In a few days it will finally arrive: Furious 7, the latest and biggest installment of the Fast & Furious franchise. And while the death of series star Paul Walker does put a damper on some of the excitement, this is still a great time to celebrate one of Hollywood’s most reliable and inventive franchises. In 15 years, Fast & Furious has evolved from a simple B-movie about a couple of street racers to an international crime epic spanning multiple continents and dozens of characters.
When Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January, it got a standing ovation before its premiere. People were excited to see this movie. Nine months later, the reaction to its arrival in theaters is a little bit different.
Back to the Future Part II imagined a future of magical technology. Home energy reactors. Flying cars. Pizza rehydrators. Fax machines in people’s bathrooms. None of these things have come true. But all anyone really seems to care about are Marty McFly’s goddamn self-lacing sneakers.
In interviews, Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller talked about wanting to show his movie in black-and-white. In a conversation with director Edgar Wright, he explained that “the default position for everyone is to de-saturate post-apocalyptic movies. There’s only two ways to go, make them black and white — the best version of this movie is black and white, but people reserve that for art movies now.” There were rumblings of a theatrical release of a black-and-white Fury Road, but that never came to pass. But the monochromatic print (heavy on the chrome, in this case) of the movie is coming to Blu-ray, and you’ll be able to get it before the end of the year.
In the middle of a summer movie season like the one we’re in now, it can be hard to stand out. There is a lot of competition. The BFG and The Legend of Tarzan open this friday; Independence Day: Resurgence opened last Friday. Big blockbuster pictures like X-Men: Apocalypse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Warcraft, Captain America: Civil War, and The Jungle Book are all still playing in theaters. From a distance a lot of these movies begin to blend together.
I admire anyone who tries to bring something new to a very stale genre or format. The standup movie or special has remained basically the same for decades. The venues change, the material and comedians change, but the general aesthetics don’t; a man or woman and a microphone, a stage, a bunch of cameras, a couple of reaction shots of crowds laughing, and that’s pretty much it.
The Sundance Film Festival loves a good coming-of-age story, and that was certainly true in 2016, when this year’s fest fell hard for Morris From America, the story of a young teen (Markees Christmas) with dreams of hip-hop stardom who moves to Germany with his single father (The Office and Hot Tub Time Machine’s Craig Robinson). The film won two awards at Sundance 2016, one for screenwriting plus a Special Jury Prize for Robinson in an unusual dramatic role, and got great reviews from critics and audiences. It was eventually acquired by A24, who will bring the film to theaters in the U.S. later this summer.
I’m a freshman in high school. After months of legal proceedings, the jury finally reaches a verdict in the O.J. Simpson case. For the only time in my four years of secondary education, everything stops. Several classes worth of kids pile into the only room on the hall with a cable television. The room is packed. Kids are literally sitting on each other's laps because there’s nowhere else for them to go. It gets quiet.
How much would it take to get you to play James Bond? Personally, I would do it for a couple grand if they let me keep my wardrobe and the watch and the car.
Zack Snyder makes superhero movies, but his characters don’t act very heroic. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice features all the other trappings of the superhero genre: Capes, gadgets, outlandish muscles, punching stuff. But the two stars aren’t noble or chivalrous; they’re violent, aggressive, and angry — mostly at each other instead of the bad guys. In Snyder’s formulation, protecting the world from evil isn’t a gift or a calling; it’s a burden. And that feeling is reflected in the movie itself, a burdensome 150- minute slog about two men fighting over who is in the right when both are very clearly in the wrong.