Tag: road movie

Movie Review: Vanishing Point (1971)

Seen: On dvd on my friend Sam’s projector set-up.

The main thing I took away from Death Proof besides the kickin’ soundtrack was a nice dosage of recommendations. Zoe and Kim talk about awesome car movies they watched as kids and I wanted to be cool like them. The car they drive is from Vanishing Point, a minimalist chase movie that pits quiet driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) against a lot of cops trying to stop his one-man road race from Colorado to San Francisco. An enthusiastic blind radio dj (Cleavon Little) tries to aid the driver’s quest with helpful hints over the air. There’s not much more to it than that.

With sparse but strong characterization and a lot of awesome stunt driving, Vanishing Point is a pretty solid road movie. I think Kowalski is a little bit too “cool” to be a compelling lead, but Cleavon Little as Super Soul manages to steal the show in a supporting role. His ebullience and chatty character fills in the blanks for Kowalski’s stone-faced silence, and it’s a good contrast. Besides his performance, my favorite element of the film is the driving, man! There are some very cool, crazy moments with this white Dodge Challenger as well as some nail-biting ones. Well-shot, too. But nobody rides on its roof like in Death Proof. And there aren’t any cool ladies to speak of. Oh well. I guess Tarantino can improve on some things.

Like many films of its ilk, the narrative is pretty light and everything settles into a sort of masculine quietude as shots of Western America are punctuated with the roar of an engine. This is all well and good, but not especially my thing as I’ve said in the past. There are attempts to flesh out Kowalski’s backstory but his motivations remain unclear, and eventually he’s just driving out of stubbornness while those following at home lift him up on a pedestal of admirable manly rebellion. Eh. I could see how his act could resonate strongly with certain people, especially when the film was made, but it didn’t have a particularly strong effect on me. I liked to watch him drive around, but could have done with more of an actual narrative. The ending is fantastic, though.


Pair This Movie With: Aw man well obviously a dude in a car being chased by cops makes me think of Smokey and the Bandit!

The 2012 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Pt III

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. Read Parts I and II.

Ok, final stretch. I’ve given up on finishing that dang cultural theory essay, but I’m still pretty awake due to my general nervousness. This helps me keep a keen eye on most of the following movies! Also I bust out the secondary pillow for help with my aching butt, and load up on the tea.

Click on for not one but TWO crazed scientists trying to defeat death, planet-hopping bounty hunters, and an alien-themed road trip! Coooool.

9 Frankenstein (1931)
I am woefully under-educated in classic horror, so it was exciting to see the classic Frankenstein whose imagery has so permeated representations of Mary Shelley’s monster. The film itself is sort of slow, but I liked the crazy assholery of Colin Clive as the titular doctor and of course the iconic performance of Boris Karloff as his towering, grumpy creation. I liked it but I find I don’t have much to say about it, I guess. It’s fairly muted at first and then gains momentum as the monster goes on an accidental crime spree, and there are some very cool shots and effects. And I had fun trying to pick out some of the sets re-used for Young Frankenstein!

10 Re-Animator (1985)
Remember how I saw this at the Coolidge Horror Marathon over a year ago? I still haven’t done a full review of it but you’d better believe I watch this movie all the fucking time, because it is goddamned great. Jeffrey Combs just DOMINATES as the adorably insane Herbert West, whose neon green “re-agent” can bring the dead back to life, often with violent consequences. It’s hilarious and campy in the best way, packed with awesome special effects and a kickass theme that I don’t care was stolen from Psycho. I also don’t care that it’s not particularly true to Lovecraft’s original story. I will never get tired of this movie, it’s just perfect. I promise I will write a real review of it… EVENTUALLY.

11 Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
It’s no secret I love Cowboy Bebop- it’s among my top favorite anime series- and I’m a big fan of the film despite its pacing problems. But after fifteen minutes I suddenly realized how tired I was and allowed myself some sleep, missing most of the film and forcing myself to wake up during the final battle so I could go out and grab some Dunkin Donuts. For those who don’t know, though, it’s a fun sci-fi action anime that follows a group of cool bounty hunters trying to avert a deadly terrorist crisis. I was impressed they showed the subtitled version, though I think that the dubbed would have been easier to deal with at that time in the thon, but in the long run I’m just happy to see anime- I hope there’s more in the future! The title links to my full review of the recent blu-ray release at 366 Weird Movies.

12 Paul (2011)
Missed this in theaters despite my love for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who penned the script and also star as sci-fi nerds on a geeky road trip who pick up a wisecracking, runaway alien named Paul. There are about a billion references to nerd things and a shit ton of cameos from cool people. This is the kind of movie that in theory is aimed directly at me but doesn’t actually work 100 percent. It was too reference-heavy, and most of them weren’t especially clever or new (like, I get it, Star Wars, lol you guys), though that doesn’t mean there weren’t several geeky moments I loved. Also I cannot separate Seth Rogen from being Seth Rogen, so it was really hard for me to buy him in the vocal role of Paul. Also also this movie draaaaaagged which wasn’t fun for a person operating on minimal sleep. Luckily I find its stars so enjoyable (especially since it felt like they were rehashing their roles from Spaced a little bit- mainly Pegg) that it was just entertaining enough.

Well that’s it! After Paul they showed Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack (sequel to the Battlestar Galactica movie they showed last time) and Folklore, another film from the festival, but admittedly I didn’t especially care about either of those movies and wanted to get some sleep before waking up to finish my homework in the evening. So, a little less than 24 hours of sci-fi, but still pretty good, I think. Til next year, eager young space cadets!

It IS Easy Being Green Double Feature: The Muppet Movie (1979) and Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up (The Muppet Movie) and on my tv (Muppet Treasure Island), both rented from the Tisch Library at Tufts.

Oh boy I’m kind of really looking forward to the new Muppet movie, you guys! I haven’t seen too much of the variety show but growing up I enjoyed all the movies and the animated “Muppet Babies” spin-off. They’re just a fun group of puppets, really. To psych up for the new film I revisited two of the old standbys: The Muppet Movie– the first feature-length film, which I’d only seen once- and Muppet Treasure Island– a silly adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel that I watched quite often in my bygone youth. And good news: they’re both musicals!

When a big movie producer stumbles upon Kermit the Frog playing banjo and cracking jokes in a swamp, he convinces our hero to travel cross-country to Hollywood to break into the movie business. Eventually joined by struggling comedian Fozzie Bear, happy-go-lucky plumber Gonzo (and his chicken wife), aspiring actress Miss Piggy, and various other familiar faces, Kermit drives around singing songs and trying to escape the clutches of a crazy frog legs fast food salesman (Charles Durning).

This is the kind of movie that just puts a smile on your face right away and keeps it there straight through. It isn’t uproariously funny, and it is dated at times, but for the most part it’s just a pleasant, adorable, goofy experience. The cameos come fast and frequent, with half the cast straight out of a Mel Brooks movie (who makes a fantastic appearance himself much to my delight!). I love the songs from my new favorite person Paul Williams (who also gets a brief cameo), and of course the many Hollywoody jokes, but it’s the characters that will always leave the biggest impression. There’s a reason the Muppets continue to be loved and re-discovered in new ways today- they’re just so darn lovable!

Also I’m totally going to make a gig poster for Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem aka THE BEST-NAMED BAND EVER.


The Muppets prove their impressive adaptability with Muppet Treasure Island, which manages to keep fairly close to Stevenson’s novel while throwing in a wealth of ridiculous gags and fun characters. The general story follows good-hearted [and crazy high-voiced (AND mulleted)] Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop), an adventurous orphan who gets a pirate treasure map and travels on a dangerous voyage to claim the loot. He befriends Long John Silver (Tim Curry), a one-legged cook with questionable intentions, and tries to keep his head around all the weird puppets working on board. There’s a lot of singing.

I loved this movie as a kid, I think partially because it is a) Hilarious and b) Wonderfully self-aware. All of the fourth-wall-breaking jokes and anachronisms cracked me up, plus the cast of characters is excellent. Tim Curry rocks hard all the time, and here he’s got a bellowing laugh and sadly only one musical number. Billy Connelly and Jennifer Saunders also pop up for a bit. I love Gonzo and Rizzo as Jim’s unlikely pals and Miss Piggy in an inspired gender twist as “Benjimina” Gunn. AND THE MUSIC. I dare you to not sing “Sailing for Adventure” all day every day, as I do. Unfortunately, either because I’d seen this one just too many times or because I have grown up just a teeny bit, I wasn’t quite as infatuated with Muppet Treasure Island as I remembered. Still awesome, just not the best thing ever. I will say though that Rizzo’s rat cruise is one of my favorite sub-plots of any movie.


PS I’m in Toronto this week! Updating may be spotty. Toronto After Dark, hurray!!!

Movie Review: Redline (2009)

Seen: On blu-ray on our big screen/projector set-up.

Don’t you love it when the future involves large-scale races replete with wacky gadgets, degenerates, crooked government, and nudity? I know I sure do! The future laid out in Redline is certainly an intriguing one, if completely ludicrous. Hot shot reckless racer JP makes it to the titular big interstellar race, held on a militaristic planet that hasn’t consented to be the host. He cozies up to Sonoshee, a cute green-haired lady who is one of the most serious and intimidating drivers there, and together the two attempt to navigate a strange obstacle course against alien competitors (some with inexplicable magic powers) and large-scale weaponry.

This movie is pretty much all spectacle and adrenaline, with very little comprehensible or meaningful plot holding it together, but it’s not like the filmmakers are operating under any pretense of depth. They’ve created a gorgeously animated, pumped-up sci-fi thriller and there’s not much else they need! The characters are slick, and the vehicle designs slicker, with plenty of exaggerated personalities and colorful attachments for an engaging race line-up. Sure, there’s a pretty silly romantic/secret-past subplot thrown in there, but it’s never taken very seriously.

The strengths of Redline lie almost completely in its visuals and fast pacing. The dark shading and bright color schemes, the over-the-top hair styles and imaginative alien creatures, the quick-cut-editing and crazy landscapes: it’s all fantastically sweet eye-candy. It’s violent but fun, and there’s probably political commentary thrown in there somewhere. The script gets pretty cheesy at points, but I’m pretty sure it knows it. Very cool movie all around, though the set-up is a little confusing at times.


Pair This Movie With: Obviously this would go perfectly with the best futuristic road race movie ever, Death Race 2000. Or if you’re interested in lighter, even more colorful fare, I thought the Wachowski brothers’ Speed Racer was fun.

Drive Stupid Marathon: The Fast and the Furious (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Everyone in this movie is an assholeSeen: On HD-DVD (yes we have a player), on our big screen/projector set-up.

We’re making our way through America’s most perplexingly popular (and prolific) car series, which I’ll call collectively Fast/Furious. It is a gripping epic of muscular dudes with shitty hairstyles and the ladies who love them, of cars that drive fast and the drivers who drive them, of world-famous cities and the criminals who live in them. It is a grandiose tale of friendship, loyalty, and adrenaline. Oh, such depths of the human soul are explored and taken to even greater distances in this masterpiece of road cinema: Fast/Furious.

Also: I don’t really remember the plots of these movies so I’m going to sort of make it up as I go along here.

When bleach-haired and cocky-faced Brian (Paul Walker), a very-obvious undercover agent, tries to sneak into a gearhead gang run by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), he finds he’s in for the RIDE of his LIFE. They go to a bunch of races together and become best friends but maybe Toretto is a bad guy because people are stealing stuff from trucks or something. But it doesn’t matter because Paul Walker and Vin Diesel totally mate for life and not even the stupid law enforcement that Paul Walker works for can come between them, right?

Right. Except in the next movie Vin isn’t even around anymore! He’s off gallivanting with Michelle Rodriguez or whatever and Paul Walker is all alone. So he teams up with Tyrese Gibson and Eva Mendes to take down an evil drug lord (I think). I barely watched the second one, I’ll be honest, it was hard to focus on the story line. Or maybe it didn’t have one? They drove some more cars, that much I remember. And Paul and Tyrese totally wanted to date. They even had a romantic sunset together that I kind of co-opted. Also maybe I had been drinking a little.

So flash forward to the future or something (right?) and also Japan for some reason, and none of the original cast except for one nice cameo. Asshole teenager Sean Boswell (Lucas “Chest Hair” Black) moves to Tokyo to live with his dad because he keeps fucking things up in the US. He loves driving. So he pals around with Bow Wow and joins the underground teenage racing circuit and never has to learn Japanese. And there are yakuza at some point. And a HULK car! Because there’s no space in urban Tokyo they have to learn how to “drift” on the sharp and windy turns. It’s a real-life thing.

I don’t know anything about cars, and to be honest I don’t really care to. I like seeing things go fast and/or explode, so I enjoy movies that focus on cars, but I don’t actually want to see something ABOUT cars. The first film features dialogue that is exclusively about driving or crime, and that’s it. It’s almost funny if it wasn’t so boring. Luckily it’s got a decent cast and solid enough action to make it mildly interesting. And a lot of fast cars! The other two are just sort of wasteful, with some ridiculously bad and entertaining moments but not enough to warrant anyone actually watching them. They all feel like time capsules of the early 2000’s, with very specific fashion styles and lingo that probably felt dated the moment they were released. Everyone is trying way too hard to be stylish and cool, it’s pathetic. Except for Michelle Rodriguez and Devon Aoki, obviously, but they don’t get to do much. Ladies can drive and stuff, but they can’t win the big races and they certainly can’t carry a film about cars.

2Fast 4FashionTokyo Drift is by far the worst, with a nonsensical script and wholly uncharismatic cast (except for Sung Kang, who plays “Asian Guy Who’s Always Eating”, aka “The Best Character”). It’s like no one actually thought about this movie as they were making it. Why does Sean go to a Japanese-speaking school? Where are all these kids’ parents and how do they have the money for souped-up cars and clubs and whatnot? Why is Sean the protagonist when he’s so boring? It does have better direction though, with better-shot racing and action scenes than its predecessors, so good to know Justin Lin is directing all the subsequent entries to the series.

Since I plan on seeing them all, for some reason.

1Fast 1Furious: 2.5/5
2Fast 2Furious: 2/5
3Fast 3Furious: Tok3o 3hrift: 1.5/5