Sony Pictures’ “Jumanji: The Next Level” pulled off what’s been a difficult task in 2019: It topped its predecessor’s opening weekend at the box office with $60 million domestically over the weekend.
“It looks like ‘Jumanji’ is immune to the so-called sequel or reboot ‘curse’ that has plagued many films this year and is set for a long run throughout the holidays and into 2020,” Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider. “‘The Next Level’ should perform much like its predecessor that similarly had a ‘Star Wars’ movie to contend with in the early weeks of its release and have solid long-term success.”
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” rebooted the 1995 classic starring Robin Williams with a million domestic debut. And with 2 million globally and 4.5 million domestically, “Welcome to the Jungle” was 2017’s fifth biggest movie in the world and the fourth biggest movie in North America.
Jack Black and Karen Gillan in “Jumanji: The Next Level”
A sequel was inevitable, but not a guaranteed success if this year’s box office was any indication. While there have been exceptions (i.e. “John Wick: Chapter 3” and most things Disney), sequels and reboots this year have flopped hard. Here are some examples:
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” grossed nearly 0 million less than 2014’s “Godzilla.”
“Dark Phoenix,” Fox’s final “X-Men” movie before joining Disney, was the lowest-grossing “X-Men” movie yet with just million domestically and 2 million worldwide.
“Men in Black: International” tanked with only million domestically and 4 million globally.
“It: Chapter Two” wasn’t a flop with 2 million worldwide, but performed far worse than the first “It,” which earned 0 million.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” could put an end to the “Terminator” franchise after a measly 8 million worldwide off of a nearly 0 million production budget.
And the “Shining” sequel “Doctor Sleep” fizzled out at only million worldwide.
Sony avoided those movies’ fates by dropping “The Next Level” during a smart weekend, according to box-office experts. And “Welcome to the Jungle” also debuted the same month as a new “Star Wars” movie (then “The Last Jedi,” this time “The Rise of Skywalker”), which didn’t stop it from being a box-office powerhouse.
“[‘The Next Level’] has time to build audience enthusiasm and become a part, not a casualty, of what should be an enormous weekend for the box office when ‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ opens this week,” Dergarabedian said.
Jeff Bock, the Exhibitor Relations senior box-office analyst, said that family-friendly movies are in high demand during the holiday season and the positive response to “Welcome to the Jungle” helped its chances even further.
But the all-star cast doesn’t hurt, either. It includes Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a global superstar and Forbes’ highest-paid actor of the year.
“Big names [can still mean] big box office game,” Bock said. “It still works if you do it right.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.
They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.
Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.
Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.
Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.
Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.
In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.
Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.
During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.
Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is heading for the worst opening at the China box office of Disney’s new “Star Wars” movies.
The movie had earned $2.2 million in the region by 8 p.m. local time on Friday, according to Variety, and was trailing behind three Chinese movies. The Chinese ticket service Maoyan is projecting “The Rise of Skywalker” to earn just $18 million during its theatrical run in China.
The “Star Wars” franchise has struggled to build an audience in the country, where Hollywood is increasingly relying on its box office to boost its blockbusters. The Chinese theatrical market has been growing at a rapid pace and is even projected to dethrone the US as the world’s box-office leader within the next few years.
Each Disney-era “Star Wars” movie has made less in China than the previous one. Here’s how each of them performed there:
“The Force Awakens” — 4 million
“Rogue One” — million
“The Last Jedi” — million
“Solo” — million
Despite the lack of enthusiasm in China, all of those movies except “Solo” grossed over id=”listicle-2641661309″ billion worldwide. “The Force Awakens” earned over billion globally and 6 million domestically.
“The Rise of Skywalker” is expected to have a big opening domestically this weekend — despite negative reviews — but still less than the previous movies in the new trilogy. Boxoffice.com is projecting the movie to debut between 0 million and 0 million. “The Force Awakens” opened with 8 million domestically and “The Last Jedi” with 0 million.
“The Rise of Skywalker” so far has a 57% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” movie since “The Phantom Menace.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The last major movie of the summer is upon us, and you’re in for a good time and a few surprises with “Hobbs and Shaw.”
The “Fast & Furious” spin-off puts Vin Diesel in the backseat as the Los Angeles lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the former British military elite operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are forced to reluctantly work together to save the world.
What went so wrong that Dominic Toretto couldn’t be called? The two enemies need to save the world from Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba), a cybergenetically enhanced superhuman who, along with an evil global organization, is trying to get his hands on a virus to make more of the human race just like him.
Does the premise seem a bit silly? You bet! But if you’ve been following this franchise since 2001, then you know what you’re in for — fast cars, big action sequences, and a bad guy who needs to be stopped. It’s just another day at the office for the Fast fam.
This is a fun one that feels right at home in the “Fast and Furious” universe.
How much did you want to see a movie with these two after this scene?
(Universal Studios image)
Why you should care: It’s the first ‘Fast & Furious’ spin-off movie, and it features two fan-favorites from the franchise.
This is simple. It’s the Rock/Dwyane Johnson and Jason Statham in a movie. If you saw 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” you’ve been waiting for this team-up since their memorable prison-escape sequence.
According to the film’s production notes, the idea for a spin-off Hobbs film had been floated around since he joined the “Fast” franchise in 2011’s “Fast Five.” The “Deadpool 2” and “John Wick” director David Leitch is in the directing chair for this one, so buckle up for some great fight sequences.
The fate of the world is in these guys’ hands… if they can stop fighting long enough.
(Universal Studios image)
What’s hot: The chemistry of The Rock and Jason Statham, the addition of Vanessa Kirby, some unexpected surprises, and two of the big action sequences.
If you told me years ago that I’d be rooting for Deckard Shaw, the man who killed off one of the most beloved characters in the “Fast” franchise (RIP Han), I’d think you were joking. But here we are. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Johnson and Statham in a movie together made the right call.
You can easily watch Johnson and Statham banter for a full two hours. One of the jokes may get old after its third run-through, but their inability to cooperate for a majority of the film to save the world makes for a fun watch.
One of the biggest delights of “The Fate of the Furious” was seeing the Academy Award winner Helen Mirren join the cast as Shaw’s mother. She had said she really wanted to be a part of the franchise, so it was great to see her in “Hobbs and Shaw,” if only for a bit. You can tell she has so much fun doing these films. Mirren told Entertainment Weekly she wanted to drive in the next “Fast and Furious” film. She’ll be in next year’s ninth film, so here’s to hoping.
Helen Mirren is in “Hobbs and Shaw” and in jail for some unknown reason.
The addition of Vanessa Kirby as Shaw’s little sister Hattie is simply great casting. Not only does she look and sound like a young, feisty Helen Mirren, but Hattie is exactly what Johnson and Statham needed to ground their characters so they simply weren’t bickering for over two hours.
Vanessa Kirby is convincing as Helen Mirren’s badass daughter.
(Universal Studios image)
If you felt as if you saw the majority of “Hobbs and Shaw” in the trailers released, that’s relatively true. However, Universal did a great job of leaving two major surprises out of the film I won’t name here. You’ll never guess them, but one of the major additions received the most laughs of the entire movie.
While watching, I couldn’t stop thinking that one or two of the large action sequences would make for a great ride at Universal’s theme parks. Yes, they already have “Fast and Furious” rides at the Hollywood and Orlando, Florida, parks, but two, even three, chase scenes felt immersive enough to make for good additions. You’ll feel as if you’re on a ride yourself.
And pay attention to the music while watching. Elba, who’s also a DJ in real life, also wrote and performed a song that appears in the movie called “Even if I Die (Hobbs Shaw).”
I love Idris Elba, but when did the “Fast and the Furious” become “The Terminator”?
(Universal Studios image)
What’s not: There are some really silly moments, and the entire premise of the movie’s villain starts to take the franchise into the sci-fi genre.
Over the years, the “Fast” franchise has gotten more ridiculous in pushing the limits of where the films can go. If you’re along for the ride, you kind of just go with it. (The seventh film had Dom’s team go after a device called God’s Eye.)
But the villains thought up for “Hobbs and Shaw” make the “Fast” franchise feel as if it’s moving from action genre to sci-fi. And it should probably stick to action.
The bad guys want to genetically enhance and evolve the human race for unspecified reasons I’m guessing we’d learn more about in a sequel. That’s textbook villainy from a superhero movie.
That’s not all. There are a few moments when Idris Elba’s character, Brixton, starts to feel like a “Terminator” villain who just keeps coming back for more.
I guess at some point heist movies and chasing after drug cartels aren’t large-enough stakes when you’re 10 movies into a franchise.
(Universal Studios image)
Brixton is even referred to as such at one point on-screen because his character has been fused with some sort of machine so he can accurately predict others’ hits and movements. As a result, he’s a super soldier who’s more machine than man and appears unstoppable. At another point in the film, he’s called Black Superman.
Then there’s a faceless omniscient machine that’s pulling the strings behind-the-scenes. I’m sure the wizard behind the machine will be revealed to be someone with a grudge against Hobbs or Shaw in an inevitable sequel. But in this film, at least, the machine is a bit over-the-top. Every time its booming voice comes on-screen, it feels as if you’re watching a cheesy superhero film from the early 2000s.
It would all be a lot tougher to swallow if the chemistry between Johnson and Statham weren’t so good. Their wisecracks and fight scenes against Brixton’s goons are good enough to keep you distracted from thinking about how silly the villains are.
Jason Statham fight scenes? Sign me up.
(Universal Studios image)
Other than the villain, the entire third act of the film gets a bit silly when the group abruptly heads to Hobbs’ birth place of Samoa (eagle-eyed viewers will notice that they actually filmed in Hawaii) to enlist his estranged family to take down some high-tech baddies. What about the rest of the Fast fam? Where are they? Shaw only saved Dom’s baby in the previous movie. Surely, they owe him one.
I’ll let the location slide because the Rock himself is from Samoa. Throughout the “Hobbs and Shaw” press tour, he has repeatedly said he wanted to honor his culture on-screen. He even speaks in Samoan in the film. That’s sweet.
But once the Rock meets up with his older brother, Jonah, it’s a little bit tough to take Cliff Curtis seriously as someone who’s related to Hobbs. Curtis is fine in the movie, but he’s given two giant braids of hair to wear for the part. If you’re familiar with the actor from “Fear the Walking Dead,” it’s a jarring look that you never get used to while watching the movie.
It’s not a perfect film, but it has family at its heart. That’s the mainstay of a “Fast and Furious” film.
(Universal Studios image)
The bottom line: The Rock and Jason Statham keep the energy high in this crowd-pleasing spin-off. Expect more from these two.
I say this every time a “Fast and Furious” movie comes out. These aren’t movies that you take too seriously. They’re a good, fun time with explosions, high action, fast cars, faster car chases, and a few good brawls. If that’s what you go in expecting, that’s what Universal delivers with “Hobbs and Shaw.”
Is it a bit silly? Sure. Did I laugh and enjoy watching the Rock and Jason Statham bicker back and forth? Definitely. But most important, the film doesn’t forget its franchise roots. For as ludicrous as some of the film’s plot becomes, family is always at the heart of the spin-off.
If “Hobbs and Shaw” performs well at the box office, and I expect it will, get ready for a whole lot more of Luke, Deckard, and maybe Hattie as well. Make sure to stay until the film’s very end for a few unexpected end-credits scenes.
“Hobbs and Shaw” is in theaters Friday. Watch a trailer for the movie below.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Trailer #2 [HD]
Happy Disney+ Day, everyone. After all the hype, The Mandalorian has finally been released and it’s the perfect Star War for anyone who has ever Star Wars’d.
It’s clear right from the start that creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) gets it. He gets what makes Star Wars so special. From the mythos to the humor and even down to the silly-ass wipe transitions, The Mandalorian just feels right.
So let’s get right into Chapter One. SPOILERS AHEAD:
“He’s young, his musk will be sweet.” Thank you for that line, Jon Favreau.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Mandalorian quickly sets the stage for our hero, a bounty hunter who is good at his job and who doesn’t take any (forgive me) poodoo. The tone is light with moments of comedic release while still building the new world we’re entering. Remember, this series takes place seven years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Empire.
Exclusive: @Jon_Favreau confirms that his live action #StarWars series takes place 7 years after Battle of Endor, between #ReturnOfTheJedi and #TheForceAwakens. Will feature all new characters, using cutting edge tech a la THE JUNGLE BOOK. Story coming to @nerdist…pic.twitter.com/iRyPS8hPDR
There are other hints peppered in to keep us intrigued, such as when The Bounty, played by Saturday Night Live’s Horatio Sanz, asks “Is it true you guys never take off your helmets?” and then is quickly frozen in carbonite. The helmet thing will apparently be important because it’s brought up again later in the episode. I predict we’ll see Pedro Pascal’s debonair face eventually, but it sounds like it will be later rather than sooner.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Mandalorian delivers his bounties and accepts a curious new target from The Client, played by Werner Herzog (Rick Morty, The Simpsons). The target is wanted alive — and The Client will pay well, but he will accept “proof of termination” at a lower rate.
He hands over a block of beskar steel stamped with the Imperial insignia as a sort of down payment. We know from The Mandalorian’s first mission (or from Star Wars Rebels) that beskar steel is significant, and Favreau politely informs us why in the next scene.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Mandalorian heads to a fellow Mandalorian armorer (played by The Mindhunter’s Emily Swallow), who melts down the block of steel to forge a new pauldron for our hero, saying the excess will be used to sponsor “foundlings.” Here we get the only heavy-handed backstory in the episodes: a series of flashbacks to a family fleeing during an attack and, I assume, the death of The Mandalorian’s parents, which will eventually lead to him being found by his tribe.
“Has your signet been revealed?” she asked him. It hasn’t, and I don’t know what this means, but dammit Jon, you’ve got me for life and I trust that you’ll let me know when you feel it’s necessary.
“I have spoken.” — my new catch phrase
The Mandalorian, Disney+
With that, our bounty hunter is off to a new planet to track down his bounty and learn to ride some blurrg (30 Rock, anyone?). He meet’s Nick Nolte’s Kuill, who drops some nice backstory for us (he wants to help The Mandalorian so he can restore peace to his planet) and some nice easter eggs (riding blurrg won’t be a problem because the Mandalorians rode the legendary mythosaurs, don’t you know).
Shout out to female blurrgs, who eat the males during mating. ?
This is the buddy comedy I want to see.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
With a nice clock wipe transition, it’s time for some action, but before he can muster up a plan, The Mandalorian spies a bounty droid who we learn is IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). The droid attacks the settlement and a blaster fight ensues. The Mandalorian joins in, suggests an alliance with the droid, and together they take out their many attackers.
This is the best sequence in Chapter One, not necessarily because the action was anything new (although IG-11’s circular design is very clever) but because the banter between the two was very amusing. IG-11’s programming won’t allow for surrender, so, in the face of overwhelming odds, he continually tries to initiate a self-destruct sequence, which would kill them both. Lolz.
But of course our hero does some quick thinking, seizes his enemy’s laser cannon, and defeats all of his attackers. Finally, we get to see who this important and secretive bounty is.
And guys? The reveal is…perfect.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
This little angel will never not be known as “Baby Yoda,” am I right?
Of course, it’s not actually Yoda, but here’s what we know so far: the baby is fifty years old (this species, while remaining unknown, ages differently than humans; Yoda was over 900 years old when he died) and is probably Force sensitive (Yoda was a powerful Jedi Master and Yaddle, the only other member of the species we’ve seen so far, was also on the Jedi Council).
The Mandalorian kills IG-11 after the droid tried to terminate Baby Yoda the baby and then shares a nice little Adam-and-God moment with the child.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Altogether, I have to say that this show promises to be one of the best creations in Star Wars canon. It feels nostalgic and new at the same time. It impressed me more than any of the recent films.
What did you think of it? Leave a comment on Facebook and let me know.
The Mandalorian IS a prequel to the sequels https://redd.it/dxvg8f pic.twitter.com/cd2AJbZW8X
When Elvis Presley turned 18 years old in 1953, he registered for the draft – just like every other young American male during that time. The rules governing the draft stated that all young men that were in good health were required to serve in the United States military for a minimum of two years. When he signed his name on that line, promising to serve, he had no idea of the superstar fame that would soon be coming his way.
After signing up for the draft, he graduated high school and soon began his entertainment career. Three years later in 1956, he was a film and recording star. Presley was in the middle of filming King Creole when he received his draft notice. He requested a delay so he could finish filming, which he was granted.
On March 24, 1958, with his family and friends by his side, The King reported to the Memphis draft board. Once he was sworn in and processed with others into the Army, he boarded a bus to Arkansas.
He would go on to coin the phrase “hair today, gone tomorrow” after he received his G.I. haircut.
Once Presley finished his basic training, he was on leave and managed to do a concert and recording session in Nashville. He then headed back to Ft. Hood, Texas, to complete his advanced training. His mother became ill during this time and passed away and Presley was granted leave to be with her.
When he returned to Ft. Hood, he was assigned to the Third Armored Spearhead Division. He soon boarded the U.S.S. Randall and sailed for Germany. Upon arrival, he served in Company C, which was a scout platoon. He was declared off limits to the press.
Presley would be right there in the thick of things alongside his unit. He completed all required duties. Some research suggested that he did more than what was required of him because he didn’t want people to assume he got special treatment. He would go on to earn a medal for expert marksmanship and rise to the responsibility of an NCO, all without seeking celebrity treatment.
He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1960.
2015 was a good year for movies. Anticipated series continuations from franchises like Terminator, Jurassic Park, and James Bond met with mixed success. Star Wars came back in a big way, as did the Avengers. Marvel’s Ant-Man was a surprise hit while The Fantastic Four saw even the most die-hard Marvel fans struggle to stay in the theatre for the duration of the movie.
But it was a good year for military movies the world over. The world’s best war and conflict films from the past year are at your fingertips. A few movies are a great way to recover from New Years’ Eve.
1. Beasts of No Nation
Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF, rebel guerillas.
The film captures the brutality of life as a child soldier, with rampant drug use, rape, and murder of civilian noncombatants. The powerful film holds a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Cartel Land
This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world.
The brutal film was shot in Mexico and Arizona. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination.
3. Kilo Two Bravo
Released in 2014 in Europe as Kajaki, Kilo Two Bravo is the story of a small group of British soldiers stationed near the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan.
Though set during the modern day Afghan War, Kilo Two Bravo is more horror-thriller than a traditional set piece war film. The outcome is a realistic, critical success with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critical rating.
4. Krigen (“A War”)
Danish Army Company commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy Taliban crossfire. In order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that ultimately sees him return to Denmark accused of a war crime.
Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. This film is remarkable for its depiction of what life is like for the wife and children of deployed troops. The war hits those at home every bit as much as it affects the men who fight it. The film also uses real Danish Army veterans.
5. April 9th
2015 saw a lot of WWII films produced the world over. April 9th, also from Denmark, depicts the Nazi invasion of Denmark as bicycle and motorcycle companies are deployed to hold off the German Blitzkrieg until reinforcements arrive.
Denmark, of course, couldn’t resist the Nazi onslaught and fell in only six hours.
In the last full year of World War II, the Eastern Front was the most brutal battleground in the world. This Estonian film depicts the 1944 Battle of the Tannenberg Line through the Battle of Tehumardi. The war for Estonia was very different, as it bordered both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, each with mutually exclusive ideologies.
More than ideology, its location forced Estonians to choose sides during the war, pitting Estonians in the Wehrmacht against Estonians in the Soviet Red Army. The film shows the war from both sides.
7. Baahubali: The Beginning
This film is a Telgu and Tamil film. It’s the fictional story of two ancient brothers at war. One prince returns to free his mother the queen who was wrongfully usurped by his elder brother.
The two-part blockbuster is also the most expensive Indian film ever made. It took a full year of preproduction, 25 artists made 15,000 storyboards, there were 380 shooting days over three years, 2,000 stuntmen worked on it, and thousands of weapons and props were used.
8. Hyena Road
This Canadian film is eagerly anticipated outside of Canada. It’s the story of Canadian forces building a road deep into Taliban territory, creating a dirt track that can only be driven in armed convoys protected by snipers. The road is strategically crucial to defeating the Taliban.
The theme of war being bad while those who fight are inherently good continues in Hyena Road but the depiction of the deployed life and combat by Canadian Forces by Canadian writer Paul Gross is authentic and realistic.
9. The Battle for Sevastopol
When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union in 1941 a young girl, Lyudmila, joins the Red Army. She turns out to be a natural sniper, and her impressive skills impress those around her. Her wounds keep her from fighting on, so she travels to the United States to press for a second front.
This film is actually about a real Red Army sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of WWII’s deadliest snipers. The movie hero fights in the Battles of Odessa and Sevastopol. She racks up 309 confirmed kills, she is sent to the US to campaign for American support. She meets Eleanor Roosevelt, just as the real Pavilchenko did. This joint Russian-Ukrainian project is like the Mockingjay on steroids but, you know, real.
Star Wars fans are going to have to wait a bit longer for the opening of the highly-anticipated “Rise of the Resistance” ride. The immersive experience is set to take over Disney World in Orlando on Dec. 5, 2019, (which also happens to be Walt Disney’s birthday), but won’t land in Anaheim’s Disneyland until Jan. 17, 2020.
The new addition to the parks’ Galaxy’s Edge was announced in May 2019 and initially expected to open by the end of 2019. Given that the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run space flight simulator is currently the only Star Wars themed ride open at Galaxy’s Edge, some park-goers are a tad disappointed. “These are not the dates we’re looking for,” a disgruntled fan cleverly wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this year, Galaxy’s Edge’s executive producer Jon Georges told ABC News, that the Rise of the Resistance ride will feature an “epic battle between the First Order and the Resistance and culminates in a face-to-face confrontation with Kylo Ren.” The experience promises to “blur the lines between fantasy and reality,” transporting guests from the “Ready Room” to the cockpit of a transport ship. As the ship begins to “fly”, the floors will shake to simulate the sensation of takeoff. Later, guests will be separated and thrown into “jail cells” for questioning. From there, it’s every man for himself to evade the First Order.
It’s easy to see why fans are eagerly anticipating the ride, which CEO Bob Iger also called “the most technologically advanced and immersive attraction” the park has ever seen. To stay updated on this and other rides, check out the Disney Parks blog.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
I think this should go without saying, but, here’s your obligatory Spoiler Warning.
If you saw Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 (or you don’t really care about spoilers) then read on. If you haven’t watched the episode but you’re reading articles about the show…here’s an article we did about cats.
Situational awareness isn’t a skill a warfighter picks up overnight. It’s the concept of living your life with your head on a swivel. It’s why so many veterans and active duty troops keep their back to a wall and an eye on the door like they’re Jason Bourne.
White is being blissfully ignorant and Orange being hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. Yellow is the perfect middle ground of quietly observing. It’s also referred to as “relaxed alert.”
Red, Gray, and Black are the states of action with varying degrees of how one reacts in confrontation to a threat. Red or “primed for action” is the desired state when sh*t hits the fan. Grey is a state of chaos and Black is total panic, both causing the war fighter to ignore or forget their surroundings.
We can break down the reactions of how the team of Westeros’ greatest fighters devised a strategy to capture and extract a wight (the reanimated skeletons that fight for the Night King.)
As the team of badasses move through the frozen north, they generally maintain Condition: Yellow. Tormund may be joking about his three best ways to keep warm, but he’s still eyeing his surroundings.
It’s only Gendry, the fighter with the least experience, who is in Orange. He’s uneasy about his “squad mates.” He’s never been beyond the wall, or even acclimated to the snow. He’s nervous and it shows.
When the group comes to the open field shrouded in snowfall, the group loses their control of situational awareness. And this is common in every battle.
The Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said of this: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”
This has since been called the “fog of war.” Same concept as in video games, but our heroes also have to contend with a literal fog that hide their enemies as well as allies. With the probable threat nearby, they form up and prepare to engage.
Note the 360° Perimeter (Photo via Wikimedia Screen grab via HBO Go)
The squad isn’t able to spot the zombie bear in time and after it caught on fire, Sandor Clegane is terrified. He is a prime example of how even the greatest of war fighters can still lose their composure. He’s in Condition: Gray.
They find their stray wight with a white walker and his soldiers. The rest of the steps in maintaining situational awareness are further explained in fighter pilot and military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop, which is the constant cycle of Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting.
Through the OODA Loop, they observe the valley and have a count how many enemies there are. They orient themselves to position themselves to push through with the exit to their front. They decide who is attacking whom, with John (the only one with a Valerian Steel sword) attacking the leader.
And in action, it works flawlessly. They capture and bind the enemy. But not before it calls for reinforcements.
They send Gendry as a runner to get the message back to Daenerys. Keeping higher command aware of what’s going on in the field is paramount for operation success. But Gendry has another critical mission: to call in air support.
As the undead horde swarms the squad, they come across a lake with thin ice and an island with a high observation point. They use this perfectly to their advantage. The ice shatters, creating a moat-like barrier around their island. They can hold the island long enough for extraction.
If it looks stupid but works — it ain’t stupid.
Operationally, everything has been relatively smooth. Only one character with a name has died so far. It’s cold, but they have eyes on every target, including the enemy leaders — who’s elimination would end their magically undead army. You can point out everything thus far as prime examples of things you should do before and after first contact.
Now comes the example of what happens when you march into battle with no situational awareness, no understanding of your enemy, very little experience, and way too much confidence.
Air Extraction has touched down on the landing zone and air support is (literally) lighting up the enemy. Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Minutes before, she didn’t believe the enemy existed and now she’s fighting the massive army of the dead.
Her dragons have been injured before; Drogon has taken spears from Sons of the Harpy and the Lannister’s Scorpion and he survived. And in battle, we all think we are invincible…until we’re not.
Viserion, the golden dragon of Daenerys, is slain after the Night King impales him with an ice spear.
It was the lack of situational awareness that kept the group from identifying not one but two ice spears. Jon Snow, with all of his experience in combat, really is a slow-learner as far as battle tactics go. He spots the second spear in time to send off a warning, but is left stranded on the battlefield with plan.
Sure, he’s alright and thanks to plot armor he makes it out of there alive, but really Jon, it’s time to start studying combat strategy. It’s almost as if he forgot everything he had learned about situational awareness up until this point…
The submarine thriller “Hunter Killer” (out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) had a long and complicated journey from book to screen.
Based on the novel “Firing Point” by Navy veteran George Wallace and Don Keith, the Gerard Butler movie was days away from beginning production when Relativity Studios shut down.
After a delay, new director Donovan Marsh joined the project. They regrouped with Summit and made a movie with extensive support from the Pentagon, which envisioned the film as a “Top Gun” for submariners.
Gerard plays Capt. Joe Glass, a maverick who is given command of a sub even though he didn’t go to Annapolis. The Russian president gets kidnapped, and Glass must break the rules to save the world.
Hunter Killer (2018 Movie) Final Trailer – Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common
“Hunter Killer” features an impressive cast that includes Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens and Michael Nyqvist from the original Swedish Lisbeth Salander/Millennium movies
Marsh made the well-regarded South African crime thriller “Avenged,” but “Hunter Killer” is his first big Hollywood movie. He told us about working with the Pentagon, how much of the movie was shot on real submarines, and how you make an action movie on a submarine.
You’re from South Africa, a country not known for its Navy. Did you have an interest in military movies or history growing up?
South Africa has two diesel submarines, but only crew for one. One is in dry dock, and they can’t afford to take the other one out. So if I couldn’t love my own Navy, I could love the navies of the movies. Enter “Das Boot,” “Crimson Tide” and “Hunt for Red October.” Three of my favorite films of all time.
Gerard Butler worked on this movie as a producer for many years before it got made. Tell us how you came on board as the director.
The film had a different director and was months from shooting with Relativity. When Relativity came apart, the film was looking for a new home and a new director. I pitched and won the job. When I came on board, Gerard, Oldman and Common were already part of the project.
The Pentagon has been unusually supportive of your “Hunter Killer,” even hosting a press conference with Gerard Butler. What was it like working with the Navy on the movie? Did they have input into the filming since they gave your production so much access to Navy subs?
The Navy was incredible. They welcomed us in Pearl Harbor, sent myself and Gerry out on a real nuclear sub for three days, and showed us behind the scenes in the way that few civilians ever get to see. They gave us access to Navy experts, captains and admirals every step of the way, many of whom were present during filming and who made sure we stayed as realistic as was dramatically possible (and without giving away anything classified!).
The submariners want to know. How much filming did you get to do on real submarines and how much did you recreate on sets?
I had one day in the USS Texas with the real crew They were amazing; I challenge you to pick them out from the actors. I had one afternoon with the Texas at sea for helicopter shots. We nearly crashed the chopper (metal in the transmission!), had to return the next morning to shoot the emergency blow. I had one take and only knew the point they were going to surface within 100 hundred meters. They surfaced in the edge of shot and I quickly reframed!
Michael Nyqvist and Gerard Butler star in “Hunter Killer.”
What roles did practical and CGI effects play in your production?
We had 900+ visual effects shots that took over a year to complete. It was the biggest challenge of my life, and I still feel they could have been much better. To simulate reality is very difficult, and only the most skilled VFX teams with months and months of time can do it.
A submarine commander once told me, “The Army plays rugby. I play chess.” How do you approach a battle movie when you’ve got to depend more on suspense than brute action?
I just flat out prefer suspense to brute action. It’s more interesting. It’s delicious. It’s dramatic. During brute action scenes, I always end up looking at my watch. I wanted HK to create as much tension and suspense as the audience could bear and then release that with action that was quick, sharp and believable.
Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini and Common in “Hunter Killer.”
Even though the movie portrays American and Russian presidents who are nothing like the real leaders, “Hunter Killer” portrays a contentious relationship between the two countries that didn’t exist even five years ago. Did rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia help you get this movie made?
Tensions between the U.S. and Russian escalated leading up to this film, significantly adding to its relevance. A Russian MiG buzzed a destroyer, and Russian sub activity in American waters and vice versa was on the rise. This played in wonderfully to the plot of the film, which starts with two subs getting into it under the ice.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s not that she isn’t fond of games. Or that she isn’t fond of the show. Whatever she thinks of it, it employs upwards of thousands of her subjects. When Queen Elizabeth visited the set of HBO’s Game of Thrones and met with its producers and cast, she refused to have a seat on the now-legendary chair.
She just wasn’t allowed.
“What a charming prop,” she probably thought, thinking of her many, many actual thrones in her real-life palaces.
What Game of Thrones fans among us haven’t thought about getting a photo of themselves sitting in the chair that rightfully belongs to King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm? When offered the chance for herself, Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, declined.
Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss and cast members Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) were left a little surprised. The Queen was very polite about the subject, but it was a polite refusal.
It turns out, the Queen of England can’t just sit on any throne she wants to.
Unless it somehow *becomes* hers, I suppose. #Loopholes.
An old, old tradition really does prohibit the reigning English monarch from even sitting on a foreign throne. Note: This is not an actual law preventing the practice, it’s just a good practice that she’s carried on from the days of yore. While the Queen’s position is more of a ceremonial one these days, in some places, a King or Queen may actually wield the power of the state and sitting on the throne could be considered an act of aggression. When Kings and Queens meet, it seems like sitting only on appropriate chairs is just good practice.
So avoiding the fictional Iron Throne was probably just good practice. The 95-year-old monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland doesn’t need a special chair to feel important like the rest of us peasants.
Hanson at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Photo credit BH.
Brian Hanson has lived a few lives and succeeded in some of the harder endeavors known to man: earning a Ranger tab and making a movie. He grew up in Southern California, worked in Hollywood for awhile and then felt called to serve in the U.S. Army. He left Hollywood and became a Ranger serving on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Upon returning from his service he fulfilled his dream by writing, directing and producing his first film, The Black String, starring Frankie Muniz.
WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Detroit then my parents moved to San Diego. They were tired of the snow and wanted a new lifestyle on the West Coast. My father has always been a huge TV, film and history buff. I grew up in Escondido which is a suburb of San Diego. I had a sister that unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was sixteen so that was a life changing moment in our lives. It was a paradigm shifter. My parents worked hard, and my youth was in many ways the normal SoCal life — riding bikes with friends, enjoying summers and playing sports. I had a real fascination toward movies and telling stories. It was always in me. I played football and baseball in high school. I also did student government. We did a field trip when I was a senior in high school to see a talk show at Paramount Studios to see The Kathy Lee Gifford Show. Seeing the stage, PAs and cameramen showed me that showbiz was a real industry and that I could do it. Even though I did (short) films with my friends it made me aware that I could direct myself toward the industry. It is a real thing.
I graduated that summer and my sister died, so all bets were off on going into the industry at that time. I did one year at San Diego State and then decided to travel abroad with a friend. We worked as bartenders and lived in the United Kingdom. It is what 18 year olds should do— go see the world. I started reading Syd Field books and Robert Rodriguez books like Rebel Without a Crew, watching El Mariachi, Swingers, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Blair Witch, The Following…I was really into the big studio movies (Saving Private Ryan, Back to the Future, The Matrix) and the independents. It was like you can do this, get a camcorder and you can do it. I knew I wanted to join the military, but not at that moment in my life so I came back from Europe and transferred up to Cal State Northridge. I graduated and got my proper film school bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to be a Writer/Director. My parents were very supportive of my endeavor in making it in Hollywood and telling stories.
Once US Forces entered Iraq in 2003, I had read voraciously about 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. I knew I was going to join the military at some point, but when? I would be pouring drinks for young, good looking Hollywood people at a bar making hundreds of dollars a night where over their shoulder would be a TV on reporting the Battle of Fallujah. I started to not feel right about that, and I wanted to be an honest storyteller. I would like to be a storyteller that speaks truthfully and authentically and didn’t want to be the person that imitates. I didn’t want to be an imitator of Goodfellas or Full Metal Jacket. I knew I needed that life experience to be an authentic storyteller. I did a TV Pilot with some friends that we raised money for, and Brandon Routh was in it. This was right before he was cast as Superman in Superman Returns. Brandon and I bartended together at that time. He was a great guy to work with. I was also bartending at the Playboy mansion during the end of the glory days for Hefner and the Mansion. It’s tough to just walk away from all of that and you are making decent money in Hollywood. You are just one step or script away from “it” happening.
After not much happened with the TV Pilot I started to realize that Hollywood and LA are still going to be here. I wrestled a year or two of how to leave it behind after I had started a life. As I approached 30, I looked in the mirror and decided to join the Army because if I waited longer, the military wouldn’t let me join – I’d be too old. I would have regretted to my dying day if I did not serve. There were no questions in life. I knew joining as an older guy would be different when compared to most recruits. But I wanted to volunteer my time and some of the years of my life to serve my country, but I had to step up and go do it. I gotta do this and gotta do it now. I knew my goal was to come back to LA with this accomplishment and service to my country being complete.
Hanson at Fort Benning. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
I didn’t know all the details when I enlisted as an 11Bravo (infantry), but I knew that Rangers and Green Berets were the high-speed special-operations units. One day in Basic Training at Fort Benning, the Ranger recruiters came out to ask for volunteers and my Drill Sergeant SFC Metcalfe looked at me and said, “Hanson, you better f’n volunteer.” So, I volunteered on the spot and a few months later I was reporting to Ranger Assessment Selection Program. Unfortunately, SFC Metcalfe was killed in action a year later when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd. I thank SFC Metcalfe for pushing me to go Ranger.
I was stationed at Fort Benning with 3rd Ranger Battalion where it is a high-speed training cycle. You train for six months and then deploy for about 3 to 4 months. There is always a Ranger Battalion deployed. Just operating at that tempo, at all times, is exciting and inspiring to see your NCOs, squad leaders and platoon sergeants are on their sixth or tenth deployment. It was very inspiring to see their commitment to the unit at the cost of their family and personal time. When you are a single young, enlisted person it is very inspiring to see that level of motivation. Rangers hold themselves up to the highest standard of leading the way. You are always being tested. It is uncomfortable and you never have a chance to relax. It is a great way to stay sharp. It is a tough head space to always be in. You are always being watched. The young (new) guys compete like professional athletes to deploy, like trying to make the starting roster. Once you deploy you want to be on that mission every time. I deployed to FOB Salerno in Afghanistan on the border real close to Pakistan. My second deployment was at Camp Leatherneck/Camp Bastion and then my last deployment I was at FOB Shank aka “Rocket City”. That place was hit like all day with nonstop rockets. It’s funny how used to it you get.
The Taliban used a lot of ingenious guerrilla tactics like setting ice on the mortars to eventually melt and then go off at some point during the day. Apaches would launch to try and find the culprits however they were not there. We ran the night shift out there for High Value Targets (HVT) where we went on night raids. To see how targets were acquired and track and intel was gathering where the strike force commander was the CO. From top to bottom the whole thing was a collection of assets. We worked with the Air Force, Navy, Marines, big Army, DIA and had civilians running the drones. It is amazing to see people come together for these task forces where all of these people work together on the fly. Being 30 and seeing this strike force run by young soldiers/civilians is amazing because in Hollywood most 23-year olds close to me are up and coming bartenders/actors/writers/directors. In Afghanistan we had 23-year-old Forward Observers bringing in Chinook helicopters into dangerous LZs to pick us up for a night raid. 24-year-old squad leaders are ensuring that everyone is accounted for and that no one is left behind on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. It is amazing to see what young people can do where they have been trained at such a high level and have high expectations. They achieve and are motivated. I think Hollywood is an amazing place where things get done, but I think a lot of it is a 10-year delay. It is a bit of an arrested development sometimes.
In a training incident I was a towed jumper. We were doing our yearly training for airfield seizures which is an entire battalion operation to seize an airfield. I was the last guy to jump out of a C-17 at night with a full combat load and got hung up on the plane which made me a towed jumper. I was hanging outside of a C-17 at 1000 to 1500 feet circling Fort Benning banging against the side of the plane and fully conscious. Thinking that I might die at any moment and this is not a normal thing to happen to people. My static line wrapped around my weapons case where when you are jumping your weapons case is attached to your thigh and your harness. Somehow there was too much slack in the static line to where it wrapped around the weapons case so it wouldn’t release me. The static line stays clipped inside the plane and it is supposed to pull the back of the pack tray. You jump and it pulls it out, but it got wrapped around and it pulled me.
I was okay with a tight body position and covered my reserve chute, so it didn’t release. I was out there for six minutes. I thought they were going to cut me loose to where all I have left is my reserve chute to land on some trees at night next to the Chattahoochee River. Then I started looking at my boots flying through the air and thought this is what parasailing must be like. Then I thought, did they forget about me and is the C-17 going to try to land? Do they not know I am out here, and I am going to do some high-speed combat roll on a tarmac as the C-17 lands? You are trained to keep a tight body position out there, so they know you are not unconscious. I kept slamming against the side of the C-17 behind a gigantic turbine engine. I hit the plane and stayed there where I started to get dragged across the skin of the plane. I felt hands underneath my arms and they pulled me in. Everybody was so glad to see I was alive and in one piece. I was just relieved as I was out there so long, I went beyond any initial shock, concern to just cut me loose guys so I can land on a tree with my reserve shoot.
They pulled me in and did a great job making sure I was okay. I had to retell the story for weeks to a lot of soldiers, especially Sgt Majors at the DFAC wanted to hear the story of a towed jumper. It was a very bizarre story because no one wants to be a towed jumper. It is a total nightmare scenario short of both chutes failing. It all ended well and twelve stitches in my chin was it. After all of that my 1stSgt checked on me and made sure I was alright. He then told me, “Get ready you are jumping tomorrow.” We had another jump the next day. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was like you are jumping tomorrow to get over any fear of jumping again. Just get out there and do it. I jumped not 24 hours later and believe me I was concerned. I said, “There is no way that can happen twice.” I got out the door and was fine. There is not a lot of pity or sympathy it is like get back up and do it again unless you are truly hurt, alright get up and do it as there is no time to think about. That is something I take with me to this day.
All of the pre-jump training you do these repetitive and boring things you already know, and I did one of those things without even thinking about it. It dawned on me why I do this training every single time. When that one time does happen, you are ready and have gone over the worst-case scenario. You will be that much quicker to save your own life or someone else. It seems so mundane and so repetitive and a waste of time until you need it. That repetitive action like weapons malfunctions….but when you need that instantaneous second nature habit it is the most important thing you could have known at that point.
Hanson at Camp Leatherneck. Photo credit BH.
Hanson on his last mission at FOB Shank. Photo credit BH.
Paratroopers jumping from C-17 Globemasters.
View of Camp Salerno. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am proud I stepped up to the challenge of 75th Ranger Regiment (thank you SFC Metcalfe) and made the team. Severing with my Ranger buddies was like the saying goes: “I was no hero, but I walked amongst a few.” I did my part and I know guys that are still out there doing it. I know squad leaders that are now getting their own platoons. Some guys have gone into elite units like Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I still think about them often and stay in touch. I want to make them proud because of the work they are still doing…I try to keep pushing myself in a way that would do right by the effort they are putting on…I am proud to have been on a team with those guys and seen what leadership means…and at such a young age and for so many people. I am proud to have seen it and been associated with that level of person.
Frankie and Paige Muniz, Kayli, Chelsea and Brian at Dances with Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
One thing that you see among some twenty something bartenders or Hollywood newbies that is unacceptable in the Ranger Regiment and also unacceptable in the Army are excuses. It is the same on production, there are no excuses. There are just no excuses. I don’t want to hear it other than a solution. Maybe an, “I’m sorry,” and that is it where I don’t even want to hear an excuse. Unless there is something disastrous you need to untangle. No excuses, just solutions. The high-level professional types of productions have that mentality where I really appreciate it. I do see the correlation between military units and productions. You have one mission where everyone comes together to accomplish it.
Also, you see this in the military and it is a career everything, keep moving forward just like a twenty-mile ruck march. You worry about the next step, then the next phone pole, then the next quarter mile where they will all add up. You can be overwhelmed by all of it if you look at it all at once where if you do it one step at a time you see that you can do it. Those are two crucial lessons I learned in the Army.
Hanson, Frankie and crew at Dances With Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in Hollywood before leaving, I came back a veteran, and still had to learn that there is a system in Hollywood. The system is not as rigid perhaps as the military. It isn’t just this artistic endeavor where you get to be a genius and be Quentin Tarantino or you are Steven Spielberg because you say you are. There is a hierarchy and there is a smart way to navigate. There is a way to get oriented and to a very real map of how this town works and have very realistic expectations. I think that veterans and others think of their prior accomplishments, whether a lawyer or a company commander of an infantry company, where you are not going to be a 1st AD. That is a ten-year path that is very regimented. The biggest challenge is understanding what the path to success is and how to realistically pursue those things. Know that they all take time and embrace that.
***Since leaving the Army I have learned so much by working as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Barry, Silicon Valley, Room 104 and worked as Assistant to Matthew Rhys on Perry Mason. Being on set and working for top level professionals has been an incredible learning experience and given me insight to become a better filmmaker on my own projects. I also greatly appreciate the film/tv mentorships, education and opportunities I was given through Veterans in Media Entertainment (VME), USVAA and WGF. It has been very important to find mentors and work for professionals.
Hanson with members of the cast and production staff at the Austin Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was it like writing, producing and directing your own feature film, The Black String?
The story was percolating for a long time before making the film such as Donnie Darko, Repulsion, Jacobs Ladder, which does a great job of blending horror and military, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was conceived with my bartending buddy Andy Warrener before I joined the Army. We wanted to explore in that story what it is like to be on that edge where you are experiencing something and no one else believes. It is you against the world. How do you convince someone of something that crazy of a witch conspiracy or a coven of witches? Or some really wild, evil cabal? The moment you say those words you already sound like you are having mental problems. Doctors will definitely not be going to believe.
The challenge we wanted was for a character to have to convince his family, his friends and his doctors of something that is inconceivable where no one in the real world is going to believe that. We put that in a genre we enjoyed which was horror. Now we thought maybe we would make that movie, but I joined the Army and Andy got married and moved to Florida. The wild thing is that you never know what you write today may be a movie in five or ten years. I lived a whole crazy life in between thinking of the story while tending bar with my buddy and then going into the Army. The difference in the time gap was about seven years. I could not have guessed that would have happened, especially with Frankie Muniz.
The creative part I was very comfortable with in the directing and writing having made many short films. I got an MFA from Mt. Saint Mary’s University with the GI Bill, which is a beautiful thing, loves the GI Bill. I owe so much to the GI Bill. So, I got very comfortable with the directing portion where you get very creative to bring this vision and feeling and this emotion you have to life in a very technical way. It is running the business, the producing part of things, to where you are starting a business, you are an entrepreneur. My producing partner Richard Handley, he is a Navy veteran and was an officer and Physician’s Assistant, he runs a contracting business with the DoD. We ran a business together where many purely creative types don’t understand what that level of dedication and commitment is.
To this day I have had probably had equal amounts of discussions about corporate taxes, LLCs, investor shares and running a business as I have about storyboarding shots. When you are doing an independent film like this, truly a passion project, you are building a team that is not a whole lot different…then opening a small company. You and your business partner are shouldering the burden if not for months, but for years. You have to love it and I do where it has been a great journey to where we had such great crew members and other producers that have helped us along the way. It is a multiple year endeavor when you do something like that in the independent world. You really are from the very beginning of raising money all the way to negotiating with distributors and foreign distributors and how you cut checks to your investors. It’s a true business education and kind of feels like I got this mini MBA education.
That was unexpected but the directing part was just amazing. Working with such talented people and friends that I had before joining the Army…we really were able to bring a lot of relationships such as Ravi Patel I bartended with as well. Cullen Douglas and Ravi and I did a TV pilot in like 2008. It was amazing to be able to reach back to my pre-Army friends that are so talented and my post Army, new team of filmmaking friends and bring everybody together. We called on so many favors. We had such great support from Mt. Saint Mary’s, VME and Vega Baby. We called in every favor where it is such a positive experience. When we landed in Frankie Muniz where he is a champ.
He brought his “A game” even for the tiny movie it was. He loved the character and the chance to do something different. He gave everything to our tiny project as he would have to our multi-million-dollar project. He treated us with respect, and he treated the script with respect. He came to set daily with a big folder of his personal notes. He was meticulous like a pro and his level of preparation and how he kept track of everything and what he brought was just amazing. He took that movie and made it really something different than perhaps something we thought. Frankie made it his Breaking Bad character. Like his Malcolm in the Middle dad, Bryan Cranston did on Breaking Bad. He was still kind of that funny person but had a much darker take on it. It is a dark twist on that guy you already know. Frankie imbued the role in the film with his Malcolm in the Middle persona, but whoa that is the dark side of it. What happened? Like Breaking Bad, what went wrong? To work with a pro, I learned.
To be able to work with actors like Ravi, Frankie, Cullen, Oded and Chelsea where they are people that do this for a living to be able to work with people like that and be creative partners with them for my first feature was inspiring. To see how a team can really work with everybody really contributing some high-level creativity. Everyone on the team had so much to add. You have to shepherd the project to where everyone stays on track, but still allow personal creative contributions from cast members. A director is like a manager of a company. You have to work with the talent, resources and the money of your company. You still have to get to the goal, but you can’t be resistant to some things that are great new ideas.
Poster for The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Rich and Mari Handley with Yani and Brian. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Hanson and Handley on stage at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
“No excuses” and intense preparation for a project. It is preparing like you are the best and spending hours a day preparing. Don’t assume, always do pre-combat inspections. It is having everything truly ready to go. Because once you arrive on set and once you arrive at that location it needs to be ready and needs to be operational. If not you, need to have a back-up plan. Research and having contingency plans. Checking your equipment and your team. It can be seen as micromanaging, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. In the military everybody checks their troops. It’s just how it is to make sure your guys and your buddies are ready to go. I think that can be transferred to the civilian world and film production.
Frankie Muniz and Richard Handley in The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
More of Muniz in The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
WATM: As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
We need support from great organizations to promote veteran voices and veteran creators. Such organizations as We Are The Mighty, Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), of which I volunteer heavily with, the USVAA, United States Veteran Artistic Alliance, and the WGA Writer’s Guild Foundation do support veterans. We need the support from industry professionals and organizations. They are out there, and they are growing. I think that with the people in the position in power right now, the producers and executives that can green light things, I do think they do a really good job where there is always a presence of the military and law enforcement. There are always more and different perspectives. To keep in mind and do the rote, stereotypical type of story lines. There are a lot of really nuanced, interesting and unexpected perspectives that veterans can bring to the time-honored tradition of military inspired entertainment. The producers, executives and showrunners should be open to finding those unexpected angles to veteran stories.
Hanson with Steve Fiorina and Handley at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What would you like to do next in your career?
I plan on directing my second film in 2021. My first one was the horror genre where my next one is likely going to be a thriller with a military character. I always want to do things that are thought provoking. I definitely want to challenge viewers and explore philosophies. …Christopher Nolan makes great entertainment and with challenging ideas and philosophies. He is an independent filmmaker making giant movies, which is something to strive for. Since I have completed my first film…I have been working to get on great television shows as a writer. There are so many stories to tell and I joined the Army and lived this life to help tell authentic stories. I would love to be in day in and day out be in a room with other story tellers creating an amazing show. Creating stories with a team. I will continue directing but would love to be in that writer’s room doing innovative television.
Brian Matthew Rhys on “Perry Mason”. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I am most proud of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In a sense in my career I may never do anything as meaningful as that even if I make ten more movies or even if nominated for an Academy Award. I don’t think that I’ll ever be prouder than spending those days with my Ranger buddies in Afghanistan or sweating in Fort Benning. I am also proud of making that first movie and everyone that contributed to that colossal effort from nothing. Rich Handley and I being these recent film graduates decided to make a movie where we built that coalition from the ground up. It is an effort we are very proud of and what we did and everybody that was able to help us achieve that.
On the back end we got distribution through Grindstone and Lionsgate to where we had to find everything from scratch. The studio didn’t fund this. Movie making is a risky endeavor and long commitment over many years. The movie has been out now over a year and we are still making producer phone calls and receiving emails four years later. When you divide the money, you might make on the back end of an indie film and divide the hours by what you put in it, there might not be much money so that passion that drives you to keep working. There is a bond between people that have that level of passion to work 15-hour days. You are not really thinking about the paycheck where you are there to get the job done because you believe it is similar to the military mindset.
My wife Yani Navas-Hanson is from Venezuelan; she left the country and I met her in Atlanta when I was at Fort Benning and she was studying at Georgia Tech. She was the accountant by trade and then was our accountant on the movie. She left her country, learned English here in the US and transitioned from corporate accounting to entertainment accounting and from taking on the challenges of an independent film. What someone like her can accomplish if they are driven and keep pushing forward and to be able to accomplish that in a few years is amazing. People do have to surround themselves with the right people. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supportive with this career path or your family is not supportive, then you might have a tough time during the ups and downs. Family and friend support is crucial. I have fantastic and supportive friends and family.
Brian and Yani at Sitges Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
If you’re someone who is worried about seeing great Star Wars movies after 2019, stop worrying. The dude who made all the awesome Marvel movies sing is suddenly crossing over to the Force. As of now, it’s official, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will collaborate with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on at least one new Star Wars movie.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a collaboration between Feige and Kennedy was written in the stars: “It made sense for these two extraordinary producers to work on a ‘Star Wars’ film together,” said a Disney studios rep. Right now, Kevin Feige is not taking over for Kennedy at all, but some people think this is a first step toward the Marvel boss becoming the Star Wars boss. Which, if you think Star Wars is kind of stalling lately, this might be great news.
Since 2015, the Star Wars comeback has been mixed. Everyone seemingly loved The Force Awakens and Rogue One, but these days, you gotta be careful if you randomly want to chat about The Last Jedi or Solo over casual beers. As far as universal love, even if you’re barely interested in this stuff, Marvel movies are generally more consistent than Star Wars movies at this point. So, if you grant the premise that Star Wars needs help, Feige seems like the kind of guy who would be perfect for the job. Back in 2018, Kevin Feige even appeared on the official Star Wars Show on YouTube and professed his love for all the old Star Wars books you loved in the ’90s.
Feige talking about Star Wars in 2018.
Relevantly, Feige is not the first big Marvel honcho to crossover to Star Wars. The new Disney+ TV series, The Mandalorian, is set after the events of Return of the Jedi and is being helmed by Jon Favreau, the guy who directed the first Iron Man in 2008.
Because Star Wars and Marvel are both controlled by Disney, some might think the Kevin Feige thing is the sign of an Avengers/Skywalkers crossover, but Lucasfilm will probably never let that happen. And yet, if you’re holding out hope that a new Star Wars movie will be just as a good — or at least as entertaining — as Avengers: Endgame — it looks like that wish will be granted very soon.
As of this writing, there’s no word yet when the Kevin Feige-produced Star Wars project will drop.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.