F9 Is So Fast and So 9 It Couldn’t Be Anymore Furious

F9: The Fast Saga is a good movie because it’s dumb. These movies have fully embraced their big dumb side and the franchise is better for it. Does this get to the level of Fast Five? Not close. But if you enjoyed Furious 7 and The F8 of the Furious then you’re getting buckled back in for more of the same.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

One thing these movies do to try and keep the formula fresh, with varying success, is that each movie tries to be different in its own big and dumb way. Now, that’s led to the franchise going from grounded in street racing subculture to taking down drug lords to a Yakuza film to FBI vigilante hunter to heist movie to saving the world and flying a Pontiac into space, but still. Different!

So what’s the difference this time out? What new angle are they taking The Fast franchise in? Prequel-sequel-origin story for Dom Toretto based around family drama!

Yeah, I know how lame that sounds. But it’s fitting. One thing these movies never let you forget is that everything is about family. Anything is possible with the power of family. Dom is basically a superhero because he has family. So much family.

It can be a bit hard to separate the ego from the project since everything that came out about Vin Diesel (and The Rock and Jason Statham) having contract clauses that they can’t lose an on-screen fight. Why? Because then movie goers might not think they’re the toughest biggest baddest dude’s ever.

Maybe take a page from John Wick. Taking a few lumps isn’t a bad thing. But then again, this movie isn’t trying to be realistic. It isn’t grounded unless the plot calls for it. It’s a Fast & Furious franchise film where anyone with muscles is basically a Corona drinking Captain America-James Bond hybrid.

The movie plays like a Greatest Hits of the entire franchise. It hits on some older story beats and locations the films would travel to. There’s weirdly a lot of lore in this universe, somehow, and you get plunged back into every important bit of it to help make sense of this big dumb world where a 1970 Charger is as powerful as Thor.

Playing more to the greatest hits is that the cast is bigger than ever. There has to be like 20 star actors in this movie. It feels like every past character appears again. Even characters you might have been iffy on return in a pleasant way. And the best return of all is Han (Sung Kang). Han is so cool. He’s my favourite. I’m so happy he’s back.

Coming in new to the cast is John Cena who acts his heart out as a big tough guy super spy secret agent hero man. I like seeing John Cena in things, whether its WWE or Hollywood. I like seeing any wrestler, really, so this is just cool. It makes sense for him to debut after all this time considering we can’t see him.

One of my favourite things about these movies is explaining to my friends who refuse to watch it how absurd it is. Then they react by laughing and going “No way, that sounds too dumb!” To which I reply, “Yeah! Exactly! That’s the point!”

If you’re not one for turning off part of your brain when watching something like this then you’re already out. You should know that by now though because this is a movie that involves relatively consequence free destruction as a giant truck train military super smasher smashes everything in sight and also EMP electromagnetic wave vacuums and space-ship Pontiacs.

This is what happens when a child gets their GI Joe toys and smashes them into their Hotwheels with a plot they daydreamed up while ignoring math class. Just add 150 million dollars to film it.

Nothing has to make sense as long as it can make sense in The Fast and The Furious.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

The Disaster Artist: An Okay Movie About The Worst Movie

The film adaptation of The Disaster Artist is both admirable that it exists, as much as it is a bit of a disappointment as a fan of the The Room and the titular book that it wades into fiction. It’s a perfectly fun and lighthearted watch that gives you a nice little half-documentary retelling of a great tale. But that’s where the movie falls short. It’s just a half-documentary/mockumentary and leans into the comedy side a bit much for me, with the focus more on having fun making a movie versus staying true to the source material.

Usually when a project like this gets made, it looks like a Kickstarter movie: flat angles like a soap opera, efficient shooting and cinematography, one or two “star” actors that are definitely actors but not really stars and overall acceptable acting but nothing special. But this movie is different. It has a real budget and has actual name talent in the roles and a litany of cameos.

James Franco is the man behind it all and he cast himself as the infamous Tommy Wiseau. He doesn’t generally excite me as an actor but he does a really good Tommy Wiseau impersonation. It would be so easy for him to play to the comedy side but he restrains from going too far that way. He nails it and really has you buy in. It doesn’t feel like a comedic impersonation, but that he really wanted to be in character in service of the best movie he could make so I give him props for that.

His brother Dave Franco plays our beloved Greg Sestero and the results there are much more mixed. I’ve met Greg Sestero, read his book, seen him in interviews and followed some of his other work. I don’t feel that Dave Franco captures Greg’s personality and overall demeanor the same way that his brother committed to going full Tommy. Plus his fake beard is terrible. It’s full on pubes-glued-to-face bad.

Seth Rogen is in the movie as an off-screen personality as Sandy Sinclair. I guess you can’t really have a Franco movie without Rogen and you get the feeling that they wanted to cast their friends in the movie too. There are a lot of small roles and cameos by actors you’ll recognize: Zac Efron, Jason Mantzoukas, and Sugar Lynn Beard were most notable to me. Sugar is my favourite as I grew up watching her on YTV. I really like Sugar.

The point of the movie and the entire aura of this project is to tell the tale of the worst movie ever made. To visually tell the story of a movie that got reviews such as “it feels like you’re being stabbed in the head”. That’s the goal, and this is where the film is just okay.

The movie does a decent job of telling the story you want to see. You do get a glimpse through the looking glass and get to learn some of the behind the scenes quackery. There is a charm to seeing the wild interaction and unfiltered Tommy moments from the book now being played out visually.

But it’s still glossy and sugary. The book will constantly drive home all the different ways that Tommy was a terror on set. Arriving late, treating people like trash, being an emotionally abusive asshole, etc. But then also the moments where he’s just a guy passionately trying to make his passion project while being woefully unequipped to do so from every perspective.

The movie glosses over a lot of those moments. There’s really only one moment where you get terrorist Tommy. The rest of his scenes are just loveable doofus. I wanted to see more of Tommy the Terrorist dickhead and not this sympathetic weirdo.

The relationship between Greg and Tommy is also much different on screen compared to the book. They’re more along the lines of good pals in the movie that are having some ups and downs, yet they stay close through the whole ordeal of The Room. Reality was much different where Greg and Tommy weren’t really friends for a very long time. Greg tolerated Tommy and Tommy was trying to use Greg. The dynamic there definitely involves some weird interpersonal stuff and manipulation. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t common to me in a healthy friendship.

They’ve reconciled obviously, since money will do that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it can be tough to treat this movie as a serious or accurate re-telling when you know you’re looking at fiction. Because when you know this part isn’t real, like the motivation of the beard shaving scene, then you’re going to question other parts you’re less familiar with.

Overall, the movie does a decent job of telling an entertaining story but it fails to accurately tell the true story behind it all. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as Tommy and Greg were both officially involved in this project and both would want to be seen in good ways and not have their dirty laundry exposed.

But that’s the juicy meaty goodness in the book to me. This is more comedy film than a historical film or bio-pic. The novelty of this kind of movie should be celebrated. I enjoyed it. But I just wanted more. If you know you know at this point.

And so wraps The Room quadrilogy: The Room, The Room flash game, The Disaster Artist book and the Disaster Artist film.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

Shang-Chi Is Marvel Doing It Right

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is very good. This is what Marvel needs to do through their next phase of movies to keep people interested. Less Black Widow and more Shang Chi. The formula can still work. Is it tiring? A bit. But if you dress it up right with an influx of new ideas, world dynamics and characters? You’ll be making happy movie goers from nerds to normal people.

Something Marvel has done a mostly bang-up job on is taking comic book movies and placing them over top existing genres: heist movies, political dramas, spy thrillers, fantasy, etc. Now we’ve got a kung fu movie with a kung fu super hero.

Taking that a step further, he isn’t magically kung fu or enhanced kung fu like Captain America. He has no mega powers, inherently. He’s just an exceptionally well trained, disciplined and excellent individual. That’s rad as heck because it makes the character much more believable, real and personable.

Simu Liu plays the titular character and this rules pretty hard because he is Canadian! There hasn’t been a whole lot of Canadian’s appearing in these movies so I’m pumped to have one in a new leading man. I think there have only been 5 in big roles and they’ve all been ladies: Evangeline Lilly (Wasp), Cobie Smulders (Agent Hill), Emily Van Camp (Agent 13), Rachel McAdams (Dr Stange’s love interest) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis).

It’s a big deal in Canada when a Canadian gets any level of success at anything besides hockey, so having the new leading man in a Marvel movie be Canadian is pretty rad. Plus he’s decked out in red too so I’m going to tell myself that’s because Canada and not because its red and gold like the Chinese flag.

Awkwafina comes in as the fish out of water character that gets the world explained to her and she does a solid job. She’s more comic relief but she doesn’t undercut too many scenes that it becomes annoying and her role is taken seriously. Her chemistry with Shang is great too.

Meng’er Zhang comes in as Xialing, Shang’s sister, and is a realized slight foil to her brother. Basically what if Shang had stayed behind all those years and continued to live with their father this could have been his reality and future.

Which brings us to the best performance in the film; Wenwu portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. This is as much his movie as it is Shang’s. If more Marvel villains were of this quality we would finally be able to get passed those dreadfully boring memes and Hot Takes about bad villains. Killmonger never hit with me that well from Black Panther. I think because he disappears for 45 minutes without any presence and then the third act of that movie sucks and thus brings down his overall grade. But to me this was the villain performance of the MCU in the non-Thanos category.

And he isn’t even a villain. He’s an antagonist and that’s a distinction that does so much for this movie. He’s working to his goal, for reasons that make sense to him and honestly kind of make sense (if he wasn’t the bad guy and thus you know he’s in the wrong) and you feel for his story. You fully understand the what, why, when, where, who and how of his character.

It’s a family centered plot at the core. Finding love, making changes as a family man, heartbreak and revenge, and then trying to recover and put the pieces back together. It’s way better than another world-ending extinction catastrophe level event. Those are so passé.

The movie wastes no time to get going. You get your intro, you get your Present Day scene and then you’re right into it. No fake out or dragging out things for no reason. It pops and the movie is going.

Pace and tone does so much for a good story, and the story holds for most of the movie. The first half is better, and even the first 80% is great. But you have to get your big CGI ending for some reason where two monsters do the graveyard smash. 

I would rather that have been saved for the next movie and having a looming, unresolved threat from this movie. That scene and climax can have more impact that way.

It also was lame because you could tell this was all done in pre-viz where they probably had this scripted out before they finished the script, which then makes the plot in service of action and not the other way around. Your action should be in service of the plot.

Other than that, I quite liked the movie. I’m glad these movies seem to be passed the point where they need to slap you in the face with a “The hero isn’t a White Guy scene”. I’m not a moron. I can see it’s a Chinese-Canadian fella. I can see it’s a Chinese lady too. You don’t need some scene where they go “Don’t forget, I’m not The White Man!” It’s insulting and petty when movies do that. I appreciate this movie skipping that scene and treating the audience with respect.

There’s also no reference to The Snap or Thanos. The movie isn’t totally divorced from the MCU, but where it does tie back in doesn’t feel cheap and distracting. Instead it feels logical.

The power of the 10 Rings also makes way more sense in this movie. In the comics are basically 10 baby infinity stones that each have their own power and personality… sort of. Now they are a mix of Dr Strange glow hands, Iron Man blasters and Cap’s shield. Sounds overstuffed, but it isn’t. They’re unique.

This movie is great, and it’s just barely not too long to the point it becomes boring at points. There’s a bit of snipping you could do to tighten this up that would really make it next level for me. Mainly the comic relief cameo that gets more screen time than it needs. That’ll be phone checking time on re-watches.

I want to know how this guy works into the larger Marvel world more than I want to know how The Eternals will or how the TV shows (I haven’t watched) are going to tie into things. Give me more Shang Chi! Don’t make me wait until 2025.

This is most of the world’s introduction to this character, and Marvel aced it.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

I Don’t Know What To Make of Marvel’s The Eternals

terenals

I mean it when I say I don’t know what to make of this movie. Marvel’s The Eternals isn’t a normal Marvel movie. It breaks the formula and is so different tonally you’d be forgiven for not getting that comfort dopamine of a Marvel movie. You can’t watch Black Widow and then watch this and say  “Oh jeez that Marvel formula at it again!” That’s both good and bad, and ends up making a totally average movie.

I’m not familiar at all with Chloe Zhao’s work as a director. But this movie very much doesn’t feel like Black Widow or Ant-Man. I appreciate the attempt to try and make something feel so different. Make something that is very much of its own and not just another in the list. There’s a focus on cinematography here that you don’t normally get in these movies. Almost every scene has a strong shot emphasizing silhouettes and colour palettes and vision of the scene to convey the emotion. And that’s cool!

But the movie is long and a bit boring.

Introducing ten characters is a lot. This isn’t like the original Avengers or Civil War, where you have a big team but you’re already mostly familiar with 80% of the cast. These are all newbies. I’m a comic dork and I knew nearly nothing about these folks, so it doesn’t even have the benefit of a Justice League where you might know not this The Flash, but you do know The Flash.

One benefit to the entirely new characters it that many of them steal names from history: Ikaris, Sersi, (a)Thena, Ajak and Gilgamesh are all names you should have heard and have some idea of what they’re referencing. I’m sure the others in Makkari, Sprite, Phastos, Druig and Kingo have basis in something as well though I’m just not familiar. 

When you have so many characters, it can be difficult to differentiate them but the movie does a well enough job to do that. You understand each individual power set and personality pretty easily. You could argue its reductive and simple, but it’s a 2.5 hour movie with 10 newbies, evil monsters and a Big Cosmic so it’s forgivable.

Characters do change in this film though and they do seem to hold to their convictions. There isn’t any “aw shucks okay I change my mind” scene just for convenience. Out of our cast of ten, there is only one or two that don’t really have a significant change. How much you care and sympathize though is up to you. I waffled and most didn’t grab me.

eternals2

The movie is on a timeline to an extinction event, which I get you need for this level of characters considering they’re basically angels or gods or whatever, but there also doesn’t feel like there is urgency until the very final conflict. The build doesn’t have to be frantic, but you don’t really get the sense of urgency or importance of a “the earth is going to explode by lunch time” level thing. You don’t feel that ticking clock. 

You also get to learn that these characters have been around and interacting/protecting humanity since way way way back when sharp sticks were the closest thing to weapons we had.

I am a sucker for when movies or video games or TV going back in time and adding little asterisks to history and filling in notes in the margins with new details. when they go back in time and weave themselves into history in a fun way. Gilgamesh the ancient warrior? He was an Eternal! These folks were hanging at Babylon. Icarus, Circe and Athena? They’re actually Ikaris, Sersi and Thena! Eternals! Hiroshima? The Eternals fault!

If you’re going to pull the “we were here all along” thing, then that’s a fun way to do it that helps add a bit of believability to your world. 

At the same time, there is a lameness to hidden characters that have been here all along and secretly being the guiding hand of history. Especially when you learn the reason they were sent, you can pretty easily say “hey, why didn’t you help with all the bad stuff?” and the answer isn’t particularly strong.

I don’t know if the movie is trying to make a religious point about any particular sect with that. You can have In The Shadows organizations, but the good ones have realistic limitations. Men In Black works because the world is totally normal outside of the weirdo nonsense in their direct jurisdiction. But this is a world with wizards and robots and and an unlimited supply of floating space ships and thousands of super secret agent soldiers and doomsday events every 3-4 years.

At some point you think one of those may have pulled them from hiding.

The conflict in the plot comes from the characters and what they’re purpose is, which again relates to their secrecy. The Deviants aren’t a great antagonist, though I thought they might build to something cool before they didn’t, and then you get to the big ending with the reveal and twist which is going to be mileage-may-vary for everyone.

eternals

Time for some random one off thoughts: 

  • I like that the movie isn’t the same formula like building to a big dumb CGI ending divorced of the plot.
  • There is so much CGI in this movie though. It mostly looks good but at times it breaks and Angelina Jolie turns into gumby.
  • I miss practical effects in movies man. I’m watching the special features of Lord Of The Rings and its inspiring the lengths they went to. More movies need that 2003 mindset.
  • The flashbacks can be a bit long and uninteresting.
  • There appears to be no Disney+ tie in, and that rules.
  • Comedy takes a back seat to the movie. That’s good. The only real line that sticks out is “Fall catalogue. Ikea.” Barf.
  • There could be a fan edit of this that dials it back 15-20 minutes and might be more interesting. The bloat just starts getting to you at some point.
  • I want to see the characters again but just not for like 4-5 years.
  • The Bollywood scene was fun. I love how wild and crazy Bollywood is.
  • Celestials could be neat as a new Thanos.

eterneals c

Ultimately, the movie was a chance and it was different and I like that. I’ll take this over another Black Widow any day. The movie isn’t bad but I’m not going to watch it again. Maybe if it’s on TV while I’m in a hotel room one day I’ll turn it on and scroll through my phone at the same time.

That just gets back to the problem with the movie though. I love seeing movies in the theatre and when I’m in the theatre I focus on the movie. But I did get bored at one point and thought “I wonder if anyone’s texted me…”

I get the feeling though that this movie will be on a bunch of lists in 5 years like “TOP 10 UNDERRATED MOVIES PEOPLE WERE WRONG ABOUT” in the inverse way now you get Star Wars: The Force Awakens on every “TOP 10 MOVIES THAT
SUCK THAT WEREN’T ACTUALLY GOOD!”

I want to like this more but I can’t because I just don’t care that extra bit.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

The Disaster Artist: A Great Book About The Worst Film

Before-The-Disaster-Artist-Became-A-Film,-It-Was-A-Book-

The Room is the world’s most famous bad movie. Itis a cult classic that has moved into being a classic in a lot of ways. It’s been dissected from the outside countless times online. Something was always missing though, and that was a top to bottom account of it from top to bottom coming someone on the inside. If you’re a fan of The Room, or just even movie production, then The Disaster Artist is a must read.

The book, authored by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, starts in two very different places. Half the chapters follow Greg as he recounts his life trying to become an actor: going to auditions, modelling shoots, being on set for other movies and shows. His own autobiography to an extent but it never feels self indulgent nor does he forget what the real allure of the book is. The other half of the chapters recount the movie from the first day on set to when it eventually wrapped and the cast got their tape to take home and attend the premiere.

I’m not much of a reader. It’s a habit I’m trying to work on. I see how many books are out there and think to myself about all the great stories I’m missing out on. Maybe an entire universe is waiting for me, but I just still never really get grabbed and dive in by a lot of what I’ve found. I have a whole shelf of books I haven’t read. Why is this relevant? I couldn’t put this book down.

Admittedly, I’m a big fan of The Room. I’ve seen the movie over a dozen times, played the game, watched videos about the movie and have seen The Disaster Artist film.

Room_2

I love knowing the behind the scenes of movies. I think it comes down to wanting to know how people make decisions. What goes into it? This crosses over into sports as well. Learning and knowing how something comes together is always interesting to me because there is so much to learn.

I’ve watched the special features on the Lord of the Rings movies countless times. Those movies are classics because they did everything “right” from design to cinematography to casting to everything involved. And one of the most amazing parts of those featurettes is how seemingly close they were, multiple times along the way, to making the wrong decisions from design to cinematography to casting and so on.

When terrible movies get made and have all sorts of turmoil, I love finding out why and reading those dirt sheets.

If only every bad movie had this much fanfare.

Sure there are lots of big franchises that have pumped out poor movies, but their films come and go. The Room is basically played in every city every month at your local independent cinema. When it is played it becomes an event as if it’s whatever big hockey or football game is coming up next. People dress up in special clothes to look like the characters and act out scenes and sing songs and chant and yell and cheer and boo. Oh, and throw spoons in the air to celebrate certain scenes.

The book does a great job of letting you know why Tommy and Greg are the ways they are, why that led to what decisions they made, why they stuck to this film, and I think that this level of commitment does come through in the final film of The Room when you look back at it.

When you watch the movie you see it’s a terrible movie. But you see its being made honestly. They’re going for a serious drama. They missed and failed miserably, but that level of honest effort is endearing. The cast is acting their hearts out. The crew off-screen are trying their best to make the best movie they can. And when you’re reading about everything that went into turning out the film then it is even more endearing and interesting.

Tommy_and_his_two_cameras

The biggest revelation, I think, is that the Johnny on-screen isn’t much different than the Tommy off-screen. He’s as much the “villain” as he is the “hero” or driving force behind the film.

He’s hilariously incompetent. He’s obsessive. He’s a little bit nuts. He’s selfish and unselfish at the flip of a coin. He’s a terror on set and comes across bipolar. One second he’s screaming about sex scenes, and then he’s whining about how no one understands his vision. He refuses to provide drinking water for the crew, but then likes to remind everyone how much they’re getting paid.

He isn’t evil, but he is antagonistic. He can be a “bad guy”. But that’s just Tommy. The way he is wired isn’t the same as everyone else. He’s weird, going from being manic and eccentric and rude to acting like a vulnerable, bullied child.

But at the same time, you get real moments of sympathy that do make Tommy a human. He’s a guy who love love loves movies. Being an actor is what makes him happiest and he hasn’t had the happiest life. That’s why he behaves the way he does. Whether you want to let that excuse it is up to you. But he isn’t just being a weird, stubborn asshole to be a weird, stubborn asshole. He’s making his passion project and wants it to be perfect and exactly as he’s imagined it.

Greg Sestero, and writer Tom Bissell, really make a compelling story.

Now, obviously, this is all from Greg’s perspective. Tommy has disputed the account, obviously, and the film version of the book glossed over some things as well. Every story has two sides, and this story has multiple sides from multiple people. But it doesn’t feel like Greg is embellishing and the fact that he and Tommy are still Best F(r)iends afterwards speaks to the fact that there has to be enough truth here that you can trust what you’re reading.

You understand why Greg was willing to put up with so much too. He sunk a lot into this movie, but also owed Tommy so much and felt that he had to repay his friendship by staying by his side during this movie.

Part of you wonders why in a Hollywood world where most actors are willing to go Tonya Harding on the competition to get ahead, why someone would hang around so long on this movie and pass up other work? But you really get the sense of loyalty and friendship between Greg and Tommy. And reading their relationship blossom and then wither is equal parts thought provoking and frustrating. It could even be more of a tragic feeling if you weren’t aware of how the two of them have come back around and are still close after it all, and still working together in Best F(r)iends and other projects.

Greg_Sestero__Tommy_Wiseau_cropped

The amount of staff turnover on the film is bananas. It’s how Greg got his role, how Lisa got her role, how Peter and the other Peter Steven got casted. The entire off screen crew basically got turned over two separate times during filming. It helps to explain how sometimes the movie seems slightly more cinematic, to the times it looks like an efficient daytime soap opera, to a quickly shot indie film.

There are 8 pages of photos in the middle of the book that are nearly worth the sale price of it alone. It’s great to see behind the scenes pictures, photos of Greg and Tommy hanging out at a restaurant, a couple random weirdo shots of Tommy, the cast and crew on set, pictures from the premiere, and even some of Greg’s modelling shots.

A neat aesthetic to the physical book is that the pages that recount tales from filming of The Room are on pages with rough edges that look as if they’ve been torn. While the story of Greg chasing his dream as an actor and his friendship with Tommy are on pages that have smooth, perfectly straight edges. It adds a feel to the organization and chaos. As the book continues on the rough edges smooth out and the smooth edges roughen just a bit to come together as the two stories in the book meet. There is a beauty to a physical book that tablets and e-readers will never match, and a book that takes the extra effort to make those pages more interesting gets bonus points from this guy.

In the end, none of this makes The Room any better of a film, but you learn the why of it all. And as long as you’re not he kind of person who has things ruined by the “why” of it all, then this is an absolute must read. It makes for a great re-watch where you can be like “oh this scene was when ______ was happening!”

Thankfully it doesn’t explain everything that is confusing about the film, but this kind of an insight does help to explain what your eyes cannot fathom. When ego meets incompetence and incompetence attempts art then you get a very special baby as the result.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.