Fast X

Posted on May 18, 2023 at 5:10 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action, language, and some suggestive material
Profanity: Strong language, including a child using the s-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and brief humorous drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action, peril, and violence, some disturbing and grisly images, very sad death of a major character
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 19, 2023
Date Released to DVD: August 7, 2023
Copyright Universal 2023

I’d love to talk to the person whose job is Googling or visiting some of the world’s iconic locations and then imagining how they can be trashed with car chases and explosions. Ten movies in (with apparently at least two more to go), the “Fast and Furious” series that began with a comparatively modest story about street racing has morphed into one of the most successful film franchises of all time, with a complicated trajectory and a lot of characters going undercover to chase Mcguffins for the CIA, but never wasting much time on whether the plot or the physics make sense. As a character says, “If it violates the laws of God and gravity, they did it twice.”

Next to the chases and explosions, the most creative part of the series was stripping down the original title, “The Fast and the Furious,” so that now part one of what is supposed to be the final saga is simply “Fast X.” They have to stop now, or the only title they will be able to use is just “FF.”

In order of importance to the filmmakers and the audience:

1. Let’s literally cut to the chase, or chases. Many, many chases and races. Many fabulous locations including Rome and Portugal. Bridges, helicopters, Much hitting and smashing through various barriers, some amphibious many ticking remote controlled bombs, one gigantic bomb sphere that looks like the rock that chased Indiana Jones in the first film crossed with the Death Star. Lots of fight scenes including two of the toughest women in film: Michelle Rodriguez as Letty and Charlize Theron as former and perhaps future supervillain Cipher, who shows up on Dom’s doorstep because “the enemy of my enemy….”

2. With so much star power on the side of Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, occasionally adding slight movement to the one basic facial expression that signifies approval and determination), the villain in these movies has to be not just over the top but over the top of the top, doing a triple gainer, and then coming down to the top of the top again. Jason Momoa does all of this and more as the most completely bats times coo coo-bananas bad guy since Jack Nicholson as the Joker in “Batman,” with a touch of Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Heath Ledger as the Joker added for spice. Anyone remember the villain from #5? Anyone? It was Brazilian drug dealer Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who was killed at the end of that film. We get a retcon flashback here to learn that Reyes had a son named Dante, and that he importantly told Dante that killing opponents was not as important as torturing them by hurting those they love. Dom loves a lot of people. More than racing cars, his sense of himself is entirely based on his ability to keep them safe. As they say, this time it’s personal. Dante is the most dangerous of all because he has no normal bad guy goal like making money or amassing power. He just wants to destroy people and for that he cannot be intimidated, redirected, or persuaded.

3. The fans will enjoy many, many references and callbacks to the earlier films including everyone making fun of Roman (Tyrese Gibson) for not being very smart or super-good at anything There are also knowing winks at some of the film’s conventions, like those in law enforcement who initially come after Dom’s found family for breaking the law ending up on his side (Brian, Elena, Jacob), and many nods to the past nine films like nitrous oxide push, the return of various characters (Han/Deckard remix), the re-appearance of the “God’s Eye” (the ultimate McGuffin) and, a deeper cut, computer whiz Ramsey suddenly knowing about cars. There’s also something that almost rises to the level of a theme of children, including adult children, trying to please or carry on the work of their fathers, including Dante, Dom’s son “Little B” (for Brian, played in the earlier films by the late Paul Walker), and Brie Larson as the daughter of the mysterious spy Mr. Nobody, played in the earlier films by Kurt Russell but not in this one — I predict that he will be back in part 2.

4. Stakes: The very qualities that make Momoa’s Dante a great movie villain ramps up the stakes in a way that some viewers may find uncomfortably, even distractingly, transcends the genre. Usually, in these films, the McGuffin concept is quickly explained as something critical our team needs to get away from the bad guys and then we’re on to the chase and explosions and jokes about Roman. And the bad guy usually wants something evil but rational, like money or world domination or revenge. But, as they say, “this time it’s personal.” When the villain is just in it to mess with everyone, to make things as emotionally devastating as possible, even the paper-thin characters, only slightly more fleshed out than the thingamabob everyone’s chasing after, we can’t help making an emotional connection that may interfere with the fun of the race and chase scenes.

5. There’s a surprise cameo I won’t spoil. And I don’t think anyone anticipated this one: “Fast X” features four Oscar winners, Brie Larson, Dame Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, and Charlize Theron, bringing their A game as always. I could happily see a whole movie about any of their characters and the way things are going, that just might happen.

Parents should know that this film includes non-stop peril, action, and violence with many (mostly faceless) unnamed characters injured and killed and large-scale mayhem with crashed cars, bombs, fire, and explosions. Characters use strong language (including a child), drink alcohol, and briefly use drugs.

Family discussion: How do Dom’s, Little B’s, Tess’s, and Dante’s relationships with their fathers affect their life choices? Should Dom have let Roman lead the group? Who would you pick for your found family?

If you like this, try: the entire “Fast and Furious” series

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Norman Lear Reboots One Day at a Time on Netflix

Posted on January 6, 2017 at 10:03 am

Twenty years after his last series premiered on television, 94-year-old Norman Lear is back with a reboot of one of his most popular series, showing that he is, as ever, not just a reflection of contemporary culture but willing to push it. The creator of such iconic television series as “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son” now brings us a new version of “One Day at at Time,” the then-innovative show about a newly divorced woman raising two daughters. The entire first season is streaming on Netflix, and the story is now about a Latina family, a nurse who is a military veteran (Isabella Gomez), her mother, played by EGOT-winner Rita Moreno, and her daughter and son. And yes, there is a wisecracking handyman named Schneider, which Lear said was the hardest part to cast “and most fun.”

In an interview with Vulture, Lear and co-creator of the series Gloria Calderon Kellett talked about the “creator’s paradise” in working with Netflix, the benefits of not having to write around breaks for commercials, and, a Norman Lear touch, including a middle aged, liberal white male character (the nurse’s doctor boss) to provide an opportunity for a spirited exchange of perspectives.

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