Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Not Too Late to Ring in the New Year with Ages 25 & Up!

Okay, so we're about a week deep into 2021, which means we can still enjoy some quality New Year's content.  Even if said content is not very new itself, and you've probably seen it all before.

Then how about we revisit some quality New Year's content together!  Here is, to the best of my knowledge, every New Year's issue of the comic that I can think of.  Every one I can remember making and a few that I don't.

Some of these are part of larger story arcs -- sometimes ending one, other times launching another.  If anyone's interested, here's a list of the comics, when they were first posted, and links to their original pages, where you can use the Next Comic buttons to read the rest of the stories, if you'd like!  No pressure.  They aren't all good, they aren't all funny, and they've probably aged poorly -- just like me!

Hope you all have a wonderful New Year in spite of everything.

Your pal,


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Friday, January 1, 2021

Numbers' New Year's Newsletter: 2021, And A Two-, And A One-Two-Three-Four

[Other years' letters: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 ]

It didn't matter.  Not sure what else I can say.

Once I wrote you about the havoc caused by Specimen Number 2016 and how we barely made it out alive.  It is hard to believe that things could get even worse.

During my many misadventures through time, space, the dimensional inbetween, and the Edge of Beyond, my team and I have encountered numerous hardships and endured unspeakable evils.  To put it mildly, friends: I've seen some shit.

But I write this now from the rain-soaked neon-lit rooftop of a long-abandoned hotel, broken and afraid, while what remains of my teammates surround me, eyes to the sky, waiting for an evac bird that may or may not be coming.

Our efforts to survive have worked, barely.  Our attempt to dimension-hop home again failed.  And all of this feels familiar.  We'd once again jumped to a familiar-feeling reality that is not quite home.  Again.  Déjà vu.  I've been in this place before.

I have spent the past year trying to come to terms with this twisted circle of hell and devising a way out.  Our plans to build a time machine out of a car failed when we could not find the right model.  The best we could use would've been an old hatchback, but our portable reactor would've needed tofu as fuel, and the time circuitry would've been linked to tire temperature.  Putting the car into controlled slides to generate the right temperature was not a discipline we could nail down consistently.  As our nights of fire turned into mornings and we felt the beat of the rising sun, we were no closer to home.  Attack that corner at the wrong angle, and we'd go back too far.  We'd find ourselves drifting into the '90s... which would've been preferable to this hellish year.

I look around this rainy roof, the glowing city below, and I cannot help but think of the insanity I've witnessed this year.  I've...  seen things you people wouldn't believe.
  • Attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion.
  • Common sense grew increasingly uncommon.
  • Millions of credits' worth of cargo ships vanish with the screams of 30,000 souls.
  • The concept of self-improvement murdered by self-entitlement.
  • I watched as tax-evading corporations squabbled with tax-evading corporations over profits.
  • I saw the biggest ship expo in the galaxy turn into an underwhelming overpriced shitshow.
  • Arguably the last remaining superpower on Earth continued its unstoppable decline to shitholedom, the sun having long set upon its empire.
  • I saw people claim to want respect when what they sought was attention.
  • I witnessed the entertainment industry's ongoing War on Redheads.  A pox upon the entire industry, I say.
  • I watched the public continue to give chances to companies that repeated proved they didn't deserve it.
  • I lost loved ones, but gained a few along the way.
  • I heard the incomprehensible ravings of a nuclear-equipped manchild and its cabal of international supervillains.
  • I witnessed the continued activity of ethnoterrorist organizations and people's inexplicable reluctance to admit to themselves that is indeed what they are.
  • I heard people express ridiculous fears about tracking devices, publicly posting the aforementioned fears from the tracking devices they keep on them at all times.
  • A virological pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes reared its ugly head, yet people are too stupid to react accordingly.
  • I watched helplessly as rampant unchecked capitalism increased its kill count.
  • I saw questions, doubts, and desire for conversation dismissed as fear, hate, and other buzzwords.
  • I heard underequipped would-be neuromancers bitching that their weak-ass decks aren't augmented enough to handle the latest softs.  No one else's fault but yours if your gonk-ass wetware can't support the chrome.  Delta outta here with that shit, choom.
  • I saw people die who should've lived, and vice-versa.
  • I saw the bad guys get away with it, as usual.
  • I collect spores, moulds, and fungus.
  • I lost The Game.
  • I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in spacetime when my friends and I jump out of this torturous dimension and interminable year.  Surely, things for you guys back home were peaceful, happy, and safe, with the world's power wielded by rational individuals who genuinely have our planet and its peoples' best interests in mind.  I long to once again be with you all, to get close to you, to hug you, to share a meal and a drink, and to celebrate the New Year together, in a packed room of happy people with nothing but smiles on our faces!

Oh, how much I must've missed, being marooned here!  I can't wait to catch up on what a great year 2020 must have been for all of you back home!

I'll be right there!

- Numbers
From the roof of the Bradbury Building
Los Angeles, January 2021

[Other years' letters: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 ]

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Did you have a Merry Christmas this year? Maybe I can help.

This year has been absolute crap.  This is undeniable.  I hope you managed to have a Merry Christmas, in spite of everything.  If not, maybe this can help.  Here is every Christmas issue of Ages 25 & Up I've ever made, spanning 2008 to 2016.  They're not all funny, they're not all good, but they're all here, at any rate.

Stay tuned for an annual Numbers' New Year's Newsletter, which I'll try to have ready for tomorrow.  We'll see.

Stay frosty.

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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween 2020 and Farewell to Sir Sean Connery

2020 continues to be absolute crap.  It's Halloween, but I'm not scared.  Just angry that the legendary Sir Sean Connery is no longer with us.

I made sure to get the Joescale Sean Connery action figure in the Indiana Jones series as well as his Lego minifigure version, both of which appeared in the Combat Heroes story back in '11.  More importantly, he appeared as himself in the behind-the-scenes special of issue #150, reposted below.

I love Sean Connery.  His style, his classic leading-man charm, his voice...  To this day, whenever I read Joe comics, Destro's voice is HIS voice (to the point I was startled when playing Destro in Operation Blackout).

Here's some Sir Sean Connery, Ages-25-&-Up-style, and then every Halloween comic I can remember.

Hang in there, everyone.

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Movies by the Numbers: "Bloodshot" (2020)

Are you ready for Vin Diesel's latest action movie experience?  Here's a trailer for you, and my thoughts will follow:

Bloodshot is a movie starring Vin Diesel and is based on a '90s Valiant comic.  It's so bad that it stars Vin Diesel and is based on a '90s Valiant comic.

I'll explain, but first, bear with me...

They catch your eye and your hand instinctively reaches out for them.  You lift the cookie to your mouth, preparing, anticipating that first bite.  In a heartbeat, you will savour the delicious chocolate chips.

But you won't.  For the cookie in your hand isn't chocolate chip at all, but raisin.

What does this have to do with anything?  Simply put: Valiant is the raisins of the comic-book world.

Growing up in the '90s, super-powered comic heroes lived on my TV screen thanks to spectacular, amazing, incredible cartoons such as X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman (especially the cyberpunk Beyond), and so on, but comic books themselves were a privilege.  My brothers and I would buy bagged issues (no, not like X-Cutioner's Song), literal mixed bags of three issues each, with only one visible through the front of the bag.  And even if there was an issue of Iron Man or Hulk in the front, well, you could bet the other two weren't.

It wasn't long before my brothers and I had a shoe box of crappy Valiant issues, needlessly-edgy '90s comics filled with 'tude, plenty of blood, and frequently poor-man's versions of familiar characters and/or teams.  In grade school, I remember trying to come up with my own "His Superpower Is Guns" character in that '90s style, with a suitably violent and edgy name.  I used a word I'd recently learned after having my finger stuck in a window: Bloodshot.  Luckily, when I'd learned someone with the creativity of a schoolboy had already used that name on a character that looked even lamer than what I'd devised, I dropped the entire thing.

And that brings us to the year 2020.  The capeshit oversaturation of entertainment media knows no bounds, and Sony's latest transparent cashgrab is, for whatever reason, an attempt to establish some kind of "Valiant Cinematic Universe."  Hell, what's next?  Malibu Comics?  Topps?  (I'd be okay with Amalgam.)

Their first (and should we all be so lucky, final) attempt is Bloodshot, which stars Vin Diesel as the titular character, an American soldier who is killed in action, only to be resurrected as an amnesiac super-soldier with nanomachines in his veins, allowing for superhuman strength and regeneration.  (What's a Wolverine?)  Brought back to life by a brilliant roboticist played by Guy Pearce and his RST Corporation, Vin finds himself welcomed by a group of wounded soldiers, all of whom are now enhanced cyborgs.

He finds camaraderie among the RST cyborgs, and eventually, bits and pieces of his memory.  He remembers his wife... and the guy who killed her.  Driven by revenge, he sets out to take down his wife's murderer.  But his memories are artificial, RST has been using him to kill people, and what, if anything, in his new cybernetically-augmented memory-altered world is real?

Yep.  It's that generic.  As if someone ripped elements out of RoboCop with some Wolverine thrown in, but nowhere near as good as either.

The first scene sets the tone for much of the rest of the movie.  As the opening logos fade in, tacticool military radio jargon is heard, and leads into a scene of modern-military American soldier Vin Diesel single-handedly breaching and clearing an entire building of insurgents, throwing flashbangs in slow-motion and sloppily performing a tac-reload, dropping the empty mag on the ground.  Is this an adaptation of a '90s superhero comic or a Call of Dudebros game?

Naturally, the scene is filled with excessive amounts of shaky-cam and fast cutting, making it impossible to really tell just what the hell is going on or to focus on the action at all.  Just about all of the action scenes fall victim to an overuse of shaky-cam and fast cutting.  You could argue that such overused techniques create an atmosphere of frantic chaos in battle.  I don't.  All it creates is the impression that someone could not be bothered to do tracking shots or choreograph fight scenes.  John Wick exists, and if you are going to lift elements from other works, consider stealing some technical elements from Keanu's beautifully filmed action flicks.

The only actors I recognize here are Vin Diesel as our titular hero, and Guy Pearce as the head of RST, himself having a cybernetic arm.  I'm guessing that casting Guy Pearce in a movie about an amnesiac trying to avenge his wife's murder has to be intentional.  (Don't worry -- Bloodshot isn't told out of order with desaturated scenes.)  Everyone's performance is just as serviceable as it needs to be for the movie's characters and tone.  I particularly enjoyed Vin's brash foil, the dude with bionic legs and an exosuit akin to something out of The Surge.  And, of course, the badass athletic lady in consistently tight outfits.  I got a Michelle Rodriguez vibe from her later in the movie -- and not just because Vin was in it.  (The movie, I mean, not the lady.)

Say what you will about Vin Diesel, but the man really gets the concept of Stupid Action Movies.  He's built a career out of getting Stupid Action Movies.   Make no mistake, Bloodshot desperately wants to be nothing more than a stupid action movie filled with clichés.  (Make a drinking game out of "Predict The Next Line of Dialogue" and YOU will wake up in the RST headquarters with a cybernetic liver.)  Yet it can't find its tone.  On one hand, it's extremely stupid, the writing is awful, and it's an excuse for Vin to do his Stupid Action Movie shit.

But on the other hand, the pressure from the studio is palpable.  The seriousness of the subject matter.  The generic "epic" music.  How straight everyone seems to play it.  It feels like a tug-of-war between two parties: those providing the big budget who want to sell this serious action story about a wronged soldier, and milk this for all it's worth (and then make more Valiant flicks); and those writing and starring in it who just want to make a self-aware action/comedy, leaning into and embracing the stupidity.

The tone is all over the place.  You have a story about revenge, duty, and the meaning of freedom, yet it's told through cybernetically-augmented Vin Diesel punching dudes and blowing crap up.  There's an audience-stand-in brown I.T. guy who's one of the few normal people caught up in this crazy world of cyborg warriors, yet he's the comic relief as well as butt of the joke.  (I particularly enjoyed Guy Pearce's gag about him liking cricket more than tennis.)

We're supposed to want to cheer for Vin, hoping he can break free and take his life back, yet one of the meters on a screen showing his vitals reads REVENGE: 100%.  Now I've played enough Street Fighter IV to be no stranger to Revenge Meters, but when a movie deliberately has a close-up of a screen so the audience can see the "REVENGE" value fill up (accompanied by actors' dialogue confirming the filling of the REVENGE meter), one thing is clear.  It cannot be taken seriously.  And that's just the thing: Bloodshot can't decide if it wants to take itself seriously or be over-the-top stupid, and doesn't fully commit enough to either to have any hope of working.  It can't decide if it wants to be Fast 4 or Furious 7.  I'm glad it's not as self-indulgent with its attempts at humour as Hobbs & Shaw, but the humour feels at odds with the self-serious grit, and neither shine through.

If, for whatever reason, you have convinced yourself that you have any kind of affinity for the source material, rest assured that the filmmakers don't.  Other than the basic premise and some character names, there really isn't much here that seems to be lifted from the pages of the Valiant comic.  (I tried to keep my eyes peeled for stuff like a H.A.R.D. Corps logo, schematics of the X-O Manowar armour, or the name of the Eternal Warrior on a computer screen.  I caught nothing.)  In fact, it really feels as though the '90s comic book 'tude has been replaced with contemporary techno-futurism and Hollywood generica, further cementing the overall impression that this movie's mere existence is a studio's attempt at just churning out a product to get a payday rather than a creator's labour of love.  There are certain points in the flick where Vin's skin turns white, his eyes red-on-black, and the red glow inside his chest resembles the red circle on the comic-book character.  That's about as much accuracy to the comic as you can expect.

Would it have been better if the Bloodshot movie kept the hyper-violent super-bloody Edge & 'Tude of the '90s Valiant comic it ostensibly brings to the big screen?  Well, if it did, at least then it'd feel like the source material whose name it bears, rather than a completely generic contemporary big-budget blockbuster-chasing Hollywood action flick with cyber-futuristic techno-gimmickry leaking from its pores.  It takes itself too seriously to be a Vin-style Stupid Action Movie, and it's too stupid and generic to stand out as a smart (or even clever) action-themed revenge movie -- but in a post-John Wick world, that is a big request.

Bland writing, overuse of shaky-cam and CGI, characters that aren't particularly exciting or endearing -- nothing here is special, and other than a setpiece battle in a blocked tunnel, nothing is really done that well.  Sure, you could gather your friends at home whenever this comes out and apply the Fast & Furious Drinking Game rules to it for a gag (many vehicles explode, at least one car ends up on its roof, the word "family" appears at least once...), but you could do that for any of Vin's movies, and if you did that with Fast Five or xXx, you'd get to watch a better movie, too (however guilty the pleasure might be).

For a movie that uses memories as a crucial story element, Vin Diesel's Bloodshot sure is completely forgettable.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Numbers Requesting Backup

Greetings, A25U folks!  Your old pal Numbers here, unfortunately in a bit of a bind.  I've fallen upon some hard times and an unexpected expense reared its ugly head -- I'm out of work for the time being and my damn glasses broke.

If you want to help, please consider checking out the GoFundMe page I set up, or you can use the comic blog's old PayPay donation page if it's better for you.  You can also keep in touch on the comic's facebook page, if you'd like.

Thanks for all the help, support, and friendship you guys have shown me over the years.  I don't want to ask you for anything more than that, but regrettably, I have to this time.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Happy Groundhog Day!

I hope you all are enjoying your most sacred of holidays!  Here's a strip I'd made for the occasion back in 2017, but it is still relevant.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Numbers' New Year's Newsletter: Mi-24 Hind-sight is 2020

[Other years' letters: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 ]

My eyes darted throughout the sky, desperately seeking the source of the noise.  And then I saw it.  My fingers reached for my radio.

"Admiral Killthunder, what's a Russian gunship doing here?"

But the good Admiral had no answer.  At least, none that I would like.

I'll rewind a bit, for those of you just joining me.  As explained in my previous years' Newsletters (linked above for your convenience), the misadventures of my friends and crew on our good-intentioned romp through time and space knows no end, no sanity.

Upon parrying the lightning in our modified performance street racer to escape a planet with a drifting-based economy while defeating its biggest villain who'd weaponized the weather (all while faking our own deaths to cover our tracks), what was left of my team found itself in the farmlands of Bratislava.

Bratislava, USA.

Our ripping and tearing of the fabric of spacetime had sent us into the year 2020, where America's unstoppable decline had at long last giving the Soviets the chance to win the Cold War.  Now Hinds like the one above us filled the air, part of the invading army's battle to save America from the Americans.

My team and I had to move fast.  We used the parts of the Ten-Lightsecond Car to fashion hastily-built exosuits, not even full mechs or powered armour and left what we couldn't use behind.  We linked up with the local resistance.  It was there that we met...  I'll be honest, I've forgotten his name.  He had a trench coat and a shotgun and taught us to make pipebombs.  But his name reminded me of a kind of candy I desperately wanted to eat again.  And I could've sworn I'd seen him before somewhere, possibly as a cowboy, a space marine, or maybe just a regular marine capable of driving a mini-sub.

Maybe I'd seen him before in another dimension, but if anyone understood our plight, it was this guy.  It wasn't our battle, and all we wanted was to get home, but if lending our hands was our only option, my team and I would do whatever we could.

According to our new friend's intel, this place was now called the U.S.S.A., and the leadership within the Red House had a Dimensional Map.  The resistance wanted into the Red House to, I don't know, finally take their country back like they should've done years ago, and my team and I wanted in to find that Map.

So, for the moment, we had a temporary and fragile alliance.  And these exosuits weren't going to last.  We scrapped them, and used their pieces to fashion some new weapons: energy machetes, hardlight axes, power tridents, and my personal favourite, the beam katana.  In this fallen world, there were no more heroes, and my friends and I fully admitted we were in this for ourselves.

But isn't everyone?

I write this as we make preparations for our assault.  We have already sent in scouts to case the joint, and I think we have a good idea on just how we will pull this job off.  I can't promise anything, though, but with that Map and a lot of luck, we might find our way home in time for New Year's 2021 and finally be able to finish #400.

But let's not say anything crazy.

- Numbers
Somewhere outside New Moscow, U.S.S.A.
January 2020

[Other years' letters: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 ]

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Halloween 2019, already?

Time flies when you're busy as all hell.  Case in point: it's already Halloween 2019, or at least mere days away from it.  Well, crap.

I mean, uh, let's celebrate!  Need a last-minute costume idea?  Well, here's my review of the Spirit Halloween product lineup of Ghostbusters gear.  I should probably do a follow-up video to show how the stuff's holding up after a year of con-going.

And let's keep that Halloween theme going with literally every Halloween issue of A25U than I can think of/remember.  The last one is my favourite.

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone.

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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Thinking at Length About "Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw" (2019)

Time again for another movie review!  Well, more of a long-ass impression piece with thoughts and rambling, but you'll see what I mean.  This time around, it's the ninth installment (or first spin-off, if you want to get specific) in the long-running adrenaline-fuelled over-the-top action-comedy Fast & Furious franchise.  The Rock and Jason Statham return once again as familiar bald badasses in Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw, which just like every previous movie, requires no knowledge of or affinity for the rest of the brand to enjoy.  (If you WOULD like to know more about the franchise, consider checking out the extensive screen capture gallery with mini-review writeups on the Helix page here.)

Say what you will about the venerable action movie brand, it has always been an exciting product of its time (much like the Bond films), and though they haven't all been good (much like the Bond films), they very much reflect the moods and fears of their eras.  And so, angsty good-looking young adults street racing and hijacking shipments of CRTs and VCRs in 2001 has given way to cyber-futuristic paramilitary corporations using drones, cybernetics, and weaponized viruses to cleanse the human race in 2019.

But rest assured: the F&F brand is still by all means the over-the-top guilty pleasure it has always been.  And even though the things to feel guilty about might have changed over the years, the pleasure is still very much present.  Fans of the franchise will also be glad to see staples of the brand are still in place, such as the concept of the Stunt Position (popularized by the Just Cause series even though its use appeared in the first Fast film in 2001), the judicious use of nitrous oxide, and, naturally, the liberal use of the term "family."  More so than in the previous films (other than possibly 7 and 8), family is a core concept at the heart of this spin-off.

Directed by David Leitch, one of the pair of directors behind John Wick, Hobbs & Shaw tells a new story set in the every-evolving Fast & Furious world, reuniting two of the biggest-name actors in the brand's history.  When a deadly weaponizable virus is stolen by a rogue MI6 agent, who do the CIA spooks send in to save the world from a genocidist's wet dream?

None other than The Rock as Luke Hobbs (introduced in Fast Five), formerly of the American DSS, and Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw (introduced in a mid-credits scene in Furious 6), British ex-military whose lineage hasn't exactly kept its hands clean over the years.  Shaw's brother (played by Welsh gentleman Luke Evans in 6, 7, and 8) does not return, but their overbearing disappointed mother does, once more played by the legendary Dame Helen Mirren, who is utterly perfect in the role.

Both Shaw's and Hobbs' families are expanded in this movie.  The newest Shaw is Deckard's sister Hattie, an MI6 agent framed with killing her team and stealing a deadly virus.  Vanessa Kirby of The Crown fame is outstanding as the sassy and extremely badass Agent Hattie Shaw, and from what a friend tells me, is a great choice to play Dame Helen Mirren's daughter.  Personally, I was hoping to see the lovely Rosamund Pike as the character, but perhaps she might be a bit too classy for the scrappy, dirty-fighting Hattie character.  (But reuniting her and The Rock might've made for a fun line or two referencing their time together in that hilariously-awful DOOM3 movie.)

One of the more fun elements of the F&F brand is the blurring of the lines between characters and actors.  When discussing the films with friends, I often substitute the characters' names for the actors' names, and for good reason.  "Roman Pierce" is pretty much Tyrese Gibson.  The top-notch player-hating of "Tej Parker" sounds like it could be lyrics from a Ludacris album.  And let's not forget the gut-wrenching heartfelt farewell that closed Furious 7, which changes subtly, almost imperceptibly, from the "Dominic Torretto" character talking about the "Brian O'Connor" character to Vin Diesel directly addressing his late friend Paul Walker.

Hobbs & Shaw runs with the idea that you're not here for the rich characters or even that deep, deep F&F lore (which I could go on about at length, if I haven't already).  You watch Hobbs & Shaw to see the familiar faces and antics of big-screen badasses The Rock and Statham, and that's what you get.  Hobbs is so The Rock that not only does he deliver smack talk worthy of a wrestling promo video, but there are scenes of him straight-up working out, his famous eyebrow, and even filling up at a diner on his world-famous Cheat Day.  Man, that is one big-ass stack of pancakes.  And, of course, the final act of the movie has Hobbs (and by extension The Rock) going home to literally reunite with his family.

Statham, similarly, plays The Jason Statham Character, who you'll recognize not just from Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, but the likes of The Transporter, Crank, The Expendables, and Guy Ritchie movies.  I don't mean any of this in a bad way -- these are familiar, fun, likeable personalities, and even if you haven't seen them trade punches and insults in F7, you can jump right into Hobbs & Shaw.  And make no mistake, the insults they trade this time around are so savage, so close to escalating to punches, that it takes a special-guest-star cameo as an Air Marshal to prevent Statham from getting Rock-Bottomed at 30,000 feet.

As is often the case in the F&F films, the story makes precious little sense or plausibility, but is perfectly serviceable as a reason (if not excuse) to have the heroes travel across the world fighting bad guys.  And what a bad guy do they have to fight against.  A dude so bad enough that in the opening scene, he even simply refers to himself as the "bad guy."  Make no mistake, Idris Elba hams it up as the villainous Brixton, and it is pure ridiculous perfection.

Elba's character humorously refers to himself as "Black Superman," but he's more like "Black Crysis Guy."  Brixton is a genetically- and cybernetically-enhanced super-soldier outfitted with a bulletproof bodysuit and some kind of self-driving shape-shifting motorcycle that feels out of place, like it fell out of those soul-crushing Generic Overdesigned Hollywood Robot flicks that crapped all over a beloved line of toys, comic books, and cartoons.  The high-tech futurism doesn't quite gel with the F&F brand in my opinion, and that includes the Hollywood hacking stuff from 7 and 8.

Brixton works for some kind of transhumanism-focused death cult whose leader is never seen but sounds like Dr. Samuel Hayden from DOOM4.  They want the virus that Hattie Shaw's team died to protect, and that she, her brother, and Hobbs have to travel the world to keep out of enemy hands.  But it seems that despite all of the bad guys' attack drones, futuristic vehicles, and electronically-activated guns, they only have one supersoldier.  I don't know how much it costs to make a supersoldier like Idris Elba's character, but surely a pair of them would be much more effective than just one.

Furthermore, and strangely enough, Augmented Idris Elba's abilities seem quite similar to what Regular-Ass The Rock can do normally.  There are obviously standouts, like Brixton's ocular implants and HUD, but many of Hobbs' feats of strength seem comparable to what the superpowered villain can do.

Travelling the world, fighting bad guys, and dropping some hilarious dialogue along the way, Hobbs & Shaw really delivers, and cyberpunk themes aside, it doesn't feel like that much of a departure from the mainline F&F flicks, absence of the ensemble cast notwithstanding.  The humour is there, the action is intense, the dialogue is right where it needs to be, and the story is suitably nonsensical to string the action scenes together.  But it's not without its faults.

There are a few celebrity cameos that go on way too long and are not consistently funny enough to be worthwhile.  The first one, at the diner, was great -- the others, not so much.  They attempted to work the Air Marshal into the story later, sure, but that doesn't make the character less annoying or the delivery any better.  And I'm surprised with the casting: how'd that guy manage to find the time for an unfunny cameo with his busy schedule of cheating on his wife?

The mid- and post-credits scenes were good for a chuckle, I guess, but felt like more excuses to keep a cameo character around for a bit longer even after overstaying his welcome.  The scenes don't push the brand forward, set anything up, or answer any questions in the way the mid- and post-credits scenes from 1, 5, and 6 did.

Director David Leitch also seems to have regrettably stepped away from one of the decisions that made John Wick as strong as it was: rather than let the audience see the action of the well-choreographed stunts and fight sequences, Hobbs & Shaw is mired in the typical overused big-budget Hollywood shaky-cam effects that Leitch steered clear of in Keanu's quest for revenge.  Why the same couldn't be done here is beyond me.

More standard Hollywood techniques include the movie's handling of computer equipment.  Hackers hacking hackers is nothing new to the brand, but the death cult mercs have electronic safety measures on their firearms that require the weapons' operators to wear some kind of security gloves that authorize the weapons to fire.  No glove, no love.  However, the security tech can be hacked, preventing any firearms from being used.  When the hacking program finishes and the mercs can use their weapons again, would they really just surrender to the Samoan warriors, and not, say, take as many down as possible before falling in glorious combat in the name of The Cause?

Also, the entire final act set in Samoa feels self-indulgent in a way the brand, for all of its flaws, doesn't tend to feel.  The Rock and his brothers plan to use Mad-Max-style weapons and tactics against a cyberpunk death cult armed with what must be the lightest, weakest Black Hawk helicopter ever to go into production?  I don't know, man.  I mentioned the brand often blurring the lines between character and actor, and to be fair, The Rock/Hobbs lead his daughter's sport team in a traditional war dance in F8, but still.

And speaking of The Fate of the Furious, in that movie, Hobbs and Shaw had to grudgingly work together, and in the process, learned to respect each other.  During the scene in the secret government vehicle facility known as Toy Shop, Hobbs reads Shaw's file, learning how Deckard's acts of selfless heroism saved the lives of his military team and earned him a medal.  So how'd Shaw end up a criminal?  The same way Hobbs himself ended up being accused of treason -- the two military men were used up and spat out by their countries.  They're more alike than they want to admit, and Hobbs reacts in anger when Shaw is seemingly killed during the New York battle.  Hobbs and Shaw have put their differences behind them in the previous movie, so this movie pretending their rivalry has somehow escalated even further than it was when they first met doesn't really make sense.  Sure, this movie wouldn't be as much fun without their savage smack-talk, but it feels like something's missing here.

All things considered, they have crafted a thoroughly-enjoyable buddy-action movie with spectacular stunts, some great writing, the right amount of over-the-top hilarity, and the ever-important theme of family.  Both characters of Hobbs and Shaw technically started as villains, and I'm still unhappy about Shaw canonically murdering my favourite F&F character, and even if the movie didn't have the strong writing, pacing, and technical elements that it does, the appeal of The Rock and Statham would still be enough to carry Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw.  As it stands, it's an exhilarating laugh-out-loud action comedy that seriously delivers on the brand's strengths.  It's a shame they couldn't get the entire crew back to make this a proper numbered installment (we'll see what Furious 9 brings), but don't let your enjoyment of or disdain for the Fast brand prevent you from catching this balls-through-the-wall action experience.

I think that's pretty much all I can think to say about it right now.  But, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them, and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again.

Ride or Die, Family.

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