Darke Reviews | Furious 7 (2015)

Furious 7.  As I have said in previous reviews when you are this invested in a franchise it is already a forgone conclusion that you are seeing this film. So how do I review it? Do I review it? Well of course I do. It’s worth mentioning as I open this that there was a clip in the pre movie commercials of Vin Diesel being asked if he thinks this is the best of the franchise. His response brought a tear to my eye.

“Whenever we went to a movie premier, I would turn to Paul and ask was it the best? He would look to me and tell me the best is still in the can. I am hoping to hear from him, somehow that he thinks this one is the best.” These men were brothers in real life as much as they were in the films. Even Paul’s mother knew it and is quoted by Diesel as saying “I thought they needed my strength but realized when I got there and broke down before his family, that it was I who needed theirs.”His mother hugged me and said I am so sorry … I said sorry? You’re the mother who lost a son? … She said yes, but you lost your other half.”

So how was the movie?

The writer on the franchise since Tokyo Drift , Chris Morgan, returns to give us what will likely be the last of the series. If Fast 5 was a love letter to Oceans 11 with cars and Furious 6 was a love letter to shark jumping everywhere, then this film is the love letter to Mission Impossible, while it jumps a shark with friggin lasers on their heads. It is gloriously over the top and embraces it with a smile and a Corona. The natural charm and chemistry of the returning cast members makes every ridiculous scene work. Morgan is also wise enough to give us slow moments where the characters can interact and show why we have stuck with them for the six previous movies. It’s not just long looks, but comes down to the performances and delivery which means Morgan needs some help from the cast

I won’t go too long here. Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto who continues to stubborn and street prophet his way through the movies. Walker’s role is probably more reduced than originally intended, but the moments he gets with Mia (Jordana Brewster) sell every single time. Michelle Rodriguez continues as Letty and is both beautiful and one of the baddest women we have on screen. The meme of keep your pop icons, we have our own should equally apply to this woman. Tyrese keeps earning that paycheck as CinemaSins says and sadly continues to be the weakest part of the family. Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges is once again epic as Tej and a highlight for the film. Dwayne Johnson was born to be in this franchise and clearly has a blast with every single scene chewing line.

Joining this film is Statham as Lee Christmas, er the Driver, er …Deckard Shaw. Oh heck with it. Jason Statham is Jason Statham. Djimon Hounsou comes in as a secondary villain along with Tony Jaa and a brief but wicked appearance of Ronda Rousey. Kurt Russell makes his own appearance as Nobody taking a page from the Rock and looking to chew scenery. In my private fiction I think he was secretly Jack Burton 20 years later. Our movies McGuffin is a person this time, Nathalie Emmanuel, better known as Missandei from Game of Thrones. It was nice to hear her in her own speaking voice rather than her clipped precise tones from the show.

James Wan, best known for Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious is replacing Justin Lin at the helm. I think that might be where the seams begin to show. He just doesn’t have what Lin did. This isn’t to say he was horrible, but he isn’t as gifted with the camera or ensemble as Lin. There’s some weird camera tricks used that detract from the film and there just is not enough love for certain characters that I think comes down to the director more than anything else. Granted, he still directed the heck out of the film while the shark continued to do it’s double half back flip with a triple twist. He does run this far more as an over the top Mission Impossible action film than a car movie, but that comes across as an observation than a complaint.

From the technicals CG is CG. Physics is bound, gagged, slapped around, and hung up in an oubliette – and we don’t care! Seriously we don’t. You shouldn’t. The movie is absolutely ridiculous and makes no sense from a biologic, architectural, or engineering standpoint. Gravity? HA! Injuries? Don’t make me laugh. Actually the movie did more than a few times and I was thankful for it.

TL;DR?

The final film in the Fast franchise is so beautifully over the top any flaws it has, which there are a few, don’t seem to matter. This is one of the first movies this year I can feel comfortable saying “Go See it

– If you are invested already – you didn’t need my review.

– If you weren’t invested – you also didn’t need it. You weren’t going to see it anyway. Seeing it before the others is a disservice to the series.

The movie is good. It is beefcake. It is cheesecake. It is ridiculous and I love it for all of it. 14 years of these movies and the series can rest now. It earned it and got a good send off.

 

PS

Rollover spoiler –

I did cry at the end from the reshoots they added to address Paul Walkers death. Diesels send off for him was as much to the character of Brian as it was to Paul himself. It was moving and heartfelt. I am not sure what the original ending was, nor does it matter. This was good and I am glad they did it the way they did.

– end spoiler

Darke Reviews | The Conjuring (2013)

This movies continues a predictably long line of Hollywood milking the low budget unseen horror film. Long line? Perhaps you’ve heard of Paranormal Activity (1-5), The Grudge, Insidious, Mama, Sinister? Horror movies work because they play on a fear. Typically fears of the modern consciousness and sometimes our subconscious fears that particularly attentive writers have tapped into as they create their projects. The writers usually say it is their own fear put to page and when created lets the audience realize it is their fear too.

The 80’s it was the slasher; the faceless killer, the stranger and something that could not be stopped. The 90’s had no real identity of it’s own and is actually very weak in the genre instead giving us the Teen Scream. This was a more literal transition of the Slasher film to focus on the teens themselves, such as Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween H20, Urban Legends, etc. At the end of the 90’s we were given the start of the found footage horror with Blair Witch; which began the start of the supernatural horror we are in now. In this decade, we are inundated with a slightly different take on the Supernatural/Unseen horror where it is blended with the Home Invasion. Movies like the Purge and Your Next, Dark Skies are all representative of this new wave of horror in their more physical sense. Insidious, Paranormal Activity and the Conjuring are a blend of home invasion and the unseen.

Granted these are just my perceptions on the horror genre and I could go on these at length (and may if so asked), so lets get down to the review itself.

2013 saw the release of a few movies in this vein and the Conjuring is the most successful. It actually ranks 5th in the most successful Supernatural horrors of all time. It had a production budget of $20 million and brought in $137. Not a bad haul and the reason that Hollywood will continue to take this route. The conjuring also uses one other theme of new horror -“Based on True Events”

Director James Wan (saw, Insidious) is the proud papa of some serious horror franchises. Despite my personal feelings on this genre, he has a clear understanding of how to shoot to build tension. How to get performances of his actors old and young that are believable and make them feel like people. It’s actually one of the strengths of the Conjuring, that every performance is balanced and well done enough that the characters fears are played to their most subtle and nuanced.

The story by the Hayes brothers, Chad and Carey, is set back in the 70s and focuses on a family who move into an old farmhouse. Shortly after they move in they begin to see and experience strange events, mostly centered around the children. To make matters worse the father Roger (Ron Livingston – Office Space) Perron is a truck driver who could be away for days at a time. The mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor – The Haunting) is even being attacked by these entities and reaches out to a married couple who specialize in Paranormal investigations. The couple Ed (Patrick Wilson -Insidious, A Team) Warren and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga – The Departed) Warren give lectures on the exorcisms and events they have helped people through. Much of their focus tends to be on the demonic and they even keep a collection of possessed objects in their home as a kind of museum. When the Warren’s arrive in the Perron home events begin to escalate to horrific conclusion. Where Ed must make a choice to save the lives and souls of the Perrons.

I’ve spoken briefly on the acting already. Every actor performs amazingly leaving nothing on the floor and holding nothing back. To be clear this isn’t over acting, but actors, adult and child alike, who put their everything into the performance. They get close in the final act to overacting due to the nature of what they must do and playing out an exorcism. I have to admit Wilson, Livingston, Taylor and Farmiga make this more intense than the Exorcist for me.

The technical aspects of the film are sufficient enough where they rely on the jump scares more than any other technique. The make ups for the dead and possessed are at this time getting a bit overwrought and while I cannot condemn them for it, I can say it’s maybe time to move to a new type of genre. The make up can only be done so many times and anything after this is getting redundant. The CGI when it happens is used to enhance the make up and create transitions to show claw marks, burns and other manifestations. These are definitely to the movies credit. I also cannot complain about movie that relies strongly on camera tricks and practical effects over CG.

TL;DR

I can see why the conjuring was successful and while this new breed of horror isn’t my cup of tea it works. The inspired and based on real events is also getting old, but again when you consider that there are tapes of the interviews between Ed Warren and Carolyn Perron from 1971 it adds a certain element of horror to it that cannot and should not be denied.

Overall I have to say it’s a solid film, and while it didn’t scare me, that will scare more than enough people out there. I do think Hollywood needs to stop while it’s ahead and get to a new genre before they milk this one dry.

Tomorrow’s review knows where the bastard sleeps.