Posts Tagged ‘Duane Johnson’


get_smart17Turning a beloved television show into a film isn’t as easy as simply writing a longer, feature length script. For every Sex and the City or X Files that successfully makes the leap from small to big screens, there’s a Bewitched, Mod Squad or The Honeymooners, all ideas that should have worked but failed to find audiences. Or, in the parlance of Maxwell Smart, “They missed it by that much…”

The new big screen adaptation of Agent Smart’s exploits, Get Smart, is loosely based on the 1960s television series and while it tries to be all things to all people—there’s slapstick, action, romance, The Rock!—what it doesn’t try to be, for better and for worse, is a photocopy of the original series.

In the new film evil doers KAOS infiltrate the super-secret offices of CONTROL and learn the identity of each of their working agents. The only two uncompromised operatives left are Agent 99, an expert spy who was recently rendered unrecognizable after massive reconstructive plastic surgery—unless of course you saw Brokeback Mountain or The Devil Wears Prada and you’ll note she looks just like Anne Hathaway—and Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), a desk-bound analyst who recently passed his field agent exam. The future of CONTROL and the free world rests in their hands as they do battle with KAOS head honcho Siegfried (Terence Stamp).

Fans of the television show will be pleased that many of the touchstones from the series are firmly in place. Max uses a shoe phone; there’s a new, but not entirely improved cone-of-silence and, of course, the catchphrases—“Sorry about that Chief,” “Missed it by that much,” and “Would you believe…”—are all intact.

What has changed is the tone. Get Smart has the silly jokes and the pratfalls of the series, but it can’t seem to decide whether it is a full-on comedy or an action film, or both. Either way it is an uneasy mix topped off with an unconvincing romance that only muddies the waters even more. Just when the movie works up a head of comedy steam it is often sidelined by a full-on action sequence and vice-a-versa.

Carell puts his own spin on the character which actually has little to do with the original Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. As played by Don Adams in the series and a couple of reunion movies—The Nude Bomb and the TV movie Get Smart, Again—Smart was an ironically named klutz who prevailed against evil not because he was clever or talented but because he was a self-confident fool who usually got lucky. Carell’s take on the character is different and it changes everything.

His Maxwell Smart is smart; a dedicated worker bee who tries harder than everybody else and prevails because of perseverance. It’s a small change but it inverts the character from someone an audience enjoys laughing at to someone who tries to make the audience laugh with him. That one change sucks much of the anarchic spirit of the series out of the big screen treatment, leaving us with a rather generic spy spoof.

That being said there are some good things about Get Smart. Carell makes good use of his innate comic timing and brings a straight-faced charm to the role, but I wish they hadn’t called him Maxwell Smart. By any other name I would likely have thought this was an interesting comic creation but, frankly, he pales by comparison to Adams who imprinted his take on the character on an entire generation’s consciousness. For those unfamiliar with the original show, however, and there are likely many younger audience members who have never had the pleasure, Carell’s Maxwell Smart will become the new standard should this movie spin off into a sequel or two.

There is much to enjoy in Get Smart; there are some good gags, a nice nod or two to the television series, some good action and even an improbable but fun explanation regarding the gap in age between Agent 99 and 86, but for old timers like me who grew up on the television series it doesn’t feel like the real deal. 

Snitch: The Rock cooks up a bad drug movie for the whole family By Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin Metro Canada Reel Guys February 22, 2013

snitch2_900x675SYNOPSIS: Dwayne Johnson is John Matthews, owner of a successful construction company and estranged father to Jason (Rafi Gavron). Jason falls into a Kafka-esque legal loophole when his drug-dealing best friend implicates him as a trafficker in return for a break on jail time. Under America’s strict War on Drugs™ laws Jason is facing a mandatory ten-year sentence unless he gives up the name of a co-conspirator but because he’s innocent he has no one to snitch on. Enter John who gets the action underway when he says to the US Attorney (Susan Sarandon), “What if I do it for him? What if I help you make arrests?” Cue the cage match between The Rock and assorted drug dealers.

Star Ratings

Richard: 2 ½ Stars
Mark: 3 Stars

Richard: Mark, Snitch isn’t a bad movie, but it is a miscast one. As charismatic as The Rock… er… Johnson is, his physicality gets in the way. The character is a determined regular Joe willing to go to any lengths to help his son. But how much more effective would it have been if he didn’t resemble a cop who could crash the drug dealers he’s working with between his muscular thumb and forefinger?

Mark: I wouldn’t say it was miscast, but that it was too obviously cast. Your idea of casting against type, as an everyman rather than an action hero, is a tantalizing one. I’m imagining how much more interesting a movie it would be with, say, Ryan Gosling, or even Paul Giamatti. The real question, however, is: When Susan Sarandon and Barry Pepper are support characters in a Dwayne Johnson movie, is this one of the signs of the apocalypse?

RC: Ha! I thought Pepper was OK but you could almost see Sarandon reaching for the pay cheque. She has seven movies coning out this year, and seems to have wedged this one in as she ran from set to set. Perhaps the movie’s message that the War on Drugs™ needs to find a new plan of attack appealed to her but she’s playing this one as a character straight out of Central Casting. What did you think of Jon Bernthal as the ex-con who gives The Rock a hand. Loved him on The Walking Dead and thought he was one of the best things about this movie, even if the conclusion to his story was far fetched.

MB: Well, he was the only one in the movie who brought an element of surprise to his scenes. As far as the story goes, I liked the premise, but I thought the storytelling was kind of sloppy and sometimes it felt like scenes were missing. The violence was restrained for this kind of movie, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. And the villains barely registered. They were mostly nasty in theory.
RC: I found the lack of violence refreshing. Given the name, the star and the idea you might have expected this to be a shoot ‘em up, and it isn’t. It’s a father and son story with a twist.

MB: Finally! A drug movie for the whole family!

From the squared circle to the silver screen In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA January 22, 2010

toothfairyjohnsonhitYou can blame (or thank, depending on your point of view) Vincent K. McMahon for movies like Mr. Nanny and Abraxas. Both starred wrestlers — Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura respectively — and while WWE chief McMahon didn’t write or direct either of the films, he understood the promotional importance of allowing his wrestlers to make the leap from the ring to the big screen.

It wasn’t always that way however.

Although wrestlers have been appearing in movies for decades—wrestler Lenny Montana played The Godfather’s Luca Brazzi and Tor Johnson, the Super-Swedish Angel, made 31 movies including the legendary Plan 9 From Outer Space — initially the powerful McMahon family actively tried to keep their wrestlers off the screen.

For instance, the elder McMahon, Vincent J., who originally hired Hulk Hogan, refused him permission to appear in Rocky III.
He resolutely believed wrestlers should fight, not act. It wasn’t until Vince Jr. stepped in and gave Hogan the go-ahead that the heyday of wraslin’ movies began in earnest.

After that, many of McMahon’s bigger-than-life wrestlers tried their hands at Hollywood stardom, including Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, who headlines this weekend’s The Tooth Fairy.

Most of the movies in the wrestler genre aren’t great— called Hulk’s Santa with Muscles a “crapterpiece”—but there are a couple of notable exceptions.

One of the more prolific wrestlers-turned-actors, Canadian-born Rowdy Roddy Piper has dozens of movie credits, but his high point came in 1988’s They Live, where he delivered the now classic line, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.” It’s his “Hasta la vista, baby!,” and is one of the great action quotes of the decade.

And while it is unlikely that WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin could ever receive any kind of acting award unless he did his trademarked Axe Handle Elbow Drop on the entire Academy, he has held his own in The Longest Yard and The Condemned, and has three films coming out in 2010.

Recently Triple H, Stacy Keibler and Goldberg have all tried for acting careers, and why not? McMahon calls his wrestlers “entertainers” and The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky asked rhetorically, “Why aren’t wrestlers in SAG? If you really think about it, the Screen Actors Guild should organize them.”