Furious 7 (2015)

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It’s absurd, heartfelt, action-packed, hilariously corny, physics defying, balls-to-the-wall, zero to sixty in three seconds, turn off your brain kind of fun. Furious 7 is everything I expected in a 14-year-long running franchise that’s only getting better with age. While not perfect, even according to my “dumb fun” popcorn movie standards, it still delivers the kind of entertainment one hopes to experience at least a few times a year at the theater. “This time it ain’t just about being fast,” so don’t overthink it, embrace your guilty pleasures, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

After the events of Fast & Furious 6, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), and friends are now being hunted by Owen Shaw’s (Luke Evans) big bad brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Meanwhile, a government official who calls himself Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) recruits Dom and his team to save a computer hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who has been kidnapped by a terrorist named Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). He wants to get his hands on a program she created called “God’s Eye,” which will allow him to tap into any device with a lens and track anyone anywhere on the planet in a matter of seconds. Mr. Nobody promises Dom that if he saves her and retrieves this chip, he can use it to track down Shaw and kill him before he does anymore damage to their family.

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James Wan, who is known for directing horror movies like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, takes over Justin Lin’s seat in the director’s chair. Wan has a knack for elements like tension and suspense, and you can feel it here more than in the previous films. Not to mention, Statham’s character is like a Furious version of a Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees, a near invincible human being popping up out of nowhere without explanation of how he got there, and wreaking havoc on anyone he can. Unfortunately, Wan doesn’t quite have the same eye for action, resorting to the old shaky cam, close-up shots, and quick cuts, making for quite a few nauseating fight sequences. But there are plenty of insane set pieces rivaling anything that has come before to make up for some of that. You’ve got cars parachuting out of an airplane, Paul Walker running on top of a bus teetering off the edge of a cliff, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson jumping out of tall buildings, and cars flying through skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi. A lot of great, crazy fun is packed into this movie, and if you ask me, it blows the sixth film right out of the water.

Now let’s look at a few of the things I had issues with. First off, I have to inform everyone that I’m a huge supporter of “The Rock” and that I believe he’s the best thing to ever happen to this franchise. I’m serious. Sure, the fifth film was good because it had united all these characters together and it was a cool heist movie that was wildly entertaining, but don’t even tell me the addition of The Rock had nothing to do with the turning point of this series. They threw him in Fast Five and he totally owned the screen. His character, Hobbs, is the most ridiculous character in the entire franchise, he’s got gigantic muscles and the cheesiest one-liners you could imagine, but best of all, he’s a badass–he’s got everything you would want in a character for this type of movie. It was a sin he was so under utilized, and whoever’s idea it was to reduce his role to a mere cameo needs a good old slap across the face. But I’ll admit he still owned the little screen time he had, which included scenes walking the streets of L.A. with a giant machine gun, busting out of an arm cast like the Hulk, and getting to say awesome lines like, “Woman, I am the calvary.” Long live Dwayne Johnson.

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Still on the topic of under utilization: Tony Jaa. I’m really not surprised, because with the exception of Gina Carano in the sixth film, the awesome fighters they cast in these movies usually get reduced to a small henchman role with little screen time. It sucks. He shined brightly with the small time he was given, though, but Hollywood really doesn’t know what to do with martial artists. Oh, and Ronda Rousey really needs to take some acting lessons if she’s going to be doing movies on a regular basis now. She’s a badass and I love her, but her facial expressions are ridiculous and she really gives Vin Diesel a run for his money on the bad acting front.

They also made Jason Statham’s character a bit of a side story, which I wasn’t expecting to happen. He doesn’t have as much screen time as you’d think, and I wish we could’ve had more of him. He was great and he makes a genuinely threatening villain, he can also throw a punch or two, or fifty, and that’s definitely not a bad thing.

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I also found it hilarious in the scene that’s supposed to take place on the same day Tokyo Drift ends, Lucas Black, who is supposed to be a high school student, looks like a 40-year-old dude now. He’s only 32, but man, it is obvious as hell this film is taking place nine years after that one, and it takes you right out of the movie for a bit. On the same kind of subject, the CGI’d Paul Walker face in the some of the scenes is a little noticeably distracting. I’m not going to complain, though, because what kind of a person would I be, right? I’m just saying, you’ll probably notice.

I’d be lying if I said that the sadness related to Paul’s death didn’t overshadow this movie a little bit. Dying young and so sudden like that is an awful thing, and seeing him in this is a bit like watching a ghost. There’s a few sentimental moments in the movie involving his character, Brian, and Mia (Jordana Brewster) as he struggles to adapt to the fatherly life, but the last few minutes of the film are a full blown tribute to him, allowing his co-stars and us as an audience to say good-bye to both Paul and Brian. Yes, I got choked up, really choked up, it’s hard not to when you’ve spent so many years of your life watching him. All I can say is that it was done in a tasteful way, and I’m pretty sure Paul would’ve been pleased.

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Furious 7 is totally over-the-top absurdity, but it’s some honestly good popcorn entertainment for sure. I really enjoyed seeing the characters again, I think that the theme of “family” that seemed so forced in the previous movies actually holds some real sentiment now, and I’m sure that Paul’s real life tragedy has something to do with that. I liked the addition of Kurt Russell and Jason Statham to the cast, there were some underused actors like Dwayne Johnson, Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, and Statham to an extent, but the action makes up for some of what’s lacking in character.

In the end, it does a decent job delivering on what you’d expect, if you’re a fan of the franchise, you most likely won’t be disappointed. It’s good, dumb fun with a real emotional element, and includes a lovely send off to the late Paul Walker.

4/5

Trailer Analysis (Summer ’15)

Hello, everyone! I’m Pat, the new contributor to Justine’s Movie Blog, and I’m going to present a brand new segment where I break down 2015’s most talked about trailers for the upcoming summer movie season.


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If we’ve learned anything from six previous outings, it’s that the Fast & Furious franchise is an unstoppable force of action and entertainment. Furious 7 looks to kick off this year’s summer movie season with a massive, high-stakes adventure that has as much heart as it does explosions. In an interesting turn of events, this entry brings us to present day, immediately following the untimely death of Han. We discover this apparent tragedy is planned by a new character, played by Jason Statham, who so happens to be the older brother of our last antagonist, Owen Shaw. In a last ditch effort for enacting the ultimate revenge, we find the famed Toretto residence blown to pieces, allowing our cast motivation for another plot’s worth of (doubtfully) “One last ride.” With the combined ingenuity of Dwayne Johnson wielding a turret, Paul Walker running atop a hurdling cliff-side bus, and Vin Diesel crashing cars through Middle-Eastern skyscrapers, the stunts of this film appear to be at a mind numbing level of extremity. Regrettably, this installment also serves to pay homage to Walker, as it will be his last. His passing had been widely reported, causing a lengthly halt in production. One can only hope his send off will be done tastefully. Furious 7 hits theaters April 3, 2015.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron


In what some may consider the follow-up to one of the most well-received films of our generation, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron proves to have some weighty ambitions to oust its predecessor. The Marvel Cinematic Universe thrives on, at the peak of what it’s carefully established, thus far. The fall out from our favorite team/time bomb’s staggering shifts in momentum with “Phase 2” (Infinity Stones, Clean Slate Protocol, the demise of S.H.I.E.L.D.) will reach full realization with it’s finale. We begin with what appears to be a celebratory “assembling” in the newly revamped Avengers Tower, only to discover Stark’s been quite busy, sans arc reactor. The horror-stricken team’s introduction to our titular villain sends chills tingling through viewers, assuredly thanks to James Spader’s expertly delivered dialogue. Plot ensues, forcing the Armored Avenger to suit up once more with his pals to take responsibility for his horrendous creation. We’re graced with some fantastic reveals, including meeting the twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, after their brief, Hydra centric origins. With teases of how these new heroes’ abilities may shake the team’s foundation, a much sought after look into Widow’s cringe-worthy past, and, perhaps, the most epic, Hulkbusting battle between the Science Bros we may EVER see, Age of Ultron looks to be sheer, non-stop entertainment on a global level. Written and directed once more by Joss Whedon, the film looks to be in the best of possible hands. What’s both admirable, as well as notable, is that Marvel’s kept large portions of the plot under wraps, including, most excitedly so, the reveal of Paul Bettany’s (J.A.R.V.I.S) Vision. The excruciatingly long wait draws closer each day. Can ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ take down their greatest threat to date? Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1, 2015.

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Jurassic World


With roughly 14 years separating us from the last chapter in this beloved film series, Jurassic World places Hollywood’s latest go-to guy, Chris Pratt, in its leading role. Pratt’s new-found star power stems, deservedly so, from last summer’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy. Our first look at the movie grants us shots of Jurassic World open for business, attracting thousands of tourists to the wonder and discovery of these pre-historic creatures. We’re met with the revelation that park scientists have been busy, yet again, with genetic experimentation on dinosaur DNA. Owen, notably a reptilian wrangler of sorts, expresses his immediate distaste for the unorthodox creation of the Indominus Rex, whose physical appearance remains shrouded in mystery entirely. It becomes quite apparent this beast’s out for blood and a full-scale evacuation of the park takes place. It’s here the familiar ominous tones, suspenseful chases, and children fearing for their lives all materialize. With long time fans of the series theorizing, in detail, about just what makes this “D-Rex” so threatening, retractable wings, camouflage abilities, and human gene splicing all seem to have surfaced. Will they be able to take down the Indominus Rex, and is there more to its creation than we’re led to believe? We’ll find out June 12, 2015.

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Terminator: Genisys


Cue the iconic overture known by fans of the Science-Fiction genre everywhere. This could only mean one thing, another installment to the long-running Terminator franchise is upon us. At the center of this pseudo soft reboot, is the always incredible Emilia Clarke, of Game of Thrones fame, starring as Sarah Connor. Amusingly so, the timeline of this film looks to include elements of different events previously established canonically, with a bit of a modern twist. Dialogue exchanged between well-known characters, John Connor and Kyle Reese, discuss familiar moments from the original, when John’s mother Sarah still needs saving and the future needs altering. It’s to the viewers surprise, when Kyle is met by a far more empowered, self-aware version of his future lover, where it’s she who delivers the renowned “Come with me, if you want to live!” quote. Furthermore, we’re shown and older version of the T-800, again played by Schwarzenegger, destroying his younger counterpart upon his initial arrival. The mission at hand has changed, and the motivations behind this are left, somewhat intentionally, unclear. There’s no telling the repercussions to be had for the future once the credits roll. Terminator: Genisys “Will be back” July 1, 2015.

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Ant-Man


If there’s anything Marvel Studios has proven time and time again, it’s that they’ve never been afraid to take risks. It’s hard to imagine that seven years ago marked the beginning of what would be the most successful, cohesive cinematic universe the film industry had ever seen before. Marvel’s approach, from the start, had always been carefully calculated and formulaic in nature. Each “Phase” would be segmented yearly into at least one well-known property, as well as an entirely new property. With Avengers: Age of Ultron sure to account for all of 2015’s required revenue, Ant-Man’s wasting no time at all laying the ground work for Marvel’s Phase 3. So who is Ant-Man? Though his title may suggest otherwise, Ant-Man possesses the fascinating ability to manipulate his molecular structure, by means of Pym particles. Which leads to our story: Scott Lang, played ambitiously by Paul Rudd, is depicted as an ex-criminal searching for any means of redemption. What exactly transpires to place Lang in this position is unknown, however, it’s when his path crosses with Dr. Henry Pym that everything changes. We’re offered discussion between the two, suggesting Pym needs Lang to take up the mantle of Ant-Man, demonstrating we may meet our first generational hero. What’s fantastic about this, is there are countless possibilities for ties between Pym and, perhaps, Agent Peggy Carter or Howard Stark, both very recognizable, previously established characters. We’re offered glimpses of Lang’s assumed first transformation, his trainer/love interest Hope Van Dyne, and other stunning visuals. What’s honorable in what we’ve seen, is that Ant-Man seems to really own what it is, embracing humor when possible. But, “Is it too late to change the name?” Ant-Man opens July 17, 2015.

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