Family Still Comes First: A Review of “The Fate of the Furious”

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Over the past several weeks, I embarked on a cinematic journey through the Fast and Furious franchise, watching them in order, each for the very first time. It’s not a perfect series by any means, but I fell deeply in love, especially as the series progressed and switched from being prominently about street racing to being big-budget action capers, becoming all the more ridiculous and over-the-top in all the best ways. Despite what you might expect from an eighth entry in a franchise, with The Fate of the Furious, Vin Diesel and his family of street-racers-turned-government-agents still manage to up the ante and deliver one of the absolute best movies in the series.

F8 picks up with an opening scene that calls back to the good ol’ days of Fast & Furious (circa 2001-2006), complete with trash talking, street racing and a tropical pop hit setting the scene. Dom (Vin Diesel) has settled down in Havana with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), but it isn’t long before he’s dragged back into the increasingly explosive life he’s lived for the past 16 years. What sets this entry apart from its seven predecessors, is that this time Dom’s playing for the wrong team, and betraying the family he loves. Gasp!

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Student Double Feature: Courtney Dial and Ahimme Cazarez Review Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook”

Below are two Lewis University students’ perspectives on the 2014 horror film The Babadook.

Courtney Dial:
You can also visit Courtney’s own blog at Horror Film Mondays.

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Raw, creepy, and thought-provoking: The Babadook is designed to give the viewer an inside perspective on what depression feels and looks like, and it succeeds. In The Babadook, there is no romanticizing this disease, which is cleverly disguised as Mister Babadook. Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length film was not wasted with this incredible picture. Beautiful cinematography and allegorical expression are used brilliantly to cover a subject that is sometimes kept in the basement, under lock and key.

We are introduced to Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), and instantaneously, due to the superb misè-en-scene, it is painfully obvious that this is a tense household. The feelings that are presented through the use of these elements give such believable verisimilitude that it is hard not to imagine yourself in Amelia’s situation.

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Casual Critics: A Hidden Legend – A Review of “Searching for Sugar Man”

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Is it possible for a man to be a complete rock star, on the opposite side of the world, in a country he has never visited, and never know about it? For many South Africans, Sixto Rodriguez was a lot more than rock star. He was social icon; an outsider who was saying the things they wanted to say but simply could not. Searching for Sugar Man (2012), directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is an eye-opening, heart-touching documentary on the legend and mystery behind the man simply known as Rodriguez.

Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary category at the 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez opted not to attend the event because he did not want to overshadow, or take away from the creators of the film. This selfless gesture summarizes, on a few levels, the path of life chosen by Rodriguez, or, even, the path that he passed up.

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JFR’s Managing Editor Weighs in On a Frightful Classic: “The House of the Devil”

Recently, we featured reviews from two students on the 2009 film The House of the Devil. Below is another perspective on the same film, written by Jet Fuel Review Managing Editor Sam Gennett.

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For film fans who are nostalgic for the ‘80s but are tired of re-watching Halloween to get their retro-horror fill, Ti West’s The House of the Devil (2009) is a refreshing rejuvenation of late ‘70s and early ‘80s horror. Shot on 16 mm film, this movie seems to have been teleported from the ‘80s into the 21st century. With the grainy film look, dim cinematography, and use of Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart,” West brings viewers back to the good ol’ days of flannel, indoor ashtrays, and Satan worship.

Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), desperate for money, takes a babysitting job, but didn’t we all learn what happens when you babysit after watching Elizabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting (1987)? Clearly, Samantha missed that film because she coerces her friend into driving her to a house in the middle of nowhere. They pass a cemetery on their way there, and the shot is briefly superimposed over the establishing shot of the house, effectively foreshadowing events to come. Continue reading

Bring Your Weapons to Work Day: A Review of “The Belko Experiment”

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James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither) is one of the premiere screenwriters working in Hollywood today, but his near-spotless track record doesn’t save the latest film credited with his writing, The Belko Experiment, from disappointing mediocrity. It’s too bad, as the premise alone should have made for an exciting moviegoing experience, but the self-seriousness, uninspired filmmaking, and extremely underwhelming ending results in a messy, unrewarding watch.

The poster for the The Belko Experiment cites it as a sort of “Office Space meets Battle Royale,” but the comparison to Office Space starts and ends with the fact that it’s set inside an office building, and it’s only like Battle Royale in that it’s central idea revolves around a group of people who are forced to murder each other. Unfortunately, The Belko Experiment isn’t nearly as hilarious as Office Space, nor as exciting as Battle Royale.

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Casual Critics: The Search for a Lost Musician – A Review of “Searching for Sugar Man”

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Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is a documentary that tells the story of an “invisible” musical genius, and his profound influence during the rock n’ roll era. Sixto Rodriguez, a humble and grounded musician, acted as a revolutionary icon for the youth of South Africa throughout the 1970s.

Searching for Sugar Man is a true story that brilliantly depicts the music career of a man that “never existed.” Although Rodriquez touched the hearts of thousands of people, he remained a mystery to the rest of the world. To unveil the mystery of the legendary figure, fans worked together in order to analyze Sixto’s well-written lyrics. His impact was tremendous, but his music was the only piece of him that seemed to exist.

This documentary takes the audience on an adventure in which they can experience the fascinating exploration for the “Sugar Man” himself. Malik Bendjelloul’s incredible artistic abilities comment on the film in a unique way that captivates the audience.

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Student Feature: Heather Ray and Courtney Dial Review Ti West’s Retro Classic “The House of the Devil”

Below are two Lewis University students’ perspectives on the 2009 horror film The House of the Devil.

Heather Ray:

Get Your Paper Bags Ready

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House of the Devil takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. You start by comfortably strapping into the relatable college environment, listening to the deafening, upbeat ’80s soundtrack, and awaiting the thrill. Once you’re secure and devoted without an exit, you begin by slowly traveling into heightened suspense and elevated anxiety as you become aware of the climactic drop that is inevitably in front of you. Once you reach the top, you get a few short moments to gasp and take your last breath before you’re consumed by the full-speed terror, teased without knowing what twists and turns may come next. Finally, you’re abruptly halted as the ride has come to a stop.

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