5 car movies and shows worth watching in August 201908/07/2019
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when tropical heat descends on most parts of the U.S. Escaping it means seeking refuge in movie theaters, but for that, you’d have to be outside for a few minutes and deal with the heat and humidity. It’s better overall to just stay in and binge-watch some shows you’ve been putting off binge-watching.
Here’s a list of five shows and movies worth watching on streaming sites (or that will stream into theaters) this month.
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
In theaters now
We’re old enough to remember when “The Fast and the Furious” films were still about street racing, rather than about farms of humming, slightly overheating computers churning out CGI sequences that take a team of VFX artists months to render. Yes, kids: If you find the first movie on a glitchy VHS tape on eBay with a giant “Property of Blockbuster Video” sticker on it, you’ll see that it was mostly about racers competing with each other for street cred and dodging the cops, filmed on a camera that used reels of actual film. Almost two decades later, the pressures of Hollywood studio franchise management have steered the series into its first spinoff, with characters who … actually weren’t there in the beginning but are good at stunts and at kicking butt. And that’s basically the promise and premise of “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns as the least-conspicuous Diplomatic Security Service agent ever, Luke Hobbs, while Jason Statham reprises the role of mercenary Deckard Shaw. Their chemistry in the films had been somewhat analogous to “The Odd Couple” movies, a chemistry that has played out in an unexpectedly believable manner due to their different physiques and accents — but this time, they must join forces to defeat a mysterious villain played by Idris Elba.
True fans of the franchise will go see this film no matter what, while those merely seeking shelter in theaters will just gladly accept the value proposition that this will be two hours of Johnson and Statham delivering roundhouse kicks to scores of disposable bad guys and wrecking a lot of stuff in the process.
Fans of the series will no doubt notice in between scenes of furniture being trampled that Johnson’s character has steadily achieved greater prominence in the film series, in a way that suggests that the studio is banking on Hobbs as one of the main draws of the franchise. Do we even need a slightly contrived “Fast and Furious” backstory to these two at this point? We have a feeling that a film titled “The Rock and Jason Statham Wreck Some Bad Guys” would be just as marketable. (By the way, does this mean that The Rock the wrestletainer does not exist in the “Fast & Furious” universe and neither do “The Transporter” movies?)
“Rust Valley Restorers”
This History Channel Canada series may seem like the latest entry in the well-oiled and well-replicated genre of a crew of feisty characters operating a car restoration business. You know, the one with down-to-the-wire builds, wrenches being thrown, character tension, bleeped swear words and project cars reaching completion with minutes to spare. But this one seems a little different and far less planned.
The show is set in British Columbia, halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, but the cars are definitely not British and the show has a different enough twist on the old genre: Series star Mike Hall dynamites rocks in the Canadian Rockies for a living, but he also has a 5-acre field filled with 400 project cars that he’s collected over the years. With help from his son, Connor Hall, and sidekick builder Avery Shoaf and a few others, the crew focuses on restoring and selling cars to make ends meet. But making ends meet proves to be more of a challenge than originally planned — will the crew end up upside down on a few project builds and make a few bad bets with equipment purchases?
The back story of the 400-car trove itself is worth a mention: Hall tried to sell the entire lot of cars for north of a million, but initially, he didn’t find any takers. Hall then raised the price, which generated media attention at the time, and helped publicize the fact that there is a field with 400 cars in B.C. As a way to vicariously enjoy browsing and tinkering with a field with 400 cars in high definition, “Rust Valley Restorers” is worth a look.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain”
In theaters Aug. 9
Based on a best-selling 2008 book by Garth Stein, the long-planned film of the same name is told from the perspective of a dog named Enzo, voiced by Kevin Costner. Milo Ventimiglia plays Denny Swift, an aspiring racer and Enzo’s owner, while Amanda Seyfried plays his wife, Eve. The film follows Enzo’s family as Denny and Eve meet and navigate life together; Enzo is equally observant of racing as he is of human nature, and he applies the lessons of racing to the human condition as he sees and understands it.
The trailers for this film have prominently featured a title card that says “From the studio that brought you ‘Marley & Me,'” which is an additional, megaphone-level hint that car racing is not going to be the main point of this movie.
But, as our own Mark Vaughn discovered (because he traveled to the future to see it) this movie manages to depict IMSA racing better than most other racing-adjacent general audience films of the past. And racing scenes in the film are actually quite extensive, as is the story behind the book and behind the film. Check out Mark’s review before heading to theaters, or head there anyway to escape the punishing heat outside.
“Top Gear” Season 27 (debuted June 16)
BBC 2, Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes
The latest season of “Top Gear” U.K. is rolling along on BBC America with Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff behind the wheels of some very excellent and some very bad cars. This is the third season of the relaunched show, after scores of other hosts (there were 27 at one point, we believe) were voted off the island. And judging by the early episodes — there have been four so far this season — this crew looks like it’s got chemistry.
Obviously, Chris Harris is the only one in the new cast who has been doing the car thing on the telly for a while, but Flintoff and McGuinness have settled into the roles nicely. Flintoff, 40, is a big cricket star in the U.K. but comes across as a gentle giant, while McGuinness is the most animated of the trio and enjoys making fun of the other two. The three have gone on a publicity tour in the U.K. to promote the new show, doing the rounds on morning shows, and they seem like a genuinely fun crew.
The early episodes that we’ve glimpsed reveal that this new cast has had a very smooth launch and that the show’s repertoire of car challenges in difficult terrain has not waned. Will this “Top Gear” crew be the one that stays together past one season and gains a following to rival the Clarkson, May and Hammond years? Time will tell.
“The Transporter” (2002)
One of Jason Statham’s first leading roles was this Luc Besson tribute to Hong Kong action films released in 2002 with a couple pages of dialogue, a lot of flying kicks, a bunch of ’90s cars and a plot that may have been mapped out in as little as 10 minutes over a lunch. Statham plays Frank Martin, a former special forces soldier who’s now an Uber driver for well-dressed, permanently scowling criminals. A BMW 750i is his chariot of choice, and very early on, it’s called upon to perform some physics-defying stunts that set the tone for the rest of the film. Statham’s Martin also lives by a rigid set of driving rules that he recites out loud.
The film takes itself very seriously in serving up improbable stunt work, which also happens to be the best thing about it aside from seeing luxobarges of the ’90s chase each other around the south of France. The plot is there to give some general direction to the action rather than get the audience invested in the outcome, which also makes it a far more faithful homage to the Hong Kong action films Besson seems to appreciate.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing it for almost two decades, “The Transporter” is not a complex chess match of betrayal in the vein of “Ronin,” but errs closer to the summer action films that “The Fast and the Furious” series have become over time. Suspending disbelief, however, can prove far more difficult than in a Harry Potter film when it comes to some of the stunts: Besson seems very willing to mix Looney Tunes-style physics with drama that he wants the audience to take it seriously. It’s an odd mix.
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