Monday, June 08, 2015

San Andreas

The Showcase SuperLux in Chestnut Hill is kind of an exaggerated theater - highest prices, most upscale food menu, classiest decor - that it's probably easier to use it as a metaphor for the film you see than many other places. Take last evening's show, which I went to see there because I missed the cheapest 3D show by sleeping to a reasonable hour for Sunday morning and once you do that, you may as well go to the fancy place if you're going to have a snack with the movie. You know what I had? "Cap'n Chicken Strips", which is chicken in a Cap'n Crunch breading with buttermilk ranch. I've got to be honest, I really didn't get that much of a Cap'n Crunch flavor from it, but the basic concept couldn't get more "selling junk food and sophistication at the same time" if it tried.

It's not really putting on airs, though, and that's seeing San Andreas at a place like the SuperLux. It's pure Hollywood product executed in a very slick manner, not particularly refined, but pretty much what you expect. I kind of wish I was able to get past it's total commitment to "make it personal!", because it's almost a parody of such things, but by the same token I almost wish it went for deadpan acknowledgment. It's absurd that the movies create giant spectacles of the sort of thing that should be awe-inspiring on their own but feel the need to chip the story down to human size.

San Andreas

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 June 2015 in Showcase SuperLux #3 (first-run, DCP)

Movies like San Andreas cost a lot of money and the time of a lot of talented people, and yet they so often wind up as a battle between a dumb, pandering script and the basic competence of the cast and crew. The latter eke out a small victory here, I figure, because their work is still fairly easy to appreciate even when they're asked to execute something that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Take the opening sequence, for instance; it has a sense of fun in faking the audience out before setting up a tricky problem for Los Angeles Fire Department rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew, accompanied by a TV reporter (Archie Panjabi), to solve. That done, he gets down to nearly-divorced dad stuff, but while he's arranging to take daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to college, a Caltech seismologist (Paul Giamatti) I is having his theories on earthquake prediction proven correct in tragic fashion at Hoover Dam. His model predicts that there is more to come, placing both Blake and her mother Emma (Carla Gugino) in dangerous situations in San Francisco and L.A., respectively. Too bad Ray is helping to coordinate rescue efforts for the entire city.

Nah, just kidding - that team described as too close to break up after serving together in the Middle East back during the opening is soon nowhere to be seen, with two dropped off-screen and the other one apparently ditched by Ray quickly walking away after telling him his shoelace is untied. After that, one kind of loses track of how much public and private property Ray appropriates and destroys while zipping right past thousands to millions of other people in need of assistance unless it would directly involve helping his immediate family. Granted, they tend to call him directly instead of 911 and often wind up running against the crowds for their own private rescue plans. On top of that, San Andreas is also the sort of movie that will briefly expect the audience to kind of enjoy someone getting squashed like a bug for the character flaw of being a bit of a jerk but apparently not feel that nature was not settling some sort of score with the other few hundred people being wiped out in the same shot. Given half a minute's thought, this movie becomes a quite horrifying display of how spectacle is supposedly meaningless unless the the audience cares about the characters and their personal stakes.

Full review on EFC.

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