Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family’s quiet life is shaken when they’re targeted by Dante (Jason Momoa), the vengeful son of Brazilian drug kingpin Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).
I think we’re at the stage with this franchise that you’ll know whether or not Fast X is for you. The action set pieces are bigger and more ridiculous and unbelievable than ever, characters survive things that they really shouldn’t if real-world logic applied here, and it’s still a lot of fun.
Fast X juggles a lot of characters as the family has gotten bigger over the course of this franchise and there’s new characters too in Tess (Brie Larson), a potentially-shady government agent, and Dante who is out for revenge. The film does suffer a bit by having the family split up for much of the runtime, because it’s the various relationships between these characters that mean just as much as the wild stunts. Having Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) split up especially is a shame as their dynamic has been one of the core ones of this franchise. As Fast X is a part one of two (or potentially three) films, that will presumably be fixed and all the different groups of characters will finally be together again. (more…)
Nearly 5,000 years after he was given the powers of the gods Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is freed from his earthly tomb, to find his home country of Kahndaq is now besieged by mercenaries, so he sets about unleashing his unique form of justice on the modern world.
The best thing Black Adam has going for it is Dwayne Johnson. He does make an imposing villain/anti-hero and it is kind of fun seeing him be so ruthless with a bunch of bad guys without then second guessing it. It’s clear from the outset that the people who have invaded this country are not good people and deserve anything that is coming to them.
Naturally Black Adam needs some superpowered good guys to go up against and that’s where the Justice Society of America (JSA) comes in. Like all the superpowered characters in this film, I knew nothing about the JSA and I still know little about them and how the Justice Society works as this film gives very little backstory or characterisation to any of them. Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) is the new guy, Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) has pretty cool and colourful wind powers, Hawkman’s (Aldis Hodge) main thing is saying “heroes don’t kill people” over and over again, and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) is just the best and steals just about every scene he’s in – even when he’s going toe to toe with Black Adam.
Everyone gives fine to good performances and the JSA team are all generally likeable and have decent charisma but it was hard to really care about them all. Also naturally, as Black Adam couldn’t be an out and out villain, there was always going to be something that would unite him and the JSA as they fight some other big bad. It’s a superhero movie cliché and unfortunately in this instance, the random new baddie wasn’t particularly interesting either.
Something that the film treats as a Big Reveal and a plot twist, is diminished as it’s in the trailer and it’s not even a subtle thing. If you’ve seen the first trailer, the trailer below in fact, you may be like me watching this film, just waiting for something seemingly obvious to be spelt out, but that thing is only so obvious when you’ve seen the trailer. It’s poor marketing on the studios part as any dramatic heft is lost.
I did like what Black Adam had to say about Western (super) powers not being interesting in the strife of a Middle Eastern country such as Kahndaq, until they have their own powerful guardian and then they are seen as a threat. That kind of on the nose but different (for a superhero movie) political commentary was unexpected but welcome.
Black Adam is neither particularly good nor particularly bad. If I was a kid, I’d probably have a great time with this as it reminded me a bit of those “middle tier” superhero movies like Fantastic Four (2005), it has a lot action set pieces and bombastic fights while also not being very memorable. Some of the CGI is a bit dodgy and trying to stuff so many new and somewhat obscure characters into a two-hour movie means that characterisation is left by the wayside. 3/5.
It has accidentally become a thing where every couple of years I look at my most watched actors ever list courtesy of Letterboxd and see what conclusions I can come to from it.
It’s fun to see how much (if any) change there’s been since I did this in 2017 and in 2019. The first thing I noticed that while their position to one another may have changed; Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Statham, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman have always been my top four most watched actors since I started looking at these stats.
This year a quarter of my most watched actors are women – the most I’ve ever had on this list. Kristen Stewart, Anna Kendrick and Anne Hathaway making an appearance here for the first time. I definitely would like to see more women on here and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kristen Stewart especially manages to stay on here as I have about half a dozen of her films on my watchlists on various streaming services.
There are also six actors of colour, two more than last year as Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie make their first appearance on this list. Both of whom I’m not surprised about as they’re both the kind of actors I’ll watch a film just because they’re in it.
Having Anton Yelchin on this list is kind of bittersweet. Last year I watched a load of his films I hadn’t seen before so that helped get him onto this list. And while I do still have over a dozen more of his films to see, there will come a time when he probably won’t be able to stay on this list just because he is no longer with us and making films when other actors are.
It seems like every time I do this, this top twenty list gets more and more competitive. Back in 2019 the actors with the least amount of watches to their name were Rachel Weisz, Jim Broadbent, Maggie Smith, and Channing Tatum who all had 24. In 2021, none of them make the list and now my “least watched” are Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Scarlett Johansson, Dwayne Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Anthony Mackie, Anton Yelchin and Kristen Stewart with 27 films each.
It’ll be interesting to see in two years’ time who will still be on this list. For instance, John Goodman still has a spot like he did in 2019 but I haven’t watch one single more new-to-me film of his in two years. He often plays supporting characters and sometimes pops up in the most random of films so it’s easy to see why I haven’t seen more of his films but equally I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to cling onto the list.
My predictions for 2023 is that Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Statham will still be my most watched actors but I think Idris Elba will surpass Morgan Freeman. I think Kristen Stewart will manage to stay in my top 20 most watched actors and I’d like it if more women could join her on this list too. Otherwise, who knows what could happen in two years!
When the Joe’s are betrayed by their President (Jonathan Pryce), the survivors must hide and pool all their resources in order to stop whatever deadly plan he and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) have put together.
Much like the first film, I’ve seen G.I. Joe: Retaliation once before but it was so long ago, I remembered next to nothing about it. What G.I. Joe: Retaliation has going for it is that it’s a lot better than its predecessor, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. As a film G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t exactly great but when you compare it to what came before it’s hard not to think it’s half decent.
While there’s still some advance, sci-fi-esque tech in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, mostly courtesy of Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and his electronic insects, it’s generally a lot more grounded in reality. There are no super suits for the Joes, they are purely military characters, and they’re all American this time.
The surviving Joe’s are led by Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) proving once again that the Rock can help reenergise any franchise. There’s also Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park). Snake Eyes and his feud with Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-Hun) is still a highlight of this franchise, it’s always nice to see a female badass in these testosterone-heavy films, but Flint is such a generic action man character that anyone could’ve been in that role – I mean, the man isn’t even on the poster. Channing Tatum briefly reprises his role as Duke and has much more charisma this time round and he could’ve easily fitted into the Flint character’s role. Plus, his chemistry with Johnson was really good too.
The action sequence that stands out in G.I. Joe: Retaliation of course features Snake Eyes. The first part is him fighting Storm Shadow in a hallway and how the music drops out so there’s just the echoes of gunfire or swords clashing is really effective. Then there’s the daring escape where he and Jinx (Elodie Yung) are against dozens of ninjas and end up fighting while abseiling down a snowy cliff face. It’s a thrilling sequence and while the film kind of slows down to allow for the Snake Eyes plot which is almost like a side quest to the main plot with the Rock and co. when it looks that good and is that entertaining it’s hard to be mad about it.
The rest of the action sequences are more on the small-scale (compared to the globe-trotting first film). There’s still a lot of gunfire and explosions but there’s also so hand to hand combat scenes and more of an espionage vibe as the Joe’s try to figure out what’s going on with the President. Gotta say Jonathan Pryce is delightfully hammy as the evil President and makes the silliness of the situation almost work.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a half-decent, popcorn, action flick. It doesn’t require too much brain power, there are some cool action sequences and mostly thanks to the Rock, a lot more of the characters are entertaining this time round. 3/5.
Framed for the unfolding disaster, security expert Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) must infiltrate the world’s tallest building as it burns to save his family who are trapped inside with criminals.
If the premise of Skyscraper sounds familiar to you, that’s probably because you’ve seen some variation of this film before and it hits some pretty generic action beats to move the plot along. It’s also very easy to make comparisons to Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say Skyscraper is a combination of the two. Luckily for Skyscraper it has Dwayne Johnson as it’s lead, so some terrible dialogue and recycled plot points are easier to ignore.
Honestly the charisma and star power of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson really has to be admired as he will make any generic action film watchable. Will Sawyer is a compelling character who happens to be ex-military and is an amputee with a prosthetic leg. Having the hero of this disaster movie be more vulnerable was a nice touch. While Will was still strong and capable of running through fires, climbing buildings and fighting bad guys, there are moments where he has to stop and check his prosthetic leg over. Plus, as the days turmoil goes on it shows how having a prosthetic leg can be both a help and a hinderance in this unique situation. There are some action sequences that make use of the prosthetic leg, but on the whole, it is just shown as a part of him and that he is just fighting to save his family.
The performances from the supporting cast are solid too with people like Noah Taylor and Chin Han showing up making you go “I know him from somewhere!” Neve Campbell plays Sarah, Will’s wife, and she actually ends up with more to do than you think.
The set pieces are pretty spectacular, and I imagine seeing Skyscraper on a big screen would’ve made them even more impressive – and maybe even a sense of vertigo. The sequences where Will is climbing outside of the building, or his family is running through the burning building are good though the closer hand to hand fight scenes are a bit harder to follow and look a little messy at times.
Skyscraper isn’t really anything new to the disaster/action move genre, and it’s more serious than you’d expect, but it’s still reasonably enjoyable even if you can predict a lot of what happens and everything gets wrapped up unexpectedly quickly. 3/5.
My original review of The Fate and the Furious from when it was first released is here.
When Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) turns his back on his family and starts to work with mysterious cybercriminal Cipher (Charlize Theron), his family must team up with old foes in order to stop him before it’s too late.
Like the films that came before it, The Fate of the Furious really does make everything bigger and more ridiculous. The laws of physics and logic go completely out the window but if you are happy to see a bunch of unbelievable stunts with cars then The Fate of the Furious is a lot of fun.
There are some serious moments though in The Fate of the Furious, especially once you learn the reason why Dom has turned on his family. This does lead to some emotional moments though it does also lead to a character we’ve met before getting the rough end of the stick. It would have been nice if the film had found a way around that obstacle that wasn’t so common and unfortunate.
Jason Statham returns as Deckard Shaw but this time he’s forced to work with the people he tried to kill the last time they met. He presents a bit of a wildcard element in the team dynamic we’ve become accustomed to over the past few films. Statham’s banter with Dwayne Johnson (who plays Agent Luke Hobbs) is always fun and Statham almost manages to steal the whole film in one of the final action sequences.
With Dom being on the opposite side to his family, it gives Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) more of a lead role than she’s ever had before. She keeps the family together, leading the team and never losing faith in Dom. Rodriguez gives a great performance and, While Diesel certainly has his moments, she is really the heart of the film.
I have to mention the score composed by Brian Tyler. He has composed all but three of the Fast & Furious films and perhaps it’s because I’ve watched them so close together, but you notice that these films, and this team of characters has a theme. It’s something that’s noticeable in all of the big scenes, the heist in Fast Five for instance, and the finale of The Fate of the Furious as the team races across the ice. It really helps add to these films sense of identity and gives you an extra shot of adrenalin as when you hear it, you know something big is about to happen.
The Fate of the Furious is over-the-top but the cast and crew fully commit to the stunts that defy the laws of physics and that just makes it all the more fun and entertaining. 4/5.
Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks to destroy Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their family in revenge for what happened to his brother in London. As he starts to pick them off one by one, Dom is approached by secret government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) who wants them to rescue a kidnapped hacker and in return will help them find Shaw before he finds them.
Furious 7 takes the action and the fights up to a whole new level for this franchise. Everything that is shown in the trailer – cars flying out of airplanes, Brian running across the top of a bus that’s falling off of a cliff, a car jumping between two skyscrapers – it’s all just a taste of the over-the-top yet thrilling spectacle that this film has to offer. Everything in Furious 7 is bigger and bolder, from the international locations to the stunts, but it never loses what is at the heart of this franchise – these characters and the fact they are indeed a family.
There’s a lot happening in Furious 7 in terms of villains and plot threads. While Shaw is set up as the main antagonist to begin with, there’s also terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) who is after the kidnapped hacker and their tech for the team to contend with. Luckily, the film speeds along and it has a good balance with these villains and the different obstacles Dom and his family have to face.
That is probably the best way to describe Furious 7; it knows what it is (almost ridiculous but always entertaining) and how to make all of its parts come together cohesively. There are the fights – the one between Shaw and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is brilliant – the car chases, the jokes, and the emotional character dynamics. Furious 7 never lets its foot off the gas but at the same time, you never feel like you’re missing anything.
Furious 7 is action-packed and it has a lot of emotional weight to it. It is the most perfect and respectful send of to Paul Walker and it wraps up Brian’s story so well. In lesser hands the sequence with flashbacks of Brian in the various films across the years could’ve felt cheesy. But here, it fits with the tone perfectly and it ends up being a wonderful tribute to Paul Walker and his time in this franchise. Honestly, the ending of Furious 7 leaves me speechless (and in tears) because it is handled so well. 5/5.
When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) needs help taking down a team of precision drivers led by criminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), he turns to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their team. Following the revelation that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still alive and working with Shaw, Dom and his family will do anything to get her back.
There are high-octane thrills in Fast & Furious 6 with car chases around London (though it never really uses the city to it’s full potential and nearly everything there takes place at night), a tank causing chaos on a motorway in Spain, and a sequence where the team take on a plane.
There are also some brutal fist fights too as Rodriguez’s Letty takes on Gina Carano’s Riley (Hobbs’ right-hand woman) on the London Underground. It is amusing how their brutal and efficient fight is juxtaposed with Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Han’s (Sung Kang) unsuccessful fight against another one of Shaw’s team.
Though Letty is back she has amnesia so seeing her slowly reconnect with Dom and figure out who she is and where she fits in with this group of people who seems to know her is interesting. Rodriguez and Diesel still have a tonne of chemistry even if Letty isn’t the person Dom used to know. Also, credit to the writer as the Fast and Furious franchise really is getting better in its representation of and attitudes towards women. Elena (Elsa Pataky) and Dom had gotten together by the end of Fast Five and how she lets Dom go, and Letty’s reaction to her, is very mature on all sides.
There’s a whole subplot in Fast & Furious 6 that feels out of place. It involved Brian having to leave the team in order to investigate Shaw’s criminal connections and I achieves nothing in terms of furthering the plot. However, it is more of a character study as Brian attempts to atone for his part in Letty’s “demise” and her current situation.
As the series has grown and the team/family of heroes has expanded, it does mean that the villains don’t get much development. Evans tries his best to be a different kind of menacing to the ones Dom and his crew have encountered before, but it doesn’t really hold up bar one scene where he and Diesel have a standoff. Roman makes a comment that Shaw’s crew is like their evil twins but that’s all down to appearances rather than their skills or personalities as you never really get to know any of them.
Fast & Furious 6 is still fun and has bigger stunts than before, though it does have a somewhat convoluted plot. The emphasis is still on family though and on the whole the emotional beats land which is what you really want from this franchise. 3/5.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) along with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster and friend and former-FBI Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are on the run and backed into a corner. After they cross paths with a powerful Brazilian drug lord in Rio, they call in old friends to pull off one last job to buy their freedom. But all the while federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on their tail.
Following on from Fast & Furious, Fast Five continues the trend of stepping away from its street racing roots becoming a heist film and it’s all the better for it. It still has some great car racing action, but a lot of it either pushes forward the plot or is a nice character moment. It has all the usual heist tropes, but they come together with characters you’ve seen across the previous four films means which makes them extra fun and enjoyable.
Moulding characters into the roles of heist archetypes like the techy (Ludacris’s Tej), the quick talker (Tyrese Gibson’s Roman), and the social chameleon (Sung Kang’s Han) is handled really well and it feels like an extension of the characters we’ve already meant rather than a complete reinvention.
Having all these characters come together and become friends, some of which previously knew Dom before while some only knew Brian, fully cements the key theme of this franchise – family. It’s a theme that had been there from the start but really, it’s once this cast of actors and characters are finally together that you properly start to connect with that message.
Dwayne Johnson is a brilliant addition to the cast and he is a formidable foe for Walker’s Brian and Diesel’s Dom. Really, Hobbs is a combination of the two of them; he has the knowledge of the legal system of Brian, the physical strength of Dom, and is just as loyal to his team as the two of them are to their own family.
The action spectacle of Fast Five is top-notch too. There are foot chases through a favela, an opening set piece with a heist on a train, brutal fistfights, and then there’s the climax which sees a lot of destruction on the streets of Rio. All the action sequences are exciting, well-shot and easy to follow and above all, they are really fun.
Fast Five is a thrill ride from start to finish. The false starts, and not so great films that came before it, can be forgiven because this one is a fantastic blend of action, intrigue, fun and above all – likeable characters that are one big family. Fast Five really set the bar for what the rest of the franchise could be. 5/5.
When Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is seduced into the world of terrorism by the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron), his family and crew must join with old foes in order to stop him.
Fast & Furious 8 really steps it up a gear in terms of stunts and spectacle. There’s car chases on the streets of New York, a giant wrecking ball taking out cars and, of course, a submarine vs cars on ice sequence. They shouldn’t work and sometimes it’s a little chaotic to follow where everyone is but it’s best to let the adrenalin start pumping and go along for the ride.
Cipher is a very different kind of villain to what the crew has faced before. She’s almost all seeing and all-knowing thanks to her hacking skills and is powerful enough to get Dom to turn on his family for her. Most of her scenes are with Dom so it would’ve been nice to see her interact with more of the characters and see how characters like loud-mouth Roman (Tyrese Gibson) would react her.
It’s weird going into a Fast and Furious film without Paul Walker being there and they do have a reason why he and Jordana Brewster are not in the film, but the film generally still holds up with the old crew and a few new additions. There’s Eric (Scott Eastwood) Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) new protégée, who takes a while to gel and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is roped in to join the team. The conflict between him and the team is a bit hit and miss, the film quickly brushes off his history with the team (they almost killed his brother and he in turn killed one of their own and tried to kill the rest of them in the last film) and it would’ve been nice to see some more of that conflict. The one place you do feel that tension is between Shaw and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), their chemistry is great and there’s a lot of humour from them two trash talking each other.
Each member of the team has their moment to shine but in many ways, this is Dom’s film. He has the emotional beats of the film, along with (to a lesser extent) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). She, as his wife, is the most visibly torn up about his betrayal and while she does have some cringey lines, she gives a good performance.
What can I say, if you’ve seen any of the recent Fast and Furious films then you know what you’ll be getting into – a world where the laws of physics don’t apply and the main crew of street racers are more like spies or superheroes nowadays. Fast & Furious 8 continues to be a lot of fun with a thrilling finale and a lot of laughs all the way through the film – it’s mad but it works. 4/5.