Baby Driver, a review:

Normally I review more obscure movies or those that seem like they could use some help, but given that I was in quite a unique situation that led to a double feature of two contemporary movies, how could I not?

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Spoiler alert: The Dodge Challenger you see in the above promo material does nothing in the movie to make your heart pump… aside from looking awesome. Even with red neons underneath. I did not make that up.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a driver, one of the best there is, having been behind the wheel since he was a little orphan. His boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), knows this better than anyone, as he took this once-car robber under his wing after seeing what he could do. While Baby (that’s his nickname, by the way) has paid off his debt with Doc, he’s not ready to let Baby go. Seeing that blood was being spilled thanks to a more volatile heist team on the last job -as well as having to dispose of a body Pulp Fiction-style-, Baby dreams of just leaving this life behind and start a new one with his newfound love interest, Debora (Lily James). Doc pulls some subtle gangster blackmail on Baby, and now he’s back on the driver’s seat, this time with one of the most volatile heist team member he’s ever been with, Bats (Jamie Foxx). It didn’t help that he didn’t like Baby from the get-go. Continue reading

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Drive (2011), a review:

pinterest 109b6e8cb40175cbad4be61c386af65f--drive-poster-carey-mulliganWhile the original movie poster designs were good, many fan-made posters were even better. A simple search will yield results. Go look ‘em up.

Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a workaholic gearhead that doesn’t say much and has a pretty good and easygoing attitude towards work whether as a stuntman or as a mechanic, with the possibility of starting as a racecar driver. All jobs are fronted by Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who cut a deal with Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), a mafia man to purchase and sponsor the racecar. But Driver has another job: he’s a getaway driver and a good one at that, becoming strict and cold when working this profession, the opposite of his daytime persona.

Driver’s worlds will collide when he develops a soft spot for his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Spending time with them was heaven on earth for Driver… until Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac), Irene’s husband returns from prison. Driver quietly accepted this. But one day he finds Standard badly beaten up: he’s in serious trouble with the mob, owing them protection money plus ever-increasing “interest fees”. The only way to pay off the ridiculous debt is to return to a life of crime and do one more job. Given that these mobsters threatened Irene and Benicio, Driver decides to lend his services at zero cost. Continue reading

The Cars of Shakotan☆Boogie manga:

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ShakotanBoogie tells the antics of Hajime and Koji along with their friends. They try everything for some nookie, but they and their friends are busy enough between failures in romance: Part time jobs, fights, skirt-chasing and just plain foolin’ around. The boys and most of their friends are gearheads, so they all get into plenty of gearhead activity: street racing, cruises, hooning, tuning, road trips, police intervention and accidents. LOTS of accidents. Many of them with cars that aren’t theirs and can’t afford.

Shakotan☆Boogie is a love letter to not only the very Japanese car scene from the 80s and 90s, but car culture as a whole. The word shakotan refers to very lowered cars with boy-racer mods, which is just one of the styles praised in the franchise. Aside from shakotan, kaido racer, VIP, yankii and overall zokusha, the franchise also has the gang explore Japan’s surprisingly wide car culture: Japanese icons, European exotica, American iron, British tackle, 4x4s, Formula 1, and the joys of wagons.

I found this series after striking out in finding a proper download link for author Michiharu Kusunoki‘s better-known work, Wangan Midnight, without giving your credit card number to a suspicious foreign website. So close, yet so far away… But this was a mighty consolation price, as I’ve been aware of Shakotan☆Boogie for as long as I’ve known about Japan’s outlandish bosozoku and zokusha gearhead culture. But there’s a catch: like the brunt majority of gearhead-aimed series, this one hasn’t been translated in English. At least we have the raw manga scans, as the 1991-92 straight-to-video anime can’t be found complete on the web. I was able to find the 1987 cult live-action movie. No subtitles though.

Shakotan☆Boogie has a little of everything (which is reason alone why it has a shot at gaining popularity after getting translated), but it’s not for everyone. Kusunoki-sama‘s art style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, as it makes the cars look cartoony, though in his defense the car mods that many vehicles sport further exacerbates this; just look up the aforementioned styles. And he draws most of his girls too similarly (their differences in school uniform help tell some of ‘em apart, but my brain just gives up trying to remember all of them). Also, while car culture is present, it’s still about the main protagonists’ antics (this becomes clear when the you see that the first manga volume front cover just shows the two clowns doing obscene-in-Japan hand gestures and no car in sight. It shows part of it in the back cover.), though this too is also on the cartoony side at times. Despite the rather light-hearted art style, there is some minor nudity, adult situations, comic mischief galore and a bit of drug use in this irreverent older-teen-directed series. That and the fact that just about everyone smokes to the point you’ll probably suffer from second and third-hand smoking just by reading it. Continue reading

“Bosozoku”/Zokusha car style, a guide:

Zokusha!

If you like Japanese cars and have a decent Internet connection, you may have ventured into the Japanese market side of the vehicles. While there, you may have soaked in some of their car culture. If you dug deeper, you may have stumbled on their undoubtedly Japan-only stuff. We’ve already covered the truck equivalent: dekotora. Now it’s the cars’ turn: “Bosozoku”/Zokusha. You may or may not have seen it in low quality, grainy/pixelated pics on errant 15+ year-old Japanese websites or a 10+ year-old Western car forum thread. Still, there’s need to clear up the understandable bewilderment such machines cause. Continue reading

GMC Canyon, Isuzu i-Series and Chevrolet Colorado (GMT355 platform)

This post appeared in CarLustBlog.com on January 8, 2015. Aside from minor editing and removal of dead hyperlinks, it’s all the same.

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I’ve been noticing these more often on the streets lately. There are plenty of them on the roads around here. That’s probably because I’ve been checking out trucks. There’s another reason: the Canyon and Colorado made a comeback, and mid-size truck guys and gals are frothing at the mouth. Continue reading