San Andreas is a disaster film in the classic ’70s / ’90s mould, when it was perhaps easier to enjoy cinematic destruction without the intrusion of real world tragedies. Part of the appeal of this genre is its sadism, but it’s a very fine line to walk tonally; San Andreas will make you cheer at one person’s death then follow it up with epic vistas of presumably millions dying, scored to choral music to make sure you’re taking it as seriously and dramatically as possible. There’s a strange punitive morality at work here. Along the lines of Roland Emmerich’s 2012 there’s also a lot of camp value, but anything with this many buildings falling is going to evoke 9/11 at which point the laughter is abruptly cut off. (More so if you’ve seen anything of the recent earthquake in Nepal, which the marketing department have tried to acknowledge with a “Support Nepal” box on the poster.)
The opening scene establishes the film’s tone and how it wants to play with your expectations. A teen drives through the San Fernando valley. She’s distracted, picks up her water bottle. A car drives past. Her phone goes off, she picks it up, a car goes past and… she’s fine. Then BAM! A rockslide out of nowhere knocks her off the road. But what’s playful and fun when it comes to this one person doesn’t work as well on the larger scale – it’s still very entertaining but it’s not enough to maintain the level of escapism, to stop you from questioning why we enjoy watching so much suffering and death.
This is partly because the actual plot is meant in earnest (or is too deeply ironic to discern otherwise), and this earnestness starts to infect the rest of the movie – e.g. the giant American flag, flying majestically in slow-motion. Ray (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) team up to find their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) trapped in San Francisco. The Rock is perfectly cast as a rescue fireman who can fly helicopters and planes, drive SUVs and boats, parachute and swim like a badass. He even gets to punch a looter in the face.
His daughter has picked up many of his survival skills making her more than a mere damsel in distress. More often than not she’s actually saving the men she’s with, British Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his comic relief kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson). There’s some emotional family backstory that doesn’t quite add up, and the pay-off can be seen coming a mile away, although at least it explains why anyone would ever divorce The Rock (the most unbelievable part of the premise). Paul Giamatti is once again sorely underused, sidelined with a subplot that’s wholly unnecessary exposition and slow pushes-in on his face as he says some variation of “God help San Francisco.”
SAN ANDREAS is in cinemas May 28th 2015
6/10 – Cheesy and spectacular in all the right ways, San Andreas still can’t overcome the reality of what it’s depicting
LIVE STREAM FROM 5.45pm 27th MAY 2015
Twentieth Century Fox are delighted to announce the theatrical release of SPY in the UK and Ireland on 5th June 2015, directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat), and from 5.45pm this evening
Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster.
Drone investigates the murkiest of moral and legal grey areas in modern warfare. “It’s out of a bad science fiction novel,” says Brandon Bryant, a former drone operator, towards the end of the film, and yet it seems most of us are resigned to this new reality. Governments targeting and killing people thousands of miles away without a declaration of war and without a trial is and should be troubling; the bigger the distance between the button pushers and the button’s effect, it seems, the easier it is to get away with.
Drone is best when it’s closing this distance. Norwegian director Tonje Hessen Schei tackles the issue with remarkable breadth – human rights lawyers, US administration lawyers, former drone operators, drone strike survivors, journalists, authors and even a drone manufacturer are all featured – and while the film does suffer occasionally from a lack of focus, it’s mostly about making real the human cost (on both sides) of drones and how the victims can fight such a lopsided battle.
Legal challenges and discussions at the UN aside (both are up against the CIA’s secrecy and lack of accountability), the most effective way is through images: residents of Waziristan, the region of Pakistan where most drone attacks occur, print photographs of victims to put on their roofs for drone operators to see, and at a protest Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer, tells a reporter that the media are key to putting a human face on drone victims.
Drone never quite reaches a level of self-awareness where it can see itself as part of this information war, and as a result it falls down in a few places where robust facts and arguments should have taken the place of scare-mongering. Video games that feed into the military-industrial complex are mentioned, but without specific examples or clear connections to drone warfare. There’s also a strange digression into how drone warfare will lead to fully automated warfare, targets decided by algorithm or artificial intelligence, and it’s a classic slippery slope argument based on little more than speculation. The slight imbalance in focus on the white, Western people involved is either a problematic oversight or a cynical resignation to the fact that audiences are more likely to care about people who look like them. Otherwise, however, it presents a compelling and disturbing case for holding those in charge of American drones to account.
Drone is out now on DVD and video-on-demand.
7/10 – interesting introduction to the topic with a few gaps
Thanks to the wonderful photographer Annie Leibovitz, and the folk over at Vanity Fair, we’ve now have an amazing new set of behind-the-scenes photos and video from the new Star Wars film – Star Wars: The Force Awakens!
First up is a decent look at Captain Phasma, as played by Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie (aka Brienne of Tarth). The new character is probably a villain in the new film as she’s part of the ‘First Order’ which are the new bad guys. Plus, no matter how shiny you make it, that’s still a Stormtrooper outfit, and as a general rule, they aren’t usually all that good.
Next is The hot-shot rebel X-wing pilot Poe Dameron as played by Oscar Isaac. Described as “the best fricken pilot in the galaxy…” I’m sure a certain Mr. Solo may take umbrage with that remark… 😉
This one show’s the guys at ILM employing some of the same face capturing techniques that were used on Avatar to track the facial movements of 50 Years A Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o, as her performance is captured to bring life to the pirate Maz Kanata.
Here we have a rather nifty group shot showing some of the various ne’er-do-wells and dodgy characters hanging around Maz Kanata’s castle (because this is Star Wars, and if you’re a space pirate, of course you have a castle!)…
First shot of Adam Driver without the mask as Kylo Ren (booo hisss), the new bad guy. Also a good look at the new smoother Snow Trooper outfits which are looking rather nifty.
Here we have JJ giving direction to Daisy Ridley as Rey flies her rather awesome and monstrous looking speeder through the a marketplace on Jakku.
Ahh, the people that make it happen. The legend that is John Williams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and of course the director & co-writer JJ Abrams. Notice the rather cool posters on the wall behind them at their LA office.
And the last photo – The cover shot for Vanity Fair – Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn and BB-8.
If all that wasn’t enough… How about a video!
— ZackSnyder (@ZackSnyder) April 17, 2015
Small bits of the Batman v Superman popped up online earlier, before getting pulled down quickly, however it does seemed to have speeded up Mr. Snyder’s decision to post the official trailer online, and here it is in all it’s Bat-supery glory!
I’m so looking forward to this. Roll on 2016!
Last night, the 2nd trailer for the J.J. Abrams highly anticipated debut into the Star Wars universe, and it’s as awesome as seeing 2 Jawas on each other shoulders dressed as a Tusken Raider riding a Bantha whilst juggling thermal detonators! Watch above. Break down below (obviously, there maybe some spoilers!)
I LOVE this opening shot! Crashed Star Destroyer & X-Wing. Remnants of past battles scatter a desert plain, whilst a speeder (possibly Daisy Ridley’s Rey as seen in trailer 1?)… speeds… across the backdrop. The planet may look tike Tatooine, but apparently isn’t. It’s a new sand-filled dust bowl called Jaku (or Jakoo… or some other random spelling we’ve not thought of yet), and it’s Rey’s home world.
Don’t think I need to explain who’s mask that is… This is accompanied by the voice of Mark Hamill as Luke – “The force is strong in my family… My father has it…” Interesting choice of tense there with ‘has’… And is that asthmatic breathing I hear?…
“I have it…” Yay, R2! And… Luke I guess… There are only 2 people of note we know of that have had their hands chopped off… And both did know R2… Didn’t Luke have ‘skin’ covering his hand though?
“My sister has it… You have that power too…” You’d assume the person being handed the lightsaber here is Rey… But that’s not Leia if you look at that arm and the slight profile of the face in the shot above. Lightsaber appears to be Anakin’s. The same one passed to Luke in A New Hope.
Oscar Isaac’s as ace pilot Poe Dameron
This is Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and BB-8 running from a strafing TIE Fighter, apparently on Jaku. Finn, as we saw in trailer 1, appears to be a Stormtrooper on the run from the Empire.
Adam Driver (not that you’d know given the mask!) as Kylo Ren, the cross-shaped lightsaber wielding bad guy from trailer 1 surrounded by fire and stormtroopers. Sith? Dark Jedi? Is he controlling the remains of the Empire?
Another powerful shot. Lots and lots of smoothed out stormtroopers gearing up for battle in front of a re-vamped Imperial logo… But who’s that guy at the back in the middle? And where are they? Hoth?
Appears to be a shootout on a ship’s or base’s docking bay. The interesting thing for me is, look a the lasers… Red (bad) and green (good) as usual… But, the green lasers are coming from a TIE Fighter? And that looks to be Stormtroopers fighting other Stormtroopers?
Captain Phasma we presume? Looks imperial to us.
The Millennium Falcon showing up in this beautiful chase shot through theexhaust/engine of a crashed ship.
I believe this is referred to as the money shot… The first proper view of the original cast returning. Han & Chewbacca – “Chewie, we’re home”. Assuming that’s the Falcon, that implies they’ve been separated from the craft for a while. I can only assume it’s the Falcon they’re talking about, as that’s the only ‘home’ they have.
The more I see of this, the more excited I get! Looks awesome & beautiful, and the story seems to have some great twists in it.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out in UK cinemas on the 18th December 2015, and I can’t wait!!