In August 2014, we learned that Bob Peterson was removed as director of The Good Dinosaur, and co-director Pete Sohn was appointed the sole director of the project. We’ve heard about just how much of the film has changed under the new direction, and the word “drastic” isn’t at all hyperbolic in this case. Perhaps that’s why my visit to Pixar to preview The Good Dinosaur felt very different from my past trips to Emeryville.

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The Night Before

It was a balmy September afternoon when I left my house to visit the Queens, New York set of Jonathan Levine‘s The Night Before, on the second to last day of a 35-day shoot. But when I got there, I was greeted with a scene that looked like Christmas on steroids, replete with colorful lights, harried shoppers, and of course, ugly sweaters.

Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie were prancing around a fake Manhattan toy store (don’t call it FAO Schwarz), performing Kanye West’s “Runaway” on an enormous Big-style keyboard. If you’ve seen the trailer for the film, you’re likely familiar with the scene, which has already “instant classic” written all over it.

In between takes, Levine, his cast, and more clued us in on their R-rated entry into the Christmas movie canon. Get the full report from our The Night Before set visit after the jump.  Read More »

Maze Runner Scorch Trials 1

The only thing weirder than the big mansion in the middle of downtown Albuquerque is the post-apocalyptic party going on inside. It’s December 16, 2014, and the Gertrude and Zachary Mansion at 2nd and Lead has been transformed to a very important location in The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Wes Ball’s follow-up to the 2014 hit The Maze Runner.

From top to bottom, the interior of the mansion has been transformed to the spot where Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is separated from his fellow Gladers on their epic quest across the scorched Earth they discovered at the end of the last film. Here he’ll be drugged, endure (or enjoy) hallucinations, kiss a girl, and eventually be reunited with the group before meeting some incredibly important new characters.

On this day, number 36 of 55 shooting days, the temperature on The Scorch Trials set is near-freezing even as the location doubles for a super-hot environment in the film. Despite that, the camaraderie of all the cast members is particularly noticeable. Each seems incredibly excited to be continuing the story of James Dashner’s novels, and especially to be doing it together.

Below, read our full Maze Runner: Scorch Trials set visit report. Read More »

Maze Runner Scorch Trials Dylan O Brien 700

Part of the appeal of The Maze Runner franchise is the ensemble cast. The chemistry and relationships between all of the characters are what make a movie like The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials so exciting. That said, if we’re being honest, Dylan O’Brien is the star.

O’Brien is Thomas, the mysterious young man who showed up in the middle of the Maze in the first movie, lead the rest of the group out of it, and now will lead them into the Scorch come September 18. So what exactly does that mean? We asked the actor last December on the Albuquerque set of The Scorch Trials.

We talked about the pressures of a sequel, how The Maze Runner franchise compares to Divergent and The Hunger Games, the character’s interactions, what he’s proud of both in this movie and in the franchise, Mario Kart, the Legend of Zelda…and more kissing. Below, read our Dylan O’Brien Maze Runner Scorch Trials interview. Read More »

Wes Ball Maze Runner

Getting time with a director when you visit a set is a privilege. The director is busiest person on set. Their attention is constantly fragmented by a million questions, prepping for the next shot, thinking about the next day, and trying to make the current shot as good as it can be. If you talk to a director on set, you’d better jump right in.

Which is what happened on December 16, 2014 on the Alberqueque, New Mexico set of The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. After a long day on set, observing filming and talking to the stars, director Wes Ball finally had a few minutes to chat. Ball directed the first film, which was a surprise hit and spawned the sequel, based on the books by James Dashner. This time, the Gladers have escaped the maze, only to be posed with a new challenge: the outside world, which includes the evil desert referred to as The Scorch.

We’ll have our full report from set soon, but for now, check out our Wes Ball Scorch Trials interview. We discuss the scene we saw shot, the look of the film, pressures of coming back, teases toward part three, blending the final two books, location scouting, the compressed timeline, the new character Brenda, the main love triangle and more.  Read More »

Eisenberg Stewart American Ultra

Last summer, on the New Orleans set of American Ultra, a bunch of other journalists and I played a game. Lionsgate allowed us to tweet about being on the set of the film – which is a rarity on a set visit – and the results were astounding. You see, American Ultra stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. And Stewart has a massive and rabid online following. With every tweet about being on set, we’d see who get get the most interaction, the most retweets and favorites. It was fun and I believe the winner was someone who got numbers well into the three hundreds.

You can read our full report from the set of American Ultra here but, below, you can read a transcription of the group’s interview with Eisenberg and Stewart. You get to read their playful interactions, fascinating insights and most importantly – thoughts on the film, which opens August 21. Check it out below. Read More »

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Jesse Eisenberg American Ultra crop

American Ultra isn’t an easy movie to summarize. From its tone to its genre, the film lives and breathes because it rides a fine line between action, comedy, and romance. In fact, it seems the only truth on the set of American Ultra is that Wal-Mart is a great place to find deadly weapons.

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh and written by Max Landis, American Ultra stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mike, a West Virginia stoner who just wants to marry the love of his life. That’s Phoebe, played by Kristen Stewart. Things are moving towards this end until Mike is revealed as a deep-cover, highly-trained CIA agent. Suddenly, everyone is out to kill him.

Bourne with a bong this is not, however. Landis, Eisenberg, Stewart and everyone down to the prop-master and make-up effects team stand by the fact American Ultra is really a sweet, interesting, realistic romance. It just so happens to have insane action centered on an unassuming Oscar-nominee.

American Ultra opens August 21. Below read about our May 2014 American Ultra set visit, featuring Eisenberg kicking ass in a mega mart, and see two brand new posters. Read More »

Ant-Man set visit

On October 9 2014 I visited my first Marvel set. The film was Ant-Man, Marvel Studios’ latest gamble and the final film in Phase Two of the company’s influential and uber-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mention it was my first Marvel set visit because, like me, Ant-Man represents many firsts for Marvel. It’s the first time they’ve hired a director, Peyton Reed, just weeks before shooting. It’s the first time their central hero, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd), has a family. It’s the first time we’ll see a man shrink down to ride on ant. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Below, read 65 things we learned over two days — days 37 and 38 of the 74-day shoot — on the Atlanta set of Ant-Man. There’s also info from a day spent at ILM on June 15, 2015. Read More »

Jurassic World interview Colin Trevorrow

On July 21st 2014, I was lucky to visit the New Orleans set of Jurassic World. (You can read a list of over 50 things I learned on the Jurassic World set here.) While on set, we got the chance to have an extensive sit-down interview with Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, which was conducted during the crew lunch break on a recreation of the famous visitors center from Jurassic Park. (A location which, in the film’s story, is now abandoned.) Producer Frank Marshall joined us late in the conversation.

Our conversation spanned a variety of topics, including the use of performance capture to create the dinosaurs in the new film, the idea of Weird Al having a song in the new film, bringing an independent style to the shoot, and the evolution of the Jurassic Park 4 script over the last ten years. We went into the reasons for the infamous production delay, input from Steven Spielberg, and what to expect from the new dino species.

There were fun details, too, like how a conversation with his son about Star Wars resulted in major change to the script, allegories to Black Fish and Sea World, the dinosaur stand-ins on set, and how Brad Bird not directing Star Wars resulted in Steven Spielberg finding Colin.

As I said before, the interview is extensive and so you’ll want to carve out some time to read this. Trust me, its good.

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