“Fast & Furious 7”
Somehow, someway, the “Fast & Furious” films improve with age. This is particularly true of “Fast & Furious 7,” where the moving tribute paid to the late Paul Walker at the end of the film will leave many of you dabbing your eyes. Who would have thought that could ever happen in a Vin Diesel film?
Despite a ridiculous plot, the special effects are at times dazzling, and the effect is similar to riding Disney’s Space Mountain after getting stoned. (That analogy is based upon speculation, not personal experience.) The movie leaves you on the functional equivalent of an adrenaline-laced roller coaster, and the whole blasted experience is, to coin a phrase, fun!
To begin with, there is good reason why “Furious 7” set a box office record on its opening weekend in April. This is a racially diverse cast which attracts a cross-section of the American public. Joining our crew of heroes and villains are three African-Americans (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Dwayne Johnson) one West African man (Djimon Hounsou), one Hispanic woman (Michelle Rodriguez) and one Brit (Jason Statham). And then there is Diesel, who may be the most likeable actor in Hollywood despite a limited speaking range that barely rises above his memorable role in last year’s spectacular hit “Guardians of the Galaxy.” When has a leading actor been called upon to say little more than “I am Groot?”
Ironically, Statham provides the heart and soul of this film, here playing the vicious villain known as Deckard Shaw. He seeks to personally kill our team of racing junkies for what they did to his brother, and he once again demonstrates the enormous talent he displayed in such earlier films as “The Transporter” (2002), “The Italian Job” (2003), “The Bank Job” (2008) and “Parker” (2013).
On top of that, Ludacris and Gibson are monstrously funny, and their interplay demonstrates the great talent displayed by script writers Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson. And if you doubt that Rodriguez is the most beautiful ass-kicker in Hollywood (with apologies to Zoe Saldana), then take a look at her memorable performance in “Avatar” (2009). As for Hounsou, he has repeatedly won your heart in such powerful films as “Blood Diamond” (2006), “In America” (2002), “Gladiator” (2000) and the unforgettable “Amistad” (1997).
Finally, nearly everyone knows that the film had to be significantly redone following the tragic death of Walker. Ironically dying in a car accident that resembled moments in this film, he is replaced in many scenes by his brothers, Caleb and Cody. As noted, the movie ends with a very powerful tribute to Walker, and you have to resist the urge to join the cast as they say a soulful goodbye.
“While We’re Young”
Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” joins a growing list of films that make it very hard to go to a movie theater. Coming from me, that comment probably seems very close to a practicing Muslim’s rejection of Mohammed as a disappointment.
Simply stated, this is a film that took a long time to go nowhere. Allegedly focusing on a married couple in their early 40s wrestling over their lost youth, it is as uninspired as Judd Apatow’s “This is 40” (2012) which unsuccessfully tried to cover the same subject.
A clearly talented screenwriter/director, Baumbach makes the same fatal mistake with “While We’re Young” as he did with “Greenberg” (2010). Both starred
Ben Stiller, and his characters become so unlikeable that his acting poisons the entire film.
Here he plays Josh, a depressed 44-year-old film director who has spent nearly 10 years laboring over a documentary. The always captivating Naomi Watts plays his wife Cornelia, and they are a childless couple tormented by nearly everything going on around them.
Trying to embrace the reality of having no children, they are annoyed with the singular focus of several friends who adore their youngsters. Of the many lamentable things about this tragic film, one of the most demeaning is the way Baumbach chooses to treat parents as being little more than brainless idiots.
At the heart of this film is a disastrous relationship that forms between our older couple and a much younger married duo played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Suffice it to say that their accidental meeting turns out to mask the hidden intentions of our young groupies.
Initially attracted to the lifestyle of people in their 20s, the parties share romantic entanglements until Stiller finally discovers that he is being played for a fool.
It is not easy to describe this widely praised film as being anything other than an irritating mess. I recently forced myself to sit through previews that showed a series of God-awful films like “Ted 2,” “Magic Mike XXL” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” and it is sad to say that “While We’re Young” joins that illustrious trio. It truly becomes an effort to go to a theater when you have to choose between Nicholas Sparks’ “The Longest Ride” or Liam Neeson playing in another film where he is trying to save a family member from disaster.
I think I noted last year that I am an avid flower gardener, and spending time with my plants makes it difficult to break away during this season and make it to a theater to review a film. On the other hand, spring is a magical time, so maybe Hollywood is unintentionally encouraging me to cultivate my plants and wait for the eventual interesting films to arrive in early summer.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.