NBC

Last night was the series premiere of Young Rock, NBC's newest sitcom.

The comedic series follows the upbringing of its namesake, WWE legend and action movie juggernaut, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, through ages 10, 15, and 18.

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Culture Feature

14 Celebrities Who Shared Their COVID-19 Stories

The coronavirus clearly cares little for fame.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Coronavirus

When the coronavirus first began to sweep the world in early 2020, few could imagine that in November we'd still be fully immersed in it, living in a world ravaged by fire, disease, and chronic governmental ineptitude.

Today the United States has reported more than 250,000 COVID-19 deaths, and that number shows no sign of decreasing. The virus has spared no one and nothing, and Hollywood and the entertainment industries were hard-hit, with even some of the world's largest and wealthiest stars relegated to their beds, forced to turn to Instagram for sympathy and updates.

Here are some of the most famous people to confess that they received a positive COVID-19 test. It's likely that many other famous people had the virus and either were never diagnosed or chose not to share their stories. The list also doesn't begin to cover the tragedy of all those who died from the virus, or the agony felt by those whose lives were torn apart by the pandemic and other crises in 2020.

But even these few stories are testimonials to a virus that proved itself to be far more powerful than mankind's most renowned figures. And, if the fact that Tom Hanks is still isolating is any proof, it's not over yet.

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Satire

Of Course WWE Is an "Essential Business" in Florida

The chaos of professional wrestling must be contained in the ring for the good of society.

On Monday it was revealed that Governor Ron DeSantis had managed to include World Wrestling Entertainment in the category of businesses deemed "essential" in Florida.

Essential services are exempted from the statewide "safer-at-home" order, which requires residents to remain indoors as much as possible. What this means for WWE is that wrestlers will soon resume taping matches in an empty arena for a television audience. What it means for the state of Florida is that total chaos has been averted.

Vince McMahon Limo Explosion

Of course every state that has restricted movement has had to develop their own metrics for determining which businesses qualify as "essential." In New York liquor stores have been allowed to continue their operations—and have been doing swift business—while in Pennsylvania they are closed, despite expert warnings. But amid broader concerns about Governor DeSantis' lax and delayed response to the ongoing public health crisis, it would be tempting to see his justification that businesses like WWE "are critical to Florida's economy," as a gross miscalculation.

The nation is already guaranteed to face the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, and piecemeal attempts to mitigate the economic impact are likely to backfire by increasing the spread of the virus and necessitating more prolonged and stringent restrictions. Instead, the focus should be on facilitating basic functions during the crisis to avoid further chaos.

Through this lens, an ignorant commentator might accuse Governor DeSantis of underestimating the direness of our circumstances, or worse, of playing favorites with businesses owned by prominent figures in Republican politicsDonald Trump is, after all, a WWE Hall of Famer. But the reality is that the governor really had no choice. WWE must continue its operations for the good of Florida and of the nation.

Vince McMahon with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Rikishi

If there is one thing professional wrestlers are known for—beyond their physical stature and athletic prowess—it's the drama that seems to dominate their lives. When they aren't having affairs with each others' spouses, they're getting into custody battles, betraying their partners, attempting impromptu castrations, and participating in murder plots. Vince McMahon has managed to contain those soap opera-levels of insanity to the wrestling ring, where combatants can work out their aggression with folding chairs and sledgehammers under the watchful gaze of TV cameras and the significantly less watchful gaze of a referee.

Even within that structured environment, rules are often broken and things frequently get out of hand—with lead pipes and thumb tacks, people's faces being slammed into butts while women and children are fought over as property. Without that carefully managed release valve, how would these superpowered behemoths resolve their disputes? What would stop that drama from spilling out into the streets where oiled men in underwear would slam each other through car windshields and knock fire hydrants loose from their mounts in spectacles of wanton destruction? Do we want police, firefighters and EMTs to be assisting those who truly need their help, or responding to situations like "Florida man lifts other Florida man onto his shoulders, spins him around, then throws him off a bridge?"

Distracted Ref WWE

While WWE's official stance is that they "provide people with a diversion from these hard times," the truth is that they provide a public service by allowing these mythic beasts to work out their aggression and settle their insane quarrels in a controlled environment. While the company also noted that they are "taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff," the most important precaution is to keep their performers wrestling. Because the heels and baby faces of the WWE are America's answer to the greek gods—with all the drama and in-fighting—and Vince McMahon keeps the crashing thunder contained to Mount Olympus.

Thank you, Governor DeSantis, for protecting the public from that chaos.

CULTURE

John Cena and Dwayne Johnson: Why Wrestlers Make the Best Celebrities

They know how to work the crowd like no one else

Muscle-bound action stars are a dime a dozen, but the way people respond to John Cena and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson speaks to another level of celebrity.

There is something about them that people gravitate towards in a way that few hunks of man-meat have achieved. What is it that makes them so magnetic? Is it possible that it all ties back to their origins as professional wrestlers?

In the early 2000s, both of these men were already superstars, but their passionate fan bases were relatively limited. If you weren't familiar with the fact that you can't see John Cena or the questionable smell of The Rock's cooking—along with The Peoples' various body parts—you weren't really a fan. They were the beloved babyfaces of the squared circle, but outside of that realm, they were basically non-entities. That's no longer the case. Both men have since made a name for themselves as actors in both comedic and action roles. And both men are considered to be among our cultures most lovable celebrities—continuing the legacy of Andre the Giant.

Andre the Giant

If the endless memes don't attest to that love, it's worth noting that both men have been floated as potential presidential candidates. Just today, they are both trending in news stories because John Cena revealed that he is a BTS fanboy and Dwayne Johnson's father, Rocky Johnson—a wrestling star in his own right—passed away. One story is light and silly, the other is sad, but in both cases the outpouring of love from the Internet is unequivocal. So what makes these crossover stars so special? Perhaps it's related to the way that stardom works in wrestling.

Despite the common persona of the invincible, ultra-manly behemoth, wrestlers actually have to be pretty approachable and emotionally intelligent. A wrestler's success is closely tied to their interactions with the audience. They cultivate call and response routines with fans in the stands, and they feed off the energy of the crowd. Most performers don't have that kind of relationship with their audiences. Actors generally have a camera and a screen between them and their fans, and even in a theater setting the respectful hush functions as a similar barrier. But wrestlers need the jeers and the cheers. They need the audience to feel a personal connection to their fate in the ring—because the slapstick action and soap-opera storylines wouldn't play otherwise.

the rock smile

It's the personal connection—the charming smile that comes out when they aren't mean-mugging—that sells the image of a burly badass with a soft heart. It's what makes it so fun to watch Dwayne Johnson goofing off with Kevin Hart, and it's why John Cena breaks records with his make-a-wish visits. It's all about those personal connections. They both come across as so genuinely sweet and open, because they both got their starts as wrestlers. They each spent years making stadiums full of screaming fans feel like they had a one-on-one relationship, and now we all get that pleasure when we see them on TV and in movies.

The point is, don't be surprised when A.J. Styles and Becky Lynch end up starring in the next Judd Apatow movie.

FILM

"Hobbs & Shaw" Director David Leitch Talks Fight Scenes, Special Effects, and Spin-offs

The "John Wick" co-creator brings his action style to "The Fast and the Furious" franchise.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) reunite after The Fate of the Furious

Universal

By the time Vin Diesel returned to the Fast and Furious franchise, the family had expanded with more dynamic, colorful characters.

After Dwayne Johnson joined the family in Fast Five and Jason Statham was revealed as the villain in Furious 7, Deckard Shaw (Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Johnson) reluctantly teamed up in a subplot in The Fate of the Furious. Now they're starring in their own movie: The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Hobbs and Shaw are forced to team up to find Shaw's sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hattie went missing after an attempt to secure a virus went south. She's now on the run from the CIA, MI-6, and Princeton (Idris Elba), who wants the virus for himself; fist fights, car chases, and insulting one-liners fly.

The movie's director, David Leitch, co-founded 87eleven Action Design and co-created and co-directed the first John Wick movie with Chad Stahelski. After that, he directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Leitch spoke with Popdust about bringing his unique action style to Hobbs & Shaw, which hits theaters Friday, August 2.

Hobbs & Shaw Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) ready for actionUniversal

In preparation for the movie, did you watch Dwayne and Jason's fights in all their movies, studying what they've done and thinking about what they might be able to do going forward?

David Leitch: Well, it was funny. I didn't need to study Jason necessarily, because I've worked with him so many times. He works out at 83eleven's stunt training facility that Chad Stahelski and I have. So he's always there preparing, whether it's for a movie that we're doing with him as action directors or even if he's just preparing with the stunt team; he always comes to our place. Dwayne's a little different. I did go back and watch the stuff he did in the Fast movies. I watched this old movie of his called The Rundown, which I remember had a really cool fight scene in the bar where he throws the record player. It was a really creative use of props and things. I just wanted to see where he'd been in terms of his action life in terms of fighting and then where we could take him.

When you intercut Hobbs and Shaw's separate fight scenes, do you actually have to choreograph those scenes together so they intercut well?

DL: You normally would. That was something that actually I got inspired with in post, the intercutting of it all. We were choreographing and adding some moves to be reflective of Shaw moves. So it would reveal brother and sister, chip off the old block kind of thing, like brother, like sister. So we were really specific that way, but in terms of editing and transitions and things, we really discovered that in editorial with Christopher Rouse (the editor).

I love how those intros imply that Hobbs works out constantly and Shaw just rolls out of bed looking like that, as if Jason Statham doesn't work out to maintain his physique.

DL: [Laughs] I think we just wanted to make sure that we can clearly define these guys. If they're both training and they're both working out, then what's the fun in that? I think seeing him go to the pub and seeing him be a little bit more James Bond-y in a way was a little more interesting than seeing Jason kick a heavy bag or do martial arts. That would've been the easy way, but I think we were really trying to define the character and not make them so alike at that moment.

Hobbs & Shaw Guns aren't going to work against this villainUniversal

You've done a lot of gunfights before. Did it add an element that Princeton can actually deflect bullets?

DL: It did, and again, we were building this movie for a four quadrant PG-13 model. The gun scenes that I've done in the past with John Wick or Atomic Blonde or Deadpool, obviously that's rated R and you can have a different sort of consequential action. Here, I wanted to make sure that we could have action that told the story but was also frenetic but also allowed us to live in the PG-13 space. So we created our confines and constructs to allow us to do that.

Was editing the comedy banter similar to finding the rhythm of an action scene?

DL: It is. It's honestly very similar. I think there's a pace and kind of flow to performance, whether it's action or it's drama or it's comedy. So that's why editorial is so important, and that's why having a good editor who understands pace in all those ways, like Christopher Rouse. It's really important for a filmmaker to have that collaborator.

PD: The movie features a truck convoy vs. a helicopter, were you flying a real helicopter and driving real trucks?

DL: We were flying a real helicopter and driving real trucks. That's what I think people will not always understand or believe. This integration of visual effects and practical stunts was pretty amazing. I worked with a great visual effects supervisor named Dan Glass. It's always a challenge to me to get as much in camera as possible. So that Black Hawk in 90% of those shots is real. The backgrounds are real, and the trucks on the ground when they're driving are real. Then we're getting enhancements where you see they're being lifted off the ground and things like that. There are things that just couldn't be done safely in the time we had, so then you add visual effects to do it. It was a really great collaboration.

Hobbs & Shaw Don't try this at home!Universal

So I'm assuming the chain between the helicopter and the trucks was CGI?

DL: The chain, yes, was CGI and in that respect, when the Peterbilt is towing the helicopter, it's all just great choreography between the helicopter pilot of the Black Hawk with my driver of the Peterbilt, Jeremy Fry. And then Fred North is the guy in the helicopter. He's an incredible, prolific helicopter pilot who was also our aerial coordinator. He did all the stuff between the Black Hawk and the cars.

Did I hear a Transformers sound effect in that scene?

DL: Everybody asks me that. No, not to my knowledge. It certainly wasn't trying to be in homage or anything. I think there might be some crossover in terms of the scale of those movies and what we were trying to achieve so the sounds can end up similar.

That might just be what a Black Hawk really sounds like.

DL: The sound team was exhaustive in trying to get real sounds. So Mark Stoeckinger, who's done all the sound for me since John Wick, he's an Academy Award-winning sound designer. They recorded the Black Hawk. They're real pros, getting their hands dirty and getting that sound.

Hobbs & Shaw You see, they are not only furious. They are also fast.Universal

Which scenes in Hobbs & Shaw pushed you the most?

DL: I think the vehicular action was most challenging. Generally, it's more logistically challenging. Locking down 10 blocks of a London street is really impossible. You have to be more creative in the stunt logistics. You ask, "How do I tell this story?" We're shooting some of the London chase in Glasgow, so we can have more control. Maybe you have more elements on blue screen to keep you in rigs with your actors and do dynamic movements that you couldn't really do with them on the street. It's just a bigger puzzle and a lot more departments who need a lot more resources.

This is the first Fast and Furious Presents spinoff. Did you have the freedom to give it its own style?

DL: Yeah, there were no mandates on me. In fact, I was encouraged by the studio to make sure that it was my own. They were like, "We're hiring you because we want you as a filmmaker. We want you to set the palette of this spinoff moving forward. They were incredibly supportive. Donna Langley and Peter Cramer at the studio were like, "We want a David Leitch movie. We appreciate you as a filmmaker." It was great.

You definitely made it your own. Were there any things from the Fast movies that did appeal to you that you did want to include?

DL: Oh, I think there were two really important things from the Fast movies that I wanted. Well, three things actually. Number one was characters. Chris Morgan has done such a great job of telling a family narrative that's lasted through the whole season. We wanted to make sure we were true to that and we had our own version of that. And then I wanted the big spectacle set pieces that everybody knows and loves that push the boundaries of physics, but we don't care because we're kind of in this wish fulfillment universe. I wanted to do all those things.

Hobbs & Shaw Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) only walk in slow motion.Universal

You, Chad, and Keanu are developing a John Wick TV series for Starz, but now there's already John Wick 4 on the books for 2021. Is the TV series taking longer than you expected?

DL: I think it has and, quite frankly, I haven't been as hands on with it as Chad has. So we're both involved in it as executive producers. He's been sort of shepherding the whole John Wick world. I think we just want to get it right, and it's hard when you're making a movie and you're so in it; there are so many moving pieces. But everyone's really excited about it, and it's such a rich world. I have no doubt that we're going to make it happen.

How different will an LA branch of The Continental be than what we've seen in New York in the films?

DL: Well, in terms of building out that world, it's so fun because L.A. obviously has many different aspects. The Hollywood angle is obviously the most obvious one. I'm looking forward to what the showrunners and Chad come up with and helping in any way I can.

Have you watched the John Wick series go on as a proud father?

DL: Yeah, and a proud brother. I think Chad has taken it and brought it to places that I wouldn't have. I think when we made the decision to do other things and I wanted to do Atomic Blonde and he stayed in the John Wick world, that franchise became more him and that's great. I get to put my imprints on other things like Atomic Blonde and the Deadpool world. For us, it's been a really great experience and we'll continue to collaborate on our platforms and even our projects.

The new Fast & Furious movie is finally coming out and it's probably gonna be the best movie about juiced up men racing juiced up cars yet. If there's one thing I love, it's an exciting illegal street racing movie that, while action-packed, remains fully within the bounds of reality.

Let's check out the trailer.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - Official Trailer [HD] www.youtube.com

Wait. What? Why is Idris Elba a supervillain?

This makes zero sense. Fast & Furious is supposed to be about racing cars and sometimes heists. The villains are tough street punks and drug lords. Not Winter Soldier. If I wanted to see a Winter Soldier movie, I'd watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

I'm here to watch fast cars flip through the air and skid up walls, and instead Idris Elba is covering himself in laser beams, bragging, "I'm the peak of human evolution. Look at me punch through a metal door." Where's the realism in that? I'm 80% sure genetic testing hasn't come that far yet, and I'm 100% sure that Idris Elba isn't actually bulletproof.

The Fast & Furious franchise has always been about what's really possible. You know, things like driving your car upside down and Tokyo drifting. Not stupid action movie schlock like jumping out a skyscraper window to punch a guy at mach speed. That is so obviously fake, and there's not way any sane person could take such a ridiculous scene seriously.

For contrast, watch this scene from Furious 7:

Furious 7 (5/10) Movie CLIP - Cars Don't Fly (2015) HD www.youtube.com

That's what real street racing is all about―the pure rush of driving your car through multiple buildings, getting hit with a rocket, and rolling out the door just in time to avoid plummeting to your fiery death. A street racing documentary couldn't have been more precise. Now, with this Idris Elba bullshit, they're trying to take that realism away.

Oh, and don't even get me started about the part where The Rock throws a chair into the glass wall. CIA facilities almost always use reinforced glass for top-secret safety reasons. Glass like that is meant to stand up to bullets. The chance that it would shatter on impact with a hurled chair is frankly laughable. Do better.

Of course, if you just want to watch whatever this is instead of a highly realistic racing film, you can see Fast & Furious: Hobbs and Shaw in theaters on July, 26th.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com



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