Good Movie/Bad Movie: Bromances

Another week, another episode of something that’s not Top Ten Thursdays. This week, join Colin and I as we compare another two movies with very little in common in another episode of Good Movie/Bad Movie. Our focus this time? The summer action showcase that is Fast and Furious 6, and the significantly more down-to-earth indie darling Frances Ha. Can you guess which one is the good movie and which one is the bad movie? If I told you now, it would ruin the purpose of the show.

Edit: I fixed a few weird audio moments, if you haven’t listened to this episode yet, I recommend a re-download. If you have, NBD.

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6 Fast 6 Furious

Furious 6

Who are The Fast and the Furious movies for anymore? The focus isn’t really on the cars or car culture anymore. Most of the series’ recurring cast pretty much just do these movies, it’s not really a star power thing. You know what? Maybe these movies are made for people like me. For people who can appreciate a movie that is not trying to be smart, but knows how to entertain. Because as I was watching a gigantic airplane get chased by a fleet of sports cars down a seemingly infinite runway, I couldn’t help but smile.

Furious 6 picks up where Fast Five left off: bros for life Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) are living in the Canary Islands with their significant others, the rest of the team is scattered across the globe, and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is still hunting international car-based criminals. We begin with Hobbs, now patterned with an even tougher lady cop (Gina Carano) and on the trail of a new bad guy, Shaw (Orlando Bl-I mean Luke Evans). Shaw’s a bad dude, and someone Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is back from the dead and in his crew, so Hobbs gets Dom to put his “family” back together and get this son of a bitch.

Of course the theme of all these Fast and Furious movies has been family, so it’s kind of nice they play with that a little this time, having Shaw be heartless and totally not care about his teammates. But ain’t no one here to see Luke Evans do anything. The good news is the people making this movie are aware of that. This is the fourth movie in this series with director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan, they get the appeal. They understand their audience really well, like almost to Joss Whedon-esque levels. This is genius-level stupid.

There are scenes that defy explanation. There are multiple scenes of people miraculously flying through the air – Dwayne Johnson alone has three impossible leaps that I can think of off the top of my head. There are multiple scenes of vehicles bursting out of other vehicles as they explode. There are multiple scens when one character says “you won’t hurt me, you’re a good guy” and then the hero mercilessly beats them up. Everyone in this movie tries to do the awesome thing in every situation, and it’s just so goofy, I love it.

And I think the filmmakers know. This is a straight-up action movie, with a bunch of fun sequences. The racing is less car porny, there are way more gunfights, and even a solid collection of hand-to-hand skirmishes. Somehow, The Fast and Furious franchise is maturing into something far greater than it ever showed the potential to be, like some sort of reverse Police Academy. I attribute a lot of that to Justin Lin, and the series-revitalizing force that is Dwayne Johnson, so it’s a little scary to hear that the next movie might not have either of them. But we’ll always have these movies, and honestly, I’m not sure what could kill this franchise anymore. This is the golden age of dumb.

So how do I describe Furious 6? It would be easy to point at a movie like, and the fact that there are five others preceding it, and complain about the death of our culture. But no, that’s bullshit. I’ve seen the Transformers movies, this is so much better than that. It’s sublimely stupid and reverent in its own pathos. We just saw Star Trek Into Darkness, another action flick that did its best to hide a dumb story. This movie treats its own predecessors with the same level of respect as the Star Trek sequel does, even though it doesn’t deserve it in any right. No one cares more about The Fast and the Furious than the people making in, and they’ve won me over.

Dancer In The Dark

Frances Ha

As much as I enjoyed the high-octane stupidity of Fast & Furious 6, I think my brain needed a break from the recent string of blockbusters I’ve been subjecting myself to.  Or at least it needed a break from the trailers, because Jesus Christ, I already had a massive headache before Fast 6 even started.  All thanks to sensory-bashing sound effects accompianied by the subtle imagery of Denzel Washington exploding a car full of money or cowboy Jeff Bridges tackling Ryan Reynolds out of a twenty-story building, which is no big deal because they’re cops and they’re dead or something.  But I digress, since there is a time and place for movies like Fast 6, and thankfully there’s still a time and place for movies like Frances Ha, a film that pretty much exemplifies the words “small” and “indie”, but is a charmer nonetheless.

Frances is the titular character of the film, and she’s fairly typical of the sort of self-involved twentysomething artist-types that are just trying to get by doing the thing they love (Hmm, sounds like some people I know).  Frances is struggling to make it as a dancer in New York, and the film deals a fair amount with that dilemma of putting your energy into something you’re passionate about, all while facing the harsh realities of growing older and more jaded.  But most of all, it’s just a fun but also very real character-driven dramedy, as Frances seems to go from apartment to apartment, trying to make a connection with the quirky Brooklynites that seem to permeate her life.  It’s a fairly loose story in terms of plotting, but this is a trait I’m usually willing to embrace in movies if I’m invested in the characters and their world (which I was).  Plus it never really feels meandering thanks to the film’s tight running time of 86 minutes.

I’ve pretty much liked all of writer/director Noah Bambauch’s earlier work (give or take a Margot At The Wedding), despite the fact that they can sometimes be a bit divisive thanks to the prickliness of their characters.  But because Frances is more of a starry-eyed dreamer than the bitter depressives that usually dominate Bambauch’s films, the style and tone here reflects that.  Thanks to an eclectic musical score, and some striking black and white cinematography, the film has a sort of French New Wave meets Manhattan kind of vibe to it.  And fortunately for me, Bambauch’s cynical touch keeps things from ever venturing into outright whimsy, since I’m finding I have a pretty low threshold for whimsy.

But really, the driving force here is the film’s co-writer and star, Greta Gerwig.  I think at this point she’s one of our finest young actresses, as well as one of our most naturally gifted ones.  She’s in pretty much every frame of the film, and despite the unpredictable and seemingly unambitious nature of the character, she always manages to make Frances charming and likable without even a hint of phoniness.  I don’t know if  Gerwig will ever quite make the transition to mainstream stardom, since showing up in lame romantic comedies has been the best she’s been able to do so far.  But she’s already been doing good stuff on the indie circuit for years, and Frances Ha is just another indication that she’s completely capable of carving out a great body of work outside the constraints of Hollywood.

Some Kind of Movie – Ep. 3: Boldly Going Where We’ve Gone Before

By now you’ve hopefully read my review of Star Trek Into Darkness, or at least someone’s. But maybe you were craving a little more. Maybe you wanted a spoiler-filled discussion of the film’s merits. Well, here you go. Here it is. The four of us talking about how well Into Darkness compares to the rest Trek legacy, and also how well it stands as a film on its own. And, once again, spoilers.

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Obsessongs: “One More Time”

I wanted to do an obsessong as soon as Colin debuted the feature, then immediately lost my drive. For one, it was writing about music, which I consider myself particularly poor at. But more than that, I wasn’t sure how to pick a song. What are the official criteria? Is it a single song that is so strong that it makes me listen to a whole album just to get to it? A song that I have to listen to over and over? One that I just like way more than I should? But with the release of Random Access Memories and the recent death of Anthony Moore, I thought this gem from Daft Punk was worth discussing.

Song: “One More Time” by Daft Punk
Album: Discovery
Year: 2001
Written By: Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Anthony Moore
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C.A.T: L.A. Woman

The Doors – L.A. Woman (1971)

In remembrance of legendary keyboardist Ray Manzarek, I present you with a “Classic Album Tuesday” of The Doors celebrated L.A. Woman. The last Doors album to be recorded with Jim Morrison (who would die three months after its release) L.A. Woman is The Doors at their nittiest and grittiest. Tired of recording in the upscale Sunset Sound studio, The Doors opted to record their sixth album in their own L.A. practice space. Working alongside producer Bruce Botnick (also co-producer of the classic Forever Changes by Love) and Elvis Presley bassist Jerry Scheff, L.A. Woman recaptures the raw intensity of the band’s early work.

Primarily recorded live, sans a few keyboard overdubs by Ray Manzarek, L.A. Woman feels more like a live album than a studio album. There’s a drunken rambunctious fervor that not only makes the album playful but honest. Even a deteriorating Jim Morrison still had enough chutzpah to give the music just the right amount of “Umph!” Fun fact: Jim Morrison recorded his vocals in the studio’s bathroom to get a fuller sound. Crude? Maybe, but in the end product it only adds to the down ‘n dirty style of L.A. Woman.

The material is primarily blues rock oriented. With songs like “Been Down So Long” and “Car Hiss By My Window” you wonder if Morrison was singing while laid back with a bottle of jack and a mouth full of Texas BBQ. And of course you have the jam based title track. A song that feels as if it was made up right on the spot during band practice. It also spawned one of Morrison’s classic lyrics “Mr. Mojo Risin” a memorable anagram of his own name.

Non-blues cuts include the undeniably catchy pop song “Love Her Madly” and the famously mysterious “Riders on a Storm”, one of Manzarek’s most hypnotic performances and a superb swan song to Morrison’s career. It’s hard to say what would’ve happened to the band had Morrison lived. Either way we still got six solid albums and memories that will last until the end.

Favorite Tracks: “Hyacinth House,” “Love Her Madly,” “Riders on the Storm”

Retrospecticus: The National

I feel like I should be pretty excited about The National’s new album, considering these guys are one of my favorite bands of the last decade or so, but I can’t really say that I am.  It probably has to do with the fact that I’ve been distracted by a bunch of really good albums that’ve come out recently, as well as the fact that The National aren’t the most appropriate band for listening to in the summer, especially compared to the summer jam-packed album Daft Punk are also releasing tomorrow.  There’s also the fact that The National have made a career out of crafting albums that take a while to grow on you, so it’s probably safe to say that the brilliance of Trouble Will Find Me might not hit me until a few weeks after my first listen.  But maybe this retrospecticus will get me excited, as it should make it apparent that The National are very very good at making albums I like.

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