.

Can Michael overcome his porn addiction and make this relationship with Jasmine work? Or will he be lured to the dark side when he wins a contest where the prize is being in a sex scene with Lisette?

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Trust me when I say that LOVE, SEX & EATING THE BONES is not as sleazy as it sounds. Oh, it’s got its raunchy moments, I don’t deny that. But the porn scenes are played more as a parody of the genre that anything else. The true meat of the movie is Michael’s dealing with his porn addiction and how it got such a hold on him. What helps us sympathize with his character is that Michael honestly is a nice guy. He’s extremely respectful towards all the women we see him encounter. Even Peaches, who since he doesn’t drive a Bentley and have a six figure bank account she takes an immediate dislike to him and tries her best to jam him up every chance she gets.

The movie even takes a soft turn into psychodrama as when Michael mind starts to mix up his fantasy woman and his real woman. And I think it was an inspired move on the part of writer/director Suzd Sutherland to have this rich golden glow emanate from Michael’s portfolio of pictures whenever somebody opens it up to look at his work instead of showing actual photographs. It’s the best way to visualize Michael’s work as being magical. There’s a really lovely scene where Jasmine looks in the portfolio for the first time and as the golden glow plays over her face and she smiles we can tell exactly what she’s feeling.

Hill Harper and Marlyne Afflack share the acting honors in this one. They have a genuine rapport and charm with each other that is so unforced and so natural I got caught up in the story before I knew it. The rest of the cast does exactly what the supporting cast in a romantic comedy is supposed to do: they circle the leads and comment on the action, offering advice that isn’t needed or wanted but provide us with a lot of laughs.

LOVE, SEX & EATING THE BONES most certainly isn’t your conventional, paint-by-the-numbers American made romantic comedy and its refusal to be conventional is 50% of its appeal. The other 50% is the setting and the strong performances of the talented cast. Highly Recommended.

LOVE, SEX & EATING THE BONES is currently available to watch on Popcornflix.com

100 Minutes

Rated R

 

 

San Andreas

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2015

Warner Brothers/New Line Cinema/Flynn Picture Company/Village Roadshow Pictures/RatPac-Dune Entertainment

Directed by Brad Peyton

Produced by Beau Flynn/Hiram Garcia/TrippVinson

Screenplay by Carlton Cuse

Story by Andre Fabrizio/Jeremy Passmore

You know what SAN ANDREAS needed to be a real, Honest-To-Irwin-Allen Disaster Movie? Director Brad Peyton needed to have rounded up a dozen aging character actors from the 1980s and sprinkle them in his movie in various roles so that we in the audience could have the fun of guessing which ones were going to die and which ones would be around for the closing credits. Because that’s how those classic Disaster Movies of the 1970s sold: “Who will live and who will die?” the posters asked. And that was part of the fun of going to see a Disaster Movie back then.

SAN ANDREAS chooses to focus on one family as they struggle to survive the largest earthquake in human history: a 9.6 that rips California apart and obliterates cities. It’s a narrow focus, yes, but the real stars of the movie aren’t Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino, good as they are. The stars of SAN ANDREAS is the special effects department and it goes absolutely batshit insane destroying Los Angeles and San Francisco. Even for a long time movie goer like me who has seen plenty of destruction on screen, the apocalypse depicted in SAN ANDREAS is magnificently outrageous. And that’s the fun of going to see a Disaster Movie now.

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Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) is a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter rescue pilot. He’s going through a rough divorce from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) who he still loves madly even though she’s moving in with her mega rich real estate developer boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Ioan Grufudd) Ray is looking forward to spending quality time with their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) in San Francisco. Quality time that is cut short by a devastating 7.1 earthquake that destroys Hoover Dam.

Caltech seismologist Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) had predicted the quake but in true Chicken Little fashion, nobody believed him when he said the sky was falling. But with the help of plucky news reporter Serena Johnson (Archie Panjabi) they believe him when he says that this is just the beginning. Things are going to get a whole lot worse and basically, everybody in San Francisco needs to start running as if their asses are on fire NOW and don’t stop until they hit Canada.

The quake hits Los Angeles and Ray is able to save Emma using his chopper. They then set out to fly to San Francisco and hopefully get there ahead of the quake and save their daughter.

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And that’s all you need to know. SAN ANDREAS knows what you’ve come for. You want to see skyscrapers tumbling into rubble, famous landmarks blowing up, cities engulfed in tsunamis, women clutching their children to their breasts as they run screaming down the street, men stampeding like blood-mad bulls and everybody pretty much hollering “Oh, shit!” non-stop as they all try to stay alive while California slides into the sea.

Director Brad Peyton and screenwriter Carlton Cuse have no pretense that they’re making art here and stars Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino don’t for a minute try for Academy Awards. But they do understand the genre they’re working in and conduct themselves accordingly. Both Johnson and Gugino are always wonderful to watch on screen and they acquit themselves well here. Between dodging collapsing buildings and explosions they rebuild their damaged relationship, providing moments where their characters and the audience as well can catch a breather until the next crisis must be overcome.

Paul Giamatti and Archie Panjabi are also fun to watch as they work their side of the street warning the hapless citizens that they have to run for their mollyfoggin’ lives NOW. I liked how Paul Giamatt’s Dr. Hayes gets to have his Action Hero moment during the destruction of the Hoover Dam (a truly frightening sequence) where he’s getting tourists off the dam as its falling to pieces.

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I saw SAN ANDREAS in 3D and while I normally avoid 3D like the plague, this time I couldn’t get out of it as my wife Patricia insisted on seeing it in 3D. She’s very good about going to see movies with me she has no interest in so I couldn’t be a swine and refuse her. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I enjoyed watching it in 3D way more than I thought I would. The 3D was especially good later on during the scenes in a drowned San Francisco that are utterly and totally surreal. And yes, fellas, you will most definitely appreciate the 3D in the scenes where Carla Gugino is running.

So should you see SAN ANDREAS? Yes. It’s a total Summer Movie. It’s all spectacle, all massive action set pieces and enormously outrageous stunts and special effects. It has no pretentions and no desire to do nothing else that make you forget your troubles and entertain you for 114 minutes. And it does it with strong actors and a simple, direct story that has just enough characterizations and genuine emotion to get you invested in the characters. Enjoy.

114 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Beyond The Poseidon Adventure

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1979

Warner Bros.

Directed and Produced by Irwin Allen

Screenplay by Nelson Gidding

Based on the novel by Paul Gallico

It doesn’t surprise me at all that it took Irwin Allen seven years to come up with a sequel to his disaster movie masterpiece “The Poseidon Adventure.” He did come up with a story soon after that movie in which the survivors had to go to Vienna to testify in a hearing as to what happened on The Poseidon. While on a train to the hearing, the survivors would be trapped in a miles long tunnel that collapses, trapping them inside. The rest of the movie would have them struggle to find a way out.

For some reason that was never filmed but the premise was reworked and used for the Sylvester Stallone movie “Daylight.” You’ll have to tell me how it works out because for some reason I’ve never seen “Daylight.” Don’t ask me why.

Anyway, apparently it took Mr. Allen that long to come up with another story. In the interim, Paul Gallico, the writer of the original novel had written a sequel of his own. The sequel was to his novel and not the movie. But don’t worry; the movie BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE has no relation to the novel written by Mr. Gallico and I give thanks for that. If you’ve read “The Poseidon Adventure” you’ll know why I say that. There’s a popular school of thought that says that movie versions of novels are never as good as the books. Well, “The Poseidon Adventure” is a movie that goes against that school of thought as it’s far better than the novel. The characters in the novel are vile, despicable people who I was rooting for to die. There’s no heroism in that book, nobody to root for. Unlike the movie which shows us that anybody is capable of rising to meet an extraordinary challenge.

But that’s enough of that. We’re here to talk about BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE so let’s get to it.

On the same New Year’s Eve that The Poseidon gets turned topsy turvy, Captain Mike Turner (Michael Caine) and his plucky crew (Karl Malden and Sally Field) are struggling to keep his tugboat afloat. Now, what in the hell a tugboat is doing way out in the middle of the ocean in international waters is never explained. All you have to know is that Turner loses his cargo and that means he’ll also lose his boat to the bank as he was depending on that cargo to pay off his mortgage.

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As fate would have it, Turner and crew come across the wreck of The Poseidon and Turner aims to go aboard and claim salvage rights. He figures that he can get to the purser’s office he’ll find valuables in the safe that he can use to get his boat out of hock.

Dr. Svevo (Telly Savalas) and his crew who represent themselves as medics who received the ship’s SOS join them. Now, what in the hell a crew of medics is doing just joyriding way out in the middle of the ocean in international waters on New Year’s Day is never explained. All you need to know is that five minutes after Turner meets Svevo he’s got the feeling the good doctor is fulla bovine excrement.

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Making their way inside The Poseidon through the same hole in the hull that the survivors of the previous movie escaped through, they quickly become trapped inside the still sinking ship themselves. Turner and the others encounter survivors still aboard: ship’s nurse Gina Rowe (Shirley Jones) the obligatory passenger with a deep dark secret Suzanne Constantine (Veronica Hamel) the obligatory pain in the ass Frank Mezzetti (Peter Boyle) and his daughter (Angela Cartwright) crewman Larry Simpson (Mark Harmon) billionaire Dewey “Tex” Hopkins (Slim Pickens) and blind businessman Harold Meredith (Jack Warden)

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Turner finds the purser’s office and the safe. And inside the safe he finds stacks of cash, industrial diamonds and gold coins, more than enough to get his boat out of hock. Dr. Svevo and his men also find something as well; a cache of plutonium. Svevo is actually a terrorist who has nefarious plans for the plutonium. And he’s more than willing to kill Turner and the others to insure they won’t tell the outside world of those plans. As decks continue to flood and explosions rock the ship it becomes a race for the two groups to get off the doomed ship, battling each other and time.

I realize I’m in the minority here, but I actually think it was a smart idea for Irwin Allen to go with a plot that is just as much an action/adventure thriller as a fight for survival. After all, we got the fight for survival in the first movie. The plot with the terrorists and the plutonium may be out of left field but let’s face it, if you’ve bought everything up until now, why not go along with the rest?

There’s a strong line-up of actors in this movie and while nobody is trying to win an Academy Award, nobody is phoning it in either. Telly Savalas is in full Ernst Stavro Blofeld mode here, managing to be pleasantly menacing and ruthlessly charming at the same time. Peter Boyle is saddled with the unfortunate task of being the Ernest Borgnine stand-in here but he and Caine do appear to be having a good time barking and biting at each other. If there is anybody who can be said to be coasting, it’s Sally Field. Basically she’s playing her character from “Smokey & The Bandit” here. The similarity even goes so far as to her being nicknamed for an animal in this movie just as she was in “Smokey & The Bandit.” In that movie her nickname was ‘Frog.’ Here, Turner nicknames her ‘Monkey.’ And how can you go wrong with Michael Caine, Karl Malden, Slim Pickens and a baby-faced Mark Harmon all in the same movie?

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So should you see BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE? Sure, why not? It’s nowhere near as good as the original, but then again, it’s not trying to be. In fact, you could watch this movie without ever having seen “The Poseidon Adventure” and be satisfied. It does its own thing and it’s satisfied with that. I wouldn’t say it’s a movie that you should run out and buy but if you’re channel surfing and see it’s on; you wouldn’t be wasting your time giving it a watch. It’s what I like to call a Solid Saturday Afternoon Movie. Enjoy.

114 Minutes

PG