San Andreas Movie Review

Whenever a disaster movie comes out there is an almost unwritten law that you have to see it to see how bad it is.  That is why I went to see Dwayne Johnson’s new disaster epic San Andreas.  

The real problem with making a movie about a disaster is that it doesn’t matter who is in it, the actors are not the main characters.  The wanton destruction is the character of the movie.  The second problem with making a disaster film is that it’s hard to give the main character a personality.  An earthquake is destructive but it has no depth.  So you have to rely on the tertiary characters to provide that for you.  The third problem is that the tertiary characters are rarely developed enough to be interesting.  The same is true here.

Spoilers abound:

Dwayne Johnson plays chief Ray Gaines, the chief of the Los Angeles Search and Rescue division of the fire department.  We first see him rescuing a girl who’s car has been hit by an avalanche and forced her off a cliff.  He and his team are accompanied by a team of reporters during the rescue by helicopter.  This is s tense scene and should have been a precursor for me to realize how the action would be framed for the entirety of the movie.  Tense moments followed by calm moments followed by even more tense moments.

After that scene is concluded he gets home and calls his daughter( Blake played by Alexandra Daddario) whom he wants to go to dinner with.  She’s laying in the sun in a bikini.  The camera gives us a number of shots throughout the movie where cleavage is “accidentally” shown.  But Alexandra Daddario is a pretty attractive woman and that’s a selling point to the movie.  She refuses the meal and while she’s talking to her dad, Chief Gaines is staring at divorce papers.  He says he will see her the following day as he takes her back to school.

Between the scenes with “The Rock” we are treated to scenes with Paul Giamatti who plays a scientist that is also a teacher of seismology.  He is sitting in his office when his assistant says that there have been a series of 2.0 earthquakes at the Hoover Dam and if they got there in time they may be able to test a theory they are working on to predict earthquakes by measuring the size of the magnetic pulses that follow each tremor.  As they are measuring the pulses a 7.0 earthquake hits and kills the professor’s assistant as the assistant is trying save a young girl.  The young girl is saved.

As the professor returns to his office a reporter approaches him to do an interview about the quake( the same reporter).  As they are talking his other lab assistants are measuring the magnetic pulses and determine that the quake has the potential to activate the San Andreas fault line 

Cut back to Dwayne who is getting ready to pick up his daughter to take to school when he gets a text from work saying he needs to do rescue for the Hoover dam area.  He goes to his estranged wife’s boyfriend’s house to say goodbye to his daughter.  The boyfriend is played by the same actor who played Mr. Fantastic in the terribly made Fantastic Four movies.  While he’s there he learns that his estranged wife has planned on moving in with her boyfriend and they decide that the boyfriend should take Blake to school.

Cut to a scene where boyfriend is flying Blake to school where he has a heart to heart with her saying that he would never try to take the place of her dad.  She asks him why he never had kids and he says “oh I do” and he opens a brochure revealing the building he’s creating. He asks if she wants to see it.  We also learn that Blake’s mom( played by Carla Gugino) is scheduled to have lunch with boyfriend’s sister played by Kylie Minogue.  While she is being grilled Dwayne calls his wife and that’s when the danger hits and the earthquake has begun.  Dwayne has to find his wife

Meanwhile Blake is in her mom’s boyfriend’s building lobby when she meets Ben Taylor who is nervously waiting for a job interview.  Ben’s brother sits down next to them and starts hitting on Blake for her brother.  While Ben goes on the interview Blake talks to the younger brother and ends up giving her phone number to the kid to give to Ben.  As she gets up she is approached by boyfriend again and that’s when the earthquake hits.  Boyfriend, being the genius that he is, hurries to the parking garage where they get into car and are driving to escape when the floor of the garage collapses and traps Blake in the car.  Boyfriend gets free and runs back into the building and seeks help.  Ben, who overhears that a girl is trapped in the garage goes to find bake while boyfriend deserts them both.  

Blake makes a call to her dad telling him she’s trapped but before she can say which garage she’s in her cell reception cuts out.  Ben and her Brother rescue Blake but only right before the car is crushed by the falling structure.

Blake figures out that the only way to contact her dad is to find a land line because her cell service is out.  She calls her dad and her dad tells her to get to higher ground so he can find her.  He tells her to go to where her family vacationed when they vacationed in San Francisco.  Oh, by the way mom was rescued but not without peril.

This is where we learn about why Chief Gaines is getting a divorce.  His other daughter died on a whitewater rafting trip and he wasn’t able to save her.  His guilt has put a strain on his marriage.  

The rest of the movie focuses on finding Blake and Blake trying to be found

There are a few moments in the movie where the writing was really, really good.  There are a few moments of dialogue that were very well written but not enough.

There are a few subtle moments in the special effects that are very clever and in those moments I was impressed.  The main issue that I had with the movie was that the movies disaster scenes are manipulative.  They are spaced between scenes where the characters seem to be making progress in getting passed the disasters when they hit again.  This pattern happens so often that I found myself getting angry at the movie for the teeter totter of emotions portrayed in the story.

The CGI effects in the movie are fantastic and I think I was only unimpressed once.  That may be the only thing in the movie worth viewing.  The movie was better than it should have been but still pretty bad.  Grade: C-

Reviews of comic books released by Marvel on 5/27/15 Secret Wars edition

1.  Spoilers abound:  I’m  pretty sure the only way that putting a dinosaur into a comic book is bad is if it was purple and sings “I love you, you love me…”.  That being said: that insipid child nightmare is not anywhere Where Monsters Dwell #1 The Phantom Eagle Flies the Savage Skies.  If you like Silver Age books  then you should love this story.

While I’m not sure how this book has anything  to do with Secret Wars  I really enjoyed this book.  It had all the elements of a pulp fiction story.  It had a chauvinistic hero with no problem picking up women, adventure, and yes, dinosaurs.

The story focuses on a dashing young pilot that is on his way home after escaping a Mayan princess he has impregnated to be approached by a married woman trying to get to her husband.  She pays the pilot to fly her to him and on the way they get struck by lightning and land in what appears to be, the savage land.

The artwork is fun to look at.  The hero/ anti-hero looks exactly how you’d want a slimy yet suave hero to look like.    This book was great, mindless fun.

2.  I’d be lying if I said I completely understood  Old Man Logan #1.  As far as I can tell Logan is an old man that has become a bit of a guardian angel to the people in his realm.  The story starts off with a lot of violence because Logan has found out that someone is buying and trading children into slavery.  

On his way home he encounters a helmet belonging to a past incarnation of Ultron.  He starts to worry and visits Emma Frost in hopes that she might have information about where it came from.

My thoughts on this book?  The parts of this puzzle don’t fit right.  There is no real rhyme or reason for any of the events of the book.  Yes it is an intro story but it doesn’t flow at all.

The art, for the most part, is visually stunning. A lot of that may have to do with the coloring of the book.  The visuals are very vivid and give us a pretty good feel for the atmosphere of the book.  Still, it’s not enough to rescue the book.  Grade: B-/C+

3.  Secret Wars 2099 #1 was a particularly easy read and also very enjoyable.  The first half of the book is a fight between the heroes of the year 2099 and villains of the same time period.  We are thrown pretty quickly into the action of the story.  Through the action we begin to see the character of our characters.  Hercules, Black Widow, Captain America and Hawkeye are the Avengers 2099 crew.

This issue has plenty of action, humor and heart.  We are treated to a team that genuinely cares about one another and voices  concern over the choices each one of the characters makes.  The heart to heart conversations in the book really work here and make you wish the writer hadn’t cut them short.  Peter David did a great job writing this book and Will Sliney also drew a great bunch of visuals for the reader to look at.  Grade: B+

Marvel Comic book reviews for comic books released on 5/27/15 (the non secret war reviews). 

Welcome everybody to this week’s reviews of my favorite comic book company….Marvel Comics.  I haven’t always loved everything they’ve done, but I’ve also found a better understanding and kindred Spirit in its characters.

I only intended to read two titles this week.  My intention was to shy away from Secret Wars.  But, honestly, I’ve been intrigued by it so far.  So what went from two titles quickly became eight titles.

1.  I think anyone who is going through a mid life crisis or has a past they want to erase should read Black Widow.  Natasha Romonov may be one of the more interesting characters in the Marvel Universe.  She is an Avenger and hero but she’s also been an assassin and spy.  I don’t get the impression that she likes fitting into any of those designations.  I get the impression that she likes doing heroic things but that her past prevents her from taking on the moniker of hero.

We see a lot more of that in Black Widow #018.  Although I could be wrong, this looks like the end of the latest story arc.  The current threat with Chaos seems to be settled, Natasha’s lawyer has been rescued and Natasha is back to doubting her future as an Avenger

Most of the writing in this book is excellent.  However, there are moments where the character’s confusion leads to awkward transitions between story lines.  The flow of the story seems interrupted near the end of the story.

The art is generally not my favorite but there is one panel that is very cool.  When Naatasha is contemplating her life there is a scene where what she is watching some kids play in a park and what she sees through her sunglasses is viewed through the lens of the sunglasses.  There is also a HUGE decision that Natasha makes in this issue

This issue was done very well.  There is a pretty creepy cliffhanger.  It’ll be interesting to see where the book goes.  With the exception of the strange transitions this was a great issue.  Grade: B

2.  Of the two books that I bought this week that aren’t Secret Wars related S.H.I.E.L.D. #006 may be my favorite.  The artwork in this book is simply amazing.  Paul Renaud has a unique art style that brings detail to each of the characters that makes this comic book a joy to read.

There is a cornucopia of characters in this issue to deal with the threat that Dormammu has brought against earth.  He has cordoned off all magicians so they can’t help destroy him.

While the solution is a little corny, and maybe just a little satanic, it added some characters that were very cool to see.  If you want a fun book with great art this book has it all.  Grade: B+

Secret War reviews the next few days 

Marvel Comic Book reviews for the week of 5/20/15 part 2

1.   Spoilers abound.   There’s not a lot about Secret Wars that I’m interested in.  However, Planet Hulk #001 was one of those stories.  I am a fan of anything hulk so it wasn’t too hard for me to pick this one up.  This book picks up as part of the Battleworld saga inside the Secret Wars event.

The idea?  When the two worlds collided, remnants of both worlds merged to form Battleworld.  It is run by Victor Von Doom and his trusty advisor Doctor Strange. 

Captain America is a gladiator with devil dinosaur as his sidekick.  He is looking for his buddy Bucky Barnes who appears to have been taken.  Captain America is fighting in the battle pits when he is approached by one of Doom’s champions who takes Captain America to meet Doom.  Doom agrees to free Bucky( who is also on a mission for Doom) if Captain America will killed the leader of Greenland( an area controlled by Hulks) who just happens to be Rulk.  That is all we get of that story.

There is also a story in the book about the origin of Greenland

I liked this story.  There wasn’t much of a hulk presence in the book but it was a good introduction to where things are headed.  I had only one beef with the writing.  The book seems to indicate that Battleworld has existed for a while now but I’m not sure I understand the time frame.

The art is fantastic.  There is absolutely no problem understanding what’s happening in the book because the art is too strange.  Grade: B

Marvel Comic book reviews for the week of 5/20/15

i think anytime you do something long enough you end up getting burnt out from it.  Especially when you work on something long enough and it isn’t as well received as you would like it to be.  I needed some time off.  While other sites have multiple contributors, I am on my own.  As a result it takes me a while to get these reviews written.
Spoilers abound:

Sometimes all it takes is a comic book that is expertly written to breathe life back into your comic book reading.  Most of the time when I find those books, I want to tell the world about them.  This week’s star( so far) belongs to Deathlok #008.  When I started reading this series I picked it up on a whim.  I only really wanted to read it because of the character on the TV show Marvel AOS.  Instead I picked up one of the best books Marvel produces.

Henry knows he’s Deathlok.  He started figuring out when Domino shot him.  It tampered with his programming.  His controller, JJ, confirmed it and now she is being dealt with and Henry has a new controller who has gone silent while one of Boitek’s( the company responsible for fitting Henry with the equipment to become Deathlok) henchmen has been sent to kill Henry.  This issue focuses on that confrontation.  I will not ruin it for you 

In addition to that story, S.H.I.E.L.D. Is now involved.  One of Biotek’s assassins killed a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and Maria Hill( the director) wants to know why.  In order to do that they enlist Michael Collins, the previous Deathlok, to find the person involved.  He suggests that they try Domino.  So they do.  Again, I won’t reveal the outcome.

There is plenty of tension in this book and you genuinely feel every second of it.  Nothing feels forced here.  The violence in the book is tense and brutal but never corny or forced.    The art and shading also compliment this book very well.  I loved this issue and, so far, this is a book that looks untouched by Secret Wars.  I’m looking forward to more.  Grade: A+

2.  Moon Knight has taken an unusual turn and I’ve not decided if it’s for the better.  Instead of focusing on people as his intended targets, Marc Spektor is chasing after supernatural killers.  In Moon Knight #015 Spektor has taken it upon himself to chase after a literal monster that is hiding under the bed.  When we first see Moon Knight we see him battered and covered in blood and muttering ” Khonsu why have you forsaken me.”  He is found by strangers and wakes up three days later asking the same question as before.  Khonsu says he has not forsaken his son.

If you have been reading my reviews for a while you know that I get uncomfortable when writers equate the characters with Jesus.  In this case the author has seemed to equate Marc with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane where Christ asked the same question.  The difference?  Christ didn’t mow down his opponents with machine guns.  I know if stuff like this happens it’s fiction.  I also know it’s up to me to decide to continue or discontinue reading things that offend my sensibilities.  I just wish there were certain things that were off the table when it comes to comics or at least treated with more respect.

This wasn’t my favorite comic.  I am really not sure what direction the new writer is taking the comic book, but, if I’m honest, it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t know that I want to read Moon Knight: Marvel’s answer to Constantine.  I liked the book when it was less supernatural.  I’m giving this comic a grade of B-

3.  I’m not sure that George Lucas is happy he sold his movie franchise to Disney or not.  He is certainly not okay with the fans crucifying him for the first 3 prequels to the Star Wars trilogy.  But, in fairness to the fans:  if you don’t have the hindsight to see why Jar Jar Binks is one of the most annoying characters in movie history then you deserve some of that ire.

Star Wars #005 has one of the best covers of the week and delivers as a good comic but not as electrifying as the previous four issues.  This issue feels like a filler issue.  We spend most of the book searching for Luke through the journey Boba Fett is taking to find  him.  The rest of the book focuses on Luke finding Obi Wan’s hut on Tattooine and searching through his things while fighting off Sand Raiders too.  A third story focuses on Han trying to get parts for his ship and getting conned into going on a mission with Leia 

I think the trouble I had with this issue was in its pacing.  Each issue up to this point has been full of mostly non stop action.  While there was some action to the book it didn’t seem as frenetically paced.  Also the dialogue is beginning to feel like it’s all been done before.

I love the fact that I’m able to read a Star Wars series but this one didn’t quite have the edge the last few issues have had.  It was a good book, just not a great one.  Grade: B

4.  So it looks like Guardians of the Galaxy are going to be affected by Secret Wars.  It has already been affected by The Black Vortex event.  There is really not a lot to be said here.  This was an excellent book.  Issue 27  is primarily The Guardians vs. the Chitauri.  You remember them right?  They were Loki’s army in the Avengers movie that wasn’t at all disappointing.  Star Lord is coming to terms with being President Quill when a living planet  pops up above Spartax.  He enlists his team to fight them and Gomora to go to the other planet to get the Chitauri to back down.

This was a fun issue with one twist that will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the team in the future( to find out what it is go buy the comic and support your local comic book store.  The art was fun and moved the story along very well.

I recommend this book to anyone but it appears to be the end of a story and the beginning of one that has no direction yet.  Grade: B