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May 31-June 6, 2006

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Car Culture

Car Movies 2006

By Novella Carpenter

SUMMERTIME is a great time for bad car movies. Whether it's because we're hot or just bored with the too-long days of summer, the hushed dark hallway of a movie house calls to us, tells us to sit down, eat popcorn and watch car chases. They're dumb and dirty and oh so easy. This year's lineup won't disappoint.

The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. I'm not going to lie: I'm really excited to see this movie! From the moment in the trailer when Li'l Bow Wow says, "If you ain't out of control, you ain't in control," and we see a car sliding up an incredibly tight parking garage loop, I'm sold. I love the bad plotline: Sean Boswell, played by Lucas Black, is wanted in three states for speeding tickets, destruction of public property and "illegal underground street racing." Instead of going to juvie, he opts to travel to Tokyo to stay with his father at a military school. Of course, racing is in his blood, and he quickly finds a posse, cars to race, a nemesis and, gulp, the nemesis's girlfriend.

There hasn't been a movie explicitly about the sport of drifting until now. Very few people even know what it is. Basically, it's been around for 30 years and refers to using both front and back tires in a perfect combo of speed, angle and line that enables the car to drift across the track. Lots of burning rubber adds to the allure.

The lineup of cars for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is pretty great, too. Dennis McCarthy, the car wrangler for the movie, used 230 vehicles to shoot the movie. Half of them were from Japan, where the film was made. There's a nod to American models, too: Guess which car Sean drives for his life-or-death race? A Mustang his dad had out back in Tokyo. Sean and his grease monkey friends have one night to fix it up. In reality, wrangler McCarthy said it took them two months to customize the Stang, at a cost of $80,000 with a series of bigger and bigger engines. I think American steel weighs too much to drift.

Finally, all the woman are decked in the Harajuku district manner of dressing—slutty Hello Kitty! How can one go wrong? Opens June 16.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. OK, the potential is huge. Will Ferrell is hilariously garbed as a Wonder Bread-sponsored NASCAR driver whose motto is "If you ain't first, you're last." Embodying the cheesy horror of the pro-racing world, Ricky Bobby is a simple bumpkin who just likes to drive fast. When a Frenchy threatens his territory, hopefully the movie develops a plot. Still, making fun of NASCAR is like shooting fish in a barrel. Opens Aug. 4.

Cars (from Pixar). The dud, I'm guessing. Set to be released this winter, Cars then went back into production. The new trailer looks a little bit cooler, what with the amazing renderings of the American Southwest. But the story line—hot-shot race car blunders into Radiator Springs and meets a host of forgotten car characters and learns about life—is uninspiring. The car "characters"—a tubby police vehicle, a burned-out VW bus, an Italian forklift named Guido who can't speak English—are so mundane. It's hard to get excited about the cars as characters if they're just stereotypes. I blame Disney. Opens June 9.

Other notables:

Who Killed the Electric Car? Finally set to be released to a large audience, this movie mines for a conspiracy theory as to why clean-burning EVs were almost exterminated. Is it greedy oil companies? Stupid GM? Or something more sinister? Find out the truth! Opens June 28.

Miami Vice. Michael Mann, the director behind the television series, goes for the feature film version. Jamie Foxx as Tubbs is a brilliant move, but Colin Farrell as Crockett? No way! He's not old enough. Still, same gorgeous city, boat chases and, of course, high-speed car crashes. I couldn't tell from the trailer, but I think it's still a Ferrari. Opens July 28.

Little Miss Sunshine. Great actors playing a dysfunctional family climb into a VW for a cross-country trip. Opens July 28.

Contact Novella Carpenter or send a letter to the editor about this story.

Novella Carpenter is a women not only obsessed with cars, but with protecting the environment. Her weekly column balances these two polar-opposite loves while providing handy tips and car-related news items.