Tag Archives: Michelle Rodriguez

Fast & Furious (2009, Justin Lin)

With Fast & Furious, director Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan do something incredible. They take what, a decade before would have been at best a video game spin-off (maybe featuring the original, now down in their career cast's voices), and make an energetically mercenary movie out of it. The film's ludicrous at almost every turn, but it's hard not to appreciate a huge budget in CGI being spent on car chase after car chase.

Oh, there are some real cars racing, but Lin apes the conclusion to Return of the Jedi for the finale–just with cars. It's entirely admirable and entirely pointless. There's not an honest moment in the entire movie, everything is perfectly calculated to entertain. The film gets too loud and almost too busy–Gal Gadot's useless character is in the not really bad bad Bond girl part–seemingly because Vin Diesel wants a lot of tear jerker scenes to be a tough guy during.

Lin doesn't want to hold a shot–he's clearly more into Michael Bay for car chase inspiration than Billy Friedkin–but his composition is good and Amir Mokri does a fine job shooting the film. The real car racing footage looks great. All the composite CGI stuff is a little too obvious, but it's a video game, you're not supposed to care.

The film does require a certain enthusiasm for Diesel and Paul Walker's bromance; Lin gets a surprisingly okay performance from Walker.

Like I said, big, loud, dumb, sometimes perfectly amiable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Lin; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Amir Mokri; edited by Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Ida Random; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), John Ortiz (Campos), Laz Alonso (Fenix), Sung Kang (Han), Tego Calderon (Tego), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Jack Conley (Penning), Liza Lapira (Trinh), Shea Whigham (Stasiak) and Don Omar (Don Omar).


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Los Bandoleros (2009, Vin Diesel)

The strange part of Los Bandoleros isn’t how it ends lame–it’s how well it starts. Sure, there’s this dumb story about how Vin Diesel, on the lamb in the Dominican Republic, has become a Robin Hood to the local people.

Oh, right, forgot–It’s a Fast and the Furious vanity short “film” from Diesel. Undoubtedly something the studio did to make him happy.

Anyway, besides the stupid club scene and the foreshadowing for the subsequent action movie and, most of all, besides Michelle Rodriguez… Diesel’s got a not bad eye for his location shooting in the Dominican Republic. He’s got a great photographer (Shawn Kim) and, even though the script is really contrived, at least the pre-franchise stuff works.

It’s pretentious, sure, with Diesel telling the story of the little people, but the movie looks great. But looking great isn’t enough to make up for Rodriguez’s vapid performance.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Vin Diesel; written by Diesel and T.J. Mancini; director of photography, Shawn Kim; edited by Justin Bourret and Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez; production designer, Wilhem Perez; produced by Diesel and Jessy Terrero; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty Ortiz), Sung Kang (Han Lue), Tego Calderon (Tego Leo), Don Omar (Santos), F. Valentino Morales (Malo), Mirtha Michelle (Mirtha) and Juan Fernández (Elvis).


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The Fast and the Furious (2001, Rob Cohen)

An undercover cop (Paul Walker) finds himself drawn into a criminal underworld with a charismatic leader (Vin Diesel)! There’s not much original about The Fast and the Furious. What the screenwriters don’t lift out of Point Break, there’s director Cohen grabbing car chase related moments out of Lethal Weapon 3 and so on. Well, Cohen also does have a neat Duel reference too.

Oh, right. I should try to discuss The Fast and the Furious, not just list all the other movies it rips off.

Diesel’s fine. Walker’s bad. Michelle Rodriguez’s bad. No one else leaves an impression. Except Ted Levine, who should know better.

The movie has this strange disconnect between Cohen’s more traditional cops and robbers bro-mance and the pervasive, overbearing soundtrack. Whole sequences are just set to a song, seemingly chosen just because it’s loud and sounds cool. Peter Honess’s editing is deaf to the corresponding songs; even if they match the narrative, Honess can’t figure out where to cut them. The first half of the movie feels entirely different from the second, mostly because BT’s sentimental score completely replaces the Top 40 selections.

Another interesting disconnect is the one between how Cohen visualizes the race scenes and how the script talks about them. Diesel gets a long monologue about how it feels to drive and Cohen’s best idea for visualizing the experience is to make it play like a sci-fi movie. Time slows down and there’s bullet-time.

But time is just a magazine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Cohen; screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist and David Ayer, based on a story by Thompson and a magazine article by Ken Li; director of photography, Ericson Core; edited by Peter Honess; music by BT; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto), Rick Yune (Johnny Tran), Chad Lindberg (Jesse), Johnny Strong (Leon), Matt Schulze (Vince), Noel Gugliemi (Hector), Vyto Ruginis (Harry), Thom Barry (Agent Bilkins) and Ted Levine (Sgt. Tanner).


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Resident Evil: Retribution (2012, Paul W.S. Anderson)

I’m not sure what subtitle Resident Evil: Retribution should have, but it definitely shouldn’t be Retribution. The movie really doesn’t have enough story for a subtitle, actually. Unless it’s Old Friends. For the ten year anniversary of the franchise, director Anderson brings back a bunch of old faces–Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez get the two biggest parts (while Oded Fehr and Colin Salmon get the smallest). Anderson does come up with a good reason to bring them back, he just doesn’t know how to turn it into a story.

Retribution mostly alternates between good fight scenes and painful exposition scenes. Anderson’s got enough money (or CG’s less expensive) so he doesn’t do the regular exposition tricks the franchise used to do on the cheap. Instead there’re long patches of characters spouting exposition, usually either Li Bingbing or Shawn Roberts. Sadly those actors are the worst in the film.

The music, from tomandandy, occasionally compliments the action well but it’s usually just loud and annoying. Good production values though–Kevin Phipps’s production design and Glen MacPherson’s photography in particular.

Anderson opens the film with a great reverse sequence, really showcasing the effects and his vision for the picture. Unfortunately, once it’s over, he changes visions. Then he changes them again. And again. And… well, you get the idea.

He finally decides on star Milla Jovovich having a complicated relationship with an orphan (Aryana Engineer) and it works. He just decided too late.

Retribution‘s tedious, but not without good moments.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; director of photography, Glen MacPherson; edited by Niven Howie; music by tomandandy; production designer, Kevin Phipps; produced by Don Carmody, Jeremy Bolt and Anderson; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Sienna Guillory (Jill Valentine), Michelle Rodriguez (Rain), Aryana Engineer (Becky), Li Bingbing (Ada Wong), Boris Kodjoe (Luther West), Johann Urb (Leon S. Kennedy), Robin Kasyanov (Sergei), Kevin Durand (Barry Burton), Ofilio Portillo (Tony), Oded Fehr (Carlos), Colin Salmon (One) and Shawn Roberts (Albert Wesker).


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