Furious 7

“Wow. So many feels. I don’t even know where to start.

We know I love the Fast franchise. I proved it by blogging thru the series, leading up to Fast & Furious 6 two years ago. I think I’m past the statute of limitations for spoilers on 6, so I think I’m allowed to talk about the ending, seeing as how it sets up 7.

As you may recall, after the credits started rolling on 6, they quickly stopped. After some earlier tie ins to Tokyo Drift, with Han stating his intention to head that way, a pivotal scene from Tokyo Drift played out in the sudden break. Han’s car is speeding thru the city before the fiery crash that takes his life. But then, something new happened. There was another car on the other side that we hadn’t seen before. Out steps Jason Statham *gasp*. He throws Letty’s necklace at Han just before the car goes up in flames. He pulls out his phone and calls Dom, promising he’ll know him soon *GASP*. I’ve never left a movie so riled up for a sequel, not even any of Marvel’s post credit teases have had this affect on me. My favorite action star was gonna be in the next installment of (possibly) my favorite action franchise. Could not handle.

And then, a few months later, Paul Walker unexpectedly passed away. Yes the film and franchise were in jeopardy, but that was nothing compared to the shock and raw emotion of his sudden loss. I remember seeing the first few news reports popping up online, but I refused to believe it until multiple respectable sources started reporting the same. I was heartbroken.

So now, going into the (delayed and reworked) film, I was a glass case of emotion. I was sad over having to say goodbye to Walker, but found solace in knowing that no matter what, he’d be given a tremendous send off. Add to that the general excitement of seeing a new film in a franchise I love, AND again, Jason freakin’ Statham was gonna be in this. There was a nonzero chance that this would end up being my favorite installment.

I was going to a late show with a friend, so I only had a short window to either nap or refresh my memory. I watched the first half of Tokyo Drift and the second half of 6, which turned out to be about right. Context for the tie in plus some quick reminders on major recent events and where we left off. I was ready!

And oh my God it was so good! It delivered everything I love about these movies: insane action sequences, wonderful characters I’ve loved for over a decade, and new surprises as against all odds it surpasses all expectations.

Yeah, so those action sequences. Over the years, they’ve done everything you can possibly imagine with a vehicle. It wasn’t long before drag races and street chases weren’t enough. We’ve jumped onto a boat and off of a train. We’ve evaded tanks and pulled safes out of banks. What’s the only logical thing left? Flying. Oh, huh, that’s now covered . I remember thinking, there was only one thing I haven't seen them do, something that I've only seen done in Die Hard 4. And then it happened! Lil different, but essentially the same thing. Could not contain the happy.

There was one early sequence involving a bus, part of which is featured in the trailer that had me in such suspense, I could feel my entire body tense up. I could practically hear my physical therapist’s voice in my ear telling me to relax certain things we’ve been working for months to release, and I just could not do it until the scene was over. Also, not knowing how Walker would exit the series made the stakes just that much higher. I had a hunch of what would happen, which proved to be correct, but that still didn’t keep me from really fearing the worse at every turn. We also had a fresh perspective on everything. After 4 films, director Justin Lin handed the reigns over to James Wan, best known for horror films such as Saw and Insidious. Wan knows how to heighten the senses, and he brought in some fun play with camera angles that really shook things up. Seriously, this is a must watch for action junkies.

And oh, seeing Jason Statham was even more wonderful than I’d hoped. I hadn’t really thought about it until seeing him in action, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen him really fight and make use of all that training and talent. Now he got to unleash against Dwayne Johnson AND Vin Diesel (separate scenes). I also realized how appropriate he was to be added in, not just because he can kick butt like no one else, but his first two big break out roles involved cars: Handsome Rob in The Italian Job, and of course the titular Transporter.

And speaking of appropriate new actors who are linked to roles involving cars, Death Proof’s Kurt Russell makes a scenery chewing fun addition. Rumor has it the role is expected to expand for 8, so that’ll be something to look forward to. He wasn’t the only new player. Djimon Hounsou joined the villain roster, although compared to the fireworks of the other newbies, he seemed a bit under utilized. Still, if you need someone to have stoic intensity, he’s your man. Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty had herself a new playmate, whose identity I will not reveal since it was a fun surprise for me. We’ll just say that after last film’s fight with Gina Carano, there’s only one possible person who could follow up and deliver one incredibly bad ass fight. I love that Fast doesn’t forget about the girls, giving them meaty and interesting roles. Sure maybe Mia gets stuck in domestic-ville, but even she can find excuses to kick butt.

Because of the late time and some credit I needed to use, I decided to Zipcar to the theater. At first, I thought it was incredibly appropriate that I’d drive to the car movie. But I don’t drive often, and it was dark, but the hopping nightlife meant lots of pedestrian traffic, and various other excuses, I could barely handle going 30 MPH without white knuckling the steering wheel. As much as I love Fast, I myself will never be able to do what they do, which makes it all the more special.

One final word about Paul Walker. As to be expected, his send off was beautiful. Story wise, they went the way that I’d hoped, one that served the character and honored his legacy. I may have started tearing up a bit during his tribute in the last few minutes. It was perfect.

Furious Seven – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Home

“I’m not so quick to go see kiddie movies as I used to be (except for Pixar, always always must go), even if I like some of the voice actors. There’s so many dumbed down animated films flooding the theaters recently that I tend to be more selective, lest I put valuable brain cells at risk. I was intrigued by Home (hello there Jim Parson alien), but didn’t put it on the list right away. Then when planning out last weekend, I realized that I did really wanna see this, so off I went this weekend. And oh em eff gee, Jim Parsons alien is the cutest thing ever (for varying definitions of ever).

Jim Parsons alien is a Boov named Oh. The Boov are timid little creatures that frequently travel across the galaxy, seeking safety from their enemies, the Gorg. They find a new home planet, populate it, modify it to their liking, and run away and start over when the Gorg approach. Following their leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin), they inhabit Earth. The first step is moving all humans to a new colony designated for them, and then the Boov can keep the rest of the planet. Oh, in trying to send an evite to his fellow Boov for a housewarming party, he accidentally sends it to the entire galaxy, including the Gorg. Afraid of what his punishment may be for making yet another mistake, Oh runs away. He finds Tip, a young child who was accidentally skipped during the human relation, and as such has been separated from her mother. Oh agrees to take Tip to get help as he tries to figure out a way to stop the Gorg from finding the Boov.

First off, as someone who works in software, it bugged me to absolutely no end that the catalyst of all the trouble was that there was a Send All button in their email program right next to Send, and that Send All button sent to the entire galaxy. That’s a very bad UI (user interface). Any software developer worth their salt would not make it so easy to make such a grave error. Now, I understand it was simply a plot device that wasn’t meant to be analyzed (similar to why didn’t Ariel write Prince Eric a note when she lost her voice), but it took a long time for me to get over it. Basically, it took until that part of the story was resolved to finally dismiss the detail.

That aside, I still can’t get over how cute Oh is. It’s mostly in his strange pattern of speech (“”Can I come into the out now…You are only having to remove this piece of wood””) but also his bright eyed wonder at the world. At the risk of type casting himself, no one else but Jim Parsons could have pulled off his matter of fact but endearing cadence. If nothing else, I left wanting my own Oh for companion on the ship.

I also really liked Rihanna voicing Tip. She had some real attitude and bite to her, with such an expressive voice. Of course, it meant we were then left with a soundtrack that was all Rihanna’s music (and much more family friendly than her good stuff) but it was an acceptable trade off. If anything, she might have sounded a touch too old for such a young character, but I’d take someone who can really give the character life over the potentially flat performance of a younger voice actress.

So yeah, plot wise, eh. Simple but predictable, nothing too exciting. But the characters are certainly enough to sustain the film, and I’d love to see more of them.

Home – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Superman II

“Doing something a little different today. So moving on to the next cubby on the DVD wall, we came to my Superman box set. I realized that the only Superman movie I’ve blogged was Man of Steel, and lest I start crying, I’m not gonna say anything further about it now. I considered going thru 1-4, but didn’t really wanna hafta sit thru the origin story of 1 and the lower quality of 3 and 4. Then I remembered I have two versions of II, the theatrical release and the Richard Donner cut (aka director’s cut). I thought it’d be interesting to compare the two. I was torn between separate write ups or one big one, but I figured if I split them, the second would be all comparisons anyways, so it made sense to just do it all together as one. I tried really hard to pay attention to both, but I wasn’t able to focus as well as I’d have liked. So I may be relying on the interwebs to confirm what was in each.

Okay so I could explain the differences and the stories, but Wikipedia did a much more thorough and comprehensive job than I possibly could have.

Director’s cuts are a strange beast. There’s no clear pattern about whether they’re superior or inferior. The director’s cut of Blade Runner is considered to be far superior. The director’s cut of Donnie Darko is terrible (and I say that absolutely loving the original). The director’s cut of American Psycho is indistinguishable from the theatrical (seriously, I couldn’t find any difference). Or sometimes you get a Live Free or Die Hard situation where they just add in content to up the PG13 to an R (occassionally you see the reverse). Where does Superman II line up? I’d say Richard Donner all the way.

The main differences are the inclusion of Jor-El and a lot of the Lois/Clark relationship stuff. As far as Jor-El is concerned, any time you have the option of more Marlon Brando, you should \m/ take the more Marlon Brando. I also really liked this set of Lois/Clark banter, even if some of it was pieced together from screen tests. The scene where she tricks him into admitting his secret was gold. In general, I found it much easier to get into this cut than the other.

However, the one point I’ll give the theatrical cut is that I did enjoy the recap of Superman I during the opening credits, instead of just plain words and music (even if it’s awesome John Williams music). Otherwise, it was just too watered down.

While watching, I thought I’d reached a new level of geekitude by comparing these two films back to backish (watched one on Fri and Sat, the other on Sun). Then I remembered how many times I’ve watched the extended cuts of LOTR, and I realized I hit those levels long ago. However, I did geek out further by spending some time figuring out my ideal Superman casting, which I will now share with you because it’s my blog and I can do that.
Clark Kent- Dean Cain; Lois Lane – Margot Kidder; Lex Luthor – Michael Rosenbaum; Perry White – Lawrence Fishburne; Jimmy Olsen – Sam Huntington; Jonathan Kent – John Schneider; Martha Kent – K Callan; Zod – Terence Stamp.
Now before you get on me and argue Christopher Reeve for Superman, I won’t fight back. I just came to knew the man of steel best in Lois and Clark, so Cain is always mine. It’s similar to how I won’t fight anyone who picks Sean Connery for Bond, but my favorite is Daniel Craig. However, in the event of switching Reeve for Cain, then I’d insist on subbing in Teri Hatcher for Margot Kidder. Either way, some amazing people have played these amazing roles over the years. There’s no arguing that.”

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter

“I was at a training thing for work earlier this week. During lunch, I was sitting next to a friend/co-worker who had come with me. I suddenly remembered that it might be close enough to the weekend that I could start planning my movie watching. Only one of my theaters to keep an eye on had times posted, but to my surprise, they were showing Kumiko. And at a time that would be convenient to go to (balancing yoga classes and other movies marked for the weekend)! I mentioned to my friend that I had just scheduled one of my weekend movies. She asked what movie, and I told her, to which she replied “”That makes sense. It sounds very much like your kinda movie””. Indeed it did.

Actually all I knew about this movie was the half page write up that EW had (no surprise that I’m looking there for film inspiration). Most of the time, I need a little more than that to convince me, but there’ve been times I’ve gone on less. But that half pager was enough to tell me that yes, this is very much a Dawn movie. The inspiration was the story of a Japanese woman found wandering the cold of North Dakota, who claimed that she was looking for the treasure Steve Buscemi’s character buries in Fargo. The ending to her story may have been bleak, but the possible adventure of it inspired Kumiko, a fictionalization and sensationalized version of that story.

Rinko Kikuchi plays the titular Kumiko. I realized as I was buying my ticket that I didn’t actually know if the film would be in English or Japanese with subtitles. Kikuchi is an Academy Award nominated actress, but her Academy Award nomination was for Babel, in which her character spoke in her native Japanese, so that didn’t help me. Turns out, it was a little of both. Half the film is set in Japan, the other half in Minnesota. The appropriate language is used in each, but there isn’t really a whole lot of dialog. Kumiko is a quiet and solitary creature, so much of it played out silently or at least wordlessly.

Right, so, we start off being introduced to Kumiko. She’s quiet and dissatisfied. We see various illustrations of how aimless her life currently is. Her boss doesn’t like her, her mother nags her, she can’t handle social situations. Every night, she comes home and studies her VHS tape of Fargo. When her boss loans her his company credit card to buy a present for his wife, she instead uses it to run off to Minnesota with nothing but her red hoodie, a map torn out of an atlas, and a needlepoint diagram of the fence featured in the film. Going any further into this would be spoilerific.

I loved the unique and quirky premise (especially since we all know I love Fargo, as was established in a post a couple days ago when unrelated to this, I watched and blogged it). And I really loved the character. The reverence she had when she held the VHS and the joy she had surrounding the movie was endearing, as were some of her quirks and the “”I don’t give a \m/”” attitude. While I totally get why we had such long set up to her trip, it felt really dragged out. It’s never easy trying to display melancholy while still being engaging. Things took a while to really get going. Once they did, however, it was, hmmm. I was gonna say fun adventure, but fun isn’t really the right word. Maybe for the audience but not for Kumiko. At the very least it was an adventure worth watching.

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter – \m/ \m/ \m/”

It Follows

“I really like horror movies, but they have to be done right. Many of the ones released in theaters nowadays are rehashed cheap thrills. Not a lot new and exciting. Therefore, I tend to stay away unless I have specific reason to want to see something. Usually that just means that it somehow involves Eli Roth (or at the very least that he endorses it on Twitter). The other day, I’m reading Entertainment Weekly, as I typically do, and there was a review for this new horror film, It Follows. It started with the reviewer saying that he loves horror, but typically has to sit thru a bunch of crap to get to the good ones. Preacher, meet choir! He then went on to explain how the movie turns one of the most common horror tropes on its head (specifically the one where if you have sex, you die). And this was after a description of the first five minutes that which completely sold him on the film. Spoiler alert (not really): the first five min absolutely hooked me too.

This movie is literally the stuff of nightmares, by which I mean that writer/director David Robert Mitchell says that he based it on a recurring nightmare of his. We focus in on Jay, your typical beautiful girl next door. Cutting straight to the chase, she’s on the receiving end of a curse. “”It”” will follow her until it kills her or she passes “”It”” on. “”It”” can take on any form it wants. “”It”” moves slowly, but is smart and terrifying. The only way to pass “”It”” along is the same way “”It”” is received: sex. See what I mean about twisting the trope? If you have sex you die, but if you have sex again, you live. Although you might not live too long anyways. If Person A passes “”It”” to Person B who passes “”It”” to Person C, if Person C dies, “”It”” falls back to Person B, and back to A if B dies.

Besides the chilling and original story, Mitchell nailed every aspect of what makes a good horror film, setting the tone with all the right pieces. By the time we finally hit a small break in the suspense (which is necessary in order to later catch you off guard and hit you again), I realized I’d not just been sitting still, but my body had completely stiffened in my seat, tensing to brace myself. It was only then that I realized how dry my mouth was, yet I hadn’t even had the will to reach for my Ravenclaw Quidditch water bottle on the seat next to me. And I’m sure I won’t be the only person pointing this out, but the musical score was incredible. Just listening to it could be enough to scare the begeezus out of you.

It’s true, I do kinda allow myself to get a little more scared watching a movie (especially alone). Often times, I’ll be in the moment and freaked out, only to walk out of there and then realize how dumb it was and/or how safe I am. No, I’m not planning on going to the catacombs of Paris any time soon, or no I’m not gonna run back into the house with the killer, or whatever. But this time, I did walk out thinking (and in writing this still think) that it was brilliant. Also, it hit on one key point that makes something truly scary for me: the inability to run away. This is why I don’t typically find slasher films scary. You can always run far enough away. But similar to running from death in Final Destination, you can only go so far before it catches up.

Oh and I just checked Twitter. Eli Roth did endorse this film.

It Follows – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”