“Baywatch”

I need to stop seeing movies just because they have Dwayne Johnson. Who am I kidding? He’s he most electrifying man in entertainment after all (WWE joke). He’s too good for “Baywatch” and this movie is just another studio cash grab.

Veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) recruits a new batch of guards to join his team. This includes the tough Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), socially awkward Ronnie (Jon Bass), and the cocky former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Mitch and Brody automatically dislike each other in buddy comedy fashion, but have to put their differences aside when they discover drugs are surfacing on the beach.

People laughed at me when I said I was seeing “Baywatch.” Besides seeing it for Johnson, I actually saw potential in this movie. The original show was a cheese fest and could easily spawn a satirical adaptation ala “21 Jump Street.” Sadly, “Baywatch” isn’t that adaptation.

“Baywatch” is directed by Seth Gordon, who made the brilliant transgressive comedy “Horrible Bosses.” “Baywatch” is rated R like “Horrible Bosses,” but Gordon and the writers do nothing with it other than show a penis and spout a few dozen F-words. It’s not transgressive, offensive, meta, and worst of all, not funny.

Johnson and Efron have good chemistry, and they’re clearly doing their best to entertain the viewers, but it’s sadly not enough to overcome the long length time, redundant narrative, and overly serious tone. Do we need a tortured soul subplot in the middle of a vomit gag?

“Baywatch” is two hours of Mitch lecturing Brody on his selfishness and calling him a boy band name, then Brody admitting he screwed up and redeeming himself. Brody’s back story of puking during a team swim meet is sad and pathetic instead of funny.

How many comedies do we need with a dead body gag? How many do we need with a guy getting his junk stuck in public? How many do we need with someone clumsily falling into a pool with their clothes on? There’s already a “Baywatch” sequel in the works, so is there room for improvement? Yes. Will it improve? Probably not.

Grade: D-

“Alien: Covenant”

There is some optimism in the gory nightmarish prequel “Alien: Covenant.” Since this takes place before “Alien” and has dumber characters, at least I know humanity gets smarter in the future.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!

The Covenant is a ship searching for new life. Its crew includes the tough-minded Daniels (Katherine Waterson), wisecracking cowboy Tennesse (Danny McBride), an insecure man of faith Oram (Billy Crudup), and the android synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender). Along their way to inhabit a new planet, they discover a distress beacon at a closer planet.

Upon arrival, the place appears to be a heaven, but the crew learns it’s more of a hell when they encounter xenomorphs and the “Prometheus” synthetic David (Michael Fassbender).

The great Ridley Scott maintains the philosophical tone of “Prometheus” while paying homage to the original “Alien.” It’s a dark, gory space odyssey with intelligent androids and dimwitted humans. Scott directs each blood splatter and surreal image with beauty.

“Covenant” spends the first two acts exploring darker themes and building each character. We get a platonic friendship between the widowed Daniels and Tennessee, Daniels and Oram clashing over the mission, and Walter learning from everyone.

Fassbender delivers a brilliant dual-performance as Walter and David. Scott directs each of their interactions with long takes and tight frames to depict the androids’ homoerotic bond. David is more villainous than ever and acts as a demonic egomaniac.

The writers brilliantly address a thought on the “Alien” franchise I’ve had: why don’t the xenomorphs and androids interact with each other? We get scenes with the two together and the xenomorphs are indifferent. In one fascinating scene, David communicates with a new alien like its his own child. “You have to show respect,” he says.

Sadly, the horror sequences and characters are underwhelming, save for one terrifying lab scene halfway through. The aliens decapitate, chest burst, spine burst, impale, and rip apart the crew, but since each character thinks splitting up is smart, these sequences are predictable and boring.

The climax could have used a little more work because it feels too easy and convenient; its obvious twist briefly saves the ending due to atmosphere and the casts’ performance. And what’s with James Franco’s obscure cameo? Can we have smarter characters and more James Franco next time?

Grade: B+

 

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

For a hero as epic and legendary as King Arthur, constantly using montages makes him rather underwhelming. Writer/director Guy Ritchie seems content with that in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”

If you’ve seen “Hamlet,” “The Lion King,” “Sons of Anarchy,” or “Man of Steel,” you already know the plot of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is the son of a deceased king and must fight his tyrannical uncle (Jude Law) for the throne. With Excalibur and some loyal sidekicks, he discovers his full potential.

Guy Ritchie is a talented, energetic director who’s known for witty dialogue and energetic montages. Given most of the dialogue is exposition and the montages are redundant, “Legend of the Sword” is neither as witty or energetic as Ritchie’s previous works. It’s a mess!

“Legend of the Sword” is rated PG-13; however, the choppy editing clearly shows Ritchie wanted to make an R-rated movie. Each kill cuts away to another angle or to a completely different scene, making me wonder if there’s an R-rated director’s cut coming to Blu-Ray.

Ritchie’s screenplay, unfortunately, isn’t any better. It’s generic and disjointed; “Legend of the Sword” can’t decide if it wants to be an epic fantasy or a witty medieval-themed heist movie. Ritchie also seems a little too comfortable writing female characters to be imprisoned, tortured, beaten, and sacrificed on a regular basis.

As mentioned, there are sequences where Ritchie could have explored certain myths or done some world building. In one particular sequence, Arthur has to fight several creatures in a place called the Blacklands to train with Excalibur. Ritchie condenses this potentially exciting sequence into a lackluster montage without any drama or spectacle.

Charlie Hunnam is a competent protagonist, but his portrayal of Arthur is strongly reminiscent of his work in “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s having fun and there are times where he saves the scene with his charisma. Hopefully, he receives a better script to work with in the future.

Grade: D

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

I am Groot… I am Groot…  I am impressed with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” It’s the first MCU sequel done right since “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

After completing another successful mission, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) meet the enigmatic Ego (Kurt Russell). He helps the group and reveals himself to be Peter’s dad, shocking the group.

Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) return to settle their scores, Peter and Gamora must deal with their feelings, Rocket Raccoon comes to terms with who he is, and Baby Groot dances adorably.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” maintains its predecessor’s energy, colorful effects, kinetic action sequences, and killer soundtrack. It takes the humor and character moments up a few notches, resulting in a surprisingly hilarious and emotional sequel. If “Vol. 1” is “A New Hope,” then “Vol. 2” is “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Without getting too much into the plot, the Guardians split into two groups where alliances form, betrayals occur, and revelations are revealed. Quill spends a portion of the movie torn between family and his destiny; it’s bittersweet and sometimes heartbreaking.

“Vol. 2” is fun, though! Don’t let my description fool you. The standout sequences are a delightful opening credits sequence, a space ship battle that’s an obvious nod to the arcade gaming era, and any scene involving Yondu (Rooker kills it).

The cast is once again great with their chemistry and comedic timing; they’re even better in their dramatic moments. Kurt Russell’s performance is a little too exposition-heavy, but his charm and charisma make it acceptable.

I could have done without Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord. He literally has two minutes of screen time, angrily delivers exposition about Yondu, and leaves until the end. For a hyped character, I expected more for Sly to do.

The MCU has a bad history with sequels, but “Vol. 2” proves you don’t have to one-up all elements for a sequel; it’s okay to slow down and expand on the characters’ back story. You don’t see that in a superhero film often, which is admirable.

Grade: A-

“Unforgettable”

The stalker film is dead. After “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” “Unlawful Entry,” “The Gift,” “The Loft,” “Mother’s Boys,” “Fear,” “When the Bough Breaks,” “Fatal Attraction,” and now “Unforgettable,” can we agree it’s time to call it quits? Especially since “Unforgettable” rips off several of the titles mentioned above?

Successful blogger Julia (Rosario Dawson) gets engaged to the handsome David (Geoff Stults), but they both have baggage. Julia has an abusive ex she hasn’t told David about. David’s ex, Tessa (a surprisingly solid Katherine Heigl) isn’t over David and wants to ruin Julia’s life. If you’ve seen any of the movies I mentioned earlier, you can guess what happens next.

I don’t know what prompted Dawson and Heigl to star in “Unforgettable,” but they look as miserable as their characters throughout this unforgettable trash. The only times they seem to enjoy themselves are when they’re drinking (I’m almost positive that’s actual alcohol).

I’ll give props to Heigl. I’m not a fan, but she provides a few chilling moments. It’s not enough to make up for the film’s generic, unsubtle, unimaginative, illogical, and sexist screenplay.

The best psycho thrillers start subtle and slowly reveal the character’s sinister traits. I liked Gordo in “The Gift,” Pete in “Unlawful Entry,” Jude in “Mother’s Boys,” David in “Fear”, and Alex in “Fatal Attraction” upon introduction because they were restrained. There’s no subtlety in Tessa’s introduction and we know right away she’s nuts!

“Unforgettable” borrows heavily from the films mentioned earlier. Whether it’s a steamy public sex scene (“Fear”), Julia receiving an anonymous gift on the porch (“The Gift”), or Tessa kicking someone out of her car after having sex (“Unlawful Entry”), the writers seem content writing a serious of homages to superior thrillers.

As far as logic goes, “Unforgettable” has zilch. How can someone have a fancy house, but can’t afford to pay their lawyer? Why are people so casual about Tessa’s controlling, abusive behavior? Why do most conversations revolve around men and how good they are in bed?

We’re also treated to an unwanted cliffhanger that will set up a sequel. SPOILER ALERT – the sequel (if it gets made at all) will have Tessa’s overbearing mother (Cheryl Ladd) as the villain. But why?! “Unforgettable” would have passed as a character study of a broken, unstable anti-hero; not the millionth psycho stalker movie.

Grade: D-