Furious 7 – A Review


As loyal readers know, I am a recent convert to the Fast & Furious franchise. I watched the first six movies within a week of each other to get myself up to speed (pun intended) and unsurprisingly, I started digging these movies a lot more once they became straight up action movies that just so happened to be about cars and when The Rock appeared. He is, after all, franchise Viagra. Since Fast Five, I think that the films have gotten progressively better and the news that Jason Statham would appear in Furious 7 was cause for celebration. Furious 7 was probably the most I’ve been looking forward to any of these movies, which isn’t necessarily a ringing endorsement, but probably the most praise I’m ever going to heap on these movies, which are big and loud and ridiculous, but also fairly entertaining.

My enthusiasm dipped, however, with Paul Walker’s untimely passing during the filming of the movie. I was sincerely hoping that they would work around his absence in a tasteful manner and that it wouldn’t be too much for the movie to overcome. Given the way that he died, I also wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy a film where his life is routinely in peril behind the wheel of a fast car. What I like about these movies is that they are mindless fun and escapism; I wasn’t sure if the large specter of reality would cast too dark a shadow over the franchise and take away my overall enjoyment.

The good news is that while it was a little difficult for me to fully enjoy some of the scenes, Walker’s passing did not prevent me from still having a lot of fun watching Furious 7. I think that they did the best possible job working around his absence and provided his character with a fitting send-off and tribute. It helped that there was so much craziness going on in this film that there wasn’t a lot of time to sit and dwell over anything; they may have dropped “Fast” from the title, but not from the actual movie. Furious 7 accelerates the action and rarely slows down. It may only just beginning to feel like spring, but summer movie season has officially arrived.

The weird chronology of the franchise means that the events of Furious 7 come after the events of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the closest thing to a full on abomination that the series has released. Seriously, I still have PTSD after sitting through that nonsense. The body count from Fast & Furious 6 and Tokyo Drift have depleted the ranks of Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) “family.” The crew is now pretty lean – Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludicris) and Mia (Jordana Brewster), who has been mostly marginalized from the franchise while she’s home having Brian’s babies (no great loss). Hobbs (The Rock) is kind of an unofficial member of the group; he’s a friend that hasn’t quite reached “family” status. The group discovers that they are being hunted by Ian Shaw (Jason Statham), the meaner and more deadly brother of a man that the crew tangled with in Furious 6. I had absolutely no memory of the bad guy from Furious 6, so I had to take all of this on faith. I actually don’t remember much plot-wise from a lot of these movies; they are kind of disposable entertainment to me in that twenty minutes after I’ve seen them, I’d be hard pressed to tell you much that actually happened it them. In order to get to Shaw, the group hooks up with a covert military organization that is headed up by Kurt Russell and who needs Dom and company to save a hacker who has been kidnapped. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter – it’s just a reason for all sorts of insane stunts and fights. Ronda Rousey also turns up, because why the hell not at this point.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for the film, you know that the stunts in Furious 7 have been taken up another notch. They’ve participated in some gravity-defying shenanigans in the past, but this film may have the most over-the-top sequences of the entire franchise. Once you have cars parachuting out of an airplane and cars jumping between buildings, all bets are kind of off. I didn’t do particularly well in physics when I took that back in high school, but I’m pretty sure that none of what they pull of is even remotely realistic from a logistical and laws of the universe standpoint. That doesn’t really matter though; it’s just very exciting and executed so well that I was willing to suspend all disbelief and just go with it. I can appreciate a well pulled-off stunt just like anyone else and in general if you thinking a lot during these movies, you’re doing it wrong.

Beyond the vehicular acrobatics, Furious 7 also features a lot of great mano a mano fight sequences. It doesn’t take very long into the film before The Rock and Statham are brought to fisticuffs and it’s pretty great. They use some crazy camera angles and it’s all very intense and thrilling. Paul Walker gets to throw down as well and Michelle Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey tangle as well. And of course, you can’t have Jason Statham and Vin Diesel in a movie together without some sort of altercation, so they have the required street fight as well. All the brawling actually helps mix things up a little; it’s no more realistic but it’s a different kind of action. The more the movie keeps moving, the better it is.

My biggest complaint about Furious 7, other than the obvious plot holes and complete lapses in logic, is that there isn’t enough of The Rock. He helps kick off the movie, but then disappears for most of the rest of the film. That’s not what I signed up for. The Rock makes the most of his time, but I’m always going to be happy with more Rock rather than less. There’s also less Jason Statham than you might be lead to believe; he’s in a lot of the movie, but his presence ebbs and flows. Jordana Brewster doesn’t really have anything to add to these movies any longer, so they wisely ship her off pretty quickly.

Some other thoughts:

  • Other than one scene with some cheesy (and obvious) CGI, it isn’t noticeable that Walker wasn’t used for some scenes. I think it helps that they used Paul Walker’s brothers as stand-ins; Cody Walker, in particular, looks a LOT like his famous brother.
  • Much to my dismay, they do briefly revisit Tokyo Drift characters. It’s pointless and not handled particularly well – why not just re-shoot the scenes rather than use footage from a movie that is nine years old? – but I guess it’s a nice shout out to fans.
  • I’ll admit that I got a little teary during the goodbye to Walker. I was a little surprised by that, but maybe I’m a bigger softie than I think.
  • The comedy in these movies continues to become less unintentional; Tyrese Gibson and Ludicrous provide most of the laughs.
  • A familiar face for Game of Thrones fans pops up in this installment; Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei, Daenerys’ right hand woman) plays the hacker that they are tasked with rescuing.
  • I’d love to see an estimate as to how much property damage these fools caused. It’s got to be an astronomical number.
  • This franchise is determined to keep shortening the name of its movies; by the next film, it might just be a number and drop any reference to Fast and or Furious altogether.
  • There are a lot of ridiculous things going on in this movie, but the whole “Letty has amnesia” angle may be the dumbest of the bunch.

Furious 7 could probably benefit from an editor – I’d say it ran about twenty minutes too long – and despite Vin Diesel’s proclamations, it will never win a Best Picture Oscar. But it is still a fun way to spend some time at the theater and as far as mindless entertainment goes, it is certainly a high performing popcorn movie. I honestly see no signs of this franchise slowing down – the film made ridiculous bank in its first two weekends – even with Walker’s death. I do think it is smart to reboot things a bit; the 8th movie is rumored to move east to NYC and they’ll obviously have to bring in some new faces to help round out the crew. This may be in completion with Fast & Furious 6 for my favorite of the bunch; I do enjoy myself some Jason Statham which almost makes up for the lack of The Rock. If you are a fan of the franchise or enjoy over-the-top action films, you’ll totally dig Furious 7. A fitting tribute to Paul Walker and a go for broke mentality on action and fight sequences put this film in the fast lane for springtime fun.

Furious 7 is currently in wide release.

Guardians of the Galaxy – A Review


I blame Christopher Nolan.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Christopher Nolan movies and he is one of my favorite directors working today. But ever since he got his hands on the Batman movies and they were so successful, it’s had a ripple effect through the superhero universe. Superhero movies have now almost universally become dark and broody affairs and while that works for Batman and his personality it has kind of sucked all the fun out of the genre. Superhero movies are all beginning to look the same – they are darker, more violent and everything is somber and solemn. Now, I have no problem with dark and broody in and of itself – I practically live in the space of dark and broody – but when that becomes the rule rather than the exception, it can get a little exhausting. I don’t know if I have it in me to watch another city get destroyed and our hero be a tortured guy with a ton of baggage. I mean, Superman is killing people now. Even I, a non-comic book girl, know that is a big deal. There are the occasional moments of comic relief in most superhero films, but that’s just what it is – relief. Relief from the onslaught of very important, joyless action. Superhero movies have mostly stopped being fun; The Avengers was a good time and there is always slightly more humor in Spiderman or Iron Man films, but the Spiderman and Iron Man films also haven’t really been that good in a while. In the wake of the Dark Knight trilogy, almost all superhero franchises have taken a turn to the dark side. There has been no joy in Mudville; in the words of a Nolan creation:


Then along comes Guardians of the Galaxy, the runt of the superhero universe. Casual superhero fans like myself have never even heard of this title and when they first announced that it was being made I figured that this was some sort of experiment – if we picked the weirdest and most obscure property and slap the Marvel name in front of it, will people still go. I guess they figured that they had been so successful in the past that they could take their chances. The folks over at Marvel pretty much run Hollywood now and are playing with house money, so they can afford to try something a little different. I don’t know that they would have predicted that Guardians of the Galaxy was not only the superhero movie that we needed, but the superhero movie that we deserved. Because Guardians of the Galaxy is a breath of fresh air to the comic book universe; it’s a film about superheroes that is *gasp* a ton of fun to watch. It’s funny and charming and entertaining – when you leave the theater you will have a big old grin slapped on your face. When’s the last time that happened after a superhero movie?

Guardians of the Galaxy flips the script; instead of giving us comedic relief from the action, this film gives us action relief from the comedy. Because make no mistake about it, Guardians of the Galaxy is a comedy first and an action movie second. The audience was laughing so hard at points of the movie that you could hear the next few lines. That’s not to say that the action in the film is second rate – it absolutely isn’t. There are some very cool and thrilling sequences that are what you would expect from these types of films. But because they are spaced out in between all the comedy, I think you appreciate them more. You don’t become numb to the action in Guardians of the Galaxy, you look forward to it.

I didn’t know much about Guardians of the Galaxy before the film, but these comics must have been the black sheep of the comic book world. This is a decidedly weird entry in the superhero sweepstakes; it really feels like the brainchild of writers in the 70s who took a lot of acid and thought it would be fun to stick our heroes in space. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that this is a campy, kitschy and goofy movie – two of the main characters are a talking raccoon and a tree creature – and I was nervous going in that they wouldn’t quite get the tone right. A little weird goes a long way and I feared that they would have trouble striking the right balance. It turns out that James Gunn was the perfect guy to pick to adapt this film, as he found the sweet spot of making a cult movie that has universal appeal.

The plot for Guardians of the Galaxy is exceedingly dense and even after sitting through the film, eyes glued to the screen, I don’t know that I could fully explain everything that was going on. There’s a lot to digest, but mostly it’s all a MacGuffin; it’s the same basic story that everyone wants some magical thing and the good guys have to keep it away from the bad guys or the universe/planet/galaxy/city will be destroyed. Don’t get hung up on the details of it all, because that doesn’t really matter. In this film, our potential saviors are an unlikely band of heroes: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a small time thief that fancies himself as much more important than he actually is; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is an alien who had been programmed to be an assassin; Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is a humorless warrior whose primary purpose is to avenge the death of his family; Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is a tree creature with a limited vocabulary; and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a genetically engineered raccoon who is a mercenary bounty hunter. The five of them meet in prison and find common ground in their desire to stop Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) from destroying the universe, though they all have very different motivations (greed, altruism, revenge). This sounds super serious, but believe me, it is not.

A lot of the credit for the success of Guardians of the Galaxy belongs not only to writer/director Gunn but also to star Chris Pratt. Pratt has enough charm and charisma that you could power a small city if you could harness it and he is perfectly cast in this role. He brings not only the necessary goofiness but the swagger to Quill. In Pratt’s capable hands, Quill is kind of like Hans Solo’s goofy younger brother. He’s just fantastic. I’ve been a fan of Pratt forever from his role on Parks and Recreation and this is the role that may make him a star. The casting in this film is universally great – all of the actors in the major roles do a tremendous job – and I couldn’t really imagine other people playing/voicing these characters. Saldana is always solid and Bautista, who is best known from his work as a professional wrestler, is much better than I would have anticipated. He holds his own with the more experienced actors. Though we never see Bradley Cooper, his voice work provides Rocket with the necessary attitude and personality to make the CGI creation seem real. Honestly, this is the most I’ve enjoyed Cooper in a role in a while – he’s always good, but he gets to have more fun in this role. I continue to be fascinated by Lee Pace’s transformation to playing the villain; while I primarily know him from his work on Pushing Daisies, he’s quietly become the bad guy – first in The Hobbit and now in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s the most serious character of the bunch, but it provides a nice balance from all the other silliness.

Some other thoughts:

  • There are two post movie sequences for Guardians of the Galaxy; one immediately after the movie and one at the very end after all the credits. The first scene was possibly my favorite part of the whole movie. The second is tremendously odd – I’m not even sure if most of the audience I saw the film with even got the reference. They may be too young.
  • You’d be forgiven for thinking that this film is going to be another self-serious movie from the first five minutes of the film. So if you are confused at the very beginning, just trust me that you are in for a fun ride for the rest of the film.
  • Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker and John C. Reilly all turn up in smaller roles. And I didn’t even realize that Karen Gillan was in the movie until after the fact; she’s completely unrecognizable (and bald!).
  • Chris Pratt dancing may be my new favorite thing.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t necessarily aimed at kids, but I think this is the most family friendly of the recent superhero films. The language is pretty PG (other than one obscene gesture) and the presence of Rocket and Groot helps illustrate that the violence/action is all fantasy.
  • Here’s a Guardians of the Galaxy trailer…in LEGOs!


  • I’ve already touched on how much I love the music in this movie, but it is deployed perfectly.
  • It’s not all laughs in the film, there are also some very sweet moments about friendship.
  • If you need a refresher on where Guardians fits in to the larger Marvel universe, here you go.
  • I’m really curious how much they paid Vin Diesel to play Groot, but since the character only says four words in the entire film his work day must have been pretty short. Here’s Diesel saying “I am Groot” is a bunch of different languages. And yes – he’s on stilts.
  • Reason 5,321,343 that Chris Pratt is the best – he surprised a bunch of kids at a charity screening of the film in New York:


  • How much did I enjoy this movie? I may or may not have immediately come home and bought this Groot figure for my desk. (I totally did).
  • This movie has a raccoon firing a machine gun. Why am I still trying to convince you to go see this; YOU HAVE ALL THE INFO YOU NEED.

This is easily the most fun that I’ve had at a superhero movie since Avengers. In fact, I kind of want to go see the film again; like, I might go again this evening. It was just so nice to see a superhero movie that knows how to be goofy and tell a fun story. The audience that I went to see it with burst into applause at the end and while I normally think that is hokey, I actually contemplated joining in. I didn’t of course, but the fact that I even thought about it is a major victory. As Vulture so perfectly put it, this film is the class clown of the Marvel universe – and who doesn’t love a class clown? Guardians not only saves the galaxy, but it saved my summer movie season. I’m still smiling about the film 12 hours later.

Guardians of the Galaxy opens nationwide today.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Snow Day edition

Another day, another snowstorm – I am really beginning to hate living in Upstate New York. It’s been a bad winter for everyone and the fact that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow is not a good omen. We’re getting up to a foot today and there are rumblings of a Nor’easter headed our way on Sunday. This may be the winter that finally breaks me.

Thankfully I am working from home today so I don’t have to go out in this mess and I am looking forward to participating in a conference call this morning while still in my pajamas. I feel terrible for the people who don’t have that luxury or who don’t have a very understanding boss and are bracing this weather to go into work today. Stay safe!

For those of you that are snowed in, hopefully my biweekly roundup of pop culture stories will help keep you warm and make you forget about all the white stuff piling up outside. Maybe there’s even a thing or two in here to help you keep the kids entertained.

  • In honor of the weather, check out this side by side comparison of the beginning of The Walking Dead and Atlanta after 2 inches of snow paralyzed the city:


  • Benedict Cumberbatch dropped by Sesame Street:


  • The good people of Savannah, GA had to watch the same boring Super Bowl that the rest of us did, but they also got to watch this ridiculously epic local commercial for a personal injury lawyer:

They are the clear winners of Super Bowl Sunday.

  • Last time it was Liberace, this time it’s Peter Pan. Bill Murray knows how to make an entrance:


  • Steve Carell’s college mustache is OUTSTANDING:
  • A gag reel from Thor: The Dark World:


  • David Beckham – fan of LEGOs. He just became more perfect.
  • One unknown perk of winning the Super Bowl – you get to hang out with Beyoncé and Jay Z:


  • Neil Gaimain reads Green Eggs and Ham for charity


  • Former Olympian Tara Lipinksi skated a The Big Lebowski-themed routine on Fallon:


  • Conan is the king of the remote segments; in this one, he tries to sell some of his old memorabilia:


  • The cover for Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue has been revealed:

VF Hollywood

Julia Roberts is one lucky duck!


  • Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West (Red Band – NSFW):


  • Kevin Costner’s Draft Day:


  • Transformers: Age of Extinction:


  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2:


  • 24: Live Another Day:


  • Vampire Academy:


  • Liam Neeson in Non-Stop:


  • From Dusk Til Dawn – the series:


  • A trailer for the video game Thief:


  • The Amanda Knox story inspired a feature film, Face of an Angel:


  • The final Divergent trailer:


  • Another interesting trio: Aaron Paul, Rob Thomas and Bill Murray at a Kings of Leon concert:


  • Animator Arthur Rankin, Jr., who was responsible for holiday classics like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, passed away.
  • This week is Beatles week at Late Night with David Letterman.
  • As a fan of the original cult classic, I was impressed with this trailer for a fake Warriors reboot:


  • There were beer drones? Why am I just hearing about this now that they are grounded?

As always, we end with the Supercuts and Mashups

  • A supercut of Oscar visual effects winners:


  • A Superman vs. Jesse Eisenberg supercut:


  • Grumpy Cat in Frozen:


  • This supercut ignores the so-called plot of the first 3 Transformers movies and just focuses on the actual transforming:


  • A mashup of every Harrison Ford movie:


  • Mr. Freeze sings “Let it Go”


  • And finally, a supercut of all of Tina’s moans on Bob’s Burgers:


Spring can’t get here quickly enough!