Paul Walker: 1973-2013

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There are movies, and there are mythologies. And then there are the moments when the two intertwine.

For the FAST & FURIOUS franchise gang led by streetwise Hercules Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), it’s the beat in FAST FIVE when Defense Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) rallies his fellow pursuers with an absolute warning: “And above all else, we don’t ever, EVER, let them get into cars.”

Hearing it expressed that way with equal parts admiration and desperation was nothing short of iconic, because it was true. Behind the wheel, these guys were unstoppable. Behind the wheel, they’d fight and ride forever.

Paul William Walker IV, 40, lost his life yesterday in a single-car collision along with his friend and business/charity partner, Roger Rodas, 38, who was reportedly driving the vehicle. They were leaving an event for Walker’s charity, Reach Out WorldWide (ROWW), which Walker founded in 2010 to efficiently organize and swiftly mobilize response teams to assist in rescue, relief, and recovery efforts around the globe. The outpouring of grief was immediate and overwhelming as family, friends, and fans remembered a man who gave even more of himself away from cameras than he did in front of them.

And what he gave in front of them was a lot. The six current FAST & FURIOUS films have earned nearly $2.4 billion worldwide, with Walker starring in all but one of them. In fact, some critics wondered if the second film, 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, could succeed without Diesel… until Walker drove it solo to an even higher international gross than the first. The second film was fast and furious but not as serious in a way that wasn’t silly but just plain fun. Walker’s hilarious chemistry with co-star Tyrese Gibson remains a series highlight.

Neither Diesel (post-credits cameo aside) nor Walker showed up for the third film (TOKYO DRIFT), and neither did as much of the audience. So Universal put writer Chris Morgan, who approached the material as if he were a scholarly expert on the characters, to work on a screenplay that would reunite Diesel and Walker. With Justin Lin’s energetic direction, the franchise got back on track… and never looked back. Each subsequent installment blasted past its predecessor, with FAST & FURIOUS 6 grossing a whopping $788 million earlier this year.

Walker was in the middle of filming the seventh installment. He’s been awesome in all of them, but my favorite showcase for him is that game-changing fourth one that brought the old team back together.

Walker’s entrance in the film proves that even a foot-chase can be fast; Brian chases a suspect through a shattering window, down a spiraling flight of stairs, down a street, up and over a black metal fence, and through an obstacle course with Lin’s camera showing us every step of the way that Walker is doing every one of the stunts and steps himself.

And then it happens. The moment that made me clap and cheer aloud in the theater, because it was something I’d never seen in an action movie before.

The perp hops a chain link fence and is climbing down the other side of it when Brian runs full speed and SLAMS his entire body into the fence, knocking the perp down hard. It’s so visceral and so badass and so… furious. When the perp starts firing into the crowd, Brian hesitates to keep the people safe before rocketing off after him again, chasing him upstairs through an apartment building and stopping again to direct a woman in the hallway to safety. The perp thinks he’s safe on a ledge, staring at the open window he just escaped through… until Brian crashes through the window behind him, tipping them both over the ledge and onto a van in the alley below.

I’m out of breath just typing it. It’s amazing. But the feelings are just as thrilling, from Brian’s first encounter with Dom to his diner sit-down with former lover (and Dom’s little sister) Mia (Jordana Brewster) to the emotional (and then very physical) melee when Dom dials the last number in the presumed-dead Letty’s phone… and Brian’s phone rings in the other room. Dom smashes Brian all over the place before Brian gets enough leverage with a scissor-hold to fight back, all culminating in devastating face punches from Dom that only stop when Brian bellows out, “She did it for you, Dom! She did it for YOU!” And, after explaining Letty’s reasons, he plaintively roars, “She just wanted you to come home!”

As Dom staggers away, Brian kicks a table and screams in berserker release. It’s so powerful. And why does it work so well? Because by this point we love these characters like friends, and the actors play them as family.

Walker was so good at it because that’s reportedly how he lived his life, as a friend to everyone he met. He had a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. His idol was legendary Jacques Cousteau, and he studied marine biology in college. He put that interest to good use in the National Geographic Channel series EXPEDITION GREAT WHITE, in which he joined a team of marine conservationists to tag and study great white sharks.

But it was never only the ocean that Walker hoped to save. He selflessly gave his time, his talent, and his treasure to numerous causes, giving hands-on assistance to victims of natural disasters in Chile and Haiti. And, through ROWW, he directed and participated in countless other relief efforts at home and abroad.

Most importantly, Walker wielded his heart as ably and as freely as his hands. When the 13-year-old daughter of a friend of a friend of MMM founder Sean Gerber developed a massive brain tumor and told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that she’d like to meet Brian O’Conner, Walker didn’t give her minutes or even an hour. He hung out with her at the hospital for an entire day. Often, when a celebrity passes away, the following weeks are riddled with stories about things they did that no one ever knew. I truly believe we’ll soon be hearing lots of stories like this one about Paul Walker, who never sought attention or accolades for his charitable endeavors. He only wanted results, and he happily put in the time and the effort to achieve them.

And though he’s best known for the FAST & FURIOUS films, Walker had a golden reputation in Hollywood as a hard worker and a generous, thoughtful gentleman who treated his colleagues with respect in all of his various projects. He fantastically played frantic in JOY RIDE. He battled more bad guys in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF BOBBY Z, survived the elements in the harrowing family adventure EIGHT BELOW, and got an action-packed history lesson in TIMELINE among many other roles. He plays against type as the leading man in the under-seen crime thriller RUNNING SCARED, and he’s more capable than Aquaman in the equally underrated underwater actioner INTO THE BLUE. (And now all I can think about is how awesome an Aquaman he’d be.)

Paul Walker was a ruggedly handsome man’s man whose bright blue eyes and crooked smile revealed a boyish charm that made him so entertaining and so accessible on screen. He had little use for fame and was quick to use his fortune to build better days for those in need. He is survived by his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow, and lived in Santa Barbara, close to the beach and the boundless ocean that beckoned. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Paul, for always giving us your heart and your all.


ADDENDUM


Many beautiful things have been said by those close to Mr. Walker, and we’d like to share a few of those here.

From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Vin Diesel:

“Brother, I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless. Heaven has gained a new Angel. Rest in Peace.”

From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Jordana Brewster:

From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Dwayne Johnson:

From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Ludacris:

“Your humble spirit was felt from the start. Wherever you blessed your presence, you always left a mark. We were like brothers & our birthdays are only 1 day apart. Now you will forever hold a place in all of our hearts. Your legacy will live on forever. R.I.P.”

From FAST & FURIOUS co-star Tyrese Gibson:

From Universal Studios:

“All of us at Universal are heartbroken. Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the FAST AND FURIOUS films, and to countless fans. We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Paul’s family.”

From director Joe Carnahan:

And, finally, I wanted to share this remembrance from Walker’s RUNNING SCARED and PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES director Wayne Kramer. It’s long, but it’s worth the read:

“It’s truly been a devastating day for Paul Walker’s family, his friends and his fans all over the world. I still haven’t begun to process it. It doesn’t seem real. I had the great privilege to work with Paul twice, most recently last year on a little seen film called PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES (which came and went this year) and in 2004 on a film I hold closest to my heart, RUNNING SCARED (released in 2006). A filmmaker could not ask for a better or more supportive collaborator than Paul. So many people who knew him will talk about what a great human being he was – and they would be right; everybody who met him instantly loved him – but I want to talk about what a great actor he was. Both times I directed him, he brought an absolute commitment to his craft and would be very hard on himself if he didn’t think he was getting there. He was a natural athlete and could deliver a precision action performance take after take, hitting very difficult camera marks in sync with extremely complicated camera moves. During RUNNING SCARED, he spent seven days shooting a grueling action scene on a real ice rink and, at least, five of those days he had his face pushed down into the ice, to the point that his flesh was literally stuck to the surface of the ice — and he never ever complained about it. It was an absolute joy to work with him every single day on that film. Like a little kid, he was excited to conspire with me on those very scenes that we knew would get a strong reaction from the audience.

“Judging from what I experienced and from what others have told me, Paul was always the great unifier on set. He went out of his way to accommodate both actors and crew members. I’ve also never seen him refuse an autograph to anyone. We shot one of the final scenes in RUNNING SCARED in a working class neighborhood in New Jersey and by the time production wrapped, there must have been a few hundred kids mobbing him for his autograph. He stayed and signed for everyone of them. We attended a neighborhood Italian restaurant one night during shooting, and I swear about five grandmothers came over to our table to marry their daughters off to Paul. He barely got a morsel of food in his mouth that night because he was too busy auditioning future wives and ‘grand’ in-laws (if there is such a word). He always had time for his fans and had he lived long enough to no longer be the cool movie star, I can guarantee you he would have rather gone hungry than sell his autograph to fans.

“It always pained me when critics and internet talkbackers slammed him as an actor because I knew the truth about the guy: he was fucking awesome in every way. And he was just coming into his own as a strong leading man. I always told Paul that his most exciting years were going to be his 40s and 50s, and even beyond, as a masculine American tough guy in the vein of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. We talked about how Paul was going to be my Lee Marvin and we were hungry to make those kind of films that could show Paul in that light. In some alternate reality somewhere, he’s still on that career trajectory and I’d love to be there to see the work because it would be something to experience indeed. For every anonymous internet hater who bagged on him, there were great actors and directors who made a point of letting him know how amazing he was. Kevin Costner was a fan and wanted to do a western with Paul. Vincent D’Onofrio (whom I recently worked with) made a point of telling me how much he dug Paul as an actor. Quentin Tarantino called Paul after seeing RUNNING SCARED to tell him how much he loved Paul’s performance. Sylvester Stallone was a fan of Paul in RUNNING SCARED. Walter Hill and Brian De Palma offered him projects a few years back. Paul was very discriminating with the films he picked. He chose to make them for personal reasons, regardless of the quality of the finished film or the reputation of the director. And once he signed on, he was there one thousand percent for his directors. We shared the same taste in material. Usually dark and extreme, but with a lot of soul. Closer to the films of the 70s and 80s that they no longer make anymore.

“What kills me about the way Paul died (and I know he wasn’t driving) is that Paul was an amazing driver. He was every bit as good, if not better, than the stunt drivers he worked with. I’ve been on the set where the stunt drivers couldn’t nail it and he had to do the stunt for them. Paul had a great stunt double on RUNNING SCARED, his good friend Oakley Lehman – only Paul did all of his own stunt work. I think Oakley did some second unit stand in shots and one real stunt where Paul gets slammed to the ice by one of the Russian hockey players. Nothing makes a director happier than to hear his star is having a great time on a film he’s directing – and I got to hear that every single day from Paul on RUNNING SCARED. PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES was the same thing, but we had a much shorter schedule. I remember this crazy scene in PAWN SHOP when Paul puts on this clown mask that he’s brought to a meth lab robbery and scares the shit out of his partner in crime played by Kevin Rankin. This came at the end of an eighteen hour day and nobody was in a particular good mood, but the moment Paul started his clown mask schtick, the entire set was in hysterics. I looked over at Jimi Whitaker, my DP, who was operating the camera and he was almost convulsive, trying his hardest not to ruin the shot. Paul would do whatever it took to get you the moment you wanted. Still wearing that clown mask, he charged across the set of this meth lab, while Lukas Haas was blasting him with a shotgun (loaded with blanks) and threw himself into a tiny floor level kitchen cupboard – and to this day I don’t know how he managed to fit in there. It’s one thing to draw up crazy storyboards and action scenes, but you need a game actor like Paul Walker to bring it to life for you. And he always did. I have never been disappointed by Paul as a filmmaker.

“Paul was an intensely private person and he didn’t interact that much with industry people when he was on breaks from making films. He was doing some of the most amazing shit in ‘real life’ and living his life to the fullest like no one else I know. The guy swam with sharks, hiked through jungles, visited some of the most extreme and exotic places on the planet; he flew to Haiti right after the earthquake, and gave back in so many ways that he never talked about. He was an iconoclast that the world didn’t really know outside of the FAST & FURIOUS films. He may not have taken his career as seriously as he might have liked when he first started acting, but about ten years ago he started getting really focused about acting and looking for better opportunities. They didn’t always find him and I’m convinced we were robbed of some truly great performances. I feel like I’ve lost my true partner in crime and I only wish we had made more films together.”

(If you’d like to honor Paul Walker, you can donate to his charity, Reach Out WorldWide. And for a list of his other recent and upcoming projects, click here.)

MMM TV: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Ep. 109- ‘Repairs’

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It’s [insert danger here] on a plane in the latest episode of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. This week, Agent Coulson and the gang find their flying Mystery Machine haunted by a guh guh guh GHOST! Grab your Scooby Snacks and listen to our take on this week’s MMM TV.

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MMM TV: ARROW Ep. 207- ‘State V. Queen’

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With apologies for the delay, we are back on MMM TV to discuss the latest episode of ARROW, featuring the return of one of the series’ most notorious villains, Count Vertigo. Perhaps more importantly, Moira Queen is on trial for her life as she faces the consequences for her role in the earthquake in the Glades and the 503 lives lost. Be sure to check out our review of the final pre-Barry Allen episode of ARROW.

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THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE – Review

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The dust has barely settled on a record setting weekend for the follow up to THE HUNGER GAMES that took everyone and the box office by surprise in March 2012. While some thought that CATCHING FIRE could potentially scorch the opening weekend tally of this year’s box office king, IRON MAN 3, the lack of 3D premium ticket prices proved to extinguish that achievement. Screenings in IMAX proved to be fruitful to the tune of $12.6 million of the $161.1 million total haul. CATCHING FIRE earned the record of best November debut of all-time beating out THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON which earned $142.9 million back in 2009. If the weekend estimates hold, it will also have the record of highest 2D opening weekend of all-time barely passing THE DARK KNIGHT RISES which debuted with $160.9 million last July.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE takes a leap forward in showing the world that every once in a while, a film adaptation of a beloved novel series can be just as entertaining in its cinematic form as the sacred written word. It is nearly impossible for any adaptation to capture an exact representation of every page of its source material. However, I believe that THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE have done a truly impressive job of translating the true heart of the stories while using the cinematic template to add to the world created by Suzanne Collins.

CATCHING FIRE successfully raises the scale and stakes of the story surrounding the series’ main protagonist Katniss Everdeen, staring Hollywood darling and rising mega-star Jennifer Lawrence. This film takes the cast on an emotional rollercoaster that can be counted among the classic Hollywood dramas. The slow build of anticipation of the impending revolution within Panem is truly captivating. The supporting cast continues to be strong with Sam Claflin almost stealing the show as Finnick Odair. There’s no doubt this role could very well propel the 27 year old towards the elite level of Hollywood actors.

I had pretty high expectations for this film despite staying as fresh from trailers and marketing as possible. My expectations were easily exceeded. It’s always an odd dynamic going into a film basically knowing the entire plot including how it will end. I’m a big fan of the novel series and despite “knowing” what was coming, CATCHING FIRE easily kept me enthralled, emotionally connected, and thoroughly entertained. This is a film I will attend multiple times in the theater before its run is over. That is the biggest compliment I can give it considering multiple viewings are usually only reserved for my beloved superhero and sci-fi genre films.

If you haven’t seen CATCHING FIRE yet, I implore you to see it in an IMAX theater. The entire arena sequence which is around 50 minutes was filmed entirely with IMAX cameras. This is the most superior format you can view a film in and it is well worth the extra price of admission. This series of books and films may not be Modern Myth Media’s normal niche but as far as I’m concerned, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen is the greatest portrayal of Wonder Woman in a live-action film we’ve seen to this point. Depending on what happens in the superhero film genre in the next few years, this may be the best portrayal we ever have. I sincerely hope not but if that ends up being the case, I won’t be that disappointed.

REVOLUTION: Season Two Review- “Everyone Says I Love You”

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With “Everyone Says I Love You”, REVOLUTION delivered a fantastic and superbly constructed finale to the first half of a phenomenally improved second season. The show’s mythology was expanded in ways that I’m still trying to reconcile, and each of the season’s story threads were moved in exciting new directions by a rapid fire mix of action sequences, emotional moments, and astonishing revelations.

None more astonishing than when Aaron’s newfound abilities were confirmed to be the work of the nanobots… by the nanobots themselves! Taking the form of Aaron’s childhood friend (Aidan Sussman, with profound casualness), the microscopic robots decided to deliver this news to Aaron personally in a way that was both tantalizingly thought provoking, and terrifying in its unspoken implications.

There’s a self aware, collective artificial intelligence permeating everything and preventing electricity from working in a post-apocalyptic world that can control the weather and “feels” (to a certain extent) that it owes its existence to Aaron. And like the child it presented itself as, it allowed the love of Aaron’s life to die seemingly to prove a point. There are so many story possibilities here, and I’m actually excited to see it continue.

It’s a gamble that’s paid off mostly because of Zak Orth’s performance. He’s been invaluable in turning something that could have been a shark jumping moment into the show’s most interesting ongoing arc. He plays it all with the perfect combination of fear, wonder, and disbelief.

Aaron’s relationship with Cynthia (Jessica Collins) has also been a tremendous part of grounding Aaron’s story, never more so than in this episode. Cynthia really demonstrated her love for Aaron by encouraging him to confront what he was seeing rather than flee from it. From leaving his first wife because of his own insecurities to trying to slip away when his abilities first manifested, Aaron has always been a man who runs from his problems. Cynthia standing by Aaron even as she admitted her own fears really did a lot for my appreciation of her character, which made her death all the more tragic and affecting.

While Aaron lost the love of his life, Neville regained his on the train to Washington, DC. Julia, ever the survivor, was revealed to be remarried (no wasted time, there) yet all too willing to reunite clandestinely with Neville in order to further themselves politically. Watching Kim Raver and Giancarlo Esposito immediately set about scheming together was a pleasure to watch. I do feel sorry for Jason though, he’s in WAY over his head with those two for parents. The looks exchanged between the three of them as Neville “introduced” him to his mother told the whole story. He’s already dealing with the after effects of his reeducation, and now he’ll have to deal with their twisted relationship.

Another twisted relationship featured this episode is the pre blackout affair between Rachel and Miles. I get what the writers are trying to accomplish here, these two are made for each other and never got their chance, etc, but it never achieves that. It takes two (mostly) admirable characters and gives them a past that makes them look like really despicable people. Because of this, their scene together as Miles succumbed to his blood poisoning wasn’t as touching as it should have been. Without the flashback, and without any reference to their treatment of Ben (seriously Miles, he’s your brother), this scene could’ve worked a lot better.

And with that, my REVOLUTION reviews for 2013 come to a close. I could never imagine when I began writing them this season that I would be so invested in a show that so disappointed me previously. These past nine episodes have been awesome to watch. The clunky dialogue, repetitive plotlines, and poorly written characters of season one seem like a bad dream from which the show has awoken. I can’t wait to see things continued in January.

Also, Monroe’s, “I’m Batman.” BEST. LINE. EVER.

MMM TV: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Ep. 108- ‘The Well’

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AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has its first tie-in with a Marvel Cinematic Universe film still in theaters as the team is on mop up duty after the events of THOR: THE DARK WORLD. “The Well” is certainly one of series’ more fantastical offerings while also making an attempt to emotionally ground resident tough guy Agent Ward. Just how effective the show uses these elements is up for debate, but one thing’s for sure, guest star Peter MacNicol’s scene thievery is a joy to watch.

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ARROW Casts Daughter of Ra’s al Ghul

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ARROW continues on its path of borrowing characters from the world of the Caped Crusader. According to a report over at TV Guide, SPARTACUS alum, Katrina Law has been cast as Ra’s al Ghul’s estranged daughter Nyssa.

From the TV Guide report:

“In the comics, it’s revealed that Ra’s al Ghul had a love child while traveling through Russia, making Nyssa the half-sister of Talia al Ghul, whom Marion Cotillard portrayed in The Dark Knight Rises. With Nyssa coming to town, it may give some credence to a popular theory that Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau) is secretly Talia — or we could just be crazy!”

Since the “daughter of Ra’s al Ghul” was mentioned in a previous episode of ARROW, it comes as no surprise that we will be getting an appearance in a future episode. If the storyline stays somewhat loyal to the comics, the popular rumor that Nyssa’s half-sister and Talia in disguise is none other than Isabel Rochev just gained some possible validity. It’s still speculation at this point but it’s something else to look forward to on this rapidly improving second season of ARROW.

THE FLASH Sets His Own Course

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According to Deadline, THE FLASH has received its own pilot episode order, meaning the Scarlet Speedster will not be using episode 20 of ARROW’s second season for that purpose. Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin (GLEE), will still appear in episodes 8 and 9 of this season’s ARROW, keeping him in the CW/DC’s televised universe while also covering the origin of his speedy super powers. He was originally scheduled to appear as the full-fledged Flash in episode 20 to spin the character off toward his own series next fall, but the creative team has opted instead to provide him a debut completely dedicated to the world and reality he will inhabit.

There is no word yet on what this means for that episode of ARROW next spring. It is still possible fans could get a glimpse of The Flash in full costume as part of a cameo appearance, as that would certainly be a great teaser for the upcoming pilot. In addition, the reaction of Oliver Queen and other ARROW regulars to the emergence of the first real superhero in their world is something that really should be explored. If that is not meant to happen this season, then hopefully a crossover between the two shows will take place before too long.

Regardless, this is about what’s best for Barry Allen and it’s hard to argue against saving the formal debut of his alter ego for his own pilot to make such an event feel all the more special.

From Batman to Superman to the Avengers and Beyond! Our Heroes. Our Mythology.