Expressive young women conquer hearts in ‘Jem and the Holograms’

As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her band of sisters begin a one-in-a-million journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden. In Universal Pictures’ Jem and the Holograms, four aspiring musicians will take the world by storm when they see that the key to creating your destiny lies in finding your own voice.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (“Step Up” series, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), the musical adventure stars Aubrey Peeples (TV’s “Nashville”) as Jerrica Benton/Jem, Stefanie Scott (“Insidious: Chapter 3”) as Kimber Benton, Aurora Perrineau (“A House Is Not a Home”) as Shana Elmsford, Hayley Koyoko (TV’s “CSI: Cyber”) as Aja Leith, Ryan Guzman (“The Boy Next Door”) as Rio, Molly Ringwald (TV’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”) as Aunt Bailey and Oscar®-nominated actress Juliette Lewis (TV’s “Secrets and Lies”) as Erica Raymond.

“Jem and the Holograms,” based on the iconic ’80s Hasbro animated television series, is written by Ryan Landels (TV’s “Masterclass”).

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The idea of reinventing Jerrica and her sisters for the big screen has been a longtime passion project of director Jon M. Chu, who has had a deep attachment to Jem and the Holograms since he was a child.

Chu found that the stars had finally aligned when the producers began discussing what it would look like—and what it would take—to reimagine this beloved property as a live-action film. Their 2015 “Jem and the Holograms” would honor the same underlying messages as the ’80s series, one of female empowerment, honesty and integrity—along with fashion and great music—but it would also be embraced by a new generation. To accomplish the above—while still deeply respecting the diehard fans who have turned the quartet in this iconic property into pop-culture icons—was Chu’s uncompromising mission.

Like many who grew up in the ’80s, the director’s fascination with “Jem and the Holograms” began the moment he first watched the show. Chu appreciated the positive messages that the program brought to kids of his generation, as well as the originality of the stories and characters. “It just really went crazy,” says Chu. “They didn’t go by any rules or any sort of way that cartoons are supposed to be made. The audiovisual robot Synergy would transform Jem and the Holograms into exciting avatars, and they would perform, fight the Misfits and go on adventures. They went everywhere and anywhere. That kind of fearlessness was something other cartoons just didn’t offer, and so I always went back to it as a kid. That inspired and shaped me as an artist as I grew up.”

Chu explains just what was so riveting about the series: “Jem was unlike anything on TV. At the time, I didn’t know what I loved about it other than it was fun and there was music; it was a superhero story where I could use my imagination and play alongside my toys. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how much joy the show brought me and that it was a fearless cartoon about female empowerment. The essence of the show was being true to your identity and nurturing your free expression—whether that is through music, art, dance or something else. Jem and the Holograms were true defenders of that idea.”

Jem and the Holograms opens across the Philippines on November 4, 2015 as distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

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Kristen Stewart plays feisty small-town girl in ‘American Ultra’

Kristen Stewart reunites with her “Adventureland” costar Jesse Eisenberg in Lionsgate’s hip thriller American Ultra.

In the film, a stoner (Eisenberg) and his girlfriend’s (Stewart) sleepy, small-town existence is disrupted when his past comes back to haunt him in the form of a government operation set to wipe him out.

Stewart plays Phoebe Larson who appears to be as unmotivated as her slacker boyfriend but unlikely hero Mike. Like him, she seems in no hurry to go anywhere. But Phoebe is much more driven than she lets on. “She is way more together than he does,” says director Nima Nourizadeh. “She’s responsible, with more of a real job. Mike actually relies on her for a lot of the time. You soon understand that she pretty much takes care of everything for him.”

Stewart and Eisenberg had instant chemistry, Nourizadeh says. “They hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, but the connection was instantaneous. When we started shooting, they were completely comfortable together even in the most intimate moments. We needed that for the comedy to work. They’re definitely two people I would love to work with again.”

After meeting with the pair together, the filmmakers were sure they would be convincing and appealing as a couple dedicated to getting baked together. “There’s something about Jesse and Kristen that is so compelling and so right,” says producer David Alpert. “The idea of re-teaming them was a dream come true. She’s very alluring and charismatic on screen, and she brings amazing depth to the character and the relationship. It’s not just a supporting girlfriend role: she’s an equal.”

Like Eisenberg, the actress is taking a role that is not typical for her, notes screenwriter Max Landis. “She’s not the sacrificial dove or the princess who must become a warrior,” he says. “Kristen’s played all sorts of crazy characters, but in this she plays someone closer to who she really is, a sort of laid-back tomboy.”

Stewart admits she jumped at the chance to work with Eisenberg again. “We should make a movie together every five years,” she says. “It’s just so comfortable to work with him. He’s hilarious and intimidatingly intelligent. And this script is so original. Imagine that your stoner buddy just turned into an expert CIA assassin and the chaos that ensues. It’s an ultra-violent, in-your-face action movie, as well as an emotionally grounded love story, as well as a full-on slapstick comedy. I wanted to explore that with Jesse.”

Watching Mike conquer the CIA’s most vicious operatives is an unexpected delight, she promises. “These two kids turn into something you would never foresee. Watching us annihilate a town or take out deadly killers is just funny, especially with Mike’s off-the-wall commentary as it goes down. I haven’t had this much fun making a movie in years.”
For that, she gives full credit to Nourizadeh. “He is incredibly detail oriented,” says Stewart. “He left no stone unturned. He’s such a sensitive dude that he was truly concerned with everything, including the little sweet bits, like the matching tattoos on our feet.”

American Ultra will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas nationwide starting October 28, 2015.