While We’re Young – Movie Review

While We’re Young is the story of a middle-aged couple, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), who feel out of place amongst a sea of friends with children. Josh is a documentary filmmaker, and Cornelia is a film producer, who works for her famous father, Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin).

Dissatisfied with his life and frustrated with his stalled 10-year-old documentary, Josh meets a younger couple in experimental filmmaker Jaime (Adam Driver) and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Josh and Cornelia quickly become close friends with Jaime and Darby as if they were younger versions of themselves. Suddenly, Josh and Cornelia are injected with a burst of energy living the lives of a younger generation.

Writer/Director Noah Baumbach tells a story about the realities of growing older. As with all good stories, events never favor the hero and age catch up to Jack and Cornelia. Jack soon become suspicious of not only Jaime’s motives for friendship, but even his closest friends, family, and wife.

Ben Stiller has found his niche as the normal man. He plays the insecure, underestimated man to perfection. In While We’re Young, he plays it exceptionally well. The difference is that instead of Josh’s life falling apart in a comedic way (e.g. Meet the Parents) but it falls apart in an insightful way. What happens to Josh is unique and atypical of Stiller’s other film.

While Were Young 04Naomi Watts plays the perfect partner for Josh. Cornelia also has to cope with aging but also supporting her husband, while trying to cope with the loss of her dreams, like parenthood.

All around the acting is exceptional, even from the supporting Driver and Seyfried play Jaime and Darby as the ever-optimistic young hipster couple. Their youth is infectious as their playfulness slowly turns to annoying over the course of the film. Stiller’s character Josh says it best when he walks through Jaime and Darby’s apartment, seeing their vast vinyl collection. They managed to take everything they had growing up that was old and made it cool again.

While We’re Young is an excellent film about aging and recapturing our youth. Baumbach’s story and direction take us into familiar territory but in an unfamiliar way. The ending is sweet and unexpectedly expected. I know this sounds crazy, but it would be a disservice to you to give away the events of the second half.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Movie Review

It is never an easy task to top a great movie. Avengers: Age of Ultron would possibly be a great movie if it were a sequel to the original. You’re going to have a great time, but you’ll always have the first movie in the back of your mind to remind you it’s a sequel.

Release Date: May 1, 2015
Rated PG-13
Writer/Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, James Spader.

Avengers Age of Ultron 01

There is a lot going on in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you follow Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you know that the final remnant of Hydra has Loki’s Sceptre, been experimenting on power people (i.e. Inhumans) and building some kind of an army. The movie opens as the Avengers assemble to rid once and for all Hydra and regain the scepter.

After the battle, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) allows Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) to study the scepter. Stark discovers the scepter contains a form of high-level alien artificial intelligence. Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) decide to see if they can leverage this new technology and create an army of robot “bouncers” that will protect the earth from alien invaders.

Unbeknownst to Tony, he accidently succeeds in this dream and creates Ultron (James Spader). Long story short, Ultron believes man is the earth’s greatest enemy and that the Avengers have to be destroyed first. In order to ensure success, Ultron convinces the two damaged power people, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), to slow the Avengers down.

Avengers Age of Ultron 05That’s the big story, but it wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon movie if it didn’t have more b-story. Banner and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have a budding romance brewing. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a bigger role in Age of Ultron, and we learn a little about his real life. Captain America (Chris Evans) is ready to accept the cards life has dealt him. The Vision (Paul Bettany) is born into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Joss Whedon manages to recreate the team dynamic from the first movie. He again succeeds the balancing the stories of the large cast. He’s also a master of telling a giant earth-threatening story and bring a great deal of humor to the cast. No one stages big fights than Joss Whedon. Whedon lso addressed the issues of collateral damage when a battle of titans go at it in a heavily populated city. Take that Man of Steel.

Clearly, the best part of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the villain, Ultron (James Spader). The tone of Spader’s voice is ominous, intelligent, theatrical and menacing. I doubt he’ll get an Oscar nomination for this performance, but I’m sure people will bring it up.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great action adventure and in its greatness still falls short of the nostalgia of the first movie.

Everything Before Us – Movie Review – Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Everything Before Us is part science fiction but mostly a romantic comedy. The movie is set in a world where the fictitious Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI) scores individuals on their aptitude in establishing, maintaining and succeeding at relationships, especially in the department of love.

Like your credit score, individuals are given a score, 70 being average. This score moves up and down based on the relationships; one is in and based on the length of the relationship and who was at fault when it ended. This score is not only an indicator of compatibility with another person, but also used as a metric for finding employment, getting bank loans, and finding the right circle of friends.

The movie follows two couples: Seth (Brandon SooHoo) and Haley (Victoria Park); and Ben (Aaron Yoo) and Sara (Brittany Ishibashi). Seth and Haley are two college student. First high school sweethearts and now separated by distance as Haley is at school in San Francisco, and Seth is living in Los Angeles. Ben and Sara are former lovers. Ben has a hard time finding a new job because of his low score. He asks Sara, who is about to open her first bakery, to accompany him to the DEI to address some unanswered issue about their break up.

Everything Before Us is the first feature film from internet notables Wong Fu Productions. As friends attending UC San Diego, Philip Wang, Wesley Chan and Ted Fu started producing amateur videos and found a way to leverage YouTube and social media to become the internet giants that they are today.

Over the years, fans have not enjoyed Wong Fu’s thoughtful storytelling about human relationships but also admired the high-quality production values they bring to their videos today. It is clear that Wong Fu pulled out all the stops with Everything Before Us. The movie not only feels like a feature film but also maintains the flavor and vision of Wong Fu.

Everything Before Us is a thoughtful story about two relationships. The stories are based in reality, and the lead actors are all up-to-the task of portraying their characters on screen. The movie not only feels real in the face of the sci-fi DEI device. It’s clear that writer, xxx, spent a lot of time putting meaningful dialog on the page.

I may seem to praise Everything Before Us overly. Wong Fu Productions have produced an ambitious and entertaining movie, and I cannot wait for their next production. But Everything Before Us is not a perfect movie.

The first problem is the pacing of the movie. It’s just too long. The movie has two parallel story lines and time spent on the Department of Emotional Integrity device. These three elements must then force themselves into one movie.

Everything Before Us is a romance movie. The inherent nature of this genre means there are not a lot of surprises. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, the movie falls victim to the audience getting too far ahead of the movie. When the audience is ahead of the movie, boredom sets in because they are waiting for the movie to catch up. The script needed serious editing, and some scenes could combine.

The other problem is with the lead characters. From a story standpoint, the characters make sense. Ben and Sara act the way they should, and Seth and Haley are good college students. The problem is an exciting character on screen is more than gender, age, and physical features. They have personality, dreams, and weaknesses. People have quirks and personalities that on-screen help you relate to their plight and differentiate themselves from the other characters in the movie.

It is not that the characters were bland, but they are generic.  Ben is an artist, why drives his passion for painting. Sara is a baker. Why does she like baking over fine dining? Seth is a college student. What’s his goal in life? Haley wants to travel abroad? Why?

Finally, Wong Fu is bringing the voice of the American Asian on the screen. They should be commended for the quality of their work and their ambition to produce. Please let this criticism serve as a way to improve your future work.

Twinsters – Movie Review – Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Rarely do amazing opportunities just show up out of nowhere. Even so, to have access to a film crew when it happens is even more amazing. For Samantha Futerman, one day would change her life forever and in true guerilla-style filming, it needed to be captured.

Festival: Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Directors: Samantha Futerman, Ryan Miyamoto
Subjects: Anaïs Bordier, Samantha Futerman

In 2013, Samantha received a friend request from a French girl in London. Strangely though, this girl looked exactly like her. With some quick research, Samantha soon discovered that her doppelganger, Anaïs was born on the same day and in the same city in Korea. It appears that this possible twin was split up at birth and given to separate birth parents by separate adoption agencies.

Twinsters has everything you want from a documentary: a compelling story, interesting subjects and something to learn.
Compelling story. Immediately Samantha pulled her friends together to document the events that were about to unfold, and indeed they captured real moments throughout Samantha and Anaïs’ adventure. This adventure includes: the investigation to find out what happened, meeting for the first time in London for Anaïs’ fashion show, and the reaction of close friends and family when the twins first appear together. These reactions are classic.

Interesting subjects. Both Samantha and Anaïs are irresistible people. Their similarities in personalities are fascinating, and their different upbringings are intriguing. The movie is pure joy to watch.  As the fly-on-the-wall, you will have a smile on your face from start to end from this feel good story.

Something to learn. Now that you’ve captured an audience, why not teach them something. The subject of Twinsters is adoptions…more specifically international adoption. When it came to growing up in a family that is not your ethnicity, Samantha and Anaïs both had different experiences coping with looking different but feeling like family. Samantha had brothers who had her back, and Anaïs was the only child of a French couple. It was this experience that lead Samantha and her best friend, Jenna Ushkowitz, to start Kindred Adoption. Kindred Adoption is an organization for adopted children to find resources the need to make the most of the situation life has given to them.

Twinsters is a fantastic story as well as a fantastic documentary. To learn more about the film, check out my interview with Samantha and Jenna. To see Twinsters, go to https://facebook.com/TwinstersMovie

Writer Julian Camillieri Talks About His First Feature Film – The Party is Over

Writer Julian Camillieri joins Alan Ng on Secret City Geek Lab on KTSTfmAnaheim.com.

Alan and Julian discuss his movie The Party Is Over starring Kyle Mooney. Available on VOD on May 1, 2015.

In this alternative college comedy, three roommates face the consequences of three bizarre relationships. When Natan meets Sana, a strong-willed Muslim, he must confront his obsession with her dedication to religion in a modern society. Fino is arrested for sexually assaulting Nia, a beautiful classmate who enjoys aggressive role-play sex. Fino must find out whether he misunderstood Nia’s wishes or whether she is deeply manipulative. And Will, happy to learn that his girlfriend shares his appreciation for amateur pornography, is soon overwhelmed by the idea that she has her own puzzling curiosities.

The relationships offer a humorous, twisted, and honest look at the complications of the American collegiate experience – one filled with cultural clashes and sexual misadventures.

Everything Before Us – Movie Review

Everything Before Us is part science fiction but mostly a romantic comedy. The movie is set in a world where the fictitious Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI) scores individuals on their aptitude in establishing, maintaining and succeeding at relationships, especially in the department of love.

Like your credit score, individuals are given a score, 70 being average. This score moves up and down based on the relationships; one is in and based on the length of the relationship and who was at fault when it ended. This score is not only an indicator of compatibility with another person, but also used as a metric for finding employment, getting bank loans, and finding the right circle of friends.

The movie follows two couples: Seth (Brandon SooHoo) and Haley (Victoria Park); and Ben (Aaron Yoo) and Sara (Brittany Ishibashi). Seth and Haley are two college student. First high school sweethearts and now separated by distance as Haley is at school in San Francisco, and Seth is living in Los Angeles. Ben and Sara are former lovers. Ben has a hard time finding a new job because of his low score. He asks Sara, who is about to open her first bakery, to accompany him to the DEI to address some unanswered issue about their break up.

Everything Before Us is the first feature film from internet notables Wong Fu Productions. As friends attending UC San Diego, Philip Wang, Wesley Chan and Ted Fu started producing amateur videos and found a way to leverage YouTube and social media to become the internet giants that they are today.

Over the years, fans have not enjoyed Wong Fu’s thoughtful storytelling about human relationships but also admired the high-quality production values they bring to their videos today. It is clear that Wong Fu pulled out all the stops with Everything Before Us. The movie not only feels like a feature film but also maintains the flavor and vision of Wong Fu.

Everything Before Us is a thoughtful story about two relationships. The stories are based in reality, and the lead actors are all up-to-the task of portraying their characters on screen. The movie not only feels real in the face of the sci-fi DEI device. It’s clear that writer, Chris Dihn, spent a lot of time putting meaningful dialog on the page.

I may seem to praise Everything Before Us overly. Wong Fu Productions have produced an ambitious and entertaining movie, and I cannot wait for their next production. But Everything Before Us is not a perfect movie.

The first problem is the pacing of the movie. It’s just too long. The movie has two parallel story lines and time spent on the Department of Emotional Integrity device. These three elements must then force themselves into one movie.

Everything Before Us is a romance movie. The inherent nature of this genre means there are not a lot of surprises. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, the movie falls victim to the audience getting too far ahead of the movie. When the audience is ahead of the movie, boredom sets in because they are waiting for the movie to catch up. The script needed serious editing, and some scenes could combine.

The other problem is with the lead characters. From a story standpoint, the characters make sense. Ben and Sara act the way they should, and Seth and Haley are good college students. The problem is an exciting character on screen is more than gender, age, and physical features. They have personality, dreams, and weaknesses. People have quirks and personalities that on-screen help you relate to their plight and differentiate themselves from the other characters in the movie.

It is not that the characters were bland, but they are generic.  Ben is an artist, why drives his passion for painting. Sara is a baker. Why does she like baking over fine dining? Seth is a college student. What’s his goal in life? Haley wants to travel abroad? Why?

Finally, Wong Fu is bringing the voice of the American Asian on the screen. They should be commended for the quality of their work and their ambition to produce. Please let this criticism serve as a way to improve your future work.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Panel Transcript – Star Wars Celebration – JJ Abrams Kathleen Kennedy

Star Wars Celebration got off to an exciting start with The Force Awakens panel and its special guests J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy. On April 16, 2015, Star Wars fans from around the world gathered together to get the first word on this exciting panel. Joining The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and LucasFilm President Kathleen Kennedy were droid creators Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples; new cast members Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega; classic series cast Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew; and moderator Anthony Breznican from Entertainment Weekly. The following is a transcript of the panel:

Anthony Breznican:     Let’s bring out two people, let’s bring out two people who are opening that window again for us. Please welcome the director of The Force Awakens, also the co-writer and the producer JJ Abrams. As well as the producer of The Force Awakens and the president of Lucas Film, the person’s who’s creating a whole new series of films. Kathy Kennedy.

JJ Abrams:                   This is amazing.

Anthony Breznican:     That’s a nice reception.

JJ Abrams:                   Unbelievable. You’re welcome.

Kathleen Kennedy:      You’re welcome

JJ Abrams:                   Thank you for waiting.

Kathleen Kennedy:      How many out there waited all night long? Okay we’re going to try it very hard not to put you to sleep.

JJ Abrams:                   And it went crazy.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Wait, I just have to say last night. I was so excited as we’re walking through that I ran in before anybody got inside and I bought this T-shirt.

Anthony Breznican:     It’s too bad you don’t don’t know anyone who could send you at Star Wars.

Kathleen Kennedy:      I know, it’s so much more important to pick things up here at celebration. It isn’t anywhere else. I had to have it first.

Anthony Breznican:     Let’s start talking about this movie. I bet that’s everybody wants to hear. JJ you’re directing this film, you co-wrote it, you produced it. Like me, like a lot of people in this room, you grew up with Star Wars. It was part of your childhood. How important was it in shaping your life as a kid.

JJ Abrams:                   First of all, I just like to say thank you to all of you who are here this is overwhelming and incredibly excited. I’m sure like many of you the experience I had seeing Star Wars for the first time was mind blowing. I was 11 years old when it came out. 11 was a great age to have my mind blown.

I’ll never forget that feeling of seeing “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Fade out and those words hit the screen with that incredible music, and it was that moment on that just transported me. It was a firs time a movie made me laugh that way and made me believe in another world that way and it was really George Lucas’ brilliance not only creating these incredible characters and this amazing universe.

Also that it had such heart and the biggest thing for me is it had such hope and that to me it was incredibly powerful even 11 years old.

Anthony Breznican:     Were you a collector, did you have the toys, did you ever dressed up for Halloween?

JJ Abrams:                   It sounds like someone must have told you something. I did won a Halloween one year dressed up as a Jawa. I don’t want to tell you what year it was. I did.

Anthony Breznican:     Kathy … People have been waiting for this moment for a few years now. Ever since Disney picked up, merged with Lucas Film. They announced it there would be a new series of films. Can you tell us about your transition about from producer to the president of Lucas Film launching this whole new series of films.

Kathleen Kennedy:      I have to say that when George asked me to have lunch with him. It was almost 3 years to the day that I sat down with George in a small little restaurant, in New York. He said I’m retiring and I am thinking about moving on and I’d like somebody to come in and carry on this legacy. I thought he was going to asked me recommendations on who might do that.

I said, “Who are you thinking about?” He said, “Well I was thinking about you.” Needless to say … Thank you, thank you. As any of you can imagine, it is an incredibly daunting task and I’ve been unbelievably fortunate obviously the background I had in working with Steven Spielberg for many years, and working with George Lucas on all the Indiana Jones movies.

I think it did prepare me, but I must say that when I turn to the guy on my right and said, “Will you help me do this? I can’t do it alone.” Thank God, although you didn’t say right away.

Anthony Breznican:     Yeah, JJ what was your initial reaction when she said, “Join me and together we’ll rule the galaxy.”

JJ Abrams:                   No. But I said no partly because it was incredibly daunting thing, partly because my family and I … We had this plan what are we going to be doing that next year, partly because it felt like I’ve been doing sequels and things in the past. I just wanted to sort of break away from that. When I sat down with you, to have this conversation and we actually were sitting there talking about what could come next and what it would be.

I mean you could imagine it’s a very different thing very much like this moment. You can anticipate it, and expect what it’s like to come out and see a room full of fans. To actually be here with you is a very different and wonderful experience. This was an unexpected reaction because I really thought I would just say no and I found myself, having this conversation with you it was impossible to say no.

Anthony Breznican:     He said yes.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Thank you JJ.

JJ Abrams:                   Thank you Kathy.

Anthony Breznican:     One of the things that’s been noted about this film is Star Wars has always pushed the boundaries of visual effects but you’re kind of taking a retro approach this time around. You build a lot of practical sets. I hear people like that.

JJ Abrams:                   That’s an awesome reaction. I will say that when we started talking about actually what the story would be, and how to make it happen. The thing that struck me. Look at that. There we are …

Kathleen Kennedy:      It’s really fun place. [crosstalk 00:06:20] we’re flying.

JJ Abrams:                   Well, the … When we were working on pre-production of the movie. The thing that struck me and it wouldn’t get out of my head, is just how real you knew and felt Star Wars was when you first saw, A New Hope. That feeling of actually being in whether they were shooting in Tunisia or on various physical tangible sets. You couldn’t deny it.

I knew it’s Star Wars. There are going to be an endless number of effects that will be done, CG and otherwise of course. We needed a standard, and we needed to set a standard that was real, that felt like you knew the people were in those places. The way the light interacts with the set, you want it to be legitimate. You want it to be authentic.

Building as much as we possibly could, was really the mandate and I will tell you the amazing thing is as we’re working now, of course finishing up the edit of the film. Even before Ireland get started doing their spectacular work. It’s an amazing thing to actually be able to watch the movie, and you can see what it is. You don’t need to use your imagination because we actually have those sets there and it was great for the actress too.

Anthony Breznican:     Giving the Stormtroopers some direction. Now …

Kathleen Kennedy:      I just want to say, right now everybody … Everybody in this amazing creature shop that we work with that made every single thing you’re looking at in the movie are all gathered together right now in London and they’re watching it, live-streaming right now.

Anthony Breznican:     Indulge me a minute. For the folks in the creature shop, not just applause and cheering. Could everybody make their best Wookiee Roar for those guys right now? I want to hear thousands … that’s cool, thank you.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Close to a Bruce Springsteen concert.

JJ Abrams:                   There they are, that’s them.

Anthony Breznican:     They’re watching. That’s them now right? Watching from London. You began filming the first 10 days of this movie were on location, Abu Dhabi a desert landscape. People have seen desert landscapes before in Star Wars. What are we seeing and what was it like to start shooting in such an inhospitable environment.

JJ Abrams:                   It was an incredible thing to shoot there. It was a 128 degrees. The amazing thing about … There it is, that’s a picture. Kathy Kennedy took that photograph.

Kathleen Kennedy:      On my iPhone.

JJ Abrams:                   Shot from an iPhone. There we go. Shooting in Abu Dhabi was an incredible thing. Star Wars is as much a Western and a fairy tale as it is anything else. One of the things that you expect and want to see are real tangible John Ford beautiful landscapes and shooting in Abu Dhabi provided just that.

It was an incredible thing to be there. The location is a desert planet called Jacu. People have thought it’s Tatooine. It’s a planet called Jacu and you’ll learn a lot more about Jacu maybe even today.

Anthony Breznican:     It’s a hot place is it? Is there anything else you can say of course with Tatooine it has the 2 suns. Is there anything about the place of this planet and the universe that you can tell us about?

JJ Abrams:                   No.

Anthony Breznican:     Okay.

JJ Abrams:                   But you … I promise you, you’ll see more today.

Anthony Breznican:     One of the first opportunities that everyone got to see the sets that you’ve been talking about were the Force for Change videos that you made and you showed off some creatures, you showed off the new X-Wing. Tell us about the first wave for Force for Change program? What were the effects of that?

JJ Abrams:                   Here’s the thing. I don’t need to tell any of you here or most of you watching. There’s a great tradition in the Star Wars community of giving back. When Kathy and I first started working on this. We realized that this was an amazing opportunity to engage with the fans for at least a decade, if not more.

We were inspired by the fans themselves, and we went to Disney to Bob Iger, and Alan Horn, Alan Bergman, and convince them they completely got the opportunity and saw it and really demonstrated incredible leadership in doing so. We’re so grateful to them and we started Force for Change. The first day of shooting we engaged the fans, we offered an opportunity to be in the movie, donating $10 to UNICEF which is one of the great organizations doing an amazing work with children around the world.

For $10 donations, you have a chance to be in the film, and I will say that thanks to you, to this day, we’ve raised over $6,000,000 for UNICEF which is amazing. In the name of Force for Change and that’s money that is doing real work right now with UNICEF Innovation Lab for children, thousands of children throughout the world and then that’s really an amazing thing and thank you for that.

Anthony Breznican:     That’s not the end of it now. Force for Change is kicking up again as you go toward the December release of the movie. Kathy what’s next for the Force for Change.

Kathleen Kennedy:      We’re really excited about this continued relationship with UNICEF. We’re going to join forces with a program called Kid Power in fact I’m wearing one of the bands right now. What happens in the classrooms is that kids wear these bands, and in fact I was walking to the hall testing this, and after you take so many steps.

It actually triggers a therapeutic packet of food for children who are malnourished all over the world. This is a program that we’re hoping will become a movement. Disney will become a movement, Disney has stepped up and they’re spending $1,000,000 on the programs. Fans have contributed through Humble Bundle another million and we’re hoping that Star Wars will ignite this and really turn it into a worldwide movement.

We’re very excited by our relationship with them.

Anthony Breznican:     Since we’re here at celebration, let’s talk about your history both of you with this. This event JJ you’ve gone as a fan before right?

JJ Abrams:                   I’ve been before and it was great to come here this morning, and get to walk through some of the stalls and meet some of you. It was just an incredible thing to see that the time and the effort and the passion that goes into so many of the booth. It’s amazing.

Anthony Breznican:     Kathy you’re in Germany at the last celebration 2 years ago. This was … Was it your first time there?

Kathleen Kennedy:      It was my first time at celebration. George had actually been telling me over and over again how amazing it was. I just missed Orlando. When I got to Esin, I have to say I was wildly unprepared for what I was walking into, and just astounded as JJ saying about the quality of the work and the level of creativity.

One of the areas I walked by were the R2-D2s that have been built. This guy right down here.

20150416_180100231_iOSAnthony Breznican:     Fan built R2-D2.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Right, right fan built. Everything that is actually we didn’t get to run up to the second floor today. I understand there’s over a hundred R2-D2 so I can’t wait to see that. The incredible thing was, when I was literally leaving Esin and going back to London where, we’re prepping the movie. I turned to our creature shop and I said, “You know I think we’ve got to hire those guys out of celebration. Let’s track down who they were.” We hired Oliver and Lee.

Anthony Breznican:     Would you like to meet the droid mechanics? Let’s bring out Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples and friends. Welcome to Celebration you guys. Welcome R2. Let’s hear it for R2-D2 this is actual R2-D2 from the movie. Lee and Oliver you were once guys out there in audience now you’re up here on the stage. You are fans who have now contributed through the Star Wars universe. Give people a little sense of what that feels like.

Oliver Steeples:           There’s absolutely nothing that prepares like to sit here. Several years ago I was out where watching the stage, and here I am. Just like how to put in to words.

Lee Towersey:             It was awesome, it was great. Everyday we’re going to work with the smile on our face. It’s brilliant.

Anthony Breznican:     You got the job because of your fidelity to recreating the original R2-D2 tell us about your own contribution, like what is your own little artistic spin on the Force Awakens version of R2-D2?

Lee Towersey:             We’ve pictured here now this is a new design done JJ gave the request for some dome. We currently left to create a new dome which JJ was happy with. This is an R0 dome and the white one is RO-LO, ROLO and the LO stands for Lee and Oliver. Hopefully that would be used.

Anthony Breznican:     There you go, you named it after yourself.

Oliver Steeples:           These R4 are for domes for X-Wings basically bringing the R5 and R6 into the Star Wars universe, you’ll see them on a back of various X-Wings.

Anthony Breznican:     This is interesting because you’re not building the full droid on these, these are just the domes right? To attached to the practical X-Wing fighters that you built for that sense, right?

Oliver Steeples:           Yeah, every specific pilots has their own droids in the back. You will see, I can’t give it away. Which droid goes each, which pilot?

JJ Abrams:                   I just got to say that you guys did an amazing job, and it was … It’s a very stressfull thing every day, you’re working half, these things have to work well whenever there is a malfunction you guys were on it, and repair it almost immediately there was never a costly droid delay so we are very grateful.

Anthony Breznican:     Droids always work. Let’s hear it for the thinkers of the Force Awakens the human Jawa’s. Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples. Thank you very much guys. Let’s hear it again for R2-D2. Let’s move now from robot … We do we have to bring out one more. One more robot. I’m sorry I almost wrap you too soon. Giving short trip to one of the new droids of the Star Wars universe.

20150416_173130584_iOS                                    Please welcome BB-8. Just say a couple of words about BB-8. This could get ugly. Is there a little rivalry between them? BB-8 was a creature that was performed. We talked originally … Could you guys keep it down? We talked originally about how to do this, how to best have BB-8 in the film. There were a lot of discussions about how having a CG BB-8 would be so much easier for shooting.

We also knew it would be better for the film for the actors, for the sets, for the look of it. If it were performed. Neil Scanlan and his unbelievable team you saw earlier in a picture built and puppeteer BB-8 in the movie did an extraordinary job and it was better for the actors, it was better for the film itself. You’ll see their work. It’s amazing.

Kathleen Kennedy:      I also want to say that Bob Iger who’s the chairman of the Walt Disney Company sitting out in the audience and he’s the one that found the company that helped us discovered the technology of what you’re seeing right now. Because we now have BB-8 operating on his own thanks to Bob.

Anthony Breznican:     Well give R2, and BB-8, and Oliver, and Lee a round of applause. Thank you guys so much for coming out. Thank you for bringing out the droids. I want to start off with one in particular. He’s definitely not here today. He’s in everyone’s thought. Harrison Ford recently he had a very serious accident, but he’s a total bad ass who crash landed that plane and made it out okay.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Yes, I got to say the amazing thing about Harrison, and I don’t think everybody out there will be surprised is that he’s the only person that can make an emergency landing on a golf course, in front of 2 doctors. He’s home and resting and getting well as fast as he can. I can’t even begin to tell you how much he wanted to be here but maybe next year. But at least by the time we open this movie. I know that Han Solo will be very actively involved in what we’re doing.

Anthony Breznican:     JJ have you talked to him recently?

JJ Abrams:                   I was going to say I was texting with him yesterday and I was going to go over him and see him but he didn’t have time for me, because his friend was coming over for lunch, and he was like, “Not today Mike.” All right whatever. He sends his best, and he’s doing great and working hard, and that guy is … I’ve never … I had respect for him all my life.

I have never more respect for a guy until I saw that he, how he landed that plane I mean that was an amazing that he did. He’s more of a hero in that move than I think he’s been in other movies he’d been. It was an incredible thing he did.

Anthony Breznican:     Everybody give a shout out to Harrison Ford. I don’t know if he’s watching the live screen at home. Send him some love. Let’s talk about some of the other new faces that are going to be in this film. There are 3 lead characters that you want to talk about.

Star Wars - The Force AwakensJJ Abrams:                   Yeah, we have … We were very lucky, we obviously went through the process that you go through in searching for actors, it’s the typical long tedious audition process. I will tell you that we could not have ended up with 3 more talented and wonderful actors and people. We have Oscar Isaac, we have Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega.

Anthony Breznican:     What can you tell us about the characters they play? Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron.

JJ Abrams:                   I’ll tell you … I think rather than me tell anything about them, I think they should. We should bring them out.

Anthony Breznican:     Let’s bring them out. Please welcome Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. Whenever you guys have appeared in public. Did people ever asked you about Star Wars before? A little bit?

Oscar Isaac:                Just a little bit.

Anthony Breznican:     Sometimes.

Daisy Ridley:               I’d never been anywhere like this. This is like crazy.

Anthony Breznican:     There’s still a lot, 7 months out that you can’t talk about with regards to your character. Maybe you could give us a little tease of who they are we’ve seen them in the teaser trailer, we saw that image up on the screen. Let’s just go one by one and tell us where do we discover Rey in this movie, Daisy?

Daisy Ridley:               Hey yo all, again. We’ve discover Rey on the desert planet, Jacu. She is a scavenger in like a ship graveyard and she is like completely self-sufficient, she does everything for herself, and very solitary until she meets another character and the adventure begins.

Anthony Breznican:     That leads us to John Boyega. Finn. Finn is the first character we see in The Force Awakens. He was the first face that appeared in that teaser trailer last November. John … He’s in a Stormtrooper uniform, but people are wondering is he in disguise? Is he an actual Stormtrooper? Tell us how do we meet Finn in this movie?

John Boyega:               First of all, Star Wars Celebration, what’s up. What? Insane. How to do that, we find Finn he’s in incredible danger and the way in which he decides to react to this danger, changes his life, number one, and launches him into the Star Wars universe in a very unique way. I can’t wait for you guys to see it.

Anthony Breznican:     He is a Stormtrooper right? You can confirm that? He is, he’s a Stormtrooper. But, John everbody knows Stormtroopers are bad guys. Are you a bad guy, or a good guy in this movie?

John Boyega:               My memory just gone.

Anthony Breznican:     No recall? All right, we’ll come back to it some other time. Oscar Isaac.

Oscar Isaac:                What’s up everybody.

Anthony Breznican:     The only character on stage who has 2 names, Poe Dameron we see him piloting an X-Wing fighter. We saw you in the uniform there. Tell us about … Tell us about playing this guy. Who is he?

Oscar Isaac:                He’s the best freaking pilot in the galaxy. That’s who he is. He’s been sent on a mission by a certain princess. He ends up coming across Mr. John Boyega’s character, and their fates are forever intertwined.

Anthony Breznican:     The 3 leads, I find it fascinating that you have a Stormtrooper, and an X-wing pilot, I don’t know potentially working together with a scavenger sort of takes all the boxes. There are a number of actors that everybody knows are in the movie but are not able to join us yet. We’ve got time to reveal them.

JJ Abrams:                   We have this incredible cast. Some of them you see here, including Adam Driver, and Andy Serkis, we have Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie. It’s an incredible group. We have many, many months before the movie comes out and I promise you that we’re going to have a lot of fun revealing between now and then the other actors.

How lucky are we to have these 3 today. Come on.

Anthony Breznican:     Now what we have here are some questions from the audience, people who, fans have been sending them in all week, and we have a few that were gathered just last night from the folks we’re camping out. This question it comes from the Star Wars fan in Italy. “As a fan, how does it feel to grow up with Star Wars and now be a part of Star Wars?” John I’m going to throw this to you.

John Boyega:               Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve paid the games of Star Wars on my PS3 honestly. Guys, Force Unleashed 1, Force Unleashed 2? Come on. Obviously as a fan coming on set, I obviously freaked out a bit seeing Harrison Ford stood right in front of you. At the same time, you do get cast members to sign your merchandise after a wrap which is …

Daisy Ridley:               John signed his own figurine everyone.

John Boyega:               The whole cast, the whole cast.

Anthony Breznican:     Was there a particular favorite piece of merchandise that you were like, “I got to get this if nothing else signed.”

John Boyega:               I had a Han Solo and Stormtrooper gear and it was like this big. I went over to Harrison and said, “Can you sign my doll?” He was like, “This is weird. But, I’ll sign it for you.” I got it signed on set.

Anthony Breznican:     That’s how you do it. Here’s another question from a fan in Japan. “If you were to put yourself in the world of Star Wars. What type of character would you be? Because they’re in Star Wars. I’m going to asked you Kathy. What type of character would you be?

Kathleen Kennedy:      As I said, I think the interesting thing about that question is I don’t think I have a lot of choices.

Anthony Breznican:     At least originally.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Originally.

Anthony Breznican:     Princess Leia was kind of the only gamut.

Kathleen Kennedy:      I’m going to say that, that’s going to change as you can …

Anthony Breznican:     Well, this is something that’s important to a lot of fans when you made that, when you release that photo the cast photo and release the initial cast list. Some people noted that it was only Daisy who is new to the cast representing the females of the galaxy. You know and I know a lot, there are tons of female fans of Star Wars and I’m raising one. I’ve got a little girl, she’s 5 years old, her name is Audrey and she loved Star Wars and I’m kind of excited that there are going to be other characters for her to identify. Tell us about that, tell me about expanding that.

Kathleen Kennedy:      … Characters, and really strong women, and not only in Episode 7, but the conversations we were having moving forward there are going to be a lot of wonderful new characters. I have 2 girls too, so I’m under a lot of pressure.

Anthony Breznican:     Here’s a question from the UK. “How hard is it to find the right balance between new, and old technology.” Not in terms of making the film JJ. “But just the sort of battered world that we saw in the original Star Wars saga, versus the kind of shiny new one in the prequels. How do you decide which balance to present 30 some years after the events of the Return of the Jedi?”

JJ Abrams:                   I think the … Again I sort of said this before. One of the things that I love so much about the original trilogy was that sense of everything being real, and weathered and lived in, and used. It was a world of underdogs, and you just felt you’re fighting against an enemy that was bigger and larger and for me the look and the feel of that technology it being and anything but pristine, anything but brand new.

It was really important. I think there needs to be a contrast. The amazing aesthetic again. The brilliance of what George did the contrast between the gleaming empire and the dusty cantina streets of Tatooine …

Kathleen Kennedy:      Amazing Ralph Mcquarrie.

JJ Abrams:                   Ralph Mcquarrie.

Anthony Breznican:     Concept artist who designed a lot of the look of Star Wars.

JJ Abrams:                   We’re very much following that feeling. Again this feeling takes place decades after Jedi. This film needs to follow suit, in that regard I think that’s what you’ll see.

Anthony Breznican:     Here’s another one, this one comes from the US. It’s a tough one. “With millions of fans all around the world. Are you afraid to disappoint with this movie, and how can you guarantee you’ll please every single ass one of them.”

JJ Abrams:                   Well we just will. Here’s the thing, obviously as they say, “You can’t please everybody.” Though we are trying very hard to do just that. I will say this, that there are moments where the pressure of what we’re doing, the responsibility of what we’re doing. Honoring the legacy, but using the legacy to tell a brand new story that moves forward that makes the fans proud it’s the most important thing that we’re all working on.

I will say that though there are moments of, I don’t know I’d say sheer horror at what that is. The reality is, I’ve never had more fun in my life working on anything. The opportunity far outweighs the risk of this, and I can’t wait for you to see them.

Anthony Breznican:     Kathy here’s a question, James who came here. He’s here from London. This is one of the questions we got out in the line. “It is hard to please everybody.” he says. “How much do you take into consideration the fan perspective when you’re devising these new stories?”

Kathleen Kennedy:      I don’t think there’s anything more important in the Star Wars universe than the fans. You guys talked to us all the time about everything and we take that really seriously and we talked about it. It doesn’t mean for obvious reasons we can do every single thing that is dictated by the fans.

We’re fans too, and everybody inside the Lucas Film Organizations are fans. Many, many fans are inside the Walt Disney Company. I’ve been amazed since we’ve been a partner of the Walt Disney company now that everybody is a fan. Everybody has a Star Wars story. That generational experience is something that is really important and it’s everything in terms of the future of Star Wars. You guys you energized us. Thank you.

Anthony Breznican:     Here’s one for JJ. This one comes from Ben. He came here to Anaheim from Ontario Canada. It’s a pretty basic question. He wants to know, “JJ what advice would you give to a young aspiring filmmaker?” Get started.

JJ Abrams:                   Well, first of all I think the reality is that everyone has a camera in their pocket now. When I was a kid it wasn’t this ubiquitous thing that everyone just carried a camera around. The ability to just make stories, make films, tell story is real, and is incredible. When I look at my kids who make a video, and they’re doing dissolves, they’re doing titles, they’re doing visual effects and things that you only dream of when I was a kid.

To me it’s just as that the technology has been democratized everyone has accessed to the ability to be a filmmaker. If you want to do it, the only thing stopping you is you and so do it and put it out there and let people see them. I can’t wait to see your movies, Ben.

Kathleen Kennedy:      I got to say the fan films that we see all the time, unbelievable. I am continually amazed that the fan films that are created for Star Wars.

Anthony Breznican:     They’re awesome. This one goes out to Oscar, Daisy, and John. It’s from Sarah who didn’t travel far. She’s from Sta. Ana, she came here. She walked here. The question is, you start shooting this movie. Who is more excited the new comers like yourselves? Or the veteran actors from the original trilogy.”

Daisy Ridley:               The original actors were coming back to universe they absolutely loved, and we were a joining a universe we will yet to love as much as we do now. We were all excited, and then coming here today has made it so much more exciting. All of us is so … cannot wait to show you guys what we’ve done.

Oscar Isaac:                It was interesting because I was in my hotel room waiting to find out if I had been cast, and if I needed to stay for that reading that picture that you guys saw that iconic one. When I finally got the call that I was indeed officially going to play, put Dameron I was so excited/nervous to try to tap back into that, “Because I don’t even know if I can do it, I don’t know, man.”

I blasted the Star Wars theme as loud as I could and I grabbed my shampoo bottle, and I just sort of going [sound effects 35:02] I was like, “No I can do this.” I remember that feeling. That’s how I dealt with it.

John Boyega:               I mean with me the excitement just turns into absolute nerve, and I was scared to tell my parents that I got the part of Finn in Star Wars in case they didn’t believe me. I waited until that cast photo was released before I told my parents. All that time my dad saw me leaving go into this place, and I was reading all these red sides, and he’s like, “What is going on.”

I just told him I was filming 24.

Anthony Breznican:     I want to thank you guys who submitted their questions on line, and who waited in line to offer their question to the cast and the filmmakers. It’s so wonderful to see the new faces of Star Wars. How about if we bring out, you want to bring up somebody else, some other … These are sort of.

I would say these are new faces but also familiar so please welcome, from the cast of Star Wars The Force Awakens, the new Stormtroopers. They look great right? 30 years changes the outfit a little bit. There are some other folks who are here, people you know, people you love. We’re going to bring them out too. Please welcome you know him as C-3PO Anthony Daniels.

Now welcome princess diplomat, freedom fighter, Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. Why don’t you break out … Why don’t you break out your Wookiee Roar again for the man who co-pilot the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca himself Peter Mayhew, and Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill. That’s a lot of love for the veterans of Star Wars. Anthony. Anthony I want to start with you. You are the only actor to appear in all 6, now 7 Star Wars films as C-3PO the only one.

Anthony Daniels:         It is quite amazing because it’s 40 years now, 40 years since I first met George Lucas. Very quickly became part of a team, that got involved in making this crazy little film that none of us, none of us thought that any of you people would ever come to see.

Anthony Daniels:         How wrong were we?

Carrie Fisher:              I knew, you guys were coming.

Anthony Daniels:         No you didn’t. We were … apart from Carrie, we were totally wrong because you did come and you kept coming and from the beginning you stayed with us all the way and it is quite extraordinary. Now there’s even more of you joined in the fun because it’s 3 generation who loved this story.

Of course as Anthony suggest 3PO and indeed myself, we’ve actually survived 6 films think about that one. Of course the future who know, but I do think that maybe in the future you will be there? Okay as for the past I got to say thank you for your kindness, your support, your affection for the whole project and especially in my case for the character that I am very, very fond of, a character who has just become a hashtag “C3PO human cyborg relations.”

Anthony Breznican:     Peter Mayhew the man who brings such soulfulness to Chewbacca. You … How does it feel to return to that fury suit?

Peter Mayhew:           It’s kind of nice to get back into fury suit, because I can go anywhere in the world, and so it be comfortable. Also the mere fact that I wouldn’t have been associated with these guys if I didn’t have the walking carpet as the saying the young lady calls me. It’s been great are what this is all about and we are there. We’re going to enjoy it and I hope everybody else does. It should be great, enjoy it.

Mark Hamill:               I hope you notice he’s taller than I am sitting down. I’ve always ranted them with that.

Carrie Fisher:              I’m shorter than everyone standing up.

Anthony Daniels:         And cuter.

Mark Hamill:               Thank goodness we’re all proportionately cast.

Anthony Breznican:     Carrie, he puts on the fur. I’m wondering Princess Leia was always very fashion forward. Are we going to see any return to those classic hair buns from the original movie this time around?

Carrie Fisher:              The buns are … They’re tired now. We’re probably not going to have the futuristic buns. I think we have an alternate thing that you’ll be very into which is not the metal bikini. I promise, I promise.

Anthony Breznican:     How do you feel about expanding the world to include more girl power? You were the only women in this original Star Wars films and now there are so many others joining the cast. Sisterhood of Star Wars?

Carrie Fisher:              Well It’s good to have a little help, but I like being the only one when I was 19 and that was possible. Now I need some backup.

Male:                           We love you Carrie.

Carrie Fisher:              I love you.

Anthony Breznican:     Now Mark Hamill.

Carrie Fisher:              See you later.

Anthony Breznican:     Mark Hamill you’ve lived with Luke Skywalker for a long time. What do you want to say to the fans? What can you tell us about returning as Luke Skywalker.

Mark Hamill:               I remember George call the original film the most expensive low budget movie ever made. I remember saying to him, “I know I think this is a winner. I think we’re going to out-gross Planet of the Apes.” That’s the Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes by the way. No, I really just have a simple message not just to all of you in this room, but to people watching us around the globe and that’s a simple thank you.

Because if it weren’t for the UPFs, Ultra Passionate Fans. We wouldn’t be here. It never ceases to amaze me and I’m so grateful for your support, your enthusiasm and yes your passion. Because over the years my entire adult life, I felt such loved from you and you’re more than just fans. You’re family.

Male:                           We love you Mark.

Carrie Fisher:              You grew up with us. I mean we’re still not … We’re still growing up too. You guys grew up with us. It’s an amazing thing to be part of so many people’s childhood and to be a toy at the same time. Thank you for playing with me, when I’m plastic.

Anthony Breznican:     All right. Even though the whole cast is in here. We’ve got a lot of people in one place, and all we have right now is that one CP atoned imaged of everybody doing the first reading. Why don’t we get the cast, the Stormtroopers …

Mark Hamill:               Put on your wide angle lens.

Anthony Breznican:     Get everybody together for a photo. It’s too bigger group for a selfie but you guys can take the photos. Let’s bring out R2-D2 and BB-8. Here they are, get out your cameras, hit record, capture the moment. These guys have to say goodbye now. Thank you guys everyone so much for coming out. Thank you for joining us at celebration for kicking it off right.

Kathleen Kennedy:      Don’t worry we have one more thing. Don’t leave the hall. JJ is going to take a little time now, and he’s going to tell you about his childhood memories of Star Wars. Do you want to tell them why we’re really standing here?

JJ Abrams:                   Who wants to see a new teaser? Honestly and I know that we’ve said thank you a lot to you guys. I need to see it one more time on behalf of Kathy and myself and to everyone who’s watching, who’s not here. We cannot thank you enough the energy that you guys throwing our way is evidence of the Force and we couldn’t be more grateful. We want to show you this is our second teaser and we’re very excited for you to see it. We hope you like it, but mostly thank you so much, for all of your support. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

True Story – Movie Review

The movie, True Story, starts the moment journalist Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) and accused murderer Christian Longo’s (James Franco) lives intertwined. In a moment of lapsed judgment, Michael Finkel is fired from the New York Times because of a story he fabricated in order to enhance the drama of the piece. When Finkel returns in disgrace to his hometown, he is informed that a murderer has used his identity in order to escape the United States.

Release Date: April 17, 2015
Rated R
Writer: Rupert Goold, David Kajganich, Michael Finkel
Director: Rupert Goold
Cast: Jonah Hill, James Franco,

True Story 02Christian Longo is accused of murdering his wife and three small children. While in prison, Finkel seeks him out to why he used his identity and to see if there is a story there. In exchange for the story, Longo wants Finkel to teach him to write. This begins a sort of chess game, as Finkel starts a relationship with Longo in hopes of publishing a book and to also see if Longo committed the crime. The deeper Finkel gets; the darker the facts become.

For all intent and purpose, True Story is a two-man play between Jonah Hill and James Franco. It is the interplay between the two actors that is the most compelling moments of the movie, and it is this interplay that takes up most of the movie. It feels that the sole reason the movie was made because Hill and Franco got together and wanted to make an actors’ movie with one another.

True Story 03That said, I did like the interplay between the two. Franco always feels natural in the roles he takes. Hill does, at times, look like he’s overacting, but as the movie progresses this feeling fades.

Acting aside, the movie is about a disgraced journalist, Michael Finkel, who drawn in by a charismatic sociopath, Christian Longo. The movie traces this emotional and psychological roller coaster ride that Finkel is suffering. Is Christian guilty? Can he be the heinous killer that he’s made out to be? The ride is like a roller coaster it’s riveting and nauseous at times.

But in the end, rather than immersing yourself in an intriguing story, we are still left with a showcase of two of today’s young actors.

Furious 7 – Movie Review

Full Disclosure: I have not seen any of the Fast and Furious series prior to seeing Furious 7. Based on the events of the previous Fast and Furious movie, the Furious crew is up against a former special operative, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Shaw is the brother of the previous villain in Fast and Furious 6 seeking revenge on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family.

Release Date: April 3, 2015
Rated PG-13
Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster

The movie starts with the plot of revenge as Shaw looks to end the lives of Toretto and his family. Shaw is basically

Furious 7 04But to complicate the plot further is a global threat, when a terrorist organization is about to get its hands on a device called the God’s Eye. This device enables the user to access every surveillance device in the world, including security cameras and cell phones. The terrorist organization led by its leader, Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) has possession of the device and the sexy hacker, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who created it.

Secret government agents, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) enlists the help of Toretto recover the device and Ramsey. In return, Toretto can use the device to find Shaw. What is interesting is that there was never a discussion of whether or not God’s Eye violates privacy rights and laws.

When it’s all said and done, Furious 7 is an action movie with several amazing set pieces strung together by a thin plot. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as audiences get good action. The first set piece is in the Russian Mountains. With the help of Mr. Nobody, the secret operation drops the team on a lone mountain highway. First, the team drops in with parachutes attached to their cars. Second, they neutralize the cars guarding the transport vehicle. Third, Ramsey is rescued.

Furious 7 03Furious 7 is a visually stunning action movie. The problem with the action is that it employs a combination of practical, real stunts and computer generated imagery. The effects are so well done that it is hard to tell what is real and what is created. For example, when Toretto jumps a car from one skyscraper to another, you know full well that none of that is real. The problem is that rather than feeling real, it feels fake. Furious 7 is essentially a realistic cartoon.

When you have a great deal of Universal’s money behind you, the cartoon leans toward the real side, but its still feels fake. The final set piece takes place on the streets of Los Angeles. It involves cars passing Ramsey from one to the other at high speeds. It involves a military helicopter with smart missiles, and it involves the destruction of various building and parking structures in downtown Los Angeles.

Furious 7 may be an action film, but it is also a tribute to Paul Walker. Walker managed to film the movie prior to this death. Cast and filmmakers felt it was necessary, rightfully so, to say goodbye to his character, Brian O’Conner. Small scenes, added dialog and a touching ending were added to the movie as a tribute. This tribute is effectively poignant, assuming you know what happened. If you’re unaware of Walkers death, the scene may feel a little heavy handed.

Furious 7 is a movie that succeeds thanks to a cast that you can tell is close like family and to a studio that made all if its movie-making resources behind it. But there is something to be said about returning to good old fashioned action movie making.

Get Hard – Movie Review

Get Hard is a movie with a great premise–Rich white guy asks his black friend to help him survive in prison. Sadly for Get Hard, it fails to reach its comedic potential. Will Ferrell is James, a wildly successful stock broker. After being falsely convicted of insider training and embezzlement, James is sent to ten years in a maximum prison. Afraid of being killed and worse, James asks his friend Darnell (Kevin James) to give him the skills necessary to survive in prison.

Release Date: March 27, 2015
Rated R
Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts
Director: Etan Cohen
Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson, T.I.

Get Hard 04Get Hard is essentially a buddy comedy. Two unlikely people are forced to team up under false pretenses and eventually become friends. Will Farrell and Kevin Hart play the characters they have been bred to play in movies.

As James, Will Farrell plays the familiar white guy, who is oblivious to the world around him, and everything he knows of prison and African-American culture comes from film and television. Kevin James is also comfortable as Darnell, the African-American struggling to provide for his family and realize the American dream of owning a high-end car detailing business.

James learns a valuable lesson about the misconception and prejudices about the African-American community. Darnell also learns about friendship when he has to hide the fact that he’s the furthest thing from a thug imaginable.

As a comedy, it relies on a constant stream of laughs and the all-important big moments. Get Hard has an adequate supply of laughs. Ferrell gets big laughs as he attempts to talk tough. James manages to cover up the fact that he knows nothing about the thug life and shows it by turning James’ home into a makeshift prison with golf club bars.

Unfortunately,  the needed big moments come in the form of raunchy humor with payoffs that fall flat. Maybe the sodomy and keistering jokes should have been funny, but it just comes off as uncomfortable.

The heart of the movie is the relationship between Farrell and Hart. They are a good pair. You can’t help but root for them individually and as friends. With just a few writing adjustments, Get Hard could have been a great movie.