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The 'Interstellar' robot was actually a 200-pound puppet an actor carried on set

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christopher nolan tars interstellar"Interstellar" director Christopher Nolan is a big proponent of making his movies look as real as possible. 

In “The Dark Knight Rises” he actually had a plane dropped from the sky to film the movie’s opening scene. A revolving set was used to create an elaborate fight scene in “Inception.”

So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that in his latest movie, the film's two monolith-like robots TARS and CASE had hardly any digital effects.

Several puppets weighing 200 pounds were constructed and filmed alongside cast members. TARS voice actor and comedian Bill Irwin actually lugged them around set. Digital effects were brought in later for a few select scenes and to clean up any instances of Irwin in the film.

interstellar bill irwin tars Back in November, during the film's release, Business Insider spoke with both special effects coordinator, Scott Fisher, and visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin in separate interviews to find out how TARS came together.

Since "Interstellar" is out on Blu-Ray and DVD Tuesday, we wanted to share this story again with new imagery.

"Chris [Nolan] started talking about TARS very early on in pre-production," says Franklin. "And I said, ‘Well, what is this robot going to look like?’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t want it to be a sort of conventional idea of what a robot should be in science fiction. He didn’t want to make it look like just a mechanical mat ... which is typically what happens with robots in science fiction films. They tend to be sort of machine analogs of a human being. At the same time, he wanted the thing to have a real level of physical reality to it." 

Franklin's team at visual effects studio Double Negative spent a lot of time figuring out how TARS may run, fold his arms, and do various other movements.

tars vfx interstellar

At the same time, Scott Fisher's practical effects team set out to configure a giant puppet for Irwin to haul around. Fisher says TARS didn't undergo many different looks.

tars early versions interstellarProduction designer Nathan Crowley explains in "Interstellar: Beyond Time and Space" that a lot of inspiration for the robots came from balsa wood and lollipop sticks.

tars interstellar balsa wood"We started working with the original designs that Nathan had and as far as the size and the shape and seeing what we could do with a person behind it, working it," explained Fisher. "We ended up with several different puppets that we could use that he [Irwin] moved around the set and was able to interact with the actors on set and … I think that’s what makes it kind of neat."

"Bill would actually be able to operate this thing and he was essentially effectively sort of shackled to the back of it," said Franklin.

bill irwin interstellar tars

The design team ended up creating four puppets on set which consisted of TARS and CASE and their own backup robots. Each was tasked with performing different movements.

"We had one that was in the ship that could raise its head," explains Fisher. "We had one that would come out of the back of the ship. We had another one that had more intricate arm movement where the arm could fold out and then a few digits could fold out from that. We had two real hero walkers." 

interstellar tarsThe main challenge was nailing down TARS's movements on screen, something which Irwin helped the crew figure out.

"There’s a lot of trial and error as we built him to see what Bill could do and what he could handle and on different surfaces," tells Fisher. "In Iceland we had to walk through ... it was almost two feet of water. Each one [surface] kind of had a different challenge. Some were kind of slippery. It was hard to move on those. He [Irwin] just had to figure out what was the right kind of tool for each situation."

bill irwin tars movingbill irwin tars interstellar

Fisher says TARS ended up with three different walks in total.

"There’s what we call the “ape walk” and then there’s a “crutch walk” where the two outside legs and the center spins through," he said. "And then there’s where all three legs move independently."

TARS interstellar

After filming with a practical puppet of TARS, the visual effects team made minor edits which included taking out some wires, physical props and rigs, and wiping out any instances of Irwin in the film. 

"We would erase Bill if we saw him because obviously he’s a little bit taller than TARS," said Franklin. "But then we would add things like … if TARS’ arm might fold out and a smaller finer arm might come out at the end. We would add that digitally."

Digital effects were also used to add an extra wow factor to the robots for when they were moving through water and flying through the sky on other planets. 

"Mostly, our digital work was confined to those moments where TARS and CASE, his twin robot, tend to do extraordinary things like turn into the waterwheel and move through the water to be able to collect Dr. Brand, pick her up, and run with her," Franklin explained.

TARS interstellar Fisher and the practical effects team built physical rigs that allowed the visual effects team to correctly interpret the robots' interactions with the water. 

"He had a sort of water wheel rig attached to a quad-bike which we could drive through the water to create all the splashing," said Franklin. "And, then we would add the digital robots into this shot. We’d raise the quad-bike and we’d have a digital robot driving the splashes." 

"That produced this very extraordinary result where you believe he’s real because most of the time you’re looking at reality," he added. "When he’s running across the ice, for example, that’s a digital robot. But when he climbs up inside the spacecraft, he’s real."

Fisher noted how unusual it was for a director to take this approach to both TARS and CASE.

"I think most film directors would look at that character and instantly think CG but he [Nolan] instantly thought let’s do as much practical as we can. Let’s see what kind of a puppet we can build," said Fisher. "That's a classic kind of a Nolan thing right there."

MORE 'Interstellar': Composer Hans Zimmer speaks out against "Interstellar" sound critics

AND: This graphic will explain everything you need to know about "Interstellar"

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NOW WATCH: 'MythBusters' Adam Savage Explains Why TARS From 'Interstellar' Is The Perfect Robot

Vin Diesel hints ‘Fast and Furious 8’ may take place in NYC

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vin diesel jimmy kimmel“Fast and Furious 7,” aptly titled “Furious 7,” is in theaters this weekend.

While appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” this week to promote the new film, Vin Diesel let a few details on the impending sequel “Fast and Furious 8.”

It sounds like the “Fast” crew is coming to NYC.

“You know I always think of these films multiple pictures in advance. I think of them as trilogies," said Diesel. "So, Kurt Russell came in for this movie ["Furious 7"], but he was really … we really hired him because of a story that follows this that takes place in New York.”

Kimmel didn’t seem to realize Diesel had dropped some info about the sequel, but Diesel knew he let some info slip. 

He looked at the audience right after saying, “It’s just some cool stuff that not everybody knows.”

“Furious 7” is in theaters April 3.

Watch the video below:

 

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Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the end of 'Interstellar'

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Astrophysicist and StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson saw 'Interstellar' and then came by Business Insider to explain what the ending means – and if it's scientifically sound.

Produced by Will Wei. Additional camera by Devan Joseph.


StarTalk Radio is a podcast and radio program hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, where comic co-hosts, guest celebrities, and scientists discuss astronomy, physics, and everything else about life in the universe. Follow StarTalk Radio on Twitter, and watch StarTalk Radio "Behind the Scenes" on YouTube.

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You'll be able to see the next 'Star Wars' trailer in front of the 'Avengers' sequel

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john boyega star wars episode 7

If you didn't have enough reasons to see the next "Avengers" movie, here's one more: the second trailer for "Star Wars: Episode VII" will play in front of the anticipated sequel.

Both /film and Collider are reporting the second trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be attached to the "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which hits theaters May 1.

It seems like a no-brainer by Disney, which owns both Marvel and Lucasfilm. Put the trailer for one of the most-anticipated movies of the year in front of the other most-anticipated movie of the year.

The next "Star Wars" trailer is expected to debut during Star Wars Celebration, a yearly gathering for fans that is taking place this year at the Anaheim Convention Center from April 16-19.

That means we may not have to wait until May 1 to see the trailer online.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is in theaters December 18.

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NOW WATCH: The First 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Trailer Is Here!

The essential numbers in HBO’s bombshell Scientology doc

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Church of Scientology

Documentarian Alex Gibney’s Scientology exposé “Going Clear,” which debuted on HBO Sunday, revealed astonishing aspects of the church’s finances. Here’s a look at some of them.

$1.5 Billion

Journalist Tony Ortega unearthed some of the Church of Scientology’s 2011 tax documents. Those filings covered just three of “20 or 30” entities owned by the church, according to Ortega, but still showed $1.5 billion in assets.

The $1 Billion Bill

In the early 1990s, the Internal Revenue Service sent Scientology a bill for more than $1 billion of back taxes the organization owed after decades of nonpayment. This led to what the current leader of the church, David Miscavige, called “the war to end all wars” between the church and the IRS.

2,400 Lawsuits

Former church officials say that in response to the bill, Scientologists filed thousands of lawsuits targeting not only the IRS, but individual employees of the agency. At the time, the church’s assets were estimated at less than $500 million, so fighting the IRS was a “life and death” situation. Ultimately, the IRS caved, granting the church tax-exempt status as a religious entity and dropping the old bill.

2,209 Body Thetans

Hubbard told church members that 2,209 alien spirits called Body Thetans are attached to the human body. The church charges members hundreds of thousands of dollars for programs designed to expel the thetans. It is estimated that achieving Operating Thetan Level VIII–the highest level in Scientology–costs about $400,000.

Six to 40 Cents an Hour

Scientology experts say the church pays members who work in its “Sea Org” – intensive Scientology training facilities around the world – about 40 cents an hour. One former member described the schedule for Sea Org members as “30 hours on, three hours off.”

SEE ALSO: 21 famous Church of Scientology members

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NOW WATCH: This Sports Illustrated swimsuit rookie could become the next Kate Upton

All the crazy visuals from the latest Mad Max Fury Road trailer

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MMFF1Every Mad Max fan is nervously awaiting the release of Fury Road on May 15, hoping it will live up to the promise of its insanely action-packed trailers.

Possibly the last of the official Mad Max Fury Road trailers dropped this morning, and it doesn’t give a lot more of the plot away than previous trailers.

Basically, Fury Road has all the post-Apocalyptic themes you’d expect from a Mad Max film. The twist in this fourth instalment appears to revolve around a lack of women, or at least a lack of women able to breed.

In one scene, we see the main villain, Immortan Joe, unlock a vault to reveal one girl locked in a room with the words “We are not things” scrawled on the wall behind her.

MMFF12

Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne who made cult status as Toecutter in the originalMad Max, can be heard at one stage yelling “I want them back! They are my property!”

MMFF11And then there’s this eyewatering scene featuring a fairly obvious clue:

MMFF9But it would be wise not to expect a lot from the plot. From all reports, Fury Road is basically an epic car chase from start to end.

Even Miller himself described it as “a very simple allegory, almost a western on wheels”. Paraphrasing Hitchcock in a media call last year, Miller said he aimed to make a film which could be understood in Japan without the use of subtitles.

So it’s best to let the pictures speak for themselves. First up, the Interceptor is back after being destroyed and burned in the original trilogy:

MMFF13

MMFF14 Here’s a good look at the resurrected Interceptor:

MMFF2There’s been some work put into making the weapons as homebrew as the cars:

MMFF4

MMFF5Of course there’s a chainsaw. They always look great but to be honest, they’re incredibly impractical.

MMFF6This scene has featured in all the trailers and is still a great example of the kind of out-there visuals we can expect from Miller: 

MMFF7And this. Aussie singer-songwriter iOTA keeps the beats on this truck as the Coma-Doof Warrior:

MMFF 3‘Rana badge! Yes!

MMFF10It’s hard to believe no one got hurt. Miller claims 90% of the effects are practical: 

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And finally, just a stab in the dark here – could this be a Mel Gibson cameo?

MMFF8We can’t wait, and no doubt neither can the film’s backers, who splurged $150 million on a disaster-ridden shoot to get it to theatres.

It looks like they needn’t be worried. Turkey or not, it’s obvious Mad Max Fury Road is nothing if not a made-for-cinema experience.

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NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do

The 10 greatest action movie stunts of the past decade — in GIFs

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There’s no doubt that Hollywood stunt scenes have become more advanced than ever. And when it comes to these carefully executed, professionally mastered stunts, there’s one common thread: their verisimilitude.

That weak, fake-looking stuff simply won’t cut it. Audiences are in search of authentically entertaining feats, so gone are the days of stock footage and poor editing.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorites, and here are The 10 Greatest Action Movie Stunts of the Last 10 Years, in GIFs. Are you ready to be impressed all over again?

"Inception" (2010), Spinning Hallway Fight

inception

It either made your jaw drop or it made you motion sick, but there’s no denying that "Inception’s" spinning hallway fight was one of the most beautiful scenes in action movie history. The dream sequence makes it look like the actors are floating in zero gravity to engage in fisticuffs.

It wasn’t produced through CGI, but rather with huge rotating sets. So rest assured, when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is flopping around trying to land a punch, the action is all real.

"The Dark Knight Rises" (2008), Hijacking the Plane

the dark night rises

What could be more death-defying than launching yourself from a high-speed airplane? It’s not only Bane’s intro — it’s the introduction to the entire movie. After a stunt like this, "The Dark Knight" audiences knew they were in for something great. The scene took almost two months to shoot, and with Nolan’s notorious hatred for CGI, fans were at the edge of their seats the whole time.

"Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol" (2011), Climbing the Burj Khalifa

mission impossible ghost protocol

There isn’t a stunt that Tom Cruise is afraid of trying, including his climb up the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. What could easily be shot inside a studio with a green screen and a clever director was all very real.

Cruise scaled the world’s tallest building without a stunt double, employing safety cables that were later removed in the editing. Even the leap of faith, where Cruise launches off the building, was done by Tom himself.

"Fast & Furious 6" (2013), Midair Catch

fast and furious 6

"Fast & Furious" fans have been religiously loyal to the franchise since 2001, and "Furious 6" was no different. One thing is for sure: The fans may come for the characters, but they stay for the car stunts.

And when Michelle Rodriguez, as Letty, was launched off the top of a tank, only to be caught midair by Dom (Vin Diesel), who leapt out of his own whip, car fanatics knew that they had a new classic on their hands.

"Nightcrawler" (2014), Multiple Police Car Crash

nightcrawler

Not to be confused with the X-Men character, "Nightcrawler" was one of 2014’s most slept-on movies. It got an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay, but not nearly enough people are buzzing about it. The film’s climax had audiences on the edge of their seats during a high-speed chase with multiple cop cars and murders as Jake Gyllenhaal ensued.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" (2014), District 7’s Uprising

mockingjay

When Katniss and District 7 decided to rise up in protest, fans of the film franchise watched in extreme excitement. In an action scene for the ages, The Lumber District runs from the Peacekeepers, while activating hidden land mines, killing an entire team of the Peacekeepers.

"Pacific Rim" (2013), Flying Kaiju

pacific rim

Director Guillermo del Toro’s passion for fantasy lands and monsters both come together in"Pacific Rim," where the advanced special effects feel as real as they get. Most battles in the film take place in the ocean — far away from human casualties — making the flying Kaiju even more terrifying.

"John Wick" (2014), Master Gunman

john wick

"John Wick" was released in October of last year, and it was such a hit that the sequel is already in works. John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, was the best assassin before he retired. It’s a simple premise: Wick is seeking revenge against a gang that killed his dog, but it’s that simple premise that makes the film so exciting. You’re rooting for him, and between the gunfights and fist fights, he never disappoints.

"The Raid 2" (2014), Prison Yard Fight

the raid 2

With a lot of films, the hero usually fights either corrupt police or a gang. "The Raid 2" doesn’t hold back any punches. SWAT member Rama, the same protagonist from "The Raid," returns to destroy both. "The Raid 2" is filled with violence and over-the-top martial arts fight scenes, most notably the fight within the prison yard.

"300" (2006), Battle Scene

300

There’s no denying that "300" is one of the most artistic, well-executed action movies ever produced. It’s chock full of violence, blood, and guts, but is so visually appealing that it’s hard to look away. Pick any fight scenes — they’re all shot and edited spectacularly.

More From Complex:

SEE ALSO: Here's how Tom Cruise filmed the crazy plane-hanging stunt in the new 'Mission: Impossible'

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NOW WATCH: This is what happens to your brain and body when you check your phone before bed

The crazy story of how Scientology allegedly once groomed a girlfriend for Tom Cruise — and then tore them apart

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tom cruise

In HBO's explosive new Scientology documentary"Going Clear," one of the most interesting and least discussed allegations is that Scientology once hand-picked and groomed a young church member to become Tom Cruise's girlfriend.

As former Scientologists explain in the documentary, the church does whatever it can to keep Cruise happy because "In the eyes of [Scientology leader] David Miscavige, Tom Cruise is the perfect Scientology celebrity," according to ex-Scientology executive Mike Rinder.

The church reportedly kept Cruise happy by doing him favors like tricking out all of his cars and motorcycles.

Scientology Going Clear

And decking out his airplane hanger in Santa Monica, California.

Scientology Going ClearSo when Cruise was looking for a new girlfriend after his breakup with Nicole Kidman, the church jumped to help, the documentary said.

"Tom was in Spain. They were opening a new Scientology church in Madrid, and he was overheard complaining that he needed a new girlfriend," said Lawrence Wright, author of the best-selling book "Going Clear," on which the documentary is based. 

Scientology Going Clear Tom Cruise David Miscavige

"Soon after that," Wright said, "a young Scientologist pre-med student named Nazanin Boniadi was told she was going to get a special assignment."

Scientology Going Clear nazanin boniadi

At this point in the documentary, director Alex Gibney chimed in via narration to explain: "Years later, Nazanin became a successful TV actress ..."

Scientology Going Clear nazanin boniadiHomeland Nazanin Boniadi "... and would have a small part in a Paul Haggis [director and former Scientologist] film."

Scientology Going Clear paul haggis nazanin boniadi

"But at the time, she was a dedicated young Scientologist ..."

Scientology Going Clear nazanin boniadi

"... who believed in the church's claims for its humanitarianism mission."

Scientology Going Clear nazanin boniadi

"In fact, she set a monthly record for selling books for the church."

Scientology going clear

"Nazanin may not speak publicly about her experiences because of an NDA the church pressured her to sign," Gibney said, "but I discovered details from FBI testimony regarding her ordeal."

"David Miscavige assigned Nazanin's case to a key church official, Greg Wilhere," Gibney said. "He put her through a one-month program of on-camera interviews, intensive auditing, and some security checks."

Scientology Going Clear"She was moved into the Celebrity Center, separated from her family, and certain problems were addressed during this period of time," adds author Lawrence Wright. "One was that she had a boyfriend."

Scientology Going Clear"She is handed a transcript of his auditing session in which he admitted that he had an affair," Wright said, "so she broke up with him."

Scientology Going ClearNow that Boniadi was single, it was time for her makeover.  

"Wilhere took her to an orthodontist to have her braces removed," Gibney said.

Scientology Going Clear"At Burberry and other stores in Beverly Hills, he bought her $20,000 worth of clothes."

Rodeo Drive Beverly Hills"At the Celebrity Center, a man who worked for Cruise's hairstylist colored Nazanin's hair to Cruise's liking."

 Nazanin Boniadi"Nazanin was told that her makeover was part of the church's humanitarian mission, because she had to look her best for conferences with world leaders."

Scientology Going Clear nazanin boniadi"Only after she was flown first class to New York, did she discover the actual role that the church wanted her to play  she was to be the girlfriend of Scientology's biggest star."

Scientology Going Clear Tom Cruise"Within a month, Nazanin was living with Cruise. While at his house in Telluride, Miscavige came to visit."

Scientology Going Clear"Overcome by a severe headache, Nazanin had a hard time understanding Miscavige, which infuriated him. The next day, Cruise — inches from her face — pounded on the table and screamed at her for insulting the head of the church."

Scientology Going Clear nazanin boniadi

"Two weeks later, church henchman Tommy Davis delivered the news to Nazain that her relationship with Cruise was over."

Scientology Going Clear Tommy DavisDirector and outspoken former Scientologist Paul Haggis explained what allegedly happened next: "According to her [Bodiani], they [the church] came to her apartment with her mum and found every photograph of the two of them together [Bodiani and Cruise] and took them away and every scrap, every letter, everything, they tossed as if it never existed."

Scientology Going Clear Paul Haggis"And she was really upset because she was really hurt by the whole thing. And she made the mistake of telling her friend, who immediately went to tell someone in the church. She agreed to do punishment, like cleaning out the public bathroom on her hands and knees with a toothbrush, while other people she knew were stepping over her.

She did nothing wrong, other than tell her friend she was heartbroken, and this is the way she was treated?"

Scientology Going ClearAfter the incident, Bodiani pursued an acting career and has since appeared in "Homeland,""Scandal, "How I Met Your Mother,""Iron Man," among many other titles.

Neither she nor Cruise have ever publicly discussed their alleged relationship.

Despite Bodiani's story, "The church claims [leader] Miscavige has no involvement in Cruise's personal life and that the search for Cruise's girlfriend never existed," Gibney states in the film.

But Cruise and Miscavige's relationship is deep, going back decades.

"Tom Cruise was the guy," former Scientology exec Mike Rinder said. "Miscavige and Cruise have been pretty buddy-buddy way back to 1990s 'Days of Thunder.' In the eyes of Miscavige, Tom Cruise is the perfect Scientology celebrity."

And it seems like Cruise also enjoys Miscavige's friendship.

In one clip during "Going Clear," Cruise enthusiastically congratulates the Scientology leader during a church conference by proclaiming, "We are lucky to have you. Thank you."

Tom Cruise David Miscavige GIF going clear
Nazanin Boniadi's rep declined to comment on the story, and Cruise's rep hasn't responded to our request for comment.

Read Scientology's lengthy response to "Going Clear" here.

SEE ALSO: The chilling story of how Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard rose to power

MORE: Why Tom Cruise and John Travolta can't leave Scientology, according to the HBO documentary 'Going Clear'

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NOW WATCH: This Scientology documentary made HBO hire 160 lawyers — here's the trailer

You’ll be able to see the 'Batman V Superman' trailer in theaters next month

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henry cavill superman

Ever since the first “Batman V Superman” footage sent fans into a frenzy at San Diego Comic-Con last summer, people have been wondering when Warner Bros. will reveal the first trailer for the film to the public.  

We’ve heard rumors for a while that the trailer would be attached to a few different Warner Bros.’ films ranging from the final “Hobbit” movie to “Jupiter Ascending.” Those releases have come and gone, and we’re still without some new footage of the Caped Crusader and Supes.

Well, it looks like the trailer is finally coming to theaters in May. 

Collider is reporting the “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” trailer is “absolutely” playing in front of Warner Bros.’ next big release “Mad Max: Fury Road.” 

Via Collider: 

After speaking with a few sources, I’m happy to report the first Batman v Superman trailer is on the cusp of being released. I’m told it’s absolutely attached to all copies of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is an obvious place for it to debut seeing as how Mad Max is WB’s first big movie of the summer. What I’ve heard is that Warners isn’t sure it wants to release the trailer while Avengers: Age of Ultron is destroying records and driving all social traffic during the end of April and early May. If they wait until the weekend Mad Max opens on May 15th, Avengers will have already been out for two weeks and they can take over the conversation at a time when everyone is ready to talk about Batman and Superman. The bottom line is: we will absolutely have seen the first Batman v Superman trailer by May 15th. 

This sounds about right. 

The first teaser trailer for the last Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," debuted a year out before its release in July 2012. 

With “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” in theaters March 25, 2016, marketing for the film should start to pick up this summer before it kicks into high gear. 

DC Comics recently released the first image of Jesse Eisenberg as Superman's nemesis Lex Luther a year out from the film's release.

 

 on

 

We expect even more at San Diego Comic-Con this July.

SEE ALSO: The first photo of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther in the "Batman V Superman" movie

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NOW WATCH: Disney just dropped another 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' trailer — and it's the best one yet

Look at all the contracts the Rock needs to sign to star in a Disney movie

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Ahead of an official announcement by Disney, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced on social media he’ll play the male lead in Disney’s 2016 animated musical, “Moana.” 

For an idea of what it’s like inside the Mouse House, Johnson shared an image of himself at Disney Studios where he said he had “an amazing 2hr presentation.”  

Johnson’s currently in the process of signing all his contracts for the film, in which he’ll be singing.  

If you’ve ever wondered how much paperwork an actor needs to go through to play a lead actor in a film, Johnson’s Instagram image gives you a pretty good idea. 

That’s a lot of paper.

 on

 

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NOW WATCH: Disney just dropped another 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' trailer — and it's the best one yet

The true street-racing story that inspired the 'Fast and Furious' movies

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Fast and Furious 6 Vin Diesel

The seventh installment of the successful "Fast and Furious" franchise is in theaters this weekend. 

Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese, and Ludacris return along with the late Paul Walker for another sequel to the epic car saga which started over a decade ago.

However, you may not realize that at the heart of the globe-spanning, physics-defying films lies a real-life story about street racing in New York City.

The movies, which have earned well over $2.3 billion globally, were inspired by an article from Ken Li in the May 1998 issue of Vibe.

"Racer X" tells the story of street racer Rafael Estevez from Washington Heights and how he transitioned into the sport of drag racing.  

The article also divulges on the popularity of Japanese import car customization and the operations in place to crack down on New York City street racing.

"Racer X" was a featurette available on a "Fast and the Furious" disc release that came out in 2002

In the feature, director Rob Cohen reveals he was inspired to make the film after hearing about the article and subsequently watching a race in Los Angeles.

As a result, Cohen convinced Universal to make the film and the studio bought the rights to the film from Li. 

2001's "The Fast and the Furious" was a film featuring an LAPD officer (Paul Walker) who went undercover into the world of illegal street racing to join the ranks with a well-established racer (Vin Diesel). 

The film, produced on an estimated $38 million budget, went on to make $207.3 million worldwide.

paul walker the fast and the furiousWatching the film now, it's easy to see the article's influence in the movie. 

Here are excerpts from "Racer X": 

A black Nissan 300ZX and a white Mitsubishi Starion pull out of the pack and creep up to the starting line. As the sun dances on the nearby river, the sound of honking horns and screaming drivers is drowned out by the sonic blast of the two engines revving for takeoff. A stocky Latino dude in a blinding yellow shirt stands in the middle of the highway and raises his hands. Both cars lurch and halt like chained pit bulls, their wheels spitting out black smoke. The hands drop.

Young men have been fascinated with tweaking and tuning big block Chevys and Mustangs since the days of Rebel Without a Cause. But the new guys wouldn’t be caught dead driving the gaudy muscular beasts of yesteryear. Instead, they’re tricking out low-buck Japanese imports like Honda Civics and Acura Integras and tattooing them like skateboards with Neuspeed and Greddy car parts stickers. By stroking the engine, adding a supercharger, and hitting the “juice” (nitrous oxide: a gaseous liquid once used to boost bomber planes in WWII), they can smoke the herb in the Iroc at the stoplight.

Read the full piece HERE.

"Furious 7" is in theaters April 3. 

Relive the trailer for the original film below which has a drastically different feel from the heart of the more recent additions to the franchise.

 

SEE ALSO: The cars that will be in "Furious 7"

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How ‘Furious 7’ dropped real cars from planes in its most ridiculous stunt yet

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Furious 7 car.JPG

The "Fast and Furious" franchise has evolved from films featuring hot cars and hot babes to having some of the most heart-stopping stunts you'll find at theaters.

One of the men responsible for making those scenes look as realistic as possible is 30-year stunt veteran Spiro Razatos.

"For the fourth film ("Fast & Furious") they kind of relied too much on CGI," Razatos told Business Insider. "So they realized they wanted to do less. That's what I do."

Razatos is responsible for some of the most jaw-dropping sequences from the franchise including when Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), and the rest of the crew dragged a giant bank vault through the busy streets of Rio de Janeiro in "Fast Five."

furious 5He also worked on the duel with a tank in "Fast and Furious 6."

furious 6In both sequences, very little CGI was included, using real vaults and tanks to pull it off.

With fans starving for more, "Furious 7" director James Wan and the producers once again came to Razatos to take on the franchise's most insane sequence yet.

They called it the "air drop."

The idea was to have a sequence in the film in which Dom and company in their souped-up cars drop from a plane high above Colorado and parachute into the mountains below.

Furious 7 4"When I first read [the script] it was, 'cars drop and they kidnap this girl and they get away on the road,' that was it," Razatos recalls.

The producers assumed the sequence would have to rely heavily on special effects, but Razatos had other plans.

"I said let's really go for it and make the effort because I want this whole sequence to feel real, that's what the audience expects," he said.

The stunt took months of prep time to solve problems. Cameras needed to be mounted onto cars in a way that they wouldn't be destroyed when the cars landed, and the crew needed a safe way to get the cars out of the plane.

"What if one of them gets stuck coming out of the plane?" said Razatos. "How is the plane going to land when you have a car dangling outside of it?"

Furious 7 10
They finally were able to do a "dry run," with a single car falling out of a plane. But some on the film weren't impressed by the raw footage.

"It was 20 minutes and the cameras weren't placed where they should be," Razatos recalls. "I remember telling the guys, 'ignore this, this is just a test.'"

With a green light, shooting took place in Colorado with two airplane runs, flying at 12,000 feet, that would drop two cars apiece.

cars drop from plane furious 7Over 10 cameras were used for the sequence. In addition to cameras on the ground, there were cameras remotely operated inside the plane and another three mounted outside each car. Additional cameras were on a helicopter where Razatos was stationed watching monitors and listening to the radio chatter. Three skydivers used in the shoot wore helmet cams.

Skydivers would either jump out before cars or after them.

Furious 7 12

"I didn't realize how intense it would be," Razatos admits now.

"Sometimes a piece of debris would come off the car, so skydivers had to watch out for that," he added. "I'm in a helicopter and I want to get in close for the shots but you have to watch out because of the helicopter blades."

Furious 7 11

There were also spotters keeping an eye on how close the cars were getting to the skydivers. "On the radio you'd hear people say, 'Skydiver, 200 feet you have a car gaining on your two o'clock,'" Razatos said.

Regardless of all the safety precautions, accidents can happen. Razatos says in one of the runs a skydiver lost his footing getting out of the plane and bounced off the rear exit hatch on his way out of the plane. Not the most graceful of jumps, but Razatos said he was fine.

Furious 7 13
When one car landed, its parachute caught an air pocket and was carrying the car to the freeway. "I'm hearing on the radio the car is being dragged and it can't stop," said Razatos. "People were on motorcycles to get to the car; jumping on the car with knives to cut the parachute." 

Furious 7 14And then there's the one car of the four that didn't make it because its parachute didn't deploy. "That car got demolished," said Razatos. "You got to see what would happen if a car really dropped from that height."

Much of what Razatos and his 2nd unit team did on the day made it into the final cut of the movie. Some of it was enhanced to increase the look of the speed at which cars were diving. Shots of the actors in the cars were put in later. But, for the most part, Razatos' mission to do the scene as realistically as possible was a success.

Furious 7 2

Furious 7 5

Furious 7 7"I started doing stunts when I was 10 years old making Super 8 movies. This feels like I'm back in those days," Razatos said about working on the "Fast and Furious" films.

Thinking back on the "air drop" sequence he admits, "That's going to be hard to top."

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how the sequence was done:

 And here's how it looks in the film:

SEE ALSO: Meet the sexy $3 million hypercar featured in 'Fast and Furious 7'

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Actor Josh Gad made a measly amount for voicing a major character in Disney's billion-dollar 'Frozen'

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Josh Gad Frozen

Since it's release in November 2013, Disney's "Frozen" has become the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.

The kid-friendly flick, which cost $150 million to make, has raked in over $1.2 billion worldwide.

Disney saw record earnings as a result, and announced sales of more than $3 million in "Frozen" dresses, toys, and related merchandise.

But actors who voiced the characters in the film didn't see as much of a return as the film studio.

Josh Gad, who voices fan favorite snowman "Olaf," was a guest on the "Late Show with David Letterman" this week and revealed: "The thing made a couple of billion, I made a couple of thousand."

"No, they actually paid me really well," Gad said sarcastically as he shook his head back and forth to imply he was lying.

Josh Gad GIF
"No, I love you Disney, I really do," Gad backtracked. "They actually really took care of us and the luxury of this thing is that now we're all in the theme parks and get to see it all come to fruition."

"It was a blast, Gad added of his time shooting the movie. "They spread it out over the course of two years, so in total I did about ten [voiceover] sessions."

Regardless of any drama, Gad recently told E! Online he is "excited" to return for a "Frozen" sequel, adding, "I have complete faith in the creative team and I'm excited to hear that it's happening at this point."

But Gad isn't the only one not to profit as much as expected off the first film's success.

Actress Spencer Lacey Ganus, the 15-year-old who voiced teenage Elsa, received just a one-day guaranteed payment of $926.20, reports TMZ, who obtained a copy of Ganus' contract because it has to be filed with the courts since she is still a minor.

Spencer Lacey Ganus frozenGanus will, however, earn a pretty penny thanks to residual checks.

"She's collected more than $10,000 in residuals," the actress' rep told TMZ, adding that the money is being put into a college fund.

But Disney is no stranger to controversy over how much they pay their voice talent.

In 1992, Robin Williams was paid scale of $75,000 for his work on "Aladdin," which went on to gross more than $504 million worldwide.

Williams agreed to the fee "for my children," but told Disney, "I just don't want to sell anything — as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff."

After Disney proceeded to use Williams' voice in promo materials leading to a decade-long feud, the actor snarked"You realize now when you work for Disney why the mouse has only four fingers — because he can't pick up a check." 

Watch Gad discuss his "Frozen" paycheck on Letterman below:

SEE ALSO: There are only 6 Hollywood actors who can command $20 million per film

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan: How I lost everything and got it all back in three years

'Furious 7' will probably be the next $1 billion movie

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paul walker furious 7

There's no question the seventh installment to the "Fast and the Furious" franchise, "Furious 7," is going to have a massive opening weekend.

It is poised to make about $120 million over the Easter holiday.

That would easily give "Furious 7" the highest-grossing opening weekend for April, surpassing 2014's $95 million opening of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

According to Fandango, the film's ticket sales are outpacing those of the "Captain America" sequel.

Ahead of "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which arrives to theaters in May, "Furious 7" has a good shot at being the year's first billion-dollar movie.

"This is definitely shaping up to be massive," Phil Contrino, the vice president and chief analyst of BoxOffice.com, told Business Insider. "With a movie like this, it's important not to get too carried away with expectations because ... in the lead-up to a big movie, that's all people are talking about, and it's easy to keep saying, 'It's going to be bigger, and bigger, and bigger.' That said, I think it has a legitimate shot at becoming the next member of the $1 billion global club."

Contrino noted that would be a huge accomplishment.

Look at the box-office numbers for "Fast and Furious 6," and it's not difficult to make that case. The 2013 film made $788 million worldwide ($238 million domestic versus $550 million overseas).

Boxoffice.com is tracking "Furious 7" to make somewhere between $275 million and $280 million stateside during its run in theaters.

"That's a $42 million increase right there," Contrino said. "The last one did about $550 million overseas. I think that number's going to go up exponentially. If there's a $40 million increase in North America alone, even if there's a $10 or $15 million increase in a bunch of key markets like UK, China, Brazil ... that's going to add up really fast. That $550 million number is going to increase quite a bit. [If] you look at it that way and we're not too far from being in the ballpark of $1 billion globally."

"Furious 7" has already opened as No. 1 in 12 markets overseas.

The film will also be Universal Studios' largest film release ever and the widest Imax release ever, showing on 810 Imax screens worldwide. It will open in more than 4,000 theaters Friday in the US and more than 10,500 theaters around the world.

In addition to the high-adrenaline, action-packed storyline, which has received great reviews, the seventh installment serves as a bittersweet send-off to franchise lead Paul Walker, who died in 2013.

Walker's death will be one reason audiences will head out to see "Furious 7."

"This isn't just another entry into a franchise," Contrino said. "It's got more significance to it. Its success at the box office, many people are going to see that as a tribute to Paul Walker and what he brought to the franchise."

"They're going to show up for that reason," he added. "Even if they maybe have skipped some of the other movies, they'll show up for this one."

SEE ALSO: How 'Furious 7' dropped real cars from planes in its most ridiculous stunt yet

AND: The street-racing story that inspired the "Fast and the Furious" movies

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The new 'Furious 7' trailer is packed full of cars, explosions, and ridiculous stunts

'Fast and Furious 7' is an absolutely ridiculous thrill ride and Paul Walker tribute that fans will love

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paul walker furious 7

The seventh installment of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, aptly titled "Furious 7," is probably one of the most ridiculous non-stop action rides you'll see this year. 

It's also probably one of the few action films which will also reduce you to tears by its end. 

We attended one of seven fan screenings for the film held Monday night and reception for the film was overwhelmingly positive. 

The film, which was originally set to debut summer 2014, was put on hold after the death of lead costar Paul Walker in November 2013.  

For a while, it wasn't certain whether the cast and crew would move forward with the next installment. Fans are definitely happy they did. 

Applause opened and closed the film. 

Walker’s first appearance on screen was met with wild enthusiasm. While, yes, we were at a fan screening, this is something I expect will occur in most screenings of the film opening weekend. The "Fast and Furious" films have built up a big social presence across Twitter, Facebook, and InstagramUnlike other films, the "Furious 7" team and cast update their accounts regularly and don't quit once the movie stops airing. 

fast furious facebook

Starring a huge returning cast of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese, Ludacris, and the late Walker for one last ride, the film starts off tying the previous films in the saga together by merging the end of “Fast and Furious 3” (aka “Tokyo Drift”) with the end of “six.” That may sound confusing to outsiders of the franchise, but the film does it immensely well. 

fast and furious 7 castDon’t worry. There's no need to go back and bingewatch the older films. "Furious 7" does a nice job of catching you up to speed if you haven't been keeping up with the story.

“Furious 7” kicks off with Jason Statham joining the cast as villain Deckard Shaw.

jason statham furious 7He's trying to hunt down all of Dominic Toretto's (Diesel) crew to avenge his brother, the villain from "Fast and Furious 6," who was left for dead in the last film. Before Shaw can do that, Dom plans to take him out first with help from Brian (Walker), Ronan (Tyrese), Tej (Ludascris), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

From the start, the two-hour and 20 minute movie kicks it in to overdrive and never really stops. 

Highlights include big fight sequences between Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw as well as showdowns between the latter and Dom that have been teased in marketing.

jason statham vin diesel furious 7Rodriguez also has a memorable brawl going toe to toe with MMA fighter Ronda Rousey.

furious 7
A part near the end of the film may remind fans of Johnson's next summer action flick, "San Andreas,"about earthquakes shattering Los Angeles.

Of course the cars are the big scene stealers here.

If you've seen the trailers, you already know what's in store.

Muscle cars parachute out of airplanes and a $3 million hypercar gets sent flying through buildings. 

 

That doesn't make them any less fun. They look even better on the big screen.

After binge-watching the six previous films ahead of "Furious 7," I'd dare to say "Fast Five" and "Six" are better plotwise than the latest installment.

Without getting into it too much, the main point of the film is for Diesel to get revenge and take down Shaw before he can harm his extended family. The mission gets sidetracked pretty fast when Diesel and his team get wrangled into a wacky chase around the world by the FBI (headed by another addition, Kurt Russell) for a valuable tech prototype before they can continue hunting Shaw. (Think CBS' "The Amazing Race.")

From there, the plot becomes slightly bloated with drones and hackers thrown in the mix, too.

But let's be realistic.

You don't go to a "Fast and the Furious" film for a serious plot. You head in to see the fast cars, Dom and Brian racing, and what ridiculous punchlines the Rock is going to deliver

vin diesel furious 7These films know their audience and what they're doing.

Each film tries to top the last with even more ridiculous stunts. In 2001's first film, Dom and Brian tried to outrace a train. In "2 Fast 2 Furious," Brian jumped a car onto a yachtThe last film introduced a military tank to the mix and a wild scene with Vin Diesel diving out of his vehicle and across a highway. "Furious 7" more than upped the ante. 

Those who have been fans from its start in 2001 will be rewarded. 

Not only do actors from previous films — going back to the first release in 2001 — make short cameos, but diehard fans will notice specific references and nods to earlier installments. (One to be on the lookout for is *spoiler* that infamous wrench we learned Dom used to cripple a man in the first film. That sent him to the slammer for two years. *spoiler*)

More than anything, "Furious 7" is a tribute to Walker. 

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Walker's brothers Caleb and Cody filled in to help complete parts of the movie that went unfilmed by Paul. In some brief moments, you may wonder if it's Paul or his siblings on screen, but you'd be hard pressed to think you're looking at anyone but Paul anywhere but in a few select scenes where the screen attention is taken off his face. For those worried that Walker may be lacking in the film, he's in the film nearly as much as Diesel. If anything, the Rock is in the film less than Walker.

Paul Walker brothers cody caleb fast and furious
The final 15-20 minutes of "Seven" definitely pull at your heart strings more than any of the other films in the ongoing series.

There's a scene in 2011's "Fast Five" where Dom gives a toast after everyone learns his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) is pregnant. He says, "Money will come and go. We know that. But the most important thing in life will always be the people in this room. Right here. Right now. Salud mi familia."

 

Take away the flashy cars, the explosions, the scantily clad women, and the quirky asides and one-liners from Ludacris and Tyrese, and the "Fast and the Furious" series has always been about family.

That's one reason this franchise was able to rise back up in popularity after the fourth film when Diesel and the original cast returned. It modeled itself around the one thing his character Dom valued more than anything.

Behind the silliness and the action of the franchise, at the end of the day, the films are about Dom's extended family, an incredibly diverse one full of different races and cultures. Everyone can relate to that. Everyone has family.

I won't take away the ending of "Furious 7" from you. That's something that should be experienced on the big screen, but it is a fitting tribute to the late Walker.

paul walker the fast and the furious

Bring a tissue or two, because you're most likely going to cry. There's just no way around that. 

By the time you leave, you'll want to know the name of the Wiz Khalifa track responsible for your tears. Don't click the link to the song for now if you want to be surprised come April. 

Estimates are saying the film will make $100 million opening weekend. "Fast and Furious 6" made $97 million in three days. Over Memorial Day weekend 2013, it made $120 million. Since then, Vin Diesel has become one of the most followed celebrities on Facebook with over 90 million fans. There's also a big audience who wants to bid adieu to Walker's character on screen. That was evident from the screening we attended. We wouldn't be surprised if it made plenty more than that.

"Furious 7" is in theaters April 3.

SEE ALSO: The 'Fast and Furious' cast surprised fans at early screenings for the next film

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The new 'Furious 7' trailer is packed full of cars, explosions, and ridiculous stunts

How Scientology almost ruined Tom Cruise’s career and 'Mission: Impossible' saved it

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tom cruise

In August 2006, it seemed like Tom Cruise was finished.

In an announcement unprecedented by the head of a major conglomerate, the chairman of Viacom, Sumner Redstone, publicly ripped into the star, who at the time was one of the most profitable at Viacom's movie studio, Paramount Pictures.

“We don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot,” Redstone told The Wall Street Journal. “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

Sumner Redstone Tom Cruise Katie Holmes

Nine years ago was certainly the toughest and strangest time of Cruise’s career. The then 43-year-old actor had a lifetime box-office gross of over $1.5 billion, but his flawless transition from young heartthrob to respected dramatic actor to gargantuan action star had seemed to self-destruct as quickly as one of the messages his character, Ethan Hunt, receives in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

The studio he'd called home for 14 years was parting ways with him.

tom cruise mission impossible rogue nation Today, on the heels of Cruise's awesome new trailer for “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” it's hard to imagine the veteran actor's career being at such a low point.

His strange downfall and subsequent rebirth as one of the most bankable movie stars all began with an innocent act of love.

When Cruise agreed to go on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in May 2005 to promote his next blockbuster film, “War of the Worlds,” it was a big deal. Not only did most women believe he was one of the sexiest men alive, but Cruise rarely did interviews, especially on daytime TV.

As Cruise walked onto Oprah's stage, the crowd went wild. Oprah playfully tousled Cruise's hair, and the actor was clearly in a great mood.

Oprah Tom Cruise Katie HolmesDuring the interview, Oprah brought up Cruise's latest love interest, Katie Holmes, who was off-stage where no one, especially the cameras, could see her. The excitement of talking about his new girlfriend led him to leap up on Oprah's couch with joy (he did it a second time for good measure).

After the couch jumping, Oprah even got Cruise to chase down Holmes and get her to come on stage.

It seemed harmless at the time, but thanks to a very young internet video-posting site called YouTube, the image of Cruise on top of Oprah’s couch would become a pop-culture phenomenon.

tom cruise oprah
A month later, Cruise agreed to go on the “Today” show to continue promoting “War of the Worlds,” and also talk about his religion, Scientology. But when the interview topic changed to Scientology, and specifically to Cruise not agreeing with psychiatry, the tone changed. Especially in regard to Brooke Shields’ use of antidepressants for postpartum depression.

Here’s an excerpt of Cruise and Lauer's uncomfortable exchange:

Cruise: “Do you know what Adderall is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you now Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?”

Lauer: “The difference is — ”

Cruise: “No, Matt, I’m asking you a question.”

Lauer: “I understand there’s abuse of all of these things.”

Cruise: “No, you see here’s the problem: You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do.”

cruise lauer finalLater in the conversation:

Lauer: “Do you examine the possibility that these things do work for some people? That yes, there are abuses, and yes, maybe they’ve gone too far in certain areas, maybe there are too many kids on Ritalin, maybe electric shock — ”

Cruise: “Too many kids on Ritalin?”

Lauer: “I’m just saying — but aren’t there examples where it works?”

Cruise: “Matt, Matt, Matt, you’re glib. You don’t even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt. OK? That’s what I’ve done. You go and you say, ‘Where’s the medical tests? Where’s the blood test that says how much Ritalin you’re supposed to get?’”

Lauer: “It’s very impressive to listen to you, because clearly you’ve done the homework and you know the subject.”

Cruise: “And you should. And you should do that also, because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn’t enough. You should be a little bit more responsible … ”

Within minutes, the exchange was on loop all over the world.

Within a few weeks, Cruise had gone wild on Oprah and lashed out at Matt Lauer, and by then the tabloids had gone overtime on the Cruise-Holmes relationship, which they called “TomKat.”

It was time for Cruise to get off the grid, but he couldn't.

Tom Cruise Last Samurai For most of his career, an experienced publicist named Pat Kingsley reportedly kept Cruise’s private life out of the tabloids. According to a 2014 LA Weekly story, she even talked Cruise out of being more vocal about Scientology when he did press for his 2003 film “The Last Samurai.” A year later, according to the LA Weekly story, Cruise let Kingsley go after 14 years and formed a publicity team that included his sister, Lee Anne De Vette, and fellow Scientologists.

Now in a typhoon of backlash that Cruise had never experienced before, his team may have been too inexperienced to protect him.

Despite all the negative attention, “War of the Worlds” still went to No.1 at the box office during its opening weekend ($65 million), and ended up with a worldwide take of $592 million. It would be the last time a film starring Cruise would make over $500 million worldwide for the next six years.

war of the worlds tom cruise Following the “War of the Worlds” release, TomKat was still daily tabloid fodder, especially with the news that the two were expecting a child. And then, in March 2006, Cruise went global again with the controversial “South Park” episode“Trapped in the Closet.”

The episode originally aired in November 2005 and revealed what Scientologists believe is the origin of life, but it also depicted Cruise as an insecure person and played on rumors of his sexuality.

In the episode, one of the main characters on the show, Stan, is thought by Scientology to be the second coming of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. This leads Scientologists, including Cruise, to flock to Stan’s house to pay their respects. But when Stan insults his acting ability, Cruise hides in Stan’s closet, leading to Stan saying, “Dad, Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet.”

south park tom cruise

Comedy Central delayed re-airing the episode in March 2006, because allegedly Cruise declared he would not promote “Mission: Impossible 3” unless Viacom (which owns the film’s studio, Paramount, and Comedy Central) canceled the rebroadcast.

Cruise’s reps denied he ever threatened not to promote the film.

The controversy made headlines all over the world and led "South Park" fans to declare they would boycott “Mission: Impossible 3” until Comedy Central aired the episode.

The episode finally re-aired in July of that year.

“Closetgate,” in what it would become known, was the last straw.

The constant tabloid coverage of TomKat, plus rumors of Cruise’s involvement with Scientology — like that Cruise and Holmes’ relationship was allegedly arranged by the church — had turned people off. (Cruise and Holmes married in November 2006 and divorced six years later.)

The bad press soon began to affect Cruise's career. “Mission: Impossible 3” opened in theaters in May 2006 and Cruise's Q score — the appeal of a celebrity, brand, or company on the public — was down 40%.

mission impossible 3

Though the film was No. 1 in the US its opening weekend ($48 million), it lost appeal as the weeks passed. Ticket sales dropped 47% its second week in theaters, and then 53% the following week.

“Mission: Impossible 3” is the lowest grossing film in the franchise to date with a $400 million worldwide gross.

It was at this point that Viacom chair Sumner Redstone gave Cruise his wake-up call: “We don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot. His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

After being kicked off the Paramount lot, Cruise hired a publicist with more experience and buckled down for a comeback. He brought his production company over to MGM and took partial ownership of the iconic United Artists studio.

Cruise also became less vocal about Scientology in public, though he was apparently involved internally. In 2008, a Scientology-produced YouTube video of the actor explaining what the religion means to him went viral.

cruise scientology laugh

Cruise hit the pause button on doing action movies, turning to dramas like “Lions for Lambs” and “Valkyrie."

In between those films he agreed to star in pal Ben Stiller’s 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder” as the overweight, bigger-than-life movie exec Les Grossman. It was the best movie Cruise had done in years. In doing something so out of character, he began to win back fans.

cruse as grossman

“Tropic Thunder” reunited Cruise with his former studio, Paramount. Although Cruise's production company was kicked off the lot, it didn't mean he couldn't still be cast in the studio's films. The wheels were now in motion for Cruise to get back on Paramount’s good side so he could make more “Mission: Impossible” movies.

Being a hit in “Tropic Thunder,” the biggest comedy of the year for Paramount, was a good starting point. Director J.J. Abrams, who directed Cruise in "Mission: Impossible 3" and was in Paramount's good graces after directing the studio's hit "Star Trek Into Darkness," was also working to get Cruise back in the franchise.

In the summer of 2010, news broke that Cruise would be starring in “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” with Abrams as producer. But this installment in the franchise would not be titled “Mission: Impossible 4,” because the idea was that the film would be a refresh on the franchise, with Cruise stepping aside as the lead and giving way to rising star Jeremy Renner.

Cruise didn’t really get the message.

mission impossible ghost protocol Back in the Ethan Hunt role, Cruise cemented his place in the franchise by scaling the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, without a stunt double. That, and the other insane stunts featured in the film, led to “Ghost Protocol” earning the biggest worldwide box office in the franchise, with $695 million. It was also the second-highest earning film for Paramount, in 2011, just behind “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

Cruise is not back to his pre-Oprah couch-jumping glory, as evidenced by disappointments like "Knight and Day" and "Jack Reacher," but he's trying. Following “Ghost Protocol,” Cruise came out with “Edge of Tomorrow” and though it had a slow start when it opened in the spring of 2014, it ended up passing the domestic $100 million mark. That makes it the first time in nine years a non-“Mission: Impossible” Cruise film hit that landmark number.

Now, with the excitement for “Rogue Nation,” Cruise's mission of returning as a top action star is likely possible. That is, if his fans are willing to forgive HBO's explosive new Scientology documentary, "Going Clear,"in which Cruise is criticized for remaining the face of the controversial religion.

SEE ALSO: How Tom Cruise filmed the crazy plane-hanging stunt in the new 'Mission: Impossible'

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This Sports Illustrated swimsuit rookie could become the next Kate Upton

How Scientology almost ruined Tom Cruise’s career and 'Mission: Impossible' saved it

0
0

tom cruise

In August 2006, it seemed like Tom Cruise was finished.

In an announcement unprecedented by the head of a major conglomerate, the chairman of Viacom, Sumner Redstone, publicly ripped into the star, who at the time was one of the most profitable at Viacom's movie studio, Paramount Pictures.

“We don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot,” Redstone told The Wall Street Journal. “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

Sumner Redstone Tom Cruise Katie Holmes

Nine years ago was certainly the toughest and strangest time of Cruise’s career. The then 43-year-old actor had a lifetime box-office gross of over $1.5 billion, but his flawless transition from young heartthrob to respected dramatic actor to gargantuan action star had seemed to self-destruct as quickly as one of the messages his character, Ethan Hunt, receives in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

The studio he'd called home for 14 years was parting ways with him.

tom cruise mission impossible rogue nation Today, on the heels of Cruise's awesome new trailer for “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” it's hard to imagine the veteran actor's career being at such a low point.

His strange downfall and subsequent rebirth as one of the most bankable movie stars all began with an innocent act of love.

When Cruise agreed to go on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in May 2005 to promote his next blockbuster film, “War of the Worlds,” it was a big deal. Not only did most women believe he was one of the sexiest men alive, but Cruise rarely did interviews, especially on daytime TV.

As Cruise walked onto Oprah's stage, the crowd went wild. Oprah playfully tousled Cruise's hair, and the actor was clearly in a great mood.

Oprah Tom Cruise Katie HolmesDuring the interview, Oprah brought up Cruise's latest love interest, Katie Holmes, who was off-stage where no one, especially the cameras, could see her. The excitement of talking about his new girlfriend led him to leap up on Oprah's couch with joy (he did it a second time for good measure).

After the couch jumping, Oprah even got Cruise to chase down Holmes and get her to come on stage.

It seemed harmless at the time, but thanks to a very young internet video-posting site called YouTube, the image of Cruise on top of Oprah’s couch would become a pop-culture phenomenon.

tom cruise oprah
A month later, Cruise agreed to go on the “Today” show to continue promoting “War of the Worlds,” and also talk about his religion, Scientology. But when the interview topic changed to Scientology, and specifically to Cruise not agreeing with psychiatry, the tone changed. Especially in regard to Brooke Shields’ use of antidepressants for postpartum depression.

Here’s an excerpt of Cruise and Lauer's uncomfortable exchange:

Cruise: “Do you know what Adderall is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you now Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?”

Lauer: “The difference is — ”

Cruise: “No, Matt, I’m asking you a question.”

Lauer: “I understand there’s abuse of all of these things.”

Cruise: “No, you see here’s the problem: You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do.”

cruise lauer finalLater in the conversation:

Lauer: “Do you examine the possibility that these things do work for some people? That yes, there are abuses, and yes, maybe they’ve gone too far in certain areas, maybe there are too many kids on Ritalin, maybe electric shock — ”

Cruise: “Too many kids on Ritalin?”

Lauer: “I’m just saying — but aren’t there examples where it works?”

Cruise: “Matt, Matt, Matt, you’re glib. You don’t even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt. OK? That’s what I’ve done. You go and you say, ‘Where’s the medical tests? Where’s the blood test that says how much Ritalin you’re supposed to get?’”

Lauer: “It’s very impressive to listen to you, because clearly you’ve done the homework and you know the subject.”

Cruise: “And you should. And you should do that also, because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn’t enough. You should be a little bit more responsible … ”

Within minutes, the exchange was on loop all over the world.

Within a few weeks, Cruise had gone wild on Oprah and lashed out at Matt Lauer, and by then the tabloids had gone overtime on the Cruise-Holmes relationship, which they called “TomKat.”

It was time for Cruise to get off the grid, but he couldn't.

Tom Cruise Last Samurai For most of his career, an experienced publicist named Pat Kingsley reportedly kept Cruise’s private life out of the tabloids. According to a 2014 LA Weekly story, she even talked Cruise out of being more vocal about Scientology when he did press for his 2003 film “The Last Samurai.” A year later, according to the LA Weekly story, Cruise let Kingsley go after 14 years and formed a publicity team that included his sister, Lee Anne De Vette, and fellow Scientologists.

Now in a typhoon of backlash that Cruise had never experienced before, his team may have been too inexperienced to protect him.

Despite all the negative attention, “War of the Worlds” still went to No.1 at the box office during its opening weekend ($65 million), and ended up with a worldwide take of $592 million. It would be the last time a film starring Cruise would make over $500 million worldwide for the next six years.

war of the worlds tom cruise Following the “War of the Worlds” release, TomKat was still daily tabloid fodder, especially with the news that the two were expecting a child. And then, in March 2006, Cruise went global again with the controversial “South Park” episode“Trapped in the Closet.”

The episode originally aired in November 2005 and revealed what Scientologists believe is the origin of life, but it also depicted Cruise as an insecure person and played on rumors of his sexuality.

In the episode, one of the main characters on the show, Stan, is thought by Scientology to be the second coming of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. This leads Scientologists, including Cruise, to flock to Stan’s house to pay their respects. But when Stan insults his acting ability, Cruise hides in Stan’s closet, leading to Stan saying, “Dad, Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet.”

south park tom cruise

Comedy Central delayed re-airing the episode in March 2006, because allegedly Cruise declared he would not promote “Mission: Impossible 3” unless Viacom (which owns the film’s studio, Paramount, and Comedy Central) canceled the rebroadcast.

Cruise’s reps denied he ever threatened not to promote the film.

The controversy made headlines all over the world and led "South Park" fans to declare they would boycott “Mission: Impossible 3” until Comedy Central aired the episode.

The episode finally re-aired in July of that year.

“Closetgate,” in what it would become known, was the last straw.

The constant tabloid coverage of TomKat, plus rumors of Cruise’s involvement with Scientology — like that Cruise and Holmes’ relationship was allegedly arranged by the church — had turned people off. (Cruise and Holmes married in November 2006 and divorced six years later.)

The bad press soon began to affect Cruise's career. “Mission: Impossible 3” opened in theaters in May 2006 and Cruise's Q score — the appeal of a celebrity, brand, or company on the public — was down 40%.

mission impossible 3

Though the film was No. 1 in the US its opening weekend ($48 million), it lost appeal as the weeks passed. Ticket sales dropped 47% its second week in theaters, and then 53% the following week.

“Mission: Impossible 3” is the lowest grossing film in the franchise to date with a $400 million worldwide gross.

It was at this point that Viacom chair Sumner Redstone gave Cruise his wake-up call: “We don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot. His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

After being kicked off the Paramount lot, Cruise hired a publicist with more experience and buckled down for a comeback. He brought his production company over to MGM and took partial ownership of the iconic United Artists studio.

Cruise also became less vocal about Scientology in public, though he was apparently involved internally. In 2008, a Scientology-produced YouTube video of the actor explaining what the religion means to him went viral.

cruise scientology laugh

Cruise hit the pause button on doing action movies, turning to dramas like “Lions for Lambs” and “Valkyrie."

In between those films he agreed to star in pal Ben Stiller’s 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder” as the overweight, bigger-than-life movie exec Les Grossman. It was the best movie Cruise had done in years. In doing something so out of character, he began to win back fans.

cruse as grossman

“Tropic Thunder” reunited Cruise with his former studio, Paramount. Although Cruise's production company was kicked off the lot, it didn't mean he couldn't still be cast in the studio's films. The wheels were now in motion for Cruise to get back on Paramount’s good side so he could make more “Mission: Impossible” movies.

Being a hit in “Tropic Thunder,” the biggest comedy of the year for Paramount, was a good starting point. Director J.J. Abrams, who directed Cruise in "Mission: Impossible 3" and was in Paramount's good graces after directing the studio's hit "Star Trek Into Darkness," was also working to get Cruise back in the franchise.

In the summer of 2010, news broke that Cruise would be starring in “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” with Abrams as producer. But this installment in the franchise would not be titled “Mission: Impossible 4,” because the idea was that the film would be a refresh on the franchise, with Cruise stepping aside as the lead and giving way to rising star Jeremy Renner.

Cruise didn’t really get the message.

mission impossible ghost protocol Back in the Ethan Hunt role, Cruise cemented his place in the franchise by scaling the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, without a stunt double. That, and the other insane stunts featured in the film, led to “Ghost Protocol” earning the biggest worldwide box office in the franchise, with $695 million. It was also the second-highest earning film for Paramount, in 2011, just behind “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

Cruise is not back to his pre-Oprah couch-jumping glory, as evidenced by disappointments like "Knight and Day" and "Jack Reacher," but he's trying. Following “Ghost Protocol,” Cruise came out with “Edge of Tomorrow” and though it had a slow start when it opened in the spring of 2014, it ended up passing the domestic $100 million mark. That makes it the first time in nine years a non-“Mission: Impossible” Cruise film hit that landmark number.

Now, with the excitement for “Rogue Nation,” Cruise's mission of returning as a top action star is likely possible. That is, if his fans are willing to forgive HBO's explosive new Scientology documentary, "Going Clear,"in which Cruise is criticized for remaining the face of the controversial religion.

SEE ALSO: How Tom Cruise filmed the crazy plane-hanging stunt in the new 'Mission: Impossible'

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How Vin Diesel helped save the 'Fast and Furious' franchise from going straight to video

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fast and furious 7 paul walker

"Furious 7" kicks off the summer blockbuster season this weekend.

The film already has rave reviews, and analysts are predicting it will top $115 million at the box office opening weekend; however, it may come as a shock to learn that most of this hugely successful franchise almost never made it to the multiplex. 

According to TheWrap, the franchise stalled creatively after the second film in the series, "2 Fast 2 Furious."

2001's original "Fast and the Furious" movie with Diesel, Paul Walker, and Michelle Rodriguez made $207.3 million worldwide. 2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious" improved upon that slightly making $236.4 million worldwide with Walker returning as a co-lead and introducing fan favorites, Ludacris and Tyrese.

The third movie, 2006's "Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift," revolved around a completely new character played by Lucas Black ("NCIS: New Orleans"). Without recognizable stars or a real connection to the first two films, it had the worst performance of the franchise with a $158 million worldwide gross.

Lucas Black Fast and Furious

As a result, Universal, the studio behind the franchise, came close to releasing sequels directly to DVD. 

"The talk internally was that the franchise was played out," Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, Universal Pictures co-president of production, told TheWrap. "At that point we were weighing whether to go straight to video or not for future sequels. We weren't sure what we were going to do."

What saved the franchise from direct-to-DVD purgatory?

Universal convinced Diesel to come back for a small, surprise cameo in "Tokyo Drift." (In return for an appearance, Diesel the rights to the actor's "Riddick" franchise.) After seeing the ecstatic audience response with Diesel in the picture, the studio decided to hand a large amount of creative control over to the actor.

Diesel is not just a producer; he considers himself to be the "saga visionary," as he does everything from structuring story to selecting songs for the soundtrack. Diesel has become the undeniable face of the series, and Universal knew that based off the huge amount of excitement over his surprise cameo in "Tokyo Drift." 

vin diesel fast and furious 7With Diesel back on board, Universal returned the franchise to its roots, focusing more on heists than underground street racing. Making the friendship between Diesel and Paul Walker the focus of the fourth film helped, given that the absence of one or the other in the second and third films didn't benefit the franchise. 

Another big factor in the franchise's comeback was its budding global appeal.

Even though "Tokyo Drift" flopped stateside ($62.5 million), its Japanese setting helped it picked up an extra $95 million worldwide, enough to help it recoup its estimated $105 million budget. So, Universal strung together a multi-ethnic cast to better reflect its diverse audience, from half-Samoan The Rock to Israeli actress Gal Gadot. Diesel even fought to bring back Michelle Rodriguez who appeared in the first film. 

Then, it took the crew all over the world, from Brazil in "Fast 5" to Russia, Spain, and England in "Fast & Furious 6." Its global ambitions have helped it gross over $2 billion worldwide.

gal gadot fast six

The "Fast and Furious" franchise is now one of the 20 highest-grossing movie franchises of all time, even managing to beat out both the "Toy Story" and "Mission: Impossible" series. Since implementing many of these changes, the last three films grossed a combined total of $1.8 billion worldwide, constituting more than half of the franchise's total $2.3 billion gross.

Universal also embraced social media. They gave "Fast & Furious 6" the largest social media campaign in the studio's history, leading to a Facebook following of 34 million.

"Furious 7," meanwhile, has amassed a fan following of 53 million on its official Facebook page. This is impressive, especially when compared to the pages for upcoming anticipated blockbusters like "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (13.4 million likes) and "Star Wars" (13 million likes). It also helps that Vin Diesel has the biggest Facebook following in Hollywood, with nearly 90 million followers.

The best lesson Universal learned is that before sending your franchise to the $5 bin, listen to your fanbase, whether that be at test screenings or on social media. Having Vin Diesel onboard doesn't hurt, either.

SEE ALSO: The true street-racing story that inspired the 'Fast and Furious' movies

AND: "Fast and Furious 7" will likely be the next $1 billion movie

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Actor Josh Gad made a measly amount for voicing a major character in Disney's billion-dollar 'Frozen'

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Josh Gad Frozen

Since it's release in November 2013, Disney's "Frozen" has become the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.

The kid-friendly flick, which cost $150 million to make, has raked in over $1.2 billion worldwide.

Disney saw record earnings as a result, and announced sales of more than $3 million in "Frozen" dresses, toys, and related merchandise.

But actors who voiced the characters in the film didn't see as much of a return as the film studio.

Josh Gad, who voices fan favorite snowman "Olaf," was a guest on the "Late Show with David Letterman" this week and revealed: "The thing made a couple of billion, I made a couple of thousand."

"No, they actually paid me really well," Gad said sarcastically as he shook his head back and forth to imply he was lying.

Josh Gad GIF
"No, I love you Disney, I really do," Gad backtracked. "They actually really took care of us and the luxury of this thing is that now we're all in the theme parks and get to see it all come to fruition."

"It was a blast, Gad added of his time shooting the movie. "They spread it out over the course of two years, so in total I did about ten [voiceover] sessions."

Regardless of any drama, Gad recently told E! Online he is "excited" to return for a "Frozen" sequel, adding, "I have complete faith in the creative team and I'm excited to hear that it's happening at this point."

But Gad isn't the only one not to profit as much as expected off the first film's success.

Actress Spencer Lacey Ganus, the 15-year-old who voiced teenage Elsa, received just a one-day guaranteed payment of $926.20, reports TMZ, who obtained a copy of Ganus' contract because it has to be filed with the courts since she is still a minor.

Spencer Lacey Ganus frozenGanus will, however, earn a pretty penny thanks to residual checks.

"She's collected more than $10,000 in residuals," the actress' rep told TMZ, adding that the money is being put into a college fund.

But Disney is no stranger to controversy over how much they pay their voice talent.

In 1992, Robin Williams was paid scale of $75,000 for his work on "Aladdin," which went on to gross more than $504 million worldwide.

Williams agreed to the fee "for my children," but told Disney, "I just don't want to sell anything — as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff."

After Disney proceeded to use Williams' voice in promo materials leading to a decade-long feud, the actor snarked"You realize now when you work for Disney why the mouse has only four fingers — because he can't pick up a check." 

Watch Gad discuss his "Frozen" paycheck on Letterman below:

SEE ALSO: There are only 6 Hollywood actors who can command $20 million per film

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Nobody wanted to love 'Furious 7' more than me — and now I'm bummed

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fast and furious 7 castSpoilers ahead — read at your own risk!

Nobody wanted to love "Furious 7" more than me.

And for the first time in "Fast & Furious" history, I was disappointed.

To be clear, the action is still fun, exciting, and over the top in the way that only a "Fast & Furious" movie can be. I had a goofy smile on my face during a number of the crazy stunts, even though most of the big-action set-pieces were spoiled in the trailers.

Beyond the stunts, the film has a number of problems.

New direction

Unfortunately, franchise newcomer James Wan, of the "Saw" franchise and "Insidious," is simply not as well versed in shooting high-octane action scenes as Justin Lin, director of "Fast & Furious" 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Wan's moving-camera tricks may work well in the context of his horror films, but his style does not at all mesh with this franchise.

Part of what makes "Furious" movies so easy to love is that the completely ludicrous action sequences are shot so well that it's easy to suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride. The chase scenes, heist scenes, and even simple hand-to-hand combat scenes have been the saving grace of the franchise.

The sequences have always stressed coherence over quick cuts. But Wan cuts away for large chunks of time and returns arbitrarily, and it's discombobulating for the viewer.

The much anticipated Michelle Rodriguez-UFC star Ronda Rousey fight pales in comparison to any number of female-to-female fights from "Furious 6." There is so much happening in this sequence, but Lin's masterful cross-cutting ensured that the audience never loses their bearings.

The fight sequences in "Furious 7" are far more haphazard, so it's harder to tell who is fighting who and which fist is which, and they're just not as exciting.

As for big action, rewatching the plane sequence or the London chase in "Furious 6" really shows how Lin succeeds where Wan fails. Lin's camera connects the action, and it's coherent and makes sense. The same shot will go from inside a plane and pan to what's happening outside in a way that is seamless and all too rare in the action genre.

No scene in "Furious 7" compares.

fast furious 6 plane gif

Wan's sensibilities work wonders in his horror films, from "Saw" all the way through his recent monster success, "The Conjuring," but this is his first attempt at shooting big action.

And Justin Lin had four "Fast & Furious" movies to perfect his craft. He grew along with the franchise, mastering the stunt coordination and honing an eye for bigger, badder action sequences, the scope of which appeared limitless.

"Furious 7" is Wan's debut, and his project was overshadowed by tragedy.

Paul Walker

The film's biggest problem is Paul Walker's presence, or rather lack thereof, after he died in a car accident midway through filming. Initial reports said Walker was at least 80% done with filming, but there's no way this is the case.

Paul Walker's Brian O'Connor just never feels like a real character. His role, as well as the rest of the ensemble, is completely expendable. If he were totally written out of the movie, it would play out exactly the same.

furious 7 cliff 4 final33

There are a handful of scenes in which Paul Walker actually appears — for the rest of them they used his brothers as stand-ins and hide his face from the camera.

The CGI is so well done that you can't tell it's not Walker, but it's still clear the filmmakers had to jump through hoops to make the movie work after Paul's death.

His dialogue is recycled from older movies, it cuts to the same static reaction shot over and over, and they do whatever they can to make sure the camera is never anywhere near his face. There's no real solution to this very specific problem, but it's distracting when noticed.

The film also shoehorns in a number of "wink wink nudge nudge" moments about his death, and they're all emotionally manipulative and unnecessary given the way the movie ends.

The Vin Diesel show

The franchise has always had its heart in the right place — the cast is one big multicultural family, and they want you to know it — but the melodrama goes off the deep end here. The human moments were earned in the previous films, but here they just happen without any rhyme or reason, and are more laughable than affecting.

And unlike the rest of the films, "Furious 7" isn't even about the crew. Vin Diesel is presented as an action hero in the vein of an '80s Schwarzenegger film, complete with all the stupid one-liners and mugging for the camera.

vin diesel furious 7

When the crew finally assembles, it's incredibly anticlimactic and there's zero build-up — they're all just suddenly there and ready to go. They add in back story for emotional effect, and it feels cheap and unnecessary.

In the older films, each character is given his or her own introduction: We cut to different parts of the world and check in with each person and find out what they've been up to since their last adventure. This gives the audience a chance to really connect with the characters and become emotionally invested, so when the absurd action sequences go down, we have a reason to care.

The "Furious 7"crew members play like pale imitations of themselves, with each getting a line here and there to remind us of their role. Tyrese says something silly, Ludacris and the rest of the gang crack jokes at this expense, and we move on to the next scene. Instead of proper attention to the full team, Vin Diesel picks up all the slack, and the entire movie revolves around him.

Wasted opportunities

the rock furious 7The biggest mystery is why Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson takes such a backseat here — he is all over the marketing material but confined to a hospital bed almost the entire time. UFC star Ronda Rousey and famed martial artist Tony Jaa are both in the cast, but show up for a combined total of maybe five minutes of screentime.

Instead of pumping up these roles, we just get a lot more Vin Diesel reaction shots. The circumstances of filming — rewrites and reshoots to account for Walker's absence — doesn't quite explain the curious lack of airtime for some solid characters.

It doesn't help that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is a pretty lame villain. He's more of a caricature than an actual person, and the opening title sequence shows that right away. He shows up, dukes it out with Vin Diesel (multiple times), disappears, and pops up again whenever it's narratively convenient.

There's no character building — just destruction. And Vin could have easily taken care of him in one of the film's first scenes.

jason statham vin diesel furious 7The "story" itself only gets more convoluted and ridiculous as it goes along ... which is typical of the franchise, but here they're not even trying to make it work in context. By the time we get to the deus ex machina at the end, I was completely checked out.

The connections between the old films and the new films have previously been well thought out and intricately plotted ahead of time. In "Furious 7," they just make stuff up, and attempts to thread the franchise needle feel more like fan fiction than the next logical step.

"Furious 7" is clearly a labor of love, and that's also the reason why it doesn't really work. The "Fast & Furious" franchise has always been silly, but for the first time in its 14-year history, it's really dumb.

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