Ep. 130 – Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

August 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod talk “Hobbs & Shaw” and the future legacy of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the possibility of a 4-hour cut of “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” coming to Netflix.

Click here to download the episode!

The Fate of the Furious

April 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham
Directed by: F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”)
Written by: Chris Morgan (“Furious 7,” “Fast 5”)

I’ve run out of ways to express my bewilderment for “The Fast and the Furious” series, so, with the latest film, “The Fate of the Furious” fresh in my mind, I’m going to go back two years and re-purpose what I wrote about “Furious 7” because the exact same thoughts crossed my mind. Sue me:

“If nothing else, the evolution of the ‘Fast & Furious’ series over the past decade and a half from low-rent meathead car culture crime movies to globe-hopping meathead action movies is worthy of some gentle introspection. How did we, as moviegoers, let this happen? How did this series go from being the “Scarface” of those guys that put neon, spoilers and Japanese letters on their cars to being Michael Bay’s “Transformers” without the transforming robots? And wait. Is de facto family leader Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) any sort of law enforcement, or is he just a civilian badass called upon by the government to…drive fast cars to get criminals?”

I fully admit, I don’t know how to deal with these movies. They baffle me. But I’ll be damned if the ramped-up cartoonish action of “The Fate of the Furious” didn’t come closer than the shaves on the scalps of the leading men to winning me over than most of the previous entries in the series, “Fast Five” excluded.

While on their honeymoon in Cuba, portrayed here as an eternal, multi-ethnic party where lawlessness is trumped by honor, Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) do the usual American touristy things, like wearing linen and engaging in high-stakes street races with the island nation’s famously old vehicles. During a stroll to a bodega, Dom stumbles up a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who shows Dom something on a cell phone that’s enough to get him to betray his family (be ready to hear that word a lot) and help her execute her confusing world-domination plan.

Reminder: 16 years ago Dom was a street-racing gearhead who ran stolen DVD players. Anyway.

When Special Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) recruits Dom and his team to help swipe an EMP (again?) in an off-the-books mission that could send Hobbs to prison, Dom makes his move and Hobbs gets locked up. While inside he meets up with “Furious 7’s” villain Deckard (Jason Statham) who, while he still hates Hobbs, turns out to be a good guy now so that when they both are inevitably freed, he joins the team. Which seems sudden, but whatever.

Now Hobbs, Deckard, and the rest (including Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, and a “Game of Thrones” actress, Nathalie Emmanuel, who reprises her role as an unconvincing hacker) have to take down Dom before he gathers enough weapons to start World War III on Cipher’s behalf.

Dom’s betrayal, especially as the dull, monosyllabic patriarch of the film’s oft-grunted-about family, is pretty thin gruel that no true fan will buy for a second, and new director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) knows it. Instead, he chooses to showcase things like a ridiculous cartoon prison brawl involving a raging, Hulked-out Johnson (the real star of the franchise now, let’s face it) deflecting rubber bullets and punching guards through walls in his pursuit of a parkour-ing Statham or some batshit lunacy involving hacked cars remotely chasing down a motorcade and driving themselves out of a high rise parking garage to trap a Russian ambassador under piles of burning metal. By the time a few characters blasted their way into frame via jetpacks, I was damn near won over.

By the time Dom’s plot is wrapped up, though, and the movie ends with a rooftop barbecue, the stupidity overwhelms you again, and you forget about the entire franchise for another two years.

Spy

June 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne
Directed by: Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”)
Written by: 
Paul Feig (“I Am David”)

After turning in directorial efforts with the smash hit “Bridesmaids” and the lesser hit “The Heat” and being put in the helm for the all-female casted “Ghostbusters,” TV director whiz turned film director Paul Feig has somehow been branded as the guy who directs female-centric films. Whether it’s an intentional career move or not, Feig has shown, through years of experience, a certain adeptness at directing comedy, regardless of gender. His latest film, “Spy,” allows him to flex some other muscles as he takes on the spy movie genre with apparent muse Melissa McCarthy.

After an unfortunate experience involving her field agent partner, CIA desk analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy) offers to go out undercover into the field to try to uncover a nuclear threat. Following a series events that gets Susan up close and personal with a very dangerous woman named Raina Boynov (Rose Byrne), she finds herself over her head and in the thick of a major national security breach.

Since stealing every scene and even earning an Oscar nomination for her role in “Bridesmaids,” McCarthy has struggled in leading roles since. After receiving a lukewarm reception in Feig’s “The Heat” and straight up tanking in films like “Tammy” and “Identity Thief,” McCarthy is finally able to even out and deliver a strong comedic performance. Whereas “Tammy” and “Identity Thief” had McCarthy at level 10 and obnoxious, “Spy” provides her with a much more vulnerable and sympathetic character that results in far more likeability.

Of course, part of the reason “Spy” is the most successful of the McCarthy-led films post-“Bridesmaids” is the strength of its well designed ensemble cast. As a foil, Rose Byrne is particularly entertaining as she chews scenery as a villain, yet it is Jason Statham who is clearly having the most fun. Perhaps poking fun at his “Crank” character Chev Chelios, Statham plays a hardass that exaggerates every situation he’s ever been in. The joke might be a bit one-note, but it’s one that is staggeringly hilarious every single time and Statham crushes every single scene he’s in.

Unfortunately for “Spy,” it’s a little top heavy. By the middle of the film, it begins to lose a lot of steam. Through some clever non-sequiturs and entertaining action sequences, it never fully loses its luster, yet it definitely begins to feel a little generic towards the middle of the film. It is usually saved with a laugh or funny moment, but it can’t help but feel a little too long in a few places.

Less goofy than an “Austin Powers” movie and far funnier than a James Bond film, “Spy” balances the action and comedy to varying degrees. Though it works far better as a comedy than as an action, spy film, it is clear that Feig put in some hard work in the tone and is able to mine some decent comedy out of the familiar tropes. There is also a lot of comedy from unexpected violence and vulgarity that keeps the audience on its toes and provides some really great moments. It’s a nice comeback for McCarthy and Feig, and particularly inspiring considering their biggest challenge of following up “Ghostbusters” is right on the horizon.

The Expendables 3

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford
Directed by: Patrick Hughes (“Red Hill”)
Written by: Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”) and Creighton Rothenberger (“Olympus Has Fallen”) and Katrin Benedikt (“Olympus Has Fallen”)

The movies in “The Expendables” series should be tons more fun than they actually are. They should be winking so much at the audience that you think they’re in some sort of distress. After all, why gather up all these action movie old timers and various MMA stars in the first place if all you’re going to do is throw them into a plot that seems leftover from some direct-to-Netflix action flick they’d be starring in anyway even without the combined ‘80s star power of your Stallones and Schwarzeneggers? Not that a spoof mentality or comedic take on the genre of ‘80s action cheese is what this assemblage of actors should aspire to, but man, would it kill the filmmakers to turn out something a touch less dour and routine?

The third film in the franchise opens with Barney Ross (Stallone) leading his team of grizzled warriors on a mission to rescue their long-lost compatriot Doc (Wesley Snipes) from a prison train. After busting him out, the Expendables are sent by Drummer (Harrison Ford, snoozing) to take down a villainous warlord revealed to be Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson, digging into the role with glee) who also happens to be a cofounder of The Expendables. When his team fails, Barney fires them and decides it’s time for some new blood, soliciting Kelsey Grammar to recruit a quartet of bland youngsters who are promptly captured. So once again it is time for the old dogs–plus Antonio Banderas as a scene-stealing newcomer—to save the day and take out the bad guy.

The premise, even if it is worn out by the third film in the series, of having “action” stars of generations past (though I’m not sure Kelsey Grammar and Antonio Banderas really count at all) team up for a fresh take on a tired genre is ripe for a good time, but alas, the only people that seem to be having any fun with this material at all are Gibson and Banderas, with Gibson making his case to be a big Hollywood star again, provided he go hat in hand and apologize for his past insanity. But that’s neither here nor there, and even crackling turns from Gibson and Banderas can paint over the fact that supposed ringer Harrison Ford is so incredibly disinterested in the whole affair that he plays one confrontation scene with Stallone while standing perfectly still. Ford’s attitude was likely “Who gives a shit?” It feels like that sentiment is the defining characteristic of the whole movie.

Jason Statham – Parker

January 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

Based on the novel “Flashfire” by Donald Westlake, the new crime thriller “Parker” stars English actor Jason Statham (“Expendables 2”) as the title character. In “Parker,” Statham takes the reigns as the iconic professional thief who seeks revenge on a crew that double crosses him.

“Parker” opens at theaters Jan. 25.

There have been a number of different versions of your Parker character over the years in films like “Point Blank” and “Payback.” With this new adaptation, what were you hoping to show audiences?

You know, the Parker [series] is such a good crime thriller that [Donald] Westlake wrote. I mean, he wrote 20+ books. I was just hoping we could make one of those stories into a good film. You just have to do everything you can to do justice to the story.

How much research did you put into this role since the character has such a long literary history?

You know, there’s obviously a lot more in the book than in the 90 minutes we have to tell the story on film. Basically, you just have to give everything to the director and he has to have his own interpretation of the book and tell that story. He can’t be fixated on trying to please the fans of the book. That gets too complicated. The roots of the character are already written in Westlake’s books. Those are great qualities.

What about the style of the character? How does Parker compare to other gun-toting characters you’ve played in the past? Do you have to exude something different to give him that no-nonsense personality?

You know, I tend to not look at any of the other stuff I’ve done. I don’t think it has an influence really. Now, the physical side of Parker is something I’ve spent 10 years doing in other films. But we know how to execute that stuff efficiently. There’s a benefit in what I’ve done in the past with that.

You might not look at your own roles in the past, but what about looking at other actors who have played the Parker character in other films – Robert Duvall, Mel Gibson, and even NFL football player Jim Brown? Did you borrow anything specific from those incarnations or did you want to start on a clean slate?

This is its own thing. We kept Parker’s likable charm and some of the cutting smarts Parker has always had. So, basically, we kept the good stuff.

You’re known for many of the physically demanding roles you’ve taken on in your career. How does the physicality of Parker compare to other films you’ve done?

You know, I’m always getting hurt. It’s just a fact of life with what I do. It’s just like waking up and turning on the lights. It’s like asking a footballer, “Are you going to tackle somebody today?” You run around doing these sequences where you’re jumping out of buildings and cars and you’re bound to get a knock or two.

Is that why you look up to somebody like Jackie Chan so much?

Oh yeah, I have such a huge respect for Jackie Chan. There’s someone who leads by example. It’s great to be inspired by people like that.

Has there ever been a time in your film career when you wanted to do your own stunts and they didn’t allow you?

There have been certain things they haven’t allowed me to do. It’s because they want me to make it to the end of the movie. (Laughs) I remember I was doing a stunt in “Crank” and I was hanging outside a chopper on skis. We choreographed the scene on the ground and then we were going to take it above in the helicopter. They let me do the scene, but not until the very last day we shot the movie. They didn’t want that fucking thing to fall out of the sky. See, that’s the thing. They’ll let you do the stunts, but they want to make sure they have the movie in the bag first.

Why don’t you think a series like Parker has been able to be a consistent one in the film industry like James Bond?

You just don’t know. The audiences want what they want to see. It’s a very unpredictable business and that’s what makes it exciting. If you have a hit movie it’s pretty fantastic. I’m still waiting for that day. (Laughs)

How does Jennifer Lopez stack up to other leading ladies you’ve had in the past?

She’s just a true delight. She was way out of her comfort zone, but it was a great part for her. She brings this real likable street quality that makes her so approachable. She’s just fantastic to be around.

Gnomeo & Juliet

February 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine
Directed by: Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Kelly Asbury (debut), Mark Burton (“Aliens in the Attic”), Kevin Cecil (debut), Emily Cook (debut), Kathy Greenberg (debut), Andy Riley (debut)

William Shakespeare is probably not turning in his grave since his classic stories have been adapted for the big screen in some form or fashion since the beginning of cinema, but with “Gnomeo & Juliet” he has to at least be wondering, “Why?”

The easy answer to that would be because “Gnomeo” rhymes with “Romeo,” the one of the star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” but you can also argue that the cuteness factor of the gnomes themselves was a major selling pitch. More than likely, these fat figurines will easily lure kids and their parents to the theater for a little 3-D hokum. If this finds box-office success, watch out for “The Urchin of Venice.”

Basically following along the same narrative structure as the original play, but replacing all the characters with garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments, “Gnomeo” finds itself at an impasse when it refuses to inject anything fresh and exciting into the picture. Instead, the animated film takes the easy way out and makes absurd references to other films just for the sake of referencing something. Sure, these gimmicks can work well when told in context with the story (see “Shrek”), but “Gnomeo” screenwriters go too far when they find ways to force in jokes into the script featuring quotes and images from “Brokeback Mountain,” “American Beauty,” and a host of other unrelated allusions.

Where  “Gnomeo” earns a few chuckles is through its use of satire to pick a little fun at Shakespeare himself. Then there’s the actual animation, which is above average when it captures the porcelain features of the garden gnomes and the clanky sounds they would make if they walked or touched each other (like tea cups toasting). Add to that, some fine voice work from an excellent British cast (Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham) and “Gnomeo” isn’t impossible to watch for a short time.

Still, you can almost imagine the ridiculously large group of novice feature film screenwriters attached to this project sitting in a room together tossing ideas and dialogue back and forth and settling on the most obvious gags. Not nearly as funny as it should have been, “Gnomeo” is the first animated film of 2011 and will easily be lost in the shuffle with the other mediocre family films to hit theaters this year. Here to hoping it doesn’t get worse than this.

The Mechanic

January 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn
Directed by: Simon West (“When a Stranger Calls”)
Written by: Richard Wenk (“16 Blocks”) and Lewis John Carlino (“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”)

There are some big gun barrels to fill if you’re remaking a 40-year-old movie that originally starred Charles Bronson. Things get a bit easier, however, if your name happens to be Jason Statham.

Coming into his own as a viable B-movie action star over the last few years, Statham takes the lead in a new version of “The Mechanic,” a high-energy popcorn flick that feels like it was pulled straight out of the 70s and given a swift kick to the head.

Statham stars as Arthur Bishop, an experienced hit man who begins to train his mentor’s son Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) in the art of assassination after Steve’s father (Donald Sutherland) is caught up in a game of politics within the shadow organization.

“What I do requires a certain mindset,” Arthur tells Steve as the veteran killer teaches the rookie the most effective ways to end someone’s life. While Steve absorbs everything Arthur shows him, he doesn’t always like to take the clean and simple approach to the job.

The different methods in the way Arthur and Steve work make for an extraordinary relationship. Foster, one of the most exciting young actors currently making his rounds through Hollywood, matches up well with Statham’s fever pitch delivery. While both characters are brimming with brutality, it’s Foster’s that is written with more depth and style. You usually know what you’re getting with Statham and he doesn’t disappoint here.

Directed by Simon West (“When a Stranger Calls,” “Con Air”), “The Mechanic” is an unrelenting upgrade with a solid dose ultra violence, sex, and sense of humor. It doesn’t break any new ground, but the action sequences come with a combination of intensity and logic rare to find in movies with high body counts.

Crank: High Voltage

April 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakum
Directed by: Mark Neveldine (“Crank”) and Brian Taylor (“Brian”)
Written by: Mark Neveldine (“Crank”) and Brian Taylor (“Brian”)

In the final scene of the high-impact sequel “Crank: High Voltage,” action star Jason Statham – all bloodied and bruised and flaking away from the fire that has engulfed his broken-down body – looks straight into the camera and shoots his middle finger up in the air to reinforce his badass-ness.

It’s almost like an “f-you” to the audience, actually. “F-you” for sitting through the cinematic equivalent to someone with a neuropsychiatric disorder dropping acid, and “f-you” to anyone walking out of this thing not thinking it’s his best work to date.

Reprising his role as Chev Chelios, Statham, who has made a career out of dingy action flicks with the exception of the more intelligent “Bank Job” last year, starts where he left off from the original 2006 movie. If you don’t recall, at the end of the first one, Chev falls to his presumable death from a helicopter. Before the credits start rolling, however, you hear a faint heartbeat letting you know that a second “Crank” was probably on the horizon all along. Chev, of course, is not dead. He is whisked away into a van by surviving members of the Chinese mob and undergoes underground open heart surgery.

His own heart, which is to be implanted into an old Chinese mobster, is replaced with an artificial one fit with a battery pack to keep him alive. When Chev escapes his medical lair, a makeshift hospital where doctors are to harvest the rest of his organs, he sets off to find his real heart before he flatlines.

If you’re anticipating brainlessness for a quick 96 minutes of empty fun, you’ll be satisfied with the way the first 20 minutes play out as Chev goes ballistic on everyone he sees. This includes a scene where he sticks a shotgun barrel up the butt of a cholo. He also has time to reconnects with his girl Eve (Amy Smart) at a local strip club, meets Venus (Efren Ramirez), the twin brother of now-deceased Kaylo (also played by Ramirez) from the original, and keeps his buddy Doc (Dwight Yoakum) updated on his heart condition via cell phone.

“If you can get a hold of your heart,” Doc tells him, “I’m reasonably sure I can put it back in for you.” Is there any better reason to continue with this charade?

There’s no room for reality in “Crank: High Voltage,” and that’s what keeps it pumping for the first few scenes. However, the film turns into a check list of ways Chev can keep his heart pumping  (i.e. sex on a horseracing track, jumper cables on his nipples) before the bad guys enter in for another beat down. If you’re down with Statham’s previous line of work, you’ll more than likely be pleased with “High Voltage.” Everyone else probably would get more of a jolt sticking any appendage in a wall socket.

Death Race

August 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“AVP: Alien Vs. Predator”)
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”)

If “Speed Racer” wasn’t enough to satisfy your need for future NASCAR-racing concepts, then “Death Race” might add a little more fuel to the fire for those who like their asphalt track chock-full of human remains.

A remake of the 1975 sci-fi action flick “Death Race 2000,” which starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, “Death Race” is set only four years into the future. Forget the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. When the U.S. economy hits rock bottom, the face of sports entertainment changes so drastically, people are paying money to watch a group of felons kill each other on the racetrack on TV. Another cliché film about America’s blood lusting for violence in the media? That would be giving “Death Race” entirely too much credit.

Recruited by the prison’s stone-cold warden (Joan Allen), Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), who is thrown into the pen after being falsely convicted of killing his wife, is told that he can win his freedom back by secretly replacing one of the prison’s best drivers, Frankenstein, who was unknowingly killed in the last race.

Hoping to one day see his little girl again, Jensen accepts her offer and is teamed up with a few greaser cons who strap him into a supped-up black Mustang to go head to head with other twisted-metal vehicles equipped with machine guns and other dastardly weapons. Along with his boys in the pit, Jensen is matched with Case (Natalie Martinez), a tight-bodied co-driver brought in from a women’s prison facility (hint: she’s cast for the sex appeal) for the three-day event.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (“AVP: Alien Vs. Predator”), “Death Race” is rip-roaring fast, sleazy, and mind-numbing. While Anderson gets some cool points for a few exciting loops around the track, his screenplay misses its opportunity to give its characters some life behind their deadened eyes. Instead, Anderson focuses on the gruesome deaths, Allen’s bitchy and underwritten persona, and keeping the camera on Martinez’s assets.

If you’re accepting of all low-brow entertainment no matter how tacky, “Death Race” will probably be your new favorite sport pastime. If you don’t want to risk it, you can get the same effect by reading a lowrider magazine while stabbing yourself in the leg with a rusty nail. Tetanus anyone?