Quvenzhané Wallis, the nine-year-old Actress who won over audiences worldwide with her debut performance in the Academy Award-nominated indie film Beasts of the Southern Wild, is about to take a huge step into the mainstream for her next starring film role.
Wallis, who is the youngest person in history to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, will play the lead role of Annie in upcoming remake of the famous musical. Wallis was rumored for the role in recent weeks, but was confirmed for the part in an announcement by Columbia Pictures.
The film, which has been in development for several years, was originally set to star Willow Smith, daughter of megastar producers Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. However, Smith dropped out of the film recently, opening up the spot for the rising young Wallis.
The Annie remake should be a perfect fit for Wallis, who won over audiences worldwide with her performance as the brave, resourceful, and confident Hushpuppy in Beasts. The character of Annie, which is based on the 1930s comic strip Little Orphan Annie, will require the same tenacious and plucky spirit.
Will Gluck (Easy A) will direct Wallis in the role from a script by Emma Thompson, which was rewritten by Aline Brosh McKenna. In addition to Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie is produced by rapper and entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.
Before taking over the iconic role of Annie, Wallis will star alongside an all-star cast (including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Giamatti) in director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Most Academy Awards viewers aren’t expecting to see Quvenzhané Wallis take home the Academy Award for Best Actress tonight, but few people would argue that the young actress doesn’t have a long and promising career ahead of her.
What do you think of Wallis’ casting as Annie? Is the sprightly young actress a perfect fit for the role?
Filming for the Annie remake is expected to begin this Fall, ahead of a late 2014 theatrical release.
Rob Frappier blogs at Screen Rant.
Children of the 20th Century grew up playing with Lego toys, whereas the current young generation also has a collection of movie-themed video game spinoffs to enjoy (Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Lego Harry Potter, etc.). No surprise, Warner Bros. is expanding the multi-platform franchise to now include theatrically-released movies, beginning with a project titled… The Lego Movie.
Lego Movie previously went under such titles as Lego: The Piece of Resistance and just Lego, but the 3D computer-animated feature is now prepared to release under a title so generic, it almost sounds like a joke. Of course, that’s probably the idea, coming from writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street).
Here is the official synopsis for The Lego Movie:
The 3D computer animated adventure tells the story of Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.
Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) is voicing Emmet, meaning he will headline Lego Movie in animated form, before playing the flesh-and-blood leading (hu)man Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Will Arnett (Arrested Development) is reported to be voicing the Batman Lego and Morgan Freeman is lending his vocal gravitas to a character named Vitruvius. The rest of the star-studded voice cast includes Liam Neeson (Taken 2), Alison Brie (Community), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games).
Here is the official movie logo (click for full-sized version):
The Lego Movie screenplay was written by Lord and Miller, drawing from a story they co-wrote with Dan and Kevin Hageman (Hotel Transylvania). Personally, I see a lot of potential for delightful cartoonish mayhem and self-aware humor in a premise that involves a Lego mini-figurine being “mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person,” so this project seems to be starting on the right foot, even in the writing stage.
Lord and Miller have earned a reputation for bringing sly wit and inspired creativity to their directing efforts, even on the most calculated of cash grabs (such as a 21 Jump Street movie that preys on lingering nostalgia for a goofy 1980s TV show concept). Combine that with their proven skill at using the 3D animation medium for proper effect in their Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs adaptation, and that is reason enough to anticipate their Lego Movie (in my humble opinion, anyway).
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
“Our thoughts are with everyone in Boston tonight,” host Tom Bergeron said at the beginning of the episode. “I have family members and many friends there. My heart is with you.”
The night’s competition included the return of four former pro dancers on the show, Tony Dovolani, Anna Trebunskaya, Chelsie Hightower, and Tristan MacManus. The current celebrity contestants danced with their partners next to two of the four pro dancers performing the same routine for part of the dance, which would make any mistakes on the celebrity’s part even more glaring.
Zendaya and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy performed an Argentine tango and earned two 10 scores, the first of the season, from the judges. Chmerkovskiy dedicated the scores to the residents of Boston.
During the “side-by-side” portion, Zendaya and Chmerkovskiy danced next to Chmerkovskiy’s brother Maks and Trebunskaya. In an interview with USA Today, Zendaya said she initially found it hard to tap into the emotion that the tango required.
“I'm young,” she said. “It's kind of tough when you're talking about being in love and all this stuff I've never experienced or understood in my own life.”
But the judges all praised her performance.
“Every move you do has a story… and I love it,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba told Zendaya.
With two 10 scores and one 9, Zendaya and Chmerkovskiy moved to the front of the pack with a score of 29.
Behind Zendaya and Chmerkovskiy were celebrity contestant Kellie Pickler and pro dancer Derek Hough, who earned a score of 27. Occupying the bottom slot was comedian Andy Dick and his partner, Sharna Burgess, who earned a score of 18.
He insisted the future would be a bleak, blasted landscape, populated by panicky, gun-toting radicals and people whose only fleshly pleasures are as mechanical as an animated film about robots. Even our most promising rockers would be dead by one misadventure or another. But before this even happened, there would be a Third World War, one that would finish us off before this ugly, Orwellian existence could even begin.
That’s what he said. That’s what David Bowie said on his 1973 album, "Aladdin Sane." So how did he make The Apocalypse sound so groovy that we couldn’t wait for the world to end? Mostly it was the music, which was arguably, the most lyrical, indelibly melodic, and rockin’ stuff the man with the orange shag and unmatched eyes had yet made. In any case, on the occasion of "The Next Day," Bowie’s first new album in a decade, it’s time to celebrate the old. "Aladdin Sane" turns 40 in April and it still stimulates with an undimmed intensity.
When it was first released, the stakes were high. With his previous record, which introduced hubristic rocker, Ziggy Stardust, Bowie had finally broken through. After years of folky tunes and false starts, he found false eyelashes and blush worked better. In his glittering jumpsuit and stacked heels, Bowie’s identity may been ambiguous. As for those high stakes? Well, this is the guy who began "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" with a dicey proposition: that the world would end in five years. It was now a year later. What, we space cadets wondered, would he do for an encore?
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Make good on his promise. That’s what David Bowie and his wonderfully poisonous Spiders did. What seems most in jeopardy in his brave, barren new world is rock 'n' roll itself. On two tracks, there are distinct references to the extinction of the music we loved. In the album’s opener, "Watch That Man," our humble narrator describes a party where “an old-fashioned band of married men/Were looking up to me for encouragement.” Everybody knew this had to be Bowie’s cheeky description of The Rolling Stones. Still, to hear those thirtyish thugs depicted that way was really depressing. The only ameliorating aspect, the thing that made the idea tolerable, was that Bowie and band were now rocking harder than the Stones. Led by first lieutenant and guitarist Mick Ronson, "Man," with its power chords and Chuck-Berry-screaming-like-Little-Richard vocal, made it clear who was now The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Act.
Not five songs later, on "Time," Bowie mourns the overdose of drummer Billy Murcia, who’d been the driving backbeat of the New York Dolls, a band who hotwired rock and were driving it down the road at a merciless speed. But referencing Murcia proved Bowie didn’t shy away from the fact that music was falling apart, that perhaps there’d be no rock in years to come, even though his Spiders belied this with every crashing downbeat.
If these deaths didn’t worry you about the future, listening to the record’s ominous title track made you wonder if there’d even be one. "Aladdin Sane," crowned by Mike Garson’s piano (sounding like Monk in a manic state), is not just the record’s showpiece but also its mission statement. Clearly, it’s about world war. Was a third one on its way? Who would we be fighting, anyway? One minute David’s referencing Japanese “sake,” the next he’s dithering on about “Paris or maybe hell.” Did he know something we didn’t?
Garson says this about this epic song and his unforgettable playing on it: “First I played a blues solo. David said, ‘No, that’s too common.’ Then I tried a Latin solo. Finally he said, ‘You played on the avant-garde scene in the ‘60s. Play something like that.’ So I did one take of that (atonal) solo and he was thrilled. I quoted from 'Tequila.' There’s some 'Rhapsody In Blue' and 'On Broadway' there, too. I didn’t understand the words. But the title led me to believe that’s where I should go.” Although he didn’t hear the record “for 20 years,” Garson says plenty of others have – and they still call him because of it.
“There’s something about that solo that keeps increasing people's interest," he said. "Gwen Stefani, Smashing Pumpkins, they all called me to work with them. All because of ‘Aladdin.'”
Listening to "Aladdin Sane" at the age of seventeen, when you’re already confused, might confuse you even more – gloriously so. There’s the futuristic, Philip K. Dick vibe of "Drive-In Saturday," where even in a darkened parking lot, you’re still in the dark. There’s "Panic In Detroit," where revolutionaries not only ran your city, but your school! Finally, Bowie covers "Let’s Spend The Night Together," so fast and crazy that if you put the Stones’ version on right after, Mick sounds as naughty as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Parents were right to fear this extremely open-minded alien.
Eroticism slowly disappeared from Bowie’s songbook over the next few albums (with the glorious exception of "Rebel Rebel"), but the idea of existence as dystopia never has. Now sixty-six, having survived indifferent notices, Bowie remains resolute about the horrors of life on earth on the new album "The Next Day." It’s appropriate, if disquieting, to hear the man who once saw outer space as our only out call the stars “sexless and unaroused.” Plus they peer down on us with awful indifference. He also moans about his “not quite dead” body, which is “left to rot in a hollow tree.” The disc’s final track, "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die," references the loneliest man in rock 'n' roll. Bowie sings, “Oblivion shall own you/Death alone shall love you.” It makes World War Three sound like a larf in comparison.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. After all, David Bowie has been a man of many masks since his career took flight. He may no more be this aging wretch than he was the rock and roll suicide on "Ziggy," the cleaned-up, crucifix-wearing kid singing "Heroes" or the mad prognosticator on "Aladdin Sane." And finally, does that matter?
As we celebrate this record, forty years on, today’s kids will wonder why their favorite rockers seem so tame in comparison. The rest of us will smile and remember the twisted kicks this record gave us as we sat between the speakers in our bedrooms. We may even be tempted to paint lightning bolts on our faces and wonder about the wild exploits we missed out on. Artistically, that’s one cool accomplishment for the artist, for listeners to be able to claim that so long ago, David Bowie, with one record, so utterly expanded our horizons. It may be simple, but it’s true: you really have to love a guy for that.
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The gunshots heard by students and teachers inside the school were an accident, but “Glee” characters hid in classrooms and bathrooms, some crying and recording messages to loved ones. A disclaimer before the episode advised viewer discretion because the episode “addresses the topic of school violence.”
A resident of Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six faculty members were killed during a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, told the Newtown Bee newspaper that he wished the team behind “Glee” had warned those in Newtown about what would be coming on the show. Andrew Paley is friends with Michael Slezak of TVLine.com, who saw a screener of the episode and warned him the storyline might be too much for those in the town.
“I think it’s terrible that the writers and producers of that show didn’t think to contact someone in Newtown to let us know this was coming,” Paley said. “A lot of people watch that show. They shouldn’t be upset by it.”
An anonymous Fox source told the New York Daily News that the episode had been planned since before the Newtown tragedy.
However, some on Twitter were unsettled by the episode’s content.
One user named Ximena Covarrubia (@ximena_g_c) tweeted, “I was crying like a baby while watching shooting star!!”
Bacon retweeted a comment from a fan that revealed the spoiler. A user named @jodigomes had tweeted approval of a recent plot development, which was a major twist for the show.
The actor apologized for retweeting the spoiler.
“To all the fans abroad and late watchers I'm truly sorry I retweeted a spoiler,” the actor tweeted on April 9. “I just wasn't thinking. Won't happen again.”
Bacon also posted a similar apology on his website, with the website version ending in “(My bad).”
Bacon plays a former FBI agent named Ryan Hardy who is brought back on the job after a serial killer he helped catch escapes from prison. The killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), has amassed a group of fanatical followers who will do anything to help Carroll succeed in his plot against Ryan. Further complicating matters is the fact that Ryan became involved in a relationship with Joe’s ex-wife.
Williamson told Entertainment Weekly that he mentioned to his agent, “I want to get someone like Kevin Bacon” when discussing the part of Hardy. His agent replied, “What about Kevin Bacon?”
The show is quickly approaching the end of its first season, with the last episode set to air April 29, but the “Following” network, Fox, has already renewed the show for a second season.
Bacon broke out with his lead role in the 1984 film “Footloose” and has since appeared in films such as “Apollo 13,” “Mystic River” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” as well as guest-starring on the TV show “Bored to Death.” Purefoy starred as Mark Antony on the HBO series “Rome” and recently appeared in the Showtime comedy “Episodes.”
Actress Kathryn Erbe will return to “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for a May episode, reprising her role as Alexandra Eames.
Erbe portrayed Alexandra on the “Law & Order” show “Criminal Intent” beginning in 2001, when “Criminal Intent” first came on the air. Alexandra was the partner of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character Robert Goren. “Intent” went off the air in 2011.
The actress has already guest-starred once on “Special Victims Unit,” having appeared in an episode that aired this past October. In the “Unit” episode, Alexandra was working in a homeland security task force as a lieutenant and combined forces with the "Victims" team when Alexandra's terrorism case is related to a sex trafficking ring which the "Unit" characters are looking into.
According to TVLine, “Unit” star Ice-T was responsible for the plot which will feature Erbe’s return – Alexandra helps out his character, Fin Tutuola, when someone Fin knows begins to cause problems for the characters on “Unit.”
“There’s a lot of bad blood from Fin’s past involved in it,” Warren Leight, the show’s executive producer, told TVLine of the episode.
Ice-T suggested the storyline because he said fans enjoyed a past storyline where the sister of a detective was threatened by an ex and that they should include another plot where one of the team was in trouble.
Leight said Ice-T told him, “The fans really like it when we’re in harm’s way. And don’t forget, I used to be a narcotics officer. There’s got to be a lot of people who want me dead.”
According to TVLine, rapper 2 Chainz will also guest-star in the same episode, which will air May 8, playing someone Fin knew in the past.
“Unit” is currently airing its fourteenth season and many believe the show will be renewed for another year.
Erbe has also appeared in the TV show “Oz” and the 2011 comedy “The Love Guide.”
Aly Raisman’s former Olympic teammates Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas attended the April 8 episode of “Dancing with the Stars” to cheer on Raisman, who placed first in the episode with her partner Mark Ballas.
Raisman performed a contemporary routine with Ballas that was set to the song “Titanium” by David Guetta. The theme of the evening was the best year of the contestants’ lives and Raisman had chosen 2012, when she competed at the Olympics. In addition to the “best year” theme, each celebrity participant had to perform a solo during the routine.
“I'm excited that this is the show they'll be at because it's all about the Olympics,” Raisman had said of Ross and Douglas’s appearance in an interview with USA Today.
Judge Bruno Tonioli seemed especially impressed by Raisman’s performance.
“Forget about titanium, you are going for gold,” he told her during the show.
Raisman and Ballas earned a score of 27 out of 30, while former frontrunner Zendaya and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy and contestant Kellie Pickler and her partner Derek Hough were directly behind Raisman and Ballas, with both earning a score of 26 out of 30. Contestants Victor Ortiz and his partner Lindsay Arnold and Lisa Vanderpump and her partner Gleb Savchenko tied for last place with a score of 18 out of 30. Vanderpump had fainted during one of her practices and so had reduced rehearsal time.
Raisman told USA Today that she hoped to integrate some of her “Dancing” skills to her gymnastics in the future.
“I'm excited to bring some cool moves I've learned on the show to my floor routine,” she said.
"I want to impress Carrie Ann [Inaba]," Raisman said in an interview before the show. "She said I held back the first week and that I went out of character last week, so I don't want her to think that again this week."
The former Olympian served as the captain of the American women’s gymnastics team for the London 2012 Olympics and earned a gold medal for her floor routine.
“Dancing” will eliminate another couple on its April 9 episode.
As the legacy of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who passed away at age 87 on Monday, is honored, Thatcher is also remembered in everything from songs to films. Like many symbolic historical figures, the pop culture renditions are a mix of positive and negative.
Here’s a list of some of the most notable:
"Saturday Night Live": The NBC comedy show “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at Thatcher following her election in 1979. Guest host Michael Palin, known for his role in Monty Python films, played her in one skit on Weekend Update, donning a wig to imitate her voluptuous hair.
James Bond: In the closing scene of the 1981 Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," actress Janet Brown has a cameo as Thatcher. During the closing scene, Brown speaks with James Bond, portrayed by Roger Moore, on the phone and congratulates him on a successful mission. When he asks her to "give us a kiss," she responds with, “Oh, really, Mr. Bond."
"House of Cards": Long before Netflix created a US version, the UK had its own political drama with the same title. Released in 1990 on the BBC, the four-part series took place as Thatcher has just left office. However, she is not portrayed onscreen.
"The Iron Lady": The most recent onscreen portrayal of Thatcher in 2011 had mixed reviews. While Hollywood favorite Meryl Streep won the Academy Award for the film in 2011 for what The Guardian called a “note-perfect performance,” the film was still criticized for focusing on Thatcher’s personal life rather than her politics. In The New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott argued that those entering the film with strong stances on Thatcher – either good or bad – will leave more confused. “Though the film pays lip service to Mrs. Thatcher’s analytic intelligence and tactical shrewdness, its focus is on the drama and pathos of her personal life,” Scott wrote in a statement issued on Monday, Streep herself gave her respects to the Thatcher family. “To me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit… I was honored to try to imagine her late life journey, after power; but I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side," Streep said.
"The Audience": Playwright Peter Morgan is behind a play called “The Audience,” in which Queen Elizabeth II, played by Helen Mirren, meets with 12 different historic prime ministers, including Thatcher, played by actress Haydn Gwynne. According to the show’s Facebook page, representatives for the production said the April 8 performance “will go ahead as scheduled” at London’s Gielgud Theatre. However, “as a mark of respect,” Morgan will give a short speech prior to the start.
Saba Hamedy is a Monitor contributor.
The shroud of secrecy that series creator Matthew Weiner places over every new installment – and especially the new seasons – of Mad Men has actually become an integral part of the show’s appeal. Audiences head toward the now-standard two-hour season premiere with little more to go on than a perplexing arrangement of clips and sound bites from the previous season, leaving viewers to assume that even though the characters of TV’s best program continue their inexorable march through time, perhaps nothing has really changed.
And that’s what really set this series apart from all the others: Seeing what the future has in store for Don, Megan, Sally, Betty and the entirety of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is kind of difficult. There’s a curiosity, sure, but it isn’t easy to watch as the magnificent Don Draper loses the magic that once made him the toast of Madison Avenue, or as Roger Sterling dabbles in LSD to combat the ennui that’s absorbed him even more than he’s absorbed in himself. And although it’s funny, no one wants to be reminded of getting older by watching as Pete Campbell relinquishes his hairline with less fuss than Harry Crane surrendered his office in season 5.
As we pull back and look upon it all, it seems that Mad Men is leading the audience down a path of death and despair. But after watching the spectacular season 6 premiere, ‘The Doorway, Part I & II,’ it seems that the series which left its audience with the (thankfully) unfulfilled expectation that Pete Campbell was a suicide waiting to happen, isn’t just pointing toward the end; it’s pointing toward the way out.
Last season saw Don on the precipice of becoming the Don Draper of old, after the idyllic fantasy of his marriage to Megan shifted into something that was no longer entirely under his control and therefore, not entirely fulfilling. The audience was left with Don poised to acknowledge a part of himself he’d figuratively kicked under the bed through the permissive lucidity of a fever-dream, while Jon Hamm’s brilliant and subtle performance illustrated how easily the actor playing the character – and then the actual character – could shift between identities. With an understated raise of his brow, Hamm illustrated how easily Dick Whitman became Don Draper, and how Don Draper can leave behind the man who spent much of season 5 on “love leave“ to become the man who, as we see in the season premiere, is sleeping with his neighbor’s wife.
Season 6 offers a handful of pleasures early on. There’s the thrill of finding out Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell have sideburns! Stan Rizzo and Michael Ginsberg have incredible facial hair! Burt Peterson is back! SCDP has an upstairs! Betty Francis is wandering around the Village and has dyed her hair! But more importantly, it’s still all about Don Draper and his relationship to the unalterable passage of time – which is noted by the realization that his wristwatch has stopped as he’s reading ‘The Inferno’ on a heavenly beach during the “vacation” he and Megan enjoy courtesy of Sheraton.
“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood,” Don reads in voiceover after the season begins from the POV of a man watching while a doctor performs life-saving chest compressions on him.
Naturally, that points to death, but even as Don and everyone else is seemingly stuck contemplating their own future – Weiner seems to be taking issue with the assessment that season 5 (and to an extent, the show’s future) was obsessed with death – ‘The Doorway, Part I & II’ manages to be both completely obsessed with death (e.g., Bobby Draper wants to check out a violin case because it reminds him of a coffin) and able to joke about the audience’s preconceptions about the series’ so-called obsession all at the same time.
The premiere feels like the antithesis to ‘Just a Little Kiss‘ from the get-go, as Don chats with the clearly troubled PFC Dinkins and agrees to give his bride-to-be away, despite having just met him. From then on, Don is rapt with the notion that his time in Hawaii wasn’t just a vacation; it was an experience that even he struggles to put into words. This puts the character in a sort of malaise that acts as the connective tissue throughout the rest of the episode. Even then, Don is met with a multitude of signals that either reminds him of death’s looming presence, or the past he’s tried so hard to conceal.
The two points come to a head at the funeral of Roger Sterling’s mother, as Don, experiencing someone’s death yet again, is forced to listen while an elderly woman eulogizes Roger’s mother and explains how she adored her son, and how life was full because of him. All of this (and his uncanny ability to find a libation at any social event) causes Don’s emotions – presumably about his absent maternal figure – to literally explode from within, forcing him to vomit into a handsome umbrella stand.
But it is Roger’s monologues in therapy that paint the fullest picture of Mad Men season 6 and just what’s going on with him and Don. Like Sandy, the formerly Julliard-bound violinist who regales the Francis family with Chopin’s ‘Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9 No. 2,’ these characters are just running away from their dissatisfying lives. They aren’t looking toward the end; they’re just looking for the doorway out.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.