2017 Summer Movie Review: Baywatch

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Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his team of lifeguards run in slow-motion in Baywatch. (Source: IMDb)

I have never seen the Baywatch show starring David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. All I needed to know about it is that a group of lifeguards save the day and run in slow-motion. That’s it.

When I saw the previews for the movie, they made me laugh quite a bit. How can anyone not love Dwayne Johnson? He may be tough, but he also has a soft side and can be really funny. Despite some bizarre casting choices (particularly in some family flicks), he proves that he can be a great action star—from The Scorpion King to the Fast and Furious franchise.

With him teaming up with a younger cast, Baywatch might be a decent comedic escape. The comedy does work at times and the action rarely lets up, the movie somewhat falls flat.

Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) works as a lifeguard on the Florida coast. The movie opens up with him saving a parasailer’s life from hitting his head on a rock. While saving hundreds of lives during his career, Mitch remembers that tryouts are the next day. His new team of lifeguards including Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron), techie Ronnie (Jon Bass), blondie CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), brunette Summer (Alexandra Dedarrio, San Andreas), and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) goes around Emerald Bay to solve a drug case.

Making fun of the original source material is nothing new. 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, The 1995 film version of The Brady Bunch and the 2002 live-action rendition of Scooby-Doo are prime examples of movies making fun of the shows that are based off of. Some work well, while others fail miserably. Baywatch is no exception.

The movie did give me a good laugh here and there. Particularly when Mitch gives Brody such a hard time and poking fun at the hot women running in slow-motion on the beach (one of the iconic bits on the show). I don’t know how Dwayne Johnson can come up with these insults. He certainly gets a good laugh while being a straight-up badass. His comedic timing is nothing short of perfect. While having to get as buffed as his co-star (so buffed he could be on American Ninja Warrior), Efron has been starring in a lot of raunchy comedies recently—from the decent Neighbors to the abysmal Dirty Grandpa. I prefer him vomiting in the pool in this movie rather than seeing him waking up on a beach wearing nothing but a bumblebee fanny pack.

While the jokes do work, there are times in which they go on for far too long. In one scene, Mitch, Brody and Summer sneak into a hospital morgue in search for evidence about the drugs. Brody is told to look under the corpse’s penis for anything, which, of course, he makes a complete ass out of himself. A lot of raunchy comedies—like Neighbors—often use a lot of dick jokes. If it goes for too long, it loses humor.

Despite its moments, Baywatch is, more or less, your standard R-rated comedy. With strong action, great chemistry between Johnson and his co-stars, what falters is some terrible CGI (still a lot better than Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) and the jokes being a mixed bag.

2/4

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Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious

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Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) go rogue in the eighth installment in The Fast and Furious franchise. (Source: The Playlist)

It has been over fifteen years since the release of The Fast and the Furious. Ranging from street races to pulling off heists, the series has been taken to new heights. No matter how ridiculous the movies might be, they know what to offer for fans; over-the-top, gravity-defying stunts, beautiful cars, and seeing our heroes saving the world from something dangerous. As much as I enjoy these movies (except for Tokyo Drift), I don’t mind two more films. Furious 7 (my second favorite behind Fast Five) was an insane thrill-ride while providing an emotionally satisfying conclusion that would make the late Paul Walker proud. Yes, I cried at the end of last movie. Like everyone else, I thought the series would end right there. But—nope…

The Fate of the Furious (I know, terrible title) picks up after the events of the previous film. Brian and Mia have retired from the crew. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) are having their honeymoon in Cuba. After an exhilarating drag race, Dom encounters a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Trying to leave the world of crime behind (like in every movie after the original), he is forced to go rogue with the cyberterrorist. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) assigns Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) to save their friend and stop Cipher once and for all.

After rumors have surrounded about James Wan returning to direct another Fast and Furious movie (of course, he declined due to having to deal with the production hell of the last film), F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) steps in for Wan to provide just as much fun as the three previous installments. While the previous films are about getting together as a family, this movie is about being betrayed by one’s family. Case in point, Dom has been traumatized by his father’s death for years. He feels comfortable with his friends, especially reuniting with Letty. But—he is about to throw it all away.

Every fan always go into these movies for the wall-to-wall action (trust me, there is a lot of it to please the eye) and seeing these characters driving beautiful cars. There is also a lot of big laughs—from Hobbs’ introductory scene where he coaches his daughter’s soccer team to the interactions between Roman and Tej, as well as them flirting with Ramsey. Not to mention a lot of badassery.

How can anyone not love Dwayne Johnson? He is tough yet has a heart of gold. His one-liners are also impossible not to get a kick out of. As Cipher, Theron kills it with her punk look—from the dreadlocks and the Metallica shirt to her cyber powers (in one particular scene, she targets NYC by hacking people’s car and having control of them, causing chaos in the big city). She is up there with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw (who reprises his role here providing laughs and his usual toughness) as one of the franchise’s better villains.

Despite the obvious narrative issues and Scott Eastwood’s bland performance, The Fate of the Furious provides enough for fans with the car chases, fist fights, gun shootings, and characters just having a blast. Bring on the last two films!

3.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: San Andreas

The Rock faces against a new opponent: An earthquake hitting California

The Rock faces against a new opponent: An earthquake hitting California

It’s impossible not to love Dwayne Johnson. He has it all: massive biceps, a mile-long smile, a wonderful sense of humor, and a tough attitude. When he is the main star, he gives what the audience wants. Even though he can choose the strangest roles (Tooth Fairy), action films (Fast and Furious) is what he comes across best. San Andreas, the latest disaster flick, is no exception. Even though there are a lot of problems, I’m surprised how much I enjoyed the movie. It knows what it wants to be, and it delivers.

Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a helicopter pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department. He and his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) recently filed for divorce. His daughter Blake (Alexandra Dedarrio, Percy Jackson) is in college who is going have a job in a high-rise building that his mother’s boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) developed in Downtown San Francisco. Meanwhile, a Caltech seismologist (Paul Giamatti) and his colleague create a breakthrough where they can predict an earthquake. When a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hits the Hoover Dam, it starts to connect with the San Andreas Fault, causing a 9.1 earthquake. Ray saves his ex-wife in a restaurant in L.A., and they go to San Francisco to save their daughter.

San Andreas is your typical summer action flick. Loaded with CGI, some cheesy one-liners, a star-studded cast but limited character development. Director Brad Peyton is aware on how stupid the movie is, but he can create a better-looking disaster movie than Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay. The scene where a tsunami hits San Francisco is one of the most jaw-dropping special effects sequences of the year. Even though The Rock does a good job, I think the scene-stealer is Paul Giamatti, who gives some interesting scientific knowledge on earthquakes. The moral of the story is always listen to seismologists.

2.5/4

Movie Review: Furious 7

The cast of "Furious 7" and director James Wan

The cast of “Furious 7” and director James Wan (between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel)

After the successes of Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6, the popular franchise has gone into another direction. Something fast? Yes; but something more furious. The title, Furious 7 is inspired by Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven. The production for the movie delayed after Paul Walker’s death on November 30, 2013. Even though he was halfway through filming, Universal needed a plan to continue production. They decided to rewrite the script and provide body doubles and [hardly recognizable] CGI to capture Paul Walker. Director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) goes full throttle with Furious 7 by giving the best in pure entertainment.

After defeating Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) from the previous film, his older brother Deckerd (Jason Statham) plans to kill Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew one by one for revenge. Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) notifies Dom about Shaw after encountering him one night at the Diplomatic Security Service office. A government official named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) assigned him and his crew – Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris) – to take down Shaw as well as Mose Jakande (Djimon Honsou), a terrorist who created a program called “God’s Eye” in which every electronic device into a dangerous weapon. Along with a computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel), they spring into action together one last time.

Wan gives us the over-the-top fun we expected from these movies. The franchise is the prime example of pure Hollywood. Some of the stunts seem physically impossible, but that’s what makes those movies fun. It avoids the laws of physics. They are not to be taken seriously. In fact, most of the stunts are done practically, especially the car skydiving and the car jumping through three buildings. It gives the audience the sense of realism. My eyes have been fixed to the screen with jaw dropped to the floor. The movie features the best showdown in the series – between Vin Diesel and Jason Statham (who plays the best villain). It’s just as awesome as Vin Diesel and The Rock’s showdown in Fast Five.

Furious 7 gives a surprising emotional punch. I usually never cry during movies. But this is one of those rare occasions in which I cried my eyes out. After walking out of the theater, I realized the series is more than just street racing and pulling off these heists. It’s about being a part of a family and sticking together right until the very end. Dom Toretto is a convincing character because he and Mia have lost their family a long time ago. If he didn’t start his crew, he wouldn’t have a family. Dom and Brian are the heart and soul of the franchise. Brian is like the brother he never had. They have stayed on each other’s side for a long time. When it’s about that time, they go off their separate ways. It’s such a shame that Paul Walker had died in that car crash. But this movie is a great send-off for him.

Thank you, Paul Walker, for what you’ve done.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Fast and Furious 6

Dom's team spring into action in "Fast and Furious 6"

Dom’s team spring into action in “Fast and Furious 6”

Bringing back more fun!

Following their heist in Rio de Janeiro, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) have a child. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is enjoying his time off as a criminal. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) assigns Dom and Brian to go on yet another mission to track down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who has Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) under his boot. The team go to London to find the mastermind. Featuring more breathtaking action, characters we know and love, Fast and Furious 6 is just as fun as Fast Five. We get a taste of Furious 7 in the middle of the credits where Han dies in Tokyo and see Jason Statham for the first time. The audience realizes that Tokyo Drift takes place after the events of this movie. Even though it makes more sense, it still doesn’t change my opinion on Tokyo Drift.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Fast Five

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) faces up against federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in "Fast Five"

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) faces up against federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in “Fast Five”

Now onto the good stuff!

Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) saves Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) from custody. Along with Mia (Jordana Brewster), who has exciting news, they flee to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to pull off a heist worth millions of dollars. In order to do so, they build a team consisting of Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), Han Seuol-Oh (Sung Kang), Leo (Teo Calderon), and Santos (Don Omar). Meanwhile, federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team track down Brian and Dom. Fast Five was the first Fast and Furious movie I’ve ever seen. I saw it in a packed theater with my cousin in 2011. Without seeing the predecessors back then, I enjoyed every bit of it. Seeing it again after watching the others, this takes the franchise into a whole new level. With some of the best stunts, action, laughs (especially from Roman and Tej), this is the best of the Fast and Furious franchise. Not to mention that awesome showdown between Vin Diesel and The Rock.

3.5/4

2014 Summer Movie Review: Hercules

Dwayne Johnson brings the muscles and the body armor in "Hercules"

Dwayne Johnson brings the muscles and the body armor in “Hercules”

There have been several movies featuring the legendary demigod Hercules. One of the most well-known versions was the 1997 animated film from Disney. Although I’ve seen bits and pieces of that version, it still gave me the knowledge about the origins of Hercules. With two movies featuring the hero came out this year, I assume the latest version starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner (who completely ruined the X-Men trilogy) is much more entertaining than 2014’s first big flop The Legend of Hercules, in which I avoided like the plague. However, one of the film’s reasons why it’s rated PG-13 is among the several problems I had with it. It’s not as bad as I expected it to be, but it’s nothing special.

Hercules opens up with, like with the other versions, the origins of the legendary hero. He became the son of Zeus (or more accurately, Jupiter) and known for his unbelievable strength, spent twelve labors, betrayed by his wife Hera, and believed he ended up murdering her and his children. Years later, he becomes mortal and shows up wearing a hide of Leo the Lion (I’m hoping you get the joke) to save his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) from the pirates who don’t believe the truth of Hercules. We see him as a leader of a group of mercenaries going to Thrace to be hired by King Cotys (John Hurt) to train his army in order to defend his kingdom by the vicious warlord Rhesus.

There is some entertaining scenes in this movie. The battle scenes are actually pretty good. Ratner knows how to film action, however, they are ruined by the poorly rendered CG effects. Some of the effects here make the effects from Ghost Rider look quite exhilarating. The backstories of Hercules are also ruined by Ratner’s weak direction. For instance, the first flashback with his wife and children getting slaughtered comes out of nowhere with absolutely no feeling of intimidation whatsoever. I understand this is a popcorn flick, but some of the one-liners makes the tone go into a completely different path.

I can’t imagine a better actor than Dwayne Johnson to play the titular role. With his WWE days behind him, he’s becoming capable of being a talented actor. Sure, he might star in some bad movies (like Tooth Fairy, where he wears a tutu), it’s impossible not to love this guy. He does a good job bringing loads of muscles and giving speeches like William Wallace from Braveheart or King Theoden from The Lord of the Rings.

1.5/4