Fast and Furious 6 Review (Kirk Haviland)

 

Fast-and-furious-6-movieFast and Furious 6

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Godot, Jordana Brewster, Gina Carano, Elsa Pataky

Written by Chris Morgan

Directed by Justin Lin

Crashing into theaters this weekend is the latest entry into the billion dollar franchise that has morphed from a gear head fantasy into all out crime caper action/comedy, but still keeping its fair share of vehicular mayhem intact, Fast and Furious 6. Or as the title card on the film suggests, Furious 6, keeping the ever changing moniker of the series intact. This time around the crew is on the right side of the law as the series goes back deep into the past to close any loose ties and connections that still exist, and even resurrect on character from the dead.

fast furious 6 sliderSince Dom (Diesel) and Brian’s (Walker) Rio heist toppled a kingpin’s empire and left their crew with $100 million, our heroes have scattered across the globe.  But their inability to return home and living forever on the lam has left their lives incomplete. Meanwhile, Hobbs (Johnson) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled mercenary drivers across 12 countries, whose mastermind (Evans) is aided by a ruthless second-in-command revealed to be the love Dom thought was dead, Letty (Rodriguez).  The only way to stop the criminal outfit is to outmatch them at street level, so Hobbs asks Dom to assemble his elite team in London.  But Dom and Brain`s payment request is a large one, full pardons for all.

fast-furious-6_05Fast 6 is an insanely ridiculous over the top romp that delivers massive thrills and keeps the audience engaged and on the proverbial ‘edge of their seats’ for the entire running time of the time. Never believable as characters perform incredible Superman like feats without a scratch, Fast 6’s script is something that may be best defined as being ‘extremely smart at how dumb it is’. On top of this the film never steps back to rationalize any of the actions that happen, it just pushes forward through amazingly preposterous set piece to set piece, including one with a tank and another with a cargo plane, in the most fantastic way possible.

fast_and_furious_6_trailerMost of the gang are back here, minus Tego and Rico last seen blowing all their Fast Five money in a casino in Monte Carlo, and not all of the gang may survive as the bigger the stakes become the group are finally seeing that their actions may have consequences. Slimming down the group is a good move franchise wise as well as constantly adding without subtracting was what made the Ocean’s films, clearly the direction this series is headed, feel bloated and ineffectual by the third installment. Diesel and Walker slip into their sparring twosome act very nicely as Brewster takes a step back this time with the birth of Mia and Brian’s son. Tyrese and Ludacris benefit with the scaling out of Tego and Rico as their bantering become a little more prominent and provide a nice handful of laughs. The Han and Giselle romance of Sung Kang and Gal Godot, already doomed we know because of the actions in Fast 3 which occurs after Fast 4-6 in storyline, takes a big step forward as the pair get very romantically involved at the beginning of the film, only to come crashing down at the end. Dwyane Johnson is excellent as usual, his Hobbs less sweaty that Fast Five yet just as dynamic, and the return of Rodriguez to the fold is a welcome act that also helps tie the film back to the very beginning.

fast-and-furious-6_1Fast and the Furious 6 is the perfect mix of insane stunt work, ridiculous melodrama and explosive fight effects work that makes a summer blockbuster worth spending your time inside the theater instead out enjoying the sun and fun outside. Never taking itself serious enough to stop and realize whether it has gone too far, Director Justin Lin revels in pushing everything to the limit. And the film leaves you on the amazing final note that lays out Fast 7 right in front of you.

4 ½ out of 5

Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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The Raven DVD Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

The Raven (2012)

Starring John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Pam Ferris and Kevin McNally

Directed by James McTeigue

James McTeigue’s The Raven has two interconnecting premises, the first of which is a fictionalized account of Edgar Allan Poe’s (played by John Cusack) still mysterious and controversial death. The real Poe, on his way to New York City, has made a surprise pit stop at Baltimore. Just like the one in the movie, he was found on a park bench in that city, wearing ill-fitting clothes and incoherently mumbling about a man named Reynolds. Theories about his death vary from different diseases and substances that were plentiful during the Antebellum. This movie’s supposed to tell what happened to Poe that led him to his mysterious death. The second premise is that during his stop, a serial killer has victimized members of the city’s population, while also copying plot points in Poe’s stories. Edgar is the prime suspect but he’s helping with the solving of the cases. So it’s also basically like watching libraries worth of Vincent Price and Hammer material within one movie with a 2012 time stamp. The source material and McTeigue’s glossy, ‘modern’ approach to it unfortunately gives us a pulpy movie.

And since there are murders you can assume that we have a buddy cop movie on our hands – yay! The real Poe had phases on relying on substances during his worst days, this script relies heavily on the account that he was a rabid, a violent drunk, a label disputed by his peers. Other actors considered to play Edgar were Ewan McGregor and Joanquin Phoenix who, as we know, had better things to do with their time. So Cusack’s stuck in this role, an actor who has played midlife crisis roles in better movies than, ahem, Hot Tub Time Machine. The script demands him to abscond others for being Philistines and Cusack decides to yell the word ‘philistine’ which yes, we get the irony but I wish he gave everyone, including me, earplugs before he ruins his vocal chords.

Since Cusack is the loud one in this dynamic, the more quiet one is Baltimore Detective Emmett Fields, played by Luke Evans. Both actors don’t lean back and realize how ridiculous their movie is, and this obliviousness is more pointed with Evans because his performance is mostly humourless. Other characters rounding out the story are Edgar’s love interest played by Alice Eve, an actress too good for most of her movies. But she’s delightful to watch as she recites Poe’s ‘Annabelle Lee’ falls in love, no matter which loudmouth gross person she’s falling in love with. There’s the love interest’s father, Mr. Hamilton, played by Brendan Gleeson, the most Southern of the performances, incorporating twangs within certain parts of his speech without overdoing it (Maryland, although loyal to the Union, is still part of the South). Then there’s Pam Ferris playing one of the Baltimore ladies, and she, just like any Children of Men cast member, gets a pass.

Again, this is trashy, and Lucas Vidal’s ill-fitting electronic musical score and McTeigue’s little visual effects don’t help me in liking whichever effect this movie is trying to instill in me. But that doesn’t mean that McTeigue doesn’t try to insert moments of beauty within it. The CGI used for transforming sets are barely noticeable – the movie doesn’t use what it doesn’t need. There are, at least, some aesthetically pleasing moments in the movie. The first is when Edgar is lecturing the Baltimore ladies about poetry. I don’t want to go on Armond White territory, comparing pulpy movies to classics, but then, I can’t help noticing the medium shots of the ladies remind me of ones in the party scene in Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo, showing these women in various degrees of facial beauty despite coiling themselves in the time’s fashions. There’s something authentic in showing that the upper classes don’t all look like starlets. There’s also another scene where Edgar lunges at a door, cape flying behind him. These beautiful bits come with period movies and I’m a sucker for moments like that, no matter what else comes in between.

The DVD comes with French audio, French and English subtitles, and helpful audio commentary from McTeigue and the movie’s different producers. Along with these special features, The Blu-Ray has deleted and extended scenes, various featurettes about shooting the movie, about Poe, the cast, the music, as well as the theatrical trailer.

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TIFF 2012 – No One Lives Review (Matt Hodgson)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

No One Lives (2012)

Starring Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Derek Magyar, Beau Knapp, America Olivo, Lee Tergesen, Lindsey Shaw,and George Murdoch

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura

For the third night of Midnight Madness (MM), the midnight programme at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was hoping to be treated to a taut and terrifying home invasion style movie, as Kitamura is a MM veteran, and the title of his latest project promises something that few horror movies can actually deliver on – zero survivors. The theatre loaded smoothly, and the movie started on time. As the lights dimmed I was uncomfortably shifting around in my seat with nervous energy as I eagerly anticipated the opening scene of No One Lives.

The story is a simple one: two travellers are making their way across a relatively deserted highway in America. We’re not sure what their destination is,  but it’s clear that their relationship has seen better days; something is driving them apart. The man, played by Evans, is the picture of stoicism and emanates a no-nonsense attitude. On the other hand, his female companion simply seems tired, both mentally and physically. Through an ill-fated stop at a roadside diner the couple run into a group of dangerous criminals who are the modern day equivalent of highwaymen. But what starts as a typical ‘bad guys tie the good guys up and torture them’ movie is quickly spun on its head thanks to a refreshing premise that I won’t ruin here. What follows is a very bloody movie, with plenty of one liners, a high body count, and an intense finish.

Based on the very short description I thought that No One Lives sounded very similar to last year’s You’re Next, which was a wild success with the MM crowd. Add to this similarity the fact that Kitamura is a veteran filmmaker and I thought it would be a guaranteed great night at the movies. While Kitamura definitely has his filmmaking talent on display, the script and acting don’t do him any favours. From the opening scene the dialogue feels very awkward and uninspired. This is surely a combination of both the writing and the acting, but the source material didn’t give the actors a lot to work with. Also, the sound is mixed in such a way that some of the actors are often inaudible. It was hard not to be frustrated. However, the most frustrating thing about No One Lives is that it could have been such beautiful trash if the writer had dived right in with that intention.

There are moments in the script that are absolutely hilarious for their absurdity. For example, one of the characters sees a bloody knife protruding from a tire or a wall, her line: ‘something’s wrong here’ (or something along those lines). Also, I don’t think I will ever forget the perfectly ridiculous ‘Nobody kills Ethan!’ However, on other occasions it seems like the dialogue is bad, but unintentionally so. That said, this was still a script and ultimately a movie that was perfect for the MM crowd.

Despite my problems with the script there were plenty of moments in No One Lives that had the crowd riled up, and for good reason. Some very creative kills and moments of bloody carnage were often on display and the MM crowd has a reputation for enjoying this type of fare. The fact that it wasn’t a serious film made the onscreen carnage enjoyable rather than frightening. Although Dredd 3D and Seven Psychopaths each had their fair share of carnage, I think No One Lives finally quenched the bloodlust of the crowd.

I personally did not have a great time at No One Lives, but much of the crowd did by the sounds of it. Despite the writing problems when it came to the dialogue, the writer excelled at creating some hilariously trashy scenes and some very creative kills. It’s just unfortunate that No One Lives was not as ridiculous as it could have been.

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