It’s taken 17 years, but Fox has at last dated Independence Day 2 to hit theaters during (when else?) the Fourth of July holiday frame in 2015. The sequel will pick up in real-time, some twenty years after the first movie. However, co-writers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (the latter is returning to direct) have revealed that ID4-2 takes place in an alternate present-day reality, where humanity has spent the last two decades harvesting the alien technology featured in the first movie.
Cast-wise, Independence Day 2 is expected to bring back characters from the first film – like former U.S. president Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and MIT graduate-turned cable repairman Dave Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) – but Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) won’t be among them. Similarly, the cast will be half new characters, some of whom may become more prominently featured in a third installment (assuming the first sequel is a satisfactory box office hit).
Devlin and Emmerich had mapped out the ID4 sequel as a two-part narrative arch, under the working title ID Forever Part I & II. The latter has informed Collider that “I think [Fox] decided to only do one first” for the time being, and has set James Vanderbilt (the writer for Emmerich’s White House Down) to polish off the script.
That’s understandable, given that Emmerich’s disaster blockbuster formula isn’t so fresh nowadays (following ID4, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012), and the self-contained nature of ID4 gives all the more reason to wonder if demand for a sequel is so high after many years. Not to mention, the number of alien films released in recent years – a handful of which proved to be mediocre or worse – make it harder to get enthused about yet another blockbuster that feature extraterrestrials in an apocalyptic scenario (the end-of-the-world sub-genre is, likewise, starting to feel over-saturated at this point).
As for Smith’s lack of involvement, Emmerich told the NY Daily News:
“Will Smith can not come back because he’s too expensive, but he’d also be too much of a marquee name. It would be too much. We have like maybe half of the people that you know would know from the first film (in the script) and the other half people who are new.”
What’s funny is that Smith has made it known that he doesn’t want to turn into “the sequel guy,” and yet many of his oft-rumored upcoming projects are followups to his previous tentpole successes (Bad Boys 3, Hancock 2, I Am Legend 2, etc.). While M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth – which stars Will and his son Jaden – has performed below expectations, the sci-fi film has still managed to take in $172 million worldwide; meaning, the ex-Fresh Prince’s ability to get projects green-lit probably won’t take that big a hit (and it won’t change his mind about not becoming the go-to guy for sequels).
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
Another American is coming to “Downton Abbey.”
“The Ides of March” actor Paul Giamatti will be appearing in the smash-hit British drama as Harold Levinson, brother of American countess Cora. The brother character has been discussed during the series by Cora and their mother (Shirley Maclaine), but so far had remained offscreen.
Harold is “free-spirited,” Carnival Films managing director and “Downton” executive producer Gareth Neame said in a statement, and that during the finale of the upcoming season, he and Maclaine will “upset the Granthams’ apple cart.”
“We can't wait to see him work alongside Shirley Maclaine,” Neame said.
The show centers on the lives of a British aristocratic family, the Crawleys, and the drama occurring between the family’s servants. So far, the family has weathered World War I and the social upheaval of the 1920s.
And (spoiler alert for season three) “Downton” shocked fans with its most recent season finale, which aired on Christmas Day in the UK, when the episode included the demise of the romantic lead, Matthew Crawley, who was married to the Crawley family’s oldest daughter.
Giamatti starred to critical acclaim in the HBO miniseries “John Adams” as the title character, a role for which he received an Emmy Award. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 2005 film “Cinderella Man” and was one of the two male leads in the well-received 2004 film “Sideways.”
He will portray Friar Laurence in the upcoming adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” and will play the Spider-Man villain the Rhino in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” He will also appear as part of the star-studded cast of the film “Saving Mr. Banks,” in which Emma Thompson will play “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks will portray Walt Disney.
Last night, tightrope walker Nik Wallenda crossed a 1,400-foot wide channel of the Grand Canyon in just under 23 minutes, a stunt that was viewable online and through the Discovery Channel. The tightrope walk, which stretched over a distance long as four football fields and 1,500 feet above the canyon floor, was watched by many, including celebrities like Carrie Underwood and Piers Morgan. Two of our interns, Colby Bermel and Casey Lee, watched it live. Here's what they thought.
Colby Bermel: Casey, I thought this was a really cool experience overall. Nik Wallenda obviously did something really bold, and it was fun – is that the right word? – to watch him walk on the wire from all the different camera angles.
Casey Lee: It was amazing! I feel like we hardly get to see dangerous stunts pulled off anymore, with all the waivers you have to sign for everything these days. But this was great entertainment! Of course, I’m only saying that now because I know he got across OK.
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Colby: Yeah, when he walked across Niagara Falls last year, he had to be cabled in at the last minute. But just to clarify for our readers, he was NOT hooked in to anything when crossing the Grand Canyon at a height that's the equivalent of the Empire State Building! Yowza! And this was all live – but there was a ten-second delay, probably in case anything did happen.
Casey: He crossed the Niagara Falls, too?! Kudos to this guy, but I think he might be a little bit crazy. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t hooked up to anything. The way his shirt was billowing, it must have been so windy up there!
Colby: He was wearing bootcut jeans. Bootcut jeans!
Casey: Right? I can’t even move in my jeans in day-to-day life, let alone trapezing across the Grand Canyon. What about those cameras? No. 4 was my least favorite (secretly my most favorite!).
Colby: I did like No. 4 – it was essentially a GoPro attached to his chest pointed downwards – but I got bored of it after a while. So I switched to Camera No. 2, which was the helicopter swirling around him. That was super intense. I kept waiting for “Survivor” host Jeff Probst to poke his head out of the helicopter and go on some spiel. I just LOVE this clip of Probst on a helicopter in last year’s “Survivor: One World.”
Casey: I could only watch No. 4 camera for a bit, too; it started making me dizzy. But there was that moment when he kneeled – KNEELED – on the stupid cable thing and I was like, “What are you doing?! This is already hard enough! Just CROSS!” I really got into the spirit of the thing. A lot of other people did, too, like Piers Morgan, as you could tell from the Twitter comments appearing on the side.
Colby: Yeah, this was clearly orchestrated to be a “social” event for viewers. People could tweet about the event with the hashtag #skywire, which is what the Discovery Channel was calling this whole spectacle. My favorite tweet was from Frankie Muniz. Where has he been since the mid-2000s?
Casey: Living in his mansion – I just Googled it. I’d get lost in that place. Plus I’d buy a Segway with a GPS to navigate the halls with. You’ve seen that Samsung commercial with Ozzy Osbourne, right? The one where he’s using the map function to get around his house? It’d be like that.
Colby: My favorite celebrity-cellphone commercial is last year’s Apple ad with Samuel L. Jackson, where he’s asking Siri how to make risotto. I mean, how can you not love that guy?
Casey: Talented, funny, and he cooks. This is why Samuel L. Jackson is a keeper!
Colby: Agreed. Case closed.
Colby Bermel and Casey Lee are Monitor contributors.
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The Lone Ranger teaser trailer isn’t so much about introducing Old West heroes John Reid (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp) – in fact, they’re barely in it. Instead, it foremost offers a peek at the antiquated trains used in Gore Verbinski’s western – which in part account for the estimated $200-250 million price tag and principle photography taking 4-5 months (in such places as Monument Valley and Moab).
Of course, Depp and Verbinski are no strangers to working with massive budgets and shooting on location in unspoiled terrains, after Pirates of the Caribbean. Lone Ranger reunites them with producer Jerry Bruckheimer as well as Pirates writing duo Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who worked together on both the story and script with Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, Snitch).
Disney’s full Lone Ranger trailer gives a more proper introduction to the lawman John Reid and explores his inspiration to put on a bandit mask, in order to fight for justice in the Wild West; however, he is once again overshadowed by Depp as the peculiar American Indian spirit warrior Tonto. On one hand, it’s refreshing to see an iteration of Lone Ranger where the characters feel like true equals; on the other hand, there’s a risk that Depp’s antics will take precedent over Reid’s story, making the latter seem like a second-tier player in his own movie (similar to what happened at times in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland).
Lone Ranger also reteams Verbinski with director of photography Bojan Bazelli, who worked with the filmmaker on The Ring. Their new collaboration uses a similar harsh color palette – here, with more of a western flavor – and the nightmarish montage that opens the new trailer almost feels lifted from their J-horror remake. Yet, but a matter of seconds later, there are jokes with horses wearing hats and big-budget spectacle featuring multiple (count ‘em, multiple) train derailments that tease the central conflict: a power struggle involving a scheming railroad tycoon (Tom Wilkinson) and his henchman (William Fichtner).
That’s to say: upon closer inspection this trailer’s all over the map, as is the actual movie (we suspect). That’s not a surprise, seeing how Depp and Verbinski’s first foray into the western genre resulted in the highly idiosyncratic Rango; moreover, Verbinski made it clear from the beginning that he’s not interested in making a conventional Lone Ranger re-telling. But will moviegoers in general go for it, especially once word-of-mouth comes into effect?
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
Viewers won’t find out until tonight, but “Voice” judge Adam Levine says that he knows who will take first place.
Despite the fact that contestant Danielle Bradbery isn’t one of his contestants (Levine doesn’t have any competitors left on the show), the Maroon 5 lead singer said during the June 17 episode that he believes Bradbery’s vocals will net her the crown.
“The crazy thing about your voice is it's just so unbelievably perfect and powerful," he said. "It's one of the better voices I think I've ever heard live... And I'm just going to go ahead and say, I think Danielle's the winner of this thing," he said.
Because of this praise, fellow judge Blake Shelton, who has Bradbery on his team, gave Levine a standing ovation.
The remaining contestants on the show are the Swon Brothers (Zach and Colton), who perform together, Michelle Chamuel, and Bradbery. The Swon Brothers are on Shelton’s team, while Chamuel is being coached by singer Usher, who called Chamuel “the winner” during the June 17 episode.
The winner of the current season will be announced during the June 18 episode.
“The Voice” premiered on NBC in 2011 and features judges initially facing away from contestants, unable to see them, while the singers audition. Judges then choose whether or not they want the singer on their team based on their vocals alone before turning in their chairs to see what the contestant looks like.
Judges for the first season of the show consisted of Levine, Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Christina Aguilera. Aguilera and Green were later replaced by singers Shakira and Usher. A contestant coached by Shelton has won the show twice, while a contestant from Levine’s team has secured the win once.
Rapper. Club owner. Clothing line creator. Entrepreneur. These are some of the many hats worn by the rapper Jay-Z, who demonstrated his versatility yet again Sunday night when he announced the upcoming release of his new album "Magna Carta Holy Grail."
During ABC's television broadcast of the fifth game of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, a three-minute commercial aired depicting Jay-Z working in a studio with superstar producers Timbaland, Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz, and Pharrell Williams. The men discussed the music they were creating, nodding their heads to the beat and laughing as wisecracks were made. Jay-Z, born Shawn Corey Carter, described the new music as "lush" and full of live instrumentation.
"That's what hip-hop is," he said. "It's the emotion."
The commercial was produced by electronics giant Samsung, who reportedly signed Jay-Z to a $20 million deal in early June. The New York Post's Page Six quoted a source on June 4 who spoke of the artist's desire to create a "new music-streaming service to promote his acts and music on mobile devices." And that’s exactly what the 43-year-old rapper has done.
The Game 5 advertisement directed viewers to MagnaCartaHolyGrail.com, a website providing further details on Jay-Z's latest project. The album, described by the rapper as "revolutionary" on the Magna Carta Holy Grail site, will be given away for free on July 4 to the first 1 million users who claim the offer on the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, the Galaxy S4 smartphone, or the Galaxy Note II tablet. The Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung paid $5 million to offset the costs of the 1 million albums being released for free – $5 for each album download.
"Magna Carta Holy Grail" will initially be made available through its corresponding Samsung app. The app, which will feature an "unprecedented look into the album, personal stories, and inspiration," comes out next Monday. But fans will have to wait until the stroke of midnight on July 4 to download the album on their Samsung devices. "Magna Carta" will be released to the general public on July 7, 72 hours after Samsung users get their hands on it.
Jay-Z, a winner of 17 Grammys, hasn't put out a solo project since "The Blueprint 3" in 2009. His most recent work, however, was 2011's "Watch the Throne," an album he wrote jointly with the rapper Kanye West. He also served as the executive producer for the soundtrack to this year's film adaptation of "The Great Gatsby." Overall, the Brooklyn artist has released 11 solo albums, nine of which have reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
"The idea is to really finish the album and drop it, giving it to the world at one time and letting them share it," Jay-Z said at the conclusion of the video.
"Great, beautiful," Rubin replied with a smile.
Colby Bermel is a Monitor contributor.
Monsters University is the first prequel released by Pixar Animation Studio, and reveals the story behind how the beloved Scarer duo featured in Monsters, Inc. - green-skinned, one-eyed, Michael “Mike” Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and the big, friendly, hairy giant James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) – became the best of friends back in their college days (despite being very different people monsters at the time, before they formed their adult personalities).
Disney/Pixar has unveiled one last theatrical trailer for Monsters University – it’s technically the eighth trailer overall, assuming you count the initial four teasers as separate - in addition to four clips of footage, each around a minute in length. In other words: this is the final push in the film’s marketing, on the off-chance you’ve not already decided whether or not you want to see Mike and Sulley’s origin story.
Monsters University was directed by Dan Scanlon (the Cars short “Mater and the Ghostlight”), who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson (Monsters, Inc., Cars). Per usual, the Pixar animators look to be having a lot of fun creating “monster-ized” sight gags and jokes that lampoon college student stereotypes – as well as university life in general – which the story from Scanlon and his collaborators seems to offer plenty an opportunity for.
Early word of mouth is that Monsters University has a well-crafted storyline that involves more than just Animal House-style shenanigans – despite what some of the trailers might have you believe – and the final theatrical preview does the best job of suggesting as much to be true. All things considered, it should be enjoyable to watch Mike and Sulley evolve into characters we know and love (from Monsters, Inc.).
The intent of this episode is to find who or what Bill (Stephen Moyer) is now but the actual story and its focus is, as one now expects from this series, unnecessarily complex and disorganized, so much so that the question it’s looking to answer is once again muddied by the relentless, unforgiving nature of the numerous storylines that True Blood attempts (and mostly fails) to juggle simultaneously. But even though the mess of plots and subplots continuously to feel unnecessary, as if it’s a weakness of the series, there’s something about this amalgamation which tempts you to tune in, year after year, episode after episode – and season 6 is no different.
The premiere picks up where the True Blood season 5 finale left off, with Sookie (Anna Paquin) and company escaping from the Vampire Authority as Billith was born from blood. This, itself, is a bit of a conundrum for those tuning in, as you’re required to piece together fragmented memories from over a year ago in order to understand what’s going on. This has largely been the case since True Blood began, but since season 5 and season 6 storylines are essentially one, being able to remember everything from last season is now a bit of an unfortunate necessity. And though the series has been on the air for six years now, it seems as if you need to continuously remind yourself that this show is, for all intents and purposes, a vampiric soap opera, as season 1 was the only time the series could have been considered a streamlined drama.
Still, True Blood keeps pushing forward, moving more and more away from the source material, into whatever theoretically logical storyline can hopefully encase its enormous – and ever-growing – cast of characters. Now it’s time to witness the return of Warlow (canonically speaking); the shortage of Tru Blood; the reign (or lack thereof) of Billith; humanity’s turn on vampire allegiances; Andy Bellefleur’s (Chris Bauer) rapidly growing fairy children; and Sam Merlot’s (Sam Trammell) single father woes – and that’s just in the premiere episode, where no story really feels fully serviced.
But with longtime series scribe Brian Buckner taking over as showrunner for season 6, and Raelle Tucker, who penned the terrific season 1 finale, taking on the first episode of the season, there’s a real reason to be intrigued and excited about what the premiere, as well as the season, has in store for its characters. Such encouraging and hopeful feelings are quickly squashed, though, as True Blood finally reveals itself for what it is: a self-working machine, where writers and directors are really only there to continue progressing what’s already been established. Typically, what’s already been established would be series formatting, character personalities, visual styles, etc. But in the case of True Blood, what’s already been established is its proverbial cornucopia of characters stories, with an open-ended seasonal storyline to boot.
Now that’s not to say that what True Blood currently is, in and of itself, is a bad thing, but it does limit the avenues that creative minds, like Tucker, are able to take with their given episodes. Additionally, with the episode count being cut from 12 episodes to 10, the inherent structure in which Tucker, as well as every other writer on the show, are typically used to have shifted, so there is a 2-episode storytelling gap that needs to be filled, even if many believe there’s already too much storytelling going on already.
What we’re left with, essentially, is a “ball” that’s been rolling for quite some time, and the only thing Tucker can do is maintain the series with the season 6 premiere – but, again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As True Blood has aged, it’s the supplemental characters, like Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) and, yes, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), that have risen to the top, as their characters have the weight and intensity to break through the melodrama of its main characters, to consistently elevate each scene beyond its operatic structure. But at the same time, characters like Terry have, sadly, been pushed aside and are now used as a comic relief or, like with Alcide, are given completely unenticing storylines to follow.
At six years of age, True Blood has already defined itself as a series, so any complaints of its complicated, disorganized structure are a bit of a moot point, and there’s no real opportunity for anyone – even the showrunner – to change that. And it shouldn’t change, really.
Because no matter how numerous or ridiculous the storylines, no matter how operatic the series itself is, there’s an undeniable allure to its madness which leads you to continue tuning in. There’s a reason why soap operas were so successful on television for so long, and True Blood has, for better or worse, successfully made use of such elements. Will this be one of the best seasons of television you’ve seen? Not likely. But you’ve got to give credit to a series that can get you to watch it on its terms where even if, at times, you’re frustrated, you’ll tune in next week.
Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.
Zack Snyder’s stylishly violent swords and sandals epic, 300, was a surprise box office smash (taking in $456 million worldwide in the spring of 2007), but no one kids themselves into believing that his cinematic vision was not responsible for that chest-beating comic book adaptation being so enjoyable to watch. This is why the upcoming sequel/prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, has prompted more wariness than excitement, as Snyder passed on directing to make Man of Steel instead.
Rise of an Empire is based on Frank Miller’s 300 companion graphic novel “Xerxes,” which Snyder and his 300 co-writer Kurt Johnstad adapted into a script. The film centers around the Battle of Artemisium, a naval conflict that pitted the Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) against the vengeful commander of the Persian navy, Artemesia (Eva Green), and the Persian leader Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who had developed a major god complex by that point.
As expected, the newly-released Rise of an Empire trailer appeals heavily to everyone’s nostalgia for the first movie, between shots of Xerxes leering over King Leonidas’ (Gerard Butler’s) corpse and the VO narration by Lena Headey – who’s now a bigger star thanks to Game of Thrones – reprising as Queen Gorgo. That’s in spite of the fact that neither 300 lead is expected to make anything more than a glorified cameo in the new installment (a misleading, but smart, marketing angle to take).
The Battle of Artemisium occurred at the same time as the Battle of Thermopylae depicted in 300; hence, Rise of an Empire is described as being a 300 ”mid-quel” rather than either a pure sequel or prequel. The Rise of an Empire director Noam Murro has said the film will offer a “whole different choreography of fighting and war,” which could be an effective means to distinguish the movie from Snyder’s brazen storytelling and action coordination in its predecessor. (Or, it could just be an excuse for why Murro’s adaptation feels like a hollow knockoff.)
So far, based on the trailer, the digitally-enhanced visuals and cinematography in Rise of an Empire seem decent, but they lack that extra “oomph” factor and flair that Snyder brought to the proceedings. And bless Stapleton for effort, but he doesn’t seem to possess either the macho presence or yelling capacity that made Butler so memorable as a Greek warrior. Maybe Green playing a treacherous warrior lady will make up for that…?
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
Does George Takei, whose Facebook page has won him a devoted following, employ ghostwriters to think up new status updates?
Yes and no, according to Takei himself. Takei, best known for his role as USS Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series, is well known for his Facebook account, updated frequently with jokes about grammar mistakes, posts about his support of gay rights and gay marriage, and funny photos.
“Parents, is this you?” Takei asked in a recent status update, posting a photo of a parent sleeping with their infant lying on top of their head.
His page currently has more than 4 million likes.
Recently, writer Rick Polito stated in an interview with Jim Romenesko, a media analyst, that Takei pays him $10 per joke to write for his page.
However, Takei himself said he didn’t see what the fuss was about.
“What is this hoo-ha about my FB posts?” Takei said in an interview with Wired. “I have Brad, my husband, to help me and interns to assist. What is important is the reliability of my posts being there to greet my fans with a smile or a giggle every morning. That’s how we keep on growing.”
He pointed out that his e-book "Oh Myy," which came out in November, stated that people he called “George Fakei” sometimes updated his page for him. Takei said that people like Polito will supply him with the humorous photos, which the actor said he always states are from “a fan,” but that he himself writes the comments about them.
“The commentaries are mine,” Takei told Wired.
When he's away from home, the actor said others will re-post old status updates to his page.
Meanwhile, Polito said in a new interview with Romensko that he apologized to Takei.
“I don’t update his page,” Polito said. “I’ve had no direct contact with George. I’ve sent him some memes, as have other comedian types, and I was happy for the exposure.”