Fast and Furious 6

fF6Like exhaust through a catalytic converter, so are the days of the Torretto family.

Six installments.  Six.  Car drive and car drive fast.  This concept has spanned SIX! feature films.  As of late the crash-mania squealing-tire saga has only gained further momentum.  Vin Diesel, the legitimate star of the series, announced that next summer’s greenlit Fast 7 (set up at the closing credits of this current installment) will begin a new trilogy.  Heaven help us all.

The crew of the massive blockbuster Fast Five returns for round 6 or Furious 6 as its titled in the opening credits and the results are exactly what you expect.  Just don’t try following the titles of these movies.  And be sure to remember that The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (or Fast 3) from seven years ago takes place after all previous Fast & Furious features including this sixth entry.  Still up to speed?

Picking up immediately where we left in Fast 5, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) gains a new partner in Agent Riley (MMA beauty Gina Carano, Haywire) and sets out to court Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) living peacefully on a tropical island with his newfound lady friend (and Hobbs’ former partner) Elena (Elsa Pataky).  Hobbs needs Dom to recruit his team once more to take on the international threat of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a really bad terrorist with a really bad device that is capable of something very bad and might be used by said bad terrorist or sold to another really bad terrorist.

Why would Torretto be interested?  Why even bother confiding in his F&F-chum-for-life Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) who just had a new baby boy with Torretto’s sister (Jordana Brewster)?  Because Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s murdered lover (as it happened in Fast 4) is still very much alive and may in fact be working with Shaw.  Dom needs to know for sure and “you don’t turn your back on family, even when they do.”

fast-furious-6Walker, Diesel, Johnson, and Carano welcome Ludacris, Sung Kang, Tyrese, and Gal Gadot in yet another family reunion full of physics-defying metal on metal stunts and set pieces linked to moments of eye-rolling blabbering buffoons yawning us to death about family values.  Justin Lin, the confident man behind the action of the last four F&F films, smolders a not-so-subtle subtext of family and loyalty over car mangling.  Dominic, our antihero, may be an outlaw, but he has a code and he protects his own which adds a great deal of honor to his outlandish escapades.  The villain Shaw, on the other hand, plays by-the-numbers and finds his team members to be no more than disposable pawns in his strategic chess game that he always holds the upper hand in.

Who cares?  I don’t and neither do viewers.  They want “vehicular warfare” and they do get it, bigger and better than usual which is a major compliment coming off the high of Fast Five.  But I have to admit I’m fatigued of this series which now throws a few too many big wrenches at my head in terms of plot.  Believe me.  I’m not referring to the stunts, which feature only slightly more lunacy than the story.

The plot is a gigantic mess of pointless setup met with needless execution. Follow the events of Fast 6 and you will scratch your head over the decisions the characters make in an effort to string together some large action sequences.  Potential SPOILERS ahead.  Stop here. I know I’m criticizing a live-action cartoon that delivers exactly what is intended, but bear with me.

Point 1:  Hobbs recruits Dom and a team of international criminals he set to take down in the last movie.  Why?  Because there needs to be a movie, not because he wouldn’t work with an actual military unit or strike force or… something like that.

Point 2: O’Connor decides to infiltrate a stateside prison as an inmate in order to get close to a former villain from the series who may have some information on what happened to Letty.  Why?  I don’t know actually.  This is the most idiotic development in the movie.  The mission would likely get O’Connor killed and it nearly does.  But the funny thing is that the information is of zero importance.  The characters already know where Letty is, have seen her and know that she is alive and likely has memory issues.  Torretto goes and finds her on his own before O’Connor even returns from his adventure.  Dom instructs his buddy to spare him the ‘vital information’ that was worth dying over.

Point 3:  For being the smartest villain in the room, Shaw is a moron.  He says he doesn’t care for his team members and finds them to be replaceable.  Except for Letty, the smart-mouth, authority-defying brain batter mess that generally serves little purpose for Shaw throughout the film.  Torretto offers to walk away from Shaw and leave him alone if he can have Letty back.  Shaw refuses.  Idiot.

Point 4: Torretto and Shaw, in multiple instances throughout the film, have a chance to take each other out either directly or through their cohorts.  They don’t take the shot.  Then there’s the back and forth of the heroes having Shaw and letting him go.  And having him and letting him go.  Dumb.

Fast and the Furious 6Point 5: The action has zero consequences and the cartoonish nature of the series removes any and all suspense or tension.  Multiple fistfights occur in this installment.  Heroes and villains bludgeon each other with nary a bruise or scratch.  At one point, Diesel’s character dives headfirst into the skull of any angry giant thug man and walks away unscathed.  As insane as the car stunts become, whether the heroes are facing off against tanks or airliners, the action reaches such high levels but rarely evokes actual danger.  Characters consistently fight through hell but never show injury until the final blow—if they do in fact die.

That’s where the series has really worn me out.  Bang bang boom, but no one gets hurt until they die.  This roadrunner-coyote cartoon chase only entertains for so long when there’s no suspense or actual imminent danger to the characters.  I know other PG-13 action films have dealt with the same problems, but none are as numb to reality as the Fast series, at least to my present knowledge.

Justin Lin has a balancing act with these films and he succeeds with a far more prominent and successful use of humor this time around, but there are simply too many characters and subplots to juggle at this point.  The action even suffers in terms of the different bobbing heads we are forced to jump back and forth with.  Do I commend the action?  Yes.  But somewhere down the line I became numb to it.  The F&F fans should rejoice, however, as this is probably a franchise high for them, even though I found it a step down from Part 5.  If you want bloodless carnage, mindless action, and by-the-numbers soap opera, then Fast 6 will serve you plenty.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
LEAVE A COMMENT

Pain and Gain

Pain and Gain Crime doesn’t pay.  Director Michael Bay goes the distance to remind audiences of that necessary lesson because it also gives him the opportunity to glorify and glamorize every ugly facet of it.  Sitting through Pain and Gain, an alleged black comedy that exposes the danger of American greed, I’m left to contend that the writers and actors sought to dig up a fascinatingly dark tale spun so unbelievably from the ground up that 15 percent of it must actually be true.  After all—this is a true story.  I could have used a newspaper clipping of said story or even a mere tweet.  Bay’s punishing drama lasts 130 gruesome minutes.

The story takes place in 1995 where a Miami fitness guru, Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a smarmy snake with muscles, slithers his way into a senior position at a gym and manages to triple its membership within a short amount of time.  But the cash isn’t green enough, and after a few interactions with self-made titan sleaze Walter Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), Daniel decides he can give the jerk what’s coming to him and steal all of his dough.

To do it, Daniel recruits the bronze mammoth and reformed ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) and the steroid abuser Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie).  Together the odd-trio team attempt a series of failed executions at nabbing Kershaw before finally kidnapping him and then torturing him for three weeks until he signs over all of his finances and possessions to the unorthodox bodybuilders.  The gang seals the deal by killing him, or so they think, and Kershaw escapes near death.  Held captive in a hospital bed, Kershaw’s repelling personality and lack of convincing evidence regarding his abduction cause the police to laugh off his account of events.

Left broke and broken, Kershaw hires a retired private investigator (Ed Harris) to find the three tank-sized clowns that stole everything from him.  It ends up only a matter of time that Daniel and his pals fall victim to the temptations of the wealthy lifestyle and they compromise their plans, setting off a series of idiotic judgments and actions that lead them to further murder and destruction.

pain and gain imagePain and Gain happens to illustrate everything about soulless filmmaking.  Despite decent performances from the cast, the script never allows us to care for anyone of these hulking doofuses because they’re all so vile and violent.  Wahlberg’s character should carry the story in a tragic fashion, but he’s so unlikable in every conceivable manner, as are the other characters who fall victim to his manipulations.  Johnson has the most well-rounded role as the beefy aggressor who has found Christ, only to immediately find the devil in Daniel.  Mackie plays the third hand with little of interest added to his character.

When the characters fail, Bay makes sure we feel the pain.  His music video-style only glamorizes the violence and depravity.  These three men become enforcers of brute punishment, and rather than explore any psychological dimensions of these characters, Bay plays the outrageous blackness of the film for laughs, only they don’t hit as hard as his three leading actors—if ever.  Instead the director lights up the screen with oil, sweat, and sunlight and plays his misogynistic melee tale for all its worth, consistently objectifying women and playing up the volatile chumps and their violent ways as something to be desired.  From the outset, we don’t understand these characters in any possible way, so why spend 130 slow minutes trying to laugh off their bloody antics?  Bay thinks he’s delivered a cautionary tale, but instead his penchant for cinematic destruction provides a herd of antagonist morons doing grotesque things that are meant to look ‘oh so cool’—which reminds me of another one of Bay’s ugly and overlong crap chutes from ten years ago.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
1 COMMENT

Summer 2013 Preview

The blockbuster season is so close you can smell the shrapnel.  Luckily for us movie fans the studios have begun trotting out some of the big tentpoles early ever since the year 2011 when Fast Five broke the mold and opened a week before the typical Summer launch which has been the first weekend of May for over a decade.  The Vin Diesel-led action-sequel turned out to be a roaring success, even besting final grosses of the almighty Thor which kicked off the ‘season-proper.’  Now the studios are realizing audiences will pay to see a big movie any time of year if the anticipation is there.

I haven’t done this for a few years, but I miss the optimism in looking ahead to the movie season rather than the disappointment in looking back.  What movies are on my radar this summer?  Actually quite a heap.  Nearly every weekend has a movie I’m eager to see which is likely a major problem for studios as supply is very high this season and the competition will be fierce.  Hopefully my adoring wife will hold my hand through them all… or most.  I’m sure there will be big winners and major losers in this bunch.  But the real question is: will there be any surprises?  And which am I looking forward to most?

The Dark Horses:

pangPain and Gain (4/26): We have seen a lot of Dwayne Johnson lately.  And he will be around a lot more yet.  With Snitch and the G.I. Joe sequel still in theaters, he’s about to star in an uber-violent action-comedy from Michael Bay about criminal bodybuilders.  Johnson co-stars with Mark Wahlberg, Ed Harris and Tony Shaloub.  The trailers for the film definitely have some personality and signature Bay visuals—tan human beings drenched in sweat (or is that the camera lens), gunplay, car chases and explosions.  But I’m not sold yet.  The film looks a little more niche than expected and may play just as well at home if it’s any good at all.  TRAILER.

greatgatsThe Great Gatsby (5/10): It’s not the first title that comes to mind when I think ‘summer.’  That might be because the studio moved it from its Christmas award season slot last year to May 10th where there will be less… competition.  Right.  The trailer looks visually arresting and I’m surprised to see the film getting a 3D release.  As a film adaptation directed by Baz Luhrrman and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this could be fantastic, but I’m not entirely sure it will break out at this time of year. TRAILER.

This-is-the-End-2013This is the End (6/12): A slew of comedic actors who’ve all shared the screen together in some capacity star as themselves caught up in an apocalypse.  Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Danny McBride… Yes, they’re all in this movie and they all play their celebrity selves.  Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the film.  They also wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express.  And Green Hornet… and The Watch… If you are still reading they also wrote Drillbit Taylor (Remember that movie?  Owen Wilson was in it.  No one saw it…)  Their latest movie, looks like an intriguing concept…which could in fact turn out to be The Watch all over again (and that movie was a complete disaster).  But the trailers have me convinced this could be funny… or maybe too raunchy for my tastes.  Sadly this is one of the few comedy choices we have this coming season so we can only hope. TRAILER.

The-WolverineThe Wolverine (7/26): What?? Not in my top ten?? No.  Ever since Director Darren Arronofsky famously dropped out of the this dark prequel/sequel/standalone/spinoff or whatever it is, my anticipation went down.  I want to see it, but I’m not particularly excited.  James Mangold is a capable director.  But Walk the Line and Knight and Day aren’t exactly titles that tell me he was the right choice to revive this installment after the dumping ground that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman has the chops to still deliver a great solo Wolverine movie, and the trailer looks pretty good, but how can a trailer for this movie not ‘look’ good?  TRAILER.

despicable-me-2-picture03Despicable Me 2 (7/3): I have to admit I really enjoyed the original surprise hit featuring the voice talent of Steve Carell.  Will this movie be a simple cash grab or a worthy follow-up?  I don’t know.  Time will tell.  Sequels to animated films generally don’t retain the magic of the predecessors, but I have no doubt that the writers could come up with something truly special.  Or maybe those yellow minions will be incredibly annoying the second time around.  TRAILER.

the-heat-trailerThe Heat (6/28):  Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as hardcore law enforcement?  Sounds like comedy to me.  But will this movie have enough wit in the script or will it be an onslaught of profanity substituted for genuine ideas?  I believe both of these actresses are capable of delivering a very entertaining comedy and would likely make a dynamic pair, but I’m on the fence and entirely not blown away by the trailer. TRAILER.

LonerangThe Lone Ranger (7/3): This actually looks very entertaining, regardless of the naysayers.  This honestly just looks like a fun movie—batty, goofy, action-packed, impressively shot.  But it still has an iffy air about it and so it didn’t quite make my top ten list.  But Johnny Depp as Tonto strikes me as awesome.  Armie Hammer as the Ranger?  Hopefully a star is made out of him.  Plus Gore Verbinski is directing, and if he can recreate the magic of his first Pirates of the Caribbean film, then we may have something here.  TRAILER.

MonstersUMonsters University (6/21): Pixar Studios have been wanting sequels left and right all of a sudden.  It’s been off-putting for me as they typically come up with great original storytelling.  The teaser trailer for this Monsters, Inc. prequel also rubbed me the wrong way portraying monster college to children as a mindless wild party atmosphere (just without the booze).  Then a follow-up trailer filmed as a university advertisement was a bit more daring and original.  I think Monsters Inc was a very solid movie, but I’m not enthused for another.  TRAILER.

AftEarAfter Earth (6/7): My biggest question mark of the season… M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth.  The studio hasn’t been putting his name in the ads.  Why?  Because you probably laughed out loud when you read his name.  The man has been cursed.  At one point in his career everything he touched turned to gold.  Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs.  He was the next Spielberg.  Then… The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender.  Make it stop!  After Earth, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith looks both good and bad.  I don’t know.  I suppose if this wasn’t a Will Smith-starrer I would look the other way.  I don’t see it as a resurgence for Shyamalan, but anything is possible.  Maybe it’s just that southern drawl in the actors’ voices that has me confused.  TRAILER.

world-war-z-trailerWorld War Z (6/21): I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead TV show mainly because of the high production values and searing drama amongst the human cast.  World War Z, which appears to be a very loose adaptation of its novel source, looks like a solid suspenseful ride.  But I have my doubts about Marc Forester directing (not to mention the highly-public troubled production)—he was behind Quantum of Solace and Finding Neverland.  The zombies look like dodgy CGI creations on speed, sort of like I am Legend.  Brad Pitt stars which adds some leading man power, but despite a promising trailer, I have a feeling Forester will deliver a completely digital film that misses the human element, the realism, and the drama.  Will I still see it?  Um, yeah.  TRAILER.

The Top Ten:

1183878 - WHITE HOUSE DOWN10) White House Down (6/28):  Okay.  I just saw Antonie Fuqua’s version of this movie and it was bad.  But come on.  The trailer for this Channing Tatum-Jamie Foxx version looks surprisingly good.  I’m game for another White House takedown movie even if it stars Channing Tatum because Director Roland ‘Independence Day‘ Emmerich is taking it down… and he has a profitable history in doing so.  Hopefully the villains, the heroes, the script, the plot, the visual effects and everything else in between are better than Olympus Has FallenTRAILER.

Fast-Furious-6-Official-Super-Bowl9) Fast & Furious 6 (5/24): Remember how Fast Five came out two years ago and blew away expectations?  I have a feeling returning Director Justin Lin will take it to a whole new level with this sixth installment.  I can’t believe I’m writing these words.  I mean, the awful Tokyo Drift was three movies ago!  Actually, Fast Five didn’t blow me away like everyone else, but I did enjoy it enough to be very excited for the entire cast returning for even bigger action, bigger chases, and even further ridiculousness.  Just don’t try and follow the titles of these movies, because they only want you to be confused.  TRAILER.

elysium-neil-blomkamp8)  Elysium (8/9): —UPDATE: The trailer arrived and it did not disappoint.  In fact, I should be moving this film higher on my list.  It looks great!— I have not seen a single frame of a trailer for this movie, but the production stills have me intrigued enough.  Plus the Oscar-nominated hit District 9 was my favorite movie of 2009, and Director Neill Blomkamp is now back with this new sci-fi action-thriller starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.  What’s it about?  IMDB lists the synopsis as: “Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.”  Sounds good to me! TRAILER.

now_you_see_me_xlg7) Now You See Me (5/31): This trailer jumped out of nowhere and arrested me at gunpoint.  Magicians who rob banks, but for what purpose?  Is there something greater going on behind the curtain?  Count me in.  It has the intrigue of The Prestige with the fun of The Italian Job.  Plus the cast is absolutely top notch.  Something good in the script must have attracted them all.  Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo.  Ticket.  Bought.  TRAILER.

2_Guns_26) 2 Guns (8/2): An action-comedy in vein of Lethal Weapon starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.  It looks action-packed, but most surprisingly, it looks funny!  I can’t remember the last time Washington ran for some laughs.  This has all the right ingredients for a good-old buddy-action-flick and also looks to be a fresh break from all the comic book heroes and science fiction running amok.  TRAILER.

oblivion201212109117055) Oblivion (4/19): Summer starts very early this year and Tom Cruise is prime set to deliver a sprawling sci-fi actioner about a post-apocalyptic Earth and the aftermath of humanity leaving the planet (which is also the synopsis of After Earth).  Joseph Kosinski directed and the man is a visual talent, but can the story also deliver?  His previous film was Tron: Legacy which I actually enjoyed a lot.  I think Oblivion has grown on my radar the more ads I see for it.  Plus Cruise rarely stars in a bad film, especially his big budget fare.  I’m in.  TRAILER.

three-new-posters-for-pacific-rim-123740-02-470-754) Pacific Rim (7/12): Okay.  I know.  Giant robots versus giant monsters battling to the death.  I know!  But come on.  There’s people inside the giant robots manning controls.  And Charlie Hunnam who is a force to be reckoned with on Sons of Anarchy has what is potentially his big breakout role here.  Plus!—this is a Guillermo del Toro film who is a fantasy genius and he creates incredible creatures and worlds.  He’s the man behind Blade II, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Hellboy movies.  I think he’s got us covered.  Pacific Rim looks like Transformers meets Godzilla with hopefully more brains than either of those.  And it looks awesome!!  TRAILER.

ironman3-poster-jumbo-jpg_1621423) Iron Man 3 (5/3): This ‘proper’ season kickoff will be huge.  Iron Man 3 luckily has the advantage of looking like a sequel to The Avengers (which everyone loved, and that film nearly doubled Iron Man’s previous domestic audience) rather than the mild disappointment that was Iron Man 2 three years ago.  New movie.  New director.  New tone.  And it looks like Tony Stark may have a lot to lose this time around.  I swear looking back—did anything actually happen in Iron Man 2?  Now the chips really start to crumble for Stark and it looks like an absolute blast.  TRAILER.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS2) Star Trek Into Darkness (5/17): J.J. Abrams is the new deity of dorks.  But cool people love him too.  So now there really isn’t such a thing as dorks anymore.  Abrams is a genius… yes I’m in that camp.  And no, I haven’t seen Lost.  But his movies get better and better.  Mission Impossible III, Star Trek, and Super 8.  Soon he will deliver Star Wars Episode VII.  But for now let’s talk Star Trek and the upcoming sequel.  It looks amazing and I’ve only grown more fond of Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot over the years.  He did everything right in making Star Trek accessible to a mainstream audience.  The film was action-packed, funny, witty, well-acted, and the nods were everywhere for hardcore fans.  But if you missed them as a casual moviegoer, you still loved the movie!  So how can I not be ecstatic for the new Star TrekTRAILER.

mosposter1) Man of Steel (6/14): As I’m typing this I feel absolutely blown away that Man of Steel is in my number one spot.  I’m not a Superman fan!  I just don’t dig the character.  I don’t dislike him.  I just think he’s not that exciting of a character.  He’s basically indestructible, so where is the fun in that?  But Christopher Nolan is producing.  Zack Snyder of 300 and Watchmen is directing.  And the trailers look… amazing.  I’m honestly still skeptical, but I can’t deny that I’m most interested to see how this one turns out.  Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Henry Cavill (as Clark Kent)… that’s a solid cast.  The visuals looks great.  The emotion looks in place.  The story and themes seem to be just right.  It has that Nolan-feel.  Maybe that’s it.  We had this same anticipation experience back in 2006 when Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns was set to usher in a new era for Superman.  The movie was a box office disappointment (only because Warner Bros spent way too much on the film because it performed exactly the same as Batman Begins the year prior) and people went from worshiping the film to outright hating it over the years.  I don’t know how people keep repeating these phases in moviedom.  The same thing happened to Indiana Jones 4 and Terminator 3 and Prometheus… and okay I’ll stop there.  But I really think Nolan and Snyder will deliver a Superman movie that finally makes me a fan.  TRAILER.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
LEAVE A COMMENT

Fast Five

The Summer movie season has kicked off a week early with Fast Five, sneaking in the schedule a week ahead of Marvel’s ThorFast Five (for the uninitiated) is the fifth installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise—a series of films that at one point had lost its two leading stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.  Once both men needed career revivals two years ago, Justin Lin, the director of Tokyo Drift (the third installment) brought back Diesel and Walker for the most lucrative film in the franchise.  Now that it has been ten years since the original film debuted in 2001, I am shocked to find this franchise finding any relevancy in a busy market.  Look at how Scream 4 was recently burned alive.  But I suppose if you build a flick around macho guys, babes, fast cars, guns, and explosions, audiences will find it.

Fast Five picks up where Fast and Furious left off.  Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) has been convicted of his past run-ins with the law and is off to prison.  Do you think he gets there?  Neither did I.  Former Fed Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) take on a major rescue operation involving the rollover of a bus carrying the prisoners.  The team reunites in Rio for a heist of pricey sports cars.  The plan is ridiculous—torch the side of a train moving at 70 mph or so, align a moving loading ramp along the side, and drive the cars from inside the locomotive off the train via the ramp.  Unfortunately for the gang, the men they are working with have alternative plans, and the job goes sour.  Dom and Brian escape in one of the stolen cars (in a ridiculous physics-defying sequence) and soon realize they are in possession of a computerized microchip installed in the vehicle that has the personal accounting information of the notorious druglord they were pulling the job for—worth $100 million.  Dom sees this as an opportunity to pull off “one amazing last heist that will have him walk away from crime forever.”  Brian, having just realized he is a father-to-be with Mia, is down.  But they need to assemble a team, featuring a herd of F&F series veterans: Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sung Kang, and others.  The band of thugs meet up in Rio to plot the smash-and-grab, but the stakes become greater as a Special Forces strike team led by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson—bulky and sweaty as ever) is on the trail of Torretto and O’Connor, and will do whatever it takes to bring them down.

If Fast Five is to be enjoyed, it can only be enjoyed as a cheesefest.  I still don’t know if I actually liked it, however, I can say I was entertained.  The series has been off and on for me, but it never quite works without Vin Diesel behind the wheel.  Luckily Justin Lin has decided to shift the series and turn it into a straightforward action franchise and shed much of the street racing antics.  We still get some of that, and several shiny autos, but F&F is now all bang-bang mayhem with lives at stake.  The action reminded me of Peter Berg film.  It’s gritty, intense, fast-moving, merciless—all the while in a PG-13 landscape.  A lot of people get brutally killed in Fast Five, but there is little-to-no bloodshed to be seen.  The ‘heroes’ continually manage to narrowly escape being hurt or killed as bands of assault-rifle wielding good guys and bag guys pursue them, so much so that it doesn’t take long for them to mirror a pack of roadrunners being chased by a bunch of witless coyotes.  The mano-a-mano brawl between Diesel and Johnson (soon to be infamous) has them bludgeoning each other to pulps, but there is hardly  a blood drop, and by the next scene they are just fine.  I picture these two freight trains crashing into each other in a very impressive and violent duel, and walking away without a dent.  It doesn’t make sense at all.  But, hey, the franchise wouldn’t sell as an R-rated film.

In the end, Lin’s film is a walking vegetable.  It may be completely brain-dead, but it sure has a pulse.  Luckily the man knows how to stage action sequences and film them in such a way that the audience can comprehend what is going on and to whom it’s happening.  I appreciate a visual style that makes sense in a market so influenced by those Jason Bourne films.  Granted, the action in Fast Five is completely impossible—and I won’t dare to spoil the outrageous howlers of sequences boiling over in this installment—but at least you can follow it and appreciate it as an over-the-top exercise in macho excess.  Diesel and Johnson bring charisma and presence to the table and ultimately make this movie, one that’s about 20 minutes too long and full of actors meant to ‘function’ rather than ‘act.’  So if you’re in for some hich-octane stupidity, constant eight-word catchphrases, and a series that is now dangerously becoming the next Saw franchise in terms of re-appearing characters and loosely connected plot threads across the previous installments, then Fast Five is exactly what you’re looking for in mindless entertainment.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 4.6/5 (5 votes cast)
1 COMMENT

Faster

“I can’t.”

“God can’t save you from me.”

“Where’s the exit?”

“Steel plate.”

“Your dad is sorry.”

“That’s a long dark road you’re headed down.”

“Where’s the old man?”

Sorry to spoil half of the main character’s dialogue in Faster, but I couldn’t resist.  Ah, good ol’ gritty revenge sagas for bulky action stars of few words—you gotta love ’em.  Dwayne Johnson should generally be pleasing his action fans with Faster, as everything but “The Rock” splitting up his name brings him back to that brawny star his followers have missed since 2004’s Walking Tall.  Now he’s out to settle the score against the men who made a snuff film out of his brother’s and his own murder.  Did I lose you?  I promise this isn’t science-fiction… for the most part.

Director George Tillman, Jr. attempts to strip down excessive vigilante tales and bring the premise to its most basic of elements, so much so that his lead characters don’t even have names—they’re rooted in archetypes, acting as functions of formula or machines driving the plot.  The film opens with Driver (Johnson) being released from prison while his face practically has ‘bloodthirsty’ written all over it, and he simply requests for the exit.  He sprints away from his incarceration to an auto lot where his wheels of vengeance await, a 1971 Chevelle all spruced up and film-ready.  Driver has a list of perps to take out one by one.  Who will stand in his way?  Enter a scruffy Billy Bob Thorton as Cop.  You wouldn’t believe he’s ten days away from retirement, has a wife and son who want little to do with him, and he’s a dope addict trying to scrape by until he’s home free.  Cop is partnered with another detective, Cicero (Carla Gugino) to track down Driver, or at least follow up on his trail of dead bodies.  Not only are the cops on Driver’s trail, but an assassin labeled Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has been dispatched to stop Driver in his tracks before the body count gets too high.

Driver has been driven to kill (forgive me) after a bank robbery went bloody sour, and he watched his older brother bite the dust.  Even Driver himself took a gunshot to the back of his skull, but not before he declares: “I’m gonna kill all of you.”  I’ll let the movie tell you how he survived a bullet to the head.  Armed with a .454 Casull, unlimited ammo, the look of a hungry grizzly bear, and a list of names, he’s ready to find some bad guys.  Tillman counts the passing days throughout the film as Dwayne Johnson covers lots of ground killing lots of bad guys, and finds little to no interference from the law, even with his giant shaved mug covering every flat-screen television in America.

I can find a lot to like in Faster, but I question what Tillman is after here.  Revenge tales come and go all the time, so why try and flatten leftovers?  If you’re going to take the last remaining current action star, which is really a debatable title for Johnson these days, why don’t you try and make him memorable?  Why divulge in archetypes?  I think he is going for a grittier tone sans all the visual extremes of Tony Scott’s bloated, yet engaging Man on Fire.  But Johnson is playing more machine than Schwarzenegger ever saw in his day.  His character is far less interesting than Thorton’s and Jackson-Cohen’s.  Johnson gets little to do and his fans will be hard-pressed to find an action sequence that isn’t abrupt and to the point, allowing The Rock to do little more than grimace and pull the trigger.  His physicality is constantly paraded in front of the camera and yet never utilized.  This is most definitely a point-blank film featuring nearly zero glaring, complex action sequences, and because of this, those expecting the return of Johnson laying the smack down, may have their hopes up a bit too high.

I have no doubt viewers will still be interested in a low-rent, gritty film that’s delivering Johnson into R-rated territory.  This stripped-down thriller seems to taking things a little bit seriously, yet also feels self-aware.  Tillman presents us with tools to get the bloody job done and he does so.  I suppose I was looking for a little more flare and intrigue.  Did I buy into Faster?  Who cares.  I had a good enough time to remember it for another half hour.  Here’s hoping another filmmaker finds Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on that rare day where he has a thirst for action movies, and let’s hope that filmmaker doesn’t hold back.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 3.0/5 (2 votes cast)
1 COMMENT

The Other Guys

I can’t remember the last time I sat through a major comedy featuring prominent stars without at least a few good laughs finding their way out.  To my complete surprise, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have unsuccessfully lampooned the buddy-cop action flick with The Other Guys.  This latest Adam McKay–Will Ferrell collaboration hit with a thud, so much so I began questioning whether I even enjoy Ferrell as a comedian.

That simply can’t be the case.  He’s a gifted comic actor, and his performances in Elf, Anchorman, Zoolander, Wedding Crashers, Blades of Glory and other films have caused me side-splitting pains of laughter.  But lately with Semi-Pro, Step Brothers, Land of the Lost, and now The Other Guys (which is getting good reviews and making buckets of dough), I seem to be losing appreciation for the funnyman.  However, a likelier conclusion would be that he has simply been floundering in stink-pile projects.  Either way, The Other Guys happens to be an intriguing premise and allows Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg to trade zingers—an opportunity I was looking forward to immensely.  The script simply goes nowhere, and I didn’t care for any of the jokes.

Ferrell and Wahlberg play pencil-pushing cops Gamble and Hoitz, living in the shadows of destructive action-hero NYPD detectives (Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson) living out Bad Boys-style stunts and rescues on a daily basis.  One such chase has them leap off a high-rise building in an effort to catch the bad guys, and their self-proclaimed indestructibility causes them to forget that gravity will pull them to their deaths. With these two larger-than-life boneheads out of the way, Hoitz wants in on the action and away from his desk, dragging the hesitant Gamble along with him.  Gamble wants to play it safe, while Hoitz is looking for a big case.  The two find one unexpectedly, and become knee-deep in some extortion plot resulting in their inevitable suspension, allowing action-movie cliches to ensue (although it’s intended for laughs).

Sadly, I found zero fun here.  I can appreciate what McKay and Ferrell were trying to do, and I can see this potentially being a great comedy, but the jokes continuously backfired and fell flat.  Even Wahlberg, usually the hard-nosed action-star, failed to do much more than shout obnoxiously throughout (hilarious Mark, I know).  The plot was simply lacking, the dialogue wasn’t funny, and the mash-up of Ferrell and Wahlberg was in fact inspired, but went nowhere with the material.  I am amazed that the critically-reviled Cop Out from Kevin Smith seemed more enjoyable.  If Other Guys has a redeeming quality, it is Michael Keaton throwing out lyrics from TLC hits and doubling as Police Captain and Manager of Bed Bath & Beyond.  Otherwise, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell continue down a slippery slope.  Step Brothers I hated, and Other Guys almost as much, just not in the same way.  Where Step Brothers was so idiotic and loud, Other Guys is simply tired and lazy.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 2.5/5 (2 votes cast)
LEAVE A COMMENT