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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Vin Diesel

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)

Destiny’s Child was a thing?

After serving in the Bravo Squad out there in Iraq, nineteen-year-old private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) returns home for what is, presumably, a victory tour. A video of him on the battlefield and aiding a fellow soldier (Vin Diesel) went viral and has now made him the poster boy for the war effort and because of that, the media wants to get every ounce of him that they can handle. And you know what? The Army isn’t so against whoring him, or his fellow soldiers, out for the greater good of society and have it appear that the actual war effort everyone speaks so highly of is actually, well, worth it after all. Even though Billy still keeps on getting flashbacks and headaches from his tour in Iraq, the Army still needs him, as well as the rest of the Bravo Squad to get on the field at halftime during the Thanksgiving football game and wave to the crowd. Meanwhile, Billy himself is literally about to break open, thinking about what he’s going to do next with his life, and whether or not he wants to stay put at home, with his dedicated and loyal sister (Kristen Stewart), or go back to the war and continue doing what he did before.

Quite hogging up Beyonce's spotlight, Billy!

Quite hogging up Beyonce’s spotlight, Billy!

Ang Lee is probably one of the best directors we have working today. He’s constantly challenging himself to take on different stories, as well as to work with new technology and advance the way we, the audience, watch his movies. He’s bounced from genre-to-genre so often that it’s no surprise some of his movies don’t quite work, but no matter what, they’re always interesting to watch, just because it’s Ang Lee and the guy can’t help but try his hardest with whatever he’s working with.

And then there’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

Although a lot of people have been going on and on about the 120 fps frame-rate and 3D. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see the movie in that way, but what I can assure you is that I saw the movie as clear as humanly imaginable. Is it a gimmick? Possibly. But is it neat to watch? Yes, but it also doesn’t really add much to the movie, either. What it does add is a certain level of authenticity and have us see every crease, every pimple, every shave-mark in these characters’ faces. Why? In all honesty, not really sure. Ang Lee seems to have used it to challenge himself, once again, but sadly, it doesn’t add-up to much.

It just makes a dull movie, really pretty to look at and that’s about it.

And with Billy Lynn, Lee seems to be doing a whole lot, with very little. On one aspect, he’s playing around with comedy, drama, satire and thriller elements all in one movie, while also doing his best to make sense of the constantly changing-in-time narrative. What could have been a very simple and easy-to-track movie about a bunch of soldiers returning home after a hellish tour in Iraq, soon turns into a very complicated, unnecessary overstuffed movie about said soldiers, but also about politicians, football, the American Dream, PTSD, money, sex, family, and most importantly, violence.

In fact, if there is one aspect of the story that Lee seems to get right, it’s the actual violence itself. While we don’t get a whole lot of scenes of Billy on the battlefield and in Iraq, the very few times that we do, they’re are startling, intense, and most of all, disturbing. One sequence in particular starts off violent in a chaotic sense, then turns into a smaller, much more contained bit of violence that, surprisingly, is a lot scarier to watch than all of the other shooting and explosions. But of course, that’s literally one piece of this very large pie and when you put it all back together, they don’t quite fit together.

Who hasn't thought of Vin Diesel as their daddy?

Who hasn’t thought of Vin Diesel as their daddy?

One piece is a satire on how common, everyday citizens use the war and the soldiers themselves as propaganda to help continue and make sense of the war effort; another piece is how the soldiers themselves are so screwed-up that they don’t really know that they need the help to survive in everyday, normal life; there’s another piece about settling back into normal, everyday life, which is a lot harder for a person who has actually gone to a place where they were told to kill the enemy, by any means necessary; and then, there’s another piece about actually relating to others about the experience in the war and realizing that it was an absolutely terrible time in your life.

As you can tell, yeah, there’s a lot going on here.

Tack on the fact that the movie has a lot of characters here, all saying and doing something, but not really serving a purpose. Lee’s got a lot on his plate and because of that, a lot of stuff misses, and barely any of it hits; the constant jokes about Hollywood trying to make a movie about these guys’ real-life experience is an old joke that gets constantly played over, again and again. And with Lee, you get the sense that he truly does have something interesting to say here, but what is that? War is hell, but also so is back at-home? Or, is he trying to say that no one really understands the war until they’ve actually gone out on the battlefield and killed someone?

Once again, not really sure sure. What I do know is that Lee, as usual, keeps the material as entertaining and interesting as he possibly can, but after awhile, the story just doesn’t connect. We’ve seen far too many of these anti-war flicks by now, that without a very effective stance, none of it really matters. Shaping Billy Lynn’s actual PTSD during a Destiny’s Child halftime is one of the more impressive moments of the film, let alone, Ang Lee’s career, but it comes literally in the middle of a movie that needed far more energy and excitement to really keep itself compelling.

If there’s anything to take away from Billy Lynn, however, it’s that Lee knows how to assemble a pretty crazy and eclectic cast, all of whom do fine, but like I said, aren’t working with the best of material.

Kristen Stewart is good as the kind-hearted and supportive sister-figure who, honestly, isn’t the film as much as she should be; Chris Tucker tries to have some fun as the Hollywood agent, but doesn’t really have anything actually funny to do; Garrett Hedlund plays the leader of the Bravo and seems like he had more fun in Pan; Vin Diesel is an odd fit as Billy’s Lieutenant, who may or may not be a father-figure; Steve Martin shows up randomly as Norm Ogelsby, a very rich Texan who owns the professional football team and does what he can with an in-and-out Southern accent; and newcomer Joe Alywn does a very good job as our title character, showing a great deal of heart, warmth and insecurity as a young kid, unfortunately, forced to grow up, real quick.

Consensus: With so much going on, Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk feels like a jumble that Ang Lee, try as he might, has a bit of a hard time navigating through and making sense of, even if certain aspects of the whole do deliver.

6 / 10

It's okay, kid. We'll take care of ya.

It’s okay, kid. We’ll take care of ya.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Creative Planet Network

Boiler Room (2000)

Sometimes, Charlie Sheen’s swagger is just needed.

Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), is university drop-out who doesn’t have much going for his life. However, determined to prove his worth to a demanding father (Ron Rifkin), he decides to take a job at a small brokerage firm and, through his time there, begins to become something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for lack of a better term.

Writer/director Ben Younger literally wears his Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street influences on his sleeve, that the man doesn’t even try to hide it. In fact, a few times, the man actually shows clips of the movie, in Boiler Room, where the characters here are seen actually saying the same lines of those movies. In a way, you want to call him a “rip-off artist”, but at the same time, you don’t want to, because he’s not hiding it; he’s letting us know, right off-the-bat, that these characters, as well as himself probably, look up to these movies, these characters, and these ideas of capitalism, that they don’t care if they look like copy-cats.

"Wait, what?"

“Wait, what?”

They’re making money, baby and that’s all that matters!

Regardless, Younger as a director and writer, is a pretty solid one. There’s a certain energy to the movie that’s hard not to get wrapped-up in, because as our characters are making more and more money, the more the movie picks up its pace. In a way, it’s the junior-version of Wall Street, but it works so well because Younger is constantly reminding us that none of those influences matter; sure, they’ve helped him to where he’s at with this movie, but hey, so what? Just party, bro.

But honestly, where Younger really starts to fail is in the actual story department itself.

Younger seems as if he knows a thing or two about keeping up the brisk pace and how to have fun with these sometimes detestable characters, but when it comes to actually slowing things down, focusing on these characters, their lives and their motivations, he loses a bit of his step. For example, try the terribly-forced “romance” between Ribisi and Nia Long, who don’t seem to have any chemistry at all, any reason to be together, or anything really holding them together once things go South for both of them. It annoys me that films like these feel the need to add in a romantic subplot, just to appeal to women and hoping that they don’t get alienated from this movie but the bad news is that they already will. No girl will be attracted to a movie about a bunch of young, hot, cool, hip, and rich dudes in suits that make millions and millions of dollars, so it’s hard to imagine ladies wanting to come out and see something in the first place, because oh my gosh, Giovanni Ribisi and Nia Long make-out!

And then, the story begins to get a tad bit more predictable as it rolls on along. Boiler Room is obviously a rags-to-riches story, or so to speak, and because of that, it follows a very plain and conventional plot-line. Ribisi’s character starts at job, starts getting really rich, starts getting cocky, and eventually, one bad thing happens after another, until he’s broke, near-dead and without a pot to piss in. It’s all very formulaic and try as he might, Younger can’t help but get caught up in doing the same stuff we’ve seen done before, many, many times.

"Yeah, I'm done with action flicks. Maybe."

“Yeah, I’m done with action flicks. Maybe.”

Despite this, the cast is quite good and help keep the ship afloat.

In a rare lead role, Giovanni Ribisi kicks some fine stick-selling ass as Seth Davis. Ribisi gets a bad-rap sometimes for taking roles to the next level of over-the-top and making them terribly campy to the point of where it’s cringe-inducing, but some will be surprised that this kid can hit it out of the park when it comes to being subdued and very charming. You like Seth Davis right when you see him and even though his character motivations may get mixed around in a bender a bit too much, you still like both him and Ribisi. Wish that this movie made Ribisi the top mainstream act that everybody thought he was going to be, but I don’t think it bothers him if he’s second-in-command.

Everybody else is fine as hell, too. Vin Diesel is a scene-stealer as Chris Varick, the guy who teaches Seth the ways of the stock broker, and it’s a great dramatic role for Diesel that shows the guy has a terrible amount of charm and humor in him, that makes all of his characters work. The guy may be stuck doing Fast and Furious for the rest of his life, but at least we know that we can depend on him to pull out something like this or Find Me Guilty to remind us of why the guy has such a presence about him in the first place.

Nicky Katt plays the “stereotypical dickhead role” as the one guy who doesn’t really like where Seth is going in his success and it’s an obvious character, but a fine performance from a guy that I see in everything and still haven’t been able to match the name with the face. Let’s also not forget the fine, little cameo from Ben Affleck that practically seems like a total rip-off of Alec Baldwin’s cameo from Glengarry Glen Ross, but still works here because it seems like Affleck is having a total ball here and that’s always a joy. There’s a bunch of others in the cast like Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott and Jamie Kennedy, all playing the young hotshots within the firm and are all perfectly cast.

Consensus: Boiler Room is, initially, a fun, exciting and thrilling ride, but soon turns preachy and predictable, which makes it feel a little uneven.

6 / 10

"Stop. Over. Acting!"

“Stop. Over. Acting!”

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

If I was an immortal and looked like Vin Diesel, I’d have no complaints.

After striking up a fight with a witch a really long time ago, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has now become something of an immortal witch-hunter. However, he only goes after the witches that are acting up and need a swift kick in the ass. Though Kaulder has been through it all in his over-extended life, he still finds ways to surround himself around friends that also serve as business-buddies, too. One such buddy is Father Dolan (Michael Caine), a local priest who finds the bad witches for Kaulder. The two have such a strong-bond that when Dolan turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, Kaulder can’t help but get to the bottom of it and see who is responsible. Eventually, this leads Kaulder to realizing that it’s a witch who is out to get him and will stop at nothing until she kills him once and for all. Kaulder is more than up to the task of taking this witch, head-on, however, he’ll need a little bit of assistance on the side from the likes of a fellow priest (Elijah Wood), and a trusted friend named Chloe (Rose Leslie), who apparently holds some neat powers that could come in handy.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Most people out there will say, and have already said, that the Last Witch Hunter is like playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with Vin Diesel. While this is an appealing idea, I’m afraid, that this is nowhere near being the truth. For one, D&D is actually a fun game to not just play (once you get the hang of it), but to watch and be around (especially when those players seem to have such an undying passion and love for it). Also, seeing as how Diesel himself has, on countless occasions, professed his love for the game, it would make sense that he’d put his absolute heart and soul into making sure that this project of his own desire would turn out to be just as fun as the famous game he seems to be trying to use as a place-mat.

But sadly, none of this happens.

Ever.

So, don’t get all mixed up with what certain people say, because the Last Witch Hunter is a bore from beginning to end. And while I’m usually one for this type of fantasy-genre where dudes with swords, go up against witches, dragons, and all sorts of other baddies, when it’s done right, the problem is that director Breck Eisner doesn’t seem to know how to do that type of movie. Instead, it’s just a hodgepodge of random genres that never seem to come together and instead, make everything just cling and clang together, without hardly any spark to be made.

What makes it even worse is that the story never seems to make any sense. Though we’re placed in a modern-day setting where witches, witch-hunters and priests all have some sort of underground world in which they combat with one another, the movie suddenly goes back into time and it comes as a total shock. But not a good one, I’m afraid – instead, it’s more of the kind that feels like the writer’s got all tired and bored with what they were doing, so rather than trying to come up with some new, fresh ideas to keep the story moving, they decided to throw time-travel in there for good measure.

Does it work? Not really. Does it add any excitement? Not even close.

And a movie that features witches, flaming-swords, and dragons, yet, isn’t exciting, is a damn shame. Although, what’s probably the smartest ploy that the marketing team for this movie has been able to create, is by having Vin Diesel appear in a Viking-ish look get-up, with a wild bear, over-sized fur-coat, and bad-ass sword. Not only does it promise some crazy, as well as awesome action where Vin’s kicking all sorts of witch-ass in the good old days, but also make it seem like that’s going to be the bulk of the movie.

The genius behind that all is, is, well, that’s hardly even 15 minutes of the film.

That's not his cocaine, it's my cocaine!

That’s not his cocaine, that’s my cocaine!

Instead, we’re treated to watching as Vin Diesel plays a character who has, apparently, been alive for centuries-on-end, witnessed so many traumatic, legendary moments in life, and seen many people come and go, yet, not really care about any of that at all. Mostly, he’s just a smooth-talker who bangs hot stewardesses, drives a sexy car, and says witty things, for some reason. You’d think that after all that he’s been through, that he’d at least be somewhat affected and screwed-up, but surprisingly, he isn’t; he’s just happy to be around, still screwing hot babes and all.

Which is a shame, because we know that Vin Diesel can work with better material, when it’s given to him. Say what you will, but Vin Diesel has some real charm to him that works in movies that call on him for it – the Last Witch Hunter is not that movie. He tries to make this Kaulder dude seem hip, cool and likable, but because the movie accompanying him is so lame and random, he doesn’t get much of a chance to make any of that work. More often than not, he just seems bored and without a friend to play with.

Poor Vinnie.

Everybody else, too, sadly, faces the same fate as Diesel does. Michael Caine gets maybe ten or so minutes here and does whatever he can; Elijah Wood seems like he wants to have fun with this role as a dorky priest, but is thrown to the background, so that shoddy-looking CGI can take over; and Rose Leslie, despite featuring some of that same, feisty spirit she had on Game of Thrones, also seems like she’s lost in a movie that’s not too concerned with how good of an actress she is, and just how well she can hold a reaction-shot. And if that’s all that acting requires, then anybody could have been in the Last Witch Hunter, let alone, the talented people who sadly got tied-up into this.

Consensus: On the surface, the Last Witch Hunter promises to be a fun, exciting schlock-fest, but once you get past that, it soon becomes clear that it’s nothing more than just a terribly-misguided, ugly-looking, and boring piece of fantasy that doesn’t deserve who it has in it.

2 / 10

Huh? Eh. I don't care.

Huh? Eh. I don’t care.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Furious 7 (2015)

People can be violent, but cars are nearly worse.

The gang’s all back, but this time, it’s personal! Soon after their buddy is killed by a notorious thug by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – a brother of one of their former foes – Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) realize that it’s time to get vengeance in the only way they know best. But before doing so, they get a proposition from a special agent (Kurt Russell): Help him retrieve a piece of spy software from a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and he will more than make sure that Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew get that sweet taste of revenge that they’ve been clamoring for after all of this time has passed. However, there are other problems going on from within the group where Dom can’t seem to get Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to remember their past together for what it was, nor can Brian seem to tear himself away from the wacky, wild life of crime that’s always attracted him for so long, even if he’s know settled-down with a wife (Jordana Brewster) and kid. Will the crew stay fast? Furious? Or neither?

So yeah, already going into this installment, there’s plenty to be discussed. With the tragic passing of Paul Walker nearly a-year-and-a-half ago, everything that was initially planned for Furious 7, from the release date, to the plot, were all scrapped and made anew. Which makes total sense. Walker wasn’t some sort of bit player in this franchise that showed up every so often to utter some witty line that would get the whole crowd laughing at how likable he is; he was, literally, the heart and soul of this franchise. Without him, it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it has, which is both a blessing and a curse.

And they're not beating the hell out of each other, because.......?

And they’re not beating the hell out of each other, because…….?

A curse because the movie’s are dumb, over-the-top, ridiculous, and represent everything that is wrong with American’s society of masculinity. On the flip-side, though, it’s also a blessing because these movies, at least in the case for the last three installments, are so much fun, seem to never lose sight of just how illogical they are, and hardly ever apologize for it. Fast & Furious movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, and that’s where the real charm lies.

Hence why Paul Walker, all of his acting talents aside, was perfectly-suited for this franchise, no matter what it threw at him, or where it threw him.

With that being said, Furious 7 is a pretty raucous time. While I may not be saying anything new that hasn’t already been uttered by millions and millions of people from around the world, there’s still something interesting to note about a franchise in which the movies seem to constantly get better and one-up the one that came before it. Fast Five started this trend of the franchise going towards more action-fare, rather than just making it all about hot cars, hot men, hot women, and hot bodies, and the sixth film absolutely went for it all and, for the most part, came out on top.

While Furious 7 may not be better than the sixth movie, it’s still pretty damn close because it never forgets what it is: A mindless piece of action-fare that audiences will pay dozens of dollars for. Though this sounds easy (because, quite frankly, Michael Bay’s been doing it for the past two decades now), looking at some films, it’s actually not. Last year’s utterly forgettable and boring Need for Speed tried so desperately to pull-off the same sort of magic that the Fast franchise has been pulling off for quite some time and it failed miserably. That movie wanted to be silly, insane and ludicrous beyond belief, whereas the Fast movies are exactly that, but they don’t ever seem to be trying.

Not to mention that they actually do feature a dude a named Ludacris.

But because Furious 7 knows what it’s all about, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t. Though there are a chock-full of scenes dedicated to these thinly-written, one-dimensional characters breaking down all sorts of barriers and getting dramatic with one another, these scenes are quickly dismissed as soon as they show up. Also, too, it makes sense that we need at least some sort of character-development to help make things seem fully rounded-out and not just *crash*, *bang*, *boom* all of the darn time. While this would have been fun, let’s be realistic here: No movie franchise with its seventh-installment is going to totally shelve its characters for their beyond-nuts action sequences.

Just get used to it and move on. That’s what I did and it worked well.

It worked well because, once I realized that every problem these characters had didn’t really matter much in the grander scheme of things, the action just got a whole lot better and more exciting. Though you’d think these movies would have already run-out of ideas on how to set-up action sequences and still, somehow, be able to utilize automobiles in some sort of fashion, director James Wan proves you damn wrong. With scenes depicting cars flying through the sky with parachutes and even scenes where cars go flying through three buildings, this franchise continues to give us something new and fun to feast our eyes and ears onto.

Not a Rock Bottom, but it'll do.

No Rock Bottom, but it’ll do.

And honestly, the sky is the limit from here on out. No matter how many times this movie tries to break actual science, it won’t lose any bit of respect because the rules have already been set-in place: There are no rules. Cars can literally fly through the sky; people can literally shoot their guns till the cows come home and never run out of ammunition; jets can literally glide around downtown LA without there being hardly any interference from the Army of any sort. Literally, anything can happen in these movies and because of that, they never lose an ounce of momentum; they just continue to build up and up on it some more until it feels like, you know, we may have had enough adrenaline for one day.

And really, the same rules apply to the characters, as well. Like I said before, none of these characters here are inherently interesting or well-written, but they exist in a universe that loves them all so very much, that it’s hard to look down upon them for being “types”. Like the movies they exist in, you just accept them for what they are, let them do their thing and move on.

It’s quite easy, really.

Meaning, when you accept them, you have to accept Vin Diesel’s garbled growling; Michelle Rodriguez’s resting bitch face; Dwayne Johnson to be wearing Under Amour every time he is on-screen and trying so hard not to break kayfabe; Jordana Brewster just being “there”; Ludacris and Tyrese to be the goofy sidekicks that everyone can rely on for comedy and not really anything serious to contribute to the plot; and, most of all, Paul Walker’s ability to just be the “everyman” in every scene he’s in. Because even though newcomers to this franchise like Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and especially, a deliciously evil Jason Statham all acquit themselves perfectly into this movie, strut their stuff and show us what they’re more than able to bring to the creative table, it’s Walker who still leaves the most lasting impression. He isn’t trying to, either – he just is.

And somehow, there’s a small bit of beauty in that.

Consensus: Like every other installment of the franchise, Furious 7 is as ridiculous and nonsensical as you can get, but still a whole bunch of fun, treating fans to everything that they could ever want with one of these movies, and then some, especially with the emotional tribute to Paul Walker – the one true face of this franchise.

8 / 10

Ride on, brotha.

Ride on, brotha.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Riddick (2013)

It’s been 13 years now, and the dude still can’t get normal eyes?

A lot has happened in the 9 years since we last saw our favorite anti-hero Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), and not all of it’s good. After becoming the sole ruler of a planet he learned to hate, he soon finds himself feeling too odd for the job, and is soon kicked off this planet and left to scrounge for himself in a more dangerous, grungy planet (much like the one he was running around on in Pitch Black). For awhile, things seem to be looking alright for Riddick; not only has he found a way to keep after himself, but he’s even got a newfound friend in some sort of dog/creature/thing. He’s as happy as he can be and knows when he has to get down a dirty, but he also knows that he has to get the hell off of this awful planet before it’s too late. That’s when he decides to call for help to a bunch of bounty hunters, in hopes of stealing their ships, but little does Riddick know that these bastards are all here for one thing and one thing only: Him. And trust me, they aren’t going to leave until they get him.

As you all have probably seen on this blog in the past couple of days, I’ve been doing a little bit of meet-and-greet with the past two entries of the Riddick franchise and suffice to say: I’m not all that impressed. Yes, the first one is good in a type of dumb, B-movie way, but that second one? You know, that over-bloated, over-long, over-budgeted mess? Yup, that’s the one that really left a sour taste in my mouth and had me expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. Because when you think about it: No movie starring Vin Diesel is really going to be considered “good”. It’s mostly going to be entertaining, and mainly in a dumb way.

Not only is it a crappy sci-fi flick, but it's sequel to one that he did before, so of course Karl Urban's got to show up, even if it is for about 2 minutes.

Not only is it a crappy sci-fi flick, but it’s sequel to one that he did before, so of course Karl Urban’s got to show up, even if it is for about 2 minutes.

So, with that in my mind, I’m glad to tell you that this is the best of the franchise, even if I do say that with a whole slew of reservations. Great, so where do I begin? Oh yeah, that’s right: Writer/director David Twohy himself.

I’ll give Twohy some honest credit, he’s one of the very rare directors that will take a rather “crappy” franchise, and continue to come back to it each installment, adding a little something new here and there, just to spice things up. However, I think the spice that he delivered with the last two, weren’t anywhere to be found here, and if they were around, lingering, then they were terribly misguided. Take for example, the opening 20-25 minutes of this movie. When we first meet Riddick here in this flick, we see him all alone on this planet, looking for food, finding shelter, and basically just reminiscing over the decisions he’s made in the past, good or bad. It’s very intriguing because it starts off slow, small, and with barely any dialogue from Diesel. It’s just a lot of heavy-staring, male-posturing and fighting; and I didn’t have a problem with that really. It was just weird seeing this come from a big-budget, relatively mainstream movie in a major franchise.

However, I get what Twohy was doing this all for, he wanted to get us all familiarized with the character once again and give us plenty of time with him, because once the first 20-25 minutes are over, then the bounty hunters come swooping in, and things start to get away from Riddick, and more towards these less interesting, far more annoying characters. But the problem isn’t mainly the shift in the middle (even though it’s clearly evident when watching how drastic of a change in pace and story-telling it is), it’s mostly that the flick is close to being 2 hours long, but it feels like 4. No movie like this should be a near-2 hours; that is unless it’s fun, exciting, and keeps the pace going at a nice speed to where you don’t even bother checking your watch or cellular device. But the pace here is slow, meandering, random, and very uneventful, even when it should be.

The moments that Twohy obviously wants to pack a heavier punch with than before, don’t really hit hard or have you feeling the full adrenaline-rush like the first one did. I’ll give Twohy credit for giving us some time with this character and laying down the groundwork for what was to be his story, told once again on the big screen, but when it comes to actually giving us a story that pops, snaps, and delivers when it needs to, I just can’t. Too much time is spent focusing on these characters, and putting even more of an eye on a premise that should have been done in practically 90 minutes or less. It would have been that simple, but seeing as how Twohy and Diesel rarely get to work their assess off in Hollywood nowadays, it’s no wonder why they wanted to spend as much time and money in front of our eyes, just in case we never see them together again.

Who knows, this may just be the last Riddick movie we ever get? Keep an open mind, folks.

But as much bashing as I am doing of this movie, I can’t say that I didn’t have fun and at least enjoy the loud brashness of this material. Yes, it’s god-awfully dumb, stupid, innate and corny as can be, but could have I expected anything different? Or, scratch that, anything more “sophisticated” to make my brain do a little work? Hell no! I mean, look at it: The summer season ended not too long ago and I’m still reeling for some loud-ass explosions, nasty brawls, hot girls, even hotter locations, and some extra cheese added on, in any way I can get ’em. If this is the movie that’s going to give them to movie, then that will suffice. God, man! I’m going to miss summer!

The testosterone is just killing me!

The testosterone is just killing me!

And even though this may or may not be his last outing as Riddick, Vin Diesel still knows how to play this character, and still make him interesting and fun to watch on screen. This time around, we get to see more of a humane-side to him than ever before, and he’s actually a lot dirtier now too. And I’m not talking about the fact that he doesn’t take showers, I’m talking about his potty-mouth. Seeing him actually talk and interact with actual human-beings and use all of his wit to his advantage made this movie a whole lot more enjoyable to watch, and made me feel like Riddick himself was the smartest guy in the room, no matter how determined the other characters around him were. Diesel always seemed like his heart was in this character, and it’s glad to see that he can still pull it off, last outing or not.

While Diesel does do his whole “low-volume delivery” thing that everybody knows, and I guess, love him for, the rest of the cast ain’t so bad either, it’s just that they’re characters are sometimes so bad and so thinly-written, it’s damn-near offensive. One of the most glaring examples of that statement is Jordi Molla as the sleazy creep-of-a-leader of the bounty hunters who (literally) wants Riddick’s head in a box. No joking, you see the box many of times! And when he’s not trying to intimidate the hell out of Riddick, however that’s humanly possible, he’s losing control of his boner over Katee Sackhoff’s character, who makes many mentions of being a lesbian, but still seems to get all hot and ready for Riddick whenever he comes around, so I don’t know. Maybe I’m over-thinking it a bit too much, but at least she’s good, and isn’t as terrible as Molla’s character was. Honestly though, does every Mexican baddie have to speak a line of Spanish at least twice in every movie? Better yet, does it always have to be non-subtitled? I know, I’m a spoiled, middle-class American. Just saying though.

Consensus: All obvious flaws with pacing, running-time, and direction aside, Riddick never fully takes itself seriously, so neither should you and instead, should just embrace it for being one of the last big, stupid summer blockbuster, even if it is September already.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I can see clearly now, the sun-proof goggles are gone."

“I can see clearly now, the sun-proof goggles are gone.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

That Riddick, when he isn’t busy sacrificing fellow humans or gripping the throats of alien-monsters, he sure is cool.

It’s been 4 years since the last time we saw bad-ass, anti-hero Riddick (Vin Diesel) kicking booty, finding any way out of custody, and being sneaky, and it’s nice to see that not much has changed in those past 4 years. Yes, Riddick is still up to his same old tricks and games, yet, he finds himself caught in a bit of a rut when he’s taken into custody by a religious group called the Necromongers. They are lead by the nefarious Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), who wants to either convert or kill any existing race out there, in hopes that he will be reigning-supreme ruler throughout the universe. However, once Riddick gets a blast from the past in the form of an older, much wiser friend of his Kyra (Alexa Davalos), who may be in a bit of trouble herself, as she’s stuck on a whole other planet and needs to be let out of custody. Or something of that nature.

Even though Pitch Black was nowhere near being a science-fiction masterpiece, it was still a fun flick if you took it in for what it was: A really dumb, really cheesy, B-movie. If you saw it as that, and nothing else, then you might have actually enjoyed yourself with it, as I did so myself. Hence why I was looking forward to this a bit, knowing that Riddick would still be cool, still be laying down the whoopin’ on whomever came around his way, and that there would be plenty more planets, creatures, and all sorts of of other sci-fi gadgets and doo-hickies to be seen, but I was surprised by how little of any of those features I saw. Thankfully, I got a chance to see Riddick lay down the law (or the exact opposite, since he is considered a “criminal”), but that was about it, and it’s a damn shame too!

The excitement they felt working together must have been contagious. Just look at them!

The excitement they felt working together must have been contagious. Just look at them!

I think where writer/director David Twohy messed up with this movie is that he gets too ambitious. Granted, that’s not necessarily something that should be frowned upon, especially when you’re making a sequel to a movie that almost nobody saw, but here, it takes away from the novelty of that first one, and what made it fun and entertaining to watch. Everything in that movie was yes, corny and terribly-written; however, it was shown on a smaller-scale, with a punchier run-time, where we knew everybody was on-the-clock, and they each had to move it, or else it was going to be their ass getting chewed-up by those alien-like creatures. That idea taken into consideration made the movie exciting and fun, while also making it easier for us to get past some of the more crappy-aspects of it like the half-assed acting, the badly-written script, and the non-stop plot-holes that would show up whenever Twohy forgot what page he was typing on.

Here, with what seems to be a way, WAY bigger budget and more on his plate than he could have probably handled, Twohy loses his grip a bit and makes it a big, loud, long, and overly-dramatic space opera of a sort. The same type of space opera where we get development for characters that aren’t all that interesting to begin with; a slower-pace where we actually have to pay attention to the story/script (therefore, making it harder for us to ignore it all of the dumb aspects behind it); and even more lines that are corny and terribly-written, yet, roll off the tongue of some of these people, as if they weren’t even trying. The movie’s close to being 2 hours, and while some may think that’s enough time to build an atmosphere for this universe Riddick is placed in, it surprisingly isn’t, considering how less time is spent on the way the universe itself works, and more about how these planets don’t like one another, and are all run by religions, sometimes very deadly ones.

With that being said, it’s a pretty nifty idea that Twohy seems to take pride in exploring, however, it’s not given as much attention as most of the dumber aspects of the movie are, like, say the action, the cheesy one-liners, and the whole dilemma we’re supposed to care about. And trust me, it’s not because I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi is the reason why I wasn’t all that interested; it’s mainly just because the movie takes itself so self-serious and dramatic all the time (even going so far as to touch Shakespeare material at times), is why I was turned-off by it all as a whole. Twohy handles the action and the special-effects very well, and actually had me excited for a little while, but the story itself is just a bore. Which, in all honesty, it didn’t need to be because the first movie was nothing more than a small, stupid, but effectively-done sci-fi thriller; here, it’s a drama about planets facing off against one another, nearly disguised as that small, stupid, and effectively-done sci-fi thriller we all knew worked, and really liked.

Karl Urban, in what seemed to be his 20th role in a bland, big-budget sci-fi flick that only 10 or so people would bother to see.

Karl Urban, in what seemed to be his 20th role in a bland, big-budget sci-fi flick that only 10 or so people would bother to see.

In this case: Going bigger was not the way to go at all. Sorry.

However, I think the root of this movie’s problem really lies within the fact that Vin Diesel was one of the main producers on this. Knowing that valuable piece of information afterwards, allows for this whole movie’s sake of existing make perfect sense: Diesel felt like his popularity was starting to wane, so decided to go for a mainstream blockbuster that wasn’t XXX, or apart of the Fast & Furious franchise, and see if people would latch on like they sort of did before, way long before he was that big star, back in that small-window during the early 21st century. Maybe that’s just all me thinking into it too much, but it makes a lot more sense why this movie was made, and why it’s so over-blown in a way to confuse itself with being “epic”. Diesel wanted to make this movie, just strictly so he could get more money, see if he was still a big star, and destroy the nice legacy that the first one would have probably been left with, had he not decided to come around and manipulate the use of his star-power.

All of that conspiracy talk aside, Diesel is still pretty solid as that huge hunk of meat we all know as Riddick, even if we can’t understand a single thing he says. However, with a character as simple as Riddick, we don’t need to know what he’s saying, we just need to see him kick some fine ass, which is what he does, and very well too, may I add. But it’s strange though because despite Diesel not being the best actor in any circle, he’s somehow the only one who feels right for the material, among many, “better” actors. Thandie Newton does her Lady Macbeth thing; Karl Urban just stands there, tries to look tough, and ends up looking like a total dweeb; Colm Feore goes on and on about some prophecy he has in his mind; and Judi Dench takes any type of energy or steam out of the movie, whenever she shows up here as this odd, ghost-like figure, who’s only purpose in the whole movie is just to whisper exposition into Riddick’s ear, giving him hope and inspiration, even though it doesn’t seem like he’d need it. It’s weird to see such a good cast as this go to waste here, but then again, I feel like they just had to know what they were getting themselves into signing up for “the sequel to Pitch Black“, so I guess not much sympathy is going to be going to their way from my end. Sorry, guys. You can’t win ’em all.

Consensus: While it’s busy disowning any sense of tightness or moody atmosphere that the first movie had, The Chronicles of Riddick also ends up becoming a duller, longer, and boring continuation of the story of Riddick, the same type of story that nobody really cared to see on the screen again, except for maybe Vin Diesel himself, and it shows.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

I wonder how many credit cards Vin maxed-out just for this one scene alone!

I wonder how many credit cards Vin maxed-out just for this one scene alone?

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

P.S.: Never thought that I’d be reviewing this on my birthday, but so be it! Cheers!

Pitch Black (2000)

I could actually see everything that happened. Bullshit title.

A transport shuttle carrying more than 40 passengers, main one being a ruthless, sadistic criminal named Riddick (Vin Diesel), finds itself in the middle of a meteor storm, and nowhere left to go but down. They crash-land on a nearby planet that seems deserted with the only things left rummaging, or if they are living, they are deadly creatures that come out in the night. But that’s all fine and cool because the planet they are on has 3 suns which means that there is no darkness, so therefore, no need to worry about their lives being in danger, right? Well, think again, bloody chaps! What just so happens on this fateful day is a lunar eclipse where the planet goes black and leaves the crew left to fend for themselves, with any supply of weapons or light they have, just so that they can repair their ship and get the hell off of the god-forsaken planet. However, the only that can really help them out, is the same said ruthless, sadistic criminal I mentioned before, and he’s more than likely to help, just as long as he’s calling the shots and nobody else. Obviously this doesn’t bode so well with the rest of the crew, considering he’s a criminal and all but they have bigger fish to fry, so escaping from this unknown planet it is!

I never quite understood what the whole “attraction” behind the Riddick franchise was, but two sequels later, what does it matter what I think? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously “nothing”, however, I still wonder how a low-rent, B-movie without any real stars or main attraction going on behind it, made such a killing at the box-office that it was able to spawn two more movies over the course of 13 years. Hell, we still have yet to see the Independence Day sequel we all want and deserve, but we’ve gotten 2 Riddick movies instead? Hmm. Seems strange, and maybe it’s something I’ll never be able to wrap my head around. I don’t know.

"It's hot. Yeah, I know. Quit bitchin'!"

“It’s hot. Yeah, I know. Quit bitchin’!”

What I do know is that despite me being a tad bit interested in what this flick had to offer, I had to say that I got off on the wrong foot with it, as I feel like many others probably did back on their initial-viewing. The movie opens with a chaotic frenzy of shaky-cam, people yelling out total gibberish (aka, “spaceship jargon”), and a bunch of loud noises that consist of “boom”, “bang”, “crackle”, “pop”, and many others of that nature. It definitely got me feeling like I was right there with this crew in this spaceship as it went down, while also having me on the verge of throwing up as well. I know I sound like a bit of a wimp and all, but seriously: The opening-sequence to this flick is just total overkill of the shaky-cam method and had me expecting the worst of what was next to come.

Thankfully, things slowed down and cooled-out after that, but lord did I have a crackling head-ache!

Anywho, the flick does work in a way because of David Twohy’s vision that surprisingly captures a sharp, refreshing glimpse at what it would look like if you too were on the same planet with all of these buffoons. The alien air is is bleached-out, as if the cinematographer sprayed Sunny D all over the camera to give it a cooling, relaxing feel. But while doing this, he also creates a sense of the unknowing, where we too are placed on a world we know nothing about and is most likely filled with all sorts of cool things, creatures, and materials. This aspect of the movie actually had me pumped-up and ready for action, especially when things began to get all dark and tense and for a long while, it was still working.

Twohy knows how to place us in the dark (literally and figuratively) effectively, as he allows us to guess who’s going to get bumped-off next, why, what these creatures are, and just how the hell they’re going to all get out of this planet alive, if at all. It’s very tense at times and it creates an atmosphere where anything that could go wrong, probably will happen, and won’t be “Hollywood-ized” either. This is a B-movie after all, which means that there’s going to be plenty of gruesome deaths, blood squirting out wherever humanly possibly, monsters ripping people to shreds, a slew of curse words that you aren’t supposed to say out in public (unless you’re legally permitted to), and even more corny lines than you could possibly shake a yard stick at, however, there is some bit of fun behind it as well. As stupid as it could be, it did get tense at times and honestly made me wondered who was going to make it out of this hell-hole, even if it was easy to predict one person surviving at the end. Not going to throw away who it is, but if you don’t get it by now, just stop reading. Please.

Sorry, boys: She'll more than likely kick your ass than accept your dinner date request.

Sorry, boys: She’ll more than likely kick your ass than accept your dinner date request.

Where this flick, as well as many other B-flicks of this nature and of this genre fail, is in the character-development process where we are given the standard bits and pieces for things that are supposed to be living, breathing human-beings who are capable of having emotions and feelings; yet, has a script that shows completely otherwise. With this cast of motley characters, we get all of the same conventions we’ve seen before: The head-Muslim who constantly believes that a higher-power is to be blamed for all of this bad stuff happening; the geologist who knows everything about this planet, even if they can’t tell what planet it is that they are on; the morphine-addicted cop who’s all about getting the baddie, at any, and I do repeat, AT ANY cost; the teenage kid who holds an infatuation for the said baddie, but also has a bunch of secrets on his own; and the inspired, yet too-big-for-her-britches pilot who wants to show dominance and force, but can’t help but have a vagina and be criticized and treated harshly for the fact. In case you couldn’t tell, you got every character here that we’ve ever seen before in a movie where a group of random people get thrown together, have to deal with a situation in any way they can, where ego’s and different ideas come clashing together like pans on New Years, and this time, it proves nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen before.

With the exception of maybe two characters in this flick, everybody’s pretty cut-and-dry. Either they are sympathetic human-beings that know what is right and feature no gray area, or they are totally and utterly despicable, as if “being humane” was nowhere to be found in their blood-stream. That’s okay and all, but with a talented cast such as this, it does feel like a bit of a bummer to see them stoop to this type of material, even if they do try their hardest.

But like I said, there are two exceptions here in this movie and they are non-other than Radha Mitchell as head-pilot Fry, and Vin Diesel as Riddick, the role that seemingly put him on the map of super-stardom and rightfully so. Not only is Diesel good when it comes to showing that the guy can kick just about anything/anybody’s ass, but also allows us to see a bit of a humane-side to this dude as well that isn’t used in a manipulative manner. We actually see Riddick as a sort of human-being, one that you can’t always trust, but know to trust enough that he will get you out of whatever sticky situation he can or even cares for to begin with. That’s not to say Mitchell is chopped-liver neither, because the gal does her work here and does it well. Her small-ish, frail body works well for her character that seems like she has all the balls, mentally, to carry this crew to safety and get them off the planet, but doesn’t have the physical balls to nut up and shut up when push comes to shove. She’s good with this character and gives her all that she’s got, even if Diesel is the one who steals the show here. Then again, I bet you knew that already.

Consensus: A B-movie in the sense that it’s stupid, cheesy, and thinly-written, but Pitch Black also has a slight bit of fun with itself, especially in the way Diesel commands the screen with every ounce of talent that he’s got, showing us just what was next to come for this uprising star.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The ladies still love themselves some Vin. Even with oddly-colored, mutant eyes.

The ladies still love themselves some Vin. Even with brightly-colored, mutant eyes.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

It’s the year 2013, and yet, still no Hamster Wheels getting involved with these street-races!

Where the last thrill-ride ended, this next one begins with the one and only Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), and the rest of the clan having to team up with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to stop a highly skilled criminal outfit (lead by Luke Evans), all in the hopes that they will earn themselves legal pardons. But to make matters even worse for the situation, it seems as if Dom’s old-love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is alive and walking, even though she CLEARLY, FUCKIN’ DIED IN THE 4TH MOVIE!!!

Wow, I am really shocked by this. I was never a huge lover of the franchise, but as time went on; I started to grow fonder and fonder of what it could do, if it just allowed itself to have more fun, outside the world of street-racing. Of course, there’s still illegal street-racing going on and whatnot, but there’s more to this movie than just that. We got brawls; guns shooting; babes looking like hot tamales; shit being blown up; and now, we even got tanks to show up and do their thang. To say that this franchise has definitely improved would be an understatement, but to say that it’s idea of changing itself up a bit, evolving with the times, and giving itself more meat to chew on; is just about perfect.

Why? Because this movie is freakin’ awesome, and I never thought I’d be saying that about a movie starring Paul Walker. Never!

It’s a shame that Justin Lin won’t be coming back for the 7th installment, because the dude honestly seems like the perfect fit for these movies. Not only does Lin seem to enjoy being around all of these characters and watching them mess around with one another, but he also loves the whole idea of blowing shit up, and having fun with it. The dude revels in material like this, which may sound a bit off-putting in a way, but no need to worry because all of the fun that he’s having, is essentially brought out onto us and never leaves. Not even until that post-credits is off the screen (by the way, that’s what tops it off to be “freakin’ awesome”).

"You blinked first!"

“You blinked first!”

And that’s exactly what most action movies of this nature: unabashedly fun. Of course the movie is completely and utterly stupid with it’s over-the-top stunts that seem to not only cheat gravity, but lie about what the human-body can, and cannot do. But unles your some speed-junkie, who needs to jump off of things, and dare put yourself to near-death, just so that you can have; then you have to worry about seeing this. But if you’re just a normal, lax person that likes to have fun, and likes to see other people having fun while you join in on it; then this movie is the type of party you want to go to. Hell, even if you want to bring a couple of party-favors for you and your companion to join in on and have fun with, then, by all means, go for it. However, if you get caught and arrested, this site does not exist. Just a fore-warning.

But the question for me, myself, and I, is: how the hell did I become so fond of this franchise that I not only gave this the highest-rating of all, but how the hell do I find myself ranking the next one on top of my list to see next year? I honestly have no clue, but considering it’s the summer, it’s hot outside, and my brain has been turned off since last Friday when I filled in my last circle on my last final, then maybe that has something to do with. Speculation of my brain aside, this movie does not beg you to have a brain in order to watch it and enjoy yourself, all you need to know is what you’re getting yourself into and let the magic take it’s hold from there. I want to say check out the rest of the franchise before scoping this out, but coming from a person who didn’t much care for every other movie (except for the miraculous fifth one), I don’t know if it will do much help. Every addition seems to get better and better as the years go by, and it’s only a matter of time until we have Fast & Furious 30, gunning for the Oscars.

However, I highly doubt on that short-list for a nomination will be the acting of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. No offense against the dudes, because the script is idiotic, but these guys really lost all type of personality that made the first one such a dumb, but easy-to-watch gem. Diesel is always staring at people, grumbling his monologues that seemed to have been written by a 10-year-old who just got the “okay” from mommy and daddy to curse from now on, and always challenge people to either race or fight. It doesn’t matter what the hell the guy may be having a casual-convo with another person about, every time, it seems like they all end with him either ready to brawl, or ready to rev-up that beauty-of-an-engine of his. Then of course, we have Paul Walker here who’s as wooden as he can be (which is not saying a lot), but at least he’s not painful to watch. Since this is an ensemble piece where everybody gets their slice to chew up, Walker is thrown to the back a lot and giving a couple of chances to show how bad-ass he truly can be, even if it is just him driving around and looking stunning. I’m not gay, but has that guy aged at all? Seriously, his hair has just turned from dirty-blond to brown, and that’s about it. Oh, and some scruff too!

Anyway, returning as Hobbs is Dwayne Johnson who absolutely seems like he’s having the time of his life. The dude is tough, rugged, ready to find out what the hell’s going on here, and not taking no as an answer one bit. Johnson loves these types of roles where he pokes a bit of fun at his own image, but at the same time, still gets to show us the people’s eyebrow and how much ass he can truly kick. Joining his gang of criminal-busting, is Gina Carano who seems to have the same look and act going on here that she had in Haywire. Yes, she can still do all the flips and the ass-kicking that she’s been known to do, but when it comes to acting and actually giving us somebody that’s memorable in the least bit: she ultimately fails and gives the same look the whole movie. But hey, at least she’s using her own voice this time and not somebody else’s.

Rounding out the rest of the crew of “good guys” are the usual crew that we’re used to seeing and having fun with. Tyrese Gibson is apparently the poorest out of everybody who got their fare-share in the last heist, and can’t stop bringing up how he needs money for certain things; Ludacris always loves to bust his chops about it, as well as making fun of his big fore-head (apparently he did and just nobody noticed or cared enough to say anything in the first place); Jordana Brewster doesn’t do much other than stay-at-home and watch her O’Conner’s kid (who I feel bad for already, considering he will not past his driver’s test once); and Shea Whigham also shows up a bit, and does the role he was most known for in the 4th one (aka, getting his ass kicked), but it’s still nice to see him and hopefully he got a nice Jacuzzi cover out of the ordeal.

Even in a world where marathons get bombed and terrorist threats have become a daily-happening, it's nice to be reminded that the world can be happy, pleasing place to be alive in. Ah.

Even in a world where marathons get bombed and terrorist threats have become a daily-happening, it’s nice to be reminded that the world can be happy, pleasing place to be alive in. Ah.

As for the “bad guys”, well, they too are okay, if a little dumb. The problem Luke Evan’s character, Shaw, isn’t that Evans gives a bad performance or anything, it’s that the character he’s playing is so loud, so obnoxious, and so blatant with the bad shit that he’s about to pull, that it makes almost no sense about how people continue to say that he gets away with stuff because he’s so secretive and so mysterious. I call bullshit on that for the reason that one of his tactics of showing his “evilness” was to take over a tank on a major highway and see if he could get away with it. Yeah, a tank. Good going, buddy! You’re definitely going to last long.

And as everybody knows (and if you couldn’t, just look up-top at the plot-synopsis), Michelle Rodriguez returns to show us her feminist-ways as Litty, the ex-lover of Dom Toretto who is a welcome-back to the franchise. I’ll admit it, when Litty (actually) died in the 4th movie, I didn’t care too much and felt like it was one way to just create more drama that wasn’t needed to begin with, and heck, even once she showed-up in that post-credits scene in the last movie, I didn’t care much neither (except I was pissed as shit). However, seeing Rodriguez back in her comfort-zone, watching as she acts all confused and questionable, while also being able to throw-down with the best of them, made me happy that the gal was back and ready for more fast cars. The explanation they give us for her surviving the death that we all presumed she had is dumb as hell, but I was willing to drop down some of my nitpicks about logic and simple-reasoning with a movie like this. Obviously.

Consensus: For those who find these movies as stupid and idiotic as ever, may be a bit pleased with what they see in Fast & Furious 6 because it keeps the energy and momentum going at a fine pace, without ever really diving into melodramatic-theatrics or plot-points that don’t matter. It’s just a fun ride from beginning-to-end, and rarely ever loses you, no matter how smart or dumb you are.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Look, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's NOT Henry Cavil.

Look! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s NOT Henry Cavil.

Fast Five (2011)

Everything you would expect from a car-racing movie: except for the cars.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are back together again but this time, are hiding out in Rio de Janerio after breaking out of prison. However, they still want to pull off that one, last heist before they head-out into the sunset forever. Problem is, they got one man standing in their way: a tough, and rough federal agent, played by Dwayne “Don’t Call Me Rock” Johnson. It’s everybody’s favorite group of illegal street-racers, versus the police in a knock-out brawl to the end to see who can get the money, who can pull off the job, and who can drive the fastest car.

When you go out to see a Fast and Furious movie, you know you have to expect loudness, cars going “vroooom!”, people skewing out terrible lines, and plenty of moments where men just stare each other down in a deeply sexual, but tense way. It’s what we come to know with this series and so far, it’s been okay considering every one of these movies seem to continue to kick ass at the box-office. Somehow though, they decided that maybe, just maybe, cars aren’t really what’s the most interesting thing for when you do an action movie. Thank the lord for that realization.

Director Justin Lin doesn’t do something that’s by any means ground-breaking, original, or life-changing with his direction, but what he does do is actually inject some energy and fun to a series that quite frankly, needed it in order to it to continue breaking records. In order to broaden up the audience of this flick, they steered (teehee) away more from the whole car-culture aspect of these movies, and made it more of an action/adventure type of movie full of guns, shooting, babes, and heists. In all honesty, it was a great decision because it really keeps the adrenaline going and allows there to be more exciting action scenes, rather than just having two guys go head-to-head in CGI cars.

Meet me on the top of some roof, it's going down.

Meet me on the top of some roof, it’s going down.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any driving in this film, because there is, but there’s not a whole lot to the point of where you feel like the next time you hear a car turn on, you’re going to blow it up yourself. Lin adds just the right amount of car racing fun into this movie, while still allowing all of the craziness of the other action to follow in and quite frankly, kept my eyes on the screen the whole time. Do the scenes defy logic? Totally. Do they look as if they could never, ever happen in a real world we have a little thing called “gravity”? Of course. However, does that make it a whole lot more fun and entertaining to watch? Hell to the yeah! Lin seems like he knows what he’s doing with action scenes and it makes me feel a bit safer knowing he’s taking over the franchise now and not giving it to Ghetto-lover John Singleton. Honestly, why the hell did the guy do that movie?

Despite all of this insane amount of fun action that goes beyond just cars and racing, there’s still a part of this movie that drags and drags on pretty long, too. The opening scene starts things off perfectly and gets you pumped right up, and the ending does the same thing, but there’s a middle-act here that just doesn’t do much with itself other than feature a bunch of people talking about what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do with it their heist. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t action every little bit here and there, but for the most part, it seems like they may have ran out of money or just edited out one big action sequence, and saved up all of their time for the last 20 minutes. Not to say that’s a terrible thing, but it did have me yawn every once and awhile, something I would not be expecting from a big movie that is in fact named after fast-ass cars.

But since this movie is from the same franchise that gave us Cole Hauser as an evil kingpin, you have to expect this film to not really be the intensely smart and witty script we’d want with something of the same nature like a Tarantino or Kevin Smith movie. However, you don’t also want it to be this bad. There’s cheap one-liners here that are unintentionally hilarious, characters who come out to say something stupid and meaningless to the plot or certain situation they are in, and melodrama that’s supposed to really enhance the tension and emotional-factor for this story, but just feels like a cheat to tack-on more time the audience has to spend with these characters. It just goes to show you that sometimes parents don’t need to get on their young kids’ cases about not having jobs, because they can always apply for a screen-writing job for these Fast and Furious movies. Dare to dream, kids. Dare to dream.

But where the fun and charm really lies within this flick is the fact it has the whole gang back (with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez, who is supposed to be dead!!!!), and they are all fun to watch. Vin Diesel does his usual stoic, scary-looking big guy act as Dom Toretto and can practically play the role in his sleep. Actually, sometimes it seems like he is doing just that but it doesn’t matter because the guy can still nail the same notes with this role, as he can with any other piece of shit script that gets tossed right at him. Paul Walker is also here making all of that cash money flow from his pockets by appearing in another one of these movies, when in all honesty: he does barely anything for them. The guy that stands in the background and always has to look serious just for the sake that his character is so damn stern and compelled by what is happening. If there is anything I have to give the guy, it’s the fact that he is quite the natural at it, almost as much as I am a natural at winning pong while I’m drunk. It happens, I forget about it the next day, and live my life. That’s about it in a nutshell.

"Hey, we said no head-starts!"

“Hey, we said no head-starts!”

Also, the side characters that you may, or may not, remember from those other flicks are here to just do their thang and have fun. It’s fine to watch them as they all fight with one another, give their own two cents on what the next best plan would be, and whether or not they should drive fast cars. It’s all stupid and unneeded, but hey; at least it’s fun to see old friendships reconvene, and new ones be formed right in front of your own very eyes. It’s sort of like my Sweet 16, without all of the Ke$ha and Katy Perry songs in the background. No, I was not the DJ, for the record.

Even though everybody’s pretty good with what they’re given, the one who really stands out the most is probably Dwayne Johnson as the angry, federal agent that just wants to take these racing-mofos down. As soon as Johnson pops up into the movie, you can tell the guy is ready to do some business and he gives that type of serious, tough-guy role that made him so popular in the first place with wrestling fans all-over-the-world. He’s dead-on serious with all of his lines, but it isn’t distracting in the least bit and somehow works to his, as well as the rest of the movie’s advantage by giving us a real dude that seems like he could actually take down each and every one of these illegal-racing bandits. Another side you could take on his performance, is that it’s pretty surprising how it shows us that maybe this guy isn’t going to be one of those crooked cops we always see in movies like this, and actually just does his job because it’s what he feels is right. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this obvious character, but I know one thing that’s for sure: Johnson kicks some ass with this role and I look forward to seeing him take this role on longer and longer as this franchise goes into it’s 100th movie in the year 2099. Yes, it most likely will go on that long, as you can see by what’s coming out this Friday and what’s already being discussed. Everybody will be quite fast, and furious, even until the day they day. Even when cars are practically extinct for cool gizmos like this.

Dare to dream, kids. Dare to dream.

Consensus: Stupid, loud, and terribly-written, Fast Five is exactly what you would expect from a movie in this franchise, but it’s still fun, entertaining, filled with life, energy, and a bunch of charming performances that makes this the best offering of this whole franchise.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Think about it, this was one of the last movies to be "ok'd" by Apple for advertisement, when Steve Jobs was still alive. Yup, my way of ending on a downer.

Think about it, this was one of the last movies to be “ok’d” by Apple for advertisement, when Steve Jobs was still alive. Yup, my way of ending on a downer.

Knockaround Guys (2002)

It’s like ‘My Cousin Vinny’, except everybody is trying really hard to sound Italian.

The film follows Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper, Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel) and Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli), four sons of major Brooklyn mobsters who team up to retrieve a bag of cash in a small Montana town ruled by a corrupt Sheriff. Specifically, the plot gets started when Matty goes on a job to deliver the money for his mob father, Benny “Chains” Demaret (Dennis Hopper), on the advice of his uncle Teddy Deserve (John Malkovich). Things don’t go as planned though…

I honestly have no idea why I wanted to watch this other than the fact that it has a pretty cool cast and I like gangster flicks. That’s pretty much it and maybe next time I’ll be a lot more cautious.

Where co-writers/directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien dropped the ball on this flick was that it’s essentially a plot that should be pretty goofy, but takes itself a bit too serious. That’s a shame because even though the whole “mobsters in country land” plot device has all been done before, I think that this film would of had a little bit of fun with it.

That’s also another problem with this flick as everything is just about as cliché as you can get with a gangster/crime movie. There’s a boy who wants to prove to his daddy that he can make it in his work of being a gangster after being traumatized as a little guy, a crooked sheriff in country town, a Mexican stand-off, a two-timing gangster, two dope kids who end up with a big bag of money, a brawl in a Southern bar, and the list just goes on and on and on. Yeah, it’s nothing new and basically everything you get here is something we have all seen done before, but for some reason I still found myself entertained.

I don’t know what it was with this flick but even though everything here was too serious and too cliché, I still enjoyed myself watching it. The plot does take its time to get moving but somehow I found a lot of fun with that and it gave me a chance to actually get to know these characters and also be able to feel the tension building up in this story. I think that there are a couple of plot twists here and there that work in order to keep the flick going, and it’s just strange that the script had nothing new to do or say but I still found myself watching and interested in just what was going to happen next.

A lot of my enjoyment with this flick probably also had to do a lot with the cool cast they have assembled here. Barry Pepper is good in a very rare leading role here as Matty Demaret, which is a shame because this guy really does deserve bigger roles; Vin Diesel does his usual “stand there and look intimidating” act here as Taylor Reese, but don’t get me wrong it still works none the less; Seth Green seems a little too phony with his Italian accent as Johnny Marbles, but he still tries his hardest with what he’s given; Dennis Hopper shows up for a little bit and just plays the hard-ass daddy role as Benny “Chains” Demaret; Tom Noonan is probably the best out of the cast with his once again sinister performance as the crooked sheriff, Sheriff Decker; and John Malkovich seems like he’s pushing his Italian accent a little too far as well, but he’s still pretty good to watch. It’s a cast that are all pretty good at what they usually do and even though they aren’t in top-form here, they still are watchable and what I think made this film a lot less cringe-inducing than so many people have said about it.

Consensus: The plot features just about every cliché in the book, takes itself a bit way too seriously, and obviously could have done a lot more with what it had, but Knockaround Guys has a pretty good cast and some good moments that make this film at least entertaining enough to be a fun, if flawed guilty pleasure. Hate me all you want people, but I enjoyed myself.

5/10=Rental!!

XXX (2002)

The hipper and balder James Bond. (If you’re reading this Vin, I’m just kidding. Please don’t kick my ass).

Xander “XXX” Cage (Vin Diesel), a notorious underground rush-seeker deemed untouchable by the law, is coerced by NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to cooperate with the government and infiltrate a Russian crime ring. If XXX succeeds, Gibbons promises to keep him out of prison.

I’ll never forget the first time I actually saw this when it was in theaters and I was about 10 at the time, and I my ears were ringing but with good reason, because this movie I thought was the greatest thing I have ever seen. Sadly, that isn’t what I think anymore.

The writing here isn’t as terrible as i could have imagined, but it was still pretty corny though. There were some funny and ironic lines here that had me chuckle here and there, but overall, some lines here will just make you laugh with how corny it sounds and how serious these characters sound when they say them.

There was also this moment in the film where the Russian chick here, Yelena, tells Xander to accelerate the car pedal, but instead says “hit the gas”. I highly doubt that in Czech Republic they use the term “gas” and I know this may sound dumb and pretty nit-picky but for some odd reason this just bothered the hell out of me.

However, when you think about it, this film isn’t about witty writing, it’s all about the action babyyyy!! And the action is good. The effects for some of these scenes (especially that avalanche scene) were really good and used very well in this film. They added a lot to the action sequences but it’s the stunts that really make this film bangin’.

There is no attempt to hide the fact that they are stunts (some are so completely impossible that they don’t even try to make them look possible) and are shot with a reverence that only a true action aficionado can appreciate. You’ll also find many bangs, booms, and loud explosions here, and although probably more than there actually needed to be, I still had a good time with this crazy action entertainment.

Vin Diesel fits so well as the muscular, cool, and awesome Xander Cage who does everything in the eXtreme. Diesel has a lot of snappy lines that make his character a lot more likable, and it’s just Diesel himself who knows how to make this muscle-head character into a guy we can root for and love to see shoot people and have things blow up. This film cemented Diesel’s ability as a box-office name and I’m glad because he’s a great action star. Samuel L. Jackson is pretty good as Agent Gibbs; Asia Argento is a very sexy and sly “Bond girl type” here as Yelena; and Marton Csokas totally hamms it up as our main villain for the 2 hours we watch, Yorgi. This guy’s lines are terrible and had me laughing at him almost every time he put that serious Russian face on.

Consensus: The writing is pretty laughable, but the action makes up for it with the non-stop explosions, terrific stunt work, and the always cool and muscular Vin Diesel looking intimidating as always which has XXX a very good action-spy flick.

6/10=Rental!!

Find Me Guilty (2006)

Whoever thought that Dominic Toretto could actually act.

Training his lens on infamous mobster “Fat” Jack DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) — a man who decided to defend himself in court rather than rat out his cohorts –director Sidney Lumet recounts the longest Mafia trial in U.S. history.

The one thing about this courtroom film that separates it from plenty others, is the fact that draws its dialogue from actual courtroom transcripts that happened. This was really cool because we never felt that biased, misunderstanding of the law when this case is all said and done. I also liked how well the script was written because there are many comedic moments, but then there are actual deeply strong, emotional moments that happen as well but it never feels too cheesy. Sidney Lumet knows how to tell a story, and make it entertaining, despite the story not all being that thrilling.

However, the problem with this film is that it does run on too long. This film is about 2 hours long, and they cram the whole court case into that time limit, which was kind of a long stretch considering that sometimes this film can show a lot of problems within the American judicial system.

The film also does have us rooting for these actual criminals in the end, and this to me all seemed weird. These guys all committed crimes, killed people, dealt drugs, and have basically gotten caught doing it all, but now, we are supposed to root for them in a case that shows these criminals for what they are. There is a lot of evidence in this film that will have you kind of shake your head at the American judicial system, but this is all real stuff here, so I can’t really hold that much against this film.

Vin Diesel proves that he actually can act here as Jack DiNorscio, and knocks his performance out-of-the-park. Diesel has the incredible likability, to match his huge muscles, that makes us love Jackie and root for him as this film goes on. Although this is a bad guy, who has done many bad things, we kind of see him as a human being, that wants nothing more than for his friends to be free and safe, and not rat them out at all. Peter Dinklage is also awesome in his role as Ben Klandis, Linus Roache is pretty good as the evil lawyer Sean Kierney, Ron Silver does what he does as Judge Finestein, and Annabella Sciorra shows up randomly but owns her scene. Let’s not also forget Alex Rocco here as Nick Calabrese, who everybody probably remembers as Moe Greene.

Consensus: Sidney Lumet’s Find Me Guilty won’t have you thrilled, or inspired at all by the American judicial system, but with impressive performances from the cast, mainly Diesel, and a nice pace, you won’t be bored.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Fast & Furious (2009)

Sometimes, car explosions never do get old.

Fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) must team with his old nemesis Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and take on a common enemy in the latest full-throttle installment of the speed-racing franchise. Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster reprise their roles as Letty and Mia, respectively.

This is the fourth film of the ever-so popular series about illegal street-racing, and it’s considered an inter-qual. Which means it takes place in between the second and the third, so if you’re following along with this story line, you won’t give much of a shit either.

Director Justin Lin brings a flair with editing to this film that really does work. The car chases look very cool and some of them may actually be very new, because a lot of the things they do here with the cars, is astonishing. Lin keeps the camera moving rapidly all-over-the-place, to give you the havoc feeling that these car chases would give, but you can also tell what’s going on, which is totally different from other car chases in films. Also, that GPS they have in here sounds like Stephen Hawkins hot sister, and had me laughing just about every time.

However, as usual with these films, the writing ranges from decent to bad. I’ll give this film some credit because it actually does try to be more character-driven than the past films, but the problem here is that it doesn’t work because all of the lines said here are either cheesy, or predictable. This is a more talky film than any other of the series, and I wouldn’t have minded if these characters didn’t sound like they were reading cue cards from 1980 action films. Although, when I look at it this film is called Fast & Furious, not Smart & Thought-Provoking.

The cheesy tag-line for this film is “New Model. Original Parts”, and those original parts have been sitting on the shelf doing nothing for the past few years. Vin Diesel brings back that sleepy-eye gaze, those huge biceps his V-neck can’t even contain, and that extremely likable bad-boy image to the character of Dom Toretto, and commands this story. It’s good to see Diesel doing what he does best, and it seems like this act never gets old for him. Paul Walker is his usual character as Brian O’Conner, and nothing is really wrong with that. Jordana Brewster who is bangin’ I must add, doesn’t really have much to do here as Mia. She’s in there just looking worried, angry, or some combination of the two. Michelle Rodriguez is in this film, for as about as long as I’m in the film, and it’s a little bit awkward since I think from the 22 DUI’s she’s gotten, she’s not actually allowed to drive, so she’s forced to just ride on trucks. John Ortiz does his best as the main bad-guy here, but the cheesy evil one-liners take over his character, to the point of where he becomes a laughing stock.

Consensus: The plot may be ludicrous, and the writing is the usual cheesy and predictable fare we have come to known of these films, but director Justin Lin brings back the old gang with awesome action sequences, and a different style of telling this story.

6/10=Rental!!

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The one that started all the car-craze nonsense.

Aptly named Vin Diesel stars in this high-octane action-adventure as Domenic Toretto, a Los Angeles street racer suspected of masterminding a series of big-rig hijackings. When undercover cop Brian Spindler (Paul Walker) infiltrates Toretto’s iconoclastic crew, he falls for Toretto’s sister (Jordana Brewster) and must choose a side: the gang or the LAPD.

So looking at this film as a whole, The Fast and the Furious is about street-racing, and let me tell you there is a lot of that.

The one thing about this film is that it’s mindless entertainment, and doesn’t try to be anything else. The stunt-work is awesome, with a lot of crazy scenes here that almost reminded me of 90’s action thriller classics like Point Break or Speed, so even when the story is pretty bad, they can still rely on these awesome action scenes that will really have you entertained. This is what a B-Picture is all about: fast cars, big action, loud music, and every single awesome action sequence kicking more ass than the last one.

Now the main problem with this film is when all the racing, cars, and sexy girls are gone, the film starts to become unintentionally laughable. This film has a lot of, and I do repeat, a lot of cliches here. I mean there are certain lines here that I have heard before, and what’s even worse is the characters themselves. Each and every one of these characters are cliches themselves. You got the undercover cop who ends up loving what he was assigned to do in the first place, the bad-ass leader, and of course the sexy chick that comes in between it all. I have seen this all before, and nothing here is any different except for the fact that the action is pretty awesome.

Even though these characters are all pretty paper-thin, somehow the cast tries their best. Vin Diesel is good as Domenic Toretto who uses his scary look to his advantage. Even though Vin gets a lot of shit talked on about his acting, I still think he’s good because he is actually able to make his character seem even more scary by the emotions on his face. Paul Walker is a lame actor, but he’s OK here as Brian Spindler, the cop who’s torn between love and doing the right thing. So so so cheesy. Jordana Brewster is hot, but also good as Mia, but some of the lines she has are just so bad that I couldn’t help but laugh. And of course, what would an action film be without Michelle Rodriguez here being the bad bitch that she is in every film. Poor girl, she can never be a doctor in a film now.

Consensus: Loud, aggressive, dumb, stupid, and ultimately entertaining, The Fast and the Furious may have huge problems with its script, but it will keep you excited the whole time with it’s B-Level thrills to give you the ultimate guilty pleasure feel.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Pacifier (2005)

Sorry Vinny, but I would not trust you one bit with my kids.

Tough-guy Navy SEAL Shane Wolf (Vin Diesel) never imagined that he’d wind up as a babysitter for a crop of unruly kids. But now that he is, he’s shocked to discover that it’s the hardest job he’s ever had in his life. His mission, which he has no choice but to accept, is to protect the children (including Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot and Morgan York) of a scientist who was killed while working on a top-secret government project.

Basically many of Hollywood’s big-time action stars have to do it. Arnold in Kinder garden Cop, The Rock in The Tooth Fairy and Game Plan, and most recently Jackie Chan with The Spy Next Door. Vin Diesel follows those foot steps.

The film follows all the same exact formulas would expect from a film of this nature. From the diaper-changing scene, to the fart jokes, and to the very dumb plot twist in the middle of the film. I mean the film doesn’t even try to give an effort to make anything different or fresh, it’s just the same old formula used.

The script is really bad here as almost every single cliched line you can think of, well it plays out the same exact way in here.

The main problem with this film is that Disney was behind it. In the first few minutes several people are blown up or shot including the father and lead of the film. Within a few minutes, all this is forgotten and the bad diaper jokes start. With its very aimless direction I didn’t feel like this film was inspired at all.

Diesel, much to his charm actually brings this film up a couple of notches. I mean I will say he uses his charm very well, and for a lot of the scenes it looked like he was game for the most part. I liked how he was able to play a parody of the character people think of him always playing, and I give him a lot more respect because of that.

Consensus: Vin Diesel’s charm works a bit, but cannot overbear this un-original, formulaic, and overall non reasonable film.

2.5/10=SomeOleBullShit!!!

Find Me Guilty (2006)

Whoever thought after being in over 15 films about mindless action, Vin Diesel actually can act.

Mobster Giacomo “Jackie” DiNorscio (played by Vin Diesel) faces a series of charges even though he has a prior 30 year conviction, but he decides to stand trial instead of ratting out his family and associates. A wrench is thrown into the system when DiNorscio attempts to defend himself and act as his own lawyer at trial.

Director Sidney Lumet, who at the time was 81, has directed films 12 Angry Men and The Verdict, so he does know his way around the courtroom. The really significant thing about this film is that it is not one of those typical courtroom dramas where the bad guys are against the good guys. The good guys in reality are the defenders of the government but Diesel’s character is so lively and fun you are sort of split between of who to cheer for and that hasn’t happened in a courtroom drama that I have seen.

The only problem with this thing is that I don’t know why this film had put itself of having sympathy towards the criminals that Vin is standing for. If a movie has you cheer the bad guys when one man is the voice for all, and he’s still bad, that goes to show that the movie has a problem.

I also wish that there were more scenes outside of the courtroom, although, Jackie in real life spent half of his life behind bars anyway. Also at times I felt the movie lagged but that was the feel for the longest Mafia trial in American history, so i guess its  the effect that counts.

I really did enjoy the screenplay since most of it was actually said in the court. The film can be touching but also can keep you entertained even when Jackie starts to pick up his game. This screenplay has a very wise mix of humor and drama that is still smart even when it seems like it gets out of hand.

The most surprising thing about this film is the performance from Vin Diesel. He surely shows us why he was penned a movie star after all. He chose the right project to where he can be funny, vicious, and also very serious when it comes to telling the truth and not ratting. This is a very surprising performance that surely wins you over and has you forget that he is a total crook.

Consensus: Find Me Guilty finds itself rooting for the bad guys, but has a great real-life look at one of the longest Mafia American trial, backed by a surprise performance from Vin Diesel.

7.5/10=Rental!!!