The Fate Of The Furious
Rated PG-13 for profanity, suggestive content, and prolonged sequences of violence and destruction
Dom Goes Rogue For Damsel-In-Distress In Eighth Episode Of High-Octane Franchise
There are a number of action films whose opening scenes alone are well worth the price of admission. Taken (2008), District B-13 (2004), Super 8 (2011) and Dawn Of The Dead (2004) are four which automatically come to mind. Feel free to add The Fate Of The Furious to the list of flicks that grab you by the throat right off the bat.
The fun starts in Cuba, which is where newlyweds Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are happily honeymooning. But their nuptial bliss is interrupted when Dom comes to the rescue when a repo man threatens to cart off his cousin’s vintage jalopy.
Dom talks the guy out of towing and into a drag race to settle their differences. What ensues is heart-stopping careening around the colorful streets of Havana leading to a crowd-pleasing photo finish right at the ocean shore.
Next, we find the bride and groom relaxing back at the hotel. Letty, aware of her biological clock ticking, brings up the idea of starting a family. However, before they decide, Dom goes for a fateful walk alone during which he stops to lend a hand to a damsel ostensibly in automobile distress (Charlize Theron).
Truth be told, it’s Cipher, a cyber-terrorist bent on world domination through the acquisition of a gizmo capable of shutting down the electrical grid. She blackmails Dom into joining her criminal enterprise by showing him something very incriminating on her cell phone.
Just like that, the stage is set for a high-octane battle of brawn, muscle cars and wits which has Dom squaring off against his wife and a reassembled gang composed of returnees: Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Roman (Tyrese) as well as new team leader Frank (Kurt Russell), his awkward assistant Eric (Scott Eastwood) and ex-villain Deckard (Jason Statham).
Forget the idea of following the plot. It’s messy and there are way too many characters to follow. Just sit back and soak in the spectacular stunts, the playful badinage between Hobbs and Deckard, and the comic relief coming courtesy of Roman.
It may only be April, but here it is, the year’s first, bona fide summer blockbuster!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 136 minutes
Open Road Films / Survival Pictures
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality, violence, disturbing images and war atrocities
WWI Saga Revolves Around Love Triangle In The Midst Of Ethnic Cleansing
It’s Eastern Turkey in 1914, which is where we find druggist Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac) plying his trade in his half-Armenian/half-Turkish village where Christians and Muslims get along swell. The ambitious, young apothecary would really rather be a doctor, so he strategically courts a neighbor (Angela Sarafyan) from a relatively-wealthy family just for the dowry.
Those 400 gold coins do enable him to afford med school. However, while studying in Constantinople, he falls head-over-heels for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), a fellow Armenian recently repatriated from France. The country bumpkin is taken not only with her pulchritude but with her urbane sophistication ostensibly cultivated over the course of a childhood spent in Paris. Trouble is, Ana has returned accompanied by her lover, Chris Meyers (Christian Bale), an intrepid, American photojournalist assigned by the Associated Press to find evidence of ethnic cleansing.
The plot thickens when World War I erupts. Instead of pursuing Ana and his M.D., Mikael finds himself fleeing the roundup of innocent Armenian civilians by the Turkish army. He makes his way back to his tiny hometown to rescue relatives and friends. Meanwhile, Ana is in a similar struggle to survive, and her beau does his best to shoot proof the savage slaughter rumored to be transpiring.
That is the dire set of circumstances established at the outset of The Promise, a riveting docudrama directed and co-written by Oscar winner Terry George (The Short). The edge-of-your-seat sage bears an uncanny resemblance to Hotel Rwanda, which George directed and co-wrote, too.
For both of these films chronicle extraordinary exhibitions of heroism in the face of a complete collapse of civilization. If this picture has a flaw, it’s that it appears to be trivializing the ethnic cleansing of one and a half million Armenians when it asks that holocaust to serve as a mere backdrop to the love story at the center of the saga.
That being said, I still invested in the characters emotionally and ended up teary-eyed during the denouement. War may be hell but, luckily, true love conquers all!
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 134 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening April 21, 2017
Born In China (G) Nature documentary, narrated by Jon Krasinski, mounting an epic expedition deep into the wilds of China to monitor the daily lives of three elusive species: pandas, golden monkeys and snow leopards. (In English and Mandarin with subtitles)
Free Fire (R for sexual references, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Crime comedy, set in 1978, about a bloody shootout in a warehouse between Boston mobsters and members of the Irish Republican Army in the wake of an arms deal gone bad. Ensemble cast includes Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley and Noah Taylor.
Phoenix Forgotten (PG-13 for terror, peril and profanity) Found-footage horror flick, set in Arizona on March 13, 1997, about three teens (Chelsea Lopez, Justin Matthews and Luke Spencer Roberts) who mysteriously disappeared while investigating the supposed sighting of a UFO hovering over the desert. With Florence Hartigan, Clint Jordan and Ana Dela Cruz.
Unforgettable (R for sexuality, violence, profanity and brief nudity) Revenge thriller revolving around a jealous, jilted divorcee (Katherine Heigl) who becomes unhinged when her ex-husband (Geoff Stults) lets his new fiancée (Rosario Dawson) move into the house they once shared. With Cheryl Ladd, Whitney Cummings and Isabella Rice.
Behind The White Glasses (Unrated) Musical tribute to Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmuller, the first female to land Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Film. Featuring commentary by Martin Scorcese, Sophia Loren and Harvey Keitel. (In English and Italian with subtitles)
Citizen Jane: Battle For The City (Unrated) Reverential retrospective about Jane Jacobs, the visionary activist who led the preservation fight in the face of NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses’ plans to flatten urban communities in the name of progress.
Leap! (PG for action and impolite humor) Animated adventure about an 11-year-old orphan (Elle Fanning) living in Brittany who runs away to Paris with a friend (Nat Wolff) to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a prima ballerina. Voice cast includes Mel Brooks, Carly Rae Jepsen and Maddie Ziegler.
N.O.L.A. Circus (Unrated) Madcap comedy chronicling the cutthroat rivalry between a couple of New Orleans barbershops located across the street from each other. Ensemble includes Dave Davis, Reginal Varice, Vas Blackwood and Taryn Terrell.
The Penguin Counters (Unrated) Eco-documentary about an expedition to Antarctica mounted by a team of scientists attempting to illustrate the impact of climate change on the decimated penguin population.
Slack Bay (Unrated) Lighthearted whodunit about an eccentric family whose summer vacation at their seaside retreat is ruined by the arrival of a couple of bumbling cops (Didier Despres and Cyril Rigaux) investigating the mysterious disappearance of numerous tourists. Co-starring Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini and Jean-Luc Vincent. (In French and English with subtitles)