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

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Darke Reviews | Brick Mansions (2014)

I get to do an Old vs New on this movie! I haven’t done one of these in a few months and its about due. I could tell from the trailers on this one that it was nearly a shot for shot remake of 2004 french film District 13. Now when I say shot for shot, I mean quite literally I recognized plot, scenes, lines of dialogue and entire shots from the original. All to the point where I didn’t expect to see anything new in the film.

Was I wrong?

Well, yes. To a point. Camille Delamarre, the director, took Luc Besson’s (5th Element, La Femme Nikita, Leon The Professional) and Bibi Naceri’s original script from D13 and decided to americanize it. If the world is a good place Delamarre will never direct another movie. I know the world is not a good place. This movie proves it. Every-Single-Good decision from D13 is undone. The parts that they keep from the original are barely tolerable and the parts they deviate from are so abysmally bad I would consider watching Die Hard 5 or World War Z again.

I said consider. I didn’t say I would do it.

Lets talk story, the world is a godawful place. So bad they cordoned off a section of a major city and left it to rot, burn, and eventually die. The original is of course in Paris. The new one is set in Detroit. It felt like what Robocopy should have been.  Inside this district gangs rule their respective blocks or buildings. One is kept (relatively) clean by its leader Lino (BM)/Lieto(D13) who is trying to keep his part of the city free from drugs and safe for his people. This of course puts him at odds with Tremaine(BM)/Taha(D13). Things of course fail to go his way and he ends up in a worse spot than he was in. Meanwhile outside the district supercop Damien (in both) is given a mission of the utmost secrecy and importance that will determine the fate of both the district and the city at large. Lino/Lieto is in it for love and trying to save Lola (girlfriend in BM/sister in D13) and Damien is in it because he believes in the system. Together they might both get what they want.

That core story remains the same between the two. As there are no writing credits beyond the original screenplay all blame for change must ride with the director. Unless of course there is a writer out there who knows how bad this adaptation was and took their name off of it. Not even an Alan Smithee credit to be found. Sad that. With a Smithee I could understand why everyone had their IQs drop. I could understand why there was a completely and totally unnecessary girl fight. I could understand why the script was bordering on offensive on so many levels. I could understand why it was so pathetically derivative that it had to explain the subplot in the first five minutes with Snidely Whiplash cackling on screen. Ok Whiplash didn’t quite make it , but might as well. They literally made everything in the movie DUMBER and even potentially more stereotypical and offensive to make it for us.

Yay American cinema. Someone shoot me.

Is it all bad? No.

David Belle, who was in the original (and its sequel) reprises his role as Lieto in Lino. For those not familiar with Belle he FOUNDED Parkour. Founded. Every bit of a free running you see in movies now you can thank him. He is one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure to witness on film. His physicality and agility are the stuff of legends. In D13 we are able to truly embrace and enjoy it with long shots of his free running through the district – over, around, up and down every surface he can touch. In Brick Mansions, we are…treated…to quick cuts, snap shots and a hint of shaky cam that prevents us from truly enjoying his ability to move.  He is still amazing, but you can’t enjoy it. Of course his counterpart in this is is also important.

District 13 gives us the hyper athletic Cyril Raffaelli as Damien. If you saw the Jet Li movie Kiss of the Dragon you saw this man fight Li and it was impressive. Not only can he fight, he is capable of acting and even a small bit of comedic timing. The physicality though is what lets you believe he can keep up with someone like Belle when they are on screen together. Paul Walker, not so much. He is very much the modern american action star. Brute force, some speed, no grace. It’s near impossible to compare the two men as Raffaelli just shines in such a physically demanding role. Walker is his usual self , which is slightly charming but as much real personality as Keanu Reeves. Though Reeves is mocked more for the same type of performance. Yes, I am sorry Walker is gone, but he doesn’t have a lot of range.

The bad guy, Taha, played by writer Bibi Naceri in D13 comes across pretty solid through and through in D13. He’s the king of a kingdom of ashes. Little else. His power is in his men and his ruthlessness. RZA (man with the Iron Fists) is your type-A1 standard urban lord with Tremaine. He has faux class, power through his men and a perceived intelligence higher than he should have. Tremaine as the bad guy serves the story as well as to be expected for the type of villain he is. In traditional fashion for us they make him as important as the heroes of the story and necessitate him through the end.

From a technical standpoint, nothing succeeds in Brick Mansions. Nothing. The unnecessary girl fight with two girls effectively in fetishwear fighting with fetish weapons. Just what we need. Shaky cam, quick cuts. Because more of that is good. Two leads who aren’t even in the same hemisphere physically? Brilliant choice.

Alright, TL;DR?

DO NOT SEE THIS GARBAGE. Save your $9 bucks. Get Netflix account for a month and watch the original. The subtitles don’t hurt, I promise. Seriously, DO NOT SEE THIS.

I can’t stress it enough. I was offended at many of the things they did from a film standpoint. Someone got hit in the head and you could HEAR THE LOONEY TOONS TWEETY BIRD SOUND! WHO DOES THAT?!

Yes I am raging because this film was a waste of celluloid that they released just to capitalize on walkers death. I can’t even recommend this one for MsT3K style commentary and viewing. It’s too dumb. It thinks WE are too dumb. I don’t have a high opinion of humanity, but I think mine is higher than this.

Gah, just don’t see Brick Mansions. Don’t let your friends see it. Let it burn in the pits of Tartarus.

Darke Reviews | Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

You would be hard pressed to think of a franchise, any franchise, that by its sixth outing is actually remaining as entertaining and providing the same quality as its previous films. Its arguably getting better the longer it goes on.

This film takes Dom and Brian taking on another crew of equally skilled drivers who are far more ruthless and with less morality. The goal? Doesn’t really matter. There is a McGuffin, there always is. The real goal here is the return of Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz.

You want to know how they did it after the fourth movie? You know me – spoiler free. You will need to see the movie; though I will say I did not roll my eyes at the reveal or reasons. I lay that squarely on the hands of script writer Chris Morgan, who has been writing for the Fast series since Tokyo Drift. He has successfully interwoven all six movies and gives the appropriate callbacks, ties and links the stories in a manner that lesser writers would have been heavy handed with. Instead we get one line deliveries and a minimal amount of exposition, the barest of what’s needed.

Director Justin Lin, also with the franchise since Tokyo Drift has a feel for the stories and characters that make the movie series successful as it is. He knows how to shoot the action just as much as the quiet moments, with limited exceptions. He brings the best out of his cast and their natural chemistry and charisma.

You hear me mention charisma in some of my reviews and in my humble opinion it makes and breaks a “group” movie. This team has charisma, it shines like baby oil off of every single actor and their interactions with each other. Five of six movies together has made this cast the family they claim to be. Am I saying they are great actors? No. What I am saying is they play well off of each other and have a natural comfort and charm that carries through the screen effortlessly.

Despite all this excellence, the director needs to move on. Four movies and he’s starting to lose some of the cinematic vision that made the others so watchable. A Bay-esque rotating cam during a romantic moment was nearly nauseating at times. combined with a series of quick cuts you were wrenched from a moment that was reminiscent of Mel Gibson and Rene Russo’s seduction scene from Lethal Weapon 3. Sadly, and I don’t know if this is the director, the Director of photography or cinematographers fault, but the shaky cam has made its way into the film. Its not as bad as it could have been (I am looking at you Paul “Bourne” Greengrass) but it’s a noticeable and unfortunate change.

Why so bad? So…imagine the awesomeness that is Michelle Rodriguez vs Gina Carrano? This should be the meanest, brutalist street fight we’ve seen in the films. It almost was, for what you could make out from it. Other sequences fell victim to this as they did to the quick cut and angles. This is the one flaw of the film. Ok there is also the minimum of 20 mile long runway….but…its an action sequence in a Fast film. I’ll forgive it.

TL;DR ?

If you like the franchise, see it.
If you are curious about any element – see it

Ah hell just see the thing. It is a fast and the furious movie so you get out of it only what you should expect. It’s not high cinema, but its 2 hours of raw entertainment and characters we’ve been watching for 12 years now ((seriously..12 ))

I think that youll feel successfully transported into the film.