Fate of the Furious

Has summer blockbuster season begun or is this a tease of what’s to come?

I’ll admit that the Fast and Furious franchise is not really the kind movies I’m super excited about. I’m not a car guy for one thing, nor do I get a kick out of (illegal) street races. However, as the series went on, it evolved into a more ridiculous “what kind of crazy stunts can we do with cars” sort of film surrounding Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker and their ragtag crew. Add in Dwayne the Rock Johnson and Jason Statham then you have an action franchise that is basically pure adrenaline or nitrous I should say. Just leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. What makes this franchise work is that the films know how ridiculous they are and uses that as their platform.

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8 movies later, after Vin and crew promised this story will continue on after the passing of Paul Walker. If anything, they do it for him.

The primary theme of the FF franchise is built around the idea of family. With constant reminder from Dominic Toretto (Vin) that you don’t turn against family. Fate of the Furious has him breaking the very rule that pretty much kept him alive. Of course, it’s far deeper than that and for spoilers sake, you’ll have to watch the movie to know why.

Let’s briefly talk about the real reason why people come to these movies, the crazy stunts and the wise cracks between the leads. Last movie had them flying out of an airplane and jumping between skyscrapers. Let me just put, briefly, 3 of the insane ideas that they have put into this movie. A monstrous wrecking ball, a big ass submarine controlled by a ghost plane, and zombie cars. Yes, zombie cars. Trust me. It’s pretty insane and a pretty cool action set. Definitely kept me engaged through the whole movie.

 

Amidst all the insanity that the FF series bring to the big screen, it’s the returning cast plus a few new additions, as well as the antagonist(s) that keeps the franchise going. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez continue their drama as Dominic Toretto and Letty carrying the emotional weight of the movie as newlyweds. Dom has gone rogue leaving Letty and his family behind, drama ensues.

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It seems you can’t have these movies now without Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and his wisecracks. Roman, I feel, is the one character who brings a little sense of reality. The idea of being chased down by a submarine is pretty ridiculous, and Roman lets us know over and over with each ludicrous stunt they find themselves performing.

Speaking of ludicrous, Ludacris returns as wise crackin’ techie. Usually paired up with Roman cracking jokes with each other and admiring the ladies. It’s interesting to see his character evolve from 2 Fast 2 Furious as an illegal street race aficionado and tech geek, especially when it pertains to cars, to full on tech genius/hacker with tech skills good enough to rival Anonymous. However, he has Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) who takes up most of the hacking job.

The villain of this movie is Cipher (Charlize Theron) who you can probably guess by the typical name is the world best hacker with a bone to pick. She recruits Dominic and turns him against his family. Her character here runs in the same vein of her evil witch queen, Ravenna in both The Huntsman: Winter’s War and Snow White and the Huntsman. Instead of magic, she hacks computers.

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The real scene stealer in F8 belongs to both Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Jason Statham. Hobbs, the Rock, is the ultimate muscle of the group. He takes on a superhuman persona wiping out anyone who stands in his way by a simple punch. And when I say punch, I don’t mean like a boxer’s jab. I mean, a punch to the chest will send you flying through the walls. With him paired with Statham, it makes for great eye candy. They talk smack to each other while performing their stunts. Without getting into spoilery details, Deckard (Statham) is brought back this time to help the team take out Cipher and Dom. I will say that it’s doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have the main bad guy of the previous movie who caused quite a bit of mayhem and even kills Han to being accepted, sort of, as part of the team. But like I said earlier, just leave your brain at the door. I will say, Statham has what is probably my favorite scene out of the whole movie.

Seriously though, if you’re looking for a good time? Go see Fate of the Furious. It’s exactly the kind of action comedy to see on the big screen. Plenty of laughs and thrills to be had. That’s my Noble Opinion.

Power Rangers

My first memory of going to see a movie on the big screen was in summer of 1995 at 7 years old watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. As a kid, the movie was amazing. I spent days after dressing up as the white ranger. Running around with kicking imaginary putty patrollers and rescuing Kim the pink ranger. Yes, I had a childhood crush on Kim.

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I kept up fairly well with each new team until about maybe the 4th or 5th one. I got a little older and thought that they were getting a cheesier as time went by. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago when Netflix had all the original series on their list that I had sat down to watch a few for old-time sakes. Realizing that the original team were sort of cheesy, but to me it was still nostalgic.

Having said all that, coming into this new release of the Power Rangers, I was hesitant to think that it could be decent. Transformers took off with a fun film then gradually fell as each sequel came out. The Ninja Turtles movies were less than sub par. At least Michael Bay didn’t have his hands in the Power Rangers.

In case you’re unaware of the global phenomenon that became the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The story revolves around 5 teenagers who were chosen and gifted with extraordinary abilities to fight against those who threaten humanity. This movie gives us a sort of breakfast club feel by bringing together 5 completely different teens; the wayward jock, a rebel cheerleader, the autistic nerd, the runaway tough-guy, and pretty much a young Ally Sheedy who is shunned from her family because she’s “different”.

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The 5 teens stumble upon a buried spaceship and come upon Bryan Cranston’s Zordon and his little robot Alpha 5 voiced by Bill Hader. Both actors give great voice work to their respective characters. Zordon and Alpha trains the new crew to fight against his old nemesis Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks.

Each member of the Rangers gets their chance to shine. Dacre Montgomery, the leader and the red ranger, brings strength to the film overall story, but the heart lies in R.J. Cyler, the Blue Ranger. In some way, he is the “Samwise Gamgee” of the group.

Elizabeth Banks gives us an updated, far creepier Rita, especially as she begins to wreak havoc on the citizens of Angel Grove. However, she does take it a little further into borderline campy as we progress along the story. But far less campy than the cackling witch we all remember from the original series. And, if I’m not mistaken, I believe they never mentioned her last name, Repulsa. Which may be a good thing.

There were a few things that I wished had been worked on to make this a slightly better experience than what it was. One, I did mention about Banks over the top borderline cheesy villainy. Two, when the Rangers got their zords. I had no idea what it was the black ranger had. I know in the original series he had a mammoth, but here I couldn’t make out exactly what it was he rode, assuming it was a mammoth. Three, Krispy Kreme? Really? I’ll leave that alone for spoilers sake.

Overall, the film is quite fun. I quite enjoyed the fight scenes and the climatic battle. I’ve read mixed reviews with more leaning towards being negative. Which lowered my expectations and gave me a little fear that it will be as bad as Transformers. Alas, in my honest Noble opinion, I’d go see it. Use it as an excuse to be a kid again.

Wrapping up 2016

It’s funny, I started writing this out talking about box office numbers, and how this has actually been a good year despite all the other crappy things that has happened. Then I went on making cases about how the box office numbers don’t really matter because a movie can have a horrible turnout and still be considered one of the all time greats, like Shawshank Redemption.

Really, it comes down to personal preference. And the last thing I want to be seen is narcissistic about movies. Just passionate. And the art of film, like any medium, is subjective.
This blog post is an end of the year review highlighting some of the best (at least from what I’ve seen) of the year of 2016 at the movies.

Rather than digging at what’s wrong with the movies and spending hours writing giving you guys more than you would probably care to read. I’ve broken down the films of the ones I quite enjoyed this year into lists under their respective genres. Along with my top picks with some favorites of my fellow friends and cinephiles. I did a survey on Facebook asking my fellow peers their favorite films of the year. So when you see an asterisk next to the title, that would be their recommendation. The more asterisks, the more people voted for it.

Action/Adventure/Blockbusters
– Captain America: Civil War **
– Star Wars: Rogue One
– Doctor Strange *( My wife’s favorite)
– Deadpool
– Magnificent Seven
– Star Trek Beyond
– Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them **
– Jungle Book*
– 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
– The Nice Guys
– Central Intelligence
– Passengers*
– Deepwater Horizon*

Horror/Thriller
– 10 Cloverfield Lane
– Don’t Breathe
– The Conjuring 2
– The Shallows

Oscar potentials
– Hell or High Water ***
– La La Land
– Manchester by the Sea
– Arrival *
– Captain Fantastic
– Sully
– Hacksaw Ridge *

Animation
– Kubo and the Two Strings
– Zootopia
– Finding Dory

Comedies (These are movies that literally had me laughing out loud.)
– Masterminds
– Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
– Keanu
– Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
– Swiss Army Man

Movies I need to see
– Silence
– Moana
– Fences
– Nocturnal Animals
– Moonlight
– A Monster Calls
– Allied *
– Midnight Special

My personal top five, and I spent quite a bit wrestling with this because I feel like I’m comparing apples and oranges. Also, it’s in no particular order.

– Hell or High Water
– Doctor Strange
– Manchester by the Sea
– Captain America: Civil War
– Hacksaw Ridge

Part of the movie magic is being swept up in a particular performance. And I mean like, oscar worthy performance. Just emotionally gripping that yanks at the heart-strings and makes you leave the theater somewhat changed. So here are some noteworthy performances from my fellow peers and myself

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (really everyone in that movie)
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge (and probably Silence)
Tom Hanks in Sully
Amy Adams in Arrival
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land
Denzel Washington in Fences
Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
Eddie Murphy in Mr. Church

I was going to put a poster of each movie or maybe a trailer. However, who wants to watch an hour worth of various trailers to movies you probably already seen? So here’s a supercut made by YouTube’s Screen Junkies

Have a happy New Year and keep an eye out for the next blog. I’ll be getting back into reviewing the films as I get a chance to see them. Also coming up Top Anticipated film of 2017 and a review of the Oscars nominees as they are announced in the coming weeks.

The Magnificent Seven

Western movies will always have its place in American cinema. Though westerns may not have its prevalence like it once did with the likes of John Wayne, Steve Mcqueen, and early Clint Eastwood, there’s no denying that people still enjoy pseudo-fictional tales of the old west.

Which brings us to Magnificent Seven, which is a remake of the Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson lead film of the same title and premise. The update is really just a new cast and updated tech and action to which makes the old one a bit boring. You could probably say the same about the oscar nominated True Grit by the Coen Brothers and the John Wayne led original back in the 60s.

This time Magnificent Seven is helmed by Antoine Fuqua which stars legendary Denzel Washington who has been on previous Fuqua films(Training Day and Equalizer), and Chris Pratt, who is taking the silver screen by storm. Each cast member of the seven gives vital life to bringing a diverse and entertaining popcorn style flick for the viewers. Denzel with his trademark style of dialogue befitting for the lead member, Pratt and his charismatic charm and humor. Ethan Hawke is a great character actor who never seems to fail at bringing a little humanity into his roles. Vincent D’Onofrio is always a powerhouse, but even he surprised me with what he brought to his character. Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier round out the rest of the Mag Seven crew with their respective skill set.

The crew faces off against Bartholomew Bogue and his merciless gang that has taken over a mining town. Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard, is evil and played with enough gravitas to warrant a beat-down, western style. Not much development is given for our antagonists, only enough to give the audience the idea of who’s bad and who’s even badder so that we can cheer for our heroes when they roll into town.

Fuqua is pretty well-known to amp up the action as his films are always action pack. But not too over the top like Michael Bay. Fuqua makes his actors shine above the action, as to let the actors make the action happen as opposed to just having random stuff blow up. And Mag Seven is no exception when it comes to the action.

The cast is what makes this western entertaining as hell. Anyone can throw a few actors and make cowboys out of them while shooting stuff and blowing stuff up. But unless the characters are entertaining and worth giving attention to, its easy to dismiss. And it’s not even about having A-listers, as there have been quite a few western films released in the past decade that flew under the radar. Nevertheless, Magnificent Seven is worth seeing on the big screen, not magnificent but incredibly fun.

 

Image courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer and Columbia Pictures.

Belated Short Summer Reviews

As the summer films roll out, I try to catch the movies on opening weekend. This way the reviews are fresh in case anyone were to see my perspective before seeing the movie. So here are some short reviews of the films I caught over the past couple months.

The Purge: Election Year
I waited to watch this movie because I wanted to see the first two beforehand. I enjoyed the first movie as it brought an interesting premise: The idea that once a year all crime is legal for a 12 hour period. There’s definitely a political undertone in the first films; Election Year is about politics. The story primarily follows a senator running for president who opposes the annual purge event. Apparently a lot of people don’t like that about her and use the annual purge as an oppurtunity to try and have her brutally murdered, legally of course. There’s two major problems that didn’t sell well for me as I watched through the movie. One, the heavy right-wing political angle is overbearing and that lost me. Even the addition of the evangelicals extremist was a bit much. Two, the girl who was going to kill to get her candy is one of the most annoying characters I have ever seen. Sorry for the spoilers here, but her death was extremely satisfying. Maybe that was the point. In my honest Noble opinion, I think The Purge needs to take a permanent hiatus.

The Angry Birds Movie
The ridiculous flinging birds app game gets its own movie adaptation. I must admit upon first hearing the release of this movie, I thought it was ridiculous. It still is, but that is the premise of the movie. The movie brings to memory, and a bit of nostalgia, of saturday morning cartoons like the Looney Tunes. Just a bunch of slapstick humor, and the kid in me couldn’t help but laugh. Sure it’s a kids movie, but sometimes it’s nice to feel like a kid again.

The Legend of Tarzan
Under the direction of David Yates (known for the last 4 Harry Potter films), Tarzan gets a gritty adaptation. The cast boasts incredible talents, with the likes of Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, and playing the title character, Alexander Skarsgard. The visuals are incredible and the action sets are quite entertaining, even with the heavy-handed CGI. However, Legend of Tarzan, it being Tarzan’s 49th adaptation, the story is utterly predictable. The film works as a blockbuster flick for those seeking some adventure but without leaving any impression. My honest Noble opinion, Legend of Tarzan is a decent film, but don’t expect much else.
The Shallows
Ever since Jaws, the first summer blockbuster, no summer season is complete without a shark movie. Ok, that may be untrue as there have been several summers without its shark antagonist. This summer, we find Blake Lively, whose character finds herself surfing at a secluded beach which is a feeding ground for a great white shark.
The Shallows find its strength in the simplicity of girl vs shark, nothing else. A very minimalistic B-movie with its focus on tension and simplicity. The cinematography is beautiful enough to make you want to visit the ocean, but the story may keep you from stepping into the waters. The Shallows is great fun, even at its short run-time of 87 minutes. That’s my honest Noble opinion.

Suicide Squad

The DCU snowball has been pushed down hill after Batman V Superman last March. Under harsh criticism and mixed fan reviews (you can read mine here @ https://nobleopinionblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/batman-v-superman-dawn-justice/) BvS managed to keep the franchise afloat with decent but underwhelming box office numbers. It’s interesting to note that after BvS, Suicide Squad went into some last-minute reshoots. Some speculated that was to correct some issues that may have come to light after they heard the fans and seeing the numbers fall. However, David Ayer stated that this theatrical cut at the theater was his directorial cut, so we’ll have to take every rumors and speculations with a grain of salt.

Already as the weekend ends, Suicide Squad is breaking box office records, but I say that would be due to incredible marketing. Like BvS, this supervillain team-up garnered harsh criticism from professional critics, but from the fans, it’s coming out as a better film. Who trusts critics anyways right?

After reading most people initial response after the movie, the general consensus seems to be pretty positive, but still say that Suicide Squad could be better. And after seeing it myself, I would agree. Before dissecting SS, I’ll say that. I did like it, and had a pretty good time. This is definitely an improvement upon BvS, and I think that has to do with Geoff Johns heading over the DCU franchise. In case you don’t know the name, he is credited with writing some of the best stories for DC in their comics. I’ve read a few of them myself and love his style so I’m excited to see what DC will bring in the near future.

First off, what stands out the most from this movie is the characters. The cast is perfect. Each hero…err… villains were given with incredible depth from the actors that they made me want more. Margot Robbie killed it as Harley Quinn. You can feel the divide between her humanity and her chaotic carelessness which hinges on her devoted love to her even more psychotic boyfriend the Joker. I can already hear the scrutiny the next actress will come under as she carries the mantle. When I went to comic con yesterday, I kid you not, just the walk from my car at the parking garage to the convention center alone I counted at least 10 Suicide Squad version of Harley Quinn.

Will Smith is outstanding as Deadshot. He brought back to memories as to why he once owned the summer blockbuster from the mid 90s to early 2000s.

Probably the character that most people are concerned about other than the big screen debut of Harley Quinn, is the Joker. Jared Leto has already established himself as a phenomenal actor, garnering a big oscar win for best supporting in Dallas Buyers Club. (A fantastic movie, btw). But to carry on what Heath Ledger did, and bring something different would be a feat in itself. In my opinion, Leto sold it. But comparing the two is like comparing bad apples and oranges. Both rotten fruits, but different. Ledger’s Joker is more on par with an anarchist, and Leto’s version is the lunatic birthed out of pure madness. Certainly looking forward to seeing more of Leto in future installments, most likely the upcoming solo Batman movie.

To be fair, every character/actor is worth mentioning but to list them and talk about them individually would keep me up for a few more hours. It’s worth noting that we are seeing b-level villains and characters given on-screen depth that makes me extremely interested to learn more and dive deeper into the DC mythology.

Now, where Suicide Squad struggles in is the narrative and the development of its key villain. At the beginning, the scenes feel very disjointed as we are introduced to each character and the purpose of the having a team of super-villains to perform some duty of good. And *warning spoilers*, the development of the key villain stems from a common former team member turned bad. “And here is this member, she’s part of the squad….oh never mind, she’s now the key villain”. But once the ball gets rolling and the action picks up, it’s very entertaining.

One of my big issue actually has nothing to do with the movie but with the marketing. They made it seem like the Joker is one of the key characters of the movie, and it turned out, he wasn’t. He was barely along for the ride except for a couple of key scenes and some Harley Quinn backstory scenes.

Small criticism aside, Suicide Squad is a very entertaining movie. Some may not like it with it having the moral ground being a bit grey. But, they are bad guys and they make it very clear their intentions to being baddies, some more than others. That’s my honest Noble opinion.

 

Featured image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

Jason Bourne

Matt Damon has returned to the role that put him on the spotlight as a viable action star, Jason Bourne. Since the last one, Bourne Legacy, was a bit of a dud. Not that it was bad, but it couldn’t deliver the prowess of the Bourne Trilogy thus making it a forgettable film and a box office disappointment.

What made the Bourne trilogy fun and exciting to watch was that as we watch some incredible fight sequences, car chases, and solid action sets, we were riding along the journey of Bourne discovering himself after suffering a severe case of amnesia and realizing that he could kill someone with a pencil with ease. When Ultimatum came to end, Jason got all the answers, and so did we.

And here is where, in my honest opinion, Jason Bourne falters. Even though, there were pretty sweet action scenes. The car chase scene in Vegas spiked up the adrenaline rush. The story felt a bit rehashed. As if the writers had no other ideas. When the trilogy came to a complete, Jason learned everything about himself. And come to find out, there was a missing piece to the puzzle. And one particular information learned in Ultimatum (omitted for spoilers sake) was wrong. To me, it felt tacky and lazy. They couldn’t even come up with a name for the movie, just the title character.

Now, at this point I feel like I’m just trashing the film. It was enjoyable for what it was. I personally held up the Bourne trilogy to a high regard, and I guess I held up higher expectations and a sense of restoration from what they tried to do with the previous not Bourne/ Bourne movie. Just my honest Noble opinion.

Featured image courtesy of Universal