Playing Catch-Up — Rampage; What’s Up, Doc?; River of No Return


Rampage (Brad Peyton, 2018). I fully understand the wisdom in calibrating expectations accordingly for a movie adaptation of a 1986 video game that was little more than giant monsters knocking down buildings. Basic coherence isn’t too much to ask for, is it? Dwayne Johnson plays David Okoye, a San Diego primatologist whose favorite charge, an albino gorilla named George (Jason Liles, in a motion capture performance), is infected by a virus that crashes to earth after a satellite cracks up in orbit. George, like a wolf and a crocodile in different parts of the country, grows to ludicrous size. Then they all start, well, rampaging. The movie is pure nonsense without being fun, throwing basic logic overboard for no good reason. Johnson is admittedly a remarkable human specimen, but I doubt he can just shake off a gunshot wound. As a government agent, Jeffrey Dean Morgan strolls in with his tedious charming asshole schtick.


whats up doc

What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972). One year after the sublime The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich arguably expressed his truest creative self by creating a modern version of Hollywood screwball comedy. It’s sublime, too. in a dynamic that blatantly, brilliantly apes Bringing Up Baby, Ryan O’Neal plays an uptight scientist, and Barbra Streisand, as vibrantly charismatic as she’s ever been onscreen, is the daffy dame who discombobulates him on the way to inevitable infatuation. What’s Up, Doc? zigs, zags, and zings, joyfully tossing in hurled pies, hotel-demolishing slapstick, and a wild car chase across the slopes of San Francisco that includes moving men toting a sheet of plate glass across a street at exactly the wrong time. Bogdanovich’s timing throughout is Swiss watch perfection.


no return

River of No Return (Otto Preminger, 1954). This Hollywood Western stars Robert Mitchum as a rancher living down some past malfeasance (somewhat noble malfeasance, of course, but malfeasance nonetheless). Through fairly familiar genre circumstances, the rancher needs to take a treacherous raft ride down a roaring river, with his young song (Tommy Rettig) and a comely music performer (Marilyn Monroe) onboard. River of No Return is Otto Preminger in his shrewd workmanlike mode, but he’s better at that than most. He uses the widescreen to capture grand Technicolor vistas, which is sometimes undermined by green screen work that’s hopelessly stiff, even for the time. Both Mitchum and Monroe are agreeably settled into variants on their justly valued movie star personae. The flare-ups of retrograde sexual politics are regrettable. Like the special effects, they’re only partially excused by the copyright date.

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