Crawl

Horror is that dime a dozen film genre where there is maybe one out of a hundred exceptional films. It’s a genre that can be experimented with by wannabe filmmakers trying to make a name for themselves, but very few succeed in making a career out of them that people actually like. You can name the few that do it with consistency and I think by now we can add Alexandre Aja to that list. Because Crawl is really quite exceptional.

The premise of Crawl sounds as if it’s been made before, but it’s original. The plot sounds ridiculous, of a gator film in a hurricane. And yet, we are carefully pulled into the story feeling the claustrophobic spaces in the basement as our two protagonists try to outrun and outsmart gators. Even when the ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous third act begins we buy it because the filmmaker cared to make us really believe this world in the beginning. Crawl is a tense film that will inflict jump scare after jump scare on you. It was a great experience when I saw this on the big screen with an audience that was screaming, and it worked just as well again at home.

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Apart from the horror, the story surrounds an estranged father and daughter relationship. The daughter was a champion diver trained by her father to go the distance, but we see that in time the coaching seemed to strain their relationship and she doesn’t seem him until he is in life-threatening danger during the hurricane. This gives us people to care about, which is the hardest thing for most horror movies to give an audience.

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I hope we get more monster films like this that have so much care attached to them. If you happen to catch the special features on the Blu-ray disc you will find the set is almost entirely practical, which blows my mind as I thought for sure it would require plenty of CGI. I recommend checking it out when you’re next looking for a monster movie.

Robert Ring

The Fast and the Furious

Everybody seems to love The Fast and the Furious.
No kidding, there are seven sequels and a spin-off. It’s also the seventh highest-grossing film franchise ever.

So what kept me from jumping into this highly profitable franchise?
Well, just about everything. The Fast and the Furious just sounded like another action film among the dozens that seemed to crop up around that time. It looked like a lot of racing and over the top masculinity. When the series had a renewed interest by the fourth or fifth film I was going to give it a go until a friend of mine told me the timeline is out of order. From what I gathered, the third film is a bit of an anomaly and takes place after further sequels, and it was enough to turn me off. Then the popularity of the franchise was so big it was generating over a billion dollars a movie and the marketing was all in your face. From the trailers, it reminded me of the Transformers franchise which was following the same upward trajectory, except I saw the first two and they were terrible. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the horribly titled Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw that I saw potential interest in it. Fast forward to last night and without further ado, I watched it.

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You would be wrong, if like me you thought this movie was going to be about racing. That’s all just the background. The Fast and the Furious is about respect, and family wrapped up in a crime story. The story starts with some juiced up street racing cars hijacking a truck full of electronic merchandise. They do it flawlessly. They are trained and professionals at this type of literal highway robbery. The next scene we are introduced to Brian (Paul Walker), a pretty boy getting himself into an arena he doesn’t belong. That arena is street racing and he wants to take on Dominic (Vin Diesel) the head of a Los Angeles illegal street racing crew. Brian goes in headstrong in the race but just loses out. It was enough to gain the respect of Dominic and the two become buddies. Before long Dominic brings Brian into his family, and then we find out that Brian is an undercover cop trying to find out who is behind the hijackings. Brian starts falling for Dominic’s sister and finds it hard to be objective as he is pulled further into Dominic’s crew. Along the way, Brian is being pressured by his bosses to pinpoint who the criminals are, and Dominic is mixed up in a turf war between another crew. Everything that brews together comes to a climatic and action-packed end.

It turns out The Fast and the Furious is quite a good film. There is a lot to like. The characters all feel like family by the end, and that’s where the heart of the film is. Through the eyes of Brian, we see these people we don’t relate to at first until we see their bond and respect for each other over time. It all becomes heartfelt. I can only assume that this is the theme that runs through the franchise, even as the trailers show some ridiculous stunts, and I mean ridiculous. I enjoyed Paul Walker in Pleasantville, and Varsity Blues before this, but his acting is still very similar overall. Considering how beloved he was at the time of his death, he must completely grow as an actor and into his character in the later films.

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The editing is effective at making all the racing scenes seem adrenaline-fueled. I recall it being talked about on the documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. I bought the movie Bullitt on Blu-ray years ago just because this feature-length documentary was on there. I still haven’t watched Bullitt to date. The documentary is on Youtube and worth a watch. Check it out below:

I know how outrageous this franchise gets in the later films, so my curiosity is peaked and I question how they can keep it together for so long. For now, I’ll leave those curiosities up in the air and return to the franchise sooner than I have in the past.

Robert Ring

The Doctor Who Plunge

For the longest time, I considered Doctor Who to be the epitome of geekdom. It was this show that carried on for generations. It’s so old my grandfather was tuning in as a young man, and under the same cannon, it continues to this day. My grandfather is the reason I began watching it. After he passed away a couple of months ago, I’ve been thinking about him regularly. He had a quiet and quaint presence all his life, and spiritually he must be the same in the next life because I haven’t felt his presence. The days grow longer when I think about the end of his journey, so I strive to find a way to make these moments bittersweet instead.

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This past week I’ve started watching Doctor Who, and I’m enjoying it. Before I saw only a campiness, similar to an Ed Wood picture, whereas now I see what I believe my grandfather saw, which were the possibilities. The Doctor can travel anywhere in time with his Tardis, and this makes for some incredibly creative journeys. When the Doctor travels to the past, we get a creative albeit Twilight Zone spin on a historical time. However, when the Doctor travels to the future, we’re given thought-provoking instances that humanity may find itself in if given the time. It’s the episodes in the future that I find myself afterward wishing I could get lost in a conversation with my grandfather in. I could have known him for a hundred years and never quite work out how his mind interprets philosophy, time and space. This is the trait I think he shares with the Doctor. If my grandfather had been educated at a university level, he might have become a great engineer or a mad scientist. I’ll never know.

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I do know I’m going to continue watching Doctor Who, and share in something my grandfather adored, only if to feel closer to him for a moment. I’ve almost finished the first season of the 2005 series, and a further fifty odd years worth of content should I feel inclined. I’m sure I’ll make additional Doctor Who posts in the future regarding the series overall.

Robert Ring

The Spaceman

My grandad passed away Thursday morning.

In the early hours, my family gathered before the bed that my grandad had been occupying for some weeks. His body was frozen in time, mouth gaping on his last breath. Nobody was home.

Later, we went to his house. Internally, I had always blamed grandad for living the simplest of lives. I thought he didn’t quite appreciate what else was outside his daily routine, and the house he rarely left. He was an introvert. He was most comfortable in the time after everyone else was asleep, staying up till three in the morning every night. We went through his workshop as a means of nostalgia but began to see another layer of the man that I had been unaware of. His brain always worked differently, and I started to see how exceptional it was by the organized chaos around. He was mechanically minded creating absurd items with next to nothing in the way of use, just to see if he could. I thought his mind was dulled to the wonders of life, but he was instead brilliant in his way. I will never fully understand the complexity of my grandad. Underneath it all, he was the most unique, strong, honest, and upstanding man I had ever met. I will carry him in my heart always.

Love Robert

The image of his body as it was made me ponder his last moment. Is death beautiful? And if not, how could it be? So, I wrote a little short conversation he might have had in that last moment with death. I call this The Spaceman.

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I suspect he is exploring and tinkering away like a spaceman in the next place.

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