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Movie Review: Fast Five (2011) April 28, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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Here’s the deal.  I’ve only watched the odd numbered films in the Fast and Furious series (being the original and the third one, Tokyo Drift), and it doesn’t bother me at all that I haven’t seen the other two.

I mean, they’re all the same — fast cars, hot girls and a loose crime plot that involves something no one really cares about.  But this fifth one, Fast Five, looked pretty good.  It has the original stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, plus some of the guys from the other films, including Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang (who died in the third film — the chronology is out of whack), Ludacris, and supermodel Gal Gadot (who literally looks like a smoking hot stick figure).  Most of all, it features Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as some supercop on their trail and the rumour was that he takes on Vin Diesel in one heck of a meathead showdown.  Sounds like a riot.

To be honest, I don’t really remember the other films of the series I’ve seen, probably because they were forgettable and crap (and I’m not into cars).  Which is why I am shocked to say that I thought Fast Five was pretty good, if you go into it knowing what you’re going to get.

This one has a bit more of a plot (just a bit more).  Paul Walker’s FBI agent dude is now on the run with Jordana Brewster, after having broken Vin Diesel out of a prison van (is it just me or does Vin Diesel look like a big, fat version of Mini-Me on steroids?  Nothing against him but I can’t take him seriously, whether it’s his hilarious voice or his attempts to be cool).  They need cash and some corrupt drug kinpin in South America has a lot of it.  Bingo!  Let’s rob the douche and ride off into the sunset.

Of course, it’s not easy, and in comes a bunch of characters from the previous films to help them pull off the job of the century.  As mentioned earlier, The Rock is brought in to hunt them down, and assisting him is a hot latino police officer played by Elsa Pataky (who is married to Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth).  There’s loads of action in this film — gun fights, chase scenes, heist scenes, hand-to-hand combat, car chases — and most of them were pulled off with expertise from director Justin Lin (who has been at the helm since Tokyo Drift).

It’s all outrageously ridiculous and very little of it makes any sense (it’s one of those films where people just gun each other down in the streets, they blow everything up in sight and people punch the living daylights out of each other without even getting a bruise) — but if you can put all of that aside and just go along for the ride, Fast Five is an enjoyable treat that’s fun, cheesy and a car lover’s wet dream.  The only thing I will say is don’t get your hopes up for the Diesel/Rock showdown — unless you like watching two all-beef patties tackling each other through walls and windows for a couple of minutes.

This is not saying much, but I think Fast Five could very well be the best one in the franchise.

3.25 stars out of 5

PS: Upon further review, it appears I’ve seen the fourth film as well, Fast and Furious.  There you go.  It’s not often that I don’t recall anything about a film I’ve seen.

PPS: Remember to stay after the credits — there is a little ‘twist’ scene with Eva Mendes (who is apparently in the second film) that gives you a decent indication of what the next film will be about.

Observations on ‘New China’: Part IV – Top 3 April 28, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Travel.
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The Shanghai Skyline

It’s been over a month since my visit to China, and my observations are starting to slip from my memory.  So before I forget everything, here are the top 3 from my short visit.

Counting down in reverse order…

3. Oncoming traffic

Child urination is no big deal really, but when I was in Hangzhou, I saw something that impressed me so much that I forgot to take my camera out.

We were driving along in a taxi around West Lake, and there was this kid, probably around six or seven, with his pants around his ankles and shooting a powerful stream of urine.  The thing is, this kid was not facing the rows of trees or the brick wall behind him — he was standing on the side of the curb and pissing towards the main road at the oncoming traffic.

A woman on a scooter had to swerve to avoid getting hit head on.

2. Avoiding the rain

Another incident I forgot to document with my camera because I was too stunned.  We were walking near the Four Seasons Hotel to check out some well-preserved traditional Shanghainese streets when it started raining.

As I was grabbing my umbrella out of my bag, I saw a couple of middle aged women also take something out to shield them from the rain.  First I thought they were plastic bags, but upon closer inspection I realised they were shower caps.  That’s right, they wore shower caps in the rain.

1. Both ends

And the number one observation of ‘New China’…was actually something I didn’t personally observe.  We went into this five star hotel in Shanghai with a travel agent annexed to the lobby to buy some train tickets for Hangzhou (actually a bad idea — just get them at the station, cheaper and more flexible).

My wife went to the ladies and came out with a stunned expression.  A woman was in the cubicle, sitting on the toilet with the door wide open (quite normal)…and she was eating a bento box.  Amazingly, she was consuming and depositing at the same time.  When she was done, she washed the utensils in the basin.  Talk about efficiency.

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