Friday, July 31, 2015

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" Review

The Mission: Impossible film franchise is the only one I can think of that has, more or less, enjoyed success over now four sequels spanning almost 20 years. The old saying "some things get better with age" would be an understatement here. Not only have these films continued to improve with each installment (after M:I-2), they have single-handedly reassured this reviewer's faith in blockbuster filmmaking. The latest entry, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, is no exception. Intense action sequences, an outstanding cast, and a narrative with a sense of dire urgency and high stakes make this now fifth mission the most exciting one yet. I think I've said that about the last two sequels as well. Seriously, how many 3's, 4's and 5's out there are this much better than their predecessors? Whatever it is Tom Cruise is having, I want some of it.

On this mission, which you should choose to accept, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team find themselves on the CIA's shit list for the mayhem wrought in all the previous films. With the American government working against them, the few IMF agents left commit to destroying "The Syndicate," a worldwide terrorist organization operating at total discretion with agents as equally skilled as they are. The big bad is Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the Syndicate's driving force and Ethan's intellectual equal. Lane is trained to know how Hunt thinks and operates before he does, resulting in a cat-and-mouse caper of the highest order with each one trying to outfox the other. What sets the film apart from this cliché are the myriad twists and turns along the way. Lane always feels one step ahead, and even when Ethan has his back against the wall (which is when his character is the most interesting), nobody can be trusted.

Lane makes for one of the series' best villains for the reasons already mentioned but also because he never makes much show of force on screen. He constantly works quietly behind the scenes, orchestrating almost each and every detail of every chase, gunfight, and fistfight whether Hunt knows it or not. That's what makes Lane so dangerous. Most of the movie feels like the IMF have encountered their first-ever, truly "impossible" mission. This all builds to a rather un-spectacular climax by summer action movie terms, but it actually works as a satisfying payoff for the way these heroes and villains toy with each other the whole time.

Fans will enjoy seeing Cruise back in action with Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames), and Benji (Simon Pegg). Add to the fray a pair of welcome newcomers: Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). Hunley is the director of the CIA who is hellbent on bringing Hunt in to answer for his crimes. Ilsa is basically a female version of Ethan, and she is literally a knockout. The actress Ferguson is one of the most naturally beautiful women this reviewer has ever seen, but cross Ilsa and you're a dead man. Ilsa is the strongest female character this series has introduced thus far with her own set of unique problems, skills and subplots that make her just as interesting to watch, if not more so, than Ethan. The entire cast, including the newcomers, display tremendous chemistry. They're very convincing as a team.

As for the action sequences, this is unlike Terminator 5 in which every stunt is spoiled by the marketing. Knowing that Lane is likely, in some subtle way, behind everything and that all the set pieces factor into some grand scheme gives a certain weight to the eye candy that most action films lack. When Tom Cruise chases down goons on a motorcycle in Morocco [just one of his many practical stunts you'll see in the film], it feels like something is truly at stake for the characters rather than having a CGI-laden sequence amount to what feels like nothing more than burnt budget dollars. There are no Michael Bay-esque explosions, and save for an extended sequence in an underwater vault, just about every stunt looks and feels like authentic, old-fashioned stunt work.

Mission: Impossible 5 solidifies Cruise's status as this generation's consummate action star like Schwarzenegger and Heston before him. Say what you want about his personal life. The guy has consistently produced good-to-great action movies since he's been starring in them.

It doesn't top Fury Road's artistic or emotional payoff, but Rogue Nation asserts itself as a close second in the summer blockbuster race.

-Standout performances from Cruise and Pegg
-High personal stakes/sense of urgency
-Action with meaning & consequences
-Perfect blend of humor

-Occasional gaps in logical progression


Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Vacation" Review

The Vacation remake shakes up just enough of the jokes to keep from feeling like a straight re-tread of the Chevy Chase classic. That said, filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein have stripped away all of the heart that made the original a classic, resulting in a film that, while funny at times, feels very hollow as a whole.

The plot features the exact same skeleton as before; to get his family out of a rut, a father obsessively drags his reluctant family to a theme park 2,500 miles away. Only this time, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) leads the way with a new car, his two sons, and a wife who's clearly been cast for her resemblance to Beverley D'Angelo (Christina Applegate). Along the way, the family encounters a sorority house party, dirty motel rooms, cute girls in red cars, a strange trucker, a depressed rafting instructor, inept state troopers, and, of course, relatives. Leslie Mann plays Rusty's sister Audrey, who has settled down in Texas with a handsome weatherman (Chris Hemsworth). Hemsworth's overbearing, awkward Stone Crandall swings a big stick [if you catch my drift], but he could never be a match for the hijinks wrought by Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid).

On this vacation, I frequently found myself laughing out loud. I respect the writers for making the script juuuuust different enough that it doesn't feel like exactly the same movie over again. Applegate is given much more material to work with on her own than D'Angelo had, which is refreshing. Her stunt at the sorority house is probably the funniest bit of physical comedy I've seen in ages. Here I sit, laughing just thinking about it!

Cameos are a-plenty, and I'd say just about all of them steal their respective scenes. Be on the lookout for lots of familiar faces!

The young actors who play Rusty's sons are serviceable. They aren't quite as annoying as the boys in Jurassic World, but they're pretty close. As for Rusty himself, Helms is hard to buy as the goofball dad. He lacks the wit and charm that made Chase so memorable in the original. I even thought Jason Sudeikis did Helms' schtick much better in We're the Millers.

Although there are several individual moments in Vacation that are very funny, it never quite feels like they're building to anything worthwhile. Most of the jokes might in fact be construed as mean-spirited; just so for the sake of being different from the original movie. That turns out to be a horrible idea. While that kind of humor can work when done properly, in Vacation it strips the story of the heart that made National Lampoon's Vacation a cornerstone of cinematic comedy. Thus, this remake is rendered superfluous and tough to recommend. See it only if you're a big fan of poop jokes and graphic sexual innuendos.

-Applegate shines
-Sorority house scene
-Great cameos
-Some fresh jokes

-Cheap, mean-spirited sense of humor overall
-Ed Helms
-No heart = Weak payoff


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Trainwreck" Review

I've never really cared much for Amy Schumer's brand of humor. Jokes about penis size and vaginas can only take one so far, but I found plenty to laugh at with Trainwreck, Schumer's debut feature as a screenwriter. Her script is sharp and legitimately hysterical, despite a handful of jokes that don't quite land. There's so many great zingers that it hardly matters anyway. I appreciate that Schumer doesn't repeat the same punchline over and over. She saves enough big laughs for herself but also grants her costars adequate time to shine. I was impressed with the writing of just about every character.

Schumer plays the lead character who is conveniently named "Amy." She's a staff writer for a New York fashion magazine who's afraid of commitment. She's a gifted writer, but when it comes to her personal life, she can never settle on one guy. Naturally, Amy's party-girl proclivities are thrown for a loop when she is assigned to write a piece on sports physician Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). She falls for his successful, clean-cut nature; a perfect antithesis to her day-drinking, weed-smoking character. 

Most of Schumer's characters are very relatable. I mean, Schumer and Hader are the main love interests. Who does that? Neither of them look like your typical Hollywood romantic leads, thus giving hope to the rest of us who don't look like a Hemsworth or Jennifer Aniston. The rest of the supporting cast runs pretty deep, including Colin Quinn as Amy's MS-stricken father, Brie Larson as her "family girl" younger sister, John Cena as Amy's meathead ex-boyfriend Steven, Tilda Swinton as Amy's boss Dianna, LeBron James as an alternate version of himself, and that's just naming the major players. There are loads more cameos that must be seen to be fully appreciated. 

Surprisingly, LeBron gets a lot of the laughs among the supporting players. He shows stellar comedic timing and a solid penchant for acting in general. Maybe Space Jam 2 isn't such an awful idea after all.

Director Judd Apatow should be commended as well for probably being America's only true comedy auteur. He consistently makes smart films for adults with characters so realistic and relatable that we're forced to laugh as hard at ourselves as we are at the films themselves. We need more movies like that. We need more writers like Schumer who have the balls to put out progressive stories and characters who take responsibility for their actions out there for audiences to enjoy. Apatow's productions do tend to run a bit long, but in the case of Trainwreck, this is a passion project done right. 

-Schumer's writing
-Against-type casting of romantic leads
-Some awesome cameos
-Goes against rom-com formula...

-...but also indulges it more often than some might like
-Runs long
-A handful of jokes don't land


Monday, July 27, 2015


Ian McKellan gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as an aging Sherlock in the film Mr. Holmes. I enjoyed seeing him in something other than a new X-Men or Hobbit movie. While the film lacks the edge of Guy Ritchie's recent incarnations of the character, Bill Condon's film sees the good detective grappling with an unsolved case as well as his own psychosis. Laura Linney is great as Holmes' housekeeper Mrs. Munro, as is young Milo Parker as her son Roger whom Sherlock takes under his wing as a beekeeper's apprentice. At times the film feels somewhat loosely plotted, but that allows ample room for McKellan to shine. At the same time, I enjoyed how the subplots weigh on the detective's psyche. Nothing feels indulgent or bloated about this time in Holmes' life. It's worth seeing for the magnetic McKellan alone. Hopefully his performance is remembered for awards consideration this year. Check local theater listings.


The Stanford Prison Experiment has been an indie darling ever since its debut at Sundance this year. It's easy to see why. If you understand a bit of the history behind this true-life case, it's all the more engaging to contemplate the film's adherence to realism. As extreme as some of the actions and reactions between the prisoners and guards are, nothing ever feels far-fetched. The emotional intensity, timeliness, and timelessness of the themes in this story (power of authority/lack thereof, man-vs-man, human ethics) makes this the quickest 2 hours I've spent with a movie all year. Everything from casting to production design serves to turn the audience into prisoners themselves in the best possible way. The movie is chock-full of up and coming talent, but the standout is Michael Angarano who play-acts the roughest, toughest, meanest prison guard of the bunch. He practically disappears into the part. You just want to sock him in the face, as you're meant to. I simply loved this film. I can't wait to watch it again, and it's without a doubt a must-see 2015 release. Check your OnDemand listings.


"The Apu Trilogy" Review

In the late 1950s, the great Indian film director Satyajit Ray made three films about the life of a little boy from the slums of Bengal. The first, Pather Panchali, is one of the great directorial debuts of all time. It sets the bar extremely high for the other films that would follow, and it's simply a slice-of-life narrative chronicling the community and characters within one microcosm of the Bengali region. Pather Panchali really isn't even about Apu. The films are told from Apu's perspective, but he isn't even born until about 30 minutes in. The story is really about his father and his struggles to provide for the family. There's a lot of factors that make this first film great, namely the Capra-esque characters, score from the immortal Ravi Shankar, and Ray's economical style of shooting. Night scenes are particularly interesting; the frame is lit in such a way that the audience sees only what they need to see.

I'd argue that the second film in the trilogy, Aparajito, is the weakest, but it's still well worth your time. This one picks up some time after the first film leaves off and sees Apu heading off to university in Calcutta. As Apu undergoes a series of trials and tribulations in a new place, it's interesting to see how his conflicts parallel and differ from his mother's back at home. It's a bit more difficult to gauge how Apu changes as a character in this film. You're just waiting for him to really grow up the whole time. That changes in part three.

The third film, Apur Sansar, delivers what the second film sorely lacks: a love interest. Apu is now grown up, jobless, but dreaming of becoming a novelist. When a friend asks Apu to accompany him to his sister's wedding, a fortuitous turn of events find Apu married. With marriage comes real-world commitments that Apu may or may not be ready for. The best thing about Apur Sansar is that, unlike the other two films, it shows Apu's evolution from a reluctant college boy to a world-ready man. Even though Apu is in his mid-late 20s, this is really the only coming-of-age story in the entire trilogy.

All three films are written and directed by Ray, and all feature spectacular original music from Shankar. These films have an interesting history with the original negative prints being badly charred in a nitrate fire at Henderson's Film Laboratories in London, England. Shortly after the incident, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gained control of the negatives and preserved them in their archives for 20 years. In 2013, the Academy opened their archives to the folks at Criterion who were able to recover the negatives and remaster them in 4K. Considering the state these films were in for 20 years, it's miraculous how amazing the image quality is. It's not as perfect as I had first hoped; there's still plenty of visible scratches and banding, but again, considering the history, I don't think anyone is going to complain. There are still a few months until November when Criterion is rumored to be releasing the trilogy on Blu-ray. Maybe their restoration team will have completed some additional work by then.

At any rate, The Apu Trilogy may be one of the finest in the history of world cinema. I'd recommend it to audiences of all ages as well as anyone who can appreciate film as an art form.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Southpaw" Review

From screenwriter Kurt Sutter, the creator of Sons of Anarchy, and director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Training Day) comes a riches-to-rags-to-riches boxing movie you've seen a dozen times before: Southpaw.

Jake Gyllenhaal leads an impressive cast as Billy Hope, a world champion boxer who finds his whole world turned upside down after a heated misunderstanding with another fighter. In the wake of unfortunate events, Billy must fight to get himself straight and get his family life back in order. As you might be able to predict, the only way he can do that is by winning a title fight against the boxer who disgraced him. 


If you've seen Rocky or Raging Bull before, there's absolutely nothing that Southpaw brings to the table that's any different from what's depicted in those films. I know that the movie was originally written for Eminem to play Hope in what was to be a spiritual sequel to 8 Mile. I would have rather seen that movie. Not that Gyllenhaal is bad; quite the opposite. But a great Gyllenhaal performance is par for the course these days, and he seems to be going through the motions in a way that Mathers might not. The story would hit home for him emotionally more than it would Gyllenhaal. I'd expect a far more interesting picture with Eminem in the lead role. 

Needless to say, I'm disappointed in most of the story beats found here. At one point, Billy pursues trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) in order to get back in shape. Tick initially refuses, asking Billy why he'd take on "the Great White Dope" as a trainee. I would've been perfectly satisfied if the film had pursued that aspect of Billy's character more. I'd be far more interested to see how he rebuilds his life amid a doping scandal as opposed to clichéd family trauma. 

One gets the sense that the entire cast is above this material, from Gyllenhaal and Whitaker to Rachel McAdams, 50 Cent, and the marvelous young Oona Laurence as Billy's daughter Leila. However, there is a wonderful scene at the very end of the film where Billy meets Leila in the locker room after seeing him fight for the first time. She urges him to take her straight home afterwards. "Let's just go home," she says repeatedly amid hugs and tears. It's in that moment that Billy comes to grips with the fact that the fights aren't about him anymore. They're about his duty to his daughter. He sets himself aside in that moment, one in which the old Billy would've been quick to anger, to show that he is truly capable of change. I found that to be quite interesting, and it's sad that it comes so late in the film. 

-Oona Laurence
-Solid boxing action
-Superb character beats towards the film's end

-Falls for every single boxing movie cliché
-Underwhelming final score from the late James Horner
-No Eminem (the music isn't enough!) 


Friday, July 17, 2015

"Ant-Man" Review

Marvel's Ant-Man is very much a movie of three parts, all of which vary in degree of quality from unwatchable to spectacular. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes of this movie ready to walk out of the theater. The last 45 minutes rewarded my patience with some of Marvel's most exhilarating action scenes and character moments to date. 

The first act establishes Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as the creator of something called the "Pym Particle," which condenses the space between atoms without sacrificing the density of the material it's applied to. That's why Ant-Man can shrink so small and still punch bad guys at full strength. Pym hand-picks a gifted cat burglar named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a man who consistently finds himself on the wrong side of the law in his estranged daughter's name, to steal another Ant-Man-like suit known as the "Yellowjacket," developed by Pym's protegé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Act two presents some very heavy-handed exposition that seems to drag on forever in an inconsistent tone, between Lang training for his big heist and lots of talking among Pym, Lang, and Pym's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). It reminded me of an Honest Trailer I saw for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones where Screen Junkies ripped it apart for having too much inconsequential dialogue and not enough Star Wars-y stuff. That's how a full hour of Ant-Man feels.

Not to mention some of the exposition takes place among some of the saddest excuses for sidekick characters ever conceived. The talented Michael Peña shows up as Scott's ever-lovin' buddy Luis who always seems eager to get his "homies" in on the next big score. With the material given, Peña, who was once in Oscar consideration for films such as Crash and End of Watch, is forced to play a one-note stereotype that made me cringe in the worst way every time he was on screen. Frankly I'm surprised he even agreed to do the role. Rounding out Lang's team of heist buddies are Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian). They're unfunny and boring to watch, but they do get Scott out of a jam once or twice.

The high point of act two is a stellar fight sequence between Ant-Man and a character who shall not be named but one that audiences have definitely seen before. It's staged, executed and edited with precision and thus is simultaneously funny, engaging and thrilling. No doubt a remnant of Edgar Wright's involvement.

The third act then feels like something of an apology for the long-winded exposition, but, man, is it one hell of an "I'm sorry." Stoll's performance as the villainous Cross eventually finds time to shine through. I think that the rogues gallery of MCU villains has generally been very weak outside of Loki. Kingpin from Netflix's Daredevil series is probably the next best. Then I would argue Cross to round out the top 3. What sets him on a slightly higher plane than, say, Ultron is that Cross introduces very personal stakes for the hero by striking at the very heart of what makes Lang who he is, and that's something that very few, if any, of these villains have done for their heroes.

In the process, we get to see some of the best, most unique action sequences of the Marvel canon. Never before in movie history, and likely never again (Ant-Man 2?), will you see two miniature men fight on top of a moving model train by hurling the caboose and dining car at one another. The visual effects are awesome, the 3D is great, and the action is very smartly assembled. The cast is generally very good, but you can tell Adam McKay & Paul Rudd botched the rewrites.

Lastly I should mention that I was concerned with how Ant-Man might fit into the larger scope of the MCU. Aside from that fight scene in the second act, there are several passing references in dialogue that make the viewer aware of the film's place. It's kind of like Daredevil in that sense. Of course there's also the obligatory Stan Lee cameo and mid & post-credits scenes, which are not to be missed. When Ant-Man is at its best, its a perfect match in tone as well. It's just so damn inconsistent for awhile. In the end it's still a worthy addition to the canon.

Exhilarating, unique action scenes
Awesome visuals
Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket
Personal stakes for the hero
MCU tie-ins
Great for kids/family

Monotonous exposition
Offensively stereotypical supporting characters
No real connection with main characters in first and second acts


Monday, July 13, 2015

"Terminator: Genisys" Review

A brand-new Terminator movie is here to try and undo past injustices (Rise of the Machines; Salvation) in order to satisfy fans of the originals while introducing something new for neophytes. Sadly, a few shards of promise do not a great Terminator make.

Witness the birth of the franchise as Genisys starts with some pretty cool scenes that set up the arrival of The Terminator in 1984. Then after the exposition is complete, witness what is essentially a boring retread of the original masterpiece in an alternate timeline that makes no sense whatsoever. The story tries to build on the original by exploring what the world/future would be like if Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) was sent back to protect Sarah Connor from The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) only to find her as the hardened warrior fans remember from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Oh, and Arnie really is back as the killer-turned-protector robot. Sarah even calls him "Pops."

I mean, really? Is this the talking velociraptor moment for the Terminator series?

That said, Arnold's scenes are the best thing about the film. His rehabilitated T-800 is still something of a "fish out of water" as he attempts to fit in as a normal person in Genisys. I think scribes Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier wanted to add a new catchphrase to Terminator's classic compendium by having Arnie use the word "theoretically" when explaining solutions to problems. "Theoretically," the word's use is dubious most times, which makes it pretty fun. But "theoretically," it could never top "I'll be back" or "Hasta la vista, baby."

Aside from that, there's really nothing else of merit in Terminator: Genisys. All the action sequences, save for the climax which is actually fairly exciting, are shown in the trailers that have been playing for months. The cardinal sin, however, is that the film's biggest twist is also given away in the trailers. That's how you know you've got a terrible movie on your hands. This just feels like another bad action film hindered by a market-friendly PG-13 rating.

Courtney as Kyle Reese also displays little to no chemistry with this iteration of Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). I've always found Courtney to be a very generic actor, and the character of Kyle Reese should be anything but generic. Clarke isn't totally lifeless, but Linda Hamilton she is not. I would not care to see Courtney and/or Clarke together again in a Terminator movie, or really anything else for that matter.

Arnold is back!
10-15 minutes of pretty good prequel material
Exciting climax

Generic action scenes ruined by marketing
Big plot twist ruined by marketing
Confusing timeline
Uninspired performances
Sanitized PG-13 violence


Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Love & Mercy" Review

Love & Mercy is a biopic about Brian Wilson, one of the founding members of The Beach Boys. What sets it apart from the Ray's and Capote's and Walk the Line's of the world is a rather unique narrative structure and complex sound design. Director Bill Polhad has crafted a very inward-focused film that places us inside Wilson's head in a way that most other biopics fail to do with their subjects. In that sense, Love & Mercy is a perfect expression of the introverted Wilson himself. It should go without saying that this is easily one of the best films of the year.

The story jumps between two eras of Wilson's life: the 1960s in which he starts to pull away from his band mates in order to create more unique sounds and the 1980s in which he meets a Cadillac saleswoman (Elizabeth Banks) while under the care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

60s Wilson is portrayed by Paul Dano, while John Cusack takes over in the 80s scenes. Both performances are worthy of Oscar consideration in their own right, but Dano stands out as a misunderstood young man struggling to get everyone on board with his vision. It's the scenes where Dano is frantically dashing around the recording studio, fixing notes for the saxophonists or insisting to another player that conflicting keys will work with the right composition, that the film is at its most electrifying.

Understandably, the film is all about the music. An assortment of Beach Boys essentials punctuate certain scenes while score composer Atticus Ross does something truly unique with them at other moments. Ross gives us several separate collages of sounds that fade together to denote thoughts going through Wilson's head. Oftentimes, you can't tell whether we're in the studio listening to recordings or stuck inside Wilson's mind or both.

I was only slightly let down by Giamatti's portrayal of Landy as a one-note movie villain, especially later in the film. He delivers the perfect amount of smarm, but it definitely feels like the real-life Wilson family had a hand in deciding how Landy should be portrayed. That really made the difference between the 60s and 80s scenes. While the 60s show us Wilson's emerging psychosis and how it affects his music as well as his family and friends, the 80s eventually start to feel like a contrived defeat-the-villain plot. Figuratively, it's much more interesting to watch Wilson try to break free from his broken state and the demons of his past instead of literally watching Landy yell and treat everyone like trash until he's served with legal documentation against his practices.

All around though, the film excels thanks to stellar performances and stylistic choices as unique as Wilson himself. Love & Mercy is a fitting tribute to the life, mind and music of a pop icon.


Friday, July 10, 2015

"San Andreas" Review

San Andreas might be one of the better disaster movies in years, but the cheesy fun doesn't outweigh iffy visuals and a narrative with cracks that expose the film's commercial, rather than creative, ambitions.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Raymond Gaines, an L.A. Fire & Rescue chief whose ship literally comes in when the San Andreas fault sets off a massive earthquake and tsunami across California. In the aftermath, Gaines embarks on a dangerous personal mission to rescue his daughter in San Francisco.

Johnson leads a strong supporting cast including Carla Gugino as his ex-wife Emma, Alexandra Daddario as their daughter Blake, and Paul Giamatti as Cal Tech seismologist Lawrence. Director Brad Peyton has stated that most of the cast performed their own stunts, and it shows in their reactions. Even though most of the mayhem is out of left field, and some of the CGI looks a bit too cartoony, the performances make the events on screen feel real.

The film might have been even more fun if screenwriter Carlton Cuse had decided to team up Ray and Lawrence with one guiding the other through the treacherous landscape. If not, I would have liked to see those characters cross paths at some point at least. As such, their plots remain entirely separate and have no bearing on the outcome of the other. Sad.

Another big issue I had with the story of San Andreas is that there are moments where you think Cuse is about to take massive, albeit refreshing, risks with the characters and then cops out in favor of "warm-n-fuzzy" feelings.

However, the film earns points for at least flirting with serious consequences for the lead characters as individuals, something that is sorely missing from today's blockbusters. It also does away with the insubstantial exposition that marred The Day After Tomorrow and bloated 2012 to nearly three hours. San Andreas has a constant sense of urgency, and it's all about how the characters are reacting to their life-changing situation. There's no time to bide time. I'm looking at you, Jake Gyllenhaal and John Cusack!

San Andreas is the kind of schlock that's still worth seeing on the big screen because of its grand scale and massive destruction scenes. It's not a "great" film, but I'd be disappointed if I waited to rent this one at home. Fans of old-school disaster films should feel confident catching a discount matinee while they still can.