Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Moonlight

I am very excited to tell you all that Nathaniel over at the Film Experience is bringing back the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series! This is a really fun series where he picks a film and then any bloggers who want to participate pick one screenshot that he or she feels best captures the film in question. I have really enjoyed participating when I can (content and time leave me out of a few of them) and I would encourage all of you to join in. It’s really neat to see what shots others pick. You can see my entire series so far here.

So, the choice to bring back the series is the recent Academy Award winner Moonlight. I did a mini-review of this film but never did a full blog post. At the time I gave it an A- and now I have seen it 3 times and I stand by that grade.

Moonlight is a tremendous film that allows you to walk around in the life of a gay black boy/man named Chiron. It is divided into 3 acts- Little (child), Chiron (teen) and Black (adult).  Chiron faces many challenges including poverty brought on by a crack-addicted mother. Of course, he also has sexuality that is not welcome in his community and an innate shyness that makes it hard for him to open up to others.

As we walk through the life of Chrion we see joyous moments where he connects with a man named Juan and his girlfriend Teresa. Juan teaches him how to swim and to avoid bitterness and anger at his mother. Then in the teen years Chiron develops a relationship with a schoolmate named Kevin. This is handled with tact, poignancy and devastation when he is eventually betrayed.

The final act has Kevin and Chiron reuniting and this was the only issue I had with the movie. Up until that point everything had been so vivid and realistic and I just didn’t buy these two men would come back together like they do. It honestly felt a little bit cloying when it should have felt empowering after all Chiron has been through. It’s not awful but just what separated an A and an A- for me.

All of the acting is amazing in Moonlight including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and nominee Naomie Harris. The cinematography is intimate and beautiful and the music is perfect. I might even like the score better than the La La Land score.

For me the second act was the most moving. I guess because I have been bullied I related to it quite strongly and the highs and lows in that segment were very moving. I think Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron should have gotten more praise for his performance because he is asked to go more places and show a variety of emotions.

So, now to my best shot. Because I loved the second act most I picked this shot of Chiron practically looking at the camera desperate for a way out. It’s like he is calling out to the audience to save him and I wish that I could…

Overall Grade- A- and definitely smile worthy

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Current Mini Reviews

Every once in a while I get a little swamped with everything in my life and I get behind on reviews. This is when I need to do one of my mini review posts where I cover a bunch of films in a paragraph or two. Some of these I really loved so I hope to be able to do them proper justice in the future but at least this will give you some clue into what is or isn’t worth your time.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

This was my introduction to the Wimpy Kid series, so I have no attachment to the previous movies or casts (which I see on social media evidently is a thing of contention). What we have here is a basic family road trip comedy. I laughed a little bit and little kids will probably enjoy it. However, the gross out gags became a little bit too much for me.  There were also some really strange jokes for a kids film like an extended Psycho shower scene gag that kids won’t understand. Also the parents participate in distracted driving like texting while driving and it’s not part of a joke, which I thought was kind of odd. Still a few laughs. Probably best to watch on cable with the fam.

Overall Grade- C

Kedi

An adorable documentary about the cats of Istanbul. It sounds weird and boring but it’s really quite charming and I’m not a big animal person. You get to know 7 different cats and the various people who feed and care for them. The heart of the movie lies in the attachment the humans have to these mangy cats. One baker gives all his tips to the vet to take care of a cat. The entire family can watch this documentary and enjoy it together.

Overall Grade- B+

XXX: Return of Xander Cage

This movie starts with a scene of Xander Cage skiing through the jungle and I thought ‘this is going to be a blast’. I was hoping for a big over the top ridiculously fun movie. Unfortunately, the action sequences aren’t enough to prop up unlikable characters, the horrible way it treats the female characters and a self-seriousness that drags the movie down. I started to get annoyed by it when it should have been fun. Also I found it kind of shocking how hostile the movie was to soldiers who are bystanders. They are often mowed down for no reason.  All that said, I thought this was more entertaining than the recent Fate and the Furious.

Overall Grad- C-

Gifted

They had good intentions with this movie but it really annoyed me. The main flaw is the dichotomy presented to us is false. The girl is given two options she can go to public school and be socially adjusted (although a bully comes first day so don’t know about that) or she can go to a school of gifted and talented that is painted as some kind of prison. Bologna. There are so many options open to kids today to get a good education.

This movie reminded me of Patch Adams where they show one option as being perfect and another as evil when the truth is always in between.

The courtroom scenes are uninspired and boring. The whole thing just super annoyed me.

Overall Grade- C-

Their Finest

A film about the making of a film is always interesting to see and Their Finest has a lot going for it. Gemma Arterton is great as a young writer trying to figure out the ins and outs of screenwriting. However, Bill Nighy steals the show as a foppish seasoned actor. He’s hilarious and the movie is worth watching just for him. It took me a while to get into it but once I did I enjoyed it. It went a few ways I wasn’t suspecting and has a nice heart to it.

This is rated  R but it is pretty tame. There is a little bit of nudity and 3 uses of the f word.

Overall Grade- B

Casting JonBenet

I appreciated they tried something different with this documentary but I’m afraid it ends up coming across as more of a gimmick than a success. They have the actors auditioning for the parts of John and Patsy Ramsey (as well as other parts) talking about the case instead of any photos or talking heads.

My main problem is I felt like the movie was mocking its subjects especially the actors. This seemed unfair. Plus, you are dealing with the horrific death of a child and sometimes the tone didn’t address that. Also, I’m not convinced they didn’t coach or even write some of the comments from the actors. It sometimes felt a little bit too on the nose and perfect to just happen organically.

Overall Grade- C

Personal Shopper

A brilliant movie about a girl who works for a celebrity buying clothes and accessories. The problem is she is haunted by the ghost of her twin brother and a mysterious person begins to text and follow her. It is spooky, spiritual, heart wrenching, different, tightly written, and surprising. Kristen Stewart is wonderful and is able to carry the movie almost by herself. It reminded me a little bit of The Others, which I also love. The music and cinematography are perfect. I can’t wait to see it again and figure out even more I missed the first time.

There is pretty strong nudity in this one as she is trying on clothes and some blood.

Overall Grade- A

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

I watched both Baahubali films this month and thoroughly enjoyed them. They are loud, crazy and true spectacles. I wish that the major blockbuster studios were half this fun.  It’s a little hard to explain but basically they are epic stories of 2 generations of a royal family in India. In this second one we take off from the battle at the end of the first and follow Amarendra Baahubali and his son as the evil Prince Bhallaladeva fights for power.  The musical sequences, dancing, battles and everything else are magnetic and wonderful. The only downside to this film over the first is there isn’t quite as many musical sequences but it is a little easier to follow than the first.  Still, you get action, battles, special effects, romance, and everything else. Sure they are over the top but that’s what I like about them.

It is pretty bloody so not for everyone but again it is so fantastical it didn’t bother me. No gritty realism here!

Overall Grade- A

Alive and Kicking

A fairly standard documentary about the history and performers of swing dance. I loved watching all the dancing and that’s really where the joy of this film is. It is fast and exciting and I could watch it all day!

Overall Grade- B-

So there you have it. What sounds the most interesting to you of these films? If you’ve seen any of them let me know what you think in the comments. And if there is one you would particularly like me to write a full post on let me know.  Thanks!

Dreamworks 5: Antz

Today we get to look at one of the oddest entries in the Dreamworks Canon- their 1998 film Antz. This film was not only loaded with controversy but has more subplots, characters and ideas than it knows what to do with.

Let’s start with the controversy: After the success of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar began developing their next picture that would revolve around a colony of ants. This became A Bug’s Life. At the same time, executive Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney in a feud with then CEO Michael Eisner. Then in a very fishy move Dreamworks also developed their own ant movie under Katzenberg’s leadership, Antz.

In my opinion Antz is the inferior film over A Bug’s Life but aside from being ants they are actually quite different. A Bug’s Life is more of a traditional hero narrative where Antz is a hodge-podge of story elements focusing more on the colony than on one particular ant.

The lead character in Antz is a neurotic bug named Z voiced by Woody Allen. There are a lot of jokes meant for adults in this movie, and many of these come from Allen with his deadpan style of humor. It feels like such an odd choice to have Woody Allen waxing philosophical in a kid’s ant movie. I’m used to him as more of an R rated figure and so it’s a bit jarring to hear his voice and type of ramblings in a Dreamworks movie. However, the movie does move away from him for long stretches with subplots involving a soldier named Weaver, a princess named Bala and a worker ant named Azteka.

On the other hand, the main strength of Antz is how nutty and strange it is. It combines 8 different kinds of movies into one. It’s at all times a  romcom, war, dystopian, road trip, fantasy, prison escape and children’s movie all in one. This can make it unpredictable and fun to watch. I never know quite what it is going to do or what is happening next.

There are also a ton of characters in Antz. I counted 16 named characters with vocal work.  And not only do they have all of these characters, but they all look the same with the brown color palate. Most I wouldn’t be able to tell apart if it wasn’t for the voice actors.

While it can be fun to have all these plot points and characters. it can also be overwhelming. It’s tonally all over the place with a massive battle scene happening one minute and  playful banter at an ant landfill the next.

Some of the rules of the world building also don’t make sense. The ants are kept under strict routines and follow orders yet there is a long sequence at a bar where ants drink quite a bit including the princess (she’s sneaking but still). What kind of workers paradise is this place? I don’t know but it is just kind of all over the place.

With all the characters there are so many relationships and friendships to keep track. Because they all look the same the only way I knew who was who was the vocal work (one time when the celebrity vocal work actually helped Dreamworks). Still, for a kid it could be a very confusing film to watch.

The message also becomes muddled. Is it anti-war? Is it teamwork? Is it individualism or collectivism? Is it never give up and forgive others? Is it revolt against tyrants? All of that is in there but it feels very confusing.

A part of me wants to give Antz a smile worthy just out of shear strangeness. In a world of cookie-cutter movies at least it tries a bunch of weird stuff. It does score some laughs and is moderately entertaining but it is also a jumbled mess of a film. It’s not very rewatchable or visually appealing to me.

I am definitely much more of A Bug’s Life girl but I’m not going to give that many smiles to Dreamworks so this one is just barely entertaining enough to get one.

Overall Grade- C+

Everything, Everything Review

I’ll just say it- I love a good romance movie and we don’t get that many satisfying ones these days. Most are either of the 50 Shades/Unforgettable variety or the Nicholas Sparksian mold. It is with this in mind that I share with you my positive response to the recent teen romance- Everything, Everything. My niece loved the book and while I haven’t read it yet I intend to because I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

A movie like this depends largely on the chemistry of the lead couple and the believability of their journey together. In Everything, Everything Amandla Stenberg stars as Maddy a young girl with an autoimmune disease that forces to stay inside her house all the time. One day she meets through the window her next door neighbor Olly played by Nick Robinson and they become friends.

The film is very clever with how it stages their initial interactions. Of course, it is texts and emails but it feels intimate and real and the two actors have terrific chemistry. Director Stella Meghie did a great job staging the interactions in an authentic way and the screenplay avoids too much melodrama.

I kept waiting for the story to go off the rails with an evil person thwarting young love or a dramatic cancer diagnosis but it was more subtle than that. I am sure some critics will say it is predictable and cheesy but I think it could have gone way more off the rails many times. It worked for me.

The only real flaw I had with it was one character gets off the hook a little too easily but that wasn’t a huge problem. I also appreciate that them being a mixed race couple wasn’t brought up once. They were just teens in love, as it should be.

There isn’t much else to say except I really liked it. Great chemistry, well shot and the emotional manipulation feels very gentle for this kind of movie. I think if women go with their girlfriends they will have a great time. My friend who went with me had a great time also so it’s not just me.

Overall Grade- B+

As far as content there is one scene of sensuality but it is pretty tame.

Here is my youtube review

Anne with an E Series Review (Spoilers)

* A few spoilers ahead

Anyone who knows me knows of my love of Anne of Green Gables. Anne and her series of books was essentially my childhood’s Harry Potter. I read them over and over again and I loved the 1985 series with Megan Follows. So it was with great anticipation I heard a new version was coming on Netflix this week! Unfortunately I have viewed the 7 episode first season and not only is it not an Anne series but it doesn’t replace her with anything very compelling. I really didn’t care for this version of Anne.

It cannot be denied there is a darkness to Anne’s story. Many of her most attractive qualities such as her window friends or active imagination when you dig into them are coping mechanisms, survival strategies more than anything else. She had to create an imagination in order to live as a slave with the Hammonds or in the miserable asylum. So, on the surface I don’t have a problem with them exploring this darker side of Anne’s personality. However, what they forgot to show is how Anne is a survivor and how her optimism brightens all around her. The dark is good to show but the lightness is also important.

This is the main problem with Anne with an E- it’s unrelenting bleakness. Most of the series bears no resemblance to the novel and even the scenes that do, come across as cold and sterile where they are mixed to sweet in the book. For example, in the book Marilla accuses Anne of taking her broach. Anne confesses to stealing it even though she hasn’t because she wants to go to a party. Marilla finds the broach and asks Anne’s forgiveness.This is a tense but honest moment where the two become closer.

Unfortunately in this version Marilla sends Anne away to Charleston on the train back to the asylum for stealing the broach!! Gone are any chance to learn or have the characters bond from this simple sweet experience. Plus you have the ridiculous sequence of Matthew racing on a horse to find Anne like a knight in shining armor (and much more melodrama hunting her down in the city crashing into carriages and the like).

Another example can be seen in the school sequences. In the book Josie Pye is a snob that looks down on Anne because of the attention Gilbert gives her. In this series Josie is unceasingly cruel and the entire town talks about Anne and what a retrograde orphan she is. Anne literally has to go into a burning building to get anyone to trust her at all.

Even scenes that should be fun are made ponderous like Matthew buying the puffed sleeves dress. In this version he is confronted with the woman he once loved but couldn’t marry and then Anne must sell the dress back when the house is going to be foreclosed on. It’s just a joyless enterprise!

They even manage to work in themes of suicide, mental illness and abuse to make things really fun. And they are sooooo heavy handed with the modern messaging and feminism. Anne isn’t just as good as a boy but a boy is sent to protect her at one point and he literally gets beat up by thugs while she is unharmed. There is also a weird scene where she tells the other kids about sex and that Prissy Andrews and the teacher are making a baby together. I get the writers wanted to modernize Anne but in so doing they created an entirely different bland feminist character. I like Anne just the way she was!

It is nicely shot and the performances aren’t bad but that’s all I can really say in its defense. As it moved along I became less and less engaged. By episode 5 if I wasn’t podcasting about it I would have stopped watching. Like I said, it’s not just that they changed everything. It’s that they didn’t replace it with something compelling or engaging. It was just grim and joyless.

I would definitely not recommend Anne with an E for children and even teens should be warned. My advice is to watch the 1985 version and even better read the books. This is new series isn’t good. In fact, it is kind of awful.

Overall Grade- D (Yes, that’s what I really feel it deserves)

Check out our podcast on the series:

R Ratings and Seeking After the Good Films

Some thoughts on my standards and how I decide to see R rated movies

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

I’ve talked about my views on R rated movies several times on this blog, but I feel it is necessary for me to address the subject again. Ever since I started reviewing movies regularly I get lots of questions about what I will and won’t see. Just this weekend we have Alien Covenant coming up and I haven’t decided whether I will see it or not. It is rated R for “for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity” and Ridley Scott has said it is a “hard R”. However, I love the first 2 alien movies and liked Prometheus, so the decision to see it is far from an easy one. I could take the easy way out and refuse to see any R rated movies but that would be a cop out. There’s a difference between a film being mature and offensive. My job then…

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Blind Spot 17: Duck Soup

Ah how great it is to see terrific comedy! It’s the best to sit back, relax and heartily laugh at a good movie. Unfortunately it’s an experience that doesn’t happen too often these days. Now most comedies are so raunchy that I either chose to not watch them or they aren’t my style of humor. So, you can imagine my enjoyment when I put on this month’s blind spot pick, Duck Soup, and laughed good and hard! Duck Soup is a classic comedy and with good cause. Especially if you like physical comedy it doesn’t get better than this.

Duck Soup stars the Marx Brothers- Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo and evidently this is their crowning achievement. I read dictator Benito Mussolini took the movie as a personal insult and banned it from Italy! You know you are doing something right if a dictator bans your movie!

The plot for Duck Soup is pretty basic. Groucho plays a man who is put in charge of a small country named Freedonia. They are a nation of great pomp and circumstance and much is made about their need for decorum. Meanwhile Chico and Harpo are sent as spies to look into the situation and see what Freedonia is up to. Zeppo plays Groucho’s secretary and kind of the straight man role in the story. Quickly all kinds of mayhem erupts involving war, love and politics.

You don’t see a movie like Duck Soup for the plot. It’s about the hilarious gags. What’s impressive here is they manage to be funny with both physical comedy and political commentary. I love how expressive each of the brothers are and how you can read so much through their eyes and facial expressions.

This scene with a lemonade vendor is hilarious:

I particularly like Harpo and how innocent and sweet he is. Don’t you just want to hug him? What he is able to do with a simple hat to get laughs is remarkable.

But Duck Soup can also be very funny in the political commentary especially if you think about its release date in the 1933 when trouble was brewing in Europe. The insanity of such political negotiations and the egos involved is skewered so well in scenes like this one-

It’s so funny when he goes in seconds from welcoming the idea of diplomacy to ‘who does he think he is? That he come here and make a sap out of me in front of my people’. I have a feeling it might not be that far off of actual diplomacy (I try to not think about that too hard these days! Politicians and the egos involved is a scary thought).

Duck Soup is only an 69 minutes so it’s not much of an investment of time but boy is it rewarding. I laughed from start to finish and it wasn’t the kind of mean spirited raunchy comedy you get today. It can be a little bawdy but all in good fun. I have seen one other Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business and I think Duck Soup is much funnier than that.

I know some children might be intimidated by black and white but comedies can often be good ways to introduce them. Duck Soup would be great for that. I think they will love it especially Chico and Harpo as the 2 spies. Hilarious.

I just loved this movie!  The only flaw I suppose is maybe 2 of the musical numbers go on a little long. Other than that one of the great comedies without question.

Overall Grade- A+


Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 Review (Spoiler Free)

Before diving into my review of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 let me give you some context into my feelings on the first film. I LOVED it! For me it was a new Star Wars film before we got Star Wars back. It wasn’t a typical Marvel movie but it was a space opera and I loved seeing our team of misfits form and search for their orb/infinity stone. I loved the humor, action, charismatic actors and bright color palate. Just a great movie. 9/10 or A grade from me.

So let’s talk about this sequel. Naturally loving the first film I was very excited for the follow up but I still tried to enjoy it as its own film and not compare it too much. In the end, I feel Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is at best a mixed bag. It’s not awful but I had major problems with it.

At the outset of the movie  our team is commissioned by a leader Ayesha to guard a series of batteries. This leads to a great opening that heavily features the world’s favorite adorable creation- Baby Groot! Of course, we have seen Baby Groot all over the marketing for the movie and he did not disappoint. Soooo adorable!

This scene also features everything you like about the first film. It has witty banter from the entire team, fun action as they fight a monster and a catchy song. I thought ‘Oh boy! This is going to be awesome!”

Unfortunately just a few scenes later they make a massive mistake that had a large impact on my enjoyment of the film: They divide up the team!!! Peter meets his father and half the crew go with him while half stay behind and end up with Yondu and his crew.

This was such a terrible choice for a number of reasons:

  1. Hurts the humor- When you have a large group of characters the humor can be a mixture of all their types of comedy. So you will get one Groot joke mixed in with Drax, Peter, Rocket etc. When you have just Rocket and Groot then their type of jokes become repetitive and tired very quickly.
  2. Hurts the emotion- It’s the same with emotion. We are with a character and they have an emotional moment. Then they leave that character for a long stretch hurting their story and emotional arc.
  3. Hurts the team- Characters aren’t able to feed off each other and create that winning chemistry I loved so much in the first film. Sometime this can help you get to know characters better like in Star Trek Beyond but that was not the case here.
  4. Hurts the action- Because they are all split up the action is pretty sparse. For instance, Drax is sitting talking almost the entire movie. He’s Drax the Destroyer for goodness sake, and he doesn’t destroy anything.

I guess all of this would be fine if the story was compelling but it is not. They try to set up several different family dynamics. There is Peter and his father, Peter and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Groot and Rocket and Yandu and Peter. While I appreciated the message of family, the film became too cluttered with relationships that they weren’t as developed as they could have been.

The villain is another surprise villain. About the 10,000th one I’ve seen in recent years and I’m tired of it. It was so obvious and the plan for world domination makes no sense unless he or she wants to be completely alone in the whole galaxy. Even if he or she did, it still strains credulity to believe this insane plan (and the way it is explained is hard to follow or feel invested in).

I was also disappointed in the Nebula/Gamora storyline. I liked Nebula in the first film when most people didn’t. I thought she had a wounded quality to her that I wish had been more developed. Well, unfortunately she is seen more here but Karen Gillan overcooks it in the villainy department. Also she flips around from good girl to bad in ways that didn’t work for me or feel authentic.

So, from all that it seems like I had a miserable experience at this movie. No. I didn’t but I’d be lying if I didn’t share those major problems I had. However, there are some things I liked.

First, like I said, I liked Baby Groot and a lot of the comedy did work. It would have worked better if they hadn’t divided the group but a lot still made me laugh. Drax gets some funny lines with a new girl named Mantis. Rocket has a lot of humor including a hilarious sequence with Baby Groot getting him things for a jailbreak.

Second, Michael Rooker is great as Yondu. I didn’t think Yondu would be the most fleshed out and interesting character in the film but he was. We learn about his association with a band of ruffians called The Ravagers. He has upset them and we get to find out why through the course of the movie. We also learn about why he took Peter and his connection to Peter’s father. Yondu also has the best action scene in the movie with an arrow thing he uses to take out a fleet of men (Sorry I don’t know what the arrow thing is called).

Third, even if it could have been more focused, I still loved the overall message about family. I think Vin Diesel might have carried this over from the Fast and the Furious movies because they are all about family. I particularly appreciated the focus on alternative families- that families are not always about blood but so much more.

Fourth, it is a beautiful looking movie. James Gunn has done it again with amazing cinematography and special effects. The planet Peter’s father lives on was beautiful and lush. I loved all the bright colors and dazzling world building. The special effects on Rocket and Baby Groot are flawless. You forget they aren’t actual talking raccoons and walking baby trees.

There also is a joyous feeling to the picture which makes it pleasing to watch. While some of the jokes grow tired it never made me angry or annoyed like other fantasy films.  I mostly wasn’t bored although there were a few moments that dragged.

The soundtrack was a bit of a mixed bag. There are some great songs but a few of them felt very on-the-nose Also, I didn’t like that characters mentioned the songs so much. In the original they are this awesome background gift to enjoy (aside from Peter listening to them they don’t work into the story and he doesn’t repeat lyrics or talk about the individual songs). Here there is even one song where the lyrics are repeated verbatim and the life experience fits perfectly into the situation at hand. It makes the song choice feel uncreative and obvious when they were so great in the original. Still, there are some good songs. Cat Stevens and Electric Light Orchestra are used particularly well.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is a mixed bag leaning towards the negative. I have really struggled with what grade to give it and whether to make it smile or frown worthy. Other films I have given smiles to like Ghost in the Shell feel less worthy than this film but this is way more of a disappointment and downgrade from the original film. It’s really tough…

I’m torn but I think my disappointment is going to rule the day:

Overall Grade- C (It is without a doubt in my bottom 5 Marvel movies. No question)

Also  this is pretty raunchy for a Marvel movie. It definitely earns its PG-13.

You can all hate me now…

Check out my podcast with my friend Trevor from How to Love Comics where we break it all down

 

Fate of the Furious Review

In Furious 7 there is a scene where Hobbs announces he is leaving the hospital and he focuses on his broken arm until the cast falls off in pieces. There was never a moment that campy and fun in Fate of the Furious.

In Furious 7 there is a moment where we see Brian and he waves and drives into the distance. There was never a moment with such heart in Fate of the Furious.

You get the idea. This film was a significant step down from the previous 3 films.

It’s not like I am expecting Shakespeare in Fast and the Furious. I know it will be stupid stunts and lots of talk about family. My main problem with this movie is it wasn’t enough stupid stunts or talking about family.

The first big mistake they make is splitting off Dom from the family. He is manipulated by Charlize Theron’s character and it did not work having Dom as this quasi-villain for most of the film. Dom is the core of the team. He brings everyone together and reminds them of what is important. Without him I didn’t care as much about the characters. And I thought Charlize Theron was a complete miss as a villain- extremely flat and boring.

The second big mistake is way too much talking and staring at screens. There were so many scenes of characters scheming and planning and staring at screens. I have no idea why action movies think this is a good idea. We saw it last year with Jason Bourne which was even worse. In a Mission Impossible movie or good James Bond we don’t see him staring at screens talking about hacking and plans for long stretches. We seem very little planning and lots of butt kicking. That’s what we want!

One of the big action scenes is mostly people staring at screens because it involves unmanned cars. At one point it is literally raining cars, which with no people is  boring. I honestly got kind of drowsy during sections of this movie- something I never thought I would say about a Fast and Furious movie. Even Tokyo Drift wasn’t exactly boring.

The ending starts to get wacky and fun with them chasing a submarine but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it would have been if the entire movie had been that kinetic fun tone. Instead, it felt like a reminder of the kind of movie I wish I had gotten all along.

My favorite scene in the movie was when Jason Statham’s character has to protect a baby. This was funny and tense, which is just what I want from this franchise. He also has some funny dialogue with Helen Mirren (who is underused but funny in few scenes she’s in).

In the future it seems like we may want to get back to the drawing board of what made 5, 6 and 7 so much fun. This entry unfortunately wasn’t.

Overall Grade- C-