Hellblazer

Constantine fights a battle that puts him in direct conflict with Heaven and Hell. Since DC seemed to only care about their darker stuff in the 2000’s, John Constantine was the next “superhero” to get his own unnecessary movie. As part of DC’s Vertigo imprint that was of course written by Alan Moore. Constantine first made his debut in a Swamp Thing comic. Before getting his own graphic novel series with Hellblazer. John Constantine is a chain smoking British occult detective with blonde hair who always wears a brown trench coat and tie. So they cast the very American dark haired Keanu Reeves for the part. It’s like the character leapt off the page! But seriously, how hard is it to get a character with such a basic appearance looking the way they’re supposed to? They couldn’t even give him a brown trench coat. As if anything other than black would make the film less edgy. Constantine is R and full of demons as well as angels. Specifically another androgynous performance by Tilda Swinton. This time playing the Archangel Gabriel. Constantine attempts to save his eternally damned soul by doing good for those in need. The effects don’t quite make it convincing and this is a mid-2000’s Keanu performance. So don’t expect his comeback just yet, because he couldn’t be more miscast in the part. At least Djimon Hounsou played his first of many comic book roles as villain Papa Midnite. Despite the gothic material that I prefer to stay away from, Constantine is bad enough for it to become bland. At least Matt Ryan managed to save the character.

1. Constantine

Constantine escapes Hell

All American Girl

American Psycho 2 has nothing to do with American Psycho. Apart from the title and forced use of Patrick Bateman at the very beginning. As I’ve seen with so many other sequels in the past, this was a completely different script that was modified to cash in on the success of a much more successful movie. It couldn’t be more thinly veiled if its tagline read “You know that movie you like, please like this too.” Apparently Bateman was killed by a 12 year old girl who refers to him as a serial killer. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the ambiguous nature of his murders. We then follow the much less interesting girl named Rachel grow into Mila Kunis. I’m sorry, but there’s no way I’ll ever be intimidated by Mila Kunis. She’s described as an all American girl. In another desperate attempt to link the unrelated movies together. Her dream is to work for the FBI in order to stop other criminals. Meaning she has to kill a lot of people just to ensure her position at Quantico. People are slow to realize William Shatner and a bunch of students are dead. While the modern college setting makes it worse than it already was. American Psycho 2 should have remained a forgotten slasher movie.

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Rachel seduces her professor

Preceded by: American Psycho

Did You Know I’m Utterly Insane?

American Psycho is a movie so entertaining, most people probably don’t read the subtext. But they should, because it’s not just about the guise of normality, and the underlying nature of insanity, it’s also a personal statement about late 80’s corporate America itself. American Psycho is arguably the movie that really made us take notice of Christian Bale. His unhinged, yet somehow charismatic performance as Patrick Bateman is one of the best of his career. He’s almost like the anti-Bruce Wayne (heck, his last name is only one letter off from Batman). Patrick Bateman is a yuppie banker by day and serial killer by night. He enjoys lengthy shampoo commercial-like morning routines and dissecting girls, because he’s utterly insane. His masculine attitude makes it surprising to discover the movie was written and directed by women. Although Bateman kills a lot of people, it’s unclear whether any of it is actually happening. Even when he says things that are unsavory. Bateman puts on the facade of a car salesman, displaying his vast knowledge of music, until the moment he strikes. His most memorable kills involve chopping up the Joker with an axe over business cards and dropping a chainsaw on a girl while naked. As his killing becomes more over-the-top, the line between reality and imagination becomes more questionable. It speaks to the hidden insanity that can exist in anyone in society. Themes like like this were really popular at the time. American Psycho says more than we see on the surface.

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Patrick Bateman examines his axe

Followed by: American Psycho 2

I’m Gonna Kidnap the President of the United States

National Treasure: Book of Secrets didn’t peak my historical interest as much as the first movie. It made complete sense that they would want to cash in on a sequel. Between this and Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney had a hit series on their hands. I just wasn’t as interested in the latest adventure. So my first viewing ended up being in school. Just the opposite of how my brother and I saw National Treasure. National Treasure: Book of Secrets now centers around the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (sort of). It’s really more of a catalyst that pushes Ben Gates to clear his family name. So Ben sets out to find the titular Book of Secrets (sort of). The book is actually less important to the story than the title suggests. The real thing to discover is a City of Gold hidden beneath Mount Rushmore. The book belongs to the President of the United States and it tells Ben & company where to go. So what else can he do but kidnap the President, how hard could it be really? Surprisingly easy actually and now this is getting ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, Book of Secrets has its thrilling adventure moments. I just wish the characters were given better motivation. Nicolas Cage’s “full cage” performance is just utter cringe. National Treasure: Book of Secrets is more of a national emergency.

NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS

Ben Gates (right) finds the treasure

Preceded by: National Treasure

I’m Gonna Steal the Declaration of Independence

National Treasure makes learning about U.S. history exciting. Between their animated projects and remakes, Disney also makes original movies like this. National Treasure is like a social studies assignment that distracts you with Indiana Jones-esque adventure. It wasn’t until my brother saw it in school that I decided to check it out. I was surprised by how much I got into the historical angle. Considering social studies was never my strongest subject. National Treasure has the implausible notion that American historical figures hid clues in important United States documents and landmarks that lead to treasure. Taking on this impossible task is Benjamin Franklin Gates. A historian cryptologist explorer that discovers a clue that there’s an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. So what else can he do but steal it, how hard could it be really? Well he has to steal it because a rival treasure hunter was planning to do the same thing. So with the help of his tech friend, a lovely archivist, and his estranged father, Ben follows clue after clue until the treasure is found. While at the same time avoiding the FBI. As an action hero, Nicholas Cage is a bit more reserved. Although Sean Bean unfortunately doesn’t die, the treasure is found. National Treasure may be one plot convenience after another, but it’s a thrilling chase that can get kids interested in history.

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Ben Gates (center) finds the treasure

Followed by: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Kitty, Panties and Flawless Kissing

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is the most mature thing Nickelodeon did at the time. As it was given a PG-13 rating. Granted it was only released in the UK, but that’s still not the image Nick usually displays. The film is full of sex jokes, mild swearing, and innuendo. It’s also very British. Hence the title that may confuse those stateside. Such as myself. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging refers to three important things in teenager Georgia Nicholson’s complicated life. Angus is her beloved cat, she disapproves of wearing thongs, and she has her heart set on snogging the boy she fancies. Most of the innuendo comes from Georgia and her friends almost constant sex talk. As well as one character wearing a thong or the inclusion of gay characters. I can’t say that the film spoke to me too much, but Georgia’s problems are quite relatable. Her mostly unknown actress of the same name does well in the role. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was the only actor I recognized (and I didn’t even realize he was British). The main theme that Georgia deals with is growing up. Something her best friend seems to be doing faster than her. In the end, it’s important to just be yourself. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging has a dodgy title, but a brilliant message.

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Georgia (right center) and her friends spy

Without the The’s

Fast & Furious brought the franchise back to its roots. After two loosely connected sequels, they simply decided to drop the the’s from the title. That’s not confusing at all. Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner finally reunite after 8 years. The chemistry between Vin Diesel and Paul Walker is the biggest highlight of one of the weakest installments in the series. While not as dumb as the second or as out of place as the third, Fast & Furious is just too self-serious. Films about fast cars and beautiful women should know how to have fun. After an impressive rig hijacking sequence, Dom’s girlfriend Letty is seemingly killed by a drug lord. Brian somehow got his job back and it puts he and Dom into direct contact. The two work to repair their shattered friendship while at the same time trying to find Letty’s killer. There’s still cars and butts, but they take a back seat to more character drama. Like Brian and Mia falling for eachother all over again. Dom gets a sort of love interest in liaison Gisele. Played by a pre-Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. Fast & Furious is technically a prequel because Han is still alive. A decision that seemed to spell interesting things for the future. Fast & Furious is a serviceable detour before we get to the good stuff.

4. Fast and Furious

Brian reunites with Dom

Preceded by: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift & Followed by: Fast Five

Drifting Away

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift has next to nothing to do with The Fast and the Furious. Aside from the fast cars and beautiful women, none of the original characters star in the “sequel.” The only connection is Vin Diesel’s cameo at the very end. Let’s just say his appearance wasn’t cheap. The lead this time is Lucas Black. He plays a random southern teenager named Sean Boswell. His performance leaves a lot to be desired. Sean’s obsession with street racing gets him shipped off to Tokyo. Where there’s plenty of Japanese cars and butts. Long time series director Justin Lin injects his own Asian flare into the movie. Along with the location, Lin made connections to his film Better Luck Tomorrow. Specifically having Sung Kang play his character Han. He’ll be very important down the line. Despite the terrible acting, questionable series placement, or choice to use another dated rapper with Lil’ Bow Wow, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift actually has more focus on street racing then any of the other films. The art of drifting plays a key role in almost every race in the movie. So if any of that excites you, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift might be less out of place then initially thought.

3. The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift

Drifting

Preceded by: 2 Fast 2 Furious & Followed by: Fast & Furious

Carz n the Hood

2 Fast 2 Furious put 2’s where the the’s should be. Thus beginning the franchise’s tradition of unusual titles. With Vin Diesel choosing to opt out of the sequel, the lead role was instead given to Paul Walker. 2 Fast 2 Furious picks up right after Brian O’Conner decided to let Dominic Toretto go. No longer a police officer, Brian flees to Miami where he works as an illegal street racer. The directing reigns were handed over to late Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton. He injected his own flavor into the racing sequel. Which mostly meant hiring more black performers like Tyrese Gibson or rapper Ludacris. Gibson does the absolute most as Brian’s childhood friend Roman Pearce. Brian and Rome end up working together when U.S. Customs promises to erase their criminal records in exchange for their help in taking down a drug lord. Along with a new bald and muscular best friend, Brian is also given a new love interest. Eva Mendes plays a Customs agent who assists the two. But more cars and more butts aren’t enough to disguise how ridiculously dated 2 Fast 2 Furious is. All the flash with none of the brains. Then again, as long as there are fast cars and beautiful women, fans won’t complain. 2 Fast 2 Furious is plenty of dumb fun.

2. 2 Fast 2 Furious

Brian, Rome, and their crew

Preceded by: The Fast and the Furious & Followed by: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

I Live My Life a ¼ Mile at a Time

The Fast and the Furious introduced us to an underground world of fast cars and beautiful women. It’s truly hard to believe that this one street racing movie sparked a franchise that’s still going on today. I remember when The Fast and the Furious came out, I just didn’t have much interest in it. Cars and racing didn’t start to interest me until I was a little older. So I didn’t officially get into the franchise until around the 7th installment. It’s fun to look back on The Fast and the Furious, and its humble roots as a straight forward street racing movie. The Fast and the Furious centers on both Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner. Dom is a famous street racer who hijacks vehicles with a crew that’s as important to him as family. Brian is an undercover cop tasked with infiltrating his crew. They meet during a nighttime street race full of NOS fueled cars and butts. The cars are cool, but I’m no expert on make and model. So the basic premise is that a cop secretly gets close to a group of righteous criminals who drink Corona. Yes that is the exact same premise as Point Break. What The Fast and the Furious was able to do though, was offer fast paced excitement and engaging characters. Vin Diesel was born to play this part and Paul Walker will be sorely missed. Michelle Rodriguez proves her action cred playing Dom’s girlfriend Letty. While Jordana Brewster plays a key role as Dom’s sister Mia who falls for Brian. Despite their action’s Dom’s ideals are surprisingly christian. The Fast and the Furious is a high-octane thrill ride.

1. The Fast and the Furious

Dom and Brian pull up

Followed by: 2 Fast 2 Furious