FlixChatter Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Ted_review

The first Fast and Furious film came out 18 years ago and no one would have predicted that it would became one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood. Heck, when I saw the third sequel The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the worst in the series, I thought for sure we won’t be seeing anymore Fast and Furious films. Boy was I wrong, the later sequels somehow became more financially successful than the previous ones.

The eighth film in the series begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) and his now wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) honeymooning in Cuba. While there Dom ran into a mysterious woman who turns out to be a super cyber terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher wants Dom to help her steal some super powerful weapons from the US, Russian and German government so she can start World War 3. Of course Dom being Dom, he refused but Cipher is holding someone closes to him hostage and if he won’t do as she says, that person will be killed. That’s pretty much the basic storyline for this entry, Dom has to betray his team/family and throughout the film, there are tons of car chases, explosions, shoot outs and of course good looking people running around in skimpy clothes.

The script by franchise’s regular Chris Morgan is pretty simple, he knows his audience and fans of the series won’t be disappointed. I do have some issues with the script, I won’t spoil it here but he tried to wrap everything up from the last two films that kind of made the previous pictures irrelevant. Apparently, they’re planning to make two more films after this one. Stepping into the director’s chair this time is F. Gary Gray. I’ve enjoyed some of his previous work and it’s obvious he was chosen because he’d worked with most of the actors in this film in the past. With a reported budget of $250mil, Gray staged some pretty crazy action sequences, including a pretty fun big car chase through the streets of NYC. But compare to the previous films, especially the ones directed by Justin Lin, his action sequences lacked energy and kind of boring. A climatic chase that involves a submarine could’ve been a lot of fun but he decided to inter cut it with some silly flashback sequence that explained a “twist” that most viewers could’ve seen miles away. I think he and his editor should’ve done a better job with what I assume was the most expensive sequence to shoot for the film.

As for performances, Diesel is again took his role way too seriously and he even shed tears in one scene! I think he needs to simmer down with his performance in the next one and have a good time. On the other hand, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham knows the kind of film they’re in and having a great time with it. Their bantering gets the most laughs and of course they look good kicking butts. I don’t remember when The Rock’s character Hobbs became superhuman but he’s somehow fights like Superman in this film. Theron is moving to more action related films in this phase of her career and she’s great as the Bondish supervillain. Heck I think the Bond producers should cast her as the main villain in the next Bond film. The rest of cast were fine as usual and they even introduced a new pretty boy to replace Paul Walker. Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is now the new team member and I’m sure we’ll see more of him in the future films. Also returning is Kurt Russell as a super secret government agent who provides Hobbs and his team with everything they need to stop WW3 from happening. Last but certainly not least is Helen Mirren who seemed to have a great time in her small a cameo role.

I have some issues with the script, mostly of the “twist” towards the end but otherwise, I had a fun time with this latest sequel. Fans of the series should be pleased with it since it delivered what they wanted to see. Big car chases, shoot outs and of course explosions. So if you’re planning to see it, go to the biggest screen you can find and hopefully it’s equipped with Dolby Atmos.

TedS_post


Have you seen The Fate of the Furious? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Law Abiding Citizen

If you read my blog regularly, you know I’ve been pumpin’ this flick for quite a while. Yet, come Friday afternoon, after reading all the dismal reviews by top critics, I sort of had second thoughts about it. Now, it’s not because I give that much faith in what the critics say, but I was actually dreading what they called ‘unnecessary violence’ and gore, and the SAW horror gore-fest comparison. I’m very, very squeamish about stuff like that, so even with the prospect of seeing Gerard Butler in nearly every scene, I still had some reservations whether I could stomach the violence. Thanks to Becky, I went to see it anyway, and boy, am I glad I did!

First thing that came out of my mind when I got out of the theater: What’s the critics’ been smokin’? Did they even watch the same movie?

With the efficient running time of 1 hr 48 minutes, the film quickly grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the end. It opens with a cuddly scene of a seemingly happy home of Clyde Shelton, tinkering with some kind of gadget whilst his young daughter makes a string bracelet. But within minutes, that idyllic existence is snatched away in a gruesome way that ended with his wife raped and killed in front of him whilst he helplessly watched. As if that weren’t enough, the same thug that raped his wife then went after his daughter, right about the same time Clyde passed out. Boy, that’s just within the first 10 minutes. It’s easily the most horrific opening scene I’ve ever seen.

We’re then introduced to Nick Rice, a successful District Attorney (Jamie Foxx) with his perfectly-pressed suit and a stellar record of 96% conviction rate (which he indignantly pronounces when his colleague mistakenly think it was ‘only’ 95%). The ambitious DA ends up cutting a plea bargain with the assailant, despite Clyde’s pleading that the jury would believe him if this case goes to court. Nick keeps blabbing about the DNA evidence being inconclusive — even using the fact that Clyde blacked out during the incidence against him — but it’s obvious the attorney only cares about maintaining his conviction rate. It was harrowing to watch what happened to Clyde in the beginning, but it’s just as painful to see him from a distance watch Nick shaking hands with the criminal that destroyed his life.

Fast forward 10 years later, and Nick’s humble home is now transformed to a luxurious dwelling that signifies his growing success. His daughter is nearly 10 but he has no time for her nor for her mother. His priority is his job, and he’d rather miss her daughter’s cello recital (again) but instead opt to see the execution of one of the thugs that robbed Clyde. A vicious ‘mishap’ happens during the execution by lethal injection, and we soon finds out that Clyde’s not going to take this ‘injustice’ laying down. He then goes after Darby, who only served 3 years in prison for what he did, and makes him suffer a barbaric death (I had my eyes closed the entire time, but Darby’s agonizing squeal is enough to make me squirm!). As part of his strategy, Clyde surrenders to the SWAT team that swarm his house, with nothing but his daughter’s bracelet on his wrist. The nude scene isn’t gratuitous as one would be inclined to think, but he did it to say, ‘I have nothing to hide.’

Nick visits Clyde in prison
Nick visits Clyde in prison

Critics compare Clyde with some movie nutcases such as Hannibal Lecter, John Doe from Se7en, even the Joker, but the difference is, Clyde is no psychopath. His grief and distraught state of mind obviously has taken over him, but he doesn’t kill people simply to satisfy his lust for blood. All the grisly murders are calculated tactics with one intended target: to send a message about the crooked justice system. Now, by no means do I condone such vengeful acts, but at the same time, I’d rather not have people like Darby roaming on the street freely to repeat his crime again and again. So I sympathize with why Clyde wants Darby dead, but it’s another matter when he starts targeting all the people of the legal system involved with his case, all from the confinement of his cell!

The rest of the movie plays out the mano-a-mano between the two leads. There are some memorable lines during the negotiations, including Clyde’s quoting 18th century military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, “lessons not learned in blood is soon forgotten.” He manages to one-up Nick and blindside the entire city with his systematic killing spree. Even the mayor (played by Oscar nominee Viola Davis) was puzzled, “he’s locked up in a cell and still killing people?” The big question going through everyone’s mind was: how does Clyde pull it off? This is the biggest complaints from the critics, that it’s implausible and absurd that one guy can do all that. Well, this is a movie, of course some suspension of disbelief is to be expected. Even so, I actually find the ‘absurd’ plot in question to be quite sensible. Someone with Clyde’s skills and money devoting 10 yrs of his life to mastermind his ‘war’ against the broken justice system doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. I mean, that seems an adequate amount of time to plot such a tactic, especially for such a weapons expert good enough to be hired by the US government for covert special ops.

What I like the most about this movie is the ambiguity and gray area of the lead characters, it’s not clear-cut who’s the hero or villain of the movie. Like a lot of moviegoers, I tend to side with Clyde, but becoming less so with the mounting body counts. It makes the face-off between him and Nick all the more effective, as we don’t know who we’ll root for next.

Gray directing Butler
Gray directing Butler

I also enjoy F. Gary Gray’s fast-paced and energetic direction and how he peppers the serious tone of the movie with sporadic wit and humor. It’s definitely far from boring. The movie also gives a noir-ish vibe that the director spoke about in his video diaries. The lighting and music captures that, even though I don’t really ‘notice’ the music that much, which is a good thing as it blends in nicely and helps set the mood, instead of being a jarring piece that sounds good but detach you from the movie. The  juxtaposition scenes, particularly between the cello recital and the death chamber, is an effective and captivating visual style. I also love the cinematography with its gorgeous aerial view of Philly.

It’s interesting to note the lopsidedness of the top critics’ ratings with those of the regular moviegoers (top critics’ 25% vs. average moviegoers’ rating of 94% @ rottentomatoes.com). The disbelief probably should be in the critics’ credence, as most people disagree with them (read a compilation of very positive users’ rating here). Their three main complaints are the implausible plot, what they call unnecessary violence and gore, and sub-par performances. I’ve addressed the first point above, but as far as the graphic scenes, it wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be. Even my friend Becky who can’t stand gory stuff said it was tolerable as the deed mostly happen off-screen.

The critics are also way off when it comes to the acting aspect. You might think I’m biased here because I like Butler, but truthfully, I think this is could be the best performance of his career. From his previous roles, I know he’s an actor that can bring a layer of vulnerability to his bad-@$$ performances. But he takes it another notch here with his sympathetic and convincing portrayal as both as a bereaved family man, as well as the menacing rogue hellbent on carrying out ‘justice’ at any cost. Jamie Foxx delivers an okay performance, I just don’t care with his character much, which is probably intentional. Naturally, the crazy-dude role is much more exciting and gets the best lines, so Butler’s role is the far more memorable one by a long shot. The supporting cast is terrific, too, especially Bruce McGill as a fellow lawyer and Colm Meaney as the detective, even Leslie Bibb makes for a sympathetic character. If I had to nitpick however, I actually find Viola Davis’ performance rather over the top, as she comes across as furious and cold the entire time.

In conclusion: It’s not a perfect movie (but then again what is?) and the ending could be more tightly written, as it feels too rushed and perhaps too ‘neat’ compared to the gritty events leading up to it. Yet despite its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable, edge-of-your-seat thriller that’s well-worth my 10 bucks. Though the film doesn’t necessarily have ‘answers’ to the foible of the legal system, it does leave me pondering about it, and creates some interesting discussion afterward.

Counting down to Friday – Law Abiding Citizen finally opens!

Law Abiding Citizen UK poster
Click to see the Jamie Foxx version of the poster

I’ll give you a moment to take in this intense and alluring poster (ok, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mr. Butler has mesmerizing eyes!). EMPIRE Online just released the UK posters for LAC and boy, this is a much more superior version that the US version here. Looks like they went back to the earlier version that shows GB’s brooding eyes staring straight at you, but improve it immensely. Alas, that’s got to be the worst tag line ever though, sheesh, did they spend all the money on the graphic designer that they couldn’t afford a decent copywriter?? One commenter mentioned it might as well be a Steven Seagal movie, ugh!

In any case, the wait is almost over. LAC opens in three days and I’m EXCITED!! I know, I know, that’s a bit of an understatement… I’ve been bloggin’ about this for months whilst skipping two of GB’s last offerings (for good reasons). The last movie I was excited to see him in was Rocknrolla — decent but wasn’t as rockin’ as the title — but THIS is the movie I’ve been eager to see for quite some time. It also marks his producing debut, so a lot is riding on his shoulders as he’s been involved in the creative process from the get-go.

But from what I’m seeing so far, I’ve moved from hopeful to confident this is going to be one heck of a thriller. EMPIRE said “Gerard Butler always looks more comfortable onscreen when he’s bringing the pain than when he’s bringing the hearts and flowers.” I think more accurately, Butler looks more comfortable when he can be menacing AND vulnerable at the same time. Just like the Phantom, the line between victim and villain is blurred and like the actor himself said in a Fandango interview when asked who’s the villain in the story, “…there is a big struggle with who you are supporting in this film.” That I think that’s the biggest draw of the movie to me, as displayed in this latest clip between the DA (Jamie Foxx) and Butler’s Clyde Shelton:

I’m totally digging the dialog, even his American accent is much improved here (Mike B., I know you might disagree with me on this one). I can still hear a very slight Scottish brogue here and there, but so what, his character could be of a Scottish descent, like most Americans have an accent of sort, there are multiple accents found even in one given state. So that part doesn’t bother me. IMO, he’s still downright convincing as a scorned ordinary man who’s more than meets the eye.

M.Carter at the Movies asked me if I’m excited for this Friday, so Meredith, here’s my long answer =) That’s cool that you’re going to give Butler another shot, here’s hoping he and the movie don’t disappoint!

Brand new Law Abiding Citizen clip – Get Down

Thanks to director F. Gary Gray for the info via Twitter.

To those who haven’t heard about LAC — sheesh, where have you been? =) — here’s the gist: An everyday guy (Clyde) decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets his family’s killers free. His target: The district attorney (Nick) who orchestrated the deal. Jamie Foxx is Nick and Gerard Butler plays Clyde. Wow, looks like the DA will soon learn a very important lesson: be careful who you’re messing with.

See the Confession clip I posted last week. The movie comes out October 16. Can’t wait!

THIS JUST IN: Law Abiding Citizen Clip – Confessions

F. Gary Gray just said via Twitter that he’s going to the very first screening of his new thriller tonight. Regina Hall, Bruce Mc Gill, & Gerard Butler will be there. “Tonight’s the very first screening of “Law Abiding Citizen”. It’s finally finished & I feel really really good,” he tweeted.

The film is also set to kick off Urbanworld Film Festival next Wednesday, Sept. 23 in New York. I’m curiously waiting the early reviews of the movie. In the meantime, check out the exclusive clip courtesy of MovieWeb.

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more about “Watch Law Abiding Citizen Exclusive: …“, posted with vodpod

Law Abiding Citizen scoring session

F. Gary Gray, LAC’s director, keeps his fans up-to-date on his projects via Twitter, God bless him. He just posted this scoring session with composer Brian Tyler recently. Tyler’s resume is pretty massive, he’s done a lot of action movie scores such as Fast and Furious, Constantine, Eagle Eye, among others.

Gray wanted a retro, noir-ish theme that’d go well with the movie’s vibe, and it’s cool to see a composer at work with the 52-piece orchestra. As Gray said, most modern flicks these days use synthesized work instead of a real orchestra. He also said the orchestra route is kind of ‘old school’ but I’m guessing the effort would yield a richer, more organic score.

I’m no music expert but from the snippet that I hear, it sounds really good. It kind of elevates my expectation for the film more. Check it out for yourself:

THIS JUST IN: Law Abiding Citizen Trailer

Wooo hooo! Finally a GB film to get excited about. I just finished watching it, twice, and y’know what, I like what I saw. Ok, so the fact that ze Butler is in almost every scene is a big factor, but this trailer went from meh to yowza about halfway through and kept getting even more suspenseful.

In Wikipedia, psychological thrillers are said to be characterized by fast pacing, frequent action, and resourceful heroes who must thwart the plans of more-powerful and better-equipped villains. Looks like this one fits that genre to a tee.

Butler looks good as the ordinary family man turned vigilante. I knew he’s got that right side of danger and brooding quality about him before he was known in 300. He’s played a desperate man brilliantly in BBC mini series The Jury among others, and this isn’t the first time he’s playing the villain. In fact, he’s done a lot of villainous/sociopath roles in his career (Attila, Dracula, the  Phantom), so it isn’t exactly new territory for him. Hence, I have high hopes he’s going to pull this one off. Foxx looks ok, even though his character is pretty much just reacting to Butler’s psychotic plans. I’m surprised he’d rather do the DA role as we all know the villains always get the best lines. Butler kind of reminds me of Castor Troy in Face/Off in some scenes, and towards the end, he’s got that Kevin Spacey’s creepiness in Se7en.

New York filmmaker F. Gary Gray previously did The NegotiatorA Man Apart, and The Italian Job. The screenplay was written by Kurt Wimmer (The Thomas Crown AffairEquilibrium, and Street Kings). I really hope this turns out to be a decent psychological thriller that makes you think, rather than merely an explosive action fiesta in Michael Bay fashion.

Can’t wait to see this come October 16. What do you think of the trailer folks?