Life can be tough for movie stars who've faded from public view. Just look at Karen Black. She appeared in some of the most prominent films of the '70s, like Five Easy Pieces, Nashville, The Great Gatsby, and Family Plot. But, despite being regularly employed ever since, her parts got smaller and smaller. Now, she's been struggling to pay for her own cancer treatment. Luckily, though, there are fans who remember her.
Black's husband, Stephen Eckelberry, realized that Black still has a following, so he set up a crowdfunding campaign to help with their medicals bills and finance an experimental treatment in Europe his wife thinks may help her condition. In November of 2010 she was diagnosed with ampullary cancer, which was treated by removing most of her pancreas and having her submit to intense doses of radiation. By the summer of 2011, it seemed she was in remission, but by early 2012 another tumor formed in her lower back that eventually spread to her lungs. What savings they possessed had already been spent on her previous treatment, so, to enable her to travel to Europe to try this different approach, Eckelberry set up a page on GoFundMe.com and established a fundraising goal of $32,000.
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"Some of you may remember my wife, Karen Black," Eckelberry wrote in a statement on the page. "She contributed tremendous work as an actress in movies of the seventies and eighties. If you’ve ever enjoyed her work, now is your chance to reach back to Karen – because Karen needs your help.... So here is the big question; why would someone like Karen need money? Yes, she was an actress in movies, but most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago. She has a modest pension and medical insurance (thank goodness), but as anyone knows who has fought cancer, that is not enough. In the last two years we have used up all of our savings keeping Karen alive – traveling – treatments, getting people to help her. We have nothing left. And the European treatment is not covered by insurance."
As of March 27, they've already received $45,454 from over 4,000 contributors, so maybe this story will have a Hollywood ending after all.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: JB Lacroix/WireImage]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
A host of celebrities, designers and supermodels, including Claudia Schiffer and Catherine Deneuve, have gathered in France to attend the funeral of late style maestro Yves Saint Laurent.
The legendary fashion designer died on Sunday after battling a brain tumor--and his loss has been felt by stars from all over the entertainment industry.
Saint Laurent's funeral took place in Paris on Thursday at the city's Saint-Roch church--with Paris' shops closing for two hours to pay their respects to the design icon.
The 71-year-old's fellow designers Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Sonia and Nathalie Rykiel, Kenzo Takada and Valentino all turned out to honor their late rival.
Deneuve--a close friend of Saint Laurent--read out a poem in homage to the man who created her outfits for cult 1967 movie Belle De Jour.
Saint Laurent will be cremated and his ashes scattered in a botanical garden in Marrakech, Morocco, close to a house he owned in the region.
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Rebellious and daring French aristocrat Sand (Juliette Binoche) already a well-known writer in France in the 1830s clicks with 23-year-old poet and playwright Alfred de Musset (Benoit Magimel) a boy of letters seven years her junior who is the epitome of spoiled immaturity. They first meet when de Musset attends a public reading of her book that scandalously deals with female frigidity and the attraction is immediate. The two privileged rebels forge a friendship that soon turns romantic in spite of palpable signs that de Musset whose mantra is that he needs to behave badly in order to write well is deeply troubled (at the dinner table he uses a fork as a weapon). Rich and prominent the two flee family pressures by escaping to Italy where they hope to continue writing. But even before they reach land de Musset reveals his debauchery aboard ship. In Venice things only get worse. De Musset gives full vent to his fondness for brothels gambling and opium. As his dissipation intensifies he becomes increasingly abusive toward Sand. When he ignores her when she becomes ill the doctor who takes care of her soon becomes her lover--making de Musset crazed and violent with jealousy and prompting him to return to Paris. Yet Sand a victim of another kind of self-destruction allows the affair to pick up again until family interference and de Musset's fateful extremism put an end to the relationship…and the poet-playwright's life.
Binoche and Magimel partners in real life are superb as the two leads. Binoche is convincing as the charmed George Sand and Magimel appropriately reckless and obnoxious as the handsome but sloppy de Musset. Supporting players are all up to the task.
French director Diane Kurys does a fine job of juggling her larger-than-life biographical characters and managing a sweeping production involving actual locations lavish costumes (courtesy Christian Lacroix) and period sets. Kurys manages to extract high drama from her two leads while keeping the goings-on altogether convincing. This is certainly the vet director's best film in several years.
Christy Turlington, the 31-year-old supermodel who currently appears on anti-smoking commercials, has been diagnosed with emphysema, The Associated Press reports. The model told reporters that she was diagnosed after undergoing a lung scan in New York.
She said she smoked up to a pack a day from ages 13 to 26. She later became an anti-smoking activist after her father’s death from lung cancer in 1997.
DOUGLAS, ZETA-JONES SPEAK: The happy newlyweds have finally spoken. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones sat with reporters Sunday to explain the details of their wedding two weeks ago, Reuters reports. So why was only one photographer allowed into the ceremony, which reportedly cost $1.5 million to $2 million?
Douglas says it was “the best way to control the media blitz.”
The couple has been secluded in their Manhattan digs with their 4-month-old son Dylan since they exchanged vows Nov. 18 at New York’s Plaza Hotel.
Zeta-Jones, however, could not confirm the exact cost of the wedding, saying that Douglas had not told her how much was actually spent. She also said she hadn’t received the bill for her reported $250,000 Christian Lacroix gown, so she didn’t know the cost of the dress, either.
POET GWENDOLYN BROOKS DIES: Gwendolyn Brooks, the Chicago poet who became the first black person to win a Pulitzer Prize, died Sunday, Reuters reports. She was 83.
Considered one of the most influential poets of her time, Brooks published “A Street in Bronzeville,” her first of 20 books, in 1945. Five years later she won a Pulitzer Prizer for her poem “Annie Allen.”
``At a time when racism was so rampant, Gwendolyn Brooks was almost like a literary Joe Louis,'' Sterling Plumpp, a professor in the departments of African-American Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. ``At a time when black people were being clubbed into submission because of their race, it was her eloquence in her poetry that got many African-Americans to look at their community, and to see their minds as something of great worth,'' he added.
Brooks died in her home in south Chicago surrounded by friends and family. She is survived by a son, Henry Blakely III; and one grandson. Services are pending.