Saturday, August 18, 2018

Mission: Unlikely, But Doable

It occurred to me today that Solomon Lane, the villain in the new Mission:Impossible Fallout movie, would probably be more intimidating if he wasn't a dead ringer for 2018 Rainn Wilson.

You Shall Not (Movie) Pass!

As long-time readers of Bob Canada's BlogWorld know, I see a LOT of movies in the theater. In fact my Movie-Going Pal and I see around fifty or so a year, which is WAY more than the average person. As such, those ticket prices add up over the course of twelve months.

In an effort to defray that cost, earlier this year my Pal signed up for MoviePass. A week or two later he began breathlessly touting the service, telling me how awesome it was and badgering me to join as well. He said for the low, low price of just $10 a month, I could see a movie a day for free! Well, technically not free, but you know what I mean. He said I'd be an idiot NOT to sign up.

I was extreeeeeeemely skeptical about the whole operation, as it sounded like some kind of scam. How could it be anything but? It just didn't make any sense. Thirty movies a month for only $10? How the hell could MoviePass possibly make any money if I saw $240 worth of films but only paid them $10? There had to be a catch somewhere.

See, when you get to the theater, you select a movie on the phone app, and MoviePass beams the amount of the ticket directly onto your card, which you use to pay the theater. So you don't pay a dime, but the theater still gets its money. The only one who's out any money then is MoviePass itself. And therein lies the problem.


Eventually though my Pal wore me down, and in April of 2018 I tentatively signed up for a MoviePass card. I figured I might as well try it, and if it did turn out to be a con I could always cancel.


I got my card in the mail at the beginning of May, and headed right for the cineplex. I assumed the ticket girl would laugh in my face when I tried to use it, or worse, call the cops. Amazingly she didn't even blink. I slid the card through the reader and she handed me a movie ticket, completely free (sort of) of charge! Amazing!


I ended up seeing five movies on MoviePass' dime that month, which worked out to $2 apiece (five films divided by the $10 monthly fee)! A pretty good deal, and a far cry from the usual $8 or so that a ticket costs around here. I even saw movies I wouldn't have bothered with if I'd had to pay full price, and went to a couple of evening showings— something I normally never do due to the increased cost.

After that I became a huge MoviePass evangelist, giddily telling everyone within earshot about the service and urging them to sign up pronto. Most were just as skeptical about it as I'd been, but I assured them I was living proof that it was legit.

Annnnnnd then all hell broke loose.

First there were ominous new stories detailing the alarming amount of cash that MoviePass was burning through each month, and how their business model just wasn't sustainable. Then the company began adding all sorts of annoying restrictions to the card, like charging extra for tickets or blacking out certain movies. Such tactics are always a brilliant idea, as nothing pleases customers more than giving them less for their money.

Then in July the floodgates opened wide, as each day brought a whole new batch of increasingly bad news for MoviePass. The company ran out of money, the cards stopped working, the company was de-listed from the stock exchange and on and on. Things got so bad I was embarrassed that I'd been going around recommending the fakakte company, and apologized profusely to everyone!

Seriously, MoviePass is now like a man carrying a big box of musical instruments trip and fall down a long flight of stairs— in slow motion. EVERY single decision they've made in the past two months has been the absolute wrong one. It really does feel like they're doing everything in their power to fail. 
It's actually quite fascinating to watch.

To try and make sense of how we got to this point, here's a brief rundown of MoviePass' history, with emphasis on the tumultuous recent months:

June 30, 2011
Believe it or not, MoviePass actually originated seven years ago in the San Francisco area! Their initial plan cost $50 a month, and required users to print out their tickets at home and bring them to the theater. Convenient!

Unfortunately few theaters were willing to participate in the service, and Deadline called MoviePass "One of the most boneheaded stillborn launches in recent entertainment history." They had no idea just how prophetic they were...

December 2014
MoviePass partners with AMC Theaters, offering subscriptions at $30 and $45 a month.

I was surprised to learn this as well, as the two companies are currently mortal enemies, and neither will rest until the other one dies.

June 2016
Former Netflix and Redbox exec Mitch Lowe becomes the CEO of MoviePass. Oh, so HE'S the one to blame.

August 2017
MoviePass lowers the price of a monthly subscription to $9.95, and allows customers to see one movie per day.*

This price drop generates a HUGE uptick in new subscriptions, and all seems right with the world.


*OK, a word or two about this "30 Movies A Month" deal. Even though it's their big selling point, it's nothing but a bunch of MarketSpeak® bullsh*t. I don't know how things are in major metros like New York and LA, but here in Indiana there aren't thirty DIFFERENT movies playing in a given month. Every cineplex shows the same ten or twelve films. So even if I had unlimited time, it's unlikely I'd be able to see thirty movies a month.

November 2017
For a limited time, MoviePass begins offering a $89.95 yearly subscription, which works out to $7.50 a month.

Again, a good deal, and things are moving along swimmingly for the company.

January 2018
Suddenly cracks begin showing in the foundation. Just a few barely perceptible ones at first, but they soon widen and threaten to bring down the entire operation.

On January 26th, MoviePass approaches AMC with a revenue-sharing program on tickets & concessions. When AMC balks, MoviePass blocks them from their service, hoping to bring them to their knees and force them to play along. Instead, AMC simply launches their OWN movie subscription service! Ouch!

February 2018
MoviePass announces they now have 2 million subscribers. To celebrate, they lower the monthly price to $7.95. It's a great deal, but most people (myself included) are puzzled by their business model, and can't fathom how they can possibly survive for long.

March 2018
MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe accidentally reveals that the company's app is secretly spying on customers, recording where they go after they leave the theater. WHOOPS! This sparks a wave of justified concern among subscribers, many of whom immediately cancel their memberships.

In an effort to distract the public from this debacle, the monthly price is lowered to $6.95 per month.


April 2018
If MoviePass was the Titanic, this month marks the point where it hits the iceberg and begins to sink.

First of all, MoviePass alters its subscription plan from one movie per day to four per month, which is a pretty major change.

Also, MoviePass begins blocking subscribers from seeing movies more than once. Mitch Lowe tries to put a positive spin on this restriction by saying, "We hope this will encourage customers to see new movies and enjoy something different." 

I'm sure it was just a coincidence that this odd change coincided with the release of the massively successful blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. It couldn't possibly have had anything to do with the fact that Marvel fans were seeing the film four and five times, which threatened to bankrupt MoviePass.

May 2018
Facing a huge backlash and the loss of subscribers, MoviePass reinstates the One Movie A Day plan.

One week later, MoviePass' holding company reports they have just $15 million in cash, but are burning through $21 million per month. Yikes! I ain't good at math, but I think that's what you call "screwed" a deficit.


June 2018
MoviePass announces they now have 3 million subscribers. For some reason, Mitch Lowe believes that if the company can only reach the arbitrary magical number of 5 million users, they'll finally begin making a profit and their troubles will be over.


At this point MoviePass' business model is identical to that of a gym— sign up as many people as possible, then hope most of them never use their memberships.

In their attempt to see just how fast they can go out of business, MoviePass then attempts to enter the world of original film production, just like Amazon and Netflix. They do this by bankrolling the movie Gotti. As you might expect, it's a biopic about Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, and stars John Travolta in the titular role (uh-oh). The experiment is NOT a success. The movie receives a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score (!) and grosses an embarrassing $4.3 million, against its $10 million dollar budget.

Wait a minute, let me get this straight... MoviePass makes its own movie. But whenever someone uses their card to see a film, they subsidize the theater by paying the customer's ticket price. That means MoviePass was basically PAYING people to see their own film! How the hell did they expect to make any money on THAT deal?

(thanks to my Movie-Going Pal for pointing out the flaw in the Gotti debacle)

Meanwhile, shots are fired over MoviePass' bow when AMC unveils its AMC Stubs A-List plan, which is allows subscribers to see up to three movies a week for $19.95 per month.

MoviePass' plan to piss off their subscribers is now in full effect, as CEO Mitch Lowe announces the implementation of "Surge Pricing." This means subscribers will have to pay and extra $3 (or more!) to see popular, high-demand movies. on top of the $10 a month they're already paying of course. In some larger cities, this surcharge amounts to an extra $10 to $12, meaning it would cost MORE to use MoviePass than it would to just buy a ticket the normal way!

Lowe touts Surge Pricing as a good thing by claiming it will "enhance the customers movie-going experience." Just how he figures that is left to our imaginations.

July 2018
The MoviePass ship begins going under fast.


On Thursday, July 26, a massive nationwide outage hits the MoviePass phone app, preventing customers from using the service. MoviePass releases a statement their app suffered a "technical glitch," and apologize for any inconvenience. The next day, Business Insider reports that the outage was actually due to MoviePass running out of cash. This meant they couldn't pay theaters their ticket prices, and had to temporarily shut down. MoviePass borrows $5 million in emergency cash just to stay afloat.

One day later, Mission: Impossible— Fallout premieres. The following day, MoviePass blocks the film from its app, preventing subscribers from using their cards to see the highly anticipated movie. They also announce that upcoming films Christopher Robin and The Meg will be blacked out as well. 

Customers are now basically paying $9.95 a month for a movie subscription service that doesn't allow them to see any movies. Brilliant!

On July 30, MoviePass suffers ANOTHER outage, presumably due to more cash flow woes.

The next day, MoviePass announces they're making even MORE changes. The price of their monthly plan will be raised to $14.95, and brand new movies will be blacked out for their first two weeks in theaters (!). Subscribers begin canceling in droves, as they realize they're paying for a service they can't use.


August 2018
Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse, MoviePass doubles down on the crazy and surprises us all. 
To paraphrase George Costanza's mom, "Every day it's something new with you!"

Starting the first weekend of August, MoviePass blacks out all but two films on their app. The titles apparently vary by city, so no one knows just what movie they're allowed to see. And to make things even worse, there are only a limited number of tickets available during the weekend, and when they're gone, that's it! The card's useless once they're all sold.

On August 6, MoviePass announces they've decided not to raise their price after all, and will keep it at $9.95 per month. BUT, users will now be limited to just THREE movies a month— a far cry from the previous thirty. Surge Pricing will also be eliminated, but blackouts will still be in effect for select films.

On August 12, MoviePass once again offers just two films— The Meg and watered-down PG-13 horror film Slender Man. What a cornucopia of choices!


On August 14, angry customers who've recently canceled their subscriptions find they've been mysteriously re-enrolled. MoviePass is now sneakily and most likely illegally preventing people from canceling!

On August 16, they change their goddamned minds yet AGAIN. In addition to only being allowed to see three movies a month, customers can only choose from six movies on any given day. The lineup of films will change each day.


It honestly feels like MoviePass has a "Wheel Of Terrible Business Decisions" in their executive board room. Every morning they spin it, and whatever it lands on, that's the company's direction for that day.

For the record, I haven't canceled my card yet, as I'm hoping they'll eventually settle on a plan I can live with. I ain't getting my hopes up though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It Came From The Cineplex: Skyscraper

Skyscraper was written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.

Thurber previously wrote and directed Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh and Central Intelligence (which also starred Duane Johnson). He directed We're The Millers. Seems a bit odd to hire a guy known mainly for comedies to helm a big budget action film, but what do I know.

Skyscraper is a very derivative action movie that plays out like a cross between Die Hard and The Towering Inferno
— except much, much dumber. Everything's been simplified for the dull-witted, popcorn-munching teeming masses. There are few if any surprises in the film, as every single plot twist is telegraphed well in advance and visible a mile off.

Despite this, it's still a somewhat entertaining film, due to the undeniable onscreen charisma of star Dwayne Johnson. I just wish it wasn't so... stupid. Seriously, the script's littered with dozens of "Wait, what?" moments, that leave you scratching your head rather than enjoying the thin storyline.

Shortly after the film was released, the SJW brigade began doing what they do best bitching and moaning. According to them, Skyscraper is deeply offensive because it features the very able-bodied Dwayne Johnson as a disabled man.

Jesus wept.

Did it not occur to these nimrods that acting is all about pretending? Actors act. They pretend to be other people for a living. In fact that's pretty much the definition of the profession. 


Are we really to the point now in which a character can only be played by someone with the same affliction?

Maybe Johnson should have had his left leg removed before the knee before he took the part. Would that have satisfied everyone?


I guess if there's ever a remake of Rain Man, the director will have to hire an actual autistic person, or a cerebral palsy victim for the reboot of My Left Foot. And pity the teens who get cast in a redo of The Fault In Our Stars!

Look, I get it. It's all about diversity and representation and blee bleh blah. I understand that there aren't any starring roles out there for amputees. And that well and truly sucks. But the SJWs need to understand that the movie industry is a business. Studios cast actors on the basis of their star power. There may very well be a brilliant actor out there with only one leg, but the harsh truth of the matter is no one's gonna pay $12 bucks to see him. They want to see Dwayne Johnson with a green-screened stump. It may not be fair, but it's the way things work.


By the way, if this issue is so important to all you SJWs out there, then why didn't you complain last year when the four-limbed Jake Gyllenhaal starred as real-life double amputee Jeff Bauman in Stronger? Why weren't you demanding Bauman play himself, even though he likely couldn't act his way out of a paper bag? 

Why does one movie get a pass and another must be vigorously protested? The least you can do is be consistent in your being offended on another group's behalf.

Jesus Christ, I am just done. I'm f*cking done with this entire sorry world. Congratulations, SJWs! You win! It's gotten to the point where I can't even stand to wake up anymore.

Unfortunately for Universal Pictures, Skyscraper isn't exactly soaring to the top of the box office. It's only managed to gross an anemic $66 million in the States, against its $125 million budget. Ouch! It's done better overseas, where it's grossed $215 million, for a worldwide total of $281 million.


Due to marketing and other hidden costs, modern movies generally need to gross twice their production budget just to break even. Skyscraper's done that, but just barely. I wouldn't call it a bomb, but it's definitely a disappointment.


SPOILERS, UNLESS YOU'VE SEEN EITHER THE TOWERING INFERNO OR DIE HARD OF BOTH.

The Plot:
We begin ten years ago, as an unstable man named Ray holds his family hostage in his own home. An FBI Hostage Rescue Team
— led by Army veteran Will Sawyer (played by Dwayne Johnson)— is sent in to intervene. Will and his partner Ben confront Ray in the kitchen, where he's holding one of his children tightly in his arms.

Will orders the others to lower their guns, and talks Ray into letting his kid go. Will breathes a sigh of relief, but Ben shouts that Ray's holding a detonator, and the screen goes white.

Will wakes in the hospital, where a gauzily-lit surgeon named Sarah (played by Neve Campbell) tells him he's gonna be OK and puts him under.

Cut to the present day, where Will and Sarah are married and they have two children— Henry and Georgia. Will's now retired from the FBI, and runs his own small security company. He's also an amputee, as he lost his left leg below the knee in the explosion. I guess Sarah's not that good a surgeon after all! As he goes through his morning routine, we see him attach his prosthetic leg. This is such a blatant plot point that I'm surprised it wasn't accompanied by strobe lights and klaxons.

Will and his family are currently living in Hong Kong, on the 96th floor of The Pearl— a massive new building that's the tallest in the world. Will's been hired as a consultant to analyze the building's security before it opens. For now, he and his family are the only residents in the entire place. So I guess the building runs itself? No maintenance or cleaning personnel? Whatever.

Will's nervous about his meeting with the owner, but Sarah assures him he'll be great. She asks him to fix her malfunctioning phone, and an exasperated Will tells her all she has to do is turn it off and on again (ANOTHER PLOT POINT!).

Ben (who also survived the blast), stops by the apartment to pick up Will, who welcomes his "brother" with open arms. This of course virtually guarantees Ben will end up betraying Will before the movie's over. Sure enough, Ben gives Sarah and the kids tickets to a "panda show," which conveniently gets them out of the apartment for the rest of the day.

Will and Ben meet with Zhao Long Ji, the architect and owner of The Pearl, along with twitchy insurance agent Mr. Piece (played by Noah Taylor). Will gives a short presentation on The Pearl's systems, and declares it the safest and most secure building in the world. Zhao then hands Will a facial recognition tablet, that gives HIM AND HIM ALONE complete access to all The Pearl's security systems (PLOT POINT!). Right on cue, Ben secretly texts someone.

Zhao then gives Will (and the audience) a tour of the building. This seems odd, since Will just approved the building and therefore should already be familiar with every part of it. Let's just move on though, or we'll be here all day.
 Zhao shows him the vast indoor garden (PLOT POINT!), the gigantic twin wind turbines that power everything (PLOT POINT) and lastly, the building's namesake— the gigantic hollow sphere at the very top of the structure that's also confusingly called The Pearl (HUGE PLOT POINT!!).


Inside The Pearl sphere, Zhao demonstrates its impressive features, including a series of tombstone-like screens that pop up out of the floor (?) and inexplicably transform the interior into a hall of mirrors. The screens can also display perfect high-res images of anything, making it essentially a holodeck. If you don't immediately realize that the climax will take place in this room, then you've never seen a movie before.

After the meeting, Will and Ben head for home on a ferry. Ben starts whining about how lucky Will is to have a family, while he has nothing. Suddenly a thief cuts Will's arm and runs off with his satchel. Ben tries to pursue him, but the punk gets away. Ben comments that it's too bad the special all-access security tablet was just stolen, but Will reveals he stored it inside his jacket. Ben smiles with his mouth and not his eyes as he says, "What a lucky break." He then he texts his mysterious contact again.

Back at The Pearl (the main building, not the sphere
 told you it was confusing), Sarah and the kids return early after Henry got sick. They run into a couple of maintenance workers, and Sarah comments that she though the building was deserted. One of the men tells her they're just checking on something, and will be out of her hair shortly. Sarah notices the men are carrying a large case with a winged logo on it (PLOT POINT!), which for some reason makes her uneasy. She hurries into her apartment.

The maintenance worker, whose name is Hans Gruber, er, I mean Kores Botha, tells his comrade that the building was supposed to be empty. His pal asks if he wants him to eliminate Sarah and her kids, but Botha says no, as the situation will take care of itself. He and his men then spread a white powder (sodium?) on the floor. They set off the sprinklers, and the water instantly ignites the powder, causing a huge fire.

Alarms go off in the penthouse, alerting Zhao to the fire. Wait, didn't Botha just say the building was supposed to be empty? Again, let's just go with it. Mr. Piece wants to leave immediately, but Zhao calmly says the building's advanced systems will put out the fire. At this point it's unclear whether Zhao's in on the situation or not.

Ben takes Will to his place and tapes up his massive arm. He then pulls a gun on him, saying things weren't supposed to work out like this, and he's sorry. He demands Will hand over the tablet, but he refuses. The two men then fight, and Ben pulls off Will's prosthetic. Even with one leg, Will still beats the literal living crap out of Ben. The two men grapple some more, and Ben accidentally shoots himself in the chest.

Will asks the dying Ben why the betrayal, and he offers a weak excuse about being unlucky and having to work with thugs to survive. He then says Sarah and the kids weren't supposed to be in the building, and promptly dies. Will looks out the window and sees the 96th floor of The Pearl is on fire. 

Will runs out of the apartment but is surrounded by thugs, including Xia, Botha's lieutenant. She takes the tablet from Will, scans his face with it, and announces she now has control of The Pearl's systems. Wait, didn't Zhao already scan Will's face back in his office? What the hell, movie? Just then the police show up and the thugs begin shooting. In the confusion, Will grabs a police cycle and zooms off. Xia escapes as well.
For some reason the police believe Will's responsible for starting the fire in The Pearl (?), and his face is instantly plastered across TV and social media. As he makes his way down the crowded streets, he's spotted by hundreds of citizens who all whip out their phones and start filming him. He's stopped by the police as he tries to enter the Pearl, but manages to escape them a second time.

Unable to simply enter The Pearl through the front door, Will's forced to improvise. He decides the most sensible course of action is to leap into one of the building's upper floors. He sees a giant crane tower next to the building, but unfortunately the elevator's locked. So he does what anyone would do
 he climbs up the outside of the tower. Inside Hong Kong Police HQ, Inspector Wu sees Will on TV and dispatches a squad of men to capture him.

Inside The Pearl, Sarah stuffs towels under the doors to keep out the smoke. Meanwhile, Xia and her posse enter the control room and kill all the technicians. She then hands the tablet to a hacker and tells him to get to work. He uses the tablet to open the building's air vents, feeding the flames and causing the fire to spread upwards. Xia kills the hacker the second he's done (!).I'm sure his skills would never come in handy again, so why not.

Will finally makes it to the top of the crane. He hears the police coming up in the elevator (I guess they unlocked it?), so he barricades the door. He then enters the control booth and aims the crane at The Pearl. He edges out onto the crane, as the police burst out of the elevator. Just then a police chopper flies up and begins shooting at him! With nowhere left to go, Will takes off running at full speed. He leaps from the crane and makes a graceful arc through the air, in the film's biggest setpiece moment.

Against all the laws of physics, Will actually makes it instead of falling to the ground far below. He slams into the side of The Pearl, manages to climb into a busted window and enters the building. For some reason, the crowd below cheers wildly. Wait, don't they think he's a wanted man? Why the hell are they cheering? In the police van, Inspector Wu wonders why Will wanted IN the building so badly if he's the one who started the fire.

Zhao's bodyguard Okeke points out that the building isn't putting out the fire, and it's time to leave. Zhao reluctantly agrees, but retrieves a flash drive from a safe before going (PLOT POINT!). They climb up to the helipad, where Botha and his goons appear and start shooting. Mr. Piece, who's of course working with Botha, begins shooting as well. Okeke's hit, but manages to shoot the chopper pilot. The copter crashes on the roof and explodes. Zhao runs back into the building and into his impregnable safe room, which we didn't know he had until just now.

With the fire out of control, Sarah has the kids bundle up in wet towels and they head for a higher floor. They enter the gigantic garden area, thinking they'll be safe there. Of course the entire area bursts into flames seconds after they arrive, with perfect comedy timing. Sarah spots a waterfall high above, and they head for a bridge to reach it. They're stopped by Piece, who wants them as hostages or something.

Sarah yells for the kids to run, and they dash across the bridge as she stabs Piece with a pair of scissors she's carrying for some reason. Wait, make that for NO reason. She just has them because the script says so. She runs for it as well, but a pillar topples over and breaks the bridge in two. Just then Will heroically appears, and shoves Piece off the remains of the bridge to his death. Wait, did he know Piece was evil, or did he just kill a guy for no reason?

Georgia makes it up to the waterfall, but the flames rise and prevent Henry from following. Will lays a large plank across the hole in the bridge, and Sarah daintily walks across it. She puts Henry on her back and returns. Will then puts Sarah and Henry in an elevator and cuts the cable. It falls rapidly through the fire, and Sarah pulls the emergency brake, stopping the elevator literally inches from the ground. Hooray, she and Henry are saved!

Will yells to Georgia, telling her he's coming up for her. Just then Botha appears, and orders two of his men to capture Georgia. He then
 orders Will to open Zhao's safe room and retrieve his flash drive. Will says that's impossible, as the room can only be opened from the inside. Botha threatens to kill Georgia if Will doesn't open the door. He and his men then exit, leaving Will all alone for story purposes.

Will plays around with a security panel, trying to figure out a way to get into the safe room. Somehow he deduces that Zhao hid the override controls inside a column surrounded by the building's massive twin turbines. Told you they'd become a plot point. He lashes himself to a heavy statue, then climbs out the window and inches across an extremely narrow ledge, thousands of feet in the air.

He makes it to the building's core and stares at the rapidly spinning turbines. He studies their pattern, then leaps across the void, somehow missing the huge blades. He pulls a panel off the column and overrides the safe room, causing the door to open. He then climbs back the way he came, but slips and falls. His prosthetic leg catches on the shattered window ledge, saving him.

Will tries to climb back in the window, but suddenly his stump begins slipping out of the socket of his prosthetic. It pops out completely, but luckily he manages to grab the ledge and pull himself in. He puts his leg back on and stalks off toward the safe room. Zhao desperately tries to shut the door, but Will barges in and demands the truth.

Sit back, it's complicated. Zhao explains that shortly after he started constructing The Pearl, Botha appeared and demanded protection money from him. He paid the money, but Botha continued making threats. Eventually Zhao developed a program that could identify the various crime families associated with Botha, and stored the info on a flash drive. Zhao then threatened to expose them all unless Botha left him alone. Knowing he's dead if the info's made public, Botha's desperate to get his hands on the flash drive and destroy it. Will believes him, and says he'll do whatever he can for Zhao if he helps him save Georgia.

Back on the ground, Wu interviews Sarah, not entirely convinced she's innocent. She tells Wu about the case with the winged logo on it, and suspects Botha and his men plan to parachute off The Pearl once the fire reaches the top. Wow, that's a pretty goddamned major intuitive leap, no pun intended. She looks at a map and points out a deserted industrial park nearby, which could be reached by parachute. She urges Wu to trust her and check it out.

Will and Zhao enter The Pearl sphere, where Botha's waiting for them with Georgia. See, I told you this room would figure into the ending.  He demands they hand over the flash drive, but Will says to give him Georgia first. Zhao pretends to betray Will for dramatic reasons, and in all the confusion he activates the room's Hall Of Mirrors mode.

There's a big shootout between Will and Botha's men, as everyone fires at various reflections. Despite this, Will somehow manages to kill most of the thugs. Botha tosses a grenade, blowing a huge hole in the floor of the room. Will then confronts Botha, who reveals he's holding Georgia with one hand, and a grenade in the other. He threatens to set if off unless he gets the drive.

A defeated Will agrees and stands down. At the last second though, he tells Botha, "There's one thing you should know... I'm right behind you!" Botha realizes he's been talking to a screen, as the real Will walks up behind him and shoves him into the hole. He says, "Yippee Ki Yay, Motherf*cker," er, I mean he watches silently as Botha falls to his death far below.

Meanwhile, Wu, Sarah and the police arrive at the industrial park, where they find Xia and her thugs waiting for Botha to parachute to them. Wu orders Sarah to wait in the car, as he and his men have a shootout with Xia's forces. For some reason, Xia sneaks into the car and begins attacking Sarah, even though I don't see any way she could possibly know who she is.

Fortunately Wu sneaks up behind Xia and points a gun at her head. Sarah kicks her in the face for good measure, knocking her out. Sarah then recovers Will's tablet, and tries to turn on The Pearl's fire suppression system (how much of a range does this tablet have?). It doesn't work, until she figures out how to reboot the system. The building's systems come back online, instantly putting out the massive fire that's been raging for hours. Wu asks how she did that, and Sarah replies, "I turned it off and on again." Told you that'd be a plot point!

Wu sends a chopper to rescue Will, Georgia and Zhao. As they fly away, Will sees Zhao gazing mournfully at the remains of the ruined Pearl. He asks Zhao what he'll do now, and he says, "Rebuild." Man, this guy must have some deeeeeep pockets! Or really good insurance!

On the ground, Will's reunited with Sarah and Henry. Sgt. Al Powell, er, I mean Inspector Wu says it's nice to finally meet him, and compliments him on his impressive family. Will agrees, saying he's a lucky guy.

Thoughts:

• I wasn't kidding when I said this film is derivative. Huge swaths of it are practically shot-for-shot recreations of scenes from Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. Seriously, you could clip various scenes from both those movies and assemble them into a reasonable facsimile of Skyscraper.

It also seemingly cribs elements from the 2012 South Korean movie The Tower, which was pretty much a remake of The Towering Inferno (confused yet?). 

Anyway, let's take an overly obsessive look at a few of these similarities:


— In The Towering Inferno, Doug Roberts is the architect of the Glass Tower, the world's tallest building. He has a spacious, luxury office located high in the tower.

— In Skyscraper, Zhao Long Ji is the architect of the Pearl, the world's tallest building. He has a spacious, futuristic office located near the top of the tower.

— In The Towering Inferno, the fire begins during the grand opening of the Glass Tower.

— In Skyscraper, the fire's deliberately set just before the grand opening of the Pearl.

— In Die Hard, Hans Gruber and his gang disguise themselves as maintenance men to infiltrate the Nakatomi Tower. They then kill all the security personnel and lock down the building.

— In Skyscraper, Kores Botha and his gang disguise themselves as maintenance men to infiltrate the Pearl. They kill all the security personnel and lock down the building.

— In Die Hard, Gruber seemingly holds the building hostage, in exchange for the release of several incarcerated terrorists. In reality, he's really after $640 million in bearer bonds locked inside the building's high tech vault.

— In Skyscraper, Kores Botha starts a fire in the building because he's really after Zhao's magic flash drive, locked inside his high tech vault.

— In Die Hard, John McClane manages to contact police Sgt. Al Powell over his radio, and the two men form an unlikely bond.

— In Skyscraper, Inspector Wu monitors Will's actions and develops a grudging respect for him. 

— In Die Hard, Gruber orders the hostages to the roof. He intends to take off safely in a waiting chopper, while detonating a series of bombs on top of the building, killing everyone. McClane interferes, send the hostages back down to safety and blowing up the helicopter to prevent Gruber from escaping.

— In The Towering Inferno, a rescue chopper lands on the roof of the blazing building. Unfortunately several panicked partygoers rush out toward it, causing it to swerve, crash and explode. 

— In Skyscraper, Zhao's bodyguard takes him to the roof so he can escape in a waiting chopper. Botha's men attack, and the bodyguard's hit. Before he dies, he shoots back at Botha but misses, blowing up the helicopter. 

Any time you see a helicopter in a "World's Tallest Building" movie, there's a 100% chance it will explode at some point.

— In Die Hard, McClane's stuck on the roof of the building that's about to explode. In order to avoid certain death, he ties a fire hose around his waist and leaps from the roof, seconds before it detonates. He then crashes through a window and lands in an office right as the hose rips in two.

— In Skyscraper, Will ties a rope around his waist and climbs around on the outside of the Pearl in order to reach the controls that open Zhao's safe room (don't ask). He's successful, but as he's climbing back in, the rope snaps and he finds himself hanging by his prosthetic leg. His stump actually slips out of the leg's socket, and he somehow manages to grab hold of the prosthesis and pull himself inside.

Need I point out that both these shots are filmed from virtually the same angle, and look practically identical?

— In The Towering Inferno, once the building catches fire, Lisolette Mueller dashes 
down to the 87th floor to rescue her deaf neighbor and her two children. A fireman takes the deaf woman to safety, but Lisolette and the children are trapped by the flames. They then have to climb and claw their way to the top of the building, hoping to find safety.

— In Skyscraper, once the building catches fire, Sarah and her two kids are trapped by the flames. They then have to climb and claw their way to the top of the building, hoping to find safety. 

— In The Towering Inferno, the firemen rig an elevator to make one and only one trip down to the ground. The elevator has to pass through the burning floors though, and is destroyed by an explosion.

— In Skyscraper, Will stuffs his wife and child in an elevator and cuts the cable. It passes safely through the burning floors, and Sarah's able to activate the emergency brake and stop it a second before it crashes to the ground.

— In Die Hard, McClane and Gruber have an epic battle in the final minutes. Gruber falls through a 40 story (give or take) window, but grabs the wrist of McClane's wife Holly and holds on for dear life. McClane then removes Holly's watch, and Gruber falls several hundred feet to his death.

— In Skyscraper, Will and Botha have an epic battle in the final minutes. Will then uses the Pearl's hall of mirrors function to sneak up behind him and simply shove him off the side of the skyscraper, and Botha falls several thousand feet to his death. 

— In The Towering Inferno, the characters decide the only way OUT of the building is to rig a cable that stretches from the roof to a nearby shorter building. They then slide down the cable in a breeches buoy to escape.

— In Skyscraper, Will decides the only way IN the building is to climb a nearby crane tower. He then runs the length of the crane and jumps into the window of the Pearl.

— In The Towering Inferno, the heroes plant explosives on the massive water tanks at the very top of the building. They detonate them, and millions of gallons of water cascade through the tower, preposterously dousing the massive fire in seconds.

— In Skyscraper, Sarah reboots the control pad and activates the Pearl's fire suppression systems, preposterously dousing the massive fire in seconds. 

— In Die Hard, once McClane's back on the ground, he finally meets Powell in person. Powell congratulates McClane on a job well done.

— In Skyscraper, Once Will's back on the ground, he finally meets Inspector Wu in person. Wu congratulates Will and tells him he's lucky to have such an amazing family.

• In the film's prologue, Will's injured in an explosion and rushed to the operating room. Hmm... this scene seems familiar somehow. I feel like I've seen it somewhere before, but I can't quite figure out where...

Ahh. There it is. Now I remember!

One of the many things that made Die Hard such an awesome movie is that it featured a relatable hero. John McClane was a average, everyday guy who just happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

McClane was a normal human being, not an indestructible action hero. We winced when he stepped on broken glass, and held our breath when he tied a fire hose around his waist and leaped out a forty story window. It was easy to identify with him, which made the movie incredibly suspenseful. 

Contrast him with Will Sawyer in Skyscraper. The guy's absolutely massive, as his biceps alone are bigger around than most people's thighs. Even with only one leg he's still a superhero, able to perform feats of strength the rest of us could never hope to achieve. 

He's also seemingly invulnerable, as he shakes off injuries that would Incapacitate or even kill a normal person. Because of this, he never seems like he's in any kind of danger, which torpedoes any sense of suspense the movie might have had.


• Kudos to the production designers for coming up with look of the Pearl. Even though it's a fictional building, it feels absolutely real, and would look right at home next to the futuristic structures in Hong Kong and Dubai.

In fact, construction's already underway on a 111 story tower called Pearl Of The North in Shenyang, China! Note that like the building in the film, this one also features a large sphere at the top!

Did the producers of Skyscraper know all this before they designed their fictional building and gave it such a similar name? Is it possible to plagiarize a tower?


Skyscraper hits the ground running, as it wastes little or no time getting straight to the action. 
In fact I can't believe I'm saying this, but it actually moves a little too fast. 


The movie definitely needed to spend some more time setting up and establishing the Pearl before it catches fire. We barely get to see the building in its pristine state, so once it's burning we have no idea where any of the sections are in relation to one another. You gotta give us a good look at the before prior to the after!


• It's entirely possible the original cut really did give us a more in-depth look at the building. As is the norm today, the trailer features several scenes that aren't in the actual movie.

There're are a couple of scenes in the trailer of Will and his kids frolicking in a huge, verdant garden that's located inside the Pearl. None of that appears in the final film.

I can't remember for certain, but I don't think this shot of an elevator speeding up through the building's impressive interior environment is in the actual movie either.

Scenes like these give us a hint that the movie was originally much longer, and was cut down to 102 minutes for some reason. 


The trailer also features a scene in which Zhao asks Will for his assessment of the building's security before the grand opening. Will solemnly says "The Pearl is the most advanced super-tall structure in the world. It's a breathtaking achievement." Zhao then says, "But...?" Will goes on, saying, "No one really knows what would happen if things go wrong."

Although that scene is in the final film, the dialogue is completely different. In the actual movie, Will simply says the Pearl's security and fire suppression systems are the most technically advanced ever made, and gives it his highest approval.

So what happened? Why's Will against the building in the trailer but for it in the movie? If I had to guess, I'd say the "negative" scene was shot specifically for the trailer, to help set up and explain the plot quickly.

Also in Trailer #3, Will says, "My family is trapped 240 floors in the air!" That simply isn't true. The Pearl is 240 stories high, and the fire starts on the 96th floor. Will's family was located a few floors above that, and probably climbed several more to get away from the fire. There's no way they walked up 130 floors to the top though.

Again, I'm betting this inaccurate voiceover was thrown in to help quickly sell the plot.



• At one point Zhao takes Will inside the Pearl Sphere (located at the very top of the massive tower) and points out its many features to him. This entire scene is a goldmine of absolute nonsense.

I pointed this out in the plot synopsis, but it bears repeating— why the hell is Zhao showing any of this stuff to Will? He's the head of security! 

Will just gave the building his seal of approval and declared it safe to open. That means he's probably studied the plans, advised them on the security system and made frequent inspections during construction. There's no way in hell that he wouldn't know about this sphere and what it does.

This entire scene is a blatant example of cheap, clunky exposition. The movie needed to set up what the sphere could do for plot purposes, so they had Zhao clumsily explain it to Will (and to the audience as well!)— regardless of whether it made any sense or not.


Secondly, Zhao seems very proud of the odd screens that pop up out of the floor, which turn the interior of the sphere into a hall of mirrors. He actually says that people will come from all over the world to see this bizarre attraction!

Whaa...? It's a series of tombstones that reflect whatever's around them. What the hell's so amazing about that? That sounds like minutes of fun!

You could experience the same thing at any county fair in the country— why the hell would anyone fly all the way to Hong Kong to see it?

Lastly, Zhao demonstrates that the interior of the sphere is like a holodeck, as the walls can display any image on them in perfect, lifelike 3D. OK, now this feature is actually pretty darned impressive. I could easily see people paying to seemingly stand in midair over downtown Hong Kong.

Oddly enough, Zhao's much less impressed with this feature. He mentions it in the most offhanded way possible, and it's never seen again for the rest of the movie! Of course the stupid-ass mirrors resurface at the end, and actually play a part in the plot.


• On the ferry, Will tells Ben, "I haven't touched a gun in ten years. After what happened that night, I just put my sword down, you know? Without that bad luck, I never would have met Sarah. I never would have had my kids."

Gosh, he makes it sound like losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him!


• The instant Ben showed up on screen and called Will his "brother," I knew he would end up betraying him. I'm starting to think I've seen too many movies in my life.


By the way, Ben gets his comeuppance when he and Will grapple and he accidentally shoots himself in the chest. This of a prime example of what I call a "Disney Death." See, the hero in a film can't kill his misguided best friend, because that wouldn't be, er... heroic. Instead the movie gods cause the friend to inadvertently kill himself, so he can get his just desserts without sullying the reputation of the hero.


On the other hand, Will coldly shoves both Mr. Piece and Botha off of ledges to their deaths, so maybe the movie doesn't care about portraying him as a hero after all.

• Botha uses sodium powder to start a fire on the 96th floor, which is actually pretty damned ingenious. Sodium ignites on contact with water, so when he activates the sprinkler system, the powder violently explodes into flames. And the more the sprinklers spray the chemical fire, the more it spreads! As I said, ingenious!


• Xia takes Will's tablet, which controls the entire building, and gives it to a hacker henchman. He uses it to disable the Pearl's fire suppression systems, ensuring the fire will spread. Once that's done, Xia shoots the hacker in the head!


What the hell? Why the hell would she eliminate someone with valuable skills like that? Sure enough, later on in the movie situations arise that the hacker could have easily handled. 


This is lame plot trickery, pure and simple. The script has Xia callously kill the hacker in an effort to make her look like a badass villain, but it just ends up shooting itself in the foot.


• When Will sees the Pearl's on fire, he steals a police motorcycle and roars off to save his trapped family.

I don't know how things are in Hong Kong, but here in the States, the shift pedal's on the left side of a motorcycle. Unfortunately, Will's missing his left foot. It's probably not impossible, but it would surely be very difficult for him to shift gears without an ankle joint.

• In the second act, Sarah and the kids try to escape the burning building, but are stopped by Mr. Piece. He stands there and monologues for a bit, as he threatens to take them hostage. Then Will appears and shoves him off a ledge, and he falls into a fiery pit below.

Was Will hiding in the wings and overheard Piece menacing his family? I'm hoping that's the case, otherwise he just walked up and killed a guy for no good reason.


• By the way, the movie very deliberately sets up the fact that Will's son Ben suffers from asthma, and has frequent attacks. I was sure this was going to become a plot point later on, but it's pretty much never mentioned again and nothing ever comes of it. 

So why bring it up in the first place? Did this little sub-sub-plot land on the cutting room floor along with the missing scenes from the trailer?

Skyscraper's filled with lots of idiotic "WHAT?" moments, but the dumbest one has to be Zhao's explanation as to why Botha's after him and started the fire in the first place. 


According to Zhao, Botha came to him and blackmailed him into paying him protection money. Zhao paid him, but then used his hidden hacking skills to create a program that somehow discovered the identities of every one of Botha's many criminal associates.

Zhao then stored this valuable info on a single flash drive (!), as protection against further extortion by Botha. He claims if he's ever killed, the flash drive will automatically send all its info to the media, unless it's "deactivated."

Botha desperately wants this drive, but knows he'll never find it. That's why he sets the Pearl on fire, because according to him, when a man's house is burning, he saves the thing most valuable to him. In this case Zhao would save his drive, and Botha can then simply take it from him.

That's it! That's the whole reason for starting the fire.

Wow, where do I start? Botha's logic seems more than a little extreme here, as he's literally burning down the house to kill a spider. Surely there was a less elaborate way to threaten Zhao and get the drive?

About that drive... I get the feeling this script was written by someone who's unfamiliar with how computers and storage media actually work. Why the hell would Zhao only have one copy of this extremely sensitive and valuable file? Jesus, I've got multiple backups of all my files (in-home and off site!) and none of them contain anything nearly as important as a list of known mob members.

And I don't even know what to day about the flash drive that can magically beam its contents to the news outlets. That's not how those things normally work. Is this some sort of advanced drive from the distant future?

• So Zhao has a safe room in the Pearl that can only be opened from inside, or by a control panel that's located outside, in the center of the rapidly spinning wind turbine blades that power the building. Um... why?

This reminds me of Rogue One, in which the Death Star plans can only be transmitted to the Rebels by climbing to the top of a thousand foot tall building, and activating the controls at the end of an open air gantry. 

This is all business as usual of course. Doesn't everyone have to climb up on the roof of their building and scale an antenna to get to a control panel whenever they want to send a file?

• The movie's signature setpiece has to be Will's spectacular leap off of the crane tower, as he soars through the air and grabs onto the side of the Pearl. The scene's so amazing it's used on all the advertising, including some versions of the poster!

Shortly after the trailer premiered, the internet predictably became obsessed with this scene, debating whether or not Will's jump would actually be possible. Scientists and physicists even got involved, analyzing the footage and calculating Will's trajectory.

So what's the verdict? Is Will's amazing leap really possible? Or will his body create a grisly modern art piece when he hits the pavement far below?

As you might expect, it turns out that no, his impressive leap simply isn't possible. According to several physicists, the only way he could make it is if he was running at 35 mph when he jumped off the end of the crane. Need I point out that the fastest recorded running speed by a human is just 28 mph?

One thing that ALL the armchair physicists seem to have left out of their calculations is the fact that Will's an amputee who's missing his left leg below the knee. It's true that there've been some amazing advances in prosthetics in the past ten or fifteen years, and many below knee amputees can walk without any noticable limp. But no matter how good his prosthetic is, there's no way in hell a one-legged guy's gonna be able to run 35 mph! 


Not to mention the fact that Will makes this amazing leap AFTER he's laboriously climbed up the side of the 500 foot tall crane tower. A feat that would likely take an hour or so, and leave him worn out and gasping for breath at the top.

Sorry, Will, but I'm afraid you're dead!

• This jump highlights the biggest problem with the film's script Will spends a good 80% of the movie OUTSIDE the Pearl, as he struggles to get IN!

That's a huge miscalculation in my book. The movie's about the tallest building in the world, which catches fire and traps Will's family inside. Now THAT'S an interesting hook for a film! 

Unfortunately we spend a huge amount of the runtime watching Will run around trying to get inside the building, which does nothing but delay the action. The movie can't really get going until he gets back in, but the script keeps putting off his entry for no good reason.

Once he's finally inside the building, the action's finally allowed to ramp up, and the movie improves quite a bit. Too bad it took so long though.

• About a week before the movie premiered, Universal released a couple of Skyscraper posters done in the style of both Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. These parodies straight up lampshaded the fact that the movie is highly derivative of both films.

Admittedly these posters are well done and kind of fun. But here's a tip for any aspiring filmmakers out there: It's probably not a good idea to remind your audience of much BETTER movies they could be watching instead of your own.

Skyscraper's a highly derivative film with an incredibly dumbed-down script, that manages to coast along due to the sheer physical screen presence of star Dwayne Johnson. It's not a terrible movie, as it's actually mildly entertaining in an action schlock kind of way. The problem is it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. If you've seen either of the far better movies it cribs from, then there's really no reason to waste your time watching it. I give it a C+.

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