James Wan

Universal

It’s been years since I read the Bible, but if I recall correctly one of the plagues that Charlton Heston sent down on the Romans involved souped-up muscle cars raining from the sky. That image so indelibly burned into my impressionable young mind has now been brought to life by director James Wan in the first trailer for the seventh installment in the world’s most improbable blockbuster franchise, Furious 7. The entire gang is back again — Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Pataky… hell, they even brought back Lucas Black. They’re joined (or opposed) this time by the likes of Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell I said. The plot appears to pick up after Furious 6‘s stinger ending that saw Jason Statham offing a member of the family in explosive fashion. His personal vendetta continues and the gang is forced to join the FBI and fight back or something. I don’t know. Does it matter? It looks like another ridiculously-fun offense to physics, and I’m already looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. Check out the first trailer below.

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Argento Deep Red

Not only is this week the 10th anniversary of the release of Saw, but the movie is also back in theaters as of today in commemoration of the occasion. Conceived by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who met in film school as students at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and directed by Wan, this original installment of what would become a seven-movie franchise is also one of the most influential movies — not just horror movies — of the past decade. Like most seminal movies of the past few decades, though, it’s also a highly influenced movie. To discuss the inception of an idea like Saw is to discuss earlier movies that inspired Wan and Whannell. In honor of both the anniversary and the re-release, I’ve compiled the latest Movies to See… list as a retroactive primer for fans of Saw, or just for anyone who has or does see the original and wants some great precursors to check out afterward. Not all are horror movies, but the ones that aren’t technically of the same genre are relevant for their darker elements. Some are directly acknowledged as being actual influences and inspirations for Saw while others are just obvious predecessors in some way or another. Only one of this week’s picks, however, is included primarily for being an earlier movie starring one of the members of the cast. If by chance you haven’t seen Saw yet and have been able to go 10 years without it being spoiled for […]

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Saw Movie Bathroom

“If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw.” That was Lionsgate’s tag line to the Saw franchise for years. It all began in 2004 when then-unknown horror director James Wan delivered a very low-budget but very grisly thriller about a new killer named Jigsaw who didn’t actually kill people… he simply set them up to kill themselves. Fine line, there. The rest was history. Wan went on to direct other iconic horror films, including Insidious and The Conjuring. Star Tobin Bell and his sidekick Billy the Puppet became as recognizable as Jason’s hockey mask. Torture porn (a bit of a misnomer for the earlier, better Saw films) became its own sub-genre. And for nearly a decade, most studio horror movie releases cleared the way for Lionsgate to drop a new sequel in October just before Halloween. However, before it became a full-blown phenomenon, director James Wan sat down with the film’s writer and co-star Leigh Whannell to talk about the original for the DVD release. Now, for the film’s 10th anniversary, it’s time to look back at this new classic and learn.

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Paul Walker

In the wake of actor Paul Walker’s untimely death back in November, the team behind his calling card blockbuster Fast and Furious franchise was stuck with the unfortunate task of deciding the future of the series while still mourning one of their stars. The car crash that claimed Walker’s life happened during a holiday break, with the Fast and Furious 7 cast and crew slated to return for more filming the following week, ensuring that the nasty business of actual business was going to have to infringe on the worse business of mourning. Basically – it may be crass to talk money and timing after someone dies, but deciding the fate of the billion-dollar franchise is also hugely important to the livelihood of hundreds of people involved with the series. After weeks of back and forth, buzz, and chatter, it seems as if Universal and the rest of the Fast team have decided on a course of action that’s respectable to Walker’s memory, feasible for the production team, and compelling for the franchise’s fan. Is it the best thing Universal could do in the face of Walker’s death? Well, yes.

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russell

Fans of the rapidly expanding Fast & Furious franchise were initially elated to learn that action movie legend and all around awesome guy Kurt Russell was going to be the latest name to join the series’ ensemble come Fast & Furious 7. But somewhere around the time when Djimon Hounsou also got cast in the movie, conflicting reports started to float around as to whether or not he was actually going to be able to appear. Some thought he would just have a small cameo in 7, some thought he wouldn’t show up until 8, and there was even a fear he wouldn’t end up being involved in the franchise at all. As you can see from the picture above though—which Vin Diesel posted on his Facebook page along with the caption, “Kurt Russell, such an honor to work with… P.s. One from set…”—Kurt Russell is indeed on the set of director James Wan’s Fast & Furious 7, and he will indeed be sharing scenes with franchise stars Diesel and Paul Walker. So it’s not likely anyone is going to stop gushing about these movies anytime soon.

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lucasblack

If we can all agree that “jumping the shark” has undeniably become an actual term that really exists for describing the point where an entertainment property strays too far from its initial concept and loses its relevance, then it seems reasonable we would also have to agree that the Fast & Furious franchise seems to be the one property out there that looks to be completely immune from experiencing the phenomenon, no matter how many giant sharks it jumps its souped-up muscle cars over. Most successful movie franchises can spit out three, maybe four films before they start to feel completely tired, but here we are in the pre-production phase of Fast & Furious 7, and the series seems to still be picking up steam. Already we’ve heard about plans they have for a Fast & Furious 8, after all. If there was any period where it looked like the Fast & Furious franchise was actually going to fly off the rails and lose its profitability, it was with the third film in the series, Tokyo Drift though. That’s the film that failed to sign up franchise stalwarts Vin Diesel and Paul Walker for featured roles, and had to instead rely on telling its story through the eyes of a new protagonist played by Lucas Black. This didn’t work out so well because Black was terrible in the movie, everyone missed Diesel, and Tokyo Drift ended up making less than half of what the next-least profitable film in the series […]

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These things happen like clockwork. Insidious: Chapter 2 cost about $5m to make. This weekend, it grossed more than $41m. And now, precisely one day after that opening weekend, comes the announcement that we’ll be getting an Insidious 3 (it’s probably safe to assume a Chapter 3 subtitle will be attached). Leigh Whannell, writer of the first two Insidious movies, will be back to write screenplay number three, but there’s been no mention of a director so far. Probably because, in a recent interview with Moviefone, Insidious (and Insidious: Chapter 2) director James Wan plainly stated that he is “finished with the horror genre.” So don’t expect him to return to the series, unless major script rewrites turn it into a romantic comedy or an animated movie where talking dogs enter a surf contest.

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blum

Jason Blum must be feeling pretty good about himself right now. This year he has been behind two major box-office hits with The Purge and Insidious: Chapter II (and a minor one with Dark Skies). All three films were made for nickels compared to their grosses. In a time where people are worried about the future prospects of summer blockbusters, Blum has been producing blockbuster results without a 200 million price tag attached. To make Insidious: Chapter II a hit, Blum brought back the original creative team and characters along to expand on the mythology created by the first movie. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) returns as a man dealing with some side effects from the first film, while director James Wan is back for more as well. Blum believes Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell are key ingredients to the series, and the results speak for themselves. In addition to discussing their involvement in the film, we spoke with Jason Blum about his lucrative business model and how to properly make a sequel:

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review insidious chapter 2

Some sequels continue unfinished stories from where their predecessor left off, but others just use the name as a launching pad towards something completely different and usually far inferior. I’m looking at you Meatballs Part II. Happily, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell have gone the former route with the follow-up to their 2010 horror hit, Insidious. Unfortunately, that’s one of only a few things to be happy about here. Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) have just survived a ghostly ordeal, but when Josh returned from the other side where he found and rescued their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), he brought something evil back with him. Chapter 2 picks up in the minutes and days that follow as the Lamberts move to Josh’s mother’s (Barbara Hershey) house only to discover the horror is ongoing. Ghosts roam the halls, threats of violence hang in the air, and Josh is no longer the man he once was. Insidious: Chapter 2 is for the people who actually liked the final minute of Insidious as opposed to seeing it as the only low-point in an otherwise fantastic horror film. There are fun moments to be had here, but they’re front-loaded and minimal when compared to the sloppy, cluttered, and frequently ineffective rest.

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djimon

As if the next installment in the rapidly expanding and increasingly ridiculous Fast & Furious franchise, Fast & Furious 7, didn’t already bring enough star power to the table with returning favorites like Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Tyrese Gibson (and likely Dwayne Johnson, though his role looks to be be relegated to a cameo) and newcomers to the fold like Jason Statham and Ronda Rousey (and maybe Kurt Russell, though there are disputing reports as to whether his part had to be cut), first-time Fast director James Wan has just expanded the cast to also include a man who’s not only an Oscar nominated actor, but also a chiseled stud that made a lot of people blush when he posed in his underwear for Calvin Klein. According to a report from Variety, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, In America) is the latest actor who will go from being a mere mortal to becoming a fast-driving, explosion-surviving, over the top superhero in the Fast & Furious universe.

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FSLC2011_FilmCommentSlcts 633_godlis

There’s a legitimate reason why the Insidious sequel is called Insidious: Chapter 2. It’s a continuation of the first movie, not a departure. That was important for director James Wan and co-writer/co-star Leigh Whannell, who both hit the jackpot with 2004’s Saw. The first Insidious was their biggest hit since their breakout film, after Wan took a shot at action with Death Sentence and the duo’s rocky time on Dead Silence. So it goes without saying that the Insidious franchise is important to them. I spoke with James Wan and Leigh Whannell the week before Wan scored an even bigger hit with The Conjuring. That movie showed more of who Wan is as a filmmaker, and with him now taking on a Fast & Furious sequel, he’s firmly establishing himself as a go-to storyteller. A decade after breaking out, the scary pair is just getting started.

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SONY DSC

James Wan is one of the most adaptive directorial personalities in modern genre filmmaking, but his career didn’t always seem like it would turn out this way. Wan’s Saw was an indie mega-hit, spawning the most extensive horror franchise of the 21st century thus far. But Wan quickly distanced himself from the films, attempting to establish himself as a genre auteur of diverse skill sets. With his underwhelming one-two punch of Dead Silence and Death Sentence in 2007, he failed to develop a reputation away from the franchise that found continued success beyond him. But with Insidious and The Conjuring (this summer’s sleeper hit and one of the few pieces of Hollywood entertainment that actually entertained in the past few months), Wan found himself the modern master of the supernatural haunted house thriller, a horror sensibility miles away from the “torture porn” craze Wan’s franchise inception became associated with. This weekend sees the successful director helming his first sequel, Insidious Chapter 2, and Wan has signed on to make the next entry in the recently revived Fast/Furious franchise. Point being, Wan has proven himself against the limitations of the subgenre constraints he helped create, showing that he is a filmmaker interested in appealing to mass audiences through a variety of popular genres. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the director who forces us to ask how creepy dolls will fit into a movie about race cars and muscle-y bald men.

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THE CONJURING

When Warner Bros. put The Hangover into production, they gave Todd Phillips $35M and a ton of creative freedom (they only seemed to intervene when the director wanted to use real Tasers on his actors). The idea was that if he stayed under that budget, he could cast who he wanted (those guys?) and make the comedy he envisioned with limited studio interference. It was an admirable move that became even easier to praise when the movie destroyed box office records and launched a franchise with three new stars. The Conjuring is a different beast, but its connection to The Hangover (not simply that they have the same distributor) is an interesting one for the sole reason of timing. Released months apart from each other, the final Hangover installment scored another $112M domestic from a budget of $103M (from humble beginnings…), and in less time, James Wan‘s haunted house movie will overtake that domestic amount for $15M less than the cost of the original Hangover. There’s a big lesson here, and hopefully Hollywood is paying attention (but they probably aren’t).

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insidious-chapter-2-03

If you’ve already seen the first trailer released for James Wan’s upcoming horror sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2, then you’ve got the basic gist of what’s in its new international trailer as well. It’s starts with the same heart-warming footage of a family enjoying each other’s company, takes the same turn when it starts to look like their troubles might not be over after all, and then ends with the same stinger of that creepy dude yelling in Patrick Wilson’s face about having his baby. If, like many, you’re a huge fan of the first Insidious and are anticipating the hell out of this sequel, you’re still probably going to want to take a look at the second trailer though. Not only does it include even more spooky-looking ghosts than the first did, and a few more of those tense moments that Wan is getting so good at creating (Have you seen The Conjuring yet? It’s terrifying), but it also provides some hints regarding the further world-building that this next installment in what now seems likely to become the Insidious saga is going to be doing. To be more specific, it starts to dig a little bit into the Wilson character’s past.

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The Conjuring

The best horror films transcend simple scariness. They create an atmosphere filled with tension that puts a stranglehold on the audience. That reaches through the screen, grabs you and pulls you into the film. Movies like The Exorcist, Poltergeist and Halloween all do this in different ways. It’s a sort of ineffable quality, difficult to put into words, but often characterized by causing goosebumps. I’ve seen The Conjuring twice now, and I’ve gotten goosebumps both times. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real life husband and wife paranormal investigation team Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film opens with them going through a famous case of theirs involving a creepy doll, but we then meet the Perron family, Roger and Carolyn (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their 5 daughters as they move into a new home. Things are off about the new house and as the disturbances grow in intensity, Carolyn seeks out the Warrens. Ed is initially reluctant, but they agree to come to the Perron home to help.

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Insidious 2

Since they killed Darth Maul in the first one (I think), the Insidious: Chapter 2 production has gotten a few scarier villains — ones that absolutely hate wire hangers — to take his place. With James Wan at the helm, Leigh Whannel behind the screenplay, and Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson returning to star, the entire creative team that made the first film such a hit is back in full force for the sequel. This time around the story finds The Lambert family discovering a deadly childhood secret that explains why they can’t seem to sever their connection to terrorizing ghosts who want to steal their babies. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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THE CONJURING

The Perron family has a problem. They have just moved into a large, spacious farm house set off a beautiful lake, but around 3:07 every morning, something goes very wrong. Clocks stop, bad smells travel around the rooms, and doors creak and bang shut for no reason. But it is during a game of “hide and clap” that an unknown cellar is revealed and the mysterious occurrences around the house get worse. After one of her daughters is terrorized, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) realizes her family needs help. She seeks out two well-known paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), with the hope they can figure out what, if anything, may be haunting her family. The moment Lorraine enters the Perrons’ home it becomes clear this family is not experiencing rational bumps in the night. The panicked truth playing behind Lorraine’s eyes while she tries to keep her composure showcases Farmiga’s ability to create a layered and captivating performance while amplifying the terror.

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trailer insidious 2

Insidious is one of the best horror films of the past few years, and while some viewers feel the comedic elements in the second half mess with the tone too much the film’s only real failure comes in the final minute. If you’ve seen it you know exactly what I’m talking about. The events of those last 60 seconds seemed to preclude the possibility of a sequel, but director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell apparently think otherwise. The follow-up sees the Lambert family moving on only to discover their nightmare isn’t over. Most of the cast is back along with a new medium who they hope can identify and eliminate the source of their haunting. Turn off the lights, wrap yourself tight in a warm blanket, and take a peek at the trailer for Insidious: Chapter 2.

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death sentence

Revenge movies have been a go-to for the film industry for a long time now. That’s probably because they’re simple in structure, don’t take all that much imagination to conceive, and are an easy way to get your audience to care about action scenarios. Introduce a main character, have him be wronged, then have him go after the people who wronged him. Boom—instant movie. They’re not prevalent just because they’re quick and easy though, they keep getting made because they really do affect us on a deep, animal level. There’s a boiling anger somewhere in us all, an urge to engage in cathartic, wrathful behavior, and the revenge trope allows us to indulge in that without having to take action ourselves; and it even offers up the added reassurance of providing a moral justification for the violence taking place. These movies affect us so powerfully because of the way they’re able to delay gratification and then deliver satisfaction, as well. A good revenge movie is all about making the audience want to see a bad guy get his comeuppance, delaying the payback to the point where they believe they’re going to burst if they don’t get to see it, and then delivering the splatter right before the credits roll. It’s basically the same premise carnies have been using to sell professional wrestling matches for a century now. Today we’re going to explore what works and what doesn’t in the genre by comparing a movie that’s considered to be a famous […]

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James Wan

The Fast and the Furious, successful as it was, probably never really struck anyone as the sort of film that would spawn a franchise that would make it to its seventh feature. But here we are, many years later, talking about Fast and Furious 7 anyway. The seventh installment in the franchise is a movie that’s going to see the series reaching a crossroads though. Much of the property’s longevity can probably be credited to director Justin Lin, who not only helmed the last four Fast films (including the yet-to-be-released Fast & Furious 6), but who gave the whole endeavor new life when he cast Dwayne Johnson in Fast Five and created a surprise hit that provided this money machine with a second wind. Lin has said that he needs a break from the series and that he isn’t going to helm Fast & Furious 7 though, so what is a studio to do now that they’ve got a franchise on their hands that is once again a big money maker, but that is about to lose the man who gave it its second life? Well, according to Deadline, they’re negotiating to bring on Saw director James Wan in hopes that he can keep the momentum going.

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published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B
published: 12.12.2014
D+


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