Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s four big releases, including “Finding Dory,” the buddy comedy “Central Intelligence” with Duane Johnson and Kevin Hart, and a duo of documentaries, “De Palma,” an unflinching look at the films of Brian De Palma and the self explanatory “Raiders! The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.”
The key to “Central Intelligence,” a new action comedy comedy from “Easy A” director Rawson Marshall Thurber, will be the rapport between stars Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart. Physically they’re Laurel and Hardy, Johnson is at least one foot taller than Hart and weighs a hundred pounds more, but physicality aside, do they have the chemistry to pull this off?
Today Bob Stone (Johnson) is a CIA assassin who bears an uncanny resemblance to wrestler The Rock. He’s a mountain of a man but that wasn’t always the case. In 1996 he was a ninety-pound weakling so teased by his classmates even his principal says, “Well, there’s no coming back from that,” after one particularly humiliating hazing stunt.
On the other end of the high school scale is Calvin Joyner (Hart). Popular, he was homecoming king and voted most likely to succeed. He is, as the principal says, “Everybody’s favourite all round guy.” The future buttoned-down accountant was also the only kid in school to treat Bob with any humanity.
When Bob reconnects with Calvin on Facebook Calvin has a hard time remembering his former classmate. “You lost like two hundred pounds,” he says when they meet in person. Bob is now a CIA agent, but there’s a problem. The agency thinks he has gone rogue and is now a terrorist trying to hawk classified military secrets. To help clear his name Bob enlists Calvin. “Bottom line,” he says, “are you in or are you out?” Calvin wants out. “I thought you’d go, ‘I’m in Bob!’” says Stone, “and we would have a really cool moment but you kind of ruined that.” Of course Calvin is in, otherwise there’d be no action in this comedy.
The good news is Johnson and Hart have chemistry. They click. The bad news is the script doesn’t give them much to work with. There is the occasional funny moment but frankly, “Central Intelligence” rarely garners more than a titter from an audience who want to laugh, who want desperately for Hart to let loose or Johnson to display the kind of comedy chops he’s showed on “Saturday Night Live” and the kind of action aptitude he’s shown, well, everywhere else. Instead we’re handed a tepid action movie with badly choreographed fight scenes, few laughs and anti-bullying pop psychology better suited to an afterschool special.
What could have been a vehicle that played up to its star’s strengths is little more than a generic action flick that fails to let us smell what the Rock has cooking.
“We were happy to do whatever was asked of us whenever it was asked of us,” says Transformers: Age of Extinction star Jack Reynor.
The Colorado-born, Irish-raised actor proved he was game for anything when he was given just twenty minutes to prepare for a wild scene that brought him face-to-face with real explosions.
“It is an incredibly intimidating experience in many ways,” he said, “but at the end of the day you have to trust the people around you, that they know what they’re doing that they’re prepared and that you’re safe. We had a great stunt team who worked on this film with us. Those guys really put us at ease.”
Sharing the explosive scene with Reynor were his co-stars Nicola Peltz and Mark Wahlberg.
“They worked so hard to make this huge explosion,” says Peltz, best known for her role as Bradley Martin on Bates Motel. “I think it took a week but we didn’t know about it. We were kind of confused when we got on set and saw ten cameras. (Director) Michael (Bay) told us a few minutes before, ‘You’re going to do this huge stunt. It’s not going to be stunt doubles, it’s going to be you guys and you have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds.’
“There’s not much acting when there are real explosions behind you,” she says. “You just have to run.”
The experience of sprinting away from live blasts wasn’t exactly what Peltz expected when she signed on for the role in the fourth Transformers film.
“I thought there was going to be more green screen than there actually was but Michael wants everything to be as real as possible so the car chases and the explosions are all real.”
“You can really tell the difference,” says Reynor. “You can tell when a movie is really heavy on CG. It doesn’t really look real. As far as we’ve come with effects and all the advancements we’ve made—some of them are really great—at the end of the day to do it practically and do it for real always looks best on screen. That’s why Michael tries to make it that way. On top of that it makes everything more tangible for us; a lot easier to relate to and react off. That’s why I think these movies have been as incredibly successful as they have because the audience really does feel it.”
Director Michael Bay once said he doesn’t make movies for critics. The auteur behind such hits as The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys 1 and 2 and the Transformers movies is best known for making big, loud films that rake it in at the box office but leave critics reaching for the Advil.
Bay acknowledged the adversarial relationship in a 2005 article by Rene Rodriguez.
“They castrate me,” he told Rodriguez. “They call me the devil and all that crap.”
It’s not hard to see why reviewers have a hard time with his films. He never met a building or car or city he didn’t want to blow up in spectacular fashion and critics often feel like they have to slather on SPF 70 to avoid getting get a tan from the glare off the giant fireballs that light up screen in Bay’s films.
Audiences, however, have flocked to his flicks. According to boxofficemojo.com his ten features have grossed $1,898,048,525, or an average of $189,804,853. That’s a lot of beans.
The release this weekend of Transformers: Age of Extinction promises to add to those totals. The fourth installment of the franchise stars Mark Wahlberg as a single father and struggling inventor who discovers the deactivated Autobots leader Optimus Prime.
The movie promises a whole new raft of Transformers, including bounty hunter Lockdown and the rough and tumble Dinobot Grimlock. Bay promises we’ll also see an “angry Optimus Prime.”
Will the critics like Age of Extinction? Who knows? It probably won’t matter, the Transformers movies are as close to guaranteed hits as Hollywood has these days, so reviews most likely won’t matter to the box office.
Not all of Bay’s films have been critically reviled. “The critics were very nice to me when I first began with Bad Boys,” he says and his last movie, the crime drama Pain and Gain was called “the best movie Michael Bay’s ever made,” by the Newark Star-Ledger.
It has a few things going for it. First, there isn’t a robot in sight. Secondly, a great cast—including Wahlberg, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Anthony Mackie—who bring serious star power and third, it doesn’t really feel like a Michael Bay film. And by that I mean there’s only one shot of the three leads walking away from a slow motion explosion.
Years ago I wrote this about his trademarked aural and optical onslaught: “The former commercial director has a knack for making everything look shiny but having great taste doesn’t make a great film director any more than great taste makes a Snicker’s bar a gourmet meal.” I even coined a word for his style: Hullabayloo, but nothing that any critic or I write matters to the director.
“I’ve actually stopped reading (reviews),” he told Rodriguez.