Thursday, May 28, 2015

San Andreas: Rock Quake

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Tuesday night, Izzy & I were invited to a special screening of the new blockbuster disaster movie “San Andreas” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti & Ioan Gruffudd. The long and the short of it is that there’s a helicopter rescue pilot (Rock) who lives in L.A., is in the middle of a divorce (from Gugino) and whose daughter (eyecandy Alexandra Daddario) is flying out with her mom’s wealthy boyfriend (Gruffudd) on a private jet to go to school at Berkeley. How could things possibly get worse? Well… apparently California isn’t just going to have a series of strong earthquakes… it’s basically going to slide off into the f**king Pacific Ocean. Remember that movie “2012” that came out in 2009? Well… replace the limo driver/writer with a helicopter pilot… and put all the ridiculous global upheaval events and localize it to California (and the Hoover Dam briefly)… and the Rock is going to save his family, despite being HUNDREDS of miles away. Add “from the director of Journey to the Center of the Earth 2” and you’ve got this movie… okay, here’s the breakdown.
What I Liked About the Movie:
·         Sound Effects – The special effects are pretty good too (in spite of things later on) but the sound effects in particular were pretty incredible, especially in the theatre screen format where we saw it. Usually you just got a lot of loud booms & rumblings and… just noise to create a sense of danger. However, a lot of this movie has everything from like the bending of steel, crumbling of concrete, crashing of glass, thuds of skull on various things, squishes, all that stuff… and a lot of it happening in a pretty organic way to what’s actually happening on screen. Do I think they’ll be nominated for anything? Probably not… but I wouldn’t be surprised. Kudos to sound!
·         The Rock > John Cusack – I like the Rock. This has been known for a while. Sure, there’s what I like to call the “Arnie Syndrome” where… he’s an absolute movie star with all the looks, charisma & skills necessary to be a movie star. However, it’s basically impossible for him to blend into 99.9% of anonymous roles. Seriously, would somebody built like the Rock… be a helicopter pilot? Basically anything except a bodybuilder, football player, Greek demi-God or comic book character? However, he’s basically everything that Arnie was in the 80’s… but can actually speak English well. He can actually act too… and he actually has some brief moments which evoke caring & concern… which even the great John Cusack couldn’t do in “2012”. I know it’s not a direct parallel but… it’s the same f**king movie. Let’s be real.
·         Tracking Shots – There are a few scenes where I have to give it up to director Brad Peyton & everybody involved. Yes, the special effects don’t hold completely throughout… but one scene in particular that I really liked, in spite of how ridiculous it was, is the one where The Wife (Gugino) was in a high-rise restaurant in L.A. having a bitchy brunch with Kylie Minogue (I think she was boyfriend’s sister?) when a giant quake hits while she’s talking to The Rock on her cell phone… and she has to meet him at the top of the building… because he’s coming for her. What follows is a pretty interesting scene where it zooms into the building, you see her & other patrons running around the restaurant while all hell breaks loose at every turn, explosions, flames, ceiling falling, wings of the floor shearing off, all types of sh*t, made to look like a continuous shot… and it’s not half bad for what it is.
What I Didn’t Like About the Movie:
·         Physics – The usual suspect when it comes to these grandiose epic movies with Biblical proportions. Tucking a helicopter mid-air under a cliff with absolutely no wiggle room to save somebody? Building falling on it & it just flies away? Fluid dynamics of waves and/or debris? Didn’t you just say that all the phones were down? So what good is a ground line? Is a Tsunami only one wave now? Lots of others but those are the ones that I haven’t completely shunned from my mind for the time being… or give away too much plot.
·         Evil Stepfather Character – Completely unnecessary! Okay, so rich Stepfather (Gruffudd) & The Daughter are in a parking lot very near where I work in San Francisco when the initial quake hits… and long story short, the limo driver is crushed, The Daughter is trapped (though I’m skeptical how) & Stepfather can’t move a rock (unlike The Rock) so he goes off to get help leaving her behind. Not at all a horrible thing… if he follows through. The alternative is… he stands there & they both die, right? Well… he tells the security guard that she’s down in the lot while everybody’s running around, death crunch right in front of him, he’s absolutely demoralized by it (though the driver was no big deal minutes earlier), so he just kinda runs off leaving her behind. Now… initially I was like “Okay, PTSD trauma… he’s outside of his mind… he’s just not thinking straight & leaves.” Over the course of the next hour or so, you keep up with him… and he’s basically fine… just wanting to get the f**k outta town… and don’t worry, it’s an obvious setup for “The Come-up’ns” but it’s absolutely unnecessary. Disaster strikes… you don’t really need a bad guy. Mother Nature is the bad guy. Circumstances are the conflict. Why everybody gotta hate on Mr. Fantastic? Which leads me to a few more questions…
·         Is the Protagonist Actually a Villain? – Here me out… The Rock is kind of a villain in this movie. Yes, it’s all in the vain of saving his family and all of that but… when the quake series starts… he’s flying a helicopter to base to get refueled or something, so that he can go help survivors of the Vegas/Hoover Dam quake. 1st Quake hits… “F**k Nevada survivors, I’ve gotta get my soon-to-be-ex-wife whose 100 miles away atop a teetering skyscraper!” Okay, I understand the off to LA to help there, got it… and he tells his wife to get as many people to the roof as possible (not knowing that they’re crumbling). I get it. After the ridiculous rescue of The Wife, they get the call from The Daughter trapped in a basement… in San Francisco… 400 miles away! I’m not sure what the mileage is on a helicopter… but I’ll let it go. Then they have to crash land in Bakersfield 100 miles away… and long story short, in order to go the next 300 miles… they steal a truck (which I half expected them to try to jump a giant canyon in), a plane (which they then jump out of midflight to land at AT&T Park… letting the plane crash land in Oakland I assume), a boat (which they really gloss over) and while boating through the canals of San Francisco… and every step of the way, there are THOUSANDS of people in need of assistance. I can only imagine how many victims clinging to life that they literally have to kick off the sides of the boat in order to find (the corpse of) their daughter. So is he a Villain for not helping everybody along the way? No, you say? Then how about Evil Stepfather?
·         Why Does It ALWAYS Have to Be San Francisco? – Many movies over the half-century have destroyed the City of St. Francis… the City by the Bay… to the point where it gets ridiculous and almost clich√©… if it weren’t such an awesome city! So why are more than half of all disaster movies set in San Francisco? Easy. It’s always in movies… because it’s aesthetically pleasing… even when all of its iconic images are being destroyed. More on this later…
·         …and Paul Giamatti as… Exposition!!! – Academy Award nominee (winne?) whose job in the movie is basically to tell you that earthquakes are bad, throw in some bullsh*t science jargon & easily-disputable explanations, and basically keep narrate for the audience how the Quake is doing in its slow& methodical demolition project of turning Nevada into shoreline property. There’s one point in the movie where he talks directly to the camera (and the city of San Francisco, which was odd actually BEING there) and gives a speech basically saying “You’re all f**ked… God help us all!” Half expected the theatre to start shaking & every bowel in the theatre to be voided…
Overall Summary: You know… I enjoyed it… it’s campy but there’s actually some pretty poignant spots (drowning scene, The Rock’s clip for academy consideration, etc) but it’s EXACTLY what you expect. No more, no less… maybe more… it’s your money. Check it out if you’d like… but don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture or anything. That would be ill-advised & disappointing.
San Francisco Disaster Movies
When I started thinking about it… it’s pretty ridiculous how often the city of destroyed on film. Not just movies like “Book of Eli” where it’s post-apocalyptic future and everything is destroyed & set in San Francisco… but it’s the jump-off point for global catastrophe. I’m going to put some of this in scope… from least destructive to “are you kidding me?”…
A View to a Kill: Now, Zorin’s plan is to flood all of the Bay Area & Silicon Valley so that he’ll be a sole supplier of microchips (Really? Has he not heard of Asia? I’m pretty sure they actually make the microchips) and there’s a pretty major explosion in a far off tunnel with many fatalities… and an “epic” blimp battle between two rich white guys on Golden Gate Bridge… but yeah, not much here in the actual destruction. I can see this as an “also-ran” on local news the next day.
The Birds: Birds go nuts and try to take out people’s eyes & cause mass chaos… but overall, pretty sure a few SWAT helmets and batons can put this Hitchockian sh*t to rest.
The Rock: There's an epic car chase (excuse me, Ferrari vs. Hummer chase) that derails a street car, dozens/hundreds of car wrecks, I'm guessing more than a few pedestrian deaths... there's also the explosion of an iconic landmark called Alcatraz... and Candlestick Park almost got lit up like the 4th of July by nerve gas missiles... but it didn't happen... so they get this spot.
Rise & Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Super-smart simians escape a laboratory, a catastrophic virus is released in said lab, there’s a fairly major battle on Golden Gate Bridge but it’s left standing as the apes go to live in Muir Woods… virus takes over eventually… but the next battle with apes is a decade later. City is pretty intact save for eventually the power goes out (not even going to get into all the BS) but yeah, low death toll in the movies.
The Towering Inferno: I feel like this movie happened hundreds of times in "San Andreas"... no exaggeration.
The Core: Ugh… f**k this stupid movie… but I have to put it in because of the “Magnifying Glass” sunbeam that cuts directly across the Golden Gate Bridge melting it in half… and we get to see it from the point of view of Buster from Arrested Development. Seriously… don’t see this movie. You can read my review here.
X-Men: Last Stand: The Golden Gate Bridge is completely destroyed, Alcatraz is a mutant & military killing field, but I assume spectators in the city are watching the fireworks of the Phoenix’s final burst from a safe distance.
Pacific Rim: Transdimensional Kaiju travelers pop up out of the Pacific Ocean… and their first stop is through the Golden Gate Bridge and into the East Bay to eventually be taken down by I assume ALL of the human military. Thus ends the original battle that unites the World in conflict with these Kaijus to build Gundam suits & a giant wall to keep them out. It changed the world as we know it… but it looks like they only made it a few miles onto land before being taken down.
Star Trek Into Darkness: Spaceship of epic scope is crashed directly into the heart of downtown San Future-isco… definitely a lot of fatalities… but hundreds, perhaps thousands… only decent for this list. By the way, "Star Trek IV: Voyage Home" doesn't count because they go back in time to (spoiler alert) save San Francisco from being destroyed by aliens by saving humpback whales... so drop it.
Godzilla (2014): Of course, the first Kaiju/MUTO’s HAS to cut through San Francisco to get to Nevada to lay eggs or something… and then come back to destroy the city to have hanky-panky with another Kaiju/MUTO, lay its eggs in Chinatown… and then basically destroy the town in a fight with a THIRD giant Kaiju gets to town to clean house. Several neighborhoods are destroyed (SOMA, Chinatown, Nob Hill, FiDi) and of course Golden Gate Bridge but overall… rents in the Mission, Richmond & Sunset would f**king SKYROCKET!!!
Contagion: This movie just scares the f**k out of me… and without explosions or falling skyscrapers… because it could really happen… like pretty easily. Seriously. Plague wipes out humanity… starts like anything else & then within a month… downfall of civilization… f**k you Steve Soderbergh! Yet well done…
Terminator: Salvation: I almost didn’t want to include this one as it’s the whole post-apocalyptic thing… but then again, Skynet starts & sets up their major production center in San Francisco… really the only change is replacing humans with robots & nuclear winter has made recycling a moot point.
San Andreas: Every building crumbles, tsunami turns the streets into canals, even a collection of survivors in the flooded remains of Oakland was taken out by an airplane that crashed into their compound… complete annihilation… property values instantly fall from record highs to New Orleans levels. Complete & total destruction.

Anyway, check out this movie if you'd like... I enjoyed it for what it was... and now I kinda want to watch a bunch of these other movies too. Have a great day everybody!!!

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