Lightning Review: Baywatch

Baywatch movie posterSynopsis
Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his team of lifeguards protect the beaches of Emerald Bay, Florida. When drugs start appearing on his beach, Buchannon and his team, including new recruit and former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron), work to expose the criminal behind the drugs, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).

Review
I don’t know much about the Baywatch television series, other than it starred Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff as lifeguards, as well as gratuitous amounts of slow-motion running. Based on the cast of Baywatch and the tone of the trailers, I figured this movie would have little to do with the show its characters come from. So while I can’t make any comparisons to the source material, I can tell you how it stacked up as a movie: it was hilarious. Both Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron can be very comedic actors. Yet, if they don’t have a good person to bounce off of, their one-liners can only do so much. These two together have fantastic chemistry and are absolutely side-splitting. Every scene had jokes flying rapid fire and while not all of them stuck, they were onto the next one before you could really process it.

Most of the jokes between Johnson and Efron consist of crude and insulting jokes and one-liners. Like all humor, it is subjective, so it might not be your cup of tea but if you’ve read any of my other comedy reviews, you’ll know that this my kind of comedy. Of course, the rest of the cast was good as well, particularly Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Pryanka Chopra. Abdul-Mateen has some funny lines as a local police officer exhausted of the lifeguards trying to be investigators. Last summer I binged season one of the show Quantico, which stars Chopra as the protagonist. It was fun to see her on the other side as the antagonist. Since the setting for this movie is on a beach, there are a lot of shirtless men and bikini-clad women. No matter your preference, there is plenty of eye candy for everyone. 😉

I thought Baywatch was GREAT 😀 I’m sure that if compared to the original Baywatch television series, these two have nothing in common. However, as a film taken on its own merit, it is fun and humorous. In the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the film and the jokes hold up. It feels like a generic action-comedy you would expect these days, but it is a generic action-comedy I enjoyed from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Seth Gordon – Director
Jay Scherick – Story
David Ronn – Story
Thomas Lennon – Story
Robert Ben Garant – Story
Damian Shannon – Screenplay
Mark Swift – Screenplay
Christopher Lennertz – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Mitch Buchannon
Zac Efron – Matt Brody
Alexandra Daddario – Summer Quinn
Kelly Rohrbach – CJ Parker
Ilfenesh Hadera – Stephanie Holden
Jon Bass – Ronnie Greenbaum
Rob Huebel – Captain Thorpe
Pryanka Chopra – Victoria Leeds
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Sgt. Garner Ellerbee
Amim Joseph – Frankie
Jack Kesy – Leon
Hannibul Buress – Dave the Tech
Oscar Nuñez – Councilman Rodriguez
Clem Cheung – Murray Chen

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Movie Quote of the Week 5/26/17

Answer to MWL 5/24/17: Maui (Dwayne Johnson (voice)) – Moana

Moana: Maui, shapshifter, demigod of the wind and sea, I am Moana of –
Maui: Hero of men.
Moana: What?
Maui: It’s actually, Maui, shapshifter, demigod of the wind and sea, hero of men. I interrupted. From the top. Hero of Men. Go.
Moana: Uh… I am –
Maui: Sorry, sorry, sorry. And women. Men and woman. Both. All. Not a guy, girl thing. You know, Maui is a hero to all. You’re doing great. [Clicks tongue]
Moana: What? No! [Points oar at Maui] I’m here to –
Maui: Oh, of course. Of course. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Maui always has time for his fans. [Takes Moana’s oar and picks up Heihei] When you use a bird to write with, it’s called tweeting.

Thanks for everyone’s submissions and one seafaring boat to Jackie for answering correctly.

Moana Review

Moana movie posterSynopsis
On the island of Motunui, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho (voice)) is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess. When a curse caused by the missing heart reaches Motunui, Moana sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson (voice)) and return the heart to its rightful place to lift the curse.

Review
With Zootopia having been released earlier this year, Moana marks the first time since 2002 that Disney has released two animated feature films the same year (Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were that year for those who are curious). And man, what a year it has been for Disney animation. Zootopia is an extraordinarily hard act to follow, being what could be considered the best film of what has become known as the Disney Revival Era. At least until now.

First off, the voice casting is amazingly spot-on. First-timer Auli’i Cravalho does an astonishing job. The range of emotion that she is able to portray with simply her voice makes it hard to believe this is her first acting credit. You would think she was a seasoned veteran, just like Dwayne Johnson. Speakin of, I know that often animators will try to bring some part of the voice actor’s likeness to a character but Maui is the spitting image of Johnson. Pretty much a caricature of him. Not only does Maui look like Johnson but he moves like him too. He even does the eyebrow thing! And the “pec muscle thing” as my sister so elegantly put it. But besides his looks, Johnson has the perfect voice for Maui.

I am beginning to feel like a broken record when it comes to reviewing animated films. With every film released, the animation gets better and better and the gets more and more beautiful. The film takes place on the open water and on sandy beaches and in lush forests. The water glistens and sparkles and flows extremely life-like. This is probably the best water animation since Finding Nemo. One animation aspect that really surprised me was the characters’ hair. Given the characters are sailing on the water for most of the movie, they were bound to get wet eventually. The way it looks heavier and bunches together and shimmers is, again, very life-like. I give the animators big kudos for getting something that can be easily overlooked to look so accurate.

Like any Disney princess, Moana has her animal sidekicks. The one that steals the cake, however, is her dimwitted chicken Heihei, voiced by the versatile Alan Tadyk. When I say “voiced” I mean he makes sounds, he doesn’t actually talk. Heihei is much like Maximus and Pascal from Tangled, well like most animal sidekicks really, where his humor comes from his actions. In a movie that is already filled with a decent amount of humor, Heihei added a unique touch that garnered laughs from every scene he was in.

Like every Disney movie ever, there is a message to be found in Moana. What I like best about the message in this film is that both Moana and Maui deal with the same problem of doubt but they deal with it from different sources. Maui has self doubt, struggling internally with events from his past. Moana, on the other hand, deals with doubt from others, mainly her father, about whether she is truly ready to be chief of her tribe. They find strength in each other and both overcome those doubts. It was a crafty way for Disney to bring their message across.

In recent years, Disney has become more focused on releasing films containing messages of self-empowerment, as seen in movies like Maleficent and Frozen. But where Moana differs from something like Frozen is that there is no prince or male love interest at all. Moana focuses on exactly that: Moana. It is all about her and finding finding power and confidence within herself to complete her journey to save her people.

It wouldn’t be a Disney princess movie without some musical numbers. Two songs that stood out to me the most were “You’re Welcome,” sung by the surprising musical Johnson, and “How Far I’ll Go,” sung by Cravalho. As much as I enjoyed the soundtrack, I will admit it is one of the weaker soundtracks of late from Disney animation. I don’t think it will become as popular as some of their more recent films have become, such as Frozen, or have the longevity as several of Disney’s other classic animated features, like The Lion King, but I wouldn’t mind to be proven wrong on that.

I thought Moana was GREAT :-D. Although the score might not be as catchy as other Disney favorites, it fits the setting beautifully, the same way Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho completely embody Maui and Moana. I have really enjoyed the last several years of Disney animation, very reminiscent of the quality of films from when I was a kid. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the directors who brought me my favorite Disney animated film.

You can read my sister’s review of Moana here.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director / Story
Jon Musker – Director / Story
Don Hall – Co-Director / Story
Chris Williams – Co-Director / Story
Jared Bush – Screenplay
Pamela Ribon – Story
Aaron Kandell – Story
Jordan Kandell – Story
Mark Mancina – Composer (Score)
Opetaia Foa’i – Composer (Original Songs)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Composer (Original Songs)

Auli’i Cravalho – Moana (voice)
Dwayne Johnson – Maui (voice)
Rachel House – Gramma Tala (voice)
Temuera Morrison – Chief Tui (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Tamatoa (voice)
Nicole Scherzinger – Sina (voice)
Alan Tadyk – Heihei (voice)

Furious 7 Review

Review #108

Furious 7 movie posterSynopsis
After the events in London, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge for his brother against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). A government agent calling himself Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) makes an agreement with Toretto to help him if Toretto and his crew rescues the hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) from a group of terrorists led by Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).

Review
I have been anticipating Furious 7 for some time. Not because of Paul Walker, but because I’m a fan of the direction the series has been moving since Fast Five. While the franchise started out as a guilty pleasure, over the last several entries, it has become a series with a lot of heart mixed with the mindless action it started with. Furious 7 keeps the action going and is a great farewell to Paul Walker.

For the most part, each of the previous Fast movies have been located in one spot. Furious 7 on the other hand, breaks the mold and goes to several locations throughout the course of the film. Each one even more beautiful than the last. This change in scenery every few scenes makes the movie’s pace feel quicker. Not to mention it gives a variety of different driving set pieces. Scenes include, but are not limited to, winding mountains, city streets, desert, and even buildings.

Some of my favorite scenes from the series since Fast Five are the ones that display the relationship between Tej and Rom. Chris Bridges, better known as Ludacris, and Tyrese Gibson have such great chemistry. They are always poking fun at each other that always bring a smile to my face. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is a fun addition to the cast. He is no Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) when it come to witty government agents but he still offers some good humor.

Over the course of the franchise, we have seen Brian O’Conner grow and evolve. He went from cop to fugitive to FBI agent to bank robber. This movie showed him dealing with the next step: building a family while at the same time missing the excitement of his old life. His growth to building a family in this movie was the direction the series was already heading anyway, so his exit feels organic and not something that was forced due to the passing of Walker. There is a tribute to Walker at the end that is beautiful and emotional.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to Furious 7‘s action. On one hand the chase scenes are thrilling and exciting. With actors like Jason Statham and Ronda Rousey, the fight sequences are top-notch. And there were some cool camera effects, like the camera spinning with the characters getting thrown around (there is an example in the trailer involving Statham). But on the other hand, there is a lot of shaky cam. It is not as bad as most action movies but is still bugs me.

Another problem I had with the film is how long it took to set up. The movie spent the first forty minutes or so bringing the different groups together before it really took off. The franchise’s flimsy timeline didn’t help either. A lot of the set up had to deal with the Shaw brothers, Han (which included used footage from Fast and Furious 6 and Tokyo Drift), and the fallout of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) losing her memory after Fast & Furious. It was necessary in order to finally bring all the pieces together but may make it more difficult for viewers who haven’t seen some or most of the previous films to follow.

Taking the series’ core theme of family into overdrive, especially in the wake of Walker’s death, Furious 7 is the most heartfelt of the series. Of course there are also exciting action scenes, a variety of beautiful locations, and good new additions to the cast to keep it in line with previous Fast films.

Rating
4/5

Favorite Quote
Dominic Toretto: I don’t have friends, I have family.

For the rest of the Fast & Furious franchise, check out my reviews for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftFast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Wan – Director
Chris Morgan – Writer
Brian Tyler – Composer

Vin Diesel – Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker – Brian O’Conner
Jason Statham – Deckard Shaw
Michelle Rodriguez – Letty
Tyrese Gibson – Roman Pierce
Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges – Tej
Nathalie Emmanuel – Ramsey
Jordana Brewster – Mia
Dwayne Johnson – Hobbs
Kurt Russell – Mr. Nobody
Djimon Hounsou – Jakande
Tony Jaa – Kiet
Ronda Rousey – Kara

Anniversary Week: Walking Tall (2004) Review

No way, two reviews in one day?!  I love you guys that much I just had to give you another dose, even though I already reviewed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace earlier today.  When I was looking over all the reviews I have written, I came across the very first review I wrote when I started considering blogging.  I wrote a review for Iron Man 3 in May 2013 after it came out and then my Original Six were written in June and July .  But this review was written way back in March of last year where it has been sitting on my flash drive ever since… until recently that is.  I’m posting it completely unedited (with the exception of the added trailer and Cast & Crew sections at the end).  Enjoy!


Walking Tall (2004) movie posterSynopsis
When US Army Special Forces Sargent Chris Vaughn (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) returns home after eight years in the service, he discovers it to be a very different place than when he left. The town is now controlled by the corrupt local casino, run by his old high school friend Jay Hamilton (Neil McDonough). After discovering the casino is a front for drug trafficking, Vaughn, with the help of his friend Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville) embarks on a war to regain order in his community.

Review
Walking Tall is one of those movies where the potential for a great film is there, but it doesn’t quite fulfill that potential. This is one of Dwayne Johnson’s earlier forays into acting (he was still going by The Rock!) and it shows. He doesn’t do a terrible job, but something isn’t quite there. However, when he and Johnny Knoxville are together is when he really shines. The chemistry between these two create some of the best scenes in the film. There is a scene where Chris tells Ray to protect his family while he is gone. The tonal shift between these two is well executed and the relationship between the two characters is really felt here through their portrayals by Johnson and Knoxville.

Neil McDonough plays a decent villain. However, he feels a little one dimensional, but I think that due more on the script than McDonough’s acting. The aforementioned Knoxville is, in my opinion, the star of this movie. He does a suburb job with his role as the loyal friend. Most of his scenes are with Johnson, who he plays off of quite well, but he shines in his own scenes and will make you laugh on several occasions. Besides Johnson, Knoxville, and McDonough, the other actors don’t have too much screen time. Which is a shame because it would have been nice to see several relationships, particularly between Chris and his nephew (played by Khleo Thomas), fleshed out a little more.

The fight scenes are the strong points of this movie. These scenes are where Johnson really shines and his wrestling background is a tremendous asset. When the main character’s weapon of choice is a 4×4 piece of cedar, you know you’re in for one hell of a fight. The camera work in these scenes is much better than a lot of fight scenes in action movies nowadays. Instead of a shaky camera to help portray the action, the camera work is more reminiscent of ‘80s action movies where the camera is steadier and allows the viewer to focus more on the fight than trying to keep their bearings. It is a most welcome change.

Despite its lack of characterization, Walking Tall is a straight forward action move that offers several good fight scenes. With a run time just shy of an hour and a half, it may not be one of the best action movies out there, but you could do much worse for an afternoon flick.

TLDR
Walking Tall has some good fight scenes and good chemistry between Johnson and Knoxville, but overall it’s just an average action movie.

Rating
3/5

Favorite Quote
Chris: “Where did you learn that?”
Ray: “Cops.”
Chris: “That’s a good show.”

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kevin Bray – Director
David Klass – Screenplay
Channing Gibson – Screenplay
David Levien – Screenplay
Brian Koppelman – Screenplay
Graeme Revell – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Chris Vaughn
Johnny Knoxville – Ray Templeton
Neal McDonough – Jay Hamilton
Michael Bowen – Sheriff Stan Watkins
Ashley Scott – Deni
John Beasley – Chris Vaughn, Sr.
Barbara Tarbuck – Connie Vaughn
Kristen Wilson – Michelle Vaughn
Khleo Thomas – Pete Vaughn
Kevin Durand – Booth


Well, what did you think about my first real attempt at writing a review?  I forgot I included TLDR (too long, didn’t read) and Favorite Quotes section.  Would like to see these sections added into future reviews? Both or one or the other?  Let me know below.  My least favorite Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones, gets reviewed tomorrow and I will be introducing my last new feature for the week.  Cheers!

Fast & Furious 6 Review

Fast & Furious 6 movie posterSynopsis
After their successful heist in Rio, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris), have all gone into hiding. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is investigating the destruction of a Russian military convoy, brought down by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs approaches Toretto and asks for his help. Dom initially refuses but reconsiders when Hobbs shows him a recent photo of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) , currently a member of Shaw’s crew.

Review
The Fast & Furious series has been an interesting one. It started out alright in The Fast and the Furious, then took a dive with 2 Fast 2 Furious, but has slowly grown in quality since Tokyo Drift, culminating in the fantastic Fast Five. Fast & Furious 6 maintains most of the elements that made Fast Five so entertaining while taking the franchise in a slightly new direction.

Most Fast & Furious movies have done well setting up the rest of the movie with the opening scene. This film starts with a montage consisting of scenes from every previous movie in the franchise. This does great to give you an idea of the history of the series, but also becomes more fitting as the movie goes on because every previous Fast & Furious movie is referenced. For those who have watched them all, it’s very gratifying. Even if you haven’t seen the other films, the story is still easily followed, you just won’t have the same rewarding experience.

Gibson has been the comedic relief of the series since he first appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious. He had a few funny moments in Fast Five but mostly when he was bantering with Ludacris. However, he steals the spotlight this time around. He had many one-liners that were hilarious, particularly during the first half of the movie. Johnson was more humorous, too.  Johnson can be funny as long as he has someone to play off of, which was missing in Fast Five.  Now that he had Gibson opposite, he is much better.

For a series whose original premise was car racing and chases, Fast & Furious 6 has really moved away from that focus. There are still car chases (it wouldn’t be an action/Fast & Furious movie without them), but definitely fewer and more spaced out. The action is balanced between several types of action scenes, instead of mainly cars. Car sequences are used as a tool, rather than the central focus.

The climactic scene is one epic set piece. Few scenes come to mind that are as intense as cars chasing a plane on a runway while several fights are happening inside the plane’s cargo bay. On a side note, I know that movies tend to exaggerate, but if that runway existed in real life, I’m pretty sure it would have stretched from one end of Europe to the other.

Hobbs was such a great adversary for the gang in Fast Five. He had both the resources and stature to be a valid threat to the entire team, particularly Brian and Dominic. But as an ally, he doesn’t have the same appeal. It was great because Johnson and Gibson could riff off each other, but other than that, the character wasn’t as interesting when he is working with Dom and his crew rather than against them.

Fast & Furious 6 steps even further away from the series thin plot roots and offers a more character-centric story. Gibson shines as the comedic relief and Johnson’s humor is better since he can go back-and-forth with Gibson. Hobbs was much better against the team than with them. The final, climactic scene was one of the largest in recent memory and is an explosive ending befitting any great action movie. Fast & Furious 6 shows that it isn’t afraid to move away from the series simple origins and offers an experience unlike any in the series.

Rating
3.5/5

For the rest of the Fast & Furious franchise, check out my reviews for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Furious 7.