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Cinemaholics Review: Rampage

rampage

Rampage has been a huge hit at the box office so far (no surprise for a Dwayne Johnson blockbuster), but reviews are about as divided as many expected. Is this the best video game adapted film, so soon after Tomb Raider? If you ask Will Ashton, not so fast. We had a great discussion, but this is a pretty packed episode with other reviews and topics at hand.

I’ve been at San Francisco International Film Festival all week, so I briefly shared my thoughts on a few new movies you might remember from our Sundance episode back in February. I discussed Leave No TraceSorry to Bother YouThe Guardians, and Eighth Grade (which won honors at the festival). Will and I also spent some time explaining the Netflix controversy related to Cannes Film Festival, which poses some big questions for the future of streaming movies and what constitutes as “true” cinema.

For Mini Reviews, we dove into the new Netflix reboot series Lost in Space, plus a few under-the-radar flicks you might want to check out. Paterno just came out on HBO, which stars Al Pacino as the Penn State coach during the final years of his life. I saw You Were Never Really Here, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and is already a contender for my favorite movie of 2018. And we finished with Lean on Pete, a new A24 film from the director of 45 Years.

Question for you: What is the “best” Dwayne Johnson movie?

Go on…Cinemaholics Review: Rampage

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‘The Fate of the Furious’ Is Both Better And Worse Than Its Predecessors

fate of the furious

The Fate of the Furious is an easy film to understand just by taking a second look at its title, which feels designed for a hashtag (F8), rather than something new or creatively crafted. This is the eighth installment of a 16-year-long franchise that has more or less stayed alive and successful by finding increasingly silly ways to escalate its rising action to a series climax that has never been hazier.

In F8, we have what many 2017 films seem destined to use as a plot device: a hero of the series (Dominic Toretto, who long slipped into Vin Diesel simply playing himself) “goes rogue” and his former teammates have to team up to try and stop him.

At this point in the franchise, the “family” almost solely consists of former enemies Dom has picked up over the years, including an indefensibly sympathetic Shaw (Jason Statham) who is wrapped up with a retcon for the last two movies, pitting Charlize Theron’s “Cipher” as the real villain all along…somehow. And her isolated master plan is at least one that generates some intense moments, including a deluge of remote controlled cars that devastate New York City.

There seems to be a clear effort from director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta ComptonItalian Job) to ground this franchise in darker subplots that make the characters feel somewhat less immortal, not just in the sense that they’ll die, but also in how death wrecks the characters. But overall, the movie’s main thrust (being a Saturday Morning Cartoon for adults) never gives way to any of the semi-serious tone that now has to reconcile with Dom’s never-ending sense of family, a theme that has certainly run its course as a passable explanation for what brings these characters together.

fate of the furious

Yet F8 also consists of some of the most exciting and entertaining set pieces in the franchise to date, including some playful development involving Shaw and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson in a bigger role than Furious 7) charming their way to what is hopefully spinoff territory, or just a retooling of the series that lets these two action heroes take the reigns. Aside from them, none of the familiar characters here are given a shred of character growth, and F8 only advances the plot of their lives in superficial ways that feel tacked on. And that’s not even mentioning the sloppy effort to replace Paul Walker with Scott Eastwood. There’s no question Furious 7 handled Walker’s tragic death with class, so it’s strange to see F8 stumble with this just two years later.

As the various family members deal with having to take down Dom, there’s no learning, application, or self-reflection to get them there. They simply do what they’ve done before; Roman wisecracks, Leti is always there for Dom, everyone drives fast, etc. It’s surprisingly weightless, even for a blockbuster franchise that has won many people over for how accessibly fun it can be, while still having enough style and shiny lights to bring you back for the next one.

If that was the only goal, then F8 does its job fine. And at times, it’s truly a spectacle that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible. But there’s no denying the early signs of a series that is running dangerously low on steam for the first time since 2005.

Grade: B-

Extra Credits:

  • Forgot to mention the Cuba prologue, which might actually be the movie’s best scene and one of the best street races they’ve done yet.
  • Seeing the previous movies helps quite a bit, as F8 has a lot of past characters coming back around (even Lucas Black was originally meant to have a cameo, but he had to drift out due to conflicts).
  • Yes, it’s pretty obvious that Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel hate each other in real life.
  • Kristofer Hivju (Tormund from Game of Thrones) needs to be in more movies.

Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Review: ‘Moana’ Is Disney’s Best Movie In Decades

Moana is a triumphant return to form for Disney that improves upon just about everything the studio has set up through both its recent surge of Pixar-esque entertainment, as well as the musical favorites of recent years. It’s a highlight that owes much of its existence to the success of TangledWreck-It Ralph, and Frozen, though perhaps even more directly to the 90s classics younger critics like myself grew up with. Make no mistake, though, Moana is its own quirky, beautiful masterwork.

You can watch the full review above or read a transcription published here.

Grade: A+

Extra Credits:

  • The movie stars Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson as Maui. It was directed and co-written by Ron Clements, co-directed by Don Hall, John Musker, and Chris Williams, and the screenplay is by Jared Bush.
  • Ron Clements and John Musker sound familiar? They made The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules, among some other hand-drawn Disney films. This is their first feature-length computer-animated movie.
  • Original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina.
  • If Moana wins an Oscar for its music, then Miranda will be the third person ever to achieve a PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony).
  •  Moana is the first Disney princess not based on an existing fairy tale or legend, unless you count Merida from Brave as a Disney princess.
  • I didn’t cover this in the review, but Cravalho (who voices Moana) is an incredible talent for such a young age. At 14, she’s the youngest Disney Princess voice ever.
  • “Moana” means “ocean or sea” in Polynesian culture, and it’s a common word for “blue.”
  • Alan Tudyk voices the animal sidekick in this film, which is notable because this is the fifth consecutive animated Disney movie he’s worked in, starting with Wreck-It Ralph.
  • Easter eggs: The only one I managed to catch is Maui transforming into Sven, from Frozen. Also, Moana is referenced in Zootopia as a DVD called “Meona.”

    Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

    Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


 

 

‘Furious 7’ Official Trailer Feels Like a Tribute to Paul Walker

It’s been a year since Paul Walker tragically passed away, leaving behind his “family” of costars to grieve his untimely loss. This trailer for the next and possibly final Fast and Furious franchise very much feels like his epitaph.

Even on its own, the movie shows off exactly what we love about these movies, along with some new upgrades. Jason Statham is looking like he’ll make a pretty perfect villain for the anti-heroes, and the Rock flexes out of a cast.

Furious 7 come out April 3, 2015.

How Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Became a Movie Star

Daniel Roberts | Fortune 

In 2013 his movies made some $1.3 billion worldwide—more than any other actor’s movies that year, period. (It helped that he was in four.) Johnson has a tendency to pick up existing franchises and make them his. The second G.I. Joe film took in $376 million worldwide; the first, without Johnson, made $74 million less. 

Journey 2 grossed almost $100 million more than its predecessor. In the Fast and Furious franchise, Fast Five, which introduced his character, Hobbs, earned nearly twice what the previous movie made.

Easily the best analysis I’ve ever read on one of the world’s most interesting actors, who went from poverty to pro wrestling, and then to Hollywood. One of the best cases for Johnson’s rise to success is how he promotes his own movies on social media, which in turn convinces studios that he’s a solid hire (and proven talent).

This is a piece that is definitely worth your time, no matter what you already think about Dwayne Johnson.

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