Thoughts on Furious 7

Furious 7 — and the entire (The) Fast and (the) Furious franchise — doesn’t seemingly merit the praise I laud upon it. As an action series, there’s an expectation for it to hit specific beats and move on. And it certainly does that with aplomb; fast driving here, explosions there, punches aplenty, attractive women looking attractive… But at the same time, this series packs more heart into it, more appreciation for its characters and their diverse personalities and quirks, more respect for the audience than we would ever expect of normally-mindless action flicks.

Are there crazy physics-and-logic-defying sequences that stress the limits of suspension of disbelief? Certainly, and possibly more in Furious 7 than anything prior (and that includes Fast Five’s giant-safe-tethered-to-two-cars-driving-at-speed-being-used-as-sliding-wrecking-ball). If that’s going to be a problem for you, I might suggest sitting this one out. (The guy who sat next to me at last night’s IMAX screening was quite vocal in his disapproval of the stunts presented onscreen; I fear he may have been in the wrong theater. Or state.)

But at the same time, there’s a movie-long romance arc about Dom and Letty’s relationship (I assume you’re all equally on first-name basis with the characters) being strained by Letty’s persistent amnesia (let’s all just move on from that bit), and a respectful farewell for Brian’s character that doubles as a teary-eyes goodbye to Paul Walker.

There’s a revisiting of the scene and characters from Tokyo Drift — a film made ten years ago with none of the characters from the previous films as a crazy effort to breathe new life into a waning franchise, no forethought of an ongoing story, but which became the springboard for an arc spanning five films — to dovetail Han’s death/funeral with Owen Shaw’s drive for vengeance. No action movie I can recall has story seeds running through the veins of a decade of films; most exist movie-to-movie, trying to reboot a series with every release to sustain public interest, keeping only one or two actors in to maintain audience recognition (and probably to keep the budget down).

James Wan had a difficult task of taking over for Justin Lin, who had directed films 3-6 and established the long arc, and continuing those story threads into their next phases. He successfully weaved Han and Gisele’s death, Walker’s struggles with the doldrums of domestic life, Shaw’s defeat in Fast and Furious 6 acting as ghost from their past for a new antagonist in Jason Statham, and the aforementioned Letty amnesia into a beautiful tapestry, while still giving everyone in this (now slightly smaller) ensemble cast appropriate screen time to continue to develop their characters and simultaneously kick ass. He even brought in new faces such as the brilliant hacker Ramsey and the mysterious US government agent/benefactor/plot driver Mr. Nobody, both of whom I expect to see in future endeavors.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that there will be future endeavors. Although the actors got to pay their respects to Walker in character and let his character sunset in as fitting a way as I could have ever imagined, it’s also clear that their love for Walker motivated them to give this movie a proper heartfelt ending. That same motivation, that shared experience amongst cast and crew, will no doubt continue to drive them to keep telling their story as long as there’s a story to tell. They’ve lost someone special to them, and instead of throwing in the towel and canceling the film they can now be catalyzed to carry on. The cast, like the characters they portray, are family.

That mutual love, adoration, and respect is ever-apparent onscreen, and serves as yet another indicator that this series is special. The cars, the jet-setting, the action, the spectacle… It all hides something much more profound and powerful than I ever expected to find in movies like this. In the end, that heart is what will keep bringing me back.

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Lacy, Gently Wafting Valentines

My yearly tradition returns for another year! Like all yearly traditions ought to. Whenever I can muster up the strength to do so, I make Valentine’s Day cards for my mother and siblings to enjoy. Last year I made a batch in the style of Back to the Future. This year I decided to go with something relatively more contemporary: enjoy my Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog valentines!

If you haven’t seen Dr. Horrible yet… seriously, what’s wrong with you? Please go buy the DVD (or Blu-ray), buy the soundtrack, watch Commentary! The Musical, buy the Commentary! soundtrack… then come back here and print out the valentines and enjoy please.

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In 3D!

OB_IMG - 3D SpecsYesterday Geoff posted the following Facebook update:

Geoff - 3D Movie Remakes Facebook Post

This inspired us to come up with other titles for 3D movie remakes. A sampling:

  • Inglorious Basterds: The 3rD Reich
  • Back to the Future Part III-D
  • 2 Fast 3D Furious
  • Live 3D or Die Hard
  • 3D Men and a Baby
  • 3D0 (300)
  • 3D Ninjas
  • Independence Day – I3D:4
  • Dragon Wars: 3D War
  • The 3D Amigos
  • D3D The Mighty Ducks: “The quack attack is back Jack… IN 3D!”
  • Numb3Drs (technically a TV show, but still awesome)

Got any more?

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Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Up

I feel like I’ve put this HUR thing off for far too long! Luckily, I kept copious iPhone notes of the last few movies I went to see in terms of their trailers, so I should be able to piece a few together. I’ll be backdating these to the dates I saw the movies, so these posts will fall behind more recent Apple Cow-related fare, but whatEVS!

The movie was Up! I’m up with Up. Up was friggin’ awesome, y’see. Like with WALL•E, this did not surprise me in the slightest since it’s a Pixar flick. This particular movie was notable for a jarringly sad introductory sequence. Sometimes I think such moments are missing in family films these days, so it was nice to see Pixar continuing to take its all-ages audience seriously for the sake of good storytelling.

T-t-trailers!

The Princess and the Frog
ADAPTATION it may be, but I’m still excited! I haven’t honestly seen all that much footage yet, since this trailer uses up almost a third of its runtime for introspective retrospectives on past Disney successes (ooh, going for success by association! Clever girl), but I’m mostly excited for the idea of a new Disney musical with traditional-style animation. It very well may bomb, but I’m just glad to see Disney supporting old-school animation again.

G-Force
I get the feeling they don’t even know enough funny things about guinea pigs. I don’t want to confess that this is ORIGINAL.

Imagine That
This seems awfully familiar for an ORIGINAL story. I should probably be giving these kid movie trailers a break, but come on! Does anyone NOT know how this movie ends? Man, it would really be something to have a movie like this end with the father continuing to be estranged from his quirky-and-sometimes-magical child. One can dream…

Shorts
I really hope Robert Rodriguez is making mountains of dough from these awful kid movies he keeps churning out. I die a little inside every time a trailer starts by saying “From the director of Spy Kids” and not “From the director of El Mariachi”. At least he’s avoiding the all-too-common trap of adaptations from books with ORIGINAL scripts.

Planet 51
One might think this ORIGINAL story about a role reversal between humans and aliens might appeal to a sci-fi fan like myself. Well… wrong? After the initial joke has set in, there can’t possibly be anything else to a film like this. So the aliens (instead of humans) are frightened of the human (instead of alien), and… 90 minutes?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
SEQUEL (and a frequent occurrence as trailers go)

TOTAL: 33.33% (2/6)

As of a June 1st screening of Up, Hollywood’s kid movie industry scored an impressive 33.33% unoriginality index for trailers! As usual, of course, the stories themselves look plenty unoriginal in their own rights.

Funny thing about letting a backlog pile up: I know what’s coming next! Stay tuned for the HUR of Harry Potter and the Sequel of Adaptationing!

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Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Star Trek

To beat the heat, Michael, Paul, Nicole and I ducked into AMC Saratoga 14 yesterday to watch the latest movie in the Star Trek series. I should probably mention at this point that this was, in fact, my third viewing of the film in theaters. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie in theaters this many times, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Trek film this good! J.J. Abrams took a franchise that Rick Berman had all but killed and breathed new life into it in the seemingly most ridiculous way possible: by effectively destroying almost all existing canon by hitting the infamous History Eraser Button and starting from scratch. The move was certainly bold, but in my opinion also absolutely necessary for Star Trek to survive. The series was so bound by all that had come before that it could never satisfy anyone: existing fans would complain about every minor diversion from established canon, and new folk would be lost in the dense mythos. As a long-time Trekkie (and Trekker), I fully support Abrams’ new vision for the future, and hope he remains onboard for any future entries in the franchise.

Until the next Trek comes out, though, we might as well enjoy ourselves with various other upcoming film releases! Today’s collection would seem to be proof-positive of successful target marketing, as several of the trailers are themselves reimaginings of existing fiction from my childhood. Allons-y!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies? I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on for the vast majority of this trailer, though I did pick up several explosions and muddy-looking CGI robots punching each other. Maybe that’s all there is to it. SEQUEL of an ADAPTATION… but I did have a great time poking fun at the original, so maybe this one will yield similar enjoyment.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Back-to-back ADAPTATIONs of television shows from my childhood? It’s clear that Hollywood’s pandering to my unfounded sense of nostalgia at this point, but this looks at least slightly more interesting than the previous Michael Bay dreck. Christopher Eccleston’s a fun actor and will probably make for an equally-fun villain. The computer graphics are surprisingly subpar (the green dissolving solution on the Eiffel Tower stands out in my mind), but at least this one features humans more interesting to look at than Shia LeBeouf. That said, the new animated series looks much more interesting to me.

Land of the Lost
It must be ADAPTATION Christmas or something! Presumably this is a big-screen rendition of the original Sid and Marty Krofft TV show and not the 1990s remake I grew up with. Not that it matters, as they seem to have dropped any semblance of seriousness in favor of slapstick comedy, so I’ll likely give this one a pass.

Terminator: Salvation
Though I probably will go see this SEQUEL, I’ll still be pissed as all hell. See, I just found out this morning that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has been officially cancelled. The show was absolutely brilliant and, much like the new Star Trek, breathed new life into an ailing franchise. On top of that, a movie release would have only helped the show’s ratings! Once again, I must give a wag of the finger to Fox for their poor decision-making skills.

Year One
I don’t get why Jack Black and Michael Cera are cavemen in the year 1, when civilization had come kind of a long way from hunting-gathering. I don’t get why Cain and Abel are there either! It’s fairly safe to say that historical accuracy is not the aim of a movie like this. ORIGINAL, though they do appear to do a lot of traipsing through biblical stories.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Kind of a crazy-big cast in this movie. I even like a few of these guys! Christopher Guest and Hank Azaria, what are you doing in a movie featuring Ben Stiller getting slapped by monkeys? Your awesomeness is not nearly sufficient enough to make me want to check out this SEQUEL of an ADAPTATION.

TOTAL: 83.33% (5/6)

Oy. As of a May 18th screening of Star Trek at AMC Saratoga 14 in Saratoga, CA, Hollywood was preparing itself for a summer of 83.33% unoriginality. If only a handful of these movies end up being anywhere near the calibur of Trek, though, that might not be such a bad thing.

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Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Fast & Furious

Last night, Bevin and I pooled together a large group of friends to trek over to Century 12 Downtown San Mateo and see Fast & Furious. The flick was pretty standard insane action with fast-drivin’ cars (possibly also furious-drivin’) and Vin Diesel being The Man, but what surprised me the most was the movie’s attempts to dissuade this very blog from labeling it as derivative! During the opening credits, the words “ORIGINAL FILM” were proudly displayed on the screen for all to see. And here I was thinking it was an interquel (between 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift)! Some might argue that Original Film is probably just the name of some production company, but it’s clear to me that Hollywood has caught onto my little game!

Speaking of which: trailers!

Public Enemies
Might go check this out, if only because Great Depression-era gangster stories are really cool, and Johnny Depp is pretty okay sometimes! Based on the book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34, and therefore an ADAPTATION (the book itself is based on a true story, so it’s doubly-adapted!). Christian Bale also appears, and I gotta say, this guy’s really been keeping busy. He’s been in 2-3 films per year, and has big blockbuster Terminator Salvation coming out soon… no wonder he snaps on the set every now and then.

Fighting
Possibly the greatest movie title I’ve ever seen. “What sort of activities do they engage in?” “Oh, you know… fighting.” And from what you can see in the trailer, they most certainly do. More importantly though, the trailer alone introduced me to two phrases I hope to work into conversation on a regular basis.

Money Quote #1:

“Where are we going?”
“We’re in a $100,000 Mercedes, that’s where we’re going.”

“I’m in a salvaged Volvo, that’s where I’m going!”

Money Quote #2:

“The only way I’m gonna lose is if somebody beats me.”

That one may rival the legendary “Pain don’t hurt” from Road House.

Oh yeah, ORIGINAL as far as I can tell.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Most. Nonsensical. Title. EVER. This is a movie that hates grammar. Also, John Travolta looks stupid (but what else is new? HIYOOOOOOOO). This particular film has an interesting unoriginality to it worthy of analysis. Apparently it’s the second REMAKE of the original 1974 film which was itself an ADAPTATION of a novel. Why is it not simply another adaptation? I have no clue. All I know is, whenever I see situations like these, I find myself wanting to see the first adaptation much more than the current iteration. Then again, I never thought Hollywood should be allowed do-overs (case in point: The Incredible Hulk following Hulk).

Earth
Certainly a gorgeous-looking documentary about our massive planet, and James Earl Jones has a fabulous narrating voice, but apparently this movie was released two years ago in the UK and was narrated by Patrick Stewart! Does Disneynature feel we’re not ready for British narration? Because I would be inclined to disagree! Earth, I would have been willing to overlook the fact that you are designed to be a companion piece to the BBC series Planet Earth, but this injustice cannot stand. ADAPTATION. You ought to be ashamed.

Crank 2: High Voltage
Whenever I see a trailer for a SEQUEL to a movie I haven’t seen, part of me is concerned that I’ll be completely lost and have no clue as to what’s going on. Crank 2‘s trailer leaves me with no such reservations, as it looks completely ridiculous and Jason Statham-kicking-ass-and-electrocuting-himself-to-comedic-effect-y. He’s been given an artificial heart with a crappy battery, and has to constantly shock himself to keep it going long enough to find his real heart (did he check San Francisco?). One has to wonder why he can’t simply get checked into a hospital and get a heart donor (or a better artificial heart), but regardless: I WILL SEE THIS MOVIE.

Just noticed in trailer-rewatching: John de Lancie cameo?! MUST SEE MOVIE TWELVE TIMES

TOTAL: 80% (4/5)

Goodness! As of an April 5th screening of Fast & Furious at Century 12 Downtown San Mateo, Hollywood was actively gunning for 80% unoriginality! I would have expected better for ridiculous action flicks; while they’re invariably derivative in too many ways to count, they’re usually still original characters and stories. Still… FAST AND FURIOOOOOOOOOUS
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Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D

Okay, let me explain. I realize that I previously looked upon the trailer for this film with indifference bordering on disdain, as I do for most non-Pixar family film trailers. But I was given two free tickets to an advance screening at Century 20 Oakridge in San Jose, and really, how often does such an opportunity come up? I’m pretty glad I went too, because the film was surprisingly entertaining! The film was chock-full of sci-fi and monster B-movie hat tips and parody, and delightfully light on pointless toilet humor that you see so often in kid-friendly films. On top of that, it was in 3D! As with Coraline, the Real-D technology was put to excellent use creating stunning visuals. Sure, they threw in a few more “throw shit at the camera” gimmicks, but it looked purdy, and that’s what matters in the end. There’s nothing I like better than being proven wrong for the better, and I can confidently say that Monsters vs. Aliens is a pretty okay movie that you could maybe go see if you wanted. Feel free to skip 3D if you need to save some money though.

Alas, this movie continued My Bloody Valentine‘s pesky habit of being light on the trailers, with only a single entry! Worse, it was one I already saw. WORSE, it still looks dumb.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
SEQUEL

TOTAL: 100% (1/1)

As of a March 16th advance screening of Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D at Century 20 Oakridge in San Jose, CA, we’re back at 100% unoriginality, which I will again let slide on account of the small sample size. After Ice Age 3 and Up, are we gonna be out of 3D movies? I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience those glasses can (sometimes) provide.

Followup question! Do any of you return the glasses? I’ve got four sitting on my car dash now. I ain’t payin’ extra for glasses I’m not even going to keep!

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Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Coraline 3D

Geoff, Kyle and I took another trek to the ol’ dependable local San Mateo theater last night for a screening of Coraline, presented in three dimensions! As mentioned in the previous HUR, I had been looking forward to this particular film for some time now, and it was a wonderful moviegoing experience. The 3D visuals were jaw-droppingly gorgeous; unlike Bloody Valentine, it was clear that this film was made for the stereoscopic projection system. I don’t even know how much justice my brief glowing description can give this movie, but in short: please go see Coraline right away, and watch it in 3D. This is the rare film where the glasses are not pure gimmick, but serve to add (forgive the pun) extra depth to the visuals. Go see it now!

New 3D movie means: new 3D trailers! We were all honestly surprised that so many 3D films are on the horizon. Always happy to get more trailers to analyze, but on the other hand, most of them are kid’s movies I’ll probably never see. Onward!

Up
I was a little concerned about not seeing the next Pixar film teaser after watching WALL•E awhile back, so it was quite pleasing to see that not only do we get a full-fledged trailer of Up, but that the film is also being presented with 3D projection! I can only imagine it’s a relatively simple matter to re-run RenderMan with two virtual cameras instead of one, and the image looked clean and crisp through the Real D glasses. And come on, it’s Pixar, which means the film will no doubt be charming, amusing for all ages, and of course ORIGINAL.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Ugh! Of course, where there’s a new Pixar summer flick, a new Ice Age entry can’t be far behind. I’m really not a fan of this franchise, but they must be popular with the kids because they keep making more despite my (admittedly non-verbal) protests. The weirdest thing about Ice Age trailers is that they don’t actually show any of the main cast or events, opting instead to devote the entirety of the trailer time to the misadventures of saber-toothed squirrel Scrat. I’ll admit that there is great logic to this, as I always though Scrat’s comic stylings were the only funny part of the series, but I would never pay $13 just for Scrat’s sake. Even if the acorns look like THEY’RE COMIN’ RIGHT FOR US! SEQUEL, and if they don’t actually show the movie, what is anyone supposed to get hyped up for? Ray Romano and John Leguizamo?

Monsters VS Aliens
Kinda cute-looking ensemble kid’s movie I guess. Really don’t have much to say about it, though I’m always happy to see Dwight Schrute doing other projects (when they aren’t The Rocker). And though the Indestructible Gelatinous Mass will probably be a kind of irritating character, I liked the quick Blob shot. ORIGINAL in only the technical sense.

TOTAL: 33.33% 1/3

As of a February 7th screening of Coraline 3D at Century 12 Downtown in San Mateo, CA, the 3D branch of Hollywood shot for the moon with a mere 33.33% unoriginality! Like I said before, it’s a total gimmick, but there’s something really charming about putting on silly glasses and watching things pop out of the screen. It only saddens me that there will be no way to pick up Coraline in a home media format in 3D, as the old-fashioned 2D way of presenting movies just couldn’t look quite as good. But of course, this is exactly the point. Theaters want to compete directly against the home theater experience, and unreproducible gimmicks fit the bill perfectly. Can’t wait ’til we get new Smell-O-Vision movies!

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