The Fast Franchise: Volume 3 – ‘Fast and Furious’

Fast and Furious (2009) – Action | Drama

Directed by: Justin Lin

Starring: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

A little bit about myself before I start this review. I am a father of three and as fucking vanilla as they come. I have missionary sex and know next to nothing about cars. But after watching Fast & Furious (or Fast 4 to us, Fastiacs), a movie that is like the first except willing to forgo definite articles, I am cruising through Craigslist, checking out cars, saying things like “drive train” and “capistulators” or “pass me a Monster Energy Drink.” I am searching YouTube vids on how to replace the spoiler sticker advertisements on a BMW 9000 just in case that may come in handy someday.

But anyway, Dom is back, motherfuckers; so is Letty and so is Brian, and unfortunately so is Jordana Brewster’s character. So yes, this is my third entry and the fourth film and if your math sensors are flaring, it may be because I don’t follow no fucking rules. But seriously, every online authority on the topic suggests that I watch the films in this order, cause that fits the chronology of the “story” in the franchise. 

So this film starts with the gang back together as they try to run a heist on a moving fuel tanker. The stunts are terrific with Letty jumping around on the back of the semi-truck. Peril ensues. They barely make it out with their lives, and so Dom decides to leave the love of his life and break up the crew as to save each other the inevitable death that awaits them at the end of Crime Blvd. But guess what? Letty dies anyway. So Dom must avenge his fallen love. Brian is an FBI agent looking for the same peeps, so the two paths crossyet again and the greatest bromance to ever exist is rekindled once more. They must go undercover and defeat a drug lord.

Sound familiar? Much of this film’s plot is recycled from 2 Fast 2 Furious. Yet, far better executed. Justin Lin directs this film and finally after 8 years, the films about the coolest motherfuckers on Earth, actually looks cool. The film has a cohesive look throughout, although, if I am going to act like a grandpa, I will point out that some scenes were really fucking dark, being able to barely make out the muscle cars speeding through a Mexican cave. Maybe I need to turn up my settings. It is fun to watch for the most part, outside of the weird scenes that seem destined only to make frat guys cheer: like putting away a fellow racer on meth charges or the various lesbianic kisses as set pieces to show how cool the surrounding guys are.

Every one finally learned how to act in this one, which is strange, but maybe Tokyo Drift (the third flick featuring no original cast members besides Diesel) was a wake-up call for all involved. Paul Walker RIP is brunet in this one, which makes his eyeballs even more blue. I got so lost in them that I would crash into a telephone pole too. Jordana Brewster still makes me wonder why she is present at all. Gal Gadot is in this and she is pretty cool, although comes across as a love interest for Dom, with whom she has absolutely no chemistry. Also, Vin Diesel wears a ton of different V-necks in this and not your expensive Express for Men v-necks, but like the sorta see-thru Hanes ones so his nipples are just present in most scenes.  Tyrese just takes his shirt off in the second one a bunch but that is a welcome addition to all films.

The racing and chase scenes are still pretty cool to watch, yet I wouldn’t be able to relate to you any stunt that was really cool. Just a lot of the characters talking to each other despite being in separate cars. There is a really cool scene toward the end in which they kidnap the druglord in Mexico and try to get him back into USA, a la Dog the Bounty Hunter. They are chased through the desert by shooting gangsters in a scene the most recently feels reminiscent of Fury Road, but has its roots down the line of 70’s American action flicks.

My one complaint is that Nos was featured so little in this movie and when they finally hit the button to send them flying, instead of the Rainbow Road-everything gets blurry shit, you just see their heads push back into the headrests. Probably much more realistic, but less iconic.

Terrific fucking film. Fun, better plotting and better acting. Okay stunts. I’d check it out, but wouldn’t make it my go-to if I felt like watching a balls out balls deep car chase movie. Definitely love the direction of the series so far.

The Fast Franchise: Volume 2 – ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’

2fast

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) – Action | Drama

Directed by: John Singleton

Starring: Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

2 Fast 2 Furious is, at its core, a film for people who don’t know the difference between two and too. The inevitable sequel to the 2001 street racing hit loses much of what made the original so spectacular, most importantly Vin Diesel. This film loses its star and its director, and replaces the LA locale with the supposedly vibrant Miami. Bienvenidos a Miami! But realistically the film could have been shot in Hoboken. I really couldn’t get a grasp on this film. There were so many times in which I wanted to just roll my eyes due to the boring shots, yet there was some truly beautiful blocking and depth of field to certain scenes. I was so impressed with the first third of the film visually, I looked up the director on IMDB. I was actually curious about who directed a Fast and Furious flick. Surprised me too. It was Oscar-nominated director John Singleton.

The plot follows the most boring character of the original film, Brian (last named changed from Spilner to O’Connor, because he’s a fucking hero now) as he is recruited by the FBI to work undercover to take down a cartel kingpin. Well, I mean, he is recruited by US Customs, but also(?) works for the FBI. I couldn’t quite understand what was going on, plotwise. And it does follow the same cognitive dissonance of Armageddon in which it appears easier to train a street racer to be an FBI agent than the other way around. But Brian decides to bring along his best friend from back in the day, who now hates him, played by Tyrese Gibson. A clear replacement for Dom. A racing pal to whom Brian must prove himself. The rest of the film is fast cars and Eva Mendes as a love interest that really doesn’t add anything other than a motivation to complete the movie. The drug lord is maniacal but pretty bland, wearing clothes from 70’s Kung-Fu flicks.

gay fight 2

Paul Walker RIP very clearly cannot carry a movie by himself. Luckily, they hired Tyrese, who is legitimately good at trash-talking and being tough (the two primary needs for a role in any F&F movie), but feels amateurish when he is clearly told to comedically riff. Paul Walker RIP went from bland pretty boy in the first flick to Cali surf kid, spending most of the film in a West Coast Customs t-shirt and Dickies Shorts. Ludacris is hit or miss (ANOTHER FUCKING RHYME!)

Many of the car races feel recycled from the first film also. You know the stakes and you know the characters and you know what is going to happen. There is not a lot of suspense built into the Win or Lose scenarios. I was, however, thoroughly impressed by the scene in which the bad guy is torturing a cop by placing a rat under a bucket on his bare chest, and heating the bucket, forcing the rat to try to burrow through the man’s torso. The effect is super cool and the imagination runs roughshod with the concept.

Overall, the film feels pieced together in an attempt for a quick cash grab, without fully understanding the world of the original film, nor the reason people tuned in. I would probably never watch this flick again, as it was just dumb without the fun. The film ends with the two homies jumping a ramp onto a yacht that is speeding away – which sounds amazing. But somehow, it lets you down and thus, is the perfect analogy for the film.

The Fast Franchise: Volume One – ‘The Fast and the Furious’

Fast-Furious

The Fast and the Furious (2001) – Action | Drama

Directed by: Rob Cohen

Starring: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

For those of you who are unenlightened, The Fast and the Furious is a tale of men, mostly white, who are both quick and angry. They drive cars, not to run errands, but to race each other and steal “high-end” electronics. The story centers around Brian, who is secretly a cop trying to infiltrate a gang of street racers in order to get to the bottom of a bunch of thefts involving fast cars. It is essentially Point Break but for a new generation of douchebags who unironically drink Nos energy drink and put over-sized spoilers, and neon racing stripes on their souped up Kia Sentras. Everyone in the film speaks with a superfluous intensity and in faux manly witticisms. “I live my life a quarter mile at a time.” The soundtrack is a mix between Ja Rule B-sides and Limp Bizkit hits. That all being said, this may be one of the coolest movies I have ever seen.

Vin Diesel is Dom, the leader of the gang and brother of the girl Brian wants to bang (that’s a motherfucking rhyme, FYI), and speaks using guttural utterances with the least possible use of his tongue. This is probably why Diesel (formerly known as Mark Sinclair) has done voice work for such eloquent characters as Iron Giant and Groot. He cares about two things: racing cars and protecting his sister. Also sexing Michelle Rodriguez in Room-esque montages. Also, his dead dad. So, there are a bunch of things he cares about. He is “boosting merch,” as the streetwise LAPD call it, and Brian, played by the creepily handsome Paul Walker (RIP), is the man sent undercover to fuck his sister and, secondarily stop(?) them from stealing car stereos from moving semis. He falls in love with both Dom’s sister and potentially with Dom himself, and when it is time to arrest Dom for being a life criminal, he inexplicably lets him go – because they had achieved something so much greater than justice. And the Bro Code supercedes all other laws. Drive off in my discreet bright orange racer so the cops don’t find you.

That’s all I can tell you about the plot. There is some side shit about Asians stealing shit too. But it just feels like excuses to get in epic, and I mean fucking epic, car chases. The best thing about the film is the practical effects on the car chases and crashes. They are constantly going after peeps in semis and on motorcycles around busy streets and there are a lot of long looks from drivers to each other as they prepare to do something awesome. It is fun. The plot is dumb. But every time the engines rev and the music starts pumping with, “Watch your back!” you can’t help but pay attention. I love films that know exactly what they are.  This is a film made to feature high action and countless (amazing amount) of product placement, and all the writer had to do is put in a little dialogue to make you slightly care about the handsome white man in the green car as he runs after the Japanese man in the black car.

And that’s something I wanted to talk about with this initial foray into the speedster franchise. There seems to be this weird subtext of race that permeates throughout. Nothing is defined in such terms blatantly, but during the initial race, we see a clear definition of groups: there are the Asians, the Latinos, the Black racers, and the white team. And though all enter in with friendly competition, there still is a defining line differentiating all the teams. Dom, played by a half-black Vin Diesel is the wrench in purely racial grouping, but having his sister be a white Jordana Brewster with a shit load of bronzer makes me wonder if Dom was written as white and cast with the up-and-coming Diesel, fresh off of his success in Pitch Black.

In fact, the big racing competition where all the groups eventually meet is called “Race Wars.” Is this the work of the Alt-Right race-driven concepts of supremacy, wherein the only person of color to defeat the main white group is the aforementioned Japanese man, using illegally smuggled parts? Or is this just the laziness of a white screenwriter who can’t think outside of his own prejudices? I tend to believe it is the latter, rather than the former, due to the fact that pretty much everyone in this film is corrupt on some level, and the corruption becomes law.  And while I don’t believe The Fast and the Furious intends to be a narrative on the competition between races, I do believe that White Nationalists play this movie in the lobby of their headquarters. Probably in North Idaho. Or the White House.

Overall, this movie is flush with idiotic fun and fast cars and Morpheus sunglasses. Will the film bring about enlightenment or the path to understanding the human condition? Nope. But if you want to get stoned and see bright colors and hear loud music. Check this fucker out.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Musical | Drama

Directed by: Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens

How I Watched: Theatres

Review by Holly Hill

A tale as old as 1991. You may have not stopped hearing about how much money Beauty and the Beast made this weekend. How much, you ask? $174.8 Million. No big deal. The Disney machine cannot be stopped. The conversion of all of Disney’s classic cartoons into live action films will soon be complete and there’s not much we can do to stop it. It’s not a new thing. You’ll remember all those Snow White remakes, and Maleficent interpretations. Once Upon a Time, that shitty tv show everyone forgot about, has somehow managed to butcher all the classics for six seasons and no one is really complaining about it except me it seems. So what’s the deal? Are these remakes a bad thing? Yes and no.

The good news? The remakes that Disney has come out with in the last three years are actually really good. The Jungle Book came out earlier in the year and gave us a really good peak at what The Lion King is going to look like and I approve. Cinderella was fantastic, although missing some of the great songs the cartoon had. They’re now casting for Aladdin, and Mulan is also in the works.

So what’s the bad news? Well, it depends on what kind of movies you like to see and how you feel about Disney, singing, and remakes.

You’ll love this film if you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Do you love Disney? 
  • Do you constantly find yourself wanting to throw money at anything Disney’s name is on? 
  • Do you want to hear all the same songs from the cartoon movie? 
  • Do you want to hear new songs that aren’t in the original cartoon movies?  
  • Do you want lines from the cartoon movie repeated back to you almost verbatim? 
  • Do you want blocking that’s almost move for move what it is in the cartoon?
  • Did you ever ask yourself what happened to Belle’s Mom? 
  • Did you ever wonder what happened to Mr. Potts? 
  • Did you ever ask yourself, is LeFou gay for Gaston or was I just picking up weird vibes in that cartoon movie? 
  • Do you worship Emma Watson? 

If you answered yes to these questions then this movie is for YOU! That’s great! This movie is for me too. I loved it, but I completely understand why some people wouldn’t.

It does feel like Disney is really pushing it here with all these live action remakes but when the results are $174.8 million more in the bank, who can blame them?

Emma Watson gives us her feminist perspective of Belle which we all knew was there in the cartoon movie, but with her convincing and wonderful acting, we see a Belle full of action and bravery. She joins the fight with Gaston and the Beast at the end. She constantly stands up for literacy in her village. Belle invents a washing machine so she has more time to read. She tricks her father into taking his life sentence. She manufactures a rope to climb out of the castle and escape. Most importantly, she takes a giant snowball to the face and doesn’t give any fucks about it. She’s wonderful.

The rest of the cast is just as good. Josh Gad, voice of Olaf in Frozen, plays LeFou. He’s taken ridiculous criticism from hard line Christians all week long about how LeFou is too gay in the movie. Um, have you not seen the cartoon? He literally waltzes with Gaston and eye fucks him everytime he walks by. I’m confused as to why this is suddenly now a problem, and wasn’t in 1991.

Luke Evans plays a great well rounded Gaston. He starts as a comical joke but soon turns super dark. At one point he punches Maurice in the face, then ties him to a tree for wolves to eat him alive. No big deal.

If you’re a Dan Stevens fan you will not be disappointed. You may remember him from his days at Downton Abbey as Matthew Crawley. He also is on the incredible FX show Legion where his acting really shines. His face is only in the movie in the beginning and end, but you can really see his facial recognition in The Beast. His standard side smile, the shrug of his shoulders. It’s all Dan Stevens even as a seven foot tall hairy Beast.

There’s a few new things to this movie, songs, small holes of plot filled that the cartoon created. The film plays on provincial France as the background of the cartoon and really outdoes themselves with the costumes and what French royalty would have been like at the time. It’s truly a visual delight.

Overall though, the movie is the same as the cartoon, which is honestly what people wanted. They proved it by throwing their money at it all weekend long. Maybe we need to start coming to terms that we as a society just want to eat the member berries for the rest of our lives. I for one think they’re delicious.

CinemAbysmal: The Podcast – Episode 5

CinemAbysmal: The Podcast – Episode 5
“Unpopular Favorite Movies and The OA”

Well, after some recording issues and painful editing, we’re excited to bring you our FIFTH episode! This one was extraordinarily fun as we decided to do a drunkcast and talk about four movies we individually love, but most of the known universe hates with our special guest, Dylan Taylor Sorenson. We then chat about Netflix’s The OA! Check it out! As always, please SHARE, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE!
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cinemabysmal/id1153464020?mt=2

Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=49441526&refid=asa

Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/user/cinemabysmal

Logan

Logan (2017) – Action | Thriller

Directed by: James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart

How I Watched: Theatres

Review by Holly Hill

Experiencing Logan is a lot like when you’re a kid and you think your Dad is a super strong perfect guy that can do no wrong. Then you grow up and you realize your Dad is just a human being and he’s got shit to deal with, too. He’s getting older, he’s got to put up with your bullshit all the time, and you start to notice drinking habits you never noticed before. It’s slightly disappointing but you still love the guy, and I think most people will feel that way about the legendary Wolverine after this movie is over.

Logan might be the most nontraditional comic-book movie audiences have ever seen. In fact, if it wasn’t for a physical X-Men comic-book showing up in the movie, you might even forget it’s supposed to be a comic-book movie. A huge pat on the back for taking the chance on making Logan rated ‘R’. Deadpool was the most recent big Marvel movie to do this and its own success coupled with Logan can ensure that adults will see many more made with this intention. Not only does it make for some pretty gruesome killing scenes, but we also get a lot of F-bombs which actually do add realism to the movies. Who doesn’t say fuck a lot when they’re being stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by a child?

The acting is phenomenal. Hugh Jackman gives it his all in his 10th (and apparently last) credit playing Wolverine. What a ride it’s been. From his ridiculous jumping from a car onto a helicopter in slow motion film, to this raw heart wrenching portrait of a man who has seen some shit go down and is kind of ready for it all to end.

The latest Chloë Grace Moretz type to tackle the big screen is Dafne Keen, who plays Laura, a mini me version of the Wolverine with steel claws in her hands and feet. She doesn’t say cunt or anything like that, but she does kick ass. She also packs a much more serious punch, killing more than twenty people before we even hear her speak a word.

Patrick Stewart is back possibly for the last time as well as Charles Xavier, who has recently done something terrible, is losing his mind, and is suffering from seizures. Logan works to keep Charles hidden away in a water tank in Mexico, shooting him up with seizure medication to make sure he doesn’t accidentally paralyze the world with one of his super earthquake seizure things. Stewart oddly enough adds a lot of comedy to the movie. The audience has grown up with Xavier, watching him learn to control his powers in previous films, build his school and train the X-Men, and now we watch him decay into an old man with a brain problem. He’s tired, needs Logan to help him pee, wants to take advantage of a nice family’s hospitality and endanger them for a night, likens himself to a box of avocados, and watches old westerns with Laura. Stewart makes the movie funny, sad, but mostly endearing.

Overall Logan is a strange, but wonderful movie to experience. As long as the audience doesn’t go in expecting to see another X-Men movie, I think most will leave the theater entirely pleased with the end of Wolverine’s story.

Get Out

Film Title: Get Out

Get Out (2017) – Horror | Comedy | Thriller

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams

How I Watched: Theatres

Review by Nick Spanjer

Here’s the thing about the first big horror movie of 2017: it is not that scary. Now before you turn away from this review, know that I loved the film. While each trailer wraps it in a pretty horrific little bow, the truth is, the film is more of a psychological clusterbomb, meant to fuck with the heads of the droves of white audiences filing in to see it. I know you’re thinking, “Oh man, Jordan Peele just made a movie to rip on Trump voters?,” but, no.

The smartest part of Get Out, was not that it rips on Trump, Trump voters, or even white people in general. What the movie actually does is firebomb the white, liberal elite; those same ones that were sure Hillary Clinton had the election in the bag. At one point, a terrific Bradley Whitford, who plays main character Chris’ girlfriend’s father, tells Chris that if he could have, he would have voted for Obama a third time. This sort of forced validation with the “black” community that Chris represents shows how out of touch these people really are.

I’m not going to go too much further into the plot, but what I can tell you, is that this movie definitely did its job in making me horribly uncomfortable. Being a white liberal, I could just feel the awkwardness of Bradley Whitford and his wife (played by an awesomely creepy Catherine Keener) almost giving each other pats on the back of how accepting they are of their white daughter’s new black boyfriend. The musical score does its job to inflict unease (with the exception of one over-the-top section at the end of the film), but the most discomfort is caused by the characters’ interactions. While there are plenty of classically tense “horror” moments in this, these moments are the most uncomfortable. And trust me, there are plenty of them.

I think my favorite performance in the film came from Caleb Landry Jones, the brother of Chris’ girlfriend. From the get-go, you can tell the character is off his rocker and it is one of the more well-acted pieces in the film. There is a dinner scene in which I was sinking further and further into my chair as the tension built. There are also moments which made me think of films like Rosemary’s Baby and Under the Skin, where the movie almost descends into a dreamlike abyss, causing you to feel the worst case of inescapability. At one point, Chris is hypnotized and his state of claustrophobia was nearly infectious upon me.

Get Out is not a horror movie in the classic sense. Yes, there are jump scares and there is some pretty gruesome violence. In all reality though, this is Jordan Peele’s living nightmare on film. He took what he saw was happening in our country and all over the world, and made it into a film. Our world has become a pretty horrific place for a lot of us, and there are funny moments, as well as really uncomfortable ones. We do not treat each other right, and we have not been treating each other right for a long time. This is the movie that shows us just how awful it has gotten – and that is the most horrific part of Get Out.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Rosemary’s Baby, Green Room, The Stepford Wives