Furious 7

Posted on April 4, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Copyright Universal 2015
Copyright Universal 2015

Who would have picked the Fast & Furious series as the one that would defy the odds and just keep getting better? In part that is because the first one was not very good.

And the second wasn’t either. It didn’t even have Vin Diesel. And then there was that crazy detour chronologically and geographically with “Tokyo Drift.”

But somewhere around the fourth or fifth one they made two important decisions. They jettisoned any vestigial commitment to believability in storylines. And they tossed out any thought of complying with the laws of physics. In this seventh and last film, twelve years after the first one, there are so many flying cars amid the chases, explosions, and assault weapons it might as well be titled “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang.”

Okay, the cars don’t actually fly, but they hurtle through the air.

Inspired by a magazine article about street racers, the series has morphed into a sort of “Mission Impossible.” The lovable band of rogues is now on the right side of the law, not because it is the right side, because they would not be rogues anymore, but because of some personal threat or affront, which is what makes them lovable. “I don’t have friends,” says the leader of the pack Dom (Vin Diesel). “I have family.” And those who live their lives a quarter mile at a time, now expanded to include anyone who shares their ineffable coolness and unconditional commitment, qualifies as family.

The talking and the acting and the story aren’t very good, and the comic relief (mostly courtesy of Tyrese Gibson) is weak at best, but that’s not why we’re here, now, is it? It does not have a plot, just a McGuffin of a plot-ish, concerning that most venerable of action-franchise go-tos. The bad guy our heroes took down at the end of #6 turns out to have a brother who is (a) determined to get revenge by killing every one of our group, (b) trained in special ops as a former government assassin with a special affection for explosives, and (c) he is Jason Statham. He even beats up FBI agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who by now has become a sort of unofficial member of the group and kills another member. “No more funerals,” everyone agrees, except of course for Statham’s character.

Like characters in a fairy tale or a video game they have a series of tasks to accomplish in order to achieve their goal of taking out the bad guy. They have to rescue an extremely hot hacker from a supervillain with infinite access to armored vehicles and assault weapons, including armed drones. They have to retrieve her super-duper thing she invented, which is only on a hard drive in the — of course — super-duper car owned by a prince and stored in the upper stories of a skyscraper. And then they have to get the bad guy, involving a fight that comes down to mano a manly manly mano.

Okay, now that’s out of the way and we can get to the flying cars. This is a movie that has cars parachuting out of a plane. Let’s say that again. Cars parachute out of a plane. A guy gets stuck in a bus teetering over the edge of a cliff and I won’t tell you what happens next except to say it is awesome times two. There are big arms, deep voices, crazy chases, girls in very skimpy clothes, heavy artillery, crazier chases, and did I mention the cars jumping out of the plane? There’s some romance, though the only thing cheesier than the brother of the bad guy coming back for revenge storyline is the amnesia storyline, not forgetting the pregnancy she is too noble to tell him about storyline. But the action scenes are cool and the tribute to the late Paul Walker at the end is genuinely touching. Plus, cars jump out of a plane. Bang bang bang bang.

Parents should know that this film has non-stop, intense action sequences with peril and violence, some strong language, beer drinking, and some skimpy clothes and sexual references.

Family discussion: How do the characters measure loyalty? What do you think about the way they handled the real life tragic death of one of the series’ stars?

If you like this, try: the rest of the series

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Action/Adventure Series/Sequel

Tribute: Paul Walker (1973-2013)

Posted on December 1, 2013 at 8:40 am

paul walkerPaul Walker, the handsome and charismatic star of the Fast & Furious series of films, was killed in a car crash yesterday as he was returning from a fund-raiser for his Reach out Worldwide charity, to benefit the survivors of the typhoon in the Philippines.  It is a very sad loss.  Walker modestly described himself on his Twitter page as “outdoorsman, ocean addict, adrenaline junkie… and I do some acting on the side.”  He was the son of a model and first worked as a model himself when he was still a toddler.  At age eight he was appearing on television shows like “Touched by an Angel” and “Who’s the Boss?”  After breakthrough roles in “Pleasantville,” “Varsity Blues,” “She’s All That,” and “The Skulls,” he was cast in the first “Fast and Furious” film as Brian O’Conner, a cop who goes undercover in the world of street racing and finds himself allied with the charismatic character played by Vin Diesel.  It turned into one of the most enduringly successful franchises of the last ten years.  Perhaps his best performance was in “Eight Below.”

Walker majored in marine biology in college and the oceans were his passion.  He starred in the 2010 National Geographic Channel series Expedition Great White.  He was a devoted father and a fine actor.  He worked hard to help others and protect the environment.  He will be missed.  May his memory be a blessing.

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Actors Tribute

Jen Chaney Ranks the “Fast and Furious” Movies

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Just in time for the release of the sixth in the series of car chase extravaganzas that began with “The Fast and the Furious” is Esquire’s smart and funny assessment of installments 1-6 from my friend Jen Chaney.

It’s tempting to lump all of the Fast and the Furious movies into one massive clutch-popping, Paul Walker-grimacing, Vin Diesel-mumbling action-movie blob. All those drag races, stunningly acrobatic collisions and run-ins with drug lords have a tendency to blend together after a while.

But make no mistake, my riding-or-dying friends: There are differences between the six movies in this lucrative franchise. As Pauline Kael undoubtedly would have said if she’d lived to see Dominic Toretto speeding through Rio with a bank vault attached to his Dodge Charger’s bumper: Fast and Furious movies may be uniformly stupid, but some are still better-stupid than others.

Which one has the craziest plot line?  Which one has the coolest cars?  The best fights?  Which one is like a super-expensive episode of Miami Vice?  What is Lucas Black doing in this series?  How many crimes get committed that later have to be pardoned?  Jen Chaney has all the answers and more.
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Fast & Furious

Posted on July 28, 2009 at 8:00 am

How fast? How furious? Well, this fourth in the series is so zippy it doesn’t even have time for “the” or “and.” And how necessary? Is there any more fastness or furiousness not fully covered by the original The Fast and the Furious, the terminally vapid 2 Fast 2 Furious and the let’s-drive-around-Japan “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” Do you think it tells us something that they expect the fans’ attention spans are so limited that they have to give every movie in the series pretty much exactly the same name? And the imagination of the almost-identical title matches the imagination of the almost-identical script, which primarily consists of racing cars, squealing brakes, crashing cars, tough-guy stares, shifting gears, exploding cars, meaningful pauses, big muscles, and girls with long, long legs and tiny little shorts.It’s something of a bromance, with Brian (Paul Walker) still conflicted about why he let Dom (co-producer Vin Diesel) go back in the first movie when he was a undercover cop investigating a car-theft ring and ended up romancing Dom’s sister (Jordana Brewster). As is almost inevitable in series sequels, this time it’s personal, with Dom seeking revenge for the murder of someone he loved, but the real issues that need to be resolved are who drives faster and how much Brian and Dom really like each other. The only thing glistening more beautifully in the sunlight than the paint jobs on the sleek contours of the cars as they hug tight corners are the muscles on the sleek contours of Diesel’s arms, hugged by tight t-shirts.There’s a bad guy who picks his drivers by having them race each other, so we are soon, well, off to the races, and director Justin Lin has some fun with close-ups of shifting gears and smashing steel. But the fourth time out is kind of a drag, and not in a good way. (more…)

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Action/Adventure Series/Sequel
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