Aaron Paul

Need For Speed Movie

Need for Speed, I’ve seen all the Fast & Furious films. I know the Fast & Furious films. The Fast & Furious films are friends of mine. Need for Speed, you’re no Fast & Furious. The name may come from the popular video game franchise, but director Scott Waugh and his cohorts are unmistakably shooting for a piece of that F&F pie. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t have a tenth of the brazenness, the chewy homoeroticism, or the un-self-conscious fun of even the least of its inspirations (no, it’s not even better than the fourth F&F). Aaron Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a mechanic and street racing savant who, through a series of unnecessarily complicated events, gets framed for vehicular manslaughter. As soon as he steps out of prison, he breaks parole and heads off to take revenge on the one who wronged him: former friend Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Rather than taking a tire iron to Dino’s head or some similarly straightforward action, Tobey plots to earn his way into the DeLeon, a top-secret race held only for the studliest drivers with the most expensive cars. Dino, a previous winner, is competing again, and Tobey wants to beat him and earn the millions in prize money. Assisting him are a trio of friends (Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, and Ramón Rodriguez) and a love interest named Julia (Imogen Poots).

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Need for Speed: On Set

When you think about Detroit in 2013, it’s hard not to think about a city tangled up in bankruptcy. A community on that downward motion toward the ground right before bouncing back up again. You also might, more traditionally, think about American muscle cars and machismo. On a humid day in late June of last year, the sound of screeching tires and the oiled up masculinity of Detroit surrounded me and a group of fellow journalists on the set of Need for Speed. Amidst the smell of burned rubber and what seemed like miles of cabling linking together the technology of modern action cinema, we got to know the storytellers chosen by DreamWorks to bring one of EA’s most successful video game franchises to life. From Act of Valor director Scott Waugh to Oscar nominated writer John Gatins and acclaimed Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, they all had something to share about the testosterone-fueled world. For your expedited enjoyment, we’ve arranged them into a list of things we learned that day in downtown Motor City.

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speed

When Need for Speed was announced, it was mildly confounding. It makes sense in a world where Fast and Furious has become a billion dollar franchise, but, from a storytelling perspective, not so much. If you’re not sure why that is, you likely never played the video game series, which doesn’t have an actual narrative. Unless building up toward better cars counts as plot. That’s actually one of the few ties the movie will have to the game. If it were called anything other than Need for Speed, it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow as a potential game rip-off. This may come as a surprise, but that’s a good thing, for a variety reasons. Disney recently held a press day for director Scott Waugh‘s (Act of Valor) video game adaptation, and while in attendance, screenwriter John Gatins (Flight), who cracked the story with his brother and the film’s writer George Gatins made a strong point differentiating Need for Speed from fellow video game adaptations.

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Need for Speed

Do you feel that? The need? The Need for Speed? The full trailer for the adaptation of everyone’s favorite  racing game (besides Mario Kart, obviously) has arrived, bringing Aaron Paul out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and back onto the streets for some good ole fashioned car revenge. Much like the first trailer, it remains unclear which crime Paul’s Tobey Marshall has been framed for, but by far, the most important information you’re going to glean from this entire movie is that the man who framed him is named Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). In order to stick it to his enemy, Tobey must make it cross country to an insane underground racing competition where they’ll do battle one more time. But clearly, he’s made the mistake of thinking that a guy named Dino is going to let this just happen, as it turns out that the Michael Keaton-narrated death road to the race is the true test of his skills; really, isn’t life all about the journey and not the destination?

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Breaking Bad Finale

The fifth season of Breaking Bad was all about anti-climax. That sounds bad, since we tend to think of climaxes as the best part of, ahem, several different things, and whatever comes after as an inevitable letdown. But after Season Four — wherein Walt engineered Gus Fring’s demise — the series lost its epic ambitions. Again, that’s not a bad thing. The fifth season demonstrated the impossibility of Walt’s transition back to civilian life. Once he’d gotten blood on his hands, he couldn’t wash it off. The question of how to live with stubbornly dirty hands drove this last season. It was an anti-climax that showed how difficult, complicated, and satisfying anti-climaxes can be. (This season’s climax, of course, was “Ozymandias.”) “Felina,” written and directed by Vince Gilligan, was the anticlimactic finale to an anticlimactic final season. It was also an extremely fitting one for the series. It showed Walter White, who made a (rather infamous) name for himself by producing the Southwest’s best crank and outsmarted his many, many enemies through his extreme methodicalness, closing up all the loose ends in his life. “Felina” was about Walter settling accounts: with Skyler, his children, Hank and Marie (in a way), Elliot and Gretchen, the Nazis, and, of course, Jesse. The machine gun he had in his trunk added just enough ambiguous tension throughout the episode to keep it from being a straightforward “Walter White visits his past” storyline. It also allowed to Gilligan showcase the chief strengths of the episode: its micro-detail-oriented plotting (the ricin!), its stomach-churning suspense (Walter framed like […]

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Need for Speed

You can take the Jesse Pinkman out of Breaking Bad, but you can’t take the Breaking Bad out of Jesse Pinkman. Aaron Paul is now starring in the adaptation (from director Scott Waugh) of those Need for Speed video games where you would just try to run your opponent off the road, as a (what else?) mechanic and badass streetracer who was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Now released from prison after serving time for his false conviction, Paul is hellbent on finding the man who put him there and getting his sweet, sweet revenge. As expected, the trailer is a whole lot of engine revving and cross-country racing to find that sonofabitch who put Paul behind bars (what did he do?), as well as the obligatory exploding police cruiser or two. But it’s also surprisingly poignant? Paul delivers a gospel-like monologue over the trailer that is almost hypnotic. It’s borderline silly, yes, when you snap out of it and remember that this is the trailer for Need for Speed and not something Important. But who’s to say that this video game adaptation, with its orchestral score and grave warnings of revenge, isn’t some masterpiece? Or maybe they’re just in on the joke. Check out the trailer here:

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Breaking Bad Ozymandias

“Ozymandias” has got to be some kind of epic meta-dare. Vince Gilligan evokes Percy Shelly’s famous poem, in which the titular “king of kings” commands future generations, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” In Shelly’s telling, though, Ozymandias was an accomplished fool. By his haughty, fearsome decree, “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.” In creating and crafting such an astounding episode of television (not to mention series), though, Gilligan has thrown down the gauntlet to TV critics, historians, audiences, and his peers: Breaking Bad is TV’s version of the Sistine Chapel. “Ozymandias” will likely be the scene in which God reaches out to Adam. Forget this at your own peril.   (Between “Ozymandias” and Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” Gilligan sure is rewarding all his viewers with English degrees.)

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Breaking Bad Tohajiilee

So Hank’s definitely dead, right? Because it’s rare that a dogged pursuer of justice in a morally anarchistic universe calls his wife and tells her he’s solved the biggest case of his career, using boastful but foreboding language like, “Hey baby, I got him. Dead to rights” and “It may be awhile before I get home” and still gets to live. Don’t forget: Hank was this close to early retirement, too, since the shame of Heisenberg being his brother-in-law would’ve ended his DEA career. Though every meth cook and drug mogul fears the police, rare is the one who meets his end in a prison cell. Breaking Bad is not a show where law and order prevails. But Hank’s brains don’t yet look like the ones in his kitchen trash can, so let’s not mourn him. “To’hajiilee” wasn’t really about him anyway, but about the exquisite chess game Walt and Jesse played against each other. Their square-off begins as soon as the title sequence wisps off the screen, with Hank convincing Gomie to trust Timmy Dipshit’s plan. Thus begins another episode where Jesse is underestimated — which made Walt calling Jesse “stupid” while falling right into his plan wildly satisfying and may be the one thing that helps the unarmed Jesse survive the battle of the bullets.

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Breaking Bad Rabid Dog

“Rabid Dog” is a transitional episode, and not a particularly elegant one at that. Like Walt’s old Pontiac Aztek, it’s simply a vehicle that’ll transport us to where we need to go, style and good taste be damned. Thus we have Walt and Jesse plotting each other’s demise (Walt’s being more violent, of course), Skyler urging Walt to take “full measures” (in another sacrifice of character over story), and Jesse and Hank’s inevitable team-up to bring down Walt. The theme of transitions was telegraphed by the episode’s two hallway scenes. The first occurs at the beginning of the episode, when Walt, with his pocket pistol in hand, crouches along the main corridor of his gasoline-soaked house. The buzzy, clangy, twitchy soundtrack makes clear its homage to another empty, dread-filled, imminently bloody hallway – that of The Shining trailer. The second takes place at Hank and Marie’s house, when Jesse, after passing out cold, wakes up to find Marie down the hall. Worlds collide. She asks him if he wants any coffee. A new world is born from the wreckage of the old.

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news ridley scott exodus

Just as Moses was mentor to Joshua, so was Walter mentor to Jesse. Both Joshua and Jesse served as assistant and apprentice to their older counterparts. Both stood by loyally during their mentors’ greatest battles. And both, at long last, were given blessings of invincibility and made leader of the Israelites. Ok, fine. Maybe Breaking Bad won’t end with Jesse leading the Jews into the Promised Land, but Ridley Scott‘s Exodus just might. Variety is reporting that Aaron Paul is in talks to play Joshua in the Biblical epic, with John Turturro and Sigourney Weaver having just landed the parts of Ramses’ parents. Deadline also has Ben Kingsley up for the part of a Hebrew scholar.

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Breaking Bad Confessions

For most of “Confessions,” Walt is the eye of Hurricane Heisenberg. While everyone else around him reels and whirls and wobbles, Walt observes quietly and manipulates gently. He plots while others plotz. Now a master of concealment and Plan Bs — so close to finally becoming Gus Fring – he dons his best father-knows-best voice and cardigan to reassure Junior, threaten Hank, and pacify Jesse. At least temporarily. Only Junior is clueless enough to still fall for Walt’s act, now almost campy in its wholesomeness. After Walt serenely suggests to his teenaged son that he’s on death’s door again, he and Skyler meet with Hank and Marie to instruct the in-laws that they’re not to use his children as pawns — a demand he makes while using his son as emotional ammunition: “This investigation, Hank. Do you realize what this will do to him?” When Hank challenges him to “step up, be a man, and admit what you’ve done,” Walt placidly responds, “There’s nothing to confess” before handing him his “confession” tape.

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Heisenberg

By now, you’ve seen the season premiere for the second half of the fifth season of Breaking Bad (and if you haven’t, good luck parsing what I just wrote and also, why haven’t you?) and gasped along with the rest of the Twittersphere at large (has there ever been a show so adored by the social media masses as Breaking Bad?). Having gone nearly a year without Walt, Jesse, and the rest of the blue-hued crew (by “crew” we mean meth, baby, and lots of it), anticipation for the final episodes in Vince Gilligan’s opus reached a fever pitch, well, probably long before the latest episode actually aired. And was it worth it? Man, was it worth it. With only eight episodes in the show’s final half-season, acceleration is the name of the game. After all, both of the fifth season’s premieres have opened with a flash forward that give us small but incredibly effective and intriguing glimpses into Walt’s world after some sort of earth-shattering event. A spiritual twin to the first episode of the season (that would be wonderful “Live Free or Die”), last night’s premiere (“Blood Money,” because that’s what it all is at this point) echoed and followed the events that began the season at large. Walter, seemingly post-birthday breakfast, returns to his abandoned and dilapidated home (which is also a new haven for pool-skating ruffians, damn kids) to retrieve his last pack of that deadly ricin. All of that is jaw-dropping enough – the broken-down […]

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Aaron Paul Casting in A Long Way Down

He’s not saying anything about how it’s all going to go down — nor would we want him to — but star Aaron Paul is talking about the emotions of knowing just what happens in the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad. The rest of us will have to wait until August 11 to begin our final journey with Walt, Jessie and all the people they’ve dragged into their mess, but with shooting done and Aaron Paul moving on to other projects, he’s having to keep the secrets. As he explained to a group of journalists, including yours truly, he knows that while plenty of people have asked about the end, no one really wants to know.

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BB Header

If you’ve finally managed to catch your breath after a couple of notably bloody weeks across some of television’s best shows (hell, someone even got stabbed, twice, on Mad Men last week, and we won’t even comment on Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding in this space), it might be high time to start thinking ahead to what will undoubtedly be a bloody end of summer. High time? Get it? We’re talking about Vince Gilligan‘s Breaking Bad on AMC here. With the second half of the show’s fifth season (season 5.5?) finally hitting the small screen with a Bryan Cranston-directed premiere episode on August 11th, marketing has started to slowly waft out across the internet like so many meth fumes through your friendly neighborhood cook house. Sure, the first look at the show’s newest poster (and a very brief ten-second teaser trailer, which you can check out over at The Wrap if you feel like sitting through thirty seconds of ads before you get to what is also an ad and essentially a glorified motion poster) are tantalizingly brief (the poster doesn’t even bother to really name the show or its home network), they also make no bones about what is going to happen in the final eight episodes. “All bad things must come to an end.” Did you think this would go on forever? Did you think things were going to end happily? Did you forget about the meth? We haven’t and we can’t. And we also can’t wait to see just how things will end for the show when […]

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Susan Burke

Last year, audiences couldn’t find two more distinct movies dealing with alcoholism than Flight and Smashed. While Robert Zemeckis‘s film dealt with an all-out reckless drunk, big dramatic plot points, and John Goodman, director James Ponsoldt’s Smashed approaches the matter with a more character-driven and religion-less narrative, with the assistance of the film’s co-writer, Susan Burke. Burke, who also works as standup comedian, didn’t want the lead character in Smashed, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, to suffer simply because she’s an alcoholic. It isn’t a movie that punishes its characters or says with a million exclamation points, “Drinking is bad.” Smashed isn’t grim in the way we generally associate movies featuring alcoholism, but a dramedy that isn’t built around misery porn and, as Burke says, indie quirks. Screenwriter Susan Burke made the time recently to discuss with us the advantages writing a film over standup can have, avoiding dire plot points, and more:

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Louis CK

What is Casting Couch? It’s the column that’s rounding up all the casting announcements the studios have released now that the buzz surrounding the Golden Globes has died down. They’ve been hoarding. Before his show on FX became such a well-respected thing, people thought of Louis CK mostly as being a stand-up comedian and not really as an actor, despite the fact that he’s shown up in a few small roles here and there. That might be about to change though, because not only does CK  star in Woody Allen’s upcoming movie, Blue Jasmine, but THR is reporting that he’s also in talks to join David O. Russell’s next project: that con-man movie starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Amy Adams that used to be called American Bullshit. If CK’s involvement becomes official, it will see him rubbing onscreen elbows with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, which is probably going to feel a little weird at first.

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Christoph Waltz

What is Casting Couch? It’s a daily roundup of all the casting news you care about, and maybe (probably) one or two items you don’t. Some info has finally leaked about James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller’s upcoming sequel to The Muppets. Turns out it’s going to be a caper movie, somewhat along the lines of The Great Muppet Caper, but with more of an international flair. How international? So international that THR is reporting they’re closing in on signing Christoph Waltz to play one of the main, non-Muppet roles—that of an Interpol inspector. Other important parts for humans are said to include a Russian femme fatale and a male lead with mysterious intentions. Actors looking to land the part should start sending in their shifty-eyed head shots now.

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Aaron Paul

Best known for his portrayal of the bitch-sayin’, science-behind-magnets-lovin’ Jesse Pinkman on TV’s Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul is an actor who will soon find himself standing at a career crossroads. When Breaking Bad began back in 2008, Paul entered the series as a relative unknown, having only random TV roles and bit parts in films playing characters with names like “stoner” or “wasted guy” under his belt. But, as the series comes to its end next year, Paul leaves it a highly-regarded, Emmy-winning, in-demand actor. So which direction is he planning on taking his career? Sometimes its hard for an actor who becomes famous in television to transition into a film career, no matter how high-profile their work on the boob tube was, and if Paul’s latest career choice is any indication, he might be having a tougher time getting good scripts in the mail than one might imagine. According to a report from Inside Movies, Paul has just signed on to star in the upcoming video game adaptation Need For Speed. That’s right, coming off a stint on what’s probably the best show on television, Aaron Paul is going to take on the risky proposition of making a video game movie.

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Aural Fixation - Large

When one thinks of a party mix songs by artists like Bart Davenport, Cass McCombs, and Sonny & The Sunsets are not usually what come to mind, but then again, Smashed is not a film that simply shows you how much fun you can have while under the influence – it is an honest (and sometimes honestly hard to watch) look at what it means to live your life in a haze and what happens after you make the decision to come out of it. As I said in my review of the film, Smashed focuses on the life of Kate, played with brutal honesty by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Kate is not a Ke$ha style party girl, but she is a girl who likes to have a good time and can be spotted indulging in some “hair of the dog” before heading off to work (as a school teacher, mind you.) This slow, unassuming, almost innocent look at Kate’s life is reflected in the film’s soundtrack which is filled with more mellow artists (like those mentioned above) and composed pieces from Andy Cabic and Eric D. Johnson.

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Mary-Elizabeth-Winstead-and-Octavia-Spencer-in-Smashed

Editor’s note: With Smashed hitting limited release this week, please delicately sip (or chug down, your preference) our Sundance review of the film, first published on January 24, 2012. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) seems to lead a charmed life – she has a loving husband, friends, and a job teaching first grade that she is passionate about. But the one thing that is always present in Kate’s life is alcohol. She and her husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), spend every night getting (wait for it) smashed on beer, liquor, really just whatever alcohol is available. The drinking (while excessive) appears to be just a harmless part of their lifestyle, but when Kate shows up hungover to work (and throws up in front of her class), one of her students asks if she is pregnant and Kate confirms the lie, figuring it is a better excuse than the truth.

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