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Non-Review Review: F9 – The Fast Saga

They say “start as you mean to go on.” So it seems appropriate that F9: The Fast Saga opens with a car crash.

The ninth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise arrives at an interesting time in the run of the series. Vin Diesel has announced that it might be time to retire the franchise, following a closing trilogy worthy of the characters. After much internal drama, two of the franchise’s core characters have spun out into their own franchise with Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw. The series is also still coming to terms with the passing of Paul Walker, who was the glue that held the franchise together. After all, what are Roman and Tej doing on the team now that Brian is gone?

Back in the ‘burgh.

Perhaps understanding that this is a tumultuous time for the Fast and Furious series, F9 makes a number of obvious plays for safe and familiar ground. Justin Lin returns as writer and co-director, a veteran of the franchise who helmed the four films between Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious 6. Lin directed Fast Five, which is probably the best film in the franchise, existing at the perfect intersection between the series’ origins as a gritty urban western and the bombastic blockbuster behemoth that it would become.

F9 clearly and repeatedly attempts to recapture some of the magic of Fast Five, but only serves to demonstrate that the franchise can’t go home again.

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New Escapist Video! “F9: The Fast Saga – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of F9: The Fast Saga, which is releasing theatrically worldwide this weekend.

New Escapist Column! On James Gunn’s Upcoming “The Suicide Squad”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist earlier in the week. With DC’s Fandome event at the weekend, it seemed like a good time to take a look at one of their upcoming projects: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.

Gunn didn’t actually premiere too much material from The Suicide Squad, primarily unveiling the cast roster and screening some behind the scenes footage. However, the announcement was interesting, marking a clear delineation from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. In these brief snippets, Gunn suggests an understanding of what has historically made the Suicide Squad such a compelling concept: its status the island of misfit toys in larger DC continuity.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Bumblebee

In some respects, Bumblebee feels like the Transformers movie that the franchise has been trying and failing to produce for over a decade.

Bumblebee has its share of problems. Some of those are inherited from a franchise working from a template established by Michael Bay, which means that the style of action direction carries over in certain cases. Some of those are inherited from the fact that the film is “based upon the toys produced by Hasbro Entertainment”, which means that the film occasionally feels obliged to cram in various characters and elements for reasons more toyetic than narrative.

“You really don’t get this ‘robots in disguise’ thing, do you?”

That said, Bumblebee largely works due to a combination of factors. Hailee Steinfeld is the most likable protagonist in the series to date, if not the most likable character in general. The direction from Travis Knight largely steers clear of the cluttered excesses that define the other films in the franchise. The script from Christina Hodson cleverly pushes the film down both in scale and spectacle, meaning that Bumblebee is the first Transformers film not to loose sight of its humanity (let alone its human characters) in its storytelling.

Bumblebee is perhaps not the best film that it could be, but is very easily the best Transformers film to date.

A girl and her robot.

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Non-Review Review: Blockers

Blockers is a lot funnier and a lot more endearing than its two-line synopsis might suggest.

The premise of Blockers is the stuff of stock teenage sex comedies, right down to the branding on the poster. As if worried that audiences might not get the substance of the comedy, advertising for Blockers prominently features the silhouette of a rooster above the title of the film, as if to assure potential viewers exactly what type of blocking is taking place. Blockers positions itself very candidly and very bluntly as a broad and old-fashioned story about teenagers having sex.

Prom here to eternity.

The basic plot of Blockers finds three parents discovering that their daughters have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. These three parents then embark upon an odyssey to prevent the planned sexual intercourse from occurring. As one might expect, all manner of complications and hijinks ensure, with the canny children struggling to stay one step ahead of their determined (and occasionally resourceful) pursuer. It is hardly the most innovative of concepts, even if it is a sturdy framework for comedic set pieces and humour concerning bodily functions.

However, what is most remarkable about Blockers is the way in which it uses this familiar framework to engage with its premise in a surprisingly nuanced and insightful way, avoiding (and even directly rebuffing) the reactionary attitudes baked into the core concept. The result is perhaps the most sincere and endearing film ever to include the phrase “butt-chugging.”

Taking the Cena-ic route.

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