Furious 7

Universal Pictures

Rated PG-13 for pervasive violence and mayhem, suggestive content and brief profanity

Paul Walker’s Sentimental Swan Song Proves Well Worth The Wait

The late Paul Walker (1973-2013) was best known for playing Brian O’Conner, a charismatic lead character of the Fast And Furious franchise. During a break in the filming of this seventh installment, he perished in a fiery crash away from the set while being driven in a Porsche by his friend and financial advisor, Roger Rodas.

Putting the production on hiatus, director James Wan (The Conjuring) consulted with Walker’s family before deciding to complete the project. After revising the script, he resumed shooting, using Paul’s younger brothers, Caleb and Cody, as body doubles.

Between the delays and complications flowing from the overhaul, the picture’s budget ballooned to over a quarter-billion dollars. Nevertheless, the rewrite was undeniably well-worth all the effort, since Furious 7 is easily the best offering from the series by far, for it’s the first to convincingly combine sincere sentiment with its trademark swagger and spectacular action sequences.

Yes, it remains mostly a muscle car demolition derby featuring an array of sensational stunts, destroying 230 automobiles along the way. But it’s also a touching tribute to the much-beloved Paul Walker, poignant homage carefully crafted to ensure there won’t be a dry eye in the house when the closing credits roll.

At the point of departure, we’re reintroduced to Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a trained assassin hell-bent on avenging the death of his brother, the diabolical villain who met his demise during the climax of the previous episode. Deckard’s already killed Han (Sung Kang), so gang leader Dom (Vin Diesel) encourages his wife (Michelle Rodriguez) and the rest of his ragtag crew of mercenaries to regroup in order to avoid the risk of getting picked off one-by-one, since there’s strength in numbers.

However, coaxing brother-in-law Brian out of retirement isn’t easy, now that he’s settled down in suburbia and has already started a family with Mia (Jordana Brewster). By contrast, unencumbered playboys Roman (Tyrese) and Tej (Ludacris) are game for another round of bombastic vehicular warfare, especially given the addition to the team of a cute computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) whose affections they can compete for.

After a bit of obligatory flirting and jive talk by the brothers, it’s not long before the plot plunges the mercenaries headlong into a familiar concatenation of fisticuffs and gravity-defying car chases punctuated by macho exclamations like “I’m back bitches!” and “Time to unleash the beast!” Yet, such simplistic non-sequiturs are effectively counterbalanced by tender exchanges with Brian (“You’ll always be my brother!”) during a denouement where he makes it clear that this dangerous adventure will definitely be his last.

A captivating combination of camaraderie and cartoon physics tempered by just enough nostalgia to tug at your heartstrings.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 137 minutes

 

 

The Sisterhood Of Night

Freestyle Digital Media

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, suicide, sexuality and prescription drug abuse

Sinister Sorority Suspected Of Satanism In Compelling Cautionary Tale

Mary Warren (Georgie Henley) was once a popular straight-C student voted most likely to become famous by the student body at Kingston High in upstate New York. But everything changed the day a jealous competitor stole her phone while she was auditioning for a role in a school play.

For, that classmate, Emily Parris (Kara Hayward), proceeded to humiliate Mary by posting some of her very intimate text messages online. Although the cruel ploy did draw a lot of traffic to a blog which nobody had been reading, the victim responded in a way no one could have predicted.

Instead of retaliating in kind, Mary resorted to calling Emily a whore in chalk on the schoolyard wall. Sick of the internet entirely, she also came up with the idea of forming The Sisterhood, a secret society which meets in the woods in the middle of the night. The idea was that instead of behaving like bitchy backstabbers, the members would promise to respect each other’s privacy while providing a shoulder to cry on as they share their personal problems.

The first two recruits are social zeroes, homely Catherine Huang (Willa Cuthrell) and Lavinia Hall (Olivia DeJonge), the troubled daughter of the school librarian (Laura Fraser). Their swearing-in involves taking a vow of silence about what transpires during their confessional sessions around the campfire.

The group’s numbers gradually swell as word spreads about the safe space they’ve created for females. This one admits to having had an abortion; that one says she’s afraid she’ll never be kissed. Another wants to be in love with the boy she surrenders her virginity to; while the next wants her chronically-ill mother to either recover or die. And so forth.

Unfortunately, vicious rumors circulating around campus suggesting that The Sisterhood might be a coven of witches or a sex cult eventually reach the ears of the guidance counselor (Kal Penn), the principal (Gary Wilmes) and even a reporter (Brian Berrebbi) interested in writing sensational stories for the local tabloid. Will the girls stick together when it seems like everyone in town comes down on it like a ton of bricks?

Directed by Caryn Waechter, The Sisterhood Of Night is a compelling cautionary tale inspired by Steven Millhauser’s short story of the same name. A daunting test of teen loyalty by an Electronic Age equivalent of a Salem witch hunt.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 103 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening April 17, 2015

 

Child 44 (R for violence, profanity, disturbing images and a sex scene) Screen adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s best-selling political thriller of the same name, set behind the Iron Curtain in 1953, about a disgraced Soviet spy (Tom Hardy) who joins forces with his wife (Noomi Rapace) and an army general (Gary Oldman) to track down a pedophilic serial killer preying on young boys. With Joel Kinnaman, Charles Dance, Paddy Considine and Victor Cassel.

 

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (PG for mild violence) Kevin James reprises the title role in this slapstick-driven sequel which finds the hapless hero on vacation in Vegas with his college-bound daughter (Raini Rodriguez) until he instinctively jumps into action when duty calls. With Neal McDonough, Nicholas Turturro and Loni Love.

 

Unfriended (R for violence, sexuality, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and pervasive profanity) Found footage horror flick revolving around a half-dozen teens who find themselves terrorized over the internet by a stranger seeking vengeance for a classmate shamed into killing herself a year earlier. Ensemble cast includes Cal Barnes, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson, Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead and Will Peltz.

 

Alex Of Venice (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use) Midlife crisis drama about a workaholic attorney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) suddenly forced to reorder her priorities after being unceremoniously dumped by her frustrated, stay-at-home husband (Chris Messina). With Don Johnson, Derek Luke and Troy Garity.

 

Antarctic Edge: 70 Degrees South (Unrated) Eco-documentary following a team of scientists in a race against time to understand the rate of planetary climate change at the fastest-warming place on the planet.

 

Beneath The Helmet (Unrated) Coming-of-age documentary chronicling the transformation of five high school graduates drafted into the Israeli army to defend their country. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

 

Beyond The Reach (R for violence) Suspense thriller about a high-rolling corporate executive (Michael Douglas) playing a very dangerous game with his young guide (Jeremy Irvine) during a hunting trip in the Mojave Desert. Cast includes Martin Palmer, David Garver and Hanna Mangan Lawrence.

 

Felix And Meira (R for nudity and sexuality) Romance drama, set in Montreal, about the love which blossoms between a loner (Martin Dubreuil) and the sheltered, Hasidic housewife (Hadas Yaron) he meets in a bakery. With Luzer Twersky, Benoit Girard, Melissa Weisz and Anne-Elisabeth Bosse. (In French, Yiddish, English, Hebrew, Spanish and Italian with subtitles)

 

The Human Experiment (Unrated) Cautionary documentary, narrated by Sean Penn, warning of the dangers lurking in a variety of everyday household products containing toxic chemicals.

 

Monkey Kingdom (G) Nature documentary, narrated by Tina Fey, examining a family of monkeys living among ancient ruins in a Sri Lankan jungle. The film primarily focuses on one young mother’s struggle to survive while caring for her newborn son.

 

Mr. X (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about a man (Emraan Hashmi) who morphs into a revenge-minded vigilante after developing the superpower of invisibility. With Amyra Dastur, Arunoday Singh and Nora Fatehi. (In Hindi with subtitles)

 

The Road Within (R for sexuality, nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity) Cross-country dramedy about a Tourette’s sufferer (Robert Sheehan) who, accompanied by an anorexic (Zoe Kravitz) and an obsessive-compulsive (Dev Patel), escapes from a treatment center in order to scatter his recently-deceased mother’s ashes in the ocean. Featuring Kyra Sedgwick, Ali Hillis and Cooper Roth.

 

The Squeeze (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, drug use and mature themes) Crime caper about a notorious gambler (Christopher McDonald) who enlists a modest golf prodigy (Jeremy Sumpter) into playing a series of high-stakes matches against unsuspecting suckers. With Michael Nouri, Jason Dohring and Katherine LaNasa.

 

True Story (R for profanity and disturbing material) Fact-based cat-and-mouse caper about a disgraced New York Times reporter’s (Jonah Hill) investigation of the jailed murder suspect (James Franco) who had assumed his identity while on the run from the FBI. With Felicity Jones, Gretchen Mol and Betty Gilpin.

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