Furious 7 (2015)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

137 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

 

And here we are, after six films, we arrive here at Furious 7, the latest installment in the high-octane series of car action films started with The Fast and the Furious some many years back.

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In the newest adventure, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Saving Private Ryan, Guardians of the Galaxy) and his family have returned to the United States after gaining amnesty for their previous offences. As new parent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) adjusts to the simple life with wife Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Home Sweet Hell), he and Dom discover that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Transporter, Spy) is seeking vengeance on them for his comatose brother. When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, WrestleMania) is dispatched, the group realize that they need help. In comes a mysterious government agent (played by Kurt Russell, The Thing, Poseidon) who need them to find a piece of high-tech gadgetry that has been stolen by the villainous Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son). The deal is simple: retrieve the tech in exchange for cart blanche to defeat Shaw.

I really enjoyed Furious 7. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 2), known for his abilities as a horror director, supplies the film with much-needed cheese with an incredibly exhilarating experience. The returning cast has grown so close that the chemistry here is great. Diesel’s journey of reintroduction with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) is one of the better stories to come out of this series, and it ties into the franchise well. I had a lot of fun watching the banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) and Tej (Chris Bridges, New Year’s Eve, No Strings Attached). Newcomers Kurt Russell and Jason Statham provide a lot of fun to the equation. Russell’s Mr. Nobody is an interesting new character I’m excited to see further fleshed out. Statham’s Shaw comes off a bit on the cheesy side, especially with his introduction, but overall it works.

Now onto what most people are interested in hearing about: dealing with the death of Paul Walker. Did it work? Suprisingly well, actually. I expected Walker’s role to be relegated to a glorified cameo, but I was wrong. With brothers Cody and Caleb, alongside some terrific digital effects, helped to provide some resolution to Brian’s story in an appealing way. The finale of the film definitely pays tribute well with a closing musical number with a montage of Walker’s role in the franchise served to button up his story and send him off to the next place without coming off as a wasted opportunity. Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” works well here, too.

I like that Furious 7 helps tie the franchise back together with references to Toretto’s relationship with Letty before her “death” and the rarely-seen Race Wars from the original film. The best thing about this franchise is that the crew learns from previous mistakes to make the best film possible.

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Furious 7 isn’t the greatest film in the series (that honor lies with Fast Five), but it definitely takes a step in the right direction after a few missteps with Fast & Furious 6. It serves to provide closure to Paul Walker’s character and career well without sacrificing plot and sets the series up for further adventures which will continue with the upcoming Furious 8 (yeah, it’s happening).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

 

You can follow Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

Fast & Furious (2009)

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Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.

 

After the serviceable but ultimately disappointing The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Universal had two choices: kill the franchise or put everything you have into it. They chose the latter and brought back what made the series such a powerhouse. The entire principal cast of the original film was back, and with an entertaining story and the work from director Justin Lin (Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee, Annapolis) and screenwriter Chris Morgan (47 Ronin, Wanted), it was a formula that actually worked.

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When fugitive Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) loses everything that matters to him, he returns home to his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) and crosses paths with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours), who has earned his life back as a federal agent. The two are forced to join together to take down an elusive new villain never seen and only known as Braga.

Before we get too deep here, I would like to point out that this film is more of an interquel as opposed to a straight sequel. It takes place between 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. It features a character, Han, who we see biting the dust in the previous film. I’m not entirely sure why this choice was made, but I like the idea of Han sticking around. He is a likable hero.

Having Diesel and Walker together again is action gold. These two worked very closely in crafting this sequel with the crew to make it not only worthwhile but also help build a gigantic franchise out of the fledgling series, and it works so well. There are elements of this franchise that owe a lot to this entry. The races and chases are incredible yet simple, the characters actually develop as the film progresses, and I could tell everyone is having fun here.

Director Lin and screenwriter Morgan have learned a lot about crafting a sequel and it shows. Lin’s directing has improved, giving equal time to emotional beats and car-bashing crazy, and Morgan’s screenplay is formulated to transform the franchise and its characters.

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Fast & Furious is the sequel fans deserved and it’s the one they finally got. It proved that a series can learn from previous mistakes and evolve, and it gives viewers some of the coolest action on the screen. It still holds onto the grindhousian insanity that made the first one enjoyable and continues the tradition onward.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

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Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong, Ted Levine

Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.

 

This year, we see the release of Furious 7, the latest in the series of title-jumping action car movies. Most people see the series as essential one long chase scene, but people forget how much these films have evolved in fourteen years. Let’s look back at the original film today.

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When Brian Spilner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) falls for Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Annapolis), the sister to the ferocious street racer Dominic (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick), he enters a world that he may not be able to survive within. What Dom and Mia don’t know, however, is that Brian Spilner is actually Brian O’Connor, undercover cop chasing a lead that some street racers are involved in some major electronics theft. As Brian conceals his true identity, he finds himself getting closer to the Toretto “family” of outcasts and possible outlaws.

There is a term that doesn’t get tossed around much for this film but it really deserves to be mentioned. That term is “Grindhouse.” The Fast and the Furious is fairly Grindhousian in nature. The underground “society” of racers is over-the-top in many ways as a sexier, more dangerous version of the truth. This is an exploitation piece at the most explosive level. There aren’t many films with the budget of The Fast and the Furious that it doesn’t often get associated with this genre, but it is true.

Can Rob Cohen direct the pic? Better than a lot of his other attempts. If you’ve seen The Boy Next Door, I’m sure you can see his low points. I like his stylistic choice as he tries to visual show speed on film, something he really wanted to convey with the picture.

The film is made on the shaky relationship between Brian and Mia, a gorgeous girl who exists in a dangerous world. Diesel’s Toretto is good enough to pass here, but comes off as a one-note antihero. I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, InAPPropriate Comedy) as Letty, Dom’s girlfriend who might just wear the pants in the relationship. We also get a great turn from character actor Ted Levine (TV’s Monk, Little Boy) as Sergeant Tanner, Brian’s supervising officer.

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The Fast and the Furious is a fun, albeit flawed, action spectacle that tries a lot of new things (even if some of them don’t work). You can put the story pieces together a lot faster than I would have liked, but once this film became a franchise, that was going to happen anyway. The script polishing by David Ayer helped this film a lot, but it is far from a masterpiece and far from the best in this series.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 21 – The ABCs of Death (2012)

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Director: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Helene Cattet, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Jorge Michel Grau, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi

Cast: Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Steve Berens, Erik Aude, Lisa Lynch, Joshua Diolosa, Dallas Malloy

Screenplay: Ant Timpson, Nacho Vigalondo, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Dimitrije Vojnov, Yudai Yamaguchi, Noboru Iguchi, Simon Barrett, Ti West, Kaare Andrews, Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Srdjan Spasojevic, Lee Hardcastle

129 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, now that’s out of the way, and I can begin to talk to you about The ABCs of Death. Wow, what a movie. A hell of a daunting task. Basically, 26 directors were each assigned a letter of the alphabet and told to create a short film about death that connects to a word starting with that letter. The films are then played A to Z with the film first followed by the word and letter. The directors chosen were given full creative control which was used. Oh yeah, it was used. The types of films range from the gory to the cheesy to the downright disturbing and confusing. They aren’t all winners. In fact, most of them fall flat, but the experiment is a notable one. I was absolutely disappointed with the finished product merely because many of the directors didn’t really put forth the effort and understand that they are part of a collective.

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I feel like I am going to have to forgo the traditional review in lieu of timing purposes and just outline the major winners and losers here.

C is for Cycle is a winner purely because of its time-constrained uniquely bizarre tale. D is for Dogfight is absolutely incredible and likely the best short here, even if it feels out of place. L is for Libido is neither good nor bad but certainly memorable and shockingly disturbing. It kind of made me feel sick. O is for Orgasm is interesting in both its visual style and its placement in the film, and it is haunting and a little visceral. Q is for Quack is a very memorable short that really could only belong in this film as it depicts the filmmakers themselves trying to decide on a word and a short linked to the impossible Q. T is for Toilet is directed by Lee Hardcastle and was actually a winner of a contest to decide the letter T. It is an animated short about a child’s fear of the toilet and is pretty comical and creepy. U is for Unearthed is a vampire tale from the point of view of the creature. Y is for Youngbuck bothered me as well. It juxtaposed calm moments with gruesome acts and I couldn’t handle it.

Now, as far as bad goes, I would say the rest of them, but really awful to mind (F is for Fart, G is for Gravity, H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion, K is for Klutz, P is for Pressure, Z is for Zetsumetsu) shorts appear that just disappoint and disturb without actually providing any real thrills. The cream of the crap, though, is the short M is for Miscarriage from Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Sacrament). This is a piece of shit and truly disappointing that someone who is somewhat renowned in the horror community made something as awful and unstoppably offensive as this. It was lazy as well. Not even trying to provide entertainment.

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Okay, so what I am getting at here is that The ABCs of Death is definitely an interesting idea for a film, but I think inside I knew it would fail. There are just too many chances to fail here, and the bad outweigh the good. If you want my opinion, I think the film is worth viewing…once, and I mean only if you have the stomach to sit through some of the disgusting moments of the film. Warning has been given.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Greatest American Hero will fly again! Classic Series Reboot on the way!

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I grew up watching old reruns of Greatest American Hero which told the story of Ralph Hinkley, played by William Katt, a teacher who gets a suit that bestows superpowers. The show was camp, but it was also a lot of fun and full of kookiness. It sounds like we will be seeing the suit making a return to the small screen courtesy of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, directors of this year’s 22 Jump Street and The Lego Movie.

Personally, I think that, if anyone can get this project off the ground, it is these two. I have been a fan of their work, which pleases all kinds of fans. 21 and 22 Jump Street should not have been good. Neither should The Lego Movie have been. But they were.

The two were also behind the immensely popular Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

As much as I believe that this show should return, I would like to see it as a reboot, with ties to the original, much like the new Dallas. I think the best way to show respect to a previous installment is not to ignore it, but that’s just me.

So, goat herd, what do you think of Greatest American Hero returning, walking on air, and all that? Let me know.

For now, though, enjoy these…

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