Darke Reviews | Skyscraper (2018)

So I kinda had to talk myself into seeing this one. I had a few of my readers on Facebook support my decision and thus we have a review. You need to understand though I missed part of a monsoon here in Arizona to do this; and if you know anything about me that usually wins out. Being in a storm is one of the few times most people see me actually relax and be at peace. The other time is the ocean. So against instinct and what looked to be a mediocre Die Hard rip off with Captain Charisma at the helm I saw Skyscraper tonight.

The first and most important question everyone is asking is:

Is this a Die Hard rip off; and by how much?

A lot; yet not. So what does it have in common? Well you have a man trying to get to his wife (and kids this time) in a building taken over by terrorists who have the apparent aim to get something only a ridiculously wealthy man has hidden in a secure room. There are action set pieces with him going through windows. There are exploding helicopters. There’s the media. There’s “one good cop”. All of this is in the trailers and it is all there but that is mostly where the similarities end between this and Die Hard.  Oh…there is one other similarity only geeks, movie nerds, and semi obsessive movie reviewers will notice. (I kinda hope I am the first one to point it out to be honest). This is coming out literally on the 30th anniversary of Die Hards release, July 12, 1988. So…points to the filmmakers and whoever made that decision. I tip my hat to you

What’s kind of interesting is that the current millennial and younger generation of movie goers by and large don’t know about a movie that predates Die Hard by 14 years and this one by 44. It also starred someone who was probably the most charismatic action star of his generation. It also has something in common with this one. At it was one of the highest grossing movies of 1974 as well; behind only Blazing Saddles $119 million, with its $116 million box office haul. This is equivalent to roughly $564 million in 2018. Of course some of you are already looking this up so I will stop teasing, but the movie is the three Oscar winning pictured called The Towering Inferno and starred Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. This movie is about a fire in the worlds tallest building that continues to go up and has people trapped; while someone tries to get in and save them from the fire.

So plot wise writer and director Rawson Marshall Thurber; director of…We’re the Millers and Dodgeball?…..decided to try an action set piece and merged two amazing movies into one. Did he do it successfully? Mostly. Anyone watching this will see echoes of Die Hard in it. It’s impossible not to as it is one of the most recognizable, well crafted, and widely loved action films in the past thirty years. It is impossible to make a Person in Danger in a skyscraper movie without being compared to Die Hard since 1988. That being said, this is also the best Die Hard movie SINCE 1988.

The story is as you see it. The Rock is a former FBI agent, Will Sawyer, who is now working as part of his own private security firm. He is invited to review the security of the “tallest building in the world” and assess it so that the insurance company will underwrite it. During his review at an external location, the building is taken by a group with intent to obtain something held by its owner; and to add to their desired effect they set fire to the middle of the building trapping them, the owner, and The Rock’s family above the fire line. The Rock must now find a way to get  back into the building and rescue his family.

It’s basic, but it works. There are plenty of action set pieces, but much like the two films clearly influencing this one they rely more on the tension of the moment than the big hero moments we’ve gotten used to with action movies. This is very similar to its predecessors in that the physicality of its star and the action around him is one of vulnerability and drive rather than what we received in say Rampage or a Fast and the Furious movie. This feels closer to the under appreciated San Andreas in Mr. Johnsons performance and that’s a good thing. Also much like San Andreas, he continues to have his big action star character already have a family rather than be flirting with the damsel and get the girl. The family this time comes in the form of Neve Campbell, who is used very well here, as his Navy Doctor wife and the two children played rather well by McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell. They work, they felt right. That’s all I needed there. The director didn’t forget Ms Campbell is a survivor of the Scream franchise and not helpless.

The supporting cast holds their own with Atomic Blonde’s Roland Moller being our big bad and continuing to impress. I’d love to see him get more meaty roles in this vein, but while lacking in the raw Rickman charm, he does have a certain something to him that makes him engaging. Altered Carbon’s  Byron Mann (he was Kovac’s first sleeve you meet) is almost under used, but due to script, directing, and ability is able to avoid being a a stereotype. They let him be smart and cunning and still professional and follow the rules. Imagine that?! Hannah Quinlivan, plays a  member of the bad guy crew and is absolutely a heavy despite her normally sweet look.  I feel like I need to see her and Ruby Rose square off in a movie. Maybe it was the hair cut. Regardless, the cast was fine and so was the acting.

Yes, some of the plot points are absolutely Chekovs’ Guns and quite honestly. I don’t care. They worked. I saw the set up and recognized the pay off and was not displeased with it.

TL:DR?

Skyscraper was a far better time than I was expecting. It will never quite be the classic that Die Hard is. Sometimes you need to be first to the gate to do that. It was a solid little movie with good acting, good tension, and solid characters that made logical decisions. This was proof to me that you can make a “basic summer action film” and not have to make people turn their brains off. I suppose if I hyper analyze it I may come across a few fallacies in logic or plotholes, but it didn’t deserve that. It never once annoyed me with a character or decision made.

Dwayne Johnson retains his title, though maybe it should be Major Charisma. He is as always absolutely charming, but in this one he lets it come through in the interactions with the family rather than being an over the top action star.

Should I see it?

Honestly, yeah. It’s kinda good. It’s pop corn fare without a doubt, but I don’t regret the 95 minutes I spent with it.

Would you see it again?

Probably? I dunno. If someone asked, I would probably go with them and try to look for actual flaws, but more than likely would just be content to enjoy myself again.

Buying it?

The odds are in it’s favour.

Anything else to share?

This may be a bit spoilerish, so forgive me. I don’t think it is as the trailers show quite a bit of what I am talking about. The film has one other comparison with Die Hard and comes as a counter to the usual performances we see from an action star of this caliber. He gets hurt. It adds up. Sure there’s some level of hero immunity shown, but not like we’ve gotten used to. It’s very John McClane in this aspect and I was really happy to see that.

So…the leg?

Alright, so there’s an elephant in the room and you may want to stop here, but I can’t ignore it consider how I have been dragging someone for the past week.

I am not the right person to address this one and will take correction justifiably if required. Yes, Sawyer has a prosthetic leg below the knee. A phrase that was introduced to me on my FB wall  recently was “Not about me without me”. This is used by disability activists to express you can’t make a piece of media (movie, tv, etc) about us without including us. So knowing Dwayne Johnsons reputation for charity and consideration I did a bit of research and was able to find this little gem of an article: (source: http://989theanswer.com/news/entertainment/dwayne-johnson-honors-amputee-community-with-skyscraper )

“I was honored to play an amputee, and to make sure that I did right by them,” Johnson said on the red carpet for the film’s US premiere Tuesday night. “The research was very extensive. I spent a lot of time with amputees.”

One of those he consulted joined Johnson at the premiere: Jeff Glasbrenner, a Paralympian who became the first American amputee to successfully climb Mount Everest in 2016. Johnson called him “an amazing man.”

Of the film, he added: “There’s two sides to this. One is a big spectacle, big summer fun. The other side is making sure that we paid homage and respect to amputees around the world.”

The film’s writer and director Rawson Marshall Thurber called it “incredibly important” to represent the amputee community.

“There hasn’t been an amputee as the lead of an action film, ever, as far as I know. And I thought it was high time and I hope we’re not the last. I think Dwayne worked really, really hard to represent that community and honor that community. And I think he did a fantastic job,” Thurber said.

I cannot say if this is right, if this is enough. I can say I believe they made every intent to do right. This isn’t erasure as it appears to be the first real attempt I’ve seen at a hero in a live action movie who is an amputee. Technically Hiccup from How to Train your Dragon beats this by a few years, so I clarified with live action. This however is again, up to the community to decide if it was done well. Not me; but I do have a responsibility to address it in the best way I can.

The other debacle..well that is my community and the dragging will continue.

 

Alright folks that concludes this review. Sorry for getting so heavy at the end there, but it was needed.

Next week should be Equalizer 2.

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Darke Reviews | Rampage (2018)

The video game movie. A long Hollywood tradition of pain and misery, with rare gems rising to the top of a pile of well something. Much like I opened with on Tomb Raider a few weeks ago there are video game movies that don’t suck; that said they usually have a story to them. There are only a few movies based on games started in the Arcade first; and we don’t talk about Double Dragon in polite company.

Yes – thats The Chairman on the right…

The hair. The eyebrow. It’s too much dahling.

So here we have Rampage. Someone, somewhere thought lets take the game of three mutated humans turned monsters beating up Illinois cities and turn it into a major motion picture event. Then someone else said “Ok. Here’s $50 million dollars.” I think I am in the wrong line of work some days when I point stuff like that out.

So should you insert a coin to start?

The movie has a total of four writing credits thus invoking my Rule of 3 for writers rooms. The story was by Ryan Engle who disappointed me with The Commuter and Non-Stop for Liam Neeson. Engle also gets a screenplay credit with three other men. Carlton Cuse (San Andreas, Brisco County Jr., Colony), Ryan J Condal (Colony,  Hercules), and Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip).  With this combined pedigree and multiple writers on a concept such as Rampage, this movie should be an absolute train wreck with wildly shifting tones, weirdly spliced scenes, and cringe inducing dialogue; and somehow its not.

Rather than humans who mutate into the monsters, they have animals mutate into significantly larger aggressive hybrid animals. The humans should be and largely are second fiddle to the creature carnage the movie brings. The dialogue is not much, but a few of the lines really work and will make you laugh – especially with some of the delivery. This is not a complex movie here and the concepts are simple and the writers played into those strengths to their benefit with only a handful of human driven moments that do “ok”. The real surprise was the fact the movie addressed consequence for actions (karmic and otherwise) a few times and left me and my partner for the night rather pleased.

Now the humans themselves are, ok its the Rock, you just want to see the Rock. It’s all good. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is charismatic as ever here, knows full well the movie he is in and delivers everything the trailer promised you and more. Naomi Harris does well with her role as a Doctor who had her hand in the creation of the mutagen and she  holds her own with him. The final standout is Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( Supernatural, The Walking Dead) who also knows what sort of movie he is in and goes for the most fun, hammiest – yet entirely in world and in character – performance he could. He worried us at first, then when they let him cut loose he just is all kinds of fun.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) clearly has a love for mid and late 80’s action movies. He shoots sequences that are nothing short of absurd but played straight, and straight sequences with a sense of humor. There’s an early scene (non spoiler dont worry) where a guy is handed three weapons in the span of a minute walk from his car to a chopper as if its nothing, all the while some action hero music from Predator or Commando plays in the background. If you pick up on it – you’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of it, if you don’t you will be rolling your eyes at just how close to over the top it is.

This of course brings us to our creatures, Lizzie, Ralph and George. They look GOOD. Yes, you know they are CG, but the effects team blended them into the real world rather well. Your brain tells you this is computer, but it is interacting with its environment like its there effectively. The people in that environment look part of the scene (most of the time) as well. Its good use of colour correction where they brought up saturation levels just right.  While were on the topic of technicals, the action is magnificently glorious and easy to follow. There sound designers deserve a raise as during loud sequences you can often hear someone in the background saying something entertaining. You will find plenty of game easter eggs as well to a pleasing degree.

TL:DR?

Rampage gave me everything I wanted and a good bit more. This is the grab the popcorn and a drink of choice, sit back, turn the brain off and enjoy for an hour and a half. There’s not much more to say about it – it is just sorta fun and kept the promises the trailers made.

So should I see it?

Yeah. It’s a good time at any price. I would be curious how DBox or XD sound plays with it, I think they’d enhance the experience.

Will you see it again?

Being honest with myself, probably not in theatres, but before you ask yes I am going to buy it.

So the video game movie is good?

Yes, because it doesn’t try to rise above its overly silly concept but also doesn’t deride it either. It embraces it and all its merits and flaws and runs with it with abandon that should be cherished. It’s not quality cinema folks. Some movies can just be there to purely entertain and this does that in spades.

If you have the time and inclination go on a Rampage this weekend.

 

Darke Reviews | Hercules (2014)

Two Hercules movies in one year. I have said since January this one with the Rock could not suck nearly as bad as the first one. If you missed my review for that (I haven’t figured out how to link to FB yet…) its in the review history here on Everything Except Shoes. It sucked. It sucked so bad. It may be one of the worst movies of the year. Not the worst, that may be Transformers 4 or Brick Mansions, but its up there (down there). Enough on the past. A wise monkey told me the past can hurt. Let’s move on.

The Rock, lets face it was born to play Hercules. Did he do it?

I promised in the Lucy review that there was a similarity that was diametrically opposed. The trailers are it. The trailers for Hercules ultimately were a failure and a blessing for the movie. It succeeded so successfully in hiding what the movie really is about. What story it tells that I had all the wrong expectations going in. This is both good and bad. It is very very good that they didn’t give anything away. So nice job guys. It’s bad in that it set up the wrong story in peoples minds. You will go in expecting one thing and will come out with another. That’s not usually a good thing as those expectations can be damaging if you really wanted one thing but got another that didn’t interest you. The movie, for me, works in that I went in expecting little but got more.

From a story standpoint, if you take The Losers, A Knights Tale, and King Arthur and put them in a blender. The resulting puree is this film. That should create some interesting visuals for those familiar with those films. It verges on my no spoiler territory a bit, but I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out what that combination brings.

I think the director could have been anyone. Probably should have been too, but I have a sort of hate for Brett Ratner and his homophobia. Most sane people do, but that’s tied to his horrific films. If you remember X3? I am sorry. If you don’t remember it – count your blessings. He was the director called in and who made many of the decisions that nearly buried the X-Men franchise. He also gave us all the Rush Hour movies even as they grew less funny.

I’d love nothing more than to say he bombed here. Sadly I can’t. He didn’t. The action is decent. The camera shots are good. The overall production is good. Some of the FX were deplorable, but you can’t have it all. Well you can, just not with this movie.

The movie is absolutely carried by its cast. Dwayne Johnson WAS in fact born to play Hercules. He gives Will Smith a run for his money as the most charismatic man on the planet. He might even beat him after the insomnia solving After Earth. What surprised me is how much the supporting cast meets him on the battlefield of charm and entertainment. They elevate the film to the next level in a way Johnson hasn’t had his last few movies. Ian McShane (Kings, Deadwood, Death Race) is in full form and allows his eye brows as his own supporting actors. He is just fun in the yoda like role he has. The surprise humor is from Knights Tale and Dark City star Rufus Sewell. He must be following the Ian MCShane handbook, but just keeps bringing a bloody smile to my face.

I’d also like to commend Ingrid Bolso Berdal as Atalanta. She’s kinda awesome in the action sequences and is worth watching. I Hope she gets a good career in action movies going forward. She sold it and has some potential.

Now…story. It’s interesting, but so cliche’d its painful. CinemaSins will have a field day once he gets his hands on it. At one point the person I saw it with started singing “I’ll make a man out of you”, which was followed by me saying “Rohim, Ride!”. We even get a Han Solo moment at the bridge between Act II and III. It’s just wow in that moment.

Alright, TL;DR?

Hercules is a fun little romp. Its more entertaining than it has any real right to be and I am not 100% certain it’s not a fluke that it is. It’s formulaic as all Hades, but I am strangely comfortable with it. It doesn’t do too much new with its plot, but does some new things.

If you want to largely turn your brain off for an hour and a half and have time to kill go see this.

Kids? Eh 10 and up and you should be good.

This movie surprised me folks. It was just kinda fun.

Next week – I will see Guardians of the Galaxy.