Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Rodriguez’

Dollar Signs and Empty Promises

Widows

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Carrie Coon, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Brian Tyree Henry, Garrett Dillahunt, Cynthia Erivo

In a labyrinth tale which at times is difficult to follow, 12 Years a Slave and Shame director Steve McQueen weaves a tangled web in the contemporary Chicago crime drama Widows featuring an outstanding ensemble cast including a brilliant Viola Davis, Oscar winner for Fences, Oscar nominees Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as a ruthless hitman, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as a pushy Polish mother along with Oscar winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) as Colin Farrell’s hectic father Tom Mulligan.

What sets Widows apart is that McQueen frames the film as a gritty more complex version of Oceans 8 with pivotal roles for Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki (The Tale) and Michelle Rodriguez as three widowed woman who decided to band together and conspire to do a heist to rob from alderman Mulligan played by Colin Farrell who is in a turf war with his contestant a rising African-American politician Jamal Manning played by Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis).

Daniel Kaluuya plays the insanely evil and vindictive younger brother Jatemme Manning who feels nothing as he tortures a snitch in a wheelchair or makes victims sing before executing them at point blank range.

Director Steve McQueen frames every shot with a keen eye for detail especially the excellent scenes with Viola Davis as she comes to terms with her husband and thief Harry Rawlings explosive demise, shot in a series of intimate flashbacks scenes made more poignant that action star Liam Neeson plays the street savvy thief Rawlings.

What Widows does offer is a sophisticated treatment of contemporary American race relations, inner city corruption, poverty and crime of which there is plenty in this film.

McQueen lets certain scenes linger too long while allowing others to be cut so short that their explosive nature is electrifying. Where he is excels is at is controlling this massive and diverse ensemble cast.

Veteran star Robert Duvall has a fairly major role as the paternal Trumpesque figure Tom Mulligan who is trying to retain his family’s supremacy in the political environment despite his son Jack’s dubious double dealing whose only achievement is offering dollar signs and empty promises.

Equally refreshing is to see Fast and Furious star Michelle Rodriguez in a more substantial role as she battles to keep her family together after her Latino husband Carlos, a briefly seen cameo by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo perishes in Rawling’s heist that goes terribly wrong.

Widows gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and has a massive twist which should keep audiences riveted in a sprawling crime drama held together by superb acting. Highly recommended viewing.

Live Fast, Die Harder

Fast and Furious 8

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivuju, Elsa Pataky

As if there weren’t enough Fast and Furious films, there has to be an eighth film less the appearance of actor Paul Walker who tragically died in a car accident in California in 2013, just after filming The Fast and Furious 7.

The Italian Job director F. Gary Gray assembles an international cast featuring most of the actors from the previous films including Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty along with Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Chris Bridges as Tej Parker. This time the chief villain is South African born Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster) as ruthless hacker Cipher who entices Dominic into working for him after she approaches him in a Havana Street. Cipher’s hold of Dominic turns to be blackmail and she constantly manipulates his familial duties and his bond to his gang of drivers.

To add some muscle to the cast are Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs and action man Jason Statham as Deckard who are recruited by a covert intelligence officer aptly identified as Mr Nobody played by Kurt Russell who is definitely experience a resurgence in his career. Mr Nobody’s sidekick Little Nobody is played by Scott Eastwood (Fury) son of veteran actor Clint Eastwood.

Let’s face it the screenwriters are not exactly imaginative with character names. Suffice to say is that audiences that enjoyed all the other Fast and Furious films will definitely enjoy this international joyride as the action swiftly moves from Havana, Cuba to New York and then onto an icy showdown in Russia which involves a nuclear submarine among all the fast cars and snowmobiles. The Manhattan action sequence might be implausible but is definitely not an advert for the benefits of self-driving cars which can be remotely hacked. See it to believe it.

Considering that Fast and the Furious 8 was number one at the South African box office for three consecutive weeks since its Easter weekend opening and that the action film has grossed over a $1 billion dollars worldwide there is definitely enough fan support to sustain this fast-paced action franchise for further films to come.

Judging by the packed cinema when I watched the film, Fast and Furious 8 or the Fate of the Furious has the winning combination of fast cars, gadgets, beautiful women and a healthy dose of Hollywood cameos. This is popcorn cinema at its most formulaic and these films certainly keeps many actors employed.

As the characters live fast and some of them die harder, Fast and Furious 8 is a fun-filled action film but don’t expect anything too highbrow. Audiences should look out for Game of Thrones stars Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey and Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivuju as Toretto’s musclebound enemy Rhodes.

Fast and Furious 8 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. If you enjoyed the other films, then this film will satisfy even the most ardent speed racers who can visually salivate at fast cars and daring stunts.

A Fraternal Send Off

Fast and Furious 7

furious_seven

Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Chris Bridges, Luke Evans, Ronda Rousey, John Brotherton, Ali Fazal

Fast and Furious fans will not be disappointed with the seventh instalment of this hugely successful globetrotting film franchise as almost the entire cast of the previous six films are reunited in a poignant and brash fraternal send off to co-star Paul Walker, who died tragically in a car accident in Santa Clarita, California during the shooting of Fast and Furious 7 on the 30th November 2013.

This time the enemy amongst others is Deckard Shaw played with brawn by action star Jason Statham who after the defeat of his brother in London travels to Los Angeles and vows to hunt down all those responsible which include Hobbs played by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Dominic Torreto played by Vin Diesel as well as Brian O’Conner played by the late Paul Walker. Even Michelle Rodriguez has a bigger role in this film as Torreto’s kick-ass slightly amnesiac girlfriend Letty.

furious_seven_ver2

This time the enemy amongst others is Deckard Shaw played with brawn by action star Jason Statham who after the defeat of his brother in London travels to Los Angeles and vows to hunt down all those responsible which include Hobbs played by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Dominic Tureto played by Vin Diesel as well as Brian O’Conner played by the late Paul Walker. Even Michelle Rodriguez has a bigger role in this film as Tureto’s kick-ass slightly amnesiac girlfriend Letty.

Add some new faces such as Kurt Russell as the aptly titled Mr Nobody and Oscar nominee Djimon Hounson (Blood Diamond) as the other more nefarious villain Jakande as well as some familiar faces like Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious), Lucas Black (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) and this sequel is set to satisfy fans of this adrenalin pumping action series right from the opening fight scenes between Statham (Transporter, Safe) and Johnson (G. I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra).

As the seventh instalment of Fast and Furious was funded by Media Rights Capital, which is based in Abu Dhabi so should the action for a large part of this film. The Abu Dhabi skyscraper sequence in Fast and Furious 7 at a Jordanian billionaire prince’s penthouse party is sure to delight fans the world over and certainly attract new ones in the Middle East, even though the action scenes do mimic that of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which was set in Dubai.

Although the plot for Fast and Furious 7 may be convoluted and the storyline slightly far-fetched, the action sequences and car chase scenes are amazing from the Azerbaijan mountain sequence to the fabulous Abu Dhabi segment to the final explosive showdown in downtown Los Angeles which tends to drag on a bit but is no less entertaining if slightly implausible.

Most fittingly, the film ends with a poignant and memorable tribute scene on the beach in Malibu to one of its late stars, Paul Walker and it’s for this reason that fans will definitely see this film.

Recommended viewing for adrenalin junkies, petrol heads and fans of The Expendables and Mission Impossible film series, Fast and Furious 7 can be forgiven for being overlong, it’s a fitting fraternal send off to one its own stars. The action and stunt sequences are truly out of this world. See Fast and Furious 7 to believe it!

Cars and Girls

Fast and Furious 6

FastandFurious 6

Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, John Ortiz, Jordana Brewster, Gina Carano, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Shea Whigham, Luke Evans, Gal Gadot

Director Justin Lin’s flashy sixth installment of the now popular and hugely appealing Fast and Furious franchise moves the action away from the Americas and Asia to Europe and the United Kingdom, specifically London and Spain. Reuniting the entire cast of all the previous Fast and Furious movies with the exception of Lucas Black from Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious 6 settles on the successful male orientated formulaic narrative appeal of fast cars, tough girls and furious heroes who drive the host city into a frenzy.

In this case the post-industrial aspect of London’s 21st century image is exploited complete with panoramic views of the British Capital’s unique skyline including The Shard skyscraper and  rounded off with a scene at the Battersea Power Station, between Dominic Toretto coolly played by Vin Diesel and the recently resurrected bad girl Letty played by Michelle Rodriguez.

The villain in this ensemble is international terrorist Owen Shore, ably played by Welsh actor Luke Evans and the cast features Tyrese Gibson as the comic fast talking playboy Roman first introduced in the Miami based 2 Fast 2 Furious along with rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Paul Walker reprises his role as former LA cop turned outlaw Brian O’Conner, Jordana Brewster as his wife Mia (her star rising out of the new Dallas series) and Gina Carano as Riley who was last seen as the kick-ass man eliminating assassin in Steven Soderbergh spy thriller Haywire.

Cars + Girls = Winning Formula

The main star of these Fast and Furious films, besides the sexy girls and speeding cars are the incredibly brilliant action sequences which most of the films have delivered and underpins their continued success. Targeted Male Audience = Cars + Girls = Winning Formula.

Naturally the storyline is secondary in the incredible stunt sequences which in this film are thrilling to say the least especially the chase sequence on a Spanish highway involving a formidable tank. Unlikely yes! But hey this is the movies! Equally influenced by both the success of the latest James Bond film Skyfall and the Expendibles series, Fast and Furious 6 uses the London locations wisely complete with a gritty underground girl on girl fight sequence and a terrific chase sequence through the West End.

Inevitably all these characters are essentially American so they do look incredibly out of place in ever shifting cosmopolitan London and  this film would not have been thrilling without making the City of Westminster look like a NASCAR raceway.

The ridiculously over the top and thrilling climax sequence involving a heavy artillery military aircraft is straight out of an Arnold Schwarzeneggar film, with Dwayne Johnson fulfilling the 21st century version of Arnie’s action hero. Fast and Furious 6 is a no brainer when it comes to dazzling stunts and action sequences, but don’t expect any intricate plot twists or epic characterization. The fact that the film ends with a warning telling viewers not to try and emulate these stunt drivers, points to the essentially massive audience following this franchise has generated internationally from when the first Fast and the Furious was release in 2001, not to mention the inherent testosterone fueled need for speed, by at least three quarters of the younger male population worldwide. See Fast and the Furious 6 for fantastic stunts, cool cars, high action and as a substitute for any pent up fraternal frustrations.

 

Virtual Colonialist Diatribe

Avatar

avatar

James Cameron much anticipated Avatar is a simulacrum of CGI images which will dazzle the viewers but leave any intelligent probing of colonialism in a virtual capacity as a hollow fantasy without any true substance, leaving the human characters to languish in a wilderness of special effects without a thread of credibility…. there again – it is billed as a fantasy epic – a strange mixture of Ferngully on Acid mixed with GI Joe Transformers – where are those corporates digging for precious metals?

Too little of such great talents as Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi are used purposefully onscreen while Sam Worthington’s avatar is as solid as it is imaginary, as two dimensional as the proverbial battle between the indigenous popultion, the Na’vi and the humans which seek to destroy and colonize Pandora

First half is stunning but once Pandora ‘s delights are discovered, it all goes South from there and the machines bring destruction and a new dawn…

Irony of the film is that the earth-loving Pandoreans would never have been created ten years ago without the 21st Century digital technology….

star_trek 11

Blade Runner, Babylon AD and Chronicles of Riddick do far better in the originality arena… held up by the bastions of Science Fiction Star Wars and the recent brilliant Star Trek.

 

 

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