This week was all about blowing the stink of Star Trek Into Darkness out of my life, and there was no better aid in that endeavor than the charmingly ridiculous stupid of The Fast and The Furious franchise. I know what you're asking, "Brad, how can you enjoy a group of films that are obviously and infinitely more hairbrained than anything found in JJ Abrams' latest abomination?" Ummmmmm, maybe. It's certainly true that the first two Fast & Furious flicks are pretty damn terrible, and it's only till they start drifting in Tokyo that the films become any sort of real entertainment. Of course, with Fast Five the producers begin to take notice of the crazy brains scheming of Marvel Studios, and Assemble an epic globe trotting adventure that exchanges the limp biscuit cgi malarky for grande "Damn, Did You See That!?!" practical car crack ups. Toss in the The Rock (aka Samoan Thor) and your too dumb-too stupid franchise is Saved!
"Weee! I Make Everything Better!"
Star Trek Into Darkness: Okay. More Spoilers here. I just can't talk about this movie without dishing out plot points. What is Khan's plan? He blows up Section 31 so that Admiral Marcus & his cronies will gather together. He shoots up their boardroom. Then he beams to Kronos. Why? Does he know that Marcus will send Kirk (or some other goon) to attack Kronos with his shipmate torpedos? Why does he leave the torpedos active with his men inside? Why are torpedos built with a hollow center for men to hide in? What is Admiral Marcus's plan? He defrosts the 300 year old Khan for his savagery? How is he a better bomb builder than other Federation scientists? Would Napoleon Bonaparte be a good addition to our current military? Khan has super blood. His blood can cure mysterious child illnesses. His blood can resurrect dead Tribbles. His blood can resurrect dead Starfleet Captains. His blood can heal animal & human alike. No more death for anybody!!!! Um, couldn't the blood of the other 72 super humans aboard the USS Enterprise do the same thing? Why does it have to be Khan's blood? I hate this movie. It's dumb. And I'm starting to think Star Trek - Nemesis is better.
2 Fast 2 Furious: When Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen jumped ship for xXx, the producers of The Fast and The Furious pushed Paul Walker into the spotlight and brought on John Singleton for a little street cred. The result is a bloated slog. Tyrese Gibson is a fun enough Diesel replacement, but what little chemistry he can fake is lost in the drawn out undercover plot. It's a manufactured Love You/Hate You bromance that doesn't come close to matching the wannabe Point Break relationship of the original film. Eva Mendes is meant to be the love interest/sex object, but she seems totally bored by Walker's blue eyed gaze. Seeing them flirt is as painful as it is neverending. Obviously, the writers don't know yet that Walker & Brewster are meant to be - the family has yet to properly come together. As is, 2 Fast 2 Furious is easily the weakest entry in the series.
Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol: The first half of this film is as good as this franchise gets. The IMF is once again disavowed after their team is implicated in the Kremlin bombing. Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, & Jeremy Renner come together to chase down another pesky terrorist, climbing the Burj Khalifa for super secret codes, chasing masked henchmen through dust storms, and hypnotizing Indian billionaires with magically plunging cleavage. The plot holds very little interest, this film might also house its most lackluster villain (sorry Michael Nyqvist, Dougray Scott was better - burn!). But Brad Bird proves himself the king of cartoony action even when he's playing with live dolls, and Ghost Protocol is heaps of fun when Tom Cruise is busily smashing cars atop asshole badmen.
The Fast and The Furious - Tokyo Drift: The Fast and The Furious - Tokyo Drift: From the opening credits, you know something is different about this Dieseless & Walkerless Fast & Furious entry. Justin Lin's camera is alive as it moves through the high school hell of Lucas Black. The soundtrack is hipper, the teen landscape simmering with that hateful enthusiasm of youth. One more town, one more school to alienate. Lucas Black does just that after a construction yard race ends tragically. His mom ships him off to Tokyo to live with his father; it's not like he can run afoul of the Yakuza there. Oh wait. The schools there are just as bad, but with the added bonus of a mob presence. Thankfully, Black meets Bow Wow aka Twinkie, and the two form a fast friendship around cars and women. Black proves himself as a street racing protege, catching the attention of bored low life Han (The Fast and The Furious's greatest creation) and together this trilogy of odd will take down Sonny Chiba's fedora don. The Fast & Furious franchise was good and dead before Tokyo Drift. Justin Lin came on board with a real vision and a love for real deal car races. Sung Kang's Han brought genuine heart to the series. Suddenly this was a brand to watch.
Peter Tork @ The Birchmere: Tuesday Night was a real trip. I know I've mentioned this on the blog before, but my Wife is a real Monkees maniac. A few weeks back we caught Michael Nesmith at The Birchmere and as cool as that was, it really didn't capture the spastic joy brought on by Peter Tork's intimate performance. We raced to the club after work, afraid to get stuck in the back with the cheap seats. Sadly, not a whole lot of Northern Virginia showed up for Tork (about 50 folks) and The Wife & I scored some pretty damn good seats. We were actually next to Tork's son the whole time and I found myself time traveling every time I stared at him working the projector. That's right...projector. As Tork performed Monkees classics his son added a little visual. A very talky, chatty show. Afterwards he welcomed autographs & pictures. Lisa nearly lost her mind when Tork gave her a hug, and she even told him she'd leave me for him. That's okay cuz he said I could have his fiance. We're swinging now!
Pete Holmes @ 930 Club: The next night The Wife & I were in DC for some stand-up. I was fairly unfamiliar with Holmes (having only caught one or two eps of You Made It Weird) but from nearly the moment he took the stage I was dying with laughter. He was a blue boy, and I don't think I'll be able to think of apartment hunting the same way again. Since that night I've been a regular listener to the show, and I just downloaded his album Impregnated with Wonder. A word of warning: Do Not Drive And Listen. I nearly killed The Wife & I as I bellowed with laughter. Dangerous Stuff.
Fast & Furious: As far as quality goes, seated right behind 2 Fast 2 Furious is this fourth entry. Not sure what went wrong. Justin Lin proved himself to be the right man for the job, but he relies too heavily on the action of computer graphics this go 'round. Despite bringing the gang back together and introducing the the family theme, Fast & Furious is rather forgettable. Heck, as I sit at this computer, I'm struggling to remember the details of the plot. Paul Walker worms his way back into the hearts of Jordana Brewster & her brother Diesel despite the fact that he's responsible for the death of Michelle Rodriguez...kinda...sorta...stay tuned to this franchise! But the real problem of this film is all the night shooting. What the hell is going on in these set pieces? Hard to see, hard to care. And the repetitive tunnel chase at the climax is a real snooze. Forget this flick, let's move on.
Fast Five: "East L.A. Avengers Assemble!!!!!" Holy Cow! This film is far too good to be the fifth film in a franchise. Is there any other example of a series that takes five films to find itself? Tokyo Drift was the first decent film, but Fast Five is the first honest-to-goodness action classic. And it's not just the introduction of The Rock. He goes a long way in grabbing my interest, but I think all the credit has to go to Justin Lin & his producers. They keep the neon street race theme, but drops these criminal nimrods into a global bank heisting scheme worthy of Ocean's Eleven or James Bond. The CG is kept to a minimum and Lin cranks the practical car crashes to mondo gonzo levels. The climactic vault race is seriously stunning. Sure, I think the producers were watching the buildup to The Avengers very closely and thought, "Yeah we can do that." Suddenly there's a whole lotta wacky fan servicing occurring and a beauty of a stinger in the wings. It all works though, with a silly but deeply sincere emphasis on family & faith. It's easily to laugh at, but I can't help but get drawn in by the charm.
The Wild Bunch: "I'm tired of being hunted." After spending a week with these modern macho men pretenders, I needed a serious dose of real manhood to remind my perpetual youth that there is something else to strive towards. Sam Peckinpah's Wild Bunch fit the bill. It had been a few years since my last viewing, and I had forgotten just how excruciatingly violent the opening slaughterfest is, and how deplorable these guys are when you separate the reality from the fantasy of cinema. Sam Peckinpah's West is a savage, hateful heartland - it's a brutal reminder of the corpses resting beneath this country's foundation. So much orange blood. And I love it. William Holden is a scumbag gangster on a horse. His friends are killers. They're only heroic when standing next to the greed of the railroad beasts. But when the frame of the film closes on a second bloody showdown, you see our heroes grab women as shields and do all they can to spend one last second killing another man. It's a bleak world. Not the happy black & white morality usually subjected upon John Wayne's fan base. And I would give my last hit of tequila to have been an audience member during that original release.
Furious 6: Fast Five brought America to the franchise, but Furious 6 is mostly for the already established fans. The film does not simply jump from one action scene to the next (most of which have been spoiled in the trailers); there are whole segments that would mean nothing to anyone but the die hardest of die hard fans - seriously, why are we returning to L.A. to pigstick a baddie from two films back? Um, cuz this is The Avengers of Shitty Car Racing Films!!!! Yeah!!!! Vin Diesel is soooooo damn serious. I mean, he's always serious, but this time he's serrrrrrrrious. Michele Rodriguez returns with a plot stolen from daytime television, and Vin bails on his smokin' hot Brazilian girlfriend for the downgrade. Come on man, there's plenty of love in your heart for two ladies (& The Rock)! Paul Walker & Jordana Brewster are pretty much sidelined this outing, but that's okay cuz there's more room for The Rock & Sung Kang to scowl and strut. Furious 6 also might contain the single best stinger I've ever experienced in a theater (sorry Masters of the Universe), and I'm pumped for next year's sequel - Just Fast & Furious Enough! Hmmmmm...this week of beefy beefy beefy men may have driven me mad.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt: Whoa. This lady is one sick puppy. And I love her. A random collection of drawings & thoughts sprinkled with painfully humorous reviews of some of my favorite modern movies. Ryan Gosling in Drive: "I think they could have gone a little further and given him a few more accouterments...246 Toothpicks!" Or the peace pony film War Horse: "I'm also bummed that War Horse isn't more bad-ass and this isn't a horse version of 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes." And let's not even talk about her thoughts regarding Red Angry Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. If you are at all sheepish around sexuality than don't bother, but if you're ready to poke fun at yourself and others than Lisa Hanawalt is a fantastically smutty gateway into absurdity.
Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason: Matt's recent batch of reviews had me reaching for the bookshelf. Not my favorite Jason book (that would be The Last Musketeer), but this twisted little pirate story is one messed up adventure. A young girl convinces a gang of thieves to escort her to the Hangman Academy in search of her wayward father. Meanwhile a young boy rejects his execution education in favor of a bloodless lifestyle. Each humorous panel hides a bleak outlook, and you can't help but feel terrible as you chuckle along. Jason is one of the great cartoonists working in the field today, and if you're unaware of his work then this would be a fine starting point.