Fast, furious, hungover — and horror remixed!
The budgets have been getting larger and the star power heavier for the long-running "Fast & Furious" franchise. After adding Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson two years ago with the so-dumb-it's-fun "Fast Five," the movie was rewarded with a huge domestic gross of $209 million, surprising everyone in Hollywood.
For "Fast & Furious 6," director Justin Lin puts the same elements that made "Fast Five" successful (fast cars, macho posturing, thrilling fight scenes, larger-than-life action, and his main characters' "code of honor") in the juicer and mixes it all up. Like its immediate predecessor, the sixth installment has no nutritional value, but what comfort food does?
In case you missed the first five movies (and to show you how little the plot actually matters in these films), the opening credit scene summarizes them all in the span of one blaring pop song. This time around, ex-con Vin Diesel (who can barely be bothered to open his mouth when he speaks), former cop Paul Walker (who makes underplaying an understatement), and the rest of their band of merry street-racing thieves become the good guys when they team up with their rival from the last film, DSS agent Hobbs (Johnson, who delivers the most ordinary line of dialogue as if it were a catch phrase), to stop another heist gang — one that threatens national security, of course.
All efforts to ground the story in some kind of emotional realism are perfunctory and laughable at best. The actors alternate between heavy earnestness and jokey familiarity, but they exist mainly for the same reason as the tricked-out cars: as bodies to be put into motion. And oh how Lin puts them into motion.
Not only does "Fast & Furious 6" feature car chase after car chase that consistently top the one before it (and challenges what we currently know about physics and the resilience of the human body), but the fight scenes are also exciting, visceral, and more importantly — well-choreographed and shot.
Say what you will about the ridiculousness of the story, but the screenplay does a great job of matching up specific actors (and stuntmen) with complementary skills to maximize the "fun" factor. (It doesn't hurt that mixed-martial-arts competitor-turned-actress Gina Carano has joined the franchise as Hobbs' partner, and another "Fast & Furious" character has been somehow resurrected.)
There is a lot of hollow talk about "codes of honor" and some really corny dialogue and delivery (usually from Diesel and Johnson), but the light tone and breakneck pace of "Fast & Furious 6" make these things easy to forgive. Lin has become top-flight action director, capable of making an audience alternately hold its breath and cheer in the same scene. It's nice to know he's out there breathing new life into old action franchises especially when movies like "A Good Day to Die Hard" show just how tired they can become.
The “don’t” theme in horror movies is so well-known among fans of the genre that “Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright hilariously spoofed it in his fake trailer for the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino exploitation double-feature “Grindhouse.” His trailer (for “Don’t,” a movie that doesn’t really exist) uses English actors and simultaneously pokes fun at haunted-house horror and Hammer Studios films as well.
Since the Horror Remix series specializes in taking the best parts of low-budget '70s and '80s horror flicks and editing them together to create one mondo-nutso feature, it’s no surprise that there are enough “don’t” movies from that era to fit the bill. In addition to movies that had “don’t” in the title (“Don’t Open the Door,” “Don’t Look in the Attic,” “Don’t Look in the Basement,” "Don’t Go in the House”) the word was also used as a marketing tactic; a warning posed as a challenge: “Don’t go see this movie!”
On Tuesday, May 28, at The Bottleneck, Horror Remix presents a compilation of horror flicks with “don’t” in the title appropriately called “Don’t.” The feature starts at 9 p.m. and, as always, is completely free. Did I mention that the entire thing is hosted by a pair of deranged puppets?
Let’s see if this kind of reverse psychology works: Don’t go see “Don’t”!
After seeing “The Hangover Part II,” which re-told “The Hangover” beat-for-beat in Thailand, only way more desperately, my expectations for “The Hangover Part III” were low. Real low.
Director/co-writer Todd Phillips knows enough not to remake the same situation a third time, but “The Hangover Part III” reveals even more of his limitations. Without a fantastic high concept (a mystery about three guys who wake up hungover and have to piece together the insane night before) to hold everything together, he is truly lost. Whole sequences in “The Hangover Part III” that seem to be building toward something revelatory (or funny) go absolutely nowhere and end with a dull thud.
What’s worse, with a script this nonsensical and lacking in actual jokes, he isn’t able to wring any improvisatory magic out of his talented players. Even John Goodman, who plays the dumbest drug lord in history, is completely wasted in a role that should have been way darker and funnier.
I’ve seen some descriptions of the movie that refer to it as a dark road-trip thriller, which suggests that Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis have achieved something edgy and intense. Don’t be fooled. Phillips has already proven that he can’t make road-trip movies funny (“Road Trip,” “Due Date”), and with “The Hangover Part III,” he’s shown that he can’t make them even halfway involving, even when we’re already pre-disposed to like the characters.
The threadbare plot exists to get the Wolfpack back together again, and after a giraffe and a supporting character are killed off in spectacularly unfunny ways, they do just that, supposedly to stage an intervention for Galifianakis’ stunted man-boy Alan, who needs to get back on his medication. Asked to carry the brunt of the movie, Galifianakis tries nobly, but Alan is better in small doses. Cooper and Helms are relegated to the background and to the one defining characteristic of Phil and Stu — suave and uptight, respectively — for the film’s entirety.
Ken Jeong, on the other hand, gets all kinds of screen time to vamp it up as the increasingly erratic crime boss Leslie Chow, now on the run and more over-the-top than ever. As hit and miss as Jeong’s screen time is, he adds some much-needed energy to the whole affair, which is unusually muted.
For people who care about “The Hangover” canon, there are callbacks to situations and characters from the first movie that are designed to satisfy and help fans get some closure, but all they really do is remind us of headier times for the Wolfpack when sending Phil, Stu and Alan on a mission to uncover a mystery was more fun. The real mystery is how the most successful R-rated comedy franchise in history could tarnish its legacy in just two short years.