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The Fast and Furious: From Downtown LA to Russia with Love


The Fast and the Furious is a high octane franchise about sexy woman, tough guys, fast cars and lots of showboating. Starting in Los Angeles, the series was geared towards underground street racing and an undercover cop who was sent in to infiltrate the ring and bring it down from within.

However, over time as the series has progressed it's become more preoccupied with the world of espionage, taking on Bond-sized missions with a similar knack for over-the-top action sequences. Maybe it was because they had reached the seventh film, which signaled 007. Or perhaps when a film series has had so many sequels it entered a new realm where blockbusters don't have to make sense anymore. Apparently, checking a few boxes and adhering to the same formula gives you the freedom to go big and then go bigger. Having never cared about having a uniform title or having gone with classic number plate lettering... such as FA5T & FUR1OU5, it seems anything goes.

The Fast and the Furious franchise has not always been plain-sailing, having had a pretty shaky start. The original film was exciting and dangerous enough to take off with great characters, adrenaline-boosted action set pieces and oozing style. Almost derailing in the first sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious was where Vin Diesel took a leave of absence with Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson behind the wheel. Functioning more like a Miami Vice, Lethal Weapon or worse yet Tropical Heat... it turned into a buddy movie with the kind of production values you would expect from a TV show.

Taking a break to figure things out and reinvent the series, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift took the franchise to Japan, sporting a brand-new cast and unpacking the dangerous underground racing art of drifting. Somewhat underrated, it still had enough flash and sizzle to keep the idea of Fast and Furious alive while trialing director, Just Lin.

Franchise figurehead Dominic Torretto, played by Vin Diesel, was the missing ingredient which is what prompted the filmmakers to reboot the series in Fast & Furious 4. Taking Lin on the second of four movies as director, they found a winning formula as the smell of rubber and excitement of wheel spins filled the air once again with a similar story to the original.

In arguably one of the best installations, the franchise decided to relocate to Rio de Janeiro where they staged Fast Five. Essentially a take on The Italian Job, this heist introduced Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to super-size the cast and provide a worthy adversary to Vin Diesel's Dom Torretto in Luke Hobbs. Tipping the hat to the classic heist movie with Michael Caine, it captured the danger and spirit of The Fast and the Furious once again.

The sixth installation went transatlantic to London, where the team are forced to go head-to-head with an equal opposite in Owen Shaw. His team of street racers proved to be more than a match to the Fast and Furious crew, turning this sequel into a bruising encounter. Influenced by The Avengers, it also built the film around three major climax scenes with its characters taking on superhero qualities. Who can forget Vin Diesel literally flying between cars or the neverending runway... which could have been a spin-off.

Fast and Furious 7 or Furious 7 found Justin Lin replaced by James Wan, known for his horror filmmaking with films such as Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious. The understanding behind sequels is that things need to get bigger, faster and more expensive in order to rehash what made the original so enticing. When your film series runs as long as the Fast and Furious, it seems almost impossible to keep this momentum.

Having captured Dwayne Johnson, arguably the biggest action movie star on the planet, they probably figured that the only way to go was to get the second biggest action movie star on the planet in Jason Statham. Setting The Transporter, The Italian Job and Death Race star up as the villain was a great idea, playing into the hands of The Avengers and their relationship with Loki.

This made their cast almost invincible when it comes to action. The seventh film was an example of everything that worked so well for The Fast and the Furious. As mentioned earlier, the 007 element was very strong in this film as agents became involved and the film moved from having a set location to going global. It was wonderfully entertaining in the hands of Wan, who should've been given the reins for the eight installment.

The Fate of the Furious is probably the most Bondified installment of the lot, directed by The Italian Job reboot director, F. Gary Grey. Playing into the realm of superheroes, it was probably an attempt to bring it back down to earth. A huge money spinner, able to house some of the biggest names in box office draw cards, they attached Charlize Theron for the eighth film. The casting call wouldn't have made sense if she hadn't just played Furiousa in one of the most grueling and greatest car chase movies of all-time. Essentially playing her part from one room like Helen Mirren did in Eye in the Sky and dressed like Angelina Jolie in Gone in 60 Seconds, it was a bit wasted on an actress of her considerable talents. Having Vin Diesel take on the role of the traitor, just as formidable as Deckard Shaw played by Jason Statham, it was something of a rinse and repeat.

Not having Paul Walker, who bowed out doing the thing the series is built on served as an emotional sendoff in chapter 7. Being one of the founding members, it must have been quite a shakeup not to have him there. The eighth film got to the point of being so over-the-top in terms of action, you could say the studio is trying to rekindle the nostalgia around playing with Hot Wheels cars and army men. They even described the secret automobile locker as "The Toy Store". Transporting an entourage of tricked out cars around the world to save humanity does sound ridiculous when you think about it.

Having solidified the love/hate relationship between Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, ensure that the Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs and Shaw movie would allow them to do a spin-off. Taking the tongue in cheek attitude instilled in the previous sequels and combining it with the almost superhero meets bond franchise building, they brought in Idris Elba as Brixton, a character akin to Ironman.

The series is essentially a rollicking good time, designed to maximise entertainment value and serve as some welcome escapism in these trying times. You can commend them for having made it through nine films but one just hopes that it can return to the core attitude and flair of the original in Fast & Furious 9. Pandering to the superhero meets James Bond adventure isn't really what it's all about and while that over-the-top entertainment is geared towards servicing the audience, one would hope that it doesn't become so mainstream that it becomes unrecognisable.

For now, you can catch the Fast & Furious collection on Showmax.

 
Robby Collins 'Iyeza Tour' Comedy Show now on Showmax


Robby Collins is best known for being Trevor Noah's opening act. His comedy is geared around storytelling and most of his bits come from real-life moments. While the intimate venue is comparable with sitting around a campfire, it doesn't do justice to the quality of the material. Only really geared to accommodate a small audience, it's the kind of venue where you may become self-conscious about your laugh. While small, he does manage to elicit many regular rounds of laughter and guffaws. It's tough when you are playing to so few people yet his opening act, while a little awkward, manages to get the ball rolling. It probably would have been a stronger move to edit it down to get to the main act a bit quicker but is still amusing and refreshing enough to set the scene.

Robby Colins Iyeza

Collins is a lanky fellow, who admittedly keeps getting cast as a coloured gangster. Known for being honest, this is definitely one of his cornerstones to his act, allowing the intimate setting to really give your sense of what it's all about. Talking about his career, his home life, dealing with crime and some of his overseas tours, he's a lover of life. Sitting down for the majority of the show, gives it the feeling of being a confessional with Collins being brutally honest about being booed off stage at OppiKoppi and late night e-tv.

He's a naturally funny guy who manages to get the audience in the palm of his hand. Standing up from time to time to emphasise key points and probably stretch its legs, it's quite amazing how quickly time goes in his company. Entertaining, funny, honest and enjoyable the show starts slowly, but really endears you to Collins. He's got fixed opinions about things but he's so open and honest that the trust connection is established quite quickly. It takes a while for you to figure him out and adjust to the format of comedy but he uses charm even in his ruggedness and doesn't pull punches.

Robby Collins is so comfortable on stage that his conversational approach makes you sometimes forget you're actually watching a show. Breaking that wall with the audience, it seems even more rewarding to be part of a smaller group listening in to his tales. You can imagine the comedian valuing every life experience and moment, seeing the potential for a new bit. Milking the funny from everyday events, trivial moments and even traumatic events, it's an exercise in self-deprecation and great comic relief in even the most trying situations.

It's a great attitude to have and this comics breezy vibe is quite contagious, making you want to hear more even after almost an hour. The venue could have been bigger with a bit more pizzazz but it really suits the style of comedy and perhaps that was intentional on the part of Collins.

 
Schalkie: Schalk Bezuidenhout's Comedy Show now on Showmax


Schalk Bezuidenhout is a local stand-up comedian who is instantly recognisable for his curly hair and moustache. Doing stand-up in English and Afrikaans, this show is mostly in English but centred around being Afrikaans and bilingual. Taken from the perspective of his school days and branching out into holidays and current news, this is a free-ranging comedy show simply titled Schalkie. As a comic, Bezuidenhout is known for being quite edgy and going where few comedians dare to go.

Picking on a few of his audience members, he pokes fun at the most taboo of topics. Ranging from favourite sex positions, "puzzles" and making some wild insinuations loaded with innuendo, his comedy ranges from sharp observations to pure awkward. Much like his own personal dress sense style, he makes a special focus when it comes to announcing the dress code for his audience. In this particular show he encouraged everyone to wear formal attire, picking on one or two audience members who didn't quite manage to live up to the dress code.

While trying to get people to don a bowtie, his outfit is more in line with something from Austin Powers, a useful reference point for his outrageous style of comedy. Sporting a light blue outfit with a frilly shirt, he also enjoys physical comedy at points, to emphasise some of the jokes with his surprisingly lithe movements. There is a spontaneity to his comedy as the stand-up fearlessly latches onto moments and runs with them. While not all of them work quite as well as you would hope, it adds to the occasion and the unexpected air of suspense around his performance. His crazy get up and style opens the door to just about any topic and Bezuidenhout toys with his audience, provoking them with commentary around their heritage and controversial issues of the day.

He's a natural born entertainer, holding the mic and remaining very comfortable even for this filmed performance. The venue is intimate, making the audience feel much more up close and personal with the stand-up who is able to roll with the punches and even improvise quite easily. He may not be on a big stage but keeps everyone's ears pricked waiting for the next howler or zinger. He could be a super villain but he's a stand-up comedian, aligning himself with the campy territory of The Wedding Singer with his retro, fun and zany bits. Bezuidenhout's editing is quite liberal, including a lot of material that he even said was going to be cut.

While a little rough around the edges, he has great stage presence and his fearless, devil-may-care attitude spurs on the evening. There are moments where it becomes so cringeworthy you can't imagine him taking another step... yet he does! His comedy style is comparable with a roast and while he makes some insightful observations, it's mostly geared around silly, in-your-face entertainment.

 
Bingeing with Spling - Join Our Watch Party


Spling has just launched Bingeing with Spling, a brand new watch party event in which Spling hosts a synchronised screening with interaction across social media channels. The first watch party event is around the Zachary Levi superhero comedy adventure, Shazam!, which is now available to stream Showmax. Having hosted a number of movie event gatherings and special pre-screenings including Ster-Kinekor Movie Buffs, Spling has a wealth of experience in organising these kind of events. During lockdown, he began focusing on movies available online and via streaming providers to give people reviews of films available to stream from the comfort of their home.

The Sunday night M-NET movie has become something of an institution in South Africa. On most Sundays, Twitter's social media feeds light up with people watching the film together. Spling took inspiration from this and from the growing prevalence of streaming as a primary source of entertainment, which prompted the concept behind Bingeing with Spling. Using his social media channels, Spling has been getting movie fans excited about the first event, which will be taking place on Friday, 24 April at 8pm.

Enjoying movie banter, prizes and having the best comments and tweets published in the round-up article on The Plum List, there are many reasons to get excited about what could become a much-anticipated monthly movie event. It's still early days yet but you can join the official Bingeing with Spling group on Facebook or simply become a fan of the facebook.com/SplingMovies page or follow @SplingMovies on Twitter to stay in the loop.

 
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