In “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), a dreamy undercover cop named Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) tries to infiltrate a crew of Los Angeles street racers. It’s basically a dorky movie for car nerds; the film is goofy, charming and relatively small-scale. In “The Fate of the Furious” (2017), those same street racers are taking down a nuclear submarine in the Russian tundra on behalf of the U.S. government. Obviously, the franchise changed in between. What happened? As “Fate” hits theaters this weekend, I took to watching all eight films of this improbable multi-billion dollar franchise in a week. Here’s what I learned.
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In the first episode of Rock With the Flock, The Daily Cardinal arts staff discusses the latest movie trailers, "13 Reasons Why" and upcoming films.
For most people, the categories of “male” and “female” are taken as undeniably natural divisions. But a new film from four UW-Madison students, which will be showcased at the Chazen Art Museum this evening, is looking to challenge the notion that men have to put on a “masculine” front.
The 19th annual Wisconsin Film Festival brought movie lovers from across the state together in the heart of Madison to watch some of the quirkiest and unique films from all over the world. The wide variety of programs screened made it a festival for all movie lovers. They ranged from collections of shorts (including one very cute stop animation short made by a fourth-grade class here in Madison) to a feature about the Green Bay Packers. Here are some of the highlights from my week at the film fest.
Surely you’ve seen, or at least heard of, David Zucker’s movies. The 1971 UW-Madison alumnus is a giant in the film industry. He directed “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun,” and helped start the careers of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker as well as “Dumb and Dumber” directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly. In town for a campus tour with his son, I sat down with Zucker to talk about his time at UW-Madison and everything that followed.
SXSW finished its film festival with the star-studded space thriller, “Life.” The film begins with a team of astronauts, lead by Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, planning to return to earth after collecting samples from Mars that may contain the first signs of extraterrestrial life. The mission goes awry, however, once the microorganism begins mutating, growing tentacles and craving human blood. Conclusively, this film is not attempting to move past the sci-fi genre tropes that movies such as “Alien” have landmarked. It does, however, bring a terrifying realism unfounded by previous alien horror films. This can be accredited to the stunning visual effects that picks up where CGI-heavy films like “Gravity” left off.
The final premiere I attended at SXSW ended on a high note with “The Big Sick.” Directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow, the rom-com depicts the real-life love story between Kumail Nanjiani, a comedian who comes from a traditional, Muslim Pakistani family, and Emily Gordon, a therapist who meets Kumail at one of his shows. They soon fall for one another, but Kumail’s family’s traditions require that he marry a woman from his own culture, complicating his relationship with Emily because he feels he needs to keep her a secret. To complicate matters further, Emily contracts a life-threatening infection, forcing her into a medically induced coma and causing Kumail to question what he wants and what he believes.
Director Dustin Guy Defa screened his film, “Person to Person,” a feature-length based on his short film of the same name. The film follows five characters throughout the course of a day, exploring questions of occupation, relationships and death, starring Abbi Jacobson, Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson.
Six years after his film “Kill List” premiered here, director Ben Wheatley returns to SXSW with his film “Free Fire.” The film focuses on a group of criminals who meet to broker a gun sale in a large warehouse. Chaos soon ensues as the exchange goes horribly wrong, and the characters find themselves in a battle royale of gunfire from all sides, trying to make it out of that warehouse alive.
Fresh off the successes of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” director Gareth Edwards gave a SXSW keynote to discuss how he got his start in filmmaking.
Lee Daniels, producer of “Monster’s Ball,” director of “Precious” and “The Butler” as well as co-creator of Fox’s hit television series, ”Empire,” gave an inspiring and personal keynote on Sunday. At first, an unprepared Daniels admitted he had not planned for this event at all, clutching chicken-scratch notes his assistant wrote for him. He then tossed the paper aside and gave one of the most powerful, unfiltered talks at SXSW this year.
Sunday night kicked off with “Atomic Blonde,” a film based on the graphic novel, “The Coldest City.” Set in Berlin before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the film stars Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent who teams up with Berlin spy David Percival, played by James McAvoy, to take down a group of spies who assassinated an undercover agent. David Leitch directed the film, having made his directorial debut with the action-hit, “John Wick.” He also as an extensive background as a stunt coordinator, working on other films like “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” The combination of a spy thriller, an experienced action director and seasoned actors should theoretically make a great formula. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen with “Atomic Blonde.”
Netflix’s “Win It All," a small-scale film that premiered at SXSW on Saturday, has a simple premise yet a surprisingly large amount of charm. “New Girl's” Jake Johnson plays Ed, a lazy, unmotivated, unfiltered and impulsive man, always indulging his vices. His friend, played by Keegan-Michael Key of “Key and Peele,” repeatedly calls him a loser and he is just that in almost every way. A shady friend asks Ed to look after a duffle bag while he is in prison, warning him not to look inside. Naturally, curiosity wins and he finds, among other items, a large amount of cash. His gambling addiction gets the better of him and he eventually gambles away the money, desperate for a way to earn it back. The film has unexpected twists and turns that maintain engagement from start to finish, rooting for this mess of a man who won’t root for himself.
Film festivals are useful venues for independent filmmaking. Among the lineup was “Small Town Crime,” directed by brothers Eshom and Ian Nelms. The film stars John Hawkes as Mike, a former cop-turned-alcoholic struggling to find employment. When Mike discovers a brutally beaten girl laying on the side of the road, dying moments after he takes her to the hospital, he finds himself drawn back into his former life to figure out who was responsible for the murder.
Passion is truly the name of the game here at SXSW. Every filmmaker, well-known or not, poured heart and soul into these productions, and that couldn’t be more evident when Edgar Wright premiered his new film, “Baby Driver,” at the Paramount Theatre.
For all the praise this year’s Oscars field garnered for being diverse and inclusive, the awards show still featured a familiar shortcoming: zero women nominated for Best Director. This isn’t unusual: In 85 of the show’s 89 ceremonies, the category has been all male, and only four females have ever been nominated (Kathryn Bigelow is the lone winner for “The Hurt Locker”).
South By Southwest officially begins this weekend down in Austin, Texas. With a stacked lineup of artists, keynote speakers, films and television shows, SXSW is gearing up to be an amazing festival. The Daily Cardinal Arts staff will be flying down to cover the event, and here’s what they are most looking forward to:
Orientation and move-in day are just around the corner for the newest batch of Badgers at UW-Madison! For impressionable freshmen and cultured seniors alike, downtown Madison has no end of charming restaurants and activities.
The beginning of the year brings movies to the forefront of conversation. It invites fans and critics alike to reflect on the best movies of 2015 while looking forward to the new films in 2016. This year’s awards season is also well underway, with the Golden Globes already done and the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Academy Awards coming soon. From awards to actors to the films themselves, there is much to celebrate and anticipate in 2016.
The release of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” on Nov. 20 marked the end of another popular series of film adaptations—and that was evident in the theater. As I sat in my plush Marcus Theatres movie chair, I could practically feel the anticipation and bittersweet emotions floating through the air as friends and families alike shuffled into the already-crowded theater to see Katniss, Peeta and Gale in action one last time. Although “Part 2” may not live up to some of its predecessors, it is undeniably the emotional, unsettling and suspenseful conclusion that this series deserves.