‘The Fate of the Furious’ Review

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writer: Chris Morgan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Kristofer Hivju, Elsa Pataky, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren

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

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Eight films in sixteen years, and somehow the Fast & Furious franchise is still going on and has become stronger with every entry. The film franchise that started as a street-racing film have become heist films that focus on a family of misfits we all love. It’s fair to say the franchise really found its stride with Fast Five, becoming better as the franchise went on. So it’s a bit of a bummer to say that The Fate of the Furious is a step down for the franchise that has broken all the rules of gravity and has challenged us to suspense our disbelief to new levels. Not only that, this is the first film without Paul Walker after his tragic sudden passing during projection on Furious 7.

The Fate of the Furious opens in Cuba, where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon, and in true Fast & Furious action, Dom gets himself into a race. Afterwards, Dom encounters a mysterious woman who knows who he is and all about the crew, Cipher (Charlize Theron). She tells Dom that he’s going to work for her, which of course Dom scoffs at, but shows him something that shakes Dom. We cut to Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who is recruited to get a team together to reacquire a dangerous device, which sets up Hobbs to recruit our team we all know; Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) – sans Brian and Mia. It’s there that Dom betrays the group and gets Hobbs captured and sent to a super max prison where Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is being held. What follows is the crew trying to figure out why Dom has betrayed them and is working with Cipher, and if Dom is even worth saving.

Of course, one of the biggest questions everyone will have is why has Dom betrayed his family, and thankfully long-time franchise writer Chris Morgan (since Tokyo Drift) doesn’t leave us wondering for too long. The reasoning does make sense too, it’s not some lackluster idea, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise. However, it does make you question what will happen now as the franchise moves forward. The other question is how is the film without Paul Walker’s Brian, and the answer is simple: it’s different. However, it doesn’t rely itself on always bringing up Brian either. He is brought up at one point that makes sense, but after that it’s all about the crew, as it should be.

When it comes to the cast, they all have played the characters enough times we know what to expect. Rodriguez’s Letty is the only one that hasn’t given up faith in Dom; Gibson’s Roman is the comic relief as always, although it felt his humor was heighten his time around; Ludacris’ Tej and Emmanuel’s Ramsay bring the technical aspect to everything; and Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is still an unstoppable, quick-witted, and cheesy line delivering machine who goes insult-to-insult with Statham’s Shaw. Speaking of Johnson and Statham, these two should are incredible together. It would be disappointing if they don’t do more movies together. Kurt Russell also pops in as Mr. Nobody again playing it cool like only he knows, and brings in Scott Eastwood’s character who, isn’t really all the great and sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never Eastwood in anything, or if the character just wasn’t right for him, but I wasn’t digging his character.

When it comes to Charlize Theron’s Cipher – the first female villain of the series – her character is different than you would think. She has her own way at looking at the world, and in true Fast & Furious fashion, her character has a connection to the past films which is why she goes after Dom. I wouldn’t rank her character up there with Owen or Deckard Shaw, but what she’s able to do with a computer is rather frightening.

Going off that, this leads to one of the biggest, and franchise regular absurdity set-pieces, the “zombie” car scene in New York. The scene involves Cipher hacking every car with a computer in New York City so Dom can complete one of her missions. It’s a rather impressive scene, but goes with one of my major gripes with the film: the heavy use of CGI. The scene would have probably been very dangerous to have that many cars do what they do, although they did do some of it since they released a behind-the-scenes online. But, it was the obvious use of CGI which really takes you out of the scene, and it wasn’t the only scene to do it either. I’m not opposed to the use of CGI, and it’s not like the franchise hasn’t used it before, but at least the other films hid it a little better than Fate of the Furious. Not only that, it’s not even the best scene in the film. You can make the argument that the prison riot with Hobbs and Shaw is, as they fight their way out and show off Hobbs being, well, Hobbs.

All in all, The Fate of the Furious isn’t as great as the last three films. I don’t think the franchise has run out of fumes, I think it is trying to readjust after the death of Paul Walker, and trying to find its footing again. We can’t blame the franchise either, I’m pretty sure no one thought the Fast & Furious franchise would make it to eight films, but it has. The characters that we love are there, and the action is just as crazy as you would think with cheesy one-liners to back it up. Is the franchise going to lap out after this? No, probably not.

The Fate of the Furious

3.5 out of 5

April Movie Releases

Well hello there!

It’s April, and to some studios, it’s the unofficial start of the Summer Movie Season. Although, it doesn’t seem too much like the studios are pushing their huge films like previous years, but there are big films coming out before the end of the month. Let’s take a look shall we?

 

7th

Limited Release: Their Finest (Comedy Drama)

Based on the novel by Lissa Evans, a British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg. The film has a pretty impressive cast that includes Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Billy Nighy, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Richard E. Grant, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan Helen McCrory, and Jeremy Irons.

 

Limited Release: Gifted (Drama)

Frank (Chris Evans), a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary (Mckenna Grace), is drawn into a custody battle with his mother (Lindsay Duncan). Directed by Marc Webb, the film looks like a great small film for everyone involved. Gifted also stars Jenny Slate, Joe Chrest, Julie Ann Emery, and Octavia Spencer.

 

Limited Release: The Void (Horror Thriller)

When police officer Carter (Aaron Poole) discovers a blood-soaked man limping down a deserted road, he rushed him to a local hospital with a barebones, night shift staff. As cloaked, cult-like figures surround the building, the patients and staff inside start to turn ravenously insane. Trying to protect the survivors, Carter leads them into the depths of the hospital where they discover a gateway to immense evil. The film has released some creepy looking trailers, and it looks like an old school horror film, so maybe it could be great. The film also stars Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Art Hindle, and Kenneth Welsh.

 

Limited Release: Colossal (Sci-Fi Comedy Drama)

This wacky sci-fi comedy written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) follows a woman (Anne Hathaway), who after being dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) returns home and finds out her breakdown has given her – somehow – control over a giant monster in South Korea. The film has been getting a lot of love on the film festival circuit, and with a great cast and a director I really like, I’m looking forward toward this. The film also stars Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson.

 

The Case for Christ (Drama – Pure Flix Entertainment, Triple Horse Studios)

Based on the book by Lee Strobel, and a true story of award-winning investigative journalist, and avowed atheist, applies his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife… and with unexpected, life-altering results. The film stars Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster and Frankie Faison.

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village (Animation – Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures)

A reboot and fully animated film now follows Smurfette (Demi Lovato) who finds a mysterious map and set a journey along with her friends Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) through the Forbidden Forest leading to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history. Taking the film the fully animation route might be what the franchise needs after the poorly received CGI/live-action hybrid. The voice cast also includes Rainn Wilson as Gargamel and Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf.

 

Going in Style (Comedy – Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM)

A reboot of the 1979 film that follows three retirees, who live off social security checks, decide tey have had enough and plan a bank heist, problem is they are heavily under qualified. I’ve never seen the original, but with the cast, it could work. Going in Style stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Maria Dizzia, Ann-Margret, and Joey King.

 

14th

Limited Release: The Lost City of Z (Drama)

Based off the novel by David Grann, the film is a true-life drama centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who disappears searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s. The film looks very atmospheric and dark, and everything I’ve seen from the trailer has me really hyped up for this. The cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, and Angus Macfadyen.

 

Spark (Animated – Open Road Films, Gulfstream Pictures, ToonBox Entertainment, Redrover Co.)

Spark (Jace Norman), a teenage monkey and his friends, Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) and Vix (Jessica Biel), are on a mission to regain Planet Bana – a kingdom overtaken by the evil overlord Zhong (A.C. Peterson). The rest of the voice cast includes Hilary Swank, Susan Sarandon, Athena Karkanis and Patrick Stewart.

 

The Fate of the Furious (Action Adventure – Universal Pictures, Original Film, One Race Films)

When a mysterious woman known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes Dom (Vin Diesel) turn on those closest to him, the team will go through trials that will test them like they never have before. Let’s be honest here, you can laugh at how ridiculous these films are and they aren’t like “they used to be.” But, these films make a crap ton of money, and people – like me – watch them because there dumb fun. The move intriguing thing is how the films will handle Paul Walker. The cast of Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Natalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell return along with new names like Theron, Scott Eastwood, Kristofer Hivju, and Helen Mirren.

 

 

21st

Born in China (Family Adventure – Walt Disney Company, Disneynature, Chuan Films)

A wildlife drama documentary that follows the families of endangered animals in China.

 

Phoenix Forgotten (Sci-Fi Horror – Freestyle Releasing, Cinelou Releasing, Scott Free Productions)

20 years after three teenagers disappear in the wake of mysterious lights appearing above Phoenix, Arizona, unseen footage from that night has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.

 

Unforgettable (Thriller – Warner Bros., DiNovi Pictures)

A woman sets out to make life hell for her ex-husband’s new life. Honestly, I feel like I’ve the film already based off the trailer, and I’ve never been the biggest Katherine Heigl fan, so I’m going pass. The film also stars Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, and Whitney Cummings.

 

The Promise (Drama – Open Road Films, Survival Pictures, Wonderful Films)

Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the film follows a love triangle between Mikael (Oscar Isaac), a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), and Chris (Christian Bale) – a renowned American journalist based in Paris. The trailer doesn’t really grab me as much as I thought it would, but I’m sure it will be good – hopefully. The film also stars Jean Reno, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rade Serbedzija, Angela Sarafyan and James Cromwell.

 

Free Fire (Action Crime Comedy – A24, Film4, Rook Films, Protagonist Pictures)

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival. I didn’t know too much about this movie until I saw the trailer, and it instantly jumped to my must-watch list. The film looks like a crazy fun good time and it helps that it has an impressive cast too. The film stars Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Enzo Cilenti, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor and Sharlto Copley.

 

28th

How to be a Latin Lover (Comedy – Pantelion Films, 3Pas Studios)

Finding himself dumped after 25 years of marriage, Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) who made a career of seducing rich older women, must move in with his estranged sister (Salma Hayek), where he beings to learn the value of family. The film also stars Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Michael Cera, Raquel Welch, Omar Chaparro, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, and Rob Corddry.

 

Sleight (Sci-Fi Action Drama – WWE Studios, BH Tilt, Diablo Entertainment)

A young street magician is left to take care of his little sister after his mother’s passing and turns to drug dealing in the L.A. party scene to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets into trouble with is supplier, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to rely on both his sleight of hand and brilliant mind to save her. The film stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Dule Hill, Storm Reid, Sasheer Zamata, and Brandon Johnson.

 

The Circle (Sci-Fi Thriller – EuropaCorp, IM Global, Likely Story, Playtone, Imagenation Abu Dhabi)

Based on Dave Eggers’ best-selling novel of the same name, the film follows Mae (Emma Watson), who lands a job at a powerful tech company called The Circle, where she becomes involved with a mysterious man. The film has Black Mirror-like vibe to it, and by the looks of it, always loveable Tom Hanks looks to play a villain-like character, who is the head of the company. The film also stars John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Ellen Wong, Nate Corddry, Poorna Jagannathan, Elvy Yost, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton.

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Ghost in the Shell’ Review

Director: Rupert Sanders

Writers: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Peter Ferdinando, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, and Juliette Binoche

Synopsis: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved form a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based, maybe to many loosely based, off the comic by Masamune Shirow and the hit anime in the early 90s, Ghost in the Shell has been under the radar for some time now. Whether it be the fact that most people think it shouldn’t have been remade or – the big one – the white washing controversy, the film has certainly been in the public eye so it indeed to impress a lot of people to justify it being made. Unfortunately, Ghost in the Shell impresses at the right moments, but then it becomes a bit bland and shallow.

Set in future Tokyo where people are now okay with doing cybernetic implants, we follows Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson), who after an accident which only leaves her brain intact, a company called Hanka places her brain in a state-of-the-art robot body that will allow her to pass as human. We skip forward  a year, and she now works for a government division called Section 9, a tactical response unit tasked with hunting down terrorist, and is now known as The Major. The team soon realizes that they have a serious threat in Kuze (Michael Pitt), a terrorist who is hacking into and killing members of the Hanka robotics company. However, as the investigation goes on The Major starts to remember things from her past that throws the investigation in a different direction.

I’m going to throw this out there now, I haven’t seen the original anime – yet – I’ve wanted to for some time now, and wanted to before watching this, but time caught up with me and I couldn’t. So everything in this review is going to be based off this film, and solely this film. So please forgive me if I think something works or doesn’t work, but is essential to the anime or original source material.

Let’s start off with the cast, since that’s the biggest thing everyone was talking about before watching the actual movie. Scarlett Johansson does fine playing the conflicted character trying to figure out her place in the world, but also bound by duty to take down Kuze. Pilou Asbaek plays Major’s friend and partner Batou, who, honestly, doesn’t get enough screen time, Peter Ferdinando is a Hanka company man named Cutter who’s has a history with the program Major was a part of. “Beat” Takeshi Kitano plays Aramaki, Major and Batou’s boss who only speaks in Japanese, who also could have used more screen time considering the role he plays later on in the film.

Juliette Binoche plays Dr. Ouelet, the lead scientist that makes Major who she is, and while Binoche puts her best effort into the role, her character – to me – doesn’t rise up to the stakes her character should have been. Speaking of that, Michael Pitt’s Kuze is pretty disappointing. Not only is he not in the film enough, he only has one real good scene with Johansson which reveal the beginning of the secrets for Major. It’s nothing against Pitt either, he’s just not in the film long enough to really give Kuze that level of importance the film tries to five him at the beginning of the film. The rest of the cast, well, they’re just there unfortunately.

Ghost in the Shell also tries to ask the important deep question like what makes you human and can Major be an actual individual? But the film spends little time actually digging into to those questions, and instead takes the sci-fi crime thriller action route. Which would be fine if this wasn’t a remake of Ghost in the Shell – from what I heard anyway – and this was an original film, but it isn’t and it hurts the film in the long run. What also hurts the film is the white washing controversy does come to the forefront in multiple ways.

One is like I mentioned earlier, Kitano’s Aramaki only speaks in Japanese – and everyone else speaks to him in English. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s one of the only real Asian in the film who has a major role – Yutaka Izumihara plays a character named Saito, who I’m not even kidding, I think only has two scenes and Chin Han, who plays a character named Han, who is a member of Section 9, but doesn’t really do anything to stand out. However, the biggest way the issue lingers is near the end when you figure out what happened in Major’s past. You can make the argument that it makes sense to do that, but at the same time it is kind of stupid and disrespectful to the point that it took me out of the film completely. It’s not the best way to go, especially in a film that people were already up in arms about.

All in all, Ghost in the Shell isn’t a groundbreaking film like its predecessors. The one redeeming thing about the film, if you want to look at it that way, is the visual effects. It really gives you a sense of how different the world is, and it should be too much of a shock considering it is directed by Rupert Sanders, who got his start doing visual effects. However, like his previous film in Snow White and the Huntsman, Ghost in the Shell is all show with very little substance.

Ghost in the Shell

3 out of 5