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REVIEW: "Skyscraper"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 07/24/2018

REVIEW: "Skyscraper"Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.

In Asia however, things are a little different. That continent’s obsession with martial arts means audiences still favour a human being using their body to create spectacle than a CG explosion fest, and the Chinese government’s intolerance for religion means many sci-fi flicks are banned due to their supernatural content. The recent Star Wars reboots have shocked Hollywood by bombing at the Chinese box office, where homegrown action movies (often with a propagandistic bent) dominate. With the Chinese market simply too large to ignore, Hollywood has struggled to find a movie that can conquer western and eastern box offices. What excites viewers in Beijing and Baltimore equally? Enter Dwayne Johnson.

A unique talent, Johnson is a rare combination of everyman and otherworldly Adonis, Tom Hanks in the body of Arnie. There isn’t a scenario too overblown or down to earth for his winning screen presence. Like Tom Cruise, he’s a figure of inspiration; he makes us want to be better humans. He must be insufferable to live with.

REVIEW: "Skyscraper"

There isn’t another performer on the planet who could headline Skyscraper, a 21st century update of The Towering Inferno topped with a double scoop of Die Hard. The film’s poster features the attention grabbing image of Johnson making a death-defying (and physically impossible, as revealed by maths nerds with too much time on their hands) leap from a crane onto the side of a giant structure. It’s patently ridiculous, but with Johnson, anything seems possible.

Said structure is ‘The Pearl’, a newly erected Hong Kong skyscraper that boasts 220 floors, an indoor park and an elaborate hall of mirrors, the latter’s practical function I’m frankly baffled by, but it does lend itself to one of the more unique riffs on Orson Welles’ Lady from Shanghai.



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Former FBI agent, now security expert Will Sawyer (Johnson) moves into The Pearl with his wife Sarah (Scream star Neve Campbell in a welcome return to the big screen) and two young kids. He’s been assigned to check out the security details of the structure in order to ensure it’s up to scratch. What he doesn’t know is that he’s been set up as a patsy for a crew of Euro trash baddies who take over the building, setting it on fire for some unknown nefarious reason. Framed for the fire, Sawyer must find a way into the tower and save his family.

The titular tower serves as a way of patting the Chinese authorities on the back - who else could erect such a structure in today’s economy? - but there’s a sly subtext that seems to condemn China’s race to the future at the expense of its own culture, with Sawyer frequently relying on Chinese cultural artefacts like Jian swords and jade statues to solve various predicaments (along with his prosthetic leg, probably also made in China).

REVIEW: "Skyscraper"

The script, penned by director Rawson Marshall Thurber, is functional and flat, padded with puns that don’t quite land despite Johnson’s best efforts, save for one great line about the many functions of duct tape. That said, it’s also finely focused, clearly the work of a single creator, and the movie never gets needlessly bogged down in exposition like so many written by committee modern blockbusters.

As dumb as a bag of cement, Skyscraper is nevertheless undeniably watchable, thanks chiefly to Johnson’s presence and his unrivalled skill at acting against greenscreen backdrops. He’ll never win any awards for it, but Johnson possesses an uncanny ability to act against inanimate objects and yet to be rendered backdrops. The CG in Skyscraper is often unconvincing, yet Johnson is so committed to the cause that we’re genuinely struck by a sense of vertigo as he dangles off cranes and pylons a mile above the bustling Hong Kong streets. To paraphrase the marketing of Superman: The Movie, you’ll believe a man can fall.

3 Stars Out of 5

Directed by:  Rawson Marshall Thurber; Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Noah Taylor, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Pablo Schreiber







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UCPAC Presents Three Classic 80s Films on 35mm Film
 (RAHWAY, NJ) -- A series of three classic films is being presented on 35mm film at Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage theater. All viewings cost a $5 admission ticket that includes a 30 minute pre-show on the theater’s historic "Biggest Little Wurlitzer" organ and free popcorn along with the film screening. The films include The Breakfast Club (January 25), Pretty Woman (February 15), and The Karate Kid (March 8).
Hopewell Theater Hosts Special Valentine's Screening of "Casablanca" With Supper
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- Hopewell Theater will host a special “date night” celebration of Valentine’s Day with a screening of the classic romance film Casablanca paired with an optional Moroccan supper on Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14. An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood's quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.


REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"
Outside of cinephile circles, filmmaker Barry Jenkins is perhaps best known for his role in arguably the greatest debacle in the history of the Academy Awards. On February 26th, 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, only for it then to be revealed that Jenkins’ Moonlight was the actual winner.
New Jersey Film Festival: Spring 2019 - First 2 Weeks Preview
The New Jersey Film Festival - Spring 2019 takes place between January 25 and March 1, 2019 on the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the festival features over 35 film screenings. Here is a preview of the first two weeks of the festival. For the full schedule visit www.njfilmfest.com
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.

From Our Magazine

REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"

REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"

Outside of cinephile circles, filmmaker Barry Jenkins is perhaps best known for his role in arguably the greatest debacle in the history of the Academy Awards. On February 26th, 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, only for it then to be revealed that Jenkins’ Moonlight was the actual winner.


New Jersey Film Festival: Spring 2019 - First 2 Weeks Preview

New Jersey Film Festival: Spring 2019 - First 2 Weeks Preview

The New Jersey Film Festival - Spring 2019 takes place between January 25 and March 1, 2019 on the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the festival features over 35 film screenings. Here is a preview of the first two weeks of the festival. For the full schedule visit www.njfilmfest.com


REVIEW: "Cold War"

REVIEW: "Cold War"

Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.


REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.








Event calendar
Monday, Jan 21, 2019


THEATRE
I’m Not Running @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

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