Well the temperatures might still be heating up, but with one final blockbuster this past weekend marks the end of the summer movie season.
From the looks of it, the next couple weeks are going to be packed with smaller releases. Ones that just couldn’t compete with the big budgeted behemoths.
Until then though, there’s still one last major summer movie to talk about.
This week I saw a Fast & Furious spin off featuring two of the series’s most charismatic characters, but first a film about a family who discovers their grandmother has a terminal illness and decides to hide the truth from her.
Let’s get to the reviews.
First up is “The Farewell.”
The film follows a Chinese family who, when they discover their beloved Nai Nai or Grandmother (Shuzhen Zhao) has only a short while left to live, decide to keep her in the dark and schedule an impromptu wedding to gather before she passes.
Billi (Awkwafina), feeling like a fish out of water in her home country, struggles with the family’s decision to hide the truth from her grandmother.
This is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a few weeks now.
Over the last month or so I have heard nothing but praise for this little film. And after watching it myself, I can definitely say the movie’s acclaim wasn’t without warrant.
This is a beautiful film.
Though I suppose I should mention one thing upfront that might make this movie a non-starter for some.
Nearly all the dialogue in this film is in Chinese. Of course there are English subtitles throughout, but if you’re someone who has a hard time keeping up with subtitled dialogue, this movie probably won’t be the best experience for you.
However, if you can get past the foreign language aspect of the film, you’re in for a very thoughtful, sincere, and surprisingly funny family drama.
I know, a movie about the looming death of a beloved family member doesn’t exactly sound like the breeding grounds of comedy. Regardless though, this movie is packed with funny scenes.
It’s the kind of humor that comes from ordinary, or even mundane family interactions.
There’s such a natural chemistry between all these characters. There’s so many little moments sprinkled in that make these characters feel like a family.
Not just in the dialogue, but non-vocal things like the playful hitting, or Billi walking up behind her mother and resting her chin on her shoulder really go a long way to make the family in this film feel genuine.
Then of course there’s the actors themselves, who do a wonderful job bringing this story to life.
Surprisingly, the breakout performance of the film wasn’t the most well known of the cast, Awkwafina, though she does do quite well here. It’s actually the grandma of the movie, Shuzhen Zhao.
She is absolutely perfect here as the film’s Nai Nai. She’s just so dang likeable in this wonderful grandmotherly way and has this amazing chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially Awkwafina.
The scenes between grandmother and granddaughter are easily the most touching moments in this film. I absolutely loved every minute the two of them were on screen together.
Speaking of Awkwafina, this movie has been called her break into dramatic movies, as she’s mostly been pigeonholed into the role of the eccentric Asian lady in many comedies. Roles she exceeds at, granted, but still typecasting nonetheless.
But despite being out of her typical wheelhouse, Awkwafina does quite well here.
She’s not overly dramatic, though her character is devastated by the seemingly inevitable death of her “Nai Nai.” It’s hard to describe, but the way she acts just feels natural. It’s how I imagine someone would deal with this difficult situation in real life.
And I suppose if anyone would know what it’s like to deal with the looming death of their grandma, it’d be the film’s writer and director, Lulu Wang, because she faced this exact scenario in real life.
Just like in the film, Wang’s actual grandmother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and given only three months to live. And just like in the movie, she was sworn to keep her Nai Nai’s diagnosis secret from her, despite her passionate objections.
From an American perspective, it’s kind of a shocking story. I mean, how could you keep a person’s inevitable mortality away from them?
But this film does a good job explaining, and even justifying this differing perspective on death. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but by the end of the film I did see where the family here was coming from.
I loved seeing this glimpse into another culture, especially since it’s one that isn’t often highlighted in American made movies.
This is by far one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Everything about it felt so dang genuine. You can’t help but love these people.
It made me laugh, and it left me with tears streaming down my face. If you can get past some subtitles, and maybe a bit of culture shock, this film is a must see.
“The Farewell” is rated PG.
The other movie this week is “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”
Ever since hulking lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and lawless outcast Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) first faced off, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down.
But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist named Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever, and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister, these two sworn enemies will have to put aside their differences in order to save the world from a deadly virus.
Let’s be honest here. No one interested in watching this movie is expecting nuanced writing or an intricate narrative from it.
It’s a “Fast & Furious” movie. That means fast cars, fun action, and charismatic characters. And this movie delivers on all three.
Sure, the plot here is paper thin, but it’s just a framework to lead these charming characters through a collection of trash talk sessions and jaw dropping action scenes.
This is not a movie to be taken seriously and filmmakers make that pretty clear early on.
Heck, the movie begins with Dwayne Johnson yanking people off of motorcycles while sitting in the passenger seat of a speeding McLaren sports car, and jumping from a skyscraper, without a parachute, all while barely getting a scratch.
It’s completely ridiculous, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun.
For the most part, the action here is really good. Unlike some movies, you can actually see what’s happening most of the time, plus there’s a restrained use of camera shake.
But in my opinion, what really shines here is the chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.
I said it back in my review of “The Fate of the Furious,” and I’ll say it again here. Hobbs and Shaw are by far the most entertaining characters in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. Period.
I could listen to these guys smack talk each other all day. Whoever’s idea it was at Universal to put these two guys in their own stand alone movie deserves a raise.
Vanessa Kirby also makes a pretty solid addition to this crew. She isn’t just relegated to being an object to be saved or protected. She holds her own and gets herself out of danger more often than just being rescued.
Also, it’s always nice seeing more Idris Elba in big budget action movies. Like all the actors, his performance isn’t particularly deep, but he makes for a fun villain. And in a Fast & Furious movie, that’s about all you can hope for.
I don’t know what else to say. If you’re looking for ridiculous over-the-top action, entertaining characters, and a whole heap of trash talk, this movie is definitely worth checking out.
Just check your brain at the door, and you’ll have a good time.
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is rated PG-13.