Moviemaker Ron Howard, Carole King and Marlee Matlin have led the early tributes to TV and film veteran James Garner, who passed away on Saturday (19Jul14), aged 86. The Rockford Files star died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday evening (19Jul14), and celebrities have flooded Twitter.com with their last respects.
Howard recalled the actor's role in 1966 movie Grand Prix, noting, "RIP James Garner. Admired by all who knew him. When starring in Grand Prix the people around F1 (Formula One) said he had the talent to be a pro driver," while singer/songwriter King remembered working with Garner on the set of Murphy's Romance, adding, "He was one of the nicest people".
Matlin tweets, "Now sad to read my dear friend & costar James Garner passed. RIP sweet Jim Rockford," and Forrest Gump star Gary Sinise, writes, "R.I.P James Garner. Such a lovely man I had the pleasure of working him in 1989 in My Name Is Bill W with James Woods", while Kaley Cuoco - Garner's TV granddaughter in 8 Simple Rules - adds, "I say this with a heavy broken heart. Was an honor working beside u receiving ur bear hugs every day. (love) u Grampa Jim (sic)."
Other tributes have come from singer LeAnn Rimes, Alan Cumming, Stephen Fry, former child star Haley Joel Osment, and Sally Field, who writes, "My heart just broke. There are few people on this planet I have adored as much as Jimmy Garner. I cherish every moment I spent with him and relive them over and over in my head. He was a diamond." Field starred alongside Garner in Murphy's Romance, which earned the actor an Oscar nomination.
British actors including Sean Bean, Stephen Fry and Danny Dyer have teamed up to record a spoken word album to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of World War One. The centenary album also features contributions from Cold Feet star John Thomson, the cast of stage musical War Horse and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and it will raise money for veterans' charities the Royal British Legion and The Victoria Cross Trust.
On the record, Dyer reads Ewart Alan Mackintosh's famous poem In Memoriam, while Fry gives a performance of In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.
The album, titled Forever, will be released in the U.K. on 14 July (14).
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Punk rocker Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has thrown her support behind calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, hours after her release from prison on hooliganism charges. The Pussy Riot star and her bandmates Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina were each ordered to serve two years behind bars after staging a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin last year (12).
Samutsevich's sentence was commuted in October, 2012, and her fellow activists were freed on Monday (23Dec13), ahead of their planned parole date in March (14), as part of an approved presidential amnesty to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution.
However, the punishments have not stopped the three stars from speaking out against the Russian government and last month (Nov13), Samutsevich claimed a boycott of the upcoming sporting event in Sochi would force authorities to re-evaluate some of their controversial and oppressive policies, including a ban on the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
Now Tolokonnikova has echoed her bandmate's views, telling CNN News, "The situation in Russia is very sad at the moment, really sad, and the political regime in Russia is leading the country to a collapse, so of course if Western countries want to show a strong, ethical position, then they need to boycott the Games."
A number of stars, including Lady Gaga, Stephen Fry, Lily Allen and Alan Cumming, have backed calls for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia to be boycotted or moved, while Madonna, Elton John and Cher have all spoken out against the country's headline-grabbing anti-gay policies.
Give Martin Freeman an empty room and he'll give you comedy. The best parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — an admittedly mishandled movie in large — involved his subdued grimaces, his Chaplinian waddling, and the way he carried himself with equal parts neurosis and snark in every scene. If there is one primary misstep of An Unexpected Journey's terrifically improved sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, it is the spiritual absence of Bilbo Baggins.
Freeman's good-natured but disgruntled Hobbit takes a backseat to the Dwarf team in this chapter of Peter Jackon's three-part saga, distributing the heavy lifting among the front lines of the bearded mooks. Thankfully, we're not shafted with too much "Thorin's destiny" backstory, instead focusing on the trek forward, through far more interesting terrain than we got last time around. The Dwarves voyage through a trippy woodland that'll conjur fond memories of The Legend of Zelda's unnavigable forest levels and inside the borders of Lake-town, a man-occupied working class monarchy that is more vivid and living than any place we have seen yet in the series. And while Unexpected Journey's goblin caverns might have been cool to look at, none of the quests in Desolation feel nearly as close to a tangential detour. Every step the Dwarves take is one that beckons us closer to the central, increasingly engaging story.
Desolation is not entirely without its curiosities. While Gandalf's mission to meet the Necromancer serves to connect the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings movies, the occasional cuts over to the wizard's pursuits are primarily distracting and just a bit dull. Although we're happy to welcome the Elf race back into our Middle-earth adventures, it's easy to imagine a version of this story that didn't involve side characters like Legolas and Kate... I mean, Tauriel... and still felt whole (perhaps even more cohesive). The latter's love affair with hot Dwarf Kili seems like a last minute addition to the canon, and one not built on anything beyond the cinematic rule that two sexually compatible attractive people should probably have something brewing alongside all the action.
But the most egregious of crimes committed by Desolation is, unquestionably, the shafting of Bilbo Baggins to secondary status. Yes, he proves himself a savior to his fellow travelers four times in the film, but long stretches of action go by without so much as a word from the wide-eyed burglar. When he finally takes center stage in his theatrical face-off with Smaug — an exercise in double-talk reminiscent of Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx — the film picks up with a new, cool energy, with a chilling fun laced around the impending doom of their back-and-forth. We've been waiting since the first frames of Unexpected to see how the dragon material will pay off, and it does in spades... albeit in the final third of Desolation, but with equal parts gravitas and fun, to reunite us with our Tolkien passions once more.
Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon doesn't do much to subvert expectation — he's slithering, sadistic, vain, manipulative, and vaguely Londonian. But tradition feels good here. Smaug's half hour spent toying with the mousey Bilbo (who does get a chance to showcase his aptitude at small-scale physical comedy here) is terrific in every way.
Its Hobbit problem aside, Desolation proves itself worthy of Bilbo's past proclamation. "I'm going on an adventure!" more than pays off here, in the form of mystifying boat rides, edge-of-your-seat efforts in dragon slaying, and the most joyful action set piece we've seen in years. Twelve Dwarves, twelve barrels, and one roaring river amounts for enough fun to warrant your trip to the theater for this latest outing into Middle-earth.
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Lady Gaga has joined calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia over the country's stance on gay rights. The Poker Face hitmaker is a vocal advocate of equality and has previously blasted officials in the former Soviet Union over a ban on 'promoting' homosexuality.
Now she has joined other stars, including singer Lily Allen and writer/funnyman Stephen Fry, in calling for a global boycott of the showpiece sporting event.
She tells British talk show host Alan Carr, "To be honest, I don't think that we should be going to the Olympics at all, I don't know if my opinion is not highly regarded, in terms of the amazing champions and people that are rehearsing and training for the event.
"I mean I would never take anything away from their hard work, I just think it is absolutely wrong for so many countries to send money and economy in the way of a country that doesn't support gays... But it's not just that they don't support the gay community, they pepper spray and beat them in Russia.
"I went to Russia for the Born This Way Ball (tour), and I was really excited to be there, because I felt it was an important place to bring the message of the album, but it made me very sad to see the pain that some of the gay kids are in in Russia, and for the world to send their finest for the Olympics... it just feels so wrong and sad."
Gaga also reveals that during a previous trip to the country she unsuccessfully tried to get arrested with an onstage protest, adding, "You know what, I don't think I'm even allowed in anymore because I screamed 'I'm gay, arrest me' on stage last time I was there... I never really understand with activists when they get upset when they get arrested, I'm like 'Isn't that the point, that you get arrested?' Because you have to contest the law, and they didn't arrest me when I was there so I couldn't contest the law."
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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Controversial Pussy Riot star Yekaterina Samutsevich has joined calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in her home nation of Russia. The punk rocker insists the upcoming event in Sochi is losing its focus on sport and has become highly politicised because of some of president Vladimir Putin's controversial policies, which include anti-gay legislation.
She tells Reuters, "An event which should be purely about sport is becoming highly politicised and rife with conflict. Our authorities are to blame for that... It (a boycott) has to happen because the latest policies go too far... They are obviously tightening the screws."
Samutsevich, along with her bandmates Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, was jailed in 2012 over a controversial protest track aimed at Putin which they performed at a church in Moscow.
Samutsevich was freed in October last year (12) when her sentence was commuted, and Tolokonnikova and Alekhina are set to be released in March (14).
A number of stars, including Stephen Fry, Lily Allen and Alan Cumming, have backed calls for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia to be boycotted or moved, while Madonna, Cher and Lady Gaga have all spoken out against the country's controversial anti-gay policies.
Stars including Lily Allen, Alan Cumming and Sophia Bush have thrown their support behind British actor Stephen Fry as he campaigns to have the upcoming Winter Olympics moved from Russia over gay rights issues. Fry has written an open letter to Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urging them to move the 2014 games in Sochi or risk a boycott.
The actor is adamant the country's treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community should not go unnoticed, and a number of other stars have thrown their support behind the campaign.
British singer Allen has shared a link to a petition against the Russian Olympics with fans on her Twitter.com page, writing, "Do you want an anti-gay Olympics? Tell the IOC to stop Russia's LGBT crackdown," while singer/songwriter Sia Furler followed suit, adding, "Please please please take 20 seconds to sign this petition condemning Russia's anti-gay laws. Queers are awesome."
Scottish actor Cumming shared a link to Fry's letter and urged fans to pass it on, writing, "Read this by Stephen Fry and RT (re-tweet) it to everyone you can. People need to know what is happening in Russia."
Actresses Bush and Mia Farrow have also spoken out in a series of posts on Twitter, while Star Trek legend George Takei insisted Olympic bosses should consider moving the Games to Vancouver in Canada.
In a post on his blog, he writes, "There have been urgent calls for boycotts of the Olympics and of Russian exports like vodka. These are understandable... But a boycott of the games would punish athletes who have trained for years to participate... There is a petition gathering strength demanding the Olympics be relocated to Vancouver, which played host in 2010. All of the facilities are still in good condition, so this would likely be the easiest of possible alternatives... Please take a few moments to sign the petition... With enough support, maybe the IOC and the sponsors will realise that this is a disaster in the making, and the best course is to move immediately and decisively to relocate the Winter Games of 2014."
It is currently illegal to promote homosexuality in Russia, and Foreign Ministry's rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov says of the growing international furore, "The criticism of our law banning homosexual propaganda... is absolutely invalid and groundless. It is an attempt to accuse us of violating international obligations that do not exist."
Britain's leading comedy stars including Rowan Atkinson, Simon Pegg and Stephen Fry have paid tribute to British funnyman Mel Smith following his death on Friday (19Jul13). The 60-year-old comedian passed away at his home in north-west London after suffering a heart attack, according to his agent Michael Foster.
The news has sent a shockwave through the U.K. comedy scene and a number of Smith's friends and co-stars have expressed their grief in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Smith's longtime collaborator Griff Rhys Jones, who worked with him on Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O'Clock News, says in a statement, "I still can't believe this has happened. To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life. He had a relish for it that seemed utterly inexhaustible. He inspired love and utter loyalty and he gave it in return. I will look back on the days working with him as some of the funniest times that I have ever spent."
Mr. Bean star Atkinson also worked with the late funnyman on Not the Nine O'Clock News, and Smith directed his 1997 movie Bean.
He says in a statement, "Mel Smith - a lovely man of whom I saw too little in his later years. I loved the sketches that we did together on Not the Nine O'Clock News. He was the cast member with whom I felt the most natural performing empathy. He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off screen... I never thought he was given enough credit for this success. I feel truly sad at his parting."
Stephen Fry adds, "Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, dead from a heart attack. Mel lived a full life but was kind, funny and wonderful to know."
Simon Pegg hails Smith as his inspiration, adding in a post on Twitter.com, "Sad to hear about Mel Smith. His influence on contemporary British comedy both as a performer and producer is impossible to calculate."
Pegg's longtime collaborator Nick Frost also mourned Smith's loss in a post on Twitter.com, while tributes have come in from Hollywood actor Jamie Bell, who called his death a great loss to British comedy, along with Richard E. Grant, James Corden, Matt Lucas, director Duncan Jones, and Peter Serafinowicz.
Smith was one of the leading lights of British comedy throughout the 1980s and he also teamed with Griff Rhys Jones to found TalkBack Productions, a TV company which produced popular comedies including Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show and I'm Alan Partridge.
He also worked as a writer and director, helming movies including Bean and 2001's High Heels and Low Lifes.
His movie appearances as an actor included roles in The Princess Bride and National Lampoon's European Vacation.