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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Statham’

How did we get here?  Sixteen years ago The Fast and the Furious was the type of mid budget film that we don’t see much of these days.  It cost around $40million to make and took just over $200million at the worldwide boxoffice. Certainly enough earn a sequel, but seven ever growing sequels, did anyone see that coming? the fate of the furious submarine

The Fast and the Furious (2001): The modest (in comparison to later films) movie started out as a magazine article “Racer X”, about groups who got together to illegally race customised Japanese cars late at night on New York streets.  The story was expanded by adding the plot of Point Break with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel taking over the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze parts.The fast and the furious

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): Leaving the rest of the original cast behind, and sticking with Paul Walker’s undercover cop.  This film introduces Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) who become mainstays of the later films.  Roman starts out as s tough ex-con, in later films he has become the comic relief of the series and not the tough guy.  The budget nearly doubled that of the first film but the boxoffice was only up a fraction.2-fast-2-furious-2003-movie-poster

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006): Dropping the entire cast of the first two movies (almost). Looking everyone of his 24 years, Lucas Black plays a 17 year old high school student sent to live with his U.S. Navy officer farther in Tokyo.  There he gets involved with drift racing and the Yakuza.  Although Black does make an apearence in a later film he didn’t become part of the “family”.  Han Lue (Sung Kang) however, did!  For reasons that you will understand if you have seen the film, the introduction of Han into later films needs a little crow-baring to fit the continuity.  Vin Diesel returns in a cameo pointing the way forward.  The weakest performing movie both taken as overall boxoffice and return on investment.the fast and the furious tokyo drift movie poster

Fast & Furious (2009): The “family” are back together, original cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodríguez and Jordana Brewster all return and are joined by Sung Kang in his second film.  The film also introduces new family member Gisele Yashar played by future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.  Following the dip in performance the fledgling franchise was experiencing, the budget did not go up from the $85million spent on the previous film, and when adjusted for inflation was actually less than the $76million budget of the second film.  It took nearly $365million, over double the previous film.fast and furious

Fast Five (2011): Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Sung Kang and Jordana Brewster all return, as does Gal Gadot, Ludacris  and the new more comic version of Tyrese Gibson return from the second film.  The turning point of the franchise where things stated to get sill also saw the introduction of Luke Hobbs played by Dwayne Johnson and Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) who has a significant part in the latest film.  I am not sure if Universal made a conscious decision to turn the franchise into a high octane heist movie.  I am not sure if they have ever confirmed or denied it, but the was a suggestion it was based on a script that started out as a sequel to the Italian Job remake (2003).  It is totally ridicules, but great fun, probably the high watermark for the franchise.  With the new direction the studio backed the franchise with a budget of $125million.  They were rewarded with a boxoffice of nearly $600million.fast five

Fast & Furious 6 (2013): Continuing the globetrotting high octane heist movie of Fast Five the “family” are back on the right side of the law for a while.  All the main cast from the previouse film return along with Michelle Rodriguez whose character Letty Ortiz returns from the dead.  Gina Carano also join the cast possibly for the sole reason to fight with Michelle Rodriguez.  Luke Evans plays villain Owen Shaw with Jason Statham appearing in a post credit sting as his brother.  The budget went up to $160million and returned nearly $800million.Fast & Furious 6

Furious 7 (2015): Following the events of the previous film, the “family” are back home in LA having being given amnesty for their past crimes.  Until Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) shows up after revenge for what happened to his brother.  This is all mixed in with a convoluted plot about a computerised McGuffin.  Don’t worry Kurt Russell is on hand as Mr. Nobody aka, Basil Exposition to explain everything.  Nathalie Emmanuel joins the family as Ramsey, a British computer “hacktivist” who is integral to the McGuffin.  The cast also features Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey.  By far the biggest movie of the franchise so far, the budget had swelled to $190million but the world boxoffice exceeded $1.5billion, or to put it another way ten times what Tokyo Drift made.  It is ranked 6th in the all time world boxoffice (before any adjustments for inflation), it was the third highrst grossing film of 2015 coming behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World but beating Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spectre and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  It isn’t all good news, as has been well publicised, Paul Walker was killed before the end of productionFurious 7

The Fate of the Furious: And so we come to the eight film in the franchise.  There was certainly a gear change at number five, but the series hasn’t so much changed, but it has evolved or morphed over time.  While placing the first and the most recent films alongside each other in isolation would look strange, the transition makes sense in a bonkers Hollywood way.  Charlize Theron is the main antagonist Cipher, a little like Blofeld in Spectre is revealed to be behind everything, not quite, but you get the idea!  In the franchises biggest Retcon, bigger than bringing Letty back from the dead, Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is now a good guy.  No bad thing, as he is the best thing in the movie, closely followed by Helen Mirren playing his mom.  Yes, I did say Dame Helen Mirren as The Stath’s mom, complete with an “alright gov’nor” cockney villain accent.  I have made a bit of a joke about the “family” in films, this is because it is the ongoing theme of the movies, the thing that keeps this group together is that they are a family.  However who is left of the ordinal family? Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has obviously been written out.  Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) is mentioned but is now with Brian and their own family, so all that remains of the original family is Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz.the fate of the furious poster

What next?: No post credit stings to show us the way, Charlize Theron’s Cipher is still alive so expect her back, but what of the Toretto Family?

Original members:

  • Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)
  • Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez)

Long term members:

  • Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson)
  • Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges)

New members:

  • Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)
  • Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

Possible future members:

  • Eric Reisner / Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood)
  • Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)

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Eight films seen this month, there are a few more out I would like to catch up with if I find the time.  Although I enjoyed all the films this month, the movie of the month shone out by a mile, I think you may spot it when you read my comments:

Suicide Squad – On the plus side, Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Viola Davis are all excellent and perfectly cast.  On the negative side; DC has all the best villains, if you are going to turn them into heroes you are left with a rubbish villain.  When you add to this a disjointed story you are left with a decent film that should have been a great film. You can’t help thinking how much better Marvel would have handled it.Sucide Squad

Nerve – Emma Roberts is 25, it’s about time she stopped playing 17 year olds and developed a career.  The film is largely disposable fun, best not to think too much about the plot and it massive holes.Nerve

The Shallows – Entertaining but silly woman against shark movie elevated by a strong, largely solo performance from Blake Lively.  Shot with a lustful gave on its female lead that falls somewhere between shampoo commercial and the pornographic gaze of Michael Bay.  You could argue that it is gratuitous, or that it is the point of the movie, who am I to say.The Shallows

Julieta – Pedro Almodóvar returns to the family drama focusing on female characters.  While I love The Skin I Live In, this is what Almodóvar does best, and possibly better than any other Auteur. A treat for fans of Almodóvar or just fans of cinema.Julieta

Lights Out – Effective horror with a great concept, a perfect, short run time and some great performances particularly from Maria Bello.Lights Out

Swallows and Amazons – Enjoyable version of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s book.  The introduction of the spy story subplot works surprisingly well.  The unknown child cast are good, Kelly Macdonald, Rafe Spall and Andrew Scott are all good in the adult roles.  Purists will bemoan both the lack of sailing and how poorly the sailing scenes are filmed.Swallows and Amazons

The Purge: Election Year – A direct sequel to the second Purge film ” Anarchy ” with Frank Grillo reprising his role.  The only criticism is that where the second film moved things on, this third film offers nothing new.

The Mechanic: Resurrection – Unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.  There is some good action, Jason Statham is fun as you would expect.  Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh  are all wasted.  The makeup department should have given Sam Hazeldine an moustache to twirl.The Mechanic Resurrection

An easy choice, movie of the month is:Julieta poster

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I have never believed in the idea of a guilty pleasure, you either like something or you don’t, and if you like something tell people that you like it and why.  That said I do sometimes enjoy films that I know aren’t very good.  The Fast and the Furious is a series that has certainly had its ups and downs with the highpoint probably being Fast Five (2011).

I recently recommended Furious 7 to someone who likes dumb action movies, only to discover he had not seen any of the previous films.  He asked which of the previous films he should watch before seeing the latest and possibly final outing.  My suggestion;  you ideally need to see Fast & Furious 6 to understand the motivation of Furious 7. On reflection, as already mentioned  Fast Five is the best film, and sets up Fast & Furious 6.  This is when I came to the concussion that the series forms two distinct trilogies.

Brian’s Trilogy

The Fast and the Furious (2001): A rehash of the plot of Point Break, introduces the characters and has some good action scenes.  The plot centres around illegal street racing and vehicular heists. Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is an undercover police officer and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) his prime suspect, basically the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze characters from Point Break.  The relationships are complicated as Brian falls for  Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) Dominic’s sister.The Fast and the Furious

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): the departure of the biggest star of the series Vin Diesel leaving Paul Walker to carry the story on his own.  The film introduced Tyrese Gibson possibly intended as a replacement for Diesel, a character has gone through a metamorphic change and in the later films became a buffoon offering little more than comic relief.  After being on the run since the end of the first film the plot sees Brian O’Conner, forced to return to the right side of the law to bring down a drug lord.2 Fast 2 Furious

Fast & Furious (2009) aka Fast & Furious 4: The return of the original cast. Brian is now working for the FBI, his and Dominic Toretto’s paths soon cross following the death of Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Toretto’s girlfriend from the first film.Fast & Furious

Dominic’s Trilogy

Fast Five (2011) aka Fast & Furious 5 or Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist: Picking up after the events of Fast & Furious, Mia and Brian lead an assault on the bus transporting Dominic to prison.  The convoluted plot of the events that follow include the introduction of U.S. DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and a audacious robbery in Rio.   It has been suggested that the plot comes from an unused script for a sequel to The Italian Job (2003).  As mentioned, probably the best of the series.Fast Five

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) aka Furious 6 or Fast Six: Letty returns from the dead and Hobbs enlists Toretto and his “family” to bring down criminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).  As the budget goes up, the stunts get bigger and more silly.Fast & Furious 6

Furious 7 (2015) aka Fast & Furious 7: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, the brother of Owen Shaw is out for revenge following events of the previous film.  The story had to be reworked to work around the untimely death of star Paul Walker.  The stunts or more outrageous than ever but are pure fun.  If it is the final film in the series it is a fitting conclusion.Furious 7

This leaves The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), although referred to in other movies this film can stand on its own and the other six films can exist without it.  An American high school student discovers drift racing when he is forced to like with his farther in Tokyo to avoid jail.  The film looks good and the racing is well shot but bad acting is terrible particularly from leading man Sean Boswell (Lucas Black).  Look out for martial arts legend Sonny Chiba as a Yakuza boss.  If you want to see a film about drift racing check out the Japanese movie Initial D – Drift Racer (2005). The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift

If you haven’t already seen them, it is worth a look for fans of car movies and action movies.  My one huge reservation is the excessive destruction of classic cars.

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3 Days To Kill opened a couple of weeks ago to universal derision, it surprisingly isn’t that bad. With a script by Luc Besson and a plot featuring an aging CIA hit-man, comparisons with Taken are unavoidable. Kevin Costner does a good job with a flimsy and derivative story that loses its way in the middle. The action scenes and the family bonding both work on their own merits but the film fails to join the two elements together into a coherent movie. Not as nasty as Taken but also not as focused, it is worth seeing for any fans of either Costner or Besson, but we should expect so much more from Luc Besson.3 Days to Kill

Both as a director and writer/producer Besson has been responsible for some great films. Subway (1985) was the beginning of the style over substance tag (known as Cinéma du look movement ) that has followed Besson for his entire career, but with this much style how much substance do you need? Five years later came the film that introduced me to non English language cinema: Nikita (1990), I rented the VHS when I was 15 years old (I know it is an 18 and I was 15, but the video shop man didn’t notice or care!) about a year after its cinema release, I was drawn to the movie mainly because I liked the cover. Often criticised for lack of originality, Nikita has surely influenced more movies than it was influenced by. Anne Parillaud’s reluctant government assassin has spawned a Hollywood remake, two TV shows and countless imitators. Léon(aka The Professional) (1994) is widely regarded as Besson’s best film thanks to the just over-the-top enough turn by Gary Oldman and the sensational feature debut of 12-year-old Natalie Portman. It is also notable as Besson’s first film in English. Again in English, this time with an even less restrained Gary Oldman, The Fifth Element (1997) saw a new direction for Besson, a big budget Sci-Fi adventure. it has its problems but on the whole is a fun with some interesting ideas. Better know as a writer and producer in recent years, he is still able suprise as a director as he did with the bizarre but brilliant Angel-A (2005) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010). Sadly less well know, possibly because they are in French, I would recommend both movies to anyone who hasn’t seen them.nikita

Probably the best know of his writer/producer movies is The Transporter (200, 2005, 2008), starring Jason Statham, they are exactly what you expect from Besson and Statham, slick, glossy, well made, dumb action. Also falling into that category but with more comedy is Taxi (1998) and its three sequels (2000, 2003, 2007). Also notable for early appearances from Marion Cotillard nearly a decade before La Vie en rose. I wouldn’t bother with parts 3 and four or the American remake (2004) but the first two films are great. There were three films released in the UK in 2006 to feature parkour: Breaking and Entering (2006), Casino Royale (2006) and District 13 (2004) (original title Banlieue 13, also known as District B 13). Only District 13 stars parkour founder David Belle. Belle and writer/producer returned for a sequel District 13: Ultimatum (2009) and Brick Mansions (2014), neither were as good as the exciting and innovative original film. Lockout (2012) is a B Sci-Fi starring Guy Pearce and go-to kidnap victim Maggie Grace. The story is derivative and the effects terrible, but the film itself is tremendous fun and really Enjoyable.Lockout

Working across multiple genres, Besson also wrote, produced and directed the Arthur and the Invisibles movies (2006, 2009, 2010), and the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, The Lady (2011). I haven’t seen any of these films so can’t comment on them other than to say they were not well received critically. Returning to the director’s chair for his next film Lucy, set for release in August (in UK). Starring Scarlett Johansson in the title role it looks from the trailer like a riff on the ideas of Limitless. A return to large budget Sci-Fi and yet another film to feature a strong female lead, I am looking forward to it.the lady

All this producing isn’t an act of randomly placing his name on movies to help distribute them, in 1999 he founded the Paris based EuropaCorp, one of the few independent studios that both produces and distributes movies. As well as the films Besson has creative infuemce over, he has also produced Nil by Mouth (1997), directed by Gary Oldman; The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy Lee Jones (2005) (and Tommy Lee Jones’ upcoming The Homesman) and Tell No One (2006), by Guillaume Canet. Three fantastic films that may not have been made if not for Besson and EuropaCorp. While I respect what Besson is doing with EuropaCorp, I would just like to see a few more great films directed by him and a few less mediocre ones written and, or produced by him.

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Have you seen the trailer for the new Jason Statham movie Parker? Does it look familiar, do you think you have seen it somewhere before? If the answer to the second question is yes, there is a good reason, you probably have seen it before! This isn’t the first time the story has been filmed. Based on the pulp noir crime novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake (using the pseudonym Richard Stark), the plot revolves around a criminal named Parker who is betrayed and left for dead by his partner and wife, who are having an affair. Parker survives and goes on (to quote The Bride from Kill Bill) “roaring rampage of revenge”. The character went on to appear in 24 and novels and has been adapted into several movies. The new movie is the first time he has gone by his original name, Parker having previously been called: Porter, Walker, Gou Fei, Earl Macklin, McClain and Stone.

The most famous and best of the movies is Point Blank (1967) directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. With a dreamlike unrealism the movie is very much of its era from the late 60’s. essentially a noir thriller it is a product of New Hollywood with elements of neo-noir and French New Wave influences. Often a harsh and brutal film it completely revolves around its star Lee Marvin in a towering performance.

point blank

Based on the novel of the same name, The Outfit (1973) is a different story staring the Parker character (there were 24 books in total) directed by John Flynn and starring Robert Duvall, Karen Black, Joe Don Baker and Robert Ryan. A more routine and straightforward movie than Point Blank but also well worth a look.The Outfit

Loosely based on the same source novel as Point Blank, Full Contact (1992) (original title: Xia dao Gao Fei) is a Hong Kong action movie directed by Ringo Lam and starring Chow Yun-fat. A by the numbers action movie but with the grit and flair you would expect from Ringo Lam. I haven’t seen the movie for a very long time but seem to remember enjoying it.Full Contact

Released in 1999 before Mel Gibson’s well published problems Payback is a stripped down and violent but more light hearted version of the story. Directed by first time director Brian Helgeland who is better known as a screenwriter. Gibson is having a great time in the lead and is well supported by Maria Bello, William Devane, Lucy Liu and Kris Kristofferson. Not a patch on Point Blank but great fun.payback

A little research tells me the character also appeared in four other films I haven’t seen: Made in U.S.A (1966) a French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and unofficially based on the novel The Jugger. Mise à sac (1967) (also known as Pillaged and Midnight Raid) also a French film, directed by Alain Cavalier and based on the novel The Score. The Split (1968) directed by Gordon Flemyng starred Jim Brown and based on the novel The Seventh. British film Slayground (1983) is based on the novel of the same name, directed by Terry Bedford and starring Peter Coyote.The Split

Parker was released in America at the end of January and is due out her in the UK later this month. Unsurprisingly, reviews are reserved but relatively positive, Jason Statham is after all, a reliable if predicable action star. Obviously I will reserve judgment until I have seen the movie, but fear they have made one vital mistake. At just two minutes shy of two hours, it is clearly going to be too long. Point Blank is 92minutes, Full Contact 96 min and most notably, the cinema release of Payback was 100 minutes but the director’s cut (take note Peter Jackson) is 90 minutes.

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There is a huge buzz about an all female version of The Expendables with a suggestion that the film may have already been given the green-light. Who would fill Stallone and Statham’s boots in a female version? The main charters in The Expendables 2 are played by: Sylvester Stallone (66), Jason Statham (44), Jet Li (49), Dolph Lundgren (54), Chuck Norris (72), Terry Crews (44), Randy Couture (49), Bruce Willis (57) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (65). Who are the contenders for a female version? I have included ages for comparison:

Top of the list has to be Sigourney Weaver (62) who thanks to the Alien movies is probably the most credible female action star. She would be closely followed by Linda Hamilton (55) from the first two Terminator movies. Cynthia Rothrock (55) is probably the female Dolph Lundgren, in that she doesn’t necessarily have the acting ability but more than makes up for it with a long list of direct to video action movies in the 80’s. Former Mrs Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen (49) is worth considering based on her appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja (1985). Star of Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier (63) is probably the oldest contender, although I have heard Helen Mirren (67) mentioned. She isn’t someone I would have thought of but her appearance in Red does give her a certain credibility. Michelle Yeoh (49) has been an action star since the mid 80’s, she found mainstream fame in the west with Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2002). Anne Parillaud (52) only made one action movie (two if you include horror comedy Innocent Blood (1992)) but considering that film was Nikita (1990) she gets my vote.

A decade ago I wouldn’t have considered Uma Thurman (42) as an action star but thanks to Kill Bill (2003) she is jumps towards the top of the list. Two people who you probably would have thought about for an action movie a decade ago are Jennifer Garner (40) and Jessica Alba (31) thanks to their TV shows; J.J. Abrams’ Alias and James Cameron’s Dark Angel respectively but their movie careers seems to be going in other directions. Garner looked like she was going to be an action star with Daredevil (2003) but the spin-off Elektra (2005) probably destroyed her chances and she has been a fixture of rom-coms ever since. Alba may be moving back towards action with Machete (2010) and its sequel due out next year. The star of 90’s TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, Lucy Lawless (44) is back in the popular consciousness thanks to Battlestar Galactica and Spartacus.

As the 90’s came to an end they gave us one of cinema’s most iconic action characters, Trinity in The Matrix. Played by a virtually unknown (despite a career spanning the previous decade) Carrie-Anne Moss (45). The next action star to emerge was Michelle Yeoh’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star Ziyi Zhang (33) who also starred in Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). From there the floodgates seemed to open . Despite not looking like an action star Angelina Jolie (37) made two Tomb Rader movies (2001 and 2003) Mr. and Mrs Smith (2005), Wanted (2008) and Salt (2010), a film originally intended for Tom Cruise. Tomb Rader’s video game derived rival Resident Evil (2002) has spawned four sequels to date (the most recent due out later this month) and a sixth and possibly final film in the next few years. All the films star Milla Jehovah (36) who had already stared in The Fifth Element (1997) (along side Expendables star Bruce Willis). Michelle Rodriguez (34) has appeared and Resident Evil and The Fast and the Furious (2001) and her character is been brought back from the dead in both franchises. With Girl fight (2000), S.W.A.T. (2003), Avatar (2009) and Machete (2010) she is one of the most credible action stars on this list. Skinny, self-confessed chain smoker Kate Beckinsale (39) is an unlikely action star but with Total Recall (2012) she has reinforced what she did in Underworld (2003) and its sequels. Other contenders include Rhona Mitra (37), the star of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) and Doomsday (2008). And Maggie Q (33) from Naked Weapon (2002) and the new TV incarnation of Nikita.

 

It does all go to show that to be a action star, if you have the look, the attitude and a good DP and fight choreographer, anyone can become an action star. But then there are the woman who can do it for real: Zoe Bell (33) is best know as a stuntwoman, but she has made some movie appearances, most notably Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007). With her starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano (30) has become and overnight action star.

Here is a suggested line-up female alongside their male counterparts:

Sylvester Stallone – Sigourney Weaver

Jason Statham – Gina Carano

Jet Li – Uma Thurman or Carrie-Anne Moss

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Linda Hamilton

Dolph Lundgren – Cynthia Rothrock

Bruce Willis – Michelle Yeoh

Terry Crews – Rhona Mitra or Michelle Rodriguez

Randy Couture – Zoe Bell

Chuck Norris – Pam Grier

Who have I overlooked?

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