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Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt says he has made no plans to be part of a 'Justice League' film or any 'Batman' sequel in the future. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt hasn't signed on for 'Justice League'

By Ben KendrickScreen Rant / 08.24.12

WARNING!!! –  This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Dark Knight Rises

Prior to the release of Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, the rumor mill was running rampant on how Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character might fit into the superhero-villain-heroine mix created by appearances from Batman, Bane, and Catwoman, respectively. While there are plenty of “normal” people in the Nolan trilogy (Commissioner Gordon and Alfred, among others) casting an up-and-comer like Levitt as an everyman police officer raised a few eyebrows and caused plenty of fan speculation. Would Levitt make an appearance as an unannounced villain (such as The Riddler) or possibly a superhero sidekick (such as Robin)?

Now that the film is out, we know that Levitt’s character, John Blake is Robin in both name and character, but as usual, Nolan wasn’t going to spell anything out. Despite a lot of carefully constructed arguments from the fan community about Blake’s post-Rises adventures, Joseph Gordon-Levitt recently confirmed that the filmmakers never talked about which “suit” (Batman, Nightwing, Robin, etc) the character would wear – when, and if, he actually took over for Bruce Wayne.

After the closing reveal of The Dark Knight Rises, many moviegoers (and media members), began hammering Levitt for answers about a possible sequel featuring the John Blake character. The actor quickly dismissed talk of a follow-up – claiming that the studio had not approached him about it and that, for him, reprising the role would be dependent on the quality of the script.

As mentioned in an interview with MTV, Levitt also dismissed the notion that Nolan had a particular alter-ego in mind for the character, asserting that they never talked about which “suit” the character might wear:

However, even if we never see Levitt fighting criminals on the streets of Gotham again, that doesn’t mean that fans aren’t interested in some closure about which fan-favorite Batman character he had been playing all along. Many enthusiasts argued that the reveal of the character’s first name, Robin (as in Robin John Blake), was a dead giveaway for the boy wonder (Dick Grayson); others felt as if Nightwing, despite the obvious nod to Batman’s most famous sidekick, would be a much better fit for Nolan’s universe. In the comic storylines, Robin (still Grayson) becomes Nightwing – taking on the persona as he matures. Similarly, Blake could have easily just become the new Batman – just like Grayson did (again) in the DC universe.

As we’ve talked about on the Screen Rant Underground podcast, the John Blake character is mostly an amalgamation of various iterations of Bat-sidekicks, not one specific person – a point that ties into the franchise idea about becoming a symbol, rather than just a man. It’s a theme that Levitt himself discussed when talking about a possible John Blake sequel on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

“I don’t think [the ending of 'The Dark Knight Rises'] is necessarily a set-up. I think it is the great ending for that trilogy. Even if you go back to ‘Batman Begins,’ he’s talking about how Batman is more than a man, it’s a symbol, and a hero can be anybody and we all have heroes inside of us.”

Levitt has shown gratitude and excitement to be part of The Dark Knight Rises experience, but doesn’t have much to say about future Batman work. Screen Rant Managing Editor, Kofi Outlaw, had a chance to sit down with Levitt this week to discuss the actor’s upcoming film Premium Rush, and Levitt flat-out denied (or at least isn’t willing to talk about) any talks with Warner Bros. about post-TDKR plans - which would include the possibility of Blake appearing in DC’s in-development Justice League film.

Screen Rant: Have you seen the Justice League script that Will Beall is working on, or had any meetings with WB about being a part of their supehero universe?”

Levitt: Nope. [Pauses] No – the answer’s ‘no.’

For the time being, it’s probably best to let the subject of continuing Nolan’s Batman trilogy rest. Nolan and star Christian Bale have both said they are done with the character - and the legacy torchbearer, Levitt, clearly doesn’t have any new developments to report.

Of course, we’ll keep you updated if something changes – since some version of Batman will need to be called into action for the Justice League movie.

Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.

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Sam Claflin has been cast as Finnick Odair in the 'Hunger Games' second installment 'Catching Fire.' (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Sam Claflin is cast as Finnick in 'Catching Fire'

By Staff Writer / 08.23.12

Actor Sam Claflin has been cast in the role of Finnick Odair for the “Hunger Games” second film installment “Catching Fire.”

Claflin has been part of high-profile projects over the last year, appearing in his first big role as missionary Philip in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in 2011. He also played William, one third of a love triangle with Snow White in the Kristen Stewart vehicle “Snow White and the Huntsman” this summer.

In Collins’ book, Finnick is a charming, outsize personality, and heroine Katniss is unsure at first of whether he can be trusted.

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Gene Kelly starred most famously in 'Singin' in the Rain,' which celebrated its sixtieth anniversary this year. (Wyatt Counts/AP)

Gene Kelly: Still timeless after more than 50 years

By Staff Writer / 08.22.12

Tomorrow will be the hundredth anniversary of Gene Kelly’s birth, and it’s been 32 years since his last film appearance (1980’s “Xanadu” – don’t see it, it’s terrible).

But while it may have been decades since he was a star of the screen and his musicals were power players at the box office and critically, Kelly and his influence are still being felt all over the place.

Okay, I may be slightly biased, sitting here as I am with my Gene Kelly mini-poster hung on the left side of my desk and dozens of “Singin’ in the Rain” viewings under my belt. But I was genuinely heartened to see how much of a lasting impact Kelly had had when I watched a documentary titled “Singin' in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation,” which came attached to the sixtieth anniversary DVD of “Singin’.” The documentary featured interviews with current stars like actors from the TV show “Glee,” film directors Rob Marshall and Adam Shankman, and others, all effusively praising “Singin’ in the Rain” and its dancing and how much we still owe Kelly today.

“We, the artists of today, stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us,” singer and dancer Usher, who performed the title number from “Singin’” as part of the CBS special “Movies Rock,” said during the documentary. “The magic that Kelly possessed was the ability to make something so difficult look so effortless.”

Usher said that. You know, an artist that actually has current chart-topping hits? He not only knows who Kelly is but loves him so much that he chose to perform Kelly’s signature number on a national TV special.

Despite my being born 38 years after it was released, Kelly’s movie won me over, too, when I first saw it. My mother put "Singin'" on for my sister and I when we were still fairly young and we laughed at Donald O’Connor slamming himself against walls in “Make ‘Em Laugh,” giggled at the intentionally goofy ‘20s outfits, and couldn’t take our eyes off the screen as Kelly splashed through rain puddles. I’d taken tap dancing lessons as part of my after-school program, eventually letting them lapse after a couple of years, but after “Singin’” started its repeat viewings in my house, I took them up again.

Musical junkies like my family and myself may be the exception to the general public in terms of how many old movies we watch. But in that documentary “Raining on a New Generation,” theater and TV stars like “High School Musical’s" Corbin Bleu and “Glee’s" Matthew Morrison said that when they were growing up, Kelly and how cool he made dancing made them feel like they could pursue it without being laughed at, without being derided for participating in a “girly” activity. Kelly made dancing look athletic, let you see how hard he was working, but still somehow made it appear effortless.

And if it happens to rain tomorrow on his birthday and you find yourself doing a little skip down the sidewalk – well, that’s all him, too.

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'The Office' star Rainn Wilson is set to appear in the tentatively titled spin-off 'The Farm' with Majandra Delfino and Blake Garrett. (PBS Communications/Business Wire)

'The Office' spin-off gains two new cast members

By Scott StouteScreen Rant / 08.22.12

The always lovable Schrute family continues to grow, as NBC has cast former Roswell star Majandra Delfino in The Office spin-off (tentatively titled The Farm) as Dwight’s (Rainn Wilson) younger “pseudo-intellectual lefty” sister, Frannie. Not too much is known about Delfino’s new role, expect that Frannie left the Schrute family beet farm/bed & breakfast for a faster-paced life in Boston. After getting divorced from her husband, Frannie ends up back on the same farm she fled, only this time with son in tow.

Joining Delfino on the old Schrute family beet farm is young actor Blake Garrett (New Girl, Bridesmaids), who will play Frannie’s son and Dwight’s nerdy and slightly weird 9-year-old nephew, Cameron Whitman. He is described as a “cosmopolitan lad” who still feels the pull of his Schrute heritage, especially when he’s receiving much-needed fatherly guidance and attention from his uncles.

The potential new series will center on Dwight and his siblings inheriting their family’s beet farm, which also doubles as a bed and breakfast. Both Delfino on Garrett’s characters will be introduced this fall in an episode of the upcoming ninth season of The Office, which will act as a backdoor pilot for The Farm. Based on how well the offshoot does, NBC will decide whether or not to move forward on the project. Should the pilot get picked up, both Delfino and Garrett will appear as series regulars.

Wilson will also serve as executive producer of the spin-off – along with former Office showrunner and star Paul Liberstein (Toby), who has stepped down from the parent show in favor of the The Farm. Still no word on who will play the other previously announced characters, or if fan-favorite character Cousin Mose (played by Office co-exec producer Michael Schur) will make a much-anticipated appearance, should NBC make The Farm happen.

Scott Stoute blogs at Screen Rant.

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'The Office' will end after its coming season, according to showrunner Greg Daniels. (Mitch Haddad/NBC)

'The Office' will end after this year

By Staff Writer / 08.21.12

“The Office” will end after this year, according to showrunner Greg Daniels.

Daniels said “all questions” will be resolved this year.

“This year feels like the last chance to… make an artistic ending for the show,” said Daniels, who ran the show from its beginning season to its fifth and is now returning for the ninth season. “This will be the last season of 'The Office,' and we’re planning a big exciting last season... We’re going to see who’s behind the documentary... Now that we know we have an end date, we can blow things up and take some chances and it will be very freeing, creatively.”

Star Steve Carell left during season 7 and several actors on the show had already become involved in other projects, including Rainn Wilson, who will be involved in a planned spin-off of the show, and Mindy Kaling, who will star in “The Mindy Project” which will air this fall.

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Michael J. Fox's new show will air on NBC. (AP)

Michael J. Fox will head to NBC for his new show

By Ethan AndertonScreen Rant / 08.21.12

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Michael J. Fox launched his entertainment career as Alex P. Keaton on the hit NBC series Family Ties. Now Fox is heading back to his former TV home with a new comedy series.

Inspired in part by the actor’s real life, the new show follows Fox as a husband and father of three from New York City dealing with family, career, and challenges, including Parkinson’s disease (something we predicted last week when news of the series surfaced).

The new show has a full series order for 22 episodes. Easy A director Will Gluck and Arrested Development and Cougar Town writer Sam Laybourne are on board as executive producers and co-creators with the former also directing the pilot.

Chairman of NBC Entertainment Robert Greenblatt says:

“To bring Michael J. Fox back to NBC is a supreme honor and we are thrilled that one of the great comedic television stars is coming home again. From the moment we met with Michael to hear his unique point of view about this new show, we were completely captivated and on board. He is utterly relatable, optimistic, and in a class by himself, and I have no doubt that the character he will create – and the vivid family characters surrounding him – will be both instantly recognizable and hilarious. Being in business with him is a supreme pleasure.”

Fox couldn’t be more thrilled with the prospect of getting back to TV in a leading role, saying, “I’m extremely pleased to be back at NBC with a great creative team and a great show. Bob Greenblatt and all the folks at the network have given me a warm welcome home, and I’m excited to get to work.”

This is easily the best TV news I’ve heard in a long time. There are few talents who are as dedicated, modest, charismatic, and talented as Fox, and to see that he’s returning to the network where his career began is truly wonderful. As a fan who has read all of Fox’s memoirs, starting with Lucky Man, I can’t wait to see how much of Fox’s life ends up on display in the comedy series.

It’s pretty bold and brave of Fox to put even more of his personal life out there, especially in a comedic capacity, but as someone who has always humbly dealt with his disease in the public eye, it shouldn’t prove to be very difficult. I can’t wait to see how this new series turns out.

Ethan Anderton blogs at Screen Rant.

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Bruce Willis, here seen filming the fifth installment in the 'Die Hard' franchise, stars in 'The Expendables 2.' (Bea Kallos/MTI/AP)

Bruce Willis in 'The Expendables 2' rules the box office

By Niall BrowneScreen Rant / 08.20.12

The Expendables 2 will top the box office over the weekend, grossing an estimated $28.7 million. The original action mash-up grossed scored $34 million in 2010 and topped out at $103 million domestic and $274 million globally. However, this new effort has better reviews (read ours) and even more star fire-power, so it could potentially do better in the long-run – or at the very least at the global box office. 

The film does beat the average opening weekend of most of its stars. An average Stallone movie debuts to around $12 million and a Statham vehicle usually launches to just over $10 million. Bruce Willis usually garners about $13 million worth of audience interest, while the average weekend gross for a Schwarzenegger movie is $15 million. Having said that, most of these films opened in a time when ticket prices were much lower.

Fellow action sequel, The Bourne Legacy dropped to second place, it should bank $17 million for the weekend, raising its cume to $69.5 million. It looks like there’s life in this Matt Damon-free franchise yet, in fact you could say it has been re-Bourne (zing!). Sure, it hasn’t managed to hit the grosses of the Damon movies, but it is difficult rebooting a franchise without its original star AND its original character.

Family film, ParaNorman (read our review) should score $14 million over the weekend – a relatively weak number when you take into account it’s inflated 3D ticket price.

The Campaign, should get another $13.3 million, showing that viewers are voting with their wallets on this. The film has now grossed over $51 million – it’ll never make $100 million, but it will be a solid hit.

Whitney Houston’s final screen appearance in Sparkle captured so-so audience interest in a crowded marketplace, grossing $12 million. It could potentially do a solid final number – if it finds audience traction.

The Dark Knight Rises is set to gross an estimated $11.1 million, for a $409.9 million total cume. It’s starting to tumble(r) down the box office chart, and it doesn’t have much life left, but it is a very respectable number (great even). Sure, it’s not The Avengers or The Dark Knight, but it has surpassed The Hunger Games as the second highest grossing film of the year at the domestic box office.

Disney’s The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is doing good business as a piece of counter-programming. The Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton film should see a weekend take of $10 million, for a $15 million total.

Meryl Streep’s latest comedy/drama isn’t finding a massive audience. Hope Springs should bank $9 million for a solid but it won’t reach the dizzy heights of recent Streep starrers.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid should bank $3.8 million for a $38 million total, while Total Recall rounds out the top ten, grossing $3.5 million for a $51.7 million total haul. Globally, the Colin Farrell film is on track to cover its production budget, having grossed over $58 million abroad. However, it looks like Farrell won’t be back in the role of Doug Quaid.

That’s it for now. See you at the movies.

Niall Browne blogs at Screen Rant.

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Michael J. Fox could return to TV full-time in a new show in 2013. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Michael J. Fox could return full-time to TV

By Ethan AndertonScreen Rant / 08.17.12

Due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease, Michael J. Fox hasn’t been acting as much as he might want. However, that hasn’t stopped Fox from making fantastic, Emmy-nominated, guest turns on series like The Good Wife, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Rescue Me - the latter of which actually won him the coveted TV award. Now it sounds like the actor is ready to get back on the small screen full time.

Vulture has learned that Fox is developing a new comedy series at Sony Pictures Television with Easy A director Will Gluck and writer Sam Laybourne (Cougar Town, Arrested Development) on board to get the show ready to launch in 2013.

Plot details on the series are slim, but it’s reportedly inspired by Fox’s own life. Word on the street is all the major networks are going crazy in a bidding war to get ahold of this series, and a automatic pilot production deal is very likely. But even more crazy is the buzz that it might be big enough to get a straight to series order, something that is a rarity on network television these days.

The kind of attention surrounding the new comedy isn’t all that surprising considering that Fox’s career on television is almost as big as his film career. Spin City was a revered comedy in its heyday, and it actually earned Fox an Emmy nomination four years in a row, with a win to wrap up his final season on the series. In addition, Fox was a staple of the classic family sitcom Family Ties, not to mention other phenomenal guest spots on Scrubs and Boston Legal.

The question is just how much of Fox’s real life will be injected into this series. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a show about a father struggling with the afflictions of Parkinson’s disease, and it might even be a fictionalized version of himself, working in entertainment. This is all speculation, but knowing how much work Fox has been doing with his own foundation to help find a cure for the debilitating disease – including writing several memoirs that deal with his condition – the series could be very personal.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what Fox brings to television. Spin City was one of my favorite comedy series in the ’90s, and the actor just has so much charisma and great comedic timing combined with solid dramatic chops, so I can’t help but love anything he does. Teaming with a director like Will Gluck, who made a teenage comedy reminiscent of John Hughes, and a writer who worked on a cult comedy like Arrested Development (and the sleeper hit comedy series Cougar Town) sounds like a great move for Fox’s return to TV. I’m betting his fans of all ages are eager to see him back in the acting game on a more regular basis. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Ethan Anderton blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Sparkle' features the last onscreen appearance of star Whitney Houston, who plays the mother of a musical group made up of three sisters. (Alicia Gbur/Sony TriStar Pictures/AP)

'Sparkle' has more emotional punch with star Whitney Houston (+video)

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 08.17.12

The tragic, premature death of modern music legend Whitney Houston earlier this year looms over the head of this summer’s Sparkle: a remake of the 1976 musical melodrama (of the same name), which was meant to serve as a comeback vehicle for the starlet of such popular ’90s titles as The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. Instead, the film will mark Houston’s final appearance onscreen.

Sparkle sees Houston play second fiddle to American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who portrays (not kidding) Sparkle Williams: the most musically-talented in a trio of sisters who rocket to fame during the late ’60s – as “The Motown Sound” is all the rage – and subsequently fall victim to the same cycle of clashing egos, drug use, and abuse that destroyed their mother’s (Houston) own budding musical career.

Husband-wife duo Mara Brock Akil (Cougar Town) and Salim Akil (The Game) handled writing and directing duties on Sparkle. The film’s cast is rounded out by such supporting players as Carmen Ejogo (Chaos), Tika Sumpter (One Life to Live), Mike Epps (Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Extinction), Derek Luke (Hawthorne), and musician Cee-Lo Green (The Voice).

Have a look at the official trailer for Sparkle below:

Based on this early footage, Sparkle looks and sounds like a pretty standard (re: formulaic) musical cautionary tale about the pitfalls that come with success. While Sparkle doesn’t appear to boast quite the visual panache or flair of, say, Bill Condon’s Oscar-winning Dreamgirls adaptation, the painfully obvious parallels between Houston’s character and the singer’s tumultuous real-life experiences adds a subtextual layer of melancholy to the proceedings, which may give the film more emotional punch.

That said: if you bypass Houston’s involvement and judge primarily by the rest of the creative personnel who are involved with this flick (combined with the trailer footage), then Sparkle still seems like it should be a serviceable addition to the musical melodrama sub-genre (if nothing else).

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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'ParaNorman' handles 3-D successfully, using the medium to enhance the appearance of the film. (Focus Features/AP)

'ParaNorman' has flawless stop-motion animation

By Marcella PapandreaKiller Film / 08.16.12

I absolutely love stop-motion animation, I have ever since I was a kid. I was very excited when I first heard about ParaNorman, and even more so when the trailers hit. This was stop-motion with family flavour horror, that was really all I needed. My excitement proved to be valid, because ParaNorman is one of the best films I have seen in 2012, not only did it not disappoint, it actually exceeded my expectations.

The story is about a young boy named Norman, he’s known as the weird one. He likes horror, he has a bit of a zombie obsession and he can see and talk to dead people. This talent comes in handy when his outcast Uncle passes and gives him clues on how to break a century old curse that will destroy the town. So Norman sets out on an adventure to stop the curse, bringing with him a colourful set of characters.

Horror fans will love this film, it has so many nods to the genre that us older folk will get a kick out of it. In fact the first ten minutes almost felt like a Troll 2 homage, only not laughably bad. This film is constantly funny, with a lot of heart. The characters are great and Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is really well developed and someone we can all relate to. Other notable characters include his new found friend Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi) and school bully Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse). These characters really play an important role, and this film certainly has a lot to say about bullying and it does it well and it never tries to preach.

The voice work was great, everyone really did a great job. They became their characters and really put forth a solid effort. I was surprised to see Casey Affleck in there and he was just fantastic, a cute role with a nice surprise. The real star here though is the stop-motion work, it was flawless. It looked stunning, each figure really came to life and each had their own distinct look. So much work was put into each character and it really paid off. The visuals were amazing, and the 3-D was actually very successful and handled in the way that I really like it. This really is a delightful film, with a good message and I’d highly recommend it to everyone.

Marcelle Papandrea blogs at Killer Film.

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