Atlantic Records Announces the Furious 7 Soundtrack

furious 7 soundtrack

Atlantic Records has announced the release of “Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack,” the musical companion to Universal’s highly-anticipated action-thriller. The album arrives in stores and at all online retailers on March 17th; Furious 7 opens in theaters and IMAX on April 3rd.

“Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is available for pre-order here and streaming here. Select pre-orders will receive instant grat downloads of the collection’s high-speed first singles, “Ride Out,” from Kid Ink, Tyga, Wale, Y.G., Rich Homie Quan, and Wiz Khalifa & Iggy Azalea’s “Go Hard or Go Home.” The “Ride Out” official companion video had its world premiere this past weekend on MTV Jams; Wiz Khalifa & Iggy Azalea’s “Go Hard or Go Home” had its exclusive debut on Warner Music Group’s “Snapchat Discover” service. You can watch both videos below.

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“Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” gathers never-before-available tracks from some of today’s most electrifying hip hop and R&B artists, including T.I., Young Thug, Iggy Azalea, Flo Rida, Sevyn Streeter, Price Royce, Juicy J and Mos Def to name a few (see below tracklisting). What’s more, the soundtrack includes the first-ever album release of DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s 5x RIAA platinum certified worldwide smash, “Turn Down For What.”

What’s more, a series of exclusive tracks from “Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” will be released as instant grat downloads in the coming weeks, beginning February 24th with T.I. & Young Thug’s “Off-set” and “How Bad Do You Want It (Oh Yeah)” by Sevyn Streeter. Prince Royce’s “My Angel” and “Payback” by Juicy J, Kevin Gates, Future, Sage The Gemini will debut on March 3rd. Finally, March 10th will see the global release of the album’s next single/video, Wiz Khalifa (feat. Charlie Puth) “See You Again.” Wiz Khalifa (feat. Charlie Puth) “See You Again”- will have its much-anticipated worldwide premiere on March 9th, exclusively via Clear Channel.

Adding to what already is a blockbuster pairing of music and the big screen, “Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” will be accompanied by five electrifying new visuals. Through an exclusive partnership with Dodge, America’s mainstream performance brand, the most powerful and fastest Dodge vehicles, such as the 707-horsepower 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and the 645 horsepower Dodge Viper GTS, are featured in some of the unprecedented new music videos.

In addition to the aforementioned “Ride Out” clip, four additional video releases are slated, beginning March 3rd with Prince Royce’s “My Angel.” “Off-set” from T.I. & Young Thug follows on March 17th, with Sevyn Steeter’s “How Bad Do You Want It (Oh Yeah)” due on March 24th. Finally, Wiz Khalifa (feat. Charlie Puth) “See You Again” clip premieres on April 6th.

“Furious 7: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” was produced by Atlantic Records President of Film & TV and Grammy Award-winning soundtrack producer Kevin Weaver (“Boardwalk Empire,” The Fault In Our Stars, “Girls” Volumes 1 & 2, “True Blood” Volumes 1 & 2) and Warner Music Group President of Worldwide A&R, Mike Caren (Trey Songz, Wiz Khalifa, Ed Sheeran, and T.I.).


1. Ride Out – Kid Ink, Tyga, Wale, YG, Rich Homie Quan
2. Off-set – T.I. & Young Thug
3. How Bad Do You Want It (Oh Yeah) – Sevyn Streeter
4. Get Low – Dillon Francis & DJ Snake
5. Go Hard or Go Home – Wiz Khalifa & Iggy Azalea
6. My Angel – Prince Royce
7. See You Again – Wiz Khalifa (feat. Charlie Puth)
8. Payback – Juicy J, Kevin Gates, Future, Sage The Gemini
9. Blast Off – David Guetta & Kaz James
10. Six Days (Remix) – DJ Shadow (feat. Mos Def)
11. Ay Vamos – J. Balvin (feat. French Montana and Nicky Jam)
12. GDFR (Noodles Remix) – Flo Rida (feat. Sage The Gemini and Lookas)
13. Turn Down For What – DJ Snake & Lil Jon
14. Meneo – Fito Blanko
15. I Will Return – Skylar Grey
16. Whip (Bonus Track)* – Famous To Most
*does not appear in film

furious 7 soundtrack


Character Breakdowns for Deadpool Revealed

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As pre-production continues on the long awaited Deadpool feature film, a breakdown of the characters set to appear in the film has debuted on Casting24/7. The site listed the following:

  • [RIDGE] Any ethnicity, early 30s to early 50s. Big, muscular, dangerous, violent, vain, insecure and more than a bit of a dick…. but with a sense of humor. He is not a psychopath, he’s practical but morally neutral—he doesn’t enjoy torturing people, he just doesn’t care. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SEQUEL OPTIONS.
  • [LINDSAY] Any ethnicity, 20s, attractive and worldly. Smart, tough, beautiful but a little bit broken. Nothing has ever been easy for her and she’s developed a thick skin and cynical outlook. But she’s not a victim—she may not have a great life but she’s holding it together and does what she needs to get by. She’s got a great sense of humor but it leans heavily towards irony and sarcasm. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SEQUEL OPTIONS.
  • [SIMON] Any ethnicity, late 20s to early 40s. Quirky, great sense of humor. Smart, funny, but more than a little bit slippery. Fast talker, always looking to make a buck. He looks out for himself first and foremost, but reveals loyalty at the end of the day. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SEQUEL OPTIONS
  • [SHIRLIE] African American, late 60s to early 80s. Worldly, great sense of comedic timing, sarcastic, dry, funny. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SERIES OPTIONS.
  • [KATHY] Any ethnicity, early to mid teens. World weary, great sense of comedic timing, sarcastic, droll sense of humor. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SERIES OPTIONS.
  • [KEREN] Any ethnicity, early 20s to late 30s. Serious, big, tough. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SERIES OPTIONS
  • [ALBERT] Any ethnicity, early 30s to early 50s. Big, muscular, dangerous. ROLE REQUIRES THREE SERIES OPTIONS

What characters do you think these breakdowns could refer to? Let us know in the below.

Ryan Reynolds will lead the film as the titular Merc with a Mouth and he is joined by T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein and MMA Champion Gina Carano. The film is also looking for its female lead and will reportedly feature the mutant Colossus, though it’s unclear if Daniel Cudmore will reprise in the role.

Tim Miller is set to helm the movie from a script by Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Deadpool is currently scheduled for a release on February 12, 2016.



New Screenshots, Behind-the-Scenes Video for Rise of the Tomb Raider

New Screenshots, Behind-the-Scenes Video for Rise of the Tomb Raider

A fresh batch of screenshots from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider have debuted online and can be viewed in the gallery below. In addition, Game Informer has released an extensive video interview with the game’s creative director, Noah Hughes, discussing the nature of the puzzles in the upcoming sequel which you can watch by clicking here.

Rise of the Tomb Raider continues the story of Lara Croft as she seeks to learn more about the deeper, secret world she has discovered around her. Obsessed by what she has seen, Lara is now threatened by a shadow organization intent on killing her for what she knows. She is pushed to her physical and mental limits as she seeks the truth buried deep within the tombs of an ancient world. To unravel the mystery of a Lost City, Lara must use her survival skills and wits, learn to trust new friends, and ultimately accept her destiny as the Tomb Raider.

Rise of the Tomb Raider will be released as a timed-exclusive for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 later this year.



New Promos for Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

unbreakable kimmy schmidt

Netflix has debuted the key art and a motion poster for Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s new comedy series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which will premiere on the streaming service March 6 and has already been renewed for a second season. Check them out below!

After living in a cult for fifteen years, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper of “The Office” and Bridesmaids) decides to reclaim her life and start over in New York City. Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers, and a couple of way-past-due library books, she’s ready to take on a world she didn’t even think existed anymore. Wide-eyed but resilient, nothing is going to stand in her way. She quickly finds a new job (working for Jane Krakowski –”30 Rock”), a new roommate (Tituss Burgess – “30 Rock”), and a new beginning.

The cast also includes Lauren Adams, Sara Chase, Sol Miranda and Emmy winner Carol Kane (“Taxi,” The Princess Bride).

The series was created by Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”), who serve as executive producers along with Jeff Richmond (“30 Rock”), Jack Burditt (“30 Rock,” “The Mindy Project”) and David Miner (“30 Rock,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”).

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The Weekend Warrior: Hot Tub Time Machine 2, The DUFF, McFarland, USA

After a couple of crazy weekends, things are going to settle down a little bit, at least for the rest of the month and maybe for the first couple of weeks of March, too, but that’s not stopping the release of a diverse trio of movies this weekend. These include a sequel to a comedy no one ever thought they’d ever see a sequel to, another Kevin Costner sports movie, and a snarky teen comedy.

The Weekend Warrior: Hot Tub Time Machine 2, The DUFF, McFarland, USAThe movie with the most potential this weekend would probably have to be Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Paramount), a sequel to the 2010 movie starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke and Craig Robinson, which opened with a modest $14 million but went on to gross $50.3 million, not huge but also not bad for a March release that cost $36 million. That movie was released during MGM’s short-lived return to distribution a few years back, but the film’s producer Matt Moore and director Steve Pink stuck to their guns and five years later, they’re back with one of the unlikeliest sequels since Anchorman 2. And it’s even being released by that movie’s distributor, Paramount Pictures, who clearly realize that there is a market for these comedies that found added life on DVD and cable.

John Cusack is gone, replaced by Adam Scott… as his son (don’t ask)… which might not help, but let’s face it, the real comedy in the original movie came from the likes of Rob Corddry, Clark Duke and Craig Robinson, all of whom have built up their fanbases in the last five years.

Corddry has built an audience through his Cartoon Network show “Childrens Hospital” and a variety of studio and indie movies including Warm Bodies and In A World… (directed by “Children’s Hospital’s” Lake Bell). Robinson had a great role in Seth Rogen’s This is the End while continuing his role on NBC’s “The Office” while Duke also appeared on the last few seasons of “The Office” and appeared in Kick-Ass and its sequel.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is basically taking the same approach as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequel, sending the four guys to different times to meet famous people from history hoping to create laughs. Maybe some younger guys will find that funny, and it’s basically hoping to get in the teen and older college crowd who might enjoy the sophomoric humor. This does have the added marketing that comes from Paramount Pictures, who had good luck pushing Anchorman 2 years after the original movie, although that was a sequel that people actually wanted.

This probably won’t open that much bigger than the original movie with five years having passed and the original movie not being as beloved as other comedies that have attained sequels. It’s also opening into a market with plenty of stronger movies like Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman, which will probably bring in some good word-of-mouth business in its second weekend. Figure this one will end up opening under $15 million and probably won’t make more than $40 million total.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Review (Coming Soon!)

theduffposterThe other new comedy of the weekend is one with the unfortunate title of The DUFF (CBS Films), which is an acronym for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that term or expression before, but wait a minute… that’s me!!! Dammit. I’m not sure how they could have made a movie about me without me knowing about it, but having not seen it yet, I’m going to assume it’s absolutely hilarious (because I am).

This is the new movie from Ari Sandel, who has directed a couple of shorts including “West Bank Story” for which he won an Oscar and he also directed the Wild West Comedy Show, documenting Vince Vaughn’s comedy tour. His narrative feature is a high school comedy in the vein of Mean Girls or Clueless, which means it’s targeting teen and older girls, who are a rather finicky group who don’t always go see movies even when they’re tracking well among that demo.

The big draw for most girls will be the presence of Bella Thorne, who starred in the popular Disney Channel show “Shake It Up!” and has had roles in Adam Sandler’s Blended and Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Bad Day last year, neither which did well enough to point to Thorne’s fans going to see her. The DUFF is more of her movie though and she’s joined by Mae Whitman (from “Arrested Development”) and Robbie Amell from “The Tomorrow People” who just joined “The Flash” as Ronnie Raymond, aka Firestorm. It seems like Thorne would be the biggest draw of that trio, and neither the ubiquitous Ken Jeong—no, seriously he is everywhere and he’s not going away!—or Allison Janney will do much to help get in the film’s younger audience.

It won’t help that it’s opening against Hot Tub Time Machine 2, which does have a stronger marketing campaign, although this is looking for a younger audience with its PG-13 rating, which could help against all of the R-rated fare in theaters.

That said, the marketing isn’t as strong and CBS Films does not have the best track record with their releases with only two movies that have grossed over $50 million (The Woman in Black and Last Vegas). None of their 2014 movies made much of a mark, although to be fair, only one of them, What If, received a proper wide release. The DUFF is getting a wider release into 2,600 theaters and one assumes that the young people into this sort of snarky high school comedy might give it a look.

It just doesn’t seem like something rushing to see in theaters, and it doesn’t seem to be on many radars, including critics and movie journalists, so it will probably make somewhere around $10 million or less for the weekend and less than $30 million total unless word-of-mouth is any good.

mcfarlandusaposterLast but not least, we have the second movie from Kevin Costner of the year, which is the oddly-titled McFarland, USA (Walt Disney), that’s about a place in California called… wait for it… McFarland. Those of you hoping this was a biopic about “Spawn” creator Todd McFarland… well, that’s not his name, dummies! No, this is about coach Jim White, who moved to this small burg in California where he started a cross-country team with a couple of kids of the local migrant workers and the rest is history! (A history that none of us have ever heard about if we don’t live in that neck of the woods, more like.)

Yeah, a movie about cross-country running is not likely to be the next American Sniper, although the movie does have some things going for it, like Costner, but also that it’s a movie that plays very well for the audiences that do see it.

This may be the fourth or fifth sport that Costner has tackled in movie form, having had the most success with baseball movies like Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, less success with the golf movie Tin Cup and last year’s Draft Day, which was about the football draft. (If Dancing with Wolves was an actual sport, it would have been Costner’s biggest sports movie to date.) Costner’s most recent movie Black or White has only grossed about $15 million since opening last month and that followed Draft Day, which only grossed $28.8 million after a $9.8 million opening. A few months earlier, Costner appeared in the action-thriller 3 Days to Kill, which opened slightly higher–you can read more about that below–but even his appearance in the rejuvenated Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit didn’t help that do well over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend a few weeks earlier.

One thing this movie has that those other movie didn’t is the Disney marketing team behind it, and let’s face it, there are few studios that are better at finding potential audiences than Disney. In this case, they’re being pretty smart and not even pretending that their primary target audience for this movie is the Latino audiences who have become a burgeoning demographic in movie theaters in recent years. Many of the posters around New York City are even in Spanish!

The movie isn’t bad, mainly thanks to the direction of Whale Rider helmer Niki Caro, making her first studio movie since 2005’s North Country, but other than Kevin Costner, there really aren’t any stars to get people into theaters. (Actress Maria Bello also appears in the movie, not that you’d know from her absence in the marketing.)

Disney released the equally unconventional baseball movie Million Dollar Arm starring Jon Hamm last May and it was able to open with more than $10.5 million in 3,000 theaters on its way to $36.5 million, and that was a similar sports movie that tried to target a specific ethnic demographic on top of the normal Disney. But McFarland, USA is about running, a subject that hasn’t been covered in a narrative film going back to 1997’s Prefontaine, which didn’t make any money. While there have been successful sports dramas including a number from Disney, this just doesn’t look like an interesting subject for mainstream audiences.

With that in mind, this may do better than the movie might do normally but it will probably still end up in the $10 million range, probably lower as it ends up with The DUFF somewhere in the bottom half of the Top 10.

Interview with Director Niki Caro

file_115155_0_3daystokilleuropacorpThis weekend last year, Kevin Costner had another movie, the action-thriller 3 Days to Kill (Relativity), directed by McG (“Charlie’s Angels). It opened with $12.2 million in 2,872 theaters, averaging $4,263 per theater, which was only enough for a distant second place behind the animated hit The LEGO Movie, which added $31.1 million to its domestic take of $183 million. Meanwhile, Resident Evil’s Paul W.S. Anderson made a biopic about “Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeii (TriStar/Sony)—sorry, kids, the jokes don’t get better when you get to my age—which took third place with just $10.3 million in 2,658 theaters, averaging just less than $4,000. The Top 10 grossed $94.3 million and even with the weaker offerings and a big tumble on Fifty Shades of Grey, the box office should stay ahead of last year. 

This Week’s Predictions -

1. Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal) – $26.5 million -69%
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service (20th Century Fox) – $20 million -45%
3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (Paramount) – $19 million -40%
4. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Paramount) – $14.5 million N/A
5. American Sniper (Warner Bros.) – $10.5 million -35%
6. The DUFF (CBS Films) – $10.0 million N/A
7. McFarland, USA (Disney) – $9.5 million N/A
8. Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros.) – $4 million -57%
9. Paddington (TWC-Dimension) – $3.1 million -38%
10. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company) – $2.3 million -35%

Next Week:

Will Smith and Margot Robbie get a headstart on their pairing in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad with the heist movie Focus (Warner Bros.) while horror fans can turn up to learn what The Lazarus Effect (Relativity) is.

This Week’s Must-Sees

It’s with mixed pride and shame I’m delighted to write about the start of Lincoln Center’s “Film Comment Selects” series on Friday, February 20, the first part because it’s one of the coolest NY film series on a yearly basis, but I’m shamed by the fact that I missed all the press screenings this year. It kicks off on Friday with the New York premiere of Mark Hartley’s doc Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, who made some of the schlockiest movies in Hollywood during the ‘80s. They’re showing a trio of movies as part of a special Cannon Films tribute. Other movies getting sneak previews during the series is David Robert Mitchell’s excellent horror film It Follows, which will be released by RADiUS-TWC on March 13, and Michael Almereyda’s Anarchy, a modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” starring Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Penn Badgley and Milla Jovovich. Other interesting movies include Riley Stearns’ Faults, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, which premiered at SXSW last year, and Duane Hopkins’ Bypass. One of the movies I have seen (other than It Follows) is the German film Phoenix from director Christian Petzold starring Nina Hoss as a concentration camp survivor who has had facial reconstructive surgery who goes looking for her husband in postwar Berlin. It was one of my favorite movies at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and it’s highly recommended. Film Comment Selects runs from Friday, February 20 to March 5 and you can see the full schedule right here.

Now let’s get to the theatrical releases.

Wild Tales (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Damián Szifrón
Stars: Ricardo Darín, Rita Cortese, Nancy Dupláa, Julieta Zylberberg, Walter Donado, Erica Rivas, Diego Gentile, Oscar Martinez
Of Note: Another one of my favorite foreign films from the Toronto Film Festival is this anthology of revenge shorts by Argentina’s Damián Szifrón, which range from a case of road rage to a wedding that goes horribly wrong. The film takes dark comedy to new levels as most of the time, you won’t believe some of the things these characters get up to in order to get revenge. Basically, if you’re into the opening sequence then you’ll immediately know if this movie is right for you. It opens in New York and L.A. this weekend, just days before Oscar night, for which it’s nominated in the Foreign Language category.

Interview with Director Damián Szifrón (Coming Soon!) 

Queen and Country (BBC)
Director: John Boorman
Stars: David Thewlis, Brian F. O’Byrne, Richard E. Grant, Sinead Cusack, Caleb Landry Jones, Tamsin Egerton, Pat Shortt, Callum Turner
Of Note: Filmmaker John Boorman makes a sequel to his semiautobiographical 1987 drama Hope and Glory with Caleb Landry Jones playing Bill Rowan who saw the London Blietzkrieg as a nine-year-old.

Other Limited Releases of Note:

Digging Up the Marrow (RLJE/Image Entertainment)
Writer/Director: Adam Green
Stars: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt
Of Note: Adam Green of “Hatchet” fame stars in this movie, playing himself, as he tries to make a documentary at the behest of a mysterious man who wants him to prove that monsters are real, comprised of deformed humans that live in an underground metropolis of the damned.

And then we have three very different coming-of-age dramas, none that sound particularly exciting, although I haven’t seen any of them, so what do I know?

Gloria (Picturehouse)
Director: Christian Keller
Stars: Osvaldo Ríos, Ricardo Kleinbaum, Sofía Espinosa
Of Note: A young Mexican girl named Gloria de los Ángeles Treviño Ruiz wants to become a famous singer so she changes her name to Gloria Trevi and becomes a rebellious, overly sexual singer/songwriter and becomes a huge success in Latin America, but she gets caught up in a scandal when her manager Sergio is caught sleeping with some of the underage girls with whom they turn.

Blackbird (RLJE/Image Entertainment)
Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
Stars: Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington, Terrell Tilford, D. Woods, Torrey Laamar, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, Nikki Jane, Julian Walker
Of Note: Julian Walker plays 17-year-old Randy who has to take care of his emotionally-disturbed mother (Mo’Nique) after his father (Isaiah Washignton) left, but he’s hiding a secret that only comes out when he opens himself up to love.

All the Wilderness (Screen Media Films)
Writer/Director: Michael Johnson
Stars: Virginia Madsen, Danny DeVito, Evan Ross, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Isabelle Fuhrman
Of Note: Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) stars as a young man named James who falls into a world of his own imagination to escape reality. He goes to see a psychiatrist (Danny DeVito) where he falls for a fellow patient (Isabelle Fuhrman from Orphan) and when he runs away, he meets a mysterious kid (Evan Ross) who welcomes him to the city.

You can post any or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas


First TV Spot for Run All Night, Starring Liam Neeson

 Run All Night Poster

Warner Bros. Pictures has brought online the first TV spot for director Jaume Collett-Sera’s latest thriller, Run All Night, which reteams the Unknown and Non-Stop helmer with leading man Liam Neeson. Check it out below!

Also starring Ed Harris, Nick Nolte, Vincent D’Onofrio, Joel Kinnaman, Patricia Kalember, Genesis Rodriguez and Boyd Holbrook, Run All Night follows Brooklyn mobster and prolific hit man Jimmy Conlon (Neeson). Once known as “The Gravedigger,” Conlon has seen better days. Longtime best friend of mob boss Shawn Maguire (Harris), Jimmy, now 55, is haunted by the sins of his past—as well as a dogged police detective who’s been one step behind Jimmy for 30 years. Lately, it seems Jimmy’s only solace can be found at the bottom of a whiskey glass. But when Jimmy’s estranged son, Mike (Kinnaman), becomes a target, Jimmy must make a choice between the crime family he chose and the real family he abandoned long ago. With Mike on the run, Jimmy’s only penance for his past mistakes may be to keep his son from the same fate Jimmy is certain he’ll face himself…at the wrong end of a gun. Now, with nowhere safe to turn, Jimmy just has one night to figure out exactly where his loyalties lie and to see if he can finally make things right.

Run All Night hits theaters on April 17.

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Director Niki Caro on Bringing McFarland, USA to the Rest of the World


At this point, there are few directors I haven’t had a chance to interview in some capacity over the years, but one of the most elusive has been Niki Caro, who blew many people away with her early film Whale Rider way back in 2002, and then followed that up by directing the equally sensational drama North Country in 2005.

Now she’s tackling a Disney sports movie and it’s one that’s as unconventional as the other movies she’s directed, being a movie starring Kevin Costner as Coach Jim White, who moves to the quiet burg of McFarland, California in the late ‘80s to take a new job in the mostly Hispanic community. Realizing that the high school football team is no good, he convinces the principal to let him put together a cross-country running team from the school’s extensive kids of immigrant workers who he thinks have what it takes to go to the state’s first running championships. got on the phone with Ms. Caro a few weeks back to talk about her return to America and the studio system with McFarland, USA, a film that has a fine performance by Costner but is just as much about the seven young actors she cast as McFarland’s inaugural cross-country team. Having wanted to interview Caro for as long as I have, she turned out to be absolutely delightful while talking about what a great experience it was making the film.

mcfarland I really liked the movie, but if you told me 13 years ago that the director of “Whale Rider” would be making a movie about Mexican immigrant workers forming a cross-country team, I wouldn’t believe you. It seems like a strange movie for you in some ways, so how did you find out about the project? It’s sort of your return to studio movies since “North Country.”

Niki Caro: Yeah, yeah. It’s a good question, because ever since Whale Rider I’ve been looking for something that I could make in a similar way and who knew that it would a movie for Disney about cross-country kids? The similarities are obvious: It’s a culture not my own. It’s a real place and a real story, and that’s where I think I work best, and it’s certainly where I’m most inspired as a filmmaker when I can go into a real community and collaborate with them in the telling of one of their stories. This was a very, very good experience for me. I would say Whale Rider is always going to be my baby and incredibly special, because I’m a New Zealander, but this comes very, very close as an experience.

CS: You’ve written a lot of your own material, so it’s also surprising to see you take on a movie written by someone else. It takes a lot of time to make a movie so to find a screenplay strong enough that you would set aside things you may have been developing yourself. What was it about the screenplay that jumped out at you?

Caro: It was the story. To be completely transparent, I did a lot of work on the script, so I had a real investment in the architecture of the movie, but the story itself, I was so inspired by and not just watching White and what that original team achieved but the scale of the achievement and the fact they created a legacy that is enduring. Equally, I was inspired by the people themselves and how strong they are, physically and mentally and emotionally and spiritually. It was from that place of deep love and respect that this movie was made.

CS: What’s amazing is that it’s not just Jim White’s story, but it’s the story of that community and the culture in the town of McFarland. You had the benefit of being in that town and having those people around you, so what were some of the things you wanted to know when you first met Jim and some of the original runners?

Caro: The way that I work is just to kind of go there and Jim was so great. He and wife Cheryl hosted me, and I stayed with them and they took me all around, and I met a lot of people and I put out to them any questions I liked about their experience and about running and competing, about their relationship with Jim. But then there’s the whole other layer about being in McFarland and looking and listening and eating–because the food there is really good!–and just absorbing all the texture of that life and observing the light and the color. I can bring all of my skill as a filmmaker and all of the resources that the studio offers, but the aim was to go there and make something really authentic and really specific. And that’s exactly what we did. If you go to McFarland, it’s going to look like that with a lot of the same people on the street that you will see in the movie.

nikicaromcfarland3CS: It must be strange for the town. This is obviously a big part of their rich history, but it must be weird for them to have a filmmaker showing up to make a movie about them and their town and having all the camera crews there. It must have been a strange experience for them. Did they completely change their lifestyle while this was going on or did they just try to be as transparent as possible?

Caro: It was a big party really. I mean, everywhere we shot, everybody came out. Fantastic! They all came out. They had a little party alongside the movie we were making. They were very respectful. They shut up when we asked them to. Kevin was wonderful with them, and I just loved that. I had it on Whale Rider, too. There were these old ladies that came to set every day, these old Mauri women, and we’d make them very comfortable. We’d give them chairs and headphones and cups of tea and blankets when they got cold, and I would check in with them just to see that I was doing a good job and they’d give me little cuddles and go “Oh, it’s really good, dear. It’s a quality show.” And I thought, “Oh, they must get here all the time.” It must be quite interesting that there’s a movie here, but they were coming out because of the movie. Normally, they would just stay inside their houses. And they did the same thing in McFarland. You go down the main street in the middle of the day and it’s really empty because everybody’s working, but if there’s a film crew there, I swear you got 300 people supporting you from the sidelines, because it’s a community that has a lot of love and a lot of pride. It was so nice to be able to acknowledge on that film.

CS: A movie like this, you would normally get a star like Kevin Costner attached to it and then you’d find everyone else around him. I understand you actually cast all the young actors as runners before you even went to Kevin to play Jim White. Is that true?

Caro: It was a really big process to cast the seven runners. It’s way harder than you might think. Even in a big city like Los Angeles, to find seven teenage boys who were all Mexican who are bilingual who can act and also run really fast. Believe me, that’s a shallow pool. So we had to go out and do open calls in places like, obviously Bakersfield, Los Angeles, San Diego, Texas and that started more than a year before Kevin came on. By the time we got Kevin to commit, we were pretty far down that road. The interesting thing was that of all the places we went to, and all of the thousands of kids we saw, we ended up casting three from McFarland. There they were, right under our noses. 

CS: They were all runners already and part of McFarland’s cross-country team?

Caro: Yeah, two of them were, and Ramiro who plays Danny Diaz, for a husky kid, he’s very fast and he was a soccer player and he’d actually gone to State for soccer, so all the McFarland kids were athletic. The whole process of pre-production was teaching the runners how to act and the actors how to run, and nobody can tell me which are which, because most of them are really good. 

McFarlandCS: I imagine the kids from McFarland must actually have known the real people either from school or around town, so that must have been weird to play younger versions of people they might already know.

Caro: I mean, it was. For instance, Ramiro who plays Danny Diaz, the real Danny Diaz was his counselor in school just a couple of years ago. It’s a very close-knit community, because the original team… well, for a start, they’re in McFarland, but they are so inside the lives of the kids now, you don’t have to go very far in McFarland. If you throw a stone, you’ll hit one of the original runners. They’re everywhere. 

CS: What were some of the challenges of shooting in McFarland and finding the locations and the environments you needed to recreate for the racing scenes? Were a lot of the actors able to do their own running?

Caro: Yeah, it was very challenging for the boys, because they really had to be in peak physical condition and they had to be able to run very fast, sometimes running really fast up really brutal hills. It was a challenge to get them ready, but they were all up for it. In terms of filmmaking challenges, the one that I completely underestimated–and it’s not a very glamorous answer–but the fact that in most scenes of the movie, there are eight people. I completely underestimated how much time it takes to cover eight people in a scene, as opposed to two or three. That was really about my commitment and the studio’s commitment that this not just be a movie where the big white guy comes in and saves all the brown people. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You have a flawed white guy who is redeemed as a coach and a father and as a man by these kids and their community. In shooting the movie, I really had to make sure that every one of those kids had their own story and had their own coverage. It meant that we had to move incredibly fast and it meant that those boys had to be impeccably well-prepared, even the ones that had never been on a movie set before. And they were. It was amazing and it was a good experience but a lot of work.

CS: Did you spend a lot of time with the seven runners just working with them as actors and going through scenes?

Caro: Oh, yes, yes, yes. They were in serious rehearsals for two months. They would live together and we’d get them up at 6 a.m. and they’d go train, then they’d have breakfast and then they’d go to the gym, and then they’d have lunch then they’d have to come to the rehearsal room for the afternoon. I would arrive and they’d all be asleep, they were so exhausted. They’d all be sleeping on the floor and on the sofas. We’d wake them up and put them through as intense training dramatically, acting exercises. This was obviously essential for the kids that had never acted before, but it was also really good for the ones that had. What we quickly learned was that they each had something to offer the others. Even for somebody relatively experienced like Carlos Pratts, he had so much to learn from the kids that had grown up in McFarland. They were all immensely supportive of each other. They knew each other strengths and weaknesses and they stepped in accordingly. What you see on screen, the team, it’s real, and I think those kids in many ways will be a team for the rest of their lives.

nikicaromcfarland4CS: Carlos is a real find. I didn’t realize he was an actor beforehand, but he’s really good in the movie. Let’s talk about Kevin Costner because he’s a superstar at this point who can do anything he wants. He can do sit around and do nothing if he wants, too. When he does movies these days, he puts a lot of himself into it, more than just an actor who shows up, does his lines and goes back to his trailer. Can you talk about working with him and developing it with him once he came on board?

Caro: It’s a really good question, because when you get the opportunity and the privilege to work with somebody like Costner, you don’t really know how it’s going to go, because for sure, he is one of the great movie stars. Unquestionably the king of the sports movie genre, but a testament to what a good man he is, that he showed up for us absolutely not as a movie star. It would have been enough that he showed up as an actor, but that he showed up as himself, as the man he is, was so moving to me. It was so special watching the tender way he took those boys under his wing, and he became their coach off-screen in a way, because he’s such a seasoned actor and because they really looked up to him and because he could give them something that nobody else could. They were taught impeccably well, and they were really, really well looked after by him. 

CS: Have you actually shown the movie to the people in McFarland yet, had a premiere there?

Caro: We’re going to. It’s going to be in Bakerfield on the 13th, yeah, because McFarland doesn’t have a movie theater, but the official McFarland premiere is going to be a blast.

CS: You’re so good at capturing Americana between this and “North Country.” Is that something you’re looking to explore more in the future, trying to find more areas of our country to explore?

Caro: Yeah, probably not the next project, but I’ve had a big crush on America since I was a child. I’m America’s biggest fan, and so I’m always happy to be able to find work here and stories to tell here, because this is a magnificent place.

McFarland, USA opens nationwide on Friday, February 20 with previews on Thursday night.

(Photo Credit: Brian To/


Toy Fair: A Look at Hasbro’s Star Wars Figures and Toys

star wars figuresThere’s still two more days of Toy Fair 2015 so hopefully you’re not all toyed out. With the same caveat we gave for our look at LEGO’s upcoming Star Wars toys, Hasbro showed a bunch of their new toys and figures, without showing anything from J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

That basically meant that most of the action figures and toys were either from the popular animated show “Star Wars Rebels” or from the vintage Star Wars movies with a number of new Black Series figures including Han and Luke in Stormtrooper suits, Luke in his Hoth uniform with a Wampa, Emperor Palpatine, Princess Leia in her Boushh disguise, IG-88 and Clonetrooper Commander Cody. (Thanks to Scott Chitwood for help on figuring some of those out!) 

One of Hasbro’s new initiative this year is that they’re bringing Star Wars into the Hero Mashers world that they introduced with Marvel and Transformers, so you can get various Star Wars characters and swap their heads, torsos and limbs to create bizarre amalgam characters. Another new thing is that Hasbro is incorporating Play-doh into the Star Wars world with the tubs having different character designs.

While you might think that Hasbro has been able to do everything humanly possible with their lightsabers, the latest thing is Blade Builders, a modular system where you can create and modify your own custom lightsaber using a variety of light and foam blades. You can watch a demo of that in the video below. 

Hasbro is also introducing a new electronic toy called Furbacca, which you’d be better off watching the video below to see what that is. (Hint: If you know what a “Furby” is then that gives you a hint.)

Here is a gallery of some of Hasbro’s new toys and figures.

Furbacca Demo 1

Furbacca Demo 2

Blade Builders Demo


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