Tag Archives: Vin Diesel

Movie review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’ way too serious

“The Fate of the Furious” (PG-13)

While it’s not a total spinout, “The Fate of the Furious” – the eighth film in the seemingly endless “Fast and Furious” franchise – seems to have lost its way following the blockbuster worldwide success of “Furious 7.” After an entertaining 10-minute race scene to kick off the film, “The Fate of the Furious” quickly loses the type of self-aware sense of humor that made the last film such a joy; and remains stuck in neutral with a formulaic action movie plot until it miraculously pulls itself out a funk for the third act of the movie.

Diesel is back for his sixth “Furious” film as Dominic Toretto, the cocksure street racer who has evolved over the film series into the leader of a band of international mercenaries whose jobs often find them trying to save the world from disaster. But when Dom is coerced by notorious super hacker Cipher (Theron) to go rogue, he’s forced to turn against his crew in order to secure an EMP device that has the power to shut down a major city and turn the scene into complete chaos. And that’s not all …

Convinced that Dom is taking commands against his will, the crew (including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Michelle Rodriguez – whose Letty is now married to Dominic) takes up an offer from government shade Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new right hand, dubbed “Little Nobody” (Scott Eastwood, who appears to be filling the void left by late Paul Walker) to recover the EMP and other potential weapons of mass destruction to clean their crime-riddled slates.

While its far inferior to “Furious 7,” “The Fate of the Furious” isn’t a bad movie – the action in the final third alone will give audience members what they’re looking for with subplot that involved a Russian nuclear submarine. Thankfully stars like Johnson, Jason Statham, Russell and Helen Mirren (who sadly appears for about 5 minutes in a pair of scenes) didn’t wait that long to let you know they’re in the joke.

On the flip side, Vin Diesel and the film’s new villain, played by Charlize Theron, are trying to play it straight throughout  the film; proving that even Oscar winners can’t act their way out of horrific dialogue.

Listen to Tim’s review of “The Fate of the Furious” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ Morning Show.”

A little sense of humor clearly would have gone a long way, and while Diesel attempts to charm his way through the opening scene, playing it straight for most of the way exposes all of the actor’s weaknesses (mainly, that he only knows how to play one type of character – a wiseass tough guy) and he hits a low point as he barely squeezes out a couple crocodile tears.

Theron’s turn is almost more painful to watch, though, as her over-the-top madwoman questing world domination borders on a mustache-twitching villain that revels in evil. Theron, like everybody else in “Furious 7” should have been reveling in the ridiculousness of what the franchise it has become. It’s too bad, because Theron has proven otherwise that she’s an extremely talented actress.

True, no amount of criticism will stop “The Fate of the Furious” from being another worldwide blockbuster (“Furious 7” grossed $1.5 billion worldwide two years ago) out of the gate, but the shift in gears to a semi-serious film (“The Fate of the Serious”?) will no doubt be a drag on the long term prospects of the box office and the films that come after it.

Lammometer: 6 (out of 10)

Reviews: ‘Return of Xander Cage,’ ‘The Founder,’ ‘Patriots Day,’ ‘Live by Night’

Click the audio player below for Tim Lammers’ reviews of “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” and “The Founder” on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard.

Click the video player below for Tim Lammers’ reviews of “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” and “The Founder” on “KARE 11 News at 11” with Adrienne Broadus.

Click the audio player below for Tim Lammers’ reviews of “Patriots Day” and “Live by Night” on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard.

Reviews: ‘Rock the Kasbah,’ ‘The Last Witch Hunter’

Bill Murray in 'Rock the Kasbah' (photo -- Open Road Films)

By Tim Lammers

“Rock the Kasbah” (R) 3 stars (out of 4)

Bill Murray once again plays a role tailor-made to his keen comic sensibilities in “Rock the Kasbah,” an amusing tale about a over-the-hill rock tour manager who’s seeking redemption in the unlikeliest of places. Murray is great as usual, even though the plot of the film – grounded in the plight of a real Afghan woman – is hopelessly contrived.

Murray stars as Richie Lanz, who finds a silver lining in a very dark cloud over his doomed music management career when he gets an invite to bring his last client, Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) to play a USO tour in Afghanistan. Once Richie and Ronnie get there, though, they find bombs going off and talk of getting body armor if they want to stay safe. Freaking out, Ronnie steals Richie’s money and passport and secures a trip to Dubai, leaving the down-on-his-luck tour manager stranded in Kabul with no means of getting out anytime soon.

Richie’s fortunes change, though, when he meets a couple of shady American arms dealers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride), who send him on a mission to sell ammunition to a tribal leader who is trying to protect his people from rivals. By happenstance, Richie stumbles across the tribal leader’s daughter, Salima (Leem Lubany) singing in a cave in the desert, where she dreams of being on the country’s televised singing competition “Afghan Star.” Richie wants to get Salima there, but he’s goin

g to have to be creative because the country’s culture forbids women from singing and dancing in public.

While it’s not nearly as funny or poignant as Murray’s stellar dramedy “St. Vincent” from last year, “Rock the Kasbah,” ably directed by Barry Levinson, is still a good comedy that will please fans of the legendary funnyman. He’s aided by a fantastic supporting cast, including Kate Hudson as an enterprising American hooker building up a nest egg in Kabul, as well as Bruce Willis as a hard-nosed mercenary who helps Murray out of some serious jams. Lubany also shines as the would-be Afghan singing star, even though the plot comes off as highly implausible.

Thankfully avoiding any sort of political commentary (which you would expect given the film’s Afghan war setting) “Rock the Kasbah” works, if anything, as a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy. You just know Murray would never survive these sorts of circumstances in the real world, but as Richie Lanz, he rocks the house.

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“The Last Witch Hunter” (PG-13) 1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Fresh off the blistering success of “Furious 7,” Vin Diesel’s latest star vehicle, the supernatural action adventure “The Last Witch Hunter,” hits the wall even before the movie has a chance to get revved up.

Diesel stars as Kaulder, a medieval axe and sword slinger who is cursed to live forever by a powerful witch in the 13th century in the film’s prologue. The bulk of the movie, though, is set 800 years later, when a long-dormant coven made up of the most evil witches and warlocks threaten to emerge and wreak havoc on the world, and only Kaulder and a pair of priests (the always great Michael Caine and Elijah Wood) can stop them.

Without the type of insane “Furious” car stunts and action sequences to distract the audience, Diesel’s limited acting range becomes painfully obvious in “The Last Witch Hunter.” While he appears to be an affable actor, Diesel’s delivery in “The Last Witch Hunter” is horribly a one-note performance, and the run-of-the-mill creature effects that creep up throughout the film aren’t much better.

In a movie that has no sense of humor about itself (a key to the “Furious” franchise’s success), Diesel, for the lack of better words, is running on fumes. He needs to get back on the “Furious” trek – and fast – if his career is to going to last.

Movie review: ‘Furious Seven’

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in 'Furious Seven'

“Furious Seven” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of four)

All engines are a go in “Furious Seven,” the seventh installment in Vin Diesel and Paul Walker’s blockbuster “The Fast and the Furious” film franchise. Instantly throwing any sense of logic out the window, the hot-rod movie is as dumb as a box of rocks, yet revels in every second of its ridiculousness. That’s because as implausible as it is throughout its exhausting 137-minute run-time, “Furious Seven” is also outrageously entertaining.

The premise of “Furious Seven” is fairly straightforward: A lethal, ex-British Special Ops soldier, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), is out for revenge after the loss of his brother — and he wants to make Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and the mercenary crew responsible pay with their lives.  Toretto and company (Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges”), however, can stop Shaw in his tracks if they can locate a high-tech terrorism device called “God’s Eye,” which can locate any person on the planet in an instant.

Also back for “Furious Seven” is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but his appearance really only bookends the movie as the franchise introduces Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody — a shady, whimsical government heavy who hires the crew to locate the rogue computer device.

As big as Diesel, Walker and company have become thanks the franchise, the true stars of “Furious Seven” are the muscle cars and souped-up vehicles that scream across the film’s international scenery, purposely drive off cliffs and soar though one skyscraper in Dubai to the next.  Above all is a wild sequence where Toretto and his crew parachute their vehicles into a heavily-guarded foreign territory, proving that the sky, truly is the limit for the film’s dizzying action sequences.

While classified an action crime drama, “Furious Seven” is often laugh-loud funny with its hammy dialogue and over-the-top, clichéd, 80s action movie-like macho characters. It has a so-bad-that-it’s-good quality that’s completely infectious. In fact, the only sense of seriousness the film has is when the late Walker shows up on the screen, reminding us of the tragic accident that took his life in November 2013.

Naturally, there’s a highly emotional send-off for Walker at the film’s conclusion, as director James Wan strings together a tear-jerker flashback scene recounting his appearances in all the “Fast and Furious” movies. Even more beautiful is how Wan constructed a lyrical exit for Walker from the series that couldn’t be any more appropriate as the film franchise heads down new roads.

Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.