If you thought Disney was done spinning live-action films out of its animation catalog after Alice in Wonderland, think again. Director Tim Burton’s $1 billion grossing take on Alice (which unfolds as a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s original novel… sorta) opened the floodgates for even more re-imaginings of famous children’s tales – and one of them is a live-action treatment of the Cinderella fairy tale from the House of Mouse.
Cate Blanchett – who returns as Galadriel in this December’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - is in talks to become the first cast member signed on for the project, which would feature the Oscar-winner in the iconic evil stepmother role (known as Lady Tremaine in Disney’s 1950 hand-drawn adaptation).
The Cinderella re-telling has been developing over at Disney since 2010, based on a pitch from Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses). Back then, Amanda Seyfried was rumored to be playing the famous gal with glass slippers; however, there is no mention of the Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables actress in Deadline‘s scoop about Blanchett being “in deep talks” to join the new production (which should be a more conventional fairy tale re-envisioning that Joe Wright’s Hanna, featuring Blanchett as the ‘wicked stepmom’).
Disney has attached ex-music video director Mark Romanek to Cinderella, where he will draw from a screenplay crafted by Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass) based on McKenna’s pitch. That might sound like a weird mix of creative talent, seeing how Romanek’s previous feature-length efforts (One Hour Photo, Never Let Me Go) are worlds apart from the fluffy rom-coms and feel-good drama that Weitz and McKenna are known for writing. Then again, Tarsem Singh wasn’t exactly known for kiddie material before he delivered a bright and bubbly rendition of Snow White with Mirror Mirror (which, arguably, is a better riff on the fairy tale than the more-popular Snow White and the Huntsman).
Moreover, Deadline previously described the film as follows:
… The re-imaging of the classic tale where the prince is set for a politically arranged marriage, until the evil plan is threatened when the prince meets Cinderella.
That’s to say, Romanek’s retelling could fall closer to a ‘realistic’ take on the story (a la Drew Barrymore’s Ever After: A Cinderella Story) than Disney’s whimsical and fantastical animated version. Blanchett isn’t exactly known for signing off scripts unless they have the potential to be something special (yes, that includes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), so something about McKenna and Weitz’ take on the centuries-old story must have been promising enough to secure her commitment.
Perhaps the only significant concern at this point is that Blanchett could steal the show as Cinderella’s very evil (but also very attractive) stepmother – as happened with Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman. That will largely depend on who ends up playing the lead and how well-written her role is (say what you will about Kristen Stewart’s performance in SWATH, but she didn’t have much to work with).
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
As The Wolverine reaches the final stretch of principal photography, the next team-based X-Men franchise installment pushes forward in pre-production with director Bryan Singer now at the helm. Serving as both a sequel to X-Men: First Class and a bridge between it, the X-Men trilogy, and potentially the Wolverine solo films, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the most ambitious X-project to date.
Singer began using Twitter this month and is taking advantage of the social media platform to divulge tidbits of exciting information on Days of Future Past, from photos of meetings with the writer Simon Kinberg and returning costume designer Louise Mingenbach to more recently, major casting announcements.
We told you to count on Patrick Stewart returning from what he said on multiple occasions about reprising the role and we’re happy that it’s now a reality.
With the story of Days of Future Past being that of a tale of time travel, from the outset and confirmation of the film’s subtitle Singer explained that this project would strive to explore the larger X-Men universe and draw from grander stories from the books, taking inspiration with what Marvel Studios has done with their unified cinematic universe. He said that with the time travel plot device, they can connect the dots so to speak, between the X-Men films and ideally, make sense of the broken continuity.
With Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen both returning as Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Eric Lensherr (Magneto), respectively, we have to ponder how exactly they fit into the story. At the end of X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto had seemingly lost his mutant ability to control magnetism but there was a hint his powers could be returning to him. For Professor X, he died at the hands of the Phoenix, but in the post-credits scene, it was revealed that he passed his mind into the body of his brain dead brother.
If Days of Future Past picks up from there, at least for one of the time periods it will explore, older Professor X could very well walk again and Magneto may not be the powerful mutant terrorist leader he once was. The alternative however, and one that may be more appealing to Singer (and fans) is that he uses time travel as a way to rewrite the events of X-Men 3, the film he was originally meant to direct before dropping out for Superman Returns. If that’s the case, we could get Singer’s version of what should have happened in X-Men 3 (read about it here) and all of these characters – or at least most of them – could potentially return.
While it’s not confirmed yet, it seems likely that Hugh Jackman will return in some capacity as well. He’s not only the poster boy of the entire X-Men movie franchise, but the Wolverine character was also central to the Days of Future Past story in Marvel Comics. That being said, while we do believe Jackman will reprise the role again, Singer’s film may be very, very different from what’s in the books, even if there are giant mutant-hunting Sentinels, as revealed by Fox’s newly hired Marvel movies consultant.
While the story details remain up in the air, with plenty of announcements (Famke Janssen says stay tuned!) to come over the next few months before production begins in April, we can safely and happily say that the black leather costumes of the X-Men trilogy will not be returning. That either means X-Men in normal clothes, or perhaps costumes more in tune with what the characters wear in the books since the retro-inspired designs worked well in X-Men: First Class and fans accepted the authentic from-the-books attire from The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Bryan Singer will direct X-Men: Days of Future Past with returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, who could be joined by the return of Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore. Stay tuned!
Rob Keyes blogs at Screen Rant.
The new trailer for Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty paints a tense, but vague, picture of their film – which is about the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden that culminated with Navy SEAL Team Six’s successful raid on the al-Qaeda head’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. We all know what the final outcome was, so the devil’s in the details.
Bigelow and Boal have been playing things close to the chest on Zero Dark Thirty, so much so that the teaser trailer was technically the first official confirmation of the film’s cast. The new promo doesn’t shed light on how the duo are compressing so much information into a coherent narrative, though it does offer a quick sketch of the more central players in the film.
Judging by the new trailer, it appears Zero Dark Thirty partially centers on the efforts of an intelligence agent played by Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, The Help), who uncovers vital information that could lead U.S. military forces to bin Laden’s secret location. However, we also glimpse important participants like Mark Strong and Kyle Chandler as fellow CIA agents, Joel and Nash Edgerton as members of SEAL Team Six, and James Gandolfini – who EW has confirmed is playing the current Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta.
Overall, according to Bigelow (via EW), there are over 100 speakings roles in Zero Dark Thirty, including “teams of operatives, from [Department of Defense], CIA, Navy SEALs, et al. that intersect with foreign nationals and enemy combatants.” So, although Chastain and Strong get the most screen time in the trailer, this is very much going to be an ensemble piece.
Now, as we’ve discussed in the past, there’s no doubt that Bigelow and Boal have their work cut out for them. It doesn’t matter how exhaustively they’ve researched the history behind the bin Laden manhunt – or how few liberties they take with the facts – Zero Dark Thirty is going to take a pounding from all corners of the political spectrum, with contradictory accusations about its alleged socio-political biases and fabrications flying in every direction (thank goodness the U.S. election will be over by that point).
However, few filmmakers know how to create pulse-pounding suspense and nerve-wracking thrills like Bigelow. Plus, she and Boal demonstrated they know how to create enthralling cinema together with the Best Picture-winning Hurt Locker. So, on those grounds, this movie’s easily worth recommending for anyone who’s just interested in an intense, well-acted viewing experience.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
In the past five years, the city of Geneva, New York, has emerged from decades of post-industrial limbo and embraced its status as a college town. Establishments like The Red Dove Tavern, Opus, Joe’s Hots (which was the subject of a documentary in this year’s festival), Finger Lakes Gifts & Lounge, Stomping Grounds, and Microclimate have reanimated a previously soporific (and sometimes ominous) downtown. Many of the owners of these establishments are not lifelong residents, but outsiders who have ended up in Geneva for one reason or another. Others grew up in Geneva and/or the surrounding areas, moved away, and then returned to take advantage of the wide open spaces and low property value. They are passionate about the natural beauty of the area and the opportunities Geneva represents.
On the more arts end of this development is Headless Sullivan, an alternative/experimental theater group; Geneva 13, a ‘zine devoted to documenting the peculiarities of the city; The Cracker Factory, an arts space that exhibits the work of artists and hosts the Finger Lakes Film Festival, an annual showcase of short films held every November. While not particularly oriented toward the independent film community, the Finger Lakes Film Festival is perhaps the only film event in Western New York that not only acknowledges but cultivates a DIY Film Culture. Like a lot of people involved with the exhibition of independent film these days, the organizers of the Finger Lakes Film Festival are motivated by nothing except a passion for showcasing locally-oriented short films.
I’ve been meaning to write about the FLXFF for a few years now. In 2009, I had a film in the festival, Strong Enough for a Man. For the last couple of years, I’ve been hard at work on my own feature, which has kept me from submitting material to the 2010, 2011, and the 2012 festivals. In the past, the festival was spread over the course of three nights: two nights of screenings, and an awards show. This year, everything was presented in one evening, in part, because the festival received fewer submissions than it has in past years. Nonetheless, organizers Kevin Dunn and Michelle Eades seemed very pleased with the turnout. “There are way more people than we expected!” Dunn announced at the start of the program.
The festival is divided into three age categories: K-12, College, and General, and divided five genre categories: Narrative, Experimental, Animation, Documentary, and Music Video. There are only two prerequisites as far as entering the films: the filmmaker must have resided in the Finger Lakes Region at one point in their life, and the film must be less than 20 minutes in length. The evening was broken into two parts: six films in the first part, five films in the second part. At the end of the evening, the audience voted on the People’s Choice, which was tallied as the other awards were handed out. Each filmmaker was handed a trophy that was designed by Brandon & Amy Phillips, owners of Miles & May and The Cracker Factory.
Each year, there are some films that are worthy of being entered into larger festivals, and this year was no exception. Among the standouts (in this writer’s opinion) of this year’s festival were Raymond McCarthy-Bergeron’s Here Inside You, a montage of city scenes and interpretive dances, and Christar Kei Yan Wan’s The Puzzled, a multi-screen presentation of a man trying to communicate with his girlfriend, which won the grand prize. Also impressive was More Than A Restaurant, a short documentary about Joe’s Hots and owner Joe Malone’s contributions to the city of Geneva; Alex Aronson’s very funny Extreme Home Makeover: Manhattan Edition; and 14-year-old Ali Augustine’s Just Get Up, a stop-motion animation short made with a doll named Peyton that won the People’s Choice Award. Returning with films this year were past award winners Matias Shimada with New Exposures, winner of the Narrative Film Award; Noah Pitifer and his film The Secret; and Max Messie with two films, Mistakes Made and Sunset Swimming.
If there’s anything I wish was at this festival, it’s the one thing I wish they had every year: a Q&A session at the end of the screenings. A Q&A session would give people a chance to learn how these movies got made, and what motivated the filmmakers to make them. Otherwise, a great program as always, and I am looking forward to next year’s festival. Hopefully I’ll have something to show.
Here is a complete list of this year’s winners:
Erin Scherer blogs at the Film Panel Notetaker.
'Girl Meets World': Which original cast members are returning for the 'Boy Meets World' series? (+video)
[UPDATE: Danielle Fishel has posted her own statement about Girl Meets World.]
Just about every other person who came of age watching Boy Meets World back in the 1990s – or when the Disney Channel began reruns in the early 2000s – was hit by a strong wave of nostalgia when the story broke earlier this month that BMW co-creator (no pun) Michael Jacobs and the Mouse House are actively putting together a followup TV series, titled Girl Meets World.
GMW revolves around the 13-year-old daughter of (still) married couple Cory and Topanga Matthews. We’re currently waiting to learn any major plot details beyond that – though, it’s confirmed that Cory is now a junior high teacher, following in the footsteps of his ever-tormented mentor and neighbor George Feeny (William Daniels).
Everyone’s been waiting for confirmation that Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are returning to portray the adult Cory and Topanga, seeing how the two literally grew up playing those roles throughout all seven seasons of BMW. In fact, at this point, it’s fair to say that fans of Jacob’s original coming-of-age sitcom would be up in arms if another pair of grown-up actors were recruited to portray those characters in Girl Meets World (Topanga’s parents, on the other hand…).
TV Line reports that Savage and Fishel have indeed signed on to return as parent-age Cory and Topanga. (Are you feeling old yet, members of Generation X?) There are still plenty of other Boy Meets World cast members who could/should make an appearance on Girl Meets World – be it crazy Uncle Eric (Will Friedle) or ‘Uncle Shawn’ (Rider Strong) – especially since, let’s face it: the majority of the audience that’s going to tune in for this series (initially) will be grown-up BMW fans yearning to see some familiar faces on the sidelines.
On that note: it will be interesting to see whether or not Girl Meets World develops the sort of following that its predecessor did. Looking back, it’s all the more easy to see why Boy Meets World was successful: the show has likable leads, memorable supporting characters and manages to offer wholesome family entertainment without fully sugar-coating the lives of younger people (see: Cory’s frustrations with abstinence).
Can Girl Meets World manage a similar feat once nostalgia has worn off for Boy Meets World fans? It could be tricky, seeing how the tone of that series might end up closer to Disney Channel TV series from the past decade (ex. Hannah Montana) – or, alternatively, if the style doesn’t change, more cynical modern viewers might perceive it as too corny. As the wise man once said, we shall see…
Update: Fishel has posted the following statement (via Tumblr):
First of all, let me say that you, the fans of Boy Meets World, have been awesome. That word is often used incorrectly by people, including myself, on a daily basis but you have truly been awe inspiring. You, yes, even YOU, are the reason that Girl Meets World WILL BE MADE. J
I do not know how many BMW cast members will be returning for GMW, or how often they may appear if and/or when they do appear. I am going to do my best to not speak for others with this open post. But because I have known Michael Jacobs, Ben Savage, Rider Strong, Will Friedle, and Bill Daniels for 19 years, I know we share many of the same feelings regarding the 7 wonderful years we spent making BMW. Those years were among the most warm, hilarious, insightful, educational years of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Another thing I wouldn’t trade for anything is the integrity and the heart with which BMW was made. I promise with the entirety of my heart that we will make GMW with the same honesty, innocence, and intelligence that you learned to expect from BMW.
I say this because making the decision to do the show involved more conversations than you can possible imagine. These conversations were with the same people I mentioned above because they were all instrumental in creating and maintaining the heart of BMW. The first comment out of every person’s mouth was, “Let’s only do it if we think we can create something as special as we did with BMW.” When the news leaked that GMW was in the making, literally days after I first heard about the project myself, Michael Jacobs and I had a conversation and we talked about how we were both so blown away by the reactions from all of you. We felt honored. We felt nostalgic. We felt touched by the excitement in your comments, tweets, Tumblr, and Facebook posts. But most of all, we felt inspired. We felt inspired to bring these characters back to life and to tell you more of their stories. Michael said to me, “Danielle, when I read what people say BMW meant to them it makes me so very proud of all of us. I think it is important for us, for as long as we are fortunate enough to have this opportunity to do GMW, that we all look each other in the eyes every so often and make sure we know we have something of value to offer the audience.” I think we have that with GMW.
I say that so that I can say this: GMW is a new show. It isn’t BMW brought back to life but in current day. It will have familiar faces, familiar themes, and familiar messages. It will also have new faces, new themes, and new messages. BMW never spoke down to the audience and we are going to do our best to never do that with GMW. But please keep in mind that this there will be episode 1, of season 1, of a brand new show. We started at the same place with BMW but we evolved and we evolved quickly. For those of you who knew and loved BMW, please allow this show to evolve as well. Stick with us. Give us a chance.
In the meantime, a sincere thank you to every one of you for all of your tweets (I read them all, every day. It killed me not to be able to talk about it!), even those of you who asked us not to do it. There were only a few of you but I know why you don’t want GMW to happen and I appreciate that BMW meant enough to you that you don’t want to see its legacy tarnished. I can assure you, we don’t want that either. Your love, dedication, and appreciation means more to us than you could ever know and it will be the driving force behind our passion to make the best show we can possibly make. Thank you for giving us the chance to do it again.
More on Girl Meets World as the story develops.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
The Oscar race now officially includes Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty – which shouldn’t come as a huge shock, seeing how the former is an adaptation of producer Cameron Mackintosh’s award-winning Broadway smash from director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Meanwhile, the latter is a drama/thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden from Oscar-winning Hurt Locker screenwriter and director duo, Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow.
Nonetheless, both films had their first public screenings over the Thanksgiving holiday frame and drew unadulterated praise from those in attendance. Read on for our breakdown of what the general consensus is for both titles… so far.
Hooper’s Les Miz has long been regarded as something special, seeing how trailer footage suggests it infuses Mackintosh’s original pop musical with a stripped-down aesthetic that helps ground the flamboyant proceedings (unlike Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera or Rob Marshall’s Nine, to name a few examples). Moreover, the cast boasts heralded actors with professional singing experience; that’s in opposition to some of the recent movie musicals that’ve relied on either name-actor casts (Mamma Mia!) or Broadway veterans (Rent).
Reviews for Les Miz are embargoed for the time being, but Indiewire has rounded up Twitter reactions from several critics and film journalists who were at the first open showing. Here’s a bullet-point summary of the responses:
- Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean could land his first Best Actor Oscar nod.
- Anne Hathaway as Fantine is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination.
- Eddie Redmayne as Marius turns in a solid supporting performance.
- Russell Crowe takes a “Jesus Christ Superstar rock-opera” approach that distinguishes Inspector Javert (but may not be to everyone’s taste).
- The film as a whole is a “tour de force” and “tearjerker” that seems destined to become a Best Picture nominee.
Similar to Les Miz, Zero Dark Thirty is picking up accolades for its leading lady – Jessica Chastain as CIA analyst Maya (who is based on the real CIA agent that led the manhunt for bin Laden) – and its qualities as a cinematic viewing experience. Deadline has published an article that touches on the heavy research by Boal and Bigelow, suggesting the two have learned some lessons from the blowback over Hurt Locker‘s portrayal of Iraq war military operations (which some real-life vets criticized as inauthentic).
Here’s an excerpt from THR critic Todd McCarthy’s review:
“As it has emerged instead, ['Zero Dark Thirty''] could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal, as one keenly feels the drive of the filmmaker channeled through the intensity of Maya’s character. The film’s power steadily and relentlessly builds over its long course, to a point that is terrifically imposing and unshakable. Chastain carries the film in a way she’s never been asked to do before. Denied the opportunity to provide psychological and emotional details for Maya, she nonetheless creates a character that proves indelible and deeply felt.”
Time‘s Richard Corliss echoes those sentiments (read his review), saying that Zero Dark Thirty is a streamlined, but detail-oriented, representation of real events “in the tradition of [authors] Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.” Moreover, Corliss feels that Bigelow’s film trounces Ben Affleck’s own true story CIA thriller (and fellow Best Picture contender) Argo, in terms of both better direction and taking fewer liberties with the facts.
In summation: both the Best Actress and Picture race heated up something fierce over the holiday frame, between early responses to Les Miz and Zero Dark Thirty. That’s not to mention, Ang Lee’s acclaimed 3D visual feast Life of Pi opening in theaters (read our review) and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (read our review) beginning a limited release and generating discussion about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance therein.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
(Warning: Spoilers for part of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2" ahead.)
After stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner took part in various interviews as part of a "Breaking Dawn" media blitz, the Internet started buzzing about hints the actors had dropped about a twist in the last movie of the “Twilight” series. A twist? There was no twist in the books. Would something be different? Would the ending be changed? Would protagonist Bella Swan (Stewart) end up with someone besides her vampire husband Edward (Pattinson)? What did it mean?
And now the movie, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” (ask film critics how happy they are not to have to type that out anymore) has been released, and it was discovered that, while there was a twist, it didn’t affect the outcome of the story as a whole, though it did get the audience on the edge of their seats.
You see, to make a very long story short, the end of “Dawn” has Bella, Edward, and their vampire family facing off against evil vampires. At one point, it looks like a fight begins and Edward’s foster father, one of his foster brothers, and the leader of the evil vampires, among others, bite the dust (no pun intended) in the attack. Then it turns out that this was all a vision, a hypothetical situation, if you will. One of the good vampires, who can see the future, has shown the vision to the leader of the evil vampires to show him what the cost of the two sides fighting would be. This helps convince the head evil vampire (Michael Sheen, who by all accounts goes gloriously crazy as bad vampire Aro in this movie) to call off the battle.
Of course, while this scene was not actually a change to the plotline (it’s referenced in the books that Aro is made to see the vision, though the reader only hears about it afterwards), some fans still didn’t like it.
My take? Good for them for changing SOMETHING (even if, comparing it to the text, it’s an incredibly small change).
I know that adapting a book into a film is an incredibly delicate balance, even more so when the book has a devoted fanbase attached. But the director and the creative team behind him or her needs to feel free to create the best product, the best movie, that they can without it being obvious that they tied themselves to every word on the page of that book.
Case in point: the “Harry Potter” films, an almost parallel case in terms of how attached fans are to the books (and a franchise I happen to like a lot more than “Twilight” – sorry, fans). The first two movies in the eight-part series were directed by “Home Alone” helmer Chris Columbus and are fine, but you could almost feel the desperation in “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets” to pack everything in, make sure no moment was missed, get as close an adaptation as possible.
“Director Chris Columbus vowed to be faithful to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and to a certain extent he is,” USA Today critic Claudia Puig wrote of the first movie. “But one can be faithful to a plot without being faithful to the book. Harry Potter, the film, looks just as dazzling as readers of Rowling's captivating book might hope. But the movie ultimately lacks the book's delightful whimsy and much of the sly verbal humor that made Rowling's tales so charming.”
But then Columbus left after “Secrets,” and the next movie in the series, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” was directed by Alfonso Cuaron. His adaptation just seemed easier, more relaxed – a trend that would continue with the rest of the movies, which were directed by two others (Mike Newell and David Yates) but had a similarly effortless air. Yes, things were left out, and sometimes – gasp – things were even different, such as the way the members of the secret club known as Dumbledore's Army were rounded up by evil headmistress Umbridge in the fifth movie. In the movie, the headmistress and her henchmen make a wall explode, revealing the members inside a hidden room. Did that happen in the book? Nope. Did that look awesome in the movie? Definitely.
Many liberties were also taken with the plot of the eighth movie, which was the second half of the seventh book, but you barely heard a peep about them from fans. Supporting character Lavender Brown, who was attacked by a werewolf but survived in the novel, was killed by the werewolf in the movie, but that showed the cost of the evil attack on the school, one which killed a lot of students. We saw, and didn’t just hear about secondhand, a scene in which two of the main characters, Ron and Hermione, finally got together, and fans literally cheered, because everyone had wanted to see that anyway.
As every book fan who is also a moviegoer knows, literary adaptations have a bad track record. And sure, directors who are given the task of creating an adaptation shouldn’t toss the book away and start throwing whatever they feel like in front of the camera. But a movie is its own entity, not just an extension of the book – or at least, it should be.
So breathe, Twihards. It’s going to be okay.
It’s almost Turkey Day, and so obviously it’s time to turn on those… Thanksgiving… movies and play all those Thanksgiving… songs?
Okay, so compared to the winter holidays and even Halloween, Thanksgiving, sandwiched in between, gets short shrift in pop culture. In terms of holiday movies, most of America would probably recognize the Peanuts singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or the Grinch stealing presents (and that’s just the animated movies), and even Halloween has gotten some Disney movies that are beloved by many ‘90s children such as “Hocus Pocus,” “Halloweentown,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” to say nothing of frightfests centered around the holiday such as the cannily titled “Halloween.”
While Thanksgiving may bring to mind turkey dinners and family gatherings, it doesn't have a lot of pop-culture recognition. However, while it’s lagged far behind its fellow fall and winter holidays, the celebration and its turkey-laden tables have served as the focus for a few movies, some classic TV episodes, and even a couple of songs. Here are a few you may have forgotten about.
–The most well-known is probably the 1987 film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” which finds a frantic Steve Martin (playing the straight man, mostly) trying to get home for Thanksgiving and meeting a friendly but disaster-prone fellow traveler (John Candy). The movie also features a turn by “This Is Spinal Tap” actor Michael McKean as a state trooper and a cameo by Kevin Bacon, whose character snags a taxi ahead of Martin.
–“Pieces of April,” which was released in 2003, stars Katie Holmes as April, a Manhattan resident trying to cook dinner for her estranged family in her tiny apartment as the family deals with April’s mother (Patricia Clarkson)’s breast cancer.
–“Home for the Holidays” is a 1995 film starring “The Incredibles” actress Holly Hunter as Claudia, a single mom who decides to spend Thanksgiving with her parents and siblings. Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft played Mom and Dad, while Robert Downey Jr. was the brother who tries to set up Claudia with a friend of his.
–The Peanuts gang, welcome at any time of year, celebrated the holiday in two separate specials. 1973 saw “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” which first aired on CBS and includes Lucy pulling that pesky football away, Charlie Brown suddenly finding himself hosting a holiday dinner for some of the other kids, and Snoopy and Woodstock in Pilgrim costumes. As part of the series “This is America, Charlie Brown,” the Peanuts gang tagged along with the Pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth in an episode titled “The Mayflower Voyagers,” which first aired in 1988.
–The longrunning NBC sitcom “Friends,” which ran from 1994 to 2004, became well-known for its Thanksgiving episodes. Memorable escapades included all six playing a touch football game which brought up old sibling rivalries between brother and sister Ross and Monica, Chandler spending the holiday in a cardboard box to make up for kissing his roommate’s girlfriend, and star Jennifer Aniston’s then-husband Brad Pitt guest-starring as an old high school classmate.
–“Cheers,” which aired from 1982 to 1993, featured a Thanksgiving dinner that ended up airborne when the cast went to Carla (Rhea Perlman)’s house for a badly cooked dinner which turned into a food fight.
–Many classic rock radio stations still play the 1967 song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” recorded by Arlo Guthrie, at noon (or occasionally other times) on Thanksgiving Day. The anti-draft song is 18 minutes long and considered a Turkey Day song because the main character, Arlo Guthrie, is arrested for littering after the town dump being closed on Thanksgiving Day leads him and his friend to throw their trash elsewhere.
–Though people who only know the beginning may be confused by its association with Thanksgiving, the song “Over the River and Through the Wood,” written by Lydia Marie Child in 1844, is often now sung for Thanksgiving because of the end of its second verse, which states “We would not stop for doll or top/For ‘tis Thanksgiving Day.” (The last line mentions pumpkin pie, too, but that could be for either Thanksgiving or the later holidays, we guess.)
The long wait for the return of Game of Thrones is almost over. This week HBO finally revealed the Game of Thrones season 3 premiere date in poster form, setting the highly anticipated return to Westeros for March 31, 2013.
The poster (see below), which is as basic as they come, simply states the date 03.31.13. If a more colorful poster is what you’re after, you’ll have to keep an eye out for HBO’s familiar release of teaser posters, character posters and season posters in the coming weeks (and months).
When Game of Thrones returns next year for season 3, there will be a few additions to the cast, hinting at what potential storylines await fans. The most notable addition is that of Mackenzie Crook as Orell, a wildling and “skinchanger.” Cook’s character comes from the source novels, but will likely be combined with the story of a similar character, Varamyr Sixskins, for the TV series, making the character of Orell much stronger than he originally was (as well as giving him abilities).
In addition to Orell, King Joffrey Baratheon will also be receiving some new guests in season 3, now that Diana Rigg has been cast as Olenna Tyrell, grandmother to Joffrey’s fiance, Margaery Tyrell. Lady Olenna, nicknamed the “Queen of Thrones,” isn’t fond of playing simple games (or being around simple minds), so it’ll be interesting to see how she gets along with everyone’s favorite evil boy King.
Not to be left out, Snow Patrol lead singer Gary Lightbody and Coldplay drummer Will Champion will also play a part in Game of Thrones season 3. As to what role they’ll play: Champion is said to be playing a drummer, while Lightbody has said that his role is “not pivotal.”
Unlike in Game of Thrones season 2, which was based on the entirety George R. R. Martin’s second novel, “A Clash of Kings,” season 3 will only use half of Martin’s third novel, “A Storm of Swords,” after produces decided to split the novel up between Game of Thrones season 3 and season 4.
Considering the length of “A Storm of Swords,” splitting it up between two seasons seems like the best option for HBO’s hit series. With so many compelling character moments, providing the producers more time to highlight those moments will certain pay off for fans of the book series who are waiting for their favorite plot-points to be depicted onscreen. That being said, I’m sure fans of just the TV series wouldn’t argue against getting more Game of Thrones for their buck, either.
The final Twilight saga chapter, Breaking Dawn – Part 2, was always expected to face an uphill battle with anyone but diehard fans of Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural romance series. Despite blockbuster box office returns, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 was met with largely negative reviews and the sense that splitting the final Twilight book into two parts arguably proved to be a disservice to the quality of the film adaptation – even if it doubled-up profits for Summit Entertainment.
It goes without saying that moviegoers who are simply uninterested or cynical about the Twilight franchise will not enjoy Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – as the film still contains the usual series staples (shirtless Taylor Lautner, glittering vampires, melodramatic romance, etc). However, does the final entry, once again directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), ultimately deliver a filmgoing experience worthy of recommendation to cautiously curious fans of entertaining cinema – in addition to the already strong Twilight series faithful?
Surprisingly, yes. As mentioned, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 isn’t going to win-over the franchise’s longtime critics and, given the amount of ties to past events and characters that dominate the proceedings, it’s still hard to recommend as a standalone experience for the uninitiated. That said, out of the (now) five film series, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 easily includes the most straightforward plot and, instead of dwelling on the core Bella, Edward, Jacob love triangle, manages to deliver a competent (albeit still campy) “war” story – complete with a fun cast of supporting heroes/villains and a finale that ends the current saga with a fiery bang. Condon shot Part 1 and Part 2 at the same time but the difference is staggering, as the latter installment is stronger in nearly every single way imaginable, with a focused story, higher production values, and a number of appealing setups. It’s still an overly-dramatic and downright cheesy escapade but, unlike most of the prior entries, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 offers enough fun for appeal to a slightly broader audience.
The Breaking Dawn – Part 2 story picks up directly after the events of Part 1: wherein Bella (Kristen Stewart) nearly lost her life during the birthing of her half-human, half-vampire daughter, Renesmee - only to be turned into a vampire at the very last minute by husband, Edward (Robert Pattinson).
In Part 2, newborn vampire Bella awakens from a post-transformation slumber and wastes no time in testing out her new supernatural powers. Unfortunately, after being reunited with Renesmee (now played by Mackenzie Foy), Bella and her daughter – along with werewolf/one-time love interest Jacob (Taylor Lautner) – are spotted by Cullen family “cousin” Irina (Maggie Grace) who mistakes Renesmee for an “immortal child” (read: a child who has been turned into a vampire and, as a result of their juvenile lack of self-control, risk exposing the existence of vampires to humans). Irina reports the Cullens to the Volturi, the vampire ruling class and police force, known for their ruthless handling of similar situations. In an effort to clear their names, and reveal the truth of Renesmee’s parentage, the Cullens recruit a roster of international vampire “witnesses” to help set the record straight or, should the Volturi choose to be unreasonable, fight to the death.
While Breaking Dawn – Part 2 still relishes in sappy cliches about “true love” and hyper-romanticized encounters between Bella and Edward, the larger plot is actually very straightforward and finds a successful balance between the sentimental franchise camp and some genuinely entertaining changes to the established format. The majority of scenes still present eye-rolling moments but, freed from all the overly-complicated teen romance, Part 2 allows a number of characters to step outside of the drama for unique moments to shine – revealing that the core Twlight universe has more going for it than the love triangle focus of earlier movies. Abstract core elements (such as the Volturi, “imprinting,” and the dangers of “immortal children”) are all explained with mostly natural exposition or engaging flashbacks – educating uninitiated audience members on the primary character beats in play.
Watching Bella experiment with her newfound powers is amusing to watch, and a welcome change of pace from her cringe-worthy descent into sickness and death in Part 1, but the real stars this round (for anyone who isn’t already grounded in Team Edward, Team Jacob, or Team Bella) is the international cast of vampires who come to aid (or in some cases mock) the Cullens for their plan to face the Volturi. Not only do some of the characters offer enjoyable riffs on traditional vampires, the film focuses heavily on each Twilight vampire’s “gift” (aka: super powers) – leading to a number of slick comic book-like “heroes” such as Benjamin (Rami Malek) with Airbender-ish control of elements in nature and chilling “villains” such as Alec (Cameron Bright) who can rob opponents of their physical senses.
On the battlefield, the combination of super-powered hero vampires, rough and tumble shape-shifting wolves, as well as blood-thirsty Volturi combatants, makes for a rousing last confrontation that is as outrageous as it is amusing (it would also make for a crazy drinking game: one drink for every decapitation). The final Twilight set-piece doesn’t come close to matching the scale of the assault on Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 but, compared to the flat visuals and underwhelming action beats in prior Twilight entries, the closing moments of the film definitely raise the series bar and should provide a satisfying conclusion for Twihards – along with fun surprises for less-knowledgeable viewers.
Still there’s no doubt that the film is held-back by mushy character moments and a “budget” look (despite the franchise raking in over $2.5 billion at the global box office) – both holdovers issues from earlier franchise entries. Even though there is no “talking wolves” colloquium this round, there are still a number of unintentionally humorous exchanges and awkward visuals (especially CGI baby Renesmee) that undercut the quality of the filmmaking – even if the final film itself delivers a worthwhile experience for its intended audience.
It’s unlikely that Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is the end of the Twilight movie franchise (given all the talk of spin-offs or further sequels) but Stephenie Meyer remains clear that it is the end of Bella and Edward’s tale. As a result, it’s fitting that the final chapter in their storyline also offers the most fun and excitement thus far – not to mention serves as the entry that could change a few minds about the available potential in the larger series. Naysayers aren’t going to be won-over (and have plenty of fair criticisms) but it’s easy to imagine that some initially reluctant viewers might be less adverse to further Twilight installments after their time with Breaking Dawn – Part 2. In our review of Part 1 I contended that, considering the passion and support of the Twihard community (not to mention resulting blockbuster profits), Summit Entertainment owed faithful fans better quality Twilight films – and Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is definitely a step in the right direction.
Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.