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THE ROCK FATHER Magazine

Teamwork & Trickery: WALK THE PRANK

"We skip around a lot, so we're shooting for episode 14 today," explains actor Cody Veith during a brief break on the set of Disney XD's WALK THE PRANK. Veith stars as Chance, one of four mischievous youngsters at the center of this generation's hidden camera comedy - an innovative mix of scripted comedy and real-life pranks. Asked if he or co-star Tobie Windham (the sole "grownup" cast member as Uncle Will) have a favorite prank thus far, Veith is quick to peg a specific,"I do..." but in the interest of keeping surprises intact, it wouldn't be in good taste for me to reveal his answer in these virtual pages a mere three episodes into a series that's already filming episodes that audiences won't see until well into the Fall. What's interesting with WALK THE PRANK is the chemistry and believability of the young cast - playing off of each other - and their "marks," to create real-life situations that inform the scripted actions, and scripted actions that help shape the trickery that will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting targets. It's teamwork, and all in good fun.

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STAR WARS: Awakening The Force at Home...

When the original STAR WARS Saga (aka "The Old Trilogy") first rolled out between 1977 and 1983, it was a great time to be a kid, though one that seems archaic by modern standards. Back then, viewing STAR WARS was an experience that was reserved as a cinema-only event... unless you were among a very select few that were lucky enough to have an RCA SelectaVision player (video disks that were encased in a square plastic cartridge), or one of the early VHS machines. Even then, you couldn't watch 1977's STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE at home until the latter half of 1982. For our family, it was when HBO scored the rights to STAR WARS in 1983 that we'd get to see it at home on the small, square, screen. In fact, I distinctly remember eating Aurelio's Pizza while watching the film, the brightly-colored wicker paper plate holders still fresh in my mind. For us, the STAR WARS adventures were brought to life and continued daily through Kenner's STAR WARS collection of action figures, playsets and vehicles, with the films essentially recalled from memory. Being there the first time around, it's astounding to think that families in 2016 were able to enjoy J.J. Abrams' STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS at home... a mere four months after its theatrical debut. But like their parents before them, our girls are creating their own STAR WARS adventures daily with Hasbro's extensive collection of STAR WARS toys, and to celebrate the in-home release of THE FORCE AWAKENS earlier this month, our friends at Hasbro sent a box of goodies so we could have a slightly belated premiere party right here at Rock Father HQ. And we did it with pizza... just like back in '83!

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The Protective Panther: THE JUNGLE BOOK's Sir Ben Kingsley

"I think it's very close to what Rudyard Kipling envisioned, which was an enormous leap in his imagination -- a child literally living with and talking with animals." That's how Sir Ben Kingsley described his first impressions of Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK as he joined a group of 25 writers for some discussion leading into the film's record-breaking recent release. "With all respect to its predecessor in the '60's, that was an animated cartoon child talking to animated cartoons, but this is a little boy, and we are blessed with him. Neel [Sethi] is amazing! What you see is he's with animals, which is wonderful!" In the film, Sir Ben provides the voice of Bagheera, a black panther that helps raise Mowgli, serving somewhat as an overseer after placing the young man-cub in the care of wolves Rashka (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o) and Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito). "I didn't see him as a father figure at all," recalls Sir Ben, "But I did see him in military terms as if I was training a young cadet into how to survive in, in particular circumstances. "

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Film Review: Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK

As I said upon leaving the World Premiere at the El Capitan Theatre, Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK is an unexpectedly astonishing and beautiful film, not only in terms of visuals, but in terms of content and weight. To say it must be seen on the big screen and in 3D is an undeniable truth, a testament to the technological marvel created under the direction of filmmaker Jon Favreau (ELF, IRON MAN) - a modern digital film that pushes the boundaries of what can be done with photo-realistic CG to new heights, but also retains the feel of an organic, handmade film. Despite my unabashed appreciation for much of Favreau's back catalog, when the film was first announced a few years back, I must admit that I was apprehensive as to how, exactly, it would play out. As a fan of the 1967 original (reviewed here), and as a moviegoer that's sometimes burnt by the overuse of CG, how could it be done? Fortunately, many of these same issues had been considered and addressed early-on in the process, and the end result is wonderful. Could THE JUNGLE BOOK be every bit as good, if not better than the classic that inspired it? I say yes.

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Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK Comes to Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime

With all the news and features that I've been sharing about Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK this week, the time to finally see the film is upon us, and for those in select states, one viewing experience that should be at the top of your list is to see it in Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime. I was supposed to enjoy a screening of the film in Burbank last Sunday with Stuart Bowling, Director, Content and Creative Relations at Dolby Laboratories, but thanks to an 8-hour delay on my flight out of Chicago, I missed it. Fortunately, I have experienced Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime a the AMC Hawthorn 12 in Vernon Hills, Illinois - not far from Rock Father HQ. It's a premium cinema offering, and the first that my wife and I ever found that offered reserved seating. Curious what it's all about? Read on, friends!

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On the Set of Disney XD's WALK THE PRANK

In all the years that I've been visiting Los Angeles, either as a creative, or as a writer covering the works of others, one studio I had never had a chance to visit until recently was Paramount Pictures. Funny enough, it wasn't even an actual Paramount production that drew me to the lot this past month, but a Disney one. On a Tuesday morning, I and a group of 24 fellow writers entered the lot and headed for the famed Stage 19 to check out some taping on Disney XD's new series, WALK THE PRANK (airing Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. EDT). According to some, Stage 19 at Paramount is haunted, and that just may lend itself to some pranktastic goodness in the future, but for now we were eager to check out something new being shot on a stage that once played host to iconic productions including HAPPY DAYS, and Orson Welles' masterpiece, CITIZEN KANE.

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Raising Mowgli: THE JUNGLE BOOK's Lupita Nyong'o & Giancarlo Esposito

Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK is as much a movie about what it means to be a family, as it is a family film. An action-packed re-imagining from director Jon Favreau (IRON MAN, CHEF) and based on both the 1967 animated feature and the original stories from Rudyard Kipling, at the heart of the story is Mowgli, the man-cub found and raised by Panther Bagheera, a protector who placed the child in the care of wolves Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o) and Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito), who welcome the youngster into their pack, and raise him with the same love and values as their own flesh and blood. At the recent JUNGLE BOOK press junket, I joined a group of fellow writers to spend some time with Nyong'o and Esposito to gain a little insight into their creative process for the film, and how their own familial experiences helped shape what they brought to these famed wolves.

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THE JUNGLE BOOK's Jon Favreau & Neel Sethi - A Magic Kingdom of Wild Toys & Urban Jungles...

When audiences finally witness Jon Favreau's big-screen reimagining of Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK when it opens this Friday, those who stay through the credits will notice an interesting line for a film set deep in the heart of India... "Filmed in Downtown Los Angeles." That line is a testament to just how good THE JUNGLE BOOK is, a film that beautifully captures the spirit of such exotic locales, while being a completely digital creation aside from the work of its young star, newcomer Neel Sethi. Last week, I sat down with Sethi and Favreau at the Beverly Hilton to discuss the new film, all in an informal setting alongside 24 friends and fellow writers. For me, the meeting was particularly exciting, if only because I've been such a fan of Jon Favreau dating back more than two decades - a creative talent whom I've always viewed as being sort of a kindred spirit, and one who my wife and I have sort of watched "grow up" from an actor, to one of our generation's top filmmakers. From the very 90's performances in PCU and SWINGERS, to his 2001 theatrical directorial debut, MADE (which my wife and I saw on opening night at an art house theater in Highland Park, Illinois), his career behind the camera has been has been impressive - with the ability to balance cinematic spectacles like ZATHURA, IRON MAN (and IRON MAN 2), with smaller fare like CHEF, and TV projects like REVOLUTION (a short-lived series which I loved). And then, of course, there's his perennial holiday classic, ELF. With THE JUNGLE BOOK, Favreau's storytelling has reached a whole new level, a marvel of technological toys that has spawned a few plastic ones, too.

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Check out the Packaging for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Toys...

Are you ready for more STAR WARS? Judging from the response to the first teaser trailer for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, audiences are - even though a few of them need to understand that this is the first big screen STAR WARS film to take place outside of the numeric "Saga" timeline, a story that takes place in the days leading up to the very first STAR WARS film, 1977's A NEW HOPE. There's countless tales yet to be told, and this is exciting - a film that will take audiences back to that familiar time, a time when The Empire was just gearing-up to test the very first Death Star. It's the story of the Rebels who stole the plans for the space station - the very plans that Princess Leia places within R2-D2 at the beginning of the movie that started it all. While the film won't be out until December, the toys will hit this Fall, and this weekend comes the "product packaging reveal" - a look at what all the various licensees will be marketing their products in later this year. Imperial Walkers? TIE Fighters? An imposing new Stormtrooper? I'm in...

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Rockin' the Red Carpet at THE JUNGLE BOOK World Premiere...

There was a time as a kid growing up, when I, like so many, had dreams of attending a "Hollywood Premiere." You saw it on television - the excitement, the stars, the glamour, the ideals that one typically thinks of as being "Hollywood." As an adult, my life and career has gone in many directions, and often in waves. I went after a serious career as a screenwriter and film director for awhile, aspirations that didn't quite work out as planned (or promised - long story) - but I did find some work as an actor and occasional crew member, and those are skills that still serve me well today as "The Rock Father," a position where sometimes it feels like I have to be everything. I still direct and edit music videos, I can't shut up write daily, I pop-up on-camera on YouTube (and sometimes television), but the closest I'd ever come to attending a Hollywood Premiere was back in 2002, when my wife and I attended the "green carpet" premiere of Pete Jones' Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-produced STOLEN SUMMER, the first movie to come out of HBO's PROJECT GREENLIGHT, when it made a huge debut at the Chicago Theatre. But my main gig now is that of a work-from-home parent, so how, in 2016, am I in Lake County, Illinois one day - then walking the red carpet at The World Premiere of Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK in Hollywood the next? Well, my life is wonderfully strange sometimes, and my I've been very fortunate to be in a position that allows for somewhat uncommon adventures. 

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