Superfast! (2015)

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Friedberg and Setzer. From being two of the six writers of “Scary Movie”, they’ve turned into a fairly dependable money making team, spewing out spoof movies every year or so since 2006. Their names are widely derided, with about the kindest thing said about them being they’re “a pimple on the ass of Hollywood”, managing to be even less popular than Uwe Boll. Their formula seems to have changed a little recently, though, going from “what’s famous this year for us to mock?” humour to something a little more focused, concentrating on a specific film or series. “Best Night Ever” (“The Hangover” / “Bridesmaids”) managed to get some positive-ish reviews, and along with this year’s “Who The F*** Took My Daughter?” we’ve got this.

 

The first, ahem, roadblock, this movie faces is “how do you mock a franchise that’s completely aware of how over the top it is?” While you could say the first two Paul Walker-centric movies were sort of serious, by the time it came back for 2009’s “Fast And Furious” they knew exactly what they were doing – ever wilder car based stunts, a huge and oddly-cast group of stars, and nothing but fun and excitement. Full disclosure – despite not being a driver, I adore the Fast and Furious movies and am fully aware of how silly they all are.

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The answer we’re given to that question is “give half the cast a lobotomy”. Think back to “Scary Movie”, if you will. Remember the extraordinarily dumb jock character? He’d be the smartest male character in this movie (the women are, of course, only there to wear tight tops and look disapprovingly at the men). Rather than think up jokes, too often they just copy a scene from one of the F&F movies, but have it played out by idiots, and it feels so damn lazy.

 

It’s not too cheap-looking, and there are occasional great jokes – the scene where they’re looking at a blueprint is really well done, for one. But almost all the funny stuff is just beaten into the ground, like they’re saying “not sure that thing we did five minutes ago was a joke? Well, here it is again, so you can laugh this time”. The first repeated joke (stupid handshakes) is done 12 minutes in, and it doesn’t get any better from there. The cast is solid too, no-one embarrassingly bad or anything like that, but they must know the toxic reputation of Friedberg and Setzer so I feel bad that they couldn’t get any other work.

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There are two movies which have elements of parodying this genre in them which are much more worthy of your time. By far the best is “Torque”, an early Adam Scott movie; but there’s also the ultra-low-budget “The Fear Of Speed”, which has a slightly more “adult” spin on things.

 

I think you know what to expect, coming into this. The writer/directors are unlikely to suddenly improve at this stage in their careers, especially now their budgets appear to be going down (not a single face you’ll really recognise from anything else, filmed in a variety of miserable-looking back streets); and while it’s far from good, if someone ever forces you to watch it, it’s certainly better than most forms of torture.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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The Fear Of Speed (2002)

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If you want to make a really OTT film, hire a bunch of porno actors.

That is the message of this film, an early one from Jeff Centauri, who’s one of those people who can turn their hand to anything – he’s written, directed, acted, been a stunt co-ordinator, done motion capture for computer games, photographed and done special effects. The first thing that appears on screen is “A Jeff Centauri Madness”, which is a pretty good indicator of how things are going to go.

This film could, broadly, be called a low-budget parody of “The Fast And The Furious”, but that doesn’t do it justice at all. Dale DaBone, who surely has one of the all-time great adult actor names, is Max Spears, a mechanic with a love of street racing, and the main threads of the story are started at a street racer gathering. He’s got a beautiful girlfriend, Brittany (Noname Jane, one of the other great names), and a former friend turned rival, Rico, who’s also Brittany’s ex. Now, here’s where things get crazy, and you’ll either read the next paragraph and immediately try and track this down or abandon this review.

Rico beats Max and wins his car because of his nitro system, which is powered by…here goes…his father’s radioactive sperm. Turns out that papa Hornero Martino (Mike Horner, who cornered the market for a while with XXX parodies like “Not Bionic Woman And The Million Dollar Man XXX”) was brought up in a village with high radioactivity, and this has left his sperm with several supernatural properties – it’s the world’s most addictive drug, it’s a high explosive, and it can super-charge an engine. YES!!

He's happy because of his magic semen

He’s happy because of his magic semen

So, Max has to build an even better car to win the big Car Wars race, Rico has to try and sell his father’s sperm to drug dealers, and the two sides continue to clash. The other bit of story is the title, and it’s Brittany (whose surname in the movie is Sears, which is just bizarre with a boyfriend called Spears, even if they mention it at the end). She passes out if she’s in a car going above 30 mph, but when Max gets his leg taken out by one of Rico’s goons, her lightning-fast reflexes need to be put to use driving the car for him…if only she can figure out a way to get over her tachophobia.

That’s a pretty basic framework for what is a refreshingly insane film. First and foremost, in case you were thinking of popping this on with your grandma, there’s a lot of sex in here. Centauri has produced three versions of this – one with more explicit scenes, which remains unreleased; the version I saw, which is the unrated cut released on Amazon; and an R-rated version which was made when it got picked up for mainstream distribution. Honestly, the sex scenes are an odd bunch. The editing is strange, and all the scenes are “typical” softcore ones – there’s a couple that want to have sex but don’t want to get caught as they’re at work, for example. Rather than keep as fully clothed as possible and find somewhere off the beaten path, they get naked, lay themselves over some industrial equipment and have a nice leisurely session. Don’t worry, I appreciate questioning the logic of a sex scene in a film full of sex scenes is perhaps the weirdest thing I’ve ever done as a film reviewer. Also, more people get walked in on having sex in this than in perhaps any other movie, ever.

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“The Fear Of Speed” also copies one of my least favourite choices of the “Fast And Furious” films, the decision to focus more on the flicking of switches and the changing of gears than the actual movement of the cars. As a non-driver, perhaps this is what drivers enjoy about these films, and there’s a certain energy to them, I suppose. What it does that F&F didn’t do (at the time, anyway) is have a bunch of really good fight scenes. The film’s fight co-ordinator acts too, as Max’s sensei, who just sort of turns up halfway through the film to help Max out in a fight then sticks around til the end. The fighting in this film looks like it belongs in a much higher-budget movie, and credit to everyone who did their own stunts as it looks great.

I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this film and how much I enjoyed it. If you can get past the first few minutes, which looks like decent home movie footage of an illegal street race, I think you’ll have a good time with this one. You’ll see Max’s mechanic, Sparks, also play two other roles in the movie (“Undercover Gay Cop” and “Lazy Scientist”) for absolutely no reason; Mike Horner and Voodoo (his son Rico) do truly wonderfully terrible Hispanic accents; you’ll see one of the wildest stunts ever, a couple having sex on the bonnet of a fast-moving car; you’ll see a fight scene apparently set on a spaceship (there was a spaceship set in the studio the crew were filming in and they borrowed it) and you’ll marvel at the OTT performances of the cast, who are clearly enjoying the chance to shoot a normal film.

This stunt is amazing

This stunt is amazing

Finally, huge thanks to Jeff Centauri for answering my questions about the film. He seems like one of the good guys, so check out his website http://www.hollywoodninja.com to keep abreast of what he’s up to now.

Rating: thumbs up

Riddick (2013)

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Vin Diesel is, by all accounts, a smart fella. His production credit on the “Fast and Furious” films means he never needs to work again, and he’s nurtured his Riddick character through two previous films, a computer game series, a few animated shorts and now, nearly ten years after the last one, this new entry.

At the end of the “The Chronicles of Riddick”, our hero found himself as Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, a sort of supernatural race of partly dead soldiers. But clearly David Twohy (the writer – director) and Diesel weren’t interested in telling more stories about the Necromongers, so after a rather implausible first few minutes where he quits his job and gets himself stranded and left near death on a sun-blasted alien planet, we’re able to kick off with a relatively clean slate.

The planet he’s stranded on is full of weird and wonderful alien life, and the first third of the film is him learning to adapt to this environment, hunt in it, and so on. He even manages to get himself a little pet, in the form of a weird dog-like creature, and this section, with Diesel being the only human on screen, is surprisingly gripping and operates as a way to show the skills he has for those viewers who never saw the character before.

But it’s when he finds a long-abandoned scientific / military outpost that the film really kicks off. He triggers the emergency beacon, and when a scanner identifies him, two different groups of bounty hunters come to the planet to get a man so dangerous that the bounty is doubled if he’s brought back dead. One of the groups is a bunch of degenerates, led by a fella called Santana, the other a pseudo-military outfit led by Boss Johns. Santana’s lot want the money, whereas Boss Johns wants to know what happened to his son, one of the characters from the first Riddick film, “Pitch Black”.

Therein lies the film, really. The two groups have their tactics of how to capture and kill Riddick, while he has his lifetime of training, fighting and survival to fall back on in a battle of brawn and wits. It’s really exciting, and while it bears a few similarities to the first movie I think it’s a fresh and interesting way to use the character. Riddick is the hunter in this, and while he’s occasionally a little too amazing to be real (and his comments to the one female member of either crew, Katee Sackhof’s character Dahl, are a little on the dodgy side) the tension is well built up and the final battle, with hordes of Mud Demons being revitalised thanks to a heavy rainstorm and trying to snack on some humans, is well done.

I find it hard talking about films which are solidly above average, other than to say something like “go and see this” in one of a hundred different ways. But I love science fiction, and I want to see it succeed, so it’s great that some real hard sci-fi like this is getting made. None of your “planet Earth with one or two differences” nonsense, this is an alien, with alien ideas, fighting on an alien planet, and I love it. It certainly has the feeling of the middle chapters in a much longer story, but it does well to operate as a standalone film too.

Okay, it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind, and it doesn’t so much advance the Riddick mythos as it does give us an entertaining two hours in his company, but a complicated mythos has been the death of many a sci-fi franchise. For a fairly low budget film it doesn’t feel like it scrimps and saves on the special effects, using its relatively few sets and large portions of darkness well.

If you’re a fan of Diesel’s, you’ll have almost certainly seen this film already (and judging by its box office take, we’ll be getting more in the series as soon as Diesel’s finished with upcoming “Fast and Furious” and “XXX” franchise entries), but if you’re not, I’d definitely recommend getting all three films, and watching them over the course of a few nights.

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Oh, a PS going out to the makers of this film – my wife was very disappointed we got to see boobs in this film, but not even a tasteful butt shot of Vin Diesel. You might want to think about that portion of your fanbase, guys.