When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. POPCORN: So, listen up everybody. Y’all gotta check it out, this totally kicked ass. CINEMA: Well, I don’t know that it kicked ass . . . POPCORN: Naw, dude, you’re just bein’ humble. It kicked ass. Like, Michelle Rodriguez-in-a-leather-bikini-with-guns-blazin’ kicked ass. What happened was – last week we were in Cinema’s lame-ass Pacer – I mean, it’s got flames on the fenders and stuff, but – CINEMA: It’s basically the car Garth drives in WAYNE’S WORLD. POPCORN: It’s exactly the car Garth drives in WAYNE’S WORLD. All tricked-out with the decals and shit, but – really, dude – that car was pretty lame. Mopeds flyin’ past us, old ladies layin’ on the horn. So we were in dude’s car, on our way to a movie – CINEMA: We were going to see THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. POPCORN: Yeah, and Cinema was bein’ a little bitch cuz he didn’t wanna see it – CINEMA: I was not being a bitch. I merely had a few reservations about yet another installment of what has become one of the most ridiculous, completely implausible franchises to ever burn rubber across the silver screen – POPCORN: – so he was already in a bad mood – because, like, when isn’t he? – and he was takin’ that shit out on me like he always does – CINEMA: You were going on non-stop about the other movies as if I hadn’t already seen them. Reliving entire pages of dialogue, driving your hands like they were cars, making engine sounds. I was about to drop you on the next corner. POPCORN: I was psyched, dude. I knew this flick would be badass, and it was. CINEMA: You could possibly categorize the first couple films in this series as badass, but . . . I can’t decide which euphemism I want to use here. There have been some bumps in the road. The franchise is running out of fuel, or maybe running on fumes. It’s not firing on all cylinders. It’s on cruise control. It’s like stopping to watch a wreck on the highway. It might be time to wave the checkered flag . . . POPCORN: Come on, man. You were totally revved up for that first scene. CINEMA: I was still pissed off about what happened on the way to the theater! Besides, that scene was the only real connection to the movies that began the series. You know, when they were actually about street racing. POPCORN: So, like, Dom and Letty – that’s Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez – they’re in Cuba, cuz they, like, got married or something and are on their honeymoon. No big surprise, but they’re checkin’ out all the old cars – CINEMA: Cuba is known for their car culture. There among all of those brightly colored buildings, it’s not unusual to see a long line of classic American automobiles just lined up at an intersection as if it were nothing. The reason for this is, of course, that Castro put a ban on foreign imports in 1959 and they don’t actually manufacture any of their own. POPCORN: <sarcastically> Fascinating. CINEMA: It is, actually. Until just recently, it was impossible to get a new car in Cuba, or even to get supplies for the old ones. They’ve kept everything running through improvised hand-built parts – POPCORN: Like when Dom rigged that Coke tab up to the engine on his cousin’s old beater. Said it was the slowest car on the island – and he was going up against that other dude, you know, the fastest car in all-a Cuba. Family honor, all that. And ol’ boy says it ain’t no quarter-mile race. No way, brother, they’re racin’ a Cuban mile. CINEMA: Which is a totally made-up thing. POPCORN: Whatever, Mister Havana. So they’re all into the race. Folks are blockin’ off roads and shit, and Dom’s doin’ alright. I mean, he’s keepin’ up. But then the other dude’s gotta do some cheatin’. So Dom, like, flips the switch or whatever and gets a huge boost – CINEMA: But the engine catches on fire. POPCORN: Yeah, it’s burnin’ like a sumbitch. Flames all up in his face so he can’t even see, windshield crackin’ from the heat. Then – this was so cool, dude! – he flips the car around and starts haulin’ ass backwards – CINEMA: <sarcastically> Backwards. POPCORN: – fire’s just all over the car – and then it blows! – flippin’ all up in the air, end over end, right into the ocean. But it threw that ol’ car right over the finish line – CINEMA: Conveniently throwing Dom to safety. POPCORN: Naw, he jumped, dude. CINEMA: Whatever. POPCORN: Yeah, well, it was some seriously cool shit, man. You know it was. CINEMA: Okay, I’ll give you that one. The problem for me is that this scene – as exhilarating and as much fun as it was – could have been the climax to a more realistic movie. But, since probably the fourth installment of this series, they start every movie at about ten and just keep escalating. It’s like they’ve just given up on any kind of credibility, opting for crazier and crazier set-pieces in each film, and – POPCORN: Dude, I don’t go to these flicks to see the kinda shit I could actually do. I wanna see shit I definitely can’t do. Heh-heh, but maybe you could do it . . . CINEMA: I don’t know about that. POPCORN: Alright, y’all. Check it out, here’s what happened. So we’re on our way to the movie, right? We stop at a red light. Just sittin’ there in Cinema’s weak-ass Pacer – CINEMA: Keep in mind that Popcorn is too broke to even have a car. POPCORN: – and this dude pulls up beside us. He’s got a ’67 Camaro, like Lane had in BETTER OFF DEAD. Black, tinted windows. The original engine had been replaced with a Dart ‘Little M’ 400 small-block, Iron Eagle cylinder heads. Brand new suspension with poly graphite bushing and a turbo-400 transmission. ‘Course, we didn’t know any of that yet. CINEMA: I don’t know any of that now. POPCORN: So the dude’s chick is in there, checkin’ us out. She says something and the dude starts to laugh. He’s, like, Biff Biffington and shit, all rich and too-cool. He looks over at us and says something about my girlfriend, noddin’ at Macho Man here. Shit makes me laugh, man. CINEMA: It wasn’t funny at all. I have zero prejudice, but why do I have to be the girlfriend? POPCORN: Come on, dude, really. But I’m, like, heh, I ain’t lettin’ this douche ruin my day. So I slip them shades on, all super-cool, and reach over to crank up Cinema’s badass tape deck. So what comes flyin’ outta those speakers, her name was Lola, she was a showgirl – CINEMA: Yeah, yeah, Barry Manilow, I know. Look, it’s the only song I like by him, and I only like it ironically. POPCORN: Uh-huh, whatever. It was, like, that day Manilow came out and said he was gay. Guy’s in his eighties or something. Heh-heh-heh. And he’s all, like, surprise – CINEMA: Surprise. POPCORN: – and you already got him in your car. So I’m just rollin’ on the floor, bustin’ up. But Cinema, he’s sittin’ there, face all red, like it’s Election Day all over again. I mean, he was pissed – that shit was just makin’ me laugh even harder. The light’s changed, that dude and his chick are already way up there somewhere. But Cinema, he’s just hangin’ out under the green light. Fuming. Heh-heh. Then he, like, all of a sudden revs that weak-ass engine and starts haulin’ it up the street – CINEMA: I lost my composure. POPCORN: Bah!, that wasn’t all you lost, dude. We make it up to the next light and that Camaro’s waitin’ right there. Cinema pulls up like he’s in HIGH NOON. He looks at the dude, and the dude looks at him. Dude revs his engine, it’s rumblin’ and growlin’. The Pacer’s all, like, putt-putt-putt. The light turned, and – damn! – Cinema actually went for it. I’m just shakin’ my head, ain’t no way. But there we were, haulin’ ass up the streets of Kalamazoo. Well, kinda. CINEMA: Hey, we were moving at a pretty good clip. POPCORN: A good clip? Dude, I could still read the headlines in one-a them newspaper stands. There was no clippin’ goin’ on. But then who should pull up behind us – CINEMA: You might think it’s going to be the police . . . POPCORN: Naw, man, no police. It was the Camaro we were racing. Heh-heh-heh. Dude, your shit was so slow that ol’ boy made it all the way around the block, then came up behind you! CINEMA: Whatever. POPCORN: Whatever, nothing. But that ain’t even the good part – CINEMA: Alright, alright, hold on a moment. POPCORN: What, dude? Oh yeah, you probably wanna tell ’em ’bout it. CINEMA: No, that’s not it. Look . . . no one checks us out just to see what happened to my Pacer, or to find out if I finally smack you in the face. There’s got to be some substance here, something of relevance about THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, or – POPCORN: Dude, no one checks us out anyway. CINEMA: I’m serious. We’re supposed to be here to write smart reviews and commentary about movies and TV, and I just don’t know if this qualifies. We haven’t given these people a single word about the plot of the film, or if it’s worth parting with their hard-earned money – POPCORN: Oh, it totally is. CINEMA: Sure, according to you, but who’s going to take you seriously? Could you even tell me the plot of this movie? POPCORN: Yeah, dude, there’s this Eye of God thing – I think it was in one-a the other movies – but it can hook up to anything with a camera. So they can, like, see anywhere. And there’s this super-hacker chick. She’s all up on Dom, like, hey baby, I got something you gotta see on my phone, but it’s not naked selfies. And then Dom, he’s suddenly makin’ off with some bomb – or maybe it’s a detonator – no, that’s later, with the Russian dudes and the zombie cars, and – so his whole team is there, but he’s lookin’ all serious, even at Letty – and, dude, how are you not gonna just be smilin’ if Letty is there? – but he smashes into the Rock and the Rock flips over and he’s all like, whatever you’re doing you need to stop it now, it’s not too late – but it really is too late, cuz of the stuff that chick showed him on the phone, but we don’t know what that is yet – CINEMA: Basically, someone named Cipher (played by Charlize Theron in dreadlocks) approaches Dom while he and Letty are still in Havana, coercing him into going rogue and helping her establish nuclear capabilities. POPCORN: Isn’t that what I said? CINEMA: No, though I can understand your confusion. These movies are a bit convoluted to begin with, but this one might top the list. There’s some great talent here, from director F. Gary Gray (fresh from STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), Theron, Helen Mirren in what amounts to an overhyped guest appearance. It’s obvious that a lot of money has gone into making this film, from the numerous international locations, to the elaborate stunts – one of which involved probably fifty driverless cars in a kind of rabbit chase through the streets of New York, culminating in several of them leaping to their deaths from a parking structure – POPCORN: Dude, that was sweet. CINEMA: Really? Because it looked a bit too CGI for me, especially when the cars started piling up on each other at the bottom of the building. Then, when they end up on the ice in Russia, playing hockey with missiles and dodging a submarine like it was a killer whale – POPCORN: Well, they can’t all be like the tank scene. CINEMA: From the sixth one. Yeah, I’ll admit that I kind of liked the tank scene, ridiculous as it was. But I was foolishly believing that they had reached the heights of preposterous with that stunt. Little did I know that they would top it, a mere fifteen minutes later, with all that airplane business . . . which Dom also walked away from without a single scratch. POPCORN: Dude, you don’t get it. I know it started out about racing, but those days are gone. Dom and Letty, Roman, even that new tech-chick, man, they’re all superheroes. Ain’t no radioactive spider – nobody can, like, leap tall buildings in a single bound – but driving, man, that’s their superpower. CINEMA: Yeah, I guess. But there are plot holes here big enough to drive a Challenger through. For instance, how was Dom able to contact Mama Shaw? How did a certain pregnant individual – who shall remain nameless in order to preserve your surprise – manage to fall three stories and still be pregnant? POPCORN: She landed on the Rock, dude. He cushioned her fall with his rock-body. CINEMA: Uh-huh. There’s the matter of Theron as well, with her hair extensions, spending most of the movie typing fast and furiously on a keyboard. I felt like she was wasted. I wanted her to throw some punches, maybe a badass kick, anything, in Deckard’s direction. Not to mention, I could have used a little backstory – maybe just a line or two about why she was so bent on putting the world’s superpowers in check. POPCORN: Only thing that bugged me, dude – why don’t we ever get the big Rock vs. Statham smackdown they kept leadin’ up to? That woulda been sweet. CINEMA: Well, they did film a brief denouement of sorts to that particular subplot, but Vin Diesel had it removed. Apparently, his so-called feud with Dwayne Johnson continues. But, no fear, if you flip that number 8 sideways, you’ve got the symbol for infinity – which is how long this series is going to last. There will be opportunities for more ridiculousness, including the smackdown that everyone wants to see. POPCORN: Say what you want, dude. But these flicks know what they are, and they know what folks came to see. CINEMA: Well, if you’ve enjoyed all of the others, then you’ll probably like this one too. POPCORN: Damn straight. Alright, can I tell ’em? CINEMA: Yeah, I guess . . . but don’t make me look foolish. POPCORN: Okay. So, after Cinema got his ass handed to him and was totally shamed in front of the entire city – CINEMA: <sighs> POPCORN: – I was kinda feelin’ bad for him, and I was thinkin’, what would Dom do? He didn’t need his car for a few days, cuz he was just stayin’ home, moping around and listening to Barry Manilow – CINEMA: I had some vacation time. POPCORN: – which he spent with “Copacabana” on repeat, eating ice cream and watchin’ chick flicks. So I took that lame-ass Pacer to a couple friends-a mine. We did some stuff to it. CINEMA: You put NOS in my Pacer. POPCORN: Yeah we did. CINEMA: I wasn’t even aware that you knew how to change the oil. POPCORN: That really hurts, dude. Cuz I know lots of shit. Besides, it wasn’t really that hard. You just gotta drill the intake, stick the nozzles into all your runners, and bend your hardline. Slap the rest-a that shit together, adjust the motor so you’re gettin’ the juice – oh, and you better change out the gearbox, cuz yours sure as hell wasn’t gonna take no 900 horsepower. CINEMA: Anyway. POPCORN: Anyway, I brought it back over. Even got somebody to slap some new tires on that piece. Gotta say, it was as badass as it was ever gonna be. And Cinema, man, he even starts to get all misty-eyed. Like, the dude’s gonna cry because I souped up his shitty car. CINEMA: Well, it was probably the kindest thing you’ve ever done. POPCORN: Pretty sure it was all those Barry Manilow tunes got to you, man. But Cinema, right away he changes when he hears what this car might do now. Keep in mind, I said might do. It might tear the blacktop right off-a the road. But it might blow up too, and I told him that. But he was, like, we’re gonna find that son-of-a-bitch. I didn’t even need to ask, I knew what he was talkin’ about. So there we were, cruisin’ back up Westnedge. CINEMA: We drove around for hours. POPCORN: No lie, dude. Then we were headin’ back toward downtown. All of a sudden he’s squealin’ wheels on a turn, damn-near throwing me through the passenger window. He’s all cussin’ and mumblin’ nonsense under his breath – cuz that black Camaro is right up the road in front-a us – and I’m wonderin’ if maybe I shouldn’t get outta the car. CINEMA: I’m not sure what it means, but I was actually thinking about those movies. Those damn Fast & Furious movies, imagine that. My heart was slamming around in my chest. I saw that smug bastard in that beautiful car . . . and I was ready to do some damage. POPCORN: Musta been, man. Cinema, he even changed up his music for the occasion. He pushes a tape into the tape deck – and Bad to the Bone starts playin’. So we pull up on that Camaro with the music just cranked, baby. Dude was in there with his girl again, like they ain’t got nothin’ better to do than just cruise around and look cool. He sees us and starts laughin’ right away. But George Thorogood is goin’ on about I broke a thousand hearts, and Cinema’s got the shades on this time. He revs the engine, and I’m tellin’ you, it sounded different. I’m guessin’ ol’ boy didn’t notice that, cuz he’s still laughin’. Then Cinema starts talkin’ like he’s Dom – CINEMA: It’s not how cool you look in your car, it’s how you race your car. POPCORN: Heh, you’re kiddin’ me, right? Anyway, he says that shit, then the dude in the Camaro’s, like, alright, sweetheart, but we’re racing for titles. Like it ain’t even possible that a Pacer’s gonna beat that Camaro. The dude even blows Cinema a kiss, which really pisses him off. They do some back-and-forth for a minute, but now we’re just waitin’ for the green light to drop. I’m hopin’ Cinema ain’t gonna kill us. Then I start wonderin’ how it’s not me that got us in this – CINEMA: Then the light changes. POPCORN: And we’re off. CINEMA: He was already way ahead. POPCORN: The Pacer took off better than ever, but that Camaro was just ace. I was hopin’ Cinema remembered how to punch the juice. Hopin’ I didn’t screw somethin’ up. Then Cinema’s like – CINEMA: We’re gonna blow up. POPCORN: Naw, man. We’re cool, we’re totally cool. That’s what I was sayin’ – but what I was thinkin’ was, yeah, we’re dead meat. CINEMA: Buildings and intersections are flying past, getting faster. But all that I could really see was that Camaro ahead of us. All I could hear was the music: I wanna tell you, pretty baby, what I see I make my own – POPCORN: We were totally gonna blow up. I love those movies, but life ain’t no movie. Life don’t catch your car on fire and still let you win the race. And life definitely don’t throw you out just before the whole thing goes up in flames. CINEMA: – and I’m here to tell ya, honey, I’m bad to the bone – POPCORN: And I’m all, like, punch it, dude! Flip that shit! CINEMA: And I did. POPCORN: You sure as hell did. CINEMA: Would you ever have imagined it would end like that? POPCORN: Like a movie, dude. CINEMA: Would you like another ride in my new car? POPCORN: Damn right I would. It’s too bad about ol’ boy ending up without a car at all. CINEMA: Yes, it is. POPCORN: But, damn, dude – that Pacer went up like a torch at the end. CINEMA: Yes, it did. I’d almost say, like a movie. – j meredith POPCORN CINEMA will return with more unforgettable adventures in the movies. Meanwhile, feel free to drop a comment or click a ‘Like’ . . . it makes the guys feel good. Check out all our previous editions right here on PSYCHO DRIVE-IN. 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