Rampage – Review

Dwayne Johnson is probably the biggest movie star we have at the moment. I don’t mean, you know, his muscle mass, I mean by pure audience draw. He hearkens back to classic stars such as Gene Kelly, Errol Flynn, or even Tom Cruise in his heyday. A person with so much charisma and likeability that everything he is in just seems like a winning movie. Every one loves Dwayne Johnson.  There seems to be a lot of celebrities around but there is absolutely no one who unites us in love like The Rock.

The great thing about this is that we can all come together, chirping excitedly about his latest venture. The not so great thing is that we’re going to have to sit through a lot of drivel. His latest action movie is Rampage, but is it a ginormous mess or gigantic fun?

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Directed by Brad Peyton, Rampage is a ridiculous adaptation of a popular 80s arcade game. The film sees Dwayne Johnson as a primate expert in a San Diego conservation park, looking after the gorillas. His best pal comes in the form of an albino gorilla called George (who, every time he was on screen, would inspire the George of the Jungle theme song in my mind.) However, on the other side of the country, rich villainous siblings and their company have created a pathogen that mutates creatures to huge monsters and George just happens to be one of the poor victims to take sniff. Now he and some other projects are heading straight to the city of Chicago… Can Johnson save the day?

Coming from the team who also produced San Andreas, you should already be aware of what to expect from this film – absolute high-octane absurdity. The plot is crazy, the action is over-the-top, and the dialogue is beyond brilliantly awful. It’s a baffling bizarre monster flick that has a lot of massive moments and comedy hi-jinks meshed inside a sloppily put together film that is terrible but, also, kinda terrific too.

The acting is iffy. Jeffery Dean Morgan is clearly having the best time out of everyone being a surly agent who sounds like he has just been sparring with John Wayne and slurs out the best one-liners in the whole film. Naomi Harris is enjoyable to watch despite her character being a flat and shallow one. The Wonder Twins (the antagonists  whose name have slipped my mind but it’s really unnecessary to learn them,) are played by Malin Akerman and Jack Lacey who are clearly just loving being the villains despite the fact that neither of them can act. Or, well, act in this movie. They are amusing to watch and Akerman does have the best final scene of anyone in the cast.

And Dwayne Johnson is Dwayne Johnson. He is the immovable rock. We don’t need to go over this again.

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There are many people who will find this exhilarating and, granted, there is absolutely nothing more crazy than watching some insane creatures destroy Chicago. But the film is filled with shitty dialogue, the worst acting by garishly, hammy villains that you are champing at the bit to die, and some highly suspect scientific research. And another thing –

Oh fuck it. Look, you are going to have a whale of a time with this film. No, seriously, you are. Johnson is on top form as is the sheer scale of this action spectacle. There are absolutely astonishingly crazy moments here and whilst your brain is lighting up screaming “IS THIS BAD? I DON’T KNOW!,”  your heart will bound with unrelenting excitement that will flurry away inside of you with every pounding second. Especially as the big wolf thing leaps into the air. It genius leaping. Just the best leaping.

And another thing, who doesn’t want to watch a film with The Rock leaping into the air to save his best friend – a gigantic gorilla – who talk to each other in sign language, making strained sex jokes, and puns along the way? I mean: Why aren’t you buying your tickets now?

So yes, objectively, the movie is a bad, bad one, but it is also kind of phenomenal at the same time. You know, like everything Dwayne Johnson has ever been in ever.

I can promise you one thing though; you’ll come for the action, but you’ll stay for the primate bromance.

Rampage is out 13th April! 

In Search of Greatness – Brand New Trailer!

As someone who can’t run for the bus without going into a heart-attack, sweat meltdown, sporty people have always fascinated me. That’s why In Search of Greatness looks incredible.

Directed by Gabe Polsky, the film sees a series of intimate conversations and footage of iconic athletes such as Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky, exploring exactly why folks pursue sports.

Even if you weren’t into sports, this looks to be an exciting film about why we push ourselves to different limits. What do you think?

In Search of Greatness is out next year! 

East End Film Festival: Susu – Review

In London, two young Chinese women (Zitong Wu and Zhu Lin) are studying art and design when they’re invited to stay at a country manor for a weekend to make some money working in a private film archive. When they arrive at the quiet estate, their host is an eccentric wheelchair bound person (Steve Edwin) who appears obsessed with Susu (Junjie Mao), a Chinese Opera star who lived and died there in the house. As the two girls stay in the house, things get stranger and stranger, as the past threatens to invade the present: the past of the two girls and the past of Susu, including the real reason she died.

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I love a haunted house story, especially when the story feels a familiar but also fresh. And a large part of that is down to the characters. They’re not stock types but rather a cast of different originals. And in a way, they’re London types, a city where you can escape and build a life away from your comfort zone, a melting pot of all walks of life. The two girls are friends drawn together by both being Chinese, but as they point out to each other, they would not have ever met or been friends in China, due to one being wealthy and the other poor, one having opportunities and the other longing for impossible escape. I love that they’re both distinct characters, one out going, the other more reticent, one hard working, the other more free. Their relationship feels warm and close, but not simple. Their host is Shirley, whose voice sounds so classic and British, like a BBC show from the 70’s. Shirley is a man who dresses as a woman, and who is confined to a wheelchair, wandering the deserted halls of a house filled with objects belonging to people who are long gone. While the obsession with Susu at first feels just eerie and eccentric, it’s Susu herself, her spirit, and the feeling that the girls will not be able to leave the house that really builds the tension.

While a large part of the story takes place in the country house, it’s framed by the girl’s life in London. The city is displayed as a place of cobbled streets, narrow roads and terrace houses, a very old and beautiful city, the same city where Jack the Ripper did his dark work. The country manor on the other hand, is lush and green, little bridle paths leading to crumbling stone. Indoors, scones are at the ready, rooms are dark and wainscotted and hidden doors lead to dusty collections of memorabilia. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of town and country, and how like London, with it’s country retreats just a short trip from the winding narrow lanes of the city. The film is very beautifully shot, with an emphasis on slightly golden, cinematic visuals, lingering on faces and places flatteringly, creating mood and atmosphere.

That lingering sense is such a wonderful aspect of this film. It lingers like a ghost, like the scent of perfume in a closed up room, but it’s never dull or slow. The pace is even, unfolding really nicely, giving you just enough clues and just enough scares, but always focusing on people, place and story to create atmosphere. There is violence and death in this film, but they’re not used to carry the story. There are no jump scares or cheap tricks, but the quiet set against clever use of sound and music will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, as you wait to see what the next little twist will be.

It’s a film in the tradition of old, Victorian ghost stories, with beautiful young women in peril, a strange but beautiful house with an eccentric occupant, and a collection that hints of a deep darkness in the house, a ghost who refuses to stay buried. It’s a story that Wilkie Collins or Dickens would be familiar with. But it’s also very modern, with it’s focus on thoroughly modern characters, Chinese students, men who identify as women, and women who write for a living (how many Victorian women had to publish under male pseudonyms?). It’s not a racy horror, but a delightful, dark chiller, one that is both beautiful to watch, and satisfies while also being just surprising and original enough. Darkly enjoyable.

Susu screens East End Film Festival on the 26th April