Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (now on video, so some spoilers)

Now for a couple of reviews that will be focused upon film that were released earlier this year but I didn’t get a chance (or skipped it thinking it would be terrible) to see in theaters. While I knew that FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY got pretty damn good reviews, it currently sits at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, I didn’t see it really as a theatrical experience. I was right to make myself wait for video. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid movie showcasing the rise to stardom of WWE’s Paige, I figured that I probably wouldn’t have gotten anything more out of it from seeing it on a giant screen (I confess, I watched this on my phone…but on an official HD Streaming Platform). I think it is the best movie about wrestling there is….wait, I mean, are there really many? The only other one I can think of is Ready 2 Rumble with David Arquette, which is a guilty pleasure for me. But the movie did what it set out to do, where as the whole who wins, who loses, choreography, script, etc, etc in wrestling is fake, it in actuality is a lot of work (both mentally and physically) on an individual, and really hard to get into professionally.

Paige actually doesn’t star in this herself (kind of surprising since she is only 3 years older than the actress who plays her and doesn’t she act anyway in the WWE?), so they got a sort of not really familiar face in Florence Pugh. You probably have no idea who this actress is, but I do, and I know she’s been having a helluva 2019 so far. She has this, Midsommar, and the upcoming Oscar bait Little Women, last year she had numerous roles in things as well such as Netflix’s Outlaw King, The Commuter with Liam Neeson, that Little Drummer Girl limited series with Alexander Skaarsgaard. And there’s a good reason why she’s getting so much work. She’s a helluva fucking actress. Everything I see her in she keeps getting better and better (one reason to see Midsommar is that it’s literally her best performance ever). And here, she completely embodies Paige (from the very small real footage I’ve seen of the wrestler), and manages to convince me that she was the underdog her overcame all obstacles thrown at her.

The movie deals with her entire rise to the beginning of her WWE stardom, and also deals with her mom and dad (who run a small Wrestling little Federation in England) being proud of her, but then dealing with her brother, who doesn’t even pass the first stage of getting even remotely close to the WWE. The reason why this wasn’t much of a theatrical experience is that all of these story lines play out exactly as you think. When Paige wants to quit, her parents try to convince her not to, and while her brother is at first jealous of her, he eventually finds his footing and gets mad at her when she wants to give up when she’s so close to both of their dreams. And if you want to see this because you are hoping for several real fun matches of Paige on the WWE, prepare to be disappointed, it’s mostly all just training montages with a couple of short matches in the small England Federation her Mom and Dad own, and then literally her first match on WWE. That’s it. But if you come for the inspiring story, like I do, then you are in for a half way decent treat. Note that when it says, “Based on a true story,” that what it shows you probably didn’t happen exactly as it shows (especially the clamming up during Paige’s first WWE appearance, I don’t think that happened) but the heart of it is plainly there to see. I liked that the movie also had these other women trying out for the WWE and even though they were former models or pin up bikini models, they were actually smart and had actual lives outside of wrestling. It’s a very woman empowering film.

Those wanting to watch it because the are Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson completists, I know that they advertised the shit out of him in the marketing campaign, but he is just a glorified cameo. He is literally in only two scenes, one which is completely spoiled in the trailer to the film. Honestly, whenever any celebrity is on the “and” tail end of a movie poster, I know to not expect them in the film all that much (aka Drew Barrymore in Scream and Bryan Cranston in Godzilla, except Dwayne obviously doesn’t die here). But even in the scenes he is in, he reeks his hard yet gentle charisma and shows why he is getting a lot of work in the film business today. The film is written and directed by Stephen Merchant, and anybody whose anybody knows that he’s a good friend of Simon Pegg’s, Nick Frost (who’s really funny in the limited screen time in this as Paige’s dad), and Ricky Gervais. He’s co-written and co directed several other things, but I think this is his solo debut, and even though it seems like it is a point and shoot affair (even the wrestling scenes are just static shots), he seems like he is a good actor’s director as he gets I feel like were the best performances out of all those involved.

Vince Vaughn seemed to actually give a shit for once since Wedding Crashers and Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Leny Headey (Cersei in Game of Thrones) was charming for the limited screen time she was in, even though it seemed like she walked across the studio lot and just put on a wig for them after a day’s work on the HBO series. What I liked most about the film is the way that shows, even though that some aspects of wrestling are fake, the work to get there and even once there is a lot of physical and mental hard work. These wrestlers and entertainers are challenging themselves mentally and physically all just to put on a good show for those that are willing to watch. Hell, I even had a 3 to 5 year period when I was younger where I loved the shit out of wrestling, even getting free yet shit signals to the pay per view matches that my parents (and when thinking back on it, nor I) didn’t want to pay for. They were enjoyable even though I knew they were fake. If I would’ve known then what I do now, of how hard on a person it can be, I think I would’ve appreciated it more. This is a movie for old or new fans of wrestling that reshapes it all into one giant respect bubble.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HOBBS & SHAW (no spoilers, and no, I’m not putting Fast & Furious Presents before the real title)

Remember when this series started out by dude bros just stealing VCRs? Then by installment 5 we got a giant bank safe being pulled by cars down a highway, installment 6 we got Vin Diesel being tossed out over a highway during a military tank sequence then catching Michelle Rodriguez in midair and landing safely, then in the 7th installment you have cars going out of airplanes in parachutes and then later having a car jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper, and then in the last one you have Dwayne Johnson being able to steer submarine missiles mid trajectory in the ocean using just his foot. Needless to say, if the franchise ever lost you at one point, you’d have plenty of pretty damn good excuses as to the reasons why. It hasn’t lost me…but with Fate of The Furious and now HOBBS & SHAW, I feel like the franchises good ole’ days are officially behind them, and that it may be finally time to wrap everything up.

That’s not to say Hobbs & Shaw isn’t a half way decent installment in the franchise, it just isn’t a very good one, and doesn’t get anywhere in the ballpark of greatness. But at least it was better than The Fate of The Furious (I’ve only seen it twice, and can’t remember much of what happens in it other than Charlize Theron is the bad guy, that submarine sequence, and Vin Diesel’s baby and other small snippets). The real big problem with Hobbs & Shaw is very apparent, even before you buy your ticket to see it: you’ve already seen the movie. The marketing for this film, ever since the Super Bowl, has been fucking insane, with long ass trailers revealing EVERYTHING in the film, save for two surprise cameos and a bunch of mid and end credit sequences (stay thru ALL of the credits, even when it seems like the mid credits thing is it). There are literally no other surprises in the movie, which kind of bummed me out, as I very quickly pieced together what was going to happen with what sequences I had already seen in trailers and TV spots as the story went along.

It also doesn’t help that the plot elements are ripped straight out of Mission: Impossible 2, and in some ways it is basically the same exact film, albeit with a lot more insane vehicle action sequences, but without people pulling off masks to reveal themselves as different people. The real story? Not much of one, just know that it deals with a virus that Jason Statham character’s sister has, and that he and Dwayne Johnson must go after it before Idris Elba’s villain and whoever he is working for steals it and use it to “cleanse” the Earth (**yawn** sound familiar). As you know from the previous films, Johnson and Statham’s character still hate each other even though they have fantastic chemistry; that chemistry still there and strong being one of the only things that make this a decent one time watch. However, they don’t really have much character development, the only bit of it is that they predictably realize that even though they hate each other they at one point MUST work together in order to seize the day.

Yes, their banter is great and funny and all, and Statham and Johnson know how to act and be a great physical presences in action sequences, but unless you have story/plot arcs to fully back them up, it’s all just hollow shells. And nobody else has character development either, which is another big problem. Vanessa Kirby, who does a great job with physical demands for the role and her acting ability is a little above average, doesn’t do much arc wise but make faces as Statham and Johnson when they are bitching at each other. Idris Elba is one of the most yawn worthy villains in the franchise, and seems to be phoning it in, especially in the part of the film when he is touting himself as a “black superman.” He looks like he is just going through the motions to get this movie done and then go onto the next one. You’ve probably seen what was so effortlessly given away in the trailers that Dwayne Johnson goes to visit his Samoan “family” at one point (none of this should’ve been shown in marketing as it would’ve been a nice surprise). But any kind of character development and intrigue is thrown out the window with a couple of sentences of cliched “I’m sorry” dialogue.

Let me touch on Elba’s villain sci-fi element that has become so controversial to Fast & Furious fans because they want the films to stay a bit grounded. GROUNDED?! Are you fucking kidding me? The series waved bye bye to grounded with 2 Fast 2 Furious. So if you are mad that a new character got some kind of spinal surgery upgrade where he can see combat statistics in his eyeballs and be a helluva lot stronger physically, you can literally blame yourself. How did you not see it coming? If each installment needs to be more insane than the last, and you’ve already done what you could do bat shit crazy wise with vehicles, at some point, they are going to introduce sci-fi, and you just have to accept it. I have. I love the lunacy of it all. It is actually trying to do some shit different than just be the same film over and over and over again. Granted everything else about the film (like dialogue and story) is tired and true but at least none of these films have been a soft reboot of the first film or any of the previous installments. And if you think any of the previous installments action scenes are ridiculous, every single scene in this tells the previous films to hold their beer.

Before I end my review, let me give you some more positives (other than just the banter and chemistry of Statham and Johnson) to prove that I really do think this film is decently an okay one or two time watch. The action (there is a tone of it, almost every 5 minutes for a 2 hour and 10 minute run time) is crisp and clear, no shaky cam, you see every punch, kick, shot, and crash. You have to appreciate films and directors like that. They aren’t hacks that fix boring, slow shots and shoddy camera work by filming it all shaky cam and then editing the shit out of it in post production to try make you think what you are seeing is cool. WE KNOW BETTER. But a steady cam on Statham, seeing all the choreography up close, personal, and flawless? I loved that here. The director is David Leitch, who did Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and was an uncredited co-director on the first John Wick. Solo wise, Deadpool 2 is still his best film, and at least Hobbs & Shaw is a helluva lot better and more fun than Atomic Blonde. Also, the two cameos in the films were a nice surprise, and one of the extended ones was really really funny (even though it ruins the ending of Game of Thrones) and I hope that he continues to pop up in the franchise moving forward.

And while the last vehicle sequence was fucking unbelievably ridiculous but fun and while the other action scenes throughout the movie were very elaborate, ridiculous, and entertaining, the problem boils down to that the marketing ruined this movie. All of the action scenes in this are shown in all the previews, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM. There are no surprises other than the two cameos; you are basically paying a theater $9 to $15 dollars to watch a film where someone just edited all the marketing footage together. Did the studio not have any confidence that the film could survive on its own? They already ruined the title by putting Fast & Furious presents before it, but did they literally have to spoil every fucking action sequence just to get people’s butts in seats? You already had my butt with Statham and Johnson in a movie together. I love those guys and you should have put a little more faith into what you had. It could’ve been one of the top movies, instead, it’s just going to fade into the middle (quite literally, see below).

Rank of the Fast & Furious Films:

  1. Fast 5
  2. Fast & Furious 6
  3. Furious 7
  4. The Fast & The Furious
  5. Hobbs & Shaw
  6. The Fate Of The Furious
  7. Tokyo Drift
  8. Fast & Furious
  9. 2 Fast 2 Furious