The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Released: April 14, 2017. Directed by: F. Gary Gray. Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron. Runtime: 2h 16 min.

After being a series primarily about street racing, The Fast and the Furious franchise is now a different beast entirely – featuring heist films, revenge stories and everything in between.

The franchise keeps things fresh as they display huge action set pieces that defy logic and gravity – but they’re high-octane fun because they’re so ridiculous and it embraces the insanity.

When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

The Fate of the Furious, though it pleases, is the weakest film since the franchise shifted direction after the fourth outing. Old characters are brought back that never felt super important, but others like Mia (Jordana Brewster) are left out. She’s off-the-grid with Bryan O’Conner (the late Paul Walker) raising their baby, as Bryan’s alive in the movie universe. They’re in retirement now after the beautiful tribute to Walker at the end of Furious 7. It’s just strange not to have Mia there since she’s actual family of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who’s always saying he doesn’t have friends – he has family.

A new female’s introduced in the form of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, the franchise’s first female villain. She’s a malicious hacker and mastermind who gives hacker Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) a run for her money.

She’s generic in motivation in generally wanting to see the world burn. Everything she says is also a bit of a cliché. It’s totally fine because Theron gives the character such a presence, which makes her a good villain. She’s one of those enemies who does things from the comfort of her high-tech plane and has minions do her bidding, and gets peeved when she needs to leave the office. It doesn’t give her a lot to do, though.

The Fate of the Furious - Charlize, Vin

Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel in The Fate of the Furious. (Source)

She’s able to lure Dom to the dark side, make him betray his family and do her bidding. The story packs surprises in characterization, especially since it’s surprising he’d betray the people he loves. I won’t go further into that, because, spoilers.

Films in the franchise between Fast Five and Furious 7 have good stories, but the eighth offering is the most generic plot in recent years, as the villain endgame is so familiar. The story just feels slapped together to work as a frame for the amazing stunts and nutty action.

The story dissatisfies but it’s not the most important part. The big, glamorous action makes this worthwhile and it’s still a lot of fun. From a street race in Cuba that offers a short trip to the series’ roots, a getaway in Berlin, to a fists-flying prison break, the action is great. Hacking plays a cool role in a big action scene in New York City, the film’s main setting.

After things calm down after the New York action, the finale is where things get most exciting and the crew learn that in Soviet Russia, submarine chases you! The franchise also keeps things interesting with diverse settings, as the globe-trotting team spans three continents this go around.

The Fate of the Furious makes Dom feel fresh by giving a new look at the character, but other characters are becoming stale after eight outings – namely Letty. It makes me wonder if they’ll have enough gas left in the tank for two more films.

Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) returns and is good again, and a new character includes Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Comic relief Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) rip on him a lot and they’re generally funny, per usual. Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw is really awesome and even outshines Johnson’s Hobbs, who’s trying to fill the leader role of the good guy team.

Hobbs has memorable lines as talks in puns and silly dialogue. He sees something particularly gruesome at one point and his response is simply “Hmm, nasty.” When he often has such vivid threats and comments, you can’t help but feel disappointed because it’s such a perfect opportunity for a laugh or a pun. It’s almost like the writers stop trying.

Score: 65/100

 

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers 3Released: June 29, 2011. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Tyrese Gibson. Runtime: 154 min. 

A fault for me for the Transformers films is the fact that they can work as stand-alone films because Optimus Prime gives a little narration at the beginning of each film, which also introduces a new artifact where the Autobots will have to find this thing before the Decepticons do. Essentially, these films are exactly the same. But some of them are kind-of fun. This one improves on the first sequel by giving a stronger narrative, but its length is still exhausting. The Autobots, this time around, have to find the pillars that was on a spacecraft piloted by Centennial Prime that crash-landed on the moon (a creative spin for the reason the members of Apollo 11 went to the moon) in the war of Cybotron. The Autobots have to get there before the Decepticons to save the world. They harbour a powerful enough energy to cause that Chernobyl mishap, which is a kind-of creative reason to describe it, too. I like those blockbuster twists on past events to add alternative causes. 

Shia LaBeouf is back as Sam Witwicky, who gets a bit of an annoying characterization since he wants to matter again, and he flaunts his Hero’s Medal to anyone he meets. It’s a a funny difference from his reluctance to initially help in the previous film. He really wants recognition and it gets to the point of being whiny. The only one who hasn’t been too impressed by the medal was Megan Fox’s Mikayla, because now Sam has a new hottie named Carly (a meh Rosie Huntington-Whitely, a super model turned actress), who is a personal assistant to a billionaire, Dylan, portrayed by Patrick Dempsey. (He must be some sort-of entrepreneur because he collects a lot of cars.) The chemistry shared between LaBeouf and Huntington-Whitely is nothing special. Ms. H-Whitely doesn’t do much, except just look dirty and somehow manages to survive during action sequences. The ending of the finale is a bit lazy, and if it were any other movie I’d be mad at its laziness, but since it drags on so long it was welcome. Villains who still opt to help the Decepticons when they don’t really have to anymore is uninspired and it just prolongs the flick. 

In terms of ambition, some action sequences are pretty spectacular, but too long, and they’re reminiscent of several other sequences we’ve seen so far in the franchise. There a few characters who make this something fun. Tom Kenny is still very funny as Wheely, a Decepticon turned Autobot. John Malkovich shows up as Witwicky’s boss in a funny role. John Turturro is also good, but he gets outshone this time around by his sidekick Dutch, who is portrayed by a very funny Alan Tudyk. They are some redeeming aspects of an otherwise stupid film where there’s a Decepticon that reminded me of the huge worm from Men in Black 3, and where a character quotes Spock as a reason for attempting to take over the world.

Score: 50/100

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Fast & Furious 6Release Date: May 24, 2013. Director: Justin Lin. Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Runtime: 130 min.

Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and co. are set for life with the $100 million they took from the last movie. However, they are still wanted criminals, so their family is not intact. Meanwhile, Hobbs (The Rock) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled mercenary drivers across twelve countries, whose mastermind, Shaw (Luke Evans), is aided by second-in-command Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the love Dom thought to be dead. Hobbs enlists the help of Dom and his legendary crew to match wits against the mastermind. The payment is pardons for all crew members, an offer no one can refuse.

The earlier additions to the Fast and Furious franchise are mostly just fun movies about criminals who steal merchandise, and enjoy a lifestyle of family, fine hunnies and, of course, fast cars. I think it started to lose steam at the second. Slowly, but surely, each movie improved in terms of quality. It was a change in pace for Fast Five, because it ended up being a great action movie. Since Fast Five is such a good movie, many believed it would be a hard movie to top, as the franchise did set the bar fairly high. That is precisely the one hundred million dollar question… Is this better than the fifth?

You bet your bottom dollar, it is. In fact, buckle up for the best of the franchise. If you weren’t a fan before, you certainly will be now. If Fast Five didn’t make you a salivating fan of this franchise, though, you’re probably just an action movie Scrooge. This has the necessary components that made the fifth such a good movie; and it’s all enhanced. Hobbs is back, and the action is somehow amped up. The fight choreography is more impressive. The film-makers surprisingly make a few scenes that are almost as awesome as the fantastic scene with the vault running through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. How exactly? Well, I mean, there are TWO scenes that feel like finale extravaganza’s!

Luke Evans as Shaw is the best villain of the franchise so far. He is a worthy, ruthless adversary for Dom and his crew. It’s his value of precision against Dom’s value of family. Frankly, no matter how awesome the antagonist is, it’s not such an impressive feat in this franchise. For me, none of the antagonists have really been so worthwhile or memorable. The cast is on-key. Paul Walker is improving. It’s nice to see Vin Diesel trying his hardest to remind an amnesia-stricken Letty of her past life. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has a blast with Dom’s crew, as well. He’s still the badass he’s always been, and everyone’s probably forgotten about Snitch, where it just felt like normal ole Dwayne Johnson. Han (Sung Kang) is still one of the best characters, because he’s so cool. The chemistry is becoming even better. Justin Lin brings equally good direction to this. I admire how this has equal amounts of fun, action, and its fair share of sheer intensity.

Previously in the series, the dialogue has been pretty silly, but funny. This time around, a lot of it is almost smart – and it has some downright hilarious lines and sequences (mostly with Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson). This is not only the best in the franchise, but it’s also the funniest. The plot is actually intelligent, as well, and not just a bunch of racing scenes strung together. It’s always intense, in a few scenes where you just think they’re certain to run out of road. Some of these guys are great drivers, and equally agile in a fistfight. This is an awesome movie, even it’s often entirely unrealistic. People go places without their cellular phones, and much like that, you’ll have to go to the movie without your brain. You’ll enjoy it so much more. Because this is just pure fun!

A sequel that ends on a cliff-hanger, one that makes me gain respect for earlier installments in the franchise, and a sequel that makes me giddy with excitement for the next one is a truly great movie in my book. This is not only the best in the franchise; but also the best action movie and (arguably) the best movie of the year thus far. This runs on Nos the whole way through; the action scenes rarely stop, and when they do, it’s for a funny scene. If people want a breather from fun, intense, beautifully filmed action scenes, there’s probably a screening of The Great Gatsby over in Theater #2. We fans like our action fast, and, you guessed it, furious!

Score90/100

Fast Five (2011)

Fast FiveReleased: April 29, 2011Director: Justin LinStars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne JohnsonRuntime: 130 min.

Fast Five fills up its gas tank and brings it all to the table. It’s a great heist movie, a great action movie, and lots of fun. It features the finest finale and stunt-work of any movie in the franchise thus far. The cast is ideal and everyone has a great chemistry. Paul Walker is becoming better with experience. I love this crew, and I love the way this crew of criminals are so likeable and human. They hold family dear to their hearts, just like everyone should. The plot is good, and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is a great character, even if he often has silly dialogue. The fight between he and Diesel has excellent fight choreography. The runtime feels long, one of the plot holes isn’t patched up until the very end, and the dialogue is often silly, but also often funny. It’s still a fast-paced, energetic, compelling ride throughout, and since I haven’t seen the sixth just yet, this is the best in the franchise so far. It’s not only fun, but a good movie, as well.

Score82/100

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

2 Fast 2 Furious

 

Former cop, Brian O’Conner is finally arrested after letting his leader escape the law. To avoid the consequences, he must now work with an old college friend and help the police arrest a local drug exporter.

Release Date: June 6, 2003

Director: John Singleton

Stars: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes

Runtime: 107 min

This is an incredibly inferior sequel. This almost has a brand new cast. Though, Paul Walker is still there. Getting rid of the good actors of the first, but keeping the bad one, truly feels like a squandered opportunity. Tyrese Gibson is often a good actor, but his character is very idiotic. If either he or Walker had any funny lines, they are very forgettable. Eva Mendes really can’t even save this. James Remar’s FBI Agent is truly irritating, but I guess that’s the point. Ludacris and the sexy Devon Aoki are good with what they’re given.

This movie’s predecessor has a good balance of racing, tons of fun and a good story; but this one doesn’t have an adequate story to tell. It has a gas tank for a brain, and it’s empty with new ideas. It’s a retread with a different cast, trying to repeat the spark the first had — but it hits its first charge of Nos early on in the movie, and it really begins to lose momentum as it skids along. (Okay, I’m done with the car metaphors.) The racing sequences are somewhat forgettable. Cole Hauser’s villain gets stupider and stupider as the movie progresses, but I guess an obvious antagonist is better than the first, where the antagonist is never so crystal clear.

One of the most memorable scenes is when a rat gnaws at a detective’s fat belly. The fact that a gritty scene like that is one of the most memorable scenes of a racing movie is inexcusable. The cinematography and production value are really rather trashy, so while it is made in 2003, it looks like a movie made in 2000. There are sexy girls here, and fast cars. And really fast cars. The story’s weak and the dialogue is even weaker. In one scene, Brian hears distant police sirens, and he simply says: “Cops.” Thanks, dumbass, I didn’t realize those are police car sirens. I thought it was a brigade of ice cream trucks! In another scene, one of the villain’s righthand men says to Brian, “You’re a good driver, man.” To which Brian replies, “Thanks, bro.” That’s some redundant dialogue right there. We wouldn’t be watching this movie if he wasn’t good at driving. Anyway, there is still some fun to be had with this. Even if it is hidden way, way under its idiotic surface. It’s silly and it doesn’t usually take itself too seriously. The point of the movie is to get the adrenaline pumping, and I guess the racing scenes are fun at the time.

To thoroughly enjoy this, you will have to turn the logical part of your brain right off. To a point where it might actually cause brain damage; and frankly, this movie just isn’t worth that. I remember this being much better; so suffice to say, this is 2 big of a disappointment.

40/100