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    • The History of Star Wars Fandom and How That Relates To Solo: A Star Wars Story

      1 day ago

      ericvespe

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      A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Star Wars fandom was united. It was generally accepted that A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and most of Return of the Jedi were good, the Ewok spin-off movies and the Holiday Special were bad and all was right in the world


      Sure, Ewoks were always divisive, but a lot of the Return of the Jedi hate that has become commonly accepted didn't seem to pop up until around the time the Special Editions were released. As someone who was there I don't remember anybody talking shit about the movie on the whole. Ewoks, absolutely, but most people loved how the Vader/Luke/Emperor storyline played out, thought the Jabba sequence was rad as hell and the Redwoods speeder chase the most thrilling thing since the original trench run.



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      Then the Special Editions happened and that was a huge event. The movies were all #1 again at the box office, but all the early days CGI soured the experience a little and then became giant points of contention when George Lucas refused to let people own the actual versions they fell in love with to begin with.


      But we all still mostly agreed on Star Wars. At least on all the important things anyway. Some of us spun off to the Extended Universe books, some of us stuck with the movies as our canon, but we all basked in the same loving glow of this series we all adored.


      Then the dark days began. For me it was sitting in the Regal Metropolitan's biggest house after waiting in line for 2 weeks for The Phantom Menace. The opening crawl went by and the audience was going absolutely batshit. It was the first official, real-deal Star Wars anything in 16 years and it was finally here. Then the Neimoidians spoke. I'll always remember the line-reading. “Yes, of course. As you know our blockade is perfectly legal.” The emphasis was on all the wrong syllables and it sounded like a white guy playing a 1940s-era Asian stereotype.



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      There was a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and the whole temperature of the room changed like an invisible wet blanket smothered the audience's enthusiasm at the same time. That movie has high highs (Darth Maul, a cool lightsaber fight, the remarkably thrilling podrace sequence) and low lows (pretty much every line of dialogue stiltedly spoken, a convoluted, boring plot about trade embargoes and resource hording, and front to back bad acting from good actors), which left me in a daze when I exited the theater.


      Episode 1 couldn't be bad. It's Star Wars and no official Star Wars Saga movie had been bad before, so it must be me. I rewatched it a half dozen times that summer and every successive screening made me angrier and angrier at the stuff that didn't work.


      You may love the prequels, you may hate them or you may feel indifferent about them, but it's undeniable that they deeply fractured Star Wars fandom. I thought I had moved on from that franchise until The Clone Wars was able to retroactively improve the nonsense of the prequels. Suddenly Anakin was a multi-dimensional character and I actually bought him as a good guy worth saving. Suddenly the Clones had personality and were rich characters. Suddenly the Jedi weren't just boring dudes sitting in a circle debating about mundane bullshit. I still may not love the prequels, but The Clone Wars and, later, Rebels, helped me come to terms with them.


      Then the Disney era came and for a brief time fandom was reunited again. Maybe not as permanently or purely as they were in the good ol' days, but that level of excitement between when Episode 7 was announced and it premiering was the closest I've felt to pure unity since the lead up to Episode 1.


      Again, there were always minor squabbles and some cynicism, but on the whole the question of what this new Star Wars was going to be enraptured most of us. The guessing game and slow glimpses behind the scenes and wait for that first trailer... it all felt fun again.



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      There's a reason The Force Awakens broke box office records and had huge legs. It was a fantastically fun movie with one foot planted firmly in nostalgia with the legacy characters and a rehash of A New Hope's basic structure and one foot taking a giant step forward, introducing us to a whole new cast of lead characters that somehow felt perfectly Star Warsian.


      Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Kylo Ren... they all felt like part of this universe without being direct repeats of what came before, thanks in large part to the smart decision to mix and match Star Wars character tropes. There isn't a Han Solo type. Finn and Poe have elements of the charming scoundrel, but Poe also has Luke's almost naive optimism. Rey has Luke's pure-hearted earnestness as well as a dash of Han's roughness and Leia's get-shit-done attitude, for example.


      But even this very crowd-pleasing movie couldn't completely heal the fractured fanbase. The cracks started showing up again, this time with a heavily misogynistic flavor that puts a bad taste in my mouth. The same people who believed a young man intuitively strong with the Force but without any training whatsoever could use the Force to essentially dunk a basketball from outside the stadium said that it was unrealistic that a girl who had fought for her life since she was a child could swing a lightsaber.


      That's not to say everybody who dislikes the new characters or how they're executed are misogynists or racists. I want to be clear about that because saying something that definitive undercuts the discussion at large and automatically paints anybody who disagrees with me in the most negative light possible. I would never assume that's where you're starting from if you dislike the new Disney-era saga films. However it is fair to say that if you are racist and/or misogynist odds are you hate these new movies.



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      Star Wars has always been progressive. The very first film is an allegory for Vietnam, which means the evil Empire is the American Military Industry, folks. They may dress like Nazis, but the Empire is a stand in for America and the evil Emperor was Nixon. Don't take my word for it, Lucas says it here.


      But a lot of fans were happy to keep all that as subtext and weren't comfortable when that progressiveness was put on full display in the new era.


      Yes, some prequel haters were dismissive of prequel apologists and that conversation was hardly ever cordial and very often heated, but there's a meanness to the fanbase now. Maybe, like the MAGA hat wearing bullies that have sprung up in the last two years, the mean Star Wars fan was always there and just afraid to go full bore until now, but it's happening.


      That all came to a head with The Last Jedi's release. One more time, in case you missed it, I'm not saying that if you disliked any aspect of Episode 8 you are automatically lumped in with the worst of the worst. It's totally fair to not want to see Star Wars evolve past the icons that you love and that's what that film was about. Remember them, use that memory to inspire the next generation, but it's not their time anymore. We see that on the light side with grumpy old man Luke's storyline and you see that on the dark side with Kylo Ren finally evolving past just trying to imitate Vader.


      That brings us to Solo. The reason I spent so so so much time outlining the history of Star Wars fandom is because I believe where you fit into the current Star Wars fandom will determine how you react to Solo.



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      I think those that loved the direction The Last Jedi and, to a degree, The Force Awakens were going in will feel like Solo is a step backwards. Their interest will be muted because it's not a story about pushing the overall lore forward. It's a nostalgia bath that wants you to relax in the warm waters of characters and iconography most of us grew up with.


      There's no real attempt at gaining any deeper understanding of the characters you already know and love. They're so focused on just making them look and feel right that any deeper reason for this movie to exist within the established lore is thrown out the window.


      For me that was frustrating. We'd get little glimpses going in that direction. In particular there's a conversation between Han and Lando where they're getting to know each other and talk a bit about their parents. The way Lando talks about his awesome mother piqued my interest. It was the first time I felt like they were exploring something about that character I didn't already know, but it's dropped as soon as it is brought up.


      And that's fine. It's not what I want out of Star Wars at this point, but I'm sure it's what a lot of people do want. They just want a fun story told in an exciting way with the characters they loved. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not all that interesting to me.


      But I'm the guy that never really got into the Extended Universe books either. I liked what I read just fine, but they just never felt like real Star Wars to me. They did for a whole lot of people, but I wasn't one of them, despite trying as hard as I could to be one.


      Solo is made for those people. It really does feel like a movie adaptation of an EU book that never was and for some that will be music to their ears.


      Whether you will think Solo is good, bad or mediocre will entirely depend on what you want out of Star Wars. My guess is that history will show it as an entertaining, but inconsequential addition to the overall lore, but only time will tell.


      On a technical level it's a solid movie. There are a couple really thrilling action sequences, one involving a train heist and one being a rather creative envisioning of the Kessel Run. These sequences are unquestionably well-executed. Towards the end they finally go for the character complexity I was hoping for with a band of pirates and smugglers, but at that point it felt like too little too late to me.


      The idea of doing a Han Solo on his pirate adventures story is pretty fun, but much like Rogue One I felt like they missed the target on integrating a famous cinematic genre into Star Wars. If they made Heat, but in Star Wars or even The French Connection, but in Star Wars, that would have been amazing, but we don't get nearly enough of the smuggler life or spend enough time in the gritty criminal underbelly of this universe. That stuff felt like a side note, kind of like how the Men On A Mission aspect of Rogue One was backgrounded pretty much until the final third and we never got to see those people actually work as a team until the big mission... when they're all separated anyway.



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      Everything you've heard about Donald Glover's Lando is spot-on. He's got the charisma and chops to make me buy that he's Lando. Alden Ehrenreich is trying his damndest to pull off young Harrison Ford's swagger and he succeeds on some levels, but the fact that Glover seems to do it so effortlessly really shows how much Alden's struggling to find that pencil line thin balance between capturing a character's essence and just giving us an imitation.


      It made me wish this wasn't a story about Han Solo, to be honest. If Ehrenreich was playing a character in the Han Solo mold then I think he would have been freer to try different things and make it his own.


      I have some issues with where things leave off at the end, particularly when it comes to Solo himself. I kinda feel like it undercuts who he is at the beginning of A New Hope, but I'm not too much of a stickler about that because there is still a question about stuff that could happen between the end of Solo and the beginning of A New Hope.


      The score is pretty damn good, as to be expected. Some great themes return at the right moments and really help give those big scenes the Star Wars feel. John Powell does a fine job at keeping the non-John Williams cues feeling like Star Wars and not a pale imitation, which is a tall order.



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      Ron Howard is a guy who knows how to put a film together. He has decades of experience telling him what angles work best for what scene, how to manipulate the edit and to keep the pace going, but there's not much of a director's voice on display. He does a solid job, no doubt, but I didn't feel like there was anything special going on, which is kind of my issue with the entire movie to be honest. Maybe if he had been able to build this one from the ground up instead of pinch-hitting when things went bad between Lucasfilm and Chris Miller and Phil Lord things could have been different, but that's not what we got here.


      At the press screening there was a bit of a technical difficulty. Right in the middle of the movie, just as the main heist was about to begin, the screen went dark, but the audio kept playing. This went on for about 60 seconds and then the projectionist stopped it and rewound the film. The problem was they rewound it almost a full reel, maybe 15 minutes.


      As I rewatched those 15 minutes I found I was bored, which doesn't bode well for my next actual re-watch. If that had happened during The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi or literally any original trilogy movie I wouldn't have felt that way, but I did here and that might be the most blisteringly critical thing I could say about the movie.


      It doesn't make you a bad person or a bad fan if all you want is to cuddle up to an old friend and bask in nostalgia for 2 hours and 15 minutes. If that's what you want then you'll get your money's worth here. If you want something a little deeper then you might find this journey into the Star Wars universe a little hollow.

    • Captain Marvel Enlists Annette Bening!

      2 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      You know, I love it when the MCU lands big, serious actors. I mean, superhero movies on the whole don't have a problem hiring all sorts of actors, from A-list to Oscar types, like Viola Davis and Will Smith in Suicide Squad or Benedict Cumberbatch for Dr. Strange or Jeff Bridges in Iron Man, but occasionally there's a bit of old school casting that makes me sit up and take notice.


      Gary Shandling in Iron Man 2 was the first one. I just never pictured a world in which Larry Sanders himself would be on screen with Tony Stark. Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was another happy surprise.


      The biggest get up to this point was Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Him being the big bad guy of that film helped Winter Soldier set a new tone for the MCU. It's still got goofy comic book shit in it (the whole Zola/Talking Computer sequence for instance), but there's a degree of legitimacy that comes with someone like Redford.


      It seems like Captain Marvel is going in that same direction, at least in terms of casting. The Hollywood Reporter has a story saying that Annette Bening was cast in a secretive role that is most likely a scientist of some sort. 



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      Bening doesn't do a lot of giant budget movies and when she does they tend to be weird. Mars Attacks jumps to mind. Her big films all seem to be awards stuff, like American Beauty. She usually stays in the more serious adult drama world so when she signs up for something like Captain Marvel that tells me she believes in the story being told and/or really wants some of that sweet, sweet comic book movie money.


      Either way it's an exciting development for MCU fans. 

    • Burt Reynolds May Star In Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood!

      2 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      Burt Reynolds was once the biggest movie star in Hollywood. He rode that wave for a decade before audiences opted for more action hero types like Schwarzenegger and Willis and Stallone. Movie star ranking aside, Reynolds was one of the most charismatic leading men to enjoy success in the movie industry. Watch Smokey and the Bandit or Hooper or White Lightning or Gator and tell me I'm wrong.


      The dude can phone it in for a paycheck (he did star in a Uwe Boll movie once after all), but when he's challenged he can be magic. Look no further than the performance Paul Thomas Anderson got out of him in Boogie Nights. Although he quarreled with his director that collaboration gave us something wonderful. 



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      I'm hoping we'll get the same kind of commitment here. According to Deadline, Reynolds is in talks to star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. He'd be playing George Spahn, the 80 year old blind owner of the infamous Spahn Ranch, which he would rent out as a western town to movie and TV productions from time to time, although that's not why Spahn Ranch is well known today. 


      Today it's more famous as being home to the Manson Family. Spahn let Charles Manson and his follows camp down at the ranch and in exchange Charlie had his follows have sex with the elderly man. This is the real life dude here:



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      The part is supposed to be a pretty juicy one. Deadline also reported that Tarantino regulars Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth are also in talks to join up in smaller parts. 


      At CinemaCon Tarantino said that there were going to be a ton of small, but memorable roles in this one, much like in his early work. I'd be shocked if Sam Jackson doesn't already have a part locked down.


      This is one of my most anticipated movies in production right now. Can't wait to see how it all comes together!

    • Fox Continues To Kill It With Their Deadpool 2 Marketing! New Poster Is Both Funny And Beautiful!

      2 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      If you couldn't be more psyched for Deadpool 2 then prepare to push yourself even further with this gorgeous and funny art poster Fox just released. "From the Studio That Killed Wolverine." Bless you all. I want this on my wall now. 



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      Ain't that thing a beaut? I mean, we have Blind Al, Terry Crews, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Ricky Baker, Shatterstar and Rob Delaney all on one poster! I mean, there's everything AND, literally, the kitchen sink in this poster. If this movie is even a fraction as awesome as this poster we're all in for a great time. Only a week and a half to wait, folks!

    • Wait, John Lithgow is going to play Jud Crandall in the new Pet Sematary remake?!?

      3 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      This may be a little niche, but today's casting news of John Lithgow joining up with the pending Pet Sematary remake is right up my alley. Lithgow is awesome and he's going to be playing of my favorite King characters: Jud Crandall. 



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      You'll remember the late, great Fred Gwynne played Jud in the original film and he did a bang up job, putting on an authentic Maine accent so thick he became a quick parody. South Park straight up cut and paste him into the series he was so memorable in that role. "Don't go down that road..." 


      Much like Gwynne, Lithgow's career has been mostly built around him being such a lovable guy. There have been a few exceptions, my favorite being his cold-blooded strangler character in Brian De Palma's Blow Out, but on the whole Lithgow was mostly the dad you always wanted.


      Crandall is the granddad you always wanted, so that fits. He's kind, smart, has an answer for everything, but he's also haunted. In this case he's haunted by the knowledge he has... of a little clearing beyond the pet cemetery where the soil is stoney, like a man's heart. And he's haunted by the power he knows that place possesses. 



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      The remake cast Jason Clarke as the lead, Louis Creed, a doctor who moves his family to a small town in Maine and now Lithgow. Both have starred in recent Planet of the Apes movies, so here's hoping Andy Serkis comes in to MoCap the Creeds' undead cat, Church.


      This marks a post-IT renaissance of Stephen King adaptations and I'm there for it. What do you folks think? 

    • Eric Vespe Takes You Behind The Scenes Of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom!

      3 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      The summer of '93 was an import one for me as a movie geek. Of course I had grown up with Steven Spielberg's work like Jaws and the Indiana Jones films and Close Encounters and ET, but I had never been caught up in one of those as an “event.” They had simply existed, either on cable or VHS. I did go see Last Crusade opening weekend with my family, but it was just a cool thing to do, not necessarily a landmark moment.


      The evening of Friday June 11th, 1993 I was at my grandparent's house. We were watching the news after dinner and the big story were the lines around the block for Jurassic Park. 



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      I was so pumped to see the movie, but also nervous. I was supposed to go see it the next morning, but could I even get in?


      My grandparents very rarely went to the movies with me. Grandpa Vic would often say “I want to keep my shoes” when I'd ask him to go watch movies with me, referring to the sticky floors of the theaters. But they encouraged my movie habit and bright and early Saturday morning my Grandmother dropped me off at the domed Century Theaters in San Jose, California.


      I walked up to the ticket booth while my Grandmother waited to make sure I could actually get in and sure enough I was able to buy a ticket to the first screening that morning. No lines, no problems. I vividly remember getting a Coke and some Red Vines, thinking all that stuff on the news was overblown and then I entered the theater... a buzzing, packed theater.


      Somehow I hit the sweet spot between sold out and lining up hours in advance and just kinda slid on in. I remember sitting off-center and being perfectly happy with my seat and then the usher came in and asked everybody to scoot towards the middle so the next wave of people could have easy access to remaining seats.


      When all was said and done I somehow ended dead center, middle of the theater. It's like fate put me in that seat. Then the movie played and I was hooked in a way I had never been before. Some of it was the buzz of the crowd, some was the technical majesty of the effects, both practical and digital, on the screen, some of it was the charisma of all the actors, a good deal was John Williams' score and there was also a little bit attributed to the state of the art immersive screen I was watching it on.


      The Century theaters were domed, with curved screens so it felt a little bit like I was surrounded by the movie. Not only that, but this was my first experience with Digital Sound. The DTS logo is super cheesy now, but at the time it blew my mind (and my eardrums).





      I was so into the movie. A 12 year old boy in 1993 was already the perfect mark for Jurassic Park and when you add in the fantastic presentation to the mix you get something life-changing.


      I'll always love Jurassic Park thanks to that screening. That summer I was boy obsessed. I both read the original Michael Crichton novel and listened to the audio book (read by John Heard). I collected Jurassic Park trading cards, I bought the making of book, I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, I pumped countless quarters into the Jurassic Park pinball machine. And I dreamed of petting a real life dinosaur.


      Cut to 24 years later and I found myself in the jungles of Hawaii, about to enter a tent filled with animatronic dinosaurs. Twelve year old me was very much on my mind in that moment.


      But lets back up a second. I got the call asking if I wanted to visit the set of the Jurassic World sequel after I had booked a much-needed vacation to New Zealand in that same timeframe. However you must remember that whole page of backstory I just made you read. A little thing like vacation wasn't going to keep me from getting to visit a Jurassic park in real life. The way it all worked out I flew from Austin to LA to Aukland to Wellington (roughly 20-ish hours of travel), got to sleep for a night and then got on an airplane and headed about 10 hours back the way I just came and I did so with a smile because there was a chance I was gonna see some goddamn dinosaurs and for that I'd fly around the world three times over.


      One of the perks of getting to touch down in New Zealand first was I happened upon a bag of limited edition Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Doritos that was only available in the Southern hemisphere. The chips were green colored and “Gamora themed” and I said “Screw it, I'm going to gift these to Chris Pratt if I get the chance.”


      So, me and my movie tie-in junk food ended up in Hawaii where I found out the set visit was very limited. It was just me and Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta there, which made the whole thing feel intimate and less junket-y where you're herded like cattle from one part of the visit to another. Don't get me wrong, those visits are fine, too, but this kind is way better.



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      Our first stop was the destroyed Main Street of Jurassic World, built up off of Police Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. This exterior set was totally cool to be exposed to the elements because in the story for the sequel the Park has been abandoned for years. They've given it back to the dinosaurs and thus everything is overgrown, broken down, unkempt and probably filled with a bunch of dino doo-doo. I didn't see any, but I'm sure it was there.


      They built Main Street on an old WW2 airfield and it looked identical to the one you see (in much better shape) in the first Jurassic World even though that original set was built in New Orleans. The production design team was able to recreate it in exacting detail from the construction drawings, 3-D scans and photos taken on set the first time around.


      I didn't see any evidence of it, but I'm hoping we see a skeleton holding margarita glasses in each hand somewhere in this scene.


      While that's wishful thinking on my part, what I can say is that this location doesn't play a huge part of the movie, but I was told that it serves a pretty big moment that sounds like it mirrors the original Jurassic Park.


      When our heroes return to the island they find more dead dinosaurs than alive dinosaurs. Bones, carcasses, etc. I mean, the dinos have been left to their own devices so naturally the meat-eating meatasauruses have been eating the veggiesauruses and they don't tend to clean up after themselves.


      Apparently our heroes come to Main Street and see their first sign of life: a Brachiosaur walking amongst the ruins. Like I said, it sounds like a callback to the original moment when Grant sees the Brachiosaur for the first time. There's still awe and majesty even as this island is about to go up in flames.


      One of the big characters that has been kept out of pretty much all advertising is Ted Levine's character, Wheatley. We didn't get to see him work, but we heard a lot about him. Ted Levine is a very great and intimidating character actor probably best known as Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and his character here is apparently a real son of a bitch. He's a hard-ass military style dude on the ground to organize the extraction of the very specific species he's tasked to grab and from the sounds of things he's a little bit of a mix of Pete Postlethwaite's Roland Tembo and Peter Stormare's Dieter Stark from The Lost World in that he'd rather hunt the dinosaurs instead of saving them, but he doesn't seem to have Tembo's respect for the animal. He's a little more cruel about it and like most cruel people in the Jurassic universe things probably aren't going to end too well for this dude.


      While the production was very secretive about what happens after everybody gets off the island we did get filled in on some of the key on-island locations. We know that our group is trying to find Blue and to do so they need to journey to a radio tower on the island where they can plug in and track the dinosaurs (remember they all had tracking devices implanted). I assume there is where Justice Smith's character comes in since he's a computer dude who is deathly afraid of literally everything on the island.


      We've all seen the trailers by now so you know they find Blue. What you might have missed is that Blue has made her nest in the overturned jeep that the T-Rex messed up so beautifully in Jurassic Park. I was told later that the idea to do that came from Mondo, of all places. You may remember their teaser poster print they did for Jurassic World depicting a Raptor on top of the ruins of the car. Apparently that image stuck with the creative team and they couldn't find a place to put it in the first film, so they wrote that into the sequel.



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      And speaking of Blue, I guess it's time to talk about losing my mind and petting a real, living, breathing dinosaur.


      I'm jumping forward a little bit here, but before the final part of our set visit, Peter and I got to step into the SFX tent and see some of the animatronics involved in the movie. We missed the biggest animatronic build of the shoot, sadly. They built a full sized T-Rex all drugged out and in her container, but that wasn't brought to Hawaii so I didn't get to see her.


      I did get to see a baby stegosaurus and Blue in all her head to toe glory, though, so I'm not complaining.


      The stego was a partial build. The body wasn't fully animatronic as the scene it's in apparently calls for it to be fairly stationary. The head, though, was articulated and puppeted by two guys, one controlling the rig that made its head move around in a surprisingly big range and the other using a remote control to make the eyes blink.


      Working together they made this head on metal skeleton come to life. It sniffed at my leg and nudged my outstretched hand like a big, goofy dog. Even though I could see the illusion thanks to the physical body not being in that tent at the time I still bought into it thanks to the animation happening before my eyes.


      The raptor didn't require as much suspension of disbelief. Blue was a full build. She was groggy, laying on the ground, but fully articulated. Her legs could push out, her arms moved, her ribcage expanded and contracted with each breath, her head could raise up off the ground and move around, her eyes opened and closed and could follow you, her mouth and tongue were working. In short, she was alive. In that tent at that moment, with a huge team of puppeteers behind her, Blue was a living thing.


      This was the moment I had dreamed of since I was a wide-eyed kid sitting in that movie theater watching dinosaurs come to life.


      The SFX crew told us that this particular build breaks down into three parts that when connected makes a seamless, full body Velociraptor and that it typically takes 11 puppeteers to bring her to life. Some will operate individual limbs, some the bladders built in that make it look like she's breathing, some on her face.


      The SFX team, lead by Star Wars' Neal Scanlan, didn't just create living dinosaurs. Nope, there's lots of dead ones as well. Near Blue's nest, out in the jungles of Hawaii, they built a full scale, dead adult Stegosaurus. This thing was massive. Sixty feet long, 15 feet tall, and immaculately detailed. Leathery, drying skin hanging over an exposed ribcage... It was sad and beautiful at the same time.


      There were a good dozen more dino carcasses scattered around the landscape. We went to visit the Radio Tower location, which is near where they shot the Gyrosphere Valley sequence in the first Jurassic World, at a place called Kualoa Ranch, which has been the location of a ton of movies and TV shows. When Hurley was golfing in Lost or when Lex, Tim and Dr. Grant were running from the Gallimimus in the original Jurassic Park, the Kong skeletons scene from Skull Island... that was all shot at Kualoa, a giant gorgeous amazingly beautiful reserve. I'm also told the Obamas frequent the event center.



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      One of the locations in this huge natural wonder is a steep green hillside and the Radio Tower was down at the foot of that. They had rigged the whole area with gas pipes so they could pump out fire for a big lava sequence and they even dotted the landscape with those dino carcasses. From the tower location you could easily see for miles and they had a bunch dotting the landscape and like the Stego these aren't just bones, but fully detailed decomposing carcasses.


      The scene in the trailer where Chris Pratt is running down the hill yelling “RUN!” is from this location and it looks way more steep and treacherous in person than it does on camera, let me tell you.


      We saw very little actual filming, but our last stop of the day did take us to the active set.

      The scene is the finale of the big island escape and involved Justice Smith and Chris Pratt and a speeding truck racing down a dock, trying to make it to a boat being chased by lava and probably a dinosaur or two. I don't know about that last part, but it is a Jurassic movie, so if someone's running odds are there's a dinosaur involved somewhere.


      Instead of getting to watch the scene unfold we instead spent our time at this location interviewing many of the key players, including legendary producer Frank Marshall, Justice Smith and Chris Pratt. I've run all those interviews separately and will list them at the bottom of this article. I highly recommend you give them a read if you want to know more about the movie and hear some fun filming anecdotes.



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      This was my first time meeting Pratt and he was every bit the joking, charming leading man type I expected from his film work. Of course within seconds of him entering our interview tent I bestowed upon him the gift of limited edition Doritos that had his face on them and to my delight he was super over the moon about it.


      There was a debate about whether or not he was going to “smash them” that night or hold on to them for posterity's sake and eat them in 20 years. That spurned a quick conversation about just how high you could get eating 20 year old movie tie-in Doritos and then we calmed down and had a nice chat about Jurassic stuff.


      Before we left we got a visit from Bryce Dallas Howard, who was in the tent next door to the one we were doing interviews in. We had interviewed her earlier in the day and since she knew she had two full blown geeks she asked us if we had any thoughts about her dad signing on to do the Han Solo movie. Of course we did and we listed off a few words of geek wisdom that she rapidly typed into the notes app on her phone and she said she was going to send them on to her dad. Whether or not she did and whether or not he took any of them to heart I have no idea, but it was a pretty cool moment nonetheless.



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      And that ended the big trip. The next day I got back on a plane and went back to enjoy my vacation knowing that I had gotten to bond with a real life dinosaur. The SFX guys could explain all the servos and components that made Blue look alive all they want, but I'm pretty sure they just cloned a real life dinosaur. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!


      Thanks for following along on this crazy adventure. Hopefully you know a little bit more about this crazy new Jurassic movie. If not now you know about limited edition Doritos, so I guess it's a win either way.


      If you want to read full transcripts of the interviews with the main players then here you go:


      Director JA Bayona On Making Jurassic World Scary Again

      Producers Frank Marshall & Patrick Crowley Discuss The Goals Of This Huge Sequel

      Chris Pratt Talks About Jumping Through A T-Rex's Mouth

      Bryce Dallas Howard On Becoming A Dinosaur Rights Activist

    • JJ Abrams' crazy Stephen King-themed CASTLE ROCK gets a new trailer and release date!

      3 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      I'm hoping by now a good many of you have gotten to know me a little bit. If I'm still a mystery wrapped in an enigma for you, I can boil my interests down to two Steves: Spielberg and King. I grew up obsessed with both men's work. Starting in 6th Grade I decided I was going to read every book Stephen King ever wrote. I started with Cujo and being the solitary nerd type throughout all my schooling I had plenty of time to read and by the time I was in high school I had read everything King wrote (even the stuff he wrote under his Richard Bachmann pseudonym). 


      I still pick up every book he puts out and that is one prolific motherfucker, so he keeps me busy. 


      So when it was announced that JJ Abrams was developing a Hulu show called Castle Rock I was already in. Castle Rock is one of King's famous fictional Maine towns and it serves as ground zero for a bunch of crazy shit. The show promised to bring all kinds of King references and characters together and now we've gotten a new trailer that really underlines that.


      One thing that's really interesting is that they're casting it with a few Stephen King movie alums, like IT's Bill Skarsgard and Chosen Jacobs and Carrie's Sissy Spacek. The other cast is top notch, too, including Lost's Terry O'Quinn, apparently playing the new warden at Shawshank Prison, Melanie Lynskey as a real estate agent (tough job in that town), Andre Holland and Evil Dead and Don't Breathe's Jane Levy round out the cast.


      The new trailer not only gives us a better glimpse at what kind of show we should expect it also drops the release date: July 25th. It can't come soon enough for this King nerd. 




    • CinemaCon: First Footage From The Suspiria Remake Is Brutal, Intense and Mean!

      4 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      On this busy last day of CinemaCon I went to Amazon's presentation specifically because I was hoping to see something from the Suspiria remake.



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      Dario Argento's original is considered by many to be a true masterpiece of horror. From a production design, tone and music standpoint it's hard to disagree with that. Argento's gothic, colorful movie about witchcraft at a dance school gets under the skin.


      Over the years a few different directors have approached this project, like David Gordon Green. His movie didn't happen, but he ended up with Halloween, so don't feel too bad for him. Luca Guadagnino is the one who was able to get this remake off the ground.


      He's an interesting choice for this. He's known for very emotionally charged dramas, most recently Call Me By Your Name. The fact that he's following that sensitive gay romance drama with frickin' Suspiria is bonkers by itself. What's even more bonkers is he shot Suspiria BEFORE he did Call Me By Your Name.


      But what the hell was a Suspiria remake going to look like? Well, today I got to see a little piece of it and it was sure something.


      The footage was graphic, brutal and a little mean. That's a good thing, by the way. Guadagnino ties witchcraft to dance, which is interesting. The footage began with a girl trapped in a mirrored room and then cuts to Dakota Johnson's character about to practice a dance for her instructor, the great Tilda Swinton.


      As Johnson does her routine, her movements have an impact on the poor girl trapped in the mirrored room. I didn't get the impression that Johnson knew the connection was there, but the more intense her dance got the more damage she was doing to the girl in the mirrored room. With each jerk of the Johnson's arms or twist of her body the girl is thrown around the room, her limbs contorting in unnatural ways, bones cracking, jawbone slowly dislocating, until it culminates with Johnson finishing her dance and the girl is left a crumpled, drooling ball of twisted legs, arms and torso.


      When I say the footage was mean, I'm not kidding. This scene went on for a long while. Maybe three or four minutes long and when it ends the girl in the mirrored room isn't dead. Oh no. She should be, but that mound of body parts is hitching for breath, drool spilling out of her broken mouth.


      Tonally that was right on. Visually it was radically different from Argento's movie. It's a good thing that Guadagnino isn't copying the original, but his choice seems to be to go in the complete opposite direction. 



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      The footage I saw was stark and almost colorless. The walls and floor were white, the clothing was all muted, light colors.


      I only saw one little sequence, so who knows if he gets crazier with the colors later in the movie, but I don't see how you remake Suspiria and don't, you know, use color. That's like doing Superman without John Williams' score or a Jaws movie without a shark.


      That said, the most important thing for Guadagnino to nail is tone and boy did he.

    • On-set Interview: Chris Pratt Talks About Jumping through a T-Rex's Mouth from the set of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom!

      4 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      When I got the invitation to the Hawaii set of the Jurassic World sequel I had already booked a vacation... In New Zealand. Of course I couldn't say no, but the timing was such that I flew from Austin to Wellington, New Zealand, which is about a total travel time of around 20-ish hours, get to sleep for a night, and then get right back on a plane and fly halfway back home, spend a few days in Hawaii and then fly another 8 hours back to New Zealand to enjoy the rest of my vacation.


      I mention this only because in that day and a half I was in New Zealand I found a bag of Doritos... a special bag of Doritos. I know, any bag of Doritos is a special bag of Doritos, but this was a limited edition Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 Doritos flavor that was only available in the southern hemisphere. Naturally, being the thoughtful guy I was, I picked up a bag of these green chips with Chris Pratt's face on it and hauled it all the way to Hawaii to give it to Chris Pratt himself.


      This interview was conducted in a tent on a dock where they were shooting a scene involving a big truck surrounded by fire racing to the water. The tent next door housed Bryce Dallas Howard. How do I know this? Well, she cameos in this interview after covertly dropping some eaves. You'll see.


      Right before this interview started I delivered unto Mr. Pratt his Doritos and, as expected, he was super nice about it and thanked me for bringing them to him and said he was going to either A) Destroy the whole bag or B) Save them for posterity and eat them in 20 years, which was either going to result in his death or him getting high as fuck.


      Pratt was every bit the magnetic dude you'd imagine him to be. Very laid back, but clearly super charming. You understand why he's a movie star when you meet him. The dude's funny, never put on airs and was just an overall pleasure to talk to.


      As a reminder, I conducted this interview with Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta, who joined me on this trip, so don't be surprised when you see his name pop up in the below interview, which covers a lot of ground. We learn more about where Owen is at, what he's been doing in the years since the events of Jurassic World, how Pratt deals with fanboying out over the legends he works with and much more!


      Enjoy the chat!



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      Peter Sciretta: It's been a few years since Jurassic World. What has Owen been up to?


      Chris Pratt: I have an idea as to the backstory. What I know and what Bryce and I and JA have all decided on... We hint at it a little bit through the interaction between Owen and Claire, but I think he's been running away a little bit. Where we landed in terms of my backstory and our relationship is that something has broken us. We're not together. The thing that has broken us is that Claire feels as though she has to do something to make it right and Owen feels as though there's no way to make it right, so you have to move on. I think that's the thing that destroyed us.


      Claire is now working for this organization and she's pouring all her energy into trying to save these dinosaurs and my character is like “let's go on a road trip. Let's forget what's happened. You keep obsessing about this.” It all came from the idea that he's a combat veteran. He's been through some stuff beforehand, so this isn't the first time he saw something really terrible happen. He's come to realize you have to sometimes accept what you've gone through and realize there's no way of changing it. That's what broke them. It's a control thing between the two of them.


      So, what he's been up to is he's been building a cabin by a lake, off the grid a little bit, probably drinking a little bit of beer and listening to music, hanging out... being solitary.


      Eric Vespe: We know part of Owen's motivation for returning to the island is to help Blue. Can you talk a little bit about how Owen might be different this time around considering the experience he had last time around. Has his point of view changed at all?


      Chris Pratt: Through the course of this film it will change, but it happens now, not between the two movies. He's coming to terms with his responsibility in working with the raptors and ultimately what the final intention with these things could be.


      We do this cool thing... It's this video log from early on in the Raptors' lives. Owen kept a video diary tracking their progress, so we see the Raptors as hatchlings to two months old, then six months old. It's this way to look into just how mammalian they are in their intelligence levels and their cognitive reasoning skills. They exhibit behaviors of empathy. He starts to realize that they've created these things that look like raptors, but they're much more.


      This movie really does open up a whole new concept for the Jurassic movies moving forward. You get an understanding that he knew a little bit more about these raptors than he'd want to let anybody know. I think he's cynical about Hoskins from the first movie, In-Gen, what their intentions are about creating animals this dangerous and this intelligent. You can assume what somebody bad would want to do with animals like that. Part of him feels as though the best case scenario is that they all die. When this island goes up in smoke it might be the right thing and maybe finally his responsibility for potentially creating a disastrous result with these animals will go away.


      So, in a way he thinks it's a natural thing for the dinosaurs to go away, but what brings him there is not so much saving the dinosaurs, it's protecting Claire; his love for her. He knows she's too big-headed. He knows she's going to go. He's not going to let her go on her own, so it's his love for her that brings him back to the island. At first. Through the course he realizes there's a little bit more to his relationship with Blue. And that he's a robot. (laughs)



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      Eric Vespe: Yes, a learning computer. He's Arnold from Terminator 2, not Terminator 1.


      Chris Pratt: Yeah, T2! (laughs)


      Peter Sciretta: The last film had a couple animatronics, but this one has a lot more. What was it like meeting these dinosaurs? I mean, I touched Blue and I almost cried.


      Chris Pratt: I know! It's really great. Because of the scenarios contrived in this film we have these passive dinosaurs. When you see the movie you'll see why they're not always running or jumping or leaping or doing things that animatronics aren't good at. They're sitting still. We did that in the first film with the Apatosaurus as it was dying in our arms. That was a real animatronic and it was amazing to hold this thing that felt living and breathing, its eyes were opening and closing. As many advancements in CGI that they've made since '93 when the first film came out they've also made some serious advancements in animatronics. These things are really very, very lifelike.


      Because of these situations we have a T-Rex and a Raptor that are full animatronic puppets. You got a dozen guys operating them and it's really cool. It's much easier as an actor to have something to react to. It's been great. Blue is awesome.


      Eric Vespe: How cool is the Rex? We've only heard about that build. We weren't able to see her in person.


      Chris Pratt: There's an awesome moment where Claire essentially rides this passed out, drugged T-Rex, which wakes up and I have to dive through its jaws. It's a really crazy sequence...


      (From next door, through the thin tent flap) Bryce Dallas Howard: SPOILER!


      Chris Pratt: Hey, I read the talking points. It said I could talk about it!


      (Still from the tent next door) Bryce Dallas Howard: Even the T-Rex?!?


      Chris Pratt: It what it says right here! (to us) Of course, Bryce is over there listening.


      Bryce Dallas Howard: (laughs) And I wouldn't call us broken, Chris!


      Chris Pratt: You've got to read the talking points.


      Peter Sciretta: Bryce was talking about how JA will play music between takes and sometimes during takes. You're used to that. James Gunn does that on the Guardians films. How is it different here with this movie?


      Chris Pratt: It's a great tool. I love it, I'm in full support of playing music through a take, even if it comes at the expense of the dialogue. Having a rhythm that's resonating through each person caught on screen is very, very helpful. You can forget that it's mid-third act and we are running for our lives. You're making this million piece puzzle and you may spend all day shooting something that takes 5 seconds. You get bored, you're sitting there annnnd action! Cut! You forget you're supposed to be breathing heavily. You forget when it's linked together it gets very manic and suspenseful. The music really helps with that.


      (JA) uses that a lot and he uses it for jump scares. He has this whole playlist that's always wired in, including a T-Rex roaring. From time to time he'll play it and we'll all react to it naturally because we don't know it's coming. He loves to manipulate us in that way, which is really helpful as an actor. He'll scare us out of nowhere or do something unexpected.


      Eric Vespe: Like play a fart sound?


      Chris Pratt: (Laughs) Not yet. We're almost done, but he hasn't done that quite yet. But I like that. It's a good tool to use to get people excited or scared or give a sense of wonderment. Especially when he plays the John Williams score. (hums the main theme) Oh my God! It allows you to do nothing because in this film we are actors and we contribute so much, of course, but there are characters we don't even see because they're going to be animated, but they're going to need to have their moment or the score will need to have its moment. It's a big collaboration and sometimes you need to sit back and let the music take center stage. When you play that music it reminds you “Oh, I don't need to try to upstage this with acting or faces or anything. I don't have to do anything here, just let the music guide me and the audience to what we're supposed to be feeling.”


      There's some great stuff, like when we're flying to the island for the first time and we're looking out the window and he's playing this music and it puts you in the scene, like you're an audience member. It's really cool. I like it a lot.


      Eric Vespe: JA was telling us that there's a heavy focus on suspense in this film. There was a little bit of that in the first Jurassic World, but it was more focused on the spectacle of the new park and the disaster movie aspect of things going wrong. Hearing that this one was going rely more on suspense did that make you more excited to do this? I can imagine the worst thing for you to do is read the script and think “We just did this.”


      Chris Pratt: It was really exciting to understand we were doing something really different. I was thrilled when I got the script. I think people have high expectations for sequels. I think with this one those expectations will be met, if not surpassed. It does something different. It opens up a new chapter. It's called Fallen Kingdom. The Kingdom of this movie is people stuck on an island with dinosaurs freaking out and killing everyone. That is falling and we're moving onto something else.


      The first one was a disaster film. Shifting the tone over to suspense is really nice because I think with suspense you can do a lot with very little. You don't see Jaws for a good 2/3rds of the movie. You know he's there, there's music, you see the evidence of it... Not to say we're doing exactly that. I don't think that necessarily works as much anymore. I was just watching Jaws the other day with my son and he's like “Where's the shark?”


      Eric Vespe: And you're like “Disowned!”


      Chris Pratt: Yeah, disowned! Get the fuck outta here! He's four and during the third act battle I was like “I'll show you the shark, get in here!” He was like “Aaaaaaaaahhh” and I was like (sternly) “You'll sit and watch! You earn this!”


      Peter Sciretta: What's it like working opposite Jeff Goldblum?



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      Chris Pratt: Man, he's amazing. A huge part of the success of Jurassic World was the success of Jurassic Park. It all started in '93 with them and with him. I know that we had the blessing of Steven Spielberg and Universal and fans, but it's nice that he signs up to do this movie because in a way it's giving it his blessing. That was really cool. He's a terrific actor and maybe the kindest actor out there. He's really cool and smart and funny and interesting. It's really awesome to have him in this movie.


      Peter Sciretta: He has such a unique rhythm in how he plays things. He's different from everybody else. I feel like if I was in a scene with him I'd just become the kid that saw Jurassic Park and I'd be watching him instead of being in the scene.


      Chris Pratt: I feel like if I answer that I'll be giving away too much, but you do have to get it out of the way when you work with someone like Jeff Goldblum or I just did Guardians with Kurt Russell... You work with these people who are icons... It's a two step process. First, you have to be authentic and let them know just how crazy about them that you are. You make that really short and brief. You get that out of the way so you're not a liar or the guy that doesn't acknowledge them. You pay your respects.


      After that you immediately move to step B which is you become a peer and a collaborator or else you lose their respect. If every time you see them you go “Dude, this is so crazy!” you might not be the right guy for this job. Even when you're feeling that the third, fourth, fifth, sixth day you work together you kind of have to bury that and get right to the work.


      It's a strange thing being famous. I'm certainly not an icon like a Kurt Russell or a Jeff Goldblum. They are icons and maybe one day I will be, but if their journey is similar at all to mine you don't really feel that way about yourself, so if people feel that way about you it's kind of an uncomfortable situation that you politely and patiently wait for to be over so you can get back to being normal again. So you get through that stuff. You go “Oh my God, I love you! I can't believe we're working together!” and then you get to work.


      Peter Sciretta: All the great Michael Crichton stories had a little something on their mind. They weren't just adventure plots. They always had some kind of commentary. What do you think is on this movie's mind?


      Chris Pratt: (Pauses) It feels relevant to now and I think part of that has to do with technology, which is not necessarily something that doesn't serve the greater good, but is valuable. Maybe we put aside moral dilemmas because you can make money. It has a little to do with greed. That's a theme that resonated in the first movie as well and continues to resonate in this series. It's a cautionary tale against greed and over-ambition and a lack of respect for the natural order and confidence in our ability to control that which we can't control.


      Eric Vespe: Which is Dr. Malcolm's stance in that first movie, so it makes sense that he's back in play here.


      Chris Pratt: Yeah, that's right.


      Peter Sciretta: Who are the real monsters: the humans or the dinosaurs?


      Chris Pratt: That's a good question! (laughs)



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      So that's the interview! Still got a couple more, with the two new faces in the group Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, coming up plus my detailed set report where I tour the island, see some dead dinos and also some very much alive (read: amazing animatronic) dinos and so much more!


      Stay tuned!

    • CinemaCon: JJ Abrams Says Bad Robot's OVERLORD is NOT a Cloverfield Sequel!

      1 month ago

      ericvespe


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      Hey, everybody. At the big Paramount panel at CinemaCon this afternoon JJ Abrams appeared on-screen to introduce some footage from Bad Robot's Overlord, a WWII horror movie directed by Julius Avery. First, he said that Overlord is Bad Robot's first R-rated movie and that it's "batshit crazy."


      Then he said contrary to what you may have heard on forums and Reddit Overlord is NOT a stealth Cloverfield movie. In fact he said they're developing a "true, dedicated Cloverfield sequel" according to JJ. That means it's not one they retrofit into the universe late in the process like both 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox. 


      So, what is Overlord. Like I said it's a WW2 horror movie about a small squad of soldier shot down over enemy lines during the Normandy Invasion. From the footage it seems like the survivors stumble across a bunker with some real messed up shit inside. We're talking Re-Animator stuff involving syringes with red stuff in them that can seemingly bring people back to life, seemingly undead monstrosities and other nightmarish things. Those Nazis are never up to any good, are they?


      The standout sequence in the footage was one of the soldier approaching a gurney with a woman on it, obscured mostly by a curtain. She's begging for help in French. The soldier pulls back the curtain and reveals the head is about all that's left. It's just her head, still asking for help, and her spinal column. Everything else has been stripped away.


      So, it's gonna be gnarly. That's very much my kind of horror movie, so count me on board with this one as well!

  • Comments (8)

    • Izayer FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Keeper of Stories

      6 months ago

      Wow. I remember when the podcast guys talked about you when they were still the Drunk Tank. Welcome. I'm sure that RT will regret love having you write for The Know! Welcome aboard!

    • prydie

      6 months ago

      Great to see you've found a new home! Looking forward to more of your work.

    • SailorGirl81 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Keeper Of Kittens

      6 months ago

      Welcome to Rooster Teeth and The Know!

    • RiverRunning

      6 months ago

      Hello :)

    • RWBimbie Keeper of Poems

      6 months ago

      Heyo !

    • ItsMeMara FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      Welcome to The Know can't wait to see what you bring to the community!!

    • EricHVela FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Not Specified Human

      6 months ago

      MOVIES!


      I mean...


      WELCOME!


      (and MOVIES!)

    • Donjre

      6 months ago

      Welcome!

  • Questions answered by ericvespe

    I curate a pretty solid Twitter stream filled with entertainment reporters, aggregators, actors, directors, producers and just plain ol' cinephiles. That means there's commentary for just about every bit of news that comes down the pipe. I also check out the scoopers regularly. Deadline, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, etc. 


    Good luck on the director goal. It's a lot of work, but if you've got stories to tell then you're in the right field! 

    Favorite 80s movie monster and why?

    | Asked by: Xuelder 6 months ago

    This is an excellent question. Do you go by design? Quality of the movie or series they're in? Lasting chills? Design would be between Predator, Pumpkinhead and Gill-Man from Monster Squad (all created by the late, great Stan Winston, by the way). I watched more Friday the 13th movies growing up than I did Nightmare on Elm Street, but I like the character of Freddy more, especially in that first film and Dream Warriors. It might not be the most original answer, but I'd probably go with Freddy.

    Absolutely not. That's what being a geek is all about. I can't tell you how many cool, random, weird movies I've found while chasing down movies with favorite character actors in it or directed by people I dig. That's the fun of all this!

    Honestly (and I know this makes me sound like a politician, but it's true) I love all kinds of movies. It's hard for me to pick between Jaws and Casablanca or The Exorcist and Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather. I definitely have a soft spot for horror and sci-fi and I'm usually more willing to give a new random horror flick a shot over some drama I've never heard about.

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