Tuesday 25 May 2021

F9 (2021) Film Review

Tokyo Drift 2, please.

I love the Fast and Furious saga, as previously written in my Hobbs and Shaw review. Starting with Fast and Furious 6 and continuing here, it has become more of a spy adventure by independent agents. Justin Lin, who has directed the most films in the series is back to direct this one, as well as 2 more to wrap things up. Several characters from previous films also return, all in an effort to make F9 the most epic in the series. Most epic? Yeah. The best? No.

Don't get me wrong. I was into this film. It was formulaic and there were no surprises, but honestly, I didn't mind it too much, but the soap opera nature and retcons were this film's undoing, taking me out of it. 

Here are the basics. Since Fast and Furious 8, Dom and Letty have settled into a peaceful farm lifestyle with their son, Brian. Then, Roman, Tej, and Ramsey show up with a problem. Mr. Nobody is missing. His plane went down, and he happened to be transporting a dangerous criminal: Cipher, the villain of the last film and the killer of the mother of Dom's kid. They investigate and discover that Jakob is responsible. It turns out, Jakob is Dom's brother, and he wants.... a MacGuffin that can destroy the world. Like I said, since Fast and Furious 6, it is a formula. Honestly, I don't remember the name of the thing, but it can mess up everything.

The point is, the team has a chance. Jakob needs the other half of the device, as well as a key to do his thing. The team spreads out all over the world to find new fast cars, the device, and allies. Letty teams up with Mia, who returns, and they go to Tokyo for answers, and they find Han, who isn't dead. I won't get into how he is back because if I say it here, you will think that I am lying. Seriously, I wasn't impressed, but frankly, it's there now. Nothing to do about it. Don't get me wrong: Han is one of the best characters, but retconning death, again, gets an eye-roll from me.

Also, Sean, Twinkie, and Earl from Tokyo Drift return, and point that they deserve a sequel. There is just a different energy to their dynamic. We find them working in Germany on a new fast car with a rocket. The same car that is used to go into space. I have to tip my hat to the filmmakers for doing that. I thought that they would save the space thing for the last film, but it is here, and it is just as ridiculously awesome as you can imagine. Back to the Tokyo drift crew: Yes, they help out a little bit, but we don't get much of them in general or why they left Tokyo. I was so excited to see these characters again, and yet, they along with several others don't have much to do.

The ensemble comes second to Dom's story, yet again. Dom is the only character with development, as the film has flashbacks to his youth with his brother, and the flashbacks contributing to the one unnecessary race of the film. I get that Dom is the main character, but he has been the center of attention for most of these films. When you have characters with this much personality that can easily carry their own films, you divide and conquer.

So many cameos. I appreciated most of them were from characters from previous films, like Shea Whigham's Agent Stasiak, but why Cardi B was in this, I don't know.

The action is undeniably awesome. Letty is on a motorcycle to drives through a minefield and goes faster enough to avoid blowing up. No, seriously. This happened with the first 15 minutes. Roman, still the comic relief holds his own and guns down several enemies with automatic weapons without some much as a scratch. And I'm not even gonna talk about what this film did with magnets. It has to be seen to be believed. It will thrill you.

This film has so much going for it, with its talented cast and crew that when it falls short on things, it is just loud and brutal. 

F9 is entertaining, loaded with expansive action set pieces and fun energy boosted by its ensemble, but it is dragged down by its retcons, plot convenience, and lack of focus on its expansive cast.


Thursday 31 December 2020

The Mandalorian season 2 review


Happy new year eve. Review coming soon.

The second season of The Mandalorian is a triumph, mixing in elements from the original trilogy and cartoons to push the franchise forward. Cinematic visuals and top tier performances have brought Star Wars back to high pedigree.


Friday 25 December 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Merry Christmas. Review coming soon.

Wonder Woman 1984 has noble ideas and great performances, but it buckles under the weight of its own ambitions with a runtime that it too long, problematic story holes, pacing issues, and underwhelming action sequences.


Tuesday 13 October 2020

American Pie Presents: Girls' Rules (2020)

The fact that Eugene Levy didn't even appear in this one was already a bad sign. The director, Mike Elliott is known for direct to DVD movies, especially sequels, so the writing was on the wall there. The previous American Pie Presents: films aren't particularly good, but there was still an attempt to make something despite the lower budget. This film feels like a quota had to be met given that the last one of these sequels was produced in 2009.

The film runs at 95 minutes, and there really isn't that much of a story here so the review will follow the lead of the film and will be quick. The film follows sex curious Annie with her friends Stephanie Stifler, the badass of the group who just needs a good guy, Kayla, the wild control freak who doesn't trust her boyfriend who dumps her, and Michelle, the smart one with a collection of sex toys who masturbates to John F Kennedy speeches on their final year of high school. To  come to terms of what they are missing romantically, they make a pact to see their desires come true for MORP, a backward prom. Think Sadie Hawkins.

The forced feminist message that has been complained about in several female-centric films as of late is dialed up to 11 here, and yet it completely misses its point by having the main girl group lust after the same guy. This is something a male would imagine, so in that respect, it is an American Pie film. If a comedy film just wants to be what it is and not be about anything, that is just fine. I enjoy movies like that. The problem is this film is not funny at all. Several unfunny gags are repeated and the dialogue of many lines comes off as wooden. The set up for the opening scene is rushed and obvious.

It is a lazy and a watered-down installment of the franchise that I question the R rating. The opposite sex version of American Pie has a lot to prove to justify its existence, and this film just was not up to the task, despite the hard work the actors are putting into it. Maybe for a female version of American pie, you have women write and direct it. Just a thought. Booksmart (2019) received acclaim for a reason.

American Pie Presents: Girls' Rules is both cringey and generic with nothing there. It has a good case for being one of the worst films of the year.


Friday 9 October 2020

The Boys - "What I Know"

This episode did not disappoint. With a movie like running time, the finale unexpectedly wrapped up a lot more than I expected as shows like this tend to have more questions than answers in their finales, so this episode was also a breath of fresh air in that regard.

After the congress hearing blew up in flames, Compound V is in high demand. The Boys don't stew in their loss for too long, planning to simply kill all members of the 7 as best they can, regardless of any consequences. Hughie and Annie decide to go in a different less destructive route and attempt to convince Maeve to testify, but she predictably refuses. Her passive behavior is still dominant in Elena's absence. Her outlook on the world is bleak, feeling that nothing will ever change, so there is no point in getting involved. Leaving her at her home, Hughie and Annie discuss their mothers, and we learn that Hughie's mother isn't dead, but left the family when he was 6. For fear of losing people, he attaches himself to them like glue, hence his attachment to both Butcher and Annie this season. Their sweet moment is interrupted by A-Train, who appears in the back of the car.

Stan Edgar has a meeting with Adana, and with Shockwave's death last episode, a spot on the 7 is vacant. Adana attempts to put both A-Train and The Deep, but Edgar is only willing to take one due to optics. Not taking this lying down, A-Train takes action and breaks into the church's files. He finds details surrounding  Stormfront's origins. Taking the enemy of my enemy is my friend's approach, he gives the file to Hughie and Annie to not only get back into the 7 but to call it even with Hughie after last season. It's nice that even though A-Train has selfish reasons for doing this, he agrees that the nazi has got to go.

While this is happening, Becca has escaped from the compound, and finds Butcher, asking for his help in saving Ryan. With Becca in their hideout, The Boys see a softer side to Butcher, and with them smiling when the two kiss, it is a testament to the cast chemistry that makes the moment as funny as it is. To find the boy, Butcher asks for help from an unexpected source: Stan Edgar. Edgar being a black man and working with Stormfront has been a lingering question, and it is answered. While he admits to having problems with her, complaining about it is a white man's luxury. Beyond that, his motivations are for Vought to thrive. However, he is willing to deal with Butcher to get Ryan back, as the boy is their back up plan to deal with Homelander if he gets out of control. Butcher's condition is that he gets Becca to himself. This behavior tracks and I was sitting them wondering what could go wrong with his plan.

Ryan finds himself growing close to Homelander, finally seeing him as his father in an emotional moment in the cabin where we see a genuinely heartwarming moment with Homelander where we see a "what if" scenario. What if he was the image the world sees him as and he received love in his youth? Just a shame. This follows with a training moment while Homelander tries to teach him to use his laser vision. To help him get there, Stormfront uses the opportunity to begin spreading her poison in him, saying that white people are being attacked because of what they look like. The moment is terrifying as adults have proven to have a huge impact on kids, both in real life and especially on this show. Even Homelander looks concerned. She luckily doesn't get too far, as she rushes to Vought quickly. The news that she is a nazi has been leaked by The Boys, and the reaction is swift. The Boys, having arrived use the opportunity to lure away Homelander with a piercing noise and secure Ryan. 

In an unexpected moment, Butcher changes his plan and tells Becca the truth of his deal with Edgar. Butcher willing to let Becca go to secure Ryan's future is an emotional moment between the couple. Even The Boys are surprised. Mother's Milk drives away with Becca and Ryan, but Stormfront returns at the wrong moment and ruins the plan. Butcher leads the two of them away while the rest of the team face Stormfront. The team struggles to fight her as she has proven to be a formidable threat. The tides change when Maeve appears. Having seen the news that she is a nazi, it is the spark needed to get Maeve to have her heroic moment, and it is epic. There is something so cathartic in seeing Stormfront get beaten up. The "Girls get it done" moment is earned and satisfying. The Boys just look on in awe.

Stormfront unfortunately escapes and catches up to Butcher, Becca, and Ryan. After knocking down Butcher, Becca manages to stab Stormfront in the eye, mirroring what happened to Stormfront in the comics. She then proceeds to choke Becca, and the moment of emotional distress unlocks Ryan's laser vision. Afterward, Stormfront is severely messed up, even by the show's standards. Her hair is brunt off, and she is missing her arms and legs. Is she dead? Who knows with this show. She was still conscious, speaking in German. The Vought press conference near the end of the episode has Homelander saying she is in an undisclosed location, and I can't see a reason why Vought would want to lie about her being dead or not. Killing a nazi would definitely be good press for them. I can't see people in a rush to want her back as Aya Cash only had a one-season contract, but she was so compelling as the main villain. I hate her but enjoyed watching her.

Unfortunately, it isn't a clean win. Ryan accidentally also hit his mother, and Becca dies. In her final moments, she forgives Ryan and begs Butcher not to let her death change Ryan, and to make sure that it isn't his fault. Karl Urban is so good in the moments quickly after Becca's death. With everything we know about him, with his look of pure anger, the audience isn't quite sure what will happen in that moment once he picks up his crowbar, but his love for his wife shines through. He is finally able to look at Ryan as Becca's son rather than Homelander's evil spawn. Butcher's story arc this season has been for the battle of his soul. With Becca alive at the start of the season, some of his savage behavior became subdued after she didn't run with him in episode 4. His motivation for the series going forward has changed, and it is exciting to see what happens going forward as his newly completed arc has ben top tier.

Homelander arrives and is devastated that Stormfront has been roughed up. He demands that Ryan return to him, but Maeve shuts it down, threatening to release the video of the failed plane rescue if he touches Butcher and Ryan, continues to chase Starlight, or interferes with her relationship with Elena. In a tense moment with no dialogue, he agrees. Homelander's psyche is in question after everything because he lost, probably for the first time ever. We last see him masturbating over the city like a madman. Eric Kripke had that moment from the first season cut, but it is back for this episode. I have to say that it is much more effective here. Ryan is sent off with protection so Vought never finds him, and Butcher is approached by Mallory to continue to team with government funding.

For the dark stories this show tells in a cynical view on life, it ends on a slighter more hopeful tone. Starlight and A-Train are back in the seven, Kimiko and Frenchie celebrate their victory by going dancing, Mother's Milk reunites with his family, and Hughie and Annie get back together. That said, with the main story arcs wrapped up, the episode doesn't end there. I believed initially that the church of the collective would have a larger role to play in the 3rd season, but it looks like I may be wrong, seeing as the head of the church is dead, and they have cast out the deep. During a phone call with Congresswoman Newman, Adana tells her he has a lot more dirt on supes and is willing to give them to her for a price. She seemingly agrees to it. He is about to drink a Fresca in victory when his head blows up. It is revealed that Newman is a supe, and she is the one responsible for blowing up heads. It is a twist that I certainly did not see coming. Why she has killed the people she has is a remaining question, and what's going to happen to Hughie who goes to work for her is another.

I applaud the writing staff for paying tribute to the original comics but going their own way. If you happen to read them, curious about what could happen for season 3, I don't think it will help you. Butcher is different enough from his comic counterpart that the show will not end the same way the comics did, and it is really exciting. Personally, I think that the show has eclipsed past the original comics.

"What I Know" concludes the second season of The Boys on a satisfying note, wrapping up a majority of the storylines successful with well written and performed emotion heft while establishing interesting story threads for season 3 with a shocking twist.

Friday 2 October 2020

The Boys - "Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker"

This episode was mind...blowing. I'll see myself out, and for real, the ending had me shook as if it would do anything else. The penultimate episode of the season and the stakes have been considerably raised. Beyond that, the relationships between the characters and their parental figures are explored, as well as the effects on them.

The opening for this episode was chilling. Back in episode 4, Stormfront referred to her fans are her angry soldiers. A fan of hers finds himself becoming radicalized by Stormfront’s ceaseless fearmongering, white-supremacist language, and supe-terrorist conspiracy theories in all of her media appearances. It results in this man shooing and murdering a clerk who he suspects is a supe terrorist because he thought he saw a flicker in his eyes. The song that was twisted for this scene was "What a Wonderful World", and it is shockingly effective. It also highlights the impact of the main characters has on the civilians of this world. 

Following last week, Lamplighter has agreed to testify in front of congress to help take down Vought. The Boys are working with both Grace Mallory and congresswoman Neuman, who has popped up all throughout the season openly going against Vought, demanding hearings. They decide to get more dirt against Vought and approach the former CSO Jonah Vogelbaum. I believed that after the first season, the character was dead, but it seems that Homelander just put him in a chair. He is responsible for Homelander's creation and was his father figure. He regrets his actions, but he is fine living with his guilt in his mansion and refuses to help the boys. 

Butcher is set up to meet with his estranged father, played by John Noble. The nerd in me appreciated the Lord Of The Rings reunion. We learn from their intense conversation that his dad was abusive, and Billy, Butcher's brother had committed suicide. His dad bad mouths Billy and it leads Butcher to attack him. Nothing happens, but he is shocked that his dad is unrepentant and is proud of making Butcher tough, damn everything else. Why Butcher is the way he is is clear: the impact of his father. John Noble is just good casting.

The theme continues when Butcher meets with Vogelbaum himself. We learn that Homelander as a child was sweet, but Vogelbaum did what he felt he needed to to make him tougher. Butcher threatens to kill Vogelbaum's family if he doesn't testify, and that is the end of it.

Annie gets captured by Vought, having followed by Vought. Eric Kripke admitted in an interview that he regrets killing off Lamplighter because Shawn Ashmore killed it, and I can't help but agree. After Homelander exposes Annie as a traitor, Hughie convinces Lamplighter to help him save her. He made a convincing argument for Team Cuckold, seeing as how Lamplighter wanted to spend his day watching superhero porn in the daytime. Comic fans may have noticed that Jack from Jupiter made an appearance, in a gang bang porno. Anyway, they make it to Vought but go to the conference room instead. Lamplighter has been acting rather despondent for the whole episode, but suicide was the last thing I thought he was going to do. As he is lighting himself on fire, it created the perfect opportunity for Annie to escape, as her cell was retrofitted to counteract her powers.

Maeve finally got to do something heroic this season: Saving Annie from Black Noir. Following Elena watching the footage from the failed plane hijacking, Elena leaves, and Maeve is crushed. She copes with meaningless sex with strange men and vaping. As Annie tries to make her way out, Noir finds her, and they engage in a brutal fight. By fight, I mean beating. Annie gets some hits in, but Noir dominates. Then, Maeve enters and defeats Noir by putting an Almond Joy in his mouth as he is allergic. Almond Joys are getting just as much free press as Fresca is on this show.

I thought it was more of a cult, but this episode has me thinking that the church of the collective is more like Scientology. A-Train has joined so he can get back into the seven, but suspects weirdness when Alastair Adana, the leader of the church tells both him and The Dep to not talk to Eagle the Archer anymore as he "failed the program". There are then accusations about Eagle's sexual fetishes that leak on the news. I feel that the church will be expanded upon in the 3rd season, as there are many unknowns about them.

Homelander and Stormfront, after rallying their fans to support more supes and Compound V, go visit Becca and Ryan. Homelander isn't impressed with how Ryan is being raised, seeing it as him being a pussy, making Lego movies, and such. Lego The Blind Side looked pretty cool. He and Stormfront impress him by telling him about Homelander's movies. Becca finds herself losing Ryan by the episode's end when Homelander reveals to Ryan that they live in a compound. Becca argues that Ryan should stay with her as he needs a mother. Then Stormfront indicates that she will be the new mom, and the power couple flies away with him. This was a gripping moment, and I was eager that the scene cut away quickly as any moment with those two psychos are get horrible quickly.

The episode ends on quite the cliffhanger. In the congress hearing, before it starts, people's heads begin to blow up in the same manner as Raynor in the season premiere. You could certainly draw parallels between this and Batman V Superman. Vogelbaum is killed, along with several others, including Shockwave, A-Train's replacement. The Boys have suffered a big loss here with their plan once again crumbling in front of them. What to do, what to do.

"Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker" ramps up the tension to 11, moving each storyline successfully forward, teasing an exciting conclusion to a sensational season.

Friday 25 September 2020

The Boys - "The Bloody Doors Off"

So... Stormfront is a Nazi. Racist was bad enough, but she is a straight-up nazi. As if audiences needed another reason to hate her. Jumping the gun a little bit here. Below, I go in a bit more depth but for my opening statement, I feel like I needed to acknowledge this first.

Following some snooping on Stormfront's computer, Annie discovers that something is happening at the Sage Grove treatment center. She brings this to The Boys after Frenchie removes Vought's chip implant in her body. Butcher and Annie finally team up in this one, and they hate each other. Butcher hates Supes and general, and Annie hasn't forgotten when he shot her last season. Seeing them work together was quite engaging, and they work together for one important purpose: saving Hughie. After he gets hit with Shrapnel, they rush to save his life. Another interesting tidbit: Annie is hardened. After she accidentally killed a man to take his car, she didn't self destruct or cry in a corner. She rationalized. It earned Butcher's respect, not that she wants it. The character has gotten great development, and I am all for Annie leaving behind that shiny superhero portrayal she plays for Vought. Seeing Butcher and Annie bond over the silly things Hughie does, like use child shampoo makes for nice levity, especially compared to the drama heavy storyline with the rest of the team.

We finally see why The Boys broke up in the first place from Frenchie's perspective. Hell, this is Frenchie's episode, and Tomer Kapon owns the spotlight. Jumping back and forth with the use of flashbacks, we see Frenchie with his lover Cherie, and his friend Jay. He originally joined The Boys to keep them out of prison. Later, Mallory orders him to follow Lamplighter after the team blackmails him. We know that he left his post, and Lamplighter torched Mallory's grandchildren, but now we know why he left. His friend Jay was suffering from an overdose. After saving his life, he rushed to go back to his post, but it was too late. To make it even worse, Jay, figuring Frenchie abandoned him left him and dies a few months later from another overdose.

All this is revealed when the team discovers that Lamplighter is working at the center, torching uncooperative team subjects. Rather than seeing vengeance being served, we see a team-up. Cindy, a test subject gets loose, and releases more subjects to cause absolute mayhem. Shawn Ashmore is a very underrated actor, so not only am I happy to see him play Lamplighter in an irony casting since he was Iceman, but he gave the character depth rather than him being clear cut evil. He is in torment for killing those kids, and it results in him covering for The Boys so Stormfront doesn't know that they were there and later meeting Mallory in the forest.

Frenchie comes to terms that saving Kimiko wouldn't solve his problems and she doesn't need to be saved. Now, Stormfront kills most of the escaped subjects, but there are a few standouts. Cindy, who is much stronger than she looks as she survived a direct blast from Stormfront, and Love Sausage, whos power is exactly what it sounds like. Seeing a CGI dick wrap itself around Mother's Milk's neck is something I will never forget. A fun easter egg for fans of the comic. I wasn't too sure they would put the character in the series.

Speaking of callbacks, the events of last season involving the plane crash come back here to haunt Maeve. The Deep provides her with a Go Pro from the crash in the sea, and Elena happens to stumble upon it. The video is damaging. This lights a bit of a spark in Maeve's storyline, but not much. The character in hindsight hasn't done much this season, but given how my complaints are seemingly addressed each week, I'll reserve my judgment for next week.

The endgame is revealed. Stormfront and Vought are trying to stabilize Compound V so an adult will be able to take it and get powers without dying. This is an effort to create an army of Supes so Vought can take back control of the culture as in Stormfront's eyes, the other races are beating them. By the episode's end, she reveals this to Homelander and her origins. She is over 100 years old, a nazi, the first successful superhuman experiment, and was married to Fredrick Vought. There is a moment after she dumps this on him that you don't know how he is going to take it, but he responds by kissing her while The Golden Girls theme song is playing. With these two closer than ever, this power couple is even more dangerous.

There is a fun cameo with Christopher Lennertz, the composer of the series. He raps a theme song for A Train, and I demand that it be made available to Spotify immediately.

"The Bloody Doors Off" fires on all cylinders with black humor and gory violence, but successfully ramps up the tension without being repetitive.