This is the part when HBO’s Game of Thrones really gets interesting. Not just because of where the big traumatic turns of season 3 left us, but rather because we’re approaching that juncture where the source novels by author George R.R. Martin become a tangled knot that has frustrated more than a few of his readers over the years.
Technically speaking, the rough patch begins with book 4 of the novel series – and season 4 of the TV series is actually supposed to cover the second half of book no. 3, so one would think there’s no problem there. However, many fans have been measuring the material from book 3 and wondered if it isn’t a little too short for a full fourth season of the show. According to star Jerome Flynn (Bronn), the measurements are certainly not exact.
Speaking at a special panel during the 2013 New York Comic-Con, Flynn claimed that fans would be “quite surprised” by how different season 4 of the HBO show was from the books that inspired it. This was in reference to discussion of a fight scene in which Bronn engages in a battle concocted exclusively for the TV series.
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Truthfully speaking, Game of Thornes has always taken liberties with its adaptation of the source material; hell, they even found a way to make the infamous “Red Wedding” even more gruesome and shocking than the books did. And with other actors from the series claiming that season 4 will have even more death in it, one can only guess what showrunners D.B. Weiss, David Benioff and co. have in mind for big events like the “Purple Wedding” and the subsequent events that follow in this game-changing chapter of the Westeros saga.
If the show were to take a lot of the “interquel” elements of George R.R. Martin’s 4th and 5th books (A Feast for Crows and A Dance of Dragons) and streamline them into a more cohesive, focused narrative – while starting to lay a lot of the groundwork for those chapters earlier on (so that the development and plot progression were a lot smoother and tighter) I’d be game for it. Reading through books 4 and 5 was a lot like watching a creator sift through a mountain of ideas to find the handful of best ones to work from – no need to repeat that messy process on the TV screen when the destination is already known and the roadwork could be a lot more direct.
How about you – are you okay with the show deviating from the books, or do you like the adaptation to be more faithful?
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
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How can anybody summarize Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming Noah in 23 seconds of promo footage? Paramount tried yesterday with a brief (and admittedly effective) preview clip, but now that the full official trailer has gone online, it’s a struggle to imagine how the film could be synopsized even with a greatly expanded three-minute preview.
The big takeaway for all viewers should be clear: Noah operates on an absolutely massive scope and scale, one that’s appropriately sized in light of the Biblical exploration that makes up the core of its narrative. Certainly no one can accuse Aronofsky of a lack of effort; unlike so many blockbusters that get unnecessarily saddled with the term, Noah actually looks epic. Between the titular character’s dreams of devastation, the sheer enormity of the task he takes on as his personal burden, and the human threats to the safety of Noah, his family, and his quest, there’s an ever-present sense of grandiosity in nearly every frame on display here.
In other words, Noah means to be big and important, retelling the tale of Noah and the flood through the eyes of one of today’s most ambitious auteurs. The basics gist remains the same – Noah (Russell Crowe) builds an ark to protect his family (Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Douglas Booth) and the Earth’s creatures after receiving visions of the world’s destruction from God – but Aronofsky expands on the details, pitting his hero against not only impending Armageddon but also against the barbaric Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), who believes Noah to be a madman rather than a true prophet.
The trailer captures most of these details, taking special care to showcase Noah’s confrontations with Tubal-cain, but shows little and less of the film’s purported fantastical elements. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of a Nephilim – one of those six-armed angels spoken of in the production process – will be disappointed. At the same time, the effects on display here are really impressive, from images of the climatic flood to the painstakingly rendered hordes of animals that find refuge aboard Noah’s vessel.
If Aronofsky’s goal is to spin a visual feast out of the apocalypse, it looks like he’s succeeded. Perhaps that alone will allow Noah to skirt around controversy; the film could be taken as just as much a tale of human survival as a work of Bible interpretation, and regardless, Aronofsky’s work here (brought to life by his usual standby cinematographer, Matthew Libatique) looks stunningly gorgeous.
Andy Crump blogs at Screen Rant.
The resurgence of Disney Animation took another symbolic step Sunday when its latest film, "Frozen," topped the weekend box office in its sixth week of wide release.
"Frozen" had already taken top spot once – on its second weekend of wide release in early December. But films that have the staying power to come back and reclaim No. 1 status in nonconsecutive weeks – particularly a month later – are rare.
"Most wide-release films in general can't sustain that kind of momentum a month after first hitting theaters," writes Steven Zeitchik on the Los Angeles Times' "Movies Now" blog. " 'Frozen' is not so much in the ballpark of other animated movies as it is like uncommon, often spectacle-driven films that do: film-biz phenomena such as 'Gravity,' which just hung on at No. 5 in its fifth week, and 'Avatar,' which continued to win the weekend on its sixth and seventh weekends of release."
For example, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" was released only a week before "Frozen" went into wide release. ("Frozen" debuted in only one theater is its first week.) While the initial surge for "Catching Fire" was much larger, it slipped to No. 9 this weekend with $7.4 million. Even "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which was released two weeks after "Frozen," could only muster $16.3 million for third place this weekend.
"Frozen" took in an estimated $20.7 million this weekend, according to Rentrak, outpacing the only new release, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," which opened in second with $18.2 million.
With this weekend's performance, "Frozen" is set to cross the $300 million domestic mark Monday. It is already the No. 4 domestic film of 2013 and could conceivably catch No. 3 – "Despicable Me 2," which took in $367 million. In addition, the film could become the top grosser in the history of Disney Animation this week, outpacing the $312 million "The Lion King" brought in before being re-released in 3-D.
Coming on the heels of "Tangled" and "Wreck-It Ralph," "Frozen" suggests that Disney Animation is in the midst of a renaissance approaching the "golden age" of the early 1990s, when "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Aladdin" revitalized the studio.
“The movie is probably the best non-Pixar Disney movie since the classics of the 1990s,” Jim Silver, editor of Time to Play Magazine, a toy publication, told Bloomberg News.
So how did "Frozen" do it?
Brilliantly terrible marketing. For "Frozen," Disney took a page out of its own playbook. Three years earlier, Disney turned the Rapunzel fairy tale into the gender-neutral "Tangled" and marketed the main male character as an Indiana Jones-style swashbuckler. The fear was that Disney's previous fairy tale, "The Princess and the Frog," had underperformed because boys didn't want to go to a princess movie.
Fast forward to this fall, and one could be forgiven for thinking that "Frozen" was a movie about a snowman and a reindeer fighting for a carrot. The first trailer mentioned nothing about Anna or Elsa, the two princess-sisters at the core of the story. (The film is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen.") Even the second trailer was more about wise cracks and wacky hijinks than sisterly love.
"How wonderful is it that audiences got to experience the film’s biggest pleasures, from its heartbreaking prologue to Idina Menzel’s powerhouse ballad 'Let It Go', in a theater rather than in a spoilery trailer or television spot?" Mr. Mendelson writes. "That's the key of the 'false sell' or the 'under sell'. You build word-of-mouth by allowing the audience to 'discover' the film’s quality for themselves."
The false under-sell, he said, only works if it's a "film that absolutely delivers when audiences show up." But "Frozen" won a much-coveted "A-plus" CinemaScore rating from audiences, and the rest is history.
Good timing. The holiday season is made for family fare. Two often snow-filled weeks with the kiddos at home? Let's go to the movies! This season, "Frozen" was virtually the only game in town for family entertainment. The animated "Walking With Dinosaurs" opened Dec. 20 but has garnered little buzz, leaving the field clear for "Frozen."
The classic Disney formula. The creators of "Frozen" have been unabashed. This is a musical. Sure, "Tangled" featured songs, including one nominated for an Oscar. Some of them were lovely. But in "Frozen," the music is the engine of the movie – and it's top-of-the-playlist fantastic.
Marking a return to the formula of "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast," "Frozen" turned to Broadway for its composers and talent. Ms. Menzel, who plays Elsa, won a Tony as the original Elphaba in the musical "Wicked," and the composer husband-wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote the tunes for the Tony award-winning "Book of Mormon."
Billboard ranks the "Frozen" soundtrack as its No. 4 album – the highest rank for a Disney animated film since "Pocahontas" in 1995. On iTunes, however, "Frozen" is the top selling album, outpacing even the new release by Beyoncé.
The film's showstopper, Menzel's "Let It Go," seems a lock for an Oscar.
It's a darn good film. The film, too, seems a shoo-in for the best animated feature Oscar, telling a classic Disney fairy tale earnestly, and yet at the same time seamlessly turning the classic Disney fairy tale on its head.
" 'Frozen' tapped into the cultural zeitgeist by fine-tuning the core elements and went far-and-above what was reasonably expected of a film in its respective 'franchise'," writes Mendelson. "Coupled with its $639.9m worldwide take, this is the kind of situation where I would have felt reckless predicting this level of success, which is why it's so pleasing."
The classic supernatural romance movie Ghost left behind a legacy that includes floods of tears and endless parodies of that “Unchained Melody” pottery scene. Despite its chick-flick stigma, Ghost is a extremely memorable movie that struck just the right balance between Sam Wheat’s (Patrick Swayze) comedic banter with psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) and his romance with Molly (Demi Moore), which is tragically cut short after his demise at the hands of a mugger.
With a movie as perennially popular as Ghost, an eventual remake seemed more or less inevitable, especially since the original movie remains the second highest-grossing romantic drama of all time, beaten out of the top spot only by Titanic. Currently, however, the most popular home for ghosts, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, witches and all other breeds of supernatural creatures is on TV rather than in movies, with shows like The Walking Dead, Teen Wolf and American Horror Storydominating the airwaves.
With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that Ghost is apparently now headed to the small screen. THR reportsat th Oscar-winning writer/director Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) and veteran TV writer Jeff Pinkner (Alias) have been tapped by Paramount TV to co-write a pilot for a TV series based on Ghost. Pinkner and Goldsman have previously worked together as both producers and writers on the Fox sci-fi dramaFringe.
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But a commission for a pilot, especially one without penalties, is no guarantee of a full series commission. Paramount TV also recently made a TV pilot based on theBeverly Hills Cop series, which co-starred Eddie Murphy in a reprisal of his Axel Foley role and Brand T. Jackson as his son, Aaron Foley, but CBS ultimately passed on it and it was subsequently turned down by other networks as well.
That said, there’s no reason that a Ghost TV show couldn’t work, especially with a dynamic as rich as that of a psychic and a ghost. Since much of Ghost‘s plot revolved around solving the mystery of Sam’s supposedly random murder, Goldsman and Pinkner could focus on the detective aspects and come up with something similar to the British private eye show Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). This would leave plenty of room for a romance plot but would also give the writers something to shape the episodes around.
Then again, perhaps I’m just yearning for another Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)reboot.
H. Shaw-Williams blogs at Screen Rant.
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Earlier this year, I wrote an article for our print magazine about the amount of fantasy and sci-fi titles that were premiering on TV this fall season.
The large number of new shows that were centered around an out-of-this-world element was surprising because those shows are costly (lots of effects, usually) and shows that launch with a lot of backstory and mythology to keep track of can turn off viewers. For every “Lost” and “Once Upon a Time” that do well in the ratings, there are many other fantasy and sci-fi shows that fall flat.
And one of the programs that seemed least likely to make a splash was Fox’s new show “Sleepy Hollow,” centering around – well, you know the story. Ichabod Crane sees a headless horseman in the title town.
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But “Hollow” has become one of the surprise hits of the fall – when it premiered, the show got such good ratings that it became the highest-rated Fox series premiere for a drama in the fall in six years, and it’s already been renewed for a second season.
So what got viewers hooked? The show is a little different than the legend you may remember from middle school English class. In this version, Ichabod was a Revolutionary War soldier who returns to life in present-day Sleepy Hollow after the Headless Horseman (who is actually one of the Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen) is brought back from the dead by… someone. Once the Headless Horseman begins killing people, Ichabod begins to work with Lieutenant Abbie Mills of the local police force in an attempt to stop him and protect the people of Sleepy Hollow from supernatural forces.
And according to many critics, this set-up means there’s something for just about everyone. According to Hollywood Reporter writer Tim Goodman, “Hollow” is “fun, it’s entertaining, it’s got some scares and some action and plenty of secrets to unveil.”
“What makes Sleepy Hollow immediately likable is Mison’s Ichabod Crane, who is confused about the modern world moments, and the relationship he shares with Sleepy Hollow police officer Abbie,” Goodman wrote. “When things get ever-more outrageous, they also get ever-more fun.”
Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara agreed, calling the show “great fun.”
“[There’s] strong performances from both leads… [and] several nicely creepy story lines, some terrific CG action,” she wrote.
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Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese reunite for the film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was released on Dec. 25.
“Wolf” is based on the memoir of the same title by former stockbroker Jordan Belfort. DiCaprio stars as Jordan, who experiences a meteoric rise to success but soon finds himself in trouble with the government. The real Belfort went to jail for almost two years for crimes related to stock market manipulation. The film co-stars actors including Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, and Christine Ebersole.
The movie is DiCaprio’s fifth collaboration with Scorsese and the film is already gaining awards buzz, having earned a nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes as well as a Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy nod for DiCaprio.
Hill told the Wall Street Journal it was nervewracking at first to work with a director and actor like Scorsese and DiCaprio who know each other so well.
“The first couple days of rehearsal were extremely, extremely intimidating," he said. "I definitely felt like I was invading somebody else's space. To watch a director and an actor have the connection that Marty and Leo have is unlike anything I've ever seen."
DiCaprio noted that the movie contains the most improvisation of any project he and Scorsese have made together.
“[It’s] simply because the trust level's there,” he said.
The actor said he was able to talk extensively with Belfort, which means that material that didn’t end up in Belfort’s books was put in the film.
“[He was] incredibly open about his life, especially the most embarrassing parts,” DiCaprio said of Belfort.
Hill noted that the glamour of the life enjoyed by the stockbrokers in the film may be misunderstood by younger moviegoers.
“[DiCaprio and I would] be doing a scene that would involve a lot of despicable actions, and I remember us vividly talking about how if I was 14 and saw this movie, I would not see any of the bad stuff,” he said. “I'd only see that this looks like the most exciting lifestyle on the planet. I grew up on hip-hop music, and I was totally one of those kids who was like, That's what I want. It's not what I've grown into, but I know when I was younger, if me and my friends went to go see this on a Friday night, which we would have, we would've walked out going, 'Ahh! Let's become stockbrokers!'”
After the massive ratings success of NBC’s live broadcast of a production of “The Sound of Music,” the network is already planning another show.
NBC chairman of the entertainment division Robert Greenblatt told the New York Times that a new musical will arrive next holiday season. What show will be performed? No word yet, but Greenblatt says it would need to have lots of songs people know and that it would have to be appropriate for all ages.
Greenblatt says competition is already fierce.
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“All weekend, people have been calling us and emailing us,” he said. “Rights holders of musicals have said, ‘Please do one of our shows.’ We’re excited to try it again.”
So what should be next? While NBC may not yet know (or maybe they do, and they’re just not telling), I have a few suggestions.
1. “West Side Story”
I suppose whether this story, a 1950s update of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as played out between American and Puerto Rican street gangs, would be a viable choice depends on your definition of “family-friendly” – as fans know, the show includes a lot of violence as well as a tragic ending that requires at least two boxes of Kleenex. So perhaps a few younger kids might have to leave the room for a few minutes but come back in for the flashy dance numbers. But don’t you want to see a live cast take on “America”? And “Tonight”? And “Jet Song”? And “Gee, Officer Krupke”?
You’re humming them already, aren’t you? I rest my case.
With undemanding sets as well as not too many effects, the frontier drama, which follows cowboy Curly, his love Laurey, and the goings-on among the other settlers in their small town, would be a good fit for a live broadcast. And with the last big-screen movie version having been released in 1955, there may be some members of younger generations who aren’t familiar with the story. Villain Jud Fry is a little scary, but parents could talk younger kids through those scenes.
And while the video of the 1999 production has played before on PBS, it would always be worth checking if “Les Miserables” actor Hugh Jackman would be willing to reprise his wildly successful turn as cowboy Curly in the London revival of the show.
3. “Guys and Dolls”
The fun story, following gamblers living in New York and their troubles with the women in their lives, would be enjoyable for all ages and the sets for “Guys,” often consisting of skyscraper backdrops, are never too complicated.
Some may take issue with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of the life of Jesus, so this may not be the most likely pick, but the accessibility of the music – electric guitars are involved in so many of the songs! – and the novel way of telling the story of the New Testament would get the attention of younger viewers, if that’s what these broadcasts are going for.
5. “My Fair Lady”
I asked my musical-loving colleague Marjorie Kehe, the Monitor’s book editor, for her pick for the next broadcast. She said she thinks the show based on “Pygmalion,” following a young flower-seller who's taught how to speak like a high-born young woman by a stuffy phoneticist, would appeal to many TV-watchers. “It's entertaining, it's a great story, it's great music,” Kehe said of “Fair.”
You’re welcome, NBC.
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“Hustle,” which entered wide release Dec. 20, stars Christian Bale as scammer Irving Rosenfeld, actress Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser, his partner-in-crime and lover, and Lawrence as Irving’s unpredictable wife. When FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) catches Irving and Sydney at their crimes, he enlists them to help take down a group of politicians who aren’t on the up-and-up.
Many are pointing to the movie as a possible awards season darling and “Hustle” has already received nods from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which are often a signal for what may win big at awards ceremonies later in the year like the Oscars. The movie received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (the SAG equivalent of Best Picture) and Lawrence received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Russell, who was also behind such films as the 2010 movie “The Fighter” and 2002’s “Adaptation,” spoke with Indiewire about working with actors more than once (Bale and Adams worked with the director in “The Fighter” and De Niro starred in “Playbook”).
“They're great collaborators,” he said of the group. “I write the roles while I'm in deep conversations with them at their homes or on the phone. It inspires me to write for them and to want to deliver a role that's worthy of them and to let them use every range of their behaviors in new ways that will surprise them and audiences.”
Meanwhile, Adams contrasted her character, Sydney, with happier roles she’s had in the past in movies like “The Muppets” and “Enchanted.”
“[Sydney] is the most miserable human being I’ve ever played,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “She is not happy. I’m used to playing people that, even if they’re survivors, there’s some sort of light in them. I don’t know that she has that, necessarily. I think I like playing happy people.”
'The Year Without a Santa Claus': A children's book and Rankin/Bass combine for a great holiday special
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” had the song.
And “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” had the entire legend of Santa Claus to use for ideas when crafting its explanations for why Santa has a beard, uses flying reindeer, and lives in the North Pole (though those explanations are pretty creative).
But “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” the other most well-known Rankin/Bass special, is based on a fairly obscure children’s book and, despite a little-known source, the story of “Year,” written by William Keenan and based on the picture book of the same name by Phyllis McGinley, is both memorable and heartwarming.
The premise of “Year” is pretty simple. Santa, who is after all human, too, gets a cold right around Christmas. He would soldier on, but he’s been feeling a lack of Christmas spirit in the world lately. Would anyone even notice, he wonders, if he didn’t turn up?
The way in which Mrs. Claus, the elves Jingle and Jangle, and a boy from America named Iggy prove it to him is somewhat complicated, but suffice it to say that it’s the children of the world who finally show him that the holiday spirit is alive and well. Santa has given them presents year after year, and now it’s their turn – the North Pole’s mail system is showered with cards and gifts for Santa Claus. Santa is visibly moved. “I didn’t know children had such kind hearts,” he says.
It's a lovely moral, one that any kid should hear, and it's the characters of the Heat Miser and Snow Miser who make the special not only thoughtful but also very entertaining (and tuneful). According to the “Year” explanation of nature, weather is presided over by two feuding brothers. Snow Miser wears a sparkly blue outfit complete with white hat, while Heat Miser sports a red and yellow ensemble with flaming orange hair. Mrs. Claus, the elves, and Iggy have to visit them to negotiate for snow in the American South to save Christmas, which prompts a great song-and-dance number from each brother.
(Also, go back and listen to “I Believe in Santa Claus,” sung by Santa and Iggy's father. It’s a pretty gorgeous song.)
So kudos to Rankin/Bass and McGinley. Despite less famous source material, “Year” manages to be both fun and have a good moral – a great combination for the holiday season.
While I also almost certainly asked, “How will Santa get into our house if we don’t have a chimney?,” another question I remember asking around the holidays when I was younger is, “What’s a bubble gum card?”
The TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was first broadcast on television in 1965, and it shows. A central plot point revolves around the fact that Charlie eschews buying an aluminum Christmas tree (something I, who was not around in the 1960s, had never heard of in my life) to buy a tiny version of the real thing. And not only does Lucy ask Schroeder if Beethoven ever got his picture on a bubble gum card, but her sign as psychologist reads that she is “real in.” This bit of then-current slang escaped me as much as why someone would want their face on a bubble gum card. (I also thought that Peppermint Patty, who isn't even in the special, had something to do with my Aunt Patti, but that was more me not understanding how fictional characters worked.)
So yes, if children today watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” they may besiege their parents with questions about why exactly all those trees in the lot are pink and purple. But the special’s classic themes still come through loud and clear even if you’re not sure why something being “real in” is a good thing. Chuck is depressed that everyone around him, including his faithful hound Snoopy, seems focused on the flashy items that come with the holidays. It takes Linus, and his other friends seeing the potential in the tiny Christmas tree, which after all only needs a little love, to help him see the true meaning of the holiday.
And that’s something that even a Millennial who’s baffled about why you would even want an aluminum tree will see.