Skyscraper

Release: Friday, July 13, 2018

→Theater

Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber 

There’s no ignoring the fact the star of Skyscraper, a veritable homage to one of cinema’s greatest action reels, once donned a sacrificial lion’s head as battle gear in a movie directed by Brett Ratner about the god Hercules. Earlier this summer, he also starred alongside a giant albino gorilla with an affinity for rude gesturing. These are things that happened, and yet there is this other thing called redemption and that’s what movies like Skyscraper are good at providing. Not that I’m growing increasingly concerned about The Rock’s role choices; at worst they’re palatably cheesy, not stale and rancid like Bruce Willis circa Die Hard 7000.

In Rawson Marshall Thurber’s new film Global Icon Dwayne Johnson™ plays Will Sawyer, a U.S. war vet and former FBI hostage negotiator who now assesses the security of buildings all over the globe. His latest assignment has brought him to Hong Kong, where he is to evaluate the integrity of the fire prevention and security measures of the world’s tallest superstructure, The Pearl. A bad day on the job 10 years ago prompted him to change careers and in one fell swoop introduced him to combat medic and future wife Sarah (Neve Campbell), with whom he starts up a family and tries to move beyond the days of firing heavy weaponry — much to the chagrin of his old friend Ben (Pablo Schreiber).

Falling in love on the operating table is up there with trying to use animal hide to gain style points, but if you’re experienced at all with his brand, you know you’re better off accepting these things and as soon as possible. If anything, the love-at-first-sedation scene is great practice for what this simply structured yet still ridiculous action event is going to throw at you later. (Hint: lots of on-fire things and leaps of faith.)

It actually makes sense that Thurber spends just as much if not more time establishing a building as an integral role player as he does his human actors. The film is called Skyscraper, after all. The Pearl, a 3,500-foot tall marvel of modern engineering, is undoubtedly the film’s most unique asset. And the sleek, spherical penthouse at the 240th floor is its own crowning achievement. A character unto itself, this monstrosity is the brainchild of wealthy financier Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) and is the ultimate manifestation of supreme wealth and ambition run amok. Of course one doesn’t rise to this level without making a few enemies and just before Zhao is to open the building in its entirety to the public, along come some pesky terrorists to burn his ambition down. Literally.

It makes sense because while the camera doesn’t ogle over what Zhao modestly describes as “the eighth wonder of the world” as much as I (certainly no architect) would have liked, when the building finally starts to burn it’s pretty damn cinematic. There is a sense of dizzying scale that threw me right back to the best bits of Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk and Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest. The acrophobic should be put on notice. This thing gets pretty atmospheric, and in that way the effort pays off because even as the convenient plot turns become more egregious the action feels increasingly larger than life.

Skyscraper builds just enough human drama to earn our sympathy. This time around Johnson, sporting a prosthetic leg, trades in his all-American good guy swagger for a quieter stoicism. This is a film that effectively expands the actor’s range into the dramatic, though granted this is more toes-in-the-water than a full plunge. The prop isn’t what makes the role dramatic — it’s the way he expresses concern for the well-being of his family. But it isn’t just The Rock doing the ass-kicking and name-clearing. Because his family has made the trip to Hong Kong with him, they find themselves conveniently situated within the drama. Call their problem convenient or even silly — just don’t call the Sawyers helpless victims. Sarah, in particular, proves herself when push comes to shove and she shoves the hell out of the opposition. That’s before setting about subverting other major genre clichés, too.

Moving past the adults, the children are another pleasant revelation. They aren’t given big speaking roles but these are two of the most agreeable movie kids I have met in some time. Together, these actors comprise a wholly natural family that’s easy to root for. Still, it’s a shame we are ultimately robbed of more screen time devoted to just The Rock and Neve Campbell as the two have solid chemistry. As for the villains, they’re not so impressive. They simply exist to provide generic conflict. Their motive is convoluted, but suffice it to say Kores Botha (troublemaker-turned-actor Roland Møller) is being pressured by some even worse people to put a major dent in Zhao’s soaring stock.

Skyscraper is a breezy summer escape told in an economic fashion — a sleekly designed throwback to classic action movies, and one that slots in among Johnson’s better efforts. Will Sawyer is no John McClane, but then again he doesn’t need to be. Skyscraper finds the former wrestler polishing his new craft (well, relatively new — this is his 15th film) while updating the male badass archetype. Sometimes being the badass means maybe not being able to find a way out of this mess on your own. Sometimes it means being completely vulnerable and owning up to that.

Recommendation: Skyscraper offers up another round of The Rock doing Rock things but in a decidedly more straight-faced manner. The action is fun and visually stunning at times. Don’t look to it for the best villains of 2018 or some profound statement about where technology is going or how crazy rich people are just crazy people in nice clothes or anything like that, but when it comes to picking which Dwayne Johnson you should see sooner (or at all) the choice is pretty obvious. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 102 mins.

Only in the movies: In order to make the jump from the crane to the building featured in the trailer Sawyer would have to run and leave the platform at 28.4 mph. For comparison, Olympic Champion Usain Bolt’s fastest recorded speed is 27.4 mph.

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Decades Blogathon – The Craft (1996)

 

We have another first-time contributor to Decades ’16, and it’s Maddison from The Final Scene. Head on over to Three Rows Back for her review of The Craft! Thanks!

three rows back

Featured Image -- 60491996 2It’s the penultimate day of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and Tom from Digital Shortbread! I’ll say it again, make sure to check out Tom’s blog; it’s the best you’ll find around these parts. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and it’s time to welcome Maddison from The Final Scene. Maddison casts her spell on the 1996 teen horror The Craft.

I can’t express how badly I wanted to be a witch in my early teen years. I surrounded myself with purple crystals, burning candles and glittery spell books from the marked down book bins.

The 1990s seemed to be the idyllic age of witchcraft in pop culture, welcoming such films and shows like Hocus Pocus, Practical…

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Decades Blogathon – Scream (1996)

1996

 

Welcome back around to the second week in Decades, a blogathon in which me and my good friend and inspiration Mark from Three Rows Back are asking bloggers to weigh in on their favorite films from decades past, films that were released in a year ending in ‘6.’ We’ve been posting a review per day, re-blogging each other’s posts (with the exception being this weekend where we took some time off). I had the chance to write my thoughts on Shane Black’s newest film, The Nice Guys. If you missed that piece you can find it here.

But today we have an exceptional piece from the one and only Zoë, who’s the genius behind The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger. It’s a site I have been dedicated to for some time now, and if you want to go visit it here you will soon see why that’s the case. She’s here to talk about horror-comedy classic Scream


Scream movie poster

SYNOPSIS: A group of teens are pitted against a masked murderer that tests their knowledge of horror movies. – via IMDB

Thank you guys for letting me indulge in re-watching Scream. I don’t know how I would have motivated it to anyone without this Decades Blogathon 😛

Alright, alright, alright! Let me get to talking to a movie that I absolutely adore. Scream. Gosh, I watched this so many times as a kid I damn near wore out the VHS. I had way too much fun with this all the time. I have always had a soft spot for horror/slasher films, whether they are good or bad. This one? It is one of the better ones. I know that it has been mocked and ragged on for ages, but Craven gave us something beautiful when we got this.

Pretty much everyone knows the intro, I am sure. Not much should in theory be a secret there… I think. Anyway, within minutes, you get the setup. Open with Drew Barrymore making herself popcorn, getting a strange call, which starts funny but ends in a terrifying fashion. Recipe for something amazing. End it with an insanely brutal murder and staged corpse scene? Winning all the way. The Scream franchise touts some horrifying deaths, but hers will forever remain right up there for me, because it really set the tone of what was to come in the movies.

Scream ghostface mask

Scream is way smarter than it is given credit for by most. The movie knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t beat around the bush about it. It is in your face honest, and tackles all the conventions of horrors/slashers up until that point, and yet still masterfully crafts a film that feels fresh and new. Obviously these are things that became more clear to me the older I got. Back in the day, it was all about the silly jokes, the phone calls, and Ghostface. Let’s not even pretend. Then I grew up, and got to see exactly how clever Scream actually is. It’s gory, it balances humour and horror, and it does so with great finesse.

Scream bad movies

As for the cast, I thoroughly enjoy them all. You don’t see many of them that much anymore, because they were the reigning nineties champs, but they all did what they were to do. Neve Campbell was perfect to play sweet, innocent, emotionally damaged Sidney, the virgin, and David Arquette is the absolutely adorable Deputy Dewey, and I will always love him. For reals. What a sweetie. Courtney Cox owned in her role of the bitchy and unscrupulous Gale Weathers. Skeet Ulrich was also the perfect pick for Billy, a little dodgy and strange, but rather entrancing nonetheless. Fan favourite Randy Meeks was helmed by Jaime Kennedy, and his character will always be important to the end. He was the one who told us what was happening, who shared the rules and etiquette of survival and the perfect crime.

Scream Gale gets punched

Another thing I enjoy about this movie is how quotable it is. It doesn’t get old, and you are bound to find someone who recognises some of the obscure references and quotes you can yank out of it. That is something that I always appreciate in movies, the ability to stick with you, via imagery or some infinitely awesome quote. The score also complements the movie every step of the way, and all the little references make this film a little gem. I loved the humour here, too, which at times was really dark, and other times really silly. I am glad that it was Craven who helmed this film, as he balanced this out. Apparently other directors that were considered initially viewed Scream as more of a comedy than anything. Phew. Luckily it didn’t go that way!

Scream rules

Overall, Scream is still a highly entertaining watch, even after all this time, and peddles tons of humour, horror, and gore. If you haven’t seen it (*cough cough* TOM), I would highly recommend checking it out! Obviously I am a fan, and I know I am not alone on that front!