Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

The Age of the Black Superhero?

Written By Olu Alemoru
Freelance Journalist
April 2015

FantasticFour52_Comic_BlackPanther

Depending on your point of view feisty Fast and Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez may or may not have put her foot in her mouth not so long ago admonishing “minority” thesps for “stealing white Michelle-Rodriguez1people’s superheroes.” The instant backlash brought an apology and explanation exhorting black creatives to come up with our own superhero mythologies.

Historically, we did. Outside the mainstream Marvel/DC duopoly, the modern day black superhero movement was given a boost by the likes of Dawud Anyabwile, creator with his brothers of the 90’s Brotherman Comics Series (which is being re-launched this month as a graphic novel via crowdfunding site Indiegogo) and the late Dwayne McDuffie, writer/producer on the animated Justice League series and co-founder of pioneering minority-owned and operated comic book company Milestone Media.
Dwayne_McDuffie
But maybe that kooky Rodriguez lass is on to something!

While the second Avengers, “The Age of Ultron,” looks set to crush all comers this summer, last October Marvel announced the big budget feature debut of Black Panther (with Chadwick Boseman portraying the King of Wakanda). Boseman’s – who starred as Jackie Robinson in “42” and James Brown in “Get On Up” – Panther will take his bow in “Captain America: Civil War” before his big solo outing slated for November 2017.

MICHAEL-B-JORDAN_HUMAN-TORCBut if you can’t wait for that then later this year the Disney-owned entertainment behemoth and Netflix will unveil Luke Cage (starring American television actor Mike Colter) as a recurring character in “Marvel’s A.K.A Jessica Jones,” before spinning him off in his own series in 2016. Throw in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as DC’s mooted anti-hero “Black Adam,” the re-imagining of characters like The Human Torch (Michael B Jordan) in “The Fantastic Four” and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in “Thor” (with the yelping fanboy backlash) and one might conclude we’re on the cusp of a black Superhero age?

Naturally, a call through to Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige or one of his executive team might answer the question definitively, but a reporter’s dogged phone and email attempts through a Disney senior PR didn’t bear fruit.

However, surveying the eye-catching slate of properties Marvel Studios announced last November running through to 2019, Q.E.D., one might say. BlackAdamDriven by the creative deconstruction of the Marvel and DC’s comic universes (or political correctness/white liberal guilt/publicity stunts say the yelpers) it seems that things are shaking up in the fantasy world – super heroine Carol Danvers, a.k.a “Captain Marvel,” makes her debut on July 6, 2018 – and make no mistake.

Sheena C. Howard, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Rider University, Mercer County, New Jersey and the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con Eisner Award Winner (known as the “Oscar” of Comics) agreed. Howard, who is gay, became the first black woman to win the award. “I think major companies are realizing that they can diversify classic characters, without completely alienating their historical target market (White males),” she replied via email. “This is simply maximizing their profits and the rewards of this diversity are much greater than the costs. I do not think the same Avenger audience will be flocking to the theatres to see the Black Panther movie. There will be some overlap, but there will also be some new faces in those seats. The comics industry has tapped into a new fan base, which includes women and racial minorities.”

However, seasoned Hollywood artist/animator and Creative-Art Director at Brice Productions, Jerry Lee Brice, begged to differ. “No, I don’t think this is a special age for any race of character in the commercial marketplace, but (it is) a good time to introduce new superheroes that reflect the diversity that the latest U.S. census shows that we have,” he stated. “As a black American, I do enjoy and welcome the opportunity to see superheroes that look like me.”

Brice also took on the fanboy backlash, arguing that it was “just a reflection of our nation’s difficult relationship with race.”

He added: “So I don’t think much about what fanboys like or dislike, really, because I understand that in the commercial marketplace, once you expand the dynamics of the team, you increase the audience for that title, and as long as the characters are fictional, whatever the race or sex they are does not matter as much as the writing.”

Echoing the bottom line ethos of Hollywood when it comes to such cultural matters, Dr. David Huxley, a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art, kind of hedges his bets on whether we’re in for a new Superhero age.

“Marvel, when challenged about the lack of black Superheroes in the 1960s and 70s, answered that the titles they’d tried, like Luke Cage, just weren’t successful enough,” said the graphic novel and comic book specialist. “I suspect the same commercial imperatives remain – if Black Panther is popular in the Avengers he’ll get his own franchise – just as with comics it’s the numbers that are the bottom line [and] I suspect that as long as it’s not seen as tokenism there is no reason why this couldn’t be the right time. Hollywood has enough successful black actors to make it work.”
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ONES TO WATCH

A futuristic Nigerian Superhero (no, not this author – yet), a feisty turn-of-the-century gender-bending inventor and an android with a secret past.

Since time waits for no man or woman, talented black creatives are taking full advantage of mainstream crowdfunding hubs, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, or forming their own studio entities with their own moolah.

Here are three that are worthy of attention:-
1. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/44069577/exo-the-legend-of-wale-williams-part-one
2. http://reelrepublic.com/EJ-Whitaker-Coming-Soon.html
3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/473463284/cannon-busters-the-animated-series-pilot/description

Film Review 2: Fast & Furious 7

Written by Michael Dequina
13.04.15
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It is incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible, to assess Furious Seven completely on the terms on which it was always meant to be taken: as no more than the latest gleefully overblown instalment of the surprisingly durable, nearly 15-year-old action franchise.  But as anyone is well aware, the harsh tragedy of real life upended and endangered this escapist enterprise’s existence.  As such, the proverbial elephant in the room makes for a certain morbid suspense from minute to minute over how veteran series screenwriter Chris Morgan and rookie series director James Wan not only handle the ultimate fate of the late Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner, but perhaps more importantly take care of the intermediary material left unshot at the time of the actor’s passing.  The digital compositing used to attach archival footage and images of Walker’s face and/or head onto various stand-ins’ (among them, his two real life brothers) bodies is certainly smooth and impressive on a technical level; however, less seamless are the scenes themselves, which stand out like a sore thumb by how conspicuously, oddly silent Brian is in them.  After all, when, for instance, has Brian ever passed up an opportunity to join Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) in jokingly taking shots at long-time buddy Roman (Tyrese Gibson)?  Yet that’s what he does in one obvious late-in-production scene, with Tej doing all the ribbing, punctuated by an awkwardly placed shot of a laughing Brian.

And as with most Hollywood action films, whatever passes for story comes secondary at best to those big set pieces.  The (now-) well intentioned outlaw gang of Brian, his BFF Dominic (Vin Diesel), love of Dom’s life Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman, and Tej (Brian’s wife/Dom’s sister Mia, again played by Jordana Brewster, literally stays home with the kids) is recruited by their FBI chum Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to rescue a computer genius (Nathalie Emmanuel) from a big bad (Djimon Hounsou), who has dastardly designs on her straight-out-of-Eagle Eye super-surveillance technology.

Meanwhile, the deadly older brother (Jason Statham) of the *previous* film’s big bad (a briefly returning Luke Evans) is on their tail, thirsty for revenge.  The connection of the Statham character is reflective of the sincere and rather admirable effort at a semi-coherent series continuity.  The film also finds Letty still struggling with the amnesia caused by her near-death experience in 2009’s Fast & Furious and temporary brainwashing to the dark side in Furious 6, not to mention this is the first film in the series to finally take place *after* the events of 2005’s tangentially related third instalment, Tokyo Drift, with that film’s lead, Luke Black, finally, officially (if only briefly–for now, at least) joiningFurious_Stratham-Johnson-fi the main line mythology (though Black rather unavoidably looks very much the decade older than he was in that film’s closing scene, which directly dovetails into this story about 20 minutes in).  And so goes another area where Wan picks up right where Lin left off: the ongoing growth of the already large canvas of characters.  In addition to Statham, Emmanuel, Hounsou, and Black, Ronda Rousey turns up as (what else?) a woman warrior; the great Thai martial arts movie megastar Tony Jaa makes his Hollywood debut in a mostly non-verbal evil henchman role; and even Kurt Russell comes aboard as a shady government agent type.  But just as much of a Lin hallmark was the underrated ease with which he and Morgan juggled their widening array of players.  Furious Seven was originally set to be released only a  little over a year after Furious 6, and the hastened pre-production schedule shows in how Morgan clunkily writes out characters for stretches at a time instead of keeping them plot-active while off camera.

Such a shortcoming is fairly moot, though, for when it comes down to what it initially sets out to do, Furious Seven gets the job done.  I speak not just, of course, about being one big, breezy, no-brainer popcorn spectacle, but also serving as a formal send-off to the character of Brian O’Conner and one final tribute to his portrayer, Paul Walker.  And for a series that is by its nature crass and in-your-face, and some of whose earlier instalments were marred by delusional  pretensions of pseudo-existentialist would-be profundity, the surprisingly understated, rather graceful, and altogether classy coda is probably the most outrageous–and satisfying–stunt ever pulled off in its seven-film (and certain to yet still grow) run.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson,
Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson,
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black,
Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa,
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Russell

Directed by: James Wan
Writer: Chris Morgan
Based on the Characters created by: Gary Scott Thompson

Produced by: Neal Moritz, Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell
Executive Producers: Samantha Vincent, Amanda Lewis, Chris Morgan


Fast & Furious Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fastandfuriousuk
Fast & Furious Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/FastFurious
Universal UK YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/universalpicturesuk
Universal UK Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/universalpicturesuk
Universal UK Twitter: https://twitter.com/universaluk

 

Film Review: Fast & Furious 7

Written by Christine Eccelston-Craig
02.04.14

 

 

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“I don’t have friends. I got family.”

These words sum up the heart and soul of the Fast & Furious franchise. Not just for the faithful team of characters on screen, but also for the band of actors, filmmakers and crew who have grown extremely close over the course of seven movies. I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed 15 years ago that the story of street racers in East L.A would’ve transformed into one of the most popular and enduring motion picture serials of all time. The tragic and unexpected death of Paul Walker in an off-set car crash during the time of filming broke many hearts. However the cast still wanted to celebrate his life in the best way; so with the help of Caleb and Cody Walker (Paul Walkers brothers), as stand-ins the movie really did come to life.

“You don’t know me. But you’re about to.”

FAST AND FURIOUS 7 One SheetFast & Furious 7 arrives as the biggest, most fulfilling Fast & Furious movie yet. It’s packed with action from start to finish! British actor Jason Statham opens as salty killer Deckard Shaw, who doesn’t seem to fear anything or anyone. As he stands by his dead brother’s bedside in what appears to be a regular hospital, the camera pans outwards only to reveal he’s slaughtered over a dozen SWAT members and shot up half of the hospitals staff, not to mention around 95% of the building is crumbling around him. His cool and composed attitude is quite sinister, as he walks away from what’s left of the collapsing building his arrogant posture really sets the tone for this character. Who better to adopt that role other than Jason Statham? He’s known for his brutality on screen in films such as The Expendables and I must say he’s done very well playing the tough guy.

With a movie full of nothing but testosterone, it’s easy to say that at first glance it’s a real “guys’ movie.” Filled with hot girls and even hotter cars the camera never fails to pan (in slow motion) over both of these key features. In addition, some of the most crucial nail biting fighting scenes I’ve ever seen takes up about ¾ of the movie but is a real pleasure to watch. Even if you are covering your eyes through most of it! That raw authenticity of the lashes and punches is something I think the audience is missing in modern day action films like these. Characters Shaw (Jason Statham) andDwayneJohnson_Furious7 Torretto (Vin Diesel) perform the best street fighting sequence in the entire franchise of the Fast movies. It’s that rugged reality of it that makes it more fascinating to watch. The ability to see them get down and dirty with bare knuckles is truly special, it’s about time more fighting scenes had this sort of realness in them. We’re missing the fear factor people!


“Double Alpha, man candy you know what I’m sayin?”
Tyrese Gibson is back as Roman Pearce, who bucks authority and again provides more of the films comedic elements. A player when it comes to the ladies, but always loyal when it comes to his team. In Fast & Furious 7 Roman pushes for more of a leadership role, however he soon realises he’s bitten off more than he can chew when his plan to rescue an elite hacker named Ramsey is actually put into action. Despite a few minor setbacks, Roman of course pulls through accompanying his team on some of the craziest car chases known to man. Launching themselves (and their cars) out of cargo planes, free-falling and then parachuting to a treacherous mountain road below only to drive across jagged, rocky surfaces and off extremely high cliffs plummeting down the steep land. Now that’s what I call living life on the edge, literally. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges reprises his role as the automotive and tech tactician who first appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious. The humorous rivalry between Tej and Roman remains intact and now extends to a beautiful girl caught in the middle of their bickering. It’s definitely like they’re back in high school, they never stop keeping it fun and entertaining for the audience. Now you get to see them act completely crazy, childish and get competitive with one another. You’ll never get tired of watching those two. I know I won’t.

“Wait! Cars don’t fly!”

Director James Wan did a fantastic job with this film having directed films such as Insidious and Annabelle, Wan took a step out of his comfort zone in order to create this movie sensation better known as Fast & Furious 7. Using his techniques of directing horror movies along with Brian Tyler’s music composition, the two manage to fuse terrifying scenes that will have you jumping out of your own skin with hard hitting violence to make you flinch and tremble. His efforts to combine horror with action did not go unnoticed as Fast & Furious 7 epitomizes all of that and then some. With this film, the whole world gets to feel a part of the family. Questions are answered and new thoughts are proposed. If it lives in the saga it’s a seed for something new and will be revisited.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey and Kurt Russell

Directed by: James Wan

Profile of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

written by Lee Pinkerton
23/07/14

The Rock portraitHe used to be known as ‘The Rock’, but nowadays he prefers to be known by the name that his mama gave him.  Whatever you call him, its clear that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a now a major movie star.  The Forbes List of Hollywood’s top-earning actors placed him at number 2,  having earned an estimated $52 million (£30m) in the past year, mainly thanks to his work in the Fast and Furious franchise. That places him ahead of Leonardo Di Caprio, Christian Bale and Will Smith, coming second only to Robert Downey Jr.

So how did a former WWF wrestler become such a major Hollywood player?

His biography is interesting right from the start.  Dwayne Douglas Johnson was born in Hayward, California on May 2nd 1972 to Rocky Johnson and Ata Johnson. His father was one of the Black Nova Scotians –  people of African American descent whose ancestors fled Colonial America as slaves or freemen, and later settled in Nova Scotia, Canada during the 18th and early 19th centuries.   His mother, Ata, was a descendant of a Samoan chief.  (That tattoo on his chest and arm that you sometimes see in pictures, but which is usually obscured for his movie roles, is a partial Samoan pe’a tattoo).

During his high school years, Dwayne played American football and received a full scholarship from the University of Miami where he had success as a football player, but in 1995, suffered a back injury which cost him a place in the NFL. He then signed a 3 year deal with the Canadian League but left after a year to pursue a career in wrestling, which was virtually the family business.
the rock - wrestlerHis father and grandfather, and several of Johnson’s other relatives were professional wrestlers, including his uncles, Afa and Sika Anoaʻi who performed as a tag-team called the The Wild Samoans.  His maternal grandmother, Lia Maivia, was one of wrestling’s few female professional promoters, taking over Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling after her husband’s death in 1982.

Johnson made his WWF debut in 1996 as Rocky Maivia, – a combination of his father and grandfather’s ring names. He went on to become one of the major acts of the wrestling scene, and the success of Johnson’s wrestling character allowed him to cross over into mainstream pop culture. He appeared on Wyclef Jean’s 2000 single “It Doesn’t Matter” and in its music video. In 2000, he hosted Saturday Night Live and Johnson has stated the success of that episode is the reason he began receiving offers from Hollywood studios. He had guest roles on Star Trek: Voyager, as an alien wrestler that uses The Rock’s famous moves, and on That ’70s Show, as his father, Rocky Johnson.

scorpion kingJohnson’s motion picture debut was a brief appearance as The Scorpion King in the opening sequence of The Mummy Returns, and that movie’s financial success led to his first leading role, in the sequel The Scorpion King.  He was listed in the 2007 Guinness World Records as the highest-paid actor in his first starring role, receiving US$5.5 million for this movie.  After that Johnson split his time between the wrestling ring and the big screen.

 

fast 5In 2011, he appeared in the fifth film of The Fast and the Furious film series, Fast Five, as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent assigned to hunt down the series’ protagonists. Johnson landed the role after series star Vin Diesel read comments and feedback from fans who wanted to see Diesel and Johnson in a movie together.  Fast Five grossed over $86 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for a Fast & Furious film, the biggest opening for an April release, and the biggest opening for a Johnson movie.

This summer Johnson stars as Hercules the powerful son of the god king Zeus. In the movie, having endured his legendary twelve labours, Hercules, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord. It looks set to be one of the biggest hits of a blockbuster summer.

Dwayne-Johnson-Hercules

After achieving success in the field of sports, being followed by success in action movies, Johnson’s career is reminiscent of the ‘Austrian Oak’ Arnold Schwarzenegger.  How long, we wonder, before he tries his hand at politics?  Watch this space.

Hercules is released in cinemas on July 25th.

 

Lee Pinkerton