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Cinemaholics Review: The Meg, Like Father, BlacKkKlansman

the meg

Our featured review this week is The Meg, a new shark/monster movie starring Jason Statham. Cohosts Will Ashton and Maveryke Hines joined me this week to discuss the film, plus some others including an early sneak peek review of Crazy Rich Asians.

Don’t forget, our Q&A episode is rapidly approaching, and we’re still collecting your burning questions. We’re obviously hoping for film-related inquiries and topics, but feel free to ask whatever’s on your mind!

Go on…Cinemaholics Review: The Meg, Like Father, BlacKkKlansman

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‘The Fate of the Furious’ Is Both Better And Worse Than Its Predecessors

fate of the furious

The Fate of the Furious is an easy film to understand just by taking a second look at its title, which feels designed for a hashtag (F8), rather than something new or creatively crafted. This is the eighth installment of a 16-year-long franchise that has more or less stayed alive and successful by finding increasingly silly ways to escalate its rising action to a series climax that has never been hazier.

In F8, we have what many 2017 films seem destined to use as a plot device: a hero of the series (Dominic Toretto, who long slipped into Vin Diesel simply playing himself) “goes rogue” and his former teammates have to team up to try and stop him.

At this point in the franchise, the “family” almost solely consists of former enemies Dom has picked up over the years, including an indefensibly sympathetic Shaw (Jason Statham) who is wrapped up with a retcon for the last two movies, pitting Charlize Theron’s “Cipher” as the real villain all along…somehow. And her isolated master plan is at least one that generates some intense moments, including a deluge of remote controlled cars that devastate New York City.

There seems to be a clear effort from director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta ComptonItalian Job) to ground this franchise in darker subplots that make the characters feel somewhat less immortal, not just in the sense that they’ll die, but also in how death wrecks the characters. But overall, the movie’s main thrust (being a Saturday Morning Cartoon for adults) never gives way to any of the semi-serious tone that now has to reconcile with Dom’s never-ending sense of family, a theme that has certainly run its course as a passable explanation for what brings these characters together.

fate of the furious

Yet F8 also consists of some of the most exciting and entertaining set pieces in the franchise to date, including some playful development involving Shaw and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson in a bigger role than Furious 7) charming their way to what is hopefully spinoff territory, or just a retooling of the series that lets these two action heroes take the reigns. Aside from them, none of the familiar characters here are given a shred of character growth, and F8 only advances the plot of their lives in superficial ways that feel tacked on. And that’s not even mentioning the sloppy effort to replace Paul Walker with Scott Eastwood. There’s no question Furious 7 handled Walker’s tragic death with class, so it’s strange to see F8 stumble with this just two years later.

As the various family members deal with having to take down Dom, there’s no learning, application, or self-reflection to get them there. They simply do what they’ve done before; Roman wisecracks, Leti is always there for Dom, everyone drives fast, etc. It’s surprisingly weightless, even for a blockbuster franchise that has won many people over for how accessibly fun it can be, while still having enough style and shiny lights to bring you back for the next one.

If that was the only goal, then F8 does its job fine. And at times, it’s truly a spectacle that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible. But there’s no denying the early signs of a series that is running dangerously low on steam for the first time since 2005.

Grade: B-

Extra Credits:

  • Forgot to mention the Cuba prologue, which might actually be the movie’s best scene and one of the best street races they’ve done yet.
  • Seeing the previous movies helps quite a bit, as F8 has a lot of past characters coming back around (even Lucas Black was originally meant to have a cameo, but he had to drift out due to conflicts).
  • Yes, it’s pretty obvious that Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel hate each other in real life.
  • Kristofer Hivju (Tormund from Game of Thrones) needs to be in more movies.

Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


‘Spy’ Review — Return of the Bridesmaids

spy review

I normally do Mini Reviews on this site, but I have a lot to say about Paul Feig’s latest genre experiment. I’ll do my best to keep this as short as possible, though.

Spy is an R rated action spy movie spoof starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, and Rose Byrne. It was directed and written by Paul Feig, who is best known for Bridesmaids and The Heat, which are two other films featuring Melissa McCarthy, and the former even includes Rose Byrne.

The movie centers around Susan Cooper (McCarthy), a timid CIA analyst who has to go undercover and on the field for the first time in order to stop a nuclear arms deal in a few long chase scenes around Europe.

The trailers would have you think this is Paul Blart Female Cop — an overweight, unassuming hero facing off against overwhelming danger. But really, this movie is a raunchy action comedy akin to this year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service. Unfortunately, I don’t consider Spy to be anywhere near as funny or witty as Kingsman. 

spy review

But I think I’ll be in the minority for that opinion. I also didn’t find the 21 Jumpstreet movie or its sequel to be that great, despite overwhelming praise from critics and fans alike. For the same reason, I think a lot of people will cling to Statham’s bizarre jokes and the gag scenes that earn Spy‘s R rating.

I actually found the trailer to be hilarious, and I was very much looking forward to Spy. But when I saw the movie itself, for whatever reason, the comedic timing just fell completely flat. It was nonexistent, even during scenes I had laughed out loud at during the trailer. The jokes themselves are mostly well-written, but something about the direction kept them from striking a chord with me.

There’s nothing worse than watching a comedy that you don’t find funny. When you strip away the comedy from Spy, you’re left with a boring plot that spoofs dozens of spy movies you’ve already seen before (so younger viewers will certainly find a lot to love).

Feig pulls of just one action scene that is both enjoyable and memorable. It perfectly utilizes the freedom they got with the R rating to show something interesting and novel. Every other action scene was pretty one-note, the film’s two big twists were pretty obvious (but not terribly so), and only scene actually made me cringe.

That’s the thing about Spy. It’s not a terrible movie. Most of it is pretty average, and at times, it surprises you with something entertaining. But if you’re like me, you’ll find Spy to be pretty boring and devoid of humor. If you do check this one out, I hope that’s not the case.

Grade: C. 

It’s not bad enough for me to warn audiences away from this movie. Read some other reviews and watch the trailers to see if the comedy will resonate with you. If so, then you might enjoy this movie a lot. But if you’re not the least bit interested, you might find Spy to be shrug-worthy.

Spy is now playing in theaters everywhere.

 

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