This big-screen take on the corny 1989-2001 TV series goes for raunchy gags and waterlogged action, failing to impress in both instances. Dwayne Johnson inherits the old David Hasselhoff part as Mitch, the veteran among a crew of Florida lifeguards; when a poorly motivated former Olympic swimmer (Zac Efron) shows up for duty, and they all get drawn into a murder mystery, Mitch has his hands full. Meant to be breezy and fun, but it’s cheap and way overlong. Not even Johnson is appealing enough to save it; cameos from the show’s stars are pointless.
2017-U.S. 116 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Seth Gordon. Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Mitch Bucannon), Zac Efron (Matt Brody), Priyanka Chopra (Victoria Leeds), Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass… David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson.
Trivia: Co-produced by Ivan Reitman; co-executive produced by Johnson. Also released in a 121-min. version.
The old team is rounded up one more time for a top secret government mission, but they’re all seemingly betrayed by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) who’s working with a new dangerous foe (Charlize Theron)… The eighth chapter in the Fast and the Furious saga has a razor-thin story for a movie as bloated as this, but plenty of outlandish action to satisfy die-hard fans, including a silly, icy showdown in Russia involving a nuclear sub. Combines street racing with spy-movie trappings and a lot of comedy; unwieldy, but boosted by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.
2017-U.S. 136 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Cast: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw), Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ”Ludacris” Bridges… Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Kristofer Hivju. Cameo: Helen Mirren.
The 16-year-old daughter of a chief leaves her tribe and Polynesian island to find the demigod Maui, bringing a mystical stone that was lost for a millennium. Inspired by Polynesian mythology and the stories about the shapeshifting Maui in particular, the legendary Disney directors delivered their first entirely computer-animated film in 3D, and it’s a beauty. Engaging songs (by among others ”Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), gorgeous sights and bursting with creativity, this is an adventure that overcomes a few slower stretches in its traditional Disney/Pixar formula. Dwayne Johnson is fun, and so are the dumbest pet chicken in history and the cute coconut pirates.
2016-U.S. Animated. 107 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Osnat Shurer. Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker. Screenplay: Jared Bush. Songs: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’i (”You’re Welcome”, ”How Far I’ll Go”). Voices of Auli’i Cravalho (Moana Waialiki), Dwayne Johnson (Maui), Rachel House (Tala Waialiki), Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger.
Trivia: Titled Vaiana in several European countries because of a trademark conflict, and Oceania in Italy to avoid confusion with the Italian porn star Moana Pozzi.
Last word: “So much of the movie takes place on the water, and the water was the hardest thing to animate. It’s always in motion, and then we wanted it to be a personality in the movie based on our trips to the South Pacific five years ago, where they talked about the water like it was alive, the ocean had feelings, and emotions, and we said we’ve really got to get that into the movie, but that meant our special effects who would normally do just the water… We had to team them up with character people who do the characters and acting so it moved not only like an ocean but have it really react, act, to be happy, sad, confused, frightened, whatever it might be.” (Musker, SlashFilm)
It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2017 for ya. As always, premiere dates may change.
* The Comedian – Robert De Niro gets a chance to redeem himself after appearing in far too many bad comedies. Directed by Taylor Hackford; Danny DeVito has a supporting part.
* Split – … and this is M. Night Shyamalan’s chance to redeem himself after far too many convoluted, bad horror movies. This one has James McAvoy as a kidnapper with 24 personalities.
* The Founder – Early reviews of this drama following the early days of McDonald’s say the movie may not be a masterpiece, but Michael Keaton is aces in the lead.
* The Lego Batman Movie– Will this spin-off to The Lego Movie (2014) be as surprisingly enjoyable as the original?
* Fifty Shades Darker – Will this sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) challenge its audience more than the original did? The trailer doesn’t look too promising.
* John Wick: Chapter 2 – Keanu Reeves returns for more action. February really is a month for B-movie sequels.
* A Cure for Wellness – Gore Verbinski delivers a horror thriller, his first since The Ring(2002), and it is set in the Swiss Alps.
* Tulip Fever – Alicia Vikander stars in this drama set during the tulip craze in The Netherlands in the 1600s. Also has Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifianakis and Cara Delevingne in the cast. Directed by Justin Chadwick, who made The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) look so good.
* Logan – The world seemed a bit tired of all the X-Men movies, but then came the trailer above for James Mangold’s next Wolverine movie, and now we’re all excited again.
* T2 Trainspotting – Danny Boyle’s long-awaited sequel to Trainspotting (1996) reunites the old cast. Opens January 27 in Britain.
* Kong: Skull Island – The big ape is discovered during a military mission to Skull Island. The first two trailers look great. Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston.
* Beauty and the Beast – The live-action version of the 1991 animated classic. Guaranteed to be a box-office hit judging from the online interest in the trailers. Stars Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor and Dan Stevens.
* King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s version of the oft-filmed legend. The trailer makes it look brutal. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur.
* Ghost in the Shell – This manga adaptation has Scarlett Johansson in the lead as “The Major”.
* Going in Style – The trailer promises no fireworks, but I’m sure it’ll be a pleasure to watch Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Ann-Margret at work.
* The Fate of the Furious– The eighth film in the franchise adds Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron to the cast. The trailer is quite explosive.
* The Lost City of Z – Tom Holland and Charlie Hunnam star in James Gray’s film about a real-life explorer who disappeared while searching for a city in the Amazon in the 1920s.
* The Circle – A thriller about a big tech company, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.
* Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – This sequel comes with a fun trailer that promises more of the laughs and thrills that made the original a hit.
* Snatched – Goldie Hawn returns to the big screen after a 14-year absence, playing Amy Schumer’s mother in a raunchy comedy.
* Alien: Covenant – Ridley Scott returns with this sequel to Prometheus, a film that (judging from the trailer) seems firmly grounded in the Alien universe.
* Annabelle 2 – A sequel that hopefully will improve on the lackluster first film. Lights Out director David F. Sandberg has his work cut out for him.
* Baywatch – The film adaptation of the cheesy 1990s TV show aims for babes, laughs and a few thrills. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are in the leads.
* Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge – The fifth chapter in this franchise. Javier Bardem joins the usual gang.
* Wonder Woman – The DC films have largely been disappointments so far after Man of Steel (2013)… but this one could change that. The trailers have us all excited.
* The Mummy – Universal aims to create a monster universe the way Marvel and DC have created cinematic universes out of their superheroes. This one looks exciting, with Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in the leads… but I was hoping for scary.
* Cars 3 – Pixar’s least interesting franchise is beloved by children; this chapter promises to be a little darker in tone.
* Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Colin Firth returns as a dapper agent in this sequel, and he’s joined by several other big stars. Will bigger equal better?
* Transformers: The Last Knight –The fifth movie in this franchise, and Michael Bay shows no sign of wanting to change it for the better. Audiences will show up anyway.
* The Beguiled –Sofia Coppola directs this Western, which is set during the Civil War and has Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in the cast.
* Spider-Man: Homecoming– Tom Holland introduced his Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and here comes a stand-alone movie that looks like a lot of fun.
* War of the Planet of the Apes – The third film in this series pits Caesar against an aggressive colonel played by Woody Harrelson. The trailer is no disappointment.
* Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan delivers a historic epic depicting the famed WWII evacuation of Allied soldiers. As expected, it looks amazing. One of the summer’s few major blockbusters to be grounded in real-life events.
* The Dark Tower – An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel that combines Western with sci-fi. Stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.
* The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, about a bodyguard who has to deliver a client to the Hague so he can testify against a dictator.
* Villa Capri – Another action-comedy starring an unlikely duo, this time Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones in a story that looks very much like Midnight Run (1988).
* It – Stephen King’s novel was turned into a miniseries in 1990, but here comes the film adaptation. Bill Skarsgård plays the terrifying clown Pennywise.
* American Made – Doug Liman joins forces with Tom Cruise for a thriller about a pilot who becomes a drug smuggler. Based on a real-life story.
* Flatliners – A remake of the 1990 movie, which starred Kiefer Sutherland. He’ll make an appearance here as well. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).
* Blade Runner 2049 – The highly anticipated sequel has Denis Villeneuve directing. Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard.
* The Snowman – Tomas Alfredson is directing this adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s bestseller, with Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson in the leads.
* The month also has fresh sequels in the Insidious, Friday the 13th and Saw franchises. If there’s anyone out there who still has confidence in them.
* Thor: Ragnarok – The third film in the series stars Thor and the Hulk, you know, the guys who were too busy to make an appearance in Captain America: Civil War… Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will also show up.
* Justice League – The DC universe’s answer to The Avengers, uniting its big heroes. Zack Snyder has a lot to live up to.
* Murder on the Orient Express – Kenneth Branagh’s all-star remake of the 1974 classic will feature himself as Poirot.
* The Darkest Hour – The story of Winston Churchill’s early days in World War II. Gary Oldman plays the Prime Minister, Joe Wright is directing.
* Star Wars: Episode VIII – Rian Johnson is directing this film, which will likely devote some time to give Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) a dignified farewell.
* Jumanji – A remake of the 1995 movie, starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black.
* Downsizing – Alexander Payne directs this drama-comedy, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig.
SAVING THE WORLD TAKES A LITTLE HART AND A BIG JOHNSON.
Twenty years after graduating from high school, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) is contacted on Facebook by a guy who was spectacularly humiliated by bullies – and he turns out to have changed a lot. An action-comedy that benefits from Dwayne Johnson’s enthusiastic performance as a once-fat kid who’s now become a tower of a man but maintained his goofiness. The film has high spirits, but no star chemistry in the world is powerful enough to carry a story that’s so thin and contrived, has so few laughs and no tension whatsoever.
2016-U.S. 107 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Bob Stone), Kevin Hart (Calvin Joyner), Amy Ryan (Pamela Harris), Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet, Ryan Hansen. Cameos: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy.
When a series of devastating earthquakes hits California, LAFD rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) team up with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) to track down their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) in San Francisco. The star and the director of Journey 2 (2012) reunited for another boisterous 3D adventure, this time a disaster movie that takes pleasure in destroying the Bay Area. The visual effects is what we come for and they are no disappointment. But every life-threatening situation the characters are subjected too is strictly routine. Not even Johnson is enjoyable enough to overcome the silliness.
2015-U.S. 114 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Brad Peyton. Screenplay: Carlton Cuse. Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Ray Gaines), Carla Gugino (Emma), Alexandra Daddario (Blake Gaines), Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi… Kylie Minogue.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew are targeted by the brother (Jason Statham) of their latest nemesis, who wants revenge. Horror director James Wan’s first action pic firmly takes this franchise into Mission: Impossible territory, but forgets basic rules. We have to believe that the good guys are actually in danger – otherwise, what’s the point? Elaborate action scenes, including a marvellously insane chase midway through, and it’s fun watching Dwayne Johnson turn into a complete comic-book character. Goes a little too far, but the filmmakers do give Paul Walker a proper send-off that is emotional and true to his character (and the actor).
2015-U.S. 137 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by James Wan. Song: “See You Again” (performed by Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth). Cast: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson… Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Djimon Hounsou, Gal Gadot.
Trivia: Alternative title: Fast & Furious 7. Walked died in the middle of shooting this film; his performance was completed with the aid of his brothers Caleb and Cody, as well as digital reanimation. Followed by The Fate of the Furious (2017).
Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) tracks down and hires Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew to go after a former British Special Forces soldier who destroyed a Russian military convoy. This jaw-droppingly popular franchise was cleverly rejuvenated in Fast Five (2011) and number six follows that template, mixing an international heist story with unbelievable car chases and stunts. There are a few set-pieces here that really stand out thanks to their limitless energy, and it’s fun to watch a very comfortable cast at work… but the bad guy is boring and there are far too many lulls between action scenes.
2013-U.S. 130 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Justin Lin. Cast: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson… Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Gal Gadot. Cameo: Jason Statham.
In 1995, ex-con and personal trainer Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) talks two other bodybuilders (Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie) into helping him kidnap and extort a wealthy gym member. Michael Bay’s stab at a “simpler” film between his Transformers epics was based on a series of newspaper articles by Pete Collins detailing a real-life criminal operation in Miami. Bay was obviously inspired by Martin Scorsese, although the Florida color scheme looks as artificial as in his Bad Boys movies. The cast is fun, but the bloody shenanigans turn a bit exhausting after an hour.
2013-U.S. 129 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Michael Bay. Cast: Mark Wahlberg (Daniel Lugo), Dwayne Johnson (Paul Doyle), Anthony Mackie (Adrian Doorbal), Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Rob Corddry… Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare.
Trivia: John Turturro was allegedly first cast in Shalhoub’s role.
After completing his twelve labors, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) becomes the leader of a merry band of mercenaries and is hired by the King of Thrace (John Hurt) to defeat a warlord. A surprisingly entertaining action-adventure from Brett Ratner, released the same year as The Legend of Hercules. Done in the style of Clash of the Titans (2010), the film is well-paced and exciting, with impressive visual effects and use of 3D. Far from heavy-handed, it also benefits from laidback performances by Johnson and his crew, which is needed since the story has its fair share of predictable twists.
2014-U.S. 98 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Brett Ratner. Comic Book: Steve Moore. Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Hercules), Ian McShane (Amphiaraus), John Hurt (Lord Cotys), Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal… Rebecca Ferguson, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan.
When John Matthews’s (Dwayne Johnson) son is thrown in prison for distributing drugs (even though he was set up), Matthews makes a deal with a U.S. Attorney (Susan Sarandon) to help her arrest bigger fish in exchange for his son’s release. A moderate hit in theaters, most likely due to Johnson’s charismatic performance. He’s what maintains our interest in a thriller where Sarandon’s character is too much of a cliché and the turn of events is hard to believe even though this was based on a real-life story. A lot of adrenaline near the end, but uneven on the whole.
2013-U.S.-United Arab Emirates. 112 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Cast: Dwayne Johnson (John Matthews), Susan Sarandon (Joanne Keeghan), Barry Pepper (Cooper), Jon Bernthal, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes… Benjamin Bratt.
In an attempt to bond with his stepson (Josh Hutcherson), Hank Parsons (Dwayne Johnson) joins him in the search for a mysterious island where the boy’s grandfather (Michael Caine) may be. This Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) sequel has one returning character, Sean, and just as much love for the old Jules Verne books. Very family-friendly, with lots of chances to put nifty 3D effects on display. Entertaining, with an engaging cast, especially Johnson who’s likable as the stepdad. However, much of the story is far too lazily written.
2012-U.S. 94 min. Color. Directed by Brad Peyton. Novel: Jules Verne (“The Mysterious Island”). Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Hank Parsons), Michael Caine (Alexander Anderson), Josh Hutcherson (Sean Anderson), Luis Guzmán, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis.
The four couples from Why Did I Get Married? (2007) get back together for a vacation in the Bahamas; well, two of the characters are now divorced, but director Tyler Perry comes up with unbelievable and contrived ways for them to still be a part of each other’s lives. The marital challenges presented this time frequently lead to scenes and clashes that are provocatively stupid in their attempts to generate laughs and tears. The cast tries hard, but this is frustratingly simple-minded.
2010-U.S. 121 min. Color. Written and directed by Tyler Perry. Cast: Tyler Perry (Terry), Janet Jackson (Patricia), Jill Scott (Sheila), Sharon Leal, Malik Yoba, Richard T. Jones… Louis Gossett, Jr., Cicely Tyson. Cameo: Dwayne Johnson.
Trivia:Alternative title: Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?