The Rundown: The ‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise Is Completely Out Of Control

The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items could vary, as could the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday, and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — None of this is a complaint

As with any discussion involving the Fast & Furious franchise, it’s best to start at the beginning. Way back at the start. In 2001, to be specific, when the first movie was released, when Dominic Toretto lived a simple life of wrenching on cars and winning local street races and stealing DVD players. It’s been said plenty, often by me, but it’s still as wild as a sack of hornets that the franchise that started there is where it is now, with Oscar-winning actresses playing anarchist cyberterrorists who are hellbent on stealing nuclear submarines, and secret government agencies with unlimited budgets recruiting our beloved racing felons to save the world. When these movies introduced Ludacris a full six movies ago (soon to be seven movies ago), he was a Miami mechanic who occasionally officiated jet ski races. He’s now one of the world’s premier computer hackers. Jason Statham is in these movies and his mother is played by Helen Mirren. Mark my words, before this franchise comes to a close, at least one character will venture to outer space.

This is all necessary to remember every now and again, just for perspective, because it drives home the lunacy of the present. Where we have a ninth movie on the way. Where the chronology of the whole operation has been twisted into a greasy pretzel. Where, as I type this, we are all a matter of hours away from an hour-long primetime network television special, featuring musical guests and a raucous crowd, in Miami, on Super Bowl weekend, all leading up to the release of the newest film’s trailer.

I cannot possibly stress this in strong enough terms: this is real. This is happening. It’s called The Road to F9: Fast & Furious Fan Fest and it will air tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC. Here are some bullet points reprinted word-for-word from the press release, which I usually prefer to avoid doing but will make an exception for here to help you grasp the sincerity of everyone involved.

  • The special will feature the world premiere of the film’s much-awaited trailer
  • Tyrese Gibson and Maria Menounos will host. Global superstars Cardi B, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, Ozuna, and Ludacris are set to perform
  • The performances are part of a Fan Festival taking place in Miami on January 31 to celebrate the upcoming film, arriving in theaters on May 22
  • There will be special appearances by franchise stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and Nathalie Emmanuel, as well as newcomer to the “Fast & Furious” family, John Cena, and director Justin Lin
  • The event is sponsored by Dodge, Xfinity, IMAX and Castrol Edge.

Two things jump out here.

The first is that the Fast & Furious franchise has essentially went ahead and created its own single night version of Comic-Con. That’s what is going on here. The only difference is that, instead of thousands of nerds flocking to San Diego to wait in lines and see their favorite actors discuss the finer points of their favorite comic heroes, it’s hundreds of attractive lunkheads flocking to Miami Beach to grind on each other for an hour between speeches from Vin Diesel. I mean this with no disrespect lobbed toward either group. I can be both a nerd and a lunkhead. It is pretty incredible, though, in a kind of “this seems normal enough until you think about the context of it all for more than 10 seconds” way. There’s a non-zero chance this becomes a yearly event. Think about that.

The second thing is that it is absolutely flabbergasting that Pitbull is not involved with this in some form. It’s got everything Pitbull loves: Miami, a party, corporate sponsorships, etc. I read the bullet points three times to make sure I didn’t miss his name. There’s always next year.

In conclusion, please try to explain all of this to someone who has never seen a single Fast & Furious movie. Just keep talking until you’re done, even as they start looking at you like you’ve lost your mind. A little treat for you.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — GOGGINS

Getty Image

You know how sometimes you’ll be just scooting along in your life, perfectly content with the way things are and blind to a potentially obvious way to improve them, when suddenly you stumble across two sentences so magnificent that you have no idea how you’ve survived a single second of your previously worthless life without the thing they describe? Maybe not. Maybe that’s just me. In any event, please enjoy this description of the upcoming movie Fatman.

Fatman centers on a neglected and precocious 12-year-old who hires an unorthodox hitman to kill Santa Claus after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking. [Walton] Goggins will star as Skinnyman, the eccentric, sharp-shooting hitman who works at a toy store.

Walton Goggins, Boyd Crowder and Baby Billy Freeman himself, in a movie titled Fatman, playing an eccentric hitman named Skinnyman, who works at a toy store and is hired to kill Santa by a preteen brat. Yes, this will work. All of it. Even the thing about Mel Gibson playing Santa, which is also a thing that’s happening in this movie and is something that might normally give me pause due to… [gestures in the general direction of the previous 15 years], because, I mean, did you read those sentences? Walton Goggins is a hitman who is hired to kill Santa. There is no conceivable set of circumstances in which I do not see this movie.

The only thing I truly dislike about this is that this movie wasn’t made five years ago so I could have seen it more than once by now and maybe even rent it again tonight after I watch that Fast & Furious trailer. I’m a simple man, ladies and gentlemen. I like fast cars and defeating cyberanarchists and assassins hunting Santa. And the picture at the top of this section. That’s pretty good, too.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Oink for your, uh, cheeseburgers?

HBO

Perhaps, if you were watching the Grammys this past Sunday, you heard a familiar, gravelly, intimidating voice pop up during the commercial breaks to tell you about cheeseburgers. “Hmm,” you thought, I imagine, “why does it feel like this voice should be yelling profanity at me? And why do I feel this near-irresistible urge to call up my boy Swiggy to dedicate a terrible rap song to the man responsible for it?”

Well, I think this explains it.

The spots showcase the beef, cheese, onions, pickles and buns of the Quarter Pounder, as well as the chain’s fries. While close-ups of burgers are nothing new in fast-food advertising, these spots suggest McDonald’s is using a fresh take on the tried-and-true method. Along with Instagram-worthy close-ups, the quick commercials feature voiceover work by Brian Cox, known to many as Logan Roy on HBO’s “Succession.” Cox discusses each ingredient in the 15-second spots, much as McDonald’s super fans might try to describe the product —if they had the accent and cadence to pull it off.

The commercials themselves are all at that link in the first paragraph. I recommend taking a few minutes to watch them. I also recommend pretending it’s really Logan Roy reading the copy and he’s furious about it and tearing into the people around him between takes, especially Connor, whose idea this all probably was.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Come on down!

CBS

Here’s what happened: The CBS series Evil, which is about demons and psychology and Catholicism, ran an advertisement during an episode of The Price Is Right in which the show’s demon, whose name is George, bids $666 on a prize after the woman before him bid $665. Its classic TPIR strategy and a classic demon move and, really, just a pretty great piece of marketing. I support it. Get more demons on game shows. I have always said this.

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Anyway, because we live in the future and everything is stupid, the screencap of the demon starting flying around various social media platforms without context, leading large swaths of people to believe that a man really did dress like a full-on demon and show up to try to win a new car or a vacation to Acapulco. I almost feel guilty fact-checking this now. I should have just let them have this one, the belief that a man in demon makeup bid $666 on The Price Is Right. It wouldn’t have hurt anything.

Okay, I changed my mind. Pretend I didn’t write this section. Just let the people enjoy the lie in peace for a while. It’s the least we can do for each other.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Mona Lisa heist

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Vincenzo Peruggia was a tiny Italian man whose little body was so full of patriotic spirit that he stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 to return it to the home country of Leonardo da Vinci after it had been pilfered by Napoleon. There were only two problems with this plan: One, he got caught; two, da Vinci actually gave the painting to France of his own free will, for reasons not relating to Napoleon. Also, according to a career criminal and con man who claimed to know Peruggia, the real motivation was grift, as the two of them planned to wait for news of the theft to arise and then start selling copies as the original, with the thinking that people who bought them would not go to the authorities once they realized they’d been had.

I bring this up now both because I love this story and because, as of this week, Jodie Foster is making a movie about it.

”This is in the mold of The Thomas Crown Affair, with The Sting also a plot device comp[arison]. It is a fun story, and the crime itself is not sophisticated. Our story mixes truth and fiction, and the focus is on the characters behind orchestrating the theft.”

The other interesting thing about this is that the theft and subsequent news coverage is what really catapulted the painting into the stratosphere of the art world. It was moderately famous before, sure, but this made it iconic. What I’m saying is that without Vincenzo Peruggia and his mistaken rage and/or flim flamming, we never would have gotten the song “Mona Lisa” from Popstar, which I have posted in this column before and will do again. Thank you, Vincenzo.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at brian.grubb@uproxx.com (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.

From Abi:

I was listening to a podcast this morning and they said the word Winnebago and it made me miss the Wynnibago again. Since it’s almost 5 years since we last saw the Wynnibago, do you miss it as much as I do? What is Wynn doing these days without the Wynnibago or did he eventually get a new one?

It’s become a little cliche in recent years to toss around phrases like “I think about this constantly” or “I think about this every day,” but this is a situation where it’s actually true for me. I do think about Wynn Duffy from Justified a lot. Maybe not every day but at least once a month. It doesn’t take much to get my brain going. Earlier this week I saw highlights from the Australian Open and was like, “I wonder if noted women’s tennis fan Wynn Duffy is watching this, wherever he is.” Yes, I know he’s a fictional character. Yes, I know the show ended a long time ago. Leave me alone.

Anyway, the last time we saw Wynn, he was standing outside a dog grooming van that he used to flee Kentucky. I choose to believe he just rolled with that and took over the seedy world of dog grooming. Wynn Duffy holding shears to other groomer’s necks, blowing up a competitor’s store, stealing $30,000 worth of dog shampoo to corner the market. I would watch that show. Who wouldn’t?

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Minnesota!

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the International Falls Port of Entry seized $900,000 in counterfeit United States currency Friday that was discovered in a commercial rail shipment originating from China.

Hang tight. The good part is coming up.

During the examination, CBP discovered 45 cartons of possible counterfeit currency in the form of $1 bills with a total face value of $900,000. The United States Secret Service was contacted determined the currency is counterfeit.

Almost a million dollars in ones. Delightful. Perplexing. What does one do with $900,000 in ones? I imagine there’s a reason. Maybe ones are easier to pass than larger bills and this was one of those things where a little bit every day adds up to a big amount over time. Maybe someone had a really big weekend at a strip club planned. I don’t know. All I do know is this:

  • I would be a terrible prosecutor because I would cut a deal in these situations just so I could find out the reason, to satisfy my own curiosity
  • Imagine being the agent who opened all these boxes one at a time thinking they’d be filled with $20s or $100s and you had a multimillion-dollar seizure on your hands, only to see box after box filled with singles

I bet he got roasted pretty good back at the station.

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