Saturday, June 4, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) - Movie Review

Good enough; but nothing spectacular.

I find myself hesitant to criticize X-Men movies (except for Jackman’s Wolverine franchise – because those have had some serious yawn-worthy blunders) because I am so partial towards them. Since childhood, I’ve grown up watching the X-Men TV series (1992 – 1997), the accompanying renditions, movies etc. and these mutants have earned a special place in my preference cabinet.

Watching X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) was pleasant, but left an X-Men viewing veteran nostalgic for 
the past cast. Don’t misunderstand now, for James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto are perfect selections for injecting younger blood onscreen. And of course, none can deny the acting credentials of Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme / Mystique. They are not the problem. Maybe it was everyone else? Seeing Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) from Game of Thrones (by the way what is it with the obsession of casting GoT characters – last time we saw Peter Dinklage) play Jean Grey felt a bit…odd and slow. Dearly missed the sultry, mesmerizing allure of Famke Janssen. Having Tye Sheridan (Scott Summers) play Cyclops felt mopey and weak – missed the more robust, dashing James Marsden. And then Halle Berry, oh, how thou were’t missed! Who can churn up a tempest like thee! Surely not the heavily accented Alexandra Shipp. A soft drizzle compared to a typhoon!

Selecting Egypt and the historical context the movie was situated in was different, and the sandy backgrounds and warm filters had their own allure which was great. It helped us forgive the convenient plot holes and convenient writing at times. Again we are faced with the obliteration of the world, but the fact that the first mutant, En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is at the helm of this onslaught is a nice twist. His powers truly are impressive and one cannot help but wonder how the X Men will get around this one, if at all. Heavily CGI-ridden, as are most of these flicks, the sets have variety and we see enough switch screens to know that the threat is global – reminds one of Man of Steel (2013). In terms of plot, and storyline's predecessor X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) undoubtedly gets the nod but this installment, once could argue, is entertaining enough to not deserve too harsh of a reprimand.

There were some nice cameos and nods that everyone will appreciate – which I won’t divulge because spoilers are from the devil! The movie is indeed grand in some senses, but could have beefed up its writing. The comic relief is there, especially provided for us in healthy doses by Quick Silver (Evan Peters) – the true crowd pleaser, and some really good one-liners that would do Deadpool (2016) proud. The backstory for Magneto is heart tugging, and his son’s (Quick Silver) Cirque du Soleil scene in which he saves the inhabitants of the X-Mansion was of course a treat, reminding us of the previous prison scene we got in the last installment. Did everything come together cohesively to be impressive enough as a single unit? That one can debate.

As you may have noticed, unlike previous reviews, I won’t be getting too technical with this one. That I will save for Civil War (2016) which I have heard very good things about, but, shameful to admit – I have yet to see. Definitely next in line. And good Lord, that Assassin's Creed trailer with Michael Fassbender as lead looked to die for! Back to the point; for its loyalty to the past, but better than average yet not superior performance, we give X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) a ‘meh’ 6.9/10. Adieu.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Beyoncé's "Formation" (2016): Music Review - The Beyoncé Politic

Long time since I did a music video review; but when Queen Bey drops a nuclear musical bomb like this – errbody needs to be on high alert! This is not a drill; this is Code Black.

Critics are raving, law enforcement is cringing, Right white conservatives are shrinking, and the black rights movement is blinking. Beyoncé transcended her pop superstar legacy into what will now be known as the Bey Politic. The power of Bey a force to be reckoned with. Don’t you love how even autocorrect knows to correct beyonce to Beyoncé but goes dead on you for “ducking” everything else.

So what really happened?

The day before Super Bowl 50 Bey released her new video and song titled "Formation" exclusively through Jay-Z’s newly acquired Tidal – a high-quality music streaming service that boasts the ability to rival Apple iTunes, Spotify and Pandora. Her first new release since 2014, the main difference in this one is —everything.

We all know Beyoncé is black. But this time her blackness is deeper, louder, sharper and more rooted than anything we’ve seen before. Her last album with hits like “Flawless” and “Partition” was personal. This is publicly more sensitive and ripened for our time. There is nothing implicit about her agenda. It’s a clenched activist’s fist pumped into our racially turbulent air calling for our attention, and then organized formation. The politic radiates because it is situated in the real, and Bey wants everyone to know that she has been paying attention: Trayvon Martin, police brutality, Katrina, and also male chauvinism and the need for greater female empowerment.

The song, video and Super Bowl performance are so rich it’s hard to even pick a spot to unpack this cultural baggage.

The intro lines by Messy Mya “[w]hat happened at the Newwalins?” is not a question. The opening line of the song and the first take of the video situate this artwork right in the wounded political environment and national dialog arena it came to rip open. NPR is calling it a “visual anthem”. The widescreen shot of Bey atop a police car (significant allegory) in what looks like a post-apocalyptic New Orleans jolts our blotchy memories of Katrina. Then the irregular flashing sound takes us in and out of different images, all significantly black: bounce, police, hood and church to name a few.

But then the assault begins. Beyoncé’s actual first three words being “Y’all haters corny…” telling us that she ain’t happy and she’s here to address some issues. After stamping out the Illuminati conspiracy theories leveled against her she goes on to undoubtedly reaffirm her black heritage. She picks it apart with needle sharp references from the patched quilt of black culture which really, has no singular locus though this effort draws from the South. So many quotable lines in this song it’s a drive-by spraying lyrical and visual mastery at every turn.

Like any typical hip hop song there’s brand names and name dropping for product placement – Givenchy, Roc necklaces, and Adidas shoes and Red Lobster (whose sales, I might add, suddenly shot up by 33% after Beyoncé’s song – talk about power). But the difference here is everything is intentionally tied to represent perceived black identity, be it the “hot sauce” in the bag or her love for “negro noses” and them “Jackson 5 nostrils”. Razor sharp references are deliciously specific, and her raw honesty of her Southern lineage situates our previously “whiter” Beyoncé in a different light when she blurts that "My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana/ You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama". Bama, a typically derogatory word used in the South for misfit, is inverted by Bey and flipped on its head and then redefined as something desirable—I mean their union gave birth to and created her.

For a satirical take on White reaction to Bey’s song watch “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black” by the SNL crew.

In drawing from her past, even the at times seemingly low quality 90s MTV music video type quality of the video just takes you back. And that’s the intent – to take you back to black, letting you know it never went anywhere just like how she notes she "Earned all this money but they never take the country out me, I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag". We are transported back to her roots. But she situates it so devastatingly in the present. The last scenes of police lines and hands up in the air are an ode to the recent issues with Trayvon Martin and Ferguson. The little black boy with the black hoodie symbolizes a form of misunderstood innocence, and his MJ-like dance moves are a form of black magic that innocently disarms. The use of children in the shoot, especially Blue-Ivy her own daughter, alludes to the generational impact that's at stake with the issues she wants our attention on. As a mother her concerns are now beyond the personal.

In her Super Bowl performance, as in her video, her “X” formation is a nod to Malcom-X, alongside the homage to the Black Panther-esque wardrobe. Though Coldpay was supposedly the leading act – let’s be real who knew. We all know Chris Martin was obliterated onstage by the sheer force of Beyoncé; unfortunately even for Bruno Mars, it wasn’t just Queen Bey’s height that made her tower over him but her presence, and the message she had brought with her. On a national stadium with 112 000 000 people watching, Bey used the airtime strategically to send strong messages of black resistance to oppression and rallying cries for empowerment both systemically and financially – “You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making, cause I slay; I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making”. The NFL now is facing outrage (which I think is also a bit of exaggerated media hype) but everyone will survive. And then we got the commercial ($4 million price tag) that her world tour is nigh.

But really, where to from here? Can art like this really make a difference, or does it need to be honed into targeted activism to have tangible outcomes for our troubled world? If anything it’s a rise and a good first step from one of the stalwarts of our time. Others have heard and will now follow suit we presume. After all:

“You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation”. Adieu.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Deadpool (2016): Movie Review

20th Century Fox’s Deadpool (2016) is a refreshing splatter of blood, wit and meta-narrative.

From the moment the film strip spins to life you realize that you're being screened difference, and that what you've comfily seated yourself to watch looks like it'll be a treat. The nice thing about that expectation is that it holds throughout the movie. The meta nature of the writing bursts to life like the spray of bullets from the starting credits. The hyper-slow frames and detail reminds one of the X-Men Quick Silver take but here we are first disoriented and left to locate ourselves as we tumble into the movie mid-scene mid-song. 

Not following a traditional narrative works when the rest of the movie pieces support that decision to cohesively deliver seemingly unorganized stories in a subliminally organized manner. In Deadpool our intriguing narrator Wade Wilson, played by the lovable Ryan Reynolds, takes us through time lapses and back story to effectively situate us in the present. He does this charmingly without any lack of entertainment. The logic is easy to follow and the story itself is interesting enough. The beauty of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s writing is that it is simple, and the arc of the story doesn't try to extend beyond the Heavens and wrestle macro apocalypses  of Avenger-ial proportions (hint, cough*). At its center is a love story; regardless of the narrator telling us that it isn't. The irony of the love story is that it tries its level best to wash out its passionate red stained love but fails like Wilson’s pitiful attempts to scrub out his once white now stubbornly crimson shirts at the laundromat. Evil in this movie isn’t sinister, but more torturous. Nothing memorable, but utilitarian enough for us to get by.
You knew the studio was low budget on this, around $25 million, but I have a feeling they'll make their money's worth across two weekend box offices. Tim Miller (Director) doesn’t get too flashy. We don't get many set pieces and locations, and most of the action and shots are centered in contained sets. The CGI gives way to revealing itself that it’s CGI in some of the last scenes (look closely) but the fact of the matter is—these can be forgiven. You have a great story here led by an unusually candid renegade non-superhero accompanied by his slapstick wit and "he-said-what-I-was-thinking-did-he-really-just-say-that" factor. We learn to get roped into the movie without trying to admire the visuals and grandeur of mass destruction, of which there is very minimal - thank God. 

Reynolds is the beating heart of this movie. Not because he is the lead, but because his character onscreen, and in reality really, fit perfectly into this film to give its own flavor. One could call it a satire on the now never-ending comic movie franchises, the eighth installment of the X-Men series, but it does more than that. It walks the audience through its own narrative, and heightens its self-awareness by vocalizing what the audience thinks but doesn’t utter. It get us every time – again the power of meta narrative done right.

Highly sexualized, gory, and not one lack of slicing power packed bullet-spraying bone-crushing entertainment. The recurrent theme of Deadpool’s self-satisfying self-stimulation is at moments comical but also intentional to support the larger sexual overtones of the film. What works to make the movie matter is the adorable chemistry Deadpool has with the gorgeous Vanessa Carlyle (Morena Baccarin). Another jab made at the audience for its Valentine’s Day weekend release. The humor is reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, and like its fellow comic book cousin it succeeds. The homage paid to 80s and 90s music and classic movies doesn’t go unnoticed either. The soundtrack is well chosen, and evocatively nostalgic. I wouldn’t put it at the same level of the masterpiece musical choices of Guardians, but still very good. Overall, we give it a solid 8.6/10. A full-scale budget would have shot it well into the 9s without doubt. Adieu.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Fractured Mind

On a spectrum, I’ve been tossed into happy.

Long awaited but not expected, I can feel myself recovering from what has been unveiled to be a once fractured mind. As I walk now, the billowing cold air that sliced at me last winter now feels silky, soothing cinders long burnt by fire. The condition from rehabilitation is brittle, but ready. Ready at last to be fortified.

However, the whitening fear of it being ephemeral still lingers. In either resistance or pure rejection, the thought is not given air to bloom, thereby suppressed only to occasional black gasps.

The perpetrator for the trauma is still at large. Unaware. In introspection, I am as much to blame. We all are. Us, the culprits for our own sufferings, for ultimately we are the ones that let “us” suffer. No one else.

How you may ask.

To answer the how is difficult. It happened, like how lightening happens. Be and it was. Divinity had its crucial role in it, its energy like electricity zapping through tingling tight metal wires. When realization hit, it hit so ferociously I saw it snap out: the fractured mind. Its shape was a scalp, transparent-ly pale in hue but dented in places like a soda can that had been kicked around too much. If anything, it felt like a shedding. The old plating removed to reveal the burnished new. Instead of disappearing it fell to the floor and rolled to stillness. I looked at it oddly, confused by this image that my mind’s eye was screening. I had seconds to realize what was happening. The train I was on had reached its stop and was charging to leave to the next. As the compartment urged on, I realized that this was it. It would stay there, and not follow me. The new scalp, with all its sheen would be what I carry with me. And so I looked at the fractured mind, my lips almost kissing the window as I leaned in for my last glimpse. There it stayed, unmoving. I left it at Union Station.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What is the Difference Between White Eggs and Brown Eggs?
Nothing! Well, not exactly, but for our consuming purposes, pretty much nothing.

Growing up, for some reason I always had this idea that brown eggs were healthier than their pearly white brethren. Their earthy tones, perhaps, symbolized that they were more natural, or less commercialized and bleached similar to white bread and white rice. These tanned hard shell ovals always cost more too; and if I know one thing it's that if it's more expensive it obviously must be higher quality and healthier (organic, anyone? Side note—heard that that might be a scam too but let's keep that for another article).

But the truth is: the reason brown eggs are brown has nothing to do with the nutritional content or the quality of the eggs in and of themselves. Instead, brown eggs are brown because they come from a different kind of chicken. "Terrackk"! That was the sound of your mind cracking! I know I heard it. This piece is similar to the "Unbuttoning the Mystery of Dry Cleaning" article, in that both aim to finally give an answer to a question you’ve always considered but never thought important enough to actually resolve.

So here’s the dirt:

White eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens that have white ear lobes, while brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes are the clucking culprits that lay those pricy brown eggs. So why is brown asking more from our wallets, you ask? Well, it turns out that the chicken that produces brown eggs, a similar species to the brown cow that gives us chocolate milk (okay fine, this one's actually a lie kids), is larger in size and thereby requires more feed. This higher cost of “production” is the main reason as to why brown eggs command a higher price at the grocery store. Farmers and distributors pass on the cost to the consumer in the form of a higher retail markup.

Nutritionally, there is no difference. Some say brown eggs may have more Omega content but this is near negligible. If you find that the yolks have a more vibrant yellow in some eggs than others, this is more due to the quality of the feed than the egg shell's hue. White eggs can have as much neon yellow in their Sunny Side Ups as any brown egg on the market.

And so it is, that another one of Life’s most confounding mysteries has now been solved at the Literartist. With all that hard work behind me, now all I really want is a good 3 egg-ed mushroom omelette. Protein come at me, brah! Adieu.

Works Referenced 
Erdos, Joseph. "What's The Difference Between White Eggs And Brown Eggs?" The Huffington Post., 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Mini-reviews: Mad Max, Ex Machina, Jurassic World and…

So I'll admit, I've been a bit tardy. Some readers have complained (and I'm flattered) that they are yet to know what I've thought of Mad Max (2015) and Jurassic World (2015). Two days ago a message came in for “Straight Outta Compton” (2015). Hold your horses I haven’t even thought of that one yet, let alone seen it. Now the dilemma is how do I catch up?

Well... I've come up with a solution.

Maybe it’s a onetime thing or maybe, depending on the reception, it might evolve into more of a recurring creature. Mini-reviews. Yes, like those Mini-Cinnabons you love. They’ll taste the same, but as soon as you pop them in they vanish while they tease. Much easier to digest, and, you can have a handful of them in one sit down. So here's what's on the light menu today:

1. Ex Machina 
2. Jurasic World
3. Spy
4. Trainwreck
5. Mad Max
6. Imitation Game

Bon apetit. 

1. Ex Machina (2015): 8.7/10

Every now and again you need a movie that will give you a good mind f***. 2015 meet Ex Machina.

Stephen Troughton via Flikr
The psychological titillations remind one of DiCaprio’s Inception (2010) and Shutter Island (2010). This is what an example of good writing is: it makes you work to understand instead of you guessing the outcome by the 30th minute. Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb) and Alicia Vikander (Ava) take you into a stop-go, binary-ish trance that could be tango, if robots did tango. Alex Garland’s (Director) artistic choice of chapters to move the storyline is brilliant. The stark transitions, like switching something on and off, add onto the stop-go feel just like how we never know if AI is on or off. The isolation created in the film by setting, writing, characterization and technology is chilling yet also teasing enough to make you last through the whole movie. That we can fall in love with AI and root for the other side is interestingly scary, and in this truth resides one of the biggest successes of the movie. A definite must-watch for 2015.

2. Jurassic World (2015): 6.8/10

Jiffo1 via Flikr
It was good; not good enough. I think you walk out of it thinking ‘that was great, oh wait, could that have been better? Hmm...’ It’s not a matter of whether you should go see it. Oh no, you are going to see this movie. It’s been 14 years since Jurassic Park 3 (2001) and freaking 22 years since Jurassic Park (1993)—man that makes me feel old. A new sibling has come to us and we, the World, will go greet it. That’s not the problem; it’s more along the lines of making the screenplay credible in all its incredibility (I mean we come in already believing that dinosaurs exist so how hard can it be). The idea of controlling Velociraptors and then giving them characters? Only so much you can do. Apart from Chris Pratt’s (Owen) traffic police hands, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire) and her ever-clicking heels, a characteristic of this movie that audiences will appreciate is the homage paid to Jurassic Park—from nostalgic references and ruins of the first park to the epic resurrection at the end. No spoilers here. There are great moments in the movie, and Pratt is definitely suited for the franchise. I just wish the larger movie atmosphere could do better to give us better writing for a world that is so loved. Could have been better.    

3. Spy (2015): 7.2/10

JPAvocat via Flikr
The difference between this one and Trainwreck (as you’ll see below) are tantamount, which is why this one isn’t as funny but it still is pretty funny. Buried mostly in slapstick comedy and occasional wit, what intrudes upon the film is Melissa McCarthy’s (Susan Cooper) trademark character—the same one you saw in Tammy (2014), The Heat (2013), and Identity Thief (2013), but with a different wig and costume. There is nothing wrong with having that type of repetition it’s just that sometimes maybe we’d like a bit of range to see what else she’s got in her creative arsenal. This movie does have its moments and it gets really funny pretty fast. Having the star-studded cast of Jude Law (Agent Fine), Jason Statham (Agent Ford) and the others does help. It’s really light on content and less believable on the infrastructure (I mean really, did that look like a CIA headquarters to you? Looked more like a budget storeroom on Set D) but as for a few good laughs—it delivers. Satisfactory, and sometimes that’s all you need.

4. Trainwreck (2015): 8.4/10

Had no idea what this movie would be about. When it started playing I then vaguely remembered having seen the trailer in some other movie. The end outcome? My discovery of Amy Schumer—which was worth everything. I know I know, how did I not know about her before? Well I do now and that’s all that matters.

Amy Schumer by Mario Santor 
Why this movie succeeds is because it has potent quantities of realism that are mixed well into its larger comic blend. There are jokes in there that you never saw coming, and things that happen that you think would only happen in real life but they ended up putting it into film—which is great! From the get-go the movie starts off on a high note (so random for an opening shot) with the father-daughter scene, and it carries that quality throughout. I’ll warn you that there are some raunchy scenes, and the endless cast of famous people only adds to the hilarity. I had no expectations for this movie and I walked out thoroughly satisfied. Initially I had my doubts about Bill Hader (Aaron) being able to pull off a whole role to himself but I never thought he could be so lovable by the end of it. Seeing some of the SNL cast in there was also another treat. They really do keep pulling for each other don’t they? Like some big cult—which they are. All in all, if you need a good edgy comedy, give this is a shot.  

5. Mad Max (2015): 7.4/10

Am I missing something here? Everyone kept talking about how great this George Miller (Director) movie was. Poetry on wheels someone wrote, but honestly I thought it was just a good action movie. Think I just heard the "thuds" of people fainting from indignation. Whoops.

Viipeer via Flikr
Maybe I feel this way because I was watching it at 2 A.M with a friend who was already snoring by the first half, but I do think, that to say it was overrated isn’t really too far off. Don’t get me wrong, there are stunning action scenes of the like that we have never seen before, and I liked that the whole movie was filmed in motion via tracking shots (not the first one to do so) making it not your average movie. Also the villains were graphically original and Jenny Beavan’s (costume designer) work with dressing them up is stellar. The feminist tenor wasn’t missed either—Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa) does kick ass, and the depth in character in addition to action is laudable. The plot is simple when you look at it by the end, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It was good. I think it would only qualify as a must-watch because everyone keeps saying “you must watch”.
6. Imitation Game (2014): 8.9/10

BagoGames via Flikr
This movie is brilliant. You didn’t need me to say that, I’m sure all the Oscar nods gave you that precious piece of information. Benedict Cumberbatch as the until recently unknown mathematician, Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi Germany's Enigma code to help win World War II, is so fitting. After seeing him in his element I am now a fan of his adroit acting capabilities. I found myself (and I’m sure others did too) appreciating the attention and balance paid to Turing’s personal and public struggles. The film really does a great job of not only humanizing Turing but accomplishing the hardest feat of all—making the audience empathize with the “monster”. A rather timely feat for our world today. Keira Knightley (Joan) is also solid in the role accompanied by Mathew Goode (Hugh)—who we should see more of in film. The story is told tastefully, and is a definite must-watch movie in your lifetime. Know your history, and who did what, people!

And guess what, there’s a bonus dish—call it dessert!

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

If you’ve watched the first one, you can’t miss the second one. For me personally, it’s not the story or the vocals that draw me in but more so the characters, or a character (cough* “Fat Amy”). This rendition is definitely more politically incorrect than its predecessor and it lampoons itself throughout the movie for that via the dance commentators’ ‘oh-my-God-he-did-not-just-say-that!’ remarks. The vocals aren’t killer, but flashlight, there’s one original song in there that you’ll realize that you like after the movie has ended, or right at the end. There is a nice arc to the story though, that sweetly ties in the generational gap. Brittany Snow (Chloe) looks incredibly cute yet again—big surprise there (not). I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit that I am a fan of these Barden Bellas, because, they are randomly weird and hilarious when malfunctioning as one unit. We’ll give Pitch Perfect 2 a 7.1/10. Adieu.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Furious 7" (2015): Movie Review

Taken by Karimelmahalawy
It’s all about family, this one.

The light scent of Spring that waltzed in late in 2015 was blasted away this weekend by a windstorm of exhaust, carbon, screaming rubber and NOS—like only Vin Diesel’s (Dominic Toretto’s) Dodge Charger can spit out. With this chaotic heated haze also comes both the revisiting of established onscreen romances and the reiteration of reinforced iron-hard bromances in “Furious 7” (2015), the latest model of the “Fast and the Furious”.  

The investment in infectiously amusing characters over the past 14 years reaches a timely maturity period in “Furious 7” to save the movie from much criticism, rendering it almost immune from the usual wrath of critics for these types of movies. Especially true following the heart wrenching tragedy that unfairly stole the ever-smiling blue-eyed Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner) from our lives in late 2013.  

True to its first appeal, “Furious 7” does it right by going back to its roots—flashy cars, high-speed tracking shots, cloth shy women, immersive locations, and outrageous stunts (each one outdoing the next by both spectacle and also, unfortunately, ridiculousness). “Furious 7” screenwriter Chris Morgan and horror film director James Wan (“Saw”) also include improved combat scenes—the main highlight featuring Vin Diesel and Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw). Filmed with quick cuts, and an occasional sprinkle of point-of-view frames, at times even viewers are forced to tumble with the onscreen characters and their metal toys—plunging you face first into the dizzying effects of this turbo charged world.

The need for speed is real but the plot is pretty “meh”. In a nutshell: super villain Shaw is on a rampage to avenge his brother via a manhunt of the Furious gang (of course he is), and in an attempt to make the movie contain an added layer of “complexity” we are also given a tech object of desire, the “God’s Eye”, that is being arm wrestled for by a covert US Government agency and Djimon Hounsou (Jakande)—an angry West African dude on a helicopter ready to blast apart LA as if he’s on some midnight can’t-sleep session of GTA 5.      

The formation of the gang, in their recognizably assigned color-coded cars (or other vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Bugatti Veyron), reminds one of Transformers and the Autobots, or even possibly of a group of superheroes (hint*)—each with their own unique story to tell and skill to deliver. This all works well and fine, and provides for enough high-speed loud entertainment to keep viewers satisfied. Meanwhile, occasional comic relief is provided by Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and also The Rock who has some great one-liners in there, while baritone Diesel keeps repeating the word “family” every 10 minutes. However, it is disappointing that the logical gaps between plot elements were sometimes as big as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s biceps. For instance, how does Decker know to keep appearing in the correct place every time? The gang does all that damage in the Middle East and then meet at midnight after blowing up two towers, abusing Royalty and…it goes on. But then again, sigh, you learn to go with it. You’re in for the ride, the speed, the adrenaline and not for the intricacies of structure, logic and synthesis. Buckle up; don’t question—you’ll be fine.

I have an inclination to believe that critics went soft on this movie for sympathy’s sake, and instead turned a blind eye on the overly dramatized acting, stilted dialogue and the cubbyhole of clichés. It reminds one of action movies in the 90’s, and the "The Expendables" (2010). This is what sets apart movies like the Dark Knight trilogy which have equally explosive scenes but far more substance in writing and plot development.

But honestly though, to me, the success of “Furious 7” rides in another special place—in the metanarrative space between Walker’s tragedy and the winding down story of “Furious 7”. The movie almost speaks to us through the screen, as if it knows too and feels our tugging. Throughout the movie we are on pins for Brian’s fate, knowing Walker’s already. The producers handle this tactfully and respectfully without ever evoking too much of this trauma for the audience, presenting Brian as normal as normal can be. But the end-sendoff is indeed, like another critic put it: “poetry”. A graceful sendoff both in terms of writing and symbolic cinematography—that we never truly say goodbye and that each of us has our own road to ride along when the time comes. Eyes in the theater ranged from dry, misty to downright: dam broken!

For those who’ve already seen the movie—you’ll appreciate that while walking out I overheard one girl, between her sniffles, saying “I want to just cut all those damn trees down so I can still see him!” And that’s it, really, sometimes the last taste in your mouth is what can really shape your overall estimation of something. The sendoff to Paul was flawless, and for that we are very forgiving. Regardless of what critics say, this is a movie you won’t want to not see—I know I personally saw it in the theater for Paul’s sake. The curiosity of the human condition propels us in many ways, and this was one of them. “Furious 7” receives a 6.5/10. Adieu.