Blu-ray Review: San Andreas

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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in the summer hit San Andreas, an old-fashioned disaster flick about a mega-earthquake that devastates California. Boasting top-notch special effects and just enough touchy-feely emotion, it's generally a satisfying popcorn movie. New to Blu-ray (also Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and Digital HD) from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, San Andreas isn't likely to linger in the memory much longer than its 114-minute runtime, but it's a sturdily made (if by-the-numbers) action epic. Johnson is reunited here with his Journey 2: The Mysterious Island director, Brad Peyton, who displays a knack for coordinating large-scale catastrophe.

Much like past cheesy-but-thrilling natural disaster pics (think Twister), the engine that drives San Andreas is a breakthrough in predicting the occurrence of earthquakes. It's seismologist Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) who discovers a method of forecasting the previously unforecastable. If you're at all worried San Andreas is one of those disaster movies that keeps viewers waiting for the mayhem, rest easy. A pretty serious temblor at the Hoover Dam kicks off the action early, with innocent bystanders proving no match for Mother Nature. It's not long before Dr. Hayes makes the frightening prediction that a mega-quake will soon wreak havoc along the San Andreas fault. 
 
San Andreas BD (296x380).jpg Emotionally, the film finds its groove with Los Angeles Fire Department Air Rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Johnson). His daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) and soon-to-be-ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) are in peril. Most of the narrative thrust focuses on Ray's mission to keep them safe and sound. The character development is undeniably thin, but we're all here for the collapsing buildings, raging fires, and tsunami-triggered floods. In fact, the film's most laughable moments involve Blake's unlikely romantic spark with Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), an English architect visiting California with his younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson). It's Ollie's perpetual whining and incomprehensible bond with his brother's new gal pal ("But I don't want Blake to die!") that grates most quickly. Again though, the action is fun to watch and the destruction is always impressively rendered.

As you might expect, Warner Bros.' Blu-ray presentation of San Andreas offers technical perfection. When a movie costs $100 million-plus and is loaded from tip to tail with eye-popping effects, there's no real reason to expect anything less. The cinematography by Steve Yedlin (Looper, Danny Collins) looks stellar in this 1080p transfer. The Dolby Atmos-enable audio defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for anyone whose system isn't Atmos-friendly (I'm in that boat). It's difficult to imagine anyone not being knocked out by the Dolby TrueHD mix, which is short on nuance and long on bombast. Who would expect anything less? Andrew Lockington's workmanlike score (which is admittedly quite effective, if not quite memorable) is expertly interwoven with all the explosions and crashes. 
 
san andreas 2 (380x159).jpg In terms of bonus material, director Brad Peyton provides audio commentary that (upon sampling various key scenes) seems focused primarily on technical aspects of the production. There are three featurettes (each under ten minutes): "San Andreas: The Real Fault Line," "Dwayne Johnson to the Rescue," "Scoring the Quake." There's a selection of short deleted scenes (eight clips totaling just under five minutes) which have optional Peyton commentary. We also get a standard-issue gag reel (mercifully brief at just over one minute) and, more interestingly, a "Stunt Reel" montage (three minutes). The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a standard DVD and Digital HD copy. San Andreas is also available in a Blu-ray 3D edition.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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