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 | Expendables 3 (2014)

Ah the stars of yore trying to get one last paycheck. Except, it’s not the stars of yore in this one; is it? What happens when you try to make a movie where you have older actors and individuals trying to pass the torch to younger ones? This sounds like one of the rumored Ghostbusters 3 plots. Should Ghostbusters 3 ever come the out of pre production ecto containment unit it’s been in, the producers need to watch this movie for pointers.

Which pointers? Good? Bad? Ugly?

Well…rather than keep a director between films they went with a new guy. Seems silly to not keep whats working, but who am I to understand studio logic. Ok, other film buffs reading this stop laughing at that oxymoron. This time we get Patrick Hughes who has previously directed a relatively small scale film called Red Hill. I’ve seen this and it’s good. I’ve seen Expendable 3 and I can tell you a budget isn’t always the best thing. He keeps a good style and knows the right places to focus and what he does with what he has is actually really good. Sadly, Stallone is one of the producers so I know how his hands may have been tied. I also said he does well with what he had.

What he has is a Three Writer Script. You may commence shuddering if you’ve read my reviews before. Stallone, aside from starring and producing also provides the Story credit and one of the screenplay credits. Olympus has Fallen writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt gives us our other two. As much as I like Olympus has Fallen for what it does right, this script fails in almost all those respects.

It doesn’t make you care about any of the characters that are being introduced of which there are many. You can’t keep track of the ones that you have from the previous films and nothing with them even seems to matter. The stakes *just* aren’t there. In a PG-13 film they just didn’t go enough to the places they need to. I am not talking blood and guts, I can get good action without that. I’d rather have no blood than CGI blood. I mean risks. I mean violence. I mean honest to darkness threat to characters to make me even believe for a moment they may be in danger.

But this is Expendables. Why bother with a plot? That’s actually the problem. They did. It needs to be judged. It’s a very thin plot and honestly they spend more time on the slow beats than they should have. Much like Expendables 1 there’s a lot of things that are focused on that no one wants. The first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes have it all. The down side is the movie runs just over two hours. That means there’s nearly eighty minutes of – why am I watching this?

Acting? Ok now you are trying to make *me* laugh writing this. That is so not in this film. Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Li, Couture, and reprise their roles from the first two films. Willis was asked to leave after being a prima donna. There’s even a joke in the movie about it. We introduce Snipes who gets a lovely little joke at his own expense. Gibson who seems to be playing an evolved version of one of his former characters. Kelsey Grammer, I do not know why he is in this either.  Banderas is a joke that runs too too long. Ford walks in, is Ford and walks off. Its enough.

We also introduce Victor Ortiz (Boxer and Dancing with the Stars…no seriously!), Kellan Lutz (from the godawful Hercules earlier and Twilight), Glenn Powell since Chris Evans was busy, and our first real female – Ronda Rousey an MMA fighter. Rousey and Lutz are the most memorable additions. Rousey shining as a fighter in her sequences and generally being kinda awesome. She should get used more if she wishes and can be a new action star along side Carano and Gadot. We do need more women action heroes and she’s a good start.

The action, when we get it is explosive (no pun intended) and intense. It’s well done, well choreographed and just generally good. When you can see it. There’s the tiniest bit of shaky cam for reasons that I cannot fathom. Quick cuts hide some of the flaws. The only one with a really good hand to hand fight is Rousey. Her fight is good and watchable. The gunplay is all you’d want to see from an 80’s film and just as ridonkulous.

TL;DR?

Yeah, so this happened. It is ridiculous, but if you can just watch the opening act and final act you get everything you want. Nothing else is relevant. Really – NOTHING else. It might explain why it tanked in the box office this weekend. It only made 3 times what Willis was asking to be paid for his work in the movie. I will let that sink in.

If you are bored and want some action schlock – go see this. If you can find a way to catch just the opening and ending you’ll be in really great shape.

I WAS entertained mostly, but I don’t believe in sending folks to movies for mostly.

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy (again), TMNT, or save your money for SIn City: A Dame to Kill for.