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The Fast and the Furious Series Review

This is going to be the first time for some of you to read one of my more “secular” posts, but as always I believe you can often find the sacred in the secular.  I admit it, I’m a Fast and Furious fan.  I fell in love with the first movie when it came out, and have followed it ever since.

If you find cussing, violence, and scantily clad women offensive, or if you’ve been led away from those things, avoid these movies.  So, why am I writing this review?  Because I believe most people are missing the main point and feature of the movies in this series.  I also believe that Vin Diesel is trying, in his own way, to get people to realize several key themes.

First, that the world is now connected in ways that it never has been in the past.  Culture is bleeding over political borders, and with it the good and the bad.  Crime, and crime bosses can now go global.  They can do so digitally or physically, and this is one lesson that we all need to learn in a very real way.  Two examples spring to mind; the recent reports of Chinese hackers invading US systems, and the violence on our Southern border.  We all now owe it to our society to start thinking more and more globally, and our news organizations will hopefully wake up and begin providing us with global coverage.

Of course, there are good things coming from this blending of cultures as well.  New styles, new food, new friends, new conversations to have.  And I think that this connects to Vin’s other main theme in these movies; faith and family.

The latest F&F installment, Fast and Furious 6 kinds slaps you upside the head with it, but apparently many reviewers are missing the point.  Faith and family.  Each installment in the main series always has a moment or two of Dom’s running rule; when you sit down to eat, whoever eats first (or tries to) has to say grace.  Some do it with more learning and style, and some try their best.  Dom’s cross also becomes a continuing plot device.

This lesson wasn’t something that was full-force in the first movie; Dom cared more for his own feeling of freedom than for his team, but that quickly changed as one-by-one his family was either hurt, or killed.  Over the course of the series we’ve seen Dom’s family grow, and with it, his loyalty.

Family.  This is where the “sacred” comes in.  This string of movies does a very good job of showing how those people that are not directly related to us can become our family.  In fact, each person that is a born again believer in Jesus is our family.  How often do we really truly see that in our church communities?  It’s rare.  If we truly wake up to what Jesus is telling us, we should help and protect our fellow believers, because they ARE our family.  They are not “like” family they are true family.

I believe this series does a superb job showing us this, in a secular sense of course… annnddd, you really do have to sit through a bunch of racing scenes to get there, but I do believe Vin Diesel is purposefully communicating that idea of family across all borders; language, culture, background, etc… And, yes, Vin isn’t technically a writer, but I hear him and Paul Walker have input into the series, especially when it comes to things the fans demand.

What else do I love about the series?  I love the cars.  I love the humor.  I love the way it self-deprecates.  I love the characters, and their interplay.  There is also ideas such as self-control and forgiveness taught throughout.  The series has become a huge blockbuster and the special effects are there to prove it, but at the heart of it, this series is still about family.  Sure, there are now over-the-top explosions, and cheesy physics defying crashes, but the film never takes itself to seriously on that score.

These movies are definitely not for everyone, but I can’t wait til the 7th installment!

Oh, and if you are interested, here’s the watch order if you’d like to see the whole series chronologically and, Han’s first appearance was not in the F&F series, but in a movie called “Better Luck Tomorrow” it would come before Los Bandoleros):

  • The Fast and the Furious
  • Turbo-Charged Prelude {short}
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious
  • Los Bandoleros {short}
  • Fast & Furious
  • Fast Five
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
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Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

I finally managed to see the new Chronicles of Narnia movie: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (VotDT).  There are many fans of the CS Lewis books that despise the movies, but I’ve enjoyed each of them for different reasons, VotDT is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment and recommend it to movie goers, Christian and non-Christian alike.  There will be SPOILERS for both the book and the movie, if you’d rather wait to see it yourself, please stop reading now. 😉

One of the first questions people want to know, esp. Christians, is; Does the Movie follow the book?  I would honestly have to say yes in general, and no in specifics.  Yes, in that the main characters are intact, as are the main interactions.  No in the specific plot devices and details.  Extra additions to the plot include a dreaded greenish mist that whisks people off to the Island of darkness, and the seven lords of Narnia being given seven swords by Aslan that all must be found and placed on Aslan’s table in order to break the spell of the green mist. I’m assuming some of the changes are actually inspired by, or sets up, The Silver Chair.

The next questions always include; Did they leave in Aslan changing Eustace back from a dragon, and did they leave in the, “In your world I have another Name,” speech by Aslan? These are two key Christian parts of the book and they did leave them in, though changing Eustace back into a boy was much less hands-on (or paws-on) and less graphic (which is why I assume they changed it), plus the “baptism” aspect of it was missing, as Eustace did not go into a body of water.  Also missing was the element of Eustace trying to change himself back, but failing, and Aslan stepping in to do the work.

The Aslan speech at the end was left largely intact and was pulled off well. It was clearly communicated that the children must learn to know Aslan by His Name here in our world.  My main gripe with this scene; they left out the Lamb that turns into a Lion.  It would have been a little detail that spelled out things so much more for the audience; Aslan represents Christ Who is the Lion and the Lamb.

Will Poulter’s Eustace Scrubb brings a lot of comedy into the movie and the actor did very well with it; the transformation of snotty little Eustace into a true Narnian at heart was pulled off well.  However, one of the things in the book that always stood out to me was that Eustace was never cut any slack on The Dawn Treader, and his crime of stealing water was treated seriously by Reep.  In the movie version, the serious nature is pointed out when Eustace nabs an orange, but Reepicheep lightens the tone of the repercussions.

The only bit in the movie that may be too scary for some of the younger fans is the sea serpent scene (a nice homage to The Ghost Busters is there, if anyone is paying attention to the dialogue).  The serpent was done really well, IMO, and may frighten younglings a bit too much.  The Dawn Treader itself was far less cheesy than I’d feared.  Oh, BTW, this review does not include a review of the 3D, because I did not see that version.

Long review short, I liked this movie, and believe it is a movie for the whole family, except the youngest members.  The movie, along with the book, teaches many important lessons including fighting temptation, our inability to change ourselves without help, friendship, family, humility with biblical self-respect, etc…  I enjoyed it, and look forward to the DVD, as well as the next installment that will hopefully be greenlit soon.

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Movie Review; The Invisible…

Yeah, I know, it was released in 07, but I just watched it, so deal with it.  😉

I haven’t watched a movie in a long time that makes me think about it after I’ve shut the DVD player off.  This one actually stuck with me and made me ponder what the filmmakers included in the show; the point of the story.  I’ll not spoil the very end, but there will be spoilers in this review.

First, the basic overt plot; guy gets beat and left for dead…his “spirit/soul” is still quite active.  He, Nick, can interact with the world around him, but cannot change it.  What I mean by this is he is pretty much “invisible” and can, say, hurl a glass against the wall and it shatters, but as soon as he turns back, the glass is hale and whole, and right where it started out.  He can shove someone off a roof, but when he turns around, there they are.

The other main player in the movie is Annie, who just happens to be the one who beat Nick so soundly.  So, we have Nick, the nice rich boy with the overbearing mother who aspires to be a writer.  Nick is played by Justin Chatwin (who, BTW, is playing Goku in the live action movie of Dragonball).  Annie is the juvenile delinquent that has the bad home life, attitude and aggression to spare, and the loser/abuser boyfriend Marcus.  Annie is played by Margarita Levieva, a relative unknown.

Through an event in the movie, Nick realizes he’s not dead, just unconscious, thus begins his efforts to get rescuers to find his body.  He and Annie seem to have a connection, and he uses that connection to try to get help to his helpless physical form.  Annie, tough and streetwise, fights against her emotions in order to remain tough and above it all, but of course, in the end, she fails mainly due to the fact that she begins to “see” Nick.  She sees him, not physically, but by learning about him from a friend, and also by breaking into his house and scouting out his room.  At the same time, Nick begins to “see” Annie; the reasons why she is like she is, but also the hurting human underneath.  Eventually, Annie begins to sense Nick is still alive, and with rapidly rising feelings of regret, she starts to frantically find a way to save him.

Browsing different reviews, people don’t seem to grasp the meaning of the title, let alone the meaning the movie is trying to convey.  The “Invisible” isn’t so much about Nick, or Annie, but rather about the fact that the people we interact with everyday are, in effect, invisible to us.  Their inner lives, even their home lives are a blank spot.  The idea here is that there are people we physically see in our day to day lives, that we don’t really see.

Yes, the movie has cliche’s, and teenage angst.  But, it also has an interesting point that doesn’t come across to the audience as preaching.  Why aim the movie at teens?  Because they tend to both feel the most invisible, and to treat others as invisible at the same time.  If I’m digging for the sacred in this secular movie, I note the fact that Nick’s spirit/soul maintained his personality, and it obviously hinted at some kind of metaphysical existence beyond the physical.  The ideas of forgiveness and reconciliation were well played too.

A lot of reviews didn’t like the acting job by the two leads, but I have to disagree there.  Yes, Justin played Nick as being very “internal,” not a lot of emotion whilst in the land of the living, though that changed when outside of his body and fighting for his life.  I enjoyed the character of Annie very much, or rather watching her change, and loved the use of the beanie prop, covering up an aspect of her personality at the same time as it covered her physical hair.  Which brings me to another aspect of the movie I liked; the soundtrack.  Nothing like a bunch of alternative rock songs paired with teenage angst…what can I say?  I’m a sucker for noise.

The movie is PG-13, and has violence, and dark themes, such as suicide.  This isn’t a movie for everyone, and don’t watch it with high expectations.  It isn’t one that I would have went out of my way to watch, but some of the issues it raised interested me.  I’ve written many times on here that we should help out our fellow humans when we can, and sometimes that just starts with trying to “see” the other person.

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Movie Review; Twilight…

Yes, I went and watched it…I actually watched it the first weekend it was out, I was just too sick to blog about it, but better late than never.  Ok, Twilight; background info, yes, I’ve read the book(s) up to book three, I’m waiting on the forth, so that will be my perspective as opposed to those who watched the movie without reading the book.  There are mild spoilers for the movie and the book…any major spoilers and I’ll warn ahead of time.

First let me say that I’m not a huge fan of the series, I find Stephenie Meyer’s writing to be very much akin to Mary Sue fanfiction.  I’m not knocking her at all, she’s made it to the best seller list and had a movie made after her book, so, she’s definitely an adequate writer.  Going into the movie I didn’t have huge expectations, because I didn’t have huge expectations of the book either, but the movie still managed to disappoint me.

For those of you who don’t know, Twilight is a story of girl-meets-vampire set in a high school-like environment (think of a storyline not quite Romeo and Juliet, but similar).  Of course the vampire the girl meets is a dreamboat knockout that is a “vegetarian” vampire…and belongs to a vegetarian vampire family – they only drink the blood of animals, not humans (one good moral taught; killing humans is a no-no).

The focus in the book is all about relationships, self-control, and setting up the main character of Bella…this focus is lacking in the movie.  Of course Hollywood has to be much more dramatic, and if one watches only the trailers for Twilight, one would assume it is an action-packed vampire flick, but that’s not so.  The movie makers obviously attempted a compromise between teen romance and action, the result of which is that both sides lose out.

As far as acting goes, the lead (Stewart as Bella, and Pattinson as Edward) and side actors did fine in the movie, but the characters portrayed didn’t match their book counterparts; for example, Bella fit in way too easy with her peers with her Hollywood good looks, and style.  Honestly, I can’t say that any one actor stood out to me, nor was there any Oscar winning performances, though their acting did not detract from the show either…meaning, basically, that they all did a professional job.

The special effects were really distracting, on the other hand.  Someone needs to show the director and/or producers how “speedsters” can be portrayed very realistically now; you know, speedsters, like Daphne on Heroes…people that can run really fast.  Edward lugging around Bella, and climbing trees came off really fakey-fakey…not to mention Edwards “diamond-like” skin in full sunlight.  The makeup and hairstyles were a bit over the top distracting at certain points as well.

This movie is one of those were I don’t recommend it either way; I don’t think people need to rush out and see it, nor do I think they should avoid it.  If you have two hours to spend on a winter day, go right on ahead and munch some popcorn and take it in, or if you’d rather wait for the DVD then by all means wait and save your money.  It’s worth it to see the movie or read the book just to keep up on pop culture, and what the crazy kids are all into now a days 😉 .

The vampire lore in this one is slightly different, though not completely original (one can sense Rice’s influence fairly easily).  For those that care about such things; there is one main scene of violence, and a dream sequence that may be considered a bit mature, no real nudity (though we do see Bella in her skivvies; another good moral; self-control, Edward style), very little profanity, and the movie is rated PG-13.  I suspect the only reason it earned that rating was for the violence that was present, and “scary” themes.

Some of the book’s content that I was hoping would be included on screen (but wasn’t) did touch upon Vampires and religion…though the second and third book delve into it a bit more.  I suppose I’ll have to save any of that conversation for a book series review.  For example, just as Rice’s vampires, these vamps don’t mind looking at/touching crosses in the least, and at least one of them has interesting ties to clergy, and hypotheses about whether or not vampires have souls and if they can make it to Heaven.

Anywho, average movie, nothing too theological to blog about either, though the book has more…ah, well, on to the next one…

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Movie Review; Lost Boys: The Tribe

Ok…first thing first, for any big fan of the original Lost Boys, you have got to already know that this movie will disappoint you.  It’s inevitable, isn’t it?  Even with that in mind, did I find it disappointing?  Yes.

Chris and Nicole Emerson have lost their parents; they died in a car accident.  They apparently have no one else in the world except a horrible aunt…so they relocate thinking she’ll help them out with a home, but no such luck.  Moving to Luna Bay, they quickly discover that the local surf scene is much more interesting than elsewhere; as the waves are ridden by a gang of blood suckers…one of which falls for Nicole.  “Hilarity” ensues.

There are good things about the movie, and bad things about it…one of the worst things is that if a few actors, and plot lines had been changed ever so slightly, it would have actually been a decent sequel.  First, the bad; it was as if the creators of the movie wished to gross everyone out.  That seemed to be the whole point of the movie.

Fake blood and guts galore.  Wonderful.  I can get that from any second rate horror flick out there; it is a disservice to the original that was all about a new and different story told with emphasis on characters and their relationships…and life, as well as a new take on the vampire myth.  Yes, the original had fake blood too, but the focus was not on the cheesy effects.  I didn’t like the overdone (and changed) makeup of the vampires in this one; the more subtle metamorphosis of the vampires’ features in the first was much more preferable.

The sex scenes.  Gratuitous.  They seemed to be inserted into the movie, not for any real plot device or any real reason…but just to try to get teenage boys to rent and watch the movie hoping for a glimpse of skin, which they would get plenty of.

The acting…I usually don’t like to say negative things about people’s acting, but they definitely could’ve gotten a different lead actress to play Nicole Emerson.  I don’t think it was entirely her fault, but I could not buy the sibling chemistry between Nicole and Chris in the movie.  Again, that chemistry pales in comparison with the original siblings of Michael and Sam.  Why do I place more “blame” on her?  Because, even in scenes with Angus Sutherland, I never lost sight of the fact that she was acting.  I saw her (Autumn Reeser) rather than her character, Nicole…to me, she seemed distinctly uncomfortable.

I suppose some would count this next bit as SPOILERS: Corey Feldman does make a return as Edgar Frog.  What upset me a bit about this was that with a few changes, the character of Edgar Frog could’ve really taken center stage and pulled the two movies together.  As it stands, it is almost as if the director just told Corey to act like he did in the first one.  The result?

Edgar Frog is now a man in a full grown adult body, but despite all the things he’s seen and done, he’s still acting and talking like an adolescent.  I get it; it was supposed to be funny…but the character could’ve really been surprising and fresh if he had indeed grown up in every sense of the word.  A good thing about Edgar’s character?  Corey Feldman himself did a great job stepping back up to the plate.

Now, other good things?  I did enjoy Tad Hilgenbrink as Chris Emerson; he fit the part, acted well, and really seem to get the “Emerson” vibe down, filling Michael’s shoes (Jason Patric from the first movie).  Also, Angus Sutherland, who is Kiefer Sutherland’s younger half-brother, did a wonderful job of helping the audience recall “David” from the original while giving us a whole new character of “Shane;” leader of the new generation of lost boys.

Shane’s character was definitely a high point…though his “tribe” was totally pathetic; which would lead to me questioning his fictional judgment.  Angus did a lovely job being “striking” in a totally different way than Kiefer was in the original…if you’ll recall Kiefer’s “David” had very very few lines, and was striking in sheer looks and attitude.  Angus has many more lines, and I enjoyed the manner in which he delivered those lines…his tone and inflections are what made Shane’s character striking. (I also enjoyed a secondary character; Evan played by Greyston Holt.)

Yes, the other boys in the tribe…who would want to live with their characters into eternity?  Bleh.  In the first movie, I got the distinct impression that the lost boys actually cared for one another, and enjoyed being together.  The new guys?  Apparently torturing each other, and being totally psychotic pigs was on the top of their lists.  They weren’t a group of guys you would even think of as “cool,” as the original ‘boys came off on screen.

Overall, you could skip this movie and not miss much; if you liked the original and don’t mind a bad sequel, wait ’til it gets really cheap to rent or comes on TV.  It does introduce new characters into the Lost Boys movieverse, and brings in old faces too…but as far as advancing any actual plot, it kind of fell flat (we are left to guess in the movie whether the Emerson siblings are Michael and Star’s children, or niece/nephew/cousins).  I do know that they released a “Frog Brothers” comic book that may enhance the story, and fill in some gaps.

For those who care about such things; this is indeed rated R for good reason; lots of blood and gore, nudity, sex scenes, profanity, etc…

If you do decide to watch it, make sure you watch into the credits for another “surprise” cameo…

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X-Files; Movie Review

I Want to Believe is the subtitle of the new X-files movie, and has several meanings within the story.  The first part of my review will be spoiler free, the second half will contain some spoilers, but I’ll let everyone know where the transition happens.

If you’ve never seen the X-files, I think you’ll be lost.  The movie was billed as a stand-alone story, but it doesn’t really work out that way.  I have a feeling that you won’t be as connected to the characters, and as emotionally invested if you haven’t followed the series.  I have read several reviews from non-fans who did like the movie, however.

If you are an X-files fan, I’ll tell you exactly what the movie is like; an extra long TV episode.  Admittedly it is a good storyline, it fits right in with the X-files universe as far as sub-plot episodes go.  And, unlike some recent movies, this one managed to really keep my interest, and made me want to stay with the movie to find out what happens next (unlike, say, Hellboy II).

This is a movie you can wait for until the DVD comes out if you wish, but I think fans of the show will enjoy it, as long as you don’t go in with really high expectations (again, it isn’t an X-Files main plot storyline).   If you’ve got the gas money, and money for tickets, and the time, it is a good mystery/suspense movie to go see.  For my Christian readers, and those that care about such things, the movie is rated PG-13; it had violence, “distrubing images,” sexual innuendo, and mild language.  I will say that some of the themes and plot devices may offend some Roman catholic believers.  The acting was well done, esp. by Billy Connolly.

Now, onto the part of the review that contains some SPOILERS.  The relationship between Mulder and Scully takes center stage in this movie; it shows us the depth of their relationship, and lets us see a turning point for both of them.  The themes covered in this movie are perfect for The Christian Scribbler; Can someone that has done something truly heinous make up for it in any way?  Can they be forgiven?  Does God hear their prayers?  What role should our faith play in our pursuits and relationships with others?  Are modern medical advancements morally acceptable, if so, where do we draw the line in testing and implimentation?  And it manages to contain just about every sin known to man; pedophilia, murder, fornication, pride, etc…

The movie quickly shows us what has become of Scully; she’s a doctor at a Catholic hospital, and yes, she still sports her ever present cross necklace.  As the story draws in our leads, Mulder and Scully, we find out that a kidnapping has occurred and someone has gotten visions of the brutal act; a former priest by the name of Father Joe…did I mention he is a pedophile?  Admittedly, he is a convicted pedophile, meaning he was caught and charged, and apparently released.  He knows it was wrong, and is seeking forgiveness, as well as joining a community of sex offenders who monitor each other; in the plot we are lead to believe this is so they will not slip since they hate each other as much as they hate themselves.  I have to say that some of the humor in the movie would make me mad, and ill, if I were a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest…

Anywho, “I want to believe” is a mantra taken up by several characters either directly or indirectly: Mulder wants “mystery” and intrigue back in his life, Scully wants to know if she can rely on God and stay connected with Mulder, as well as believe in the visions Father Joe is having; and Father Joe himself hopes and prays he can be forgiven, and that God still hears his prayers.  These themes are all connected by the main plot: it is an FBI agent that has gone missing, and no one can find her.  Due to some of the odd aspects of the case, mainly the fact that the former priest is helping to find clues through psychic visions, the FBI sends an agent to cajole Scully into cajoling Mulder to come back as a consultant on the case.

I have to say that I was surprised at some of the questions Chris Carter (the director) raises in the movie, and leaves the audience to ponder over.  As I said, for me, the one that really jumped out is God’s power of forgiveness and if everyone has access to that forgiveness through Christ.  I do believe everyone can be forgiven through Christ, and I think the movie, while not answering the question directly, hints at this while still showing that we still suffer the effects of our sins here on Earth.  Our sins will also change how others perceive us, which is completely understandable.

“Big” SPOILER: My favorite moment in the film is when Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) makes an appearance, and sums up my feelings in the film by pulling a gun and taking names…at that point, it is a relief to see that someone has enough brains to go into creepy places with a loaded weapon (why exactly did Scully and Mulder not have their guns as I believe West Virginia is a Conceal and Carry state?).

I believe I’ve managed to give a review without revealing the biggest plot line of “who did it.”  If you would like to leave a comment or ask a question, would you kindly indicate if it contains spoilers.

If I was to grade the movie…I think a B+ fits pretty well.  It was a solid Mulder/Scully story well acted.  If you don’t go into the movie with high expectations you should enjoy it well enough, but as I said earlier, you can easily wait until the DVD comes out.

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Hellboy II; Movie Review

Well, husband and I went to watch the new Hellboy, and I thought I’d write a quick review.  One of the reasons I liked the first Hellboy was, of course, the religious tidbits throughout, and that is what I was hoping for in this installment…unfortunately I felt let down.  The main plotline revolves around a much more “fairy-tale” like theme.  Having also watched Pan’s Labrynth I wasn’t surprised to see several similarities, given that Guillermo del Toro was the director and main writer.  However, if I’d wanted Pan’s Labrynth part 2, I’d have held out for an actual sequel.

Both my husband and I felt that Hellboy’s character development had regressed since the first go around, which doesn’t seem to flow logically from where the last movie left off.  There was a lot of big CGI fights, so if that is your cup of tea, go for it.  I also missed Rupert Evans as Myers.

On the positive side, there was a lot of humor written into the movie…and I enjoyed watching Luke Goss as the Prince (He’s also intriguing to watch as Xerxes in One Night with the King) and my favourite scenes were the elfin martial arts action shots.  So overall, if you have to drive any distance, I’d save my gas and ticket money for something else.  If you are where you can get to a theater relatively cheaply, and you enjoy a lot of action, especially CG, in a movie it was worth the price of admission if there isn’t something else you’d rather see.  Of course there was plenty of violence, and some language as well; it’s rated PG-13.

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