Movie review: Baywatch

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of one of the first comedies of this summer’s movie season – Baywatch! Even though the online discussion around this movie has died down before it even started (the film flopped at the US box office), I still decided to see it because of the cast and the brand-recognition! Also, I’m almost 3 weeks late to the aforementioned discussion cause the movie only came out today, where I’m currently staying (the joys of international release schedules!).

IMDb summary: Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon butts heads with a brash new recruit, as they uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the bay.

I vaguely remember watching some episodes of the original Baywatch TV series at least a decade ago. Besides, I have always wanted to be a lifeguard myself (especially during the summer), so seeing the shenanigans of the lifeguards had a personal appeal.

Writing

Baywatch’s screenplay was a mixed bag, like so many blockbuster scripts nowadays. What is for sure – the movie definitely did not need 6 screenwriters. The screenplay credits were awarded to Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, while Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, and Robert Ben Garant supposedly contributed to the story. Bear in mind, neither of these writers are proven or trustworthy (they haven’t had any big hits yet).

The narrative that these 6 gentlemen crafted for the film was fine. It didn’t make the most sense but I didn’t expect it too. The opening sequence worked (technically) – cause it set up the whole plot neatly (literally, every scene either introduced a character or a plotline – everything happened super mechanically and by the numbers – there was no breathing room) but it wasn’t the most interesting thing to watch. All the different plotlines – the drug smuggling, the lifeguard investigation, the lifeguard v police fight, Efron’s character’s redemption, Johnson’s character’s personal arc, the two (three?) romantic duos – did not really gel at times. The ending was also cheesy and illogical but since it was kinda entertaining and mostly funny rather than cringe-y, I could forget the storytelling flaws.

Another important aspect of the film, of course, this being a comedy, was the humour. Like the story, it was a mixed bag. Some jokes landed and seemed organic enough, while the others made the impression that the filmmakers were just trying too hard. My favourite moment, by far, was the scene where Johnson shouted to Efron: ‘Hey, High School Musical’. Actually, a lot of the nicknames by Johnson worked. The lunch table gag with the salad was good as well as the moment where Efron calls outs their plan for sounding like a plot of a TV show. Nice, 4th wall breaking wink, there. The pop culture references were mostly fine too. However, the whole arc of Ronnie (played by Jon Bass) was too awkwardly painful to watch. I really dislike cheap comic relief within a comedic movie.

The writing for characters was okay too, even if quite scarce. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that Efron’s character – a swimmer – messed up in the Rio Olympics. That seemed like a jab at the actual real life US swimmer Ryan Lochte, who also got into a scandal in Rio. I might have been reading to much into it, though.

Directing

Horrible Bosses’ director and Pixels‘ executive producer (doesn’t sound too good, huh?) Seth Gordon directed Baywatch and was fine. The pacing was quite wonky – the film really slowed down before the third act, but the third act itself was entertaining enough. The other action sequences worked too – the nursery fight was fun and the lifeguard tryouts were cool – but the CGI could have been way better, the fire especially – it seemed so fake. The slow-mo – a staple of the Baywatch brand – was used extensively, but, in this case, I could let that slide. The final slow-mo shot with all of them running by the beach was actually quite cute, even if we have seen it in the trailers. The bloopers during the credits were also adorable – way more organic and fun than some of the actual jokes.

Acting

Baywatch had a really good cast. Dwayne Johnson (San Andres, Moana, Fast and Furious) basically played himself – a charming, likeable, and super fit man. Zac Efron also played a familiar role – he is always ‘less than clever but sweet guy that needs redemption’ in every comedy ever (Mike and Dave, Neighbours, We Are Your Friends). Efron’s and Johnson’s chemistry was okay but it was not as good as Johnson’s and Kevin Hart’s chemistry in Central Intelligence last year. Next for Johnson –  the Jumanji remake/sequel, while Efron is going back to his musical roots with The Greatest Showman.

Other supporting characters were played by Alexandra Daddario (also from San Andreas), a model Kelly Rohrbach (she was good as a replacement for Pamela Anderson – more natural looking too), Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra in one of her first Hollywood roles (she was fine but I could have done without so many lines stating that ‘oh, she is a woman’), Jon Bass (from Loving), Ilfenesh Hadera, and The Get Down’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (he is also gonna be in The Greatest Showman and also will have a role in Aquaman).

The two main cameos in 2017’s Baywatch were given to the two most important Baywatch TV series alumni – David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. Hasselhoff’s cameo was better – he was written into the story, while Anderson’s appearance was just tacked on. Weirdly, Hasselhoff already had a cameo in a summer movie this year – he showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

In short, Baywatch is an okay summer comedy. It is not the funniest thing but not the worst either.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Baywatch trailer

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Movie review: Fast & Furious 8

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest FF film – The Fate of the Furious or Fast & Furious 8 – has driven into theaters, so, let’s discuss it!

I can’t actually believe that I have never reviewed a Fast and Furious movie before as I have been a fan of them since I was a child. 2006’s Tokyo Drift was probably the first nonanimated movie that I saw at the cinema and have been hooked ever since. I and my dad would always watch these movies together and bond over the fast cars and the crazy action. And that’s what I have come to expect from these films: the amazing action and the funny jabs between the cast members (or a family, wink wink) that have real chemistry. I am not looking for Oscar-worthy performances or original stories. However, I have to give immense props to the 7th film for dealing with Paul Walker’s death in such a gracious and poised way. I don’t think anyone expected a Fast and Furious movie to show so much class but it did. Well, enough talking about the previous entries in the franchise, let’s see what the 8th picture can offer! Has anyone ever believed that this series would have eight installments with 9th and 10th ones already planned ???

IMDb summary: When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

Writing

FF8‘s script was written by Chris Morgan, who penned all the previous films, except the first two. The narrative was exactly what one thinks it was: just a collection of expositional scenes to further the story and a sprinkling of funny jabs and interactions between the characters. The film’s plot referenced the events and the characters from the previous 3 films quite a lot too, which was really fun for longtime viewers of the franchise and not that surprising, knowing that all of the referenced entries were written by the same screenwriter. It was also nice that the said references didn’t seem pushed but happened quite organically. Thus, The Fate of the Furious seemed like a true continuation of the same story arc that more or less started with the 5th picture.

The interactions between the characters were brilliantly ridiculous as well. I wonder how much of that was written and how many jokes were just improvised on the spot by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. The love triangle jokes were funny too. The attempt to give characters more development was also fine. The main theme of the series – family – was present in this film more than in any other entries before. Similarly to Dom having to make a choice between family and his criminal/car chasing past in this movie, the same choice now has to be made by this franchise when moving forward. And the picture did leave a few opportunities open for the same plotline to be continued.

Directing

Fast & Furious 8 was helmed by a newcomer director to the franchise – F. Gary Gray, best known for directing Straight Outta Compton. He did a good enough job with the movie and utilized the FF staples – the exotic locations and the butts. I appreciated the first, could have done without the second, but it looks like the two were a packaged deal. Speaking of the third staple of the series – the crazy action set pieces excecuted with the help of gorgeus and extremely expensve cars – they were not the best of the franchise but were still quite inventive and, most importantly, explosive, energetic, and entertaining. Yes, the technology was far-fetched and, yes, the explosions – unsurvivable and unbelievable. But you can’t argue that they didn’t look cool and absolutely kickass and that’s all I wanted. The visuals were nicely paired with a good soundtrack too, although I can’t pinpoint an iconic song that will be on the radio all summer, similarly how I See You Again was everywhere after the 7th film, We Own It after the 6th and Danza Kuduro after the 5th.

Acting

Fast and Furious was one of the first film series to have a truly diverse cast and the franchise is continuing the trend. While the 8th flick didn’t really introduce any new characters apart from revealing Charlize Theron (The Hunstman, Mad Max, Kubo) as the big bad behind the last few films, it had a ton of fun cameos and comebacks. Speaking of Theron – she was a great addition to the cast and a good villain, I would even dare to say the best of the franchise. I think her distinct look really helped her to stand out – those white dreads and V-neck T-shirts looked effortestly cool.

All of the familair faces, except Jordana Brewster, were back. Vin Diesel (Guardians), Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Central Intelligence, Moana), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Nathaniel Emmanuel (Game of Thrones, The Maze Runner) appeared to be genuinely having fun on screen, both as their characters and as the actors themselves. The return of Jason Statham (Transporter films, Spy) was also actually appreciated by me, even though I have never been much of a fan of his. I never thought that I would want to see Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham just absolutely dragging each other non-stop. Gibson’s, Ludacris’s and Emmanuel’s characters’ interactions were good too, I loved the rivalry and the shades of the love triangle. Gibson’s action moment was good too and a nice touch for the character, who usually ends up being a butt of a joke.

Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight, Deepwater Horizon) also reprised his role and took Scott Eastwood along for a ride this time as his assistant/trainee. Eastwood’s character was a bit annoying at the beginning but he was supposed to be like that and actually turned out to be a not that bad addition to the cast. He certainly had more to do in this film than in a similar role in Suicide Squad.

In short, Fast and Furious 8 was exactly what I wanted it to be – a cheesy nonsensical fun. This franchise is certainly not done and still has some steam left.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Fast and Furious 8 trailer

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SPOILERS

The film unexpectedly had quite a few reveals and twists and turns in the story which I didn’t want to spoil in the main review but still wanted to mention. I expected the leverage that Cypher had on Dom to be Bryan’s and Mia’s child but the movie instead presented us with Dom’s and Elena’s (5th movie) son – a new family member for a character obsessed with having a family. The way the child was named at the end was also a cute and touching moment – I do love the fact that FF franchise remembers its roots and how much Paul Walker and his character Bryan did for the series.

The same topic of family was continued with the return of Jason Statham’s (7th film) character (that babysitting action scene was amazing), but this time around his mother made an apperance, played by Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky, Collateral Beauty, Trumbo). Her inclusion was enjoyable and I loved the few scenes she was in. Staham’s character’s brother Owen (6th movie), played by Luke Evans, also cameod. Evans’s performance in Beauty and the Beast has really solidified me as a fan of his, so I was extremely happy to see his cameo.

Movie review: Moana

Movie reviews

Hello!

The long awaited and newest Disney Princess movie – Moana – has reached theaters, so, let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

Moana is, technically, a 13th Disney Princess film. It has been truly amazing to see how this brand evolved in the past 80 years. I feel that the biggest changes started with 2010’s Tangled and all the films following it have been adapting their stories and characters to fit the contemporary world and I’m excited to see what will Disney do next.

Moana is also Disney’s return to musicals, since Frozen 3 years ago. Can Moana’s soundtrack replicate the success of Frozen’s soundtrack? It is gonna be a bit harder for Moana, as this year, we already had one fairly successful animated musical – Trolls – and we also have another one coming up – Sing.

Lastly, Moana is Disney’s attempt at presenting an indigenous – Polynesian culture – to the global market. Thier last attempt at this with Pocahontas wasn’t the most successful, but I think that Disney learned from their mistakes. They went an extra mile to cast voice actors from appropriate backgrounds and also employed anthropologists to help portray Polynesian culture as accurately as possible. As a student of anthropology and a lover of films, I found that fascinating – maybe this can be my job in the future?

Moana’s story also appealed to me on two personal levels. First of all, I, as a longtime professional(-ish) swimmer, sometimes do feel better in the water than on land, so I loved seeing Moana’s connection to the ocean. Secondly, Moana reminded me of two different books that I read as a kid that both revolved around islands and island culture. One of them was Whale Rider (1987) by Witi Ihimaera about a Maori girl and her journey to becoming her clan’s chief. The other was called Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) by Scott O’Dell about a Native American girl who gets stranded on an island near California. Both books have been turned into movies, in 2002 and 1964 respectively.

Writing and Story

Jared Bush, who has previously worked on Big Hero 6 and also co-wrote and co-directed Zootopia, wrote the screenplay of Moana but a lot of people got the credits for the story, including the directors of this film Ron Clements and John MuskerBig Hero 6’s directors Chris Williams and Don HallWreck-It Ralph 2’s writer Pamela Ribon, and twin Hawaiian screenwriters Aaron and Jordan Kandell.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the writing for Moana. I loved that the movie opened with a lesson in Polynesian mythology. In general, I thought that this specific culture was represented with respect but it was still made fun. The writing for the two main characters was also great. Where the movie’s magic kinda broke down was in the actual narrative of the film. The first act felt a bit drawn out – I wanted to get onto the adventure part quicker. I felt that the movie was just basically checking things off a list in during the set-up: Moana had Disney staples such as the dead relative/teacher, the overprotective parents, and the idea that everyone should stay in their place. The ending was also a bit predictable and I wish they would have done without the cliches like failing at first try and leaving and coming back in the heat of the battle. Nevertheless, a few narrative ideas that I thought were great was the fact that Moana didn’t have or need a love interest. Also, the final confrontation was female-centric, similarly to Frozen, and I would have had a problem with that if Moana didn’t have strong and cool male character – Maui – as well.

Directing and Animation

Ron Clements and John Musker, who have made such Disney classic as The Little MermaidAlladinHercules, and Princess and the Frog, directed the film and did a wonderful job. The pacing of the film could have been better but I absolutely adored the visuals and the animation. All the environment, especially the ocean, were brought to life just magnificently – the water looked both realistic and magical – so much better than another recent water based animation Finding Dory. The character design was also super cool. Moana actually looked like a real person, with realistic body proportions! Maui looked super cool too – I liked that his tattoos were not only a visual prop but a part of the plot. Moana’s sidekicks were good too. The chicken was mostly used for comic relief which was neither a hit or a miss for me. I wish, however, that they would have brought the piggy along for the ride, as he was super cute. The baby Moana was also so adorable. You couldn’t not fall in love with her. Lastly, one of my favorite parts of the film was the good old training montage for both Moana and Maui.

Music

Tarzan’s composer Mark MancinaHamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a member of Oceanic music group Te Vaka – Opetaia Foa’i – all worked on the soundtrack and did an amazing job. To being with, I loved hearing some of the songs in Tokelauan language – it added more authenticity to the film’s atmosphere. The more mainstream pop-songy numbers were also great. I see a lot of potential in one song especially in finally making the world let go of Let it Go – I’m talking about the main song of MoanaHow Far I’ll Go. I liked the version sung by Cravalho much more than Alessia Cara’s credits version. Even though I love Cara and her lyrics, I felt that Cravalho voice just had more emotion and fit the song better. But I can see why Disney wanted a more well-known singer to record a version of the song. Let it Go was also recorded by Idina Menzel and a more mainstream choice Demi Lovato.

Other two songs that I’d like to name are You’re Welcome by Dwayne Johnson. I was super impressed with Johnson’s voice – is there anything he can’t do? The song itself kinda reminded me of another Disney tune whose name I don’t remember, but it just sounded so familiar. The last song I’m gonna mention was the one sung by the crab – that was the only part of the score that I didn’t feel on board with.

Voice cast

  • Auli’i Cravalho was amazing as Moana. Her voice just had so much emotion and fit the character perfectly. I think she has a long career ahead of her, at least I hope so.
  • Dwayne Johnson as Maui was great too. He just had so much charisma in his voice alone. This was only his second voice role. Next year, he has 3 big movies coming up – Fast 8Baywatch, and Jumanji.

In short, Moana was another great picture from Disney. It had spectacular characters, nice thematical ideas and gorgeous animated visuals. I only wish they would have made the story a bit more original.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Moana trailer

P.S. Before Moana, a new Disney short called, Inner Workings, was screened. It was kinda the Inside Out of the body rather than the mind. It was both funny and cute as well as sad and depressing (like Pixar levels sad). Loved the main message – treat yourself, escape the routine and enjoy life!

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Movie review: Central Intelligence

Movie reviews

Good day!

The second (or third) buddy cop comedy of this summer has reached the theaters, so let’s review it!

IMDb summary: After he reconnects with an awkward pal from high school through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.

Movie suggestions

The first buddy cop comedy that I had in mind is The Nice Guys, which is basically the retro version of Central Intelligence. Also, we could definitely count Zootopia as a crime comedy. Central Intelligence and Zootopia have a similar humor style – very contemporary, pop-culture based.

Minor Spoilers Ahead

Writing

Central Intelligence’s script was written by a trio of screenwriters Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and the director Rawson Marshall Thurber. I’m not familiar with their previous writings projects but I did enjoy the story that they created for this film. I liked the overall message of being one’s own hero and being oneself, although, that last inspirational speech might have been a bit too much. Nevertheless, dealing with life after highs school and the scars that bullying leaves on one’s mind were good topics for the film since so many people, myself included, can relate to them. The crime aspects of the film – not knowing who the bad guys were and all the double crossings – also worked. The comedy was also fine – I enjoyed the pop culture references. The film 16 candles was mentioned a lot and the line ‘See You On The Other Side’ also received a few repeats. Although it did not originate in the Fast and Furious films, I took it as a reference to that franchise, especially the Fast Five film, in which Dwayne Johnson first appeared. Vin Diesel was also name-dropped a couple of times. The line ‘You’re like a snack-sized Denzel’ also made me chuckle.

Directing

Rawson Marshall Thurber, who directed We’re The Millers, did a good job directing Central Intelligence. The action was cool, although, he could have used a bit less of the shaky cam. The CGI to make the actors look younger also worked. The pacing could have been better – the movie was a bit slow to start – but wasn’t that bad to ruin the film. I also liked the fact that they included the bloopers before the credits, like the older comedies used to do – it seemed like all the actors had so much fun on set and that made me like the film even more.

Acting

  • Dwayne Johnson as Bob Stone/Robbie Weirdicht was a good lead. His character seemed to have a multiple personality disorder and was just a tiny bit obsessed with Hart’s character. Johnson first appeared on my radar because of his involvement in the Fast and Furious films, but since then, he has really built himself an exciting acting career. Last year’s San Andreas was a surprising hit and later this year he is voicing a major character in Moana. In 2017, Baywatch is coming out, which Dwayne has also produced.
  • Kevin Hart as Calvin Joyner was also amazing. I’m not really familiar with Hart’s work, I haven’t seen neither the Ride Along films, nor Think Like A Man films, nor last year’s Get Hard (I don’t like Will Ferrel that much), so I don’t have a strong opinion on him. I did, however, really enjoy his performance on Top Five as well as in this film, so I might  eventually check out those other movies I’ve mentioned too.

I really liked the contrast between Johnson and Hart. Their chemistry was also on-point.

  • The supporting cast consisted of Amy Ryan as Agent Pamela HarrisAaron Paul as Phil and Danielle Nicolet as Maggie Joyner. I was pleasantly surprised to see Paul appear in the film since I really like him as an actor. I have reviewed a bunch of his films: Need for Speed, A Long Way Down, Triple 9 and Eye in the Sky. Bridge of Spies’s Ryan was fine in her role and I also enjoyed the performance of Nicolet.
  • Melissa McCarthy had a small cameo in the film that came out of nowhere but somehow worked. I laughed out loud when she appeared alongside Johnson. While I have mixed feelings about her solo comedies, I definitely like her in small, cameo-sized quantities.

In short, while I don’t usually watch comedies at the cinema, I’m happy that I’ve made an exception for Central Intelligence – it was an entertaining and funny buddy film with great acting and nice message. Not a must see, but a definite recommendation.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Central Intelligence trailer

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Movie review: San Andreas 

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve finally found time to watch the newest disaster movie and this is going to be my review. I know that I am more than 3 weeks late but better late than never. Let’s go!

IMDb summary: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

Directing and Visuals

The film is directed by Brad Peyton. I practically know nothing about him but his work in San Andreas impressed me. The action pieces were really cool and a definite treat for one’s eyes. The CGI was a bit wonky at first, but it got much better as the movie progressed. The falling buildings, cracks, opening on the surface of the Earth, and the tsunami – all looked amazingly real. I also have to give a shout-out to the masses of extras that contributed to this film – they really made me think that the Earth was literately collapsing.

Story

Since this is a disaster movie, one shouldn’t hope for much of a plot. Though, I liked how they portrayed the family dynamics between characters as well as made all the characters relevant. None of them seemed out of place, well maybe just a few of them (more on that latter). The movie also ensured me that the thing, which I should be scared of the most during the time of crisis, is other people. My worst kind of fear (as well as my dad’s, who I watched this movie with) is to be crushed underneath a running crowd.

Character by character

  • Dwayne Johnson as Chief Raymond “Ray” Gaines – no matter what kind of character Dwayne Johnson plays, he is so dam likable. His smile is so heartwarming and while it looks strange on that big body of his, this weird combination turns him into a special kind of a movie star. So, he was definitely the star of this film and I am really happy that he finally shined in a leading role. He was always good as a supporting character (especially in The Fast and The Furious for me personally), but I never really liked him in a lead (last year’s Hercules was a total disaster). Also, speaking about his character – I liked that they made him into helicopter-rescue pilot in this film, because that explained why he could do all the things that he did while looking for his daughter. What I am trying to say is that it all made sense.
  • Carla Gugino as Emma Gaines – I am not familiar with this actress’s work, but I really liked her in the role. Hers and The Rock’s character’s chemistry was also really good. However, I think that the plot-line, concerning their daughter who drowned a few years ago, could have been cut out, because it slowed the movie down. However, it did pay off in the end, when their other daughter was caught in a similar situation.
  • Alexandra Daddario as Blake Gaines – I have only seen Daddario in Percy Jackson movies and she was okay in them. I really enjoyed her performance in this film. I liked her character’s relationship with her father and I also loved the fact that she knew how to survive and what to do in critical situations because of her dad. I have a very special bond with my father too, so I really appreciated that story-ark.
  • Hugo Johnstone-Burt as Ben Taylor – was a nice addition to the cast. I loved his and Daddario’s character’s first encounter. However, I don’t believe that he would have ran to save her after one brief encounter IRL. But this is a movie after all.
  • Art Parkinson as Ollie Taylor – was such a fun character. His comedy relief was organic, fitting, and a nice relief from the action.
  • Ioan Gruffudd as Daniel Riddick – he was the most unlikable character in the film. I couldn’t wait for him to die. He was such a coward too. I have been a fan of Ioan Gruffudd since that King Arthur movie, so I was happy seeing him still getting work. Nowadays, he is more often seen on the small screen rather than on a silver one.
  • Archie Panjabi as Serena Johnson and Paul Giamatti as Dr. Lawrence Hayes served as a really great B story line. I love when movies give scientific explanations (even the fake ones) and Giamatti’s character did exactly that. His monologues were extremely compelling. Panjabi played the reporter who helped Giamatti’s character address the people and I believe that she did a nice job and brought some diversity to the cast.
  • Will Yun Lee as Dr. Kim Park – was another actor which was used mainly for commercial purposes (diversity once again). Sadly, he didn’t had much time to shine.
  • Colton Haynes as Joby – I have no idea why Colton Haynes was in this movie. He had like 5 lines of dialogue and one action scene which wasn’t even that interesting. And he left Arrow for this? His movie career is suppose to be taking off, but he doesn’t have any movies slated for next year. Maybe he is going back to Teen Wolf – another project he left.
  • Kylie Minogue as Susan Riddick – she had a short cameo in the film and, while I love her as singer (concert coverage), I don’t believe she contributed anything to this film.

All in all, this movie had its problems but good acting (for the most part) and exciting action turned this film into a perfect summer blockbuster. This is definitely my favorite disaster movie in a few years. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did for sure. Moreover, I cannot wait to see more films staring Dwayne Johnson in the lead role at last.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: San Andreas trailer