KATE MUIR reviews Fast & Furious 9

Still Fast & Furious but it’s a bit of a car crash: KATE MUIR reviews Fast & Furious 9

Fast & Furious 9 (12A)

Rating:

Verdict: Time to re-tyre? 

What would happen if you chucked a bunch of Tonka toys in a Magimix? That’s what it feels like watching the car carnage in Fast & Furious 9, which is — inexplicably — the tenth film in the supersized franchise.

While the Fast & Furious folk can’t count, they can still send the laws of physics flying — and that’s what fans want. 

There’s even a bungee-jumping car, and a race across a disintegrating rope bridge, all of which must be seen to be enjoyably disbelieved.

The revving, roaring, multi-vehicle pile-ups and improbable feats are all there again. But it’s a step too far in silliness when they send an old banger into outer space…

What would happen if you chucked a bunch of Tonka toys in a Magimix? That’s what it feels like watching the car carnage in Fast & Furious 9, which is — inexplicably — the tenth film in the supersized franchise, writes KATE MUIR

The usual crew is back, led by Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto, a wall of muscle primed for handbrake turns; his partner Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) who gives a virtuoso performance on a Harley-Davidson motorbike; and Charlize Theron as the enemy Cipher, who spends most of the movie trapped in a Perspex box.

The plot (of sorts) turns on a flashback to 1989 when Dom’s father was killed in a speedway accident, and the hatred between him and his younger brother Jakob (John Cena) has festered ever since.

Jakob is now a big-time criminal, mixing with weird Germans who want world domination — always a mistake. 

There’s plenty of bro-on-bro battling between Dom and the dastardly Jakob, including a face-off in London’s Hampton Court Palace.

But the pedal-to-the-metal chases with armoured personnel carriers and souped-up sports cars are filled with over-the-top CGI effects. It’s indigestible, blurred chaos. Watching in the IMAX, I thought it might be nice to take a little break and pull my face mask over my eyes, too.

The revving, roaring, multi-vehicle pile-ups and improbable feats are all there again. But it’s a step too far in silliness when they send an old banger into outer space…

My duty to review won out, however, and there were two unexpected delights amid the road rage. 

One was the appearance of Helen Mirren as Queenie, a Cockney gangster in an elegant white silk gown and a recently nicked diamond and sapphire necklace. Mirren is just having a larf, hamming up her accent, and driving in her animal-print stiletto boots.

The second joy was an improbable chase sequence set in the genteel streets of Edinburgh, as a Lothian Parcels van causes havoc and Jakob slides across the rooftops. The Scottish bystanders don’t seem bothered — they’ve seen crazier stuff at the Festival Fringe.

But the 20-year-old franchise seems increasingly desperate for freshness. CGI effects can’t help this lazy ‘banter — broom-broom — banter’ school of scriptwriting. At one point the crew discusses their improbable survival rate, and the fact they emerge without a scratch every time. ‘Are we invincible?’ someone asks.

No, you’ve just got yet another sequel to film.

Is it all sound and fury signifying nothing? And is it time now to move into the 21st century, drop the cast altogether, and bring in electric, driverless Teslas to perform?

Fast & Furious 9 is in cinemas now. 

Daft swashbuckling canine caper

Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds (U)

Rating:

It’s probably not what the grand French author Alexandre Dumas hoped for when he penned The Three Musketeers, but this swashbuckling canine cartoon is decent entertainment for younger kids.

Dogtanian is also a long-running television series, and is, of course, based on d’Artagnan, the fourth musketeer.

The lead character looks like an uglier version of Snoopy. He rides into Paris to avenge the besmirching of his father’s name by the evil Cardinal Richelieu, and tries to become a member of the elite muskehound guards.

It’s probably not what the grand French author Alexandre Dumas hoped for when he penned The Three Musketeers, but this swashbuckling canine cartoon is decent entertainment for younger kids

Dogtanian is also a long-running television series, and is, of course, based on d’Artagnan, the fourth musketeer

Soon the worried cardinal is asking who let the dogs out, as the three wolfish muskehounds — Athos, Porthos and Aramis — show off their swordsmanship.

While the royal court intrigue will pass over most kids’ heads, the fights are beautifully choreographed and daft.

Dogtanian meets his match in a Catwoman-like creature who swashbuckles with the best of the gentlemen.

Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds, Sweat and Fatima are in cinemas. Sweat is also available on Curzon Home Cinema

Sweat (15)

Rating:

Sweat is a smart and funny film that delves into the loneliness of Instagram fitness guru Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik).

The film is in Polish with subtitles, but the life of a professional influencer is much the same anywhere in the world: shiny on the surface, empty underneath. It’s Kardashians ‘R’ Us.

The drama opens with a burst of bubblegum-pink energy, as Sylwia performs her ‘Sweat’™ fitness routine with hundreds of fans in Lycra, some of whom weep with joy as they meet her and join in a mass selfie. 

Sylwia has 600,000 followers, and no moment goes un-selfied, as products are diligently promoted. She even endangers herself live on Instagram while driving her complimentary Fiat 500.

Sweat is a smart and funny film that delves into the loneliness of Instagram fitness guru Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik)

Yet despite having a warm family, seen in scenes which contrast with the icy perfection of her apartment, Sylwia’s major relationship seems to be with her dog, Jackson.

 Reality seeps in, as it must, and Kolesnik gives a great performance, her glassy blue eyes suddenly blurring with tears. Soon, she smashes through her own wall of hype.

Fatima (12)

Rating:

Fatima is less a miracle and more a mediocre fictional concoction, based on supposed real-life sightings of the Virgin Mary by three children in 1917. 

Sonia Braga plays nun Sister Lucia, who had visions of an ‘Angel of Peace’ and ‘Our Lady of the Rosary’ as a child during World War I, near Fatima in the Portuguese countryside.

Harvey Keitel is the sceptical professor writing a book on the miracles. But scepticism and even subtlety is tossed aside, as the film is told largely from the point of view of ten-year-old Lucia (a convincing Stephanie Gil).

While it might be aimed at adult cinemagoers, it is more Sunday school fare, despite being shot in artful sepia tones. 

There’s a recreation of the October 1917 miracle — now confirmed by the Catholic Church with canonisations — where the sun seemed to spin in the sky before tens of thousands of pilgrims.

Believers may enjoy the film, but for many it will be spoiled by a lipsticked Virgin Mary who looks like she’s been dressed by The White Company.

Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds, Sweat and Fatima are in cinemas. Sweat is also available on Curzon Home Cinema. 

Firth and Tucci are a cosmic pair 

Supernova (15) 

Rating:

Verdict: A tender last act 

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci give Titanic-sized performances in this small-scale film. 

The drama is a tender exploration of a couple’s journey into the wilds of the Lake District — and the hell of dementia.

There’s a wit and sharpness to the men’s affectionate bickering, as they roll with the punches in their old campervan. 

But Tucci’s character Tusker starts to show cracks. He loses the occasional word, and then loses himself and their dog.

Tusker has early-onset dementia, aged 60. His partner Sam (Firth) is patient, sympathetic — and in agony just below the surface. 

The holiday is a labour of love for the couple, and a swansong as they visit old friends and relatives.

Beautiful landscapes abound, but mostly the weather conspires with the sombre mood, and it tips it down over the Lakes.

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci give Titanic-sized performances in this small-scale film

In the same way, a cloud hangs over Tusker’s future. He’s an author, which makes the loss of words — his tools — harder. ‘I want to be remembered for who I was, and not for who I’m about to become,’ he says.

One in eight people will get Alzheimer’s or dementia, so the uneasy questions asked by this film will resonate for many. 

Do you want to keep on living until you no longer recognise your lifelong companion? What’s it like to lose a tiny part of your lover each day?

Some more lightness among the shadows from younger writer and director Harry Macqueen might have given Supernova even more power. 

But the comfortable chemistry between Firth and Tucci (above) works — perhaps because they are best friends in real life.

Despite some very poor knitwear choices, this is a classy and classically themed effort.

The drama is a tender exploration of a couple’s journey into the wilds of the Lake District — and the hell of dementia

There are some absolutely heartbreaking moments, especially when Sam, a pianist, plays Elgar. (Well done, Colin, on the keys.)

The film keeps making clunky connections between the couple and the cosmos, as Tusker examines the night sky and explains that a supernova occurs when ‘an old star explodes like a firework’. 

We get the comparison, and hope for something appropriately dramatic, but there’s more of a damp squib in store.

Supernova is in cinemas from today. 

OPERA

La Boheme (ROH)

Rating:

Verdict: Cupid defeats Covid

Cut back and modified on account of the coronavirus crisis, this production with its many felicities and few flaws still tugs at the tear ducts.

Covent Garden has found ideal singers for the doomed Mimi and her Rodolfo, and they look good, too: Russian soprano Anna Princeva and American tenor Joshua Guerrero have chemistry, without which Puccini’s masterpiece would fall at the first fence.

Given most of the loveliest music, they make believable denizens of Paris’s tenements in the 19th century — permanently short of money, desperately cold in the winter, with only their love to keep them warm.

Their fellow Bohemians are pretty well chosen, too. Danielle de Niese is full of character as the perennial flirt Musetta — in fact, she rather overdoes the Act 2 highjinks, and her Waltz Song is poorly sung by her standards.

As the loyal Marcello, Russian baritone Boris Pinkhasovich sings strongly, though a little more nuance would not go amiss. Gianluca Buratto is a sonorous Colline, whose Coat Song is very affecting, and Cody Quattlebaum is a splendid Schaunard. Their endeavours are eloquently knitted together by the baton of former chorus master Renato Balsadonna, who draws memorable phrases from his reduced chorus and orchestra without taking too long about it.

Dan Dooner has had the task of making Richard Jones’s production more Covid-friendly and socially distanced. Act 2 is clearly much reduced, yet the overall stage picture still gives an impression of busyness.

Silliness remains — too cramped a garret for the first and last scenes, the men’s crude graffiti in Act 4 and no bed for Mimi to die in.

It is also a nonsense for her to struggle to her feet when on the point of death — that is La Traviata, Mr Jones!

All in all, a lovely night at the opera. A second cast will sing some performances.

TULLY POTTER

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