Monday, July 31, 2006

An Animatronic Pirate's Life For Me

I went to Disneyland today and finally got to check out the renovations they’ve done to “Pirates of the Caribbean” in conjunction with the release of the new movie. The “Pirates” ride is just about one of my favorite things in the world, and I was pretty incredulous about Disney’s decision to change the ride. The first movie was based on the ride, and now they were changing the ride to tie in with the movie. Disney’s lust for synergistic opportunities clearly knows no bounds. I suspect most Disney executives would kill their mothers if it created an opportunity to “synergize.” They are obsessed with it- when I worked for them in Glendale, they actually had a “Synergy Lab,” the concept of which terrified me. I had visions of mad scientists working hard to figure out how to exploit “High School Musical” as a theme park ride, leaving many lab rats dead in their insane experiments. It turned out the “Synergy Lab” was just a place where the company showed off their latest and sexiest consumer products gizmos, but still- it’s a key buzzword at Disney that I heard so many times, I thought I was going to go insane.
All of which made me worry about their plans to change the rise.

My worries were basically realized. Some of the new effects are cool, and the Jack Sparrow animatronics are well crafted. But the whole thing seems pretty forced, and the story the ride is telling doesn’t make a lick of sense (kinda like the convoluted movie sequel.) In an early scene, the villainous Captain Barbosa from the first film attacks a town and demands that they “surrender Jack Sparrow.” Yet it turns out Captain Jack is in the town in trying to steal the key to the town treasury. Doesn’t really make sense, and clearly feels like the people who planned the changes just forced the characters from the movie into the ride where they didn’t belong. Worse yet, lots of the audio of the ride constantly reiterates the idea that Jack is around- most of the characters are asking where he is, yelling out for him, or talking to themselves about how Jack won’t find the key or map he’s protecting. The name “Captain Jack Sparrow” is repeated so many times, I almost stood up in my boat and yelled “WE GET IT ALREADY FOR FUCKS SAKE! HE’S A POPULAR CHARACTER AND YOU WANT US ALL TO KNOW HE’S PART OF THIS RIDE NOW, JUST STOP SAYING HIS NAME BEFORE I DRILL A HOLE IN MY HEAD” But I’m pretty sure I would have been dragged away in a straight jacket if I had yelled at an animatronic pirate, dragging me to the Synergy Lab where they would have used my body for scientific research that would result in another crappy direct to DVD sequel to “Lilo and Stitch.”

The fact that our ride broke down, and our boat was stuck in a scene where the name “CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW” was repeated for almost a full half hour on a loop, didn’t help things. For some reason the ride has apparently been getting backed up a lot, even though the track that the boats travel on hasn’t changed a bit. Clearly, the changes have caused a curse.

I was pretty disappointed by the clumsy execution of the changes to my all time favorite ride. I hope they eventually smoothe over some of it, and at least take out a few of the blatant and repetitive references to Cap’n Jack to try and make the new additions and story a little more subtle. There really is no other way to explain the changes than to take advantage of the film franchises current insane popularity. But these rides are supposed to be built to last. In ten years, are people really going to care about Jack Sparrow like they do now?

It was disheartening, but at least I can take solace in the fact that Shark Week is starting tonight on The Discovery Channel.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Raveheart- (Sorry I Got Nothin')

So I promised to start blogging again, but then took almost a week to even write up my thoughts on the last couple summer movies I saw for my continuing Summer Movie Olympics. Clearly, I’ve been less than heroic in my quest to see all popcorn fare Hollywood has to offer- I haven’t even seen decent looking flicks like “The Devil Wears Prada” or “Monster House” yet let alone the kind of crap I promised to view so you wouldn’t have to- if I had kept my promise and truly been a summer movie Olympian, I would have shared my snarky thoughts on “The Ant Bully” and “Little Man” by now. But I have decided to post something new, in honor of Josh Friedman’s long overdue return to blogging.

The subject I want to talk about right now is Mad Mel Gibson. Gibson was charged with a DUI in Malibu on Thursday night, and apparently went apeshit at the officer who arrested him, hearling F-Bombs liberally before descending into a bizarre rant about “fucking Jews.” The rumor swirling around out on the information superhighway is that the Malibu PD wanted to bury the story, fearing it would cause a rise in anti-Semitism if released- especially after the firestorm of controversy Gibson ignited with “The Passion of the Christ.”

Despite efforts to cover up the story, Gibson himself does not seem to be denying the allegations. He released a statement yesterday, which read:

"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

The incident is the latest chapter in Gibson’s increasingly bizarre behavior. When I saw “The Passion,” I didn’t see why there was so much debate about wether or not the film’s depiction of Jews was Anti-Semitic- to me it was clear as day that Gibson was representing the Jews with every stereotype in the book. And now he’s shouting about “Jews starting all wars” in the back of a Police car?

Not to be too lenient on a guy who is being such a flagrant dick to my people, but Mel is clearly a disturbed person who needs some sort of help. Honestly, if you look at this guy’s work, there is plenty of bizarre and creepy psychology to pick apart- Gibson long running obsession with bodily torture is the thing that made “The Passion” most offensive to me. Here was guy trying to tell the story of Christ, and all he can do is show him get the shit beat out of him for two hours? It was like a snuff film in slow motion, and a repetitive and boring one at that. And damn, I got sick of all that slo-mo photography. But I digress.

It’s been strange to watch Gibson fall apart in the last few years. As one of the most consistently charming Hollywood superstars, he always seemed to be having a blast at living life. So what went wrong? Has he been this volatile all along? Was the gap between the image of the Mel Gibson the world knew and loved and the real Mel Gibson really that huge?

Clearly he had an alcohol problem long before the world knew it. And it seems that he turned to religion to help him deal with his demons-which clearly only magnified the problems, resulting in the twisted mutant fetus that was “The Passion.”

Whatever the case, I hope he gets some help and really figures his shit out. With all the shit going down in Israel today, I don’t think an international superstar like Gibson ranting about the “fucking Jews” is the most positive thing to put out in the world right now. The arresting officers trying to cover his behavior up is appalling, but their desire to do so illustrates just how difficult this whole situation has become.

It’s always weird to see these very public meltdowns from mega-celebrities. Tom Cruise has been pulling his own slow-motion train wreck that you just can’t look away from for the last year (well, I guess enough people could look away enough to not see “Mission: Impossible 3.”) As alienating and despicable as the behavior of these guys has become, it also makes me feel kind of sad for them- these are insecure people who just have no sense of connection to the real world anymore. Their downfall and the ensuing media circus illustrates just how much of a snakepit Hollywood really can be.

And here I go, trying to jump right into the biz. The best thing to do is take these awful downfall tales and try to learn from them. And hope that Mel pulls it together, if only for selfish reason- I’d really like to see another “Mad Max” movie one day.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Summer Movie Olympics, Part 10: The Man With His Head Up His Own Ass

M. Night Shyamlan has gone stark raving mad. The talented filmmaker behind “The Sixth Sense,” with each successive film, has clearly let his early success go to his head. It has become obvious to anyone paying attention that he no longer takes input from anyone, believing that any idea that comes from his mind is clearly genius. Case in point is his latest film “Lady in the Water,” which he claims is based on a bedtime story he made up for his daughters. It’s not too hard to believe his claim, because the movie seems like it was made up on the fly, and when he sat down to write and rewrite the screenplay to turn into a major feature film, he didn’t change the tale he had spun off the top of his head one bit- because everything that comes out of his head is GOLD. Or so he’d like to think. Like any other bedtime story created by a parent to put their child to bed, it doesn’t make an ounce of narrative sense. When you are a child and mom or dad is telling you these stories, it doesn’t matter if they make sense as you drift off into slumber-land. Night clearly wants his audience to respond to the movie in the same manner- he even has a scene where his hero must act like a child in order to have the fairy tale told to him, as if he is instructing the audience on how exactly we are supposed to receive and react to the movie. Furthering this notion is the FILM CRITIC CHARACTER he includes in the story- who is killed off because he is the only sourpuss nonbeliever in the entire film. Sorry, Mr. Shyamalan- you don’t get to tell people how to react to your movies and then scold them if they don’t watch them as children- you are clearly stacking cards in your favor if we react to your movie negatively.

I’m not a cynic- I cry at “E.T.” every friggin’ time I watch him “phone home.” Because I didn’t care about your mess of a movie doesn’t reflect poorly on me as a filmgoer or critic- it reflects poorly on the storyteller. It’s impossible to emotionally connect to anything in this mess of a movie.

Paul Giamatti, one of my absolute favorite actors, plays Cleveland Heep, superintendent of The Cove Apartment complex in Philadelphia. A quiet man with a stutter and a haunted past (like all the lead character’s in Shyamalan’s movies,) Cleveland discovers a girl swimming in his pool late one night. The girl is named Story (no, I’m not kidding,) and she turns out to be a Narf, or sea Nymph, from the “Blue World.” Story has a message to deliver, because Narfs can see the future and must deliver messages to man, who has slowly lost the “ability to listen” over the years. Cleveland learns all this from the shrill Korean student and her mother who live in the building, as Night piles on the Asian stereotypes aggressively. Night has said this movie is “funnier” than his previous movies. If Night’s idea of comedy is to play right into every stereotype he can find among the diverse residents of The Cove, then I’ll take the boring blandness of “The Village,” his last disasterous snoozer, any day.

Cleveland finds out that Story is supposed to deliver a message to a writer whose work will change the world for the better. The writer is played by none other than M. NIGHT SHYMALAN. Story ends up telling Night’s character that the will be killed because his ideas are too powerful, and it’s a wonder that the movie wasn’t titled “The Passion of M. Night Shyamalan.”

It gets more bizarre and pretentious. I’ll warn you that I’m going to head into SPOILER territory…but honestly. Just read this paragraph and you’ll understand why you’ll be glad you didn’t bother with this movie.

So, anyway…SPOILERS ahead.

It turns out that Narfs have natural enemies called Scrunts, which are basically wolves with grass growing out of their backs. Scrunts want to kill Narfs, but must follow certain rules, or the Turtuic- which are giant tree monkey…things…will kill them. But if the Narf the Scrunt is trying to kill is a Madame Narf…which, gasp, Story turns out to be…then the Scrunt will break the rules to kill her. The only way for a Narf to escape this fate is for a Giant Eagle to swoop down and fly her back to The Blue World. We learn all this in fractions from the Korean stereotypes. Are you still following me? Good, because it also turns out that when a Narf visits a place, people who will be important to helping it get home are drawn to the place she will arrive. Many of the Residents of the Cove turn out to be those people- Story needs help from The Healer, The Protector, The Interpreter, and The Guild. If anybody plays a lot of RPG video games and those terms sound familiar…maybe it’s just that Night has been playing a lot of Final Fantasy Games as he wrote the movie.

Most of the movie’s running time involves figuring out the bizarre rules for helping Story get home. When Cleveland finds out who he needs to gather to keep the Scrunt away, he asks for help from the sourpuss film critic, who uses his knowledge of movies to guess who in the apartment would fulfill the roles he’s described. After the critic is eaten by the Scrunt and his assumptions turn out to be wrong, one of The Cove’s tenants (all of whom buy into the idea of the Narf, Scrunt, and Tartuic without questioning the reality for a moment,) asks “who could be so arrogant as to think they could know the intentions of another person?” To which I say “How could someone be so arrogant as to tell an audience member that the reason they didn’t like a movie is because they watched it wrong?” Personally I had sympathy for the critic- who wouldn’t be a little incredulous if somebody told you there was a Narf living in your apartment, and that a Scrunt was trying to eat it?

The whole mess is totally incoherent, and Shyamalan’s attempts at commenting on storytelling itself come off as hopelessly self indulgent, while also serving the purpose of responding to criticisms towards the film before it’s come out. But the smoke and mirrors don’t work- the critic is right, victim of a Scrunt or not. “Lady in the Water” is incoherent, pretentious, and totally un-engaging.

All of Night’s collaborators do wonderful work- James Newton Howard’s score is one of his most gorgeous, and Giamatti proves how good he is by infusing his terribly underwritten character with real soul. But the whole thing is the M. Night Shyamalan show- he wants you to know how brilliant he is, that he is a “master storyteller.” Too bad he’s too far up his own ass to tell the difference good and bad choices- at this point, he seems to think, if he thought of them, they’re all brilliant. By the end of the film, when the Giant Tree Monkeys start dragging away the Grass Wolf, and then the giant eagle swoops down to pick up the wide-eyed Narf you can do nothing but stare at the screen in utter disbelief.

At least he didn’t force another twist ending down our throats.

Summer Movie Olympics, Part 9: Counter Revolution

I have a long, tortured past with Kevin Smith and his work. I, like most of my friends in film school, loved his early movies in my formative middle school and high school years.

The first “Clerks” was like a revelation for me when I was 15- an indie movie that wasn’t pretentious and slow; it was vulgar and hilarious, with characters I could relate to. I quoted bits from it obsessively, watching it with my best friends late at night, and turning it off if my mom walked in- I didn’t want her hearing the language that Dante and Randal, Smith’s two alter egos, were spitting out. It was a big step for me in appreciating all independent film, and still has a place in my heart. “Mallrats” is still one of Kevin’s dumbest movies, but also one of his funniest, and had the bonus of introducing Jason Lee to the world. When “Chasing Amy” came out, I thought it was brutally honest and emotional while remaining funny as fuck. I’ve since cooled to that movie in the ensuing years- sure a lot of it is still honest, but a good bit of it is also too self conscious for it’s own good. “Dogma” is meandering mess, but at least Smith was trying to be a bit ambitious and explore bigger themes on a bigger canvas. The summer between high school graduation and my freshmen year at college “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” came out, which was supposed to be a fond farewell to the “View Askewniverse” Smith had created. It was nice to see all those characters one last time as I began my four years of film school and I looked forward to Smith growing as my own taste in films began to mature and expand. When “Jersey Girl” came out, Smith clearly wanted to grow as an artist and do something different. But his movie about fatherhood was forced and awkward, and way too sappy to stomach. The movie flopped badly and Smith began to point fingers for the box office failure. It was because Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez broke up before it came out, he protested. His fans didn’t want to see him leave his old universe, he cried. It seemed he was protesting too much- the movie was bad, and that was the long and short of it. The next thing you know, he was badmouthing his own film, joining the fans who had ridiculed it in hopes of winning them back. He got involved in flame wars all over the internet. Was this guy insecure enough to really let a few idiots on the internet (myself not included- I’m sure he cares what is said about him on this ol’ blog,) get to him? Worse yet, when I went back and watched some of his movies that I had so loved, their flaws seemed so much bigger than their merits once had. Sadly, i thought I was done with Kevin Smith forever.

Cut to a year or so ago, when Kevin announced he was going to return to the Quik Stop where he had made his name for “Clerks 2.” I was more than a little incredulous. Here is a filmmaker who had a strong and unique voice when he burst onto the indie scene in 1994, but has since failed to really develop or mature as an artist, and right when his career is stagnating he announces his next project is a return to the exact characters he made his name on? Sure “Jersey Girl” had been an artistic and financial failure, but at least he was trying something new. After the promise that “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was the end of the Askewniverse, it just seemed like he was retreating in desperation.

It turns out those very insecurities are exactly what “Clerks 2” is about- and they are why I kind of loved the movie, much to my surprise.

The movie picks up a decade after the first film, except nothing has really changed for Dante and Randal. The Quik-Stop burns down in the opening of the film, and our heroes are forced to get new jobs- at a Mooby’s Burger Franchise, the restaurant chain Smith invented for a memorable scene in “Dogma.” Ever present comic sidekicks Jay and Silent Bob end up hanging out in front of the Mooby’s as well, furthering the theme that nothing has changed at all.

For the first few minutes of the movies, things looked bleak. After the initial Quik Stop burning scene, Smith cuts to a montage set to a great Talking Heads track. Honestly, the Talking Heads are far too good a band for Smith to include in one of his movies- when David Byrne sings “This was Once a Wendy’s” Smith cuts to…a Wedny’s. Subtle. The first scenes in Mooby’s are awkward- we meet Elias, a geeky co-worker who feels just a little too over the top. Worse yet, Dante is engaged to be married to Emily, a gorgeous and rich woman whose father promises Dante a job once they movie to Florida. Emily is played by Smith’s wife, and I don’t want to be mean about this- but she just simply can’t act. It’s a very nice thought to want to keep it in the family. But please Kevin, spare us her presence next time.

But then things begin to warm up. The incredibley gorgeous Rosario Dawson shows up as Becky, the manager of the Mooby’s. Turns out Becky and Dante hooked up recently, and have a thing for eachother. Dawson is clearly a star- she has real charisma and brings a lot to her role, really lifting the material. But the real heart of the movie is Randal- Jeff Anderson really steps up his game in this one, and his sarcastic asshole becomes more soulful this time around. This guy is angry and lonely, and with Dante leaving, he realizes he is gonna lose the one person who understands him.

When Jason Lee shows up as a former classmate of Dante and Randal, the movie really has found it’s momentum. Even though Randal calls him “pickle fucker,” Lee’s character, a successful internet tycoon, gets the best of them for calling them on their status as counter jockeys at the age of 33. His words really get to Randal, and the two friends pull one of their signature stunts from the original movie and abandon their post- for the go-kart tracks. The scene is actually really joyous and sweet. Randal is an immature, angry man who hasn’t grown up one bit in the last decade, and he’s just finally realizing and accepting it- but the trip to the go kart track “centers him.”

The movie is far from perfect- but so are all of Smith’s films. A long discussion comparing the merits of “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” feels particularly strained (Smith claims the scene is meant to illustrate that Randal is out of touch with the world and hasn’t moved on- whatever, it’s lame and doesn’t hold a candle to the discussions of labor politics in “Return of the Jedi” from the first “Clerks.) But overall, Smith makes this film about being in your mid-thirties and not growing up work- mostly because that’s where he clearly is in his life.

Kevin Smith went from Quik-Stop clerk to Sundance sensation in 1994. But in a way, he hasn’t grown as an artist from that moment- with “Clerks 2,” he is literally stuck behind the counter again, having not figured out what to do as an artist beyond what he was doing a decade ago. It’s a little sad to see him and his characters struggle with that realization, but by the end, Kevin Smith, Dante, and Randal have found a way to accept and make peace with who they are, and it worked for me. Maybe Smith will eventually find a way to move on, grow up, stop being beaten down by his own insecurities and stun us with something new- but for now, “Clerks 2” is a nice reflection on those very things. It’s a very personal movie.

“Clerks 2” didn’t make me laugh as much as Kevin Smith’s films used to. But it did make me smile, and that’s enough for now.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Summer Movie Olympics, Part 8: Yo Ho Ho Hum

Is this really what people want? “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest” is a bloated mess without a coherent story or one compelling character. Despite these problems, it has broken every record Hollywood has in it’s first week of release. In it’s opening weekend, it grossed $135 million- smashing “Spiderman’s” previous record by far. It grossed over $100 million in just two days- the first movie to ever do so. It has continued to pile up it’s grosses throughout the week, staying strong even as people have gone back to work. By Friday, the movie will probably cross the $200 million mark-which will inevitably break another record.

I get why everyone went out to see it opening weekend. I wanted to like this movie as much as everyone else did. The first “Pirates” was a surprise blast- a movie based on a theme park ride that actually was a lot of fun, largely due to Johnny Depp’s unhinged performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. But the original was a bit too long, wearing out it’s welcome by a good half hour.

The sequel commits the same sins as the original, to a far worse degree. “Dead Man’s Chest” is longer than the first movie, and ten thousand times more boring. Depp is back as Sparrow, but he seems just as bored as I was while watching the movie, and just as lost as to what the fuck is actually going on in the story. The script is the main failure with this movie. Disney saw that they had a hit franchise and (smartly, considering the grosses) decided to make two sequels at once. Unfortunately, that meant they decided to attempt to pump up a fun adventure franchise into a “Lord of the Rings” size epic. Yet the story the filmmakers are telling is not an epic or grand- only the running time feels epic length.

The “story,” or what there is of it, is some mumbo jumbo about the search for Davey Jones’s chest, in which the undead pirate’s heart is locked away. But to open the chest, someone must steal the key that Jones has with him at all times. That is all there really is to it, and it takes the movie over 150 minutes to tell the simple story. Sure, the movie tries to explore the theme that Cap’n Jack is a scoundrel who is really a good man at heart- but didn’t we cover that territory in the last movie? And really, I personally cannot for the life of me give a shit about Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley’s relationship. It’s supposed to be the heart of the movie, but they are both so damned boring.

There are a few pleasures to be had throughout the movie. Davey Jones is a scary villain, and he is realized through some amazing special effects coupled with a great performance by the always wonderful Bill Nighy. A few of the action sequences are entertaining and well staged, but they are surprisingly few and far between, while the endless, pointless scenes between set pieces are unendurably boring. There are some good moments in Depp’s performance, but only a few this time. Where is the spark of life and mischief that made everyone fall in love with Captain Jack in the first movie?

“Dead Man’s Chest” is shockingly dull. Just when it begins to feel like it’s never going to end, something interesting finally begins to develop and the movie actually begins to tell a story. So of course that means it’s time for the picture to fade and the lights to go up. To be continued, see you next year, let’s break another record next time. Maybe the third movie will redeem this film, maybe the second film was just a stumbling block to get us to Part 3- but I don’t have much faith in the franchise after watching “Dead Man’s Chest.”

Monday, July 03, 2006

Summer Movie Olympics, Part 7: Exploitation At It's Best

I went up to the bay area for the fourth of July and had a pretty great weekend with my family. My little sister is taking a sign language class for summer school (and I'll stop you right there before you think she's doing it selflessly- if she takes two years of sign language, she can pass out of all language classes through college.) As a requirement for her class, she had to attend a movie with open captioning- as it turned out, the weekend we were in town a local theatre was showing "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" on Sunday morning with captions for the hearing impaired. I jumped at the chance to see the latest "F&F" film, as I had seen the first two before it. Though "2 Fast, 2 Furious" is a boring and lame sequel, I loved the over the top ridiculousity of the first movie. And who could resist seeing "Tokyo Drift" in such a surreal screening environment? But captioning a movie like this does make a certain amount of sense- the dialouge doesn't exactly matter in these movies anyway, so why not show this for hearing impaired audiences? Maybe "Fast and the Furious 4" will not have any dialouge at all. The kids who flock to these movies on their opening weekends (and flock they do- "Tokyo Drift" made $24 million on it's first weekend- not bad for a movie with no sequel without the original stars, or any name actors at all,) won't even realize they've seen an experimental film.

Nobody in the audience for these movies gives a shit that the stars of the first two "F&F" films are totally absent, (except for a surprise cameo at the end of the movie.) The movies are all about fast cars, dangerous races, insane crashes, hot girls, and all around cheap thrills. The franchise has developed into a series of B-Movies put out by an A-List studio- this is the kind of thing Roger Corman used to thrive at. "Tokyo Drift" is loud, stupid, and features an actor who probably has less charisma than the boring as a brick Paul Walker (who starred in the firs two "Fast and the Furious" films,) and the storyline is beyond generic. But I'll be damned if I didn't love almost every minute of this movie.

The story really is of minimal importance in a movie like this- Lucas Black plays Sean, a troubled American kid who is shipped off to live with his strict millitarry father. He gets involved in an underground racing scene, falls in love with the girlfriend of a wanna-be Yakuza member, befriends a small time criminal, and becomes an expert at "drift" style racing in order to beat his rival and win the girl. A conflict that could have ended in violence is, as customary in these movies, settled with a race. The script is silly and riddled with cliches, but in a knowing enough way that it's easy to laugh along with it and just enjoy the ride. Sometimes the movie is funny on purpose, and sometimes it's unintentionally hillarious- but either way I was laughing and having a good time, and that's more than I can say for a lot of the big, bloated Hollywood offering this summer.

Despite the fact that Black is an unbelievabley wooden leading man, and that the rest of the cast (including the artist formerly known as Lil' Bow Wow,) can't act their way out of paper bags, the movie still zips along entertainingly. The real stars of the film are not the people anyway- the cars in "Fast and the Furious" movies are framed as lovingly as the lead characters of a certain recent animated movie about talking automobiles.

I had a blast for most of this movie- the races were stylish and fun for the most part, and it's just in my DNA as a guy to watch those cars drift around impossible curves and just think "wow, that was fucking cool." My only real complaint is that the movie does wear out it's welcome a bit before the big final race. With such a who gives a fuck story being told, why did it still take almost a full two hours to tell it?

Other than the ten minutes that could have been cut out to make it a bit leaner, "Tokyo Drift" pretty much delivers the goods. Sometimes all a summer movie needs is a few good races and a bunch of cool crashes to satisfy that summer movie itch.