It's Christmas and the only thing shining brighter than the tree at 30 Rock is SNL alum Jimmy Fallon. He didn't waste any time, appearing with Justin Timberlake in the cold open. It's like the show knew that the audience couldn't wait to see these two together. Before the monologue, Timberlake appears alongside Fallon as rapping and dancing presents alongside Aidy Bryant in Timberlake's signature "Bring it on down to _________-ville!" sketch. This high-energy opener set up expectations for Fallon and Timberlake to collaborate and SNL more than delivered. Unbelievably Fallon sang more than his musical guest, meriting consistent squeals of delight from the audience he got his start in front of.
This music-heavy episode, though centered around giving the crowd what they want (Fallon and Timberlake) also allowed the women of the cast to show off. The catchy and hilarious song "(Do It On My) Twin Bed" features the female cast killing it as they attempt to get laid in their childhood rooms, an all too familiar scenario during the holiday season. The sketch features expert rapping from Fallon, who "can't fully undress in case your parents come through. Just shirt, no pants like Winnie the Pooh."
Not to be outdone by last week's cameos from Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, Fallon and Timberlake reprised their best Bee Gees impressions for "The Barry Gibb Talk Show," featuring appearances from Madonna and Barry Gibb himself. The singing, outfits, and Gibb fits are endlessly amusing, but unfortunately Madonna and Gibb's cameos did not add as much comedy as excitement from just seeing them. Fallon and Timberlake continued to commit but because the content had little to do with Christmas, revisiting this recurring sketch felt forced. (Not to mention that reprising the sketch after Robin Gibb's death seems a bit tacky.)
Weekend Update as usual showcased expert topical joke writing, going after Duck Dynasty, Kathie Lee and Hoda, and Kate McKinnon as tennis champion Billie Jean King, the newly-announced official U.S. delegate to the Sochi Olympics, . McKinnon's earnest intensity is what comedy is made of, especially lines like "There's no demographic in this world that gives less of a flip than 70 year-old lesbians. All I need to survive is a clean canteen and a sweater." Her air tennis swings don't hurt the hilarity either.
Prior to the episode, Late Night heir apparent Seth Meyers tweeted that this would not be his last SNL. Weekend Update still confirmed that there would be constant reminders of his departure, this week with Fallon and Mayor Bloomberg. The men in transition spoke of what's next, while there were few hints as to what is ahead for the Update desk. Having served as SNL's head-writer since 2006, Meyers has contributed to the show in ways the audience doesn't always see. Tina Fey credited him with writing the hit Palin sketches she starred in during the 2008 election. His success moving on from the show is no surprise, but his sharp news and political writing will be missed.
The show returned its focus to the holiday spirit with a Christmas-themed "Waking Up with Kimye," complete with a "Bound 2" parody. Fallon later appeared as a gay Ebenezer Scrooge who discovers his sexuality with the Ghost of Christmas Present. But SNL came festively full circle with a clingy counterpoint to the song "Baby It's Cold Outside," reversing the song's gender roles to explore what happens when the woman doesn't want to leave. Cecily Strong held her own as a performer next to Fallon in this episode favorite, a clever and sweet finale to a classic Christmas show.
Journey fans will have the chance to celebrate Neal Schon's wedding as the rocker plans to televise the upcoming ceremony to raise money for charity. The guitarist is set to marry his fiancee Michaele Salahi on 15 December (13) at the Palace of the Fine Arts in San Francisco, California and he plans to make the ceremony public through a live pay-per-view TV service.
Fans will be able to watch the three-hour special, titled Winter Wonderland Wedding and Music Event, hosted by a TV crew including Debbie Matenopoulos, Cameron Mathison, and Karyn Bryant and featuring a live performance from the rock band for $14.95 (£9.96).
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan which devastated the Philippines earlier this month (Nov13), claiming the lives of more than 5,200 people and leaving thousands more homeless.
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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On the heels of his Late Night With Jimmy Fallon appearance earlier this week, Edward Norton continued his promo tour of nothing by hosting the 4th episode of season 39 of Saturday Night Live. With upcoming films slated for 2014 release, Norton was seemingly making his SNL hosting debut just because, even if Lorne Michaels really invited him to do so 13 years ago.
The method actor quipped about his long preparation for SNL, as Alec Baldwin joined him on stage for hosting warmup. Baldwin’s double-take lesson provided the punch, “Ok, that’s a great take for American History X, which you were hilarious in by the way.” This was sufficient for a successful monologue and for a minute it seemed like they’d avoid cameo overload. Then Miley Cyrus popped up as if she had been smoking weed in her dressing room since her hosting gig earlier this month. Other than offering some mildly humorous host hints, the Baldwin and Cyrus cameos did little more than say, “at least we’re promoting something.”
This week Kate McKinnon opened the show strong, portraying the Secretary of Health, taking on the simple yet topical premise of Obamacare failing to understand how the Internet works. McKinnon sets the tone for a successful opener with simple troubleshooting tips like, “For example, have you tried restarting your computer?” Her timing takes the sharpest shape when she starts rattling off other links on healthcare.gov, such as Kayak.com (to fly to Canada) and “a number of doctor themed pornographic websites that should help you pass the time."
While Bobby Moynihan’s portrayal of a bat-swinging IT guy elicits huge laughs, the success of the cold open relies on McKinnon’s stellar delivery. This early in the season, McKinnon has proven more than worthy of such responsibility. But aside from a killer opener, McKinnon’s talents seemed largely underutilized in this week’s episode.
This left room for Nasim Pedrad to shine in several sketches, mostly stealing the show as a flippant kid speaking in favor of van rides and candy from strangers. Later in the show she drew more laughs than anyone in a 12 Years a Slave-inspired sketch with only a dance and facial expression.
Impressive showings from both McKinnon and Pedrad can cause conflicting theories about who will be the next Kristen Wiig heir apparent SNL ingenue. Considering their individual talent, it seems unfair to have to choose. If anything, it’s shocking that the writers have not created more conditions for these two powerhouses to play off of each other. The right recurring team of those two would thrive, serving both the show and their individual careers. Get on that, ladies.
The first few sketches were largely dependent on performances from Kenan Thompson, Pedrad, McKinnon, and Norton, making it seem like SNL was using their newbies sparingly. During a Wes Anderson horror trailer parody, Noël Wells showed off her ability to look like any actress ranging from Lena Dunham to Gwyneth Paltrow, but not much else happened for the freshman class.
The first real rookie risk taken was several sketches in, with Brooks Wheelan playing an excitable hillbilly with “critter control.” The new featured player comfortably played off Norton, without much of a glaring difference between their comfortability performing. The start of the sketch introduces a common clash of context premise, with the unprofessional critter control specialists in a professional office environment. The possibility that this could be a recurring character for Wheelan is killed off in the end, along with the characters themselves. But it did exhibit Wheelan’s comfort level alongside the pros, as well as the show’s willingness to take a chance on his performance abilities.
Michael O’Brien had the most face time, playing main roles in two sketches. Like Wheelan, O’Brien performed alongside Norton without seeming rattled. First as a shortsighted criminal misusing Norton’s Rain Man-like autism for simple counting, and later as a horny yet virginal waiter. If O’Brien and Wheelan appear to be getting more traction than their fellow rookies, it’s likely because they are also writers who can develop and pitch ideas for themselves. O’Brien, who has been writing for the show since 2009, will likely have an easier time setting himself apart with more clout and comfortability than other new cast members. After all, he is following in the footsteps of Jason Sudeikis and Tina Fey, who were both promoted from writers to cast members.
Weekend Update began with Seth Meyers proving they did not use up all his healthcare.gov jokes in the opening sketch, but the biggest laugh came when he brought up Kim Kardashian’s recent engagement. “Kanye West this week asked Kim Kardashian for her brand in marriage.” The best Update jokes reflect what the audience was already thinking, but with funnier phrasing. This joke accomplished such a feat. Cecily Strong continues to hold her own as co-anchor, but with mention of Meyers’ new gig in February (not ice dancing) it’s difficult to imagine her shouldering the responsibility solo.
New Dog, Old Tricks
SNL is the most effective when it taps into a unique irreverence that still leans on tradition. While season 39 is still very new, this episode contained many traditional elements. The show rested on uncomplicated, proven premises at the beginning and end of the the show. First it was the idea that it is adorable when adults portray inappropriate children, and later with assumption that it is equally hilarious when people do not understand what sex looks like. The early sketch was driven by Pedrad and Thompson’s ability to look ridiculous as children, while the sketch about horny yet virginal waiters provided physical comedy. These sketches were not groundbreaking, but were effective in letting the funny overshadow the formula being used.
They also tapped into to common comedic theme of playing the idiot. The school-kid characters, Thompson’s take on Steve Harvey, and Moynihan’s 'Second Hand News' all succeeded in showing that idiots are funniest when they operate like they don’t know they’re stupid. Moynihan’s Update appearance with 'Second Hand News' though funny, went on too long. It also echoed a ignorant news appeal that was utilized by Strong last season as 'The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At A Party.' In fact, that entire desk piece could have been written for said girl without changing a word. Moments like this are a reminder that SNL may not need to fix what isn’t broken, as long as we’re cool with them recycling what works.
Norton’s humility as a celebrity and strengths as an actor almost allowed him to fall back into the position of ensemble cast member, rather than the center of the episode.This allowed him to be more effective when a sketch actually focused on him. In the last and arguably funniest sketch of the night, Norton plays an eccentric dad going through Halloween candy. His earnest delivery along with support from Moynihan and his son and Aidy Bryant as “Adult Ruth,” was just good old fashioned funny. The sketch succeeds in reminding the audience that SNL does not need to be anything but just that.
Norton’s lack of ego yielded a balanced, straightforward, almost a classic show, that capitalized on this season’s strengths while keeping it simple. At first it seemed like a random guest host choice, but Norton was actually the perfect man for the job. Maybe more hosts should spend 13 years preparing for the role.
A lawsuit filed against filmmaker James Cameron was dismissed by a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday (02Oct13). Eric Ryder sued Cameron in 2011 alleging the storyline for the director's smash hit 3D movie Avatar was copied from his 1999 story K.R.Z. 2068.
K.R.Z. 2068 is described as an "environmentally-themed 3-D epic about a corporation's colonisation and plundering of a distant moon's lush and wondrous natural setting".
While the plots are similar, a California judge ruled in Cameron's favour, stating, "There is no evidence James Cameron did not create Avatar in 1996.''
Reacting to the ruling, Cameron said, "Sadly, it seems that whenever a successful motion picture is produced, there are people who try to get rich quick by claiming their ideas were used. Several such claims have been asserted in connection with Avatar. I am grateful that our courts have consistently found these claims to be meritless.
"As I have previously stated, Avatar was my most personal film, drawing upon themes and concepts that I had been exploring for decades. I am very appreciative that the court rejected the specious claim by Mr. Ryder that I used any of his ideas in my film."
Despite the victory, Cameron is still fighting several other lawsuits over the blockbuster movie, including one from science fiction writer Bryant Moore, who claims Avatar derives from two screenplays that were submitted to an executive at film production company Lightstorm.
Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time, having earned nearly $2.8 billion worldwide. Cameron is planning three sequels.
Singer Monica has become a mum for the third time. The Angel of Mine hitmaker welcomed daughter Laiyah with her NBA player husband Shannon Brown on Tuesday (03Sep13), and Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa revealed her friends' happy news in an Instagram.com post on Thursday (05Sep13).
She wrote, "I am so honored to announce that baby Laiyah Brown has arrived! Mommy and baby are healthy and well. Congratulations @shannonbrown26 and @monicamylife! We love you guys and we can't wait to meet Laiyah! 6lbs (pounds) 9/3/13."
The proud dad gave fans a sneak peek at the newborn later on Thursday, when Brown shared an Instagram photo of himself holding the baby in his arms.
In the accompanying caption, he writes, "I THANK GOD for her!!! JOY has been restored in my LIFE!!!"
This is the first child for the couple, which married in 2011. Monica also has two sons, Rodney and Romelo, with rapper Rocko, while Brown is father to Shanonn Christopher, his child from a previous relationship.
Celebrities are fans like us, except they can do things that we can't: like have a better chance at interacting with our favorite players.
1. Danny DeVito/Nick Punto
The diminutive DeVito went to a Dodgers game in 2013 while wearing a Punto jersey. He then saw Punto hit a home run and was able to talk with Punto during the game.
2. Spike Lee/Reggie Miller
During those heated New York Knicks/Indiana Pacers playoff games in the '90s, Spike Lee and Miller, the superstar gunner for the Pacers, had some hilarious back-and forths during the games. Such moments included Miller's infamous choke sign at the Knicks' bench and Lee.
3. Jack Nicholson/Almost Everyone in the NBA
From Jack, the Lakers' #1 fan, laughing hysterically at a player's mohawk to giving a rival play the evil eye, few celebs rule courtside like him.
4. Kobe Bryant/Chris Rock
This moment was great for not what happened, but what didn't happen: Chris Rock was trying to shoot the breeze with Kobe during a timeout and Bryant was so locked in on the game, he ignored the comedian. Maybe he gave Rock fodder for his next act.
5. Cameron Diaz/Alex Rodriguez
This wasn't exactly like the others, but the moment caught on film with Cameron Diaz feeding her then boyfriend popcorn during the Packers/Steelers Super Bowl was so...corny.
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Soul legend James Brown's life is to be turned into a new biopic directed by The Help's Tate Taylor. Taylor announced he will be making the film in and around his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi on Monday (26Aug13).
The director launched the project in the city with state governor Phil Bryant, and told reporters, "Every frame will be shot in Mississippi. We're even doing Paris, France, in Mississippi... Vietnam, as well, in Mississippi."
Taylor also revealed he hopes to be able to announce who will be cast as Brown in the next few days, revealing, "Those are tough shoes to fill."
Asked if his Godfather of Soul will be a Hollywood star, the director said, "I tend to go toward relative unknowns."
The movie, which will be executive produced by Mick Jagger and Brian Grazer, will be shot later this year (13) and will include scenes shot at the Mississippi Coliseum, where Brown performed a concert in 1969.
Taylor also shot scenes for The Help in his native Mississippi.
Punk legend John Lydon is to be feted for his contribution to music at the upcoming BMI London Awards in October (13). The former Sex Pistols frontman, also known as Johnny Rotten, will follow in the footsteps of music greats Bryan Ferry and Ray Davies when he is handed the Icon Award, which is presented to songwriters who have had "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers".
Del Bryant, the president of BMI, says, "John Lydon is a true icon whose influence on music, fashion and art has been felt around the world.
"We are very pleased to recognise his impact on popular culture and his outstanding musical contributions with the BMI Icon Award."
The gala dinner will take place at London's Dorchester Hotel on 15 October (13).
Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have become grandparents again. Actor Colin Hanks and his wife Samantha Bryant recently welcomed a baby girl named Charlotte, a sibling for their two-year-old daughter Olivia Jane.
The King Kong star tells People.com, "Ms. Charlotte Bryant Hanks has decided to join us. She's as happy and healthy as we are overjoyed and tired."
And the 35 year old jokes that his dad and stepmum are already looking forward to spending some quality time with the new addition, adding, "They cannot wait to just dote on this kid with every single fiber of their being. My wife and I are more than happy to give them our baby and say, 'Here, watch her while we take a nap!'"
The couple married in 2010.