Family & Fan Belts: The evolution of the “Fast and Furious” franchise

For characters that live “a quarter mile at a time,” it’s been a long, strange trip for the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Starting in the drag racing scene of downtown L.A., it has since become a global enterprise that has grown with every entry. There’s even talk now that the series may go into space, and the weirdest part is that such a concept isn’t even that strange in the “Fast and Furious” film universe. But it’s important to regard the series as a whole, and with the eighth installment (“The Fate of the Furious“) opening this weekend, now is the perfect time to chart its bizarre evolution from action film knockoff to genuine pop culture phenomenon.

Before going any further, it has to be noted that there’s a clear delineation in the series: the first four movies, and “Fast Five” onward. There’s a clear shift in narrative approach and visualization used in the latter half of the franchise that simply isn’t evident in “The Fast and the Furious” through “Fast & Furious.” But despite that separation (which will be explored below), it’s all part of a (mostly) coherent whole that has its most basic elements in place from the first film. It’s surprising how many of the themes carry through despite the films’ various permutations, but it’s also clear that audiences are dealing with two different beasts when considering the entire series.

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Movie Review: “The Fate of the Furious”

Starring
Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Kristofer Hivju
Director
F. Gary Gray

Following the untimely death of Paul Walker in 2013, it would have been completely acceptable had everyone involved in the “Fast and Furious” franchise decided to call it quits, particularly because “Furious 7” works so well as a bookend to the family saga. Despite the loss, the series has soldiered on with another installment (and two more on the way), but while “The Fate of the Furious” proves that the mega-franchise can still function without Walker’s character, it definitely suffers from a Brian O’Connor problem.

Much like how the Avengers curiously never show up to help each other in their respective solo movies, the attempt to explain Brian’s absence in this film (especially considering the personal nature of the main plot) only serves to open old wounds. It’s a void that director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan try to fill with some new additions to the team, and though it’s not entirely successful, the movie gets by on the charisma of its cast and the over-the-top action that fans have come to expect from the series.

The story begins in Havana, Cuba, where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are busy soaking up the culture on a much-deserved honeymoon, only to have their vacation cut short when Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) enlists their help in retrieving a stolen EMP device in Berlin. But when Dom suddenly double-crosses the team and gets away with the weapon, they discover that he’s secretly working for a cyber-terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who Letty believes must be blackmailing him. Beaten, bruised and betrayed by their friend, the team reunites under the direction of shadowy government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and is forced to work alongside former adversary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who has his own history with the notorious hacker and wants revenge, in order to track down Dom and Cipher and prevent them from starting World War III.

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Trailer and stills for “Machete Kills” starring Danny Trejo

“Machete Kills” will be in theaters on October 11th with Danny Trejo back in the lead role as ex-Federale agent Machete and supported by an impressive cast that includes Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Carlos Estevez (aka Charlie Sheen), Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Demián Bichir, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding, Jr., William Sadler, Marko Zaror and Mel Gibson.

We have the trailer along with some great posters and photos of some of the babes from the film, including Michelle Rodriguez, who is accustomed to playing badass characters, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard and Alexa Vega. There’s something about girls with guns so we’re definitely looking forward to this one.

  

Movie Review: “Fast & Furious 6”

Starring
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Gina Garano
Director
Justin Lin

The “Fast and Furious” franchise is like popcorn movie kryptonite – it’s my only weakness. (Okay, maybe not my only weakness.) But for as cheesy, soapy and utterly preposterous as the movies can get at times, they’re also incredibly entertaining, especially following director Justin Lin’s retooling of the series. Though the sixth installment doesn’t quite live up to 2011’s “Fast Five,” which took the franchise to new heights in more ways than one, it still delivers everything that fans have come to expect over the years. Bigger and dumber but still tons of fun, “Fast & Furious 6” may have you rolling your eyes even more than usual, but that’s part of what make the series so great.

Picking up several months after the events of “Fast Five,” the movie finds Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) laying low in Spain when he’s visited by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with some interesting news: his old flame, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), isn’t quite as dead as previously believed. In fact, she’s working with a British soldier turned criminal named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who’s planning on stealing a top secret computer chip worth billions, and Hobbs needs Dom’s help to catch him. With the promise of full pardons for everyone involved, and the added incentive of finding out what happened to Letty, Dom enlists the rest of the crew (save for Puerto Rican jokesters Tego and Rico) and heads to London to face off against Shaw and his own team of street racing criminals.

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