April 23, 2014

Tag Archives: Entertainment/Culture

Spotlight on the Stars: Kevin Costner

Here we go with another installment of my Spotlight on the Stars series. Each week, I’ll look at an actor/actress/filmmaker that I’d like to celebrate in some kind of a way. It could be due to something of theirs coming out that weekend (like last week and this week, for example) or just because I feel they deserve to have a moment in the sun, but each time it’ll be a bit of positivity about someone who I’d like to pay tribute to.
For this week’s piece (number three overall so far), I wanted to take a look at our first male actor…Kevin Costner. Some see him as a bit of a has been, but I disagree and not only still see a movie star, but an underrated actor as well. Costner is a throwback to an older generation of actor. Very much a man’s man and a real movie star, but one with a softness to him as well. His best performances have perfectly highlighted that. He can be an excellent action hero, that’s for sure, but I’ve always preferred him as a bit more of a working man, be it as a baseball player or just a middle class Joe like he was in The Company Men.

Yes, his best films often involve sports (particularly baseball), but how is that a knock against him? Especially with the very good Draft Day hitting theaters this weekend, it’s just evidence of him knowing where he really fits and playing to that. From Bull Durham to Field of Dreams to For Love of the Game and Tin Cup (and also The Upside of Anger, where he plays a retired player), the sports genre really seems to serve him well. That being said, he’s hardly out of his element when removed from athletics.
Costner has usually challenged himself more than he’s been given credit for, especially considering his directorial career. He won Best Director and Best Picture for Dances with Wolves, and even his projects that were deemed unsuccessful weren’t for a lack of ambition. He can be a risk taker behind the camera, even as he’s a calming and grounded presence in front of it. That’s particularly on display with Draft Day, even when his character is far from calm.
Overall, Costner is am underrated actor with an undeniable screen presence, like I mentioned above. As he begins to enter somewhat of a Hollywood elder [...]

‘Captain America’ commands the top spot at the Box Office this weekend

Happy Sunday everyone. Here I am once again with the weekly box office report. Leading the way this weekend in a huge way was Marvel’s latest, Captain America: The Winter Soldier which debuted with a fantastic $96.2 million at the box office. Far behind at number two we had the second week of Noah, which had quite the drop and only pulled in an estimated $17 million more into its pockets. Number three happened to be Divergent, which had a better hold and took in another $13 million from audience members. No other new release besides the Marvel sequel cracked the top ten. Among the independent/limited releases, we had a really strong debut for Under the Skin, while Dom Hemingway, Franke & Alice, and The Unknown Known did decently enough. Jinn however, pretty much flopped. Only three movies in the top ten managed eight figure weekends, so most of the audiences were just seeing a certain superhero and his latest adventure…
Building off of some incredible buzz and top notch reviews, Captain America: The Winter Soldier managed to come close to breaking the $100 million mark opening weekend. I found the movie to be one of the better superhero flicks of late, so going forward this one could be a smash hit. On the flip side, I don’t know how well any of the platform releases will do. Jinn clearly was a B horror movie looking to make a quick buck, and that just didn’t happen. I was impressed by Under the Skin’s very solid per theater average though, so perhaps that one will manage to be an unlikely crossover success.
Among the notable holdovers in theaters, the aforementioned Noah saw much of its audience erode, while both God’s Not Dead and The Grand Budapest Hotel continue to perform above expectations. Sabotage continued to flop, on the other side of the coin, not even managing to make $2 million this weekend. We also had Mr. Peabody & Sherman crack the $100 million mark, so congrats there. Overall, it was just a very summer-ish weekend, if that makes sense. Essentially, everyone just went to see Captain America…
Here now is what the top ten looked like at the box office for this weekend:
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – $96,200,000
2. Noah – $17,000,000
3. Divergent – $13,000,000
4. God’s Not Dead – $7,726,000
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel – $6,300,000
6. Muppets Most Wanted – $6,285,000
7. Mr. Peabody [...]

“Oculus” Stars Hit the Red Carpet

“Oculus” didn’t scare away the crowds as fans lined Hollywood Boulevard outside of the TCL Chinese Theatre Thursday night to get a glimpse of the stars attending the Los Angeles premiere of the much buzzed about horror film opening next Friday.
The red carpet showcased the film’s up-and-coming young cast: Karen Gillan, sporting short hair and head-to-toe sequins, along with costars Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan.

Relativity Media is banking on a fright-induced comeback to spark the box office.
A carefully strategized ad campaign and social media marketing targeted toward a young, edgy demographic have given this film steam as it heads into it’s opening weekend.
The film, directed by Mike Flanagan, tells the story of a woman who tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.
Photos by John Baxter

Oscars®: Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Written by: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer, based on the novel by Michael Faber
Main Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, and others
Past Oscar relations: None, though Scarlett Johansson has received four Golden Globe nominations and twice came very close to Academy Award nominations
Here now is the newest article in this series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention. Next up today is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, which hopes to be the sort of heady indie contender that voters every so often can fall under the spell of. Glazer’s acclaimed Sexy Beast wasn’t able to attract enough votes, but can this one do better? Armed with an amazing performance by Scarlett Johansson and some incredible visuals/sound design, Glazer has a magnificent movie, though one that could prove to be a hard sell.
What this flick really has going in its favor is Johansson’s acting and Glazer’s ambition. She’s absolutely phenomenal here, possibly even giving the best performance of her career. It’s a brilliant turn by the talented actress, showing a brand new side to her. Glazer coaxed this out of her and it really turns heads. The film is presented in such a way that Johansson is front and center the whole time, so her success is very much the movie’s as well. She blew me away, quite frankly. In a fair world, she’d be a lock for a Best Actress nomination.
Working against Under the Skin is that the movie is very challenging and will leave some scratching their heads. Nothing is spelled out for you and a lot of the film is presented in a rather obtuse way. At times, it even comes close to pretentiousness, though it never reaches that point. Still, when you make voters work for it, sometimes they opt to just move on to something easier, and I expect that to be the case here with this one. It’s a shame too, since Johansson deserves to win an Oscar for this, but even a nomination will be hard to come by.
So, can this one be a player at all? Simply put, the odds are against it, though the independent precursors will likely love it. Basically, I’d be pretty surprised if it held on until the end of awards season in any substantial way, but stranger things have certainly happened. The flick will really have an uphill battle, but Under [...]

Spotlight on the Stars: Scarlett Johansson

After last week’s look at Jennifer Lawrence, I think this is now going to become another weekly series for me, tentatively called “Spotlight on the Stars”. Each week, I’ll look at an actor/actress/filmmaker that I’d like to celebrate in some way. It could be due to something of theirs coming out that weekend or just because I feel they deserve a moment in the sun, but each time it’ll be a bit of positivity about someone who I’d like to pay tribute to.
For this week’s piece (which is technically the second one in the series, though I didn’t have a snappy name for the inaugural Lawrence one), I wanted to take a look at Scarlett Johansson. To some, she’s merely a pretty face, but when I look at her, not only do I see a beautiful woman, I also see a criminally underrated actress. From her early days as a child star of sorts to this very weekend when she has a wonderfully complex leading role in an independent film called Under the Skin coming out, Johansson has way more to offer than some realize. Folks also don’t always catch on to why she’s chosen some of the projects that she has, but one look at the filmmakers that she’s acted for will give you some clue as to her decisions.
Johansson has worked with directors like Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Christopher Nolan, and Joss Whedon. You can argue that one or two of the movies she did with these auteurs aren’t particularly great, but she’s certainly got an eye for working with talented people. That’s usually the mark of a strong actress with a good head on her shoulders. No one makes perfect decisions all the time, but even when the project might be misguided, usually there’s an A-list director that’s been a part of the decision to sign on.
Just as an actress, she’s got more range than a lot of people give her credit for. Compare her performances in Her, Lost in Translation, Match Point, and now with Under the Skin, and it’s as if there’s a different actress on display each time. Those four Golden Globe nominations didn’t happen by accident, even if sadly it never translated into an Oscar nod. The Academy in particular missed the boat on a nom for either Lost in Translation or Match [...]

‘Noah’ floods the Box Office this weekend

Happy Sunday once more to you all. Here I am again with the weekly box office report I know you crave so deeply. Leading the way this weekend and leaving the competitors all wet (sorry, I couldn’t resist) was Darren Aronofsky’s take on Noah, which debuted with a pretty solid $44 million at the box office. At number two we had the second week of Divergent, which pulled in $26.5 million more. Number three was Muppets Most Wanted, which had a decent hold and took in another $11.3 million from you fine audience members. The only other new release in the top ten besides Noah was the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Sabotage, which basically flopped with only $5.3 million. Among the independent/limited releases, we had a mediocre debut for the biopic Cesar Chavez, while The Raid 2 was one film that actually opened well in a platform release. Overall, the movies that are doing well are veering more towards the blockbusters again, so you know that spring and summer must be on their way…
Despite some controversy and less than universal praise for the film, Noah managed to be by far the biggest opening of Darren Aronofsky’s career. Personally, I found the movie pretty interesting, and I’m perhaps the least religious person out there, so that says something about the filmmaker’s talent for telling a unique story. Going forward, a lot will depend on if audiences come back for seconds, but regardless, the opening will probably help Aronofsky with whatever he decides to make next. On the flip side, I’m not sure who’s going to want to have Schwarzenegger in their flick anymore, as Sabotage basically bombed, despite being the new film from the director of the well regarded End of Watch. Much like the middling debut for Cesar Chavez, audiences just didn’t seem to be interested at all.
Among the notable holdovers in theaters, we once again have to begin by discussing Wes Anderson’s latest film. The Grand Budapest Hotel expanded to just under 1000 theaters and moved up again, this time to number six this week, taking in $8.8 million. It’s likely going to become the biggest success of Anderson’s career. Also worth mentioning besides the ones mentioned above, 300: Rise of an Empire managed to break the $100 million mark with a $4.3 million weekend, while Mr. Peabody & Sherman is next in line for that mark as they added [...]

Websites Offer Exclusive Hollywood Access

By ROBERT W. WELKOS
“Don’t Miss this Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Meet Miley Cyrus.”
That’s just one of the “celebrities for hire” listed on a website called Millionaire’s Concierge out of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., that also dangles the opportunity for its presumably rich clientele exclusive entre to major movie premieres, awards shows, walk-on roles “in the Hottest TV Shows or Films,” and many other luxury experiences.
“The World’s Biggest Stars Come to You!” the website exults.
“Hiring a celebrity for your next party won’t just provide you with the opportunity to meet a beloved star—it produces enormous entertainment value for you and your guests. Whether you’re planning a sweet-sixteen birthday party, celebrating a recent accomplishment, or simply painting the town red for the sake of it, a celebrity performance will turn your special occasion into an unforgettable experience.” Celebrities can also help “get your message across” at corporate events, the website notes.
It then lists such “celebrities for hire” as the Beach Boys, Blink 182, Jethro Tull, Julio Iglesias, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stalone (sic), Oscar De La Hoya, Jenny McCarthy, Donald Trump, Patrick Stewart “and many many more.”
It’s all about the public’s insatiable desire to be close to celebrities and big events, if you’ve got the money.
“It never goes out of style,” Doug Turner, owner of Millionaire’s Concierge, told HollywoodNews in a brief phone interview.
“I serve rich people all over the world,” he added, noting that he started his company 17 years ago.
The website includes a video segment that appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show which detailed how his company caters to its wealthy clients, like the time Turner said they dropped 50 dozen roses into a swimming pool from a helicopter for a client’s anniversary. The Oprah segment does not mention celebrities for hire.
A spokeswoman for Trump said that while the famed billionaire businessman may have met the owner of Millionaire’s Concierge years back in Florida, in any case, she has asked that Trump’s name be removed from the website.
“(Trump) has no affiliation with Millionaire’s Concierge and he does not do these kind of things,” she said. “He works with speaking engagement bureaus. Mr. Trump is one of the highest paid speakers in the world. These are legitimate organizations. He would never do this.”
HollywoodNews reached out to representatives of DiCaprio, Cyrus, Stone, Stallone and Carrey and have yet to hear back.
Millionaire’s Concierge also offers access to special Hollywood [...]

Leonardo DiCaprio: Who’s the most overdue for an Academy Award?

A lot of times during the months directly following the Academy Awards telecast, people talk about who’s overdue for an Oscar nomination, but I think the more interesting conversation is to discuss who’s already been nominated repeatedly by the Academy but has yet to win an Oscar. It’s one thing to fight for that first nod, or to have a nom to your credit but nothing else, but what of the people who’ve been cited with nominations multiple times by Oscar voters but never seem to make it to the finish line? Recently, I was thinking about just that, and actually came up with a list of some of the folks in the industry that are most overdue for a win.
Below you’ll find a group of ten previously nominated by the Academy that I think should have won by now. They consist of actors, actresses, filmmakers, and technical craftsmen, all of whom define the word “overdue” to me. There are many others, like Ridley Scott for example, but I limited it to ten. Take a look:
10. David O. Russell- With five nominations to his credit now, Russell is undoubtedly on a hot streak right now, and it’s firmly entrenched him as someone due for a win. The Academy clearly is enamored with him, so it really seems to only be a matter of time now. Not everyone is thrilled with that prospect, but I’m not among them. He’s more than deserving at this point in his career.
9. Julianne Moore – A quartet of nods later, Moore is very high up on many lists of the actresses who desperately need an Oscar. I obviously don’t have her quite as high up on this list, but she’s clearly only one great role away from being on that stage accepting the statue. My guess is that it’ll be for a supporting performance, but time will ultimately tell there.
8. Christopher Nolan – Despite often snubbing Nolan in some key categories, the Academy has still cited him a trio of times, though without any sign of a win yet. They’ve notably kept him far away from the Best Director field, so when his first win comes, I suspect that it’ll be for a Screenplay category…that’s just a guess though. Perhaps Interstellar this year can do it for him?
7. Tom Cruise – There was a time when it was inconceivable to think that Cruise wouldn’t have [...]

A biopic of R.A. Dickey could be an Oscar winner

As a longtime New York Mets fan, one of my great recent delights in the sporting world was seeing R.A. Dickey come of age while in his thirties. A supposedly washed up pitcher, Dickey developed the knuckleball (a very unique pitch that is almost impossible to master and even harder to hit) and eventually caught on with the Mets, where he went on to dominate for a few years, culminating in winning a Cy Young Award, which is the baseball equivalent of an Oscar win. He wrote a memoir about his life around that time called “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball” and a documentary called Knuckleball! was made, centering heavily on his story. Now, he’s actually sold the rights to his memoir to actors Logan Marshall-Green and Ben McKenzie, who’ve started a production company and want to take Dickey’s life to the big screen. Friday Night Lights scribe Buzz Bissinger is writing the screenplay, and I personally can’t wait to see this flick. Beyond that though, I think that this has a real chance to become an awards vehicle.
The reason that I think Dickey’s story is tailor made for Academy voters is the fact that it reads like a movie on its own. He was molested as a child, yet still rose to become a high draft pick, though he lost most of his bonus money and was told his career would never amount to much after doctors found out he was missing an important ligament in his arm. Unfazed, Dickey pressed on, bouncing around the minor leagues and making unremarkable appearances in the bigs, until of course he harnessed the knuckleball. The rest is literally history. That triumphant tale is exactly the sort of one that Oscar voters flock to.
So who could play Dickey? Apparently neither Marshall-Green nor McKenzie are looking to take on the role, so it’s going to go out there for some talented actors to circle. While he most closely resembles Timothy Busfield, I don’t see that bit of casting coming about. A decade ago, I wouldn’t have discounted Kevin Costner playing the role either, but that’s also not happening. In my eyes, I actually would like to see Matt Damon potentially play Dickey, but that’s just something off of the top of my head. Another top notch pick that actually looks a touch like Dickey in the [...]

Oscars®: Breathe In – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Drake Doremus
Written by: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Main Cast: Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Mackenzie Davis, Amy Ryan, Matthew Daddario, Ben Shenkman, Kyle MacLachlan, and others
Past Oscar relations: Amy Ryan was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Gone Baby Gone
Here now is the next article in this new series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention. Next up is Drake Doremus’ Breathe In, which hopes to build on his previous indie contender Like Crazy. That film ultimately fell short, so armed with some goodwill from that movie, can this one do better? Doremus once again has Felicity Jones in a main role, this time with Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, and newcomer Mackenzie Davis among her costars. It’s a romantic drama with strains of the dysfunctional family genre thrown in, but it’s the way that this admittedly well worn story is told that sets it apart, particularly in what it allows its cast to do.
What this flick has going in its favor are the performances, particular the one from Jones. She’s phenomenal, perhaps even better than she was in Like Crazy. Veteran actor Pearce is very good too, while newcomer Davis makes an impression as well. Ryan is again a useful supporting player too, but Jones is the one you really remember when all is said and done. If anyone where to come out of this movie in terms of awards hopefuls, it’s her.
Working against Breathe In is that the movie has an almost total lack of buzz. It debuted a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival, so all that time waiting to come out didn’t do it any favors. It literally took over a year to begin screening for critics, playing a few other festivals, but mostly sitting on the shelf, and that creates the perception of something that’s not exactly top notch. The quality is there for this film, but I have my doubts that most voters will wind up even seeing it later on in 2014 when they begin thinking about awards and nominations.
So, can this be a player at all? Simply put, the odds aren’t at all in its favor. I’d be shocked if it held on until the end of awards season, but crazier things have happened, I suppose. The flick will really have an uphill battle, but Breathe In deserves to be seen regardless of that, so hopefully people find [...]

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