The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) – Full Speed into Unintentional Hilarity

The_Fast_and_the_Furious-_Tokyo_Drift_Wallpaper_1_1280

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” is unintentionally hilarious. There are some good things this film does, which I will get into. It is better than “The Good Son,” but that isn’t saying much. It also has problems “The Good Son,” doesn’t have. The reason I chose this film is because a good friend requested on my facebook like “The Good Son” (I’ll be making my way through the other bad films and ones you request). Fair warning I have never had any desire to watch any of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise so this is the first of them I have watched. I don’t know if the others are better or worse and I am only taking this movie on it’s own.

Before I get into the review the premise is a high school student from Alabama named Sean gets into a stupid race for a football player named Clay’s girlfriend (Women as trophies…WHAT!)…which leads to a lot of property being wrecked. This leads to him going to Tokyo to escape going to prison to stay with his Dad. From here he introduced to the underworld of racing and the story unfolds as another stupid rivalry starts with a nephew of  a Yakuza boss named DK.

Without further ado, here is the assessment:

Pros: The Cars – I’m not a car person but these cars do in fact look lovely. They are fast and seeing the races are fun in a visceral sense. Just like video games of racing are fun as well. It is essentially watching that as a movie on the few actual good scenes.

The music – I was surprised how much I liked the music. It is electronic at some points and has some catchy rap on other scenes. This make scenes that drag because of the acting actually bearable.

The cinematography – This film was shot really well. You can tell the director Justin Lin loves cars and racing because it captures the tension of both those things amazingly.

Okay: Han – The character Han who (Spoiler) get’s killed by DK for stealing from him and is best friends with the lead is the only interesting character who isn’t either boring or a dick. He postulates freedom against society at one point in regards to Japan which is actually kind of neat…he is the only person with motivation…which is why I won’t put him as a con. Sung Kang is the best actor in this entire film.

Cons: The characters – Like I said before everyone is pretty much one dimensional or props (The women). DK is needlessly cruel as is henchman which leads no reasons why the main love interest Neela would even like him. Neela is all (don’t get involved) but than wants him to get involved. Twinkie played by Bow Wow should not act. He is comic relief in this entire thing and ends up playing up the White Savior trope with Sean who is flat and is one of the worst actors I’ve watched in any film. The races didn’t mean anything at the end because the only good character was dead and all the rest were so bad that they meant nothing to me.

Machismo/Sexism – This one has to have a thing here because the try and fail to address this through Neela. Every women in this picture is a trophy to be won. They aren’t characters they are things…and worth less than the cars in most cases. Can’t stand that…poor storytelling for pointless action. Meant to look pretty and nothing more, like the cars…but the cars are active units at least. They get broken and reborn and remade. They help the hero succeed. None of the women do. They are usually two faced in this film and just after the fast vehicle. This film has nothing good to say about women…

The ages – The characters are supposed to be in high school but they look like they are in their thirties…clearly no thought went into casting…but that isn’t saying much since no thought went into this film.

White Savior Trope – This movie takes place in Japan but the only Japanese hero dies. It’s like “The Last Samurai” this way but worse. Sean saves the day and in the end Vin Diesel from the other films appears to race him…so Japan is literally just a location and means nothing except the Yakuza in regards to the film. I would have liked at least one Japanese character to survive and be more than a prop or a villain…but that doesn’t happen. It is all about Sean…the weakest character of the entire film who is from outside who saves the day and gets the girl…who like at the beginning has become a trophy. Why even have this movie in Japan plotwise? Anywhere in Europe or the U.S.A. would have worked just as well and avoided this problem a little more.

The action in this film was enjoyable but if you aren’t going to have fully fleshed out characters and not treat people like human beings than what is the point? In the end you accomplish nothing but playing a nice racing game. This is a movie I’d recommend for the laughs because the acting is just that terrible and it shows you a lot of “What not to do,” in regards to casting and script writing. Visually it is great and some of the music is good, but that is about all I can say for it positively. Was recommended as a bad movie for a reason and it has earned that spot. A movie needs more than visuals, it needs story and characters.

My final score for this film is 4 / 10. So bad, worth one watch and if you like cars go check out some of the races and chases from the film on youtube.

 

Dexter: A Retrospect On a Missed Opportunity for Greatness

Dexter

Showtime’s “Dexter,” was one of the first dark shows I ever saw that wasn’t animated, and suffice to say initially and for a while it impressed me. As the seasons progressed though major problems that the writers had began to float to the surface…for one most of the folks of color were comedic relief and unable to do anything of value in relation to the leads (Dexter and his sister Debra), the fact that most character relationships were not fully realized and that Dexter was a Mary Sue/Gary Stu, a perfect character according the writers who never had to face accountability for his actions.

Before I get into the details and examples, I have no plan to re-watch “Dexter,” so this will be a reflection from memory. The premise always struck me as intriguing. The show is about a serial killer killing bad people and following a code while dealing with the themes of can he never not be a monster. Sadly, this was never fully explored or realized.

Unlike “Breaking Bad,” and other quality shows where I have an interest and plan to watch again regardless of requests…”Dexter” is only a show where I would review individual episodes and seasons with fresh eyes if enough requested it. I have no desire to watch a show that ended up only being “Okay,” when it could have been great. Hell, it isn’t even terrible enough to review as “HERE ARE ALL THINGS NOT TO DO.” It was missed potential on a much larger scale than “Godzilla 2014.”

WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD

How people of color were handled: The first time we see people of color on Dexter and their roles in relationship to him are either in comedic or antagonistic roles, and if their arcs don’t go anywhere they are killed off. The comedic roles are seen in the perverted Asian American character Vince Masuka who flirts and hits on everyone and in Angel Batista, who sometimes has more depth but more often than not is a sweet, funny, well intentioned idiot. Dexter nearly reveals his hand a few times to him, but he is by far the easiest character for Dexter to use.

The antagonist people of color are seen in LaGuerta who is presented as blindly ambitious and whose love for the other antagonist Doakes (who is killed by one of Dexter’s lovers) motivates her to try to bring down Dexter…which never goes anywhere, she is eventually placated by Thomas Matthews, a friend of Dexter’s father and Dexter who also happens to be like every other protagonist on the show. There are also a few serial killers as well such as Miguel, Santos and George King. None of them are fully explored except Miguel who has a connection to LaGuerta. In the end they all die or are neutralized by Dexter…he also doesn’t build any real friendships with them since none of them truly knows he is the “Bay Harbor Butcher.” Some like Doakes are literally just anger directed at Dexter but we never get to know what is behind his anger, so he just becomes the “Angry Black Man,” trope. These writers did not know how to write people of color.

Dropped plot and character arcs: So many character arcs were dropped and didn’t go anywhere. LaGuerta trying to bring down Dexter went nowhere…and her love for Doakes was never fully realized, Vogel the Criminal profiler becoming a mother to Dexter and others like him went nowhere and was simply dropped with them killing her off, Zach being his protege was useless and he got killed off and most of the love stories were that way too. The only one that went somewhere was Dexter and Debra’s relationship and Dexter and Debra and Dexter and Hannah…these relationships actually got mostly fleshed out…sadly the writers didn’t account for the world the characters were in or the fact that they created a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.

Mary Sue/Gary Stu – A Mary Sue or Gary Stu is a perfect male or female character who faces no consequences…everything they do is correct, regardless of what it does to other people. You usually find this trope in the emotionless protagonist in most Shonin animes or most American Action movies (think Emmerich or Michael Bay). It is weak storytelling and it shows that the writers don’t know how to write a real and interesting protagonist. The reason Dexter is a Gary Stu is because he faces no consequences. He is never held accountable, I kept waiting for the police force to find out and for there to be a trial or him having to face the fact that he’d gone against the system that provided him work and who he represented…but they never did. Oh yeah, his sister Debra dies, big woop. He just kills another person and fakes his own death. Yep, that is what happens. He leaves his son, partner and Miami Metro behind and it is seen as a good thing because he is, “A monster who only does harm.” He is still implied to be good though. The last shot we have of him is him up in the mountains, no doubt he is killing bad people there too. He never stops being the good guy. They could have had the trial in season 5 and still do the relationship arc they do with Debra with her coming to accept him. He admits he “Killed his wife,” at the end of Season 4 (the best season that had everything good about Dexter, interesting killer (Trinity) and deals with the consequences of Dexter’s life since Trinity kills his wife while Dexter realized what he did was what put her at risk and that the nature of who he was, was dangerous). He was the savior multiple times, mostly for his sister but that was also a consistent trope within his untouchability.

I really enjoyed the first four seasons of Dexter, even though season 2 had some problems and 3 was a weak season…4 was like the relationship between Dexter and his brother in Season 1 and dealt with what morality and dilemmas were in the show. After that the writers opted for safety and having a “Serial Killer of the Season” which was pretty much a “Monster of the Week,” on a larger scale. Easy outs were taken for making characters not see the shadow serving with them in Dexter and whenever they did, plot armor protected Dexter, the beloved Gary Stu. A trial ending in the death of Dexter could have made this show a masterpiece. It could have been a classic show like “Breaking Bad,” with Dexter a lesser Walter White…but that was not how it goes. The show chose to be safe with poor storytelling rather than a risk taking show with arcs and consequences. In a way, I guess that is the tragedy of Dexter Morgan…the tragedy of “Dexter,” the show that could have been great.

Because of these reasons I would give the show a 6 / 10.

 

 

Godzilla (2014): The Movie that Could Have Been Great

Godzilla 2014
Godzilla 2014

I came into “Godzilla 2014” with pretty high expectations. The trailer made it look as if it was a truly American adaptation of the original “Godzilla 1954” which dealt with the dilemma of advanced technology that could be used as weapons (Nuclear Weapons as the real life metaphor), how to deal with new life (Godzilla’s very existence) and what war does to people as witnessed in the survivors of Godzilla’s destruction and the scientist who builds the weapon that eventually kills Godzilla. It is a powerful film that is much more than a Kaiju/Monster film.

The film was good, but it could have been great. First I should go over what I liked, found okay and disliked about the film.

First the pros – Godzilla the monster was fantastic. The creature looks like a creature from another time and the sound editing surrounding it and the other monsters make it like they are actually on the screen. The special effects and soundtrack are truly fantastic (though Godzilla 1954 still has the better music). The scientist played by Ken Watanabe was also an amazing character who with his assistant kept me interested over the dullness that most of the other cast brought to the screen. His assistant was also very cool, I found myself wondering what brought them together? When did they start looking for Godzilla? What power do they have in relation to the military and governments? There are some great scenes that Ken Watanabe has with the military commander who played Dr. Lee Rosen on the great Sci. Fi. show “Alphas,” Where he argues against the use of Nuclear weapons. I wish this could have been the movie. Watanabe, his assistant, the military and government and of course Godzilla and the consequences of such a creature existing.

Okay – Bryan Cranston, Ford’s wife and the other Monsters besides Godzilla. Each of these characters and creatures full potential was not realized. They were minor characters and ideas…and not fully explored ideas either. Cranston’s character was clearly suffering from PTSD after what went down at the beginning of the movie, but that is never explored. He’s a plot device, just like the main character’s (Cranston’s son) wife was. They were better actors than the main guy, but the script did not give them much to work with at all.

Cons – The White Military Family^TM. This family that Ford the main character was a part of was one of the weakest bits of storytelling I’ve seen in a movie that had this much poured into it that wasn’t a Michael Bay, Oliver Stone or Roland Emmerich film. The trope they existed as is that to elicit emotion but to have no conflict besides survival. This is sad because any family is more complicated than that, especially a service member’s family. But I could see why it was done. It was the same reason the other directors do it. Trite jingoism that can trump up base nationalistic feelings because all the family (and main character) are is a plot piece. They aren’t supposed to be people, they’re supposed to be ideas…like the communist Martyr’s of the Revolution. Ford the main character was flat and was just there to be heroic and to be in places where action was taking place. He was a cipher and a weak cipher at that, as was his kid (which was a shame since young Ford at the beginning of the film had more depth). The movie didn’t need him or his family at all and they just detracted from the narrative and propped up base nationalism. Ford in doing this ended up serving the White Savior trope as well since he is the only military guy who (SPOILER) thinks to destroy the Monsters’ young since the Monsters’ parents are fighting and beating Godzilla until he does the act. Anyone could have done it and it took more of the wind out of Godzilla’s sails. Speaking of which, Godzilla wasn’t even the main point of the movie, he was a minor character which also made it a good and not a great film. The other monsters and the White Military Family^TM did nothing else but detract from what good narrative (Ken Watanabe’s character and his relationships over the course of the film) and action (The Monster Fight!) that made the movie good.

The film still gets a recommended from me.

But don’t go in expecting “Godzilla 1954.” Enjoy the minor characters who drive the film and the Monster Fight in the the Third Act. Godzilla’s arrival alone is reason enough to see this film. I would rate it 7 / 10.