Tag Archives: Paul Giamatti

San Andreas

Disaster movies can be quite fun as long as you leave your brain at home. I’ve always enjoyed watching classic ones like The Poseiden Adventure and The Towering Inferno. But then there are ones that are just boring such as the John Cusack snoozefest 2012. So where does Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson’s new flick stand?

Johnson is Ray, a LA helicopter rescue pilot whose estranged from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino). When a massive earthquake rips across lots of cities along the San Andreas Fault, Johnson has to rescue not only Emma but also their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who is trapped in San Francisco. As threats of further earthquakes come in, can Ray save both the women in his life?

Having low expectations going in to see this movie, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. Ok it’s never going to be a classic movie but it knows what it is and does it well. Having Dwayne Johnson in the lead role helps as he’s one of the few professional wrestler turn actor that can actually act and have loads of charisma. You can also believe that if anyone can take on an earthquake it’s the man formally known as The Rock.

As for the supporting characters, Paul Giamatti sprouts exposition well as Dr. Lawrence Hayes and Ray’s daughter Blake is, unusually for this genre, not annoying and is actually quite resourceful. Yes she ultimately does have to be rescued by her father (as does her mother) but San Andreas isn’t looking to challenge too many cliches.There’s Emma’s new boyfriend who predictably turns out to be a coward, and someone has to die early on to save a helpless child.

Some of it is very stupid. Ray and Emma almost fall into a huge hole in the ground even though it was right in front of them. Some of the conversations between the ex couple are also a bit boring as they are just there to provide the back story to their relationship. Yes it’s cheesy, and it won’t re-invent the disaster movie, but San Andreas is easy watching and has good special effects to satisfy most audience viewers.

Rating 3/5 – silly but enjoyable none the less

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I’ve always enjoyed the Spider-Man character, and despite my initial reservations I liked the 2012 reboot The Amazing Spider-Man.

Having graduated from high school Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and on/off girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are trying to work out their complicated love life. Meanwhile Harry Osborn, an old friend of Peter’s, is in New York with a secret of his own, and a new villain Electro (Jamie Fox) is causing problems for Spidey.

First of all this film does not fall into the trap of Spider-Man 3 and become overwhelmed by the amount of villains onscreen. Out of the film’s baddies only Rhino (Paul Giamatti) feels like he was tacked on to give the film more villains. Fox is great as Electro, a guy desperate to be seen even before his unfortunate accident. Even better is DeHaan as Harry. Given a powerful motivation for his actions its easy to get swept along in his descent into villainy. He almost steals the show away from Garfield and Stone. But not quite. This is their movie.

The strength of the Spider-Man stories has always been the relationships, whether his romantic one with Gwen Stacey, his family bond with his aunt May or even his turbulent friendship with Harry Osborne. All the relationships here are handled beautifully. Of course at the centre of all this is Peter and Gwen’s relationship. Some of the best moments of the film is them discussing their relationship and their plans for the future, whether it should be together or apart. Garfield and Stone are key to making this work on-screen. Both handling their scenes with intensity and emotion that draws the audience in and gets you rooting for them. They are both also great with comedy and dramatic scenes.

There are some aspects which are lacking in this film. The action scenes are functional but not jaw-dropping and I’m still not completely convinced the mystery about his parents is that interesting. However when a film packs an emotioanl puch as much as this one does then it barely matters.

Rating 4/5-Funny, sweet and heartbreaking good with Garfield and Stone on top form

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Saving Mr Banks (2013)

You would imagine that someone as big and powerful as Walt Disney would just have to click his fingers and get whatever film rights he wanted. However this oscar-bait movie shows that not everyone is susceptible to the charms of Disney.

Its 1961 and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been trying  20 years to secure the film rights to P.L Travers'(Emma Thompson) popular children’s story Mary Poppins. Eventually Travers agrees to go to Hollywood but only due to her financial struggles and insistence of her agent. As Walt and his team try to convince Travers to give over the rights to her story, flashbacks of the author’s childhood showed what shaped herself and her beloved novel.

Looking at this cast you can’t fault their performances. Thompson-as always-is brilliant as the author whose blunt and harsh demeanour is hiding an emotional connection to her characters that go beyond an author merely being possessive of her work. I loved her interactions with the composers and  scriptwriter (wonderfully played by B.J Novak, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford), fighting them at every stage and making impossible demands that she knows are unreasonable. While her interaction with her chauffeur Ralph (Paul Giamatti) also help  showed a softer side to Travers.

At times it does feel like the same old ‘stuffy, uptight Brit meets the relaxed American’s routine. However the experience of Hanks and Thompson makes sure that these characters don’t stray too far into that tired old story.

I could have done without so many flashbacks to Traver’s family. I know it’s important back story for what inspired the book, but I think they could have been cut down as I felt like they were dragging me away from the main plot line and pulling me out of the story. I’m also not too sure how accurate some of Traver’s interactions with Walt were or how she felt about the finished product.

What this film does establish though is bringing a deeper meaning to the characters in Traver’s story and makes you want to re-watch Mary Poppins with a newer understanding of what Traver’s characters meant to her.

Rating 3.5/5-perhaps too whimsical for Travers’ taste but this film has bundles of charm to get you swept along

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