Bring back the Douchebag Jar
We don’t usually do TV reviews on this site but New Girl has come up in class three times over the last couple of days and I thought I’d put in my five cents. Now regular readers may be unsurprised to learn that Zooey Deschanel is extremely popular with the cinema students here at SF State. I would suggest that this is due in large part to the fact that even though many many (many) nerdy and hipstery young people see the light and become cinema students, they still have to honor the terms of their previous contracts and fall in love with every magic pixie who comes along.
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m happy to admit that the addition of the talented Ms. Deschanel to a cast list doesn’t exactly reduce the chance of my going to see a movie. I thought she was excellent in (500) Days of Summer, for example. I think the problem starts where an actress whose personal performance style has been honed in the world of indie drama is shoehorned into a sitcom format that is not designed to accommodate her particular brand of whimsy.
In indie world, Deschanel is the Queen of the knowing silence. Her characters’ quips and observations are often punctuated and followed by little moments of shared intimacy and quiet. We might call these her ‘adore me’ beats. Her kook is typically underplayed and she erupts into stories with a carefully calculated whimper, not a percussive bang. In a conventional sitcom – especially one as unimaginative as New Girl – this has the singular effect of fundamentally undermining the whole enterprise.
The problem with New Girl is not merely that it isn’t funny, although it isn’t. It even resorts to desperate prop gags with weird hats to try and inject some life into the climax of this week’s episode. The problem is that any chance the show does have of being funny is denied by the editors being forced to cut to the rhythm of the star’s performance style, not to the pace of the underlying comedy. Add to this the problem that the few funny moments from the pilot such as the Douchebag Jar and Damon Wayans Jr. as the one promising male character, Coach have been excised for the second episode. Who knew Happy Endings would be picked up?
All in all, the experience of watching New Girl is that of waiting for a forgetful friend to remember the punch line of every joke they tell. That experience is not comedy’s friend and Ms. Deschanel deserves a vehicle crafted around her talents, not against them.
A small review of a small movie – move along now
The Guard is a very small movie which benefits from being entirely comfortable in its very smallness. Indeed it is so small that it spends most of its time waving at the movies it could have been as they pass by on a lonely Connemara road. The chance to be a real gangster movie passes, followed by the chance to be a detailed character study. Both offer The Guard a lift as they come alongside but The Guard just smiles politely and wishes them on their way. No, no, this movie is saying, I wouldn’t want to trouble you with depth, besides it’s my day off and the whores I ordered from the big city are due on the next train.
The Guard offers Brendan Gleeson the chance to perfect his Galway accent and get his teeth into some tasty dialogue. It allows Don Cheadle to roll his eyes at Brendan’s uncouth manner until he realizes there is a first rate detective hiding under the liberal coat of bucolic Oirishness. It allows Mark Strong to be, well ‘Mark Strong’ and that’s always fun to watch. The supporting cast is universally entertaining and there are enough subplots to offer the hint of complexity without actually requiring us to think. Indeed these are also little more than hints at subplots, never developing far but just enough to make us feel there might be something interesting to be uncovered if we would ever be so impolite as to insist on their development.
But to do so would seem churlish. The Guard doesn’t impose upon us so why should we impose upon it? Instead this story of an eccentric but honorable rural cop dealing with drug smugglers and a visiting FBI agent potters along happily and effortlessly carries us with it. The fact that it doesn’t really go that far would matter more to us if we felt it mattered to the movie.
Caesar X, no sell out?
Ok… So… Ok… How to start? I was sitting in the cinema…
Top tip: this is often a sensible precursor to watching a movie in the cinema. So I was sitting in the cinema and we were most of the way through the first act. Yeah, that’s the moment I worked it out. Hey I’m a bit slow, I’m sure most of you got there way before me. But I worked it out eventually and, when I did it felt like I had made a false start. I worked my way back to the beginning and tried to think about the movie from scratch.
Let me start again. There was a moment in the first act of Rise of the Planet of the Apes when I ran up against my usual semi-conscious habit of ticking off story beats as a movie plays out. Apart from a very weak opening sequence in the jungle, I had been going along quite happily. I was noting smart, professional story development. I was appreciating a well shot, tightly structured piece of mainstream Hollywood exposition. Tick, there’s the premise. Tick, that’s James Franco’s character goal. Tick, there’s our hero’s initial refusal… and then I asked myself – hold on, why is this movie about James Franco?
I mean I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke, but I came to watch a Planet of the Apes movie. I don’t care about James’ subplots. I don’t care that his science is motivated by his father’s Alzheimer’s. I don’t care that he will go on to have a relationship with a cute vet. I don’t care about everything this movie seems to want me to care about. I care about the apes. Let me lay it out: this movie is about the wrong hero. This movie doesn’t have the courage to place its subject at the center of the story. Just as the original Planet of the Apes needs to be led by Charlton Heston’s discovery narrative, so its descendent needed to be led by Caesar’s own discovery of his potential. It ends up being the Schindler’s List of intelligent ape movies – and, let me tell you, that’s not a good thing.
Whenever Rise of the Planet of the Apes does allow us to see the world from the perspective of Caesar, the whole thing comes alive. You can see the spark there, you can see the transgressive potential but most of that potential is diluted by the assumption that an audience will not take a movie without a sympathetic human protagonist. Judging by the little empathic noises directed at Caesar by my fellow audience members last night, I think this assumption is seriously mistaken. Who doesn’t love a little neotenic baby chimp with the potential to overthrow human civilization? I don’t know, have you seen Bambi?
So Rise of the Planet of the Apes ends up being a story about turning a chimpanzee into a white liberal San Franciscan. Indeed Caesar becomes so white, liberal and San Franciscan that, when the revolution finally starts, he tries to keep it bloodless and politically correct. The apes end up sitting politely in Redwood trees in Muir Woods while the gene therapy that made them smart works its way through the human population like a virus. They succeed in escaping from the city, but are denied true agency in the radical transformation of society the humans have brought upon themselves.
There is so much more one could say about this movie. On its own terms it is beautifully made. The writing is often clever, the technical execution is terrific, the ape performances are really impressive – take a bow Andy Serkis. Taken on its own, the action set piece on the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the best I have seen because it is smart as well as dramatic. It plays to character and to empathy, we care what happens to the apes in a way we never do, can or will with giant space robots.
But, in the end this is a cult film franchise bled mainstream white. It is a safe, well meaning liberal movie scared of its radical black shadow. Caesar is what happens when you take a potential Malcolm X and raise him as a Barack Obama. You get in trouble any way you look at that problem, but you can’t discuss these movies without entering the deeply problematic territory of racial (and species) symbolism. (For those who don’t know the original movie, it was an obvious allegory, which condemned racism by reversing the power relations of white and black.) Rise of the Planet of the Apes recognizes this from the very beginning with a transparent association of its apes with slavery. Let’s just say it would have been nice to have given those slaves more fight.
This week at the movies seemed to be all about unwise extraterrestrials making a nuisance of themselves in inhospitable parts of the world. Over here they have landed in the Old West™ distracting Harrison Ford by kidnapping his idiot son and forcing him to take time out of his busy schedule of… randomly being gruff™ to save him. Across the pond they are invading a south London council estate on the trail of a willing female (insert your own ‘pikey’ jokes here) and run foul of a gang of teenage ne’er-do-wells and general riff and/or raff.
In both cases it doesn’t end well for the aliens, but only one of the movies has an up ending for its audience. This really could be a classroom comparison of how to – and how not to – bend genres and create effective story worlds. One of these films is a big budget, star laden Hollywood Big Summer Movie™, the other a very low budget British movie with no stars (well OK the lovely Nick Frost) and a director best known as a TV sketch comedian. Can you guess which one works yet?
The trouble starts, as it always does, with the script. Cowboys and Aliens isn’t actively terrible – it’s not Transformers: Douche of the Moon or even merely Green Lantern bad – its just kind of… pointless. The opening is slow and we have no interest in the characters or their problems. Indeed they are mostly predictably reactive. This is a kind of puzzle movie – Daniel Craig has escaped from a probing with no memory and has to find out who he is before bad things happen. The problem is the answer to the puzzle is obvious to the audience from the title of the movie if nothing else and all the plot device does is keep us at arms length from our hero until it is too late and we have no investment in him at all. The only character with a little spark gets killed as an unnecessary story lesson and the only thing keeping us watching is a cast who at least look good on screen. Note to Hollywood filmmakers: don’t cast great character actors like Walton Goggins unless you have actual stuff for them to do!
On top of all this, the aliens in Cowboys and Aliens are also dull, pointless and fall into the Super 8 trap of being deeply implausible. Here’s an example of how not to design a movie alien. If the creature is big, tough and has a strong armored carapace, do not allow it to open up its chest to expose humanoid arms for detail work, along with – wait for it – its beating heart. This may allow your Annoying Kid™ to stab one to death at an appropriate moment rather than being ripped apart (much more fun surely, and something Attack the Block isn’t afraid of doing) but it makes your audience call immediate interstellar Darwinism shenanigans on your movie. Hands up who can hear the typewriter now? I thought so.
Attack the Block plays its aliens just right. They are not an unlikely super intelligent race who are actually dumb as rocks, they are shaggy, toothy beasts who arrive in mini meteors on an interplanetary quest for nooky and attack anything that has come into contact with pheromones from a female of their species. These aliens have one gimmick and it’s fun and funny – I won’t give it away here. It allows them to get on with the job of being an entertaining threat and a catalyst for bringing together a disparate group of enjoyable, well written and funny characters to oppose them. Oh and the human characters are active, not reactive. They initiate the problem and deal with it in their own inimitable way.
And that’s the point. Attack the Block works because it is well written, well directed, has a great cast who inhabit their nicely drawn characters and knows its number one job is to get on with the fun. It uses every penny of its tiny budget to great effect and constructs its genre world to work brilliantly at that budget level. Cowboys and Aliens tries to be clever and forgets to have fun. Oh and it spends an enormous amount of money to no effect whatsoever in doing so.
I’ll have what he’s having
I have been meaning to write a few words about my favorite summer movie of 2011, but when you love a film it’s sometimes hard to get the right kind of distance or perspective to clarify your thoughts. It’s been a good few weeks since I saw it now so I’m going to give it a go.
Woody Allen typically takes a simple story idea, often little more than a gag, and extends it to feature length through the injection of neurosis. The relative strength of his movies has a lot to do with whether these story gags are sufficient that we will accept that stretching process (Manhattan Murder Mystery) or feel he is pushing his luck (Match Point).
The gag in Midnight in Paris comes from the idea that everyone has his or her own concept of a ‘Golden Age’ in which they wish they could have lived. There is a mystical past moment for each of us that exemplifies everything we find admirable or simply appealing about a culture. When Owen Wilson’s Gil miraculously finds a way to experience life among his literary and cultural heroes in 1920s Paris, he falls in love with a woman he meets there. Of course the payoff is that she has her own notion of a Golden Age and it isn’t the same as his. You can’t live in the past, Woody is telling us, but he lets us down gently.
Allen uses a simple romantic thread alternately to pull and push Gil into the actual pleasure center of the film, the joyously funny and endearing encounters with his own modernist literary lions. Gil’s budding romance with Adriana in the magical 1920s and his increasing desire to escape from the inadequacy of his relationship with his fiancé Inez in the present keeps him coming back to Paris past. It also maintains enough of a sense of emotional continuity that the film can play the encounters with the likes of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (the wonderful Alison Pill), Hemingway and Gertrude Stein at the level of the sketch and the extended cameo. Too much of an attempt at character depth here and we would see through his charade and call shenanigans on his light as a feather fantasy world. As it is Allen pitches everything just about right, although his incarnation of Bunuel could have used a lot more of the filmmaker’s dry wit.
Integral to this tonal balancing act is Owen Wilson’s terrific performance as Hollywood screenwriter Gil, a man living in a world of glossy surfaces who is searching for depth as a writer. Gil combines a boyish delight at his unlikely encounters with a real yearning for emotional and creative fulfillment. As Allen’s foil, Wilson walks the tightrope between the increasing clownishness almost forced upon him by events in the film’s present and the fervent, authentic cultural and romantic adventurer he can become in the past with great skill. He makes us share in the joy of a fantasy fulfilled and we approve as he finds inner strength from that experience to cast off the shackles of his inadequate life and make a second start in the reality of the present.
For all its literary investment, Midnight in Paris is light as air. In a way that is its greatest achievement. We get an invitation to a time and a place that we are taught to think of as one of the greatest cultural alembics of history and we get to have such fun with it. Of course you need some knowledge of these characters to appreciate all the humor, but the film wears its heroes comfortably enough that some knowledge will suffice. Midnight in Paris has been criticized for a lack of depth in its treatment of the modernist demi-monde, but for me that is being churlish while missing the point. Besides, the charm and beauty of the storytelling – Darius Khondji’s cinematography is exquisite – will more than carry you through.
Surprise – he’s still a douche!
Admit it, you are going to see this movie because the trailer somehow managed to convince you that Michael Bay had learned his lessons from the ultimate creative bankruptcy that was Transformers… whatever the last one was called. Two, or whatever.
You are going to see this movie because the scenes in the trailer set on the moon are kind of eerily beautiful. There is an almost contemplative quality to the images of astronauts discovering the remains of alien technology. What’s more, taken alone the historical twist the sequence gives to American motivations for carrying forward the Apollo program raised the left (or right) side of your mouth one millimeter.
Given the legacy of the Transformers series thus far, that single millimeter was so much more positive a reaction than you ever thought this trailer could evoke that your whole attitude to going to see it mysteriously changed. “If I was Michael Bay,” you thought, “I would have learned my lessons and tried to tell an actual story this time rather than give the audience two hours of giant space robots endlessly bitch slapping each other on a pyramid to no purpose whatsoever.”
Through the whole pre title sequence your little clenched… clenchedness will be relaxing by degrees. “This is kind of fun,” you will be thinking, despite a terrible makeup job on the wholly unnecessary JFK impersonator who turns up at one point. Maybe my trailer-mouth-millimeter was right after all…
And then the title card comes up and it reads: Transformers: Psych- I’m Still a Douche! And you have to sit through another two and a half hours of the most appallingly dull, story free, unendingly pointless pre-teen hyper violence ever forced onto a movie screen. Or leave, of course. Or just not go. I’d take option three.
Not only is the film boring and vastly insulting to the intelligence even of its core demographic of teenage boys, but it re-imagines moments of great historical trauma as unfunny comedy and throwaway spectacle. Chicago becomes the “ground zero” through which the legions of staggeringly uninteresting military minor characters fight after a battle cry of “let’s roll”. The Autobots’ spaceship blows up in a fiery duplicate of the Challenger explosion. (By the way Michael this is not poignant, it is simply one of many examples of you holding up a sign which reads: “I am an arse!”) And so it goes [sic]. It’s like Bay made a list of ‘cool stuff’ he wanted to see in a movie and then just went out and paid technicians to build the effects. Despite the credits, the film leaves you distinctly uncertain whether he even bothered with the optional intermediate step of writing a script.
This would feel like some kind of historical revisionism if the film actually had a purpose in revising history. As it has none, we are just meant to recognize the moments as they pass and go: “Oh that’s that thing, only not.” This is movie making so uninflected by ideas that the endless kinesis ends up feeling like the calm before the storm. We are waiting desperately for some – any – kind of creative let alone human engagement until it feels like the action has taken on the roll of the dialogue scenes in a porn movie without sex. All we are watching is filler between payoffs that never arrive.
When we do get human interaction it is played through a huge cast of cameo stars whose whole function seems to be to add their own scenery chewing excess to the rest of the visual un-spectacle in a desperate attempt to protect the fragile teenage audience from any single moment of humanity. The closest the movie comes to acknowledging human emotions – or at least glands – is in its extended and predictable leering at the body of the (terrible) female lead. Sadly this happens too near the start and millions of teenage boys will have to suffer another two hours in their seats with what the director clearly hopes will be a raging boner. I can’t recall ever seeing a film with so little reason to care about anyone or anything. Oh wait, I’m forgetting Transformers 2.
The only person who leaves the movie with any credit is Shia LaBeouf who clenches his teeth and gives a less than nothing part his full commitment. It’s not his fault that he ends up being a fart in a sexist windstorm.
Green is for stop, please stop with the exposition!
In an introductory screenwriting class we often talk about what makes the task of writing a movie unique. This is a huge topic, but we can begin to focus our discussion by reminding students that all movie writing is led by two of the oldest yet most important principles: the need for narrative economy and the mantra of ‘show, don’t tell’. The first reminds us that you are likely to have a maximum of two hours to tell your story, so get on with it and make every moment count. The second that you are working for a visual medium so don’t write a radio play. These lessons are frequently lost on the team behind Green Lantern, which is one of the stodgiest superhero movies I have ever seen.
Any superhero origins story is stuck with the problem of taking beloved bullshit seriously enough to please fans of the source material while simultaneously keeping the two-hour movie clipping along at a good pace. The problem for Green Lantern is that its own version of the beloved bullshit smells like it is much, much closer to the wrong end of the cow than is usual even in this kind of story. Faced with that problem writers usually either play it straight but blow it off as fast as possible or work it to camp and revel in the rich farmyard odors. Green Lantern not only takes it seriously but lectures us about it at length and both in dialogue and voice over.
The result is a movie that is long on pointless self-justification, yet short on coherence. Rather like the movie’s villain Parallax, the exposition billows out and sucks the life force from a plot that is only tangentially related to its hero at the best of times. You know you are in dangerous waters when the spectacular final confrontation between superhero and supervillain is also their first confrontation.
Part of the problem is that the movie’s incarnation of Parallax is kind of a one shot, beat him or die deal so the whole movie is played out through proxies until big bad finally shows up. The other problem is more to do with a studio’s almost total lack of faith in the waiting audience. This is a film about the battle between will and terror where the real battle has been lost in development before the movie begins.
The lesson of Green Lantern for the producers of future superhero movies must be that your audience is familiar enough by now with the beloved emissions of the wrong end of the superhero cow that we are willing to just go with it. Don’t be scared, have the will to just have fun for heaven’s sake, otherwise how are we ever going to join you?
It’s just about a film
Now if you were paying attention during the trailer for Super 8 you would know that there’s something big and angry on a train. The train crashes, Big Angry escapes and… consequences of some kind begin. Handing over your $10 at the cinema gives you the right to discover what is on that train and why it is angry. By the time you find out, however, you really won’t care all that much because it is almost entirely beside the point.
Don’t get me wrong, Big Angry isn’t a MacGuffin and nor is it a red herring. On the contrary – and just as it should be – Big Angry is the plot. But Super 8 doesn’t care much for its plot and when you can say that of a Big Summer Movie it certainly gives you pause. You see Super 8 isn’t really a blockbuster, it’s more like the ghost of blockbusters past. It is E.T. without the redemptive alien Christ figure. It is Stand By Me without the need for a body. It is The Goonies without the treasure map. Ultimately it is a beautifully constructed Spielbergian madeleine, an exercise in nostalgic children’s adventure storytelling looking for a purpose.
The film is so well made that you can’t help but enjoy and admire its retro artistry as clever images and well-crafted story moments pass you by. Super 8 is intelligently written, elegantly shot and J. J. Abrams does a fine job with his young cast. The performances are all admirable, especially that of Elle Fanning in the role of a lonely girl bravely resisting her inner magic pixie. It works as well as it does because, in both its story and its style, it is a film completely enamored of filmmaking.
It follows a group of friends, kids who live for popular culture and who are very serious about making their own amateur detective movie. Their search for the perfect location allows them to witness the train crash and unwittingly to film the escape of Big Angry. Their relationships are tested by both family and sexual tensions that emerge after Fanning’s character is cast as the detective’s wife. The crew roles they undertake during its production demonstrate that they have the combined skill set needed to overcome the problem of the plot when it finally forces them into action.
And yet you never really feel that the film’s story, all about (what else?) healing two broken families, needed the intervention of Big Angry to bring it to resolution. Sure good old BA probably helped things along a bit, but all of the characters, even the most damaged of the surviving parents would have worked it out sooner or later. After all, that’s what happens when you are smart enough to have given birth to magic nostalgic blockbuster children. Of course that’s the central fantasy of Super 8. Only the re-creation of pure and uncynical fantasy children from a fantasy past can supply the strength and inspiration to heal a broken America. And, what’s more, they can do it through the power of movies!
War as reach around
The History Channel has built an audience by offering US military veterans an endlessly repeated uncritical reach around so it should be no surprise that their much vaunted, Ridley and Tony Scott produced Memorial Day Gettysburg ‘documentary’ is both bad history and bad filmmaking.
The addition of the Scott brothers has added only increased production values and allowed slightly more graphic depictions of violence to the usual History Channel formula. For those unfamiliar with this kind of film, here’s a quick rundown of the main problems:
- The most important historical lesson of war is to be found in the heroism of the individuals fighting.
- Context is only important in so far as it places those heroic deeds within a predictable military academy narrative of tactical decision-making and strategic consequences.
- Focus on individual experience allows the channel to maintain a kind of unspoken, yet still pernicious fantasy of moral equivalence between the war aims of the United States and the rebels. This is a craven and transparent attempt to pander to one unpleasant – one might say unreconstructed – constituency within the channel’s audience. It is, thus, both economically motivated and complicit in sustaining the fig leaf narrative of doomed southern gallantry that still permits serious discussion of a War of Northern Aggression in some quarters.
Aside from the above, the film also manages to construct unnecessary and imaginary narratives around some of its chosen characters, notably Sgt. Amos Hummiston and, even as a straightforward account of military history, it offers a very confused and partial narrative of the battle itself. There is barely a mention of Lee and no mention of Longstreet, his fatal delays on the second day or his controversial complicity in Pickett’s charge. There is none of Buford’s delaying action on the first day – one would think the Iron Brigade held off the rebels single-handedly. Similarly the action at little Round Top gets no mention as everything is forced to tie in arbitrarily with the movements of Col. Rufus Dawes and Gen. William Barksdale, chosen for some reason as the film’s operational command protagonists. If a viewer was not already familiar with the general course of events I think they would find it hard to piece the sequence of the battle together from this film.
But of course Gettysburg is just another sermon preaching to the History Channel faithful so there is no need for any of that pesky historical complexity. In the end on The History Channel everything always comes back to the shibboleth of heroism and it found me out. Just because some of your audience wants to see themselves that way is no excuse for a broadcaster to pander. Indeed the sad truth is that for all its attempts at gravitas and paeans to the nobility of sacrifice, The History Channel and programs like Gettysburg are helping to keep America in a state of permanent historical adolescence.
JH: Congratulations to Alex for winning our first ever movie review competition on Write What You Don’t Know. Fame and fortune are sure to follow, only probably not from this blog! Now here’s his review.
By Alex Fu
There is a scene early in Fast Five where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson debriefs his hand picked, in-it-for-the-right-reasons rookie cop on the charges levied against the film’s heroes. Steadfast in her commitment to truth, the rookie raises inconsistencies with the official story—and being a native of Rio (where the movie takes place), she’s not unused to law enforcement cooking up an old-fashioned set up. In a very revealing response, Hobbs (The Rock) turns to her and yells “You know what makes sense?!” then tosses the entire stack of dossiers to the ground.
And from that moment it’s clear: Fast Five knows what it is and what it isn’t.
Whenever Fast Five feels like it’s about to elicit groans from an increasingly film literate audience, it maneuvers with a kind of playfulness absent in say, a Jerry Bruckheimer film. And while I enjoy my Bruckheimer-Bay pairings more than a Hoxter alumnus should, one gets the sense that Michael Bay finds nothing silly about his work. Fast Five is no parody however; it is deeply invested in what is both goofy and awesome about the genre. Where a film like Scream 4 (1) had nothing but contempt for itself, Fast Five respects and reveres its two-dimensional characters, making sure the stakes are still high and the violence still matters (2). An indispensible lesson emerges: if you’re going to make it dumb, at least make us care.
Director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan pull an impressive move to reinvent a franchise that was close to stalling on its original conceit, the culture of street racing. (3) They do this by shifting gears (sorry) to the world of outlaws and heists. The film assembles most of the remaining characters from the previous films, a la The Avengers,(4) to bring down a drug lord that has taken hostage, not only the people of Rio, but our protagonists’ freedom. With back-stories built up over four films, an affection has grown for these meatheads. The escalating scenarios are grounded in motivations that ring true (at least to them) and despite all the hammy dialogue about God and fathers; you really believe that this is what “dudes” talk about.
Hobbs is a formidable antagonist, a character who is built well enough in both his physical and narrative appearance to make us believe he might actually capture our guys. But it wouldn’t be a F&F film if he didn’t switch sides, as the franchise is ultimately based around what Armond White describes as: “…the intrinsic moral codes mutual to cop and criminal…who feel a common, desperate appreciation of engines, women, loyalty, and the money it takes to acquire them”.
(1) In pursuit of a panacea for cynical moviegoers, there’s been a trend of “meta” gimmicks used as a substitute for the hard work of figuring out how to make the familiar feel fresh.
(2) A Fast Five review without any comment on the action? I was under strict guidelines, but suffice it to say the action is stunning, thanks to great direction and the predominance of practical effects over CGI. We still have to care about the characters though.
(3) Another example of the film’s fun self-awareness: just as we’re about to get into the obligatory ‘street race scene’ the film cuts away from it. A signal to the audience: we are moving on.
(4) Including a very fun Marvel Studios-type tag for the fan-bros at the end of the credits.