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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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2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.
Lighthouse International Film Society Presents A Screening of "Half Empty / Half Full"
(LONG EACH ISLAND, NJ) -- Lighthouse International Film Society will present a pre-release screening of Half Empty/Half Full on August 18 at 8:00pm at The LBI Historical Association at 129 Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven. The director, Andy Gershenzon, will be on hand for a Q&A following the screening. Admission is $5 and free for Lighthouse Film Society members.
JCTC FILM Premiers DEKA-LOG, New Series Depicting Contemporary Urban Life
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- A new anthology web-series by an up and coming, Jersey City-based filmmaker, premiers at Merseles Studios on August 23rd when Jersey City Theater Center presents DEKA-LOG: a Finding Me story.  Doors are at 6:30pm, screening at 7:00pm.  Admission is $10.
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.


Newark Black Film Festival
​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.
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.
REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.
REVIEW: "When I Sing"
Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.
REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.

From Our Magazine

REVIEW: "Skyscraper"

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.


REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"

REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.


REVIEW: "When I Sing"

REVIEW: "When I Sing"

Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.


REVIEW: "Sequence Break"

REVIEW: "Sequence Break"

One of the great under-rated horror movies of recent years is Jackson Stewart’s Beyond the Gates. Two of the stars of Stewart’s movie, Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson, reunite for Sequence Break, written and directed by Skipper and starring Williamson in the lead role. Both films make for a dove-tailing double bill of horror movies that employ the genre, and the current obsession with all things 1980s, to explore the dangers of nostalgia and seeking sanctuary in the comforts of your childhood.








Event calendar
Saturday, Aug 18, 2018


MUSIC

90s By Nature Dance Party @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 10:00pm

BALLYHOO! @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists @ Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park - 9:00pm

THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 5:00pm

ZEBRA @ The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park - 9:00pm

Blake Shelton @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Legendary Beatles Recording Engineer Geoff Emerick @ The Vault at Victor Records , Berlin - 8:00pm


HAIR in Concert @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 10:00pm

AMERICAN IDOL: LIVE! 2018 @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:30pm

Billy Walton Band with Joe D'Angelo @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 8:00pm

REMEMBERING THE KING @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 7:00pm

Funky Feat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Fuel (20th Anniversary Tour) w/ Ropetree, New Theory @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 6:00pm

Ronnie Penque’s Panama Dead @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Saturday Night Fever @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 8:00pm

The Lion In Winter @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 8:00pm

Fern Hill @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Bob Goss and his Silver Sizzles @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 8:00pm

Shakespeare in the Park' Twelfth Night & Macbeth @ Various Bergen County Parks, Teaneck - 7:00pm



COMEDY

HASAN MINHAJ: BEFORE THE STORM @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:00pm and 9:30pm

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