It took me a while to warm up to the Fast and the Furious series, and even now I’m not sure why I’ve come to begrudgingly enjoy them, or at least some of them. I mean – they aren’t good. There are better car chase movies, better fight movies, better ensemble casts. And yet I went to the latest installment, Furious 7, on its first week in theaters. I’ve become a fan of the series, somehow. I’ve come to like some of the characters. I’ve learned to appreciate the ever-bigger car related action sequences. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid, basically, and this week I plunked myself down for another cup. And I enjoyed myself, if we’re being honest. But also if we’re being honest, Furious 7 is still only a decent action ride, bogged down by a trainwreck of a script and saved mostly by some great action sequences and fun performances. It isn’t the worst action film I’ve seen this year, nor is it the perfect-ten a lot of my peers are saying. It’s just a fun enough action movie with a lot of the same problems the series has always suffered from.

The action starts almost immediately after the finale of Furious 6, with Deckard Shaw, the brother of Furious 6 baddie Owen Shaw, vowing revenge on Dom Torreto’s crew for putting his baby bro in traction. After FINALLY catching the timeline up with Tokyo Drift, killing series regular Han, Deckard sets his sights on the rest of the crew.

Furious 7 posterBut then Kurt Russel’s mystery G-Man, Mr. Nobody, shows up with an entirely different plot in tow and tasks Dom and the gang with retrieving a computer program called God’s Eye. The hacker then can control it, with the idea that Dom takes it out of the hands of some baddies and then uses it to track down Deckard.

So for reasons that should be obvious, Furious 7 clearly went through a whole whack of what we can only assume were major script revisions partway through shooting. While the reasons were entirely understandable, the result is still a goddamn terrible script. What starts off as a basic Dom vs. baddie with a revenge motive kinda deal suddenly morphs into this entirely different storyline when Russel’s character literally drops into the movie with a whole new plotline that feels like it was probably taken from a spec script for Furious 8. From then on, the whole middle of the thing feels like watching two plotlines wrestle, as Dom & co. track down the God’s Eye program, with Shaw occasionally just popping up to go “Oi! I’m in this movie, too, you forget about me?” It’s this ugly, shambling Frankenstein monster of a plot where motivations can change from scene to scene and we’re never quite sure what everyone’s endgoal is.

One minute Michelle Rodriguez’s character is giving this big impassioned speech and, by all appearances, walking out of the movie to “go find herself,” then she just shows up again three scenes later like nothing happened. One minute Dom’s only goal is to protect his family and the next he’s off on some completely unrelated fetch-quest that came right the heck outta nowhere. It’s all over the damn place, and while I’m sure the scriptwriters did the best they could with the bad situation they were put in, the long and short of it is that the script feels like several different story ideas stitched together, and badly.

To the film’s credit though, it does still do a remarkably good job balancing the ever-expanding cast of characters, and everyone gets at least one scene to add to their sizzle reel. Ronda Roussey gets a decent fight in, The Rock gets some fantastic scenes and one liners, adding to the demand that his character just get his own damn movie already, and Tony Jaa’s character… Actually, sorry can I take a moment aside for a second?

Furious 7 tony


How the bloody hell did it take TWELVE YEARS for Tony Jaa to show up as the designated martial-arts henchman in an American action movie? Or in an American action movie in ANY capacity? Did he just not want to do any before? Because seriously, when the movie lets him do his thing, he kicks a lot of ass, and if this is the start of him finally getting more roles and recognition here in the west, I am all the way aboard.

Ok, anyway, back to the review proper.

The one sad exception to the decent handling of the characters is Lucas Black’s cameo as his character from Tokyo Drift, which is noteworthy mostly for how he literally ages ten years in between shots. It’s too bad, I kinda like the dude for some reason and I hope the reports of him getting a bigger role in future installments prove to be true.

Another thing a lot of people have been remarking about is how respectful and mature the film is about the departure of Paul Walker from the series and addressing the specter of his death that hangs over virtually every frame of the film. Without spoiling anything, it’s all pretty true. Walker’s departure from the franchise is done about as respectfully as you can imagine, and his send-off is, if nothing else, extremely earnest, heartfelt and well-handled.

Furious 7 rock

Furious 7 delivers what we’ve come to expect from a Fast and the Furious movie at this point: car stunts and chases galore, most of them done in practical effects and a soundtrack that punishes speaker system with a cacophony of explosions and engine revs like Christian Grey for electronics equipment. There’s extended montages of scantily clad bodies in exotic locales, delivered with the furious editing of a rap video, and at least 10 per cent of the shots in the film start on some anonymous woman’s ass as she goes about her business. You get what you were expecting, in other words.

However, we need to be honest with ourselves that it still isn’t great. The script is a nightmare – a nightmare with an understandable origin, but a nightmare nonetheless. The stunt sequences rank as some of the best in the series, however, and a lot of the stuff at the periphery is a lot of fun. However, Furious 7 still comes across as a bit of a mess structurally, just a mess with some genuinely fun stuff haphazardly nailed to it.

It is, in the parlance of our time, cold as butts. The wind howls like a Sony investor going over his quarterly reports; the snow is piled high as unsold copies of The Remaining; and the Frost Trolls have set up camp on Crescent, cutting off access to most of our best shitty university bars. Summer seems like a far-off hope, ever out of reach. But it’s coming, my friends, and all of its beautiful, banal, and soulless entertainment is coming with it – and the Super Bowl is here to remind us of that. More than ever before, the Super Bowl is less about any actual sports, than it is about the glittering monument to commercialism that we’ve built around it, a golden cow to for that is shallow and good. As much as the San Diego Comic-Con, the Big Game is where the upcoming summer’s most anticipated hype machines come to strut their stuff in special Superbowl ads, and this year we’ve had some doozies. So, as I like to do when it gets cold and Oscar movies dominate screens, I’m taking this week to look ahead at the delicious pablum Hollywood is already prepping to shovel into our grateful mouths by looking at the sneak peeks we’ve been given of said pablum, this time focusing on what we saw during this year’s Super Bowl.

Jurassic World posterJurassic World

I don’t know what it is that has me so fascinated by Jurassic World and everything about it. Maybe it’s the impression that the film is combating the very real concern that dinosaur movies just don’t interest people anymore by jumping the shark so hard, that the shark overcomes its biological limitations and starts a slow clap.

The Super Bowl trailer for Jurassic World, sadly, doesn’t offer us much in the way of new indications of how batshit insane this movie might just be if we all pray hard enough. We get the revelation that the new dinosaur (which is being hyped up so damn hard that there’s no way it will live up to expectations, unless it has live bears for teeth and a chainsaw penis like that one scene in Robot Jox) and a brief shot of someone shooting at the thing with a light machine gun from a helicopter – a scene which had better goddamn have Long Tall Sally playing in the background. Jurassic World‘s big game ad doesn’t really get me more excited for the movie, but at this point that would be impossible – short of saying that Jesse Ventura’s manning that MG.

Furious 7

The Fast and the Furious franchise has never really appealed to me – looking like nothing more than a collection of over-shot car chases, and a collection of grown-up fratboys droning on endlessly about family, honour, and large pieces of machinery that don’t even turn into robots. However, the Super Bowl ad for Furious 7 piqued my interest when it climaxed (very appropriate word) on a shot where series protagonist Vin Diesel jumps a car from one Dubai skyscraper to another, while being shot at by Jason Statham. OK, you got me, I’ll watch your dumb car movie. You’ve clearly become so far-removed from the Point Break remake the series started out as, that you could have it turn out to be a Wacky Races reboot at this point, and I wouldn’t blink an eye. You have succeeded, the sheer ridiculousness of your trailer’s money shot has impressed even me.

Seventh SonSeventh Son poster

Remember seeing ads for this thing like, over a year ago and thinking it looked like the biggest turd ever, only to have it never show up in theaters? Well, it still hasn’t hit yet and here’s why. Seventh Son was shot around two years ago by Russian director Sergei Bodorov, based on a book with a racist name I’d never heard of. After being delayed several times, the film was pushed back even further when its parents, Warner Bros and Legendary Studios, split ways and the release of the film was taken over by Universal, who moved the film’s release date to compete with Warner’s Jupiter Ascending.

I almost feel bad for this movie, it’s like the kid that gets screwed over by a nasty divorce – the subject of a custody battle where no one asks what he wants – and he winds up being used as a weapon by parents looking to stick it to each other. I’m gonna go see it, partially because it looks like a ridiculous farce full of dragons, monsters, Kit Harrington and for some reason a Hindu deity, but partially out of that sympathy for a film that got screwed over by industry politics. The Super Bowl ad doesn’t do much to make the film look like it’ll be an enjoyable experience, but after everything this film’s been through, I don’t care. I want to give it a hug and take it out for a cup of coacoa to get its mind off things.

Tomorrowland posterTomorrowland

Tomorrowland’s football ad is Geneviève Bujold’s character in the 1984 movie Choose Me. Even though she’s got Lesly Ann Warren on one side and Rae Dong Chong on the other, you find yourself drawn back to Bujold because of how subdued she is, how much she holds back. Tomorrowland is the same way, standing apart in a pack of ads built on throwing excess and style in your face, keeping you interested by only tantalizing you with glimpses of what it has to offer. Maybe there’s some fantastic cityscapes in there, maybe some steampunk contraptions of gears and levers, maybe even Gary Chalk will be involved tangentially (though he probably won’t say “maximize” at any point, and ye Gods with the obscure references right now).

But none of the advertising has been really about throwing that in our face in the same way as these other Super Bowl ads, and there’s something I can’t help but respect about that. It’s playing things close to the vest in a system built more than ever on excess, and because of that I find myself more curious about it than most other movies slated for this summer. I know what I’ll be getting with Jurassic World, but Tomorrowland is a mystery, and I love a mystery as much as I love dropping references that most FTB readers probably won’t get. Dropping them like the Goldion Hammer on a zonder’s face. Hikari ni nare, mother fucker.