Moana

Dwayne Johnson’s 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?

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In a bit of a departure from our usual fare, this week we’re 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 everyone’s 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 Johnson’s 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.

Red Notice

A fun-filled romp with beloved A-list stars or a soulless exercise in branded entertainment product? Brian and Hemal discuss – you decide.

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Released almost as a surprise directly onto Netflix in 2021, ‘Red Notice’ stars Dwayne Johnson as a heroic federal agent (when does the man NOT play a heroic federal agent?) who is forced to team up with Ryan Reynolds as a smarmy art thief. Together they battle various antagonists – chiefly Gal Gadot, who does a lot of twirling around in a fancy dress and jumping out of windows.

The movie was written, directed and produced by Rawson Marshall Thurber – his third time working with The Rock (he was also responsible for ‘Central Intelligence’ and ‘Skyscraper’). Despite the comical implausibility of his name, Thurber seems to have his thumb on the pulse of the American cultural zeitgeist – giving the people what they want, some might say, or perhaps delivering tepid lowest common denominator fare. It’s a fine line, friends.

Hercules

Another Dwayne Johnson movie about swords and wizards? Yeah, but this one is straight-up terrible. This week, Brian and Hemal watch ‘Hercules’ – and they are not pleased about it.

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Director Brett Ratner seems to specialize in lowest common denominator filmmaking, and this is certainly that. ‘Hercules’ features one inspired act of casting – get the biggest, mightiest actor to play the iconically biggest and mightiest hero of Greek myth – but not much else. 

An almost cynical exercise in giving the audience nothing to challenge or interest them, the movie strips the original tale of all its darkness and emotional weight, takes the story out of the realm of the supernatural and then – insult to injury – doesn’t even give us cool fight scenes. 

There’s a host of other great actors on board, including ​​Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Rebecca Ferguson and John Hurt, but none of them are given much to do other than shout corny dialogue and be indistinguishable from one another. Even The Rock is wasted here, as the movie is interested solely in his physique, not his performance or humor. Dude doesn’t even get a sword.

Fast Five

What happens when a big ridiculous cartoon action star meets a big ridiculous cartoon action franchise? Well, friend, you get something very like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Fast Five, his debut in the beloved, increasingly absurd Fast & Furious franchise.

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As with San Andreas, Brian and Hemal diverged sharply in their appreciation for Fast Five. On the one hand, Hemal really loves these Fast & Furious car chase movies and is deeply invested in the baroque lore of the series, while Brian hadn’t seen any of them and was at a loss to understand why all the characters were so boring and why Vin Diesel had such a potato head.

At the heart of your hard-working hosts’ disagreement is the concept of spectacle. Unlike some action films that work to evoke a visceral reaction in the viewer (“Ahh! The guy almost fell right off the thing!”), Fast Five is aiming for more cerebral thrills with its action set pieces (“Ha ha, I can’t believe Vin Diesel jumped his car out of that plane! Radical!”). The characters are invulnerable to all harm, so your enjoyment of the movie derives not from any sense of tension, but from appreciating the ever-escalating wackiness of events onscreen.

But these movies make hundreds of millions of dollars and show no sign of letting up, so we approach this film in a spirit of humility. Check out the episode and join us in our modest assessment.

Ten Movies is part of the Underdog Podcast network and is produced with help from Seth Everett and Anthony Gill.

The Scorpion King

Twenty years ago, America’s favorite pro wrestler was The Rock – a magnetic trash-talking antagonist delivering justice and theatrics from the top turnbuckle. But could he translate this popularity and bravura performance to the silver screen? It didn’t work for Hulk Hogan or Stone Cold Steve Austin, but Dwayne Johnson was cut from a different bolt of cloth, as we would soon see in his feature film debut: The Scorpion King.

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Will you enjoy The Scorpion King? That depends. Do you enjoy heavy metal music? Do you enjoy Dungeons & Dragons? Are you a 14-year-old boy?

While this is essentially a silly B movie, it’s also a fun romp, featuring swords, evil kings and scantily-clad sorceresses aplenty. It also has a certain amount of sincerity, weirdly enough. The people who made The Scorpion King filmed a lot of scenes with Dwayne Johnson leaping off a rope with a broadsword not because they thought we would buy it, but because they wanted to see it.

Ten Movies is part of the Underdog Podcast network and is produced with help from Seth Everett and Anthony Gill.

New Season: THE ROCK (& Other Exciting News)

Hello, loyal Ten Movies listeners! We’re back after a long hiatus and we have all kinds of exciting news for you.

First things first: We’ve just launched our new season, where we’ll be watching ten movies starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

You like explosions. You like enormous men striking one another. You like people leaping off a rooftop onto a helicopter. Of course you like those things; you sing of America, glad and big. Anyway, The Rock does all that stuff in his movies and we’re gonna watch a bunch of them.

Why Dwayne Johnson? Well, the guy makes multiple features films every year and people love him, and we’re going to sort it out exactly why.

That’s not all that’s new, though, friends. The Ten Movies podcast is going Hollywood. With the launch of our new season, we’re part of the Underdog Podcasts family. Underdog is a podcast network featuring shows on sports, TV, culture, fitness, true crime and – as of now – your very favorite movie podcast that interrogates American culture through a glass darkly, by which we mean discussing how Dwayne Johnson punched a tank.

One big change: Our new home at Underdog Podcasts means our old podcast feed is no longer the thing. You can find our new feed here – please subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. That would be sad for us, because we would miss you, but even more so for you, because this new season is gonna be top-notch.

And speaking of top-notch tings, we’re upping our audio game, working with producers Seth Everett, host of the Sports with Friends and Hall of Justice podcasts, and Anthony Gill, who produces audio for NBC Sports Chicago. We’re extremely jazzed to be working with Seth and Anthony and we think you’ll notice a sharp uptick in the already-high quality of your favorite podcast.

If you like the hard punches of justice, you’ll love this season of Ten Movies.