Review: Furious 7

Furious-7 Making the seventh outing in a franchise that should have seemingly never made it past three films is an amazing accomplishment in its own right. Somehow the Fast and the Furious series has made it this far, and seems to have enough fuel to make it to the obvious goal of ten films. With the lose of Paul Walker, a mainstay since the original 2001 film, it would be a slightly tough road to say goodbye, pay homage, and continue the insane action of the series in one single outing. Furious 7 not only handles these tasks with ease, it actually surpassed anyone’s possible expectations and leaves the audience wanting even more.

New to the franchise was director James Wan, who took over for Justin Lin after his very successful re-ignition of the fledgling series. Wan was able to bring the beloved over-the-top insanity back and in spades. Fans of Justin Lin’s work will be happy to see that there was no missteps in the changing of the guard. Every bit of overly dramatic family focused wink and a smile action beat was present in the series.

The events of Furious 7 pick up right after the previous film. We find Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in a hospital bed clinging to life as his big brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) vows to get revenge on whomever hurt Owen. Its a simple scene but there is so much more once their 'touching' reunion is over. From there Deckard is on the hunt for information about his brother’s assailants. He visits Hobbs (The Rock) and get information on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew. The close combat action sequences were uniquely shot and brought a level of freshness to the franchise. Rotating cameras, inventive shooting angles, and well choreographed fights made me smile. Its funny to think that we have a film series that is so silly in premise but delivers on action far better than most. There are a lot of lessons modern action films could learn from a couple of DVD player thieves in hooked up cars.

In the midst of all of this, Dom and crew are recruited to help track down and rescue a hacker who has software that could be helpful in stopping Deckard. Once again, the stakes are high and the team needs to use their unique skills of driving to be successful. The length that they go to pull off these elaborate stunts is breathtaking. Its pure fun and adrenaline red lining from beginning to end and frankly I was exhausted by how much fun I was having. After seeing Fast 6, I didn’t know how they could possibly top it, but Furious 7 is much like the Shaw brothers. If you thought the first one was tough wait until you get a look at its bigger and badder brother.

All of the main actors that we have followed since the 2001 film were still great here. Vin Diesel leads his crew of misfits with ease per usual, Michelle Rodriguez has come back and her presence is fully felt as a true member of the team again. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson continue to be hilarious comic relief and their dynamic is about pitch perfect here as well. Last but certainly not least, Paul Walker. He has never been a stellar actor but he always seemed like he was genuinely having such a great time with his close friends. The film’s final send off to the character of Brian O’Conner and even more so Paul Walker himself, was really quite touching. For hardcore Fast and Furious fans, you can’t help but to get a little choked up as they used the proper story elements to end his time with the crew while simultaneously saying goodbye to their “brother.” Stellar work all the way around, and any fans of the series are sure to love it, and it might convert some newcomers to go back and start from the beginning.

[easyreview title= "Review of Furious 7" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]

Review: The Expendables 3

The-Expendable-3-Movie-Wallpaper-30-1024x576 Back for a third time, the mercenary squad led by Sylvester Stallone prepares to take on the american action genre one more time. Since 2010 the goal has been to somehow rekindle the magic of action films of the 1980s. From Rambo to Terminator and every shoot ‘em up movie in between, The Expendables 3 works its butt off to make your brain hazy with nostalgia. It tries, but the real question is does it succeed. The simple answer is NO. There are many movies that lack plot and substance and suffer tremendously for it. Luckily, The Expendables 3 doesn’t suffer from a lack of plot, but rather an abundance of it. Overly saturated with team building moments and poorly constructed plot points so heavy handed you want to cry out “WE GET IT!!! NOW GO SHOOT SOMEONE!!!!” Never in the history of meathead action movie franchises, which I love, has their been a cast who just isn’t in on the joke. The entirety of the movie, sans the last 40 minutes, is largely a poor man’s version of a Tom Clancy film. Working to give unneeded exposition to make a “fuller” film, writers Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, and Sylvester Stallone waste vast amounts of the viewer’s time. We all know why we are here, and its not for the heart and mental conflict of the characters. We signed up to see Rambo, The Terminator, and their buddies blow things up...a lot!

The general format of The Expendables movies have been largely the same, and this third installment doesn’t break from that mold. The team goes on a mission and realize another conflict has arisen from another character who is pretty much the definition of an Expendable himself. In this case, its Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks. A founding member of The Expendables, he is matched against Stallone’s persona from the start. Stonebanks hates the Expendables and wants them all dead. Simple enough, now get to the shooting. No wait, lets shoehorn some other garbage in to make it feel more like a movie first: CIA managers, 5 new team members who are introduced so slowly over the course of 30 minutes you begin to check your watch. When Stallone has to retire his old team we are treated to what should have been a montage of a new team assembly scene, but alas it was just painful. The montage is the staple of these types of movies and here is yet another missed opportunity. Not until the last 40 minutes do we find our heroes where they live best, the battlefield. For that last section of the film, its the closest thing to what the entire film series should have been to date. Tanks, failing buildings, and dirt bike stunts are all here and this is all I ever wanted. For the first time the series felt, in those moments, like it was self aware. Just about every moment prior to it we suffered through clunky dialogue by an ensemble cast of non-actors. The two truly talented actors in the movie, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas, were the absolute highlights. Gibson was an over the top villain in the perfect way, besting any of the bad guys from the previous two entries. Banderas was the perfect amount of comic relief. Unlike the rest of the cast, these two aren’t completely washed up. Honorable mention goes to Wesley Snipes, and his return to the big screen. He had a couple of cool moments but this is a poor return for him; he deserved better.

There really isn’t much of a reason to see this movie. Its a violent, yet completely bloodless, movie with a PG-13 rating to reach a younger audience. Well, I hope it reaches them because it missed me by a mile. As a lover of over the top poorly acted muscle bound action movies of the 1980s this fails at one major point...TOO MUCH PLOT. Stop trying to make me care about why the bad guy is bad. I know he is bad because he has an evil look and has henchmen. Stop trying to make me care about the background of your new crew...NO ONE CARES! Did I need to know backstory on Dutch, Dillon, Mac, Blaine, Billy, Rick and Poncho in Predator? No, I did not. Just drop them in the jungle and point their guns towards the bad guy. Nothing more, and nothing less. In this case less is more, and I wish I had more of my time back by watching less of The Expendables 3.

[easyreview title= "Review of The Expendables 3" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.5" overall= false]

Review: Homefront

Homefront

As opening scenes go, I enjoy a bunch of rednecks getting a good ass kicking after an annoying confrontation at a gas station. That was the first of several clichés that are all too familiar with when we watch a movie set in the Deep South. This is a film where we get to familiarize ourselves with the culture of a small hidden town that makes their own rules, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Phil Broker (Jason Statham) is an ex DEA agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a biker gang and their meth ring. He succeeds for the most part, but their leader yells at him with red in his eyes, “You’re dead,” as he’s being taken away in handcuffs. Well, we know we’re not going to see the last of him. So after a successful mission, Phil hides out in the deep South where no one would ever suspect anything more than that he is just another hard working American…with a British accent. So a couple years pass and Phil now lives a peaceful life with his daughter Maddy and all is well, until the school bully decides to pick on his daughter one day at recess. This reveals some suspicious fighting skills that seem unusual for a 9 year old girl and gives the bully an ego check. Giving the movie credit, people actually seem to want to know how a 9 year old developed the fighting skills of a UFC flyweight.

Kate Bosworth plays Cassie, the bully's meth head of a mom, and her performance is disturbingly effective. She reacts with outrage to the altercation between Phil’s child and her own, demanding that the daughter receive disciplinary action for hurting her angel. The cops know the situation and believe that it is under control, but the mom does not want to give up that easily. After that Cassie and her husband antagonize Phil with hurtful words demanding respect, the dad takes it a step further and from then on we know where her daughter got those skills from. A key part in this film is the stylistic approach of the fighting techniques displayed. Jason Statham turns it into an art-form.

After a humiliating beat-down, we know that these people want justice. Cassie calls up her brother, Gator (James Franco,) to teach Phil a lesson. Gator is the psychotic small-town drug lord who cooks and supplies meth for all the citizens of the town and he makes damn sure that no one else does. While Gator plans his sister’s revenge, he digs up some dirt on Phil and realizes who he is. That is where the real trouble starts and establishes brand new motives. The concern from good old fashioned small town interrogation builds to something much bigger than that.

The plot was well executed and fast-paced and made for an intriguing storyline. The fighting scenes definitely make you clench your fists and jump up with a surge of adrenaline and scream, “Fuck yea!”

I was, however, a little disappointed in James Franco’s character. The way his character was built up wasn’t convincing, and his character arc should have been better developed. Honestly I didn’t feel as threatened by him as I should have been. The way they were talking him up, you would think he would be some form of the devil, but his presence was ineffective and we all knew that Phil would most likely humiliate him just as bad as any other man that comes his way. Homefront is an effective film with a punch that takes you for a ride. Jason Statham fans will be pleased, and if you’re looking for a decent beat-em-up action film with some entertaining performances, you could do worse.

[easyreview title= "Review of Homefront" cat1title="Brady's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]