My Thoughts on: The Transporter (2002)

I actually remember the commercials advertising The Transporter (many many moons ago, when I was just a wee middle school student). It stuck out to me because it listed the rules the Transporter goes by: 1) Never Change the Deal; 2) No Names, and 3) Never Open the Package.  I had no idea what the film was really about, but I remember being curious about a character who likes to follow their own set of rules (my own brain works in a similar way). Last night, 17 long years later, I finally got to see the film for myself (thanks Hulu!) and oh my goodness. I have been missing out haven’t I?

The Transporter, as the title implies, follows professional transporter Frank Martin (Jason Statham), who will deliver anything to anywhere, provided the aforementioned rules are followed. Inevitably, with a system like this, the rules are broken and Martin’s life is turned upside down when he becomes mixed up in some major criminal dealings.

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This film is a wild ride to say the very least. From the opening car chase (which is actually very funny, I loved watching how he treated those robbers), to the final chase, I loved every minute of it. There is one thing I noticed though: I’m not sure if this was because of the director, or because this was relatively early in Statham’s career, but this isn’t quite the Jason Statham I’m used to watching, if that makes sense. Oh the fight scenes are what I expected (and the oil fight is insane), but the way he talks and acts…it’s just different. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different. Also, this is yet another film where Statham still has hair and it is so weird to see him with hair.

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And speaking of the fight scenes, they’re nuts but in a good way! I’ve yet to see a movie that does not involve Statham showing off his awesome fighting skills, and this film is no exception. The previously mentioned oil fight was crazy to watch, though I read afterward that they had to use molasses for that scene and it had to have been a pain and  a half to clean up afterward. (also, one last thought, I was genuinely upset when that house got blown up, that was a really nice house!)

I’m so glad I watched The Transporter at long last, Transporter 2 and 3 have now jumped to the top of my watch list, and I can’t wait to check out even more of Jason Statham’s filmography. Let me know what you think about The Transporter in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

*minor spoilers for the movie below (putting the warning out just in case)

Just when I thought I couldn’t get more blown away by a Fast and Furious film, I put in The Fate of the Furious (the most recent main-line entry to date) and I get blown away all over again. Seriously, how on Earth are they going to top what they did in this film? We’re so far past the suspension of disbelief at this point that just about anything is possible. But I digress, let’s go back to the beginning.

The Fate of the Furious is interesting on so many levels. Not only does it take the adventures of Dom and company to insane new heights (and equally horrifying lows), it also reveals that everything that’s happened since Fast and Furious 6 has been part of one big plot, and the true villain Cipher (Charlize Theron) is only just now being revealed. I love these kinds of plot revelations because they cause you to go back and re-examine everything you thought you knew about a certain set of films. Character’s motivations aren’t what you thought they were, and everything changes (at least it did for me).

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As big as that reveal is, however, that’s nothing compared to Dom’s plot arc throughout the entire film. I remember watching a teaser for this film and freaking out when Dom turned on everyone (school issues prevented me from seeing this in theaters or I surely would’ve). Plot twists like this one are very dangerous, because if the wrong motivation is laid out in the film, then the entire arc can fall flat. Thankfully, when Dom’s motivation to turn is revealed, it makes absolutely perfect sense. After all, Dom’s love of family is well-known, and that’s probably the only thing I can think of that would motivate him to do what he did. And that’s also why Cipher’s days are surely numbered. She screwed with Dom’s family, and worse, an innocent, and the last time I checked anyone who does that winds up dead (or at least seriously maimed in the case of the Shaw brothers).

And speaking of the Shaws, I believe I misspoke in my post about Furious 7. Having seen The Fate of the Furious, I now realize that this is the film that really sets up the dynamic between Hobbs and Shaw that we see in the spin-off, or at least lays the groundwork for it (they don’t really interact enough in Furious 7, though their chemistry is noticeable even then). Also, it’s really awesome to see Deckard and Owen working together (no matter how briefly), I would gladly welcome a movie that pairs those two together again.

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Now then, back to my opening remarks: how CAN they possibly top what they did in this film? Seriously, they had to dodge a freaking submarine with their fancy cars, while driving on ice in the middle of Russia. It doesn’t get much crazier than that (it’s even crazier than the Abu Dhabi stunt, and that’s saying a lot!) I’m still in love with the crazy action sequences, but in all honestly, I think this movie hit the limit as to just how far they can push it (just watch the next movie prove me wrong).

Overall, The Fate of the Furious has me completely wound up for whatever’s to come in the next installment. You better believe I’ll be in line next summer when the time comes to see it. Let me know what you think about The Fate of the Furious in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Fast Five (2011)

My Thoughts on: Furious 7 (2015)

My Thoughts on: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Furious 7 (2015)

Believe it or not, Furious 7 is only the second film I’ve seen in the entire Fast & Furious series (Hobbs & Shaw, being a spin-off, technically doesn’t count). I didn’t pay the series any mind until my senior year of college, when I got to see Fast Five at a screening that was free for college students. I was nearly hooked into the series then, but the stress of finishing my degree distracted me enough that I forgot about the series all over again (Paul Walker’s tragic death in 2013 did not help). That’s how things stayed until just recently, when I watched Hobbs & Shaw, remembered that the duo had appeared (more or less) in several Fast & Furious films prior to the spin-off, and decided to find out what I was missing.

And that’s basically how i found myself watching Furious 7 for the first time ever last night. By rights, I should have watched Fast & Furious 6 first, since that’s where we meet Owen Shaw (and without him we never would’ve met Deckard Shaw). But…I was really impatient to get to Jason Statham’s involvement in the series, so I skipped ahead.

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To put it mildly, Furious 7 is an insane film, with stunts that make Fast Five look tame in comparison. I’m still trying to work out how a crew of street racers and thieves got involved in international espionage (that IS what this is, right?), but thankfully the story is so over the top that it just works. The plot largely revolves around Dom seeking revenge on Deckard Shaw for killing Han and nearly killing himself, Mia, Brian, and their young son Jack. Deckard, for his part, wants revenge on the crew for nearly killing his brother Owen. Jason Statham fits into the story perfectly, and I really believe that adding him in raises the story to a whole different level.

I also have to say, that while I love all of the stunts in this film, I do understand why people are saying the franchise is seriously pushing the limits of believability (and I haven’t even seen Fate of the Furious yet). Case in point, that entire sequence where the expensive supercar flies/drops/jumps between skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi. It looks really cool but at the exact same time there’s a voice in the back of my head saying “Yea, right, like that could totally ever happen.” Fortunately, I love crazy action scenes, so I don’t let it bother me too much.

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No review would be complete without addressing how the film bids farewell to Paul Walker. I remember when the news of his death came out, and at the time I legitimately thought that was the end of this film. After all, Brian is so important to the story, how could you possibly go on without him? Well, they found a way, and it’s one of the best character send-offs I’ve ever seen that doesn’t involve outright killing the character off. The digital effects are so good, if I hadn’t read some trivia that reveals where and how some of the footage was manipulated, I probably wouldn’t have known which scenes were and which scenes weren’t (except for the beach scene and the ending of course). And that ending…I can’t imagine a more fitting end than having Brian drive off into the sunset (in an all-white car no less).  I freely admit I was crying when the credits finally rolled.

Furious 7 is really fun to watch, and I may or may not be kicking myself for not seeing it in theaters. Let me know what you think about Furious 7 in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Fast Five (2011)

My Thoughts on: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

My Thoughts on: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Film Reviews

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James Newton Howard scoring King Kong (2005)

One movie and film score that I am slowly growing to appreciate is the 2005 remake of King Kong, which was scored by James Newton Howard. As much as I love the original King Kong (which everyone should see at least once), I have to admit this remake is better than most.

I found, some time ago, a wonderful video that gives some insight into how the score was put together, and it’s available here below.

Unlike some of the videos I’ve found, this video isn’t just a look into the recording studio, it also gives a brief overview of what has to be done to get the score made. James Newton Howard and those of his team essentially lay out the process from composing and blocking out the themes to getting it recorded, to having the sound mixed into a final arrangement.

I wish this video talked more about the score’s themes, but I did learn one cool thing from this video. At one point, during the recording process, the orchestra reached 100 decibels, that’s how loud they were playing. You also get a clear look at “the board” that most, if not all film composers, use during the recording process. This is a board that lists every single cue that appears in the score, and the marks next to it indicate where the cue is in the recording process, up until the cue has been finalized and approved. This is an easy way to look and see how much of the score remains to be worked on.

I hope you like watching this behind the scenes look at James Newton Howard working on King Kong. Let me know your thoughts on the film and its score in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

James Newton Howard talks Dinosaur (2000)

James Newton Howard talks Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

James Newton Howard talks Signs (2002)

James Newton Howard talks The Village (2004)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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My Thoughts on: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

*warning, minor spoilers for Hobbs & Shaw below

I’ve literally been waiting all summer to check this movie out. I initially wasn’t on board with it at all (even though I’ve only seen Fast Five, I still didn’t think Fast & Furious needed a spin-off), but then I saw the first trailer and I was all in. As the title implies, Hobbs & Shaw sees Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) forced to team up to save the world from a dangerous super-virus. Oh, and there’s also Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) in the mix, not to mention a genetically-enhanced super soldier (Idris Elba), the latter also being after the virus.

Overall, I really did enjoy Hobbs & Shaw. As I suspected, the film is mostly an over-the-top action flick, with Hobbs and Shaw at the center of it all. There are fights, explosions, just enough plot to satisfy my brain, and of course, the undeniable chemistry between Johnson and Statham that makes it all work. Seriously, how were these two not paired in a movie sooner? (Yes, I know about them being in that Fast & Furious movie together, but that’s beside the point). I found it hysterically funny to watch these two square up to each other, they’re both alpha males who are definitely not used to working with anyone, let alone another alpha. On that basis alone, I look forward to the sequel that was obviously being set up at the end of the film.

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While highly enjoyable, Hobbs & Shaw is far from perfect. For example, I loved most of the last act that was set on Samoa, once the action got going anyway. But am I the only one who thought the family scene didn’t quiet work? The feeling didn’t last long, since the film almost never slows down the action, but still, that part could’ve been done better. The final fight scene itself was insane (even if it did strain my suspension of disbelief just slightly). I know this is a movie and all, but you can’t seriously tell me that Hobbs and Shaw went through all of THAT (just in the finale alone), without having serious health issues immediately afterward. Maybe I’m nitpicking but that bothered me a little. Oh, and speaking of the finale, I found the slow-motion punch shots to be really unnecessary. I *think* I get what they were going for, but it really does come across as silly.

Can’t finish a review of this film without talking about Idris Elba; he was fantastic! Any scene he’s in, I loved. Honestly, I wish we could’ve gotten more of his character, or at least more time for his character to develop, I think he had the ability to be quite nuanced if we could’ve learned more about him. (Also, I love his motorcycle).

Oh, one last thought. Without giving too much away (hopefully), I think I know who that mysterious voice at the end belongs to. If you think you know too, please don’t say anything in the comments, for now let’s just keep it to ourselves, we’ll find out soon enough if the theory is correct. (And on one further point, I’m very glad I made sure to watch Game of Thrones when the season aired, or a certain line would have royally pissed me off.)

Let me know what you think about Hobbs & Shaw in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Fast Five (2011)

My Thoughts on: Furious 7 (2015)

My Thoughts on: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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SpaceCamp “The Launch” (1986)

John Williams has done so many film scores over the years that it’s no surprise some have fallen through the cracks. One example is his score for the 1986 film SpaceCamp, which in my opinion is one of his more underrated scores mostly because very few seem to know it exists.

For those who don’t know, SpaceCamp is a space adventure film that follows a group of misfit kids at (you guessed it) Space Camp. The adventure revolves around an incident that leads to the kids and their instructor being trapped in the Space Shuttle when it’s suddenly forced to launch (I’m oversimplifying but that is in essence what happens). The shuttle launch scene is one of the big moments of the film, and I wanted to talk about the way John Williams scores this moment (cue starts around 1:17 and stops around 2:25).

The first thing to note is that there is no music whatsoever before the cue in question starts. The only major background sound comes from the rumble of the booster. As the second booster is ignited to initiate launch, the background noise “crescendos” as the launch system activates, with the music beginning the moment the shuttle lifts off the pad.

Listen carefully to the music as the shuttle lifts off, because I think what Williams is doing here is brilliant. This is a layered situation, and the music reflects it perfectly. On the one hand, now that the shuttle has launched, it’s important for the launch to go perfectly so it can reach orbit. But on the other hand, the shuttle has launched with a bunch of kids on board and there’s a general feeling of “oh my God what did we just do?” Williams reflects both sentiments in this single cue: it starts with what I can only describe as a “moody” trumpet fanfare (well, fanfare is admittedly a stretch but I can’t think of a better word) as liftoff commences. It’s the type of music you’d expect to hear when a space shuttle launches, because it’s admittedly an awe-inspiring sight. But the normally triumphant music is almost immediately dampened by a minor-sounding intrusion (after the line “My God, we have liftoff”) that reminds us that, while beautiful, this launch shouldn’t be happening.

This is one of my favorite musical moments in the entire film, and I love how Williams funnels several conflicting emotions into a single cue. I’ll conclude with a bit of bonus trivia: Max (the littlest kid in the shuttle) is played by Joaquin Phoenix (credited here as Leaf Phoenix) in only his 2nd film appearance.

Let me know what you think about SpaceCamp (and the launch scene and its music) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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The Twilight Zone S2 E4: A Thing About Machines

When I started reviewing episodes of The Twilight Zone, I mentioned that my favorite episodes were those that showed some rotten person getting their comeuppance. The season 2 episode “A Thing About Machines” is a prime example of this trope, as well as being a really fun episode to watch.

The premise is simple: Bartlett Finchley is a snobby critic with a peculiar eccentricity, that being he hates, despises, and loathes any and all types of machinery. More than that, Finchley is convinced that the machines in his home are out to get him. It sounds crazy, but this is The Twilight Zone, so we know better. I should also say that Richard Haydn does a great job as the arrogant Finchley, proclaiming his dominance over machines until almost the end of the story.

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It’s interesting how Rod Serling and company chose to play this episode out. Given the premise involves machines “rising up” against a human, it would have been easy to present this story in more of a horror style, playing up the victim’s increasing fear and terror. Instead, the story first makes Finchley so unlikable, that you feel inclined to cheer when the machine revolution begins in force.

And really, the way Finchley acts, he brought it all on himself. His hatred of machines is so extreme it borders on the absurd. For example, note Finchley’s reaction at the end of the introductory scene when his clock begins chiming the hour. The clock isn’t doing anything wrong, clocks are supposed to chime the hour, but Finchley’s reaction is to command it to stop, and then SMASH it when it continues to chime. That reaction is not only unreasonable, it’s practically insane, and it makes you wonder just how “together” Finchley was before this episode takes place.

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The plot device of the machines rising up one by one is pretty well done: the phone rings when it’s not connected, the television randomly switches on, the clock rings when it’s not supposed to, the typewriter types with nobody at the table, and those machines that are capable of sound have one message in common: Get out of here Finchley! As if that weren’t enough, things step up a notch further when other, more random objects come in for the attack. My particular favorite is when Finchley’s electric razor literally comes snaking down the stairs and rises up to attack (if you look close, you can se the wire manipulating the razor). As with all of The Twilight Zone episodes of this type, things build to a climax where Finchley does indeed “get out”…permanently.

I don’t say this often, but given the subject matter this is one episode of The Twilight Zone that I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern remake of. Given how the technology all around us has increased tenfold from fifty years ago, it would be most interesting to see a retelling of this story by someone who’s surrounded by iPhones, smart TVs, computers everywhere. Hopefully the rebooted series that’s on CBS All-Access will run with this idea in a future episode.

Overall, “A Thing About Machines” is a good example of what makes The Twilight Zone so enjoyable to watch. Let me know your thoughts regarding “A Thing About Machines” in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Reviews

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