A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the latest bombastic entry from Vin Diesel and Company, “The Fate of the Furious,” the family drama “Gifted” and the romantic biopic “Maudie” starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.
Richard and CP24 anchor Stephanie Smythe have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the redonkulous new “Fast & Furious” entry from Vin Diesel and Company, “The Fate of the Furious,” the family drama “Gifted,” the romantic biopic “Maudie” starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke and the bizzaro “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea”!
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the latest bombastic entry from Vin Diesel and Company, “The Fate of the Furious,” the family drama “Gifted” and the romantic biopic “Maudie” starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.
A movie star is someone who can carry a movie, a person audiences will line up to see no matter what the film. There’s no formula, just equal parts talent, charisma and staying power.
For years Tom Cruise and Will Smith ruled the Hollywood roost, but Cruise’s couch jumping tarnished his star (unless he’s headlining a movie with the words Mission Impossible in the title) and Smith has hit a box office rough patch.
These days Hollywood’s biggest movie star—both physically and metaphysically—is a former wrestler who made his acting debut playing his own father on an episode of That ’70s Show. Since then Dwayne Johnson’s paycheques have blossomed along with his popularity and in 2016 he was the world’s highest-paid actor, in part due to his reputation as “franchise Viagra.”
It’s a simple formula. Take a flagging franchise; add Johnson and flaccid box office numbers suddenly grow. Case in point, the Fast and Furious series. Johnson signed on for the fifth instalment, playing Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs, helping that movie make north of six-hundred million dollars. His over-the-top presence—who else could remove a cast from his broken arm simply by flexing his oversized biceps?—drove the grosses of the next two F&F movies to the stratosphere. This weekend’s The Fate of the Furious is poised to shatter even more records.
His is a varied filmography—a resume containing everything from the hi brow, abstract sci fi of Southland Tales and the bloody b-movie Walking Tall to the family friendly Tooth Fairy and the pedal-to-the-metal Fast & Furious flicks—bound together by one thing, his innate star power.
Haters, like a recent commenter at Variety.com, who complained that Johnson, “has never done a compelling complex character, only mindless good vs evil roles,” miss his populist appeal. Despite his Greek God physique, he’s an everyman, a charismatic crowd-pleaser with a cocked eyebrow.
His appeal continues off screen as well. He’s a big deal now but that wasn’t always the case and he’s positioned himself as an inspirational figure, a muscle bound Tony Robbins. “I started w/ $7 bucks. If I can overcome, so can you,” he tweeted when he was crowned the World’s Highest-Paid Actor.
“I have enjoyed a good amount of success and I’m very grateful for everything I have,” the bulky actor told me a few years ago.
“I’m very grateful for being who I am. I make sure to approach every project and everything I do as if it is going to be my last.
“There was a time when I was in Canada, playing for the CFL and sleeping on a mattress that I got from the garbage of a sex motel. I’ll never forget it. True story. So, for me, those times are kind of in the forefront of my mind. The wolf is always scratching at the door. It’s good to remember that. It’s important.”
Johnson is Hollywood’s biggest earner but a recent viral video shows his core connection to his fans. Dressed as mascots of themselves Jimmy Fallon and the artist formerly known as The Rock photobombed folks at Universal Studios in Orlando. One man, with a tattoo of Johnson on his leg, was brought to tears when meeting the hulking actor. “Stuff like this will always be the best part of fame,” said Johnson.
Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly.
Perhaps it was the wild train heist in “Fast Five,” or the entirety of “Tokyo Drift” or the skyscraper-to-skyscraper jump from “Fast and Furious 7.” What ever it was, at some point in the sixteen years someone decided more is really more. Bigger stunts, more stars and more pedal-to-the-metal action, which leads us to “The Fate of the Furious.”
This latest slab of preposterous bombastity begins in Havana. Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are honeymooning when, surprise, surprise and unexpected car race breaks out. Although clearly out gunned (SPOILER ALERT ONLY IF THE OUTCOME WASN’T SO PREDICTABLE) Dom wins, his car speeding backwards and engulfed in flames.
As if that wouldn’t be enough for most movies, we’re then introduced to criminal mastermind Ciper (Charlize Theron). As her name implies, she’s a tricky one, and soon Dom has turned his back on his crew—Letty, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Tej (Ludacris)—to work for her. Why? Not sure. She shows him something on a mobile phone screen that changes his once unbending loyalty to his peeps. “You’re going to abandon your crew and shatter your family,” Cipher snarls. “Your team is about to go against the only thing they can’t handle—you.” She has highfalutin ideas about holding the world accountable for it’s sins ands who better to help her than a grease monkey with a raspy voice and a can-do attitude?
In another part of the story covert ops team leader, the excellently named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) convinces Dom’s old crew to work for him again. The plan this time involves tossing Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in prison to aid the escape of assassin Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
Throw in a series of exotic locations—he movie zips from Cuba to New York City to Russia and every where in between as Hobbs and crew try to understand Dom’s defection while at the same time stop him from amassing an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That’s right, a series once satisfied with fast cars and socket wrenches now concerns itself with WMDs.
“The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mashup of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
The love of family is the subtext that that bonds the all the movies together is given lip service but little else. Despite aspiring to be “The Brothers Karamazov” with muscle cars, the movie is little more than a preposterous demolition derby that values vehicular wham bam thank you ma’am over anything else.
In the classic sense it does prove the old theory that for every action there’s a reaction… and a one liner. “They’re going to flank us!” “No they ain’t,” yelps Hobbs as he punts a military vehicle into outerspace. It’s a catchphrase-a-looza where the characters don’t actually talk to one another, they trade quips.