Sean 'Diddy' Combs' musical protegee Sara Stokes has been served with divorce papers just days after she was jailed on a probation violation. The Da Band singer, who appeared on the rapper's TV show Making The Band 2, was ordered to serve a three-month sentence after she was arrested for drunkenly brawling with her husband on 21 July (14).
It triggered a probation violation stemming from a 2009 arrest, and she is now facing further troubles after her partner Emanuiel 'Tony' Stokes filed documents in Michigan to bring the 18-year marriage to an end, according to TMZ.com.
How does one calculate the success of a director? Though not mutually exclusive, critical acclaim and box office returns are usually the measuring sticks when it comes to Hollywood filmmaking.
One film director who has become known for financial triumphs, but who has become a bit of a pariah with critics, is Michael Bay. His movies typify giant Hollywood blockbusters, but in terms of artistry and substance, he’s been found more-than-slightly lacking in a myriad of reviews over the years.
We are well aware of how most critics feel about Bay, whose latest Pain & Gain arrives in theaters this week, as a filmmaker. But where does he stand with the theater-going public? His movies continue to make serious coin, so obviously he still has an audience, but we decided to poll both fans and detractors alike to better understand where Bay’s reputation stands.
There were those who were rather effusive with their love for Bay. “Michael is a genius,” says Chris Todd of Austin, Texas. “He has a understanding of visuals that few directors do, I really believe he's top tier on that regard.” Todd acknowledges that the location in which Bay’s films are seen makes a tremendous difference. “What makes him great is that he's one of the few guys left today who makes films for the big screen. He has no interest in the home experience really. It's all about the theater. And that's why his work loses a lot of power once it's viewed at home.”
His visual prowess also proved a major draw for fan Jenni Lee. “I love his panorama shots,” she says, “hands down the bomb scene from Pearl Harbor is one of the most gut wrenching scenes in history, not only because you know what happens when it hits, but because if the way it was shot. He also knows how to film explosions in an epic way.” Lee went on to note that his visuals prove to be the ultimate mitigating factor when considering his faults. “At the end of the day I will always go to a theater to see his movies and at least give it a shot because at a minimum I know I will at least get to see something that is visually stunning.”
However, even those who counted themselves Bay fans could not deny his shortcomings. Biostatistician Ryan Machtmes suggests that maximizing enjoyment of Bay’s work means clearly defining one’s expectations. “Truthfully, I watch his movies because they're just that: [movies],” he says. “No, I don't go to his movies expecting art, but sometimes a movie is just a movie, an escape into the fantastic and a way to just watch something and be entertained by it for purposes of relaxation and unplugging my otherwise always-on brain.”
Still others maintain that Bay’s appeal is a function of his time. “He came to power as the resurgence of the indie film crowd began to wane,” says fan Craig Dougherty. “After the minimalist early 90's that birthed [Steven] Soderbergh, [Kevin] Smith, [Richard] Linklater, and [Quentin] Tarantino, I think the general audience was itching to return to the big budget action genre.” Dougherty further argues that Bay doesn’t ever aim “to neglect emotion or substance, he [just] chooses to focus on delivering that message through high octane action rather than story and character development. He's the purest definition of a movie director currently working in Hollywood, and I can respect that moniker.”
But again, Bay has cultivated a legion of hecklers over the years who are just as vocal, if not moreso. “Michael Bay is the most frustrating filmmaker,” asserts Anthony Donovan Stokes, “because he has an endless amount of resources, and completely squanders them on aesthetics instead of actually storytelling.” Mikus Duncis adds, “he has a lot of untapped potential and indulges himself way too much.” Duncis also echoed oft-heard criticisms of both the length and poor comedy of Bay’s films. “His films are way too long and have an absurdly large amount of unfunny, offensive supporting characters and the story is always somehow muddled. If he could learn how to make a straight up 90-minute action films with a bare-bones minimal plot and no comic relief, I think he would be known for making great, fun and fast paced action.”
Some have argued that Bay’s offenses run even deeper, and that he is in fact a detriment to film. “I think Michael Bay's biggest crime as a filmmaker is that he perpetuates cynicism in numerous aspects of the movie-going experience,” contends Patrick Girts, “his films are very well made products, but they rarely respect the audiences watching them.” Most damning of all, Girts points out, is that “despite that lack of respect, [Bay’s movies] make money hand over fist. More studios are adopting this model, and quality storytelling pays the price.”
Surprisingly, no matter the side of the fence polled people happened to fall, many of them had ready-made associations locked and loaded.
“The man is like your cheesy bachelor uncle. He's loud, curses and drinks a lot, always has some new skeeze he calls a girlfriend with him, and is definitely not someone you want to hang out with long term, but he brings over all the cool fireworks on the 4th of July and let you have some of his beer one time so he's alright,” says Tony Rex Bowler, Houston.
“Michael Bay is like a student of the culinary arts,” says Jose Antonio Rivera of New York City. “He knows the ingredients, he knows the recipe, but when it comes to actually making the food, he pulls it out before it's fully cooked. He sprinkles his films with a dash of style to cover up the fact that it's undercooked and then proceeds to tell you how ‘good’ it is.”
Jordan Worth Cobb of Conway, Arkansas calls Bay “a painter,” but backhands him by suggesting that he “goes for what's easy and doesn't try.” Anthony Donovan Stokes, Manassas, Virginia is even less kind. “[Bay] is a ten-year-old boy in a fifty-year-old man’s body. A really dumb, impatient, perverted, hyperbolic, defensive 10 year old.”
Inversely, Ryan Timothy of Brace, Montreal compares Bay to his contemporaries and gives the Armageddondirector the advantage. “I know Zack Snyder has the image of a teenager with a camera, but Bay was, still and will probably always be that guy for me,’ Timothy says.
But for every fan, there’s a naysayer. “He seems to be a living example of what would happen if you gave a frat dude a very technical understanding of film and millions of dollars and told him to make a movie,” says Stephan Krosecz of Cypress, Texas. “The only difference is you'd find a lot more kegs of crappy beer, Gatorade, and Mountain Dew on set.”
It seems the relationship between Michael Bay and movie consumers is no less complicated now than it was when he first appeared on the scene in the mid-90s. Bay fan T.C. De Witt may have summed it up best when he said, “aficionados of film consider him a hack and a disease to the art of filmmaking, but he doesn't make art movies; he doesn't make intelligent movies. He makes the movies he loves with the stuff he loves. That passion, even if it's shallow to most, should be admired.” Further putting things in perspective, Angela Behm reminds us that “for all the hate [Bay] may garner, at least he's not Uwe Boll.”
More: Michael Bay: 'I Will Apologize For 'Armageddon'''Pain & Gain' And 9 Comedies Inspired By Horrific EventsSee Wahlberg & Johnson at the 'Pain & Gain' Premiere
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The latest episode of Glee may have been a giant slap in the face to those of us who stayed faithful to the show through its ups and downs, but it seems the producers are getting something right. They just cast Rachel Berry's (Lea Michele) two gay dads, and while I always hoped to see Taye Diggs and Hugh Jackman nab the roles (Diggs especially since his real life wife plays Rachel's birth mother), the series has landed on two well-chosen actors. Jeff Goldblum and Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell will be in the stands watching Rachel graduation from McKinley this year as Hiram and LeRoy Berry.
The couple will crop up first on the Valentine's Day episode, on Feb. 14, where they will sing a duet. Though we all know Mitchell as a Broadway star, what with his numerous Tony nominations and one very big win for Kiss Me Kate in 2000, Goldblum is actually pretty musically inclined as well. He's a jazz pianist and he got his big break on Broadway in Two Gentleman in Verona in 1971. So don't worry, Berry-fans. Rachel's papas aren't necessarily played by the actors we'd all chosen in our heads, but they are certainly up to the task and they've got stage credits to boot.
What do you think of the actors chosen to play Rachel's dads? Are they all wrong? Maybe just alright?
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
Willie T. Stokes ((Billy Bob Thornton) is seriously on the skids. He may dress up like Santa Claus but his nose ain't red 'cause he's cold; he's a pretty nasty alcoholic when we first meet him and it's all downhill from there. His disgruntled elf-of-color Marcus (Tony Cox) is the brains of their operation a scam that involves getting hired at the local mall as Santa and his elf having their picture taken with hundreds of little kids day after day and at the end of it all making off with the contents of the mall's safe and whatever haberdasheries strike Marcus' wife's fancy. When they hit Phoenix however things change for the foul-mouthed bad-tempered Santa when a weird kid (Brett Kelly) saves him from an attempted assault by a gay rapist (Ajay Naidu aka the Hindustani guy from Office Space). Santa takes the boy home and once there robs his sole caretaker his senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman). The kid's dad it seems has gone on an "extended vacation " and the poor boy hasn't gotten any presents for two years. As if that wasn't enough the kid's no Tiny Tim--he's overweight not very bright and gets picked on all the time at school. (We don't learn his name until the film's nearly over but once it's out there it's pretty clear why the poor boy's persecuted.) Of course none of this changes Willie's heart but the big guy in the suit knows a good thing when he sees it. Granny's house is sweet and her liquor cabinet is well stocked so he moves in and ends up bonding with the kid in spite of himself.
It's refreshing if not heartwarming to see Santa Claus sucking down whisky with as much panache as Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas while reciting such poetry of the season as "Nothing has ever sucked more ass than this." While this line could have been prophetic considering the somewhat risky premise and ominous title of Bad Santa Billy Bob Thornton has fun with the role and that helps the audience have fun with him. Even when his character is suicidal Thornton never lets things get too morose and he never lets go of Bad Santa's fundamental badness--even when his character starts to care about the kid who's at his best when he's at his most annoying asking questions about the North Pole and the reindeer and the elves and responding to Thornton's screaming and cussing with a wide-eyed stare a beat and a blink before moving on to the next topic. With timing like this Kelly is a pro in the making. Bernie Mac as the chain-smoking head of mall security has great zing with Cox when they ad lib on screen; their heated exchanges are among the movie's high points. The late John Ritter also gives his final film performance as the mall manager (the film is dedicated to his memory).
Bad Santa takes a few potshots at the season's commercialism but it's not necessarily the main theme of the movie as it often is in films with a cynical take on Christmas. At the same time even though Willie has a change of heart because of the kid and tries to give him a real Christmas Bad Santa keeps its edge and refuses to get cheesy. Executive producers Joel and Ethan Coen may have a little to do with that but it's director Terry Zwigoff's (Ghost World) utter fearlessness when it comes to the really bad stuff--booze sex exploitation anger manipulation cruelty selfishness--that makes the movie. Screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are equally bold in their writing style; the script is well written and the dialogue for the most part lively and amusing if a little hard on virgin ears--there's a lot of profanity in this movie but hey some people like that shit.