The Birds star Rod Taylor has died, aged 84. The Hollywood actor passed away at his home on Wednesday (07Jan15), surrounded by family and friends.
The Australia-born star was best known for his iconic role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 classic The Birds, opposite Tippi Hedren, who paid tribute to him in a statement.
It reads: "There are so many incredible feelings I have for him. Rod was a great pal to me and a real strength, we were very, very good friends. He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy, there was everything good in that man."
Taylor appeared in more than 50 films throughout his six-decade long career, including films such as The Time Machine, The Train Robbers, The Catered Affair, Sunday in New York, 101 Dalmatians, and his last acting credit, Quentin Tarantino's 2009 war film Inglourious Basterds, in which Taylor played Winston Churchill.
He also starred in a number of TV series, including Murder, She Wrote and Walker, Texas Ranger, and appeared in various stage productions in his native Australia.
Taylor is survived by his wife of 35 years, Carol, and their daughter Felicia.
Hollywood veteran Robert Redford is to receive a special award named after Charlie Chaplin from the organisation behind the New York Film Festival. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is to honour the star with the Chaplin Award in recognition of his lengthy career in the entertainment industry which has stretched from acting and directing to theatre.
The organisation's chairperson Ann Tenenbaum says, "The Board is thrilled to have Robert Redford as the next recipient of the Chaplin Award. Not only is he an internationally known and loved actor, director, and producer, but perhaps no other single artist has done more to champion the work of independent filmmakers... (The film world is) immensely richer because of his contributions."
Redford is set to pick up the award at a ceremony in New York on 27 April (15).
Previous honourees include Alfred Hitchcock, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Martin Scorsese.
Actor/director Rob Reiner will be the 2014 recipient of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin Award. The When Harry Met Sally director will be the guest of honour at the 41st gala in New York in April (14). Previous recipients include Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, Elizabeth Taylor, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Last year (13), Barbra Streisand was honoured.
Fox's Batman prequel Gotham is officially starting to take flight. The show, which will chronicle the career of Detective James Gordon and the way the city's crime was handled before the Caped Crusader swooped in, recently added four new cast members to its ranks. Joining Southland alum Ben McKenzie as Gordon will be Zabryna Guevara, who will play Captain Essen, Gordon's boss and head of the GCPD homicide squad; Sean Pertwee, who will take on the role of Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family's loyal butler; and Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, and ER doctor and Gordon's fiancee. However, it's the final bit of casting news that's really going to excite Batmans fans: Robin Lord Taylor has been tapped to play Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin, Batman's most gentlemanly of arch-rivals.
The Penguin is one of Batman's oldest and most conniving foes, and he has played a significant role in almost every Batman storyline since his introduction in 1941. However, it's been some time since he was last seen onscreen in a live-action production; the character last appeared in Tim Burton's 1992 film Batman Returns. He was famously left out of Christopher Nolan's trilogy, and since his absence upset some fans who would have loved to see him terrorize Christian Bale, choosing the Penguin to be the main villain of Gotham could be a good way for the show to win over the more reluctant parties. Regardless of how physically deformed his character is interpreted to be, the Penguin tends to be one of the easier Batman villains to adapt, since his mafia connections and criminal behavior allow him to become implicated in just about any storyline.
It seems like those connections will play a significant role in his Gotham storyline, since according to the official character description, he "is a low-level psychopath for gangster Fish Mooney who hides his sadistic lust for power behind an exquisitely polite demeanor," with "the brains of a chess grandmaster and the morals of a jackal." Although the description does set up the possibility that the Penguin will first come to the attention of Det. Gordon through his work for Mooney, it is notably missing any mention of his affinity for birds and his high-tech, weapons-grade umbrellas. It's possible that since the show will be focusing on the backstories and origin stories of many of its characters, the plot will start before Cobblepot has properly transformed into his villainous alter ego, and since he is described as being a "low-level" thug, it seems as if Gotham will chronicle his rise to super villainy, forcing him to face off against Gordon before he can take on Batman.
The show's description of the Penguin also doesn't mention any physical deformities that Cobblepot might have, although that is a characteristic that tends to vary in appearance and severity depending on the artist and the adaptation. In the comics, he is often depicted as being a short, rotund man with thinning hair and a beak-like nose — none of which are features that Taylor shares. Of course, since Gotham is designed as a prequel, viewers could see his looks grow increasingly similar to those of his comic counter parts over the show's run... or they could be going for a more realistic approach, and simply find other ways to hint at the ways Cobblepot resembles his namesake bird. The more contentious issue, however, would be his missing flippers. Although the flippers were only developed for Burton's film, where the Penguin was conceived as a former circus freak intent of getting revenge on all of the upper-class snobs who mistreated him, they were adapted into the comics and television cartoons for some time. Now, though, many artists have stopped drawing him with flippers for hands, and it seems to be more of a characteristic that can change depending on the storyline, and what the artist needs the Penguin to be.
It would make sense for Gotham to get rid of the flippers, especially if they're going for a grittier, more realistic approach to the material. The description does leave room for Cobblepot to have a physical deformity, as it would likely not have any bearing on his employment, but it seems as if they are veering away from the "circus freak" backstory for the Penguin, in favor of having him climb the ranks of the criminal underworld, much like he did in the original comics. Like with his nose and stomach, there is still plenty of time and room in the storyline for him to develop the flippers later on, whether through some sort of tragic accident, or a conscious decision on his part. Since we're still unsure of exactly how far ahead of Batman's storyline the events of Gotham will take place, the writers have a lot of room to play with the different histories and personality traits in order to find one that works best for the story they wish to tell.
From the looks of it, choosing the Penguin to be the main villain of Gotham bodes well for the future of the series, as it gives them a great deal of possibilities in terms of plot and character development. As a character, the Penguin is eccentric enough to be compelling and unpredictable, and his different histories allow them to pick and choose the qualities that they need as they need them. At the same time, he is one of the few sane villains in the Batman universe, which makes it easier to ground him in a more realistic universe. Since the protagonist of the show is Gordon and not Batman, the villain needs to be someone he can play well off of, and since Gordon is generally more straight-laced and grounded in reality than Batman is, it helps to have a villain who can exist in that same realistic universe. Batman being a superhero allows for the villains to be more off-the-wall, but since Gordon is a police officer, it helps to have an antagonist who isn't a complete cartoon.
Part of the reason that the Penguin was left out of Nolan's films is because he wanted to make a point about the decline of humanity, which he did through a universe that was full of anarchy and chaos, both physical and mental. Because the Penguin is sane and more interested in furthering his own personal and business goals rather than causing chaos for chaos' sake, he doesn't quite fit in that universe — but that is exactly what makes him perfect for the universe of Gotham, which will allow him to grow from a low-level criminal into the super villain that we all know and love. The show already has a full-season order, which means the writers can get creative with how much they reveal of the Penguin's transformation, and how quickly, and watching his career progress alongside Gordon's will help give the show some dramatic tension, especially since we already know what the final result of that transformation is.
With the reveal of Taylor as the Penguin, it seems like Gotham is striving to create its own Batman mythology, one that not only looks at what turned Bruce Wayne into the Caped Crusader, but one that also tracks the way that Gotham City transitioned from your average, seedy metropolis to a haven for criminals, crawling with some of the most insane and unhinged characters in comic book history. Choosing to start tracking that journey with the Penguin is an unexpected choice, but it's one that will likely pay off for the show in the long run.
Producers for the Batman prequel TV series have cast the roles for villain Penguin and butler Alfred Pennyworth. Robin Lord Taylor will play Oswald Cobblepot, The Penguin, and Sean Pertwee will star as Pennyworth.
Dame Helen Mirren is set to be honoured by Prince William at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) next week (begs10Feb14). The Duke of Cambridge, who is the President of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, will present The Queen star with the Academy Fellowship Award on 16 February (14).
Previous fellows include Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Dame Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave and Sir Christopher Lee.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
For a film that involves a love triangle, mental illness, a Bohemian colony of free-spirits, an impending war and several important historical figures, the most exciting elements of Summer in February are the stunning shots of the English country and Cornish seaside. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the crashing waves and sun-dappled meadows that are used to bookend the scenes, as the entertaining opening never manages to coalesce into a story that lives up the the cinematography, let alone the lives of the people that inspired it.
Set in an Edwardian artist’s colony in Cornwall, Summer in February tells the story of A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), who went on to become one of the most famous painters of his day and head of the Royal Academy of Art, his best friend, estate agent and part-time soldier Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), and the woman whom they both loved, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Her marriage to Munnings was an extremely unhappy one, and she attempted suicide on their honeymoon, before killing herself in 1914. According to his journals, Gilbert and Florence were madly in love, although her marriage and his service in the army kept them apart.
When the film begins, Munnings is the center of attention in the Lamorna Artist's Colony, dramatically reciting poetry at parties and charming his way out of his bar tab while everyone around him proclaims him to be a genius. When he’s not drinking or painting, he’s riding horses with Gilbert, who has the relatively thankless task of keeping this group of Bohemians in line. Their idyllic existence is disrupted by the arrival of Florence, who has run away from her overbearing father and the fiancé he had picked out for her in order to become a painter.
Stevens and Browning both start the film solidly, with enough chemistry between them to make their infatuation interesting. He manages to give Gilbert enough dependable charm to win over both Florence and the audience, and she presents Florence as someone with enough spunk and self-possession to go after what she wants. Browning’s scenes with Munnings are equally entertaining in the first third of the film, as she can clearly see straight through all of his bravado and he is intrigued by her and how difficult she is to impress. Unfortunately, while the basis of the love triangle is well-established and entertaining, it takes a sudden turn into nothing with a surprise proposal from Munnings.
Neither the film nor Browning ever make it clear why Florence accepts his proposal, especially when they have both taken great pains to establish that she doesn’t care much for him. But once she does, the films stalls, and both Stevens and Browning spend the rest of the film doing little more than staring moodily and longingly at the people around them. The real-life Florence was plagued by depression and mental instability, but neither the film nor Browning’s performance ever manage to do more than give the subtlest hint at that darkness. On a few occasions, Browning does manage to portray a genuine anguish, but rather than producing any sympathy from the audience, it simply conjures up images of a different film, one that focused more on Florence, and the difficulties of being a woman with a mental illness at a time when both were ignored or misunderstood.
Stevens is fine, and Gilbert starts out with the same kind of good-guy appeal the won the heart of Mary Crawley and Downton Abbey fans the world over. However, once the film stalls, so does his performance, and he quickly drops everything that made the character attractive or interesting in favor of longing looks and long stretches of inactivity. He does portray a convincing amount of adoration for Florence, although that's about the only real emotion that Gilbert expresses for the vast majority of the film, and even during his love scene, he never manages to give him any amount of passion.
Cooper does his best with what he’s given, and tries his hardest to imbue the film with some substance and drama. His Munnings is by turns charming, brash, and brooding, the kind of person who has been told all of their life that they are special, and believes it. He even manages to give the character some depth, and even though he and Browning have very little chemistry, he manages to convey a genuine affection for her. It’s a shame that Munnings becomes such a deeply unlikable character, because Cooper is the only thing giving Summer in February a jolt of life – even if it comes via bursts of thinly-explained hostility. It's hard to watch just how hard he's working to connect with his co-stars and add some excitement to a lifeless script and not wish that he had a better film to show off his talents in.
Unfortunately, by the time Florence and Gilbert are finally spurred into activity, the film has dragged on for so long that you’re no longer invested in the characters, their pain, or their love story, even if you want to be. Which is the real disappointment of Summer in February; underneath the stalled plot and the relatively one-note acting, there are glimmers of a fascinating and compelling story that’s never allowed to come to the forefront.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Gilbert Taylor, the veteran British cinematographer behind classic films Star Wars, The Omen and Dr Strangelove and The Beatles A Hard Day's Night, has died, aged 99. He passed away on Friday (23Aug13) at his home on the Isle of Wight.
Born in Hertfordshire in 1914, Taylor started his career in the late 1920s as a camera assistant at Gainsborough Studios in London and shot daring Royal Air Force raids over Germany during World War II at the request of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
His film credits also include Ice Cold in Alex, Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy and two movies with Roman Polanski, Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac, which earned him back-to-back BAFTA nominations.
He retired from filmmaking in 1994 to concentrate on his passion for painting but picked up a lifetime achievement award from the British Society of Cinematographers, an organisation he helped found, in 2001.
Veteran entertainer Barbra Streisand was given an early birthday treat on Monday (22Apr13) as a host of stars gathered in New York City to salute her glittering movie career. The singer/actress, who turns 71 on Wednesday (24Apr13), was the toast of the 40th anniversary Chaplin Award Gala, where she was handed the prestigious accolade in honour of her film achievements.
Pierce Brosnan, Blythe Danner, Ben Stiller, Jeremy Irons, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were among Streisand's famous friends who attended the Lincoln Center event, which raised $2 million (£1.3 million) to promote independent cinema.
Introducing Streisand to the stage, former U.S. President Bill Clinton told the crowd, "Every great person is driven, but if that person has massive talent, big brains and a bigger heart, you want to go along for the ride."
Accepting her trophy, Streisand said, "Ever since I can remember, people have been calling me bossy and opinionated. Maybe that's because I am. Three cheers for bossy women."
Liza Minnelli serenaded her pal with Isn't This Better? from Funny Lady, telling the crowd, "She's a good lady and a helluva broad (sic)!" while Tony Bennett sang classic song Smile, written by Charlie Chaplin.
In a video clip, Robert Redford joked that he had been warned his The Way We Were co-star would be "a pain", but insisted she turned out to be "totally engaging to act with, beautiful, thorough and skilled".
Previous recipients of The Film Society's Chaplin Award include Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Meryl Streep, Sidney Poitier and Tom Hanks.