Tag Archives: Fast And Furious

“STAR TREK BEYOND” Review (✫✫1/2)

A little short of beyond, actually. 

A wash of sadness came over me as I sat down to watch Star Trek Beyond. This was the last time I was going to see Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy on the big screen, who both tragically passed away earlier this year due to unfortunate circumstance. With both becoming Star Trek staples of their own generations, I knew Star Trek would never be the same with the both of them gone. My sadness grew as I kept watching Star Trek Beyond and realized their final appearances were wasted on a mediocre movie. Surely they deserved a better final outing than this.

The third film in the newly rebooted Star Trek universe, Beyond follows the U.S.S. Enterprise as it traverses on its five-year voyage through space. The crew, while going through amazing and exhilarating adventures, grow restless of their time in space. Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) isn’t sure if he wants to be a captain anymore. Spock (Zachary Quinto) isn’t sure if he still wants to be in Starfleet. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) doesn’t know if she wants to keep seeing Spock. Bones (Karl Urban) is still a sarcastic sourpuss.

One day, while investigating a distress call, the Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of vicious new aliens. Crash-landing on a strange planet, the Enterprise crew needs to navigate their way back to each other to team up against this mysterious new threat.

The first of the Star Trek reboots not to be directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Trek Beyond is instead steered by Justin Lin, who is most known for the more recent Fast & Furious movies. Watching this movie, and more specifically the action sequences, you kind of get the sense that Lin is pulling inspiration from those movies and shooting it into the veins of Star Trek’s science-fiction. The result is one that strangely works, a Star Trek movie that is an entertaining and unconventional spin on the action genre. In one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Kirk is fighting the villain in a field where gravity is pulling from three different directions. Seeing them fighting, flying, flipping around, with only a few glass frames to support their footing was one of the more exciting sequences not just from this film, but from the previous two as well.

All the same, some sequences were just too silly to fully accept and be entertained by. In one instance, Kirk is driving towards an enemy base using a motorcycle he lifted from a carrier. I’m not bothered by the fact that he’s using a motorcycle. I’m bothered that when he’s using it, dust isn’t coming out from behind the motorcycle, or that it isn’t even shaking from the rocky terrain he’s driving on. The CGI looks so ridiculous in this scene that it feels like he’s riding on a hovercraft than on a rugged vehicle.

In another scene, the Enterprise crew kills an entire armada of aliens by… playing the Beastie Boys? I’m not making this up. They literally pushed play on a stereo and blew up thousands of aliens. If that just sounds ridiculous, imagine what it looks like seeing it on screen.

The cast is fine in their roles and the movie retains its sense of visual style from the previous two movies. The problems come in with this movie’s scripting, which compared to Abrams’ earlier entries, is just a half-hearted effort at making a relevant Star Trek movie. I’m not a simpleton. I wasn’t expecting this to outdo the impact of the first Star Trek, and it didn’t. That one is in a class of its own, standing out both as a reboot and as its own exciting story.

What I do expect a movie to have is intelligence, or maybe more importantly, integrity. For years, Star Trek has pushed science-fiction writing to the limits in what it could achieve narratively. It asked questions, probed situations, presented problems, and provided answers for our Enterprise crew and their many quests across the galaxy. To its fans, Star Trek is more than science-fiction. It is science-philosophy.

You will find no thought-provoking ideas in Star Trek Beyond, and that’s fine. These movies are not automatically required to be outstanding. Even so, can you at least pretend to have some excitement at directing a Star Trek movie? There is not a cell of this movie that you can’t find in its previous movies. Even the villain is so insipid that he made Jesse Eisenberg look more interesting in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. What excuse does this movie have to be so stock?

Heath Ledger got The Dark Knight. Paul Walker got Furious 7. Yelcin and Nimoy, unfortunately, have to settle with Star Trek Beyond, a recycled action movie that fails to even be consistent. If we didn’t deserve a better movie, then at the very least, they did.

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“NEED FOR SPEED” Review (✫✫)

Needs more brains if you ask me.

Need For Speed is one of those movies that feels like pressing on the gas pedal. You get a good kick out of it at first, but it doesn’t take long for it to run on empty.

Based loosely on the video game series of the same name, Need For Speed stars Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman) as Tobey Marshall, a car mechanic whose prowess at street racing precedes that of Dom Toretto from Fast and Furious. When Tobey’s closest friend Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) is killed in a race against his wealthy rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), Marshall sets out in a race across the country to find Brewster and make him pay for what he has done.

Directed by Scott Waugh, the filmmaker behind the 2011 war drama Act Of Valor, Need For Speed is a typical Hollywood sports car movie with the typical ingredients you’d expect: a lot of action, few brains, even less wit and an over-dependence on formulaic Hollywood cheese

The screenplay is unbearably generic, to the point where groaning in disbelief is almost a reflex. In the first 20 minutes, we get every racing movie cliché you could possibly find in the handbook, from the underdog street racer stereotype to the prolifically rich and jerk of a rival to the underdog getting framed for a crime that he didn’t commit, seeking revenge on his transgressor. I wonder where we’ve seen that before?

Oh, is this movie bad. From the movie’s first scenes to its very last, it’s a predictable farce that can be easily foreseeable if you’ve seen any street racing movie ever. Case in point: Would I be really giving away any spoilers if I offer that A) Marshall makes it into the final race, B) He beats Brewster in a tedious scene that’s supposed to be the climax and C) He gets a beautiful girl in his arms? Please look at that, and tell me that doesn’t remind you of The Fast and the Furious franchise.

The movie might have been decent if the performances were worth anything more than a ukulele pick. Look at all of the names that are in this movie: Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Aaron Paul. All great and talented actors, whose versatility of projects range from Batman and 28 Weeks Later to Captain America: The First Avenger and “Breaking Bad”. Their roles in this movie are wasted because they are mostly shoved aside for the (dis)pleasure of preposterous stunts, relentless engine revving and unbearably bad CGI animation. The fire effects that can be seen in one scene are so laughably bad that the video game looks more realistic.

The only thing I give the movie credit for is its third act, which is surprisingly affectionate. Dare I say that it may be poetic? No, that would be giving the movie too much credit. Still, it carries a very humble message about it, a grounded and reassuring statement that everything is going to be all right, even if things don’t initially seem that way. This end scene was surprisingly touching and relevant, elevating the movie above its mediocrity, although temporarily.

That still doesn’t change what we have here, though. Need For Speed is a predictable, standard, run-of-the-mill action farce with no surprises or original ideas. It’s almost like playing a video game, except you’re watching the filmmaker play it for you.

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The Philanthropist And The Entertainer: A Eulogy

Before I begin, let me start by stating the obvious: yes, I know that I’m late with reporting this. Everyone already knows about the following issues I will be tackling. The information provided in this article is no longer timely. I know that. However, given the gravity of the situations and considering that I’m also writing this from an essential perspective, I write and publish this in the hopes that people will have a changed outlook to similar occurrences in the near future, not that I’m looking forward to these things repeating themselves in any way.

On Saturday, December 5th of last week, Nelson Mandela passed away at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, succumbing to the respiratory infection he’s been struggling with for years now. He was surrounded by his friends and family when he died. The nation mourned, a memorial was held, and the world leaders all flocked to Africa to celebrate the life of one great man, including President Barack Obama and South Africa’s own Jacob Zuma. Mandela was 95 years old.

A week before, the world was ridden of another great man. On November 30th, two days after thanksgiving, celebrity and actor Paul Walker was killed in a fatal car crash that took him and friend Roger Rodas’ life on the road. The car burst into flames upon crashing into a light pole, which investigators believe the car was going 90 miles per hour in a 45 mph speed zone.

Regardless of the details of the crash, their deaths were tragic all the same. Rodas, who was a raceshop owner and Walker’s financial adviser, was survived by his wife and his two children, one of whom was his eight-year old son who saw him at the crash site. While Walker is most known for the Fast and Furious series, Walker was also known as an avid car lover, racer and a phenomenal philanthropist, founding a charity in 2010 called “Reach Out Worldwide” as a response to the earthquake in Haiti. Him and Rodas were coming back from a philanthropic event hosted by this same charity before they got into the fatal crash.

These three great men passed away under tragic circumstances, all of them leaving behind families who will love them and miss them forever. Two of them were known world-wide, and contributed to the health and well-being of mankind. One of them, however, changed a nation and inspired generations.

If you read that last part and were about to say Paul Walker, I’m going to slap you so hard you won’t be able to tell the difference between a Ferrari and a Volkswaggen. The day I was informed of Walker’s death was surprising in the least. At 24 years old I didn’t expect to hear that he had passed away, though admittedly I wasn’t surprised to hear it was a car crash. All of social media blew up with his death. My Facebook was crammed with status updates. There were too many tweets to count. And in the following days, so many publications were writing about his death he might as well have been Michael Jackson.

Now experiencing the same shock and sadness with Nelson Mandela’s death, I find it interesting that the public’s reaction is mild at best and non-existent at its worst. Looking back at my twitter and Facebook feeds, I notice nearly everyone I followed wrote about Paul Walker almost instantaneously the day he died. When Nelson Mandela died on December 5th, about how many people do you think tweeted or facebooked on his death? On my feeds, I counted five.

Anyhow, back to Paul Walker. On one of the posts I was reading, a close friend of mine commented on the feed which stirred quite a controversy between him and other bloggers. On another friend’s post, he commented bluntly: “What war did he serve in? Oh yeah, that’s right…”

He later came back on Facebook, writing about Paul Walker’s death and criticizing all of the attention people were paying towards it. Obviously, people were angered and offended by his comments, but take a second to understand it from his perspective. My friend, who will remain anonymous out of respect, previously served in the military before going to college. He served in the Iraq war for eight years on two tours of duty. The experience of killing and seeing many of his friends getting killed impacted him deeply, and when he came back to the USA he was mostly alone, suffered from cases of depression and paranoia, and was homeless for many years of his life before a friend convinced him to go to college and change his future. He experienced the worst the world had to offer, came back from it and decided to make himself something out of it. I respect him with great admiration, as I do towards anyone who makes the sacrifices he does and comes back choosing to better themselves out of it.

But this isn’t about him. This is about Paul Walker, Nelson Mandela, and the media that popularizes them both. Answer honestly: in the days you heard about Walker and Mandela’s death, which one did you hear about quicker? Whose death was talked about more? Who’s stories were discussed more in the media? Do you even know who Nelson Mandela is?

If you don’t, here are the bullet points: Nelson Mandela was born into an apartheid and racially segregated Africa. From 1950 to 1962, he protested against his government and the racial evil they advocated, and because he spoke out he was thrown into prison for 28 years of his life. When he finally was released from prison in 1990, he ran an election for presidency over South Africa, and was the first black president ever to be elected into office. During his time as president he brought an end to apartheid, advocated human rights for all African citizens, and unified a country during a time of great tension.

That’s just a summary of his career, but Mandela has done so much more. After his retirement, Mandela focused on charitable foundations and poverty. He communicated to the NAACP on the economic assistance of Africa. He focused on world-wide issues through an organization called “The Elders” founded by himself and others in 2007. And when his son Makgatho died of AIDS in 2005, Mandela lead a campaign aimed towards the improvement of treating and preventing AIDS among other hurting families so they don’t have to go through the same things that he did.

Point being: Mandela changed a nation. For Pete’s sake, he changed the world. There were some things that people were critical of him towards, including his violent protests at the beginning of his career or his condescending views of the United States during the Iraq war. Beyond that though, look at what this man has done. He has taken hardship, unfairness and tragedy, turned it around, and made everything better for an entire nation. I only saw a few facebook updates for this wonderful man, yet Paul Walker looked good and drove sports cars for a living and the internet basically exploded at the mention of his death.

I end mentioning one notable scene from this year’s 12 Years A Slave. In one sorrowful scene, Solomon Northrup is begging to a Canadian carpenter named Samuel Bass, played by Brad Pitt, to write and deliver a letter to his hometown so law enforcement can bring his citizenship papers and free him from his life as a slave. While at first intimidated and afraid at the notion, he eventually comes to resolve, standing up and saying to him:

“I will write your letter, Solomon. If you indeed find freedom, it will not have only been my privilege. It will have been my duty.”

Mandela too recognized freedom from oppression as his duty over of his privilege. And yet we pay more attention to the death of an entertainer over that of the carpenter who freed them.

-David Dunn

Post-Script: Everyone, no doubt, has seen the Fast and Furious movies, because that’s what Paul Walker was most known for. I encourage you then to seek out Clint Eastwood’s phenomenal 2009 sports-drama film Invictus, which not only shows Nelson Mandela’s impact of a nation, but also of the hardships he’s had to endure along the way. Also, Morgan Freeman is in it.

SOURCES: The Guardian, WORLD Magazine, The Huffington Post, NelsonMandela.org
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“RUSH” Review (✫✫✫✫)

Don’t think.  Don’t pause.  Just drive.  

I couldn’t have thought of a better title for the movie Rush, because that’s exactly what it is: an unstoppable and uncontrollable rush of energy, excitement, and gravitas, a movie that starts on a high note and simply refuses to let up all the way through.  I hear a lot of complaints that there are biographical movies that are more concerned with cashing in on people’s legacies rather than making an authentic account of a person’s true story, such as Jobs or The Iron Lady.  Here is a break from all of that, a refreshing and ideal account of two racers who live every moment of their life trying to figure out how to beat the other guy, while understanding that their symbiotic relationship is what made them both great racers in the first place.

Focusing on the 1976 Formula One Grand Prix season, Rush follows the story of two different racers, both with polar opposite personalities and complexions.  James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a hard-headed racer who races with passion instead of brains, and a playboy who drinks a lot, smokes a lot, and sleeps with beautiful women, a lot.  Nicki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is a intelligent, smart, and crafty german who is just as focused and analytical as he is rude and ignorant. The film chronicles the contempt they feel for each other and the mutual respect that makes them strive to be better than the other man.

Before you go and see this picture, I encourage you to go online and google the names “James Hunt” and “Nicki Lauda” and look at their images.  Got it?  Okay, now that you’ve done that, go and watch the movie.

If you actually took the time to open up another tab and look at the images, you will be just as shocked as I was.  Comparing the sight of Lauda and Hunt with that of Bruhl and Hemsworth isn’t comparing them at all: they look exactly like the same characters, from the red jackets around their back to the color and hairstyles that we see on their heads.

I love it when movies do this: when movies are so accurate to the real-life figures that they copy their appearance so accurately, it is nearly impossible to differentiate from them.  We’ve seen this from The Fighter in 2009, and recently from Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln.

Here is yet another example of a movie that is compelled by truth and driven by accuracy, pun intended.  Rush is exhilarating.  Exciting.  Edgy.  Anticipative.  Emotional.  True.  Everything about this movie is a heart-pounding, sweat-pouring adventure, and what’s truly impressive is not that the movie makes us feel this way: its the fact that it really happened, and that really director Ron Howard is just documenting it rather than retelling it.

One of the highlights in the film are easily its lead actors.  Not only do Hemsworth and Bruhl look exactly like the people they are portraying: they act like them too, with their rivalry and their edginess apparent in every fraction of a scene.  Sometimes their clashes are funny, like the dialogue bits between Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, while at other times its strikingly serious like the James Braddock/Max Baer rivalry in Cinderella Man.  Whatever the situations, these actors do well at remaining in tense situations and they never, ever break their character.  Hemsworth is energetic, lively, and egotistical as Hunt, a man whose only loves are beautiful women and racing.  Bruhl is equally as egotistical, but he’s got a sly smartness about him you can’t help but appreciate.  There’s one great scene where Hunt calls Lauda a rat and he responds by saying “You think I’m hurt that you call me a rat, Hunt?  Rats are ugly, but they are smart.  Intelligent.  I am proud of that.”

The film doesn’t slow down at their performances, however, and filmmaker Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) and screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) are quick to follow up on the pace of these two fine actors.  The guys who made Fast And Furious could take a hint or two from this movie. Morgan and Howard not only succeed in making the movie exciting and suspenseful through key moments in races, press conferences and private, vulnerable moments when these racers are all by their lonesomes: they’ve managed to make it gripping and relevant, a grounded drama thats equal parts and insightful into these two men’s lives that we feel like we’re witnessing their story upfront in the pit, not viewing it from far away on the sidelines.

Oh, I could go on all day praising this film and how all the elements culminate into a near masterpiece.  The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is tense, unsettling, and noble, defining these men’s relationship just as well as the movie does.  The editing is tight, crisp, and clean at the hands of collaborators Daniel Hanley and Mike Hill.  For Pete’s sake, even the cinematography by Anthony Mantle was so good at capturing emotions and details so intimate, Howard would probably have missed some of them if Mantle wasn’t there to point them out.

Bottom line: Rush is entirely, unforgettably awesome.  It’s a strong and powerful tale about two passionate racers who knew what they were after and were willing to sacrifice whatever they could to go after it.  We see why they want to beat each other.  We understand who they are and why they are racing.  We know what makes them tick and we want to see them make it through every pulsating moment of the film in order to accomplish their dreams.  Trust me, you’re going to want to sit in on this race.  Oh, and bring your seatbelt.  You’re going to need it.

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