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the rock

We’ve waiting years and years for a movie based on the popular DOOM series to surface, and that its here, I almost wish we were still waiting. Like many of the video game-based movies before it, including Resident Evil and the atrocious works of Uwe Boll, DOOM disregards most of the classic points from the games in favor of some screenwriters “take” on what they would have done. Most of the time this practice results in a clichéd movie banking on the name of a popular game series in order to guarantee a built in audience and secure a profit on the moderately budgeted picture.

I won’t lie when I say I had high hopes for DOOM. After being stuck in development hell for what seems a better part of my short 22 year life the series has finally come to big screen with the basics intact, but not much else.

DOOM very loosely centers on the story of DOOM 3 (PC/Xbox). In the game you are a lone marine transferred to the UAC (Union Aerospace Corporation) base on Mars where a gateway to Hell has been opened up and demons begin to run amok. The movie puts your character, John Grimm, into a squad of canon fodder transported to Mars where experiments with a long extinct race have resulted in “monsters” being created. Naturally they aren’t too happy with the human population and proceed to thin out their numbers.

There’s a lot to like about DOOM. The atmosphere of DOOM is accurately presented on screen with dark, dank corridors littered with steam and body parts. The monsters, created by Stan Winston Studios, look good, even if their departure from the source material is evident and we never get a really good look at them.

To appease fans of the series there’s a slight dose of series canon thrown in for good measure. The oft-talked about BFG (called the Bio Force Gun) is present, and the effects are well done. As mentioned before both UAC (as a Umbrella-like heartless corporation) and the series’ monsters are here, but the part that should be DOOM-flavored, the story, really missteps.

For one the absence of the demons from Hell storyline is very disappointing considering all three games (and expansion packs) in the video game series have made use of this. The scriptwriters seemed more inclined to make the story believable via mapping the human genome, but DOOM was never meant to be a science lesson. Early drafts of the script rumored that the movie wouldn’t even take place on Mars, and while this was corrected, there is still evidence of this by the marines having to use a wormhole like travel device to reach the red planet rather than a simple transport.

Series-based nitpicks aside; the movie still isn’t able to stand on its two feet very well, almost like a drunken prom date who shows signs of becoming coherent but simply drifts off into vomiting her Black Angus dinner up. Karl Urban does an adequate job of portraying a likeable protagonist who the audience can follow throughout the film, while the dialog is choppy and cheesy; he makes his way through it well. The Rock is some-what miscast as Sarge for the sheer fact that he doesn’t need to act like a Drill Sergeant to be taken seriously as a leader. This is the next action star in the making and we’re left to see him flounder around with poorly written “tough-guy” dialog. Overall the rest of the cast is only there for a few memorable death sequences and they aren’t given enough camera time to really mention.

Finally, the most talked about part of the film, the first person action sequence, came off better than I thought it would. The series was accurately represented via this cinematic gimmick and the sequence was especially fun to watch, and ended with many gamers have done before, shooting at themselves in a mirror reflection.

DOOM is a hit or miss film with an average storyline muddled by Hollywood and their tinkering with an established franchise with an established, and rabid, fan-base. While I’d like to say the film did everything I expected it to, I’d certainly be lying. DOOM did enough to warrant a sequel, and if it does, hopefully the person writing it will actually play the game.

The Rock’s breakout performance was in the prequel to The Mummy, entitled The Scorpion King, where he reprised his role of the title character originally established in The Mummy Returns. Next up was last year’s The Rundown, and while the story was nothing to get excited about, it was the professional wrestler’s onscreen charisma with Seann William Scott that gave the film such an edge. Now the Rock is starring in MGM’s update to Walking Tall, a story of a man who returns home from the service to find his small, quaint town tainted with corruption, and just like the films before it, The Rock manages to save a film from mediocrity by simply appearing on screen.

The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) is Chris Vaughn, an Army vet who returns home after leaving the service to get reacquainted with his old life, visit old friends, and resume the life he had before leaving. It seems as though things have changed, and the town he remembers has also changed quite a bit. The economy supporting mill has been replaced by a seedy casino, and small mom and pop shops have been forced out by adult bookstores and major chains. Even without the story itself, you can see the film as a notice that small time shops and businesses are being forced out by the powering hands of Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Chris, after viewing most of these changes first hand, settles in with his parents, and meets up with his old friend Ray (Johnny Knoxville), who just spent a few years in lockdown, and Jay (Neal McDonough), who closed the mill and opened the town’s casino. Chris soon learns of some of the sordid dealings going down at the casino, and after calling foul, and beating a few guards down, he is finally subdued and “punished.” After his nephew overdoses on crystal meth, which he received from the guys at the casino, Chris goes to town with a big piece of wood and a lot of anger. Eventually, Chris will be elected as the new sheriff, much to the distress of Jay, and now his life, and that of his families is in danger.

The film itself has one glaring problem; it’s only 75 minutes long, which makes it feel much shorter than it actually is. The flow of the film never is broken up with either action or story keeping the narrative from drifting too far off course, but the film really lacks a second act. We go right from Chris coming back to town, almost immediately to him becoming sheriff, having one “battle,” and then the film ends, seemingly with the standard happy, Hollywood ending, even though it is based on true story.

As I stated before the film is carried mostly by The Rock, and in part by Johnny Knoxville’s comedic timing. As he did with Seann William Scott previously, The Rock shows the ability to be teamed up with just about anyone, and bring the film alive with the interaction between the characters. The characters themselves get about as much developing as they could in such a short film, and occasionally standard Hollywood clichés pop-up to keep you grounded, and from getting too much into the film.

Even if it only came up short by 15 minutes from being traditionally considered “feature film length,” Walking Tall seems almost like half the film is missing, but maybe director Kevin Bray kept us from having to sift through 15 minutes of filler material before we get to the ass-kicking. Sure the film has its problems, and even though it is based on a true story, you still get the Hollywood glazed-over feel from it, like maybe too much liberty was taken in adapting the film to the screen, again, but with get performances from The Rock and Johnny Knoxville you will still leave happy, and, hopefully, walking tall.

The Rock has arrived, pure and simple. The Rundown may be a simple movie, with a simple storyline that wouldn’t normally be considered a star-making film, but for the wrestler turned actor, the movie represents a coming of age and a succession to the throne.

Please note, The Rundown would be nothing without the performances of the main actors, in fact I’m betting that they were specifically written, for the most part, for the thespians that step into their shoes. The film starts off in a night club where Beck (The Rock) confronts a football player on some past bets he placed, and his lack of payment. After a hilariously awkward first confrontation, and a one-liner from The Terminator himself, Beck returns to collect what he came for and opens the film with a very well choreographed, entertaining fight sequence. The film has style and this is evident in the way the director approaches the fighting in the film, as well as the dialog. It sounds simple and trivial, but the added ESPN-like character introductions in the beginning were very, very cool and never overused.

After Beck gets the short end of the stick from his bookie employer he is sent on one last job to Brazil where Travis (Seann William Scott), his boss’ son, is hiding out from some people he shouldn’t have crossed. Once Beck meets up with Travis the movie really begins. But where would a movie be without a quirky, twisted antagonist in the form of Christopher Walken’s Hatcher? Walken brings to the screen the hilarity we usually only get to see on his guest stints on SNL. Scott, brining himself away from the peanut-brained Stifler from American Wedding also delivers his usual charismatic performance as a novice-archeologist hunting for a rare find in the jungle.

The film is just one of those movies that comes along, usually out of no where, and broadsides you as a fun, witty, enjoyable piece of filmmaking that isn’t fishing for an Oscar, but isn’t settling for the lowest common denominator either. What you get is a cleverly put together buddy/action comedy (sans the buddy part) that features two of the hottest stars in Hollywood trekking through the Brazilian jungle. Being strung up in trees and violated by monkeys just adds to the fun.

The action scenes are what you pay for, and action is what you get. Beck, in the beginning, refuses to use guns, opting to only punish his victims with his fists, but in a hairy situation two shotguns make their appearance and the crowd went nuts. As I explained in my review of Underworld, it is rare that you see an audience get so involved in a movie that they cheer along with every gun blast, but it happened here.

The best reason I can determine for this interaction is The Rundown is an extremely fun movie. It won’t win any awards, it won’t even be nominated for them, but anyone who makes it to the movies this weekend, or next, to see this film will be pleasantly surprised they ever doubted the acting abilities and uber-coolness of Dwayne Johnson after his no-line portrayal of The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns and his staring role in the film named after that character.

Truth be told The Rock makes this film enjoyable, and even if you aren’t one to watch wrestling (which I am not) you will still have fun with such a pop-culture icon as The Rock. The Rundown is one of the best reasons to go to the movies this fall.

While a heated dispute on the Entertainmentopia Forums over the past few days as to the acting merits of Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) all of those doubts and inhibitions can be put to rest after viewing last weekend’s The Scorpion King, because without The Rock, this just wouldn’t be a good movie. Take what I say with a grain of salt, but The Rock can act, and act very well. While the script of The Scorpion King doesn’t leave much room for a story, or fleshed out lines and character development we are used to seeing in the two previous movies in The Mummy franchise, King uses the amazing screen presence of The Rock, and some over the top action to get the job done.

The Scorpion King tells the story of Mathayus (The Rock), one of three professional assassins left of an ancient race that live in the desert badlands of Egypt before the time of the pharaohs and the pyramids. Mathayus is hired by a coalition of the remaining nomadic clans to seek out the sorceress (Kelly Hu) being held by Memnon, the evil ruler of the land. He uses the sorceresses powers to win every battle, and is slowly conquering the known land. When Mathayus discovers her, he kidnaps the beauty and retreats to the safety of the desert.

After a series of action-filled battles, and one very cool outing in a cave during a sand storm, the movie makes its way to the final battle at the city of Gomorrah where some of the movies’ best action sequences take place.

The Scorpion King is like a low-budget Mummy because of it’s small $60 million dollar value. The special effects are notably toned down when compared to the two previous movies in the series, and the movie is also notably shorter. On the plus side, Universal, the studio releasing this movie, should not have any trouble making the movie into a very nice cash cow.

The acting from most of the supporting characters is on par with the cheese flavored acting of the first two movies, nothing should be taken very seriously for the fact that it isn’t meant to be. The movie rides on the cheese-factor to give it the edge to stand out from all of the other movies set in ancient Egypt. While the movie theatre I saw this in had the volume way to low for such an action fest, it still was a great show.

The only thing that really bugs you about it is you know what happens to the character in the later movie. Wanting him to win and become king makes you feel like you are going for the bad guy, which is almost sad because I like the character more as a good guy than anything else, but that is just me, and I have been told I am a nut-case sometimes.

You will have to look beyond some of the major inconsistencies in the character between the early scenes in The Mummy Returns and the entire Scorpion King movie, but what you get in the end is an enjoyable movie experience that you can get a tub-o-butter a Cherry Pepsi and enjoy one and a half hours of guilty entertainment.

Closing Note: The Scorpion King was number one on opening weekend with an estimated $36.2 million dollars.