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“Transformers: The Ride” honors franchise at Universal Hollywood premiere

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Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the “Transformers” franchise doesn’t begin and end with the action-packed Michael Bay movies. The series about a group of robots in disguise has managed to transcend the passing of time and remain relevant almost three decades after its creation. That’s why it only seems fitting that “Transformers” be memorialized in yet another medium: a theme park ride.

Thursday May 24 marked the grand opening of “Transformers: The Ride” at Universal Studios Hollywood. IFC was on hand for the event along with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Judd Apatow and Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime himself. Even though the ride has Bay’s stamp all over it — he even made an appearance via satellite before the ride was opened — it is clear that the attraction is more about the blockbuster appeal of the characters than the filmmaker himself.

Glenn Morshower, who plays General Morshower in the “Transformers” movies and ride, kicked off the premiere by appearing in character to let us know that Megatron was trying yet again to capture the All Spark. Cue Bumblebee and Optimus Prime rolling up in their disguised forms to prevent the evil Decepticon from obtaining the cube. Spoiler alert: good prevailed, though if you have a chance to ride “Transformers: The Ride” you’ll know that it doesn’t prevent Megatron from trying to snag it yet again.

I had the pleasure of standing next to Cullen and Frank Welker, the voice of Megatron, during this performance, and it was clear from the looks of glee on their faces that this is a ride for “Transformers” fans, by “Transformers” fans. When Morshower first announced that Megatron was trying to steal the All Spark, Cullen playfully started punching Wekler in the arm. When the Optimus Prime truck and Bumblebee car rolled up, Cullen could only whisper, “Wow.”

The ride is as involved as any of the Universal rides are and, while it isn’t as immersive as say The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it’s certainly a treat for fans of the franchise. I had the chance to catch up with Industrial Lights and Magic visual supervisor Jeff White, who was largely involved in the development of the ride’s effects, and said his team did their best to make “Transformers: The Ride” as true to the franchise as possible.

“We had our first meeting right after we finished the second film and the whole ride was in progress during the production of ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon,’ so what was really great about that is Michael was very involved in both projects and there was a lot of cross-collaboration between the two.” he said. “For those of you that are big fans of the movie, when you go on the ride you’ll see elements of the movie in there, and yet the ride very much stands on its own in terms of the action that goes on in there.”

Cullen and Welker both lended their voice talents to the project, and were both on hand to look at storyboards and talk to the ride’s creators during its development. For Welker, working on this project was a dream come true.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career and started working in college and never ever stopped, so I’ve veen very lucky and fortunately animation took off in the middle of my career so there was a lot of product to do and it was like a Renaissance in animation, it’s been fantastic. But now, being a voice in a ride is sort of the epitome. It’s like being in voice heaven,” he said on the premiere red carpet.

With the ILM team working on the “Transformers” ride as well as the movies, the visual effects are consistent across both mediums. And though it’s a standalone storyline, it’s clear to see where the ride stands in the Michael Bay “Transformers” universe. In fact, it feels a lot like riding through an action scene in one of Bay’s movies, and that’s definitely a good thing. The 3D aspect of the attraction adds to its immersion, and White said a main goal in the development of the project was to make riders feel like they’re a part of that world.

“What we tried to do was bring the ‘Transformers’ aesthetic to the ride, and yet we had a real opportunity to the ride being in 3D and with the screens being so huge to play the characters out in the audience space and to really make it interactive with the audience and be completely immersive, which is something you can’t typically do in a movie theater. We tried to take advantage of the venue, and Universal knows how to make such great rides, that it ended up being a great collaboration,” he said. “When we do an effect like a water spray or heat and then there’s an actual physical experience that combines with that, it just adds to the believability of what you’re seeing.”

Though the ride has been open in rehearsals for several weeks, Cullen and Welker hadn’t had a chance to experience it yet. They were right at the front of the line when guests at the premiere were finally allowed to go on the ride, and it was clear they were dying to see how the characters they have personified for 28 years were immortalized in a theme park ride.

“It really is so cool. I’m trying to be very calm, but inside I’m going, ‘You’re a part of the ride! Ahh!'” Welker said before he was allowed to go on. “I’m trying to be very, very cool. But it’s awesome.”

Special thanks go to Ricky Brigante at Inside the Magic for the awesome video of the event.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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