Summer at the movie theater generally means one thing: big-budget popcorn films packed with explosions, robots, superheroes, aliens, or a combination of all four. But even though we're currently in the middle of blockbuster season, that doesn't mean that action movies or outrageous comedies are your only option for summer entertainment. This also happens to be the best season for indie movies, and low-key, high-brow alternatives to the obnoxious, annoying and/or unintelligent blockbusters are flooding into theaters everywhere. So, when you're tired of being dragged along to yet another movie where superheroes punch each other or people (unrealistically) run away from explosions in slow motion, or you're forced to endure another onslaught of unfunny, overly-crude humor, why not take spend the afternoon with one of these indies (opening on or around the same dates) instead?
Instead of Tammy, Try Life Itself (Opens July 4) Melissa McCarthy makes her screenwriting debut in Tammy, a film about a woman searching for a new lease on life on a road trip with her alcoholic, diabetic, inappropriate grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). But if you’re looking for a quieter – if no less cinematic – celebration of life, try Life Itself, the documentary about the life and career of the legendary film critic Roger Ebert. It’s an uplifting, fascinating look at a man who made film criticism accessible to the public and became the definitive voice of entertainment and cinema, even when he could no longer speak. Although it probably won’t have as many pratfalls as Tammy is likely to have…
Instead of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Try Boyhood (Opens July 11) In many ways, Caesar, the simian overlord from Planet of the Apes and Mason, the titular boy at the heart of Boyhood, are on a similar journey. Both are discovering their full potential, both are dealing with a growing sense of responsibility and pressure from the people around them and both are experiencing the joys and pains of growing up. It just so happens that Caesar’s growing pains have to do with the new monkey-led nation he’s establishing and Mason’s are the result of the ups and downs of the normal teenager experience.
Instead of Sex Tape, Try Mood Indigo (Opens July 18) At the box office, summer love is generally interpreted as a raunchy comedy, and this year’s offering is Sex Tape. However, there is a sweeter, more romantic alternative hitting theaters the same day: Mood Indigo. Directed by Michel Gondry, it’s a surreal love story about two newlyweds (Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris), whose relationship is tested when it’s discovered that a flower is growing in her lungs. A little offbeat, very dreamy, and wonderfully heartwarming, it’s a sweet summer treat. Plus, it has just enough special effects to satisfy any lingering desire for big-budget spectacle.
Instead of Lucy, Try Happy Christmas (Opens July 25) Summer movie season isn’t known for having a notable amount of female-fronted films, but 2014 has several lined up. The big-budget option is Lucy, which stars Scarlett Johansson as the only person in the world who is able to unlock and control the full potential of her brain’s capacity, but if you’re not in the mood for shooting, explosions and special effects, you can instead check out Happy Christmas, which opens the same day. Anna Kendrick stars as an irresponsible young woman who moves in with her brother (Joe Swanberg), his wife (Melanie Lynskey) and their infant son without any warning, and her slow, rocky journey towards adulthood.
Instead of Guardians of the Galaxy, Try The Trip to Italy (Opens August 15) Equal parts comedy and action, Guardians of the Galaxy is about a band of misfits who come together to save the universe. The Trip to Italy has a bit less action and a lot more impressions, but it too centers on a pair of misfits (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon), who are on mission to travel around Italy, review restaurants and annoy the crap out of each other. Watching these two trade jokes and attempt to one-up each other is quite possibly the most pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.
Instead of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Try Love Is Strange (Opens August 22) Six years after the first Sin City hit theaters comes A Dame to Kill For, which sees Josh Brolin’s Dwight hunted down by the woman he loves (Eva Green), and brings back several of Frank Miller’s classic characters – well, the ones that weren’t brutally killed anyway. But if you’re in the mood for a more low-key love story, try Love Is Strange, a film about a middle-aged gay couple forced to live with friends after one of them loses his job at a Catholic school. Part love story, part family dramedy, part fish-out-of-water tale, it’s a funny, original take on the marriage plot, anchored by excellent performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.
Instead of The Expendables 3, Try The Congress (Opens August 29) If you’re a fan of actors in a career renaissance and action films, but you’re looking for something a bit more inventive than Stallone and Co. blowing things up, The Congress might be the film for you. The sci-fi film centers on a fictionalized, down-on-her-luck version of Robin Wright agrees to allow a studio to digitize her likeness for a future Hollywood. However, the studio will have complete control over her image for the rest of time, and Wright has no say in what or who they turn her into. Just as exciting, but much more stimulating and creative, The Congress is a perfect alternative to your standard action fare.
Warner Bros. Entertainment
While the Writers Guild of America might not receive as much public attention as the Academy Awards do, those shaping their Oscar pools might want to pay the organization a bit more mind. Since the year 2000, the WGA has accurately predicted the winners of the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars 10 times each. With so much consistency living between the two circuit mainstays, it's hard not to use Friday's announcement of Writers Guild nominees to better estimate what sort of Academy results we'll see come March.
Today, the WGA recognized the following 2013 screenplays for excellence in the Original and Adapted Screenplay categories:
Original ScreenplayAmerican HustleBlue JasmineDallas Buyers ClubHerNebraska
Adapted ScreenplayAugust: Osage CountyBefore MidnightCaptain PhillipsLone SurvivorThe Wolf of Wall Street
While we would not have bet heavily on either Dallas Buyers Club or Lone Survivor showing up on the WGA plate, the biggest surprise would have to be the absence of the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, which many have qualified as a hefty candidate for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. The absence of the New York-set character piece does not bode especially well for its Academy chances, but it does help to single out a frontrunner among the bunch of Original competitors: Her.
Without Llewyn Davis in its company, Her does seem like the title to beat. Surely, Alexander Payne delivers some phenomenal material in his dry, sweet Nebraska, but the imagination and emotional severity pumped into Spike Jonze's first lone go at a feature screenplay is the kind of cinematic magic that the WGA is accustomed to recognizing.
Of course, that's not to say that cynicism won't get its share of celebration this year. Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street has earned no dearth of controversy, but also no dearth of critical esteem since its release on Christmas Day. Award circuit precogs are calling the film too raucous and extreme to win Best Picture (which is a slot many are assuming will fall in the hands of 12 Years a Slave regardless), but an Adapted Screenplay win could be right on the mark for the biographical story of major league swindler Jordan Belfort, scripted by Terence Winter.
The only Scorsese picture to date to earn a WGA win is The Departed, although several (including GoodFellas and Mean Streets) have been nominated before.
Additionally, we see nominations in the Documentary Screenplay category:
Documentary ScreenplayDirty WarsHerblock No Place on Earth Stories We Tell We Steal Secrets
Click back to the Writers Guild of America website to check out all of the nominees in television and radio.
Emma Stone and Bill Murray helped a crowd of U.S. military members get into the holiday spirit in Hawaii on Friday (06Dec13) by making a surprise appearance at their annual Tower Lighting celebration. The pair, who are currently in the state filming an untitled movie, appeared on stage wearing Christmas hats and traditional Hawaiian leis to praise the military and the people who are stationed and working at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for their support.
Stone told the crowd, "We are so honoured to be here tonight to light up the tree... and thank you for your flexibility and support (while we're filming) because we are having such a great time."
Murray added, "We've had a wonderful welcome here in Hawaii and the people have been so gracious."
Cyndi Lauper's third annual charity concert in New York got off to a painful start on Saturday (07Dec13) when singer Pink battled through sound problems as she kicked off the fundraiser. The So What hitmaker decided to pay tribute to the veteran pop star by performing an acoustic version of Lauper's classic Time After Time at the Beacon Theatre bash, but the set was marred by loud feedback noise.
The issues prompted Pink to plead with audio technicians, "Stop, please make it stop, it's making my head angry."
The problems were quickly fixed, allowing fans to enjoy an early Christmas celebration, with Swedish rockers The Hives teaming up with Lauper for a rendition of Christmas Duel, while she returned to the stage for four more collaborations, including a cover of John Lennon's Imagine with Josh Groban, and festive favourite Home for the Holidays with Nelly Furtado, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The quirky singer closed the Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays show by spreading a little more seasonal cheer with Feels Like Christmas, and her own hits Girls Just Want to Have Fun and True Colors.
The concert, which also featured appearances from Susan Sarandon and Rosie O'Donnell, was held to benefit homeless youths in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Pink wasn't the only singer to suffer sound problems over the weekend - Selena Gomez stormed off stage after severe microphone difficulties disrupted her performance at the Jingle Ball concert in Los Angeles on Friday night (06Dec13).
Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis and Mary J. Blige officially kicked off the holidays in New York on Wednesday night (04Dec13) by performing at the 81st annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center celebration. Brit Lewis got the show under the big tree in Manhattan started with her rendition of Wizzard's I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day, while other highlights included pregnant Clarkson's take on Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson's Blue Christmas, which has been recorded by Dean Martin, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley, among others, Blige's jazzy cover of The Christmas Song and Mariah Carey's upbeat take on Joy to the World.
It was mostly an all-girls festive celebration with other appearances by Ariana Grande, Ashanti, Jewel and Lauren Alaina, while rockers the Goo Goo Dolls represented the men at the tree lighting ceremony.
Ac/Dc fans have launched a campaign to drive the band's rock anthem Highway To Hell to the top of the British charts this Christmas (13). A social media campaign has been set up on websites including Facebook.com urging fans to download the 1979 single next month (Dec13) in a bid to secure the coveted Christmas number one slot as a celebration of the band's 40th anniversary this year (13).
The drive aims to derail the upcoming winner of Britain's reality TV show The X Factor, who will launch an assault on the U.K. charts over the festive season.
A message posted on the campaign's Facebook.com page reads, "Christmas No.1 2013... it's your choice... AC/DC are coming. Remember though... we are all here primarily to celebrate 40 years of AC/DC *BUT* it just so happens that The X Factor have moved the date of their winner's single back to the Christmas week after a 2 year gap. Wouldn't it be sweet to grab Mr.Cowell by the big balls at the same time we salute the greatest band on the planet?"
The campaign mirrors a similar scheme from 2009 when Rage Against the Machine's expletive-ridden single Killing in the Name was pushed to the top of the U.K. charts, keeping The X Factor winner Joe McElderry from clinching the Christmas number one.
Highway to Hell will also face competition from pop star Lily Allen, who will release a cover of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know, and the cast of reality TV series The Big Reunion, including 911, Blue, 5ive, Atomic Kitten, Liberty X and B*witched, who have recorded a version of Wizzard's festive hit I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.
A shopping mall performance by Irish pop star Brian Mcfadden had to be axed on Thursday (07Nov13) after he turned up minutes late to a Christmas lights switch-on event in Manchester, England. The former Westlife singer found himself stuck in traffic en route from London to Manchester for the Intu Trafford Centre's annual holiday celebration, and organisers opted not to wait for McFadden, cut his time slot on stage and asked British soap star Natalie Gumede to flick the switch on the festive decorations on schedule.
Disappointed McFadden took to his Twitter.com blog to apologise to fans, writing, "Sorry to everyone at the trafford lights. Took 6 1/2 hours from london. Arrived 3 minutes late but trafford centre wouldnt (sic) wait. Sorry".
McFadden tried to make it up to devotees by spending time signing autographs and posing for photos outside the Trafford Centre.
The singer has been invited to return to the event next year (14).
Speaking on Friday (08Nov13), Gordon McKinnon, the Intu Trafford Centre's regional director, says, "Sadly Brian McFadden was caught up in traffic and missed his slot on stage. We had been looking forward to hearing his new acoustic material, so we were extremely disappointed - and we know that Brian was too. We would love to have Brian back next year."
Getty Images/Ethan Miller
Sure, she may put the “mess” in “hot mess,” but love her or hate her, Courtney Love is a bona fide rock star. To coincide with her upcoming LP later this year (with a working title of Died Blonde), Love will be releasing a 400-page autobiography, reportedly titled Courtney Love: My Story.
The memoirs will take a deep look into the life and times of one of the most notorious women in rock, including Love's drug use, stripper stint, and relationships with Kurt Cobain, Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, and Edward Norton. Don’t expect Love to go into juicy, tabloid-worthy details, though – in an interview with Billboard magazine earlier this year, Love said, “[T]here's some salacious things about myself, but there's certainly no kissy-telly. I don't do kiss-tell. It's not that. In fact, you'd think I was the Virgin Mary from his book so far -- but that doesn't mean there's not juicy parts in it. It's just juicy parts about ME, not other people."
Courtney Love as Virgin Mary? This already sounds amazing.
Love could’ve just written a book made up of her psycho tweets and we all could've died happy, but hopefully her memoirs will live up to their expectations of being a Bible of Crazy. Courtney Love: My Story is reportedly scheduled for release on December 15, just in time for Christmas. Don’t front – you know you want this in your stocking.
Actor Stephen Amell has become a first-time dad to a baby girl. The Arrow star and his wife Cassandra Jean welcomed little Mavi Alexandra Jean on Tuesday (15Oct13).
The proud father shared the news with fans by posting a snap of himself holding the newborn on his Facebook.com page on Saturday (19Oct13).
The couple wed in the Caribbean on Christmas Day last year (25Dec12) and later re-affirmed their commitment to each other in May (13) during a celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Christmas special from the historic First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi. The 350-member church choir, backed by a 50-piece orchestra, perform Christmas songs under the direction of Larry Black, the Minister of Music. Dr. Frank Pollard, the pastor, leads the 6,000-member congregation in this Christmas Eve service.