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Culture Cafe

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

'American Hustle' stars Bradley Cooper (l.) and Christian Bale (r.). (Francois Duhamel/Sony – Columbia Pictures/AP)

'American Hustle' brings together frequent David O. Russell collaborators for a '70s story

By Staff writer / 12.26.13

Actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence reunite with “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell for Russell’s newest film, “American Hustle.”

“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.

The story is based on the ABSCAM operation, which was launched in the 1970s, and the movie also co-stars actors Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro, and Jack Huston.

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' was released by Rankin/Bass in 1974.

'The Year Without a Santa Claus': A children's book and Rankin/Bass combine for a great holiday special

By Staff writer / 12.25.13

“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.

'A Charlie Brown Christmas' centers on Charlie Brown and his friend Linus. (Charles M. Schultz/Lee Mendelson Productions Inc./AP)

'A Charlie Brown Christmas' presents a timeless message

By Staff Writer / 12.24.13

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.

'Saving Mr. Banks' stars Tom Hanks (l.) and Emma Thompson (r.). (François Duhamel/Disney/AP)

'Saving Mr. Banks' tells the story of what happened behind the scenes of 'Mary Poppins'

By Staff Writer / 12.23.13

Countless children and adults know the story of stern nanny Mary Poppins, her bottomless carpetbag, and the magic she brings to the lives of Victorian children Jane and Michael Banks.

But how did the children’s novel get to the screen? It turns out it was a somewhat arduous journey. 

And that process is the subject of the film “Saving Mr. Banks,” which opened in wide release on Dec. 20. “Nanny McPhee” actress Emma Thompson portrays “Poppins” author P.L. Travers, who is reluctant to have her work put on the screen. “Captain Phillips” actor Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney, who’s hoping to persuade the author to allow her story to be filmed by his studio.

The cast also includes “The Office” actor B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman of “Moonrise Kingdom” as the Sherman Brothers, who were behind the music for “Poppins,” as well as actor Bradley Cooper as “Poppins” screenwriter Don DaGradi and Paul Giamatti as Travers’ limo driver. “Fright Night” actor Colin Farrell plays Travers’ father, seen in flashbacks.

Hanks told USA Today that playing such an internationally recognized figure wasn’t easy.

“Immediately it just becomes this burden, the quest for authenticity,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thompson said she was attracted to Travers’ prickly nature.

“I loved the fact that she was so rude to everyone,” she told USA Today. “I like unpleasant people very much sometimes, especially difficult, strong women.”

Meanwhile, the movie is already earning awards-season buzz as a possible contender for major prizes such as Best Picture, Best Actor (Hanks), and Best Actress (Thompson) at the Oscars. Thompson already earned a nod for the film from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which are often a guide to what will win later in the season. Hanks missed out on a Best Actor nomination but may be splitting his own vote with his work in this year’s film “Captain Phillips.”

The 'Revenge' finale for the fall season aired on Dec. 15. 'Revenge' stars Emily VanCamp (l.) and Madeleine Stowe (r.). (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

'Revenge' finale: Executive producer Sunil Nayar discusses what's next

By Tiffany VogtThe TV Addict / 12.16.13

In the ABC drama series REVENGE, even the best laid plans of Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) are sure to go haywire once in a while and, unfortunately, for all her careful planning, something went very wrong on her honeymoon. Lydia (Amber Valletta)cornered Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) on the yacht, making Aiden (Barry Sloane) unable to secure Victoria while Emily was on deck setting the stage, and then Victoria took it upon herself to accost Emily on deck and heated incriminating words were exchanged — all to the horror of Daniel (Josh Bowman) who stood in the shadows hearing everything. He learned that the woman he had just married had been using him all along, and in his drunken, angry stupor, he shot Emily with the gun she had brought to stage her fake death incriminating Victoria.

That’s right folks, Daniel was the shooter. Having just found out about Sara’s (Annabelle Stephenson) suicide attempt, and that Emily had been using him to get back at his mother, he just shot her. The look on Emily’s face was equal parts guilt and horror. It was her own fault that this had come about. The stage had been set perfectly, but it fell apart because Daniel heard what he was never supposed to hear. That gun that was supposed to be just a prop was just too easy to use for real — and Emily was shot point blank in the chest and thrown back into the water.

With Aiden and Jack (Nick Wechsler) worriedly searching for her on the beach when she failed to make her prearranged rendezvous, the fate of Emily Thorne is not yet known. Does she survive the gunshot wounds? Does she eventually make it back to the buoy and the beach? Will Daniel remember his deadly actions after he finally sobers up? And what about Victoria? Does she have a clue what really happened on the deck after she left?

For those who saw the previews of REVENGE when it returns on January 5th, a few of those questions are answered. Emily does survive. But does she remember who she is? Is the amnesia real or faked?

In a recent press interview, executive producer Sunil Nayar gave the inside scoop on what’s next in the increasingly complicated world of REVENGE.

Emily’s Amnesia: Partial, Complete or Faked - “You’ll have to see.”

Daniel’s Mindset - “He’s tormented by the nature of what he’s done. You even get a sense right after he shot her that there’s flicker of regret that he did a rash act. But he’s been completely betrayed. It’s not like you don’t understand the impulse, but carrying through with the act, that’s a big moment for Daniel. He will have to kind of wrestle with what that means and wrestle with the fact that now he’s learned the truth about the woman that he’s given his heart over to back and forth over the last couple of years. So you’re going to see a real transformation in him. There’s a regret that will come from it initially, but then it will grow into a kind of strength — a hardening in Daniel Grayson because the person he trusted the most has really up ended the nature of that trust. It’s going to be a great journey that we’re going to put him on.”

Suspects - “There’s a couple people who become primary suspects. Emily obviously is not a benefit to them in the investigation, but there will be evidence on the boat that [the police] are pursuing and they will have photo evidence from what Margaux (Karine Vanesse) is doing, so the Voulez part becomes primary in the investigation. And in classic REVENGE style, you’ll see how one person becomes the suspect and then it sort of shifts over to someone else.”

On Lydia’s Resurrection - “We wanted to bring Lydia back right at the beginning of this season because she is great. We thought since Victoria got off the plane, it doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation and people don’t require a lot of backstory on how is Lydia still alive. And we love Amber and what she brings to the show. So we thought the best time to do it was as we got up to the shooting and in the aftermath that she would bring such a great element of chaos with her and she would become such a great suspect for what’s going to happen. She also brings Conrad into the story in a way which we haven’t seen before either. So she seemed like a no-brainer and we were very fortunate that she was available to come back.”

Nolan & Patrick - “We always knew that we were going to bring back Victoria’s son just for Nolan (Gabriel Mann). I think the two of them are so great together. What we’re doing to do is put them through their paces. Happy relationships are all fine and dandy, but that is not where this show thrives. So Patrick (Justin Hartley) kind of seeing that there’s this space between this painting that Nolan obviously bought from his mother will have him call into question with whom his fidelities lie. I think that the answers are going to cause a lot of great conflict in the Victoria/Nolan/Patrick triangle.”

Sara’s Future - “You’re going to see her. She could be in the same hospital as Emily. But Sara’s not gone yet. . . We’ll find out in the episode back what actually happened to Sara.”

Charlotte’s Journey - “She will slowly start to see Emily in a different way, which is going to cause that rift with the sister that [Emily's] always tried to get closer to. We want to give Charlotte a love interest in the second half of the season ’cause now that she’s more of a woman, it’s time time to acknowledge her as such — and we have a way to do that will create more conflict in the world of Emily and Nolan also. But we want to keep her going ’cause she has been fantastic this year.”

Jack & Emily’s Relationship - “In the first half of the season, we’ve had Jack really scrutinize who Emily is and what she’s doing. But he will come to see in the aftermath of the shooting that it’s really his ultimatum that put Emily in this position and there’s a bit of culpability that he has. So you’re going to start seeing the thaw between Emily and Jack. He has now taken things from her too and it is more of an equivalent relationship as a result.”

Aiden’s Place - “There’s definitely still the triangle between Emily-Aiden-Jack and Aiden’s still in the picture. His plans have obviously gone awry. His future has just been up-ended and he’s going to have to stay in the Hamptons for a little longer and that is confusing to him. So we’ll sort of see that there’s another great introduction of the Aiden backstory that continues into the future that shakes things up between him and Emily too.”

Is it true love for Emily and Aiden? - “Absolutely. She’s in love with him. . . . [But is he Emily's true love?] Obviously, it’s not Daniel. But then with Aiden, it’s so conflicted because he reminds her so much who she was and they share that pain. Like in the proposal, that was about the nature of who they are to each other, which is they have been through hell and that’s what connects them. So there’s an element to that love that is based on damage. Whereas Jack, that’s love based that is based on an idealism of what the childhood was and in the present that is also really damaged. So that’s what makes love complicated on REVENGE. It’s a question we want to try to answer as each episode goes by.”

Aiden and Jack’s Newfound Alliance - “Their relationship is going to be maturing a little bit. They both understand that while previously they were fighting over this woman, and now that she’s vulnerable, that same passion for her is going to bring them more together. And they so great together, so we want to see more of that.”

What does Victoria know? - “The photograph is the catalyst that starts her on a journey to really have something on Emily. She was looking for just one piece of information. So she doesn’t have any idea that Emily is Amanda Clark at this point in time. But she definitely knows that this woman is not on the level and that some of her suspicions are completely correct, which gives Victoria a great engine going into the second half of the season where she now has the power in the relationship, which she hasn’t had.”

Is the marriage real since Emily used a fake name? - “[Emily's] done her research so that anything she does is on the legal level. So technically she’s Emily Grayson — finally.”

Annulment prospects? - “It’s tricky. We looked into rules of annulments in New York state, and it requires interestingly a degree of fraud that has to be committed. Daniel actually has the grounds for annulment much stronger than Emily would at this point in time. But you’ll see coming into the next episode why that is actually not the best option for him.”

Emily’s Revenge Plan - “She definitely wants to take the Graysons down. That will never be a mission that leaves her. But with Victoria knowing who she is [or rather who she isn't] and as we play things out coming back, [Emily] understands that the way she has to go about it is going to be completely different than the way that she has done it in the past.”

Will Penelope Cruz star in the next James Bond film? (Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Penelope Cruz: Will she star in the next James Bond film?

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 12.13.13

Skyfall managed to do more than commemorate the James Bond franchise’s 50th anniversary in $TYLE, between it grossing $1 billion worldwide and securing two Oscars for its efforts. The film also introduced the 21st century versions of 007′s famous helping hands – MI6 head secretary Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and techno-invention wizard ‘Q’ (Ben Whishaw) – in addition to (SPOILER?) introducing Ralph Fiennes as the new ‘M’, who will serve as the boss for Daniel Craig’s Bond on future missions.

Craig will be returning to star in the upcoming 24th James Bond movie installment (his Skyfall costars are expected to join him), as will Skyfall director Sam Mendes – who, after much deliberation while he took a break from moviemaking to work in the world of theater stage production, decided to accept the Bond series producers’ offers for him to call the shots on the 24th Bond flick.

It’s a bit early to to expect any concrete details on the story and new characters that will be featured in Bond 24, as Skyfall co-screenwriter John Logan is still plugging away at the film’s script right now. However, Craig did offer the following tease to Vulture, with regard to what he’s planning (or, rather, hoping) for in the movie, tone-wise:

“Hopefully we’ll reclaim some of the old irony, and make sure it doesn’t become pastiche. I can’t do shtick, I’m not very good at it. Unless it kind of suddenly makes sense. Does that make sense? I sometimes wish I hammed it up more, but I just can’t do it very well, so I don’t do it.”

Filming on Bond 24 will be underway by the beginning of next year, after Craig and his significant other – Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz – finish a fourteen-week run of performing in a fresh Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal (with Mike Nichols directing). At that point, we’ll know for certain whether or not there’s any truth to those rumors about Penelope Cruz portraying 007′s latest female partner in the film; not to mention, who’s playing the dastardly villain, this time around.

By the sound of it, Craig is hoping that Bond 24 strikes a tone that’s more similar to Casino Royale than his prior two outings as the Bond character. Quantum of Solace, for example, shows us a vengeful 007 seeking personal payback in a story with darker (read: post-9/11) political overtones, whereas Skyfall is more about establishing Bond’s enduring relevancy – both literally (in the context of the film’s setting) and metaphorically, as a pop cultural icon.

By comparison, Casino Royale is the sole Craig-starring Bond flick so far to have incorporated just enough of the old-school Bond playfulness (read: “irony”) without going overboard; while, at the same time, successfully updating the character for the new century (unlike the final Pierce Brosnan/007 installment, Die Another Day). Following that train of logic, Craig’s suggestion doesn’t sound like a bad idea, in part because that approach would help to give Bond 24 a more unique identity – and distinguish the movie from Mendes’ Dark Knight-inspired take on the Bond franchise with Skyfall.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

'Sons of Anarchy' stars Charlie Hunnam (r.) and Theo Rossi (l.). (Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)

'Sons of Anarchy' season finale review: Another character meets a shocking end

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 12.11.13

Because of certain storylines in the past, Sons of Anarchy has developed something of a reputation for building up to a big inevitable moment, only to turn away from it, as if delaying the action would somehow enhance the drama of it all. But season 6 has been different, largely because, over the course of several gratuitously overlong episodes, the trend in the series seems to have shifted toward a desire to hit as many big moments as possible, without really developing a deep sense of why they were inevitable. The result of that has been a season padded with great deal of filler, without enough of it connecting to the climactic character moments for them to carry much weight or purpose beyond the initial rush of shocking violence being perpetrated on a familiar character.

Unlike the sudden death of Clay in ‘Aon Rud Persanata,’ there was a hint that something unpleasant was going to happen to Tara for much of the season. And while the event was handled in a way that was indeed shocking, and brought Tara’s lengthy, quarrelsome, and frequently-aggressive relationship with Gemma to a bloody and gruesome end, it was accompanied by the overwhelming feeling that any sense of tragedy stemming from the event was entirely superficial. That’s not to say Tara’s murder wasn’t tragic; it was, but it was tragic for all the wrong reasons. Rather than have her death really mean something powerful beyond adding to the misery and suffering Jax and the other characters of Sons of Anarchy must seemingly endure, it just wound up being a bit of dramatic irony that highlighted Gemma’s too frequent bouts of violence and jumping to conclusions that simply weren’t true. Carrying out the death sentence of a major character on the foundation of something as flimsy as that makes the whole thing reek of insincerity, which was only compounded by the feeling that most of the characters had to suddenly drop a few precious IQ points to allow the complicated series of events to play out as they did.

It’s difficult to understand why, after treating Juice like Fredo and proclaiming, “You betrayed me,” Jax would then let him go out in search of Gemma, who, according to a rather placid Unser, was behaving erratically and had stolen his truck – which was discovered parked outside Jax and Tara’s house. But things get even murkier when Roosevelt conveniently leaves Tara in her home, and only reenters after she’d already been murdered, because it didn’t occur to her to, you know, scream for help from the local sheriff standing just outside her front door. On the plus side, there was a brief moment when it appeared that, having been given the correct information, Gemma was going to accept responsibility for what she’d done, but all of that was wiped away when Juice decided to kill one of the few remaining likable characters the show had left.

For the most part, much of ‘A Mother’s Work’ hinged on the question of whether or not Tara was going to turn herself in to Tyne Patterson, and rat out her husband and the rest of the MC, in exchange for immunity from a crime she didn’t commit. There was some tension in this storyline, but for a series that lives and breathes on twists and explicit acts of violence, there was no way things would go down in such a manner. Tara’s death certainly checked the Explicit Acts of Violence box, but the abrupt twist of having Jax suddenly surrender himself – after a season of killing and bartering his way out of trouble with things like the school shooting that started this whole chain of events – lacked the kind of context that would have made his decision feel reasonable or even heroic. Instead, after spending much of his time this season cheating on Tara, having member of SAMCRO follow her around town, or otherwise ignoring her plight, it felt as though Jax suddenly flipped a switch and decided it would be better for everyone that he play the martyr. The trouble is, aside from a few lectures about responsibility from Tyne and Nero, there was nothing in his arc this season that would suggest the transition from killer to willing sacrifice was even remotely in the cards.  And considering how much time was spent on introducing plotlines, incidents, and characters that ultimately went nowhere, or had no great meaning, it makes the lack of work done on behalf of Jax’s conversion all the more noticeable.

The question at the beginning of the season was: how is Sons of Anarchy going to use the school shooting to make it relevant not only to the season’s overall narrative, but also to the welfare of the characters involved? The answer, apparently, is: it isn’t. All season long, the show pulled surface-deep discussions out of the school shooting, and that’s better than no discussion at all, the incident wound up being a simple plot point designed to get the Sons into a suddenly exigent move away from guns. From a purely plot-driven perspective, the club’s desire to pull away from guns made sense, but season 6 never showed much interest in the way of earnestly engaging in a discussion about gun violence outside the rather limited perspective of Jax and the rest of SAMCRO.

Ultimately, the same can be said for a number of plot points and storylines this season. Lee Toric proved to be not only an irritating character, but also one that was quickly abandoned and used primarily to open the door to Otto’s exit. Meanwhile, how many are still scratching their heads over what exactly Kim Dickens and Peter Weller’s characters were intended to bring to the table? Aside from helping move a few pieces around the board, they ostensibly did nothing. And then there’s was the dramatically inert execution of Clay Morrow that only briefly showed a glimmer of meaning something beyond simply saying goodbye to Ron Perlman.

In the end, season 6 wound up being a frustratingly indistinct season that seemed to invite a discussion into the morality of the show’s themes and its characters, only to demonstrate a greater preference for heaping sorrow on its protagonist in a search for something profound. Perhaps in its seventh, and potentially final season, all of this death and pain will amount to something carrying great weight, but right now it just feels like despair for the sake of despair.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

Amy Adams will star in the next 'Superman' film. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Amy Adams discusses 'Batman vs. Superman' film and the role of Lois Lane

By Robert Yaniz Jr.Screen Rant / 12.10.13

Fans who have long clamored for a big-screen version of DC’s Justice League may be on the verge of getting their wish. While no official announcements about the long-awaited project have been released, the upcoming Man of Steel sequel – or Batman vs. Superman, if you prefer – promises to flesh out the DC Cinematic Universe in more ways than many previously expected it to.

First came the news that Oscar winner Ben Affleck will don the cowl as the Dark Knight himself, and then – amidst rumors that a variety of heroes may appear – director Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. announced that Fast & Furious star Gal Gadot will appear in the 2015 release as Wonder Woman. There’s no indication yet exactly how much Gadot will have to do in the film (or if her role is merely a setup for the inevitable big-screen Justice League).

Regardless, Collider caught up with Man of Steel star Amy Adams – who’s returning to portray Lois Lane in the sequel – and the Wonder Woman casting news came up. Here’s what Adams had to say:

“Oh, did they [announce Wonder Woman]? I don’t even know, see? So clearly I’m not the person to talk to… Now I know. But that’s awesome. I hope I get a scene with her… I think we start in February.”

A February 2014 start date makes perfect sense for a film of this scale (and may mean more casting announcements are imminent). After all, with all those heroes involved, Batman vs. Superman will surely need a lengthy post-production window to perfect all its effects shots.

As for Adams’ response to the Wonder Woman news, there are two ways to look at it. On the one hand, Adams could be playing coy with her knowledge (or lack thereof) regarding the project. At this point, it’s fairly commonplace for the cast and crew of a much-anticipated project to do their part to perpetuate the mysteries of its production (see: Star Trek Into Darkness). However, the other (perhaps more likely?) possibility is that the character of Wonder Woman was a fairly late addition to the script and/or amounts to little more than a cameo.

Given the amount of story the Man of Steel follow-up promises to cover (including the burgeoning romance between Superman and Lois Lane), it makes sense that Wonder Woman (and perhaps other Justice League members) are featured in very minor appearances or even during a mid-credits or post-credits teaser for their team-up film.

Still, there’s every possibility that Batman vs. Superman will find a way to perfectly balance a number of superhero characters. In that case, is there any chance for sparks to fly between Superman and Wonder Woman, as they do in the comic books?

 Superhero Hype ran the possibility of such a love triangle by Adams:

“Am I interested [in a Lois-Superman-Wonder Woman love triangle]? I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see. I hope that I can be involved with a woman on screen where we’re not in a love triangle. That would be fun. Maybe where we team up together and we work as teammates instead of adversaries.”

Adams makes an excellent point here. Not only would a love triangle this early in Superman and Lois’s relationship seem premature, but it undermines all the effort Man of Steel put into modernizing Lois Lane from her traditional love interest/damsel in distress role. The first film portrayed her as a savvy journalist who ultimately proves herself a valuable ally to Superman, even keeping his identity secret. To follow that development by using the character primarily as part of a love triangle could be seen as a step backwards and undermine the strength the character showed in the first film.

Robert Yaniz Jr. blogs at Screen Rant.

Gal Gadot will star as Wonder Woman in the 'Batman vs. Superman' film. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Gal Gadot: A look at the actress who will play Wonder Woman (+video)

By H. Shaw-WilliamsScreen Rant / 12.05.13

Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman might be introducing a brand new Bruce Wayne in Ben Affleck and setting him up against Henry Cavill’s Superman, but with the main cast sorted out interest soon moved on to the supporting players.

Of these the most prominent is Wonder Woman, who may not have been in her own big-screen adventure yet but could be launched as part of Warner Bros. cinematic DC universe in preparation for a standalone film. Multiple actresses have auditioned for the role, and it seems like everyone has their ideal fan casting.

The time for rumors (these ones, at least) has now come to an end as Deadline reports that newcomer Gal Gadot has been cast in the iconic role. Gadot is best known for her appearances as Gisele in the Fast and Furious franchise, and also starred in James Mangold’s action comedy Knight and Day. Director Zack Snyder made the following statement about the casting choice:

“Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful female characters of all time and a fan favorite in the DC Universe. Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role. We look forward to audiences discovering Gal in the first feature film incarnation of this beloved character.”

Other actresses who have previously been in talks to play Wonder Woman include Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Jaimie Alexander (Thor), but casting a relatively unknown actor is in line with what Warner Bros. has done before; Cavill himself wasn’t particularly well-known until he became Superman.

Gadot was born and raised in Israel and began her career as a model, serving two years in the Israeli army and even competing in the Miss Universe pageant before eventually moving to Hollywood to become an actress. Speaking in an interview about playing a tough female character like Gisele, Gadot said:

“In real life women are strong, and it should be the same on film. I think that because the men we have in this movie are so strong, tough, clever, intelligent, big – physically really big – I think that it’s a good balance to have us girls in the movie. Girls have a different flavor.”

Andrew Dyce blogs at Screen Rant.

Benedict Cumberbatch (l.) has reportedly left the Guillermo Del Toro film 'Crimson Peak' and actor Tom Hiddleston (r.) has reportedly taken his place. (L: Phil McCarten/Reuters R: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Benedict Cumberbatch is out, Tom Hiddleston is reportedly in for Guillermo Del Toro's Gothic romance

By H. Shaw-Williams / 12.05.13

Director Guillermo del Toro has described the script for his upcoming film Crimson Peak, his first ghost-themed horror film since The Devil’s Backbone, as a classic Gothic romance with a mix of kinky and scary moments, set in a haunted house in England. It definitely sounds like an interesting project from a director with a lot of great vision, which was why it was both surprising and disappointing to hear that Benedict Cumberbatch, who was signed on for a major role, had walked away from Crimson Peak entirely.

At the time we speculated that Thor: The Dark World star Tom Hiddleston – who is Cumberbatch’s unofficial twin in terms of the roles the two of them tend to get, their physical appearances and their general public personas – seemed like the best fit to step into the place recently vacated by Cumberbatch, and it looks like Del Toro was thinking along similar lines. We’ve just learned Hiddleston has been cast in Crimson Peak, which is set to begin shooting in January 2014.

The reasons behind Cumberbatch’s decision to drop out of Crimson Peak remains a mystery. Considering how in-demand he is, scheduling conflicts would seem like an obvious explanation, but sources at THR claim that his departure was not due to another project. Perhaps it’s due to creative differences, personal reasons, or a secret deal to star in another film – or perhaps Cumberbatch just needs a vacation.

The cast that Hiddleston is joining also includes Charlie Hunnam, who recently appeared in del Toro’s monsters vs. mechs movie Pacific Rim, Jessica Chastain (Mama), Supernatural‘s Jim Beaver and another Pacific Rim star, Burn Gorman. Emma Stone was also attached to star for a while before dropping out due to a scheduling conflict, and seems to have been replaced by Stoker star Mia Wasikowska.

The production start date has actually jumped forward by about six months from its original summer 2014 schedule, so expect to see casting firm up before then. Based on what we know so far, however, Crimson Peak could end up being a very self-contained movie with quite a small cast.

Hiddleston’s followers will no doubt fill any loss of interest due to Cumberbatch’s departure (though, as mentioned before, the two actors seem to share a collective fanbase), but even without either actor this return to straight horror will definitely be worth watching to find out if del Toro still has the talent for the genre that he displayed in his early years.

H. Shaw-Williams blogs at Screen Rant.

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