Furious 7 – Part Deux Vroom Vroom

Furious 7 is currently playing in theaters.

Furious 7

 

Furious 7 (2015) – Rated PG-13

Dominic Torretto and his crew thought they left the criminal mercenary life behind. They defeated an international terrorist named Owen Shaw and went their seperate ways. But now, Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw is out killing the crew one by one for revenge. Worse, a Somalian terrorist called Jakarde, and a shady government official called “Mr. Nobody” are both competing to steal a computer terrorism program called God’s Eye, that can turn any technological device into a weapon. Torretto must reconvene with his team to stop Shaw and retrieve the God’s Eye program while caught in a power struggle between terrorist and the United States government.”

Well I spent yesterday detailing how atrocious the script for Furious 7 was. The thing is there’s another movie here. The other Furious 7 is all about the casting and that film is knocked out of the park.

All of the previous crew return in Furious 7 although Sung Kang as Han only appears in the scene repeated from the end of Fast & Furious 6. The multi-ethnic portion is a good sell for the international market. Obviously there is a lot of sentiment for Paul Walker’s final performance. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson are given star roles but there are plenty of good moments for Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Mia (Jordana Brewster).

Jason Statham is a great tough guy and it’s a wonderful coup that Furious 7 was able to convince him to play a villain. While not a great actor, he oozes danger. Unfortunately, they go overboard with this and make him unstoppable. He is a former special forces assassin with obvious psychic abilities.

Kurt Russell is brought out of retirement to play the enigmatic Mr. Nobody. I honestly thought that the next time I would see him would be in The Expendables 4 (or 5). He is suitably cool and appeals to older audiences. They also give him a kick-butt action sequence.

In smaller henchmen roles, they have wisely cast MMA champion Ronda Rousey and martial arts master Tony Jaa. Naturally, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Kara (Ronda Rousey) have a rousing good fight that is a highlight of the film. Kiet (Tony Jaa) has several scenes but his inside the bus fight with Brian (Paul Walker) is one of the other highlights.

Unfortunately, while director James Wan has a fantastic stunt team on his hands, he still resorts to the now standard shaky cam and fast editing of action sequences. The sequences aren’t ruined but most of them aren’t allowed proper room to breathe. Wan often seems more interested in various camera tricks than in the mutlimillion dollar stunts.

While the cast is excellent, the movie is not. It is quite watchable however. If all you want is to see some good fights, pretty people, and fast cars then Furious 7 will take care of you. It is also a loving homage to Paul Walker, that is one part they did get right.

Furious 7 – Brain Dead or Brain Deader?

Furious 7 is currently playing in theaters.

Furious 7

 

Furious 7 (2015) – Rated PG-13

Dominic Torretto and his crew thought they left the criminal mercenary life behind. They defeated an international terrorist named Owen Shaw and went their seperate ways. But now, Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw is out killing the crew one by one for revenge. Worse, a Somalian terrorist called Jakarde, and a shady government official called “Mr. Nobody” are both competing to steal a computer terrorism program called God’s Eye, that can turn any technological device into a weapon. Torretto must reconvene with his team to stop Shaw and retrieve the God’s Eye program while caught in a power struggle between terrorist and the United States government.

I want to talk about two movies. Back in 2013, I spent some time ragging on the aggressively stupid Fast & Furious 6. I would not have thought it possible for the franchise to get stupider but I was so wrong. Furious 7 easily has the dumbest, most poorly plotted, cliched excuse for a script since the last Transformers fiasco.

Although I am certain that much of this is by committee, blame must be laid at the feet of scribe Chris Morgan. He has written the script for five of the Fast & Furious movies and, if he was trying before, he certainly isn’t now.

I congratulate Morgan on coming up with the single most irrelevant MacGuffin in the history of cinema. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and the F&F gang join a not-so-clandestine organization to recover an item that would tell them where Deckard Shaw is. The thing is that the group is unable to go ANYWHERE without Deckard Shaw being there.

Seriously, I mean ANYWHERE. They literally parachute onto an obscure highway in Azerbaijan and *SURPRISE* Deckard Shaw shows up on that highway. They crash a party in Abu Dhabi and *SURPRISE* who steps off the elevator but Deckard Shaw. Morgan doesn’t even bother with a reason why he would be there. They jaunt off to Los Angeles and, well, you get the picture.

Deckard is also quite psychic in several other scenes. When he confronts Hobbs, he says “like I said…” and then proceeds with information that he never actually said or even hinted at. Deckard is able to, in the span of 36 hours per a news report, attack Hobbs, steal information about the crew, jet off to Tokyo, track down and kill Han, and mail a package containing a ‘smart’ bomb back to Toretto’s house. He also has some mystical knowledge that Toretto is right by the bomb, even though Deckard is in Tokyo.

I say smart bomb because, while it entirely destroys Toretto’s house, it does absolutely no damage to the house next door, even the windows. Moving on from the plotting, the dialogue is just dreadful. I would say that it’s a throwback to 80s action cinema but if so, it’s to bad 80s action cinema. The one-liners fall with dull thuds and there are no clever retorts.

You just earned yourself a dance with the devil, boy.”

“Did you bring the cavalry?” – “Woman, I am the cavalry” (although he actually says calvary)

“The thing about street fights… the street always wins.”

“Would you believe I knocked him out with my charm?” – “You’re not that charming, b*tch.

As per the norm, Furious 7 has no idea of what a hacker is or does. Unfortunately for a 2015 movie, Furious also has no idea how the internet works or for that matter cell phone service, towers in particular. Honestly, the ignorance on display here is embarrassing. Talk about setting the bar low.

More tomorrow – I have to go wipe the froth from my lips.

The Expendables 3 – Expendable indeed

The Expendables 3 is currently in theaters

The Expendables 3

 

The Expendables 3 (2014) – Rated PG-13

Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates.”

The Expendables is every bit as (former) star-heavy and assembly-line as the first two entries in this franchise. This is the first one to go for a PG-13 rating. I would lament this as The Expendables 1 & 2 were gleefully R-rated in a way that action movies just aren’t anymore. I say would because honestly part of the reason the first two received restricted ratings were because of some pretty dodgy blood CGI.

I love the concept and conceit of these movies and will watch every one they put out. Unfortunately, complete digital copies of this movie leaked online weeks before release. The Expendables 3 flopped at the box office (fourth on opening weekend behind Turtles, Guardians, and Let’s Be Cops!) but there is no telling whether this was due to piracy.

The Expendables 3 doesn’t break any new ground. Our villain this go-round is Mel Gibson. He doesn’t chew the scenery as much as he did in Machete Kills but is a serviceable villain. The problem is that he is such a throwback. He is so evil that he kills his own men (a cliche that I tired of decades ago). Mind you he cannot manage to kill those listed as Expendable so I guess he just chose a closer target.

The Expendables crew is back (Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Crews, and Couture) and, as always, each gets a scene to showcase his talents. Bruce Willis is out, replaced by Harrison Ford. Chuck Norris is out, replaced by Wesley Snipes (who draws the biggest laugh when asked why he was incarcerated). I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes but apparently there can only be one African American Expendable as when they pick up Snipes, Terry Crews gets sidelined.

Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger put in token, obligatory cameos. The movie also features Antonio Banderas as a mercenary with personality and Kelsey Grammer as a recruiter. The new younger Expendables are MMA fighters Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and actor/model Kellan Lutz. That part smacks of spinoff.

Unfortunately, The Expendables 3 is not very good. It is not the train wreck that occurs at the beginning of the movie. It has plenty of action, lots of explosions and guns firing but all of it has a surreal A-team quality to it as (almost) no one ever gets shot except the villains. It is as though none of the legions of faceless baddies have been to any kind of firearm training.

If you just want to see these old school action stars do their thing, then by all means go see this movie. Otherwise wait for it on Netflix.

 

Devil’s Pass & Homefront

Devil’s Pass and Homefront currently available on instant Netflix

Devil's Pass

 

Devil’s Pass (2013) – Rated R

Five students retrace the steps of a group of hikers who famously perished in Russia’s Ural Mountains more than five decades prior.”

There are elements of the found footage subgenre here. Thankfully they are not pounded into the ground. Devil’s Pass is a passable waste of an hour and a half. The plot is a cross between a horror movie and a Twilight Zone episode. Cinematography in the mountains is quite good for a cheap movie.

Unfortunately, the elements don’t gel well and far too long is spent on the set up. The film wraps up quite quickly at the end and is a passable waste of time but there was a better film in here.

Homefront

 

Homefront (2013) – Rated R

When an ex-DEA agent is widowed, he moves with his young daughter to a small town, but his quiet life is shattered by a meth-making drug trafficker.”

While Homefront isn’t a top-notch action movie, it is much better than most of Statham’s recent outings. If you like Statham then this is an easy recommendation. Statham is given some room to breathe here and actually acts. The fight scenes are brutal, efficient, and fun to watch.

The American flag on the cover art is as shameless as the endangering of Phil Broker’s (Statham) daughter, Maddy but if you can ignore the cloying sentimentality, Homefront is an enjoyable ride. If only Statham could get some A-list action films…

 

 

Redemption of the Mad Monster Party at 23:59 – A Whole Lotta Meh

Just a quick mention of some things I’ve watched recently on Netflix that fit no particular category.

Mad Monster Party

 

Mad Monster Party (1967) – Not rated

Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller lend their vocal talents to this bizarre stop-motion animated parody of horror films. Dr. Frankenstein makes plans for his retirement and convenes a meeting of all monsters to announce his replacement. As word spreads that the doctor is going to choose his young nephew for the position, the visiting creatures plot a coup d’état that would leave Dr. Frankenstein retired … permanently.

A movie featuring all of the classic Universal monsters (Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Werewolf, The Creature, and The Invisible Man)? Yes, please. Mad Monster Party also featured one of the performances by Boris Karloff that I had yet to hear. Top all of that off with this feature being the precursor to the beloved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and you have quite the winning formula.

Sadly it all comes out half-baked. Boris Karloff is not in much of the film but the egregious sin is that even at a scant hour and a half, this is terribly boring and overstays its welcome. The other voices are grating as Allen Swift does most of them, giving one a fake Peter Lorre, another a fake Sydney Greenstreet, and the main character a terrible Jimmy Stewart impression.

All in all, Mad Monster Party comes across as an extended (over-extended) tech demo.

23:59 (2011) – Rated R

When an army recruit is found dead during a routine march at exactly 23:59, his fellow soldiers are forced to confront the terrifying secret that’s haunting their jungle island training camp.

Normally I like Asian horror movies but this one is rather generic. There isn’t much in the way of horrific imagery and nothing about this was memorable. Add in that you’ll have to read subtitles throughout and I really can’t recommend it.

Redemption (2013) – Rated R

Back home after a harrowing tour in Afghanistan and haunted by his dark past, veteran Joey Jones takes on an assumed identity and tries to atone. But when his pregnant girlfriend is murdered, he must risk stepping into the light to get revenge.”

I like Jason Statham. I really do. Unfortunately, he has been in only a few really good films. He is the new Charles Bronson (in more ways than one as Statham played Arthur Bishop in The Mechanic, a remake of one of Bronson’s best films).

Sadly, Redemption, like so many other Statham movies, is just meh. Redemption is a change of pace but it is still an incredibly cliched, by-the-numbers picture. Statham at least gets to stretch by playing, at various points, a Special Forces operative, a hobo, an enforcer, and an avenging angel.

This is not Statham’s Redemption.

Jason Statham – Expendables week

Sylvester Stallone’s idea for Expendables was great but thankfully he didn’t leave it at 90s action stars. Jason Statham, current king of the B action movie, is Stallone’s co-star and wingman. Netflix has a fair selection of his on instant, even if most aren’t top notch.

Snatch (2000) – Rated R

“While transporting a pinched 84-karat sparkler to his stateside boss, a gangster stops off in London and inadvertently triggers a slew of fateful events that wends through the worlds of bookies, pawnshops, bare-knuckle boxing and swine.”

Snatch is less an action film than a caper film. Guy Ritchie directs a great cast here but the accents are thick just as in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Ritchie isn’t above making fun of this though as Brad Pitt steals the movie as a completely unintelligible character.

Ghosts of Mars (2001) – Rated R

“Two hundred years in the future, a squad of tough-as-nails cops led by Natasha Henstridge and Pam Grier are dispatched to a remote mining outpost on Mars to bring back a deadly criminal named Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). But they get more than they bargained for when they have to fight off an army of miners who’ve been possessed by an unspeakable, ancient evil in this sci-fi thriller directed by John Carpenter. Jason Statham co-stars.”

Statham is not a lead here and this movie is awfully flawed. It is over the top gruesome and filled with plotholes and has a lot of people who can’t act. I did like the idea of a matriarchal society and some of the movie but I definitely can’t recommend it.

The One (2001) – Not rated

“In director James Wong’s sci-fi actioner, Los Angeles police officer Gabriel Yulaw is pursued by a sinister doppelgänger — an escapee from an advanced parallel universe — who’s on a mission to kill the lawman.”

Jet Li is the lead here as you can tell from the picture.

Revolver (2005) – Rated R

“Determined to hustle the crime boss who killed his sister-in-law, gangster and ace gambler Jake deliberately humiliates the kingpin in a private game. But when the mobster calls for Jake’s head, a mysterious duo steps in to save his skin.”

Another caper film from Guy Ritchie, this one is apparently a love it or hate it film. Personally I thought it was a terrible misfire. Other people like that it visually portrays psychological aspects on the screen.

Blitz (2011) – Rated R

“With a serial killer on the loose in London, Detective Brant takes to the case while working out his own aggression with a police-appointed psychiatrist. But when he and his partner corner a suspect, they don’t have enough evidence to apprehend him.”

Blitz is just okay as most of Statham’s movie are these days.

Killer Elite (2011) – Rated R

“This globe-trotting thriller, based on a true story, follows Danny Bryce, a former British special ops tough guy forced to come out of retirement when his mentor is kidnapped by a ruthless criminal. Enraged, Danny has to dodge three top assassins.”

Another film that is just meh in spite of the presence of De Niro and Clive Owen.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – The Expendables week

In tribute to the cast Sylvester Stallone has lined up for his upcoming movie, this is The Expendables week. Today our expendable is Jason Statham. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language (the F bomb is dropped 125 times), sexuality and drug content.

“I have just spent 120 quid on me hair. If you think I am putting a stocking over me head you are very much mistaken.”

“Looking to make a bundle in a high-stakes poker game, a quartet of shiftless lads from East End of London instead finds themselves up to their eyeballs in debt to underworld porn king “Hatchet” Harry when the game turns out to be rigged. With only a week to repay Harry, the frantic foursome hits upon the notion of robbing a gang of reefer thieves. Nick Moran, Jason Flemyng and Jason Statham star in director Guy Ritchies stylish big-screen debut.”

Guy Ritchie knocks it out of the park in his feature film debut as writer and director.

As the writer, Ritchie not only tells a great story (actually several stories) of the criminal underground with a large cast of colorful characters but everything fits perfectly together by the end of the film.

As the director, Ritchie gets fabulous performances from all of the actors. Finally as the casting director, Ritchie picked the perfect cast.

Our young protagonists (one cannot really call them heroes) are Tom (Jason Flemyng – last seen as Calibos in Clash of the Titans), Bacon (Jason “Transporter” Statham in his first film), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), and Eddy (Nick Moran).

While all of them do a great job, the best characters are the ones on the periphery. Lenny McLean is known as Barry the Baptist because he holds his victims under the water. Sadly Lenny passed away from cancer before the film premiered. P.H. Moriarty plays Hatchet Harry whose method of punishing one transgressor had me in stitches.

A revelation are the father and son enforcer team of Big Chris (Vinnie “Juggernaut” Jones in his film debut) and Little Chris (Peter McNicholl). They make collecting debts seem fun. If you think that Vinnie looks like a real tough guy, be aware that his first day of filming occurred right after he had been released from jail for beating up his neighbor.

Musician extraordinaire Sting shows up briefly as JD. Trudie Styler was an investor in the film and is the wife of Sting.

The music near the climax as the threads start coming together is simply brilliant.

This is a great and tricky caper film. I heartily recommend it with one drawback. The accents are thick and there is a lot of slang used in the film so you will need to pay attention.

There is one scene where the slang is laid on so thick that Ritchie puts subtitles on. This scene is not only hilarious but also explains a head-scratching moment that occurs earlier in the film.

Ritchie went on to make Snatch (excellent) and married Madonna. He then put her in Swept Away which was awful. Most recently he directed the blockbuster Sherlock Holmes and has been tapped to make the sequel as well as a remake of Excalibur.

Sadly this is the only Jason Statham film currently available on instant Netflix.

People Watch: Danny John-Jules plays Barfly Jack here but is more widely known as Cat on the BBC series Red Dwarf (also available on instant Netflix)

Lazy Weekend Musings – The Expendables

Before sitting through the somewhat painful Clash of the Titans, we thoroughly enjoyed the previews. A lot of the films showed promise but one was a real standout. It did not standout because of the trailer but because of what the director had pulled off with the cast.

Sylvester Stallone has written and directed a film for this fall called “The Expendables”. He has roped in what I must call the ULTIMATE action movie cast. It is simply mind-blowing.

The Expendables is about a team of mercenaries on a suicide mission. The mercenaries are Sylvester (Rambo) Stallone, Jason (Transporter) Statham, Jet (Hero) Li, Dolph (Universal Soldier) Lundgren, former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, Terry (Idiocracy) Crews and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

That alone wowed me but The Expendables also stars Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts and features character actor Danny (Machete) Trejo and DTV action star Gary (Tekken) Daniels.

Because of this and the upcoming Actionfest in Asheville April 15-18, I will be featuring instant Netflix movies based on the cast of The Expendables this week.

People Watch: I would not have mentioned this but the trailer completely gives it away. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis have cameos in the film as well.