Bro-Commentary: Draymond Green on the Cavaliers’ Competition, Kelly Olynyk

Draymond Green, the motor and the mouth of the Golden State Warriors, made controversial comments regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff competition and on whether or not Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk is a dirty player. Does Draymond have a point? Or should Draymond focus on his team?

 

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Bro-Commentary: The Ray Allen Celtics Beef

The 2008 NBA champion Celtics had a reunion the other night on Kevin Garnett’s Area 21 on Inside the NBA on TNT. Notably absent was Ray Allen, a member of that team, whom many of the Celtic players still have an issue with. Whose side am I on? Ray Allen’s? Or Kevin Garnett and the gang’s?

 

 

Bro-Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The guardians are back, but are they a welcome return to the galaxy?

Back in the summer of 2014, many of us had our doubts in regards to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It seemed like Marvel’s/ Disney’s attempt at Star Wars, a puzzling move considering Disney was already working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and that the Marvel formula was seemingly perfected after the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The movie caught all of us by surprise, as it turned out to be not only a thrilling venture into unexplored territory in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but also panned out as one of the best comic book films ever made. Obviously, a sequel was in order after its successful run in theaters, and as they promised at the end of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy have returned for their second installment.

Peter Quill/ Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) find themselves as the guardians of the galaxy, a group for hire that protects others from the dangers of other dimensions. After dispatching a monster for the Sovereign people led by the High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), Rocket angers them and has the guardians chased around the galaxy. It is not until they are rescued by two mysterious beings, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and a man claiming to be Star-Lord’s father (Kurt Russell). The Guardians then split up, with Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax traveling with Mantis and Starlord’s father while Baby Groot and Rocket stay behind and encounter Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker).

What made the first Guardians film so magnificent was how unprepared we were for it. We didn’t know what to expect, so anything writer/ director James Gunn pulled we had no choice but to go with, and it was a breath of fresh air into the MCU. Now it would be unfair to expect the same for Vol. 2, it is a sequel after all. However, the film does itself no favors by reminding us of everything we loved about the first film. Remember Star-Lord frolicking around and singing Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” in the opening credits of the first one? Well this time Baby Groot gets to have his time to sing and dance, only he does it to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Didn’t you love Rocket being a jerk? Well he’s an even bigger one this time around. And the catchy one-hit wonder songs that were played throughout the first film? Vol. 2 has even more.

With the exception of the Captain America films, if one wanted to point out the MCU’s weakness it would be their follow-ups to the first films of their legendary heroes. Iron Man 2 wasn’t nearly as good as Iron Man, and Iron Man 3 was a tremendous letdown. Thor: The Dark World has its moments, but it still pales in comparison to Thor. Avengers: Age of Ultron also had an unfair disadvantage ahead of its release since it was the successor to the pinnacle of comic book movies, The Avengers, and it crumbled under the weight of its well received precursor.

What separates Vol.2 from its predecessor is how deeply the characters are developed. We see Gamora and Nebula hash out old beef that stems from their upbringing by Thanos. Rocket and Yondu discover to be more alike despite being totally different beings. The relationship between the brutally earnest Drax and the socially awkward Mantis provides some of the biggest laughs in the movie. And of course, there’s the father son bonding between Star-Lord and his father. While the former isn’t nearly as strong as the other three relationships explored due to the fact that Chris Pratt, while improving on his horrific turn in The Magnificent Seven, isn’t much of an actor, it’s Kurt Russell who makes the bonding seem believable. At the same time while the other relationships seem to get dark and emotionally complex, they’re offset by well timed jokes, a staple of writer/ director James Gunn’s repertoire.

The special effects also deliver, something we’ve come to expect the MCU for. The worlds that we get to see and the galaxy itself are nothing short of stunning even though its obvious you’re looking at a setting created by a green screen. The action sequences are also wackier and zanier than any MCU film we’ve seen. Now while I understand that yes, none of this is possible, there was a moment during the set-up to final battle where I wasn’t going along with the film. At times, it seemed to be suffering from the dreaded sequelitis, where the filmmakers feel they need to do more on a much larger scale in an attempt to trump the first outing. Once the climatic action sequence begins, however, it is something to behold. And of course, you get numerous cameos and stingers during the credits sequence of the film, a seemingly endless amount that will keep you in your seat for the full 136 minute running time.

Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has the unfortunate fate of having to be the follow-up to one of the most surprising and best comic book films of all time. Yes, Vol. 2 doesn’t feel as original as its antecedent. But let’s face it, you loved the first one so much you were bound to see its follow-up right after watching the first one. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still a fun thrill ride with emotional depth that showcases Marvel still has its mojo flowing, and they show no signs of slowing down in time for DC to finally get their act together.

Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars. Pay Matinee price.

Bro-Commentary: Summer Movie Preview

Finally, a summer movie season to look forward too.

The summer movie season has arrived, and this summer appears to be loaded with potential. Here are the most notable movies being released this summer that will end up as a hit, a bomb, or a surprise.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2:

It’s the biggest movie of the summer. Even if it ends up not being as fresh as the original, you’re going to see it.

Prediction: Hit, $400 Million

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I like Guy Ritchie as a director. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and RocknRolla may be Tarantino-esque knockoffs, but they’re good London crime capers. His bigger budgeted films are mixed bag, as the first Sherlock Holmes movie was fun, the second one was a mess, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a stylish, flashy, but somewhat hollow spy film. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looks like a misstep for the director, and will be the first bomb of the summer.

Prediction: Bomb, $60 Million

 

Snatched:

Amy Schumer returns for the first time since her hit film Trainwreck in this road trip gone wrong movie featuring Goldie Hawn. It’ll have its moments, it’s only a question of whether Amy Schumer stole the jokes or not.

Prediction: Hit, $90 Million

 

Alien: Covenant

Ridley Scott returns to his sci-fi horror roots in the sequel to Prometheus/ prequel to Alien. It’ll be a welcome return.

Prediction: Hit, $100 Million

 

Baywatch:

Dwayne Johnson. Zac Efron. Beaches. Bikinis. What more do you want in a summer movie?

Prediction: Hit, $120 Million

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

No one asked for this. But that wasn’t going to stop Disney from making more money. Add in the fact the original cast returns and adds Javier Bardem to the mix, and it might be better than At World’s End and On Stranger Tides.

Prediction: Bomb (Domestic) $180 Million, Hit (Overseas) $800 Million

 

Wonder Woman

It’s the second to last beacon of hope for the DC extended universe, as Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the legendary heroine was one of the few positives in the otherwise appalling Batman V Superman. The trailers look promising, but its DC. The reviews will be key for this one.

Prediction: Hit, $200 Million

 

Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie

Finally, a kid’s movie to get excited about. Captain Underpants makes his big screen debut after numerous successful novels about the underwear frolicking hero. With a tremendous voice cast featuring Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, and Thomas Middleditch, this could be a surprise hit. Coming out before Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3, however, might lead to the self-titled Epic First Movie to be the only movie in the series.

Prediction: Surprise, $105 Million

 

The Mummy

Tom Cruise runs away for the millionth time. This time from a Mummy. I love Tom Cruise. One must wonder why the studio didn’t try to get him to star in this franchise when it began in the 90s. Somewhere, Brendan Fraser is begging the executives to allow him a cameo in this re-boot.

Prediction: Hit, $120 Million

 

It Comes at Night:

Joel Edgerton follows up his award worthy performance in Loving with a horror-thriller about people stuck in the woods while the world is falling apart. The low budget film got rave reviews at SXSW, and that should translate it to being one of the biggest sleeper hits of the summer.

Prediction: Surprise, $55 Million

 

Cars 3

I hate these movies. But it’s Pixar. They print money and then wipe their behinds with it.

Prediction: Hit, $190 Million

 

Rough Night

Scarlett Johansson attempts to erase Ghost in the Shell from everyone’s memory in this all female comedy about a girl’s night out gone horribly wrong. I personally think Girl Trip with an all black cast will be funnier, but this will do until that comes out.

Prediction: Surprise, $100 Million

 All Eyez on Me

If they can make a hit movie about NWA, then you knew a biopic about Tupac Shakur would attempt to follow suit.

Prediction: Surprise, $80 Million

 

Transformers: The Last Knight

Michael Bay Explosions: Part 5. Just do the crossover with the Fast and the Furious already.

Prediction: Disappointment (Domestic) $200 Million, Hit (Overseas) $850 Million

 

Baby Driver

It’s one of the more intriguing films of the summer, and features an all-star ensemble cast. It’s also writer/ director Edgar Wright’s first film in four years, his last being the hilarious The World’s End. Its earned rave reviews so far, and it’ll be one of the best films of the summer.

Prediction: Surprise, $60 Million

 

Despicable Me 3

Enough with the minions.

Prediction: Hit, $300 Million

 

The House

Amy Poehler decides to ride the coat-tails of Will Ferrell instead of Tina Fey in this film about two parents who decide to run an illegal casino in their basement to pay their daughter’s college tuition. There is nothing funny about this. You will go see it regardless.

Prediction: Hit, $120 Million

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man + Tony Stark + Michael Keaton + Marvel Cinematic Universe = Profit.

Prediction: Hit, $275 Million

 

War For the Planet of the Apes

I’m still waiting for the moment where the apes become the knights of the round table like in the classics of the 60s and even the 2001 re-make. That being said, I’ll take Caesar fighting Woody Harrelson in the meantime.

Prediction: Hit, $190 Million

 

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan movies are always big events, even when they end up disappointing like 2014’s Interstellar. Dunkirk marks the acting debut of Mick Jagger wannabe Harry Styles, but other than that atrocity the film appears to be epic.

Prediction: Hit, $170 Million

 

Atomic Blonde:

John Wick but with Charlize Theron. Sign us up.

Prediction: Surprise, $75 Million

 

The Emoji Movie

I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

Prediction: Hit, $105 Million (*Dear God please let this movie bomb*)

 

The Dark Tower

Stephen King’s epic finally makes it to the silver screen. It’s got a great cast with Idris Elba as Roland the Gunslinger and Matthew McChonaughey as the Man in Black, but first trailer arrived just days ago. We haven’t heard a lot from the production, which is never a good sign, but the trailer leaves me hopeful. It probably won’t become the next major studio franchise, but it could be a very good one-off film.

Prediction: Surprise, $75 Million, but has big BOMB potential

 

Detroit

 Kathryn Bigelow is responsible for two of the most overrated films of all time in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. The Hurt Locker is worst best picture winner ever, but something about this film, which tells the story of the 1967 riots in Detroit, makes it appear like an early awards contender.

Prediction: Surprise, $60 Million

 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson trading curse words for 90 minutes while bowing up stuff overseas. Yes to all of that.

Prediction: Surprise, $85 Million

NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Preview

Now it gets interesting.

The first round of the NBA playoffs came and went. Some teams and players shined under the spotlight and are moving on, while others perished and will now watch the rest of the playoffs from the couch. The conference semifinals got underway today, and it’s time to predict which teams will advance to the conference finals.

Eastern Conference:

1. Celtics V. 4. Wizards, Celtics lead series 1-0.

The Celtics fumbled around with the Bulls in the first round but managed to finish them off in six games due to Bulls PG Rajon Rondo suffering a thumb injury that sidelined him games three through six. The Wizards also showed signs of being unfocused in their series against the Hawks, but still managed to win the series in six games. These two teams were evenly matched in the regular season, as each team won two out of the four games they played against each other. While the Wizards’ two guard tandem of PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal will cause headaches for the Celtics, PG Isaiah Thomas and company should be favored to advance. The Wizards are flashy, fun to watch, and have a more experienced coach in Scott Brooks. However, they are also a collection of stooges led by PF Markieff Morris, and are prone to mental lapses. The Celtics are the better, more focused team, and they will squeak by the Wizards to advance to the eastern conference finals.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

2. Cavaliers V. 3. Raptors

The Raptors are the biggest conundrum of a team we’ve ever seen in the NBA. They have all the pieces in place: a strong backcourt led by PG Kyle Lowery and SG DeMar DeRozen, a physically imposing frontcourt led by trade deadline acquisition PF Serge Ibaka and C Jonas Valanciunas, and a solid head coach in Dwane Casey. Yet when they arrive to the NBA playoffs, they can’t seem to get out of their own way. PG Kyle Lowery laid a monster of an egg in a game 1 loss against the Bucks, and the team gave us a blast from the past by scoring only 77 points in a game 3 loss. They managed to rebound and win the series in six games, but it was against a relatively inexperienced Bucks team. Sure, the Cavaliers beat the lowly Pacers by an average margin of only four points per game, but the Cavs did what the best teams in the NBA are supposed to do and swept the Pacers. And once again, this series can be summarized like so: the Cavaliers have LeBron James. The Raptors do not.

Prediction: Cavs in 5

Western Conference:

1. Warriors V. 5. Jazz

The seemingly unstoppable Warriors are going through a period of adversity in the playoffs. Sure, they swept the Trailblazers (*again, as the best teams in the NBA are supposed to do*), but head coach Steve Kerr may not coach the rest of the NBA playoffs due to chronic back pain. Assistant head coach Mike Brown will now coach the team. Mike Brown may have coached the Cavaliers to an NBA Finals appearance in 2007 and spent time as coach of the Lakers, it would be foolish to think he’s as good of a coach as Kerr and that the Warriors won’t be affected by his absence eventually. F Kevin Durant missed games 2 and 3 of the first round due to a left calf injury, the same leg he hurt earlier this season that caused him to miss twenty games. None of that really matters in the semifinals, as they will advance to their third straight western conference finals despite these hardships. The Jazz are a youthful team that’ll challenge the Warriors every game, but there’s no reason to believe they can win four out of seven against them even with all of the adversity facing the Warriors.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

2. Spurs V. 3. Rockets

Rockets F James Harden may not walk away with MVP honors this year, but his team clowned soon to be MVP Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in five games. The Rockets showcased that they are a more complete team and are still loaded offensively. The Spurs, on the other hand, took six games to dispatch an offensively challenged Grizzlies team. While everyone will praise SF Kawhi Leonard as the best two-way player remaining in the playoffs (*What about that guy LeBron James? Isn’t he pretty good?*), the Spurs are missing a key component to their formula that has led to their successful twenty year run: a dominant big man. While it would have been naive to believe PF LaMarcus Aldrige could fill the big shoes left by legendary PF Tim Duncan or even resemble hall of fame C David Robinson, he hasn’t come close to matching the production he had during his time as a Trailblazer. While the Spurs have the edge in this series due to coach Gregg Popovich’s success against Mike D’Antoni in the playoffs (*he’s 4-0 in playoff series against Mike D’Antoni coached teams*), the Spurs will need more from their max-deal big man if they want to win an NBA championship.

Prediction: Spurs in 6.

 

 

 

Bro-Commentary: Evaluating the Raiders 2017 Regular Season Schedule

Does the 2017 schedule suggest the Raiders will maintain their commitment to excellence?

The 2017 NFL schedule has been released, and pundits everywhere are already predicting teams’ records for the upcoming season. Not so fast everyone! We haven’t even made it to the NFL Draft, so predicting how a teams’ season will play out in April is a bit premature. However, that does not mean we cannot analyze teams’ schedules based on their difficulty and how many prime-time games they will be playing. Being the Raiders fan that I am, I thought it would be engaging to assess the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders’ 2017 schedule.

Week 1: Sep 10 @ Tennessee Titans

Week 2: Sep 17 New York Jets

Week 3: Sep 24 @ Washington Redskins (Sunday Night Football)

Week 4: Oct 1 @ Denver Broncos

Week 5: Oct 8 Baltimore Ravens

Week 6: Oct 15 Los Angeles Chargers

Week 7: Oct 19 Kansas City Chiefs (Thursday Night Football)

Week 8: Oct 29 @ Buffalo Bills

Week 9: Nov 5 @ Miami Dolphins (Sunday Night Football)

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Nov 19 New England Patriots* (Home game in Mexico City)

Week 12: Nov 26 Denver Broncos

Week 13: Dec 3 New York Giants

Week 14: Dec 10 @ Kansas City Chiefs

Week 15: Dec 17 Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)

Week 16: Dec 25 @ Philadelphia Eagles (Monday Night Football)

Week 17: Dec 31 @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Raiders 2017 schedule appears to be tougher than their schedule in 2016. For starters, three out of their first four games this season are on the road. They first travel to Nashville to face the Titans week 1, go home to have their home opener against the Jets week 2, fly back east to the nation’s capital to face the Redskins on Sunday Night Football week 3, and then travel to Denver to face their division rival Broncos week 4. The Titans are a team on the rise much like the Raiders, the Redskins are tough at home, and any divisional match-up is always a war. We’ll definitely learn a lot about the Raiders within the first four weeks of the season.

The Raiders also play the NFC East, arguably one of the toughest divisions in football. All of the teams in that division had seven or more wins last year, making their 2017 campaign against the NFC more difficult than last year when they faced the lowly NFC South. Interestingly enough, three of their last five opponents are from the NFC East, as they will face the Giants at home week 13, the Cowboys at home week 15 on Sunday Night Football, and the Eagles in Philadelphia week 16 on a Christmas Day edition of Monday Night Football. This is arguably their toughest stretch of games in 2017, as they also have two road games against division rivals Chiefs and Chargers sprinkled in to end the regular season.

The Raiders also have a relatively late bye week this year, as they will play in nine regular season games before having their bye week in week 10. Personally, I prefer later bye weeks, as it gives teams a chance to rest and replenish themselves before the home stretch of the season. Additionally, their bye week comes before their most important game of the season and is also a potential AFC Championship preview: a “home” game against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots in Mexico City. As wrestling legend Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” This game would allow the Raiders to prove themselves as the heir apparent to the AFC throne, and maybe even as the team to beat in the AFC.

Unlike previous seasons where the Raiders struggled to be featured in prime-time match-ups, the Raiders will play in five prime-time games in 2017. They will play three games on NBC’s Sunday Night Football: @ Redskins, @ Dolphins, and home against the Cowboys. They will also be featured in a mandatory CBS/ NFL Network Thursday Night Football (*aka the plague of the earth*) match-up against their division rival Chiefs, and a previously mentioned ESPN Monday Night Football Christmas Day showdown against the Eagles. After going 12-4 last season, the Raiders caught the eyes of many, resulting in them being under the spotlight more frequently in 2017.

Lastly, it would be unfathomable to talk about the Raiders’ 2017 schedule without mentioning the news of their move to Las Vegas in the near future. Not since the 1995 Cleveland Browns has a team had such high aspirations going into the season while also experiencing such a mammoth distraction during it. Of course the players will say it’s not a distraction and that they want to focus on the on the field results, that’s what they are paid to do. But one must wonder if the constant pestering of their future move to Las Vegas will play a dooming role during their season. This is especially pressing considering their final game in the Oakland Alameda Coliseum could be their biggest game of the season in a possible Super Bowl match-up against the Cowboys.

While the Raiders will face an uphill battle considering owner Mark Davis’ decision to relocate the team to Las Vegas and a tougher schedule in 2017, the Raiders will be a popular pick to win the AFC West and make it to the Super Bowl. They have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in DE Kahlil Mack, who will look to continue his dominance. They have an explosive offense led by franchise QB Derek Carr. Whether you are a fan of them or not, there’s little doubt the Raiders will be a compelling team to watch throughout 2017.

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: The Fate of the Furious

Remember when these movies took place on planet earth?

Flashback to June of 2001. You just walked out of a theater watching The Fast and The Furious. Then, out of nowhere, a large time portal opens up. A man with iPad comes up to you and says, “This is the future of the Fast and the Furious.” On the iPad is footage from the eighth (*yes, eighth*) Fast and Furious movie, entitled The Fate of the Furious. In this footage, you see cars falling out of buildings in New York City, that WWF guy the Rock, and a submarine attacking cars. You surely would’ve looked at that man holding an iPad and said “Yeah right!” But here we are, 16 years later, and The Fate of the Furious has pulled into theaters promising more of the adrenaline fueled action we have come to identify the series by.

The film opens in Havana, Cuba, where Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz/ Toretto (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon. After sticking up for his cousin by partaking in a race, Dom is approached the next morning by a mysterious woman called Cipher (Charlize Theron). She reveals she has something on Dom that is near and dear to him, and blackmails him to join forces with her and her cyber terrorist group. After partaking in a mission with his crew and government partner Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to obtain a nuclear device, Dom turns on his family, setting the stage for the latest installment of the Fast franchise.

Let me be upfront, I am unapologetically a fan of this series (except for Tokyo Drift). I am typically the first person in line to see these over-the-top, male oriented soap opera films. But within the first five minutes of this movie, I felt a feeling I never had before: I wasn’t going to like it. The opening credits reminded more of an episode of the 1980s TV show Miami Vice more than it did a Fast and Furious movie. The set up to the first and only race in the film is so awful, and I especially rolled my eyes at a Cuban gangster’s delivery of what the people of Havana called the race they were about to partake in, “The Cuban Mile.” But during the well filmed, exciting race, a blink and you’ll miss it tribute to the late Paul Walker occurs, and reminds us that you are in fact watching a Fast and Furious movie.

The movie really doesn’t start until Charlize Theron shows up ten/ fifteen minutes in and turns Toretto into one of her own. Sure, all she really does is speechify throughout the entire movie and her motives don’t necessarily add up, but because she’s an academy award winning actress she comes across as the most sinister villain the series has ever seen. And that’s saying a lot considering Jason Statham returns as Deckard Shaw, the villain in Furious 7 who (*SPOILER*) killed Han (Sung Kang). But even in that movie you liked him because they managed to put the Transporter in this franchise, and surprisingly he comes off as the second best big name action star in this film after delivering on two thrilling action sequences. Sure, the rest of the crew hasn’t forgiven him for his past, but that’s all pushed under the rug so we can get back to the action.

Curiously, however, it’s Dwayne Johnson who feels somewhat underused in this film. This is stupefying considering in Furious 7 he gets beat up by Statham in the beginning and then shows up for the climatic battle in LA and that’s it. Sure, he’s in this movie a lot, but Statham upstages him. Matter of fact, other than the two fight sequences where he beats up all the bad guys, his most memorable scene is one where he performs a Samoan dance ritual before a little girls soccer game. On top of that, he doesn’t really share the screen with Vin Diesel at all, a puzzling decision considering it was their palpable on-screen chemistry that made the last 3 movies arguably the best of the series. This is where I come in and say the rumors of Johnson and Diesel not getting along during filming must have been true, because Johnson isn’t given much to do and why take away one of your strengths from the previous three entrees? Like I said, he has more screen time this time around than the seventh movie, but he doesn’t feel as important as he has been. Even his buddy-buddy turn teaming with Statham feels out of place.

Of course the plot centers on the godfather of this franchise, Vin Diesel, even though it doesn’t feel like he’s in the movie that much, either. However, I must applaud his decision to unwillingly be coerced into a turncoat this time around. While I was at first skeptical and said out-loud “Really? That’s why you’re with Charlize Theron?” when that big reveal happened, it’s made up for with the second part of that reveal. Now obviously no one would confuse Diesel with Marlon Brando in terms of acting prowess, but his characterization of a conflicted Toretto actually  functions well within the story, even though he’s recycling the same “it’s all about family” monologues we’ve come to know the character by.

The rest of the crew is back too, but they all fall back on their characterizations from the other movies as well. Letty is still the tough girl who hasn’t given up on Dom, Tyrese Gibson reprises his role as Jar Jar Binks/ Roman Pierce, Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are the computer geniuses of the group, and Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is one eye patch away from turning into Snake Plissken from Escape From New York and Escape From LA.

None of that matters, as it all takes a back seat to the action. Director F. Gary Grey (Straight Outta Compton, The Italian Job) does a marvelous job staging and shooting the action sequences, which of course are nosier and more epic in scale than the last film. You get a wrecking ball wrecking cars. You get a huge prison riot. You get cars creating carmaggedon in New York City. You get a submarine. It feels like with every passing Fast and Furious movie there’s an obligation to out-do the previous one without totally jumping the shark (*I mean, they did that in the last one by flying cars out of planes and between buildings*), and that’s exactly what Fate does. At this rate the Fast and Furious movies aren’t really action movies anymore, they’re theme-park rides. And as a fan of this series, the dumber and more preposterous it gets, the more fun I have with them, and Fate does not disappoint. In the next two films, I predict they finally crossover with the Transformers franchise by calling it TransFurious and then go to outer space.

However, I cannot neglect to mention the absence of Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner. He and his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) are mentioned in the film, and its pretty cool they get to live on in the Fast universe. But it’s The Fate of the Furious that made me finally understand what his role was in the other films: he was the glue of the team. The levelheaded, non-testosterone induced male character that kept everyone together. Sure, this film gets by just fine without him, but one can only wonder now what The Fate of the Furious would’ve been like had the actor not tragically died in a car wreck back in November of 2013.

And now for the all-important question: where does Fate rank in the series? Personally, I think it overtakes the first film and comes in third place. A more compelling Dominic Torreto, a fabulous turn from Statham, and even more epic action makes Fate another winning entry in the Fast franchise. Not to mention the fact that the series is now a full-fledged soap opera with the inclusion of an academy award winning actresses’ new character not named Charlize Theron and inclusion and even resurrection of characters you forgot were even in the series.

Most people would think sixteen years and eight movies later that the Fast and Furious franchise is running on reserve fuel. That there’s no way there could be two more films coming out within the next four years. Judging by the events that take place in The Fate of the Furious, this franchise has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay Full Price.