The original title of the new movie Date and Switch, a teenage sex comedy featuring a freshly out of the closet gay teen and his straight best friend both trying to lose their virginity, was Gay Dude. That's right; a film that refreshingly features a gay protagonist in a familiar teenage role started out with a title that sounds like it belongs on a porn magazine.
Thankfully, the producers and Lionsgate, which is distributing the film, made the change to the current — albeit still unoriginal — title. It just goes to show that even when Hollywood's heart is in the right place, trying to overcome stigmas and stereotypes doesn't come easily.
The movie stars Hunter Cope as Matty, who comes out to his best friend Michael (Nicholas Braun), as the duo gears up for their senior prom. Not only is Michael okay with the news, he goes out of his way to try to find Matty a boyfriend, while still trying to juggle his devotion to his girlfriend (Sarah Hyland) with the fact that Matty's ex-girlfriend (Dakota Johnson) is now falling for him. The story is roughly the same as every teenage sex comedy ever made from Risky Business to Superbad, and that's what makes it important.
By putting a gay teen character in a situation that is extremely familiar to the audience at large, it provides an inroad for empathy and understanding. Someone that's straight doesn't understand what it's like to come out to friends and family, but everyone knows what it's like to be a teenager dealing with raging hormones.
Television — in particular Glee with its power couple of Kurt and Blaine — has long been more comfortable with handling this kind of material. After all, it's been almost 20 years since My So Called Life broke ground with an openly gay teen character. The feature films that have tackled the subject have largely been independent fare or bigger budget movies that relegate the gay character to a best friend role.
It might seem odd that a step forward is created by featuring a gay character in what amounts to a formulaic comedy, but that’s exactly what it is. It took decades for Hollywood studios to make movies where the entire focus of ethnic characters wasn't their ethnicity. Matty's sexuality in Date and Switch is still the major plot point, but the overall story is universal. Progress is made in the entertainment industry in baby steps.
With the number of suicides amongst gay teens still a concern, any sort of effort that provides mainstream characterizations is worthwhile… even if it's in the guise of a sex comedy.
Just as long as it's not called Gay Dude.
Jon Snow might know nothing on Game of Thrones, but Kit Harington sure seems to know a lot about working out.
The actor that portrays Thrones' conflicted hero gets to shed the fur wraps that Snow regularly wears for the upcoming Pompeii. In the films trailers, Harington shows off a toned body that's somewhere between Russell Crowe in Gladiator and Gerald Butler in 300 ... and there's nothing wrong with that. Ygritte could sharpen her arrows on his rock-hard abs.
The movie about the ancient city that gets buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius stars Harington as a slave-turned-gladiator who's trying to rescue his one true love (Emily Browning) from the destruction… and the clutches of Kiefer Sutherland's treacherous Roman Senator.
Which is a long way of saying that there's going to be some kind of historical fiction going on while Harington races around and flexes his muscles… all in glorious 3D. We'll never look at Jon Snow the same again.
When Shonda Rhimes recently accepted a Diversity Award from the Directors Guild of America, she admitted that the honor made her "a little pissed off."
Rhimes, the creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, and her producing partner Betsy Beers were honored for diversity casting by the DGA and was grateful for the honor but mad that it was something that needed to be appreciated. "Like, there's such a lack of people hiring women and minorities that when someone does it on a regular basis, they are given an award," Rhimes told the audience during her acceptance speech, as reported by Entertainment Weekly.
One of the most powerful people in television, when Rhimes speaks it gets attention, but there needs to be more people speaking out and more studios doing something about it. The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film's Celluloid Ceiling report showed that women only made up 16 percent of the directors, writers, producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 250 grossing movies in 2013. Only 6 percent of those films featured a female director.
Television, where Rhimes has built her career, has its own issues, as highlighted by the controversy over Saturday Night Live's casting practices that finally led to the midseason hiring of cast member Sasheer Zamata and writers LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, all three African-American females.
It should not take public outcry to get women and minorities hired for jobs either in front of or behind the camera. It should just take common sense. Schools across the country are graduating students with degrees in film and television production and not all of them are white males. Studio executives faced with harsh economic realities are loath to trust unproven talent with millions of dollars, but that excuse doesn’t explain why the number of women and minorities being hired for production positions like editors continues to remain low.
Even having success doesn’t guarantee continued opportunities. Amy Heckerling earned near universal acclaim for directing Clueless in 1995, and has been hired to helm one other studio production since.
Numerous businesses have proven that having a diverse mix of employees working on a project only enhances the final product, as varying points of view and new ideas are integrated in during the process. It's time that the entertainment industry took that model to heart and begins hiring casts and crews that is more representative of the general public. Improving diversity hiring may or may not create a better movie or television show, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
In a nice bit of stunt casting, Prince appeared on the post-Super Bowl episode of New Girl. The story saw The Purple One invitings Zooey Deschanel's Jess and Hannah Simone's Cece to a party at his mansion. According to the show's producers, Prince is such a fan of the show that he contacted them about being included in an episode.
He's certainly not the first music industry icon to show up on a scripted television show, but he might be one of the most unexpected. Having someone of Prince's stature cast himself in a guest spot on a sitcom opens the doors for other legends to jump into parts on the small screen. Here's our wish list pairing other musical royalty with the TV show that we'd like to see them pop up on.
Bruce Springsteen, The Good WifeThe show featured some of The Boss' new music on its January 12 episode in an effort to promote Springsteen's latest release. Know what works even better to promote your music? A real live appearance. Springsteen has been goofing off with Jimmy Fallon recently, so he's not as averse to putting himself out there as he used to be. Springsteen could easily show up in a story line protesting Chris Noth's Peter Florrick's policies as governor… and maybe share a moment with Julianna Margulies' Alicia.
Beyoncé, ScandalKerry Washington's Olivia Pope doesn't have many female friends — or really friends at all — as she manages one crisis or another for her D.C. clientele, so it might be nice to have one of her childhood friends drop in on her. Bey has acted before, most notably in Austin Powers in Goldmember, so we know that she can handle more than just a quick walk-on. Give Mrs. Carter and Washington some ample screen time together and it might be the most glamorous match-up since Dynasty went off the air.
Bono, Parks and RecreationGranted, this might not have been on this list before Amy Poehler decided to make out with the U2 front man after winning her Golden Globe… but now that we've seen that, how can you not want more? Plus, just the idea of Bono being stuck in Indiana is funny. Have his limo break down in Pawnee, let Poehler's Leslie Knope try to recruit him for some cause, and if they happen to end up making out, well, there's nothing wrong with that.
Lady Gaga, GleeShe's hosted Saturday Night Live and joined the Muppets for a holiday special, so Lady Gaga has done her fair share of small screen work. Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy has repeatedly shown how much of a fan of her music he is. With ratings declining for the show, it would be a boon to have Gaga appear as a rival glee club coach and torment Matthew Morrison's Will Schuester.
Justin Bieber, 2 Broke Girls
The kid needs to change his image, that part cannot be denied. When Britney Spears needed some good pub, she did an appearance on How I Met Your Mother. When Miley Cyrus was transitioning to her sexed-up adulthood, she did a stint on Two and a Half Men. Biebs needs to be seen making fun of his image and his missteps. There are worse ways to start the repair work than by taking a tongue lashing from Kat Dennings' Max.
It was announced recently that Christine McVie was reuniting with her bandmates in Fleetwood Mac after leaving the group in 1998. Fans can now be treated again to the group's Rumours-era lineup, with McVie taking back over vocals on her hits like "You Make Loving Fun" and "Hold Me."
With so many musicians cashing in on the money that can be made by going out on the road with a classic edition of their band, it's become hard to find acts that people clamor to have back together. Hard, but not impossible. Here are some artists that we'd like to see back in the band.
Slash, Guns N' Roses
Granted, Axl Rose is a nut-job and a major pain in the tuchus. Still, the demand for a tour featuring Rose, Slash, and the rest of the original lineup of GNR would be unbelievable and the group's core audience is now old enough to afford the ticket prices. If Don Henley, Glenn Frey and the other Eagles can spend years on the road taking separate busses and not speaking to each other, than there has to be a way for Axl and Slash to play nice long enough to cash in.
Beyoncé, Destiny's Child
Beyoncé certainly doesn't need to do anything that she doesn't want to do. Let's face it; Mrs. Carter has the entire world at her disposal. But, here's the thing, she's still friends with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, as evidenced by the recent photos of the three band members together at little Blue's birthday party. Beyoncé just released a 14-track "visual album" that nobody knew about in advance. If she's got that kind of time, then surely there's some extra to lay down some new DC material.
Roger Waters, Pink Floyd
Every subsequent generation has its own Floyd experience, whether it's watching late-night showings of The Wall or synching up Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz. Waters is a creative genius, and notoriously difficult to work with. He's also 70 years old. Waters and the other surviving Floyd members (David Gilmour and Nick Mason) have done some one-off shows over the years, but it's not too late to give those younger fans one more chance to see one of Floyd's legendary live shows.
Steve Perry, Journey
There have been rumors for a long time that Perry's voice isn't what it used to be, which is why the singer hasn't released any new solo material in nearly 20 years. Perry's camp has denied that there is anything wrong with his voice, but even if there is a vocal issue, a reunion is still eminently doable. Arnel Pineda, the current lead singer of the band, has been a nice story, so keep him around to help supplement Perry. It's a little late to cash in on the hype that Glee created, but the band still might actually be more popular now than they were in their '80s heyday.
Dennis DeYoung, Styx
At the very least, this one would make Adam Sandler, an unabashed fan of the "Mr. Roboto" group, happy. DeYoung, who handled vocals on most of the band's biggest hits like "The Best of Times" and "Come Sail Away," has continued to perform Styx material in his shows and the other members of the group have long been on the fair and festival circuit. Sure, DeYoung sued the others at one time over the use of the band's name, but lawsuits are as much a part of the music industry as guitars. A reunion would at least upgrade them to the top county fairs in the country.
The Mindy Project might need a name change. Mindy Kaling's show's moniker, a nod to the nondescript title given to many television pilots, is in danger of becoming outdated very soon.
Fox Broadcasting Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly sent shockwaves through the industry when he told the Television Critics Association that the network was no longer going to participate in the traditional pilot season, when a number of prospective TV shows are rushed into production for an initial episode so that executives can decide which ones to add to their schedule. Pilot season has been an ingrained way of doing business for TV networks and producers for so long that it's hard to imagine it disappearing.
The time is right, however, for the other networks to follow Fox's lead and get rid of the outdated model. The simple fact is that most pilots are a waste of time and money. There are advantages for the people involved in the production of the shows, since pilot season has traditionally been one of the busiest times in Hollywood with everyone from actors to grips to caterers getting an extra payday. The issue is the quality of the pilots themselves.
Writers languish for months over pilot scripts, since they are a project's initial calling card. When a network orders a pilot, though, the rush to get the work from page to screen typically leads to a harried work environment. Many good ideas and scripts have been killed by the execution of the pilot as time and money take precedence over creativity and craftsmanship.
Reilly pointed to the model used by cable networks where shows are developed more slowly and in an ongoing fashion, with only the shows that the network is truly interested in airing going into even initial production. He also noted the success that cable has had with shorter seasons — something that was borrowed from the British tradition of doing compact runs of shows.
As much fun as it might have been to wonder what The Coolio Project was like when it appeared on production lists — or better still to get a copy of the unintentionally hilarious results — the creative process works better with more time and patience.
It's time for the other networks to follow Fox and dim the lights on the traditional way of doing pilots. The creative energies of all involved would be better served elsewhere.
Can Mark Burnett, the man that created a television sensation with Survivor and earned ratings gold with The Bible, do the same thing with Mexican wrestling? That's what writer-director-producer Robert Rodriguez is hoping after his fledging El Rey Network cable channel announced plans to launch a U.S. based lucha libre show in conjunction with Burnett's One Three Media and Lucha Libre AAA, the top wrestling league in Mexico. The hour-long show will begin airing during the second half of 2014.
This isn't the first time that Hollywood has tried to make U.S. audiences care about the Mexican wrestling sensation. Jack Black donned a mask as a would-be wrestler in Nacho Libre and an animated show called ¡Mucha Lucha! aired on Kids' WB from 2002-'05. Those weren't the real thing, however, with wrestlers in stylized masks flying off the top rope and doing moves like tornillos and planchas.
"Wrestling is a billion-dollar business in the U.S.," Burnett said in the press release announcing the partnership. "Our new lucha libre will make that market even bigger."
The last time that U.S. professional wrestlers wore masks on a regular basis, Vince McMahon was still wearing ugly plaid sports jackets as an announcer, the broadcasts aired on WTBS (when there was still a 'W'), and it was called Georgia Championship Wrestling. By the time that Hulk Hogan, 'Captain' Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper were taking wrestling mainstream on MTV in the mid-'80s, the masked wrestlers were a thing of the past.
So, can an upstart lucha libre league cut into McMahon's WWE dominated market? Crossing over into the non-Latino market might still be a tough sell. The style of wrestling — athletic and high-flying —is exciting and entertaining. The issue, as it's been in the past, will be the masks. Whether it's Hogan or John Cena or The Rock, U.S. audiences are accustomed to seeing faces.
The key for Burnett and company will be to highlight the acrobatic style, while quickly luring viewers into storylines of the Técnicos versus the Rudos: the good versus the bad. 'Heroes against villains' in wrestling is a storyline template that WWE audiences are well acquainted with.
If Burnett could get 100-plus million people to watch a History Channel miniseries about The Bible, who's to say that he can't get English-speaking audiences to sample the sizzle of lucha libre? At the very least, his track record lends credibility to El Rey's effort, which just might give the network a pierna (leg) up.
There was a lot of hand-wringing by Star Wars fans when George Lucas sold his company to Disney. The entertainment conglomerate has long been seen as being more interested in profits than integrity. Those fears haven't entirely subsided, but all it took was two little words to engage a significant chunk of that fan base in a discussion that drew attention away from whatever else Disney might do: Boba Fett.
While the casual fans have followed the various reports of who might be part of J.J. Abrams' Episode VII and whether that film will focus on the children of Luke Skywalker and/or Princess Leia and Han Solo, the hardcore fans lit up at the suggestion of a standalone film for the mysterious bounty hunter who first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back.
Why so much excitement over a secondary character in the Star Wars universe? The truth is that there has always been a clamoring for information about Boba Fett, starting right from the beginning. After the original Star Wars was released and before Empire came out, the first new character that most fans learned about was Fett. He was the first to have a toy action figure, even before the release of the movie, and the fact that he was a bounty hunter going after Han Solo was a well-known plot point of the sequel before it even began filming. With little else to work from, Fett gave fans in the late '70s a focus to imagine what was coming next. And, with that, the cult of Boba Fett was born.
There are books and websites devoted to the exploits of the bounty hunter — he even has his own fan club — yet he was on screen in the films for less time than Jar Jar Binks and a number of Ewoks. There's been more time devoted to figuring out his backstory than almost any character, save Darth Vader. Hardcore fans know that at one point it was rumored that Vader and Fett were brothers, before the prequels revealed a different origin story for both. (Boba Fett is the cloned son of bounty hunter Jango Fett, as revealed in Attack of the Clones.)
Fans have long complained about his seeming demise in Return of the Jedi, leading Lucas to admit that he might have done it differently if he had realized the character was that popular. Now attention has turned to what will happen if his standalone adventure makes it to the big screen.
Rumors are flying that screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, the scribe behind Empire and Jedi, will handle the script but with a focus on reworking the character to distance him from the origin given in the prequels. Equally rumored is that Joe Johnston, who directed Captain America: The First Avenger and helped design Fett as a Lucas employee, has told people that he would like to direct.
Of course, in keeping with the mysterious nature of the character, no one is certain about anything, including whether a movie will actually be made. What is a sure bet, however, is Boba Fett's legion of admirers will keep watching, waiting and debating for longer than it would've taken the bounty hunter to be digested by his sarlacc nemesis from Jedi (that's 1,000 years to the uninitiated).
The name Peter Mayhew for the most part only rings bells for the most ardent Star Wars enthusiasts. The 7-foot-2 actor, who donned the costume of Chewbacca in the original trilogy, was lumped in with Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels and David Prowse, the faceless group behind R2-D2, C3PO and Darth Vader, respectively –recognizable only if you're a regular Comic-Con attendee.
Mayhew, however, has suddenly found himself with a legion of new followers on Twitter (@TheWookieeRoars) after he recently began tweeting photos that he has from the sets of the Star Wars films. There have been hundreds of pages devoted to George Lucas' brainchild, yet the photos that Mayhew has put out there for public consumption highlight a personal aspect that is frequently missing. It took a Wookiee to remind us that the people behind Star Wars, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, are just human beings, after all.
In particular, Mayhew's obvious affection for Fisher is on display. In one photo, Fisher plants a playful kiss on Chewbacca and the actress is never without a smile in the snapshots. In a picture that sent older fan-boys into near cardiac arrest, Fisher is seen sunning herself in the famous Princess Leia slave outfit, along with her identically dressed stunt double. The picture stands in stark contrast to Fisher's long-standing complaints about having to wear the costume.
Equally arresting are the pictures featuring a younger, jovial Ford. It's been a long, long time since the erstwhile Han Solo was willing to let his guard down, but Mayhew's shots of Ford flashing the lopsided grin that made him famous help remind us why he became a superstar apart from Star Wars.
There are also shots of the other hidden players in and out of costume, including Daniels in his C3PO costume trying to stay out of the hot Tunisian sun.
It's like looking at someone's family photo album, only populated with famous people and iconic characters. Seeing Mayhew's picture of Ford and Hamill just sitting on a couch in sweaters looks like it could've come from anybody's stash of pictures from 1979, which is the beauty of it. Unlike publicity photos or even ones taken by a set photographer, Mayhew's shots are really just his pictures of himself with some friends. The fact that it's all taking place on some of the most famous sets in the history of cinema is completely secondary.
Mayhew's original tweet before uploading the treasure trove of pictures said that he was "feeling nostalgic." The man behind Chewbacca was kind enough to share the trip down memory lane with Star Wars fans everywhere and in the process put a human face back on the sci-fi epic. Hopefully, writer-director J.J. Abrams remembers to do the same with the forthcoming Episode VII.
Super Bowl Ads/YouTube
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Apple's landmark Super Bowl ad that helped not only signal a revolution in the personal computer marketplace, but set an advertising standard that is still on display. With Ridley Scott's Orwellian "1984" spot, Apple ushered in the age of the bigger-than-life Super Bowl commercial. The clamoring for ad space to run on the big game's broadcast has allowed broadcasters to charge $4 million for 30 seconds of time (in 1984 the figure was $450,000).
In the intervening years, Super Bowl ads have become a genre unto themselves. As the game approaches, companies have begun teasing their ads to build excitement for their campaigns.
Bud Light: What do Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed as a 1970s tennis player and practicing ping-pong have to do with Don Cheadle leading around a llama and Reggie Watts DJ'ing a bachelorette party? The beer company is hoping that enough people are intrigued by the idea to tune in and find out.
Apple: The computer giant did an update of their iconic ad on its 20th anniversary and it is expected that there will be another version this Sunday. Whatever their plan is, the company is keeping it under wraps.
Dannon: Honda had success with Matthew Broderick reprising his Ferris Bueller capers. Dannon apparently feels that just as many people hold similar affection for Full House. The yogurt maker is running a series of ads featuring John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier.
Toyota: The car manufacturer's planned ad for its Highlander brand involves the Muppets and Terry Crews. Crews, the former football player and Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor, picks up Kermit and crew after their bus breaks down.
Jaguar: The luxury car maker is doing a Super Bowl ad for the first time and tapped Sir Ben Kingsley, along with Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) and Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), in a homage to British villians.
Go Daddy: After years of ads that objectified women and promised even more skin if viewers would go the web hosting company's website, this year spokeswoman Danica Patrick is turning the tables by running around with a bunch of male bodybuilders.
Butterfinger: To help launch its new Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups, Nestle's ad features Peanut Butter and Chocolate in couples therapy.