Skyscraper Movie Review

Rawson Marshall Thurber takes a break from directing comedies and Dwayne Johnson is on a hiatus from pairing with jungle animals in Skyscraper. Drawing clear inspiration from The Towering Inferno and Die Hard, the action thriller casts Johnson as Sawyer, an ex FBI agent who lost a leg in a hostage situation gone wrong. It didn’t all turn out badly though because he ends up marrying his surgeon (Neve Campbell) and they have two cute kids. Sawyer now works as a safety analyst for giant buildings and the biggest one has just been erected in Hong Kong by a billionaire entrepreneur (Chin Han). An occupational hazard develops when some terrorists led by Roland Møller set The Pearl (what the 200 plus story structure is named) on fire. Sawyer must then save his family from the burning. If you think one of his kids is asthmatic and the screenplay uses that overused cliché, you sure are right!

For a filmmaker who’s done Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers, and Central Intelligence (with Johnson), Thurber keeps this a mostly humor free experience – save for our protagonist’s affinity for duct tape. While I’ve already mentioned its most obvious influences, the climax pays homage to The Man with the Golden Gun, of all Bond pics. That one is on the lower end of 007 efforts and so is this as far as Johnson’s action output.

Skyscraper never bothers to develop worthwhile villains and that’s something Die Hard sure had. The Towering Inferno had cutting edge effects at its time. Not here. And, um, the aforementioned Bond movie had a main bad guy with a third nipple. So that’s something.

Johnson manages to exude some charm, but it can only go so far with this ultimate nondescript affair. I could say something obvious like “Skyscraper didn’t floor me”, but that would be as lame as putting in a kid with asthma.

** (out of four)

Skyscraper Box Office Prediction

Dwayne Johnson has built quite a box office list of hits over the past few months with titles like The Fate of the Furious, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Rampage. As for Baywatch… well, nobody’s perfect. Next weekend sees the release of Skyscraper, an action film which appears to be heavily influenced by The Towering Inferno and Die Hard. The pic is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber who’s best known for comedies like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers, and Central Intelligence (his 2016 blockbuster collaboration with Johnson). Costars include Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Pablo Schreiber, and Noah Taylor.

Johnson’s last two efforts (Jungle and Rampage) both opened in the mid 30s. However, that’s a little misleading with Jumanji as it opened in a massively crowded Christmas frame and legged out to a gross of over $400 million. Rampage, on the other hand, sits at $98 million total. Central Intelligence, by the way, also premiered in the range at $35 million.

I don’t see any compelling reason why Skyscraper would debut over those titles. And I also don’t see much reason why it would open too far under them. The PG-13 rating should help bring in teens, though the second weekend of AntMan and the Wasp does present direct competition. I’ll project Skyscraper for a low to mid 30s start, right on pace with its lead’s other rock solid roll outs.

Skyscraper opening weekend prediction: $33.2 million

For my Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/03/hotel-transylvania-3-summer-vacation-box-office-prediction/

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence is not bad, which is more than you can say with some scripts that Kevin Hart has been saddled with over the last few years. From Ride Along (both of them) to The Wedding Ringer to Get Hard, the talented Mr. Hart has not seen much material that rises above the strictly mediocre. With a worthy comedic partner in Dwayne Johnson that he has an easy chemistry with, Intelligence may not be very intelligent but it’s got its share of genuinely amusing moments due to their partnership.

The film begins in 1996 when the two stars are high school seniors. Hart is Calvin. He’s the star athlete, resident heralded drama thespian, and runaway Most Likely to Succeed. Johnson is Robbie, whose figure is anything but rock solid. He’s bullied mercilessly by his fellow students and Calvin is the only guy who seems to show him any mercy.

Flash forward two decades as the two are up for the 20 year reunion. Calvin has become a bored accountant in a dead end job, still married somewhat unhappily to his high school sweetheart (Danielle Nicolet). Robbie is now the blandly named Bob Stone,  complete with a physique befitting the actor portraying him. He’s now in the CIA and being accused of being a rogue agent trying to sell secrets to the highest bidder.

What follows is a routine buddy flick where Bob/Robbie and Calvin must team up while chased by people who may or may not be bad guys. Amy Ryan gets the change of pace role of the government agency head pursuing them and Aaron Paul pops up as Robbie’s former partner. The threadbare plot of Central Intelligence is ho-hum at best, but it’s also not what it’s centrally about.

The pic rises and falls on the interaction between the leads and there’s some good stuff to be witnessed. Johnson has already proven his sense of humor (he seems well aware that his character in the Fast & Furious franchise is supposed to be funny). We also have some messages written in about bullying that’s presented slightly better than you might expect in this type of material. There’s some unexpected cameos from other well known comedy actors that are welcome. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber had a hit in 2013 with We’re the Millers, which I enjoyed. That effort had the benefit of hilarious supporting work from Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn and a whacky villain role for Ed Helms that accentuated the proceedings beyond its main stars. Central Intelligence doesn’t have that, but at least the two names above the title help deliver something a bit more worthy of their talents.

**1/2 (out of four)

Summer 2015 Movies: The Predicted Century Club

The 2015 Summer Movie Season officially kicks off two weeks from today when Avengers: Age of Ultron blasts into theaters. It will compete for the largest domestic opening of all time (where it needs to beat its predecessor) and is highly likely to be the season’s highest earner. That got me to thinking – while Ultron is poised to gross $500 million or higher, it’s been the $100 million mark that studios still like to brag about. This prompted me to look at the past five summer flick seasons and how many pictures reached that milestone.

In 2010, it was 13 movies that reached the mark: Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Inception, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, The Other Guys, Salt, Robin Hood, and The Expendables.

Things improved in 2011 with 18 films reaching the century club: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: First Avenger, The Help, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, The Smurfs, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Green Lantern, Bad Teacher, and Cowboys and Aliens.

The low mark was the following year in 2012 with just 12: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3, Men in Black 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, Magic Mike, and The Bourne Legacy.

Yet the high mark came the following summer in 2013 with 19: Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Fast and Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Heat, We’re the Millers, The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, Now You See Me, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Hangover Part III, Epic, Pacific Rim, and This is the End.

2014 dipped with 14: Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Neighbors, Lucy, The Fault in Our Stars, and Edge of Tomorrow. 

That averages out to 15 pictures earning $100M plus per summer over this decade.

So where do I have 2015 matching up? Not breaking records, but in good shape. My predictions for the year’s $100M earners is 16 and they are as follows (in order of release date): Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Spy, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Fantastic Four. 

Of course, there’s always sleepers. And there’s others that I could have predicted but think will fall short: the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit, horror remake Poltergeist, the film version of Entourage, the Adam Sandler video game inspired action comedy Pixels, the Vacation reboot, and the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton are among them.

As predicted, summer 2015 should see its number of century club inductees on the slightly high end without reaching the heights of 2013. And as always, you’ll see box office predictions every Saturday from me on each and every one of ’em!

We’re the Millers Movie Review

While there’s nothing really remarkable or particularly original about We’re the Millers, it still manages to provide quite a bit of raunchy fun with a more than capable cast to boot.

The pic reunites Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, stars of another (slightly better) R rated hit Horrible Bosses. Sudeikis is low-level pot dealer David, forced to go on a Mexican drug run by his quirky boss (Ed Helms, surprisingly ineffective in a broadly written role). Sudeikis enlists his stripper neighbor Rose (Aniston), 18 year-old virgin neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter), and runaway teenager Casey (Emma Roberts). Together – they are The Millers, posing as a family to divert suspicion from driving a tricked out RV across the Mexican border filled with two tons of marijuana.

Naturally, many things don’t go as planned and the Millers experience a number of adventures while – yes, arguing and yes, bonding just like a real family! You’ll see where We’re the Millers is heading from a mile away but the film works often because of its talented cast and frequent laugh out loud moments. While Aniston is stuck doing the “playing against type” naughty girl routine again (like in Bosses), she sells it well. Sudeikis is seamlessly making the transition from SNL MVP to movie star. And many of the most humorous moments come from supporting players Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as Don and Edie Fitzgerald, another RV sporting couple who befriend the Millers. These two character actors work well enough together that I wouldn’t completely oppose a We’re the Fitzgeralds spinoff.

We’re the Millers is not Wedding Crashers or Superbad or The 40 Yr. Old Virgin – movies that I find myself quoting and going back to frequently. However, I’d put it on the level of a Date Night or Forgetting Sarah Marshall – movies that, when they’re rerunning on TV, I probably won’t turn off.

*** (out of four)