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NEED FOR SPEED (2014)
Something about the film adaptation of the popular Electronic Arts racing game, Need for Speed, feels very indie. Sure, it features fast cars, beautiful people, adrenaline-fueled action, and a sympathetic protagonist hellbent on seeking retribution - all of which seem like ingredients for your run-of-the-mill Fast and the Furious-type blockbuster movie. Yet director Scott Waugh and writing duo George and John Gatins approached the project from a much smaller, less flashier angle, and the film is all the better for it. The story centers on small town mechanic Tobey Marshall (played by Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) and his motley crew of racing enthusiast friends with whom he runs a custom car shop. Financial troubles come knocking at their door, forcing them to broker a deal with the devil, in the form of hotshot race car driver and entrepreneur Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), who needs a custom car built. The deal goes sideways when a tragic accident occurs and lands Tobey in prison, where he begins to plot revenge for being framed. 
Many people will force a comparison between Need for Speed and the Fast and the Furious franchise, but there is a difference in the way the rush of racing factors into each film. In Need for Speed, the cars are only a means to an end, rooted deeply in Tobey’s quest to clear his name. He doesn’t race for power, prestige or the pursuit of supermodels. He just wants to enact righteous vengeance on the one who wronged him, and hitting the pavement with a fancy race car is the only way he knows how. In grounding the story in an emotional journey that audiences can easily invest in, the writers immediately set it apart from other films in its genre. Casting ultra-relatable everyman actor Aaron Paul also spoke volumes about the direction they wanted this film to go.  
And the film’s ace in the hole is certainly Aaron Paul, who has an almost effortless ability to make any viewer sympathize with his plight, whatever it may be. Had the role been occupied by anyone else, Need for Speed would have been an entirely different film. Paul’s likability makes him an easy character to root for, and he becomes the glue that holds the rest of the ho-hum film together. The movie also works because of the chemistry between the characters, especially between Paul and Imogen Poots. The very organic way the two’s relationship develops is a highlight of the film. The transformation of what initially seemed like an antagonistic relationship to one of mutual understanding and respect gave the story a lighthearted vibe that provided a nice contrast to what would have otherwise been a very straightforward revenge story. It was also a pleasure to see a female character who was not in the film for the sole purpose of baring skin. Poots’  Julia is smart, sassy, outspoken and remarkably perceptive, but viewers have to grow to like her (just like Tobey does), instead of instantly accepting her as the generic female flame to the wounded hero.
Now undoubtedly curious minds want to know how the action sequences are. They are very well done. According to director Scott Waugh, the decision to film practical stunts instead of CGI was a no-brainer; they wanted to give the audience a realistic feel instead of just doing them for show. The result is a surprisingly visceral account of what it would feel like hitting 220mph. There was also an interesting lack of pulsating music as the action occurs, which was refreshing because it gave the movie a totally different vibe than what audiences are used to when it comes to watching car chases on screen. One pleasantly surprising aspect of the film was that part of it is actually a road trip, giving the story some dimension. Tobey has to trek cross-country while both the police and a few unsavory folks trail him in hot pursuit. 

Need for Speed did suffer from a pretty one-dimensional villain in Dino Brewster. While Dominic Cooper played the spoiled rich kid very well, there just wasn’t anything interesting about his antagonism. There were parts of the film that also felt rushed, especially the ones involving Dakota Johnson, who seemed like more of an afterthought than a fully-formed character. Save for a few awkward shots here and there and perhaps one of the strangest uses of a helicopter in a movie, Need for Speed is an enjoyable ride. For some its story may be slightly more milquetoast than riveting, but it’s still an entertaining breath of fresh air in a usually predictable genre. Its down-to-earth vibe makes it appealing to viewers who’d like to see something different other than the larger-than-life scenes that so often pepper these high-speed chase movies. While not entirely groundbreaking or even remotely adventurous, and perhaps earnest to a fault, Need for Speed is a fun popcorn flick with a lot of heart, some excitement, a few good laughs and a romantic subplot that actually feels very natural, which is more than one can ask for in this genre.

NEED FOR SPEED (2014)

Something about the film adaptation of the popular Electronic Arts racing game, Need for Speed, feels very indie. Sure, it features fast cars, beautiful people, adrenaline-fueled action, and a sympathetic protagonist hellbent on seeking retribution - all of which seem like ingredients for your run-of-the-mill Fast and the Furious-type blockbuster movie. Yet director Scott Waugh and writing duo George and John Gatins approached the project from a much smaller, less flashier angle, and the film is all the better for it. The story centers on small town mechanic Tobey Marshall (played by Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) and his motley crew of racing enthusiast friends with whom he runs a custom car shop. Financial troubles come knocking at their door, forcing them to broker a deal with the devil, in the form of hotshot race car driver and entrepreneur Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), who needs a custom car built. The deal goes sideways when a tragic accident occurs and lands Tobey in prison, where he begins to plot revenge for being framed. 

Many people will force a comparison between Need for Speed and the Fast and the Furious franchise, but there is a difference in the way the rush of racing factors into each film. In Need for Speed, the cars are only a means to an end, rooted deeply in Tobey’s quest to clear his name. He doesn’t race for power, prestige or the pursuit of supermodels. He just wants to enact righteous vengeance on the one who wronged him, and hitting the pavement with a fancy race car is the only way he knows how. In grounding the story in an emotional journey that audiences can easily invest in, the writers immediately set it apart from other films in its genre. Casting ultra-relatable everyman actor Aaron Paul also spoke volumes about the direction they wanted this film to go.  

And the film’s ace in the hole is certainly Aaron Paul, who has an almost effortless ability to make any viewer sympathize with his plight, whatever it may be. Had the role been occupied by anyone else, Need for Speed would have been an entirely different film. Paul’s likability makes him an easy character to root for, and he becomes the glue that holds the rest of the ho-hum film together. The movie also works because of the chemistry between the characters, especially between Paul and Imogen Poots. The very organic way the two’s relationship develops is a highlight of the film. The transformation of what initially seemed like an antagonistic relationship to one of mutual understanding and respect gave the story a lighthearted vibe that provided a nice contrast to what would have otherwise been a very straightforward revenge story. It was also a pleasure to see a female character who was not in the film for the sole purpose of baring skin. Poots’  Julia is smart, sassy, outspoken and remarkably perceptive, but viewers have to grow to like her (just like Tobey does), instead of instantly accepting her as the generic female flame to the wounded hero.

Now undoubtedly curious minds want to know how the action sequences are. They are very well done. According to director Scott Waugh, the decision to film practical stunts instead of CGI was a no-brainer; they wanted to give the audience a realistic feel instead of just doing them for show. The result is a surprisingly visceral account of what it would feel like hitting 220mph. There was also an interesting lack of pulsating music as the action occurs, which was refreshing because it gave the movie a totally different vibe than what audiences are used to when it comes to watching car chases on screen. One pleasantly surprising aspect of the film was that part of it is actually a road trip, giving the story some dimension. Tobey has to trek cross-country while both the police and a few unsavory folks trail him in hot pursuit. 

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Need for Speed did suffer from a pretty one-dimensional villain in Dino Brewster. While Dominic Cooper played the spoiled rich kid very well, there just wasn’t anything interesting about his antagonism. There were parts of the film that also felt rushed, especially the ones involving Dakota Johnson, who seemed like more of an afterthought than a fully-formed character. Save for a few awkward shots here and there and perhaps one of the strangest uses of a helicopter in a movie, Need for Speed is an enjoyable ride. For some its story may be slightly more milquetoast than riveting, but it’s still an entertaining breath of fresh air in a usually predictable genre. Its down-to-earth vibe makes it appealing to viewers who’d like to see something different other than the larger-than-life scenes that so often pepper these high-speed chase movies. While not entirely groundbreaking or even remotely adventurous, and perhaps earnest to a fault, Need for Speed is a fun popcorn flick with a lot of heart, some excitement, a few good laughs and a romantic subplot that actually feels very natural, which is more than one can ask for in this genre.

Need for Speed

Wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Need for Speed, the film adaptation of the popular Electronic Arts racing game, but it actually turned out to be quite good! It stays true to the spirit of the game, but is grounded in solid emotional drama by the fine acting of the effortlessly likeable Aaron Paul. The trailer makes it seem like your run-of-the-mill revenge-racing movie, but it surprisingly had much more substance than it initially let on. Director Scott Waugh deliberately kept to practical effects for the majority of stunts in the film to give it that extra layer of realism, which certainly added to the film’s excitement. Full review to follow, but I would definitely recommend seeing Need for Speed when it comes out in March. It’s a fun popcorn flick that is equal parts entertaining, exciting and dramatic.

A LONG WAY DOWN

Based on the book by Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down stars Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul, Toni Collette and Imogen Poots as four suicidal strangers who meet on a London rooftop during New Year’s Eve. The dark comedy’s screenplay is being penned by D.V. DeVincentis, who also wrote the film adaptation of Hornby’s High Fidelity. A Long Way Down plops into UK theaters in March 2014.

NEED FOR SPEED

Apparently Aaron Paul just can’t stop breaking bad. He stars in the film adaptation of the popular video game series Need for Speed, alongside Dominic Cooper, Michael Keaton, Imogen Poots and Kid Cudi. Paul will play an ex-convict who seeks revenge after being framed by a former partner. The trailer doesn’t reveal much, but it does set the tone for the Scott Waugh-directed film. Waugh, whose first feature-length film was last year’s Navy SEALs flick Act of Valor, also has some experience doing stunts for high octane flicks like Torque and The Italian Job. Need for Speed zooms into theaters in March 2014.   

AARON PAUL’S BREAKING BAD AUDITION

Still reeling from last night’s epic Breaking Bad episode? Then I’m sure you don’t need a reminder that Aaron Paul is a fantastic actor who brings a lot of heart and depth to the role of Jesse Pinkman. Check out this video of the audition that won him the role of everyone’s favorite troubled meth dealer.