Rev Simon Carver reviews the best of the new releases for June, including some earthquake disasters and spy thrillers. Oh, and Miranda Hart.
Rating 7½/10 12A 114 mins
Disaster films tend to follow a tried and tested pattern – something bad happens and a hero emerges who, against all odds, saves his wife/girlfriend/son/daughter. The hero is rarely a heroine – Hollywood having adopted the Pauline model of leadership. Rest assured that San Andreas does not deviate from this successful formula. Not all the clichéd characters are present here – for example the corrupt official who causes/fails to prevent the disaster à la Mayor Vaughan in Jaws. However, we do have the cowardly ex-wife’s new partner and the ‘crazy’ scientist who predicts the disaster, so it’s not all bad.
It is well-known that California is likely to suffer a devastating earthquake at some time in the future and in San Andreas it happens. Fortunately, when it hits Los Angeles and San Francisco, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson is on hand to rescue his estranged wife and daughter. Think Bryan Mills – Lee Neeson’s character in Taken – but replace Eastern European kidnappers with an earthquake and you get the picture. The story is predictable, but the effects are predictably good. If a viewer has a good imagination, there are even some theological ideas here, as in Johnson’s character advising survivors to ‘lean against something firm’. Maybe it is stretching things to see him as a type of Christ – the ‘Solid Rock’, while all around is sinking sand.
Rating 7/10 15 120 mins
If you have seen Bridesmaids or The Heat you will have a good idea of what to expect in Spy. The humour could best be described as ‘broad’ and there is plentiful use of the F-word. Paul Feig, who directed Melissa McCarthy in those films, is in charge here and his star extends her range to include put-upon backroom girl in addition to her usual ‘woman not to be messed with’ persona. Jason Statham sends himself up as an old-school secret agent who would think nothing of jumping from a skyscraper with only a raincoat for a parachute. Miranda Hart plays, well, Miranda Hart, or a least she plays the same character as in Miranda and one might wonder how she ever ended up working for the CIA. Are there so few American spies available that they have to recruit British sit-com stars? Spies has some very funny moments, but viewers might get a little tired of the adjectival unoriginality.
Rating 6/10 12A 96 min
Spooks was released at the cinema last month and if double-crossing spy films is your genre, then go and watch that and not this. Survivor is notable for very little, except, perhaps, Pierce Brosnan’s unusual turn as a baddie. The plot was both predictable and porous and, in hindsight, 6/10 seems unduly generous.