mad-max-fury-road-image-tom-hardy-4

Mad Max: Is it Furiosa enough?

Film

Mel Gibson made his name with the Max Max films and, in Max Rockatansky, he created a character that demanded your attention. He might not say much verbally, but you understood his intent, and indeed his intensity of purpose.

Stepping into his shoes three decades later is a man who’s already made his name in intense roles elsewhere, Tom Hardy. Great casting. And with the director of the original films, George Miller, on board you feel this new version is in safe hands.

joe

Not that you want safe from a Mad Max film, but you get the idea. With very little setup we’re straight into Max being captured by a gang of white-skinned, deformed ‘War Boys’ led by Predator look-alike Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). They take him back to their base of operations and, through a series of events, he meets Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), fleeing the gang with Joe’s prized possessions in tow, his ‘breeders’/wives/concubines, adorned in flowing robes and all stunningly beautiful women (including supermodels Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley and Abbie Lee Kershaw), standing out like shining lights in this apocalyptic and desolate desert world.

mad-max-fury-road-wives-4.png

They flee here and they flee there. And that’s about it as far as the plot goes. But plot isn’t really what you want from a Mad Max film. You want excess, depravity, modified cars, huge explosions, deranged gangs, and a sense of a world gone to hell.

Well… You get all that and then some.

Miller looks like he’s had quite a few ideas brewing the past few decades as there’s so many detailed touches and insane concepts on the screen that you don’t quite know where to look half the time, or what to think. From large, busty women hooked up to milking machines to War Boys spraying their lips with chrome paint and getting high off Max’s blood, it’s like a shot of flaming sambuca straight in your face whilst you’re hooked up to an electric torture chair. And you’ll love it for that.

FURY ROAD

The action set pieces (of which there are many) are done with as little CGI as possible and they’re truly awe-inspiring. Filmed largely in the desert in Namibia, it must have been a nightmare for the cast and crew. Happily, their suffering was not in vain as this is one epic thrill ride. It has downtime too (although not much), so you don’t get burnout from all the mayhem.

Character wise, Theron as Furiosa is inspired. Missing half an arm and covered in black grease, she’s learnt to survive in this world and past horrors are alluded to. She gives Furiosa depth and vulnerability with a nice steely side, providing a welcome contrast to Hardy’s Max, who says very little but speaks volumes when he does.

wxubnmtgefpsgvpmg6hv

If I had a criticism it would be that I felt Max could be a little more furious and unhinged. Even in the most dire circumstances he seems fairly calm and collected. There’s a few moments which nod to a past where he failed to protect his loved ones – and this is done in a manner which suggests he’s losing his grip on reality. More of that would have been welcomed, as we know Hardy can do method and he can definitely do madness (see Bronson), but here he seems restrained. Miller should have let him off the leash – as he did for almost everyone else on the cast.

Overall though, this is hugely entertaining, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Team this with the recently released John Wick and you’ll have one crazy night ahead of you, cinematically speaking.

The-Following-season-3-episode-2-Boxed-In-Ryan-Max-Mike

The Following season 3: Hardy hits the bottle

TV

It was only a matter of time before Kevin Bacon’s haunted FBI agent Ryan Hardy went to the dark side. Know thine enemy and all that. For two seasons The Following pitted him against James Purefoy’s charismatic serial killer Joe Carroll, to the point where they became two sides of the same coin.

A literal life or death bromance.

And that was great. Audiences – including myself – loved those scenes. Bacon played his conflicted as the good guy with dark, self-destructive compulsions, and Purefoy simply revelled in helping those come out of him. Like a sort of TV version of Emperor Palpatine seducing Anakin (Star Wars reference there people).

The-Following-season-3-episode-9-Kill-the-Messenger-Joe-Carroll-James-Purefoy

For season 3 Carroll is (sadly) locked up, so new villains take centre stage and we inevitably lose a lot of what made the show so compelling. First, his mentor Dr Strauss, who is ok as far as bad guys go, but pales in the charisma stakes if I’m honest. Then, Strauss’ so-called ‘best student’ is introduced, the one other serial killers are afraid of, Theo Noble (Michael Ealy).

As a new character he’s got a few strings to his bow. Being an ace hacker helps keep him off the grid and he’s smarter than most of the minions Hardy normally faces. As an actor Ealy has presence but, yet again, he’s no James Purefoy.

The-Following-season-3-episode-7-The-Hunt-Max-Hardy-Theo

There’s an air of carry-on-regardless about this season. As if the writers realised they’ve written out their best, most interesting and most charismatic character and are up serial killer creek without a bullet proof vest. They do their best to keep bringing him back in different ways but it just wasn’t enough.

For season 3 we’re quite a few episodes in before Hardy even visits Carroll in prison. Carroll’s first line to Hardy is, ‘What took you so long?’. I imagine the show’s producers – and indeed the show’s fans – were asking this question too. (Incidentally, this is exactly what happened with Homeland and Damien Lewis, although the show has just about recovered and evolved from his departure, but that’s another story.)

Hey ho though, the show must go on.

The-Following-season-3-episode-10-Evermore-Ryan-Hardy-observation-room

As the season progresses Theo’s hold over his ordered life of killing (obviously) unravels, forcing Hardy to go to darker and darker places to stop him, pretty much cementing his status as our go-to, twisted antihero, particularly for the season’s final third, which sets him up as a vigilante ready for a crusade all of his own.

If The Following makes it back for a fourth season it would be interesting to see how this progresses and expands. A huge change of direction could be welcome.

The-Following-season-3-episode-9-Kill-the-Messenger-Max-Hardy-Mike-Weston

If in some way they could keep the show’s regulars still involved to a degree (like Jessica Stroup’s Max Hardy and Shawn Ashmore’s Mike Weston) then great. But if they did have to lessen their roles to take the show in a new direction, I think I could live with that. Change, after all, is progress.

Hardy needs decent foes to face though. None of these bargain basement killers that couldn’t charm their way out of a paper bag. Another James Purefoy is the order of the day. Or, better yet, a charismatic lady to mix it up. Instead of a bromance he could be drawn to her romantically, yet unable to come to terms with her dark side. That could work.

1118full-annet-mahendru

On that note: Come the season’s final third (slight spoiler ahead) we were introduced to a shadowy, glamorous woman called Eliza (Annet Mahendru), who seemed to hold the key to a hidden world of high society killers. This gives Hardy his purpose for the next season and maybe she’ll become his future nemesis. Although I suspect she’s part of a much larger organisation and we’ll have another big baddie (or two) to look forward to next time round.

Ps. Turns out, having written this piece, that the show is indeed now cancelled. Typical. And, whilst this means a fourth season isn’t planned, website Design & Trend have suggested some interesting spin off ideas. See them here. I largely suggested a Ryan Gone Rogue one here in my blog, but there’s some others that could work well.

ray-winstone-water-splash-sexy-beast

Marriage advice from a geezer

Poetry

Domestic life with the trouble and strife, the old ball and chain, her indoors, the wife.
We work well together, we’re a unit. Sometimes she makes me mad but I rarely lose it. ‘Cos when I do I’m clueless.
Being on the wrong side of the argument, I’m used to this.
My actions often sending her into looney fits.
She purses her lips and fixes me with a thousand yard stare, the rollers in her hair look set to blow, looking like scud missiles but they’re yet to go, they’re part of her armour and they’re meant to show that she’s in charge.
Things are coming to a head and a confrontation is looming large.
But as she stands there in her tatty bra, it’s clear that she’s my movie star and can do no wrong.
Although sometimes she gives me the silent treatment, which always feels like it lasts too long.
But before I know it, her dark mood has come and gone and she’s back where she belongs, back by my side.
Whatever caused our divide is now ancient history.
She puts on a front when she cuts me off but it’s clear that she misses me.
For when I’m in the doghouse I can’t get no sleep.

To make amends I’ll do whatever it takes. Whoever said I couldn’t learn from my mistakes?

But such is the life of a geezer. I like to live life on the edge with my wife, I like to tease her. I like to go to extremes but the bottom line is… I need her.
She’s my rock and without her I’m lost. I’ve got to change whatever the cost. At the end of the day I know she’s the boss.
So I’ll sign out by saying, when it comes to domestic life, whatever you do, for the love of God, take care of your wife.

adal

The Age of Adaline: Who wants to live forever?

Film

There’s a TV show I’m watching at the moment called Forever, starring Ioan Gruffudd as the lead character who cannot age. In each episode something happens to trigger his memory to a time in his past when a similar thing happened. Thus we learn a little about his character and it gives him a chance – in a knowing voice-over – to impart his wisdom on the strange things people do that shapes their lives.

It’s an easy watch, not too taxing and has a certain degree of charm. In the case of The Age of Adaline a similar flashback technique is regularly employed, but it tends to slow the whole story down to a plod at best, but let’s start, as most stories do, from the top.

THE-AGE-OF-ADALINE-ADALINE

We meet Adaline (Blake Lively) working in a library in modern-day San Francisco. We learn (through the first of many lethargic flashbacks) that she was in an accident decades ago which causes her not to age – and to avoid suspicion she keeps people at arm’s length and changes identity every ten years.

You know the message of the film before it’s even got going. If you continually push people away you’ll never really live, blah blah. To get her living life she meets handsome stranger Ellis Jones (Dutch actor Michiel Huisman, most recently seen as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones) who eventually cracks her frosty exterior and forces her to make a choice – after much to-ing and fro-ing – to live and actually love.

adaline3

But, like I say, you know all this. You’ll see it coming a mile away.

What you probably don’t count on is, halfway through, with the story heading the way we expect, we get treated to the pleasure of Harrison Ford turning up as Ellis’s dad, William. As things flag a little he gives everything a much needed lift and brings real warmth, gravitas and star power to proceedings.

In essence, he shows the youngsters how this acting lark is done.

adal2

As a lead, Blake Lively is perfectly fine. Nothing she does will really blow you away but it’s a solid performance. In terms of looks you can see why she was cast; there’s a sort of timeless beauty about her that fits well. I spent the film’s first third giving her a hard time, likening her to a poor woman’s Rosumund Pike (who would have been great), but Lively does get better as she goes on and I warmed to her eventually. Damning with faint praise you might say, but praise nonetheless.

Returning to my earlier point about TV; as a story this one is slight and doesn’t feel that cinematic. Plus the regular flashbacks – which work well in the episodic nature of the small screen – do grind things to a halt here, testing even the most patient moviegoer.

Take Forest Gump for example. A guy sits on a bench and tells his story and each flashback is a joy as his life was so varied and full of excitement. Plus Hanks really sells it.

Blake-Lively-Michiel-Huisman-Film-Age-Adaline

The problem with Adaline is that her flashbacks all seem to be wistful, melancholy and full of remorse, which makes for a rather strained watch and she becomes difficult for the audience to like on any level.

The title of this blog, as some of you may have spotted, refers to the song by Queen in Highlander, a beautiful track that elevated a bit of a B-movie. Yet… even there the main character led an exciting life. And the flashbacks helped serve a dramatic story in the present. In The Age of Adaline her tale in the present day is just a straight up romance. C’mon guys, you need to mix it up a little.

So there you have it. A passable film with a reasonable cast and a bit of a wobbly concept. One to catch on a Sunday night but maybe skip at the cinema.

michael fassbender_shame_006

The addict

Poetry

Obsession. It’s intense, yet the word doesn’t make sense.
I mean, c’mon, it sounds like a fragrance.
And it’s telling when, in your efforts to define, you end up with something that sounds like it’s from Calvin Klein.
It creeps up on you too. Like a warm embrace that beckons and entices we’re all fallible, we all have our vices.

Let’s start at the top.

From greed and a basic need to feed, food porn is born.
Sharing pictures of your dinner on social media does not make you a winner, but more of a sinner.
Ladies I’m looking at you, you’re mostly to blame. For God’s sake it’s just food.
Then lads you get your fair share, for ladies often look at you with despair when you obsess over sport, with no second thought for anything else.
Sacrificing your health to get on the beer and support your team the thin veneer of your obsession is really quite obscene.
And talking of beer, most of you don’t think when it comes to drink.
It’s like a chink in your armour, after a few jars your personality becomes larger, the attachment you have to your judgement becomes farther… and farther away, to the point where you hope and pray that you make it to the next day without your mates looking at you with dismay.

‘It was the drink!’ you cry.
My oh my, there’s that vice again, rising to the surface like an old friend.

And as far as old friends go there’s one you love to detest, probably because it’s simply the best, and that’s sex.
The ultimate need to feed and the strongest vice of all. Indulging this one too much will set you up for a nasty fall.
‘It’s so damn cruel’ you exclaim, for this vice often leaves you drained and deranged and in a lot of pain, it’s insane.

But without our vices what would we be?
Giving in to our dark side seems so easy and our time doesn’t come for free, as you’ll see.
In life though, as in nature, a balance must be struck. Before we give in to our desire to eat, drink and, er… make love, we must be strong and play the long game.
‘It’s hip to be square’, as the song says. You know, the one by Huey Lewis and the News.
Checking myself though you’ll have to excuse as I’ve strayed from the point and it’s clear my brain is all out of joint.
Probably those vices again.
About time I welcomed them back.
After all, they’re old friends.

far

Far From The Madding Crowd review

Film

I must admit I’ve not read Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel, Far From The Madding Crowd. Had I done so before seeing the film I wonder if it would have affected how I interpreted the story and related to the characters?

I guess it doesn’t matter now.

I really just raise this point to say I went into this one fresh and with no knowledge. What I did know was that there hasn’t been a Carey Mulligan film (and performance) that I havent liked, from An Education to Shame to Drive, she’s never disappointed. In fact she’s often captivated and astonished me, she’s such a talent and holds the screen so well.

farfrom

Despite this story being adapted for the cinema numerous times before (1915, 1967, 1998) I’ll assume that you’re like me and don’t know it, or at least want a refresher. We start with Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan); she meets hunky shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthius Schoenaerts) living nearby and, as must have been the way back in the 1870s, within five minutes he’s proposing to her. She knocks him back, being too much of a free spirit to be tied down to some random shepherd, however strong, silent and hunky he may appear to be.

She moves away and gets left an inheritance by an uncle, one which includes a huge farm that needs returning to former glories. Through some shoddy shepherding Gabriel loses his flock and is forced to look for new work. He stumbles on a farm on fire and helps out and lo and behold it’s Miss Everdene’s new place. And so they are reunited.

far-from-madding-crowd10

To keep things spicy he’s not the only man after her hand in marriage and following her around like a lost puppy. Through a bit of 19th century flirting she raises the interests of wealthy neighbour Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen), but he’s just too tame for her tastes. She also meets caddish soldier Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) who turns her attentions for all the wrong reasons.

Plot wise it’s fairly simple, albeit a little infuriating. Bathsheba has three guys vying for her attention: one caring and loyal but beneath her social status, one wealthy and stable but a bit dull, and one wild and roguish but not a particularly nice man, to put it mildly.

I suppose I’m silently screaming inside – like no doubt many people before me down the years – that we all know which man she should go for, but we cannot always get what we want, or know what’s best for us – so she dances round and round. Even without knowing this story I knew the story, or hoped I knew how it would end.

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

Ultimately, it’s not so much about that though, it’s more about performances – and director Thomas Vinterburg was spoilt for choice with his cast. Michael Sheen gets the thankless task of making Mr Boldwood seem proud and noble, but completely unsure of himself when it comes to courting Bathsheba. His performance – as Boldwood unravels – is hugely impressive and heartfelt.

I’ve yet to see Rust & Bone, the film that put Matthias Schoenaerts on the map, but he’s got to be giving Tom Hardy a run for his money in the strong and silent category. As Gabriel Oak he says so much, often without saying anything at all. A consummate performance marking him as one to watch with interest in the future.

Then there’s Mulligan.

In other actresses’ hands Bathsheba could have come across as quite annoying; constantly doing the wrong thing, too proud, too stubborn, too blind when she has a good thing going. But the wonder that is Carey Mulligan keeps us on her side. She makes her likeable, wilful, headstrong, emotional, precocious – and she gives her depth and relatability. In short, she carries the film effortlessly and beautifully and was nigh on perfect for the role.

far-from-madding-crowd-img03

I suppose, if I had any issues at all, it would be that the film as whole felt a little safe at times. A little slow and sleepy – and a little sanitised. On a basic level, for example, when Bathsheba is working the fields in a few early scenes she has a small smudge of dirt on her cheek. To show she’s dirty. But it was a Hollywood smudge and I wanted more grit and realism.

This was a small indicator of a bigger problem. The film as a whole needed more fire, more blood and thunder. Being as clueless as to the original story as I am, maybe this was a faithful adaptation. But maybe – beyond the impressive performances from the leads – a bit of a modern spark was needed to really make it fizz and ignite.

o-AVENGERS-AGE-OF-ULTRON-TRAILER-facebook

Avengers: Age of Ultron review

Film

And so, Marvel’s quest for domination of box office dollars and moviegoer’s time continues. This may sound like I’m starting cynical but I’d like to point out I’m a fan and did enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron immensely. But… I am starting to feel blockbuster burnout.

First though, the good stuff.

It’s great to have another Avengers movie and the gang back together, they’ve got an easy chemistry and work well as a unit. The story kicks off almost immediately with a slow-mo money shot of them attacking a Hydra base – one to get the fanboys screaming. There’s wisecracking all round and Hulk smashing stuff, yay.

avengers-age-of-ultron-black-widow-scarlet-johansson

The team are after Loki’s sceptre which carries a great deal of power. Once retrieved, Stark and Banner think they can use it to create artificial intelligence to put in a robot that will protect the earth so the Avengers can effectively retire. With Captain America the strongest opposed to this plan (more on that later) it backfires producing a rather hateful and sociopathic Ultron (voiced with verve and menace by James Spader).

And so the team have a new foe to face, typically one they created themselves – but let’s not get into that. For those that haven’t been living under a rock the past decade you should all know these characters by now – and no time is wasted picking up where they left off in the first film (and indeed all the other individual films they’ve been in).

avengers-age-of-ultron-robert-downey-jr-mark-ruffalo1

Moving things along a bit director Joss Whedon does provide some nice character moments, in particular Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner developing as a couple and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye showing another side as a family man.

There’s also new characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver and Elisabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch make an intriguing pair – and it’s nice that their loyalties are torn during the film rather than them being clean cut heroes throughout. In terms of powers (his, speed; hers, telekinesis and mind control) they’re brought to life effectively, although hers does mean that we veer pretty closely to X-Men territory. (There’s lots of crossover in the comic book world but on the silver screen I’m not sure I’d like the Avengers and X-Men to meet/fight/team up really, but that’s another discussion.)

avengers-age-of-ultron-aaron-taylor-johnson-elizabeth-olsen

Where this film falls over a little is down to the fact we’ve seen it all before. And before. And before. The film’s final third is yet another battle in the skies, which now seems to happen in every Marvel film. Also, even though we do want to see the team smash bad guys to bits it doesn’t feel like there’s ever much at stake. Maybe I’m starting to care less about the characters, or maybe I know that they’ll never kill off any of the major ones, but it just makes it all seem a little too… safe and pedestrian. Which is ridiculous given all the explosions and fights and whatnot.

Also, it never seems to take that much effort to outwit the bad guy. Well, mental effort. Physical effort the team have aplenty. Making a clumsy comparison to The Dark Knight for a second, the Joker laughs at Batman as he pounds him saying he has nothing to threaten him with. It feels like that here. Other than brute force to solve problems it never feels like the Avengers have any other way of doing things. Is avenging just different ways of punching someone? Maybe their enemies will get more complex in the future, who knows. The teaser (spoiler, ish) at the end of the film suggests Marvel are drawing all the strands of their portfolio together, perhaps for forthcoming Civil War where we see the differences of opinion of Captain America and Tony Stark (on how to protect the masses) come to a head in a monumental scrap.

avengers-age-of-ultron-chris-evans-chris-hemsworth1

Back to Age of Ultron though. Despite what I’ve just said, all in all it’s a lot of fun. There’s lots of meat for the geeks and comic book fans to chow down on, we get a bit more character development and a lot more smashy smashy bad guys but – and it’s a big but – are we reaching saturation point? Are audiences getting tired of these characters? I am a little. Still love them, but I’m getting a little jaded.

Maybe less smashy more talky is the order of the day. There’s a section in Age of Ultron where Scarlet Witch pretty much floors the team with her mind control skills. That was intriguing. More of that please. Same goes for Paul Bettany’s The Vision – another nice addition, and a more thoughtful one to boot. Perhaps my ponderings are immaterial as, from the film’s final scenes, it looks like they’re trying to move the world onto other characters, which is good. I love the old gang as much as the next fanboy, but maybe it’s time to call time on them?

Anyway… I could go on and on but you get the idea. Go watch it and judge for yourself. Do you feel the same way?

BannerNatasha-AoU

john-wick-is-keanu-reeves-best-movie-since-the-matrix

John Wick: Keanu, the middle-aged action hero?

Film

The golden rule of movies is: do what you like to people but, whatever you do, don’t hurt any animals. Well that goes out the window in this latest action tale of revenge starring Keanu Reeves as legendary retired hitman John Wick. Near the start of the movie he has a run-in with a hapless Russian mobster (Alfie Allen, here getting almost as much abuse as he does in Game of Thrones) who gets revenge by stealing his car and (very slight spoiler alert) killing his dog. This makes John mad, very mad indeed.

2014-John-Wick-Images

Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – both of whom worked as second unit directors and stunt coordinators on The Matrix franchise – you get a real sense of visceral excitement in the fight and gunplay scenes, of which there are many. With a script by Derek Kolstad they do a good job of world building too, as Wick gets drawn back into the shady environs of the hitman there are lots of nice touches: characters use gold coins as currency; they all hang out at the Continental Hotel, which has strict rules about not doing business on its grounds; and the underworld is more or less helmed by a sort of godfather type figure (played superbly by Ian McShane, who else?).

john-wick-08

Apparently, the script was written for a guy in his mid ’60s; but I guess Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington were busy so they turned to Keanu. It’s good they did too as he’s a great fit for a retired assassin, world weary but not too much so (he’s 50 in real life, so has a good decade on Neeson and co.), but he’s nimble enough to cut it in the fight scenes. In fact, as is the way with these things, the film (so far) has done well critically and commercially, so it would be a huge surprise if we don’t see John Wick 2 in a few years’ time.

At the cinema I was thinking this would make a good companion piece to The Raid 2. Both are dominated by three or four action set pieces, both hang a loose plot over the whole thing, but get away with it due to their execution and delivery. But where The Raid maybe takes itself a little seriously and has a lead actor that is fairly new to the game, Keanu is a relatively old hand. And whilst he’s known for playing fairly serious characters, John Wick as a film doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s slightly offbeat and darkly humorous at times. And Keanu with a wry smile underneath the mayhem is actually quite refreshing.

JOHN WICK

A lot of the rest of the tone can be attributed to the performance of Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist (best known from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) as the main bad guy, Russian mobster Viggo Tarasov. He brings a sort of unhinged glee to proceedings that sits nicely with dour old John. That said, this is the best Keanu has been in a while. You could sense he was having fun (beneath all the gunfire and killing).

So… A simple tale, told with a bit of flair, job done. Who would have thought this filmmaking game was so easy? File this under ‘Friday night popcorn movie’, sit back and enjoy. Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough for you, it’s also got Willem Defoe in it. An ace in the hole, if ever there was one.

Fast-and-Furious-7

Fast & Furious 7 review

Film

Like the cast, the Fast & Furious franchise has had its ups and downs over the years, but it has survived and since Fast Five it has thrived and really found its feet. The trailers are a great example. For 5, 6 and this latest instalment they give away almost all the best bits yet you still want to go see the film.

There’s a sort of warped magic in that.

This latest offering has a tenderness running throughout (if you look hard enough) because one of its leads, Paul Walker, died during filming, in a car crash no less (although he wasn’t the driver).

jason-statham

Continuing the story where the gang rough up a chap from London (Luke Evans) in the last one, this tale more or less starts with his angry brother Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) vowing revenge. And so we have a new nemesis for Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) to deal with. He tries to do it alone, as is his way, but soon needs help, which comes in the form of an enigmatic and shady U.S. Government operative (Kurt Russell, great to see him back).

Beyond the setup you pretty much know what you’re getting; girls in fast cars, strong and silent guys in and out of fast cars (mostly Vin Diesel), girls in bikinis, guns, explosions, fist fights, more girls. You get the idea. These films are everything the Expendables franchise wishes it was but can’t quite manage to be.

still-of-vin-diesel-and-michelle-rodriguez-in-fast-&-furious-7-(2015)

Key to their appeal isn’t just the eye candy, if it was it would have sunk long ago. It’s the notion of family. Led by Toretto this theme echoes throughout. Whatever the crew do, they look out for each other, they’re a tight unit and they really care. It’s tragically brought into focus by the fact that, in the real world, you get the sense they were too, making the loss of Paul Walker all the more hard to take. In that respect the filmmakers do a commendable job in the film’s final minutes, giving him a touching, well handled and thoroughly heartfelt send-off.

But before you think this film may no longer be that fast or that furious given the things I’ve mentioned, there’s no need to worry. Each instalment dials it up another notch and it’s no different here. Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is back and, whilst he doesn’t have that many scenes, he has some cracking, almost Arnie level lines and moments. Statham brings a great sense of menace and new threat for Toretto to deal with, to the point where one of their fight scenes on a rooftop car park wouldn’t feel out of place in a superhero movie.

still-of-nathalie-emmanuel-in-fast-&-furious-7-(2015)-large-picture

There’s also a nice addition in the form of ace hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel aka Missandei of Game of Thrones) to slightly balance out the testosterone levels, but not by much as she spends most of her time being rescued or chased.

So, as far as popcorn movies go, you can’t go too far wrong. It almost feels like the perfect time to end the franchise, not that they will given the money it makes, but it seems right to do so.

And on that note, one final thought. RIP Paul Walker, you will be missed.

paul-tyrese

0000000087_hellboy_pic_04

The disgruntled demon

Poetry

Dear well wishers and the general public,

I have something to say.
Heed my words without delay.
I’ve had enough of this.

I was born with a big red head and pointy horns which was tough growing up.
Regularly scorned, mocked and abused you could find me in the gutter thinking, ‘This is ludicrous I didn’t choose this. Why do I have to sit here and get a taste while others get bruised fists pounding my face?’
For I am a pacifist demon and mean no harm, there’s no need to run or raise the alarm.

From a young age I knew something was amiss.
For the life of me I couldn’t buy a kiss (God knows I tried).
And crossing my path cats would spit and hiss, it really was the pits.
On occasion I thought about slitting my wrists but I’m immortal.
As a young runaway I often wound up in borstal, a place for delinquents.
But how do you deal with a kid that can bring humanity to the brink of extinction?

Regularly I’d be laughed at with derision because I’d made it my mission to envision a world where demons were welcomed into society.
Why should angels get all the praise all the time, where’s the variety?
Yet my horns branded me an outcast, and if we’re talking reputation let’s just say the gap between angels and demons is vast.

But that’s all going to change.

I have dangerous plans to rearrange the fabric of reality, I’m going to make those angels so mad at me, you’ll see.
It’s the least they deserve.
For centuries they’ve had the nerve to pretend they serve God when really we’ve been downright robbed ‘cos they do a poor job.
You might think I’m being mean and that my plans are extreme, but I must make a stand. I can’t be the only demon in this fair land that needs a helping hand?

And so I’m rounding up the boys… I’ll start with Azazel and Cain who make the most noise, they specialise in pain and know how to maim with impunity, they’ll leave those angels slain and strewn about the place for all of eternity.
Chosen messengers?
Hah! I’d love to see the look on God’s face, what a schlub.
For good measure I’ll then sub on Beelzebub.
He’s getting on a bit but his black old heart is in the right place. He’ll show those angels, the disgrace that they are.
But in case you think I’m going to watch from afar I’m mucking in too.
I’m the midfield general, commanding the team to ensure we don’t lose.
For my name is Lucifer and if I wind up next to ya on the battlefield then you’re done for.

I tried to retire, honestly I did.
I told no lies, no fibs, I turned the other cheek and look where it got me.
Back to square one.
Honestly though, I’m kind of enjoying this bad streak, it’s fun.
Maybe I should keep it low key but to hell with it, I’m summoning Loki.
He’s the bee’s knees when it comes to mischief and mayhem… and striking fear into the hearts of flawed men.

But before I get carried away I must remember why I started this.
It was because something was amiss and being a pacifist was the pits.
Very soon I’ll write to you again, once I’ve had a chance to level the playing field for angels, demons and men.
Until then, keep your head down.
Things are going to get a little crazy round here.
This, I do solemnly vow.

Yours sincerely,

Lucifer.