Tag Archives: Vin Diesel

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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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-wallpaperI have avoided writing this review since Thursday.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 left me entirely uninspired. Was it the mediocre 70s music? The laughable indestructibility of the heroes and villains that only disappeared when convenient to a plot point? That we have seen this movie before, a thousand times? Or that these heroes, who seemed so fresh the first time around, had nothing new to offer?  Whatever the reason, this movie was missing the spark that made the first Guardians of the Galaxy so much fun.

“More of the same” is generally something that necessarily is tied to a sequel; after all, the reason the sequel exists is because we liked the first one and asked for more. But the sequels I most enjoy are those that could stand alone if the first one was somehow wiped from memory. I don’t think Guardians Vol. 2 passes that test. It starts strongly (as Jay said to me afterward, she would have preferred it if Groot had danced his way through the whole movie) but loses its way, sacrificing action scenes and momentum to rehash the first movie’s tale of outcasts forced together to save the galaxy.

Strangely, for a movie that I don’t think could stand on its own, Guardians Vol. 2 also does not really do anything to advance things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. If it had, I might have felt better about the movie as then it would have had a purpose. Without that, and without any real progress from the first film, Guardians Vol. 2 felt like a throwaway franchise episode, another The Fate of the Furious, another blockbuster that will have been forgotten in six months. In other words, the polar opposite of how I felt after seeing Guardians Vol. 1.

As always, my hopes were definitely too high for this sequel but I think the main reason I was so underwhelmed by this movie is because what I liked so much about the first film was its originality, and this is a carbon copy of #1 in practically every way.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a score of five dancing Groots out of ten.

 

The Fate of the Furious

1488423016_80f557346e9c57a769fa41a2b284345aAs a movie franchise adds new instalments, we expect (and even demand) that the stakes get higher, that the setpieces get bigger, and that the payoff be greater when our heroes win in the end. Normally, the need to maintain some level of realism constrains the film in some way. Not so with the latest entry in the Fast and Furious franchise.

The Fate of the Furious is absolutely ridiculous from start to finish. There is only one law of physics in this world, and it is this: our heroes must succeed.  So if for Vin Diesel to win a race, a car needs to go faster in reverse than in drive after doing a 180, then that’s what is going to happen. That is always part of the pact that action movies (and action sequels in particular) make with their audience: accept the rules being bent now and again and in exchange, receive that elevated payoff I mentioned earlier. By and large, we are willing to accept that sort of thing in service of those higher stakes I mentioned. What sets the Fate of the Furious apart from most movies is that it doesn’t bend the rules at the climax; rather, it breaks them in the opening sequence. Right from the start, we know that absolutely anything goes, and it just gets more ridiculous from there.

If, like me, you can accept that in the service of entertainment  then you will enjoy this movie. On the other hand if, like Jay, you have no tolerance for big, loud, dumb action movies then you will want to choose some other form of entertainment. Because Fate of the Furious is among the biggest, loudest and dumbest movies ever made. It is also among the most gleeful, and I thoroughly enjoyed every over-the-top set piece, each of which is spectacular in its idiocy.

The Fate of the Furious is exactly what it aims to be, no more and no less. It was never going to reach the emotional heights of Furious 7, and it was never going to bring something fresh to the genre. It is a fun experience (especially in 4DX, which made this movie even more of a rollercoaster ride) but ultimately it’s a flashy, forgettable movie. Which may otherwise have been enough if I had not just seen Baby Driver at SXSW and been reminded how great an action movie can be when it is truly innovative instead of a formulaic eighth entry in a franchise that was all style, no substance right from the start.

The Fate of the Furious gets a score of six Lamborghinis on ice out of ten, with the caveat that if you have a time machine then jump to June 28 and see Baby Driver instead.

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-joe-alswynOn a snowy Sunday afternoon, Jay and I found ourselves alone in a theatre watching Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Having just been reminded on the way to the theatre that this was two time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s latest, I thought it was particularly odd for the theatre to be empty, even accounting for the fact that Fantastic Beasts was playing simultaneously on four or five other screens at the multiplex. But by the end of the film I got it. This is just a terrible movie.  We shouldn’t have been there either.

I can’t even begin to list all the things that are wrong with this movie. Well, okay, since you asked, I can start:

  1. The extreme facial closeups are horrible.  You will hate every single one and they make up at least 25% of the movie’s run time. I’m not sure whether Vin Diesel or Steve Martin had more facetime but I didn’t ask to see up either one’s nostrils.  The closeups detract from the movie to the point that Jay and I were compelled to imitate the viewpoint over and over, while the movie was still running.  Naturally, it’s hilarious when we do it but it’s not at all funny on the screen.  Okay, maybe a little but I don’t think the humour was intended.
  2. The characters are lame. They are completely flat and consistently struggle with dialogue that is almost Herzogian in its ridiculousness.  The only positive was we got another catchphrase from it.  Now when I tell Jay I love her, she says, “Roger that”.  Thanks, Ang Lee!
  3. The story is pointless.  The movie has nothing interesting to say about war.  Which is really too bad because they almost had a moment during the Destiny’s Child halftime show to show how insensitive our society is to PTSD, but then the film just dropped that idea without any payoff whatsoever.  Billy is then given the option to be taken to a doctor to get treated for his PTSD but instead he chooses to return to Iraq, in order to impress a cheerleader.  Hooah!
  4. And then there’s the stadium security team that picks several fights with the soldiers for no discernible reason.  Was there a point to that?  Was there a point to any of it?  Because there should have been, but the writers couldn’t put a complete thought together in the movie’s two hour runtime.  There’s no meaning to be found anywhere.

By the way, this movie does not feature any actual members sad-hulkof Destiny’s Child so don’t get your hopes up, Beyhive.  They couldn’t even get Michelle.  But since the real Destiny’s Child 2004 Thanksgiving halftime show doesn’t feature Billy Lynn, I guess that’s only fitting.   I watched all 6:22 of that clip looking for him.  Just one more letdown.  This whole experience was a bigger disappointment than Ang Lee’s Hulk.  Sean sad.

Our Favourite Super Hero Movies

TMPIt’s superhero week, the most super of all the weeks! For some, like Sean, the answers were obvious, and for others, namely Jay, the least Marvelicious of all the Assholes, there was a struggle. Thank you, as always, to Wandering Through The Shelves, for putting forth this challenge.

 

Sean

The Dark Knight –  I went to the midnight showing for this one and loved every minute of it. Joker-Yelling-Hit-Me-The-Dark-KnightHeath Ledger is phenomenal. Hands down, his Joker is the best villain in any superhero movie. It’s not even close; he is perfect and he carries this movie. Full marks to the writers as well for capturing so much of what I love about the Batman-Joker rivalry. The choice the Joker gives to Batman is genius, and this is what a superhero movie should strive for: to be true to these characters and give us a fresh story (not just another rehash of the hero’s origin)!

Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel has these movies down to a science by now. I have lost track of how many movies their cinematic universe contains but it’s a lot. Guardians of the Galaxy is Guardians-of-the-galaxy-GIFthe standout for me. It feels different and it is full of memorable moments. Groot, Starlord, baby Groot, Rocket, and the rest do dysfunctional the right way. With the Avengers the internal turmoil felt forced and unnecessary, but these five feel like true misfits who end up being more than the sum of their parts, and who somehow pull it together when it matters. And isn’t coming through in the clutch the definition of heroism?

SpiderMan 2 – Tobey Maguire made a good Spider-Man because he was a good Peter Parker. spidermanThis movie is very Peter Parker from start to finish. Peter doesn’t always get it right and he rarely gets ahead. But he’s a good guy because he wants to be a better guy than he is. He really wants to be a hero and he’s the last guy you would expect to find under Spider-Man’s mask, but when you see he’s the one who saved your subway car from Doc Ock, you make sure you have his back.  Spider-Man tries so hard to be a good guy that it is contagious. This movie captures the character perfectly and that’s why it made it on my list (it was very hard narrowing this list down to three). It’s such a shame they couldn’t get Venom right in #3, but the main reason #3 was such a letdown is because #2 sets the bar so high.

Jay

Sean is the superhero guy, the one who was thrown out of school for drawing an underground comic book back when he was young and had a sharp pencil. Me? I have super hero fatigue. Too many reboots and reiterations of stories I’ve already heard and teams we’ve already assembled and battles we’ve already fought.

Unbreakable – This movie’s not just about superheroes, it worships them. It prays at the altar of comic books. There was a day, not so very long ago, when “directed by M. Night Shyamalan” were not dirty words. This movie, for me, surpassed The Sixth Sense. It felt quietly important. unbreakableRevelatory. I loved how a seemingly ordinary man might one day awaken to the fact that he is a superhero. Has been all along and never really noticed. Bruce Willis is “unbreakable”, never injured, never sick, but never paid any attention until Sam Jackson finds him. Very breakable “Mr. Glass” he has some sort of brittle bone disease, always breaking bones and living in pain. He figures if he can exist, on his end of the spectrum, so must someone else on the other end. Having found him, he ingeniously starts training him up to put to put the hero in superhero. Quentin Tarantino is also a big fan of the movie, calling it a “brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology”, and lamenting that it had not been properly hyped with the simple tagline “what if Superman was here on earth, and didn’t know he was Superman?”

The Incredibles – If the last movie asked what if the hero didn’t know he was a hero, this one asks, what if we asked the heroes to stop being heroic? Superheroes, including Mr. Incredible and his dishy girlfriend Elastigirl were doing a pretty bang up job of clearing the streets of scum incredibleswhen suddenly the litigious society in which they lived caught up with them. Leave it to Americans to ruin a good thing. Overwhelmed with lawsuits for collateral damage, the supers are sent into retirement, their secret identities now their only identities. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are now a family of five in the suburbs. Mr. Incredible hates his desk job but knows his family’s happiness depends on his remaining inconspicuous: hard to do when even his young children are displaying super powers. No one is surprised when he gets back in the saddle, or that it’s Mrs. Incredible who has to save him, but what I love about this film is the satire – the masks that totally obscure identity by merely concealing the eyebrows, dear costumer Edna’s strictest rule: DAHHHHLINGS, NO CAPES!

Big Hero 6 – I know this one has a special place in Sean’s heart as well, so I’d better do it justice! bigheroWhy do I like it? Probably because these heroes have my favourite super power of all time – just being smart. Nerds have their day in Big Hero 6 – a group of young scientists and the robot they built use their own clever inventions to turn a close-knit group of grieving friends into crime-fighting prodigies.

Special Mention: Confessions of a Superhero – A super cool documentary that follows 4 people who patrol the Hollywood Walk of Fame dressed as superheroes in order to make money from confessionstourists. They make for easy targets but the film is pretty sympathetic. They’ve each come a long way to “become stars” and are at varying points between following their dreams, and watching them crumble. The movie does an interesting job of showing the disparity between the larger-than-life personas they inhabit (Super Man, Batman, The Hulk, and Wonder Woman) and the ordinariness of their actual lives. They may strive to live up to their heroic identities but anger, addiction, and homelessness are the realities that threaten. Their costumes remind us of the best that Hollywood has to offer – the elusive superhero franchise – while at the same time highlighting their humbled situations. Very watchable and worthwhile.

Matt

The Crow (1994)-  As Jonah Hill correctly pointed out in Superbad, Home Ec is a joke. I watched The Crow in Home Ec when I was in the eighth grade and it both fascinated and terrified me. I crowthought super heroes were supposed to be nice. The Crow is less about Truth, Justice, and the American Way than he is about good old-fashioned payback so his restless soul can finally rest in peace. When I rewatched it this weekend, the tone wasn’t quite as sinister as I remember but this rare R-rated comic book movie is still a refreshing change from the PG-13 watered-down adaptations I’m  used to. The Crow may be bulletproof but even he isn’t safe from a 2016 reboot. Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston is playing him next year. I can’t argue with the casting but I wish they would leave this one alone.

Batman Begins (2005)- Batman has been my favourite since I was six. He’s a little nuts which Batman-Begins-GIF-10makes him much more interesting to watch than other heroes. Plus, his rogues gallery kicks fucking ass. There are many schools of thought on how the Caped Crusader should be portrayed and many interesting directors have brought their unique vision to it but none more effective than Christopher Nolan. He combined all the best elements of so many classic Batman stories and made an origin story that was uniquely his own. Christian Bale is a dick but I got chills when we first see him in cape and cowl. For the first time, when an actor growled “I’m Batman”, I actually believed him.

The Dark Knight (2008)- If this genre had a Citizen Kane it would be The Dark Knight and if it had a Martin Scorsese it would be Christopher Nolan. I anxiously awaited this sequel to Batman darkknightBegins for three whole years but never dreamed it would be like this. Nolan took everything that worked about Begins and took it to the next level. He explores even darker themes while embracing the Dark Knight’s comic book roots even more. Even without the presence of the late great Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight still would have raised the bar to the point that I can’t believe they can still get away with making movies like The Avengers.

Twofer: Get Hard & Furious 7

What can these two movies possibly have in common, other than me miraculously sitting through both?

Matt wrote all you need to know about the new Will Ferrell\Kevin Hart movie Get Hard. If you’re wondering if you should see it, talk to Matt. If you did see it and you’re wondering what the hell, read on: (spoilers ahead!)

Get Hard has all the nuts and bolts of a smart social farce but never really puts it together. The first 15 minutes have a lot of potential in their view of the haves vs the have nots, but the movie ti-will-ferrell-get-harddevolves into all of the racial stereotypes it’s supposed to be making fun of. I thought it was super damaging and sad that they made the Kevin Hart character so uneducated. Will Ferrell is the dumb one, the one who got framed and never noticed, who is terrified of black people but isn’t afraid to offend them by misappropriating their culture, who treats any person of colour so indifferently he subjects them unthinkingly to his nudity because they might as well be just another fixture in his palatial home. And yet the script goes out of its way (3 times that I noticed) to have Will Ferrell make a literary reference that Kevin Hart just doesn’t get.

The whole premise of the movie relies on Will Ferrell’s (incorrect) assumption that like most black men, Kevin Hart is an ex-convict. Actually, he’s spotless…although it turns out that he does have a cousin who’s a gang banger. So there’s that. You know, because even the non-criminal black men roll with thugs. Is that the worst of it? Hardly? One scene that goes on way too long has Kevin Hart pretending to be prison characters – a scary black dude, and an angry Hispanic GH_D42_009.dngone. He throws out every stereotype he knows but we never once talk about why prisoners are overwhelmingly one minority or another when we have verifiable proof of white guilt right in front of us. I came out of this movie thinking a lot about what it failed to do or say.  It had every opportunity to talk about race, and about economic disparity, and white privilege, but it didn’t. Instead it was a tired, two-hour long repetitive rape joke, and what does that say about our culture that we feel better laughing about rape than we do about confronting racial bias? Yeah, I know this was a comedy that exists to make us laugh, not to be a teachable moment. But Trading Places managed to be both. There’s a lot of great satire out there, funny as heck, and while this one has the veneer of social commentary, underneath it’s just cheap particle board.

Furious 7 manages to tell us more about race without even trying. It’s hard to believe we’re seven movies into this franchise – you may think that’s seven too many, or you may already be eagerly awaiting number eight. But have you ever noticed how ethnically diverse the cast is, and has been since day one?

It feels a little tacky for me to sit here and list all the non-white people, but there are lots, and not just side kicks and bit parts – real marquee characters with back stories and dimensions, and they’re not necessarily the first to get killed off! The series has also visited a lot of non-English speaking countries along the way – trips to Brazil, Japan, and Mexico have only expanded the diversity of the cast, proving it doesn’t matter what colour you are so long as you’re buff and can drive a stick.

And that’s a great thing, actually. 54% of North American movie goers are white, but the actual Fast 5population is actually a little over 60%, which means minorities, and Hispanics in particular, are the fastest-growing ticket buyers. If audiences are multi-cultural, so should be the movies they watch. And whatever else The Fast and Furious franchise has been, it has consistently delivered a varied group of people capable of interracial relationships. And this inclusive trend exists behind the camera as well. The second one was directed by black filmmaker John Singleton, movies 3 through 6 were done by Justin Lin, and the most recent two were directed by Malaysian-born James Wan.

But the most impressive part (aside from y ability to start so many sentences with the word But) is that race is just a fact of li fe in these movies. It just is. Your boss might be Asian, your girlfriend could be Iranian, your best friend could be The Rock, your own step-kid could be Hispanic, but nobody need mention any of it, let alone pat themselves on the back for it. furious-7-header-1Generally, when Hollywood makes a movie starring a white guy and a black guy, the movie is about a white guy and a black guy: the culture clash! the misunderstandings! they’re so different but maybe also kinda the same! It can never just be a guy and his friend, who happens to be black. Get Hard is dripping with exactly this kind of guilt, which is sad because Ferrell and Hart are both funny guys and (I’m guessing that) in real life, Ferrell doesn’t talk down to Hart, isn’t afraid he’ll steal his car, and has maybe even shared a bowl of popcorn with him while watching Boyz N The Hood (directed by John Singleton, by the way! — coincidence? Yeah, probably).

Movies are the one place in America where segregation is still allowed to exist. There are tiny pockets of all-black Tyler Perry movies to counter the enormity of Hollywood’s white washing, but that misses the point. We don’t need more segregation, we need integration. And I’m not talking about movies “about race”, I’m talking about movies that have people in them, stupidly beautiful versions of people from all backgrounds standing around in tight tank tops talking about what really matters to America: fast cars and freedom.

 

Furious 7

I loved Furious 7 from start to finish. I wasn’t sure at all how it would turn out, or how I would feel about it given Paul Walker’s death, especially since he died in a car crash. But it turned out to be a very sweet tribute to him that felt genuine rather than exploitative.

So we should get this out of the way early: this movie has no real plot. If you described the plot to me next week I would probably struggle to tell you which number was attached to the title (I’m honestly not sure whether I have seen #5, #6, or both). But if you like action or cars or explosions or all of the above, the lack of plot won’t matter one bit. Really, a plot or character development would just slow the movie down, so it works out for the best!

I am being slightly faceteous. There is a thread that ties the movie together from start to finish, and it is the theme of family that the trailers have been good enough to hammer into my head. It really works though as it sets up the ending perfectly. For that reason I would be interested to see what the movie was originally intended to be, because I was truly surprised how seamless the movie is.  I was expecting something disjointed as a result of them trying to write out the Brian O’Conner character at the last minute and instead I got a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable movie with a great ending. I cannot say enough how satisfying it is to get an ending that is true to the characters in the face of the real-world death of one of the stars. It was perfect.

There will inevitably be more of these (#8 at least must be a sure thing) and I kind of wish they would stop. I am sure I will enjoy the next one but these movies were best when they had both Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Those two were the heart of the franchise and since we will never see that again, I suspect the instalments to come will feel a little bit empty.  But I can’t blame anyone for keeping the franchise going, and looking back it is a complete mystery how it has survived for seven movies (#2 and #3 were the weak links,  and the series probably should have died there). Not coincidentally, those weak ones are the only two that Paul and Vin do not both appear in. So that does not bode well, but if this indeed the end of the franchise as we know it, it is a glorious finish.

Ten “quarter miles at a time” out of ten.