'Rampage' is big, (very) dumb fun while 'Truth or Dare' is a satisfactory one-off for horror junkies.
We all have a certain pain tolerance, but what’s our threshold for cinematic stupidity?
Consider “Rampage” as the ultimate test for the latter. Pass it, and you’ll enjoy Dwayne Johnson’s umpteenth variation on his stock character who destroys:
- The bad guys
- Anyone silly enough to stand in his way
- The monster du jour
Once again, he casually lets it be known he can crush everyone in this room, the next room and the adjacent building.
The story? The character arcs? The blow by blow behind “Rampage?” It all veers between simple and head-scratchingly dense. Case in point: firing dozens of rounds in an airplane … sans complications.
Yes, “Rampage” is that kind of movie.
Johnson stars as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who’d rather hang out with primates than people. That’s the character development kicking in, folks!
His favorite albino ape, George, experiences some radical changes after exposure to a genetic mutation formula with a complicated back story. Suffice to say George is growing, and losing his sidekick friendly persona.
Now, it’s up to George and a renegade scientist (Naomie Harris) to find a cure for George before he King Kongs the nearest urban center. Oh, and there are two other genetically altered beasties to worry about, too.
FAST FACT: Brian Colin and Jeff Nauman invented the Bally/Midway arcade game “Rampage” in 1985. Colin’s vision? “I imagined a game in which there was no wrong way to play.”
Like “Pacific Rim Uprising,” “Rampage” isn’t meant to tax your brain cells. Or even wake one up before the end credits. And in many ways that doesn’t matter.
Director Brad Peyton of “San Andreas” fame is no stranger to this technique. Keep things moving, cast Johnson as your hero and throw in some clever jokes to distract us.
This isn’t a Roland Emmerich joint where the dialogue literally hurts your ears. “Rampage’s” jokes mostly connect, delivered by Johnson in full movie star mode.
Want more dumb? Lovable George uses sign language so well he could have his own late night talk show for the hearing impaired. Last we checked gorillas’ brains aren’t that advanced.
Malin Akerman of “Billions” fame shows up to supply the requisite corporate villain and, spoiler alert, meet her maker in a very cool, and twisted, fashion.
Other modest wins for Team “Rampage?” The romance between Davis and Harris’ character isn’t overblown. Jeffrey Dean Morgan steals so many scenes with his quasi-southern drawl you’ll want to make a citizen’s arrest then think better of it.
“Rampage” is very loosely based on the classic video game where oversized creatures romp and stomp across a city landscape. The film adaptation expands the canvas so little you might as well arrive at the theater with a pocket full of quarters.
HiT or Miss: “Rampage” is the kind of dumb that only a charmer like Dwayne Johnson could make worthwhile. Barely.
BLUMHOUSE’S TRUTH OR DARE
The scariest thing about the new horror movie from Blumhouse? The notion of a sequel or even, gasp, a franchise.
Low on scares but rich in ethical quandries, “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” is exactly what you’d expect from a 21st century horror film. The acting is smoother than the genre’s rickety roots. The cast is an agreeable blend of pretty faces with a few bona fide standouts. And since Blumhouse titles wisely keep costs low, expect more truth, more dares coming you way soon.
Lucy Hale stars as Olivia, a do-gooder who wants to build homes, not quaff beers, over spring break. Her friends talk her out of it, steering her to a Mexican hot spot instead. It’s there whwere Olivia meets Carter (Landon Liboiron), a handsome spring breaker who lures them into a game of Truth or Dare.
Only the stakes are far higher than usual.
This game never ends, and if you lie or fail to complete a dare it’s curtains. Oh, and everyone around you will sport that “Joker smile” from Tim Burton’s “Batman.” When you have as few scares as this film does, even a mildly creepy element is a plus.
Silly set up? No doubt. The leads soldier on, aided by an occasionally witty script and some moral landmines. Olivia cares deeply about helping others, far more than her hedonistic pals. What happens when her best friends are in peril?
Can she make the right decisions? And what does “right” even mean?
Yes, we get the crush of selfies and talk of bi-curious kisses, just what a 2018 Millennial romp demands. We’re even introduced to a gay character in the group with a healthy sex drive. Hayden Setzo’s Brad gets to flirt with boys while on vacay and has a homphobic cop for a dad.
The actor’s appeal is genuine, and his arc offers a few welcome surprises. That’s unlike a sucker punch late in the movie playing off one very tired Catholic trope.
“Truth or Dare” doubles down on teen angst to distract us from the lack of scares. “OMG, do you like my boyfriend, too? Just how much?”
The introduction of a mystery character, who should be dubbed Mrs. Exposition in the credits, reveals a lazy adherence to horror movie formula.
Hale is charming throughout, and her friendship with Violett Beane’s character connects from their very first scene together.
That makes it superior to the kind of generic horror dreck we endured in the ’80s … but miles away from modern hits like “A Quiet Place,” “Get Out” and “It Follows.”
HiT or Miss: “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” isn’t the dawn of an exciting new horror brand. It’s more like a generic, but well crafted, installment in modern day horror.
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