At first, he was just a famous professional wrestler trying to make it in show business. As with many athletes trying to make the leap, it was not all smooth sailing. Before long, however, he was earning praise for his basic B-movie, Ah-nold lite performances. Then something happened to and with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which elevated him from wannabe to true winner. He’s now known as the franchise savior, having stepped into such struggling series like The Mummy, G.I. Joe, and The Journey to the Center of… efforts, and most importantly, the Fast and Furious films. Indeed, with the latest earning boffo box office (almost $400 million over the first weekend) and the previous installments also worldwide hits ($788 million for Six, $626 million for Five), Johnson seems poised to have his first ever billion dollar baby.
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It’s almost here. No, not the summer movie season; that’s still a good month and a highly anticipated Avengers sequel away. In this case, we are talking about the latest entry in the fluke franchise known as The Fast and the Furious. What started out as a celebration of all things racing, including an unnecessary diversion into “drifting”, has now become one of the biggest multi-cultural action series ever. We can thank the various creative forces behind the scenes for transporting said narrative away from the illegal street car challenges of the original movie to the dizzying heist drama of Fast Five and the international intrigue and spy games of Fast and Furious 6.
During a Master Class at the Bari International Film Festival this past week, Sir Alan Parker, one of the most interesting directors of the ‘80s and ‘90s, dropped a bombshell on fans worldwide. “I won’t direct another film,” the 71-year-old Oscar nominee stated, adding, “Directors do not improve with age: they repeat themselves, and while there are exceptions, their work generally does not get any better. This is the reason why I have decided not to make any more films.”
And with that, one of the most intriguing creative canons of the late 20th century comes to an end. Parker came out of commercials, counting fellow ad men Ridley Scott, his brother Tony, and Adrian Lynne as up and coming visionaries who brought the Madison Avenue mindset to the big screen. Instead of attending university, he went right to work, climbing from the mailroom to marketing, finally finding a place behind the lens.
It’s back. The franchise few were asking for, now dubbed The Divergent Series, has returned with part two of its underwhelming narrative, a little something called Insurgent. Apparently, Hollywood has fixated on the idea that every up and coming starlet, be she an Oscar winner (Jennifer Lawrence) or mere nominee (Shailene Woodley) deserves a Young Adult vehicle of her very own. In the case of this failing attempt, the expectations met with actuality, and both agreed to call a truce.
He never won an Oscar. His only nomination came in 1974, for one of several films focusing on a notorious conceptual artist and his sometimes baffling works. Yet with his passing at age 88 last week, Albert Maysles leaves behind a legacy worthy of the artform’s founding. Embracing the French concept of cinéma vérité, the late great documentary director and his equally gifted brother developed their “direct cinema” technique, playing fly-on-the-wall as personalities and events played out before them.
There was no agenda, no voice-over narration to provide a specific point of view. The Maysles let their subjects speak for themselves, and in doing so they uncovered information a formal interview would never provide.