Last weekend (November 30th, 2013) the world learned of the passing of Paul Walker, star of the hit action franchise Fast & Furious. Walker was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles, in which he was the passenger. His death, a tragedy for all who knew him, worked with him, and his legion of fans, was met with the typically stoic sense of loss and praise for his life; however, as the world mourned, it also began to ask whether or not his passing would influence the production of then-on-hiatus Fast & Furious 7, the upcoming sequel in the franchise, due to be released in 2014.
Paul Walker, the star of the Fast & Furious franchise, as well as films such as Into The Blue, Takers, and the upcoming Hours, has been killed in a vehicle accident, in California.
Walker came to prominence in the original Fast & Furious film in 2001, although he had appeared in small roles in films prior, including Pleasantville (as one of the inhabitants of that sitcom-inspired world), and young-adult thriller The Skulls. Following The Fast & The Furious, Walker would go on to star in the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, before leaving the franchise temporarily, until he returned alongside Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious, the fourth installment, and then Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and the upcoming Fast & Furious 7, due out in 2014. Among his other credits, Walker appeared in heist flick Takers, the Richard Donner helmed sci-fi bomb Timeline, Frank Marshall’s Disney-dog effort, Eight Below, Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers, and most recently in Vehicle 19, his passion project Hours (set in and around the events of Hurricane Katrina), and The Lazarus Project.
Paul Walker was 40 at his passing, on November 30th, and is survived by his daughter, Meadow.
As a film blogger (I can’t call myself a critic, because I’m not being paid to do this) and fan, I see a lot of films through the year. A lot. Not as many as some (Dan over at Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews, I salute you, sir!), but as many as working a full time job, and spending time with two small children, and supporting my wife’s small business, will allow. I’m often asked by folks how I choose which films I will and will not watch – since I am relatively free-time poor due to family commitments, I must make choices as to which films I’ll spend an hour or two with, and which ones I won’t.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, it would have become increasingly apparent that Bruce Willis – star of classic films like Die Hard, The Fifth Element and more recently cameoing alongside Arnie in the Expendable movies – seems to have just flat-out given up. Watching his performances in his more recent films, like GI Joe: Retaliation, A Good Day To Die Hard, and Looper, Willis seems to be less interested in his characters and performance, than he is with simply showing up on set and collecting his paycheck.
And I’m reasonably sure I know which film was the one that flipped the switch. More on this in a moment.
Director : Wayne Wang Year Of Release : 1995 Principal Cast : William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, Harold Perrineau, Forest Whitaker, Stockard Channing, Ashley Judd, Victor Argo, Jared Harris, Michelle Hurst, Deridre O’Connell, Malik Yoba, Daniel Auster. Approx Running Time : 112 Minutes Synopsis: Auggie owns a cigarette store in New York City – the film tells a variety of stories about both he and his patrons as they work through their internal struggles of daily life. What we think : Well intentioned, yet ultimately decidedly dull ensemble flick that only sparkles whenever Stockard Channing or Forest Whitaker arrive on scene; Smoke spends more time away from the landmark tobacco store that headlines the film than they do in it. While the characters are generally interesting, and the movie is well filmed in and around New York City, there’s a lethargy and clunkiness to the script and the performances that prevent it from being a great film.
Smoke is one of those ensemble films that has a lot of people doing a lot of stuff that amounts to sod all by the end of the film. A bizarre mix of cigar smoke and coarse language, as well as a dash of heart and some kooky performances by Stockard Channing and Forest Whitaker, sees Smoke just amble along with its hodge-podge narrative, an almost inert attempt to Pulp Fiction-ise an otherwise fairly plain story. Auggie (Harvey Keitel) owns a tobacco store, which is patronized by a writer, Paul Benjamin (William Hurt), whose wife was killed in a botched robbery a few years prior. Paul is saved from being hit by a truck one day, by a young Rashid Cole (Harold Perrineau), and the pair strike an unlikely, and initially awkward, friendship. Rashid, according to his Aunt (Michelle Hurst), who comes looking for the runaway youth, is seeking his estranged father, Cyrus (Forest Whitaker, appearing with a hook on one arm!), who now works at a garage out in the country, perhaps to reconcile with him. When Rashid is discovered to himself have come into possession of stolen money, thanks to local hoodlum The Creeper (Malik Yoba), Paul confronts him but Rashid is resolute. However, after screwing up a business deal of Auggies on his first day at work, Rashid gives Auggie the stolen money to clear his debt. Meanwhile, Auggie’s former lover, Ruby (Stockard Channing, complete with eyepatch, and utterly terrific in a smallish role) arrives in town seeking help with Auggie’s teenage daughter, Felicity (Ashley Judd). Unaware he even had a daughter, Auggie is suspicious at first, but they eventually gives in to Ruby’s hopelessness.
I have a grudge to bear, dear film industry. I want to ask you a question. It’s a question the legal-eagles and suits have discussed well before now, and a “problem” plaguing the film industry that will only have resolution once a large number of people are in prison. Or bankrupted by lawsuits.
When is enough enough? For so long now, we’ve heard the film and music industry cry poor over lost revenue from illegal downloads and file sharing online. Apparently, the poverty line for major motion pictures is at such a perilous stage, the corporations have decided to pursue legal action against illegal downloaders via information gathered through social media and other internet-based information, mostly for very little actual gain save to thwart the online pirates. Sure, there’s a problem for filmmakers when you can walk down a street in Indonesia and find boxes of current release films available for as little as a single dollar. Yet, for all the bleating and moaning about lost revenue and how hard it is to get films financed these days, we have mega-budgeted films like The Avengers raking in record box-office receipts month after month, making studio arguments that they’re going broke seem like a complete fallacy. Think about it: Paramount and Marvel Studios spend $200 million to make and market The Avengers, and within a week of opening across the US – and three weeks after opening elsewhere across the world – the film rakes in nearly a billion dollars in box office. Roughly, that’s $800 million after costs. Go to any torrenting site within a few hours of a major film being released, and you’ll have available an extremely bad camera-clone copy of the film, filmed from the back of the cinema with a handycam, ready to watch, and no doubt the thousands of geeky teens sitting at their computers waiting to pounce just hit the mouse button without any thought about it, but the film made nearly a billion dollars regardless of the thousands who didn’t pay to go and see it.
Expectations for Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, Man Of Steel, are reaching fever pitch across the blogosphere – with each and every trailer, TV spot or featurette, anticipation grows exponentially, thanks largely to a reverential yet explosive take on the legendary superhero finally giving us something to care about. Like most, I was disappointed by Superman Returns (I can understand the reason we needed that film – to finally erase the visage of Christopher Reeve as the definitive screen Superman - but I still find it cloying and boring years later), and news of another Superman film so soon afterwards wasn’t exactly filling me with excitement. Marvel had done something similar with the Hulk – Ang Lee’s Hulk bored most people to death, while Leterrier’s Incredible Hulk manged to amp up the action and excitement and make itself at least a decent film – so one had to hope that Warners knew what they were doing.
Having Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan producing the film was the first step to putting the doubters on notice. Nolan’s pedigree was met with near universal acclaim, coming off the back of The Dark Knight trilogy’s success. Troubling, however, was the attachment of Zack Snyder to the director’s chair: Snyder’s polarizing take on Watchmen, his failure with Sucker Punch, and the waning glory from 300 and Dawn of The Dead meant his association with the film wasn’t exactly met with fanboy excitement. On the plus side, even if the film was a disaster, it would at the very least look amazing.
Regular readers of this site would be aware that we rarely promote upcoming films on these hallowed pages (after all, there’s only so many hours in the day!) but we felt we’re onto something special with this, the third official trailer for Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man Of Steel take on Superman. As far as promotional trailers go, this one belts all others over the fence. Hans Zimmer’s score for this is…. spine-tingling, and most people have been caught by Kev Costner’s line about Clark being his son. This film looks… in a word….. epic.
The 2013 Oscars are over for another year, and once again, we take stock of what we’ve witnessed, and round off on the films of 2012 with a salute, a hearty cheer, and a farewell for now. Now that the Academy has “rebaranded” the Academy Awards as “The Oscars” going forward, no doubt to ensure a youthful demographic remains interested (to me, you’re either interested or you’re not, and no name change is gonna fix that), we’ll have to spend some time revamping our Oscar logos on and around the site. Bummer.
So how about the ceremony itself? Well, if you followed out Facebook feed during the show, you’ll have a bit of an idea on what we thought as it progressed, but now it’s time to reflect on the entire thing collectively, given the benefit of hindsight.
In my life, I’ve owned four copies of Stargate. Not the variety of television series, but the original Roland Emmerich film. The first, a widescreen VHS copy. The second, a poorly mastered Region 4 DVD, before upgrading from that to a nicer – albeit still flawed – Region 1 version. Now, flying through the US mail system, is my recent Amazon-purchased Blu-Ray edition, supposedly even better quality than any of the preceding DVD versions. In my life, I’ve owned three copies of Resident Evil – a pitiful R4 version on DVD, the R1 Superbit edition, and now the Blu-Ray. Multiple copies of Armageddon, The Rock, Harry Potter 1-4, Blade Runner, heck, even Lord Of The Rings; passion for owning films on DVD and Blu-Ray is an expensive hobby at the best of times. I’ve already covered the theme of cinema cost in a previous post here, but today I want to cover off on something I think film studios secretly use to bolster their bottom lines at the expense of film enthusiasts.
We live in a truly remarkable age. The age where just about everything we do has a digital imprint – social media, entertainment, communications, heck even business is often conducted over the internet and other digital forms, with what has now become a remarkable interconnected lifestyle for all of us. The humble mobile phone, for example, has long since left the domain of simple phone calls; nowadays, your touchscreen phone is nigh capable of launching nuclear missiles from an off-shore submarine, they contain so much technology. Even a bottom of the range portable tablet device can multi-task, making calls, surfing the web and everything but make you a morning coffee.
The future of technology seems to be leaning towards streaming technology, coupled with this newfangled “cloud” technology some companies are pushing. A decentralized storage mechanism for all your downloaded content, from movies to music to web browsing seems anathema to me, as someone who grew up in the dawn of the computer age and who’s more comfortable saving my stuff on my own hard drive for easy access later. That being said, this appears to be the way computer technology is going, with less and less people using, or even owning, a PC in the last few years.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we’ve reached a turning point. The evolution of cinema, or the humble “film”, is about to change – if it hasn’t fundamentally already. It’s got to the stage where I think calling our favorite medium “film” is a misnomer – because film as we know it is going the way of the dodo. As we fully embrace the digital age, where film-makers such as James Cameron, Peter Jackson and even now Steven Spielberg have crossed into using a completely digital workflow (Spielberg has held out longer than most, but it’s only a matter of time), calling it “a film” is no longer truthful. Much like the default “save” icon on your computer uses a now defunct image of a floppy disc, calling a movie a film will eventually confuse the younger generation who will grow up under the impression that movies are shot completely digitally.
Now that the nominees have been released for the 85th Academy Awards, it’s time for us to have a bit of a go at trying to determine the winners and losers on the big night. With all the opinions around the web and workplaces, there’s plenty of grist for this mill, and we figured why not add in our own two cents. The Oscars are one of most watched television events in the world, and with that level of expectation and anticipation, it’s only natural for everyone to have their favorites. Here’s ours…. what are yours?