Casting rumors come in two major flavors. On the one hand, you have concrete news about actors meeting with executives and filmmakers to discuss their participation in upcoming productions. On the other hand, you have the echo chamber of social media, where casting rumors can materialize out of thin air and then be given credibility during an interview or social media exchange with an actor. Not all fan rumors end up at the first stage, but it is true that some social media rumors have actually ended up with the actor being offered the role.
This past weekend, fans from around the world flocked to the Javits Convention Center in New York City to attend the annual conference put on by the Toy Industry Association, Inc. In recent years, Toy Fair New York has become a hot spot for movie fans as well, with new action figures and toy sets offering first looks at the comic book adaptations of the following summer. One of the big hits of this year’s conference was Spider-Man: Homecoming, with a few new character designs and even a potential look at the film’s final battle.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if art house cinema had the same weird toy leaks as blockbuster movies. These days, we’re more likely to see a character’s design leak thanks to a brand new action figure than a behind-the-scenes photo; what if the same thing happened in the world of independent cinema? What if we’d encountered Moonlight spoilers thanks to a new line of beach toys? Or if La La Land’s third act was spoiled due to a fully posable Ryan Gosling action figure? Come to think of it, I’d probably buy the heck out of a Moonlight bath toy. No shame there.
Listen. I love Batman as much as the next guy. Like many high school nerds with a chip on their shoulder, I argued passionately that the darkest Batman stories were his true self, not the goofy camp of the 1960s Adam West series. That being said, is anyone in worse need of a little levity than the Dark Knight? Batman’s gloomy personality finally reached a tipping point with Zack Snyder’s gun-happy take on the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As Jack Nicholson’s Joker said in the 1989 film, this town needs an enema.
With everyone’s feeds full of horrible news stories these days, you’ve probably already forgotten about the video of alleged animal abuse on the set of A Dog’s Purpose. Back in January, TMZ shared leaked footage of animal handlers aggressively dragging their canine star into a tank of water. The clear signs of the dog’s panic caused an internet firestorm, with star Josh Gad distancing himself from the project and PETA calling for an immediate boycott of the film. A Dog’s Purpose still performed well enough in its opening weekend, but the scandal no doubt cost it ticket sales at the box office.
While the Academy Awards may leave a sour taste in the mouths of those who think artists shouldn’t be forced to compete, there’s no denying that an Oscar nomination is still a powerful piece of validation for a lot of filmmakers, especially those from other countries. Filmmakers like Asghar Farhadi — whose 2016 film The Salesman will be seen by many Americans due to its Best Foreign Language Film nomination — should be able to take this time to engage with audiences about the importance of this work. Instead, Farhadi will have to watch the Academy Awards on television like the rest of us.
Just about six months ago, I wrote my very first ScreenCrush news item about actor Michael Sheen stepping into the director’s chair for Green River Killer, a film about the notorious Washington state serial killer and his decades-long exchanges with local police officers. I never would’ve guessed back then that my career as a news item writer would outlast Sheen’s career as an actor, but today, news broke that the actor would be stepping away from Hollywood indefinitely to shift into political organizing in his hometown of Port Talbot.
A few weeks ago, I attended a holiday party where Nick Offerman’s ‘Yule Log’ played in the background for the entire evening. As people milled about the living room, passing appetizers and making polite introductions, the wise face of Nick Offerman beamed forth from the television, taking occasional sips from a glass of whisky and listening to the crackling fire. And despite years spent listening to Mannheim Steamroller and Frank Sinatra around the holidays, it was the silence of Nick Offerman’s fake living room that now sounds the most like Christmas to me.
Last year, we published a video essay on Arnold Schwarzenegger that suggested that Arnold is much an auteur as the directors he has worked with. While most people still think of movies like Terminator and True Lies as the work of James Cameron, our own Matt Singer argued — and rather persuasively, I might add — that Arnold’s status as a cinematic auteur should be just as important a factor in how we evaluate his films. No matter who is behind the camera of an Arnold movie, you know the types of characters and narratives you are going to get.
I’d be hard-pressed to name a Disney villain I like as much as Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston. In addition to being a Sondheim-esque twist on the traditional idea of a fairy tale prince — vain, violent, and eager to confuse chivalry with misogyny — the character of Gaston has also become something of a method actor’s dream for Disney theme park employees. Remember the time that Gaston challenged a kid to a push-up contest? Or how about the time that Gaston got shouted down by a young girl? It turns out that no one goes viral like Gaston, either.
It seems to me that Moana brought in two very different audiences this holiday weekend. For some, Moana was the newest entry in a long line of Disney princess movies and a step in the right direction for the studio in terms of inclusiveness and empowering young women. For others, it was a chance to cure their Lin-Manuel Miranda withdrawals after the turnover of the Hamilton cast and the end of the regular Ham4Ham sidewalk performances. That probably explains the odd mix of millennials and children at the recent matinee you attended.
If there’s one thing that Joe Carnahan excels at, it’s overshooting our expectations. I promise that isn’t just faint praise: Carnahan has rebooted The A-Team as a summer movie; shot a feature-length film where Liam Neeson punches wolves; released an ensemble action film about the mob trying to kill a magician. Each of these films could have been a disaster in the wrong hands, but Carnahan has consistently delivered fun and thoughtful action movies where audiences least expect it. For my money, that makes him one of the most underrated writer-directors working in the action genre today.
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