Review | 2008.02.11

Three more automotive blockbusters spanning three very different decades.
Mad Max (6)

Rides (7)

Let me tell you a story. The year is 1963 and McCarthyism is in full swing. J.D. Salinger is summoned to the HUAC and, fearing prison, flees to Australia. Finding himself with as much free time as assets, Salinger founds a business and names it after his most notable character. His initial line of people-hunting apparel sells poorly, but it isn't long before he is approached by the automotive industry's sympathetic far left hand, General Motors. Mad Max becomes the inevitable lovechild of American muscle and closet homicidal tendencies.
Suffice it to say, the steel in this movie looks good, sounds good, and goes fast. Holden V-8s are about as flashy as cars come south of the equator, so perhaps the appeal is lost in these days of magnesium paddle shifters and engine management computers. Mention should be made for the prevalence of motorbikes, though they don't stretch their legs in many scenes. - CR

Authenticity (7.5)

The locale fairly depicts the outback and the bush-whacking rustics of decades past. The yellowish tones of neglected dried grass and rolling expanses of barren, desert land bears resemblance to remote Australia. - Guest reviewer (a real Aussie)

Sadly, the title does not serve the protagonist well, Max is quite normal compared to his peers. Max could have been much madder, as such the authenticity suffers. The title should be Brooding, Sensitive Max on account of his lack of madness. - CS

Sheilas (4)

In a dystopic near-future the dating scene is as devoid as the oil reserves. Four points awarded here; one for the fully clothed anorexic coke head cabaret singer, one for Aunt May showing off her stockings while she shotguns the bikers, one for the traumatized gang-love victim tied to the car, and finally, one for the mannequin passed around at the beach.

Four ones is a four in compliance with George Carlin's law of summation: I've never had a ten, but one night I had five twos. Negligible additional credit for Max's man of a wife and all the bare-ass bikers (it really is an area you want to protect in a crash) that [Ed: spoiler alert] would return in force in the two sequels. - EA

One Liners (3)

Finding quotes in this movie is like hunting Easter eggs in a whirlpool lit only by a strobe. If you can cut through the highly authentic Aussie accents (where are my subtitles?) there's still the problem that everyone in the future is a babbling idiot. "Hey, fella! You're a turkey!" Huh? "I'm a fuel injected suicide machine." I think fuel injection was synonymous with high tech in '79.

Introspection doesn't work so well in a future where you can't get ice cream without being molested, "Look, any longer out on that road and I'm one of them, a terminal psychotic, except that I've got this bronze badge that says that I'm one of the good guys."

If I had to have a favorite, it'd be, "Speed's just a question of money." - CR

Action Sequences (7.5)

For the action category, we will look at two aspects: first the details and suspense to draw the viewers attention. Second, how big is the boom of the action bang! You have hands getting yanked off their wrist sockets, burnt bodies, and flames of fire shooting up from cars. The initial car chase scene even portends the coming infanticide, so good job on keeping a theme. The details add icing; a gutted dead bunny on the side of the road, pigeons flying into Joanne's face as she runs in terror. Oh, and the grandmother character with leg braces and a shotgun.

Unfortunately only three action scenes stand out: the spectacular first chase, the biker gang taking out the motorcycle MPR, and the the final sequence of Max getting his revenge. Nevertheless, I expected more torturous tactics and more fire and explosions. Then again, maybe it's just the start of his madness so he starts off easy. I will have to see Mad Max 2 and 3 to see if his madness really fills in later. - CS

Star Power (8)

A pioneering role for Mel. This is a tried and true plot in which a good guy gets sucked into a vendetta after things get personal (see Braveheart, Gladiator, The Patriot...). This is perhaps his first role as the reluctant hero, but it cemented the formula for most of MG's later characters. Was Jesus a reluctant hero? I guess so. So reluctant he had to get killed before he got pissed and came back for revenge (see The Passion). A fourth installment may be in the works, and since Mel is too old, they are considering, no joke here: Paul Walker as Max. - EA

Days of Thunder (7)

Rides (6)

It was all stock cars in Days of Thunder. None of them are distinguishable except their paint jobs. And besides, the panels keep getting ripped off anyways, so it doesn't matter. - CS

Authenticity (8)

The cars looked good, the tracks were real, the turns were all left-handers. The crashes were fantastic. The explanation of drafting using sugar packets was essentially right, and anyone who has heard racers give interviews knows that what may have seemed like incredibly stupid writing is actually the sort of dialog that is produced by someone who spent their childhood around leaded fuels not run through catalytic converters. Real NASCAR fans will argue that the on-track dynamics are all wrong and that not that much rubbing takes place, and that at the limits of adhesion in a 170 MPH turn it is not quite possible to slam a passing car into the wall and then swerve back onto your racing line, but I am not a real NASCAR fan and this film seemed to capture the essential gist of the sport. Points given for authenticity in a NASCAR movie tend to come right out of the Action category, and rightly so.
I can't speak to whether the farmers of the deep south continue to run their own stills, but at least moonshine makes it an authentic NASCAR movie, if not true to life.

The wheelchair and rental car racing, the helmetless bike riding and other apparent disregard for personal safety off the track seems to fit with the racing personality. Racers are always dying in mundane street vehicle accidents, getting tickets for outrageous speeds and misusing anything wheeled outside of their sport. Then, for some reason, they quit racing one day because they are terrified on the track. Also, no matter how smart a woman is - even a prodigal brain surgeon - they will still get retarded when it comes to their choices in men and jump on a bike with no head protection short of a wool scarf. Didn't Tom crash with his girlfriend on the back a few years ago? My guess his feet wouldn't touch and it tipped over. - EA

Betties (3)

Nicole Kidman was sentenced to six months probation after animal rights groups brought suit against her for the poodle hair harvesting operation she employed during the filming. The weird thing about the eighties is the superstars aren't that hot, but then when you watch some B-level comedy movie where the no-name girl they throw in as a gag love interest, who doesn't even have speaking lines, steals your heart and shows up in your dreams. That girl was not in this movie.
Ah what a budget could do in the days before cg (sigh). - EA

One Liners (7)

Days of Thunder has some good ones, "Rubbin is racin." "If you're from California, you're not a Yankee. You're not really anything." And it has some very cheesy ones, "Speed. To be able to control it. To know that I can control something that's out of control." "Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac." Nothing outstanding, the movie would have fared better were it not walking the hazy line between being serious and overblown. - CR

Action Sequences (7)

So the only action in this movie is the racing. That's a no-no for the genre. Think of all the extra-curriculars in Redline: carjacking, c4ing, kidnapping. Cole is meant to be an outsider; he's a Californian, 'formula un' racer who dresses pretty. If they could just add 'capoeira master' to his resume it would accentuate his profile and add some off-tarmac excitement. I'll grant that he does get knocked around by Claire, Harry, Rowdy... pretty much everyone in the movie. But it's far too low-key.

The race scenes are pretty good, there isn't any glaringly obvious stock footage (no pun intended) aside from the crowd shots. The crashes are sparse enough to let racing take place, and it's fun to see the cars get nonterminally beat up. Unfortunately, the racing is just eye candy. I'm not going to say it's shallow, but Cole's moves consist of, one, weaving through the extras and, two, passing his nemeses on the outside. Sure there's only so much a movie about NASCAR can do to support exciting maneuvers, but choosing a motorsport without chicanes, hairpins, and street courses doesn't give you a free pass. The racing action falls about halfway between The Final Sacrifice and The Ultimate Car Movie. The Ultimate Car Movie (working title) doesn't yet exist, but will stand as the culmination of movie night research. An opus with tens in every category. Check out the plot summary below. - CR

Star Power (9)

Days of Thunder features many well known actors, a presidential candidates, and several NASCAR drivers. Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall definitely had a great dynamic presence and banter in the film, which added appeal to the characters they played. This movie helped boost Nicole Kidman's star power even though her character really was of no significance other than the love interest. Despite her character's lack of overall importance, she does have some classic strongly charged scenes in which she lays the smack down on Tom Cruise which instantly gains an audiences admiration for her. Well done star power! - CS
Redline (6)

Rides (9)

One might call the cars of this film the creme de la creme, however the French have never manufactured a supercar so it doesn't seem appropriate. Beautiful machines, the whole lot. And while dropping 700,000 wingwangs on handmade v12 monster makes you a tool by most enthusiasts' judgment, it's hard not to appreciate the craftsmanship. The real draw of Redline is that it features a multipartisan lineup of great contenders. Enzo, SLR McClaren, Carrera GT, S7, Diablo, GT, Cobra, C6, CCX. It's today's version of the Skyline/Z/GTO/Supra/RX-7 rivalry that gave F&F so much potential (largely unrealized by the need for a crime subplot). Oh yeah, and there's a goodly amount of racing, these machines aren't just window dressing (GiSS, Tomb Raider).

A favoritism bonus for the 999 (that the Marine leaves in the desert, presumably because the 1098 came out while he was on tour). - CR

Authenticity (2)

Maybe P.Diddy goes around with his entourage of bitches, but not a yoga, zen, all sensitive feeling, crazy vegetarian murderer. Enough said. What was the plot of this movie again? Authenticity was nilche. Girl's band supposedly plays for an underground racing/gambling event, only to become one of its driving contenders, to become the possession of a crazy yogi through a gambling exchange, that falls madly in love with her, to have a hero marine bust all the baddies up and save the day, and she wins the race, proving that she really is daddy's little racer girl. Yeah. Right. - CS

Chicks (8)

For fleshies, Redline deserves an eight. There is lots of booty and boobies enhancing the visual background yet completely impertinent to the movie. Then again, without any star power it needed some fleshies as boosters. Unfortunately, the girls have no other appeal than that. The main male character, bad-ass marine, had nice muscular features, but the use of his ninja skills is over the top and hence the appeal of his muscles diminishes quite rapidly - especially when he starts speaking. The main female lead - pleasing to the male viewers - is simply that. Should have made her the lead drummer or guitarist to the band rather than the lead singer. - CR

One Liners (5)

This should be lower, but I have to find a category to include the protagonist's original lyrics that she performed with her group 'The Gasket Blowers' (or whatever automotive name they came up with). Basically a highly produced rock/R&B fusion with lyrics centered entirely on the lead singer alluding to her body parts in mechanical/transportation technical jargon. However, don't miss the pre-race bargaining agreement that concludes with the sage advice "If you do this, don't do it for the money, do it because it's what you were born to do"? - EA

Action Sequences (7)

This should be higher because the action was very entertaining and high budget. They did real stunts and it showed. Points lost here are for a lack of hooliganry in the cars. A movie that didn't shy away from destroying newly purchased exotic sheet-metal should have at least done a few burnouts and donuts to test the piston rings. I unfortunately can't credit undercover brother's actual crash in the Enzo here because it was not in the film, but it would have helped. If you bring all the high-dollar muscle, at least flex it a little for the cameras. - EA

Star Power (3)

The stars of this movie are gorgeous, overpaid, and very convincing. But I've already discussed the cars. Redline's sole headline actor is Eddie Griffin, and I don't think this movie made anyone's career. Extra credit for the Clef cameo, would have been a solid five if he'd brought his Zonda. - CR
The Utimate Car Movie

An evil billionaire - let's say the evil twin of the Sultan of Brunei; he's into cars - kidnaps various motorsport legends (star power) and forces them to race for his entertainment. Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Loeb, Team Polizei, Jeremy Clarkson (quotes), Danica Patrick (flesh), Rod Millen, an anonymous Mid Night Club member, and Dale Earnhardt's clone (authenticity) find themselves in the drive of their life.

The first to complete five laps of dystopic future-Nordschleife (clean sections, wet sections, dilapidated sections, and sections roamed by dinosaurs) gets cake, the losers are subjected to a gruesome, ironic death (Jeremy chooses the garage with the idling Ferrari rather than the Prius and passes out on the valve cover).

Each driver receives a well-preserved Group B car (rides) and 90lb of ballast, they can choose between a smoking hot co-driver (flesh) with great track knowledge (authenticity), a nitrous tank, or various corporate sponsorship liveries should they live to spend the money. The evil billionaire wants clean racing, so each car is rigged with exploding tires such that if the driver breaks any FIA regulations, their car is sent careening off the track. They then become the prey of various financiocrats hunting the most dangerous game. That's man by the way.
This movie covers everything. Honest road/track racing with world-class form and breathtaking maneuvers. Hazardous wet/mud/snow racing, well within the repertoire of the slide-happy rally machines. There are even groundbreaking race scenarios that take advantage of future Germany being overrun by dinosaurs, zombies, and the imperial Quebecois.

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