Ep. 113 – Avengers: Infinity War (SPOILERS start at 10:02)

April 28, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast RETURNS to discuss the biggest superhero movie ever, “Avengers: Infinity War!”

WARNING: Cody and Jerrod talk spoilers starting a 10:02, so tread carefully, true believers!

Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 99 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

[iframe style=”border:none” src=”//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/5335289/height/100/width/480/thumbnail/yes/render-playlist/no/theme/standard/tdest_id/201938″ height=”100″ width=”480″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and talk about lesser-known San Antonio Spurs players of the last three decades.

[00:00 – 25:51] Intro/Remembering random Spurs from the last 25 years, from Jaren Jackson to Cherokee Parks.

[25:51- 44:48] Review – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

[44:48-49:01] Wrap up/tease

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.

Furious 7

April 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Directed by: James Wan (“The Conjuring,” “Insidious: Chapter 2”)
Written by: Chris Morgan (“Fast Five,” “Fast & Furious 6”)

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 Dominic 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? Oh, remember how much fun “Fast Five” was?

The seventh film in the franchise opens with villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) vowing revenge on Dom and his family for what they did to Shaw’s brother Owen (Luke Evans) back in “Fast & Furious 6.” Don’t remember what happened in the last film? No big deal, because “Furious 7” doesn’t really care either. The film does do some serious continuity house-cleaning though, finally putting to rest the strangely out of timeline stinger of the third film, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” by sending Dom to Japan after Deckard kills Han (Sung Kang) and blows up Dom’s house in Los Angeles. After Han’s funeral, Dom confronts Deckard in a head-on collision, only to be interrupted by a black ops military team led by Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody (ugh), who ultimately let Deckard slip away. But Nobody has a deal for Dom: track down a surveillance technology called God’s Eye and Dom can use it to find Deckard.

The dumb, convoluted mess of a plot notwithstanding, the biggest issue I had with “Furious 7” is the very real ghost of Paul Walker looming heavily over everything. Walker was killed during a high speed crash in a souped-up sports car during a break in filming “Furious 7” around Thanksgiving in 2013. Walker still had plenty of scenes left to shoot, and instead of scrapping the project and starting over, the filmmakers rewrote the script and finished Walker’s arc with his real-life brothers and digital masks as stand-ins. The knowledge of the late star’s tragic death from an automobile accident paints many of the film’s set pieces in a ghoulish light, namely the numerous thoroughly destructive car crashes scattered across the movie that characters walk away from without a scratch, including the Virtual Paul Walker, oddly and unsettlingly silent during too many scenes.

Diesel’s Dom goes on and on about family during the movie, and you can’t help but feel the real life loss of his friend Walker creep in over all the stupid plot points and impossibly ridiculous stunts he takes part in. There’s a real sadness here as the film works hard to retire Walker’s franchise-founding Brian O’Connor with old footage, computer graphics and the backs of other people’s heads. Maybe this is the catharsis Vin Diesel and fans needed to move forward, and maybe next time Dom and crew can have some fun again.

Guardians of the Galaxy

August 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista
Directed by: James Gunn (“Super”)
Written by: James Gunn (“Super”) and Nicole Perlman (debut)

Never bet against Marvel Studios. Ever since Robert Downey Jr. suited up for “Iron Man” in 2008, the hits based on comic books have just kept coming. Even the most jaded cynic can honestly only call the studio’s worst output, namely “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 2,” merely disappointing, never outright bad. Hollywood hasn’t seen a streak like this since the golden age of Pixar (read: pre-“Cars”), and since they’re playing with the house’s money after smashes like “The Avengers,” apparently someone at Marvel and Disney decided now was the time to see just how far into the outer reaches of the comic book universe they could delve for a mainstream movie. The studio is going all in – because why the hell not? – on a quirky sci-fi comedy in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and the gamble pays off handsomely, for the most part.

After being abducted by aliens as a boy moments after his mother died of cancer, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) travels the galaxy, jamming out on a vintage Walkman while scrounging for treasures to steal to sell to the highest bidder. When he comes across an orb valued by Ronan (Lee Pace), an assassin named Gomora (Zoe Saldana) is sent to relieve Quill (AKA Star-Lord) of his prize. When the two clash on the planet Nova Prime, some opportunistic bounty hunters named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who happen to be a raccoon and a tree, respectively, spot Quill and notice he has a bounty on his head offered by Quill’s partner/abductor Yondu (Michael Rooker). The duo complicates the interaction enough to land them all in prison where they meet up with Drax (Dave Bautista), a hyper-literal brute who has a grudge against both Ronan and Gomora. This is getting too complicated, so just know they need to overcome their differences in order to save the galaxy from some ultimate evil.

While Marvel may have a license to print money at this point, “Guardians” is by far their riskiest venture. This is a sci-fi movie first and foremost, filled with fantastical aliens, planets made from the guts of some space-faring creature, and guys with unironic epithets after their names like “the accuser” and “the destroyer.” Director James Gunn pulls everything together well, anchored by a winning, winking performance from Pratt, although the CGI Rocket and Groot nearly steal the show with their mix of humor and pathos. The real shame though is the boring, straight-faced villain and the warmed-over hunt for some cosmic MacGuffin. It’s as if the dark elf plot from “Thor: The Dark World” was just copied and pasted into the screenplay with only the names changed. Also somewhat disappointing is the obvious laying of groundwork for future installments. The intergalactic villain Thanos (voice of Josh Brolin), first glimpsed in “The Avengers” after the credits, gets some early screen time, only to disappear for the rest of the movie (and, one assumes, we’ll only see him in a series of cameos until “The Avengers 3” or something). Same for John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey and Glenn Close as Nova Prime; big actors stuffed into tiny parts with truncated arcs, waiting for their turn in subsequent sequels. If superhero fatigue has set in and you can’t take anymore S.H.I.E.L.D. but still need your fix for good versus evil, “Guardians of the Galaxy” should be right up your alley.

(Again, since this is a Marvel movie, stay until the credits have ended for another scene, this time showing just how far down the rabbit hole of the Marvel universe – and bad ‘80s nostalgia – the company is willing to go.)

Riddick

September 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable
Directed by: David Twohy (“Pitch Black,” “The Chronicles of Riddick”)
Written by: David Twohy (“The Chronicles of Riddick,” “Waterworld”)

The term “pulp” gets tossed around quite a bit when it comes to movies that some people find charming in spite of their obvious drawbacks. Whether it’s bad acting, sub-par special effects, or a story that an over-caffinated 3rd grader would reject as too scattershot and unrealistic, when a film registers as pulp to a viewer, all sins are forgiven. Sure, to the rest of the world, the film sucks. But to those who have allowed the pulpiness wash over them, the movie becomes endearing, something unappreciated by the masses. Which brings us to “Riddick,” both the movie and the character, Richard B. Riddick.

Introduced 13 years ago with little fanfare in the small-scale sci-fi thriller “Pitch Black,” Vin Diesel’s Riddick was a deep-voiced antihero that struck the right note with fans and corresponded with Diesel’s  “Fast and Furious”-fueled rise to fame. With that success came madness, apparently, as Diesel and director David Twohy followed their cult hit with the fantastically bombastic “The Chronicles of Riddick,” which, in hindsight, plays like a proto-”John Carter” complete with the subpar box office and obtuse mythology (I mean they called it “The Chronicles of Riddick” for crying out loud). The giant shrug that greeted that film paired with Diesel’s fading stardom seemingly marooned Riddick on the remote planet of failed sci-fi/fantasty franchises, whiling away his days with whatever Mark Wahlberg’s character’s name was in Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes” and the polar bear from “The Golden Compass.”

A few more successful “Fast and Furious” movies, though, earned Diesel the movie-star right to make a new Riddick adventure, albeit without the budget “Chronicles” was able to command. After some unnecessary house-cleaning bridging “Riddick” to its predecessor, the film becomes lean and sparse, foregoing the epic feel audiences rejected the last time out and instead turning Riddick against a small crew of bounty hunters and a planet’s worth of lethal alien reptiles. Eventually the mercenaries hunting Riddick must form an uneasy alliance with the criminal if they hope to make it off the planet alive.

While I suspect “Riddick” will undoubtedly find fans that appreciate it as a pulp sci-fi adventure, most audiences will likely find it a chintzy knock-off of things they’ve seen numerous times before, including “Pitch Black.” The bounty hunters are all cribbed from every space-faring bounty hunter to hit the screen since the beginning of time, the dialogue is pure string cheese peppered with curse words, and the alien landscapes evoke all the awe and wonder of a Canadian soundstage wallpapered in green screen. The two most interesting characters end up being a computer-generated alien dog and Katee Sackhoff’s microwaved spin on her role as Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica,” only this time she gets to cuss for real instead of having to resort to saying “frak.” Riddick may be the unlikeliest franchise in Hollywood right now, which makes its pulpiness even more disappointing.

Fast & Furious 6

May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by: Justin Lin (“Fast Five”)
Written by: Chris Morgan (“Fast Five”)

In his fantastic “How Did This Get Made?” podcast, comedian Paul Scheer referred to “Fast Five” as “‘Ocean’s 11’ with Axe Body Spray.” As hilariously apt as his description was, “Fast Five,” even with its innate cheesiness, was ultimately a pretty decent and entertaining film, ushering the transformation from a series about street racing culture to a full blown heist movie. In this installment, tables are turned and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their gang work with the law to help bring down a criminal. Clearly, this ain’t your slightly older brother’s “Fast and the Furious.” So strap on your seat belt, tighten those spark valves and crank that motor rotor, cause here comes “Fast and Furious 6.” (Sorry, I know nothing about cars.)

After the events of “Fast Five,” the crew has spread out and is living their lives in luxury. Things change, however, when Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) pays a visit to Dominic to recruit him and his team to help take down an international criminal. While Dominic resists at first, Hobbs convinces him by showing photos proving that his presumed dead ex-girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still alive and working for the criminal. To rally around Dom, and to get their full pardons to allow them back into the U.S., Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew team up with Hobbs to catch the bad guy.

It is no secret that Diesel is not the world’s best actor. Joining him this time around is MMA fighter Gina Carano (“Haywire”), who while kicking plenty of ass in her hand-to-hand combat scenes still hasn’t figured out the whole acting thing either. Together they form a duo with the acting ability and personality of a bag of lugnuts. Since the film does a fair amount of globe and character jumping, the structure leaves a never-ending string of peripheral characters without anyone truly taking the spotlight. Johnson, who we are apparently not allowed to call “The Rock” anymore, is one of the characters who stands out above the rest, displaying the charisma that gave him an entrance into the acting business in the first place.  Also making an impact is Tyrese Gibson, who is fed virtually every humorous line in the script and delivers each of them well.

From the opening credits, which include a montage of scenes from the previous “Fast and Furious” films, it is clear that “Fast and Furious 6” serves to tie the franchise together. It’s certainly an interesting decision for a series of films that wasn’t exactly begging for more in the way of a true anthology. While it isn’t necessary to re-watch (or even watch) the previous films, “Fast and Furious” historians (Fastorians?) should be pleased with unanswered questions being paid off.

The script for “Fast and Furious 6” is a disaster. Sure, people don’t really go to see a “Fast and Furious” movie for whip-smart dialogue, but when Rodriguez’s character tells a bulky meathead who is part of Team Muscle, “Don’t make me go over there and make you Team Pussy,” you can’t help but sigh in disbelief. The previously mentioned constant jumping around to characters couples with a boring story to construct a film that is clearly only there for its action pieces. And those action scenes are about what you’d expect – a car that flips over other cars; a tank that drives on a highway and pancakes cars in its path; and plenty of fight scenes. The problem, however, is that the majority of the bigger sequences feature stunts and action beats that are entirely implausible and unrealistic. Play a game with your movie-going friend and count how many times you say, “Oh, come on!” over the course of the film.

Without question, “Fast and Furious 6” caters to its audience, so if you stuck with the film through it’s first five installments, you should know what you’re getting into. It’s loud, completely brain-dead and lacks the set pieces and tension that made “Fast Five” a success. Even with a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, “Fast and Furious 6” sets new levels for absurdity in its action sequences. Regardless, there’s an audience for these films, and with the 7th installment already teased, casted and in pre-production, don’t expect Diesel and company to drive off into the sunset anytime soon.

Fast and Furious

April 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster
Directed by: Justin Lin (“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”)
Written by: Chris Morgan (“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”)

The fourth installment of “The Fast and the Furious” is much like its three predecessors. The dialogue is flat, the CGI is passable at best, and the script seems to have been written in a garage full of exhaust, but that doesn’t mean mainstream fans of the high-octane series won’t come out in droves especially with the original cast back in the driver’s seat in “Fast and Furious.”

It’s been eight years since Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) shared the road together and things haven’t changed much since their first race through Los Angeles in 2001. That’s probably because “Fast and Furious” starts right where “The Fast and the Furious” left off. Forget “2 Fast 2 Furious” or “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” In the world of underground street racing, it’s like the other two never pulled out of pit row.

Banking on the idea that a reunion would revamp the parade of fast cars, easy women, and ethnic stereotypes these types of films are typically known for, everyone involved here seems to be on cruise control. It wouldn’t matter either way since screenwriter Chris Morgan, the scribe behind “Tokyo Drift,” could have Twittered this in and made just as much sense.

In 150 or less characters: Dominic is out for revenge when (spoiler alert) his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is gunned down (it happens early on, so get over it) by a drug cartel led by Campos (John Ortiz). The baddies are also part of a street-racing gang who Brian is tracking. Jordana Brewster returns as Mia, Dominic’s sister and Brian’s ex-girlfriend.

If it all sounds drearily similar that’s because it is. The only real different in this race is that the drivers take time to turn on their GPS devices before hitting the gas. If that’s not ridiculous enough, the most preposterous scene happens when Dominic figures out everything that happened the night Letty is murdered just by looking at tire marks on the road. If the action scenes aren’t painful enough, nothing says torture like watching Vin Diesel play thoughtful.