San Andreas

By: Kevin Jordan

Good.  Fuck ‘em.

California has been living on borrowed time.  As San Andreas’s seismologist (Paul Giamatti) puts it – “the San Andreas Fault goes off every 150 years and we are 100 years overdue, so it’s only a matter of when.”  Californians have built up a staggering debt (north of $132 billion dollars as of 2013) and had the audacity to ask the rest of the country to give them another $50 billion (at least) to build a train from Los Angeles to San Francisco that you will most likely never use because the Wright Brothers invented airplanes more than 100 years ago.  They waste an amazing amount of water growing grapes in the desert so they can one-up each other on wine-tasting knowledge.  They are the birth place of the anti-vaccine movement, helping to bring back once eradicated diseases – including whooping cough (pertussis) and measles – insisting it is their right to endanger other people because Jenny McCarthy said so.  They’ve tried to ban Happy Meals, prevented a completed nuclear reactor from ever being turned on, and tried to break their state into six states because fuck poor people and farmers.  I mean, have you seen their “Come to California” commercials, in which a bunch of famous, rich people tell you how awesome it is to be them?  What they neglect to tell you is you should come if you don’t mind multiple annual wildfires, six of the top ten smoggiest cities in the country, the worst drought since the state starting keeping records, earthquakes, an unemployment rate consistently higher than the national average, and Raiders fans.  On the plus side, at least they’re not Texas.

Remember when we were kids and we believed that a big enough earthquake would cause California to break off and sink into the ocean?  San Andreas debunks that myth by showing us a bunch of shit that is even less likely to happen when the big one finally strikes.  Either way, we get to see those people mentioned above die in a movie that can only be described as pure disaster porn.  Yes – porn.  Think about it for a moment.  Traditional porn is watched purely for the visual pleasure with zero expectation of including anything that could be described as plot or worthwhile dialogue.  Trade sex for cities being destroyed and Bang Andrea becomes San Andreas.  Now, you might be asking why I would bother reviewing San Andreas when I have explicitly stated in the past that I would not review porn.  The answer is because this particular porn cost $100 million and is being released in thousands of theaters across the country.  If Bang Andrea were doing the same, I’d review it too.

(This movie was moronic, so of course I’m going to provide ample SPOILERS.)

Two minutes into the movie, I knew it was going to be worse than my expectations of SyFy flick, with better special effects.  The film starts with a girl trapped in her car while dangling from the side of a crack in the Earth after a rockslide pushed her there.  The special effects in this scene were so poorly rendered that I did the first of many forehead slaps throughout the film (the special effects in this film were inconsistent at best, with bad scenes like this contrasted with great scenes of buildings collapsing).  Imagine a car flipping down a mountainside and the mountain is a giant magnet, so the car never breaks contact with the mountain.  And that was one of the better portrayals of science/physics during the film (I’ll get to those in a moment).  The scene gets even more ridiculous when our hero, Ray (Dwayne Johnson), shows up in his helicopter to save her, says “I’m going to flip the hat” – whatever the fuck that means – then maneuvers the helicopter into the crack, endangering his crew and the reporter and cameraman also present in the chopper.  I realize that this is fairly standard fare for this type of movie, but can someone please explain to me why he doesn’t just lower one of his crew on a rope, since that’s what he ends up doing anyway?  That’s how this brain-damaged movie started.

Following that scene, we are introduced to the rest of the cast, as well as treated to the standard disaster movie faux-science scene.  You know what I’m talking about – these movies always start with some scientist saying something that only the scientifically-challenged would believe.  Armageddon gave us the firecracker-in-the-closed-hand idea, 2012 gave us the underground neutron detection well, and in San Andreas, Lawrence (Giamatti) and colleagues go to the Hoover Dam to test their earthquake predictor that measures magnetic pulses.  I actually don’t have a problem with these scenes, but they deserve to be ridiculed and called out because there are people out there that actually believe this shit (hell, some of them are in Congress).

The movie continues by establishing where people are going to be when the shit hits the fan.  Ray and his future ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), are in Los Angeles and their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), is in San Francisco with Emma’s boyfriend, Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd).  The entire rest of the plot is Ray trying to rescue Emma and Blake so let’s talk about these characters.

Ray is easily the worst character in the movie, despite what we are supposed to believe.  That opening scene establishes him as the commander of the L.A. Fire Department’s rescue team and that he was responsible for saving hundreds of lives as a rescue soldier in Afghanistan.  So, when he is called in to help with rescue efforts after the quakes start, what does he do?  He ditches his job to rescue his wife, then abandons the city to rescue his daughter, even though his daughter will call him to tell him that a couple of British boys saved her already.  But, that doesn’t stop him from continuing on.  And, because the writers were incredibly lazy (or just really bad), the rest of his rescue team is inexplicably missing for the duration of the film because it would have been hard for him to convince them this was the right thing to do.

Next, we have Emma.  Her entire purpose is to instigate conversations that only ex-wives in disaster movies ever start.  Conversations like “why did our marriage break up” or “why won’t you open up with me?”  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a role reversal there and when Ray tries to talk about their marriage she tells him to shut up and focus because the world is literally cracking apart?

Then, we have Daniel, who is supposed to be a villain, but kind of pales in comparison to the Earthquakes that are killing everybody.  We’re supposed to hate this guy because he’s rich and dating Emma, but he seems like a genuinely nice guy that just wants to build buildings.  When the initial San Francisco quake occurs, he and Blake crash in a parking garage and Blake is stuck in the car.  He runs to get help and is almost crushed by chunks of falling concrete.  As he lies on the floor staring at his crushed shoe, it’s obvious that he goes into shock.  He gets up and leaves, forgetting all about Blake.  Again, we’re supposed to hate the guy simply because he goes into shock and leaves Blake, but we’re supposed to like Ray even though he abandoned his job and millions of potential rescue victims.  Um, no.  Of course, Daniel is going to die, but it’s really hard to cheer for that for two reasons – (1) because of what I just said and (2) he’s standing on the Golden Gate bridge surrounded by hundreds of people when a container ship crashes down on top of them.  Only a sadist would be happy he died and not worry about everyone around him.

Finally, we have Blake, the standard damsel in distress.  Her character is confusing, as one moment she needs rescuing, and the next moment she is doling out survival advice.  Of course, you’ll forget all that when the movie decides to act more like a porn by having her strip off her jacket and outer tank top, dump water on her, then have her swim around so you can see as much cleavage as possible.  And since Daddario is 29 years old, it’s not gross that I ended up staring at her spectacular breasts for the last ten minutes of the film (though it might be gross that I used the word spectacular).

Because disaster movies are always trying to one-up the last disaster movie, this movie had to destroy two cities instead of just one and include a tsunami in addition to the multiple earthquakes.  Much like a porn, at a certain point during the movie you start to get bored.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever watched a porn flick all the way through?  Unless you are the horniest male teenager on the planet, you’re good after two sex scenes at most.  That boredom led me to think the following things during the latter half of San Andreas:

  • How did a tsunami destroy San Francisco, or even form at all, if the quake’s epicenter was twenty miles east of L.A.?
  • I bet they aren’t concerned about the drought any more.
  • How long will it take Ray to travel the 300+ miles by helicopter from L.A. to S.F. in an old Huey?
    • (As it turns out, the answer is never. It’s 337 miles by air and the Huey he’s flying has a range of 285 miles.  Good job writers.)
  • Unless the Earth splits in half, there is no way that people on the East Coast are going to feel an earthquake on the West Coast, regardless of strength.
  • Why is nobody in this movie bleeding?
  • Man, those are some nice boobies.

After all of that, I was still mildly enjoying myself because I knew going in the movie was porn.  It has plenty of disaster and even manages to squeeze in a porny joke (it’s literally the only joke in the entire film) in which Ray parachutes Emma and himself into AT&T Park (the Giants ballpark – don’t ask) and says “It’s been awhile since I got you to second base.”  Again, that’s why I was there.  But the end of this movie did something so bad that the forehead slap nearly knocked me unconscious.  As Ray and family stood on a hill overlooking the carnage, Emma asked “what do we do now?”  Ray (and the entire audience) responded with “We rebuild” and a giant American flag unfurled from the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Seriously, fuck ‘em.

(P.S. – Despite how it sounds, I don’t actually hate all Californians.  I know and love several of them.  Hi, Cheryl!)

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back unless you’ve ever returned a porno to the adult movie shop.  Again, you know what you are getting and you deserve it.


By: Kevin Jordan

Full steam ahead.

If there’s one thing we can agree on about Disney movies it’s that subtlety is not one of their strong suits.  After watching Tomorrowland, it’s safe to say that tradition continues as the message is delivered with all the subtlety of a brick to the head.  Incidentally, this movie is also calling the vast majority of humans blockheads with its Hugh Laurie-delivered message – “we’ve warned you about the iceberg, but instead of avoiding it, you steer right into it.”  What is he talking about, you ask?  Climate change, among other things, but let’s start at the beginning.

If there’s one thing we can agree on about Disney, it’s the overarching idea of hope embedded in every Disney story and property.  The concept of never losing hope isn’t unique to Disney, but not even the United States has been able to brand and market it as well as Disney (though twelve million immigrants might disagree with me on that).  In case you are one of the six people who have never visited Disneyland, Tomorrowland is an area of Disneyland in which young children are scared shitless by riding Space Mountain.  It’s also the area decrying that the future can be whatever you can imagine it to be (Disneyland literally refers to its designers as Imagineers); all you have to do is try.  As great a message as that is for young people, life beat it out of their now-cynical parents long ago as those same parents simply wonder “how long is this line, anyway?”

(Some SPOILERS ahead and remember to keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.)

Tomorrowland attempts to bring meaning back to that message by applying it to a real problem – that the human race is actively trying to murder itself in many different ways.  The film begins with Frank Walker (George Clooney) and a steampunk, digital countdown clock telling the camera a story while being interrupted by an eager, female voice arguing with him about how to tell the story.  Frank starts over and we are taken back to the 1964 World’s Fair, where a very young Frank is showing his invention – a jetpack – to a judge (Hugh Laurie) at an invention competition.  A young, freckled girl with eyes the size dinner plates who looks like she popped out of an animated Disney flick, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), takes an interest in Frank and in defiance of the judge, sneaks a special button to Frank and tells him to get on the boat leading to It’s a Small World.  You read that correctly – the It’s a Small World ride ridiculed by every human since 1965.

(Note: my movie buddy swore that It’s a Small World was not at that particular fair, but a little research confirmed that it was indeed there and moved to Disneyland following the Fair.  What I love about the inclusion of this factoid is that it highlights what people found fun in 1964, as it was one of the most heavily visited exhibits at the Fair.)

While inside the ride, a laser scans the button and Frank is whisked off to Tomorrowland, where a robot fixes his jetpack, Frank briefly experiences what being a cartoon in freefall feels like (while falling, he performs a bunch of silly actions and sightseeing), and comes to rest in front of that same British judge who turns out to be the governor of Tomorrowland, Governor Nix.  Rather than letting us explore Tomorrowland with Frank, the film skips ahead fifty years and back to Earth, where we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), our main character (surprise!  You thought it was Clooney, didn’t you?).  Like Frank, Casey has a brilliant mind, and, like Frank, receives a special button from Athena.  Except, Casey doesn’t know she has the button until after she is arrested for sabotaging equipment used to deconstruct a rocket launching pad at Cape Canaveral.  You see, Casey has dreams of outer space and believes that if she stops the deconstruction, the government will magically fire Ted Cruz as head of the Congressional Science Committee (and from life in general) and NASA will start launching rockets with actual people on them again to places beyond low Earth orbit.  For the record, I’d have those same beliefs if I wasn’t still stuck in line for the Dumbo ride.

When Casey touches the pin, she gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland and decides she simply has to get there.  The entire middle of this film is Casey being chased by killer androids (another fun homage to Disney’s vaunted animatronics), Disney marketing its merchandising – including an entire store filled with Star Wars junk that, curiously, is missing a poster promoting Episode VII, to be released December, 2015 – and Athena hiyah-ing some of the killer androids.  During that chase, we get a short reprieve when Casey winds up at Frank’s house and Frank tells her that he was kicked out of Tomorrowland for inventing a way to see the future.  When Disney says “anything you can imagine” they aren’t effing kidding.

Before revealing what’s at stake, the androids interrupt and we learn that Frank’s house was booby-trapped better than McCauley Caulkin’s house in Home Alone.  By this time, you might have noticed that we have spent very little time actually in Tomorrowland and when they actually get to Tomorrowland, it’s falling apart.  As it turns out, Frank’s crystal ball revealed there was a 100% chance that humans were going to annihilate themselves sometime in the year 2015, by one of any number of methods – nuclear war, mass flooding, earthquakes, drought, disease, global warming, etc.  In a classic villain monologue, Nix explains that they thought they could change the future by beaming images of the apocalypse directly into people’s brains so they would change their ways and save themselves, but, well, I already gave you his Titanic analogy.  Thus, we arrive at the not-so-subtle message this movie is trying to deliver – “HEY!!  All you numbskull climate-change deniers, war-hawks, anti-vaxxers, and eco-terrorists.  Quit being part of the fucking problem!  Just sit over there, shut up, and let the rational people work and maybe we can undo this huge mess you’ve made!”  Or something like that.

Setting aside the politics for a moment, I found the ten year-old boy in me enjoying the movie and the actors.  The film is light-hearted and upbeat and the kind of adventure I loved watching when I was young.  Clooney nails the crotchety old man and his comedic timing is as good as ever.  Laurie makes for a perfect cartoon villain; channeling a little Dr. House into the role.  Robertson attacks her role with the enthusiasm of an entire troop of Mouseketeers and proves she’s much better than her less-than-stellarly-written Under the Dome character.  Cassidy steals the spotlight, somehow pulling off her role without it coming across as overly absurd.  If this movie has one flaw, it’s that it spends so little time in Tomorrowland that you wonder if the Imagineers were daydreaming a little too much when they wrote the script.

Like I said, the message in this movie is really one of eternal hope.  Disney is all but begging us not to give up hope that we can overcome the people who refuse to believe (or don’t care) we’re heading for that iceberg.  They even stoop to making sure that the audience knows it’s not just the scientific geniuses, but the ballet dancers and construction workers, among others, that are just as able to imagine solutions as the engineers and physicists, among others (keeping my mouth shut).  And you know what?  I’m okay with this.  As the movie itself points out, we need wild optimism to combat a situation that gets more hopeless by the day so we can make it through a line that never seems to move.

Rating: Staunch, climate change-denying, right-wing conservatives will want their money back, but rational people will know their money was well spent.