Tag Archives: Vin Diesel

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.

 

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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.

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.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

Reviewed by Sean

GOTG-poster

Since the DVD release for Guardians of the Galaxy is next week, it’s the second best time to review the movie (and I missed the first best because this site didn’t exist in August).  If you read my Frozen review you already have a hint at how much I love this movie and I wanted to share that with you.

Judging by the fact that this movie is the highest grossing one of 2014, I’m guessing a lot of you have already seen it.  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?  It’s fantastic.  It’s big and loud and mostly dumb, but it’s also funny and charming and heartwarming, with a lot of standout performances.  Chris Pratt is awesome but to me the best part of the movie was Groot, and Vin Diesel deserves a ton of credit for his performance.  He only had one line (basically) to say, and yet he really does make it mean so much more than I expected, he does somehow convey something along with it.  So I was able to believe without question that Rocket really could understand what Groot was saying, because it seemed that the words “I am Groot” weren’t really as important as the sentiment that was attached.  Going in, I knew the basics of the characters (though never read that comic) and was skeptical of the concept, but coming out I was satisfied.  It totally worked and that has to be because of Vin Diesel.  And having that character be a REAL character, not just CGI, helped me invest in the movie.  Get ready to laugh out loud at Groot’s little smile after he impales about 30 bad guy foot soldiers at once, and feel a little sniffly at the climax when Groot’s words change just enough to sum up the evolution of these five outcasts from Groot and four selfish assholes/criminals to one kick-ass superhero team that can overcome anything (spoiler alert: they win in the end).

At this point comic adaptions are pretty played out (with a ton more to come) but this is one of the best there is and I wish I didn’t have to wait three years for a sequel (and I’m sure Marvel wishes it was coming out sooner too, but this movie was in no way a surefire hit).  It’s a nice changeup from the superhero team movies we’ve already seen in that it doesn’t take an hour to get started (I’m looking at you, Avengers), takes a tongue in cheek approach that matches the characters perfectly, and is such a fun journey, and it fully deserves its rating of 21 space guns out of 10.