Flash Movie Review: Fast X
WHEN I WAS LITTLE, BIG FAMILY dinners were exciting for me. It was there where I had my first taste of coffee; granted, it was a couple of drops in a coffee cup with milk filling up the rest. However, I felt like such a grownup sitting there sipping on my coffee like the adults around me. The family dinner was also the setting where I tasted wine for the first time and made everyone laugh by the sour look on my face after tasting it. The food was always plentiful because relatives would always contribute a side dish or dessert. I along with my cousins would always sit together. We started out at the “kid’s table” which was a separate folding table, usually covered with some type of water-resistant tablecloth. One adult would oversee us, placing plates of food in front of us and periodically checking to see if we were goofing off. It was not until we reached the middle school years before we would be allowed to sit at the “big” table with the rest of the adults. It was there where the conversations would cover a variety of topics that could cause almost anything from laughter to arguments. It did not matter to me because it was a great learning ground to see how one tells a story, a joke, has a debate or disagreement. AS WE WERE GETTING OLDER, THERE came a time when family members were getting engaged and married. For me, it added a new element into the mix of these family dinners. Suddenly this stranger entered our domain, as the boy or girlfriend of one of my relatives. Having them enter the mix immediately changed the dynamics of the get together. Suddenly individuals were on their best behavior. The language was toned down; in other words, less salty shall we say. Sometimes the person would fit in easily, but other times they would be the only one not laughing at something the rest of us found funny. Of course, some of these boys and girlfriends never lasted; however, if one turned into a fiancée or fiancé then that meant our family dinner would expand to include the future in-laws. There were times where the kid’s table had to be used for adults because there were so many people invited. I found the experience odd. Here were strangers I had never met, sitting and eating with us; it was always a crapshoot. Some could handle our noise level, while others sat there quietly throughout the meal. The more in-laws joining us eventually caused our big family meals to break apart where one sibling and all her offspring would hold their own holiday meal. With all the family connections in this action-packed sequel, I do not know how they could still sit around a dining room table. A SON WHO LOST HIS DRUG LORD father during one of Dominic Toretto’s, played by Vin Diesel (Bloodshot, The Last Witch Hunter), jobs is hellbent on seeking revenge against Dom and his family. With Michelle Rodriguez (The Assignment, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) as Letty, Jason Statham (The Meg, Spy) as Shaw, Jordana Brewster (Hooking Up, Who Invited Charlie?) as Mia and Tyrese Gibson (Dangerous, Black and Blue) as Roman; this crime adventure film was a mixed bag for me. The movie had all the elements that go into this franchise: fast cars, unbelievable stunts, intense fighting, explosions, scantily dressed women, dancing and speeches. It was too much for me. I felt the script was designed to incorporate everything that had been used before in the previous sequels. This does not mean there were not times where it was exciting to watch the action; but I was starting to feel that this franchise had run its course. This picture was only the first half of the story; there will be another film coming out which explains the extra scene in the middle of the ending credits. If you like cars and car chases and are invested in the characters, then you will have an easier time watching this movie. There were many scenes with blood and violence.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
THE TICKETS WERE MORE THAN I like to spend for live theater, but the recommendation I got was glowing for this production. A friend raved about this pre-Broadway production that was stopping here for a trial run before heading to New York; they said I had to see it. I get a kick out of seeing a play or musical before its Broadway run because the tickets are a whole lot cheaper, and I enjoy being first to discover something that becomes a major sensation afterwards. The night of the performance, a small group of us got dressed up and went out to dinner before curtain time. When we finally arrived at the theater, it looked like a mob scene. There were people everywhere, taking selfies in front of the theater posters and marquee. We bypassed all of it to make our way inside the theater lobby. By the time we settled into our seats, the theater lights flashed on and off to signal to all those standing it was time to get seated. And right on time the lights went off and the production began. It was staged beautifully, with elaborate sets and dramatic lighting. There were parts that were amusing, but to be honest, I was bored through parts of it. For everything my friend praised about this play; I had a different reaction. I did not get it at all, and I already was regretting the amount of money I spent to come see it. Just one big disappointment. IT IS BECAUSE OF THINGS LIKE that, I am hesitant to recommend anything. I am sure you have experienced going to a restaurant where someone told you to try and discover you did not care for the meal. Or try a new food item from the grocery store and your reaction differs from the person who told you about the product. Taste is such a personal thing; we all have different combinations of taste buds, where some people think an item is too salty and others feel it is too sweet. When I suggest a restaurant place to someone, I always preface it with my food issues, such as not liking spicy, or heat infused food. I also do not like gooey types of food. My pizza must be well done; if it comes to the table looking wet with oil and the cheese ready to slide off the crust, I will not eat it. So, you can see, this is why I tell people my taste preferences, to lessen the chance of disappointment. On a similar note, I found myself in this situation. Having heard so much about the Dungeons & Dragons game, I was all prepared to have a great time watching this action, adventure comedy. DESPARATE TO REVIVE HIS DECEASED WIFE, a thief plots to steal a lost relic to help in his quest. He soon discovers he cannot accomplish it on his own. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Don’t Worry Darling) as Edgin, Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious franchise, Widows) as Holga, Rege-Jean Page (The Gray Man, Bridgerton-TV) as Xenk, Justice Smith (Paper Towns, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu) as Simon and Sophie Lillie (It franchise, Gretel & Hansel) as Doric; this fantasy film confused me. Keeping in mind I was not familiar with the game this film is based on, I felt lost many a time. For the first half, I was bored multiple times. On the plus side, the movie was visually stimulating as well as creative. I enjoyed the cast, especially the chemistry between Chris and Michelle. There were parts of the story I did not understand; maybe because I never played the game. Not until the last half of the story, did things pick up for me. The fight scenes were fun and well-choreographed. And the special effects were well done. I wished I would not have been as disappointed as I was with this picture. For me, it has potential for creating a better sequel. There was one brief extra scene during the ending credits.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: F9 The Fast Saga
A FOND CHILDHOOD MEMORY OF MINE was the many times I went to the auto show. Having built and painted a fleet of model racing cars, I loved seeing all the new cars inside the convention center. The faster a car could go, the more I was attracted to it. I would impatiently wait by a sports car, wishing the attendees sitting inside would get out, so I could sit behind the wheel and pretend I was speeding down a long highway. There was not one compartment, switch or knob that I left untouched. At some of the displays there were hired people, dressed in fancy clothes, who would walk around the car and talk about it to any passing person. To emphasize the point, they would eagerly open a car door to invite the individual to come and take a seat in the “latest,” most “advanced” automobile that is out on the street today. I took all of this in, fantasizing that one day I could get hired to talk about all the cars on display. Adding to my excitement, would be all the pamphlets and paraphernalia that the different auto manufacturers would pass out. By the end of the day, I usually had two full bags of stuff that I collected throughout the exhibit. I HAD ANOTHER SPECIAL MEMORY FROM my times at the auto show. In the cafeteria where we would stop for lunch, they sold one of my favorite cookies but in a smaller size. I loved the idea of my favorite cookie being in a bite-size form because they were so easy to pop in my mouth. And they would not leave any crumbs. I always made sure I finished the bag before we would continue our way through the convention center. Even to this day, I remember those little sized cookies. Now, when I go to the grocery store, there are so many options to my favorite cookie that it becomes overwhelming. I remember when they changed the packaging and proudly proclaimed “New & Improved” across the top. They tasted the same to me. However, with their latest version, I must tell you I did not think they tasted as good as I remembered. After so many years, I hope I am not just getting bored with them; they did not excite me like I know they did in the past. I feel the same about this latest installment in the film franchise despite my love of fast cars. AFTER HAVING SETTLED INTO A QUIET, idyllic life in the country, a crisis forces Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (Bloodshot, The Last Witch Hunter), and the crew to deal with a terrorist that can match their fight and driving skills. With Michelle Rodriguez (The Assignment, Battle Los Angeles) as Letty, Jordana Brewster (American Heist, Home Sweet Hell) as Mia, Tyrese Gibson (Black and Blue, Transformers franchise) as Roman and John Cena (Vacation Friends, Daddy’s Home franchise) as Jakob; this action, crime adventure took the stunt driving to a new level. I enjoyed watching the over-the-top car scenes; however, there were so many of them that it got repetitive for me. There was no place for logic nor was there any time to focus on the characters. It was humor, race, pause for words of wisdom and repeat. The script could have gotten some help if it had incorporated more of Charlize Theron’s character because one of the “evil” characters was not very evil in my opinion. The cast appears quite comfortable with each other and I imagine they are enjoying themselves during the filming process. I am afraid compared to the prior installments in this film franchise, this latest one was more of a basic model instead of being top of the line. There was an extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Widows
FROM ALL MY YEARS OF TEACHING I feel I am intuitive when it comes to judging people’s attitudes. Maybe instead of attitudes I should say impressions because standing in front of a class I am able to see the members’ eyes. With me facing them while I teach, I can usually tell when a member is feeling annoyed with another member. Another thing I see is when a member is judging someone else because it is quite noticeable to me. There was a club I used to teach at that had a cliental that was predominantly single people. I soon became surprised with the catty comments I would hear, and the dirty looks members would shoot at other participants in the class. If someone was in class who did not appear to be physically fit, more than likely they would cause the members around them to get a look of disdain on their faces. A prime example was a guy who was large in stature; he was over 6 feet tall and well over 200 pounds. He had some tone to him and from participating in my classes, he built up his aerobic capacity to the point where he could get thru the whole class. ONE DAY A MAN CAME INTO THE aerobic studio to participate in my class. I took him to be a weightlifter because he was extremely cut with prominent muscles sticking out from his torso and limbs. You should have seen the face of this weightlifter when the big member came in and stood near him. It was obvious to me he was judging the guy, thinking this large person would not be able to handle the class. Boy, was he wrong because not only did the larger member plow thru my workout regiment, he finished it. The weightlifter had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I had to assume he spent most time at the health club lifting weights instead of doing something with aerobics. The larger member had no clue that this guy standing near him had judged him solely on his looks, assuming there was no way he could do aerobics. I would be lying if I did not tell you I was amused by the weightlifter’s look of disbelief towards the larger man. It really goes to show you that one should never judge someone solely on their looks; because there are times where your assumptions could get you in trouble. Proof can be found in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING NOTHING IN COMMON EXCEPT THEY each lost their husband; a group of widows were forced to work together to survive the fallout from their husbands’ actions. Starring Viola Davis (Fences, The Help) as Veronica, Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious franchise, Lost-TV) as Linda, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) as Alice, Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Taken franchise) as Harry Rawlings and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Jack Mulligan; if nothing else, just watching these women act was a privilege. Viola was outstanding, and I was surprised with Elizabeth’s performance. The story had twists and turns in it, though it took some time before things started to pick up and move the story forward. I thought there were a few predictable scenes, but the wonderful direction kept things exciting for me. Filmed in Chicago, I was aware how scenes went from beauty to being gritty and back; adding to the texture of the script. There have been other crime heist films made before, but I was thoroughly brought into these females’ plights and stayed with them for the entire trip. Please do not solely judge this movie by its marketing; there is more here than meets the eye.
3 ¼ stars
Flash Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious
SITTING on the sofa after a satisfying meal I was waiting for the punch line to the story that was being told to us. It was not because the story was exciting, though it was the 1st time I heard it some years ago, or that the storyteller always had an animated way of telling a tale; I actually had heard this story enough to be able to retell it without any coaching. The reason I was waiting for the ending of the story was so I could get up and go to the bathroom without appearing rude to the story teller or the other people sitting around. The first time I heard the story I remember how all of us were laughing hysterically; it really was a funny set of circumstances that happened to the story teller. However after hearing the same story again and again, it had lost its surprise and funniness. For my way of thinking once a funny story has been told it needs to go into retirement, put away on a shelf only to come out on special occasions as a reminder about a particular person or period of time. THE retelling of jokes or stories only robs them of their uniqueness. After a time the listener you are trying to entertain is simply lulled into boredom. This reminds me of a person I know who does not fully grasp the art of joke telling. Every time they tell a joke they have to explain the portion of it that they find particularly amusing. This is never a good idea; if you have to explain a joke then it is not a joke. There have been times where I find myself sitting and listening to them and I immediately know anything I might find funny will be weighed down with this explaining thing that will make me cringe into wishing they would stop talking. Telling something over and over again is not exclusive to parties and family gatherings; it can be found in movie franchises. FAMILY was the most important thing to Dom, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Then why did he turn his back on them? Starring Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, The Mechanic franchise) as Deckard, Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Hercules) as Hobbs and Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Cipher; the script for this action crime thriller was the weak link. The action scenes kept coming over and over, most connected by cheesy dialog. I will say the action was outrageous as the stunts were things the viewer has come to expect from this franchise. Another positive point about this movie was Charlize Theron; I found her acting to be above everyone else in the cast. After so many years with this franchise the writers needed to do something different in my opinion. I found some of the characters’ conversations were so typical of past films that I found myself becoming dazed and tired. Good thing there was always some over the top action scene ready to unfold right afterwards. This film franchise has had a long run but based on this installment it might be time for this group to take the exit ramp and take a rest. It might do wonders for them.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Fast & Furious 6
I return to the race track, ready to take on my all to familiar opponent. We have raced many times before. My silver car has a lightning bolt across its hood. As the timer reaches zero, I gun the car and off we go. The first curve is easy, followed by a short straightaway. My rival is matching my every move as our cars are side by side. I know the next curve leads to a short drop; I have to be careful not to let the car jump to high off the pavement. Just as I come out of the turn; my nemesis’ car swings wide, its back end tapping my side panel. If I had not braked immediately, my car would have skidded off the track. Because of that bump my slot car loses to my cousin’s car. Anytime I was over at his house, we would immediately head out to the slot car shop to race our cars. That thrill of speeding returned while watching this high octane action film. I barely remember the previous installments of this franchise and it was okay. This story picked up where the last movie ended; with their $100 million dollars Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, The Chronicles of Riddick), and his friends were scattered around the world, enjoying life. The only thing missing for the group was being able to go back home to the States. One day the one person who could offer them the opportunity to go home showed up at Dom’s place. Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson (Pain & Gain, Snitch), needed Dom and his gang to get behind the wheel again and track down the mastermind behind the team of precision driving thieves, stealing highly classified government secrets. The dialog was kept to a minimum, making room for insane driving stunts and crazy fights. The automobiles were the real stars of this movie. Humor was used as an additive for some of the scenes, mostly handled by Tyrese Gibson (Transformers franchise, The Take) as Roman and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Tropic Thunder, No Strings Attached) as Tej. I liked the fact that this film kept things simple; the focus was on the action, accompanied by a straight forward story about the things people do for the sake of their family. Fast cars was the hook for me; but then again, I know a thing or two about speed. My guess is I am the only person you have ever met who received a speeding ticket in a national park. A few very brief scenes with blood.