Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pacific Rim

Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro. Starring Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Becket), Idris Elba (Stacker Pentecost), Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori).

Bottom line: 1 star for pretty graphics and 1 star for achieving what it set out to do (that is, to be a bad movie with pretty graphics).

Normally, I spend a paragraph or so outlining the plot of a movie but in the case of Pacific Rim, a sentence will suffice: the world (with America at the helm) makes giant robots to fend off aliens from another dimension.

I have said this before but I’ll say it again: I will not be stirred by pretty graphics. For me to be a fan of a movie, it had better use some of its $200 million dollar budget on something other than CGI. Pacific Rim did not. I will admit that the graphics are really pretty and the camera work is such that you can parse what is going on. But, if I may speak frankly, it frustrates me that this movie is meeting with so much success. What am I missing?

I hear from fan-boys, that Pacific Rim harkens back to Godzilla movies. I get it that this is supposed to be a silly movie about giant robots, aliens, and pretty graphics but let’s not lose perspective, people. This is a bad movie. The dialog and plot are nonexistent. The patriotism in the movie hits you over the head. If I were going to turn this into a drinking game, I’d take a shot for every shot that makes you say ‘Yeah, go ’Amurica!” Warning, you might die from alcohol poisoning.

The movie gets so preposterous at times that it is funny. For example, I imagine the planning meeting when building one of the giant robots going like this:
“Guys, alright, we have a nuclear reactor powering this robot and a switch to turn it into a nuclear bomb. (Reactors and bombs are essentially the same, right?) We have a plasma gun arm. We have a jet engine in the elbow to make a ‘rocket punch’. What else to we need?”
“A giant sword.”
“Yes! You never know when the robot might need that!”

On some level, this movie depresses me. It is a mindless kaleidoscope of CGI but for what ends? Is this just a distraction from our miserable lives? What are we missing that Pacific Rim provides? Perhaps it is that we feel the need for escape. Maybe the social, political, and economic realities we face are too depressing, so we need a generic, positive, flashy escape.

I wonder if we can read Pacific Rim from an environmental position. Let’s say the aliens represent pollution and fossil fuels. The kaiju (aliens) resemble dinosaurs and they come from beneath the ocean floor (like oil) and threaten Mankind. Their blue, oily blood is a corrosive waste let in their path. We need the assistance of nuclear energy to defeat the monsters. Granted, the hero denotes the nuclear reactor to destroy the aliens. That’s not how reactors work; you can’t just flip a switch and make another Hiroshima. So this type of solution might make you think nuclear energy is a fearful thing but it does rescue the world. It is indeed the reactor, not the bomb, which saves humanity.

I do appreciate a silly action movie that isn’t trying to be anything but a silly action movie. But just because a movie is good at being mediocre isn’t reason to give it anything higher than a mediocre score. If Pacific Rim was a food it would be really bad junk food. Substitute whatever floats your boat: a double Baconator from Wendy’s or a XXL Grilled Stuff Burrito from Taco Bell or a vat of nacho cheese or whatever. If you are going to go see this, don’t. Don’t go see this please, maybe if enough people abstain better movies will come out next year. Though, we may be a bit late. To extend the food analogy, you know how when you are eating tasty junk food you say “Oh man, this is so bad but so good!” Pacific Rim is kinda like that...but without the good.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Red 2

Directed by Dean Parisot. Written by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis, Cully Hammer. Starring Bruce Willis (Frank), John Malkovich (Marvin), Mary-Louise Parker (Sarah), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Katja), Byung Hun Lee (Han Cho Bai), Anthony Hopkins (Bailey) and Helen Mirren (Victoria).
Bottom line: I didn’t expect much from Red 2 and I wasn’t disappointed; it is funny at times and is, overall, a pleasant enough movie.

I didn’t see Red because I was never the biggest fan of movies where the kick is that older people are doing things typically associated with younger people. I will say that I would rather see old people in a film than children. Both groups make snarky comments but I feel like once you reach a certain age, it is fine. I was pleasantly surprised by Red 2. It’s funny here and there and it isn’t really trying to be anything more than a comic book movie. It isn’t too stylized but it isn’t too realistic. “Stylized,” mind you, isn’t inherently bad but is when executed poorly. I suppose anything could be bad but it’s the difference between Kill Bill and Baytown Outlaws.

Red 2 is about a bunch of retired CIA (MI6, KGB, etc.) agents going back into action to track down a missing Cold War super-weapon before it falls into villainous hands. I liked each of the characters. I was a little wary of Mary-Louise Parker. She teetered on annoying but she was sympathetic enough to not make me hate her.

The humor in Red 2 is a lot like the following joke:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"[3]
There is something matter-of-fact about the violence which intertwines with the humor. “It’s been months since you’ve killed anyone, Frank,” says Marvin (Malkovich). “That’s a good thing, Marvin,” Frank responds.

One thing I thought was kinda funny was the word choice. If you recall Live Free or Die Hard using ‘technical buzzwords’ like “download”, Red 2 uses the word “Internet”: “Ever since that document was put on the Internet....” and “There’s no way to take down the list after it was posted on Wikileaks on the Internet.”

A driving subplot is the relationship between Willis and Louis-Parker. He is a former operative and she is a former phone operator for the Social Security Administration office. Much like the rest of the movie, it isn’t tense or drawn out. It provides opportunity for quick little jokes such as the scene where John Malkovich (another retired CIA hitman) and Byung Hun Lee (the world’s best hitman) give relationship advice to Bruce Willis. I can imagine how having three hitmen talk about feelings might not seem worth a sequel, but it is. Instead of adding stupid jokes Red 2 let’s silly little situations speak for themselves. This is to say that Red 2 generally shows restraint, which I appreciate.

Overall, I’d recommend Red 2 for a Sunday matinee kind of thing. It could make for a cute date movie. It isn’t the best movie ever in any respect but it was good enough for me to want to see the original some time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon)

Written and directed by Kim Jee-Woon. Starring Kap-su Kim (Bae Moo-hyeon), Jung-ah Yum (Eun-joo), Su-jeong Lim (Bae Soo-mi), Geun-Young Moon (Bae Soo-yeon).
Bottom line: A Tale of Two Sisters is wonderfully chilling and offers more than a creepy premise which makes it a powerful cinematic experience.

The movie opens to a sterile mental hospital examination room. A girl sits in a chair opposite a doctor. He asks several questions which she ignores. He shows her a picture of her family. He asks, “What happened that day?” She raises her head and looks out the window. The camera fades to a shot looking out the back passenger window of a car as it drives through the forest, over a bridge and along a lake. Peacefully sad guitar/violin music plays as the car approaches an imposing house.

The opening shots juxtapose the ominous house with peaceful music. The intersection of scary images and not scary music isn’t new, Insidious, for example, plays Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Though the Tulips” but I don’t think this is what A Tale of Two Sisters is attempting. In some movies, we know that what we are watching a retelling of an event. The movie then becomes a something like a campfire ghost story. A Tale of Two Sisters presents the events after the fact but as a ‘story’ instead of a ‘ghost story’.

I have said time and time again that I hate horror movies. Even if they are of poor quality, I can never sleep after watching them. At the same time, I loved A Tale of Two Sisters. I loved it so much it makes me rethink my relationship with horror. I was genuinely scared during portions of the movie and yet, I slept soundly that night. As I write this, I smile because it was such a fun experience. I will go into more detail below but I hesitate to tell you much more because I did have fun trying to anticipate the story. Let us discuss a scene, the stepmother’s introduction, in the hopes of describing why A Tale of Two Sisters is so brilliant.

The two sisters, holding hands, timidly enter the large, silent, dimly lit house. Cutting the silence, we hear the stepmother saying, “Welcome home!” The camera cuts to a long shot of a long, dark hallway. The stepmother approaches the still camera. She speaks quickly and walks so smoothly it looks like she is floating instead of walking. The suddenness of her presence makes you want to recoil but the still camera prevents the reaction. Standing firm, the sensation of helplessness prolongs until we cut to her point of view. The two girls watch her (looking into the camera) and tense up. The collision of her swiftness and the previous still camera prolongs the sense of lack of control because even though we are moving we are not in control. Sure, we are never in control of the camera but we don’t usually realize it.
I’d like to discuss this movie a little bit more but in doing so will give away the plot so beware of spoilers. The movie begins with the framing device of Soo-Mi’s recollection. She is in a mental hospital so she becomes an unreliable narrator. We do learn the actual series of events at the end of the movie though. The father arrives at the home with his coworker, Eun-joo (with whom he was having an affair and who will soon be called stepmother). Soo-yeon takes a nap but wakes when she hears a noise in her wardrobe. She investigates and discovers the suicidal mother’s hanging dead body. She panics and causes the wardrobe to fall on her. Eun-joo hears a noise from downstairs. She sees the wardrobe, hears the scratching nails of suffocating Soo-yeon. Eun-joo runs out of the room catches her breath and composes herself. Before she can return, she is delayed by Soo-mi who spits with disdain and contempt. The delay is enough to prevent the rescue of Soo-yeon. It becomes clear that Soo-mi is guilt ridden to the point of insanity. To cope, she constructs a fabricated reality. As the film alternates between memory and reality, all through the lens of Soo-mi’s memory, it positions the audience in a sympathetic position. The geometric structure of the cinematography is a powerful way to further the sensation that this is a construct of Soo-mi’s mind; she outlines the details of the scene in a methodical pattern. Similarly, during an encounter with the ghostlike images, the audio’s fuzziness mimics Soo-mi’s mental fog.

The ghastly visions exist because Soo-mi can neither address nor repress reality. This traumatic experience mixes with other stressful circumstances in Soo-mi’s life: confusion with her parents’ broken marriage, fear of Eun-joo trying to replace her biological mother and reaching physical maturation.

During the dinner sequence, Eun-joo recalls a story of a “crazy man” who would take off his clothes whenever it rained, “The funny thing is that he was usually normal, but whenever it rained, he went nuts.” The man is as normal as Soo-mi and, as a result, as the audience. If we tried to suppress a similar trauma, we too would suffer the Soo-mi’s plight.

A Tale of Two Sisters is on top of its game. The music, cinematography and acting harmonize to make a complete experience that I highly recommend. The quality of the movie, rather than cheap scares, leaves a lasting impression. I’ve heard people liken horror movies to a roller coaster ride. The emphasis of the analogy is that horror movies thrive on cheap thrills and that the audience doesn’t anticipate what is happening next. I disagree with the analogy but let’s expand it a little. A roller coaster takes you for a ride but it brings you back to where you started. A typical horror movie, for me, is like driving off-road through the woods. It is bumpy and maybe exciting but when all is said and done, the driver (the movie) leaves you in the scary woods alone. I leave the theater with nightmares and paranoia. A Tale of Two Sisters is actually like a roller coaster ride because it takes you into a frightening situation but brings you back; the movie positions itself and the audience together in a discussion that is more complex than ‘a murdered child-ghost wants revenge.’ I’ve seen it twice so far and look forward to seeing it again.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

This is the End

Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan. Written by Even Goldberg, Seth Rogan, Jason Stone (based on the story by). Starring Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson.

Bottom line: This is the End is why I rarely watch comedies; what began as a solidly funny movie, slowly but surely (in almost a linear fashion) became one of the most irritating things I’ve ever seen.

With regard to comedies, I am turning into a damaged lover. Every time I warm up to one and let my guard down, I end up disappointed, frustrated, and confused. Maybe, somehow, I am picking all the bad comedies and missing the good ones.

This is the End has some great qualities and it had the potential to be really, really funny. The star-studded cast members all play charactertures of themselves: Jonah Hill is disconcertingly nice, Michael Cera is doing coke, James Franco is obsessed with his movies and friendship with Seth Rogan, etc. They are able to make fun of themselves with each other and I liked that. I also liked the structure of the jokes. The delivery is almost mechanical and the punch lines are predictable, which isn’t the normal recipe for a joke. Normally, I would think a natural smooth delivery would be better, but somehow it works. It’s almost as if we are watching a comedy duo perform a standup routine. The camera is fixed as the characters banter back and forth. Take, for example, one of the first scenes in the movie.

Seth Rogan is at the airport picking up his friend, Jay Baruchel, for a weekend of video games, drinking and weed. Once in the car, Jay says, “Next stop Carl’s Jr!”

Rogan replies with, “Um, well, I can’t really do that. You see, I’m on this new gluten free diet thing.”
“You’re kidding! I bet you don’t even know what gluten is.”
“Sure, I do.”
“Well, then do tell.”
“Gluten is…really anything bad for you so fat and sugar and all that.”
“So you’re not drinking or smoking or anything?”
“What are you kidding? Of course I am drinking and smoking, I am just having no gluten.”
The scene ends as the camera cuts to the two sitting outside Carl’s Jr as Rogan takes a bite of burger saying something like, “This is the best gluten free burger ever.”

The banter is simply two friends alternating between setups and punch lines and the simplicity makes it work. If only they stopped while they were ahead. I would’ve really loved this movie if the jokes were consistently this funny. In the initial stages of the movie, the cast doesn’t feel the need to beat a joke to death. This is the End was almost cruel in that once things start to go downhill, there are still funny jokes sprinkled throughout serving as a reminder of what the movie could’ve been.

In terms of story, the two friends go to James Franco’s new house for a big party. Before too long an Earthquake ends the party and a sinkhole opens outside the house. There is chaos and confusion while the group tries to figure out what is going on. It is the Biblical end of times, they eventually conclude.

It seems like once the Armageddon plot begins, the movie really starts to go downhill. The jokes are excessively long and are mostly about masturbation and penises. I am all for profanity but the characters use the f word as a comma making the dialog more tiring than edgy. The movie devolves from a comedy about movie stars to just another frat-boy joke fest.

As this is the Apocalypse, the “good people” go to Heaven before fire and brimstone start falling. The characters may not have ascended but still live, so they have a chance to make amends. By the end of the hour and a half ordeal, This is the End still has the opportunity to makes amends but, not surprisingly, it fails. Two of the characters are flying into the blinding white sky past the clouds. We could’ve just faded to black and to the credits. Nope. Alright, now the two characters are dressed in white, skipping in the clouds with a rainbow in the background. It could’ve freeze-framed as they could jumping and laughing. Nope. The camera cuts over to show the golden gates of Heaven. The gates open to another blinding white light. Again, the movie could’ve faded to the credits. Instead, we meet with another character who presents two halos to his friends. He says “Welcome to Heaven…” and looks over his shoulder. The camera moves into the clouds. This is the last chance for the movie to end reasonably. We could’ve faded to the credits and left Heaven up to the audiences’ imagination. Nope. The movie just had to take a shot at the realization of eternal paradise: there are rollercoasters in the background, unlimited drinks, weed and women dancing in bikinis. “You can have anything you want. Just make a wish,” the one person explains.

I wish they went over the top with Heaven and ended the movie sooner. For example, the camera could’ve flown through the clouds to a reveal a couple dozen beautiful women. One of the guys could’ve said, “Wow, they were right after all.” It would’ve been stupid and offensive but so offensive that it would be funny. This is just a generic, dumb male fantasy about what would be awesome to have for eternity. But wait, there’s more! This is the End has almost a supernatural instinct about how to get worse.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you might recall that I generally dislike children in movies but I haven’t mentioned how much I hate comedic dancing sequences. Am I supposed to laugh at the characters because they can’t dance? If they are trying, we ought not hold it against them. I don’t always dance but when I do I try and, let me tell you, it feels awful to be mocked for trying. I don’t feel involved because I would much rather be dancing than watching people dance. These types of sequences are always too silly: pelvic thrusts do not a funny movie make.

If you feel compelled to watch this movie, rent it and put it on during a party. I’d say that the party’s attention can be held just long enough for the goodness of the movie to run out. Other activities will distract everyone enough to leave this movie to fade into the background.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Lone Ranger

Directed by Gore Verbinski. Written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio. Starring Johnny Depp (Tonto), Armie Hammer (John Reid, Lone Ranger), William Fichtner (Cavendish), Tom Wilkinson (Cole).

Bottom line: The Lone Ranger is fine as long as you don't expect anything more than a Western on par with Pirates of the Caribbean.

It is interesting to read a review or listen to someone explain why he or she hates or loves something. Hatred often leads to the less than productive practice of nit picking. I’m guilty of it too, mind you. If I see a movie I loathe I might say something like, “Even the delivery of that line was lame.” Sure, I might mean that everything in the movie down to that specific line was bad but it comes down to little more than superficial criticism. Seeing examples of nit picking is helpful in reminding me that I shouldn’t partake. Why am I talking about this? After looking over some reviews of The Lone Ranger, I read a good bit of nitpicking. is a website that amalgamates reviews from users and professional critics to give a weighted average review to a movie, video game or TV show. The Lone Ranger currently has a 36% that tells you that the critics are panning it. Even after reading a number of reviews, I don’t understand why. The director, writers and producers were also responsible for Pirates of the Caribbean (also starring Johnny Depp). What are these people expecting?

A couple reviews complained that this interpretation of The Lone Ranger departed for the childhood memory too drastically. One critic noted that it was too violent for children. Quite right and that’s why it was rated PG-13. That is, children shouldn’t be going to see this and irresponsible parents are not grounds to criticize a movie. Others took offense that John Reid (Hammer), the Harvard educated district attorney who becomes the Lone Ranger, is little more than a bumbling fool compared to the clever, wily Captain Jack Sparrow Tonto (Depp). Some criticized the movie for juxtaposing the tomfoolery of Reid and Tonto with the images of US Cavalry Gatling gun mowing down a force of charging Comanche warriors. That it was inappropriate to mix the violence with the comedy. Think about what is going on here.

Historically speaking, the US cavalry massacring Native Americans did in fact happen. Instead of addressing history, we, as a society, have created the fantasy that is the Lone Ranger; he is a white male figure that stands for truth and justice in the Wild West. That is what we associate with the Wild West. The same relationship is present in this movie but condensed into parallel scenes. While the gruesome history plays out, a cartoon unfolds. We have the profiteering murderer building his self-serving transcontinental railway on the bodies of Comanche and Chinese immigrants. The movie doesn’t address the history or attempt to rationalize it. The villain receives his comeuppance but we still utilize the railroad. Since it’s already there we can use it, right?

I don’t particularly want to get into much of a race debate, because it is such a can of worms, but I have to at least address it. In the early days of cinema, white actors played black characters by wearing black face. It was a way to prevent minorities from getting into the film industry. This is a different day and age so we don’t have to worry about that type of active racism (at least to that extent) but, at the same time, is it a step in the wrong direction to cast Depp as such a major Native American figure? One might cite Depp when he said, “I guess I have some Native American somewhere down the line. My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.” Depp is white. A single-digit-percentage is not enough to say you are of a particular group. At the same time, it might even be a little racist to oppose Depp playing Tonto. Jay Silverheels was the original Tonto. Tonto, if you recall, is Comanche. Can we then say that, because Silverheels was a Mohawk, he was miscast? On one hand, it sounds racist to say, “He wasn’t miscast because at least he was Native American,” but on the other hand, it sounds equally racist to say, “He was miscast because he isn’t the ‘correct’ type of Native American.” How Native American must one be to be correct or authentic? Is it even possible or right to claim there is something as “authentic”? I wouldn’t be able to partake sufficiently in this discussion in this blog post so let me say this: I don’t think The Lone Ranger is racist for casting Johnny Depp. The woman ahead of me in the ticket line put it perfectly when she said, “Two for the Johnny Depp movie.” In much the same way that the movie redefines John Reid to be a bumbling goof, it redefines Tonto to be Johnny Depp. When the Comanche chief gives us the obligatory back-story segment on Tonto, he says, “He was once Comanche…but now he is something else.” That something else is a silly cartoon character.

This is a long movie so it has some lull points. If I had a nickel for every movie backstory chapter in recent years, I would be rich. Can’t we just have a character, like Tonto, exist? The villain of the movie actually had an important role in Tonto’s early life? Big deal. The movie didn’t belabor Cavendish’s past (or, if they did it wasn’t memorable) and I still understood his character. He is a cruel outlaw and, to show it, he cuts out and eats a man’s heart. What more must be said to characterize him as a villain?

I liked the Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack and I am not usually one to notice a movie’s soundtrack. This tells me either the movie was boring enough for my mind to wander or that it stuck out to me on its own. After listening to some of it on Youtube, I will confirm the latter but maybe because, like the rest of the movie, it has a Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-of-the-Wild-West vibe.

The acting, overall, was fine. Johnny Depp succeeds as a modern day Charlie Chaplin but, in that, he is a little silly for my tastes. Hammer’s performance as Reid is reasonable too. It wasn’t anything life changing but it wasn’t bad. Overall, “fine” is how I’ve come to describe The Lone Ranger. It is too silly for me to enjoy but it isn’t bad, at least, as long as your expectations are low…really low…none-existent-low. While I don’t think this movie deserves the hatred it seems to be receiving, you won’t be missing out if you pass on The Lone Ranger. If you do see it, it can be a good starting point for a discussion about race or America’s western expansion with respect to film.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fast and Furious 6

Directed by Justin Lin. Written by Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters) Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O'Conner), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs).

Bottom line: Fast and Furious 6 is ridiculous but not really in a good way. I would pass on this unless you are a solid fan of the franchise.

By this point in the franchise, Fast and Furious has enough momentum that it can cruise with relatively little variation. Take the intro credits for this, the latest addition, Furious 6. It is a montage of major scenes of the previous movies. Should I then adjust my reviewing point of reference from a generic action movie to that of other Fast and Furious movies? That is, instead of asking, ‘is Furious 6 a good movie,’ I might ask, ‘is Furious 6 a good Fast and Furious movie.’

I’m joking…kind of. I am joking in the sense that if you are a fan of the franchise, you are probably going to go see this and, by this point, these movies have been coming out for a decade. After all, you have probably already determined whether or not you are a fan. At the same time, maybe you have just been absent. I, for example, have only recently discovered that I am a fan of the Star Trek franchise, which has been around since 1966. With this in mind, the question then becomes, ‘is Furious 6 the movie that gets you hooked on the franchise’. In a word: doubtful. Maybe, before I go any further, I should describe my relationship with Fast and Furious. I haven’t seen all of them but I have seen enough of them to understand the plot so while I can watch this one, I am not emotionally invested from the onset.

Furious 6 follows Agent Hobbs (Johnson) as he tracks down a formidable international criminal name Shaw (Evans). Hobbs needs a team to lead to an arrest so he turns to Dom Toretto (Deisel) and friends to help. They were the best hijackers in the world and will be able to provide professional insight. Their payment for assistance is an official pardon. Since the last movie, if I recall correctly, they have been living in Costa Rica or the Bahamas to avoid arrest at the hands of the US Authorities. Initially, Dom is hesitates. What changes his mind is a recently taken picture of his ex-girlfriend, Letty (Rodriguez). She supposedly died in a previous movie. You might think this is kinda romantic; a man risking his life with the slightest hope that his girlfriend is still alive. Well, then we would have to forget the fact that Dom enters this movie in bed with another woman who was Hobb’s former partner. This is starting to sound like a soap opera. Anyway, Dom calls his friends back together and they start tracking down the villain.

Even though I wasn’t expecting anything from Furious 6, I was still disappointed. I think it was more annoyance than disappointment, actually. It irritates me that this Furious 6 readies itself for a seventh movie despite the fact that it fails to contribute anything. Now that I think about it, you can just watch the first 10 seconds of the trailer and you know what to expect from the movie. Let me list the shots. Long shot of a car, medium shot of a woman (in a pink school girl outfit dancing), long shot of a group of women dancing on a stage, long shot of a car (with a couple, out of focus, bikini clad legs passing through the frame), women in a swim suit exiting a car, close up women dancing in hot pants (from the waist to the knees), long shot of car, close up of car, Vin Diesel. I don’t know what I was expecting… Note that we gaze at cars almost as much as we do at women. I’m not going to really touch dialogue because there wasn’t any of substance.

As I watched Fast and Furious 6 (aka Furious 6), I asked myself a question which makes writing this review somewhat difficult; at what point does a movie become a cartoon? Just from one of the initial chase scenes, we have this super-criminal driving an overcharged go-kart through city streets. Hobbs, in his appropriately sized hummer, is able to make chase until he jumps onto the villain’s vehicle. The go-kart drives into a wooden barrier to knock Hobbs to the ground. Don’t worry about the fact that he fell nearly a story onto the car only to be thrown to the concrete going 50mph. He’s The Rock. He is fine. This isn’t the exemplary scene that occurs during another one of the several chase scenes.

Letty is riding on a tank driving at high speed down a freeway bridge hundreds of feet above the rocky coast. Dom, driving a Hot Wheels car in the other lane, sees that the tank is going to flip over launching Letty to her death. He opens his car door, hangs onto the side of the car and drives it into the median. He ejects from the car just as Letty catapults from the tank. They collide and land, unharmed, on the hood of a parked car. Now, I am a fan of suspension of disbelief but this is getting a little out of hand. How can a movie be suspenseful with these types of shenanigans going down?

Even the driving premise of the movie is silly. Letty wasn’t actually killed in the earlier movie. She was in a coma for a couple days and now suffers from amnesia. Shaw picks her up from the hospital and the two have been committing vehicular-based crime since. Did I mention that this sounds like a soap opera? By the end of the movie, physical dangers or character “deaths” mean nothing to me.

Now, Fast and Furious consistently deals with the idea of family and loyalty. In Furious 6, the conflict is between family and efficiency. Shaw is of the mindset that a team is an accumulation of parts. When one doesn’t work, switch it out for another and repeat this process until you meet with success. Dom, on the other hand, sees his team as his family; he takes their strengths with their weaknesses. One scene, which helps distinguish Letty from her new, villainous crew is when she informs Shaw of a teammate’s death. Shaw simply says, “If he died it is because he made a mistake.” “Is that what you want us to say if that would happen to you,” she bitterly replies. Quite honestly, I don’t blame him. If I was in charge of a team in the high risk and dangerous world of international crime, I would feel more comfortable with this sort of accountability. Besides, by the end of the movie, the family for which Dom and Letty stand ignores the death of a lesser member. I suppose “family” means immediate family.

I am not sure but I feel like I should be mildly offended with respect to race. We have one African American character say to another “You have any change [for a snack]?” “Seriously? You’re a millionare yet you still tryin’ to ask for money?” “That’s how you stay a millionaire.” As he puts the change into the snack machine, Hobbs shoots the machine and says, “It’s on the house.” The guy looks around, shrugs and starts going through the snacks. Now, this gets my racism sense tingling. Am I wrong? There are other questionable scenes but I don’t particularly want to delve into it.

The question is do I recommend Furious 6? Negative, Ghost Rider. Go see something else. Re-watch the first one if you like but don’t waste your time on this. The chase sequences aren’t enough to justify the ludicrous plot, lame dialogue, sexism and racism. It simply isn’t worth it.