A movie for every day of the year – a good one
John Boyd Dunlop born, 1840
John Boyd Dunlop, Scottish inventor and accidental businessman, was born on this day in 1840. After studying to be a veterinarian at Edinburgh University, he moved to Ireland and set up practice with his brother, in Downpatrick. His most famous invention was the pneumatic tyre, which he developed in 1887 as a way of making his son’s tricycle roll easier over the hard ground of his back yard. Dunlop was immediately struck not just by how much smoother the ride was, but by how much more easily the wheel rolled with a pneumatic tyre on it than just on the metal rim alone. He was on to something and had soon made more tyres for bicycles, which were then experiencing a boom. He patented his idea on 7 December 1888. The pneumatic tyre really took off after Willie Hume, a Belfast cyclist, won a string of races using Dunlop’s tyres. The man himself never made much money from his patent, having assigned it to his business partner, William Du Cros, in return for shares in the company, the Pneumatic Tyre and Booth’s Cycle Agency Company Limited. This turned out to have been a stroke of blind luck, because in 1890 the company was informed that the tyre had already been patented, in 1845, by Robert William Thomson, another Scottish inventor, because though it prospered, it was thanks to business acumen rather than possession of a killer patent.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013, dir: Justin Lin)
Having worked all the permutations to exhaustion, F&F 6 tried also to go by the name Furious 6, but wiser heads decided that that might confuse matters and so a good old fashioned Fast & Furious 6 it has ended up being. To confound expectations, it pretty much abandons the whole street-racing notion that the F&F franchise has been built on and instead use the F&F gang – Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris – as a sort of grand Mission Impossible outfit with cars. Actually, that’s a tendency that had been growing since director Justin Lin took over the enterprises in F&F 3. This time around the team are called out of hiding/retirement/fat farm (you know who you are) by Luke Hobbs (the increasingly key Dwayne Johnson) to nobble a villain (Luke Evans) whose MO is fast cars and faster assaults on military and/or bullion installations. Meanwhile Michelle Rodriguez has banged her head and is playing for the other team – no, you can have that one for free – Jordana Brewster is in “good wife at home” mode, leaving the rest of the old team and new girl, mixed martial arts woman Gina Carano, to get on with it. The dialogue scenes can be ignored – Johnson tells the gang something, then Diesel repeats it for those in the audience who sniff gas for fun, then Walker does a “what he said” number, followed by Tyrese and Ludacris offering a comic reinterpretation, while Sung Kang looks effortlessly cool and the girls stand around chewing their cheeks. This does not matter, because the key reason for watching the film is not to laugh at the dialogue but to enjoy the stunts. And on the evidence here – the race around tourist London after Evans in a Formula 1 tank, the big finish in which the gang chase a gigantic cargo plane down a runway – Lin has quietly become the best action director in Hollywood. In fact this last sequence is well worth watching just on its own. Lin shows us a feat of really extraordinary action choreography, during which, after almost an entire film’s worth of standing around and pouting like the model he used to be, Tyrese Gibson gets to do something which I bet he rewatches in slo-mo at home. And then Lin tops it with the sequence involving cars being connected to a taxi-ing cargo plane by cables, which like the best action stunts manages to be ridiculous and awesome at the same time.
- Director Justin Lin, king of action
- Gina Carano and Sung Kang, both effortlessly cool
- A car-chase stunt in Piccadilly Circus – unusual
- The best film of the series
© Steve Morrissey 2014