Posts Tagged 'x-men: first class'

Review: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

I went into X-Men: First Class with fairly high hopes. I wasn’t expecting it to be Best Picture material (though I’d have been thrilled if it was), but I definitely expected it to at least be the best of the 4 comic book movies this summer (the others of course being Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern). X-Men is by far my favorite comic book property, and by extension my favorite Marvel property. I love a lot of these characters, and have since the X-Men cartoon in the early 90’s (as with every other comic book movie, I never read the comics). Magneto in particular is my favorite individual comic book character, and he’s also one of my favorite villains in all of fiction. The themes and issues X-Men deals with grant it the potential for the best, most real world-based storylines of any major comic property. As much as I love pure fantasy, it’s much more challenging (and thus rewarding when it’s done well) to credibly place superhuman characters in the real world, which is what X does best. Hollywood’s cinematic versions of X-Men have produced mixed results. I’d say Bryan Singer‘s X-Men (2000) was very good, X2 (2003) was great, Brett Ratner‘s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was fucking awful, and the first spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), is entertaining, but can only be described as seriously flawed at best. In other words, X-Men has been very hard to get right.

I was happy to see Fox decide to go in a new direction for this reboot/prequel (because really, Last Stand had driven the franchise off a cliff creatively), and I thought at the time that Matthew Vaughn was a capable enough choice to take the director’s chair. Vaughn started out as a producer (he produced Guy Ritchie‘s classics Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch), and has moved smoothly into directing, first with Layer Cake, then on to Stardust (which I have no interest in ever seeing) and last year’s underrated and underseen Kick-Ass. I think he’s developing nicely as a director, and his second foray into the comic book genre is a great improvement with regards to his filmmaking style and the quality of the effects, stunts and production value. Of course, the main reason for that is the fact that the budget of this movie was probably greater than the combined budgets of every other project he’s ever been involved with. He did especially well when he put together his crew. He used Ridley Scott‘s cinematographer (the great John Mathieson), Christopher Nolan‘s editor (the great Lee Smith) and stunt coordinator (the great Tom Struthers), as well as the legendary Brian Smrz as his second unit director. Basically, with a crew like that, my mom could direct this movie. I kid, of course (no offense, mom). Vaughn clearly had a vision here and brought his own sensibilities to the project.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGHOUT. I can’t cover this movie the way I need to without giving stuff away, so my best recommendation is not to read this until after you’ve seen the movie, or if you just don’t care about being spoiled. Most of you don’t need this review to decide whether or not you’ll see the film, you’re just reading it to get my opinion. But in case you haven’t decided, go see it. If you’re a fan of the first two X-Men movies, this is definitely worth your time. On top of that, you don’t have to pay extra for crappy 3D! What else could you want?

WHAT I LIKED

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr/Magneto & James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. These two actors, and their characters’ relationship, are the glue of the movie, and that glue is strong. I was a bit hesitant when I first heard about McAvoy being cast, but as the trailers came out, those fears were quickly alleviated. He’s a fine actor, and gives another fine performance here. I loved seeing what pre-wheelchair Xavier was like, particularly early on when we see the playboy side of him. In the other movies, Patrick Stewart‘s Xavier is always The Great Mentor. Those of you unfamiliar with Fassbender (most of you will remember him either from 300 or as the British officer involved in that great bar scene from Inglourious Basterds), best get used to seeing him a lot in the next couple years. He is the latest actor that Hollywood is trying desperately to make a movie star out of, and for the first time in a long time, I hope in this instance that they succeed. This guy has it all, and in the end, First Class is his movie. His Magneto is exactly what I wanted, and it was also cool seeing this character in action as a younger, more vital man (one who speaks 4 different languages in the movie!). No disrespect to Ian McKellen, of course, who was superb in the role in different ways.

Notice that I was able to avoid the now-popular Michael F. Assbender jokes. But seriously, learn his name, because he may be the single most in demand actor in the industry right now. And he’s got the talent to back up that demand.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I didn’t realize going in that Bacon was going to be the primary villain. I loved every minute of him in this movie, especially in the beginning, when he’s a German concentration camp officer as a young Erik Lensherr learns firsthand what humanity is capable of. I was most impressed by his near perfect German accent and his delivery of the language. He clearly had a lot of fun filming that stuff. Later on, he’s a more typical scheming comic book villain, but he’s a believable and worthy foe, and that’s all we really needed. I know Bacon has done villain work before, but to carry the primary baddie role in a huge movie like this? That’s certainly a first for him, and I thought he was excellent. I like that he’s the one that creates the telepath immunity helmet Magneto will later take as his own.



He didn’t spend 6 years in evil medical school to be called Mister, thank you very much.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. Other than Xavier and Magneto, she has the strongest character arc and the most to do. For those of us who saw Winter’s Bone, there’s no surprise that she’s so good here, but she’ll truly hit the big time next spring as the star of the first Hunger Games movie. I like her early friendship with Xavier (though I do find it dubious he considers her “just a friend” and was able to resist being attracted to her all those years), and I bought how she eventually came around to Magneto’s way of thinking. When she joins him for good at the end of the movie in her “turn to the dark side” moment, I bought that as well. She’s fantastic, and I’d say she has a bright future, but with an Oscar nomination at age 20 and prominent roles in two big franchise movies, that future is now. I just hope she’s not stuck doing only X-Men and Hunger Games movies for the next 5 years, though it’s entirely possible.

-I liked most of the other mutants. I say most because I hated one (see below), thought another was completely wasted, and was utterly confused by a third. We’ll get into that in a minute. Nicholas Hoult was really good as Hank McCoy and later in some fantastic makeup as Beast. He gets the most character development of all the secondary characters. Lucas Till made good use of little screen time as Alex Summers/Havok (I assume this is Cyclops‘ future dad?), and Caleb Landry Jones was okay as Banshee, though he’s mostly relegated to the role of comic relief. Sebastian Shaw’s mutant henchmen had almost nothing to do character-wise, but Jason Flemyng certainly looked cool in makeup as Azazel (future father of Nightcrawler).

The 1960’s period art direction. It’s refreshing to see a big summer movie done completely in period. You often see these movies with futuristic settings and technology, or set in medieval/ancient times (Gladiator, Troy, etc.), but rarely do we see these movies set in the 60’s and 70’s (we’ll get another 70’s-set summer extravaganza this week in Super 8). They did a fantastic job putting us in that time period. A lot of people have said parts of the movie feel like an old James Bond flick, and I can see the comparison. You especially feel it inside Shaw’s secret, diabolical submarine. I half-expected him to sit there in the captain’s chair with his pinky in his mouth, Dr. Evil style. He clearly had sharks with frickin laser beams on their heads somewhere inside that thing. Other times, some of the sets had a very 2001/Clockwork Orange/Dr. Strangelove Kubrickian tone to them.

The visual effects. Were excellent. ‘Nuff said. Because a lot of  movies nowadays are rushed to completion because of predetermined release dates they MUST meet, many of them are often lacking in the overall quality of their visuals. For the most part, that is not the case here. Vaughn even cleverly uses some of his effects shots in ways that most directors doing their first big effects flick seldom do. Case in point is Hank McCoy’s big transformation into Beast, which I thought was cleverly shot as a POV sequence. Very cool.

-The Hugh Jackman/Wolverine cameo. I’m sooo glad I didn’t know about this going in. (And sorry if I just ruined it for you, but you were warned about spoilers)This was quite literally one of the best cameos I’ve ever seen. Just brilliant. It was quick, it was efficient, it made sense within the context of the plot, and it was restrained.

There was also a very subtle, but cool blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Rebecca Romijn cameo during one of Mystique’s transformations that I thought was very well-placed. She really does look like an older Jennifer Lawrence.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Zoe Kravitz as Angel. Let’s just say she wasn’t up to par, particularly when surrounded by a group of such great actors. I’m wondering, what exactly are her credentials, other than being Lenny Kravitz‘s daughter? Because being cast in a major motion picture should require more than that. Second, I think Angel is just a lame character, at least as shown here. I know they had to scrape the barrel for the secondary mutants (as obviously people like Cyclops, Colossus and Storm can’t be introduced until years later in this storyline), but surely they could have thought of SOMEONE better than this. Apparently not, so instead we have a mediocre actress playing an uninteresting character. Not a good combination. Was I supposed to give a shit when she turned bad? Cuz I didn’t. Speaking of which, I had to laugh later on in the film when she’s supposed to look intimidating flying around with her mosquito wings, spitting fire loogies at people.

-I also could have gone without Tornado Man, aka Alex Gonzalez as Riptide. I don’t think he has a single line of dialogue, and all he really does is walk around with his best “evil mutant” face, and occasionally twirling his hands around to create mini twisters. I dunno, it was just cheesy. They should’ve found another evil mutant or just given someone else more screen time in his place.

Darwin’s death. Sigh. Do I just go full on rant mode here or try to exercise restraint? Ehhh, who am I kidding? So one of the mutants Xavier and Magneto recruit is Darwin (played by Kenyan actor Edi Gathegi), whose power is to…adapt to his surroundings (e.g. if he sticks his head into an aquarium he grows gills). Unfortunately, this power is not put to any practical use…until it’s time for him to sacrifice himself for the white mutants. Of course! What I’m getting at is that once again, I have to sit through a situation where the only motherfucking black male in the group of main characters dies FIRST and dies prematurely. Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?! Let’s put this in perspective; you’ve got the black female playing the weakest, least interesting mutant, and the black male mutant being underutilized and killed off early. Fuck you. I love this shit. Almost every major player in Hollywood is openly liberal, yet time after time after time, we are forced to put up with completely whitewashed casts, with the minority characters (a vast majority of the time) forcefully inserted either to meet a race quota (which is typically 1) or simply to act out racial/ethnic/cultural stereotypes. The hypocrisy of it is stunning, and I’ve f’ing had it. Put this cliché to BED, and take your fake white liberal guilt and shove it up your ass. I’m done with rich white liberals, three words that constitute quite the oxymoron. STOP. KILLING. THE. COLORED. GUY. FIRST. COCKSUCKERS.

-I got a little tired of Xavier putting his fingers on his head every time he used his powers (as if he were pressing the “telepathy ON” button), but I suppose he had to do something other than intently squinting his eyes. I suppose. I don’t recall this being an issue with the earlier films, but I guess I’ll have to go back and watch em again (the first two, anyway).

-Once again we have an X-Men movie without a memorable score or set of themes. I guess it’s just not meant to be. I guess it’s too much to ask. Composer Henry Jackman (who also did the music for Vaughn’s Kick-Ass) has crafted a perfectly competent score that hits the right marks at the right times. Problem is, I don’t remember one note of that score, and thus have no desire to own it. Am I crazy in thinking there should be an awesome X-Men theme (the cartoon had one!) and that Magneto should have his own “Imperial March”? I don’t think so, brah.

I rest my case:

Going forward into the summer, there’s some potential with the other two big comic book movies, with Alan Silvestri scoring Captain America and James Newton Howard working on Green Lantern. Silvestri has created some of the greatest themes in movie history (Back to the Future, Predator, Forrest Gump, etc.) and James Newton Howard is James Newton Howard.

WHAT CONFUSED ME

January Jones as Emma Frost. It’s like, I think she’s a good actress, but I still can’t say for sure, even after seeing her twice now this year (she was in Unknown if you’ve already forgotten). That’s probably a bad sign that I’ve subconsciously chosen to ignore it because I think she’s gorgeous. Logic dictates that she isn’t really trying, her part wasn’t written well enough, or she’s just not very good. Those are the only options. I haven’t yet gotten around to watching Mad Men (for which she’s received 2 Golden Globe nominations), which I guess would be the best evidence for or against her having any talent. I mean, okay, she looks good in her ridiculously out of place white outfits, and I thought the “diamond person” effects were actually pretty solid. She also has a couple of good moments where she uses her telepathy, most notably the scene with the Russian general.

One more thing about her character: why the fuck does she disappear during the climax of the movie?! Through the whole movie, she’s shown as being Sebastian Shaw’s Number 2, the one he cares about most, but when it all comes to a head she’s sitting on the bench. Okay, so we see her in CIA custody, she overhears two guys talking about a war with mutants, then cuts a little hole through the one-way glass with her diamond finger and taunts them, and then…she’s gone. She can cut a hole through the window with her diamond finger, but apparently has no desire to further use her considerable powers to escape. When we next see her, at the very end of the movie, she’s literally laying down on a slab, just chillin’, when Magneto and his boys come and rescue her. Did no one else notice this?

No really, this actually happens in the movie. (I couldn’t get the fuckin thing to embed.)

-This movie does nothing to explain why a kid growing up in Westchester, New York has a British accent. I’m talking to you, Charles Xavier.

-I don’t know if this really confused me more than it did simply amuse the F out of me. LOL, why does Havoc do a techno dance as he’s using his power?

-At the end of the movie, Moira MacTaggert (as played by the lovely Rose Byrne) promises Xavier she’ll never reveal where he and the other mutants are hiding. My question…why would they need her to in the first place? The CIA knows his name, because he just f’n worked with them. Yet no one in the government will think to look for him at his family’s gigantic estate?! Am I the only one who instantly thought of this?


He prefers…Magneto.

So, where does the series go from here? I honestly don’t know. Obviously, they’ll want to keep this cast together for probably 2 more movies, which means they can’t skip ahead in time to the 2000’s and bring in Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue or the other more popular X-Men characters. The writers will have to come up with more period storylines, presumably one set in the 70’s for the next film. I have no idea where that will go, except to beg the filmmakers not to make the Vietnam War a major plot point. Anything but that for the love of God! Regardless, for now we have another solid X-Men movie, and in this dismal moviegoing year, we can at least be thankful for that.

I don’t have an official list, but this is easily one of the top 10 comic book movies ever, maybe top 5. I have to see it again before I definitively place it, but I’m not on board with those who say it’s the best X-Men movie. It might be better than the first one (only slightly if it is), but X2 is still the best in the series, and still the second best comic book movie ever, behind the almighty Dark Knight.

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Movie Extravaganza #2: The Semi Summer Movie Preview

As summer movie season kicks into full gear this weekend with the release of  Thor, I thought this was a great time for another big all-movie post. There’s been some stuff I’ve been wanting to talk about and some recent news worthy of your attention, analyzed for you by two thumbs pointing at this guy. First things first, some very cool new trailers debuted last week. The second (and likely final) full-length trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the second (and much improved) trailer for X-Men: First Class, and the first official trailer for The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. In case you haven’t seen any of them, take a look. I strongly recommend changing the video quality (in the bottom middle of each) to at least 720p to watch them in HD.

I’ve got my fingers crossed so tight on this that my index finger is about to snap, but Shockwave looks great, and there’s a lot of interesting and big stuff going on here, like that cool beacon thingy. And you can’t tell for sure, but I think Optimus Prime‘s trailer (which FINALLY makes an appearance) turns into that jetpack he wears. Just a guess, but remember who called it. On the other hand, I’m a little bothered by the fact that this trailer shows a clip from what looks to be the very last scene in the movie (Prime talking to Sam on a pier or boardwalk, with John Turturro in the wheelchair behind him). A great trailer from a visuals standpoint, but it looks like it gives way too much away. Perhaps more than anything, I can’t wait to find out how Shia LeBeouf ends up with a British supermodel girlfriend who’s even hotter than Megan Fox. I think if the director’s name wasn’t “Michael Bay“, this mightn’t have happened. Just a guess.


OH, HAI. NICE LIPZ.
P.S. I totally buy that you’d fall for Shia LaBeouf.

I’ve been very hesitant on this since day 1 (I’m still not over how bad X-Men : Last Stand was), and the first trailer wasn’t too inspiring, but this second one is a marked improvement. You get to hear more dialogue, and it looks like they’ve properly captured that X-Men us-against-the-world tone. I’m really digging Michael Fassbender as Magneto, too. His delivery of of that line “We already are” is pitch perfect and 100% Magneto. I’m really rooting for this to be very good. If all else fails, I get to look at January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, which is always satisfying.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the first movie in the entire series that I didn’t like. I won’t say I disliked it, but I definitely didn’t like it. It sits in this kind of opinion limbo. At the time, I couldn’t even write a review of it, it baffled me so much. I still need to watch it again, but I don’t expect my overall opinion to change. That said, even while I complained about the first part, I said back in November that I expected Part 2 to be amazing despite the problems I had with Part 1. I still hold that expectation. In my dream of dreams, this last one will be so good and so emotionally powerful that it’ll be worthy of Best Picture consideration and perhaps some acting nominations, but none of the others have been serious contenders in those categories, and they’ve been very consistent in quality (one of the series’ biggest strengths), so I doubt this will transcend the others even if it is the best of the decade-long series.

How Green is My Lantern?

Now we move to a brand new trailer that has me going, “Uh oh.” That trailer belongs to Green Lantern, which I am predicting will be this summer’s biggest box office bomb. I’ve been trying, really trying, to get excited for this, but I’m about to give up after this latest trailer. It just looks fuckin silly, doesn’t it? Like all these superhero movies, I don’t know shit about the comics, but surely the Green Lantern comic isn’t this silly looking. Is it? I know this is obvious, but it’s just so…GREEN. Like, really green. Too green. Then you’ve got all these incredibly goofy looking aliens and creatures. And all these goofy looking aliens speak English, and look incredibly goofy doing so. Maybe some super Lantern nerd can explain to me what I’m supposed to find cool about that. Then you’ve got Peter Sarsgaard as the main villain, and he ends up going from a normal-looking scientist to this maniac with a giant (goofy looking) ballooned forehead. It looks like we’re going to see a literal mad scientist in this movie. And that’s supposed to be scary and intimidating? Good grief. I can’t pick out one thing about this movie (other than the chance to see Blake Lively again) that has me excited. And that’s a damn shame, because it’s directed by Martin Campbell, who, granted, is hit and miss, but who just 5 years ago he gave us one of the best action movies ever in Casino Royale. Why he took this project on I’ll never know, but it looks like a massive pile of computer-generated [GREEN] dog doo. Don’t believe me? See for yourself, brah…

I guess the fact that Ryan Reynolds is in it should be a giveaway. This will be his third comic book movie, after the mediocre Blade: Trinity and the mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I normally like this guy (he gave one of the best performances in one of the best movies of 2010 in Buried), but he needs to stop it with the comic book movies. The fact that Marvel might give him another movie with the potential Deadpool spinoff is truly terrifying. ENOUGH!

-Can I say that I’m more than a little concerned about the Hangover sequel? In a way, I wish I hadn’t seen that second trailer. Of course it’s funny as hell, and the movie looks funny as hell, but it also displays such an apparent lack of creativity that my confidence in the film is a bit rattled. To start, the fact that they couldn’t come up with a cool subtitle and are just calling it the Hangover: Part II is a bad sign. It just is. You’re telling me Todd Phillips couldn’t come up with a good subtitle to the sequel of one of the most successful comedies of all time? NOBODY in the Warner Bros. marketing department had any good ideas? It’s not a huge deal in the bigger picture, but it’s indicative. When they first announced this sequel was actually happening, I’m on record (somewhere on my MySpace blog) as saying it was a bad idea. For one simple reason: how could anything even remotely that epic ever happen to the same people again? It would just come across as stupid if it did, wouldn’t it? Well, apparently the answer to that question is…easy, just have it happen in a different country. That appears to be the only difference from a narrative standpoint. In this new trailer, one of them is getting married (again), we see that they wake up after another crazy night (again), having no idea what happened the night before (again), and they’ve lost one or more of the people who started the night with them (again). The lack of creativity in that is stunning. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the trailer. Usually, comedy sequels change up the plot a little bit, but this kind of repitition of ideas is normally reserved for bad horror sequels. Is The Hangover: Part II a bad horror sequel? My god I hope not. But right now, the only changes I see are the new location (Thailand) and a different cast member getting married this time. And a monkey. Let’s not forget the monkey.


Ken Jeong, you slay me.

Did Todd Phillips and the cast really do this only for the money? Given what I know of him and the various opinions he’s had recently, I thought Phillips was above that, but perhaps not. Phillips himself (who made more than $50 million on the first movie because of a brilliant contract stipulation) is making $10 million plus 10% of the first-dollar gross on the sequel, meanwhile Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis each got $5 million upfront plus 4% of the first-dollar gross. Those will end up being huge paydays for all 4 of them. That also means a big increase in the budget, because with those salaries, the movie costs $25 million before you even start shooting (the original was made for under $40 million), and once it’s released, Warner Bros. has already forfeited 22% of the grosses. I guess it would be incredibly difficult to say no to such a huge guaranteed payday like that, but I’m hoping there was more effort put into the script than we’ve been shown thus far. If it is just a carbon copy of the original, I will be sorely disappointed. The original Hangover isn’t just one of my favorite comedies, it’s one my favorite movies overall (if you MUST know, it currently sits at #164 on the newly updated Biggie 200 list), and I’ve never been so amped up for a comedy sequel, despite my reservations.

If he exhales, that shirt will explode.

-So I’ve now seen Fast Five in theaters twice (I rarely have the time to see anything twice nowadays), and my love for this movie got me to thinking about how The Fast and the Furious is just about the most unlikely franchise in movie history. I’m fascinated by the trajectory this series has taken since the original came out a decade ago now. No action franchise (or franchise of ANY kind) has unfolded quite like this. Let’s trace the steps, and try to keep up.

You have the original film, The Fast and the Furious (which is loosely based on a Vibe magazine article called “Racer X”), which became a surprise hit in 2001 (grossing $40 million on its opening weekend on a $38 million budget on its way to a $144.5 million haul) and put Paul Walker & Vin Diesel on the map as potential leading men. Then you have a terrible sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, that lost one of those leading men (and the original director, Rob Cohen) because he wanted too much money and basically thought he was above it, and that sequel still manages to perform well ($50 million opening, $127 million total). Diesel and Rob Cohen try to start a new franchise in xXx around the same time to middling results. So a better director on 2 Fast (John Singleton) makes the worst film of his career, but his career gets a bump anyway because that shitty movie is a hit. Singleton, having just made a very good low-budget movie (the greatly underrated Baby Boy) with up & coming singer Tyrese, gives him his first big mainstream starring role opposite the lonely Paul Walker, who badly needs a new street smart, non-Caucasian buddy.

Next, a couple years pass, because they still can’t get Diesel to star in part 3, and they can’t get Walker back either because he, too, is attempting to branch out. But not to be deterred, Universal puts the third movie in motion anyway, hires a new director (Justin Lin, who has directed each movie since) and tries to reinvent the franchise by giving it a new star (Lucas Black) and a new location for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Apparently, hiring an Asian director for the Tokyo-set movie made it more authentic? I dunno. Also, we’re supposed to buy into the fact that because these cars drift around corners, it gives it a cool new twist, as opposed to Americans racing cars in straight lines. So yes, the franchise is now making sequels based on subgenres of street racing. Still with me? More characters are introduced (most notably Sung Kane as Han). Though that movie is just okay, it’s the goddamn Godfather Part II compared to 2 Fast. BUT, without Walker or Diesel’s involvement and the stench still lingering from part 2, the franchise loses some brand recognition, and it opens to a relatively paltry $23.9 million on its way to a franchise-low $62.5 million domestic total. [Also, strangely, we’re now (right now, in 2011) supposed to believe that the events of Tokyo Drift take place AFTER Fast Five. Wrap your head around that.] However, because Vin Diesel has now failed TWICE at starting new franchises (xXx and the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick), he makes a cameo in the final scene of Tokyo Drift, essentially telling us all, “Fine, I admit I don’t have any other other options. See you in part 4.”

SO, Tokyo Drift underperforms, but big studios don’t just give up on sequel-spewing franchises, and LUCKY FOR THEM, after a couple more years, both Paul Walker & Vin Diesel are no longer being allowed to topline movies (Walker because he struggles with that whole ‘acting’ thing, and Diesel because of his ego), and both need big paydays and starring roles to reinvigorate their careers. Fast & Furious is born, with the gimmick being that the entire original cast is back (the other two obviously being Michelle Rodriguez & Jordana Brewster). Brewster probably doesn’t want to do any more of these movies, but she too has not capitalized off the success of the original and has few other options.

By the way, when was the last time a sequel was made where all they did was remove the The‘s from the title of the original?! Again, we’ve never seen this before.

There’s more racing (and some terrible use of CGI cars in that dumbass sequence where they have to drive across the Mexican border and UNDER a mountain), but the focus shifts to more of a crime movie then a fast cars/racing movie. More new characters, most notable among them the superthin, superhot Gal Gadot. Paul Walker’s character (I had to look up his character name, that’s how memorable he is) Brian O’Conner goes from cop to criminal, and in doing allies himself with his bitter rival Dominic Toretto. Sad face, as Michelle Rodriguez supposedly dies and says goodbye to the franchise. Fast & Furious returns the series to box office glory (as audiences hunger for more of what they got in the first movie), opening to a massive $71 million on its way to $155 million total. Michelle Rodriguez ironically gets the last laugh, as she co-stars later that same year in the biggest movie of all-time, something called Avatar.

Finally, we get Fast Five, at worst a tie for best movie in the series, featuring an orgy of characters from all 4 previous films, and some new ones to take the franchise forward (Dwayne Johnson as The Terminator DEA Agent Hobbs). It reinvigorates the series again, with the best, most inventive action scenes in the franchise and cool new locations shot in Brazil and Puerto Rico. So even while the cast is familiar, the setting and the action is fresh. That’s smart. At the end of Five, we get bludgeoned over the head with a bonus scene (which brings back a character from way back in part 2!) that clearly indicates part 6 is on the way. This is further guaranteed when Five opens to $86.2 million in its first weekend on its way to becoming the highest grosser of the series.

Hopefully, that didn’t make you go cross-eyed, but it shows just how strange a road this has been for everyone involved. So many things had to happen for the franchise to end up like this or for it to even have extended this long. Other than Saw (which is supposedly done), there aren’t any currently active franchises at movie 5 or beyond, which is incredible given that Hollywood is more sequel-crazy than ever. And like I said in my Fast Five review, I doubt there’s ever been an instance where a part 5 is considered the best of the series. Though none of them have been great (and only the original and Five can be considered “good” in my view), I’m still interested in these movies. I also respect the series in one big sense…it’s 2011, and in an era where most mainstream movies are still almost completely whitewashed, this is the most ethnically diverse franchise perhaps in the history of cinema. And yes, I realize it depicts almost all of its minority characters as criminals and sex objects, but still, I’m glad to see a wide mix of races headlining movies this popular. That in and of itself is a good thing, and perhaps the most fundamental reason I’m into these flicks in the broader sense.

Finally, the new head of Universal Pictures has come out and said that they want to change the tone of the series again for the sixth movie, and they’ll probably be removing the racing elements altogether and making it a pure heist movie. I can get into that, and from what I’ve seen in two viewings of Five, audiences aren’t even close to being weary of these movies. At least this series TRIES to reinvent itself by mixing up the cast and switching scenery, which is the second big reason I give it props. It entertains the shit out of you without trying to be anything more than it knows it is. It’s an honest franchise that doesn’t bullshit its audience, and I think the masses appreciate that. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I am very much looking forward to 6 Fast Six or Furious 666 (or whatever the fuck it’ll be called). And no, there’s no confirmation yet on which cast members are in for part 6, though Dwayne Johnson has come out and said he wants to be part of it. Whether Diesel, Walker or Brewster want to continue remains to be seen, though I don’t see any of them doing much else in the next couple years. I wonder now if any of them even want to.

Apparently, this car fits into Dom’s wallet, because no matter where in the world he goes, the 1970 Charger shows up with him.

-Speaking of Fast/Furious-related items, I’m a little perturbed by director Justin Lin’s choice to follow up Fast Five with the proposed 5th Terminator movie. For some reason, people think this is a good idea, despite the last two sequels both underperforming at the box office (hint hint: we’re not interested unless it’s made by Cameron, a-holes!). And they think it’s also a good idea to bring 64-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger back to play, I dunno, the Terminator sent back through time to kill John Connor‘s grandfather at the nursing home? So, obviously T5 is a terrible idea, but I’m more concerned with Lin’s awful decision-making. Dude needs to fire his agents. He will never have more clout than he does right now, with Fast Five a monster box office hit around the world. He can do almost anything he wants as a follow-up, and he wants to continue making sequels? And not just a normal sequel, he only wants franchises that are at part 5 or beyond, apparently. Come on, man! Have you no creative ambition? No dream projects? No desire to work off a real script? No desire to work with actors who aren’t sleepwalking through the shoot, simply looking for a payday? I don’t know why this pisses me off, but it does. Not only that, but he’s also said he’s open to doing the sixth Fast/Furious movie. COME ON!!! Cuz I guess directing 3 of them isn’t enough. There’s so much more to explore in this multi-layered, richly characterized world. Oh wait, no, there isn’t. It’s time to move on, Justin Lin. You’re that rarest of things in Hollywood…a minority filmmaker with clout! USE IT. This would be like LeBron James coming off his MVP season last year and then, as a free agent, choosing to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In other words, it’s a giant fucking step backwards!

Director Justin Lin with Vin Diesel.
“Hey Vin, wanna just do these Fast/Furious movies together for the rest of our lives?”
“Justin…I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT!”

Since most of you won’t get that last reference…

-I admit that prior to the movie version coming together, I’d never even heard of The Hunger Games. But now this is apparently one of the most anticipated movies of 2012 (it’s pretty far down my list). What I find curious is that it’s currently May, 2011 and they haven’t shot a single frame (in fact, the movie is still casting), yet they already have a release date of next March. Unless I’m mistaken, this is going to an effects-heavy project. Going from pre-production to release in 10 months on a large scale movie like this is generally not recommended. This trend of the studios stubbornly sticking to predetermined release dates is harming the quality and potential of a lot of movies. I for one don’t particularly care about Hunger Games (other than my love of Jennifer Lawrence and the fact that I like director Gary Ross), but for such a high-profile project that Lionsgate would like to turn into a trilogy, they seem to be rushing things a bit. Also, the fact that the male lead’s name is Peeta is bit off-putting.

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE SCENE TIME!

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE COMPILATION TIME!

“Get out of there!”

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s my favorite track off the Chemical Brothers‘ fantastic score to Hanna. This little diddy’s called “Container Park”:  


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