Tyrese Gibson

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003, John Singleton)

At some early point during 2 Fast 2 Furious–probably soon after the first car race, it becomes clear the film has two major influences for director Singleton. First, Star Wars. The car races often feel like Singleton is shooting an X-Wing sequence. Second, dumb white cop/black cop eighties movies. In this one, Paul Walker is serious white cop while Tyrese Gibson is funny black cop.

They’re not actually cops, they’re undercover ex-cons trying to clear their records. It doesn’t matter. For a movie about two childhood friends reconnecting in their adulthood, there’s no character development in 2 Fast. Singleton doesn’t just have superficial banter and car races, there’s Mr. Big too!

Cole Hauser, apparently in make-up as a Cuban-American but playing a German Miami villain (did they change their minds last minute and give him a new name?), is an evil Mr. Big. He tortures people and he menacingly cuts his cigars.

The torture scene is actually rather disturbing. Singleton manages not to take much seriously but even he apparently has limits.

Walker’s not any good, but he’s somewhat likable; his Keanu Reeves impression is improving. And while Gibson struts instead of acts, some of his lines work out well. As the girl, Eva Mendes is harmless. Hauser’s silly, James Remar’s atrocious, but otherwise, the supporting cast is fine.

Except Devon Aoki; she’s bad.

Good photography from Matthew F. Leonetti, bad editing from Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett.

Decent car races.

Pretty dumb movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Singleton; screenplay by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, based on a story by Brandt, Haas and Gary Scott Thompson and characters created by Thompson; director of photography, Matthew F. Leonetti; edited by Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett; music by David Arnold; production designer, Keith Brian Burns; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce), Eva Mendes (Monica Fuentes), Cole Hauser (Carter Verone), Ludacris (Tej), James Remar (Agent Markham), Thom Barry (Agent Bilkins), Devon Aoki (Suki), Roberto ‘Sanz’ Sanchez (Roberto), Mo Gallini (Enrique), Edward Finlay (Agent Dunn), Jin Auyeung (Jimmy), Michael Ealy (Slap Jack), Amaury Nolasco (Orange Julius), Eric Etebari (Darden) and Mark Boone Junior (Detective Whitworth).


Legion (2010, Scott Stewart)

So is it just a coincidence Legion came out while James Cameron was busy with Avatar‘s theatrical release and the Terminator rights were getting sold? I mean, someone’s got to be keeping an eye out for filmic plagiarism, right?

Legion is the first two Terminator movies with an Old Testament God thrown in (I actually do love how the movie, as near as I can tell, ignores Jesus and all that jazz). Well, I guess there is one big difference between the two–in Terminator, Linda Hamilton fell for the guy who moons over here. In Legion, Adrianne Palicki–who’s laughably bad in the Sarah Connor role–seems more likely to get with protecting Terminator (sorry, angel) Paul Bettany than she does the devoted Lucas Black.

Black gets a whole paragraph, by the way, because he was so good in “American Gothic” and Sling Blade. He’s kind of likable, playing a rube, but I recognized him not because I knew he was in the movie, but because he’s using the same mannerisms he had as a kid.

Good performances from Tyrese Gibson (who’s turning this whole stereotypical gang banger grown up thing into a career), Charles S. Dutton (big shock), Willa Holland and Jon Tenney. Bad performances from Kevin Durand, Kate Walsh (how much make-up can one person wear) and Palicki. Dennis Quaid needs his agent to stop with the character actor roles and get himself a TV series.

Stewart’s not a bad director, just a terrible screenwriter.

Blah.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Scott Stewart; written by Peter Schink and Stewart; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Steven Kemper; music by John Frizzell; production designer, Jeff Higinbotham; produced by David Lancaster and Michel Litvak; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Paul Bettany (Michael), Lucas Black (Jeep Hansen), Tyrese Gibson (Kyle), Adrianne Palicki (Charlie), Charles S. Dutton (Percy Walker), Jon Tenney (Jay), Kevin Durand (Gabriel), Willa Holland (Audrey Anderson), Kate Walsh (Sandra Anderson) and Dennis Quaid (Bob Hansen).


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009, Michael Bay)

I thought I could watch Transformers 2, or whatever it’s called, but I can’t. I made it through the first one, maybe because it followed some kind of traditional narrative structure, but the second one is unbearable. It’s just incompetently told. I’ll read plot details and they seem interesting, but there’s no way I’d ever make it to see them.

Bay’s got to be the most worthless director working today. His composition is so spectacular, his editing, while frantic, at least has a rhythm his imitators don’t have, but he apparently likes the dumbest scripts and has the dumbest ideas (his director’s cut to Pearl Harbor being a testament to his needing a firm producer).

The CG is great, but who cares? As such a long-time opponent of CG, it’s interesting I’ve gotten to the point where I can respect it, but it’s gotten so blasé it’s ineffective. Sure, the Transformers transforming is lifelike and all, but there’s no wonderment to it. Bay shoots the thing like the Transformers are the scale the viewer is supposed to be accustomed to, not the people affected by the action. It makes it silly and cartoonish.

The writing is particularly awful, whether the dialogue or the plotting.

The voice acting is bad. Peter Cullen apparently hasn’t done any real acting in thirty years–sorry, cartoons don’t count–and it sounds idiotic. The trailer guy would have been better. It doesn’t help the audio mix of the voice acting is crap.

It sucks.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Bay; written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman; director of photography, Ben Seresin; edited by Roger Barton, Tom Muldoon, Joel Negron and Paul Rubell; music by Steve Jablonsky; production designer, Nigel Phelps; produced by Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Don Murphy; released by Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

Starring Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky), Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes), Josh Duhamel (Major Lennox), Tyrese Gibson (USAF Master Sergeant Epps), John Turturro (Agent Simmons), Ramon Rodriguez (Leo Spitz), Kevin Dunn (Ron Witwicky), Julie White (Judy Witwicky), Isabel Lucas (Alice), John Benjamin Hickey (Galloway), Matthew Marsden (Graham), Rainn Wilson (Professor Colan), Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Hugo Weaving (Megatron).


Death Race (2008, Paul W.S. Anderson)

Death Race opens with an almost too classy intro text (reminiscent of Escape from New York, intentionally I’m sure) informing the viewer in 2012, the U.S. economy collapses. Death Race opened in August 2008… is Paul W.S. Anderson now a seer? With all-powerful, insulated corporations and cops beating protesters… it’s the perfect movie for this year. It’s just too bad they were using rubber bullets instead of Tasers, so I guess Anderson isn’t always spot-on in his fortune telling.

All joking aside, Death Race has to be Anderson’s best film. He manages to fully embrace his own mediocrity, but here he infuses it with a more capable cast than usual and his action scenes are good. They aren’t exciting, but they’re masterfully executed, which is more than enough to engage the viewer. It’s the only time I’ve ever thought of Anderson in the same vein as Carpenter–but whereas Carpenter was inventive, Anderson’s simply a competent recycler of other people’s better ideas.

There isn’t a single interesting thing Anderson does in Death Race, except maybe go soft for his ending. But it’s slick and well-produced.

The key is Jason Statham. Statham can make Anderson’s dialogue sound good. There are other good performances in the movie, but only Statham’s delivery rises above the material. The secret to Statham’s solid performance–as usual for him–is his ability to appear to be an intelligent actor but never condescend the material. The more respectable actors in the cast–Joan Allen and Ian McShane–are both aware of Death Race‘s artistic import (specifically, its lack thereof). Allen seems to be slumming for fun and has a great time, while McShane is miscast. While he’s fine, he doesn’t embrace the movie’s absurdity. He isn’t having fun and all Death Race is about is fun.

Another solid performance comes from Tyrese Gibson. I’ve never seen him in anything before–wait, I guess he was in Transformers but didn’t make an impression; his performance is strong. He’s a likable antagonist. He doesn’t manage to escape all of Anderson’s lousy dialogue–in some ways, he has the worst of it–but his good moments far exceed his bad. Anderson always ends Gibson’s scenes with some exit line and the exit lines are always terrible. Some of them even look like they were added in post-production, which is unfortunate.

Death Race actually comes close–during the racing scenes, where Anderson is running a pure filmic adrenaline line–to being a good movie. Because these are the best scenes and are unrelated to the larger story, it’s obviously not going to work out. But they’re good enough to convince some magic might occur. After all, he did see the future of the economy. The ending disappoints in some ways–despite handling Allen so well, he objectifies Natalie Martinez (after spending the whole movie not treating her in that manner). I forgot about Martinez above; she’s okay, some bad scenes, some good… but better than expected. Just like the rest of the movie.

Wait, I’m wrong. Anderson does do something really interesting with Death Race. He implies Gibson’s character is gay. One scene gives Gibson the opportunity to deny it and he doesn’t. It’s a bold move for a b-movie pseudo-blockbuster….

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay and screen story by Anderson, based on a screenplay by Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith and a story by Ib Melchior; director of photography, Scott Kevan; edited by Niven Howie; music by Paul Haslinger; production designer, Paul D. Austerberry; produced by Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Roger Corman and Paula Wagner; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jason Statham (Jensen Ames), Joan Allen (Hennessey), Ian McShane (Coach), Tyrese Gibson (Machine Gun Joe Mason), Natalie Martinez (Elizabeth Case), Max Ryan (Pachenko), Jacob Vargas (Gunner), Jason Clarke (Ulrich), Frederick Koehler (Lists), Justin Mader (Travis Colt), Robert LaSardo (Grimm) and Robin Shou (14K).


Transformers (2007, Michael Bay)

Transformers features giant robots fighting each other. Such scenes look excellent, from a special effects standpoint. Depending on the specifics of the scene–how the giant robots are fighting, fists or guns, and whether or not there are humans involved–sometimes the scenes are very well directed. While Transformers does have a lot of action, the robot fight scenes are mostly reserved for the end… and then Bay either does well or poorly. He can’t compose a real–punching, kicking, scratching, biting–fight scene. If there aren’t guns and cars involved, while it looks cool with the CG, it’s a flacid.

Complaining about that particular defect of Bay’s direction of the movie is a little cheap, because there’s so many bigger complaints to make. To get them over with… Bay doesn’t really get interested in the Transformers themselves. They only have a handful of scenes with any attempt at characterization and only one of them goes well and it’s because it’s a comedy scene and Bay used to direct comedic commercials, so he does it well. He’s also more in love with his military story than Shia LaBeouf’s, taking to so far as to give Megan Fox’s stupidly written character a lot more emphasis. LaBeouf’s character is poorly written too, but Fox’s is worse. What else. Oh. It doesn’t look like Michael Bay. There’s no sensuality–did I really just say Bay has a sensuality to his style? He does: the overcooked thing. Transformers has maybe five or six of those Bay shots. The rest is style-less. The action scenes are great, the chase scenes are good, but there’s no personality. It’s like Bay didn’t want to get bad reviews for his fast cuts or something (Spielberg’s a hands-on executive producer when it comes to blockbusters… anyone else remember the rumor he added the T-Rex-sized ghost to The Haunting himself?).

Even Bay’s creative casting is gone. In his Bruckheimer days, Bay movies would be filled with recognizable faces. Not so with Transformers. I kept hoping for someone interesting, but no one popped up. Not well known actors in supporting roles (like Bernie Mac or Kevin Dunn), but recognizable character actors in small roles. Nothing along those lines here….

I thought it might be because the Transformers were going to be significant, but they aren’t (as characters, anyway… as giant robots fighting, they’re fine). The present action of the film takes place over three or four days, with the Transformers coming in the night before the last day. They’re hardly there, which is one of the script’s major problems. Though maybe not. It’s a problem, but the script is so bad, it’s difficult to make qualitative judgments. Even if the movie makes no sense, the Transformers don’t have to have terrible dialogue. But they do. The script hurries things along so much, flipping between LaBeouf and Josh Duhamel’s army story. LaBeouf is far from an acting giant, but the script really does him a disservice… it sets him up as a shallow jerk-wad. I heard one of the screenwriters compare it to E.T., but it’s like E.T. if the audience was supposed to hate Elliot (I’m sure it’s just Bay who dislikes LaBeouf’s character, since he doesn’t fit the Bay macho man mold).

I was hoping it’d be something like Jurassic Park or Twister, an effective summer blockbuster with some degree of wonderment at its content. It has none. Bay’s just not the right director for it, even though some of it looks really cool (but I think that credit belongs to ILM).

But, who knows? Maybe if Bay were working from a vaguely competent screenplay… But the Transformer based on Stripe (from Gremlins) was really funny.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Bay; written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on a story by John Rogers, Orci and Kurtzman; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Paul Rubell, Glen Scantlebury and Thomas A. Muldoon; music by Steve Jablonsky; production designer, Jeff Mann; produced by Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce; released by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

Starring Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky), Tyrese Gibson (Technical Sergeant Epps), Josh Duhamel (Captain Lennox), Anthony Anderson (Glen Whitmann), Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes), Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Hugo Weaving (Megatron), Rachael Taylor (Maggie Madsen), John Turturro (Agent Simmons) and Jon Voight (Defense Secretary John Keller).


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