People like a legend. When Heath Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose in January 2008, he had just completed principal photography on his Academy Award-winning role of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s grown-up Batman flick The Dark Knight. With zero foundation in confirmed public knowledge, a narrative sprung up around Ledger’s troubled final days, that the psychological demands of portraying a figure as sick and twisted as the Joker weighed too heavily on the actor. The apocryphal notion that the role ultimately drove Ledger to suicide is way off the mark, however, explains Ledger’s sister Kate.
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.
Ahh, summer camp: any kid who was shipped off for six-to-eight weeks of rigidly scheduled fun holds the memories near and dear. There’s something sweetly all-American about the mess hall meals, late-night gabfests, the smooches stolen after s’more-and-singalong campfires. And who better to desecrate all that is wholesome than the one and only John Waters, that baron of bad taste?
For a franchise about slightly sketchy space crooks and intergalactic military types, the Star Wars films are almost conspicuously free of profanity. It makes sense from a business perspective — keeping the series PG-13 ensures that it’ll be open to a wider array of viewers — and yet the absence of cussing feels especially noticeable in a movie starring the famously coarse-tongued Carrie Fisher. The closest the series came to a four-letter word was Han Solo getting dissed as a “scruffy nerf-herder,” but a recently discovered cache of lost footage from the original 1977 Star Wars is going to change all that in short order.
Much online e-ink has been e-spilled over the question of which actor will take up the mantle of international superspy James Bond for the 25th installment of the perennial franchise. Will incumbent star Daniel Craig return for another go-round as 007, or will he be replaced by the likes of new challengers Tom Hiddleston, Dan Stevens, Emily Blunt, or Idris Elba? Who knows (not us), but as the mission to secure a star has been playing out, another big change-up has unfolded largely in the background.
Shooting a movie’s not like performing a play. The theatrical process is primal, all rooted in emotion and immersion within the fictional moment. Production on a feature film requires far more on a technical level, to the point where actors will be ordered to pick up a spoon in the exact same way ten times, just to be safe. (David Fincher famously went through one hundred takes to nail the opening breakup in his magnum opus The Social Network.) For the typical actor, most of filmmaking is waiting around for stuff to happen — but that’s far less tiresome when you get to hang out with Carrie Fisher between calls of “ACTION!”
Once and future Robin actor Chris O’Donnell made an appearance on Conan O’Brien last night to promote his current TV home NCIS: Los Angeles. Among the friendly chatter, the fiery-haired talk show host grilled a visibly uncomfortable O’Donnell about one of his more surreal experiences on a film set during the ’90s. See, one of O’Donnell’s first major roles came on the well-respected drama Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino, where they had to deal with a unlikely prima donna guest star. Donald Trump’s acting career has taken him through the Home Alone franchise and beyond, but this credit in particular eluded him.
Yesterday, Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich ran an illuminating essay on Netflix’s testy relationship with the original films it releases, explaining how their model of bypassing theatrical release and going straight to streaming ultimately degrades the viewing experience and makes the movies harder to find and appreciate. (This comes hot on the heels of an official denunciation from the Federation of French Cinemas against the Cannes Film Festival for allowing TV into their lineup for the first time ever.) Clearly, his words went straight to the top of Netflix’s corporate office, as the online video giant has issued a letter to their shareholders assuring them that everything’s going to be fine and movies aren’t dead, probably.
This past weekend saw the Coachella Music Festival descend on the deserts of Indio, California for a multi-day celebration of artistic expression, obscenely expensive designer drugs, and that thing where white women dress up in traditional Native American garb. Among such Top 40 stalwarts and tastemaker-blog darlings as Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and Lady Gaga, an unexpected name claimed the mainstage: German composer of film scores Hans Zimmer, bringing his touring act to new highs for the festival attendees. Above, you’ll find the most complete, cleanly-recorded account of Zimmer’s massive live show to date, in which the multiple Academy Award-winner shreds with the best of them.
Audiences who stuck around after the end credits of newly released cinematic demolition derby The Fate of the Furious were disappointed to learn that there would be no bonus stinger scene, as has been customary in past installments of the franchise. (In addition to the pre-existing disappointment resulting from learning that Charlize Theron’s character is named Cipher.) It’s atypical for the series to refrain from teasing its next ride, and many fans are wondering what gives. Wonder no longer! Vin Diesel, as fate would have it, is reportedly to blame.
Star Wars is great, everyone’s pretty much on the same page about that one, but the problem is that it’s just so dang long. Eight movies, with more on the way? And they’re all two-plus hours? And there are TV shows?! It would take a viewer days if not weeks to wade through all of that action, and so the minds at Lucasfilm and Disney have done us all the service of condensing Star Wars into segments a little closer to bite-size. In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes; likewise, in the future, new Star Wars content will be between two and three minutes long.
It’s pretty unilaterally agreed that Charles Manson was a bad egg. As the leader of the hippie cult known as The Family, he terrorized Southern California with a killing spree that claimed seven lives, including that of actress and Roman Polanski spouse Sharon Tate. He was sentenced to nine consecutive lifetime sentences in prison, where he continues to hang out today. Pop culture has made no bones about its continuing fascination with this charismatic, repulsive figure and a new project will soon provide a fresh perspective on the real-life villain — with another villain along for the ride.
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