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The Fate of the Furious is Dumb Fun

Jeremiah

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I have to make a confession: I’ve never seen a single entry in the Fast and Furious (F&F) franchise. It happens. There are a lot of movies out there. There are movies I’ve seen and some I haven’t.

So I went in cold, except I knew the F&F movies had a rich and tortured mythology. At the start of the film, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon in Cuba. This was a shock to me because I could’ve sworn Dom and Letty were siblings, so either I was out of it, or the movie was. It turns out both can be true.

The technical term for movies like the F&F franchise is a Latin word that roughly translates into “bananas.” Throughout most of the first part of the movie, I felt like someone who started watching a soap opera in the middle of its twelfth season. I tried to make sense of the goings-on while also attempting to figuring out the character’s relationships to each other.

This was a fool’s errand, and I quickly just gave up and allowed the absurdity to watch over me. I had realized the F&F movies aren’t action movies, they’re not comic book movies, they’re not car chase movies, they’re not soap operas, they’re not live action cartoons, and they’re not a throwback to the old black and white serials that used to play before the movie. No, they are all of that rolled into one. Each new entry is trying to figure out a new way to wring meaning out of the word ‘family’ while also trying to show you how puny and silly the laws of physics truly are.

This movie is nuts. And Dumb. Really dumb. And really nuts. But man oh man is it a blast, most of the time.

While on their honeymoon in Cuba, Dom, and Letta engage in outlaw street racing, tow truck disputes, high stakes gambling, cuddling, and baby talk. And this is only in the first ten minutes. While on his way back from the store, Dom runs into a stranger. No matter how crazy a movie may be, everyone has to go to the store, EVERYONE.

The stranger turns out to be Cipher (Charlize Theron). A global terrorist, a renowned hacker with no digital footprint, scourge of the underworld and law enforcement world alike. She also comes with a Rastafarian inspired head of dreads, accessories not included. It’s one of the great pities of the film that Theron’s hairstyle seems to be having more fun than she is.

Cipher poses as a stranded motorist just long enough to lull Dom into talking to her before showing him a picture on an iPhone and before you can shout out, “Let me see too!” she’s blackmailed him into joining her team, betraying family, and leaving him to mope in Cuba while she goes back to her untraceable ghost plane/palatial pad/office. This is right about the twelve-minute mark for those following along at home.

The writers of Fate of the Furious at the very least realize time is of the essence. Every scene seems to just layer on more and more information, an impressive feat considering I still had no idea what in the blazes was going on! But then the movie cuts to Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) coaching his daughter’s soccer team during the championship game, and I was kind of okay with that.

More information is dumped into our laps concerning something about an EMP and those pesky Germans, exactly what I didn’t know then and I know less now. All I know is Hobb’s daughter’s team the “Red Dragons” won. So really I retained all the information that mattered.

Now we’re off to Germany where we meet with the rest of the F&F team in the midst of gloriously impractical and improbable car chase/escape scene. Which then leads us to Dom’s sudden and inevitable betrayal of the ‘family’ as he crashes into Hobb’s car, steals the EMP, and rendezvous with Cipher. Props to Letta for weathering what has to be one of the more rocky starts to a new marriage that I’ve seen in a good long while. As Del Griffith once said, “She’s a real trooper.” These movies being what they are, a chain of fateful events are set into motion.

Hobbs is sent to prison for treason for stealing the EMP. The rest of the team…something happens to them I’m not really sure what. On his way to prison Hobbs is greeted by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new protege Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Hobbs is then reunited with Deckard (Jason Statham). Deckard escapes prison, Hobbs follows suit to catch Deckard, and both are found by Mr. Nobody and brought on board to stop Dom and Cipher.

Mr. Nobody takes the two to his secure and undisclosed base where Letty, Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are there as well, handcuffed. Oh hey, there’s the rest of the team.  Before you can say ‘Bob’s your Uncle,’ Cipher and Dom break into Mr. Nobody’s secure and undisclosed base to steal his super duper, uber duber, top secret surveillance tracking system, ‘God’s Eye’, for her own nefarious purposes.

Her nefarious purposes involve stealing the nuclear football from those other reliable movie villains, those pesky Russians, hacking into a cold war nuclear sub, and holding the world superpowers in check. Her reasoning is if she holds them at nuke point they will behave more reasonably and be more accountable. Plus Dom has a kid! I think.

Look I’m going to be completely honest with you, I’m not entirely sure what happened exactly. I am sure it doesn’t matter. What happened isn’t really the point. The point is stuff goes ‘ka-blooie’ cars go ‘vroom vroom’ and the movie swings from objectifying women to empowering them while still traveling in some age old classic patriarchal tropes.

F. Gary Gray keeps the movie pumping at full speed as best he can. The brakes are only applied because of Theron’s performance. Cipher is a mainstay in every action/adventure/whatever the hell this movie is, but Gray and company don’t ever seem to allow Theron to let loose. This could also be the script’s fault. She’s given reams of exposition to pore through ranging from her own variation of “I expect you to die, Mr. Bond!” to a bizarre expositorial dump that involves the deconstruction of the historical, psychological, and biological evolution of the family unit.

So maybe it’s not entirely her fault.

Theron aside, the movie’s own sense self-importance both delighted me at times and wore on my patience at others. But every time I began to lose patience with the movie Dame Helen Mirren would show up as Deckard’s mother and do a cartoonishly over the top cockney accent, and I’d be okay again.

As the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but smile. This is the eighth movie in a franchise that has always had a rich multi-cultural, ethnically, and gender diverse cast and crew. In an age where Hollywood seems to be doubling down on whitewashing one thing after another, the F&F franchise stands like a giant middle finger to the establishment as it rakes in millions time and time again.

The Fate of the Furious isn’t perfect. It drags here and there. But seeing Dame Helen Mirren slap Jason Statham up the side of his head while it literally rains cars in downtown Manhattan is worth the price of admission alone.


Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Jeremiah lives in Los Angeles and divides his time between living in a movie theatre and writing mysteries. There might also be some ghostbusting being performed in his spare time.

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Watch the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer and You’ve Basically Seen the Movie

Bo

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Everyone knows the tendency for trailers to give away the entire plot to a movie. This final trailer for the new Jurassic World not only gives away too much of the plot, it basically gives away the entire plot. As a Reddit user commented this morning, you’ve seen about 3 different movies from these trailers at this point. I suppose that’s not a huge issue. I doubt many people expect huge surprises from this movie.

After the new Jurassic World park failed (shocker, I know), the dinosaurs left there face extinction four years later because of an impending volcanic eruption. Our heroes team up with a totally not shady company to help evacuate the dinosaurs. Surprise, surprise, the company is actually shady and looks like they’re going to use the evacuated dinosaurs for profit. Profit involving selling them, experimenting on them, you know the deal. And if you watch the trailer, you’ll see exactly how the heroes will stop them.

Here’s hoping there’s a twist at the end. Maybe the dinosaurs can actually take over? They kind of deserve it with how stupid humanity acts in these movies. How many times does messing around with dinosaurs have to blow up in their faces before they learn their lesson?

I know we’ve mentioned this problem with previous movie trailers, but this one honestly strikes me as a bit more ridiculous than usual. What exactly have we not seen of this movie now? We’ve seen the threat to the dinosaurs and how they are rescued. We’ve seen the bad guy betrayal. The actual motive, the hero’s plan, probably every cool scene, we’ve seen it all. Maybe people love trailers like this and I’m out of touch? I can’t imagine why. Who wants to go into a movie knowing every cool scene before it happens?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom arrives in theaters on June 22. You know, if you want to watch the unabridged version of this trailer.


Video and Images Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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Will Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey Cure the Testosterone-Poisoned DCEU?

Dan

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Are men canceled? The jury is still out. But it may be that their once assured grip on all things comics has finally slipped. And one can look no further than what has happened at Warner Bros. and DC with the DC cinematic universe. The dark and gloomy film nerd pandering schlock of Zach Snyder seems to have finally run out of steam after the failure of Justice League, and not even the outdated comic geek quips of Joss Whedon couldn’t save them. Finally taking cues from the success of Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman, DC has added, of all things, women to their creative teams. First, Ava DuVernay was placed in charge of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, then Batgirl replaced Whedon with Christine Hodson. Now, Deadline has announced that Cathy Yan will be directing the upcoming Harley Quinn vehicle Birds of Prey. Not only will she be the second female director in the DCEU (Birds of Prey will precede New Gods) but will be the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie.

Yan is a relative newcomer to the film world, but she’s not unaccomplished.  Born in China and raised in Hong Kong and the US, Yan has studied at Princeton and NYU, where she got an MFA from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. Before getting into film-making, she wrote for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote and directed multiple shorts before making her debut with Dead Pigs, which received rave reviews at Sundance.

Birds of Prey, which will use Christine Hodson’s script, has been a long-awaited addition to the DC canon. Long tied closely to writer Gail Simone, who made her name writing for it in 2003, Birds of Prey has stood out as a mostly-female team of heroes operating adjacent to the hyper-masculine Batman family of books. Its membership has revolved around Oracle (Barbara Gordon), who finally found her footing post-Killing Joke as a hyper-competent hacker and information broker, and Black Canary, who gets a break from Oliver Queen by acting as Oracle’s main operative. Other major members include former “mafia princess”  Huntress and the time-displaced Blackhawk, who acts as the team’s pilot. Many of the biggest female heroes in the DCU have passed through the ranks of the Birds of Prey, including Big Barda, Vixen, and Katana (her katana traps the souls of its victims.)

Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap is co-producing the film as a feature for Margot’s Harley Quinn. While Harley herself has never been a member of the Birds, her girlfriend Poison Ivy has (albeit as a ploy), and the team acts as a foil to Quinn and Ivy’s Gotham City Sirens as women in the Bat-universe.

This won’t be the first foray onto the screen for the Birds of Prey. It comes after a short-lived WB series starring Dina Meyer, and a disappointing (as always) attempt by Arrow to base an episode on the series. The film adaptation will be produced by Robbie, Sue Kroll, and Brian Unkeles and their respective production companies. Robbie was instrumental in Yan’s selection, as she was firm in her conviction that woman should direct the film. Other Quinn-centric films in the pipeline include an Ayer-free sequel to Suicide Squad, some unfortunate “rom-com” called Harley vs. The Joker, and Gotham City Sirens. Birds of Prey will enter production this year, as soon as Robbie finishes work on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.


Image via DC Comics

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Simon Pegg Confirms Star Trek Sequel, Downplays Tarantino Involvement

Bo

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News recently made the rounds about Quentin Tarantino possibly directing the next Star Trek film, to obviously mixed reactions. Fan reaction grew even more hesitant at the possibility of the film being rated R. Don’t get me wrong, Tarantino has made some terrific movies over the years. Star Trek, though? Let’s just say he may not be the right guy for the job. His style is pretty far from what draws fans to this franchise.

Simon Pegg, who stars as Montgomery Scott in 2009’s Star Trek and its two sequels, has said the chances of Tarantino directing the next Star Trek are unlikely.

“I don’t think Quentin is going to direct it, because he’s got his California movie [Once Upon a Time in Hollywood] to do and then I think [he’s] only doing one more film after that.

In the same article, he also confirms there will be another Star Trek sequel, though he feels continuing after the tragic death of co-star Anton Yelchin will be tough. Yelchin starred alongside Pegg as Pavel Chekov.

So what do you think? Were you excited about the possibilities of a Tarantino Star Trek? Or are you massively relieved? Whatever the case, it looks like there will be a fourth film coming.


Image courtesy of Paramount and CBS

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