Judge Dan Mancini's nickname is "The Pebble."
Our reviews of Doom: Unrated Extended Edition (published February 20th, 2006), The Rundown (published May 17th, 2004), The Scorpion King (published September 16th, 2002), and The Scorpion King (Blu-Ray) (published July 18th, 2008) are also available.
"We're going in hot!"—Sarge, Doom
Most professional wrestlers who make a go at movie stardom fail miserably (see Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny or "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in They Live). The exception to the rule is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. There was nothing particularly promising with the one-time World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champion's movie debut—a smallish, essentially non-speaking part in The Mummy Returns—but Johnson's subsequent work showed he's a quick thespian study with surprising comedic gifts. His imposing build, athletic prowess, and surprising knack for comedy have combined to make him a unique action hero in his headlining ventures as well as a dynamic supporting player in movies like Be Cool, starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman. The Rock is a bona fide movie star.
The Rock Collection bundles newly released Blu-ray editions of The Rundown and Doom with the previously released The Scorpion King for a beefy dose of Johnson's action-comedy-drama skills.
Facts of the Case
• The Scorpion King (2002)
• The Rundown (2003)
• Doom (2005)
The Rock's career as a leading man got off to an inauspicious start with The Scorpion King, a clunky actioner with an off-putting tone. The ancient Egypt setting and muscular action is mismatched by jokey, self-aware, and much too modern dialogue. Director Chuck Russell (Eraser) intended the movie to be brainless summer tent pole fun, I'm sure; instead it's just brainless. Those familiar with The Rock's more recent work will be surprised by how bad he is in The Scorpion King. His line reads are stiff, and his reactions overplayed. Not surprisingly, he handles himself well in the action sequences, but even they feel silly and over-choreographed. Steven Brand's Memnon is a physically small (at least compared to The Rock) and inconsequential villain with none of the forbidding supernatural presence of the Mummy flicks' Imhotep. Kelly Hu is easy on the eyes, but her chaste romance with Mathayus lacks chemistry. A third-tier action flick at best, The Scorpion King is a poor imitation of Stephen Sommers's Mummy films, which are, in turn, poor imitations of Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones series.
The Scorpion King Blu-ray offered up in this three-pack is no different than the disc released in 2008. The 1080p transfer offers sharp detail, attractive colors, and a generally celluloid appearance full of depth and fine, smooth grain. The DTS HD 5.1 audio mix is as bold, bombastic, and well-mixed as one would expect of a big-budget Hollywood action movie like The Scorpion King.
Supplements aren't nearly as paltry as they appear on paper. Russell delivers a decent feature-length commentary that at least demonstrates he was passionate about the project. Much of the interview material, production footage, and storyboards from the featurettes on the SD DVD have been reformatted into a U-Control picture-in-picture feature than you can access in-movie.
A year after the release of The Scorpion King, The Rock took his second turn as a leading man in director Peter Berg's action-comedy, The Rundown. Oh, what a difference a year makes. Whether because of his growing experience in front of the camera, more capable direction by Berg, or a screenplay with a modern sensibility that better fits his style, The Rock is considerably better here than in The Scorpion King—in fact, he's really, really good. The Rundown is a blast, a high octane cocktail of over-the-top action and comedy. Beck is an engaging hero, a bounty hunter and enforcer with an almost genteel affability, perfectly exemplified in an opening sequence during which professional obligation requires that he thrash the entire offensive line of an NFL team even though he doesn't want to spoil their playoff chances. Seann William Scott is solid as Beck's adversarial sidekick, carrying much of the comedic load while doing a fine job keeping up with The Rock on the action front. Christopher Walken is bizarre, evil, and entirely threatening as the villain who stands in Beck's way. In addition to the fine performances all around, the movie benefits from sure-footed direction by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), Andy Cheng's (Rush Hour) manic fight choreography, and stunning Hawaii locations standing in for the Brazilian rainforest. The Rundown is beautiful, badass fun from start to finish.
The movie has an intentionally over-saturated color design that is perfectly reproduced in this Blu-ray's 1080p VC-1 transfer. Jungle greens, especially, pop off the screen. Detail is crisp enough to reveal pores on actors' skin during close-ups. The picture has an intentional layer of fine grain that gives it an appealing, celluloid look. The only noticeable flaw in the image is some isolated macro blocking in out-of-focus backgrounds. As with The Scorpion King, audio is presented in DTS HD 5.1. The mix is amazing. The full soundstage is used to great effect. Even in the movie's rare quiet moments, the rear soundstage is used to create an immersive ambient space. During action sequences, directional panning ensures that you hear bullets whizzing by your head, while the LFE channel delivers plenty of thunder.
All of the supplements from the previously released DVD are carried over onto this Blu-ray. There are two audio commentaries: one by Berg, and the other by producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham. There are also a number of video features (all presented in 480p), beginning with a deleted scenes reel (13:50) made up mostly of alternate and extended takes. "Rumble in the Jungle" (10:32) examines the fight choreography and The Rock's prowess as an action lead/stunt man. "The Amazon, Hawaii Style" (5:27) is a behind-the-scenes look at how American's 50th state was used as a stand-in for Brazil. "Appetite for Destruction" (8:20) looks at the movie's major stunt sequences. "The Rundown Uncensored" (6:08) introduces us to Kamila, the baboon used in a key sequence in the movie. In "Running Down the Town" (4:09), production designer Tom Duffield talks about designing and building the Helldorado set. Finally, "Walken's World" (5:33) is a too-brief glimpse into the bundle of awesomeness that is Christopher Walken.
The disc is also BD-Live enabled.
The third entry in The Rock Collection is Doom, director Andrzej Bartkowiak's (Romeo Must Die) adaptation of the first-person shooter video game of the same name. The movie is action-packed, but entirely predictable—in large part because it plays like a piss-poor imitation of James Cameron's Aliens (or John McTiernan's Predator). A not-so-obscure law of crappy cinema dictates that the Act One obnoxiousness of cocky and arrogant space marines is directly proportional to the severity with which alien monsters will hand them their asses in Acts Two and Three. Doom zealously adheres to this law, presenting us with a hardened team of warriors with nicknames like "The Kid" and "Destroyer," who spend their time fondling their weapons, insulting each other, dropping f-bombs, and talking about pussy. We know from the outset that most of these dudes will be crying like little girls before the story's finished, and the movie doesn't disappoint. The plot and action sequences are similarly predictable. Worst of all, the movie culminates in a bloody set piece that reproduces the visual style of a first-person shooter, proving once and for all that scary and intense video game conventions don't necessarily translate into scary and intense cinema. On the plus side, The Rock stretches his thespian muscles a bit, playing a humorless, no-nonsense sergeant with a mean streak and a shocking capacity for putting aside his own humanity for the sake of following orders. The role isn't as expansive or challenging as Beck in The Rundown (it isn't as fun, either), but it is a change of pace and The Rock proves adept at playing a heavy.
Doom may be a lousy flick, but it looks great on Blu-ray. Black levels are deep and supple, while the stylized icy color palette is rendered with perfect accuracy. Image depth and reproduction of fine detail is well beyond the capabilities of SD DVD. The transfer is 1080p in the VC-1 codec. The audio mix (DTS HD 5.1, once again) is hot. Dialogue is loud, with plenty of midrange. Effects are clean, discreet, and precise. Low end booms. The entire soundstage is used to throw you into the middle of the action.
The disc contains the unrated version of the movie (13 minutes longer than the theatrical cut), along with all of the supplements from the Unrated Extended Cut DVD. A trio of featurettes—"Basic Training" (10:33), "Rock Formation" (5:37), "Master Monster Making" (10:55)—cover the actors' military boot camp, the design of a monster version of The Rock, and Sam Winston's team's creature design for the movie. There's also an extended version of the first-person shooter sequence from the film's finale. "Doom Nation" (14:39) and "Game On!" (6:47) are featurettes that give background on the original Doom PC games, as well strategy and playing tips for Doom 3.
The disc is also BD-Live enabled.
The Rock Collection is a steal for fans of the actor/former wrestler, offering three Blu-rays for the price of two. The A/V presentations of the movies are so far superior to their DVD counterparts that fans of all things Dwayne Johnson shouldn't hesitate to upgrade.
Casual Rock fans and lovers of action movies should skip this three-pack and grab The Rundown. It's the only good movie in the set.
You can choose between Option A and Option B. Option A: You walk out of your home theater nice and easy, go to your local brick 'n' mortar, and buy The Rock Collection. There'll be no bruises, no broken bones, and no problems. Option B: The Rock makes you.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
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