Get Ready for More Fast and Furious Action With Free Screenings!

Posted on April 30, 2021 at 2:31 pm

Copyright Universal 2021
Universal Pictures announced that to celebrate the arrival of F9, the newest chapter in the Fast and Furious Saga, in theaters June 25, the studio and its theater partners across the U.S. will launch a free nationwide screening series of all eight previous Fast films, beginning April 30, 2021.

The eight-week program will invite fans to watch all eight previous Fast films in participating theaters, free of charge, with one film screening each Friday. The films will be screened in chronological order, beginning with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious on April 30 and culminating with 2017’s The Fate of the Furious on June 18.

The screening series will launch in more than 500 theaters across the U.S. and will ultimately expand to more than 900 theaters. Theaters that join the screening series after April 30 will begin their screenings with whichever film is already scheduled to screen in that week.

Participating theaters include AMC Theatres, Regal, Cinemark Theatres, Marcus Theatres, Harkins Theatres, Showcase Cinemas, Santikos Entertainment, B&B Theatres, Cinépolis USA, Georgia Theatre Company, Marquee Cinemas, Epic Theatres, EVO Cinemas, Megaplex Theatres, Maya Cinemas, Xscape Theatres, Silverspot Cinema, Golden Star Theaters, MovieScoop Cinemas and Premiere Cinemas.

Over the course of eight films that have stoked passion in an ever-expanding audience and have earned more than $5 billion at the worldwide box office, Universal Pictures’ record-smashing, homegrown Fast Saga has become the studio’s most-profitable and longest-running franchise. Across social media platforms, the fan following for the movies and cast has grown into the biggest of any active franchise. On the heels of 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, which debuted in theaters as the biggest global opening of all time, the blockbuster franchise has expanded to a multitude of offerings – from toys and video games to an all-new animated series and a successfully launched spin-off franchise.

“The Fast films are all about family, and Universal wanted to find a way to thank our huge family of Fast fans around the country for their passion and loyalty over the past 20 years,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution. “We’re grateful to our theater partners for their help in making this screening series possible and we are delighted to welcome audiences back to theaters to experience the wild Fast ride all over again. And we cannot wait to blow everyone’s minds with the release of F9 on June 25.”

Screening tickets will be distributed by each individual theater and will be available the Friday before each weekly screening, starting on Friday, April 30.

Visit Fast Friday Screenings for further information on how to receive tickets.

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Contests and Giveaways

The Filmmakers on “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”

Posted on April 27, 2021 at 11:17 am

I was lucky enough to attend a press event featuring the producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord (the “LEGO Movie”) and producer Kurt Albrecht, along with co-writer and co-director, Michael Rianda. The moderator was my good friend and fellow Washington DC film critic Kevin McCarthy. Some highlights:

“Despite not having gone through a robot apocalypse, it’s a very personal story for me,” said Rianda, who also provides some of the voices in the film. “The dad is based on why day who would always say, ‘Put down your Gameboy! There’s a sparrow!’ My dad loved nature to a degree that is haunting.” He said everyone on the team brought their own family histories and experiences to the film, and that is why it was important to him to have not just the names but the photos of the filmmakers and the families in the closing credits. Miller said his dad was also a nature nut who loved to stop in the middle of family car trips to have a snowball fight or enjoy the outdoors.

Copyright Netflix 2021

The main character in the film is Katie, voiced by Abbi Jacobson, an aspiring filmmaker. In her room she has a Mount Rushmore of filmmakers. So McCarthy asked the panel who they would pick for their own Mount Rushmore. All of them agreed on Hal Ashby (“Shampoo,” “Harold and Maude,” “Being There”), which is probably how he ended up on Katie’s wall. Rianda also picked Studio Ghibli animation giants Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata along with Martin Scorsese. Lord said that at Katie’s age he would have added Tim Burton, Spike Lee, Chuck Jones (bold and inventive) and Mel Brooks. Miller picked the Coen brothers, Billy Wilder, and Akira Kurosawa. Albrecht would select Steven Spielberg and Pixar’s Brad Bird.

A theme in the film is social media and the feelings of inadequacy and competitiveness it can entail. “Everyone thinks their family is nuts,” Rianda said. And when you finally admit it, the response is always, “Mine, too!” He said they wanted the Mitchells to be dysfunctional but loving. Casting real-life husband and wife and social media stars Chrissy Teigen and John Legend as the impossibly aspirational Instagramers the Mitchells envy turned out even better than he expected because they were so warm and accessible and eager to improvise. “Even though they seem perfect, they are very relatable.”

Another theme audiences will recognize is the Mitchells’ tendency to be on their phones instead of looking at what is in front of them. Rianda said that in his own life he has experimented with putting his and his wife’s phone in a safe at night and “in eight minutes you’re having the deepest conversation you’ve had in years. ‘What was your childhood like?’ You have to fill the silence somehow!” Miller’s family has a no-screens-at-the-table rule.

Lord talked about technological innovation in the film, and the fun of “taking it for a spin to see what it could do.” He wanted a “handmade, hand-painted, textured” look to the film, a “watercolor, ramshackle vibe.” The 1:85 ratio of the image also made it feel more intimate, as though you were in the Mitchells’ home.

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Behind the Scenes Directors Interview Writers

Oscars 2021: The Good, The Nutty, The Surprises, The Gowns

Posted on April 26, 2021 at 10:47 am

Copyright APMAS 2021

Well, that was different. And for reasons that go beyond the pandemic. Last night’s Oscar broadcast merited adjectives never applied to the television-era Academy Awards before. It was small, it was intimate, and because it felt like it was organized for the industry, not the audience, it had the enticing air of eavesdropping on something more authentic. No splashy musical numbers. No dumb jokes by presenters, no “playing off” the awardees if they went over their allotted three minutes. The Academy’s efforts to expand its membership to lower the average age and include more diverse filmmakers, combined with many of the usual “awards-bait” films being postponed due to the pandemic, let to recognition for smaller independent films, made with more passion than money.

The bad news — the audience will likely shrink again. The good news — the people who watch because they really care about film and had seen most of the nominees were likely to find it far more satisfying.

What worked:

Instead of silly scripted banter, most of the presenters told us telling details about the backgrounds and influences of the nominees. Harrison Ford hilariously (and grumpily) read aloud the “notes” and complaints from early viewers of “Blade Runner.” Many of the acceptances speeches were more than recitations of names. Thomas Vinterberg’s dedication of his foreign language award for “Another Round” to his daughter who was killed in a car accident was vulnerable and touching. The intimacy of the setting, including Questlove as DJ instead of a full orchestra, made the three hours-plus seem less of a slog. And, even though it was clearly a set-up, Glenn Close’s detailed response to “Da Butt,” including a demonstration of the dance, was a delight.

I also enjoyed the commercials! Lots of reflections of the broadcast’s focus on diversity, some very intriguing looks at upcoming films, including the musicals “In the Heights” and “West Side Story.” Putting the nominated songs in the pre-show allowed for lovely, very professional performances, beautifully filmed. I was rooting for “Husavik, My Home,” performed last night in Husavick, with the children who live there. The pre-show questions focused on the films, not on the dress designers.

And it was wonderful, as always, to see the international filmmakers who come together to create the nominated films, especially the below-the-line people who do costumes, make-up, special effects, production design, and sound. The awards for the short narrative film, “Two Different Strangers” and “Collette” will bring more recognition to the problem of racially-motivated police violence and the heroism of those who stand up to the greatest evil and oppression. This was the most diverse group of nominees ever, and that made the awards for Daniel Kaluuya (Best Supporting Actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah, also the first-ever Best Picture nominee with all-Black filmmakers), Chloé Zhao (Best Director, Best Picture, the second woman and first Asian woman to win the directing Oscar), and Yuh-Jung Youn (Best Supporting Actress for “Minari” and winner of my most charming acceptance speech award) especially welcome.


Copyright 2021 Film 4

The Screenwriting and Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) awards for “The Father” were probably the biggest surprises. followed by the shut-out for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” The decision to end with the Best Actress and Best Actor awards instead of Best Picture, reportedly in expectation of a posthumous award for Chadwick Boseman, was not a good idea. One thing the movie industry should understand is how to build to a climax. This was not it.

But of course there were gowns to admire! Viola Davis was stunning in a white, lacy dress, Halle Berry in a lilac fantasia, the midriff-baring lovelies of Carrey Mulligan, Zendaya, Andra Day, and Angela Bassett’s stunning silhouette. And I loved seeing “Nomadland’s” Oscar-winning Zhao and McDormand apparently appearing without make-up, Zhao in sneakers! They didn’t look disrespectful; they looked real, very much in keeping with the tone of the evening.

Best Picture


Best Director

Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Best Supporting Actress

Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”

Original Screenplay

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Adapted Screenplay

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, “The Father”

Animated Feature


Production Design


Costume Design

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”


Erik Messerschmidt, “Mank”


“Sound of Metal”

Makeup and Hairstyling

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”


“Sound of Metal”

Visual Effects



Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”

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Interview with My Dad, Newton Minow, about the FCC, the SS Minnow, Saying No to JFK, and Media Today

Posted on April 22, 2021 at 11:22 am

One of the great pleasures and honors of my life was the chance to interview my wonderful dad for Emmy Magazine in honor of the upcoming 60th anniversary of his famous speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, calling television “a vast wasteland.”

An excerpt:

Sixty years ago, on May 9, 1961, the 35-year-old Chairman of the FCC, Newton Minow, made three significant appearances. In Washington, he gave his famous “vast wasteland” speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, telling them that while “when television is good, nothing is better,” he expected them to do more to uphold their statutory obligation to serve “the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” Then he went back to the FCC office, where he met with Elizabeth Campbell to sign the original license for WETA, the first educational television station in the nation’s capital, now the producer of the Ken Burns documentaries and the nightly Newshour. And then he flew to Chicago to attend the father-daughter dinner for my Brownie troop.

Copyright Emmy Magazine 2021

I often thought about how those three events defined his character: inspiring those around him to do better, supporting the visions of people making enriching cultural content and reliable news sources widely available, and always putting his family first.  Over the next decades this was reflected in his efforts as a founder and board chair of PBS, a director of CBS, helped create the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), where he served as vice chair until this year, worked to require the V-chip and closed captioning, helped get the start-up funding for “Sesame Street,” and argued for the rescission of the radio license of a station that broadcast virulently racist and anti-Semitic programming.  And he and my mom will celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary this spring.


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Behind the Scenes Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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