Heroes from the MCU and DCEU join the large Furious family when Fast X speeds into multiplexes on May 19th. The tenth official feature in the franchise (11th counting spin-off Hobbs & Shaw) arrives less than two years behind F9. Those newcomers to the fold are Captain Marvel Brie Larson and Aquaman Jason Momoa. Another fresh face to the series is director Louis Letterier, best known for The Transporter and Now You See Me. The many returnees include Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, John Cena, Jason Statham, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, and Charlize Theron. Rita Moreno also joins the party.
Fast X is the penultimate pic with the (allegedly) final installment hitting in 2025. In 2015, Furious 7 had the high dollar peak when it premiered with $147 million and an eventual $353 domestic gross. Part of that franchise best performance was because it paid tribute to the late Paul Walker (who co-headlined with Diesel in four previous entries). In 2017, The Fate of the Furious started with $98 million and ended with $225 million. Predecessor F9 from 2021 managed $70 million out of the gate and $173 million overall.
One could argue that F9 was hindered two summers ago by the COVID pandemic. That could be proven if X is marked by a larger opening. My hunch is that it’ll kick off on pace with it and maybe even a little behind. That would give it the lowest series beginning (excluding the $60 million from Hobbs & Shaw) since 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Toyko Drift.
There are some Matrix adjacent fight scenes in Morbius that might have you thinking it should be called Morpheus. They’re nowhere near that level in quality and some of them are such a CG mess that you can’t tell what’s happening. Should our hero and villain bite the red artery or suck the blue vein? Despite its connective tissue to Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (meaning the web slinger and Venom), it’s hard to really care.
Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a world renowned expert in blood disorders. The experience is personal as he has one and makes it his life work to cure himself and others. His childhood friend Milo (Matt Smith) suffers from the same disease and has the money to bankroll Doc Mo’s research. A Costa Rican excursion results in the acquisition of vampire bats. Perhaps some genetic splicing will do the trick!
This is when Morbius is blessed and cursed with the batty sense. He feels better than ever (and looks jacked), but has to feast to keep the strength up. His desire to go full Dracula prevents him from offering the cure to Milo. That puts a strain on their friendship causing Milo to go full overacting bad guy.
While our title character tries to get by on artificial blood, many of the visual effects look pretty fake. There’s no real development of the supporting characters. This includes Adria Arjona as Morbius’s colleague/love interest, Jared Harris as his father figure and medical mentor, and Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal as detectives tracking the suckers. Maybe their time was cut. Maybe the filmmakers (with Daniel Espinosa in the director’s seat) are saving some for hoped for sequels. Tyrese is apparently signed for a three-picture deal which explains his curiously fast appearance.
In the first half, Morbius is a passable enough monster mash. Maybe even a little quaint as it sort of feels like a late 90s genre piece before most comic book movies came with $200 million budgets. I’m not sure I buy Leto as a brilliant physician turning down Nobel prizes, but he doesn’t embarrass himself. This sputters as the effects render it increasingly incomprehensible.
By the time it drops in Spidey references in the mid credits sequences, it’s gotten desperate. In this Spider-Verse, Morbius doesn’t reach the specific heights of the venomous creatures preceding it.
Jared Leto has an Oscar for his supporting work in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. That film won another trophy for Makeup and Hairstyling. Three years later, Leto’s turn as The Joker in Suicide Squad contributed to a victory in that same category. Last weekend, House of Gucci (featuring a much ballyhooed turn from Leto) lost the Makeup derby to The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Why am I bringing this up?
Well, it’s an excuse for Morbius and Oscar to appear as words together in a post. The Sony/Marvel production (which casts Leto as the vampire antihero) is finally making its way to theaters on Friday after numerous COVID delays. There’s been rumors that it’s not of the highest quality and the lapsed review embargo seems to prove that. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is a mere 19% at time of publication.
That said, some of this genre fare can still materialize in Visual Effects or Makeup and Hairstyling (like Suicide Squad). I would say Morbius has a better chance at multiple Razzie nominations than any from the Academy. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Sony and Marvel are hoping there’s plenty of buyers in the Morbius club as the dark superhero tale finally premieres on April 1st. Led by Jared Leto in the title vampiric role, Daniel Espinosa directs with a supporting cast including Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson.
This is the third entry in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe after the two Venom flicks from 2018 and last year. Both of them were massive hits and, of course, we are on the heels of Spider-Man: No Way Home being the third largest domestic earner in history.
Morbius was originally set for release all the way back in summer of 2020 before its numerous COVID related delays. Shot for a reported $75 million, it should have no trouble making its money back (especially when including international grosses). Yet I’m skeptical it approaches the $80 million that Venom started with or $90 million that its sequel earned out of the gate a few months back.
Estimates are in the $40-$50 million range and my hunch is that projecting a debut in the middle end of that range is the call.
Make no mistake. We don’t watch the Fast and Furious movies because they have any resemblance to the real world. For a franchise that I cannot imagine was envisioned to reach nine entries deep, we can park our logic immediately and settle in for a thrill ride. Surprisingly it’s a formula that’s usually worked (certainly at the box office and often with the quality of the product). In F9, the luster has gathered rust. This is the first Fast feature since part 4 that I wouldn’t recommend as a guilty pleasure. We’ve reached the long-lost brother stage of the storyline. We also have characters blasting into outer space. So it’s time to stop being polite about what’s going on in this fading fantasy world.
Returning director Justin Lin (who made parts III-VI) and his cowriter Daniel Casey have swapped out ex-wrestlers turned thespians. Gone is Dwayne Johnson (a result of a feud with Vin Diesel), who brought a jolt starting in Fast Five. Tagging in is John Cena as the aforementioned and previously never mentioned sibling Jakob Toretto. As we are told in overdramatic and overlong flashbacks, he played a role in the late 80s racing death of his father. This doesn’t sit well with brother Dom (Diesel) and the two haven’t been on speaking terms since. Jakob reacts as most would with the family estrangement by becoming an international mercenary and obtaining a deadly computer system that will wreak global havoc. His employer is the son of a dictator (Thue Erstad Rasmussen) who’s working with part 8’s hacker bad girl Cipher (Charlize Theron).
The return of the banished brother causes Dom to interrupt his farm life seclusion with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their 5-year-old son. The band, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Bridges), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) reassemble for the forthcoming sequences where automobiles do things they have no earthly business doing. Also back are the thought to be dead Han (Sung Kang) and a trio of street racers from Tokyo Drift who are now (somehow) rocket scientists. Jordana Brewster (as Dom and Jakob’s sister Mia) hops a flight home. This is where I’ll address a sensitive issue. When Paul Walker died in 2013, the filmmakers were faced with the unenviable task of dealing with his character Brian who served as co-lead for the previous entries. They handled it deftly in Furious 7. However, in a saga that constantly beats the drum of helping your teammates, the explanation of Brian simply being retired and not taking part in the action strains credibility. We’re told he’s babysitting while wife Mia is away. I know it might seem silly to discuss credibility in a Fast flick, but it is an unfortunate minor distraction.
F9 takes too long to get its motor running. The 143 minute runtime (bogged down by those flashbacks of young Dom and Jakob) is a momentum stopper. Part of the intrigue involves a super powerful magnate (think more than fridge quality grade) that whips anything in its path towards it. It’s cool the first time we see the hurling. And then we witness it again and again. Cena has shown considerable comedic chops elsewhere. That magnetism is nowhere to be found here. Dwayne Johnson is missed as is Jason Statham as sparring partner Shaw. Theron, Kurt Russell as government agent Mr. Nobody, and Helen Mirren as Shaw’s mum are barely seen (though the latter’s brief appearance is kind of a hoot).
What we’re left with is a mopey family dynamic that the franchise didn’t need. Roman’s character brings self-reference to the screenplay, often commenting on the ridiculousness of everything – how come no one ever gets a scratch on them? As I said, that doesn’t matter much when we can mindlessly settle in and enjoy it. F9 doesn’t achieve that like the bulk of its predecessors. Put another way, my tank was half full for parts V-VIII and now it’s half empty. By the time Roman and Tej enter moonwalking territory, it should feel ludicrous in a positive way. Instead we’ve had to slog through over two hours of make it up as you go along nonsense to get there.
F9 is widely expected to drive traffic into theaters in a way we have not witnessed since late 2019 – before anyone knew what COVID-19 was. The ninth official entry in The Fast and the Furious franchise appears poised to have the largest domestic opening since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a year and a half ago. It opens June 25th after a series of pandemic related delays. Justin Lin returns in the director’s chair for his fifth Fast flick and first since Fast & Furious 6. Long time and newer series regulars returning include Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Helen Mirren (reprising her role from spinoff Hobbs & Shaw), Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron. Newcomers to the mix are John Cena, Michael Rooker, and Cardi B.
Sporting a budget of at least $200 million, F9 has already made a fortune overseas at $270 million and counting. In 2015, Furious 7 nabbed the largest opening of all the pics (by far) at $147 million ($353 million overall). Tragically, part of that can be attributed to audience curiosity as it dealt with the final appearance of Paul Walker following his passing. 2017’s follow-up The Fate of the Furious debuted to $98 million and an eventual $225 million domestic haul (good for third overall in the ennead). Hobbs & Shaw, meanwhile, made $60 million for its start in 2019 with a $173 million final tally.
With capacity issues mostly having fallen by the wayside, F9 will be a test as to just how high first weekends can go in this market. A Quiet Place Part II set the initial benchmark at $57 million over the four-day Memorial Weekend frame. This is anticipated to zoom beyond that. Furious 7 set a mark that any sequel is unlikely to come close to. A debut in the neighborhood of Fast Five ($86 million) is certainly achievable. Yet I still think some multiplex resistance could stall that possibility. I’ll project $60-$70 million is the more likely range. My estimate puts this a few million under the $70 million made by Fast & Furious in 2009.
Moonlight Oscar nominee Naomie Harris is a rookie officer up against dirty cops in next weekend’s racially tinged action thriller Black and Blue. It comes from Deon Taylor, who directed this summer’s thriller The Intruder. Costars include Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, and Reid Scott.
Late October is typically not a time period where new products post impressive debuts. Buzz is quiet and reviews are middling with a current 57% Rotten Tomatoes score. None of the cast members are much of a draw. Blue will be lucky to attract even the $7.6 million achieved last October by The Hate U Give. It had similar subject matter, but far better critical reaction.
I believe that means mid single digits is probable.
Black and Blue opening weekend prediction: $4.8 million
Today we move to 1998 and the tunes burning up our CD players (if we were lucky enough to have one in our car) 20 years ago. As with previous posts, I rank each track from 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (summer smash) and reveal the most important truth: is said song on my Apple Music?
Let’s get to it!
10. “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo
We start off quite well with this ballad from K-Ci and JoJo, who originally rose to fame with the R&B group Jodeci. It’s schmaltzy, yes, but in the best way and it gets the job done with the singers expert vocal performances.
My Ranking: 9 and a half
Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes
9. “Crush” by Jennifer Paige
I must confess to having no recollection of this track when I saw it was #9. Listening to it again, it’s a pleasant enough ditty from the one-hit wonder. That said, it’s also rather forgettable.
My Ranking: 6
It Is On My Apple Music?: No
8. “Make It Hot” by Nicole featuring Missy Elliot and Mocha
Timbaland was mostly busy around this time stirring up classics for Aaliyah and Missy Elliot. Yet he concocted this gem for Nicole with assists from Elliot and Mocha. It was her only major hit, but it’s a terrific example of its producer’s wizardry behind the boards.
My Rating: 9
Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes
7. “Come with Me” by Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page
Combine Puff’s love of sampling with the guitar riffs of Jimmy Page’s “Kashmir” and promoting the summer’s unfortunate Godzilla reboot? You get a hit… albeit one that is just as ultimately disappointing as the film in which it appeared on the soundtrack.
My Rating: 5
Is It On My Apple Music? No
6. “My All” by Mariah Carey
Ms. Carey has certainly had her share of powerful ballads. “My All” is an effective one, though I don’t rank it among her most memorable.
My Rating: 7
Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes (but mostly because I have her greatest hits and don’t listen to this one hardly at all)
5. “Adia” by Sarah MacLachlan
The Canadian singer is now mostly known for causing you tear up during commercials to help dogs, but she had a string of hits including this one. I’ve never been a big fan and this track does little for me, despite her lovely voice.
My Rating: 5 and a half
Is It On My Apple Music?: No
4. “My Way” by Usher
The title track from Usher’s multi-platinum album is a Jermaine Dupri produced banger that spent lots of time being played loudly in my 1987 Ford Thunderbird 20 years ago. Check out Tyrese in the video as well.
My Rating: 9
It Is On My Apple Music?: Yes
3. “Too Close” by Next
An incredibly catchy R&B song from a band that didn’t produce many more hits. This one, however, could still be a massive hit today.
My Rating: 9 and a half
Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes
2. “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain
Another Canadian crooner had her first major crossover hit with this ballad. It moved Twain out of just being known as a country act to one with serious pop appeal.
My Rating: 8
Is It On My Apple Music?: No
1. “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica
It’s no “The Girl is Mine” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, but this mid-tempo pop track paired two of the era’s most successful R&B singers to hugely successful results on the charts. Looking back now, I don’t love it (I could list stronger tracks by both Brandy and Monica) but it’s decent.
My Rating: 7 and a half
Is It On My Apple Music?: No
And there you have it! The sounds of 1998 in the summertime…
TheFateoftheFurious is our eighth – yes, eighth – installment of a franchise that it would have been ridiculous to imagine there being that many entries. We’re a long way from the original 16 years ago that was sort of a drag racing rip-off of PointBreak, or PointBrake as I deemed it in my review. That said, a common thread among the series is its willingness to be knowingly ridiculous while weaving in endless monologues about the importance of family.
The formula took on a different tone in predecessor Furious7, which admirably managed to deal with the death of franchise stalwart Paul Walker in its conclusion. In that sense, Fate ushers in a new chapter. New characters are introduced, old ones are rehashed, and the level of silliness is brought to a level not quite seen before. Yes, cars go fast here. However, part 8 owes more to James Bond flicks when they were less grim (think Roger Moore era with a quarter billion dollar budget).
As I’ve written in previous Furious critiques, plot is secondary but here’s what you need to know: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team. Sort of. He’s being forced to team up with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who evades authorities in the air on an invisible plane. See what I mean? Isn’t that the kind of villain 007 might battle in the late seventies? Now on the wrong side of justice, Dominic and Cipher must go against Dom’s “family”, including wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the familiar players played by Dwayne Johnson (whose goofy character is still good for some funny and bizarre moments), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and more. Part 7’s main villain Jason Statham is more of a team player this time around and even Oscar winner Helen Mirren turns up as his mum. Statham is granted a fight scene towards the end where he has to be delicate with some cargo he’s carrying (you’ll see what I mean). The scene is genuinely humorous and quite well choreographed.
The plot is all an excuse for the massive action spectacles and globe trotting we’ve become accustomed to and we have it here in Cuba, New York City, and Russia. The climactic sequence set on Russian frozen tundra employs the usual expensive vehicles, but we also are treated to tanks and submarines. Remember the ice action in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond flick DieAnotherDay? Think that, but it’s not embarrassingly awful.
Our Furious sagas rise and fall on the ability for us to check our brains at the Universal logo. By the third act, I’d succumbed once again to its cheesy charms. Maybe one day this series will truly stall like it briefly did in 2006’s TokyoDrift. Not yet though and that’s some kind of testament to its durability.
A week from today, Transformers: The Last Knight appears primed to easily rule the #1 spot. The question is how the fifth entry in the franchise performs compared to its predecessors. Michael Bay is back in the director’s chair (reportedly for the final time) with returning cast members Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, and John Turturro. Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nicola Peltz are new to the series. Most importantly, Optimus, Bumblebee, and plenty of Autobots and Decepticons return in their CG form.
The pic, with its reported $260 million budget, faces no other features opening directly against it. This Transformers franchise has shown itself to be critic proof over its decade of existence. That said, Knight‘s predecessor posted a series low domestically.
Let’s take a trip down box office grosses lane for these bots, shall we?
Opening Weekend: $70.5 million three-day opening with $155 million over six-day July 4th weekend roll out. $319 million total domestic gross.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Opening Weekend: $108.9 million three-day opening with $200 million five-day roll out. $402 million total domestic gross.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Opening Weekend: $97.8 million three-day opening with $180.6 million six-day July 4th weekend roll out. $352 million total domestic gross.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Opening Weekend: $100 million. $245 million total domestic gross.
As you can see, Age of Extinction earned more than $100 million less than the third entry. It’s also the only one that opened over a regular three-day release. The Last Knight debuts on Wednesday so you’ll be witnessing my guesstimate for its traditional weekend and five-day gross.
Whew… got all that?
Knight appears likely to suffer from franchise fatigue stateside. It’s worth noting that this franchise makes a killing overseas and that should not change. I could see a three-day haul in the mid to high with a five-day take of just over $80 million.
Transformers: The Last Knight opening weekend prediction: $57.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $81.5 million (Friday to Sunday)