Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #22: Ride Along 2 (dir by Tim Story)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Sunday, December 4th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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A friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook: “Name your vagina by using the last movie you watched!”  While everyone else was able to answer with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Christmas Vacation,” and “Zombeavers,” I was forced to answer “Ride Along 2,” because I watched it last night.  If only I had held off on watching Ride Along 2, I could have answered Moana.

Oh well…

ANYWAY — I recorded Ride Along 2 off of HBO on November 11th.  The main reason that I recorded it was because, at the time, I was panicking over the fact that the year is nearly over and there’s still a lot of 2016 releases that I haven’t seen.  You know me.  I’m a cinema completist and I like to see everything.  As a result, I’ve been recording every single 2016 movie that I come across on cable, even if the film in question is one that I really didn’t have much interest in actually watching.

Like this one for instance…

Ride Along 2 is the latest entry in the ever-growing Ken Jeong Gets Kidnapped genre of action comedies.  At some point in the future, film historians will wonder why Ken Jeong was always either getting abducted or arrested in violent comedies.  I imagine that they’ll devote most of their time to studying The Hangover films and Community but they’ll still find some time to consider Ride Along 2.

In Ride Along 2, Ken Jeong is abducted by two Atlanta detectives who have come to Miami to investigate his boss, murderous drug lord Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt).  The two detectives are James Payton (Ice Cube) and his future brother-in-law, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart).  Of course, it’s really not important that one of them is named Payton or that the other one is named Ben.  Ultimately, they are Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.  Payton is tough and no-nonsense.  Ben is short and outspoken and given to histrionics.  Needless to say, the plot is mostly just an excuse for Kevin Hart to get on Ice Cube’s nerves.

And it’s all pretty predictable.  There’s really nothing in Ride Along 2 that you haven’t already seen in a hundred other action comedies, including the first Ride Along.  So, how much you enjoy this film is going to depend on how much you like Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, and Ken Jeong.  (And I guess it might help if you’re a Benjamin Bratt fan as well.  Are there Benjamin Bratt fans?)  And, I will say this.  Nobody glowers with quite the skill of Ice Cube.  Ken Jeong may play the same role a hundred times but he knows what he’s doing.  And Kevin Hart is actually a good actor, even if his films rarely give him a chance to show the full depth of his ability.

Ride Along 2 is predictable and kinda forgettable.  It didn’t do much for me.  But, at the same time, it’s thoroughly nonpretentious and totally inoffensive.

I still think Moana is a better name, though…

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Film Review: Southpaw (dir by Antoine Fuqua)


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Southpaw features Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer who loses his wife, his daughter, his career, his self-respect, his car, his house, his manager, his friends, and nearly his life.  But then, about 70 minutes into the film, he gets a chance to get it all back.  Well, almost all of it.  His wife is dead so he can’t get her back but there are hints that he might get together with a helpful social worker after the end credits role.

There was really only one reason why I was interested in seeing Southpaw and that’s because it starred Jake Gyllenhaal.  Last year, Gyllenhaal gave the performance of his career in Nighcrawler.  Gyllenhaal was so brilliant that you just knew the Academy was going to prove itself clueless by not nominating him.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Gyllenhaal was snubbed and, as a result, the Academy now owes him a nomination.  When the trailer for Southpaw first appeared and we saw Gyllenhaal as muscular and bloody, a lot of us assumed that Southpaw would be the film that would get him that nomination.

And Jake Gyllenhaal does do a pretty good job in Southpaw.  He’s one of the main reasons for seeing the film.  It’s interesting to compare Gyllenhaal’s hyperactive performance and sickly appearance in Nightcrawler with his work as boxer Billy Hope in Southpaw.  Billy is a professional brawler and you believe it when you look at him.  Not only is he huge and muscular but he’s got a face that has obviously been punched more than a few times.  When he speaks, he isn’t the hyper articulate con man of Nightcrawler and Love and Other Drugs.  Instead, he stares at the ground as he mumbles and struggles to put together the simplest of thoughts.  It’s a good performance but, at the same time, it lacks the element of surprise that Gyllenhaal has brought to his best roles in the past.  You watched both Donnie Darko and Nightcrawler and you knew that only Gyllenhaal could have brought those roles to life.  Billy Hope, however, is a far less interesting character and you could imagine any number of actors playing the role.  (Reportedly, Southpaw was actually written with Eminem in mind and you really can see him playing the role.)

And really, the entire film is a lot like Billy Hope.  It does its job but there’s nothing all that interesting about it.  Southpaw‘s biggest surprise comes about 20 minutes into the film when Billy’s loving wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), is shot and killed and you already knew that was going to happen from the film’s trailer.  After Maureen’s death, Billy starts using alcohol and drugs and, as a result, he loses custody of his daughter, Leila (12 year-old Oona Laurence, giving a great performance).  Because this is a sports film, Billy has to hit rock bottom before, with the help of a grizzled and haunted trainer (Forest Whitaker), he can get a chance to win back both the championship and his daughter.  Director Antoine Fuqua obviously know how to tell these type of testosterone-drenched stories but there’s not a single moment in Southpaw that you won’t see coming from miles away.

And don’t get me wrong.  Unlike some other films that I was less than overwhelmed by, I can actually understand why some people in the theater applauded at the end of Southpaw.  It’s an effective film, even if it does run on for a little bit too long.  It tells a heartfelt story.  It’s a crowd pleaser and I’m sure that a lot of people will enjoy it.  But, for me, it was just too predictable.  I like it when movies catch me off guard and that’s something that Southpaw never came close to doing.

A quick sidenote: Southpaw features the final score composed by the late James Horner and the film is dedicated to his memory.  If you see the movie, be sure to stick around for the dedication so that you can put your hands together for a cinematic and musical legend.

Film Review: Furious 7 (dir by James Wan)


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Regardless of what you may think about the rest of Furious 7, the final ten minutes will make you cry.  They made me cry and, before I saw Furious 7, I wasn’t even really a fan of the franchise.  It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Furious 7 ends with a tribute to both the character Brian O’Connor and the actor who played him, Paul Walker.  While Dominic Toretto (played, of course, by Vin Diesel) says goodbye to Brian, we see a montage of clips of Brian throughout the previous Fast and Furious Films and it’s so poignant to see how Paul Walker transformed over the course of the series, going from being a somewhat bland teen heart throb to becoming a genuinely charismatic leading man.  Watching the montage, you can see that Paul Walker was still growing as an actor and you’re reminded of just what a shock it was when we first heard the news of his death in 2013.

And, of course, we’re very aware that, as Dominic is saying goodbye to Brian and we’re saying goodbye to the actor who played him, Vin Diesel is saying goodbye to his friend.  That Diesel and Walker were friends on-screen and off is no secret.  In fact, that friendship has always been one of the big appeals of the Fast and Furious franchise.  The films are about a group of people (mostly men) who care about each other and who aren’t ashamed to admit it.  When Dominic delivers the film’s final monologue, it’s really all about Vin saying goodbye to Paul.  By the time the words “For Paul” appeared on the screen, there was not a dry eye in the theater.

The death of Paul Walker adds an undeniable poignancy to Furious 7 and it’s sometimes hard to separate the real-life tragedy from what we’re watching on screen.  But here’s the thing — Furious 7 works as both a heartfelt tribute to Paul Walker and as a wonderfully over-the-top and fun action movie.  Furious 7 is a burst of pure adrenaline and style that epitomizes everything that you could possibly want out of an action movie.

Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw, a former government assassin who has a personal vendetta against Dom, Brian, and practically everyone else who has ever been a Fast and Furious movie.  Statham isn’t in a lot of scenes but whenever he shows up, he kicks ass and watching Furious 7 was probably the first time that I’ve ever truly understood Statham’s appeal.  How impressive is Jason Statham in this film?  He puts Dwayne Johnson in the hospital, that’s how impressive he is.  And what’s amazing is that after watching their fight scene, you totally believe that Jason Statham could put Dwayne Johnson in the hospital.

Another government agent, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, having a great time), offers to help Dom take out Deckard but first, Dom and his crew have to do a favor for Mr. Nobody.  They have to rescue a hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) from an African warlord (Djimon Honsou) who is obviously based on Joseph Kony.  That hacker knows about the location of a device that will allow the government to track down Deckard but the device has already been sold to a billionaire who lives in Abu Dhabi….

Ultimately, the exact specifics and logic of it all doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Chris Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and Dwayne Johnson are all back and they’re all a lot of fun to watch.  What matters is that the cars look good and the stunt work is just as amazing as you were hoping.  What matters is that the film features things that you never thought you’d see — like cars parachuting down to a mountain road and jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper.

This is an exciting film.  It’s a fun film.  It’s an entertaining film.  It’s a stylish film.  And, ultimately, it’s a film that will make you cry.

What more can you ask for?

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Trailer: Furious 7 (Extended)


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We saw the Super Bowl trailer of Furious 7 (formerly known as Fast & Furious 7). Well, here’s the extended version of it with more Jason Statham mayhem added to the mix. We also get The Rock get beatdown by Statham. Then again we’re all pretty much aware that Statham probably is the only person can put a beatdown on the Rock.

It looks like the summer blockbuster season starting out earlier and earlier with each passing year. Furious 7 is set for an April 3, 2015 release date.

Fast & Furious 7 – The Super Bowl Ad.


Universal is up again during the Super Bowl with this trailer for Fast & Furious 7, which has Vin Diesel’s Dominick Toretto and his family facing off against Jason Statham, who plays the brother of Luke Evans’ character in the last film. As usual, it looks like there will be some crazy car stunts, and there seems to be more in-air acrobatics (which is weird, for cars). We still don’t know how the story will deal with the passing of Paul Walker, but they appear to have their action scenes all set.

Fast & Furious 7 (or Fast 7) opens in cinemas on April 3rd.

 

Trailer: Furious 7 (Teaser)


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To much fanfare we finally have the teaser trailer to the latest adventures of Dominic Toretto and his band of misfit drivers.

Now officially titled as Furious 7, the latest film in the franchise goes further away from it’s street racing roots and into the spy thriller and superhero genres it drifted into with Fast Five. Even the title alone sounds like a superhero team straight out of Marvel Comics. It’s almost as if I expect to see Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Elektra plus three other furious heroes fighting the good fight.

The teaser pretty much teases the sort of over-the-top, physics-defying action scenes we’ve come to expect from this franchise. It’s almost as if with each new film they up the ante as to how much universal laws Dom and his crew will break in order to entertain it’s massive fan audience.

Furious 7 is set to ride and die this April 3, 2015.

Quick Review: Fast & Furious 6 (dir. by Justin Lin)


url-6Thinking back on the original Fast & Furious film, I still find it hard to believe it’s done so well over the years. The longevity of the films owe a lot to the Saw series, which seems fitting considering that the original director of that film will take over the reigns for the next installment. Both series have managed to take events from all of their films and weave this strange tapestry with it. Once you think one story is over, the writers somehow jump back to an earlier scene and pull out a new thread for everyone to follow. Gimmicky? Perhaps, but it works, at least for this tale.

To sum up Furious 6 in a nutshell, Dominic Toretto’s team has to help Hobbs (the lawman who was after them in Furious 5) stop a former SAS agent who is using cars to facilitate his acts of terror. Why get involved, one asks? Hobbs sweetens the deal by showing Dom that his formerly believed dead girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is…wait for it….not dead, and is working with these bad guys.

It’s like General Hospital with Cars. I’m such a sucker for this franchise.

If you’re new to the Furious films, the opening credits sum up the last 5 movies in a Spider-Man 2 like montage. You have your main heroes, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), who are kind of like criminals only they take down bad guys to better others (or themselves). Along with them is Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), who is the mother of Brian’s baby boy, Jack (not to be confused with Jack Jack from The Incredibles). Then there’s the crew, made up of most of the characters from all of the Furious films leading up to 6:

From 2 Fast 2 Furious, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson return as two friends of Brian’s. Tej (Bridges) is the team hacker (wouldn’t be complete without one) and Roman (Tyrese) is the comic relief.

From Tokyo Drift (the 3rd and my personal favorite) comes Sung Kang, who plays Han. While he met his end in that film, every movie after the 3rd takes place somewhere before this film, believe it or not. This makes the ending of Tokyo Drift a little baffling when you see Toretto at the end of it. No matter what the writers decide to do with future installments, they’ll eventually have to circle back to how Dom got there.

From Fast & Furious. (No. 4) – We have Gal Gadot as Gisele, a former IDF member who was an accomplice to a drug cartel leader. Ironically, Gadot actually did some work with the Israeli forces, which I found interesting. She is the only member of that film to come back to the series as Don Omar and Tego Calderon sat this one out.

And finally from Fast Five, you have Hobbs (The Rock) and his former partner from Brazil, Elena (Elsa Pataky).

So, you have the setup. One of the things to understand about this (and some of the earlier ones) is that you’re working in a “Popcorn Reality”. The action’s all well and good, but in the course of all the driving, you’ll almost expect to see at least one or two action scenes or stunts that just don’t make any kind of practical sense. These GTFO moments are in great supply in Furious 6 – A runway chase that lasts a good 15 minutes, yet seems impossibly long for any plane to actually use for a take off. A “flip” car with the ability to send other cars launching into the air. In any other movie, most people would scoff and walk out. For this, it’s almost the norm and if you don’t care, it’s actually fun. Lin has been able to take the chase scenes about as far as they can possibly go, and I can’t really imagine what else they could try to push things, really.

Of particular note is Luke Evans, who plays the villain, Shaw. I didn’t really care for him in Tarsem’s Immortals, but  was good here, trying to be as much a Bond baddie as he can. Another addition is Gina Carano, who takes the place as Hobbs partner this time around. She’s a bit more light hearted here than she was in Haywire, and gets to showcase her fight skills. However, in a movie that’s already packed with stars performing particular roles, she doesn’t really have much to truly do other than to be Michelle Rodriguez’s sparring partner. Not a terrible thing, just something I noticed.

Is it worth it? Well, considering that most of the movies that came out since Fast & Furious 6 was released haven’t fared too well (Yes, I’m looking right at you, After Earth), it’s a safe bet if you also understand that this all revolves around cars driving very smooth and fast with near unlimited shift points. If you don’t like cars or racing, this might not be your cup of tea. There’s a lot of shooting at some points, which might  round things out for action fans. It’s a quick way to burn 2 hours. If you also managed to see at least the last film in the cinema, then this is a given – though you’ll probably be able to put 2 and 2 together before the story’s half done.

Also, do stick around once the credits start, as there’s a scene that will come up to help lay the groundwork for the next installment.