The crowds of theater owners and other movie industry players attending Universal's studio presentation at CinemaCon were treated to a surprise screening of The Fate of the Furious, the latest chapter in the Fast and Furious franchise. Although most of the attendees had heard (and more than likely passed-on) the rumor that the screening would be The Mummy, when Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and director F. Gary Gray took the stage at the end of the presentation, it became pretty apparent that the adrenaline pumping F8 was already queued up in the projection booth at Caesar's Colosseum.

Never one to shy away from bravado and braggadocio, Diesel promised the crowd that this would be the "best movie you have ever seen". Of course, we can forgive Vin for getting a little high on his own supply. He clearly loves the franchise, the characters and his co-stars. Well... MOST of his co-stars, since Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson was conspicuously absent, after having appeared in Vegas already on both Monday and Tuesday to promote his other studio tentpoles including Jumanji (Sony) and Baywatch (Paramount). Perhaps Vin and The Rock negotiated custody of the press tour that left Dwayne Johnson off the CinemaCon stage for this screening. We can only surmise...

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Is this latest installment, as Diesel promised, the "best movie" I've "ever seen"? No. It is ridiculous. It is unbelievable. But this is what cinema was meant to do... It takes you places (Cuba, New York, frozen tundra in Russia). It gives you faster, bigger, harder and, well, more... just MORE. But you can't help but love it. It is a damn entertaining movie and worth the price of admission (and refreshments) to see on the BIG screen. The Fate of the Furious is an over-the-top adrenaline-infused thrill ride. At the same time, it delivers several nods to the late Paul Walker's character, Brian, and plays heavily to the theme of family that has permeated the franchise, and may even touch you at times. It is definitely a contender to land among the top in the list of titles for any Fast fan. Strangely, the suspension of disbelief required of the 6th left me a bit flat, but yet the stretches in 7 felt just right, and while the reality distortion field is just as strong in 8, I can honestly say I enjoyed the full runtime (just over 2 hours) and it easily counts as one of my personal favorites.

While I want to let you know about the movie and why you should see it, I don't want to slip-in any spoilers or say anything to ruin the twists and surprises for you. There are several. So I'll not lay out the story and the timeline for you. That said, from the trailers, you know that, in this pic, Dom "goes rogue" and turns on his 'family'. He is seduced to the 'dark side' by a scheming hacker with broad reaching enterprise and evil history. The hard thing with this is that you truly don't know, as the film plays out, who you're siding with through the film, once you find out why Dom flipped sides. You want Charlize Theron's evil hacker super-villain to get taken down, but it's really not clear at all how or by who.

The film takes place, as has been the case with the prior 3, all over the world. From its opening in Cuba, where Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon, we follow the crew through various set-ups and action set pieces in New York to the pic's concussive third act in the frozen nether-regions of Russia (where you've already seen Rock ice-ride a torpedo hanging out the door of his tough-truck in the trailer), you can see how this cast and crew truly loves globetrotting. With all the travel and logistics challenges, the Fast family, including returning recent add-ins Jason Statham and Kurt Russell, and some true newbies Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood, craft an epic battle that frames the next (and supposedly final) two chapters in the series, Fast 9 and Fast 10, both of which have already been announced.

F8 gives us as much an upping of the ante in comedy and clever dialogue, as it does in action. There are plenty of times you'll find yourself laughing out loud at, not only Rock and Statham, but also Mirren. You'll also get some real feelings of sentimentality and heaping doses of surprises.

The Fate of the Furious is an excellent addition to the series. It has even more of what you love about the franchise. The one-liners, tender and serious commitment to 'family' and, most importantly, crazy, insane, awesome action. If you liked 4, loved 5, enjoyed 6 and were blown away by 7, F8 will be one of your favorites. It's a crazy, insane action masterpiece that takes the franchise to new heights.

On April 14th, courtesy of Universal Pictures, you can check it out for yourself and I strongly suggest that you do... on a BIG screen. The bigger (and louder) the better.

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B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange