Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

I didn't have very strong feelings about this miniseries version of Ira Levin's novel. The novel is fantastic, Roman Polanski's movie is excellent. This was... there, mainly. It was just there. None of the additions to the story or resetting it in Paris or anything really bugged me, there just didn't seem to be any reason for it to exist. And especially at four hours. I appreciated some of the attempts to make it really perverse and weird, but they're halfhearted; it came across more as an attempt to turn the novel into a Dario Argento movie without really understanding why Dario Argento movies work. There was no style or sure hand, and although Zoe Saldana had some good moments, most of the casting doesn't have much personality. The first part aired on a Sunday (Mother's Day, ho, ho) and the second didn't air until Thursday. Took me forever to even remember that I had watched the first one and to bother watching the second. **

I never had any interest in these flicks, but my wife wanted to see them (especially since all roads lead to the Rock), so we sat down and watched them all on Sunday. This first one was a fun little flick; I'm not going to claim these are smart, obviously, but I was surprised how enjoyable it was just as a cars-and-crime flick. Totally superficial, but it glories in it, which I appreciate. (I tend to get more annoyed with movies that try to pretend they're not what they are--in this case an expolitationer gearhead action movie--than with movies that just enjoy what they are.) I don't know, that all sounds like pretentious snob-speak I'm using to justify having enjoyed a dumb-but-fun action movie. But hey, I enjoyed it. I expected it to be glossy and slick, so my only real complaint is that the cops keep talking about OTR truckers--who are being hijacked on the road--threatening to take the law into their own hands. You have no idea how badly I wanted this thing to become a war between angry truckers and a bunch of street racers. ***

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS (2003)
I found myself enjoying this one a little bit more than the first movie, probably because I found Tyrese hilarious and likable (where was this personality in those awful Transformers movies?) and because John Singleton brings this late-70s "no idea too stupid" boldness to the silly plot. I also enjoyed Eva Mendes because, well, you know my weakness for Latin ladies. This series really delivers on that front. Dumb, but fun and funny as hell. And I always enjoy Ludacris in stuff. ***

This spin-off flick is the one I just outright found boring. As much flack as these flicks get for having wooden leads, at least Paul Walker and Vin Diesel have the bearing and sensibilities to make their preposterous stories work. The boy in the lead here is like Alyssa Edwards after a head injury, just impossible to take seriously and not fun enough to make the whole thing enjoyable in spite of that. The bright spots here were Sonny Chiba as one of the villains and Sung Kang as Han Seoul-Oh, who actually gets the tone and makes his character something like the Obi-Wan Kenobi of exploitative drag race flicks. Otherwise, it's like one of those Bring It On sequels they keep making--same premise, no personality. (Bring It On: All or Nothing being the exception, because it knows how ridiculous it is and enjoys it. Hey: I never claimed to have exemplary taste in movies.) **

Something like a serious reset, bringing back the four leads from the original, kind of, except someone gets killed off early. There's also a Sung Kang cameo, which is a nice nod, despite Tokyo Drift being lame. I still have no idea how Paul Walker's character could get into the DEA after the events of the first two movies, but whatever. It's not like the movie has believability on its side here. I liked the addition of Gal Gadot; I'd never heard of her before her recent casting as Wonder Woman. I didn't like this one as much as the first two--I found some of the drug dealer/revenge plot a bit dull and occasionally turgid, and I'm not invested in the Paul Walker/Jordana Brewster relationship here, which tries to make something more dramatic out of what really amounted to a tiny subplot in the first movie. Also: is there a point to hijacking trucks on the open road? I mean, I know this Road Warrior stuff looks good on film, but isn't it a lot less trouble to just steal a guy's rig when he's stopped at a truck stop for a bathroom break, or something? **1/2

FAST FIVE (2011)
This one also feels a bit like a series reset, even though it's more or less a direct sequel to the previous film. It's also the best one so far. It brings in the original cast minus Michelle Rodriguez, adds in every character from the previous films you could want in it (Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Ludacris, Tyrese), turns it into a heist and adds Dwayne fucking Johnson. (And Elsa Pataky. I know that's not a big deal to most people, but Jesus Christ, am I in weird, intense love with Elsa Pataky.) This is a great action flick. It's wonderfully, ludicrously, gloriously over-the-top and fun as hell. Not much more to say, but this is a stylish, thrilling movie. ***1/2

FAST & FURIOUS 6 (2013)
And then Michelle Rodriguez came back. And then they started killing off characters. Which is a shame, but it's another fun-as-hell action movie with the same characters as the previous, a tank chase, and what is apparently the world's longest runway. Remember when they were just hijacking truckers? This is so gonzo in comparison, but wonderfully so, and the Rock just makes everything better. I'd gladly watch another, even though we're apparently going back to the Tokyo Drift world. Yeesh. But we're doing it with the Rock, right? Okay, good. And not Elsa Pataky? Ugh, fine. Boy, this whole experience was a little bittersweet since Paul Walker died last year... ***1/2


Kal said...

I got a bit worried for myself when you started reviewing the Fast and Furious movies. I loved the last two but clearly put them in the 'guilty pleasures' category. I was happy to get the validation of someone who has seen it all but still found these movies to be a lot of fun.

Professor Chaos said...

Good God, how many of those did they make? Are they going straight to video?

SamuraiFrog said...

They make way too much money to go straight to video.