The memory of Ang Lee, sensitive humanist auteur from Taiwan's New Wave has become a distant memory over the past decade or so. All hail Ang Lee, constructor of boundary-pushing technical spectacle! He earned his second Best Director Academy Award for besting the hazard-trifecta of children, animals, and water with Life of Pi and then introduced public audiences to high-framerate hyperreal photography with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk last year. (Though opinions on the extent to which he succeeded on that second one vary wildly.) And now, the news is out that he’ll rejoin us in 2019 for another huge undertaking.
Not a whole lot of people ended up seeing last year’s minimalist horrorshow The Eyes of My Mother, but most of those who did were suitably impressed. Director Nicolas Pesce’s stripped-down approach to small-town sadism earned the respect of the juries at Sundance and the same set of horror purists who made The Witch an out-of-nowhere hit. An emerging artist with a clearly defined sense of style, Pesce stuck out as a talent to watch, and those who had kept tabs on the director will be pleased to see he’s landed his next gig. And you may already be familiar with his next project, too.
At last, a news item that combines the two most universally beloved genres of showbiz reporting: “Celebrities extending kindness to un-famous teens by acknowledging them through the internet” stories and “Ryan Reynolds getting into mischief again!” stories. We live in wondrous times, friends, where a skillful Photoshop job and a moment’s tweetings can get a bona fide movie star into your orbit — and change the trajectory of your life forever.
Two decades ago, could any of us have predicted the future that awaited Harry Potter? One massively successful book expanded to seven, which begat a theme park, a universe’s worth of merchandising, eight films, a play, and a new tangentially related franchise. And for those fans who still want more Potter, there is Pottermore.
Spend long enough interviewing actors for a living, you start to pick little things up. For instance, whenever a performer’s discussing their most recent production and utters any variant on the phrase “it really felt like the cast and crew was one big family,” that’s a major red flag that they’re full of crap. Costars are coworkers, and usually for about six months, and that’s on the longer side. But the ladies of Pitch Perfect 3 seem to be pretty earnest when they gush about the spirit of sisterhood and camaraderie that dominated the atmosphere on set. And for those as skeptical of myself, they proved it with video evidence.
It’s a tableau with which anyone who watches the news is all too familiar: police station, pair of white interrogators, terrified-looking black man. But it’s not from last night’s 10 o’clock broadcast — the year is 1967, and that’s Star Wars star John Boyega in the chair, fielding aggressive and leading questions from the stern officers. It’s a tense scene bordering on the sickening, and the trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s supercharged period piece Detroit only get more brutal from there.
Serious question: does any single entertainer have such complete dominion over their chosen field as Weird Al Yankovic wields over the song parody? Skeptics may scoff that musical spoofery is a stupid thing to become really, really, virtuosically good at, but the point stands that Yankovic has completely and totally mastered his preferred art form. So when the producers behind the upcoming film adaptation of the Captain Underpants chapter book series needed to find a talent for their theme music, of course their choice was obvious. In no insignificant way, Weird Al Yankovic was born to write a peppy pop tune about tightened-whiteys.
We owe a lot to scientists — they cured polio, got us on the moon, and they‘re doing their darnedest to stop us from methodically killing the planet. But man, what a bunch of nerds. It seems like every time biologists discover a new species of animal and need to give it a name, they take the opportunity to bust out a reference to their favorite bit of geek-approved pop culture. Lest we forget the velvet worm named after My Neighbor Totoro, and we’d be remiss to overlook the euglossa bazinga, a rare bee with a Big Bang Theory catchphrase as its namesake. And it appears that now the nerds are at it again.
We‘ve only just entered May, but in the first few months of 2017, the year has yielded a surprisingly eclectic array of blockbusters. Survey the biggest earners to date, and you’ll see a socially critical horror flick from a first-time director, a spin-off based on a cross-property licensing deal within a corporate brand expansion, and a tough-as-nails superhero side project with post-apocalyptic Western overtones. The latest Fast and Furious installment looks most at home in the top five so far, but more unexpected still is that it’s been handily defeated by the year’s top earner, Disney’s handsomely mounted revival of Beauty and the Beast. And now, the unlikely box-office behemoth has claimed another record.
In case you weren’t aware, a pretty major situation has been percolating in the entertainment industry over the past month. Unsatisfied with the conditions of their work and continued employment, the Writers’ Guild of America went to the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers to renegotiate the terms of their collective contract. A bitter standoff summarily broke out, with the possibility of another writers’ strike — you may remember the last freeze-out, which stretched from late 2007 into early 2008 — looming on the horizon. Today brings a resolution to the saga of the last few weeks, and in true Hollywood fashion, everyone’s getting a happy ending.
If you ever bellowed those words in the mirror while holding a cardboard tube aloft like a sword shortly after giving yourself a DIY bowl-cut, you were probably a fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. That, or a kid with extremely weird hobbies. Either way, the series of comics, cartoons and collectibles remains a cherished part of ’80s nostalgia, and as we have learned time and again over the past few years, no corner of Generation X’s childhood is safe from the plunderers at the major movie studios.
This past weekend, a seismic shift in box-office history took place and went largely unnoticed. The writing was on the wall for Star Wars’ legacy in the all-time top 10 highest-earning films, as noted on Reddit prior to the start of this past weekend. Box-office behemoth Beauty and the Beast continued to generate healthy grosses in its fifth weekend of release, ending the weekend with a princely (or should I say, princessly!) sum of $471.1 million. This gave the film a slight edge of the next-most-lucrative film on the list, which just so happened to be George Lucas’ original space opus. Star Wars and its lifetime gross of $461 million have now slid down to the #11 spot.
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