By David Elliott
Flix Nosh is a personal movie menu, fresh each Friday.NOTE: The next Nosh will be Friday, June 2.
APPETIZER: Reviews of Fate of the Furious and Risk
The Fate of the FuriousThe fate of The Fate of the Furious is more money. I waited until global grosses hit around $1.2 billion before contributing my senior $6.75. The eighth in the series, which began with The Fast and the Furious in 2001, cost $250 million, the sort of franchise loot that assures everything except quality. The latest big, loud rubber-burner is more exciting than slowly letting air out of your tires, but probably less than getting a signature shammy cloth from Elon Musk (films 9 and 10 are on the assembly line).
Naturally Vin Diesel repeats as Dom, hottest wheel man on our planet. Once sleek, the Yul Brynner of street-cred motorheads, Dom is now a sort of Chunkie Cheese (but buff cheese). The movie opens in blindingly sunny Havana, less a capital than a postcard screaming “Come down, gringos, and bring money!” A challenge race, roaring its effects, goes from implausible to absolute idiocy in seconds. Dom, lightly attired, rolls from his burning car at about 120 m.p.h., lands unscratched on asphalt and wins despite the meltdown. He wins over the Cubans like a bald, beardless Fidel.
Diesel joins his usual crew or (as he insists) family, including squeeze Michelle Rodriguez (rightly missed is the late Paul Walker). Once the scene switches to Berlin, dark as a Hitler migraine, Britain’s Jason Stathem appears, projecting his special brand of steroid void (his facial stubble is mocked as a “whisker biscuit”). Kurt Russell, the jaunty boss of something very global, wisely treats the movie as a goof-along. As his son or stooge, there is Scott Eastwood, Clint’s boy, who might achieve the career of Pat Wayne. Ludacris preens, and Helen Mirren’s weird drop-in probably cost a few million.
Stealing the chrome laurels are Charlize Theron as chilly villainess Cifer, basically a promo float for Theron’s coming summer blast Atomic Blonde, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Dom’s sworn enemy (poor Stathem stares up at him like Mini-me). A recent cover story in National Review hailed the Rock (pardon me, Mr. Johnson) as “the celebrity we need now.” It seems that Trump’s vanity effusion has not saturated our zeal for mindless celebrity.
When the plot pulls in a baby, Dom cries a perfect, CGI tear. While New York is trashed by Cifer on a crazed hacking spree, we are supposed to care about Dom’s faltering family values, which is like finding that your deluxe road beast has a motor made of taffy. For all its super-charged moves, the latest Furious isn’t going anywhere. It’s a pit stop.
RiskJulian Assange, with his unlined face and saintly-sexy white hair, was the poster lad of the subversive elite of cyber hackers in the early Obama years and the doomed Arab Spring. Then a rival wizard emerged: hyper-cool CIA escapee and intel dumper Edward Snowden (whom Assange aided). Assange faced accusations of sexual assault in Sweden, went into official hiding in Britain, then fled into less posh refuge at Ecuador’s embassy in London. By then Snowden was like a fish bunkered in a samovar, in Moscow “sanctuary.” Assange saw his Wikileaks mole kingdom tarnished by suspected complicity with Russia’s invasion of the 2016 U.S. election.
So director Laura Poitras, who made a whispery, furtive movie about Snowden, Citizenfour, is stuck with Risk, an often stir-crazy, opaque documentary on Assange. The film wanders down the years, Poitras heard but not seen, Assange seen but often talking in haiku. What does he think about the sex charges, apart from murmuring about angry feminists? Can he explain what Wikileaks hopes to achieve? Was his on-video meeting with Lady Gaga more than a shared ego massage? Why does he feel betrayed by Poitras? Is her fascination with him flaking? Is there a Putin-Assange Pact? Does he like Ecuadorian cooking?
Such questions float around Risk, unanswered. It should not have been released in this jittery, loose-binder form. Fretting these days about poor, pale Julian seems pointless.
WINE (Vin Orsonaire de Chateau Welles)Often irascible and spikey when working for other directors, Welles was typically a happy maestro on his own sets. “He always said,” recalled Peter Bogdanovich, “that he liked ‘to give the actors a good time.’ And he did. He always made it a lot of fun. Orson was funny, he was teasing. He was warm, encouraging, spontaneous. He loved anything that you did, was effusive if he liked it, kidded around if he didn’t, never made you feel anything except that you probably were gonna be better than you’d ever been in your life.” Alas, such testimonials are in smaller circulation than a tape of Welles exploding at the hapless makers of a corny commercial, one of his last and least gigs. (Bogdanovich quote from Robert K. Elder’s The Film That Changed My Life).
ENTRÉE (Starlight Rising)The tap root of The Producers was Mel Brooks’ earlier zest as a writer “for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. Albert Goldman described the writers: ‘They’d light their cigars, form a circle around Sid, watch him improvise like a one-man band until they were turned on. Then they’d jump up, start throwing lines, capping each other.’ Imogene Coca was ‘distaff’ zany, ‘the timid woman who, when aroused, can beat a tiger to death with a feather.” (From the Zero Mostel/The Producers chapter of my book Starlight Rising: Acting Up in Movies, yours at Amazon, Nook, or Kindle.):
DESSERT (An Image)A great movie image is more than a still, it’s a distillation.
Kay Francis and Herbert Marshall play for love in Trouble in Paradise (Paramount, 1932; director Ernst Lubitsch; cinematographer Victor Milner).
For previous Noshes, scroll below.