Tag Archives: paul walker

I Am Paul Walker

Can you believe it’s been 5 years already since Paul Walker died? This documentary is an homage to the man that was, and it may not be who you thought it was.

Described variously as “the 4th Paul Walker, in a line of badasses” and a “cute kid who stayed pretty his whole life,” Paul got into acting as a child because his mother encouraged him. The work came easily. It may not have been the career he dreamed of – he thought a lot about pursuing marine biology in college – but both the work and the money were hard to resist.

He grew up Mormon and maintained family values his whole life. He was always close to his 3 siblings, and was thrilled when his daughter, who he had young, came to live with paulwalkerhim full time. She made him conscious of time, and he wanted more of it with her. He contemplated quitting acting to have more family time. Notice I said quit acting and not quit Hollywood. He was never in Hollywood, never cared for the lifestyle. If he wasn’t working on a movie, he wasn’t in Hollywood, he was probably out on the water, out dare-deviling, living life to the fullest.

Childhood friends, family members, people he volunteered with, costars – I Am Paul Walker interviews everyone to get to the truth of a man who kept his private life private and his head out of the clouds. And by all accounts, it sounds like Walker was everyone’s best friend, a guy who had “real relationships with everybody.”

Tyrese Gibson, who turns out to have some pretty profound stuff to say about his friend and Fast and Furious costar, says “We’re actors in Paul Walker’s movie.” The directors who admired him and wrote roles for him remember him fondly, his mother aches over his loss, his little brother can’t help but tear up when he talks about the man he idolized.

It always sucks to lose someone so young, but the people who pay tribute to him here leave the impression of a man unlike any other. I wonder sometimes, how much documentaries like this eulogize and in fact lionize the dead, and I suppose it’s only natural that we do that to some extent. What would my documentary sound like? Not nearly as glowing, I’d wager. And yours?

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Noel

This movie’s got more Oscar winners and nominees than most, so I can’t quite figure out how I’ve never heard of this movie before. Alan Arkin plays a creepy cashier who’s obsessed with Paul Walker, who plays a cop who’s crazy-jealous over his super hot girlfriend, played by Penelope Cruz, who thinks she may be pregnant with her crazy-jealous boyfriend’s baby and she’s feeling so insecure she confides in a lonely woman played by Susan Sarandon, who’s completely alone for the holidays other than her comatose mother and a complete stranger she meets while visiting another patient, played by Robin Williams, who’s an ex-priest having a crisis of faith.

penelope_cruz_noel_still_2004_OGXxLss.sizedThis holiday movie has something for everyone: spirituality, homophobia, reincarnation, crippling depression, dead babies, and more. But in its heart of hearts it’s really just about a bunch of people who don’t want to end up alone – on Christmas, on their deathbeds, in the world just generally. Some of us feel encumbered by all our obligations to friends and family over the holidays but others are completely bankrupt when it comes to people who care, and for them, the holidays can be really, really hard.

If you’re one of those people, maybe opt for something a little more cheerful. And if you’re already feeling cheerful, why bring a good mood down? This is possibly just too depressing for Christmas fare, and that’s not even counting the fact that it stars two men now dead in real life, one of whom also expires on camera. It’s a real corker! Contrived doesn’t begin to cover it; Noel is a stocking full of sadness hung by the chimney with despair. But it does have Penelope Cruz dancing around in lingerie, so.

 

Twofer: Get Hard & Furious 7

What can these two movies possibly have in common, other than me miraculously sitting through both?

Matt wrote all you need to know about the new Will Ferrell\Kevin Hart movie Get Hard. If you’re wondering if you should see it, talk to Matt. If you did see it and you’re wondering what the hell, read on: (spoilers ahead!)

Get Hard has all the nuts and bolts of a smart social farce but never really puts it together. The first 15 minutes have a lot of potential in their view of the haves vs the have nots, but the movie ti-will-ferrell-get-harddevolves into all of the racial stereotypes it’s supposed to be making fun of. I thought it was super damaging and sad that they made the Kevin Hart character so uneducated. Will Ferrell is the dumb one, the one who got framed and never noticed, who is terrified of black people but isn’t afraid to offend them by misappropriating their culture, who treats any person of colour so indifferently he subjects them unthinkingly to his nudity because they might as well be just another fixture in his palatial home. And yet the script goes out of its way (3 times that I noticed) to have Will Ferrell make a literary reference that Kevin Hart just doesn’t get.

The whole premise of the movie relies on Will Ferrell’s (incorrect) assumption that like most black men, Kevin Hart is an ex-convict. Actually, he’s spotless…although it turns out that he does have a cousin who’s a gang banger. So there’s that. You know, because even the non-criminal black men roll with thugs. Is that the worst of it? Hardly? One scene that goes on way too long has Kevin Hart pretending to be prison characters – a scary black dude, and an angry Hispanic GH_D42_009.dngone. He throws out every stereotype he knows but we never once talk about why prisoners are overwhelmingly one minority or another when we have verifiable proof of white guilt right in front of us. I came out of this movie thinking a lot about what it failed to do or say.  It had every opportunity to talk about race, and about economic disparity, and white privilege, but it didn’t. Instead it was a tired, two-hour long repetitive rape joke, and what does that say about our culture that we feel better laughing about rape than we do about confronting racial bias? Yeah, I know this was a comedy that exists to make us laugh, not to be a teachable moment. But Trading Places managed to be both. There’s a lot of great satire out there, funny as heck, and while this one has the veneer of social commentary, underneath it’s just cheap particle board.

Furious 7 manages to tell us more about race without even trying. It’s hard to believe we’re seven movies into this franchise – you may think that’s seven too many, or you may already be eagerly awaiting number eight. But have you ever noticed how ethnically diverse the cast is, and has been since day one?

It feels a little tacky for me to sit here and list all the non-white people, but there are lots, and not just side kicks and bit parts – real marquee characters with back stories and dimensions, and they’re not necessarily the first to get killed off! The series has also visited a lot of non-English speaking countries along the way – trips to Brazil, Japan, and Mexico have only expanded the diversity of the cast, proving it doesn’t matter what colour you are so long as you’re buff and can drive a stick.

And that’s a great thing, actually. 54% of North American movie goers are white, but the actual Fast 5population is actually a little over 60%, which means minorities, and Hispanics in particular, are the fastest-growing ticket buyers. If audiences are multi-cultural, so should be the movies they watch. And whatever else The Fast and Furious franchise has been, it has consistently delivered a varied group of people capable of interracial relationships. And this inclusive trend exists behind the camera as well. The second one was directed by black filmmaker John Singleton, movies 3 through 6 were done by Justin Lin, and the most recent two were directed by Malaysian-born James Wan.

But the most impressive part (aside from y ability to start so many sentences with the word But) is that race is just a fact of li fe in these movies. It just is. Your boss might be Asian, your girlfriend could be Iranian, your best friend could be The Rock, your own step-kid could be Hispanic, but nobody need mention any of it, let alone pat themselves on the back for it. furious-7-header-1Generally, when Hollywood makes a movie starring a white guy and a black guy, the movie is about a white guy and a black guy: the culture clash! the misunderstandings! they’re so different but maybe also kinda the same! It can never just be a guy and his friend, who happens to be black. Get Hard is dripping with exactly this kind of guilt, which is sad because Ferrell and Hart are both funny guys and (I’m guessing that) in real life, Ferrell doesn’t talk down to Hart, isn’t afraid he’ll steal his car, and has maybe even shared a bowl of popcorn with him while watching Boyz N The Hood (directed by John Singleton, by the way! — coincidence? Yeah, probably).

Movies are the one place in America where segregation is still allowed to exist. There are tiny pockets of all-black Tyler Perry movies to counter the enormity of Hollywood’s white washing, but that misses the point. We don’t need more segregation, we need integration. And I’m not talking about movies “about race”, I’m talking about movies that have people in them, stupidly beautiful versions of people from all backgrounds standing around in tight tank tops talking about what really matters to America: fast cars and freedom.

 

Furious 7

I loved Furious 7 from start to finish. I wasn’t sure at all how it would turn out, or how I would feel about it given Paul Walker’s death, especially since he died in a car crash. But it turned out to be a very sweet tribute to him that felt genuine rather than exploitative.

So we should get this out of the way early: this movie has no real plot. If you described the plot to me next week I would probably struggle to tell you which number was attached to the title (I’m honestly not sure whether I have seen #5, #6, or both). But if you like action or cars or explosions or all of the above, the lack of plot won’t matter one bit. Really, a plot or character development would just slow the movie down, so it works out for the best!

I am being slightly faceteous. There is a thread that ties the movie together from start to finish, and it is the theme of family that the trailers have been good enough to hammer into my head. It really works though as it sets up the ending perfectly. For that reason I would be interested to see what the movie was originally intended to be, because I was truly surprised how seamless the movie is.  I was expecting something disjointed as a result of them trying to write out the Brian O’Conner character at the last minute and instead I got a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable movie with a great ending. I cannot say enough how satisfying it is to get an ending that is true to the characters in the face of the real-world death of one of the stars. It was perfect.

There will inevitably be more of these (#8 at least must be a sure thing) and I kind of wish they would stop. I am sure I will enjoy the next one but these movies were best when they had both Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Those two were the heart of the franchise and since we will never see that again, I suspect the instalments to come will feel a little bit empty.  But I can’t blame anyone for keeping the franchise going, and looking back it is a complete mystery how it has survived for seven movies (#2 and #3 were the weak links,  and the series probably should have died there). Not coincidentally, those weak ones are the only two that Paul and Vin do not both appear in. So that does not bode well, but if this indeed the end of the franchise as we know it, it is a glorious finish.

Ten “quarter miles at a time” out of ten.