Rapper/actor Ice Cube has opened up about his controversial decision not to cast the late Eazy-E's son as the hip-hop icon in his forthcoming N.W.A. biopic, insisting the role required an experienced actor with "a lot of range". Eazy-E's son, Eric Wright, Jr., auditioned for the Straight Outta Compton film job and recently admitted he was disappointed after movie bosses decided to cast newcomer Jason Mitchell as the younger version of his tragic father.
Now Ice Cube, who is serving as one of the project's producers, has explained the reasons behind the decision, insisting aspiring actor Wright, Jr. simply wasn't a good fit.
Speaking to Colorado radio station KS 107.5, Ice Cube says, "He (Wright, Jr.) is an up-and-coming actor trying to do it, but we needed somebody who was a little more polished to play Eazy, because he goes through a lot in his life. He goes from selling dope in Compton to fighting for his life in a hospital bed. So we needed to find an actor with a lot of range. And we just couldn't use just anybody. We gave him (Wright, Jr.) a shot, and it just didn't work out."
Wright, Jr. wasn't the only N.W.A. offspring snubbed for a role in the film - Dr. Dre's aspiring actor/rapper son Curtis Young was also passed over in favour of Corey Hawkins, although Ice Cube's kid, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., will play his dad onscreen.
Meanwhile, the remaining N.W.A. bandmates MC Ren and DJ Yella will be played by Aldis Hodge and Neil Brown, Jr., respectively.
F. Gary Gray will direct the film about the rise of the iconic California rap group and their split in 1991.
The biopic is scheduled for release next summer (15).
Rap mogul Dr. Dre halted plans for his son to portray him on the big screen in N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton over fears he didn't have enough acting experience. F. Gary Gray will direct the film about the rise of the California rap group, which included Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, the late Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella, and their split in 1991.
The cast was announced last week (ends22Jun14) and includes O'Shea Jackson, Jr., playing his father Ice Cube, and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E.
Newcomer Marcus Callender landed the role of Dre, but the hip-hop veteran's aspiring actor/rapper son Curtis Young reveals he auditioned for the role first.
He says, "I actually tried out for the role, 'cause the casting company called me. But my father wanted somebody with more acting experience, and I haven't been acting for a long time, so I'm happy for the guy that got the role. It's one of those things where we want what's best for the movie and for the film. I had a lot of fans that were upset about it, but whatever's best for the film."
The biopic is set for release in 2015
"Reality TV to me is the museum of social decay. And what passes for music - it's all on that plateau. Who's the hero for young people today? Some idiot who can't f**king sing or write or who's shaking her a** and twerking in front of 11 year olds." British actor Gary Oldman appears to take a swipe at pop star Miley Cyrus, who is known for her 'twerking' dance moves.
Reclusive rock star Gary Glitter returned to the spotlight on Thursday (19Jun14) as he appeared in court to face child sex charges. The glam rock icon, who has been charged with eight sex assaults on two girls as young as 12, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London under his real name Paul Gadd.
He is facing six counts of indecent assault, one count of "administering a drug or other thing in order to facilitate sexual intercourse", and one of sexual intercourse with a girl under 13. The alleged offences date from between 1977 and 1980.
During the brief hearing, Gadd spoke only to confirm his name and personal details, and when the deputy chief magistrate questioned why the veteran star was wearing sunglasses in court, his defence attorney Christopher Ware insisted his client has a "medical condition".
Gadd was released on bail and will appear at Southwark Crown Court in London on 3 July (14).
Actor Tony Danza is officially heading back to Broadway for the first time in 13 years with a musical adaptation of 1992 movie Honeymoon In Vegas. The Taxi star will take on the role of gambler Tommy Korman, the character made famous by James Caan in the film, about a man who falls for a young woman while she is in Las Vegas to wed her boyfriend.
Actress Brynn O'Malley will play the bride-to-be, depicted by Sarah Jessica Parker on the big screen, while Rob McClure will take on the role Nicolas Cage played in the early 1990s.
Gary Griffin will direct the show, which will begin previews on 18 November (14) at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, ahead of its official opening on 15 January (15).
Danza last appeared on the Great White Way in a 2001 production of The Producers, while he previously featured in The Iceman Cometh in 1999 and A View From the Bridge in 1997.
Rumours about Danza's Broadway return first surfaced in 2011, before producers decided to give the Honeymoon in Vegas musical a trial run at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse last year (13).
Country music stars Gary Allan and Chris Young were forced to scrap appearances at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday night (05Jun14) due to illness and injury. Vocal issues forced Allan to pull the plug on his fan club party, while Young's hand injury kept him from a planned autograph signing event.
Reports suggest he cut his hand while cooking.
Young is still hoping to perform at the festival on Saturday night (07Jun14), but Allan's vocal problems are far more serious - the It Ain't the Whiskey singer has suffered similar issues in the past, and underwent surgery in 2010 to remove a polyp from his throat.
Glam rock icon Gary Glitter has been charged with eight sex assaults on girls as young as 12. The Rock and Roll Part II hitmaker is accused of abusing two females between 1977 and 1980, and faces a claim that one alleged victim was drugged by the star.
He has been charged with six counts of indecent assault, one count of "administering a drug or other thing in order to facilitate sexual intercourse", and one of sexual intercourse with a girl under 13.
Glitter, real name Paul Gadd, is due at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on 19 June (14).
Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection
Million Dollar Arm takes a lot for granted when it comes to its audience. It assumes that anyone paying to see this film must care about baseball. Odds are it's right — you've got to have some motivating factor beyond Jon Hamm's jawline. But it assumes you care enough that it doesn't matter how little its characters seem to. We see so few instances involving any carnal appreciation for the game throughout the bulk of the picture, least of all from cranky and materialistic sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Hamm), that when the final act treats us to its coup de grâce tearjerkers we can't help but feel like we're being thrown one hell of a curveball.
But that isn't the worst of the film's assumptions. As a last ditch effort to find a ringer both talented and bankable enough to save his career, J.B. throws caution to the wind and high tails it to India on a scouting mission for strong-armed cricket bowlers. So casually racist that you'd think this film takes place long before 2008, J.B. hates everything about cricket (...why?) and India on the whole, submitting immediately to the idea that he's in a third-rate wasteland where nothing can get done, nobody knows anything, and any young boy would be elated to get out of dodge. And Million Dollar Arm has no interest in proving him wrong: The film never second-guesses (and assumes we won't either) the notion that Big Leagues hopefuls Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) would be happier and better off in America. It assumes we won't take any issue with the idea that two boys from India must have never seen an elevator, a television, or a moment of good fortune. Sure, they might not have... but it's as if Million Dollar Arm expects us to believe there is no other option when a wide-eyed Sharma wanders through a Californian hotel like Wall-E exploring the starliner.
Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection
The film gives itself so much regrettable leeway while carting through the necessary points of its true story, jumping from the laughable inception of J.B.'s plan to move his search overseas to the languid introduction of the two boys (neither of whom is given any backstory) and their entry into the MLB's consideration. But scattered throughout are beats and scenes that seem ripped from a different script entirely — J.B.'s gradual appreciation of Dinesh, Rinku, and much bemoaned translator, documentarian, and aspiring baseball coach Amit (Pitobash Tripathy) as his surrogate family. Of course the vast majority of his emotional realizations come at the behest of his beautiful, kooky tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), but the kids are usually at least nearby.
It's shocking how much the personal material does to salvage Million Dollar Arm, though. J.B.'s relationship with Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit, and — perhaps more importantly — the relationships between Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit themselves are funny, warm, and flavorful enough to give this otherwise faceless movie some real character. Secondary players Bill Paxton and Alan Arkin do little to surprise, playing disgruntled and unconscious respectively, but there's a reason these guys are always called on to do the same thing. And if that's not enough for you, Aasif Mandvi's kids keep throwing up. It plays both like an extended metaphor about the hidden joys in family life and a non sequitur gag from Tomcats. Take your pick.
Million Dollar Arm's charming points are strong enough to distract at times from its boisterous misgivings, but they peer through in the end. Not every baseball movie needs hair-tustling and eye-welling. Not every baseball movie warrants a Pride of the Yankees elegy about the glories of the diamond. But Million Dollar Arm wishes it was one of these movies (so much so that it actually rips the Lou Gehrig speech right out of Gary Cooper's mouth). Still, instead of building a story about the love of baseball or even about the magic of this story, Million Dollar Arm keeps all its genuine energy on a bunt: the story of some jackass who warms up to a couple of kids after a while. Not a bad play, but hardly the grand slam it was going for.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether.
The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way.
This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something.
Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.
In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks.
Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Stepping out of Neighbors into the cold, calm, dick-joke-free real world, you might find yourself hit with a barrage of "But wait..." moments: "Why did they move into a new frat house just a month or two before the end of college?" "When was it established that she wanted to sleep with him?" "Where did that pledge come from?" "Who was that other guy?" "If he, then why?" "When did?" "How?" "What?" "Huh?!" Yeah, there are enough logical holes in Nicholas Stoller's comedy to warrant an "Everything Wrong with Neighbors" gag trailer and a dozen or two angry message threads. But the tenability of a movie's realism isn't exactly on trial when it sells itself as the Seth Rogen comedy in which a baby eats a condom.
Neighbors eagerly liberates itself not only from the laws of basic reality or tight storytelling, but also from the rigid shackles of any one comic tone. We jump from a slice of life about new parents Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Rose Byrne) who aren't quite ready to say goodbye to their youth instantly to a wild and wacky college farce about the fraternity one house over (led by Zac Efron and second banana Dave Franco), borrowing a lexicon from latter day National Lampoon. As the war picks up between these congenial neighbors-turned-close-quarters enemies, we're invited into a back and forth of vicious, albeit loony, aggression, each maneuver to "get those fogeys/punks next door" escalating in hostility, danger, and independence from earthbound possibility. As we're treated to this ceaseless exercise in human malignance, Neighbors peppers in episodes of cartoon-grade zaniness, macabre pathos, and absolute surrealism. And although it might not seem like all of these comic identities can exist in the same film, Neighbors has a special trick up its sleeve to make it all work: it's funny. Never brilliant, and rarely all that fresh, but always funny.
The frat stuff plays broad, often saddling Efron's sadomasochistic pseudo-villain, Franco's vulnerable prick, and the pair's gang of goons — a wily Christopher Mintz-Plasse and an effortlessly charming Jerrod Carmichael at the top of the heap — with the usual party flick shenanigans like dance-offs and flaming barrels of marijuana. The team of youngsters is at its best, though, when the standard routine is shirked for more peculiar fare, like an abstract non sequitur that has Franco demonstrating a bizarre biological skill, or a fractured history of drinking games as narrated through flashbacks by a passionate Efron.
A good deal of fun can be pinned on the usual assortment of physical gags, pop culture references (one extended bit plays on the film histories of Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Al Pacino to endearing results), and the goofball antics of supporting players like Ike Barinholtz (as Mac's zealous, dimwitted pal). But Neighbors' secret weapon is Byrne, outshining the established comedic reputations of her co-stars with her performance as Kelly. Catapulted miles from the doldrums of straight-man-hood, Byrne tops even Rogen in awkward panache (watching her struggling to interact with the younger breed early on in the movie is delightful) and diabolical villainy alike — the very biggest laughs come from Byrne unleashing her furies or executing evil schemes. If Neighbors inspires any lasting impression, it should be a new appreciation for Byrne's chops in the humor department.
Somehow, this farcical grab bag never feels lethally convoluted or overstuffed. While the film's pacing does no great favors — we jump right into the principal conflict, which is a tough beat to sustain for so long — and a few abject narrative leaps keep the story from feeling tidy, these problems feel like a second priority. Even if some of the jokes feel strained or rehashed, if the characters are malleable, if the conceit is overcooked, or if there are too many plot holes to count... we're laughing. So it's working.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com