Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is considered to be the worst movie ever nominated for Best Picture. As of 2019, it’s the only nominee with a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes prior to its nomination. So were the critics right? Well in my opinion, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had every ingredient for an Oscar film. Yet it wound up being more pretentious than anything. It stars Oscar darlings Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the story centers around an uncomfortable period in history (9/11 in this case), it’s way longer than it should be, and it came out in late December. The Academy Awards love movies like this. Practically guaranteeing its Oscar nomination whether the movie was good or not. Leaving far more acclaimed genre movies like Bridesmaids or Deathly Hollows – Part 2 without the same recognition. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is about an autistic kid who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a key that his father left and searches the entire city for the person that has the lock. Yes, the 9 year old boy actually walks around New York visiting strangers. Well he is later joined by a mute old man who might be his grandfather. Max Von Sydow’s performance is the only one worthy of Awards recognition. I frankly found the kid to be a little annoying. The mystery wasn’t all that satisfying either. Sure it looks polished on the outside, but Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is just more Oscar bait that the Academy just keeps falling for.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the first spin-off in the ridiculously popular Fast & Furious franchise. Since they stole the show in The Fate of the Furious, it only made sense to give them their own movie. It also succeeded in keeping Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel as far away from each other as possible. But the real rivalry is between Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. They’ve fought, shared a prison cell, and had to work together in the past. In Hobbs & Shaw, the fate of the world is in jeopardy. So they have to set aside their differences once more to save it. While at the same time having more hilarious arguments. Really Hobbs and Shaw couldn’t be more different. One’s a jacked federal agent and the other’s a limber British mercenary. Together they have to stop a literal supervillain from retrieving a world ending virus. Idris Elba plays Brixton, a cybernetically enhanced superhuman. Sure the series has reached superhero levels, but this is over-the-top even for Fast & Furious. I know what your thinking, what about the cars and butts? Well they manage to sneak a couple in there. While at the same time incorporating crazy car stunts in with the well choreographed action. It’s here John Wick director David Leitch’s style shines through. Fast cars are best used in intense car chases involving motorcycles and tow cables. The primary beautiful woman is Deckard’s younger sister Hattie Shaw. Vanessa Kirby holds her own alongside Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Just like the rest of the franchise, family is very important to both men. From Shaw’s relationship with his mother and sister to Hobbs’ Samoan heritage. Hobbs & Shaw is full of illogical action and unexpected cameos to hold us over until #9.
Spin-off: The Fate of the Furious
The Fate of the Furious is running on star power, massive action set pieces, fast cars, and beautiful women alone. After 8 freaking installments, what more could they do? The cast is barely getting along at this point. Almost like Paul Walker was the glue that held them together. Dwayne Johnson called out Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson needs a paycheck, and Michelle Rodriguez is uncomfortable with her role in the franchise. The Fate of the Furious deals with the fall out of Dom’s family. After Dom seemingly betrays his crew after a routine mission. 2017 seemed to be the year of heroic betrayals. It temporarily leaves his team consisting of: Letty, Rome, Tej, and Ramsey. Along with an obvious Brian substitute. Luke Hobbs is caught and sent to prison where he runs into Deckard Shaw. After a superhuman prison fight, Mr. Nobody forces them to work together to take Dom down. He’s working for a cyberterrorist named Cypher. Played by Charlize Theron with dreadlocks (for some reason). Dom’s reason for going bad does make sense though. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham practically hijack the movie. As they’re responsible for every awesome action scene. Even Helen Mirren steals the show as Shaw’s mother. Making the spin-off Hobbs & Shaw a must. Between the cars and butts are scenes of them evading remote controlled cars, driving on the ice while being chased by a submarine, and protecting a baby on a moving plane. Wasn’t this franchise once about street racing? Although it’s hard to say what Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray’s style is supposed to be. The Fate of the Furious offers enough over-the-top nonsense to satisfy fans of the long running franchise.
Preceded by: Furious 7
Furious 7 brought everything full circle. By finally connecting the out of place The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and giving Paul Walker a heartfelt send-off. Walker sadly past away in a tragic car accident before filming was complete. Rather than kill off Brian O’Conner, he and Mia were simply retired. Furious 7 picks up with everyone trying to live a normal life. Unfortunately, the sins of their past come back to haunt them. Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw, brother of Owen Shaw. He takes revenge on the team by killing Han and blowing up the Toretto family house. So despite the very 2006 feel of Tokyo Drift, the movie now takes place in the far future. Only now does Vin Diesel’s cameo make sense. Sean doesn’t join the team though since he’s just a street racer. Something that’s officially left behind in favor of crazier stunts. In exchange for finding Shaw, Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody tasks Dom’s crew with rescuing a hacker named Ramsey who’s invented a high tech surveillance system. Fast cars and beautiful women guarantee the hacker will be a gorgeous young lady. Dom’s team now consists of: Brian, Letty, Rome, Tej, and Ramsey. Luke Hobbs is left out of commission after an epic fight with Shaw. The only time Dwayne Johnson is underused. Leaving room for more cars and butts than ever before. The team drive out a plane, Dom and Brian drive through 3 separate skyscrapers, and Dom launches his car into a helicopter. Completely illogical, but awesome. Makes me glad this was the installment I saw in theaters. Brian and Dom going down separate roads brought grown men to tears. “See You Again” should have been Oscar nominated. Since Horror director James Wan managed to make Furious 7 the heart of the franchise.
Fast & Furious 6 evolved the franchise even further. This time street racing is ditched in favor of a spy adventure. Fast cars and beautiful women are on both sides of the latest conflict. After their “last job,” Dom is enjoying retirement with Elena. It’s not long before Luke Hobbs finds him and brings him in for another mission. This time it’s personal. As a mid-credits scene revealed Dom’s sweetheart Letty to still be alive. It would have been a mistake not to bring Michelle Rodriguez back to the growing franchise. Dom’s team now consists of: Brian, Rome, Tej, Han, and Giselle. All of whom leave their luxurious lives to help out. Mia stays home with her son and Leo & Santos couldn’t be bothered. Hobbs is also unofficially part of the team along with his new partner Riley. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson put their brawn to good use. They all work to bring down an evil version of their heist crew. Owen Shaw is the first villain worth mentioning as he’s the one keeping the amnesia stricken Letty on his team. This revelation leads to Dom desperately trying to get her back. Cars and butts are still on full display and the humor just gets better. But it’s really the action that’s gotten crazier. The laws of physics simply don’t exist in this universe. Characters are flung onto vehicles and walk away from explosions unschatted. Fast & Furious 6 has two seperate climaxes. It was apparently supposed to be a 2 parter. The first climax features the team evading a tank on a highway. The second climax features the team trying to bring down a plane on the longest runway in history. Fast & Furious 6 fully embraces it’s ridiculous set up.
Fast Five was the much needed boost this street racing franchise needed. As it ditched the street racing in favor of a massive ensemble action heist flick. It was a decision that more than payed off. Making Fast Five the first film in The Fast and the Furious franchise to get genuinely positive reviews. Dom, Brian, and Mia are now fugitives living in Rio after breaking the former out of police custody. In order to start a new life, the three of them plan a heist to steal over $100,000,000 from a corrupt businessman. This puts them in direct conflict with Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs. Casting Dwayne Johnson in the part was just what this franchise needed. He’s jacked, covered in baby oil, and ready to go toe to toe with Vin Diesel. Their testosterone filled fight is one to behold. Another clever decision was bringing characters from every previous movie together. Dom’s heist team consists of: Brian, Mia, Rome, Tej, Han, Gieselle, and Leo & Santos. Each of whom helped the main characters in some capacity in the past. Their comedic banter has gotten a lot better. Of course Hobbs couldn’t stay an enemy forever. He and fellow officer Elena join Dom’s team and become part of the family he loves so much. Fast Five officially throws all logic out the window. With big action set pieces that define the laws of physics. Like jumping out of a moving car and into the ocean or driving with a giant safe attached. Of course the shift to more action doesn’t eliminate the fast cars and beautiful women. There’s still plenty of cars and butts to ogle. Fast Five just became a serious blockbuster in the process.
War for the Planet of the Apes is what everything’s been leading to. A grim war film that holds no punches. Not that there aren’t some moments of levity. One ape in particular gets most of the laughs, but the rest is as dark as you’d expect any war to be. After the rise and the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the war between man and ape has officially begun. Caesar fights alongside his closest followers, while the humans have their own ape allies. When tragedy strikes, Caesar alone sets out for revenge. Along the way Maurice makes a discovery that brings us closer than ever to the 1968 original. A girl who can’t speak due to the recently mutated Simian Flu. It’s what leads to humans being more animalistic. Meanwhile Caesar is talking in complete sentences. Andy Serkis gets a chance to show off his battle readiness. His lack of an Oscar is even more glaring. The effects for the apes just get better and better, because the ratio keeps changing. Rise was more humans than apes, Dawn was equal, and War is more apes than humans. Apart from the girl (named Nova), Woody Harrelson plays the only major human in the movie. He’s a colonel that makes a last ditch effort to keep a planet of apes from happening. I think we’ve all reached a point where we’re no longer sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. War for the Planet of the Apes is a breathtaking feat that managed to close out one of the best trilogies of the decade.
Preceded by: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took things to a whole other level. Effectively topping the groundwork that Rise of the Planet of the Apes left behind. With even more stunning visuals that are difficult to distinguish from reality. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is very different then what came before. 10 years after the Simian Flu hit, the human population has decreased dramatically. Making the movie much more of a post-apocalyptic survival thriller. Since there’s only a small community left, but enough of the humans. It’s really the apes that we care about. They’ve established a colony with Caesar as their leader. Andy Serkis gives us a more complex Caesar who has a family and speaks infrequently. With only a few exceptions, the rest of the apes all speak in sign language. Just like before, a few plot points are now taken from Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Specifically having Caesar attempt to establish piece between the humans. Jason Clarke’s character is the one who makes the first leap. There’s also the law that “Ape not kill ape.” A rule that Koba exploits. It was clear from his introduction that the disfigured lab ape with a deep hatred for humans would become the villain. I didn’t think it was possible, but Toby Kebbell’s mocap performance very nearly surpasses Serkis himself. Koba is just that entertaining. His best moment is on horseback with two guns. In the end it’s clear that war between the humans is inevitable. Even if connections can be made. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the deepest examination of this world to date.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathed new life into a once extinct franchise. 10 years after the failed remake, what appeared to be a part reboot/part prequel began to take shape. I knew I was on board the moment Andy Serkis was cast as the lead ape. Anything with Serkis in motion capture is gonna be great. Somebody get this man an Oscar! Rise of the Planet of the Apes follows James Franco as a scientist who develops a drug that could cure Alzheimer’s. When his test chimps have to be put down, he secretly raises one whom he calls Caesar. It’s not long before Caesar develops increased intelligence and even learns sign language. After an accident, Caesar is placed in a facility that houses apes. The theme of animal abuse is most prevalent in this film. Tom Felton plays another smug bully as Dodge Landon. Not only is he named after the original astronauts, but he gets the “Damn dirty ape” line as well. It’s followed by the best, most shocking scene in the whole movie. When Caesar says no. He insights an uprising with orangutan Maurice, gorilla Buck, Rocket, and all the other apes that he gives the drug to. Instead of nuclear war, a virus seems to be the main cause of humanities downfall. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Conquest of the Planet of the Apes attempted to tell the same story. Andy Serkis’s flawless primate performance is what sets them apart. Matched with stunning special effects that make it hard to believe not a single live ape is featured in the movie. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was only the beginning.
Love & Other Drugs traces the origin of popular sex drug Viagra. Told through the lense of a love story. After sharing a steamy scene together in Brokeback Mountain, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal bring the same chemistry to Love & Other Drugs. Only with a lot more steamy scenes. In fact, this is easily the most sexual role of Anne Hathaway’s career. Her Disney image has definitely been shed by this point. As both she and Gyllenhaal have several nude scenes together. Although Hathaway was in the movie a lot less than I thought she would be. Most of the focus is actually on Jamie. A smooth talking pharmaceutical salesman who’s seduced many women. Until he meets the woman who might be the one. Maggie is a young woman with early onset Parkinson’s. She doesn’t want to get close because of her condition, but being a romantic comedy, you know things will have to work out. One thing I wasn’t expecting was just how strong of a performance Anne Hathaway would give. The Viagra part of the movie is actually not the driving factor. Although it does lead to many funny scenes. Josh Gad being the funniest character. Love & Other Drugs takes advantage of its adult themes, but it doesn’t always know what to focus on.