Tag Archives: dan aykroyd

The Top Ten Best Car Chases

There’s nothing better than a frantic, fast-paced, pulse-pounding car chase.

The kind that sticks you directly in the middle of the action at a hundred miles an hour, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.

The kind that keeps you coming back to re-view (and in my case, “review”) time and again,  just to relive it.

The kind that brings something new to a very crowded genre.

The kind that I’m crazy for not including in my top ten list.  Well, did I miss any?

10. Bank Heist (Fast Five)

This would rank even higher if two Mustangs had been involved instead of two Dodge Chargers, but it’s still fantastic to see Vin Diesel and Paul Walker double-team the streets of Rio de Janeiro with a gazillion ton bank safe in tow.

Bonus points for the fact that when the safe opens, it’s to Danza Kuduro so I’m reminded of every Caribbean vacation I’ve taken since 2010.

9. Mall Escape (Terminator 2)

Normally, if you’re choosing between a dirt bike and a big rig tow truck for chase purposes, you’d take the terminator2truck, right?  But what if the dirt bike also comes with an assist from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800?

What makes this chase all the more awesome is that if you go in to this movie cold, you cannot be sure which killer robot is on little John Conner’s side – a masterstroke by James Cameron which the movie’s trailers spoiled for anyone who’d seen them.

8. Mall Break-In (The Blues Brothers)

You expect a crash or two as part of a chase.  Maybe a car even flips over once in a while.   The Blues Brothers took crashes to an entirely different level.

A total of 103 cars were wrecked during the film, many of them during Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s wild ride through a shopping mall.  That triple-digit destruction was a record until Blues Brothers 2000 deliberately smashed one more car during its production.  But it’s the original receiving the crown that matters, namely a spot on this prestigious list.

7. San Francisco Tour (Bullitt)

Steve McQueen takes a spin in maybe the most iconic Mustang ever and tames the bullittstreets of San Francisco and a rival driver in a Dodge Charger.

But it’s not only the car, it’s also that McQueen made sure to keep his head in view of the camers so you knew it was him doing the heavy lifting the whole time.

6. World’s Worst Valet (The Rock)

This is mostly about the car, as Nicolas Cage borrows a beautiful yellow Ferrari F355 Spider to chase down Sean Connery in a Hummer H1.  And fucks it up badly.

Michael Bay puts his own spin on a San Francisco chase, complete with a runaway trolley car, and reminds us that at Bay’s peak his set pieces were as good as anyone’s.

5. Catching the Train (The French Connection)

french connectionThe French Connection’s chase is iconic for good reason.  This claustrophobic subway/car chase was filmed without a permit in real Brooklyn traffic, causing real car crashes that were left in the film (the producers paid for the repairs, but still).

While the choice to film on uncleared streets is one that would never be allowed by a Hollywood studio today, the camera angles used by director William Friedkin and his crew are still being used today.

4. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver)

It’s rare to have a car chase open a movie, but when it’s done right,  why not?

Here, Edgar Wright gets the opening chase scene SO right, in part because he’d been dreaming of making this very car chase (complete with accompanying song) since the 90s.  It was worth the wait!

3. Chasing a Black…Tank (Batman Begins)

Christopher Nolan can do it all, can’t he?  You’d think the streets of Gotham City would be perfect car chase fodder but only Nolan got it right.batman

Nolan also got a Gotham chase right in The Dark Knight, but for my money the chase from Batman Begins is the best one since it shows us how bewildering it would be for the cops trying to keep track of a superhero’s black…tank as it defies the laws of physics.

2. Fourth Quarter Magic (Drive)

As good as Baby Driver’s opening is, the opening sequence in Drive wins out for Nicolas Winding Refn’s patience and subtlety.

This chase feels like it actually could have happened, and more importantly sets the tone for the rest of the film with its gritty realism, a hint of the pulsing synth soundtrack, and amazing attention to detail (only after seeing the chase play out do we understand why Ryan Gosling’s character is such a big basketball fan).

1. The Whole Enchilada (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max: Fury Road is FURY ROADessentially a two-hour long chase scene, so on that measure it has to be number one.

But what is most impressive is that I couldn’t pick just one short sequence of that chase to focus on because it’s all fantastic.  The madness and desperation in Max’s world lend an unmatched urgency to the chase, and George Miller never takes his foot off the accelerator even for a minute – fitting for the best car chase scene of all-time.

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Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, December 7th 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.

It’s been 75 years since that fateful attack on US soil, and 15 years since Michael Bay made a movie about it, and people are still arguing about which one was worse.

Oof, okay, sorry. No more joking about it. Sean and I are actually in Honolulu right now, visiting the Pearl Harbor site, and that’s a super-somber thing for uss_arizona_memorial_4sure. But beautiful too, in its way. There’s a floating memorial right over top where the USS Arizona lays beneath the ocean. You take a small shuttle boat over to it, and you can walk around on the very spot where it happened. It’s a lovely memorial, sobering as it is built right over the battleship, where 1102 of the 1177 crewmen killed still rest. In aerial shots, you can make out the outline of the ship. Lots of quiet moments to think about this loss of life.

Does Michael Bay’s movie afford the same opportunity? Not so much. The spectacularly bad dialogue makes it hard to take seriously. And critics derided the love story, though lots of Pearl Harbor-era veterans thought it pretty accurate. It’s maybe not the kind of love story we’re used to today, but if you compare it to a romance from the actual 1940s, it’s not so far off the mark. pearl-harbourPlus, war and love make us do crazy things. Michael Bay, however, is just the worst choice to convey those things. The 40 minute action sequence: superb. Very Michael Bay. Very explody. It’s even in the Guinness book of records for movie with most explosives used. There’s one shot of 6 explosions in “Battleship Row”, which was staged on real Navy ships. 6 ships, 600 feet each, rigged with 500 bombs on each boat, using 700 sticks of dynamite, 2000 feet of cord and 4000 gallons of gasoline. It took 7 months of coordination, a month and a half to rig them, permission from the government of Hawaii, the EPA, and the Navy, plus 100 extras on hand and 6 planes flying overhead, and 14 cameras to film it and in the end, it was a 7 second explosion that was stretched to 12 seconds on screen. That’s how Michael Bay do.

Otherwise it’s bloated and clichéd and weak in both plot and character. Bay has a special kind of super power where he routinely takes 3 hours to say very little, and almost never authentically. But there’s a lot of flag-waving. 1503b4f462b99050922864481f727176Wouldn’t you like to see Michael Bay and Clint Eastwood in a flag-off? Who would drop first? Pearl Harbor manages to make a spectacle out of a profound moment in history, where blood was shed by real people embroiled in their own acts of love, intimacy, bravery, fear, courage, and duty. But those stories never get told. Instead, Michael Bay offended the Japanese by upping the “barbarism” of the whole thing, which also insults American vets, who would be right in thinking the real event was bad enough. A better tribute to those who died, and those who survived, is found at the memorial, where a 23 minute documentary is shown, and manages in those 23 minutes to be more honest and more informative than Bay’s 183.

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusters

When I was a little girl, I had a Ghostbusters siren on the right handlebar of my bike. On the left, I had a Slimer horn. I was dedicated to kickin ass and bustin ghosts and doing both from the luxurious banana seat on my Blue Angel bike. But the boys? The boys always kristen-wiig-ghostbusters-2-16132-1468265440-1_dblbigthought I should be Janine, the secretary. There’s nothing wrong with being a secretary, but there’s a reason nobody plays secretary. It’s just sitting at a desk! I wanted the glory, dammit, not the paperwork.

So a word to all you “Ghostbros” out there: there’s a reason why they’re “ruining your childhood” by making this movie. It’s because it’s little fucks like you who ruined mine.

And while we’re on the subject, I don’t buy this “It’s about our childhood” argument anyway. No, it’s not. You’re sexist, magotty little misogynists and you’re too afraid to say it to my face because you know I’ll kick your ass. This movie does not have the ability to time travel back to your snot-nosed lame-ass childhood where your only friend was your Stay-Puft marshmallow man toy and make a mockery of it. You’re the one making a mockery of it, and I’m guessing you have been for about 35 years. This bizarre hatred for a movie you’ve never seen is sexism, pure and simple. Hollywood has been rebooting movies for years. No one cried to their mommy when they rebooted Batman. ghostbusters-iiiNobody worried that their childhood Batman was ruined. No one panics when they reboot James Bond every 10 years. As long as you replace a man with another man, everything’s cool. Look, I’m sorry adulthood isn’t working out for you. I’m sorry girls never took an interest. But hating this movie won’t make you cool. And if you are truly, truly worried that seeing a brand new Ghostbusters movie will somehow sully your memory of the first, here’s a thought: just don’t watch it. I know! It’s revolutionary! Don’t go to the movie (I’m sure you exercised this right when they made a sequel back in 1989, one that failed to live up to its predecessor, or to its sucessor). You don’t have to judge it without having seen it. You don’t have to out yourself as a coward and a woman-hater. You just have to opt not to see it. I mean, it’s a stupid move because this movie’s great, but I’m guessing you and stupid moves are well-acquainted.

I won’t bother you with a synopsis because I’m guessing you all know what Ghostbusters do. It’s pretty much just a new team who happen to be women, who happen to know a lot about the occult, who happen to be sciency enough to do something about it. The script is hella-funny. The ghostbusting is pretty badass. And there’s just enough spook to get your pulse racing in a few places. Plus Paul Feig is just the right guy to get the job done. I knew we were in good hands when I saw how reverently he treated Spy – this guy is just a fan of movies. He’s respectful, but he knows how to poke fun in just the right places. And he writes exceptionally well for women.

The ladies are superbly well-cast. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are the most talented comediennes we have, but they play straight-ladies in this case. Ghostbusters is a coming out party for Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and let me tell you, they have arrived. Matt was surprised by how much he liked Jones in this but for me, it was all about maxresdefaultMcKinnon. Her character is bizarre and oblivious but McKinnon somehow humanizes her and pulls off some really cheeky, sweet, inspired moments under Feig’s loose direction (being an SNL alum probably helps quite a bit – he’s a big fan of letting his cast improvise). We stayed right to the end of the credits to squeeze every bit of juice out of this thing, and were rewarded. In fact, the movie itself is crowded with little gifts, among them cameos from plenty of original Ghostbusters. Who was your favourite, Matt?

M: I’m always excited to see Bill Murray but Dan Aykroyd’s part was the funniest even though I didn’t recognize him at first.

It was really great seeing love and support from the 1980s cast. This movie isn’t about replacing an old favorite, it’s about updating a classic and introducing it to a whole new generation. Homage is paid. Respect given. Isn’t that enough? Sean, you’re the right age and sex to be outraged by the audacity – how do you feel?

S: It did not ruin my childhood or ruin my memories of the first one. It was definitely more fun than the sequel. It was an enjoyable movie that I can’t understand anyone hating. Just a good old summer blockbuster.

The first one was a bit of magic. It was different and fun and exciting. The 2016 Ghostbusters isn’t a new idea, it isn’t different, but it’s just as fun and exciting. I can’t imagine what more you’d want.

Dan Aykroyd Brings the Blues to the St. Lawrence International Film Festival

The opening gala for the St. Lawrence International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night in Ottawa with none other than national treasure and hometown boy Dan freakin Aykroyd introducing the 35th anniversary screening of Blues Brothers.

IMG_3062The Blues Brothers were actually born in Toronto, which is where Aykroyd ran into John Belushi for the first time, at a bar on Queen Street where Downchild Blues Band was playing. Belushi was more into metal and punk but Aykroyd schooled him that night, and the music won him over, and musical director Howard Shore put a little bug in their ear, saying they should maybe start a band, and call it Blues Brothers.

The next time they met, Belushi had some 300 blues records and was already picking songs for a record for a band that didn’t exist blues-brothersyet. As you know, the two went on to be part of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, and they used this little band idea of theirs in a sketch. The rest is history: they recorded Briefcase Full of Blues, which topped the charts and sold 3.5 million albums, then they made seven more, plus the movie, and its sequel, and even a radio show. Belushi died in 1982, so now when the Blues Brothers play, his brother Jim joins Aykroyd on stage.

Aykroyd worked on the script for Blues Brothers while appearing on SNL. In it, Jake Blues (John), fresh out of prison, puts together his old bbrsband to save the Catholic home where he and brother Elwood (Dan) were raised. The film has a little bit of Ottawa influence in it: the ballroom of the Palace Hotel where the final performance takes places was patterned after Aylmer’s Chaudiere Club. And the air-raid siren atop the Bluesmobile was inspired by the one at Our Lady of Annunciation, where Aykroyd attended school in Hull – all in the Assholes’ backyard, as it were.

Aykroyd pulled up to the festival in a Bluesmobile of sorts, and walked the red carpet in his trademark shades. He sat down before the movie and told us that his favourite character to play was fe9d953c8dc8edccde5ad7dec9bdf039Beldar, the coneheaded alien, which he followed up with an immediate impression. I guess it’s not an impression if it’s YOUR character. “I talk at home like that,” said Aykroyd, and we believe him. His favourite movie, though, was Blues Brothers because “I had to use all the skills” – acting, writing, singing, dancing, playing the harmonica, stunt driving, not getting killed by Carrie Fisher. When someone asked about the pinnacle of his career, the question is quickly retracted, the asker not wishing to imply that the pinnacle isn’t perhaps still ahead. “May it please be behind me,” quips Aykroyd, and he’s quick to name the highlight: dancing on stage with James Brown.

Without further ado, he introduces the movie, an extended cut with extra car chase, and assures us IMG_3081that he still has 80% of the moves. Watching him break out into a frenetic dance up on the big screen, you kind of want to call him on it. I’m struck by the tremendous sideburns worn by Aykroyd and Belushi, and by Elwood’s white socks. The movie is full of cameos you can hardly believe – Aretha Franklin is sassy in a stained apron, Ray Charles plays so fervently we can see the reflection of the piano’s keys in his glasses, James Brown preaches to the choir (including Chaka Khan), and John Lee Hooker gets everyone stomping.

Matt’s favourite part was hearing that Beldar bit, but mine is hearing Matt’s giggles throughout the IMG_3101movie (he’d never seen it, if you can believe that). The movie is being screened as a special 35th anniversary edition, and it’s nice to see it on the big screen rather than “in a motel room at 1am,” as Aykroyd puts it.

Afterward, there’s a gala reception where we are treated to a poutine bar (eminently Canadian) and drink Crystal Head vodka (Aykroyd’s own brand).  Downchild Blues Band is playing for the crowd, sounding just as good or better than they ever did. When Aykroyd joins them on stage, it’s electric, and pretty soon we’re dancing on and sharing the stage with a real live Blues brother.

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Tammy

Melissa McCarthy plays Tammy, an unhappy woman in the middle of the worst day ever when 1404237409_melissa-mccarthy-tammy-review-467we meet her. On her way to her crappy fast food job, she hits a deer and nearly totals her car. Late to work and bloodied from her accident, her manager fires her on the spot aaaaaand she doesn’t take it well. She makes less than a gracious exit; “burning bridges” comes to mind. She heads home only to find her husband engaged in some very bad behaviour. So naturally she decides to run away with grandmother (Susan Sarandon).

tammy1This movie is fun, and sometimes funny, but it’s never as funny as you’d hope. After all this is Melissa McCarthy. Her star shines pretty bright. She and her husband Ben Falcone wrote the script; she stars, he directs. But if they were given carte blanche, they wasted it. For two crazy funny people, they’ve hatched a pretty mediocre comedy here. McCarthy does her loudmouth thing. Sarandon is just not believable as an old granny despite the wig and bifocals meant to blunt her sensuality. It’s still Susan Sarandon, who is effing hot. The two make for an odd pair, and sometimes the relationship hits the right notes but other times it just feels sour. Kathy Bates almost steals the show as the kind of cousin who’s good to have around in a pinch.

I saw this movie and laughed. Lots of people must have – the critics didn’t care for it, but audiences turned it into a 100 million dollar hit. But I’m still not happy about it. First, because I 130515235652-gilmore-1-story-topthink McCarthy is very smart and this kind of comedy demeans her. Second, because we keep seeing her do this “schtick” over and over: obnoxious fat girl with a dirty mouth. And the thing is, this is not the Melissa McCarthy I know and love. Lots of people came to know and appreciate her with the movie Bridesmaids, where she played another belching, awkward bull. But I know McCarthy from her Gilmore Girls days where she played an adorable chef and businesswoman named Sookie. She was sweet and charming and weird and FUNNY. Funny without it being crass, or referencing her weight, which, to the best of my knowledge, was a non-issue on the show. She was just a funny woman who looked like a lot of women do.

And now Hollywood has turned her into the female Chris Farley. She isn’t just a comic who Melissa-McCarthyhappens to be fat, she’s a fat comedian. Her characters are fat, the kind of fat that is “gross” and should be laughed at. Do it once and it might be inspired, but make a career out of it and it starts to feel like exploitation. America loves to laugh at fat people. And fat women? Laughing at them is all they’re good for. And it looks like McCarthy is afraid of just that – that if she tried to just be Sandra Bullock’s sweet best friend, audiences wouldn’t buy it. How many times have you seen a fat woman in a movie who is not meant as the comic relief?

Often referred to as “America’s plus-size sweetheart,” Melissa McCarthy responds “It’s like I’m managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction.” And the thing is, I feel confident that she’s worth so much salt than she’s showing. We saw a tiny glimpse of her playing straight in St Vincent but that’s exactly the problem: unless they’re prepared to be raunchy cannon balls, a fat woman must be relegated to fat best friend, the one who never has a boyfriend of her own. A sad sack, unless she’s black, and then she’s sassy. But still alone and negligible.

1403892018482_melissa-mccarthy-ben-falcone-gq-magazine-july-2014-01Dear Melissa McCarthy: you are beautiful and talented and mega successful.  You are so much better than this. Please stop playing a caricature! Your audience patiently awaits you,

Jay

 

 

(add your name in the comments if you agree!)