Review of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Sorry this is late as I am on vacation.   There will also be no video for the time being.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and baby Grout (voiced by Vin Diesel) successfully prevent an inter-dimensional monster from stealing extremely powerful batteries from a race called the Sovereign.  In exchange, the Sovereign turn over Nebula (Karen Gillan) who was captured while trying to steal the batteries.  When it is discovered Rocket took some batteries the Sovereign launch remotely controlled fighters to destroy the Guardians’ ship.  On the verge of destruction, their ship is saved by an egg-shaped craft that appears to have a man riding on top of it destroying all the Sovereign’s fighters.  The Guardian’s ship crashes on a planet and the egg-shaped craft lands nearby.  The occupant calls himself Ego (Kurt Russell) and says he is Peter Quill’s father.  Ego is accompanied by Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who is an empath Ego found orphaned on a world in his travels.  Meanwhile the leader of the Sovereign meets with Yondu (Michael Rooker) and hires him to capture Quill and the others and deliver them to her for execution.  Quill, Gamora and Drax travel with Ego and Mantis back to his planet so he and his son can establish a relationship; but Yondu and the Ravagers capture Rocket and Groot.  Yondu’s crew mutinies when their captain appears to be trying to protect Peter while discussing what to do next and a Ravager named Taserface (Chris Sullivan) takes over after Nebula, who managed to convince Groot to let her go to help Rocket, shoots Yondu.  On Ego’s planet, Gamora has a bad feeling about the situation but Quill is entranced with his father’s abilities and his own latent talents that Ego is bringing out in him.  Is there something going on under the surface that Quill doesn’t want to see?  Will Yondu manage to extricate himself from the angry clutches of his former crew?  Will Rocket ever not be mean to his friends?  Will Groot ever get bigger?

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” managed to do something many other recent blockbusters have failed at:  Not giving away their entire story in the trailers.  We get a few tidbits and a look at a few new characters but otherwise seeing the movie isn’t ruined by watching the trailers.  I have to commend James Gunn and Marvel for managing to keep their trailers entertaining without showing all their cards.  Having now seen “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” I can confidently state there are many surprises as well as a few scenes that might cause a tear to roll down your cheek.  This installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has more heart, more emotion and some of the most powerful reveals of any film for any hero in the series.

There is a great deal going on in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”  There are several surprises, cameos, mentions and possible future films suggested along the way.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I will speak in only the vaguest of terms but to fully enjoy all the Easter eggs make sure you stay to the end of the credits.  True Marvel Comics fans will be dissecting every frame of the film for all the clues they can.

While I do really enjoy the movie and think it may be one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in some time, there are some issues I had with the pacing and story.  First, the movie, while it rarely slows down, does feel a bit too long.  With a running time of 136 minutes, the movie is overstuffed with battle scenes that drag at times.  Watching Peter and Rocket argue over who’s the better pilot while they are being chased by what seems to be thousands of fighters and performing wild maneuvers is cute for about 10 seconds.  After that the movie begins to enter the territory of beating a dead horse.  The climactic fight scene also feels repetitive with mini-conclusions.

While the movie is a bit too long, the story feels hurried.  Gunn and his team appear to be more concerned with giving all the big effects sequences plenty of room to breathe while rushing the story to get out of the way.  A few emotional beats are short changed and hence feel unearned.  The section involving Peter and his dad’s growing relationship is severely under developed.  Of course, no one goes to see a movie like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” looking for a deep and emotional story; however one is there that could have really packed a punch.

Despite the movie’s shortcomings it is a very good time at the theatre.  Both Drax and Groot steal the movie out from under everyone with whom they share the screen.  Both characters get the biggest laughs and both manage to provide some emotional moments as well.

Visually, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a technicolor wonder to behold.  A vivid color palate with an apparent prohibition against muted shades and greys rocks the eyeballs along with some wondrous digital creatures.  The big monster that kicks things off may cause a few nightmares while the amazing aliens created by makeup and digital manipulation rival anything seen before.  It is mind boggling how such a production, using hundreds if not thousands of technicians in various locations and in numerous fields, could come together in such a visually cohesive way.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.  Energy weapons are fired frequently and a great deal of stuff blows up violently.  Yondu’s whistle-controlled flying arrow is used to kill several people.  We see it passing all the way through victim’s bodies.  One character is shown severely burned.  Many characters are shown being thrown around violently and slamming into trees and the ground without any apparent injury while may encourage children to try to mimic the action.  Yondu is shown after an encounter with what appears to be a robot prostitute.  Foul language is scattered and mild.

There are several references to TV shows and actors that were very popular in the 1980’s.  “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has a very 80’s vibe to it.  From its vibrant colors to the “will they or won’t they” nature of Peter and Gamora’s relationship, many things in the movie have a nostalgic feel.  I think that works for “Guardians” since Peter is kind of stuck in his adolescence from when Yondu abducted him.  That 1980’s feel is what sets these films apart from the rest of the MCU…that and the setting in outer space.  The dayglo colors and the “anything can happen” attitude allow this part of the franchise to take more chances and that’s something comic book movies in general can learn from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” just as long as everyone understands the story must be given as much consideration as the special effects.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” gets four stars out of five.

This week I’ll be reviewing “King Arthur:  Legend of the Sword” for WIMZ.com and “Snatched” for stanthemovieman.com.

King Arthur:  Legend of the Sword–

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX9y5JPuRHY

Snatched–

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY6NpLrbtbM

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

In 2004, Army specialist Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) and his unit are caught in a vicious firefight in an Iraqi village. Part of that battle was captured by a news crew’s abandoned camera. It shows Lynn going to the aid of his sergeant who goes by the nickname Shroom (Vin Diesel) after he is hit by insurgent gunfire. Despite Lynn’s efforts, Shroom dies. Lynn and the other members of his unit are considered heroes for their actions and Lynn is awarded the Silver Star. The Army sends the unit on a publicity tour around the US to build civilian morale and put a face to the soldiers serving in Iraq. Lynn and the rest of the squad are hoping to sell their story to be made into a movie and are accompanied by an agent named Albert (Chris Tucker) who is constantly on his cell phone trying to get Hollywood interested in making a deal. The last stop on the publicity tour is an appearance at the annual Thanksgiving Day football game in Dallas, Texas, where the unit will be on the field at halftime with Destiny’s Child. The owner of the Dallas Cowboys Norm Oglesby (Steve Martin) welcomes the soldiers and puts out a lavish buffet for them and his other VIP guests. Lynn catches the eye of a cheerleader named Faison (Makenzie Leigh) and the two find an instant connection in their limited time together. Lynn and a couple other soldiers in the unit have symptoms of PTSD and Lynn’s sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart) believes he could get an honorable discharge if he will see a doctor she knows. With the loss of his beloved sergeant, all the pressure from the tour, the feeling like everyone is just trying to use the soldiers for their own gain and his feelings for Faison, Lynn is beginning to question whether staying with his fellow soldiers is worth continuing to put his life on hold.

The plight of American soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dealing with PTSD and a less than helpful Veterans Affairs Administration has been documented in the news media and even was an issue in the recent presidential campaign. While politicians make speeches and promises about supporting the troops and fixing the problems in the VA nothing much seems to get done. While other movies have been made about war and the toll it takes on those sent to fight it, none has been done on quite the scale or with a well-respected director like Ang Lee as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” Unfortunately this film seems more concerned with how interestingly the story is told and the movie and message suffers for it.

Ang Lee made the film using a very high frame rate and 3D. The version I saw was digital 4K and 2D so I cannot speak to how some critics found the bells and whistles to be distracting and unnecessary considering the subject matter of the film; however, there are choices Lee made in shooting the actors and how they delivered their lines that reduce the impact of the story.

For instance, the actors speak directly at the camera instead of being in a shot with the other character or looking just off camera as is the norm. Sometimes it is effective but more often I felt like I was a child being talked down to. It gets annoying after a while as character after character delivers a speech to the camera. Some are impassioned while others are deadpan responses to questions. It grates on the nerves after a few times and begins to feel intrusive as if you were involved in a conversation you desperately wanted to end.

It doesn’t help that many of the characters come across more like caricatures. An example is a brief appearance by a Texas oil man played by Tim Blake Nelson. He comes to the table where the unit is eating and begins with the usual platitudes then starts a sales pitch for his company that uses frakking to extract oil from shale. The speech makes no sense in the context of the story (this is one of many that don’t) and it feels like an attempt to shoehorn in a message of some sort. The sad part is, I’m not sure what the message is supposed to be. The scene quickly becomes uncomfortable as the unit’s commanding officer Sgt. Dime, played by Garrett Hedlund, starts a speech of his own. This may have been an attempt at humor and a message of a different type. It is mildly funny but once again the message is lost in the delivery.

If anything, the moral of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is everyone is out to get something from you. Whether it is to bask in your glory, to make money from you or to gain prestige merely from being in your presence, everyone is interested in you only to get what they can then they are gone once the well dries up. Whether it was meant to be that way or not it’s a cynical message that sucks the life out of the movie. It would be different if many of the characters weren’t so transparent in their obvious desire to profit from the soldiers but they are all about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

Despite my feelings about the story, there are some very good performances in the film. First-time star Joe Alwyn gives a subtle and moving performance as Billy Lynn. Alwyn does a good job wrangling a passable Texas accent even though he’s from England. While he has done theatre, this is his first movie and it is an impressive job. Billy sometimes comes across as a little dumb but he’s actually merely assessing the situation and determining his response. It is a quiet bit of acting that would have been better showcased without the trickery of the production.

Steve Martin is deceptively slimy as the billionaire football team owner Norm Oglesby. While the script may show his hand a bit too soon, Martin manages to keep you guessing about Oglesby’s true motives towards the soldiers until late in the film. It almost made me sad that Martin was playing a bad guy in the movie as I can’t help but see him in my mind as that wild and crazy guy from back in his standup days or from his characters in films like “The Jerk” and “All of Me.” Of course, Martin has proven his acting chops over the years and it’s good to see him on screen again.

In a limited role, Vin Diesel surprises as the philosophy and religion quoting Shroom. It is a surprisingly calm and laid-back performance that actually made me want to see more of the character. He is the father figure to the men in his unit and he takes that role seriously. Shroom’s death is the catalyst that opens the eyes of some members of the unit as to how fleeting and delicate life is. I just wish the events that followed and the way they were portrayed had been more respectful.

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use. The battle in Iraq is pretty intense with a brief scene of hand-to-hand combat that leads to a bloody death. We also see various people shot. There are a couple of fist fights that are brief. The sexual content is Billy having a fantasy about Faison. There is no nudity but we get a brief view of a sex act. A couple of characters are shown smoking pot. Foul language is fairly common.

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” could have been a very heartfelt and powerful movie; however, the weird way the film is shot and somewhat ham fisted storytelling effort makes the film often painful to watch. I wanted to like it but the movie gets in its own way too much to be an enjoyable experience.

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” gets two guitars out of five.

Four new movies open up this holiday week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Allied—

Bad Santa 2—

Moana—

Rules Don’t Apply—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

 

Reviews of “The Last Witch Hunter” and “Steve Jobs”

The Last Witch Hunter

After the death of his wife and child, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) joins other 13th century witch hunters in the search for the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) responsible for the plague that killed their families. Within a massive tree, Kaulder finds the Witch Queen and runs her through with his burning sword; however, before she dies she curses Kaulder with immortality. Eight-hundred years later there’s a truce between the priests that oversee Kaulder as the last witch hunter and witches. As long as they don’t practice magic on humans they won’t be hunted, tried before a council and locked up in a prison below the church. The priest that works directly with the witch hunter is called a Dolan. He acts as a guide, confessor and scribe writing down all of the hunter’s adventures. The 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) is retiring and will be replaced by the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood). On his last night the 36th Dolan dies in his apartment, apparently of natural causes; but Kaulder is suspicious. Looking for the signs of magic, Kaulder finds the elder Dolan was put under a spell that mimics death and was tortured for information. He left clues behind telling the witch hunter to relive his death inside that tree. Needing a potion to help him remember what happened right after the death of the Witch Queen, Kaulder seeks the aid of a young witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie) at a bar that is exclusively for witches. Chloe creates the potion but Kaulder is attacked by a powerful witch named Belial (Olafur Darri Olafsson) trying to stop him. Strange and dangerous forces are trying to keep Kaulder from seeing what happened after the Witch Queen cursed him. The question is why?

With a Rotten Tomatoes score in the mid-teens I was surprised I enjoyed the first half or so of “The Last Witch Hunter.” The writers of the film had created an interesting world largely populated with unique characters doing strange and fanciful things. Had it continued that way I might have been one of the movie’s loudest supporters. As it is, I’m lukewarm on the latest Vin Diesel project because it trades in imagination for generic action thrills.

Diesel actually manages something akin to warmth in parts of the film. He has a brief interaction on a plane with a child and shows a bit of charm. His scenes with Rose Leslie don’t devolve into an uncomfortable romance as I was afraid it might but the pair has a rough chemistry that serves the story. The father/son relationship between Diesel and Michael Caine felt a bit forced but still managed to seem like a friendship that had been around for a while. Elijah Wood is under used in his role so he and Diesel’s characters never feel like they are really partners. Perhaps that was the goal. No one in the movie does a bad job in their role. Sadly, they aren’t given that much to work with.

The film is let down by a third act that is just scaffolding to get to the action/sfx scenes. We get a few brief glimpses at what Kaulder has lost at the hands of the Witch Queen and the events in that third act contradict what we’ve seen before. I’m trying to avoid giving away too many plot details; but the story kind of reverses itself in a blatant attempt to create a need for a sequel. With opening weekend domestic box office of less than $11-million, that seems unlikely.

“The Last Witch Hunter” is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images. We see people stabbed with swords and knives. There are a few large, ugly creatures. The Witch Queen will be scary for the very youngest viewers. A character is impaled on a spike through the shoulder. A character is consumed by vines at the base of a tree. A character is shown ripping their skin off to reveal a different creature inside. Foul language is widely scattered and very mild.

The world of “The Last Witch Hunter” could have been fascinating if the vision of the writers early in their script has been carried through to the end. As it is, the movie becomes a predictable action/fantasy with some decent visuals but is nothing special. I wish it had been the kind of film that put a spell on me but alas, it’s all just a cheap trick.

“The Last Witch Hunter” gets three stars out of five.

Steve Jobs

Preparing to give a public demonstration of the new Macintosh computer Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is berating Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), one of his engineers, because the vocal program is having a hard time saying “Hello.” Jobs wants to show how friendly the Macintosh is and refuses to pull it from the demonstration. His long-suffering personal assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is attempting to coordinate the presentation while wrangling the taciturn Jobs. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is trying to get Jobs to thank the Apple II engineers during the presentation but Jobs refuses saying it looks back in the past and the Macintosh is the future. Waiting backstage is Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) with her daughter Lisa. Based on a blood test a judge ruled that Jobs was Lisa’s father but he denies that. In a magazine article, Jobs says that up to 28% of the men in America could also be Lisa’s father. This angers Chrisann as it appears Jobs is saying she sleeps with many different men. Chrisann wants money over and above the child support the judge granted her. Jobs only pays attention to Lisa when she takes an interest in the Macintosh in the dressing room.

“Steve Jobs” tells a story about the face of Apple using three product launch events in front of hundreds of adoring fans. Jobs could do no wrong in their eyes and everything he touched they thought was the next big thing. In the film, Jobs seems to only be comfortable on the stage in front of those that didn’t know him. In the film, being a part of Steve Jobs life seemed like a less than pleasant experience. The movie also is less than pleasant as it loses its belief in itself and tries to turn Steve Jobs into a misunderstood teddy bear.

Michael Fassbender may get some awards season love for playing the title role. His performance is mesmerizing. Jobs is a ball of energy that can become dangerously focused on anyone that he feels has done him a disservice or isn’t living up to his expectations. Jobs is shown in the film as a man with a singular vision he feels must be put forth unadulterated. It’s the same whether he’s involved in business or personal matters. Fassbender is absorbed in the role and it must have been emotionally taxing for him. Playing a person of such conviction and willingness to mow down anyone that might get in the way has to take its toll. Fassbender manages to be charismatic even when making threats or explaining something that doesn’t need explaining. His performance, and the performances of Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels Katherine Waterston and the rest of the cast, is outstanding. Sadly, they are all let down by a script that doesn’t believe in its own convictions.

While Steve Jobs is shown to be able to express a tiny amount of warmth and compassion, the majority of the movie’s two hour running time is spent showing the man as the lowest form of life. He’s rude, egotistical and doesn’t take anyone’s feelings into consideration. If he was anything like portrayed on screen it’s a miracle someone didn’t put a bullet in him at some time in his life. Writer Aaron Sorkin does a good job of making Jobs unlikable. Then, out of left field, we get a scene that could best be described as redemptive. For me, it completely didn’t work. It is pounded into our minds what a dirt bag Jobs is. He denies Lisa is his daughter, he threatens to have Chrisann killed, he is prepared to embarrass one of his engineers in front of an auditorium full of people if the Macintosh voice synthesizer doesn’t work and that’s just a few of the things shown in the movie and then, without any set up or evidence to the contrary, we are shown a warm and fuzzy Steve Jobs. Perhaps, as he aged, Jobs become more human. The movie doesn’t give us any indication that it happens or why. One of the most brutal confrontations occurs not long before this miraculous conversion. Jobs is as blunt and biting as he is in any other scene in the movie and then, a few minutes later, he’s overflowing with love, compassion and contrition. It takes what is a scathing portrait of a well-known figure and cheapens it into a feel-good family melodrama.

“Steve Jobs” is rated R for language. Foul language is infrequent.

I realize I’m in the minority on this one but “Steve Jobs” isn’t the brave and searing portrait of one of the best known tech giants in history; instead, it shows us a flawed but brilliant man and tries to redeem him using cheap emotional tricks. Jobs deserved better.

“Steve Jobs” gets three stars out of five.

Three new movies close out the month of October looking to scare up some business. I’ll see and review at least one of them.

Burnt—

Our Brand is Crisis—

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Fast and Furious 7”

Death comes for us all as we know. It doesn’t matter your economic status, your popularity on social media or how many movies and TV shows you’ve been in, one day the Grim Reaper comes to visit. With filming only half finished on “Fast and Furious 7,” star Paul Walker and a friend died in a fiery car crash. Reality came busting in to a film franchise that had grown increasingly fantastical with stunts, explosions and violence. While fans would have been disappointed, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if the studio had decided to cancel the film; however, star Vin Diesel, who is also one of the producers, announced the movie would go on and be a memorial of sorts to Walker. While the series isn’t known for its emotional heft or deep meaning, the seventh edition pays a heartfelt tribute and says an emotional goodbye to both Walker and his character Brian O’Conner. I think Walker would have approved.

Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) visits his comatose brother Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in a hospital in London, vowing to get his revenge on those responsible. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is saying goodbye to his nephew, the son of Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) when he receives a cryptic call from Shaw. Just then, a package from Tokyo on Dom’s porch explodes, blowing the front half of the house to smithereens. At the Diplomatic Security Service, Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is working late when he sees someone typing at a computer who shouldn’t be there. It’s Shaw and he’s getting the information on Dom and the rest of the crew from the London adventure. After a brutal fight, Shaw throws a small explosive device that sends Hobbs out a window onto the roof of a car parked below. He’s alive but injured and in the hospital. Calling for Dom, Hobbs gives him the information on Shaw and that he’s a nearly unstoppable killing machine. Dom sees Shaw at the funeral for Han (Sung Kang) that Shaw killed in Tokyo. Giving chase, Shaw and Dom end up in a parking garage and ram their cars head on. Each gets out unhurt and Shaw is about to shoot Dom when armed men drop down on ropes and force Shaw to run away. Dom is held at gunpoint until Frank Petty (Kurt Russell) appears and calls off his men. Petty heads an unnamed covert intelligence unit and wants to strike a deal with Dom: He will help him catch Shaw if Dom will help get a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) away from an international terrorist named Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). Ramsey has developed a program that hacks into any online system or cell phone to track any person who is anywhere in the world near a digital device. Jakande wants the program and he will torture Ramsey to get it. If Dom and his crew are successful, Petty will let Dom use the program, called God’s Eye, to find Shaw.

The plot of “Fast and Furious 7” is overly convoluted and utterly unnecessary. All any of us wants to see in the film is suped-up muscle cars performing mind-bending stunts, pretty girls in bikinis and tons of fights: In that regard, “Fast and Furious 7” should make those who enjoy the series very happy. This film also serves as a melancholy goodbye to Paul Walker and his character. This sad aspect of the film is handled about as sweetly and emotionally as one could hope. While the film never slips into maudlin grieving, it is pretty obvious this was a difficult film to finish and cast and crew have handled it well.

While no one in the cast will win an Oscar for their performance, everyone delivers a fine job on screen. Tyrese Gibson, whose character went from angry young man to comic relief since he was introduced in the second film, provides some much needed levity to a film that could have slipped into melodramatic seriousness. Gibson’s scene in the airplane, which has been a part of just about every trailer, is hilarious. It also looks pretty spectacular. Vin Diesel cements his position as head of this unrelated family with a solid if one-note performance. Paul Walker, who I never thought was much of an actor, manages to dredge up some emotion and energy in his final go as Brian. He also gets some of the most exciting action scenes in his fights with a character played by martial arts star Tony Jaa. Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is out of commission for most of the film but plays a pivotal role in the finale. I always enjoy Johnson in a movie, even a bad one. He pretty much plays the same character over and over again and I believe that character is himself. Michelle Rodriguez is given the role that is supposed to be going through the most turmoil as she’s fighting her growing feelings for Dom while dealing with her memory loss. That subplot is mostly forgotten to get the action and car crashes into the over two hour running time. It only resurfaces when the film hits an emotional peak. The rest of the supporting cast, Chris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell and Djimon Hounsou are given minimal screen time and not much to do; however, they do it pretty well. Jason Statham is the film’s main bad guy and he, much like Dwayne Johnson, always seems to be playing the same character. Whether he’s the hero or the villain, Statham has a poker face that is supposed to have all this rage and violence simmering underneath. As the villain in “Fast and Furious 7” he’s pretty generic. The rampaging bull setting out to get revenge on those who hurt his sibling and we’ve seen it all before. Statham doesn’t seem to have any expression or emotion other than mild annoyance. That usually leads to a bone-shattering fight but it doesn’t really do much to sell the character’s motivation to cause so much mayhem and death. Part of the blame is on the script but the rest goes to the actor. Again, I usually like Statham in his films but this time his performance is a bit flat.

The real question on everyone’s mind is how Paul Walker’s character is handled and is the use of body doubles and CGI painfully obvious. Without giving too much away, Walker’s death is handled about as sensitively as it could have. Many parts of the film are the cast and crew saying goodbye to Walker. A tribute at the end showing Walker in all the “Fast and Furious” films in which he’s appeared is both a sweet and painful farewell. While the movie never dwells on the loss, it does pay its respects to the lost actor in a way that may draw a tear from your eyes. While there are a few fleeting moments when it appears the character of Brian isn’t being played by Walker, that happens in many action movies where stunt doubles are used. The most obvious of these is during fight scenes and doesn’t really detract from the rest of the film. Much like the times they digitally pasted Robert Downey, Jr.’s face on a body double during the shooting of “Iron Man 3,” the instances of digital manipulation, body doubles and dialog dubbing aren’t noticeable. The digital magicians at director Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital have done a masterful job of making Walker’s replacement seamless.

“Fast and Furious 7” is rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language. Cars are jumped between buildings, dropped from aircraft, tumble down mountainsides, are buried in collapsing buildings, explode, and just about any other form of vehicular destruction you can think of. Many of these escapades leave the occupants only scratched or at worst unconscious. Parents might want to have a serious talk with soon to be or just started driving teenagers. There are also several fights that would have left people in the real world with at least a broken jaw and a concussion. Here, they just keep on fighting. The suggestive content involves bikini-clad women dancing while being sprayed with water and women wearing very short shorts. Foul language is limited and the film doesn’t take advantage of its one F-bomb.

The “Fast and Furious” franchise has grown on me over the years. While I found the early films unimpressive, the series has grown up and grown more insane and that makes it hard for me not to like them. They are like the video game Grand Theft Auto only turned up to 11. This seventh installment also has an unexpectedly strong emotional element as the franchise says goodbye to one of its founding fathers. Paul Walker’s farewell is both sad and hopeful in the film. The character of Brian will continue to be a part of the series if only in memory and I’m certain his name will be mentioned in subsequent installments and we’ll see him in flashbacks taken from previous films. Despite all the film’s numerous flaws, it is still a fun ride.

“Fast and Furious 7” gets five stars.

There’s only one new movie in wide release and it’s based on a Nicolas Sparks book.  Since I’m not a 13-year old girl, I’ll probably see something else but here’s the trailer for “The Longest Ride.”

What I’ll see…I don’t know but maybe it will be something small and in need of my entertainment dollar.

You can follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send email to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.