Posts Tagged 'paul walker'

The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

The 27th Annual Biggie Awards

for achievements in film for the year 2015

2015. Goddamn. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my view, this was the weakest year overall for movies since 2009, where I only “loved” 14 movies. In 2015, as of this writing, I added 17 films to my Love List. For perspective, since I’ve started tracking these things in 1997, this is only the third year where I didn’t love at least 20 movies. I didn’t love anything in 2015 until early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, and even that was a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

This was not a year like 2000 (Gladiator), 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) or 2012 (Lincoln) where a single film dominated the year while also facing stiff competition (Gladiator fended off The Patriot, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon AND Traffic, ROTK is the most awarded film in Biggies history, but still had to face Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World AND The Last Samurai– which would have been the Best Picture winner in most other years, while Lincoln had to battle Zero Dark Thirty). The closest comp I can come up with is 2011, when Drive snuck in out of nowhere to take Best Picture in a wide open field. Drive would’ve been crushed had it come out the same year as There Will Be Blood or Titanic, but it happened to arrive in a mediocre year and was able to edge out the victory. Fast forward to now, and I don’t even know if there was a 2015 film as good as Drive. As a result, this is probably the most winnable year in Biggies history for “great but not masterful” movies, which is simultaneously really fun and disappointing by default. As I post this, I honestly haven’t decided what I think the best movie of 2015 was.

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The 2014 Biggie Awards (& The 25 Movies from 2013 That You Should’ve Seen)

The 25th Annual Biggie Awards

aka The Biggies

celebrating achievements in cinema for the year 2013

First off, this is me patting myself on the back for 25 years of recognizing excellence in film. It’s pretty cool to hit a milestone like that. I’ve been doing these awards since I was 17 years old, aka half of my life. I started in 1997 with awards for that year’s amazing roster of movies, but eventually I retroactively went back and did my awards from 1989 forward. Why 1989? Well, basically it was so I could recognize Glory (one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time) as my first Best Picture winner. What other reason do I need? I take this very seriously, and I’m proud of the legacy I’ve been able to build here, even if that legacy exists only in my own mind. Hopefully that pride shows in how much time and care I put into this post every year.

Gatsby - glass raise“Happy 25th anniversary, Old Sport.”
Thanks, Gatsby!

As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, for those interested, here are all of my previous Best Picture winners, with the Oscars’ Best Picture winner that year in parentheses for comparison:

Continue reading ‘The 2014 Biggie Awards (& The 25 Movies from 2013 That You Should’ve Seen)’

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Movie Extravaganza #2: The Semi Summer Movie Preview

As summer movie season kicks into full gear this weekend with the release of  Thor, I thought this was a great time for another big all-movie post. There’s been some stuff I’ve been wanting to talk about and some recent news worthy of your attention, analyzed for you by two thumbs pointing at this guy. First things first, some very cool new trailers debuted last week. The second (and likely final) full-length trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the second (and much improved) trailer for X-Men: First Class, and the first official trailer for The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. In case you haven’t seen any of them, take a look. I strongly recommend changing the video quality (in the bottom middle of each) to at least 720p to watch them in HD.

I’ve got my fingers crossed so tight on this that my index finger is about to snap, but Shockwave looks great, and there’s a lot of interesting and big stuff going on here, like that cool beacon thingy. And you can’t tell for sure, but I think Optimus Prime‘s trailer (which FINALLY makes an appearance) turns into that jetpack he wears. Just a guess, but remember who called it. On the other hand, I’m a little bothered by the fact that this trailer shows a clip from what looks to be the very last scene in the movie (Prime talking to Sam on a pier or boardwalk, with John Turturro in the wheelchair behind him). A great trailer from a visuals standpoint, but it looks like it gives way too much away. Perhaps more than anything, I can’t wait to find out how Shia LeBeouf ends up with a British supermodel girlfriend who’s even hotter than Megan Fox. I think if the director’s name wasn’t “Michael Bay“, this mightn’t have happened. Just a guess.


OH, HAI. NICE LIPZ.
P.S. I totally buy that you’d fall for Shia LaBeouf.

I’ve been very hesitant on this since day 1 (I’m still not over how bad X-Men : Last Stand was), and the first trailer wasn’t too inspiring, but this second one is a marked improvement. You get to hear more dialogue, and it looks like they’ve properly captured that X-Men us-against-the-world tone. I’m really digging Michael Fassbender as Magneto, too. His delivery of of that line “We already are” is pitch perfect and 100% Magneto. I’m really rooting for this to be very good. If all else fails, I get to look at January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, which is always satisfying.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the first movie in the entire series that I didn’t like. I won’t say I disliked it, but I definitely didn’t like it. It sits in this kind of opinion limbo. At the time, I couldn’t even write a review of it, it baffled me so much. I still need to watch it again, but I don’t expect my overall opinion to change. That said, even while I complained about the first part, I said back in November that I expected Part 2 to be amazing despite the problems I had with Part 1. I still hold that expectation. In my dream of dreams, this last one will be so good and so emotionally powerful that it’ll be worthy of Best Picture consideration and perhaps some acting nominations, but none of the others have been serious contenders in those categories, and they’ve been very consistent in quality (one of the series’ biggest strengths), so I doubt this will transcend the others even if it is the best of the decade-long series.

How Green is My Lantern?

Now we move to a brand new trailer that has me going, “Uh oh.” That trailer belongs to Green Lantern, which I am predicting will be this summer’s biggest box office bomb. I’ve been trying, really trying, to get excited for this, but I’m about to give up after this latest trailer. It just looks fuckin silly, doesn’t it? Like all these superhero movies, I don’t know shit about the comics, but surely the Green Lantern comic isn’t this silly looking. Is it? I know this is obvious, but it’s just so…GREEN. Like, really green. Too green. Then you’ve got all these incredibly goofy looking aliens and creatures. And all these goofy looking aliens speak English, and look incredibly goofy doing so. Maybe some super Lantern nerd can explain to me what I’m supposed to find cool about that. Then you’ve got Peter Sarsgaard as the main villain, and he ends up going from a normal-looking scientist to this maniac with a giant (goofy looking) ballooned forehead. It looks like we’re going to see a literal mad scientist in this movie. And that’s supposed to be scary and intimidating? Good grief. I can’t pick out one thing about this movie (other than the chance to see Blake Lively again) that has me excited. And that’s a damn shame, because it’s directed by Martin Campbell, who, granted, is hit and miss, but who just 5 years ago he gave us one of the best action movies ever in Casino Royale. Why he took this project on I’ll never know, but it looks like a massive pile of computer-generated [GREEN] dog doo. Don’t believe me? See for yourself, brah…

I guess the fact that Ryan Reynolds is in it should be a giveaway. This will be his third comic book movie, after the mediocre Blade: Trinity and the mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I normally like this guy (he gave one of the best performances in one of the best movies of 2010 in Buried), but he needs to stop it with the comic book movies. The fact that Marvel might give him another movie with the potential Deadpool spinoff is truly terrifying. ENOUGH!

-Can I say that I’m more than a little concerned about the Hangover sequel? In a way, I wish I hadn’t seen that second trailer. Of course it’s funny as hell, and the movie looks funny as hell, but it also displays such an apparent lack of creativity that my confidence in the film is a bit rattled. To start, the fact that they couldn’t come up with a cool subtitle and are just calling it the Hangover: Part II is a bad sign. It just is. You’re telling me Todd Phillips couldn’t come up with a good subtitle to the sequel of one of the most successful comedies of all time? NOBODY in the Warner Bros. marketing department had any good ideas? It’s not a huge deal in the bigger picture, but it’s indicative. When they first announced this sequel was actually happening, I’m on record (somewhere on my MySpace blog) as saying it was a bad idea. For one simple reason: how could anything even remotely that epic ever happen to the same people again? It would just come across as stupid if it did, wouldn’t it? Well, apparently the answer to that question is…easy, just have it happen in a different country. That appears to be the only difference from a narrative standpoint. In this new trailer, one of them is getting married (again), we see that they wake up after another crazy night (again), having no idea what happened the night before (again), and they’ve lost one or more of the people who started the night with them (again). The lack of creativity in that is stunning. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the trailer. Usually, comedy sequels change up the plot a little bit, but this kind of repitition of ideas is normally reserved for bad horror sequels. Is The Hangover: Part II a bad horror sequel? My god I hope not. But right now, the only changes I see are the new location (Thailand) and a different cast member getting married this time. And a monkey. Let’s not forget the monkey.


Ken Jeong, you slay me.

Did Todd Phillips and the cast really do this only for the money? Given what I know of him and the various opinions he’s had recently, I thought Phillips was above that, but perhaps not. Phillips himself (who made more than $50 million on the first movie because of a brilliant contract stipulation) is making $10 million plus 10% of the first-dollar gross on the sequel, meanwhile Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis each got $5 million upfront plus 4% of the first-dollar gross. Those will end up being huge paydays for all 4 of them. That also means a big increase in the budget, because with those salaries, the movie costs $25 million before you even start shooting (the original was made for under $40 million), and once it’s released, Warner Bros. has already forfeited 22% of the grosses. I guess it would be incredibly difficult to say no to such a huge guaranteed payday like that, but I’m hoping there was more effort put into the script than we’ve been shown thus far. If it is just a carbon copy of the original, I will be sorely disappointed. The original Hangover isn’t just one of my favorite comedies, it’s one my favorite movies overall (if you MUST know, it currently sits at #164 on the newly updated Biggie 200 list), and I’ve never been so amped up for a comedy sequel, despite my reservations.

If he exhales, that shirt will explode.

-So I’ve now seen Fast Five in theaters twice (I rarely have the time to see anything twice nowadays), and my love for this movie got me to thinking about how The Fast and the Furious is just about the most unlikely franchise in movie history. I’m fascinated by the trajectory this series has taken since the original came out a decade ago now. No action franchise (or franchise of ANY kind) has unfolded quite like this. Let’s trace the steps, and try to keep up.

You have the original film, The Fast and the Furious (which is loosely based on a Vibe magazine article called “Racer X”), which became a surprise hit in 2001 (grossing $40 million on its opening weekend on a $38 million budget on its way to a $144.5 million haul) and put Paul Walker & Vin Diesel on the map as potential leading men. Then you have a terrible sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, that lost one of those leading men (and the original director, Rob Cohen) because he wanted too much money and basically thought he was above it, and that sequel still manages to perform well ($50 million opening, $127 million total). Diesel and Rob Cohen try to start a new franchise in xXx around the same time to middling results. So a better director on 2 Fast (John Singleton) makes the worst film of his career, but his career gets a bump anyway because that shitty movie is a hit. Singleton, having just made a very good low-budget movie (the greatly underrated Baby Boy) with up & coming singer Tyrese, gives him his first big mainstream starring role opposite the lonely Paul Walker, who badly needs a new street smart, non-Caucasian buddy.

Next, a couple years pass, because they still can’t get Diesel to star in part 3, and they can’t get Walker back either because he, too, is attempting to branch out. But not to be deterred, Universal puts the third movie in motion anyway, hires a new director (Justin Lin, who has directed each movie since) and tries to reinvent the franchise by giving it a new star (Lucas Black) and a new location for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Apparently, hiring an Asian director for the Tokyo-set movie made it more authentic? I dunno. Also, we’re supposed to buy into the fact that because these cars drift around corners, it gives it a cool new twist, as opposed to Americans racing cars in straight lines. So yes, the franchise is now making sequels based on subgenres of street racing. Still with me? More characters are introduced (most notably Sung Kane as Han). Though that movie is just okay, it’s the goddamn Godfather Part II compared to 2 Fast. BUT, without Walker or Diesel’s involvement and the stench still lingering from part 2, the franchise loses some brand recognition, and it opens to a relatively paltry $23.9 million on its way to a franchise-low $62.5 million domestic total. [Also, strangely, we’re now (right now, in 2011) supposed to believe that the events of Tokyo Drift take place AFTER Fast Five. Wrap your head around that.] However, because Vin Diesel has now failed TWICE at starting new franchises (xXx and the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick), he makes a cameo in the final scene of Tokyo Drift, essentially telling us all, “Fine, I admit I don’t have any other other options. See you in part 4.”

SO, Tokyo Drift underperforms, but big studios don’t just give up on sequel-spewing franchises, and LUCKY FOR THEM, after a couple more years, both Paul Walker & Vin Diesel are no longer being allowed to topline movies (Walker because he struggles with that whole ‘acting’ thing, and Diesel because of his ego), and both need big paydays and starring roles to reinvigorate their careers. Fast & Furious is born, with the gimmick being that the entire original cast is back (the other two obviously being Michelle Rodriguez & Jordana Brewster). Brewster probably doesn’t want to do any more of these movies, but she too has not capitalized off the success of the original and has few other options.

By the way, when was the last time a sequel was made where all they did was remove the The‘s from the title of the original?! Again, we’ve never seen this before.

There’s more racing (and some terrible use of CGI cars in that dumbass sequence where they have to drive across the Mexican border and UNDER a mountain), but the focus shifts to more of a crime movie then a fast cars/racing movie. More new characters, most notable among them the superthin, superhot Gal Gadot. Paul Walker’s character (I had to look up his character name, that’s how memorable he is) Brian O’Conner goes from cop to criminal, and in doing allies himself with his bitter rival Dominic Toretto. Sad face, as Michelle Rodriguez supposedly dies and says goodbye to the franchise. Fast & Furious returns the series to box office glory (as audiences hunger for more of what they got in the first movie), opening to a massive $71 million on its way to $155 million total. Michelle Rodriguez ironically gets the last laugh, as she co-stars later that same year in the biggest movie of all-time, something called Avatar.

Finally, we get Fast Five, at worst a tie for best movie in the series, featuring an orgy of characters from all 4 previous films, and some new ones to take the franchise forward (Dwayne Johnson as The Terminator DEA Agent Hobbs). It reinvigorates the series again, with the best, most inventive action scenes in the franchise and cool new locations shot in Brazil and Puerto Rico. So even while the cast is familiar, the setting and the action is fresh. That’s smart. At the end of Five, we get bludgeoned over the head with a bonus scene (which brings back a character from way back in part 2!) that clearly indicates part 6 is on the way. This is further guaranteed when Five opens to $86.2 million in its first weekend on its way to becoming the highest grosser of the series.

Hopefully, that didn’t make you go cross-eyed, but it shows just how strange a road this has been for everyone involved. So many things had to happen for the franchise to end up like this or for it to even have extended this long. Other than Saw (which is supposedly done), there aren’t any currently active franchises at movie 5 or beyond, which is incredible given that Hollywood is more sequel-crazy than ever. And like I said in my Fast Five review, I doubt there’s ever been an instance where a part 5 is considered the best of the series. Though none of them have been great (and only the original and Five can be considered “good” in my view), I’m still interested in these movies. I also respect the series in one big sense…it’s 2011, and in an era where most mainstream movies are still almost completely whitewashed, this is the most ethnically diverse franchise perhaps in the history of cinema. And yes, I realize it depicts almost all of its minority characters as criminals and sex objects, but still, I’m glad to see a wide mix of races headlining movies this popular. That in and of itself is a good thing, and perhaps the most fundamental reason I’m into these flicks in the broader sense.

Finally, the new head of Universal Pictures has come out and said that they want to change the tone of the series again for the sixth movie, and they’ll probably be removing the racing elements altogether and making it a pure heist movie. I can get into that, and from what I’ve seen in two viewings of Five, audiences aren’t even close to being weary of these movies. At least this series TRIES to reinvent itself by mixing up the cast and switching scenery, which is the second big reason I give it props. It entertains the shit out of you without trying to be anything more than it knows it is. It’s an honest franchise that doesn’t bullshit its audience, and I think the masses appreciate that. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I am very much looking forward to 6 Fast Six or Furious 666 (or whatever the fuck it’ll be called). And no, there’s no confirmation yet on which cast members are in for part 6, though Dwayne Johnson has come out and said he wants to be part of it. Whether Diesel, Walker or Brewster want to continue remains to be seen, though I don’t see any of them doing much else in the next couple years. I wonder now if any of them even want to.

Apparently, this car fits into Dom’s wallet, because no matter where in the world he goes, the 1970 Charger shows up with him.

-Speaking of Fast/Furious-related items, I’m a little perturbed by director Justin Lin’s choice to follow up Fast Five with the proposed 5th Terminator movie. For some reason, people think this is a good idea, despite the last two sequels both underperforming at the box office (hint hint: we’re not interested unless it’s made by Cameron, a-holes!). And they think it’s also a good idea to bring 64-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger back to play, I dunno, the Terminator sent back through time to kill John Connor‘s grandfather at the nursing home? So, obviously T5 is a terrible idea, but I’m more concerned with Lin’s awful decision-making. Dude needs to fire his agents. He will never have more clout than he does right now, with Fast Five a monster box office hit around the world. He can do almost anything he wants as a follow-up, and he wants to continue making sequels? And not just a normal sequel, he only wants franchises that are at part 5 or beyond, apparently. Come on, man! Have you no creative ambition? No dream projects? No desire to work off a real script? No desire to work with actors who aren’t sleepwalking through the shoot, simply looking for a payday? I don’t know why this pisses me off, but it does. Not only that, but he’s also said he’s open to doing the sixth Fast/Furious movie. COME ON!!! Cuz I guess directing 3 of them isn’t enough. There’s so much more to explore in this multi-layered, richly characterized world. Oh wait, no, there isn’t. It’s time to move on, Justin Lin. You’re that rarest of things in Hollywood…a minority filmmaker with clout! USE IT. This would be like LeBron James coming off his MVP season last year and then, as a free agent, choosing to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In other words, it’s a giant fucking step backwards!

Director Justin Lin with Vin Diesel.
“Hey Vin, wanna just do these Fast/Furious movies together for the rest of our lives?”
“Justin…I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT!”

Since most of you won’t get that last reference…

-I admit that prior to the movie version coming together, I’d never even heard of The Hunger Games. But now this is apparently one of the most anticipated movies of 2012 (it’s pretty far down my list). What I find curious is that it’s currently May, 2011 and they haven’t shot a single frame (in fact, the movie is still casting), yet they already have a release date of next March. Unless I’m mistaken, this is going to an effects-heavy project. Going from pre-production to release in 10 months on a large scale movie like this is generally not recommended. This trend of the studios stubbornly sticking to predetermined release dates is harming the quality and potential of a lot of movies. I for one don’t particularly care about Hunger Games (other than my love of Jennifer Lawrence and the fact that I like director Gary Ross), but for such a high-profile project that Lionsgate would like to turn into a trilogy, they seem to be rushing things a bit. Also, the fact that the male lead’s name is Peeta is bit off-putting.

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE SCENE TIME!

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE COMPILATION TIME!

“Get out of there!”

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s my favorite track off the Chemical Brothers‘ fantastic score to Hanna. This little diddy’s called “Container Park”:  


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