Tuesday, August 11, 2009

REVIEW: Fantastic Four

I think the marketing department decided that this movie's key demographic was more interested in the Terrific Two.

I never read comic books very much, but I’ve definitely always been aware of the major superheroes, and even if I didn’t pay much attention to them, I’m always kind of excited to see iconic characters brought to the big screen. As a comics outsider, the Fantastic Four didn’t excite me all that much because I didn’t know as much about them as Batman, Spider-Man, or the X-Men, but still…

Oh, who are we kidding. Screw the self-indulgent introduction. This movie sucks. Its sequel sucks even more, and maybe I’ll cover it later, but for now, I’ll just deal with the first movie.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cousin, Denny Ahmadinejad

From what I can gather, most of the background story has been severely truncated from the comics to have it make more sense in a 90-minute movie. Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffud) is a brilliant, but timid scientist who wants to organize a space expedition to study cosmic rays. Apparently he’s not so brilliant that NASA wants to work with him (or does that mean he’s too brilliant?), so his pilot friend Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis, the object of Eagle Eye’s affection) gets him to pitch his little expedition to the CEO of Von Doom Industries, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon). Now, I know this is based on a tongue-in-cheek comic book, so I’m not going to rip the movie for having a character a with the unfortunate surname of “Von Doom” not naming his company “Optimax” or “DynaTech” or something. As you might expect, Von Doom’s a bit of a snob, rubbing it in Richards’ face that he’s boinking his ex-girlfriend, geneticist Susan Storm (Jessica Alba, who prepared for her role by learning to pronounce a handful of really big words, like “microscope“). But still, he agrees to finance the study, organizing a jaunt up to his own private space station (as he calls it, the Me-r; oh, do I crack myself up) with himself, Reed, Ben, Susan, and Susan’s hotshot pilot brother, Johnny (Chris Evans).

And now, the one scene in the movie where it's not Jessica Alba with the stiff acting.

Up at the space station, the Fabulous Five are waiting for the cloud of cosmic radiation to come by so they can… study it. Which would be really boring to watch. So instead, the focus is on Johnny irritating grumpy Ben by being a brash smartass (definitely a quality you want in an astronaut), and on Von Doom asking Susan for her hand in holy doomship, which she answers with a confidence-inspiring, “Eh, we’ll give you a call if anything opens up.” Reed, meanwhile, is the only one who gives a rat’s ass about space exploration or scientific discovery, and is therefore too boring to pay attention to.

These Scientology weddings are weird.

Until it turns out he forgot to carry the one in his calculations or something, and the cloud of cosmic radiation comes up on them faster than expected! Damn those rays taking gaseous form in a vacuum! They’re so unpredictable! Suffice to say they’re royally screwed. The cloud comes upon them before they can get their shields up or get Ben in from his spacewalk, so the whole station gets blasted with glowing orange light stuff, penetrating the station’s hull and frying the astronauts directly. This is very traumatic, but fortunately, a violent attack by cosmic energy doesn’t damage anything whatsoever except to knock everybody out for a little while. That’s a relief. I’ve heard that space is generally considered a bad place in which to have mechanical problems.

Introducing Revlon's Fury of Hell collection

The team is rescued, and they’re taken to some kind of spa in the mountains to recuperate. Hey, Von Doom’s so rich that a devastating space accident is just another excuse for a ski holiday. But as they’re recovering, the quintet discovers that the radiation had a strange effect on them. No, not cancer, silly. Rather, as you’d expect from the same energy hitting five people at the same time, their DNA is mutated in five utterly unrelated ways:

Reed Richards, AKA Mr. Fantastic
POWER: Can stretch out his body like rubber, much like that woman from The Incredibles.
TEAM ROLE: Leader. Brilliant scientist who spends the entire movie working on a device to undo all the characters’ powers, a mission that we know will end with great success.
REJECTED SUPERHERO NAMES: Stretch Armslong, Condoman, Mr. Epic-Fail-at-Calculating-Cosmic-Thingy-Velocity.

Um, I'm hoping I didn't just accidentally rent the gay porn parody (Fantastic Fornication?) by mistake.

Susan Storm, AKA The Invisible Woman
POWER: Can turn invisible and generate force fields, much like that girl from The Incredibles. Hey, wait a minute! Somebody’s clearly ripping somebody off here! I can just hear the Fantastic Four fanboys claiming that their precious comic book preceded the Pixar movie by several decades, but I fail to see the logic of that argument.
TEAM ROLE: Naughty bits, which turn invisible just as they’re about to face the camera. Stealth (she’s detectable only by the diminishing box office potential of any film she comes near).
REJECTED SUPERHEROINE NAMES: The Unnatural Blonde, The “Talent.”

"Oh. Sorry, ma'am. It's just part of the mutation. That wasn't a reaction to you or anything."

Ben Grimm, AKA The Thing
POWER: Is a big friggin’ rock. But he’s the only one of the group who wasn’t too good looking to begin with, so not a big deal.
TEAM ROLE: Representative of “Before” on the Revlon commercials in which Jessica Alba plays, “After.”
REJECTED SUPERHERO NAMES: Inhuman Horror, Putridman, Worthless Mutant Garbage, Abomination (major contender, but taken).

Johnny Storm, AKA The Human Torch
POWER: Can surround himself in flame and fly like a rocket. Curiously enough, this means he’ll have scenes on a snowboard and a motorcycle, because flying while on fire is not eXtReMe!!! enough.
TEAM ROLE: Good-natured tormenter of the man whose accident has destroyed any chance he’ll ever have of intimate human contact.
REJECTED SUPERHERO NAMES: Hindenburg, Crusader Rabbit (you’d have to have been there), The Torch (deemed potentially confusing after test audiences remarked, “I needed a frame of reference for his original species.”).

"Incredibly hot? Obnoxious? Appeals only to brain-dead high-school dropouts? I've just become the perfect spokesman for Taco Bell!"

Doom also gets some powers, but he initially seems fine, and keeps his transformation a secret for the time being.

As you might expect, the reactions to these superpowers are mixed. Reed and Susan are moderately alarmed. Ben declares “I am not an animal! I am… more of a mineral! Nineteen questions left!”, sneaks off in the night under the brilliant disguise of a hat and long coat, and has his heart broken when his fiancee decides she can’t make her relationship with a walking hunk of limestone work. Racist! Johnny, meanwhile, is in seventh heaven*. He’s incredibly confident in his abilities, and apparently all the ladies are equally confident that he won’t lose control for a split second and incinerate them. To be honest, though, it’s nice to have a character who immediately recognizes that having superpowers is AWESOME, rather than immediately getting all hissy about it. Although naming his hideous, loveless co-pilot The Thing might be in slightly poor taste.

This really is a science fiction movie if A-Rod isn't on the cover of the Post.

The four of them bicker over the fact that they’re now publicly outed as freaks until, about six hours into the movie, we finally get a superhero action scene. Ben’s getting all emo, sitting like a gargoyle on the Brooklyn Bridge (because all the best bridges have gargoyles) when he inadvertently frightens a would-be jumper back onto the street. Which means he has to smash a truck to keep it from running him over, which causes more traffic accidents, and before you know it, fire trucks are teetering over the East River. But all four fantastic people rally and they all save the day in their own super-special ways! Johnny shields someone from a fireball, Susan contains an explosion with a force field, Ben uses his super-strength to pull the firetruck back on the bridge, and Reed stretches to catch some people mid-fall. It’s a scene ripped straight out of Spider-Man. By which, I of course mean the ‘70s live-action TV show.

I hope you enjoyed that action scene, because it’s going to have to tide you over for a while. In fact, it’s going to be a while before we have an actual villain interacting with our heroes in any threatening way. Most of the movie’s remainder focuses on Reed and Susan building a machine that can reverse the effects of the cosmic radiation and strip themselves of their powers. And he actually succeeds, sort of. His task is made easier by the conspicuous absence of any predatory military-industrial complex representative trying to replicate their powers and create an army of super-soldiers. But although Ben has spent his time getting to know the lovely Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington)--a blind artist, which of course means she is wise and accepting of the ugly freak--he still wants to go back to his old life as an only moderately-ugly, profoundly weaker man.

Yes, I definitely rented the wrong movie.

While all of this is happening, Vic is having his own transformation, despite initially appearing to have been unaffected by the cosmic radiation. His skin starts peeling away to reveal metal, and he can shoot electricity from his hands. With his board of executives punting him from his company after the space mission fiasco, Doom consults with the Green Goblin, who had the exact same friggin’ thing happen in his movie, and decides the only rational thing to do is start killing off the people who wronged him. When electrocuting generic executives in parking garages can’t fill the void in his heart, he decides one night to get revenge on the Fantastic Four.

"Damn the risks! I will get my bagel out if it's the last thing I do!"

His plan is kind of all over the place. He starts by tricking Ben into using Reed’s machine to de-power himself, taking all of Ben’s cosmic radioactive goodness for himself and making him stronger than ever. Tossing aside the now-human Ben, he immediately takes Reed prisoner and freezes him, preventing him from stretching to escape. Doom then fires a heat-seeking missile at the F4’s base, the Baxter Building, and Johnny of course saves the day by covering himself in flame and flying away, drawing the missile away from the nearly-empty building and through the densely-populated city streets. What a guy! While Johnny’s out there spending the movie’s scant special effects budget like it’s bailout money, Susan confronts Doom--now clad in a robe and metallic mask for no particular reason except to look like the “Dr. Doom” character from the comics this one’s extremely vaguely based on--at his office. And let me tell you, the interrogation room scene between Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight just wishes it could match the gravitas of Jessica Alba trading harsh words with Julian McMahon. If it were in black and white, I would think this were a cologne ad; it’s that intense.

Well, there's definitely four of them. The movie gets that much right.

When Doom overpowers Susan, it’s none other than a newly re-rockified Ben who smashes through the wall to save the day. I guess that despite Doom having supposedly absorbed Ben’s powers into himself, that hasn’t prevented Ben from doing the heroic thing and flipping the “Reverse” switch to give himself his powers back. When he announces, “It’s clobbering time!” my response is, “It’s almost credits time, jerk!” He rassles with Doom and their fight spills out onto the streets below, where Doom’s too much for old Ben, who’s clearly led too much of a sedentary lifestyle. Hardy-har-har. I’ve been waiting all review to make that joke, and let me tell you, it was worth it.

"Aw, man. We're going to need a LOT of carbon offsets after this."

But a recovered Susan, thawed Reed, and maybe-sorta-more mature Johnny join him in the fight, and a whole ten minutes before the movie’s end, we finally have the Fantastic Four fighting together against their iconic arch-nemesis. The four have to work together to disable him. Susan creates a force field around Doom. Johnny gets inside the force field and heats it up. Ben knocks over a fire hydrant, and Reed shapes himself to direct the rushing water at Doom, which rapidly cools him after Johnny breaks off, hardening his metal body into a statue. And that’s that. And I’m glad it’s over, because I hate all those other superhero movies that have multiple scenes of superheroes fighting super villains. This one gets back to basics, alternating wacky sitcom humor and scientific study/experimentation straight out of Family Matters. Which is, uh, a sitcom.

This is JESSICA ALBA, people. They should have made her into the Unhearable Woman instead.

In the epilogue, the Fantastic Four all decide to keep their powers and continue living as super-powered celebrities. Reed and Susan get engaged, Ben and Alicia continue to be cozy (remember, if you can’t see him, you can’t be repulsed by the rock-skinned monster man with the, ahem, gravelly voice), and Johnny continues to flirt with hot babes. I think his character learned responsibility or something. Which amounts to him continuing to show off and pull crazy stunts, but with a more determined expression on his face as he does it. For the big finish, he closes the film by flying into the sky and forming the ‘4’ logo with his fire trail, apparently relying on the high concentration of extremely still nitrogen in the atmosphere to keep the burning air visible long enough before the whole thing is just a smoky ’#’ and everyone on the ground wonders what the hell he’s trying to do.

Obviously, this isn’t supposed to be a particularly serious film. It’s trying to be schlocky, but stylish and funny the way Spider-Man is. But really, it feels like a mega-budget pilot for a Fantastic Four TV series, not a complete movie that’s supposed to work all by itself. I’ll give it some credit: for all my joking, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are pretty good in their roles, and their banter would be decent comic relief if there was more of a villainous plot they needed to relieve us from. The rest of the cast and characters? Not so great. Ioan Gruffud is capable of being better than this, but playing the brilliant scientist leader of the group as the guy with the perpetual deer-in-the-headlights look was not a good showing. Jessica Alba’s a good enough actress to play someone who dances or strips and has no lines; if she really studies the role, maybe she could pull off Nova in any future Planet of the Apes remake. Julian McMahon should work as an Armani model, not an oppressive lord of evil. And finally, director Tim Story has obviously demonstrated that his surname was a cruel mistake of fate, and he’s better off applying his technical skills at making really nice wedding videos, or perhaps being the guy who films people on roller coasters and then sells them $10 tapes as souvenirs.


Be Four-warned: the sequel doesn’t get any better. After its failure, it looks like the Fantastic Four series is going to go where all failed superhero franchises do: straight into a reboot with a different director and cast. What a world.

*Speaking of which, it must be good to be an actor where the one movie he makes without Jessica Biel stars Jessica Alba.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

COMING SOON: Fantastic Four

I think Fantastic III: Elton John's Revenge was the pinnacle of this series. Afterwards, it went straight downhill.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


It's too small to see here, but I love how the actors' names on the poster are in alphabetical order, except that Michael Pena is last. Because it's not like he's an A-list Hollywood force in the vein of Jennifer Esposito or Larenz Tate.

Wait, you’re telling me this isn’t the movie with Jason Statham trying to keep this adrenaline up or else he dies? Damn you Netflix and your completion match searching!

I heard a rumor that after Lions Gate releases Saw XVIII, they're finally going to go ahead with the long-awaited "Saw vs. Crash."

Instead, this is movie that inspired Babel, the film that would have truly lived up to its name if it were spelled slightly differently. To its benefit--or not--writer/director Paul Haggis’s movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 2005, beating out popular favorite Brokeback Mountain. I guess racism beats out homophobia when Hollywood can only make one statement per award. Of course, it’s also possible that Crash was just a good movie, but we'll see to that.

Knowing that this movie was going to have even more barely-related parallel stories going on than Babel, I decided to watch this movie for the first time with a notepad so I could semi-live blog it. Uh, don’t get the impression, though, that I was watching this movie with the expectation that it would rile me up enough to put a negative review online. Nah, just a precaution.

"...but the evil alien Xenu detonated hydrogen bombs in a volcano. And what does that mean for our thetans? Hey, wait, I haven't finished!"

I’ll say this up-front: racism, the subject of this movie, is no joke. Don’t confuse my disrespect for a preachy, stilted, cloying film for dismissal of the basic underlying topic. But then, who knows? Maybe this movie deserves all the praise it got. Let’s begin.

0:01: Opening credits. Sandra Bullock? Brendan Fraser? Wow, I didn’t know this was going to be a cute romantic comedy. With Ludacris as Fraser’s jive-talkin’ best bud.

They've taken a few liberties with this "It's a Wonderful Life" remake.

0:04: Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito are detectives who rear-end a Korean woman. In a CAR, you sick freak. Jennifer Esposito gets out to berate the woman for her driving. Cuz Asians are bad drivers, you know.

It’s amazing how much Jennifer looks like Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order SVU “fame” here. She’s got the same “furrow your eyebrows really hard to make it look like you’re intense” look to her.

By the way, are we really going to have to listen to this new agey music the whole movie?

0:05: An Iranian immigrant (Shaun Toub) and his daughter buy a gun from a racist, fat slob of a shopkeeper who calls him “Osama.” Congratulations, Crash: you’ve just won your Oscar. You could introduce John Travolta in Battlefield Earth garb as your next character and you’d still win it on the strength of this scene. Racist fat white guy gun shop owner who calls the Iranian Osama? Check. A guy buying a gun to defend himself in a tough city being depicted as a hothead? Check. Daughter level-headed while the father’s freaking out? Check. She winds up buying the gun and ammo for him when he’s ejected from the store. Oh, and you’ll love where this subplot goes. More later.

Though a top seller after the film's surprise Oscar win, the XBox Crash first-person shooter game was most popular for one mission--"Assassinate the Monkeybone guy."

0:09: Yes, Ludacris is actually in this movie, as a low-life criminal who wanders the streets with his friend, Larenz Tate, discussing the subtle and unsubtle ways that racism reveals itself in everyday life. You need to hear these guys to believe them. It’s like Paul Haggis was using passages from his Sociology textbook for their dialogue, but tossed in the word “dawg” once in a while to get an urban vibe going. The two of them, but in particular Luda, provide the running ironic commentary throughout the movie. Now, as some of the later scenes will attest, this movie isn’t going for total realism, but did we really need Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in here?

0:12: Don and Jen arrive at the scene of a shooting, where a white cop who looks like a shipwrecked Nick Nolte has just shot a black cop. This guy’s already shot two other black guys before, so is he a murderous bigot, or was the black cop corrupt as he claims?

"...and if you do that, and he calls you that, the president will inevitably say something unpopular and have no choice but to invite us over to the White House for beers. And that will give us the perfect opportunity to steal the Lincoln gold! It's a perfect plan!"

0:14: Fraser is the district attorney, Bullock is his wife, and they’d earlier gotten carjacked by Luda and Larenz. She’s a bitchy racist, and he’s equally insensitive, but he’s got a political career to keep in mind. So he tries to figure out how to spin this to the press, afraid that whether he’s too verbally tough or too verbally soft on the thieves, he’ll catch hell from one half of the city or the other.

“What we need is a picture of me pinning a medal on a black man,” he says to his campaign staff. How much longer is this movie? It won the Best Short Film category, right?

0:16: Matt Dillon is a racist cop with a sick father who has crappy health insurance or something (Michael Moore just looked up from his sandwich long enough to yell, “You go, girl!”). His noobie partner is Ryan Phillipe, and he soon after pulls over affluent, black married couple Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton because she was giving him a BJ while driving. Dillon takes the opportunity to force her out of the car and molest her in a pretty disturbing scene. Ryan Phillipe is sickened by his partner’s actions.

"...and it's 'yap, yap, yap' 24/7 about how they gave your role to Don Cheadle in the Iron Man sequel. Well, you don't hear me crying about how there's never going to be a Chroncles of Riddick sequel, do you?"

0:27: Michael Pena is a locksmith who was berated by an agitated Sandra Bullock earlier because she thought he was going to rob her house after he changed her locks. But here we see that he’s just a sweet family guy who tucks his adorable daughter in. The daughter’s still afraid of gunfire, because they used to live in a bad neighborhood, but Michael gives her a “magic invisible cloak” that deflects bullets. And it also gives +4 Dexterity, +18 Hit Points, and can cast Magic Missile 3x/day.

This little father/daughter scene is so sweet, I’m sure there’s no chance the movie will eventually threaten these two with violence. It just wouldn’t be appropriate.

"Newt, I think we're in trouble."

0:32: Luda and Larenz are driving the van they stole from Brendan and Sandra, and they run over a Korean guy (whom they think is Chinese; ‘cause they’re racially insensitive, get it?) and drag him halfway down the block before they realize what’s going on. When they stop, they fully realize that they could get arrested for reckless driving or manslaughter if the guy dies, but still discuss whether or not to take him to the hospital, using the tone of voice usually reserved for discussing whether to get the roast beef or chicken at Arby’s. I’m really not sure these two were supposed to be in this movie. I think they acted in a wacky urban pothead comedy and got digitally spliced into this “serious” movie. Anyway, they dump the Korean guy at the hospital, proving that despite all the carjacking, they’re pretty decent people.

0:33: Keith David! That guy’s awesome! And he’s awesome here! For one whole scene! Now if they just throw in Kurt Russell and a shape-shifting alien, we’ll have an awesome movie going here! Hell, I’d even take Roddy Piper and some sunglasses! Anyway, David’s the police captain, and despite a long speech about racial politics, he agrees to let Ryan Phillipe drive a patrol car by himself, while Dillon gets a new partner.

0:37: “Why do you keep everyone a certain distance away?” Actual dialogue from an actual motion picture. Oh, and Don and Jen are having sex. He calls her a Mexican, but she reminds him that she’s actually Puerto Rican. Which means that in the course of a single evening (yes, that’s how far we’ve gotten so far), the only characters who haven’t said or done anything racist are Michael Pena and Guy on Street #3.

"Hey, yoo! Turn arownd! Leesten to meee! On da wahl! Cahleefohrnya's all outta monee! Get to da choppa! Runnn!"

0:44: Next morning. Holy crap, Tony Danza is in the movie! And he’s a racist too! Now, if they introduce Regis Philbin as Hitler's bastard child, Skip, this might be the greatest movie ever.

Turns out Terrence Howard not only wears the kinds of sweaters you see on guys selling Time Life books, but he’s a TV director, which is a great way to make him sympathetic. Thandie’s still pissed at him for not standing up to Matt Dillon the other night. Terrence decides he’s got to be more of a man. Dude, here’s a tip. Stop wearing those damn sweaters.

"There's a wild Fandango... loose... in the theater! Rowr!"

0:51: Don talks to his mother. Wow, another depressing talk between a cop and his decrepit widowed parent. Haven’t seen one of those since Matt Dillon had one about… oh, a minute ago.

0:52: Really, what’s wrong with this music? They should call the soundtrack, “Music to Start Up Windows By.” It’s like they hired a new age band to perform Keyboard Demo #5. It’s like this is the arty side project of the guy who does the crappy synthesizer music from dirt-cheap early-‘90s horror movies.

0:56: Michael Pena had earlier refused to install a lock in Shaun Toub’s shop because he really needed to get an entirely new door. Now, Toub’s store has been robbed, and he’s frakking mad. Insurance won’t pay up because Michael was right and he should have gotten his door replaced entirely. So Toub prepares to do the only thing that a man who owns a gun will do in a movie like this: use it to get bloody, bloody, irrational revenge.

1:02: And now that we’ve gone through our utterly depressing phase of the movie, we’ve reached our inspirational/reconciliatory phase of the movie! Hooray! And it starts with Thandie Newton getting in a horrible car accident on the highway, while Matt Dillon just happens to be the one to show up to try to pull her out of the car before the gas tank explodes. Yeah, Los Angeles is a pretty small city. Since he’d molested her about 12 hours earlier, it’s a bit awkward when he has to reach into a confined space and wrestle her body from the car just ahead of the explosion, but the giddily chanting music ensures us that this is supposed to be inspirational. Come on, let‘s sing the Crash theme music together! Ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah!

"Want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? AHHHHHHHH!"

1:06: Fraser sends one of his underlings (William Fichtner) to convince Don to say he believes that the white cop from earlier in the movie murdered his black cop partner, even though Don has evidence to suggest that the black cop really was crooked and the white cop might have been acting in self-defense. The underling wants the white cop framed so that his boss can prosecute him and look good in the eyes of the black voters. Don wants to hear nothing of it until the underling mentions that there’s a warrant out for Don’s brother’s arrest. If Don forgets about the evidence exonerating the white cop, DA Fraser will forget about the evidence.

You know, this movie takes place over 24 hours and its plot involves widespread political corruption and cover-ups. You know what TV show this reminds me of? That’s right. C-SPAN.

1:14: Meanwhile, Terrence gets carjacked by Luda, who’s split up with Larenz, but he refuses to give up his car, because he’s got to prove himself to be macho (Dude, you might want to get a surgical voice deepening to start with; no offense.). Much reckless driving ensues. Terrence goes so berzerk that Phillipe has to talk him down to keep the other cops on the scene from blowing him away. Phillipe recognizes that the driver is the guy his partner did a number on the other night, so he helps Terrence get away by calling in a favor from a couple of cops who owe him nothing (I think they just wanted to avoid the paperwork), and Terrence helps Luda get away. Action scene narrowly averted.

Mexican standoff. You're doing it wrong.

1:20: Toub confronts Michael at his house, ready to blow the guy away for refusing to fix his door lock. Adorable daughter jumps in front of her dad just ahead of the gunshot. “NOOOOOOOO!!!” But wait… she’s okay! There’s no bullet wound on here. Damn, that magic cloak is effective. Michael and daughter run inside their house. Toub wanders away confused. Action scene narrowly averted. Toub thinks it’s an angel that saved him from killing that kid. But his daughter knows better; she bought him blanks for ammunition at the shop, and he apparently knows enough written English to run a store, but not to read a six-letter word on a box. Oh, and thanks movie for reminding us that there’s absolutely no reason for a guy who runs a small shop in a bad part of LA to have a pistol, and that it’s better off for everyone if he’s actually defenseless. I mean, he’s not black, so all he has to do is blow a whistle and the LAPD will ride in like the Rohirrim and save him. Right?

Oh, and since there’s just such a general air of goodwill going around, Michael Pena’s presumably going to forgive and forget the murder attempted upon him, even though he knows Toub and where he works. And I completely support an dramatic license taken to end the movie faster.

1:24: Sandra Bullock slips and falls down the stairs in her home. Which is a more entertaining three seconds than all of Speed 2.

1:26: Ryan Phillipe picks up Larenz hitchhiking on a lonely road at night. They start to bicker for some odd reason, and Phillipe shoots him when he thinks he’s pulling a gun on him. So while bigot Matt Dillon found redemption earlier on, knight in shining armor Ryan Phillipe dumps the body on the side of the highway and drives off. So the idea is that Ryan Phillipe is holier-than-thou, but really no better than anyone else deep down, while Matt Dillon is an asshole on the outside, but his racism doesn’t extend so far as to leave women he’s abused to die a fiery death.

Furthermore, it turns out that Larenz was actually Don Cheadle’s ne’r-do-well brother. Which is sad and ironic, because there’s flashback to when the two were boys, and Young Larenz told Young Don that he thinks Don is going to grow up to get shot by Ryan Phillipe while reaching for a St. Christopher figurine. Furthermore, his mother blames him for this death, reminding him that he was too busy with his career to go out and help his brother. Fortunately for Don, Jennifer Esposito is still hot.

"Batman will pay for this!"

1:34: Luda discovers that the van he just carjacked (vanjacked?) is full of slave laborers smuggled in from Asia. Although he’s offered $500 apiece for them by the chop shop owner he deals with, he’s such an awesome guy that he instead lets them loose in the middle of Los Angeles and gives them a few bucks each. They’re free to make new lives for themselves in opportunity-ridden LA, where car chases and car crashes go on left and right, where the politicians frame innocent people for racially-tinged photo ops, and where bad cops molest women and good cops murder people. Fortunately for us, the movie ends before we can see the immigrants gunned down by cracked-up gangsters who harvest their organs on the spot, because the movie would probably have to put a halt to the easy listening soundtrack if something dark like that happened.

1:40: Sandra Bullock calls Brendan Fraser to tell him that she fell down the stairs. He promises to drive there immediately, never slowing below 55 miles an hour, but she’s okay because their Hispanic maid drove her to the emergency room. This despite all of Sandra’s friends turning her down when she called them on her cell phone for help. Only Maria cared enough to help.

Congratulations, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You just gave the Best Picture award to a live-action version of The Little Engine That Could.

1:42: It’s snowing, in Los Angeles! And that makes Terrence Howard feel good. He’s just generally in a good mood, knowing that he lives in a world where everybody does something idiotic and illegal, and nobody gets punished for it. He calls his wife and tells her he loves her. AND THAT MATT DILLON’S GOING TO F***ING DIE!!! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the sequel.

Major Tom probably has an AWESOME ringtone.

1:47: As Luda smirks with self-adulation about his good deed and rides off into the sunset in his stolen van, two nearby cars get in a fender bender. The people who get out and argue about it are of different races. The camera pans away. What follows is not so much a crash as it is a STOP and an EJECT.