Producer Allan Mckeown has lost his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 66. McKeown passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday (24Dec13).
He began his career as a hairdresser in the 1960s in the U.K. for celebrity clients including The Beatles, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Michael Caine.
He shifted careers in 1969 and became one of Britain's first independent television producers working on several U.K. and U.S. shows including Tracey Takes On, which won six Emmy Awards in 1997, with his actress wife Tracey Ullman.
McKeown also founded a a group which acquired the ITV franchise in the south east of England. He sold his share in 1996.
In addition to his TV work, McKeown also produced stage shows including The Big Love, Jerry Springer The Opera and Lennon, and films Villain, Get Carter and XYZ.
McKeown was most recently working on Indian comedy series Mumbai Calling.
He is survived by Ullman, who he married in 1983, and their two children.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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It was only a matter of time, really. With everything being remade these days, you knew television mini-series would eventually be targeted. So which one does the History Channel have in its sights? Roots, of course – the 1977, 12-hour granddaddy of all mini-series that was such a phenomenon, more than half of all American households tuned in to see the finale. Think about that for a second. More than half of American households watched "Roots."
In today’s fragmented market, it’s difficult to even comprehend that figure. Given that, while it isn’t a surprise that the History Channel would want to see some of that success come to its network with its proposed eight-hour remake – calling it a “cultural icon” and rightly so – you wonder what other mini-series of yore might also be up for a redo.
Gulliver’s Travels (1996)
A timeless tale from the quill of Jonathan Swift entirely ripe for a remake. This last incarnation saw Ted Danson in the lead in a two-part mini-series. Hard to argue that this classic wouldn’t once again succeed.
The Thorn Birds (1983)
The steamy tale of a banished Catholic priest (played by Richard Chamberlain) and his relationship with a young woman caused quite a stir in the early '80s, particularly with the controversial sex scene and for its broadcast during Catholic Holy Week. Either way, this smash success looks to be perfect remake fodder.
Yes, I know – NBC just redid this as a regular series. I’m in denial, okay? The original was so, so good. The remake? Actually, I liked that, too. Maybe SyFy will try its hand one day. A guy can dream, can’t he?
The Winds of War (1983)
The Herman Wouk-penned novel tells the story of an American naval family after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So successful it spawned a 1989 sequel, War and Remembrance. Still, WWII is fading as a subject of interest as generations age. Perhaps one best left alone.
Chamberlain’s second appearance on this list speaks to why so many housewives (and this writer’s Mom) got funny smiles on their faces every time he appeared on screen. Here, he played a 1600s Englishman who assimilates into Japan culture following a shipwreck. Would work in any era.
Singer June Reimer Springer has died at the age of 85. The star passed away in Chico, California on 27 September (13). No further details of her death have been released.
Starting her professional career aged 18, the singer auditioned for famed composer Cole Porter and landed a role in the original run of Kiss Me, Kate.
After appearing in a string of Broadway productions, she began using the stage name Monica Lane in the 1950s and toured as part of a singing duo with Cass Franklin.
She went on to marry famed publicist John Springer, whose clients included Elizabeth Taylor and her on/off husband Richard Burton, and had three children, Gary, Alicia and Cynthia.
Actor Jay Robinson, who twice portrayed Roman Emperor Caligula on the big screen, has died, aged 83. Robinson made his film debut as Caligula in the 1953 biblical epic The Robe, opposite Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature, and reprised the character the following year in Demetrius and the Gladiators.
He began his acting career on Broadway and once played Le Beau opposite Katharine Hepburn in a 1950 production of Shakespeare's As You Like It.
His career took a nosedive in the late 1950s after he was arrested at his home in Bel-Air and charged with possessing and selling heroin. He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail.
Robinson once told the Los Angeles Times that his arrest ruined his acting dreams, confessing, "I lost everything in Hollywood."
He spent almost a decade rebuilding his career, and was re-arrested on a bench warrant for failing to appear in court in 1966.
But he bounced back with TV spots on shows like Bewitched, Mannix and The Waltons, and became a regular on U.S. daytime soap Days of Our Lives.
British supermodel Cara Delevingne was among the front runners for the title role in Tim Burton's big screen interpretation of Alice In Wonderland. The beauty was still at school when she heard the moviemaker was putting together a new adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic with Johnny Depp, but that didn't stop her sending in an audition tape.
She later found herself in the running for the part of Alice, and was even invited to meet Burton at his London home, but eventually lost out to Australian star Mia Wasikowska.
Delevingne tells W magazine, "My interpretation of Alice was a little crazy. I overplayed it - the way a young girl would overplay all her emotions. I sent my tape off, and then I was at a wedding and this woman came over to me. She said, 'You don't know me, but I know exactly who you are.' (It was Lili Zanuck, wife of the film's producer Richard Zanuck). She told me that they all loved my tape! And I went to Tim Burton's house and met with him. I didn't get the part, but that experience lit a fire in me."
Richard Burton's daughter refused to watch Dominic West's recent portrayal of her famously fiery father, insisting she would rather the drama had not been made. The Wire star plays the Welsh acting great alongside Helena Bonham Carter as his two-time wife Dame Elizabeth Taylor in BBC biopic Burton and Taylor, which aired to acclaim in the U.K. earlier this month (Jul13).
However, Scandal star Kate Burton has now insisted she has no plans to ever watch the TV movie.
She tells Britain's Daily Mail, "Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West are such great actors so I'm curious, but I don't think I'll see it.
"I'm a character in it - there's a person playing me! I'd much rather they (the BBC) didn't (make it), but what are you going to do? They were larger than life, those two people. It's a public story."
Burton also reveals she wasn't impressed with Lindsay Lohan's much-maligned portrayal of Taylor in Lifetime's TV movie Liz & Dick.
She adds, "The one that was on recently was so ridiculous. I never took it seriously. Please!... Lifetime can go ahead and make the movie without our permission. They could do whatever the heck they want."
Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West have won a round of five-star reviews for their performances in Burton And Taylor. The Harry Potter star plays late acting legend Dame Elizabeth Taylor in the British TV drama opposite West as her on/off husband Richard Burton, and the small screen movie impressed the U.K.'s critics after its premiere on Monday night (22Jul13).
The feature, which focuses on the stars in 1983 as they appeared on stage together in Noel Coward's Private Lives, was given full marks of five stars by The Times' critic Alex Hardy, who branded the drama "perfect" and added of Carter's performance as Taylor, "(She) conducted the world around her in a sing-song voice that moved octaves within one phrase, the fragile sliding into the manipulative".
Chris Hardy of The Daily Telegraph was full of praise for Carter, insisting she "went for broke" with her portrayal of Taylor and "got away with it" while he conceded West "seemed to be having some trouble" with Burton's Welsh accent.
The Guardian's Sam Wollaston writes, "Bonham Carter and West are excellent. There's a crackle between them... They become two people who clearly are and always will be in love, but can never be together, for reasons of health and safety. It is another very good double act", and Geoffrey McNab of The Independent concludes the drama is "affecting and well observed".
A U.S. TV movie about the couple, Liz & Dick starring Lindsay Lohan as the late actress, was mauled by critics following its broadcast in 2012, with one writer comparing the movie to a "high school play".
Actor Dominic West was left in awe of Richard Burton and Dame Elizabeth Taylor after gaining insight into their wild lives from a magazine prop on the set of a new drama. The Wire star plays Burton opposite Helena Bonham Carter as Taylor in upcoming TV movie, Burton and Taylor.
The pair threw themselves into playing the famously fiery couple, and West was blown away with how exciting their daily lives were after flicking through an article by Burton on the set of the biopic.
He tells Britain's The Sun, "On set there was a 1971 edition of Vogue, just as set-dressing, and inside there was an article by Richard Burton - it was called One Day In My Life.
"He and Liz were in Puerto Vallarta, in Mexico, and the circus had come to town. They went to the circus and the ringmaster spotted Liz and called her out.
"He attached her to this big board and spun her round and started throwing knives at her. Burton went crazy. He was trying to stop them. But she said: 'Oh, Richard, leave him. You're making him nervous.' Then they tried to get Burton to do it and he said: 'No f**king way!'
"The article ended with them both back home, getting into bed and Liz turning out the light and going: 'Well, another interesting day.' They had this incredible double act and were brilliant together as actors as well. That's what was so magnetic about them."
Director Tim Burton was so sick of his partner Helena Bonham Carter staying in character as Dame Elizabeth Taylor at home, he adopted the voice of Richard Burton as revenge. The Harry Potter star plays the Hollywood legend in a new British TV movie, Burton and Taylor, featuring Dominic West as her famously fiery husband.
Bonham Carter became so engrossed with her portrayal of the Cleopatra star, she struggled to let go after leaving the set - much to the chagrin of her own Burton at home.
She says, "(Taylor) stuck, she's very contagious, she's like a disease. (So) I'd be sounding like this drawl all the time and squeaky. But then Tim Burton, the other Burton that I live with, he worked out his revenge was to become Richard Burton himself.
"So there were two Richard Burtons, it was very confusing. And then I'd get this strange Richard Burton at home, who didn't say very much. He'd say a word every minute - it was very funny."
Burton and Taylor will air in the U.K. on Monday (22Jul13) and in the U.S. in the autumn.