Tim Grierson on the Critic-Proof Charm of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson


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When you see posters advertising his movies, he’s identified as Dwayne Johnson. But nobody calls him that. We all just call him the Rock. There’s something incredibly telling about that. One name — the one we see on posters — is the name of an actor, a movie star. The other — the one we all prefer — belongs to his old life, when he was more of a cartoon character than a real person. But even Johnson seems to understand this reality, even embrace it. He wants to be an action hero, someone taken seriously in Hollywood, but his movies are almost beside the point. He’s bigger than the movies he stars in. And he’s definitely better than them.

Friday sees the release of “Snitch,” which will start screening for most critics this week. I haven’t seen it yet, but I find myself optimistic that it’ll be good. There is no reason I should feel this way. When you look at his recent output, it’s a mixed bag. He’s fun in brief comedic roles in “Get Smart” and “The Other Guys,” essentially spoofing his own tough-guy persona. But then you have the utterly terrible family fare like “Tooth Fairy,” where he was billed as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the so-so action-drama “Faster” where his grit mostly went to waste. Most times, I walk out of his films liking him but not liking the film much at all. Even when the film he’s in is a dog, he’s incredibly charismatic, and he’s funnier than just about any other pure action star out there. Outside of Jason Statham, there’s no movie star for whom I so consistently give the benefit of the doubt, no matter how many times he’s disappointed me.

Before he was an actor, he was a wrestler. A fairly successful one known as the Rock. He looked the part with his rippling muscles and cocky demeanor. But he also seemed to understand that most people know wrestling is fake, and so he walked a delicate line, acknowledging the absurdity of the whole thing while at the same time playing into the make-believe. His film career really hasn’t been that different. He knows we all call him the Rock and that his movies aren’t high art. He plays the tough guy, but a tough guy who gets that tough guys are kind of a joke. He won’t deny you the pleasure of enjoying him as a tough guy, but he also doesn’t take it so seriously.

This isn’t to suggest that people who go to his movies think of them as knowing self-parodies. Judging by the commercials for “Snitch,” the movie looks very much like it’s in the same vein as “Faster,” positioning Johnson as an action hero who’s comfortable with drama, albeit that of the B-movie kind. The guy’s clearly ambitious, and he’s willing to try anything. He’ll do inspirational sports movies (“Gridiron Gang”), he’ll do nervy indie dramas (“Southland Tales”), and he’ll do the franchise stuff (“The Scorpion King,” “Fast Five,” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”). But his appeal lies in his ability to not seem like a comer: Whether it’s on his Twitter feed or in his “Saturday Night Live” appearances, he works the aw-shucks self-deprecation with such sincerity that if he’s faking it’s his best-ever performance. He’s been on the big screen for more than 10 years now, and yet he’s still able to keep our expectations in check. We may not like his movies but, weirdly, we don’t blame him. He’s that one kid on the baseball team who’s really likable and fun to be around, and who cares if he can’t hit? You just enjoy being with him.

That can’t last forever, of course. Eventually audiences will get tired of him, or a newer actor will swoop in and steal the parts that he used to get. But for now, Johnson is unique among movie stars, and that uniqueness is worth celebrating, even if it does mean sitting through junk like “Journey 2.” Frankly, at this point the movies are just an excuse to have him around in the culture cracking jokes and being all Rock-like. There are plenty of movie stars with more depth than him. But there aren’t many who seem to enjoy their stardom as much as he does — and make it so enjoyable for the rest of us.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

Jake Johnson

Jake Brings the Funny to CB!B!

Jake Johnson’s 10 Funniest Quotes

Catch Jake Johnson on Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

There’s just something likable about Jake Johnson. Sure, he often plays surly drunks in everything from indie films like Drinking Buddies to Fox sitcoms like The New Girl, (heck, he’s even the inspiration for Drunk History) but off-screen he’s known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. In honor of Jake’s guest spot on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought it was high time to share some of his most quotable moments from film and TV. See if you can spot just how drunk he is below.

1. On his resemblance to a turtle…

Ora TV

Ora TV

2. In rain or shine, the sex mail man will always be there.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

3. Beware Jurassic World’s most fearsome dinosaur!

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

4. Outer space horse = unicorn?

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

5. Wasn’t there a “Real Sex” episode about that?

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

6. Jake always has your back.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

7. Age is just a number. A large, scary number.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

8. Personal hygiene is important.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

9. To be fair, John Lithgow’s minister character was pretty scary.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

10. Always drink responsibly, lest you forget where you put your keys.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

Documentary Now Dronez

Fred Roasts Vice

Fred Armisen Roasted Vice CEO as His ‘Dronez’ Character From Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! returns in 2016.

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Normally, receiving a prestigious award and praise from your peers would be a validating affair, but it’s a decidedly different experience when every facet of your personal and professional life is ruthlessly mocked by a dais of roasters. Such was the case for Vice CEO and gonzo journalist Shane Smith who got both barrels from comics and associates in honor of his Frank Stanton Award win for Excellence in Communication.

Along with Johnny Knoxville, HBO CEO Richard Plepler (who referenced Smith’s recent collaboration with President Obama by joking, “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high…”), and other media elites, Fred Armisen took Smith to the mat while dressed as Jeremiah, one of the many gonzo journalists who can be seen getting in over their heads in the Documentary Now! episode “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon.”

Fred Armisen Dronez

And in case you missed Fred and Bill Hader as the Vice-like reporters of “Dronez,” you can stream the entire episode of Documentary Now! for free right now.


Todd Margaret at Comic Con

David Cross Wrote a Hilarious Letter to Todd Margaret Fans at New York Comic Con

Todd Margaret returns on January 7th, 2016 at 10P on IFC.

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As you may have heard, David Cross is returning to IFC for a third season of Todd Margaret. If you were lucky enough to be at New York Comic Con, you may have seen a sneak peek of the first three episodes of the six-episode series. (Everyone else will have to wait until Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 10p ET/PT.)

David Cross was really sorry that he couldn’t be at the New York Comic Con Todd Margaret panel, but as he explains in a personal letter to fans below, his contract very clearly states that he won’t get out of bed for less than $2,500. He had no choice but to prolong his stay in bed by writing you, the loyal fans, a letter to explain what he’s been up to and why you should watch the new season of Todd Margaret. He even gives a few hints about Season three and how you could possibly win a car. Not really, but you should read David’s very funny letter below.



Goon Squads

The 9 Most Unruly Hockey Teams in Movie History

Get on the ice when Benders premieres Thursday, Oct. 1st at 10P on IFC.

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There are heartwarming sports movies, and then there are hockey movies. Unlike the glossy nostalgia of The Natural, or the goofy shenanigans of Space Jam, hockey movies tend to have a bit more edge. And by edge, we mean crazed dudes kicking the crap out of each other. Here are some big screen hockey teams who left it all out on the ice, along with a decent amount of blood.

9. Thunder Bay Bombers, Youngblood

If Roadhouse proved anything, it’s that you don’t mess with Swayze and walk away with your throat inside your neck. But that didn’t stop the bad guy Bombers, whose goon-in-chief Carl Racki hit the dirty dancer so hard they had to put a plate in his head.

8. Monroeville Zombies, Zack and Miri Make a Porno

They may not be pros, but the rec league Zombies sure knew how to bring the pain. Particularly their goalie, who had the helpful habit of skating out and attacking opposing players.

7. The Annapolis Angels, H-E Double Hockey Sticks

When one thinks of Disney hockey movies from the ’90s, the first thing that comes to mind is always…H-E Double Hockey Sticks? Well, maybe not the first thing, but this ragtag group of underdogs also deserves a place in our hearts. They might not be as famous as The Mighty Ducks, but they did use their skills on the ice to save Matthew Lawrence’s soul from Satan in the form of Rhea Perlman from Cheers. Seriously. This is a movie that happened.

6. Lansing Ice Wolves, Tooth Fairy

The only thing more intense than the hits Ice Wolves star Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson) laid on opposing players are the life lessons he learned after becoming a real life Tooth Fairy. Sure, the rest of his teammates weren’t the most fully fleshed out lot, but The Rock is like ten men in one, so that’s an unruly team right there.

5. The “Saturday Game” team from Mystery, Alaska

This team of rowdy townies aren’t afraid to bang the mayor’s wife or shoot a guy in the foot. What do you expect when your leader is Russell Crowe? Mediocre pub rock and a phone to the head. Okay, I guess he does that too.

4. The Nuggets, MVP: Most Valuable Primate

The Nuggets exploited a loophole in the junior hockey league bylaws which didn’t expressly state that chimps can’t play hockey. You’d think that would’ve been implied, though.

3. The Mighty Ducks from The Mighty Ducks franchise

The Ducks stole pucks and hearts over the course of three hit ’90s movies thanks to the mighty fists of Fulton Reed, the superior goalie skills of Goldberg and the, uh, getting a DUI and being forced to coach a pee-wee hockey team abilities of Emilio Estevez.

2. The Halifax Highlanders, Goon

The Highlanders recruit a Masshole bouncer to crack heads in a movie that’s basically Road House on ice. Who says Canadians are nice?

1. The Charlestown Chiefs, Slap Shot

Glasses-wearing goons The Hanson Brothers brought The Chiefs to the championship by spilling a lot of blood on the ice.



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