[Short Film Sunday] Turbo Charged Prelude (2003)

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Director: Philip G. Atwell

Cast: Paul Walker

Screenplay: Keith Dinielli

6 mins. Not Rated.

Hey everyone, and welcome to a brand-new column I’m doing called Short Film Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest in many cultures, and what better way to do so than to review some short films. These are meant to be quick analysis on short films, which ones are worth it and which ones are not. We start today with a short created by Universal Pictures to bridge the gap between The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. It doesn’t really have a title, so we will go with the Turbo Charged Prelude.

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Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) is on the run from the cops. He broke a hell of a lot of laws by letting Dominic Toretto escape his grasp, and now he has nothing. He begins street racing for cash to keep himself out of the public eye while using the very thugs he was infiltrating to keep him out of trouble. His journey takes him to the streets of Miami where it leads right up to the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious.

This short is quite worthless to me. We see no character development for Brian which is bad since his character at the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious is quite different from the one we met at the end of The Fast and the Furious, but he seems to enjoy the fact that he has left his entire life behind him and essentially failed in every way in his previous mission. There is no internal conflict, though that can be blamed on the poor script utilizing no dialogue and quick images of events that don’t appeal whatsoever. Shame.

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The Turbo Charged Prelude is meant to bridge the films, but it does nothing that the opening on 2 Fast 2 Furious didn’t do by itself in less time. It feels like filler meant to sell DVDs, because it is. Not worth your time.

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

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Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong, Ted Levine

Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.

 

This year, we see the release of Furious 7, the latest in the series of title-jumping action car movies. Most people see the series as essential one long chase scene, but people forget how much these films have evolved in fourteen years. Let’s look back at the original film today.

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When Brian Spilner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) falls for Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Annapolis), the sister to the ferocious street racer Dominic (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick), he enters a world that he may not be able to survive within. What Dom and Mia don’t know, however, is that Brian Spilner is actually Brian O’Connor, undercover cop chasing a lead that some street racers are involved in some major electronics theft. As Brian conceals his true identity, he finds himself getting closer to the Toretto “family” of outcasts and possible outlaws.

There is a term that doesn’t get tossed around much for this film but it really deserves to be mentioned. That term is “Grindhouse.” The Fast and the Furious is fairly Grindhousian in nature. The underground “society” of racers is over-the-top in many ways as a sexier, more dangerous version of the truth. This is an exploitation piece at the most explosive level. There aren’t many films with the budget of The Fast and the Furious that it doesn’t often get associated with this genre, but it is true.

Can Rob Cohen direct the pic? Better than a lot of his other attempts. If you’ve seen The Boy Next Door, I’m sure you can see his low points. I like his stylistic choice as he tries to visual show speed on film, something he really wanted to convey with the picture.

The film is made on the shaky relationship between Brian and Mia, a gorgeous girl who exists in a dangerous world. Diesel’s Toretto is good enough to pass here, but comes off as a one-note antihero. I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, InAPPropriate Comedy) as Letty, Dom’s girlfriend who might just wear the pants in the relationship. We also get a great turn from character actor Ted Levine (TV’s Monk, Little Boy) as Sergeant Tanner, Brian’s supervising officer.

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The Fast and the Furious is a fun, albeit flawed, action spectacle that tries a lot of new things (even if some of them don’t work). You can put the story pieces together a lot faster than I would have liked, but once this film became a franchise, that was going to happen anyway. The script polishing by David Ayer helped this film a lot, but it is far from a masterpiece and far from the best in this series.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

April 2015 Preview

 

Happy April! Let’s look ahead to April’s film releases, starting with…

 

Furious 7

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In Paul Walker’s final film role, the seventh adventure in The Fast and the Furious franchise follows Dom and Brian are being hunted by Owen Shaw’s brother Deckard, played by Jason Statham. The last few films in this franchise have just gotten better and better as they embraced the auto theft story over the street race plots. It also features director James Wan diverting from his horror roots to take on an action pic, which I’m feeling good about.

 

 

Woman in Gold

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Woman in Gold features Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a holocaust survivor who fought to retrieve a portrait taken from her during the Nazi invasion of Vienna. I enjoy Mirren’s work but I feel like this film has a supporting cast likely to fail, specifically the dreadful Katie Holmes. Ryan Reynolds too is hit or miss so I can’t guarantee anything.

 

 

The Longest Ride

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I am so sick of Nicholas Sparks movies. They are all pretty much the same and I intend for that to be a criticism in every possible way. The Notebook was pretty good, but everything since feels like a carbon copy.

 

 

Child 44

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Tom Hardy stars as an MGB agent investigating a series of child murders in the Soviet Union. I recall great things being said about the novel, and the cast here is filled with capable performers. I’m thinking yeah.

 

 

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

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Paul Blart doesn’t deserve to be captured on film. The original film didn’t and neither does this one. It’s a shame that quality films are going to be passed over for this dreck. Please, for the love of all things sacred, skip.

 

 

Unfriended

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I love a good stylistic horror film, but Unfriended, about six people connected to a high school girl’s suicide one year prior, are hunted during a Skype chat, seems like its suspension of disbelief will ask too much of me. I’m not feeling this one.

 

 

Little Boy

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Does anybody think this movie looks good? It is the story of a young boy who will do whatever it takes to bring his father back from WW2. No. No. No.

 

 

The Age of Adaline

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I’m liking the idea of a romance film with a hook. Most of these films don’t work out well, but for some reason, I think The Age of Adaline has a chance.

 

Final Tally:

Best Bets: Furious 7, Child 44

On the Bubble: Woman in Gold, Unfriended, The Age of Adaline

Likely Misses: The Longest Ride, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Little Boy

 

So there you have it. See you in May!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Avatar (2009)

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Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver

Screenplay: James Cameron

162 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and smoking.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Art Direction
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing

 

Titanic was a powerhouse at the box office during its release back in 1997. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that director James Cameron (Aliens, Aliens of the Deep) would be the one to dethrone his own film as highest grossing film of all time, but as it turns out, he did in 2009 when he released Avatar, a masterpiece of science fiction and general filmmaking.

Avatar is the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, Terminator: Salvation, Cake), a paraplegic grunt who takes on his dead twin’s job as explorer on the planet Pandora. Jake’s job is simple, explore and make contact with the Na’vi, a species of humanoid blue aliens living on the planet, through the use of neural link with something called an avatar. When he gets lost on the planet by himself, he is saved by Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Book of Life), a Na’vi princess who is tasked with showing Jake the ways of their community. While the science lead Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Cabin in the Woods) wants to pursue peace talks with the indigenous Na’vi, the military Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang, Conan the Barbarian, A Good Marriage) is only interested in moving them elsewhere in order to mine the precious element Unobtanium which lies beneath their home.

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James Cameron should be awarded for the directing skills he has. I love the work he puts into his films. His screenplays, however, often fail to truly inspire. That’s where the controversy surrounding Avatar lies. Cameron’s screenplay was very criticized for being essentially the same movie as Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, and The Last Samurai. Now, I don’t see that as being a problem, because there are only essentially two stories. The first is the story of a man who leaves home and finds a mysterious place, and the second is the story of a mysterious man who comes to town. Yeah, these films are similar, but so many stories are the same. It’s how you tell them that matters, and James Cameron tells his story well.

Avatar’s cinematography deserves to be experienced, not merely seen. The environments on Pandora are so beautifully envisioned and so deeply realized. The film is edited together very tightly, though the story does run on a little longer than it needed to be. The special effects are so vivid and so well-crafted that they are the most-deserving of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year.

Let’s take a look at the performances here. Sam Worthington definitely has the look of a superstar and there was even a time when I thought he was capable of acting, but since that time has passed and I have realized that isn’t true. His work in Avatar isn’t the worst in cinema, but he is easily trounced by his fellow actors. Stephen Lang’s over-the-top performance works quite well given the out-of-this-world story here.

Can I just have a moment to proclaim Zoe Saldana as the hottest alien working in films today? She is mostly known for the incredible work in three science fiction masterpieces like Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, and here as well.

I give enough props to Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Machete Kills) for portraying the same character she plays in every movie, and she does it well enough.

Sigourney Weaver adds that extra layer of professionalism to the film that raises the level nicely.

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Avatar isn’t a perfect film, but it comes pretty damn close for all the hype it had. I still find it quite enjoyable, even for a film with a less than stellar screenplay and a runtime a little longer than needed. Still worth it. Still a phenomenon.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Brick Mansions (2014)

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Director: Camille Delamarre

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA

Screenplay: Luc Besson

90 mins. Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.

 

Remakes are really not worth it.

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Brick Mansions is a remake of the earlier film District 13, and suffers from being just like everything else. It stars the late Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) in his final finished role as Damien Collier, an undercover detective in future Detroit who wishes to take down criminal kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Along the way, he meets Lino (David Belle, District 13, The Family), whose girlfriend has been taken by Alexander. The two form an unlikely partnership to take down the notorious crime boss. Also there is parkour. So yeah.

The thing that made District 13 so great was that it has a unique visual style and some great action. Brick Mansions has neither. It has a badly derived plot that seems to get lost in itself before realizing that nobody is really paying attention to it. It has Paul Walker as a lead, who can’t do much with this poorly outlined character. His dialogue wouldn’t be realistic no matter what Walker had done. David Belle just plain can’t act. Yes, he can parkour, but should that mean sacrificing a lead performer for some action? Then there is RZA. I actually like RZA for the most part, but not in this movie. He isn’t likable. He isn’t menacing. He just isn’t anything.

I know a lot of people see a movie like Brick Mansions for the action, and the fact that most of the action here is without CGI is pretty cool. What doesn’t help is constantly playing with the edit and slowing down or speeding up the action and fights so that it seems less real than it actually is. All director Camille Delamarre (The Transporter Legacy) needed to do was capture it on film, but he fiddled. He fiddled hardcore.

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This film just feels uninspired. The ending to it was so laughably stupid that I actually had to rewatch it to make sure that I didn’t miss something really grand that made the whole thing worth it. It didn’t. I didn’t have much fun watching it at all. I know it is perhaps wrong to think on an actor’s last films after they die, but you hope an actor can leave this life with something strong to cap it off. Brick Mansions was a disappointing fare, and I really hope that Furious 7 will be a strong finale to Walker’s legacy, because I liked him. I just didn’t like this.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Camille Delamarre’s Brick Mansions? Did you leap in or drop out? Let me know.

 

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