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10 Things to Know About 22 Jump Street

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sony pictures

From Dartmouth style beer pong to on-set head butts, here are 10 things the directors and cast told us about making 22 Jump Street, out today.

1. DIRECTORS PHIL LORD AND CHRIS MILLER SHOT THIS WHILE THEY WERE WORKING ON THE LEGO MOVIE.

Unlike the first Jump Street film, which the directors spent a year on before shooting, Lord says this film “came together really fast. [It] was just like ‘alright, we’re prepping. OK, here we go, oh no! Let’s rewrite the scene on the set.’ It had a looser feel in production.” It didn’t help that he and Miller were also working on The Lego Movie when they started on 22 Jump Street.

“It was so hard,” Lord says. “We were shooting for 14 hour days then we’d go home and be on our computers giving notes on dailies from The LEGO Movie.”

One company that was working on The LEGO Movie was based in Australia, which meant that someone was working on it 24/7, and, says Miller, “Often times we would get home from a shoot at 10:30 at night and start a conference call for another hour and a half before we went to bed. So it was really not something we would want to do again, two movies at the same time.”

But it did help that there were two directors on both projects: “If somebody was so sick and ill that they couldn’t work on it, the other one could pick up the slack,” Lord says.

2. THE MOVIE IS ABOUT KEEPING A RELATIONSHIP GOING.

“It’s very challenging to do sequels, especially for a comedy,” Lord says. “There aren’t that many that are great.” And so at first, he and Miller weren’t sure how to tackle a Jump Street sequel. But then they had a breakthrough. “We thought, ‘Well, maybe the idea of making a sequel rhymes with trying to keep your relationship going,’” Lord says. “They’re having to make a sequel to their relationship. What’s it like to make a sequel to the first time you fall in love with somebody? You can feel like you have to do something over and over. That’s something that every couple has to deal with.” Yes, even directing duos. “Maintaining the sort of freshness and fun and having a positive work and friendship that is something very close to home for us,” Miller says.

And like the first movie—which spent a lot of time poking fun at the idea of making a movie out of a TV show—22 spends plenty of time making fun of sequels. “There was a lot more of it in the script than what [is in the finished film],” Lord says.

3. THE DIRECTORS WENT BACK TO COLLEGE TO DO SOME RESEARCH.

For 21, the directors visited a high school to see what it was like, and, says Miller, “we were just flabbergasted by how different it was and how the social structure was so different” from when they were in high school. So for 22, the directors returned to their alma mater, Dartmouth, and visited a frat at UCLA to see how much things had changed since they had graduated 20 years ago. “It turns out, surprisingly not that much has changed,” Miller says. “It’s still about drinking to excess and working out and sports are still important culturally. College hasn’t caught up to high school yet.”

4. CHANNING TATUM DID A LOT OF HIS OWN STUNTS.

The opening action sequence has Tatum’s character, Jenko, jumping on top of—and running along—the roof of an 18-wheeler as it drives through the Port of New Orleans. Tatum did that stunt, and many others, himself. “Channing is really one of the best stunt men you’ll ever find,” Miller says. “The studio was nervous about him doing the more difficult stuff. There were a lot of arguments. Because if he broke his leg, we'd have to shut down production. Sometimes we just didn’t say anything and let him do it because he would be like, ‘I’m not going to have a stunt double jump from one rooftop to the other, I’ll do that!’ And we were like ‘oh god.’”

According to Tatum, he had just finished working on three very physically demanding films, so he knew he could handle the stunts in 22. “We used to do this stuff growing up, in a really unsafe manner, and now I get to do them with some of the best safety guys and stunt guys in the world. So you know, it’s just fun for me,” he says. “I played football like 10 years in my life so I wasn’t really worried about that. I was just worried about keeping my body together. I had two bum wheels on this so it was pretty disappointing to do football with like a rolled ankle that was taped up about this thick. And then I tore a ligament in my right foot. You’re like, ‘Oh man I get to play football again? And I can’t do it as well as I want to?’ It worked out. I haven’t seen all of it, but it looks OK.”

Hill also did some of his own stunts, but his approach was very different from Tatum’s. “I was more creatively inspired to think of the most clumsy way to do each stunt,” he says. “There’s some creative puzzling of that: Here’s how you obviously would do this, and here are the people to help you do it right. How can I completely mess that up? It’s so different from anything I’ve done, and it’s fun.”

5. JONAH HILL WAS REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THE FOOTBALL SCENES.

“I had never worn football pads before, so I was excited,” Hill says. “The idea that you could, like, run into things or have someone run into you and it [wouldn’t] hurt as bad. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a helmet before in my life, so I let Channing headbutt me.”

Tatum was more than willing to play along: “We got a three point stance and I hit him. He took it pretty well.”

6. THE BEER PONG WAS REAL.

Lord says it is “most authentic beer pong playing to ever be committed to film,” played in the Dartmouth style. The two directors were the only ones who knew how to play beer pong that way, so they played with Tatum and another actor—off camera. “Some of our personal college experiences, we put them in there,” says Miller, who was in a frat in college.

7. THE WEATHER MADE ONE ACTION SEQUENCE REALLY DIFFICULT.

In keeping with Hollywood’s tendency to make sequels bigger than the original film, 22 Jump Street majorly upgrades on 21’s action sequences. Though none were simple, the climactic scene, which features a helicopter, was particularly tough to pull off. In addition to dealing with actors and stunt men hanging in wires, they had the wind and the weather to contend with. “We filmed in Puerto Rico, where there’s a thunderstorm that comes by every hour on the hour,” Lord says. “So everyone squeegees the deck, and then you can shoot for 10 minutes. We had to send everything away. The helicopter can’t fly in the rain. It’s all a drag.”

8. THE SUPPORTING CAST IS AWESOME.

Tatum and Hill are obviously great, but 22 Jump Street’s supporting cast more than holds their own. Ice Cube returns to play Captain Dickson, and Lord describes his as a “zen master. He’s steady and he has a really philosophical approach to his entire career.” According to Miller, “He is multi-talented, and as far as the scenes that he was in, he had strong opinions about what he thought his character was and he was a great guardian of who he thought Dickson was.” Cube also proved that he was great at improvising, adlibbing lines about his character’s awesome office and $1800 shoes.

Meanwhile, Workaholics star Jillian Bell joined the cast as Mercedes, the roommate of a girl Schmidt grows close to. “I’ve only seen one person [who was] able to make Jonah take a little step back, and that was Jillian,” Tatum says. “She just brings the pain. They would just battle it out.”

Hill agrees. “As one of the writers, I would say Jillian’s part was incredibly underwritten, not very fleshed out,” he says. “And when Jillian came in and auditioned and we started improvising, she made that part her own. She made that part great. It wasn’t written great.”

Other roles were filled by people Lord and Miller were fans of. “[It was just] ‘Let’s get as many funny voices into the movie as possible,’” Lord says. Craig Roberts, best known for his role in the 2010 film Submarine, plays Spencer. “Craig is amazing,” Lord says. “He shows up for a blip and he’s all over the DVD material.” And even if you don’t know H. Jon Benjamin’s face, you know his voice: He plays both Archer and Bob of Bob’s Burgers. “He plays a coach in Home Movies, which is an old TV show that we love,” Lord says. “For that it was a really ‘Oh my god, let’s cast him and we’ll get to hang out with him and maybe we’ll be friends.’”

9. HILL IS A HUGE FAN OF ICE CUBE, AND ASKED HIM TONS OF QUESTIONS DURING BOTH MOVIES.

Hill had idolized Cube since the rapper’s NWA days. “When we were writing the first [Jump Street], the first idea we wrote down was the person who wrote ‘F*** the Police’ would play the police chief in the film," Hill says. "He said yes, so when we were around him, I got to ask him any question I wanted about NWA or Three Kings or 'AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.' We got to ask him [about ‘It’s A Good Day’]—because there are theories that there is a day that it’s based on, which is not true, he told us.”

“It was really fun to watch Jonah around him,” Tatum says. “Cube’s, like, his childhood hero. It was really funny to watch them interact. He was wildly tolerant of all the questions.”

“Over two movies!” Hill says. “That’s, like, a full six months. I had to really go to the drawing board with new questions.”

According to Cube, among the questions Hill asked were what it was like to work with Big Daddy and Chuck D and to tour with Salt n Pepa. “I don’t mind,” Cube says. “If someone asks me questions, it just brings back memories that I usually have. I’ve been blessed to have a very vivid life of a lot of different things that are very interesting to people and it’s cool.”

10. YOU SHOULD STAY FOR THE END CREDITS.

No spoilers here, but 22 Jump Street’s closing credits might be the funniest you’ll ever see. “That’s all Phil and Chris and this company Alma Mater,” Hill says. “I think people loved the movie, but it needed one more thing. For a while, we just sat around and said ‘God, I just need one more thing at the end.’ And Phil and Chris had this idea and they just ran with it. It was done recently, in just one day. Those guys are so talented. They literally put that together in like a week. They did it right before we had to lock the movie.”

All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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May 23, 2017
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