Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reel Rhino Review: FAST FIVE (100th Post - YEAH!)

There is quite a bit at hand in the world right now...

First off, Osama Bin Laden is Dead.  A special thanks to the Navy Seal team that worked that out for us.  Evil still exists in this world, but hey, we take our victories as we can get them and this is a big one.

Next up, you read the title right....this my 100th post!  Not a lot of pomp to go with it, but there probably would have been if I had realized sooner than 5 minutes ago.

Also in the milestone department, I am very close to 1000 movies at the theater in my life.  I am looking for suggestions on what to do, what to see, and how to celebrate this?  Any ideas?  I will probably be mid-June when I hit the mark.

Finally, there is a new look at hand for the Reel Rhino site...any thoughts on the new skin?  I am going to try and build something snazzy, so stay tuned.

As for some really big news, there were an unprecedented number of entries into the Reel Rhino box office contest.


Here were my picks from last weekend…# in parenthesis is actually where the flick ranked in the box office totals:
1. Fast Five (#1 -- YEAH!)
2. Madea’s Big Happy Family (#3)
3. Rio (#2)
4. Prom (#5)
5. Water for Elephants (#4)

I nailed all five, just flopped #2 and #3 as well as #4 and #5. Boo-yah! Really Rhino…boo-yah?  Keep an eye out for my next weekend preview and box office predictions and you can join in too!

Anyway…good to see you here and hope you had a great weekend. I saw two flicks this weekend, and I’m going to tell you about one of them right now.

Fast Five is the fifth film in the series that started in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious. The series had a resurgence in 2009 with Fast and Furious, after two previous mediocre sequels that missed their mark. In 2009, Fast and Furious was just that, with an opening weekend take of $70.9 million, it clearly was a film that generated enough cash to garner yet another sequel, which is how we got to now.

For Fast Five, our worries of again seeing a mediocre product was justifiable. I mean come on now…this is the fifth film and the fourth sequel. We are in the zone of mediocrity or worse, tres terrible as is the risk with any late series entry…I mean some movies don’t make it past the second, or third before dropping off.

Our worries were for naught. Fast Five, regardless of the ridiculous title, delivers on several levels, much of which is due to Justin Lin.

Justin Lin directed the previous two sequels and is quickly making a name for himself as a filmmaker. His mainstream debut was in 2006 with the so-so film, Annapolis, which he immediately followed up with Tokyo Drift, the third Fast entry. I think we are lucky that they let him carry on, but I guess the suits saw something special in this young man. For a pretty impressive resume builder, he was recently named by The Goldsea Asian American Daily as one of the most 120 Most Influential Asians of All-Time.

Lin is a much sought after director these days, with his next projects rumored to be anything from an Oldboy remake, a Highlander remake, and Terminator 5. PS: If you haven’t seen the original OLDBOY, please do. It is bizarre and fantastic at the same time. With his second straight $100 million plus hit nearly in the bag, he is certainly going to have his pick of properties to choose from.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that Fast Five will break $100 million domestic…as of Friday, it drew $33.2 million and it took a MASSIVE haul on the weekend, cleaning up at $86.1 million.

So the film…this is not a street racing film as the first three were and this is not a border run/smuggling film, as the last one was. This is a heist film, through and through. If I had to name names and give you the filmic parents of this movie, I would say that Oceans 11 got frisky with the original The Fast and the Furious, and this is their offspring.

The first quarter of the movie gives us the set-up. First off, events in this story pick up exactly where the previous entry ends. We have a short but rather dramatic prison break scene to set the stage and raise the stakes.

The prison break that frees Dominic Torreto (Vin Diesel), is staged by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and former federal officer, now friend of the Torettos, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), and it knocks them straight onto the US Most Wanted list.

Smash cut to an over the shoulder shot of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, where we find Mia and Brian on the run. Perhaps my only complaint about the movie is the inordinate number of times that the shot over the shoulder of Christ is used. I mean come on…JC is a good dude, but couldn’t they have come up with something more creative for showing us Rio? I can forgive it for the great ride to be had throughout the rest of the flick and other than that one bit of repetition, Rio is shown in a fairly flattering light in the sweeping city shots throughout the film.

Mia and Brian shack up with Vince, from the first Fast film…Vince is Dom’s brother from another mother, and he was the one who resisted Brian’s joining of their gang in that first movie. In that first movie, if you don’t remember, Brian O’Conner was a cop in deep cover. So Vince’s suspicions were right on, but that is the past, and everyone is seemingly hunky dory now.

Vince offers Brian and Mia a job stealing some cars from a train. A moving train, that is, and Dom shows up just in time to join the fun. The job goes completely wrong...of course it does. It turns out that this job was for the head dick in charge of all things criminal in Rio. His name is Reyes and he is not so happy with the mess in his house. Reyes is played by the “Latin Jack Ryan” (see also, A Clear and Present Danger), Juaquim de Almeida, both a typical and completely effective baddie. His right hand man, Zizi (Michael Irby), is on this job with Brian, Mia, and Vince. Zizi shoots and kills three US federal agents when things head south on the train job and the Toretto clan is implicated, being knocked straight to the top of the Most Wanted List. You may recognize Zizi as “Betty Blue” from the former CBS show, The Unit….I loved that show and was sorry when it was yanked!

From this point, two things happen that jump start the plot:

First, Agent Hobbs (Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his team is sent to Rio to track down Torreto and company. Side note: one of Hobbs team by the name of Fusco is portrayed by Alimi Ballard…aka David, from the former CBS show Numbers. I loved that show as well. Damn you CBS!

Second, Dom decides to spoil Reyes’ day by jacking his cash, as a means for escaping his wrath and blame for the train job. Steal all the man has, steal the man’s strength and power.

This is where the Ocean’s 11 scheme begins.

The title Ocean’s 11 comes from the number of participants in the heist led by Danny Ocean. When Dom, Brian, and Mia agree that robbing Reyes is the way to solve their problems, they decide that they need a crew.

If you think back to the trailer for this film, do you remember that “the gang’s all here” swagger up the beach, full-up with Ludacris, Tyrese, Sung Kang, and the rest of the FF crew? If you didn’t realize why they all looked vaguely familiar, it’s because the Torreto posse this go-around is comprised completely of all of the surviving “good guy” characters from the previous Fast films.

The wild ride that follows is a fantastic load of big gun fights, big brawls, and loads of great car chase action.

Gal Gadot is back as Giselle from Fast and Furious and ladies and gentleman, she is smokin’ hot. No offense, ladies, as there is plenty of man-meat on screen for you to enjoy as well. Also in the “File Under Hot” folder is newcomer to the Fast action, Elsa Pataky, an uber-smokin’ Spanish actress, whose biggest Hollywood release previously was Snakes on a Plane (Best. Movie. Ever. -- Kidding…but I do like it.)

I think that this film is universally enjoyable. I saw it in a theater about ¼ full. It was a big house, so this meant well over 100 folks in the crowd. There were several moments near the end that led to spontaneous outbursts of cheers and applause. I love it when that happens at movies in moments that deserve it. I generally hate applause at the end of a movie, unless the filmmaker or other folks involved in a film are actually there.

The vehicles used in this movie were less of characters as in previous outings, and really, it was a tribute to this being much less of a car racing movie.

Some of the dialogue is cheesy and Tyrese is, as always, spouting one-liner after one-liner. But I liked it. Tyrese has a great delivery…one of my all-time favorites of his, is “Left-cheek, left-cheek, left-cheek…” from the first Michael Bay Transformers film.

Vin Diesel and The Rock have a memorable face-off in this film and let me say, The Rock is effing huge. Some of the pre-release articles on the film indicated that he put on 30 lbs. of muscle for the role. I also heard recently that he is wrestling again? I’m sure that helped with the bulk.

Fast Five gets 4 of 5 Horns.

Stay about 1/3 of the way through the credits, as there is a credits stinger worth staying for. It also helps set-up the purported two sequels that the studio has been talking about. Bringing in $150 million domestically and loads more per film overseas, why not make more? And with this effort and the last actually being worth a damn, I am not opposed.

Until next time…take care

Reel Rhino

PS: Osama Bin Laden is Dead.  Just in case you missed it up top.

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