Monday Morning Critic – 3.26.2011 – Franchises Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Needs To Rescue, The Room

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the big things I think 2012 is going to be remembered for is that it seems like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now officially Hollywood’s guy when it comes to injecting new life into franchises that need it. The Fast and the Furious was getting to the point where you needed someone with the outright physicality to match Vin Diesel who also double as an actual movie star in a franchise in desperate need of something new to make it feel more. Fast and Furious was a nice denouement to the franchise, if need be, but it was cheap and easy to make plus it had a built in audience to boot. The problem is that its two main stars have gotten stale.

Say what you want about the franchise but the one thing that’s nearly indisputable from it is that Diesel and Paul Walker aren’t movie stars; their guys who have a franchise people pay to see en masse but not much else. You can’t replace them in the franchise but you need someone for them to play off of to at least give them something new to do. There are only so many times you can race cars without running out of something to get them back into their vehicles with a purpose. And having this bad ass hunter after them makes plenty of sense. Why?

Because “The Rock” is a recent headliner of Wrestlemania and the closest thing to an American action hero whose films actually get into theatres this country has.

As such, it’s not a surprise he’d be put into an underwhelming franchise. Hence his inclusion into the Journey to the Center of the Earth franchise as well as G.I Joe. It’s amusing to think he’d replace Brendan Fraser in a franchise aimed at children, of course, because that’s Fraser’s normal turf. But it’s understandable because after Race to Witch Mountain Johnson is a guy who works well on screen when it comes to franchises with children co-stars.

It’s amusing to see that he’s completely taken over G.I Joe, though. It’s gone from “Channing Tatum and a Wayans brother, hurray” to “Screw those guys, time for THE ROCK and Bruce Willis.” It’s amusing that the franchise has basically been commandeered by the massive former WWF champion after they spent $200 million plus establishing Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans as super soldiers who save the world. With the way the trailer opens up, and the lack of the two in good chunks of it, my guess is that one or both gets killed early on and it’s now The Rock’s franchise.

Now they cut the budget down, add in some real actions stars and it feels like a much bigger deal than it did before. It was amusing to see the franchise get started with such a big budget because it didn’t feel like it. It felt like a $100 million August feature that’d make most of its money outside the U.S instead of a wannabe $200 million summer blockbuster trying to wiggle its way around the big releases of the year for a week or two all by itself. G.I Joe: Retaliation feels like a bigger film than Rise of Cobra did despite looking nowhere near as expensive looking.

It’s odd that this would happen to one potential franchise but Journey 2 had the same thing happen. Fraser is written off and Josh Hutcherson is now a sidekick to Johnson, who now has Vanessa Hudgens and Luis Guzman to play off of. It’s like you add in the Rock, subtract half the budget and voila! New franchise with built in name recognition, smaller budget and a potential profitability level increase. As much as Journey 2 felt bigger but it looked less impressive from an effects standpoint. And it got me thinking: other franchises need him in it.

He could probably spend the next decade taking over other franchises and making them good again, cruising all the way to the bank en route to it. The heavy lifting is done; he doesn’t have to establish anything about a particular cinematic universe in any aspect other than being this cool new part of it. It’s like adding an addition onto a house in a way. No matter what you use this new addition for you have an entirely new house that changes the way you look at everything. Hence I’ve decided to tap into something that’ll probably end up being prophetic in some odd way in the future. But first a couple rules, to establish this all first:

1. A franchise needs to have “The Rock” as a fresh injection of new blood into it.

Side Note: You should be able to eliminate the main character in the first moments of a new film, which they look they’re doing to G.I Joe: Retaliation, or give a returning character a new foil to battle against ala Fast Five. You’re essentially having Johnson there to restart an entirely new story, et al.

2. One or more sequels can’t have gone direct to video

3. It had to have underperformed at the box office at some point, either originally or in a sequel, or in that absence need a new direction to go with

4. The Rock couldn’t have been in it before

Rules aside, now time for the latest and greatest idea to come out of Monday Morning Critic. And I’ll announce each with a proper title, that way it can find an audience immediately in this era of a sequel, remake and prequel oriented Hollywood oriented studio system. Thus, I present the latest and greatest from my mind:

Top 18 Franchises that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Needs To Take Over Immediately

18. More Days of Thunder

Cole Trickle’s son Richard (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a wannabe race car driver finally given his chance to compete at the highest level.

17. Abbott, Costello & The Rock Meet the Wolfman

Three hapless freight handlers find themselves encountering the Wolfman (Gerard Butler)

16. Dirty Dancing: Biloxi Blues

A boy from the wrong side of the tracks (Johnson) meets a girl from the good part of town (Katherine Heigl) in 1960s Mississippi. He’s a dancing teacher, she’s a wannabe dancer and they fall in love despite everyone’s protestations.

15. Shaft Goes To Jersey

Shaft’s nephew (Johnson) is encouraged by his father (Samuel L Jackson) and his uncle (Richard Roundtree) to get into the private detective business out in New Jersey. His first case: bringing down the connected son (Emil Hirsch) of a powerful businessman (Adam Sandler) who’s framed a hooker (Mila Kunis) for a murder she didn’t commit.

14. Iron Eagle 5: Bumped Cowling

When the father of Doug Jr. (Johnson) is shot down in a nondescript Middle Eastern country, it’s up to the son to rescue him with the help of his old squadron leader (Tommy Lee Jones).

13. Fireproof 2

Mike (Johnson) has a problem with pornography that’s affecting his marriage. It’s up to Kirk Cameron and former U.S Senator Rick Santorum to help him kick the habit.

12. Why Did I Get Married Three

When a sexy temptress (Gabrielle Union) lands on the scene of a family trying to stick together, it’s up to a committed therapist (Johnson) and his wacky Aunt Madea (Tyler Perry) to keep them together.

11. 48 More Hours

Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is still a drunken, racist LAPD detective. Now he has to work with Jimmy Hammond (Johnson), Reggie’s son, as they chase down a killer (Michael C. Hall) and his partner (Anthony Mackie).

10. Steve Carter of Mars

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) dies at the hands of aliens pissed off at the events of John Carter. His brother Steve (Johnson) transports over to Mars to avenge his death and get some alien poontang.

9. Crank 3: Get Crankier

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) ultimately didn’t survive the events of Crank 2. Now Asian criminals are after his brother Ford (Johnson) and his super powered heart.

8. Red Rabbit

The first adventures of CIA agent Jack Ryan (The Rock) as he saves the world.

7. Escape from Cleveland

The President of the U.S (Dennis Haybert) is on Air Force One when it’s hijacked by criminals landing it in the worst prison in the world: Cleveland. It’s up to super badass Snake Plissken (Johnson) to rescue him. It was previously titled Maverick Carter’s How to Be A Player.

6. The Twilight Saga: Bloodlust

After Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) have their union and their child blessed at the end of Breaking Dawn, they face a new threat: Helios (Johnson), a man who can transform into a dragon. The supernatural world must unite to face the threat of crappy acting and special effects.

5. Police Academy 8: Even Guttenberg Turned This Down

The city needs more cops and new classes of police officer trainees are brought in, led by Hightower’s son (Johnson) and a group of new, wacky recruits.

4. All Dogs Go To Heaven 3: Some of ‘Em Go To Hell, Unfortunately

A dog dies and finds himself in hell, where the Devil (Dwayne Johnson) challenges animals to fiddle contests and such.

3. Thunder in Paradise 4: Lighting Strikes

Hurricane Spencer (Johnson) and his buddy Bru (Kevin Kline) battle criminals with their high tech boat.

2. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Minimum Security

Riddick (Vin Diesel) escapes from people looking to hunt him down again. Now an intergalactic bounty hunter (Johnson) who does all sorts of badass things is on his trail. The universe isn’t big enough to contain both of ‘em. Once again they use the same special effects to make normal sized Diesel look as big as jacked up Johnson.

1. Harry Potter and the Calcutta Ladder Match of Doom

Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has somehow managed to not die in Deathly Hallows after all. Now it’s up to the older, more mature and veteran owner of a Bowflex Harry Potter (Johnson) to use his wizardry skills in the deadliest kind of fight wizards can get into: a Ladder Match!

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Room

Ahh … perhaps the worst film ever made. Or so goes the reputation of The Room, a film that found success through midnight screenings ala The Rocky Horror Picture Show and word of mouth like many bad films like Troll 2. It’s been labeled as amongst the worst films of all time for a variety of reasons.

The key reason I’ve always thought is because its director, Tommy Wiseau, has continually defended it as being top rate cinema. I’ve always thought that people would shrug and write this off as another bad film if it wasn’t for the efforts of Wiseau, who has this bizarre European accent that sounds like a cross between Count Chocula and John Malkovich’s in Rounders, to promote this film as a genuinely good film. It presents a cruel irony of sorts for lack of a better term; Wiseau genuinely thinks the film is a brilliant masterwork of cinema and defends it from people who mock it ruthlessly as being a horrible film. But there’s an odd truth buried between his defense and people’s dissections of it as bad cinema.

It’s actually not all that bad. Not all that good, certainly a rancid and awful film, but it’s certainly not the worst film ever made. It’s merely just bad. It just is an enjoyable sort of bad in a way that many bad films don’t have.

The Room follows a messed up love triangle. Johnny (Wiseau) is a successful banker of sorts who supports his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and an underage kid (Phillip Haldiman). Unbeknown to Johnny, though, Lisa is screwing his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) whom she sees as her true love. Johnny has no clue, of course, and the film follows the three as they go through a bizarre love triangle that ends tragically.

The reason why the film has gained a cult following is because it’s so aggressively bad over a good sized running time. And it’s not bad for bad’s sake like plenty of “bad” films try to pull off. This is a film that is trying to make itself work as the usual sort of melodramatic indie that struggles to find an audience.

Nothing in this film works; it even has a scene where the main characters throw around a football while wearing tuxedoes that has nothing to do with any plot point at all. For a film that allegedly cost $6 million, a fairly lavish production budget for a vanity project funded entirely by Wiseau, it looks like a couple of guys messing around with an HD camera and a film coming out of it. Initially conceived of as a play, and then turned into a book, he opted to put it on as a film and into infamy.

The Room is just a spectacle of a film for all the wrong reasons. One viewing is probably more than it deserves but if you’re going to intentionally waste the better part of two hours you could do worse.


What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Mirror, Mirror – Snow White as seen through the eyes of Tarsem Singh.

Skip It – Dear God this looks rancid.

Wrath of the Titans – Sam Worthington has to save ancient Greece one more time, years after he did it.

See It – The most expensive Iron Maiden music video ever made, perhaps, but there’s a certain charm to this apparent newfound franchise.

Bully (2012) – Follows five kids and their families over a year as they deal with the effects of bullying.

See It – It’s this year’s big documentary, like 2010’s Waiting for Superman.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz.

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