Benny Blanco, who penned Katy Perry's hit Teenage Dream and Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger, is set to be honoured at the Songwriters Hall of Fame with the prestigious Hal David Starlight Award during a special gala on 13 June (13). Previous recipients include Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys.
With each outing in his evolving filmmaking career actor-turned-director Ben Affleck has amped up the scope. Gone Baby Gone was a character drama woven into a hard-boiled mystery. The Town saw Affleck dabble in action pulling off bank heists many compared to the expertise of Heat. In Argo the director pulls off his most daring effort melding one part caper comedy and two parts edge-of-your-seat political thriller into an exhilarating theatrical experience.
At the height of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 anti-Shah militants stormed the U.S. embassy and captured 52 American hostages. Six managed to escape the raid finding refuge in the Canadian ambassador's home. Within hours the militants began a search for the missing Americans sifting through shredded paperwork for even the smallest bit of evidence. Under pressure by the ticking clock the CIA worked quickly to formulate a plan to covertly rescue the six embassy workers. Despite a lengthy list of possibilities only Tony Mendez (Affleck) had a plan just enticing enough to unsuspecting Iranian officials to work: the CIA would fake a Hollywood movie shoot.
There's nothing in Argo or Affleck's portrayal of Mendez that would tell you the technical operations officer has the imagination to conjure his master plan — Affleck perhaps to differentiate himself from the past plays his character with so much restraint he looks dead in the eyes — but when the Hollywood hijinks swing into full motion so does Argo. Mendez hooks up with Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to convince all of Hollywood that their sci-fi blockbuster "Argo " is readying for production. With enough promotional material concept art and press coverage Mendez and his team can convince the Iranian government they're a legit operation. A location scout in Tehran will be their method of extracting the bunkered down escapees.
Without an interesting lead to draw us in Affleck lets his eclectic ensemble do the heavy lifting. For the most part it works. Argo is basically two movies — Goodman and Arkin lead the Ocean's 11-esque half and Affleck takes the reigns when its time to get the six — another who's who of character actors including Tate Donovan Clea Duvall Scoot McNairy and Rory Cochrane — through the terrifying security of the Iranian airport. Arkin steals the show as a fast talking Hollywood type complete with year-winning catchphrase ("ArGo f**k yourself!) while McNairy adds a little more humanity to the spy mission when his character butts heads with Mendez. The split lessens the impact of each section but the tension in the escape is so high so taut that there's never a moment to check out.
Reality is on Affleck's side his camera floating through crowds of protestors and the streets of Tehran — a warscape where anything can happen. Each angle he chooses heightens the terror which starts to close in on the covert escape as they drift further and further from their homebase. Argo is a complete package with the '70s production design knowing when to play goofy (the fake movie's wild sci-fi designs) and when to remind us that problems took eight more steps to fix then they do today. Alexandre Desplat's score finds balance in haunting melodies and energetic pulses.
Part of Argo's charm is just how unreal the entire operation really was. To see the men and women involved go through with a plan they know could result in death. It's a suspenseful adventure and while there's not much in the way of character to cling to the visceral experience tends to be enough.
Hal David — known for hits like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”— died of complications from a stroke at 91 years old Saturday in Los Angeles, Hollywood.com has confirmed.
He certainly will remain a legend in the music industry — David and longtime writing partner Burt Bacharach wrote for famous acts like The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and Dionne Warwick, who collaborated with the duo on many hits, including “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and “Walk on By.”
Considering how many Top 40 hits David and Bacharach penned since meeting at New York’s Tin Pan Alley song factory in 1957, it was only a matter of time until Oscar took notice. David — a former president for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers — picked up nominations for writing Casino Royale’s “The Look of Love” and the title tracks from Alfie and What’s New, Pussycat?, and, in 1970, an Oscar for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”
Even the White House took notice of David’s influence on pop culture. In spring 2012, President Barack Obama rewarded David and Bacharach with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (“These guys have still got it,” Obama said at the event, which David was unable to attend due to health reasons.)
The duo might have scored their first hit in 1958 with Perry Como’s “Magic Moments” — and broke up in 1973 after poor reviews for their Lost Horizon work sparked a tenuous relationship between the two for a long 19 years — but their collaborations will continue to hit airwaves. Acts like Alicia Keys record Bacharach and David originals today.
Paul Williams, the current President and Chairman of ASCAP, released the following statement to Hollywood.com about the dearly departed songwriter: “Hal David has been a great inspiration to me both as a songwriter, a mentor, and as a leader of ASCAP. As a lyric writer, Hal was simple, concise and poetic --conveying volumes of meaning in fewest possible words and always in service to the music. It is no wonder that so many of his lyrics have become part of our everyday vocabulary and his songs... the backdrop of our lives. ASCAP enjoyed Hal’s devoted service and leadership for nearly four decades as a Board member and six years as President. He was always able to see the big picture when it came to the music business and was one of the most respected and valued voices in our music community. His concern for his fellow ASCAP members was always paramount. To me, he was a faithful friend and supporter, whom I will miss deeply. I know that all of ASCAP’s members join me in mourning his loss.”
[Image Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images]
Just seven months after Jerry Sandusky was arrested on suspicion of child molestation — and his case consumed the news, late night talk shows, and satire programs like South Park — the former Penn State assistant coach was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse. Since Hollywood is hardly an industry to keep mum about any major news event (see: the aforementioned South Park episode), celebrities flocked to their Twitter to share their thoughts about the verdict and Sandusky, who was accused of sexually assaulting nearly a dozen boys over the course of 15 years. Read below to see tweets that ranged from celebratory to somber to inappropriately funny.
Would it be inappropriate to say we should send Jerry Sandusky to a women's prison where he would likely enjoy himself a lot less?— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 23, 2012
Sandusky found GUILTY yet for some reason I don't even feel better. The whole thing is just gross & despicable.— Bethenny Frankel (@Bethenny) June 23, 2012
Justice is served! Sandusky convicted!! Much respect 2 the victims who spoke out & compassion 4 those who couldn't— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) June 23, 2012
The good news - #Sandusky will rot in jail The bad news - a dozen people who covered for him will be going back to work tomorrow— Hal Sparks (@HalSparks) June 23, 2012
Let me re-phrase.I hope Jerry Sandusky gets a lot of unwanted "horseplay" in the prison showers.— Natalie Maines (@1NatalieMaines) June 23, 2012
Sandusky has just been put on suicide watch. He should be put on suicide encouragement!— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) June 23, 2012
Jury agrees with Sandusky's face.— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers21) June 23, 2012
You never would've made it to trial in Texas, Sandusky!— Randy Quaid (@RandyRQuaid) June 23, 2012
A better coach wouldn't have been satisfied with 45 out of 48.— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) June 23, 2012
Sandusky, a tragedy all around. He may well come to know in prison the kind of horror he inflicted. May his victims have peace.— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) June 23, 2012
Jerry Sandusky Found Guilty: A Look Back at His Pop Culture Skewering
Kutcher learned 'great lesson' from Paterno tweet uproar
Perry salutes Penn State child sex abuse victim
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The core component of 21st century filmmaking is focused on producing trilogies, anthologies, sagas and series. Animated films are no exception to this rule and now that Rango, Gnomeo and Juliet and Hop are all bona fide hits, things are looking good for their sequel potential. This week, 20th Century Fox and director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age) unleash their new CGI series opener Rio and since the movie has all the makings of a full franchise I thought it’d be cool to take a look at a few of the films that I think you’ll see sequels to in the near future.
In Theaters: This Friday, April 15
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx
As previously stated, Fox believes that this film has the chops to go the distance and I’ve got no reason to doubt that. It’s got a voice cast comprised of popular performers like Hathaway, Eisenberg and Jamie Foxx. It’s got an underused South American setting (the titular Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), though the digital environment surely can’t capture the beauty of the live location. Most importantly, it’s got a vibrantly colorful aesthetic and lots of cute characters that kids will no doubt fall in love with. This is precisely the formula that made DreamWorks’ Madagascar films massive worldwide hits, and so I’d count on getting familiar with Blu the Macaw, Chloe the Goose and all the other birds of Rio.
In Theaters: June 17
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard
Superheroes have the benefit of being franchises before they ever hit the big screen. Most comic book characters have been around for ages and have scores of villains and stories for filmmakers to choose from for multiple movies. In the case of Warner Bros. Green Lantern, the studio also has multiple heroes to choose from, as Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan isn’t the only Earthling to wield the emerald power ring (actually, he’s not even the first! That honor belongs to Alan Scott, but I digress). If this first film really takes off, the studio can make a trilogy of films focused on Jordan before moving on to Jon Stewart and, finally, Kyle Rayner, who many fans consider to be the best Lantern of all. Adding in the fact that each one of these intergalactic defenders has mutual and exclusive enemies and there’s potential for a dozen Green Lantern films…literally.
In Theaters: July 29
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Jayma Mays
Nostalgia can work wonders for a property’s profitability. With The Smurfs, Columbia Pictures has a globally recognizable brand that appeals to the inner child inside all of us. Not only does the studio have two likable live-action leads in Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays, but an army of lovable little blue people voiced by well-known personalities like George Lopez, Jeff Foxworthy, Katy Perry and John Oliver; all of whom have sizable followings of their own. Throw in the always nice-to-watch New York City setting and a wonderfully rendered villain in Hank Azaria and we could be witnessing the second coming of The Smurfs.
Conan The Barbarian
In Theaters: August 19
Starring: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang
The torture-porn Saw series aside, Lionsgate Films doesn’t contain the wealth of franchises that its larger rivals do, so this movie is a big deal for the company. It’s a property that most associate with its original star (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and without question the biggest hurdle this reboot faces is not having a big-name star wielding the sword of the Cimmerian warrior. But with Marcus Nispel, director of the recent Friday the 13th remake, at the helm, Robert E. Howard’s brutal and unforgiving world should at least raise the interest of most male moviegoers. And having Rose McGowan and Rachel Nichols scantily clad in various scenes can only help…
Cowboys & Aliens
In Theaters: July 29
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford
Everyone involved in this highly-anticipated genre mash-up is used to and comfortable with franchise work (from director Jon Favreau to producers Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard to stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford), so I’m sure that Universal Pictures is considering the possibility that, should the film take off at the box-office, Cowboys & Aliens could become another lucrative brand. It literally has everything going for it: the biggest and best cast of the summer directed by one of the most exciting filmmakers in the industry working from a script by some of the most sought after scribes in Hollywood. All the stars lined up in perfect harmony for this picture and though I don’t think a 19th century alien invasion epic needs a sequel, I won’t deny that I’ll be first in line to see one if it’s optioned.