Welcome to Ten Movies, the podcast that digs into the work of one actor through 10 of their most popular movies.
THIS SEASON: An in-depth look into the movies of The Rock, including Fast Five, San Andreas and more!
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11. Ranking Dwayne Johnson's Movies
Brian and Hemal bid farewell to the Dwayne Johnson season of Ten Movies, sharing the insights they have gleaned into the dark quotidian heart of America during this season's journey. More importantly, they rank the ten movies from this season and disagree strongly on a definitive ordering of The Rock's movies.
What did we watch this season? San Andreas, The Scorpion King, Fast Five, Hercules, Red Notice, Moana, Central Intelligence, Jumanji, Rampage, and Hobbs & Shaw.
And what did we learn? The Rock's perch upon the loftiest heights of American consumer culture is wide but shallow; a carefully-calibrated thing that traffics heavily in explosions, fistfights, car chases, idealized masculinity, and a studied ideological vagueness. Yet behind it, a meek faintheartedness - for all the movies he makes (2.15 feature films a year; we did the math) and the untold cultural and commercial power he wields, Dwayne Johnson is deeply wary of doing anything that might cause even the slightest brow-furrowing among his vast consumer segments.
But then again, who are we to fault him? Do the explosions, fistfights, and car chases not delight us? Are we not entertained?
Whether you're a regular listener or a first-time visitor, this is a not-to-miss episode. And if all the highbrow prattle isn't to your liking, just skip ahead to the rankings.
10. Hobbs and Shaw
As Dwayne Johnson's cultural appreciation exceeds even his legendary physical might, he breaks free from the confines of the Fast & Furious franchise to team up with Jason Statham and fight the evil robot, Idris Elba.
Technically the movie is called 'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw'. How they exercised enough restraint to avoid adding "Brought to You By Mountain Dew Code Red" we will never know. Of course, the Fast & Furious movies concern the exploits of a band of action heroes who do crimes, drive fast cars, and talk about how they are a family. The Rock first joined the series back in 'Fast Five', but word on the street is that he and series producer / main star Vin Diesel get along less than famously, so this spinoff film is a way for the studio execs to have their cake and eat it too: Dwayne Johnson, reliable draw that he is, stays in the Fast & Furious-iverse but doesn't have to do movies with Vin Diesel, preventing the two from clashing over who is bigger, balder and more ethnically ambiguous.
Dwayne Johnson plays Hobbs, a great big tough guy federal agent turned outlaw, who teams up with Shaw, played by Jason Statham, a great big tough guy who was always an outlaw, and they run around battling evildoers who are chasing Shaw's sister, played by Vanessa Kirby, because she has ingested some sort of virus, maybe? Or nanotech? It's not critical.
Hemal, of course, is extremely loyal to the Fast & Furious movies, largely because the late Paul Walker was so darn handsome. Brian could barely finish this one, so if our hosts disagreeing upsets you, you have been warned.
The Rock doesn't just fight giant monsters in this one, he fights giant monsters and has an enormous monkey for a best friend. Hard to see how it could miss.
If you're a Gen Xer, you may remember the beloved arcade game on which 'Rampage' was based. They've added some stuff, but the story is the same - giant mutant animals fighting and smashing up a city.
In the movie, Dwayne Johnson plays a primatologist - his usual turn as a strong, silent, confident, supremely competent ex-military guy. Due to the machinations of some sort of evil biotech company, his money friend George is mutated into King-Kong proportions, along with a couple of other animals. The Rock and an attractive lady scientist must track the mutant animals to Chicago, whence the evil biotech company has summoned them, in defiance of all logic.
'Rampage' came out in 2018, and was directed by Brad Peyton, who you may remember from such Dwayne Johnson vehicles as 'San Andreas' - a reactionary disaster epic we reviewed earlier in the season - and 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' - a low-budget kid's thriller that is honestly not worth the time it takes to watch. The Rock, in his desire to produce multiple feature films a year, has a notable fondness for directors like Peyton and Rawson Marshall Thurber. They may not bring much of an artistic perspective to the project, but they know how to produce content.
The Rock isn't just immense, he's charming and funny, cinematic gifts on display in this family-friendly action-comedy. Worth your time? Hemal and Brian agreed, for once.
In "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," a band of mismatched high school students are sucked into an evil video game, where they inhabit the bodies of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. Also one of the Jonas Brothers, eventually.
Much of the movie's comedy derives from this conceit - a nerdy 17-year-old suddenly finds himself in the body of a gigantic action hero. The Rock pulls this off with a confident joie de vrie, as do his co-stars, especially Jack Black, channeling a queen bee cheerleader
Technically this is the third Jumanji movie, building on the oddball two Robin Williams movies from the 90s - Jumanji and Zathura, but the filmmakers have wisely elected to mostly starting from scratch, keeping only the outward trappings of the earlier films.
Hemal and Brian, your beloved co-hosts, have been bitterly divided on the cinematic works they've watched for this season of Ten Movies, but Jumanji was a rare point of concurrence.
7. Central Intelligence
Teaming up with Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson tries his mighty hand at slapstick comedy. Is it an instant classic or a tonally incoherent mess? Brian and Hemal have your answer.
Kevin Hart is a boring middle-class accountant and The Rock is a weirdly naive man-child who is also somehow a merciless CIA operative. Because Hart was nice to him in high school, The Rock gets him involved in a confusing high-stakes game of murder and subterfuge. Presumably, someone is trying to sell the top-secret codes to ruthless international terrorists, because in these kinds of movies someone is always trying to sell the top-secret codes to ruthless international terrorists.
Hard to say "these kinds of movies", though, because 'Central Intelligence' is all over the map. It's a spoof, it's an action-comedy, it's a buddy-comedy, it's a lowbrow gross-out satire; it's a great many things, possibly to the detriment of its coherence as a cinematic work.
Released in 2016, this marks the third film Dwayne Johnson has made with director Rawson Marshall Thurber, a man who relentlessly shoots for the middle. But at least The Rock is doing something more than his usually stoic hero routine here, putting in a largely comic turn as a foil to Kevin Hart's protagonist. Did we buy it? Listen and see.
Dwayne Johnsons most beloved role as an animated Polynesian demigod - if, that is, you are a nine-year-old girl or the father of one. But did Hemal like it?
In a bit of a departure from our usual fare, this week were looking at an animated film. But for many Americans (ie - nine-year-old girls and their parents), this may very well be the movie The Rock is best known for. Released in 2016 by everyones favorite multinational entertainment conglomerate, the Walt Disney Corporation, Moana tells the story of a plucky young girl venturing into the forbidden and dangerous seas of a fictional Polynesian ocean world to save her beloved island village from a mysterious corruption.
In another departure, unable to rely on his mighty physical presence to do the heavy lifting for him, The Rock is forced to bring depth, charm, and interiority to a lovable but flawed character through voice acting. Who knew?
In addition to Dwayne Johnsons vocal talents in the role of Maui - who antagonizes but eventually befriends and aids our young hero, Moana - the movie also features some absolute best-in-class musical numbers from Lin Manuel Miranda.