Spotlight on ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ – Interview with 3 surviving members of the security forces team

On Friday December 4, I had the privilege to interview three of the real-life soldiers depicted in the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi film on Friday 12/4 afternoon at the Grand Hotel Mpls.

The film tells the true account of the events of September 11, 2012 when Islamic militants attacked the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound (or simply – the American diplomatic compound, it was not the U.S. Embassy) and a CIA station called The Annex in Benghazi, Libya from the personal stories of five of the surviving American private security operators that were on the ground that day.

13Hours_poster

Check out the green-band trailer below:

13Hours_bookI have to admit I was a bit nervous meeting them as I had never actually met a US marine nor Army Ranger before in my life, let alone famous ones who were involved in such a major military incident.

You might’ve seen them being interviewed by major media outlets since the novel the film’s based on, written by NY Times best-selling author Mitchell Zuckoff. As I was waiting for my turn for the interview, I continued reading the novel in the hotel lobby. It’s a real page-turner and full of details of the action of that night, as well as the previous nights before the attack happened. 

The three guys featured in the book are:

MARK “OZ” GEIST – Former Marine

JOHN “TIG” TIEGEN – Former Marine

KRIS “TANTO” PARONTO – Ex-Army Ranger

*Oz, Tig & Tanto are their actual radio call signs.

By the time I stepped into the room for the interview, Mark, John and Kris were busy signing the books. They’re friendly and courteous and made me feel comfortable and welcomed right away. Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto went out of his way from the other end of the room to give me a big bear hug which was very sweet. I asked them to sign my book which they obligingly did. As I sat down, I immediately thanked them for their service to our country and that they’ve risked their own lives to save others.

FCInterviewBanner

Q: How did this project come to be? Was the studio aware of the book being written [the book was published in Sept 2014] and wanted to do a cinematic adaptation of it?

MARK: 3 Arts [Entertainment], their literary division was the one who represented us when we did the book. Their primary division is a film production company out in L.A. We initially didn’t know where this would end up, we just wanted to get our story in print and bringing Mitchell Zuckoff as the author, and how he put together the book, the reviews of it, they felt that it would be a great fit for a film. So we went out to L.A. and talked to Paramount, actually we talked to several different groups and Paramount was the one that really, I think it resonated with them and they reached out to us about wanting to do the project and everything sort of fell into place.

Photo: Paramount Pictures
Director Michael Bay, Mark “Oz” Geist, Author Mitchell Zuckoff and John “Tig” Tiegen on the set of ’13 Hours’ – Photo: Paramount Pictures

Q: The book is a real page-turner, it’s very detailed and very intense. It made me wonder how the film would match the intensity. Since the film hasn’t come out yet, but you guys were there, so based on the footage you’ve seen so far, how realistic is it? Are you happy with the depiction?

KRIS: We’ve seen about 20-25 minutes footage, I think the intensity is there.

MARK: That’s why this is… I think this is made for Michael Bay’s [style]. He’s one of the few directors that I think can match the intensity that came across in the book.

KRIS: We’ve been very blessed that this has been handled by very good people. It shows that they had a sense, a sense to represent us correctly. They truly believe in the story, I don’t think if you truly believe in what happened that night, truly believe in how we are and want to know what actually took place that night and felt in their heart about getting it right, it wouldn’t have come out right.

Q: So they’re respectful about what went through that night? I mean, Michael Bay is known for his use of explosions, but there’s an emotional side to this story as well. I mean, this is obviously a very emotional experience for you guys.

MARK:  Things that people will see in the movie, and where he really… and I can’t say that he gets away from everything he’s done in the past in a sense that I mean you’re gonna feel every emotion… just as you read the book, you’re going to feel those emotions and he does the exact same thing, from fear, to sadness to anger. The movie’s not just about the actual event of that night, but it’s about our families too, our wives, our kids and he shows that in little snippets. It relates to how our kids… for example, he shows one scene of one of us with our families and the kid asks his dad ‘Daddy, why he has to go back, can’t you just do this?’ That really resonates with every single one of us, because most of us in the [security] contracting world are a little bit older and most of us have kids, we’re further along in our family life. So the kids are there and they’re talking to us… and that’s when he shows the compassion side of the movie and the troubles that we go through and serve our country the way we do.

KRIS: Michael Bay’s critics don’t see how much he supports vets. The extras you see in the movie, they’re are also military people from special forces and SEAL teams. I don’t think people give him the credit he deserves when it comes to making movies and the fact that he uses real people when he needs an authentic military aspect. The fact that this is a military film and he has the experience because he’s been around military people throughout his film career. There were Seals in The Rock and even in the Transformers movies there were real army rangers who worked as extras and they’re friends of ours who’ve worked with us overseas. So I don’t think he gets the kudos when it comes to stuff like that.

Q: The film was shot in Malta and also Morocco. How involved were you in selecting the location, obviously it couldn’t be shot in Libya but did you have any input in location scouting?

JOHN: No, we weren’t involved in the location as they’d select the location that’d look best to represent Benghazi the way it was. As for input for the set, as far as set design, by the time we got there, they already got the design done so we’re sitting there in front of the set guy. He was telling us what it looks like and how they did it. Well I said, ‘well this is wrong, this wall wasn’t here, this was actually over there…’ and Michael Bay was like, ‘Oh great, you just cost us another hundred thousand dollars’ but they moved it, they did it. Same thing with the actors, I mean one of them took Oz’s (Mark) wife on a date and tried to get into detail how everything was.

KRIS: Best date she ever had, I reckon she said.

[Everyone laughs]

13Hours_cast
From L-R: Max Martini (Oz), John Krasinski (Jack Silva), Dominic Fumusa (Tig) and Pablo Schreiber (Tanto)

Q: Which actor was that?

JOHN: Max Martini. But don’t tell his wife [laughs]

KRIS: Don’t tell Oz, I mean he’s here but don’t tell him.

JOHN: Even on the set, we’re constantly in talks with the actors even before and after we left the set. Like Dominic Fumusa [who played John in the film], I mean he’s emailing me once a week asking me questions.

Q: So John, you have twins don’t you? According to the book, you’ve been there three times?

JOHN: Well I’ve been to Libya four times but three times to Benghazi.

Q: So you did go back to Libya after that?

JOHN: We all went back to work after Benghazi.

MARK: Well not to there [Benghazi] but everybody went back to the Middle East after all. I didn’t because I was injured but we all went back to our security work in different places. 

JOHN: Yes, until about mid 2013 when we finally decided to do the book.

KRIS: This wasn’t exactly our idea y’know ‘oh we got in a firefight, let’s go write a book about it’ We all wanted to continue to work. We just saw that the truth kept getting…

JOHN: hijacked…

KRIS: Exactly, hijacked by both [political] parties, everybody in the media, even by people in general who were writing a book about Benghazi who had no idea what was really going on in there. It got to the point where… first of all, it’s disrespectful to the people who died and disrespectful to those who lived, those who completed the mission and saved lives. I mean, it just wasn’t the truth. So it got to the point where had to vote as a team, as a team we said this is what we’re gonna do, let’s tell the truth… and of course we had to resign and here we are. I mean, I never planned on y’know, when I was younger I never thought I’d write a book that’s gonna be made into a movie, never in my life that I thought that.

13Hours_maincast
Pablo Schreiber as Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John Krasinski as Jack Silva & David Denman as Dave “Boon” Benton

Q: Early in the book, I read about how Jack Silva and Rone Woods, the night before the attack, they were talking about the security of the diplomatic compound and the ANNEX building. They were talking about the holes in the defensive system and how it might be vulnerable to terrorist attack and all that. Now in hindsight, knowing all that and this happened. Have you been contacted or are there improvements being made to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Not just in Benghazi but in other diplomatic compounds in vulnerable locations.

JOHN: They’re still trying to fix the holes that they found in the Beirut bombings [in November 2015]

KRIS: The actual training for state department guys…this is just from our friends in the State Department, they’ve made some improvements. Now I don’t know how much more intense they’ve made it thought they told me it’s pretty intense. But as far as from the state department asking ‘hey what are you guys’ take on this? What should we do? What’s the after action?’ No, that hasn’t happened, I think there are still the same problems overseas. And this is just from the guys that… it’s a small community, we still know guys who work as security contractors. They can tell you right now, that some lessons have been learned, but I don’t think they’ve exploited all the lessons they could’ve learned to make improvements that could be made to these diplomatic compounds overseas.

JOHN: Well, there’s really no reason to do the improvements because there’s nobody ever held accountable. Until someone is held accountable, put their feet to the fire, nothing’s ever going to chance.

KRIS: [holding the book] But this helps. The secret soldiers of Benghazi. Hopefully one day they’ll read this or somewhere down the line someone at the State Department or Government will watch it and maybe a light will click on. This will serve as a reminder forever so that’s important. I mean, we did what we had to do. This is out there, we’ve done all that we can do from our point of view. And the State Department know where we’re at and they can reach out to us. If they want to know our assistance, all they gotta do is ask.

MarkQuoteQ: I don’t want to make light of this event at all, obviously this was very tough for you guys. But there’s one point in the book where I thought, ‘I wonder if it’s going to make it into the film or not.’ I think in the Overrun chapter, Tanto you said ‘I’m getting too old for this.’ I think it’s when you’re about to climb an 8-foot wall. There’s definitely a sense of humor in the book.

[Everyone laughs as they’re playfully poking fun at Kris]

KRIS: Yeah, people think combat is all serious but we actually had a lot of fun. There’s a lot of jokes, I mean that’s your defense mechanism, it’s how you deal with stress, you tell jokes and you have a good times. And you’re with your buddies and that makes it ten times better. I mean you got bullets zipping by above your head and you hear that snap. You gotta put that on your bucket list, one time you gotta let that happen and you’ll see, you’ll think, ‘man this is kinda fun.’

Q: Oh I don’t know about that. Now, you guys seem very happy and calm now. I mean it’s been three years but how’s life been for you guys? Has the memory of the event still haunt you from time to time?

MARK: I don’t know that it necessarily haunt. I mean we’ll carry this memory forever and I’m proud to carry this memory with me, serving with these guys. Even the memories of Tyrone [Woods, former Navy SEAL, played by James Badge Dale] and Bub [Glen Doherty, former Navy Seal, played by Toby Stephens], they got killed right beside me when I got injured in the same explosion. I’m proud to have been able to fight with those types of guys, it’s a sense of privilege and honor to be able to do that. And it’s unfortunate that people died and get injured in these line of work but we’ve been around long enough and doing this long enough to know that this is one of the consequences. We even rationalized, dealt with that, or compartmentalized this long before it even happened.

Who’s who in 13 Hours:

Featurette on the men who lived the Benghazi attack:


THANKS so much Mark, John and Kris for chatting with me.13Hours_interview

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens wide in the US on Friday, January 15

Check out the worldwide release date here


Thoughts on the interview and/or the film? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

TedSaydalavongBanner

TMNT2014bnr

For anyone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, you probably heard of the Ninja Turtles even if you were not a fan. As a young boy back in those days, I was a huge fan of the turtles, my brother and I used to watch the morning cartoon show every day and I’ve watched the original film countless times on VHS. The first film released back in 1990 was a huge hit but unfortunately the two sequels that followed were quite awful and the franchise went on hiatus for a few years. The studio tried to restart the film franchise with a CG animation and released an animated movie simply called TMNT back in 2007. Even with voices by well known actors such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans and Patrick Stewart, the movie never caught on with the public. For a while many thought the franchise was dead, at one time John Woo was attached to produce and direct another film version but of course that never happened. The franchise ended up in the hands of Michael Bay and now we’re finally got to see another live action movie version.

With a comic book style introduction, this new movie takes us right into the chaos. Apparently Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his foot clan army have been terrorizing the citizens of NYC for a while and it seems to no one can stop or find him. Young reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is eager to become a real reporter and wants to find out who these foot clan are and what they’re planning to do next. One night she ran into the clan’s illegal activity and then witnessed the clan being took out by some mysterious figures. This scene was basically a rip-off of scene from Nolan’s Batman Begins when Batman was introduced, in fact the whole “plot” of this turtle movie was a rip-off of Nolan’s first Batman flick. Of course those mysterious figures turned out to be our heroes the Ninja Turtles. O’Neil wants to break the story about how someone is fighting back against Shredder and his army but without any proof her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) refuse to run the story. In fact she fired O’Neil because she’s becoming an annoyance. Now jobless and still wants to prove that the Turtles do exist, she decided to confide in her late father’s co-worker Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and told him about the Turtles. Well wouldn’t you know it, Sacks happens to be the minion of Shredder and of course this leads to O’Neil being in danger and our heroes in the half shell came to her rescue.

I went into this movie with very low expectations since it’s directed by journeyman Jonathan Liebesman, the same man who directed some awful flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Battle: Los Angeles. Also, any movie with Michael Bay‘s name attached to it, I just don’t think it will be any good. Surprisingly I thought Liebesman did a pretty decent job with this movie, he remember to hold the cameras steady for most of the action scenes and staged one pretty awesome action sequence. A chase scene with our heroes being pursued by the foot clan army down a snowy mountain, seeing that sequence in 3D was quite great. Unfortunately though, the script by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty was quite dreadful. As mentioned earlier the whole plot of this movie was a rip-off of Batman Begins but it’s also full of amateurish humor that only teenage boys will enjoy. One thing I really hated about the script was how they decided to change the origins of the turtles and their master Splinter. It’s so idiotic that I almost laughed out loud when that scene appeared.

Performances wise, you can’t really judge the actors who voiced the turtles so I’ll just focus on the human characters. As we all know Megan Fox can’t act and it’s quite painful watching her “act” in this movie, she’s asked to carry the movie for the first 40 minutes or so and it wasn’t fun watching her trying to act. William Fichtner and Tohoru Masamune didn’t have much to do except playing the straight one dimensional evil characters. Will Arnett showed up as the sidekick to April O’Neil and unfortunately his comedic role was just that, a comedic sidekick. I thought they might make him into Casey Jones by the end but I’m glad that never happened.

The movie wasn’t as bad I expected but it’s still not something adults will enjoy but I’m pretty sure most teenagers will have a great time with this one. I enjoyed some parts of the movie but in the end, it’s just another loud action/adventure movie from Mr. Bayhem.

tworeels

TedS_post


Have you seen this one? Well, what did you think?

Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon: Hitchcock to Transformers Movies

SixDegreesofSeparationHitchcockTransformers
Nostra, aka The King of Blog Series is at it again! This time in association with dutch movieblog “De Protagonisten” (who inspired him to do this). Check out the main blogathon page on My Film Views blog. Surely you’re all familiar w/ the concept of Six Degrees of Separation, but here’s the idea in his own words:
This blogathon is based on a theory that in only six steps you can link anyone to any other person in the world. It will test your knowledge of actors, movies and directors. You will get two names of either actors/actresses/directors or movies and what you will have to do is make a link between them in a maximum of six steps.


So how does this blogathon work?

As you know I have done several relay races in the past and have heard from several bloggers that they wished they would get a chance to participate as well, but since there was only one baton the chances would be small to get it assigned. So to go with the theme of this blogathon I decided to increase those chances sixfold and assign this blogathon to six bloggers who can then each hand over the baton to another blogger with a new end-goal for that blogger.

Well, Nostra assigns six of us with the initial task, I have to connect Alfred Hitchcock to the Transformers movies in six steps or less. I was able to do two different versions for this, and none involving Shia LaBeouf, yay!

Alfred Hitchcock to the Transformer movies

SixDegreesofSeparationHitchcockTransformers1
Alfred Hitchcock directed Marnie (1964) starring Sean Connery
Connery was in The Rock (1996) which was directed by Michael Bay
Bay directed all of the Transformers movies
SixDegreesofSeparationHitchcockTransformers2
Alfred Hitchcock worked with Bruce Dern in The Family Plot (1976)
Dern co-starred with Jon Voight in Coming Home (1978)
Voight was in the first Transformers movie (2007)

So I’m handing over the baton to Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog. So Natalie, your task is connect the Transformers movies to… Gary Cooper.

Good luck Natalie! 🙂


Thoughts on this blogathon and/or the films/actors mentioned here?

FlixChatter Double Review –Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers4Banner

Ted’s Review

After a three year absent, the Transformers are back on the big screen. They still have to deal with annoying human characters, fight the bad Transformers and destroy every big city as much as they could.

The movie picked up about 5 years after the last one, we’re introduced to some new human characters Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Yeager is a failed inventor and he’s close to being broke and lose his farm. One day he found an old truck which happens to be Optimus Prime, he’s hiding from the government. Apparently after the events of the last movie, all of the Autobots are being hunted down by the CIA. The mission is being spearheaded by a high level CIA executive Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). When Attinger finds out that Optimus Prime is hiding out at Yeager’s farm, he sends his operatives including its leader James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to bring Prime in. Of course things didn’t turn out well as they’d hoped and Yeager, his daughter and Optimus were able to get away from the agents. I was going to write more about the “plot” of the movie but let’s face it, no one go to see this movie for its plot, which by the way didn’t make a lick of sense. If you’re a fan of the previous three movies and enjoy all the explosions and robots fighting then you’re going to love this one. For anyone who can’t stand this franchise, I’d advise you to stay far away from it!

Transformers4Stills1

Wahlberg stepped in as the new leading man this time and I didn’t think he was as annoying as Shia LaBeouf but he didn’t really add anything much to the movie. Since he’s done many action movies prior, the writers did write in scenes where he’s part of the action instead of just running and screaming like LaBeouf did in the previous movies. Young actress Nicola Peltz became the new eye candy in this one, when I say eye candy, I meant it literally. Bay pretty much focused the cameras on every part of her body, just like he did with the other pretty girls in the previous movies. Another young actor (Jack Reynor) showed up as her boyfriend and I think he’s supposed to play LaBeouf’s part because I found him quite annoying. Then later in the movie, Stanley Tucci showed up as this Steve Jobs type of a character. Grammer was pretty much your typical one dimensional villain, he’s bad, he’s greedy and he doesn’t about anyone but himself.

Now let’s talk about Michael Bay and his Bayhem. I don’t know if it’s possible but this movie might have had more climatic action scenes than any other movies I’ve ever seen. Bay kept blowing things up and robots smashing into one another for close to 3 hours! The man has no restrain and as long as people keeps paying to see this franchise, he’ll never stop. I remember a while back he said he’s done with the franchise but I guess the studio probably offered him money more than any average person would ever see in their lifetime.

Transformers4Still4

Now I do have a couple of good things to say about this movie. First, it’s the first movie to have been shot with the new IMAX 3D cameras and since I’m a big fan of IMAX, it’s nice to have seen it on the biggest screen. If you’re going to see it on IMAX, know that it will have aspect ratio switching. Second, the 3D effects were quite impressive, maybe one of the best I’ve seen. There were scenes where I felt like I was in the movie, Bay did a good job there with the 3D. Of course the 3D supposed to enhance the story and not be the story, so it gets tiresome about an hour into the movie.

The movie is expected to be the summer’s biggest hit and I have no doubt that it will be a big hit. If you’re a fan of the franchise then you’ll love it, but for me it’s another bloated piece of turd from a director who only cares about making money and not quality films.

oneandahalfreels

TedS_post


Ruth’s Review

Ok so this is not so much a straight-on review as my rant reaction to this movie [if you can even call it that]. I’ve only seen the first movie [only because I was at a friend’s party and everyone wanted to watch the Transformers movie], and frankly I had no interest in seeing any more from this franchise. The only reason I went to this press screening is because it was at the IMAX theater and this was supposedly the first film shot with IMAX 3D Digital Camera. Silly reason really, and definitely NOT a worthy one to waste three whole hours on (more if you include the bazillion trailers before the movie starts).

Pretty much the only thing one needs to know about the Transformers universe is this: the Autobots are the good alien robots and the Decepticons are the evil ones. The humans are disposable creatures, as interchangeable as the parts in a kid’s toolbox. So supposedly an epic battle had happened in the previous film that left the world in pieces, though you wouldn’t know that from looking at the shots of Chicago and Beijing as they look pretty much unscathed with all of the skyscrapers intact. For some reasons, the Autobots are now being hunted down by the CIA, whilst the top level CIA agent (Kelsey Grammer) happily makes deals with another group of alien robots as they agree to leave earth. Meanwhile, a lowly farmer inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) inadvertently discovered that a beat-up old truck is actually the leader of the Autobots, called Optimus Prime. So of course soon enough Yeager and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) become fugitives themselves as they want to keep Optimus from getting caught. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

Transformers4Stills2

As if the obtuse storyline wasn’t enough, Michael Bay‘s execution and directing style makes this fourth installment so unbearable in every sense of the word. At 165-min long, it’s overstuffed yet hollow, loud and verbose with nothing to say. As the end credit rolled, my hubby and I just shook our head. Yes I know it’s not the first time Hollywood studios spent a mind-boggling $180 mil budget on such a stinker, but this one is especially horrid with barely any redeeming quality whatsoever. Now, I’m not saying I can’t enjoy a movie about monstrous alien robots. After all, I LOVE Pacific Rim, which I’ve rewatched several times and still entertained by it. Funny that the lead character’s name is Yeager sounds just like Pac Rim‘s robotic weapon Jaeger. If only this movie is even half as entertaining!

Bay’s Transformers franchise should go down in film history as the quintessential piece of garbage, as it represents the worst thing that one dreads from a Summer blockbuster… vapid, trite, overindulgent, overwrought, plus a dose of self-satisfied smug-ness. After all, Bay remains defiant, here’s his response to those who are critical of his *masterpiece*: “They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate … They’re still going to see the movie! [per mtv.com]. Wish he were wrong but he’s not. As I’m writing this, the movie has made over $40 mil in one DAY, on track for a $100+ mil weekend [sigh] It’s ironic that the title tagline is ‘age of extinction.’ Well, it seems that creativity in Hollywood is on the verge of extinction [if it isn’t already]. The best line of the movie comes early in the movie, inside a ruined vintage cinema, when an older man lamented how all movies these days are sequels and remakes. Was Bay poking fun at himself and what he represents? Highly unlikely, considering his comment above.

You know something is out of whack when during watching a movie, you’re thinking about why so many good actors sign on to this and wonder how much money they made for it. That is if you’re not busy counting how many product placements are scattered during the action scenes [hint: it’s too many to count]. Every actor here is utterly wasted, Wahlberg is not immune to bad movies [The Happening, anyone?] but I’m still baffled as to why he signed on to do this. You would think he’s got enough cash that he never need to do a project only for monetary reason. Talented young actors like Sophia Myles and Jack Reynor probably just want the exposure one could get from mainstream blockbusters, but it’s still painful to see them in something THIS bad. Let’s hope they pick better roles in the future. As for Peltz, she is an exact embodiment of a damsel-in-distress, yet another eye candy type for the purpose of Bay’s unabashed female objectifications. As Wahlberg’s character complained about her daughter’s skimpy outfit, Bay set up a shot from between her thighs as she stood with her short shorts that barely covered her behind. Peltz was only 18 during filming, Bay’s nearing 50. It’s really a new low even for Bay.

I don’t know what’s worse, the wooden acting or the clichéd dialog coming out of their mouths. Even Stanley Tucci who’s always watchable even in a bad movie made me cringe here. His character is a multi-billionaire Tony Stark-type inventor who has been making man-made robots from the remains of the evil alien robots Decepticons. For someone who’s supposedly a brilliant scientist, his character does the most idiotic things throughout. In the third act, the main characters resort to dragging an alien *seed* that can turn organic material into metal. You’d think they’d be more careful with something THAT lethal, but it’s as if they’re dragging a body bag. It’s like watching a slapstick comedy except that it’s neither funny nor entertaining.

Transformers4Still3

I better end my rant now as I’m running out of adjectives to describe this movie. This FilmInk reviewer sums up my sentiment perfectly: “Transformers: Age of Extinction has appalling dialogue, deplorable representations of women, un-self-aware action sequences, very little humour and racial stereotyping. In other words, it’s a Michael Bay movie.” Suffice to say, this is by far the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time, rivaled only by Die Hard 5 but even that one is still more watchable as it’s only about half as long. I actually had to make a new rating graphic for this one as I’ve never given a rating this low before. I don’t care what state-of-the-art equipment is used to make this or even how good the visual quality is. I actually took my 3D glasses off a few times just to give my tired eyes a break. It’s really a sensory overload in the worst possible way.

ahalfreel


Well, what do you think of the latest Transformers movie? 

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION interview with Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz

FCInterviewBanner

TransformersAgeOfExtinction

Hello everyone! Earlier this month, on June 8th to be exact, I got a chance to interview a couple of cast members from TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION: Nicola Peltz & Jack Reynor. It’s part of their press tour around the country and they showed clips from the movies as well as signed autographs for fans. Surely most of of you already know what the movie is about, after all it’s the fourth one in the franchise. I personally have only seen the first movie which was years ago, so I’m not exactly well-versed in the Transformers universe. So here’s what to expect in this latest movie:

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION begins after an epic battle left a great city torn, but with the world saved.  As humanity picks up the pieces, a shadowy group reveals itself in an attempt to control the direction of history…while an ancient, powerful new menace sets Earth in its crosshairs. With help from a new cast of humans (led by Mark Wahlberg), Optimus Prime and the Autobots rise to meet their most fearsome challenge yet.  In an incredible adventure, they are swept up in a war of good and evil, ultimately leading to a climactic battle across the world. 

 Trailer:


Thanks ALLIED for co-ordinating the interview roundup at Mall of America. There are seven interviewers in the roundtable so below are all the questions, I marked MY questions with an (*) in front of it.

Transformer-4-Jack_Nicola

Here’s the transcript from the interview with Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz:

Q (for Veronica): With a lot of the strong female leads in entertainment films these days, does your character continue the strand of [being] strong female character in this movie?

Nicola: Tessa is definitely… you know how in the beginning of the movie she lives a normal life day to day, and she’s suddenly thrust into this extraordinary situation where she has to fight for her life and get back with her family. But she’s definitely a tough girl, she lives in a farm. She definitely gets her butt kicked a lot… a lot, but she has her moment.

Jack: I think she’s probably more of a bad ass than a lot of the other franchises that are around right now, in all honesty. She’s not the sensitive wilting flower [Nicola: she’s no wilting flower]… more of a bad ass, I mean she’s going out with a race car driver so she better be [laughs]

Q: So what scene do each of you guys enjoy shooting the most?

Nicola: I don’t know if you guys saw the trailer but when we were running, Jack, Mark and I were running in slow motion and there’s this huge explosion…well that was real. We found out about it like four minutes before. We got on set and we had no idea. We saw all these explosives, twelve cameras and we’re like ‘What is going on?’ Michael does add random scenes so we’re very pleased. So he got on set and said: you have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds and we had our practice runs and then he said, ‘Ok are you ready?’ And we’re like ‘Ok, yeah.’ And so we just did it and he said, ‘Well don’t mess it up ’cause we can only do it once.’ It was so exciting though, I mean your adrenaline was going crazy, it was really fun.

Q: To follow up on that… could you just talk about the different challenges about doing television or independent films versus doing a monumental blockbuster film like this one?

Jack: Well for me at least, independent films and films like this aren’t really that different in terms of my approach to my character and a performance. You still have to try your best to suspend your disbelief and draw on your imagination and your emotion and invoke certain thoughts for yourself to invest in your character. The real differences are that with a film of this kind of budget and scale is that there are so many more people around all the time. And the effects are so heavy and the wait time between shots are kind of substantially longer. So things like that are really different. Y’know people ask all the time how does it feel like to star opposite a giant imaginary robot, well I think it’s not so different from any other films you try to do. Like I said it’s about drawing from your imagination, so it’s an extension of that from the world of independent film and television.

And with Mark being on set, and Michael, and don’t get me wrong, Stanley [Tucci] and Kelsey [Grammer] as well, these are all veterans of the industry, they’ve all done a movie like this before. So for Nicola and I to be able to observe them in the environment, ehm making a blockbuster film has been an eye-opener for us and it’s taught us a lot on how to relate to the industry and how the industry relate to us. It’s very beneficial for us at our stage of our careers.

Transformer-4-SetPhoto
Photo courtesy of sciencefiction.com

*Q (for Jack): Since you’ve done a bunch of independent films like What Richard Did and then this movie. You sort of touched on that a little bit but then you’re going to be doing Macbeth [Jack: I’ve finished Macbeth]. Is there anything that’s particularly memorable in filming this as opposed to those indie films?

Jack: Yeah again, it’s that crazy scale… rolling through f***in’ giant explosion y’know, crazy car chases. I mean driving rally cars having helicopters flying over my head. Cars with cranes chasing me and stuff like that. I shouldn’t be driving behind the wheel of a car like that, that’s mental. But yeah, it’s a really fun experience. It’s great. It’s a massive departure for me from the world of independent films so I enjoyed it, I relished the challenge, certainly.

Q: Transformers is a whole different animal from what the work you’ve done in the past. Have you found that your life changed now with the added exposure that comes with being in the Transformers 4 movie?

Nicola: My life? No, not at all. I still walk around and no one really cares. But then we just started this tour. We haven’t had the premiere yet which I’m super excited for but yeah, it’s been amazing.

Jack: Well on a personal level, for both of us on a personal level, things hasn’t changed an awful lot as of yet. In Ireland for me, a lot of people are really happy there’s an Irish guy as part of a massive franchise like this. We don’t have an Irish character in movies like this ever, this is kind of the first time we’ve actually seen an Irish character kind of in a large supporting role so that’s a real great thing. But professionally, on a professional level I think both of us have certainly noticed that we’re in a position that we can potentially finance the kind of projects that we want to make ourselves and we have a lot more freedom and leeway in what we want to do. And it’s afforded us a lot of opportunities in the industry and we both want to take full advantage of that. So that’s been a definite difference.

Transformer-4-Nicola

Q (for Nicola): Transformers is known as more of a guy film. So what do you think will bring the female audience in.

Nicola: Well I grew up with six brothers so I’ve always been into more of the guy movies and action films, those are the kind of movies I’m excited to go see. But Tessa is really relatable to a lot of girls, I know I can relate to her. Her dad is overprotective, I know I can relate to that definitely with six brothers. She’s in a no-dating household so I get all of that. But she is definitely relatable to a lot of girls. She is a tough girl, I think a lot of girls would be into this. I know I am.

Q: I saw an interview with Mark Wahlberg, and he had said ‘Jack and Nicola’s life is going to change quite a bit when the movie comes out. And it’s something you could deal with so well or it’s going to be a problem.’ Specifically as a mentor and father figure, as you enter huge celebrity, can you tell us a bit what that meant to you and what his best advice was?

Transformer-4-Jack

Jack: Well the thing is, during filming at least, Mark really lead from the front. And just to be able to observe him in that environment is something that’s very beneficial to us. It helps us to develop a healthy work ethic in this industry.

[ed note: Jack and Nicola has quite a lot to say about working with Mark Wahlberg and their thoughts on fame and celebrity. I figure I’ll let you take a listen to it yourself so you can hear what both of them sound like. Jack still has a pretty thick Irish accent as he still resides in Dublin.]

Q: So going more into the story of the film. What’s at stake for each of your character. What does your character stand to lose if you fail?

Nicola: Our lives [laughs] Well like I said in the beginning of the movie you see them live their lives, how they’re all normal relatable people and they’re thrown into this crazy situation. So in the film my character got separated from my dad and being a 17-year-old girl it’s really scary. And for her to be in this crazy situation and not being with her dad is super intimidating and scary. So she’s definitely scared about her life and also not only worrying about herself but also worrying about her dad. Is my dad ok? Is my boyfriend ok? So yeah there’s a lot of that.

Jack: At the heart of my character. Well he’s a young Irish guy who lands in Texas and he has this incredible ability to race rally cars. It gives him confidence in himself and y’know gives him the ability to assume his position in that world and also in terms of his relationship with Nicola’s character. I think that throughout the course of the film, he’s trying to find his place, he’s trying to prove who he is, what he’s worth. At the same time, his relationship with Nicola’s character is something that helps her to become more independent and to grow and approach the adult world and to diverge her relationship with her dad in a healthy way. So that’s the purpose that my character serves.

NicolaPeltzJackReynorMOAsigning

Q: So Transformers is like an extremely beloved series. Do you guys feel any pressure to live up to what has become of this franchise?

Nicola: Well we’re not replacing any character, so there’s no pressure to live up to something that we’re not replacing. But as me being a huge fan of Transformers and growing up with boys and being obsessed with it and I knew the whole story… I’m also a huge fan of Michael Bay and everyone involved in this film, so even being able to audition for this film and then to being able to be a part of it is so exciting for me. That’s all I was worried about. I’m just so excited to go on set and to work with such talented people.

And that’s a wrap! 😀
The interview was only 15-min long so that was the last question.


Transformers4_MoAInterview

Pardon the blurred photo. I was actually standing to the left of Jack in this photo but it was so blurry it’s best to just cut me off from the picture.

JACK REYNOR BIO

Reynor recently wrapped filming on the human trafficking story Glassland, alongside Toni Collette in Dublin, Ireland. This is the second feature from Irish director Gerard Barrett. Reynor has recently begun filming the upcoming adaptation of Shakespeare’s MACBETH, directed by Justin Kurzel. He will be playing the role of Malcolm alongside Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender.

Last winter, Reynor garnered rave reviews for playing the titular character in the Irish independent film What Richard Did. Labeled as one of the best movies to come out of the Tribeca and Toronto Film Festivals, it is a story about a young boy who has to confront the question of who he is and who he wants to become. Reynor delivered a spectacular performance receiving glowing remarks from film critics around the globe. “Mr. Reynor’s portrayal of this man-child is an extraordinary screen performance…,” stated Stephen Holden of The New York Times. Leslie Felperin of Variety wrote “Promising young thesp Jack Reynor particularly impresses as the title character… The climactic scene between Peter and Richard is powerfully thesped, especially by Reynor.”

Proving his multifaceted talent, Reynor made his US film debut in the recently released Vince Vaughn comedy DELIVERY MAN (Dreamworks) which came out in theaters nationwide on November 22nd 2013. Reynor was born in Colorado, but grew up in Ireland.

NICOLA PELTZ BIO

Later this summer Peltz will also star in Kevin Asch’s Affluenza which is set for limited release in July. The film is a coming of age story inspired by The Great Gatsby and is set amongst the upper class in the Long Island suburb of Great Neck during the weeks leading up to the financial meltdown of 2008.

On the small screen Peltz is currently reprising her role as Bradley Martin, a troubled high school student, in the second season of A&E’s critically acclaimed series Bates Motel. The series is a modern reimagining and prequel to the1960 Alfred Hitchcock cult classic Psycho, which focuses on the life of Norman Bates and his mother Norma portrayed by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga.

In 2012, she starred alongside Melanie Lynskey and Campbell Scott in Eye of the Hurricane, a compelling family adventure about a small Everglades community struggling to put their lives back together in the wake of a devastating hurricane. In 2010, Peltz starred in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender opposite Dev Patel and Jackson Rathbone. The film was written, directed and produced by Shyamalan and was based on the first season of Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Peltz made her feature film debut in 2006 in Deck the Halls with Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth.

A New York native, Nicola made her stage debut in 2007 opposite Jeff Daniels and Alison Pill in the Olivier Award-winning production of “Blackbird” at the Manhattan Theatre Club directed by Joe Mantello.
///

 TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION in out in theaters this Friday, June 27


Hope you enjoy the interview! What are your thoughts on Transformers movies and/or the cast?

In *honor* of Hollywood ‘dump months’ – 6 films that are excruciating to sit through

TedSaydalavongBanner

So now that all of the holidays and prestige films have been released, Hollywood will dump films that they’re not too proud of in the months of January and February. In fact, the term ‘dump months’ is an unofficial term used in the film community for the period of the year when there are lowered commercial and critical expectations for new major-studio releases. [per Wiki]

HollywoodDumpMonths

Let’s face it, most of the films coming out in the cold winter months aren’t going to win any awards or earn big money at the box office. With the exception of the new Jack Ryan film, I don’t plan to waste my money on any of them this winter, I’m looking at you The Legend of Hercules; I, Frankenstein, and the Robocop remake. Seriously those films just look awful to me, what happened to the careers of Renny Harlin and Aaron Eckhart anyway? I loved the original Robocop but the remake just look ridiculous and since the studio decided to moved it out of the prime summer release, I just don’t have much hope for it.

With so many bad looking films coming out in the next few weeks, I thought I should list some of the films that were excruciating to sit through, unfortunately some of these films were box office hits but thankfully many of them were duds. In no particular order, here they are:

The Waterboy (1998)

This was one of WaterboyPosterthe biggest box office hits of 1998 and that’s unfortunate because it’s such an awful movie. I used to be an Adam Sandler fan, really enjoyed Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison and The Wedding Singer, so of course I looked forward to seeing this one. But wow only about 20 minutes into the movie, I wanted to walk out. I didn’t crack a smile the entire time I sat in the theater, I just couldn’t believe that any studio executives thought this was a good idea to turn such an awful script into a movie. The movie was pretty mean-spirited, witless and worst of all, not funny at all.

Bad Boys 2 (2003)

BadBoys2PosterI enjoyed the silly first film but I didn’t think it deserves a sequel. The only reason why this film ever happened was because Will Smith was in a slump at the box office at the time and of course he needed a hit. I know there are people who’ll defend this film and said it’s a perfect example of Michael Bay at his best, but is that really a good thing? Now I’m one of those people who loves action films but this two and half hours of mayhem just wasn’t fun to sit through. When I go see movies like this, I expect to have fun and be transport to another world; not in this one. It took itself way too seriously and the bickering between the two leads just felt forced to me.

Apparently Sony is moving forward with a third film and I can only pray that Smith won’t come back and star in it. But he’s in another box office slump so I won’t surprise if he agrees star in another sequel.

Rollerball remake (2002)

RollerballRemakeIt’s one of the biggest box office bombs ever and it deserves it. I’ve never seen the original version but when it’s announced that John McTiernan and Keanu Reeves has signed up to do a remake, I was actually excited to see it. Well a couple of months before the cameras started rolling, Reeves decided to back out and the filmmakers has to scramble to find his replacement.

They cast Reeves lookalike Chris Klein (probably the worst actor I’ve ever seen) and somehow McTiernan still was able to keep the film’s bloated budget of $90mil. The film was scheduled to come out in the summer of 2001 but after some bad test screenings, they couldn’t even convince Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News to write a good review for the film, the studio decided to dump it in the winter of 2002. There were so many things wrong with this film, from the awfully shot and direction to the badly-written script and of course the lead actor was a joke. Seriously this was directed by the same guy who made two of my favorite action films, Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October, I wonder if McTiernan was high while filming this movie. Please don’t waste your time or money on this turd.

 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers3PosterAnother Michael Bay’s film on the list and this one also made a ton of money. I mildly enjoyed the first film, the second one was junk but I thought this one was just a pain to sit through. They somehow decided to focus on the human characters instead of The Transformers, I wanted to the evil robots to kill everyone human in this movie. Seriously every characters in the film were so annoying, especially the hero Shia LaBeouf, I wanted the bad Transformers to crush his skull and shut him up. All he did throughout the film was whining and yelling. Yeah I really hated this movie. I won’t be wasting my time and money on the fourth film that’s opening this summer.

Godzilla remake (1998)

GodzillaRemake1998This film should be consider one of the most hyped up films ever. I remember after the awesome Super Bowl teaser trailer, the promotions for this film were everywhere. Internet was still new at the time so most of the marketing were used in traditional print ads: billboards, large digital displays and the non-stop TV spots. I got even more excited to see it after they released a full trailer, I thought it’s going to be one of the biggest hits ever and my favorite movie of that summer. Boy was I wrong on both fronts, the actual film was awful and it became one of the biggest bombs of the 90s. I seriously wanted to walk out about half way through but my friends were having a good time and I didn’t want to be rude. Also one of them drove so had I left the theater, I would’ve to wait outside till the movie’s over.

The film was full of clichéd characters and plot, the acting was awful and Godzilla looked silly. I actually bought a cheap blu-ray of this film last year, hoping that I was too harsh on it and maybe I might enjoy it since I haven’t seen it in over 10 years. Boy I was wrong again, I turned it off after 20 minutes and sold the BD at the pawn shop the next day.

Of course another remake is opening this summer but I don’t think it’s going to make a dent at the box office. The cool trailer was shown when I went to see The Desolation of Smaug and a lot of people burst out laughing when they saw the trailer, not a good sign when people are laughing at it. Who knows maybe the new remake could be good but I won’t see it unless it gets tons of good reviews.

Lost In Space (1998)

LostInSpacePosterAh yes, the film that’s well known for finally dethroning Titanic from the number 1 spot at the box office. The 90s were a period when many old TV shows were turned into big budget spectacle, Tim Burton’s Batman films, Mission: Impossible and The Fugitive were some good examples. New Line thought they have a winner and try to cash in on the trend by green lighting this very expensive space adventure. After a good looking trailer, I was excited to see this film even though I’ve never watched the old TV show. I saw it at the opening weekend and I actually asked the theater manager for my money back because I hated it so much; he didn’t give me back my cash. It was such a painful experience to sit through, from the lazy direction and script to the awful, even for its time, special effects.

The plot made no sense and I didn’t care for any of the characters, even the great Gary Oldman can’t save this stinking pile of turd. New Line thought the film was going to be a huge hit and if I remember correctly, the film sort of ended in a cliffhanger style. The studio thought they had a lucrative franchise in their hands. Thankfully it tanked at the box office and pretty much forgotten by most people throughout the years. The film also cost its director’s career, Stephen Hopkins was a up-and-comer director at the time and after he made this film, he’s been doing TV shows ever since.

TedS_post


Those were some of the awful films I had to sit through, did you see any of them and do you agree with me? Feel free to list your own films that you thought were painful to sit through.

FlixChatter Review: Runner Runner

TedSaydalavongBanner

RunnerRunner_Banner

Runner Runner is a poker term referring to when a player needs the cards on the turn and river to win the pot. I’m pretty sure any poker player knows the term quite well and for non-poker folks, I’m sorry I couldn’t explain much better than that. I consider myself to be a pretty decent poker player, yes I’m one of those people who watch poker tournaments on TV and have played the game online and at casinos. So this film peaked my interest just a bit, I thought it would dive into the world that not too many people know about; sadly though, the film never delivers on its intriguing premise.

The film starts out with a Princeton grad student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) meeting with the Dean of the school. He’s been busted for running an online gambling at the school and the Dean order him to shut down the site or get expel from the campus. Richie is in a huge debt, you see he worked at Wall Street for a few years but when the economy went south, he lost his job and his seven figures salary. He wants to get a Master Degree in finance so he can get back on his feet again, unfortunately he doesn’t have enough money to pay for the tuition. So with only about $17,000 left in his bank account, Richie decided to play poker online with all of his savings and hoping he would win enough money to pay for his tuition. Unfortunately he loss all of his money but he realized he was cheated. So he decided to travel down to Costa Rica to confront the man who runs the poker website, Ivan Brock (Ben Affleck). Ivan agreed to meet with Richie and he was impressed with Richie’s talent, he decided to offer him a job of running his casino in town, of course being broke Richie took the offer right then and there. Richie also met up with Ivan’s girl Rebecca Shafran (ex-Bond girl Gemma Arterton). There’s this love triangle storyline between these characters that never fully developed.

RunnerRunner_Stills

After a couple of months of enjoying the high roller life in paradise, Richie was suddenly captured by couple of thugs and brought to an FBI agent Shavers (totally miscast Anthony Mackie). Shavers wants Richie to be a mole for him, he wants to bring Ivan’s operation into a halt. Richie of course refused so Shavers threatened him by saying he could be ban from entering the States and spend most of his life in prison down Costa Rica. With no choice Richie decided to come up with his own plans of escaping the authority and Ivan’s empire. The rest of the film was about Richie trying to outsmart the FBI and take down Ivan his own way, there’s no payoff or surprises, pretty generic thriller recipe that’s been done way too many times in other and much better films.

This was the first of Timberlake’s film that I saw with him as the lead and I don’t think I want to see anymore of him. He’s good as a supporting character, I liked his take on Sean Parker in The Social Network, but he’s way out of his comfort zone here as the leading man. There were a couple of scenes that if I were the director, I may have slapped him silly and get fired because he cannot convey the emotion that those scenes required. Affleck on the other was having fun playing the villain and he chewed up his scenes to the max. Unfortunately though, his character was pretty one dimensional and any decent actor could’ve been good in the role. I don’t know why Affleck accepted this role, maybe he’s a good friends with the director or maybe he wants the studio behind this film to finance his next film project. Arterton didn’t have much to do but being the eye candy and love interest. I mentioned earlier that Mackie was a total miscast, he’s as believable as an FBI agent as me being a QB in the NFL.

RunnerRunner_Still2

I’ve never seen any films of Brad Furman, apparently his last film The Lincoln Lawyer was pretty descent but I thought he did a poor job here. He’s one of these new crops of young filmmakers who thinks by shaking the camera, even during dialog scenes, would make the film exciting or intriguing. Seriously these guys needs to stop doing that, I’m so sick of hand held shaky cam style of filmmaking. He also copied the look and feel of the film from other directors such as David Fincher and Michael Bay, yeah I know why anyone would copy Michael Bay’s style is beyond me. As for the screenplay, it wasn’t anything special. It’s a generic plot that we’ve seen many times before, I’m actually surprised that the script got made into a big motion picture, I thought it’s better suited for a TV movie of the week.

This was a missed opportunity to tell a good story about poker gambling and how it can ruin people’s lives, instead they decided to just turn a good premise into a silly and boring thriller. With a weak leading man, script and uninspiring direction this is a rental at best. My generous 2 stars is for the beautiful scenery and cool soundtrack.
tworeels

2 out of 5 reels


TedS_post


Well, what do you think of this film and/or the cast?