Clint Eastwood's American Sniper hit number one at the box office for the third consecutive weekend, with $31.8 million bringing its domestic total to $248.9 million. Paddington came in second with $8.5 million. New releases Project Almanac and Black or White made quiet debuts with $8.5 million and $6.5 million respectively. The Boy Next Door rounded out the top five with $6 million. Basically the only movie America wants to see is American Sniper. It is the America of movies and will now perform at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show.
D'Angelo performed two songs off his surprise comeback album Black Messiah "Really Love" and "The Charade" on the this week's J.K. Simmons-hosted SNL. For the latter, D'Angelo came out wearing a black hoodie while his band, the Vanguard, was clad in black t-shirts emblazoned with the phrases "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" — slogans of a national response to the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and others. In the chorus, he sings: "All we wanted was a chance to talk / 'Stead we only got outlined in chalk / Feet have bled a million miles we've walked / Revealing at the end of the day, the charade."
After the NFL Honors, über-power couples Kim and Kanye and Chrissy Teigen and John Legend decided to hit up the local Waffle House. And yes, while we can file this into the "Celebrities: They're just like us!" folder, it's Kanye's face that we truly identify with. Kanye's face is the face of hanger. It is the face that says: Waffles. Now. Please.
Warning: This video is not for the faint of heart. You will watch it and that part of you that grew up watching Divas Live and can slay this very lip-sync of "Fantasy" on command will crumble inside and wonder whether there is any justice in the contemporary pop universe. It is the kind of sadness on the level of babies catching colds and watching your childhood dog grow old. It is a reminder that even one of the greats — nay one of the greatest — is human, too.
Did Eddie Redmayne have any anxieties about playing Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds of our time, in The Theory of Everything? "There was a hilarious moment where I had fear for a good few months about playing someone as intelligent as that and I had a few sleepless nights about it," Redmayne told Vulture at the Art Directors Guild Awards where he was a presenter. "Then, I had this epiphany: I was lucky enough to go to Cambridge [Note: Hawking also attended Cambridge] and while I was there, the really bright people I met, the seriously bright people, never felt the need to demonstrate their intelligence. So I woke up all sprightly and thought… if I just pretend I’m really confident in my own intellect, then everything will be absolutely fine. Appear confident in yourself and then maybe people will think you’re bright.” Mission accomplished, Mr. Redmayne.
Okay, we can finally admit it: 2014 was kind of a garbage year for music. In retrospect, it will probably go down as Year 1 A.B. (After Beyoncé) or “the year that Bono apologized for giving away an album for free.” Though there were a few triumphs, something about pop music in 2014 felt transitional, minor, by-default: We are talking about a year in which we could not find a better Song of the Summer than Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” a year in which Meghan Trainor’s woefully inescapable “All About that Bass” was nominated for the Grammys’ highest songwriting honor — a year when, due to some kind of karmic vengeance from a wrathful and definitely Canadian God, Magic!’s “Rude” was the Number 1 song in the country for six godforsaken weeks.
But the good news is that there’s nowhere to go from here but up — and that it’s already happening. January is usually a wasteland of new releases, but it’s already had an uncommonly great winter for music. We are only one-twelfth of the way through 2015, and I am already more excited about this year than basically all of 2014. Let me count the ways.
It would be a stretch to call J.K. Simmons a comedic actor. This is, lest we forget, a guy whose first famous role was Oz prison rapist Vern Schillinger (a role he reprised in an SNL walk-on in the '90s.) Comedy is definitely in the guy's wheelhouse, though. He's spent the past 20 years flitting between dry, art-house fare like Cider House Rules, Apatovian gagfests like I Love You, Man, and everything in between, including two Coen Brothers films and the complete Jason Reitman oeuvre. Now that he's poised to win an Oscar for last year's Whiplash, it's that film's J.K. Simmons that most quickly springs to mind: sinewy, volatile, terrifying.
The streaming wars continue. As television viewing increasingly moves to digital platforms, Amazon is aggressively stepping up its game to defeat competitors. Starting February 15, Doctor Who, along with the majority of BBC programming will disappear from Amazon Prime. The Verge reports that the problem was exclusivity: Amazon didn't want competitors like Netflix to carry the shows at the same time. So far, Amazon's contracts haven't required exclusivity, which is why you can watch Doctor Who on both Prime and Netflix. Amazon has been pursuing this as a long-term strategy, closing exclusivity deals on critical darlings like Hannibal and The Americans. It appears to be working: membership grew over 53% last year. It's an all-or-nothing relationship with Amazon.
Fresh off of hanging up her Robin Sparkles headbands on How I Met Your Mother, playing a planetary defense agent on Avengers: Age of Ultron, and having her second baby with husband Taran Killam, an astonishingly svelte Cobie Smulders has been making the rounds at Sundance with not one but two movies. First to premiere was Kris Swanberg’s quiet but memorable comedy Unexpected, featuring Smulders as a 30 year-old high school teacher, Samantha, who finds herself struggling with accepting her impending motherhood at the same time as one of her best students, Jasmine (played by newcomer Gail Bean) also discovers she’s pregnant. Next up was Andrew Bujalski’s Results, where Smulders plays a personal trainer with an inability to make human connections, who finds herself in a weirdo love triangle between a slouchy divorced-guy client (Kevin Corrigan) and her ripped gym-owner boss (Guy Pearce). We spoke with Smulders about filming a movie about pregnancy while pregnant, why she hates running, and her big plans for lactating.
If you’ve been missing Alexander Skarsgård’s naked torso since the finale of True Blood, never fear. There’s plenty of Skarsgård to be seen in The Diary of A Teenage Girl, one of the highlights of this very sexy Sundance. Diary is the directorial debut of actress Marielle Heller, who wrote the screenplay adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel herself. The film tells the story of precocious 15-year old artist Minnie (newcomer Bel Powley), who lives with her very permissive single mother (Kristen Wiig) in 1976 San Francisco, and is in the midst of experiencing a sexual awakening in the very capable and surprisingly not lecherous hands of her mother’s boyfriend, twenty years her senior (Skarsgård, 38). “I just had sex. Holy shit!” is the first line of the movie, narrated from Minnie’s thoughts. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the distribution rights and Powley, who’s 22 and pulls off an American accent so seamlessly you’d never suspect she’s British, is enjoying the well-deserved heaps of praise and “It Girl” status Cary Mulligan enjoyed back in 2009 for the similar (but more creepy and less naked) An Education. Jada Yuan caught up with the pair as they scarfed down hamburgers to talk unorthodox auditions, on-screen chemistry, and why the ‘70s were the golden age of mustaches.
It's official: Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake are having a baby. The couple made the announcement via Facebook on Saturday, with a photo of JT kissing the belly containing a future celebrity baby (celebaby?). They don't know the sex of the child yet, but play dates with Blue Ivy are most certainly a guarantee. Congratulations!
For the second year in a row, the Sundance Film Festival has a clear breakout hit, with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl winning both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards for the U.S. Dramatic competition. (Whiplash pulled off the same feat last year.) A funny, touching, and highly inventive tale of a boy-girl high school borne in tragic circumstances, Me and Earl got a standing ovation in the dark while the credits were still rolling at the premiere screening I attended. Fox Searchlight and Indian Paintbrush may not have paid the Sundance-record $12 million that the film was originally rumored to have commanded, but there’s not doubting that director Alfonso Goméz-Rejón (best known for American Horror Story), screenwriter Jesse Andrews (who adapted his own novel), and virtually unknown star Thomas Mann (Project X) have very bright futures ahead of them.
There are more dying-teen love stories on the horizon. One of the most admired films to premiere at Sundance is Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, adapted from a young-adult novel of the same name. The film stars Thomas Mann as a witty, creative, but isolated high-school senior named Greg, who is forced to visit his classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. Needless to say, Greg and Rachel don’t just hang out that one time. From standing ovations to audiences sobbing in unison, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s highly personal film is generating highly personal responses. Gomez-Rejon spoke with John Horn, host of Southern California Public Radio's new arts and entertainment show, "The Frame," about the highly personal nature of the film, sparking a bidding war, and rushing to complete the film just hours before Sundance started. (Listen to part of the interview below, and subscribe to "The Frame" at iTunes or Stitcher.)
Rose Byrne, who made a brief appearance in X-Men: First Class as CIA agent and Professor Xavier's (James McAvoy's) love interest Moira MacTaggert, will return to reprise her role in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. "She’s a significant character in the movie,” Apocalypse writer Simon Kinberg told Entertainment Weekly. MacTaggert will be joining a new cast playing the younger selves of Storm, Jean Grey, and Cyclops, but the main arc of the movie will focus on Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast. Another thing that is certain is that the movie will be heavy on '80s nostalgia. "That’s the era that I grew up in," Kinberg said. "The music, the fashion, the video games: We really want to integrate all of that in the movie, and have it infuse the movie with a different vibe." Rad!
Black or White isn’t so much an offensive movie as it is a pointless one. On its surface, Mike Binder’s film about a widowed white grandfather fighting to maintain custody of his biracial grandchild from her paternal black grandmother has all the hallmarks of a white savior melodrama. Told from the point of view of wealthy Santa Monica attorney Elliot (Kevin Costner), who has recently lost his beloved wife to a car accident, the film details his struggles to raise 7-year-old Eloise (a charming Jillian Estell) while dealing with a bitter legal battle that ensues after Rowena (Octavia Spencer), mother to the child’s estranged father, decides that Eloise needs to have a better sense of her black identity.
So, remember how Tom Hanks just, like, lounged around the New York City subway like a house cat? Well, here is Dame Helen Mirren, spotted by an Instagram user who kept their wits about them, demonstrating exceptional subway etiquette. Even though there is clearly ample space around her, Mirren has her bag on her lap, and she is not weird about sitting next to another human being. (More often than not, it is the gesture of creating space that is important.) And we would just like to note that her coat game is. On. Point. The MTA should just ditch its courtesy ads for this photo of La Mirren.
When it premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu, which takes place during a 2012 Jihadist takeover of Northern Mali, was recognized as a remarkably topical movie that was still exemplary of its director’s generous, lyrical vision of the world. In his review of the film this week, David Edelstein writes: “For a film that makes you sick with dread, Timbuktu has a light, at times glancing touch. Sissako’s frames are open, uninsistent, and he even shows some sympathy for his villains, who are severe but not sadistic.” Ever since its premiere, the film’s topicality has only grown — as has the power of its humanism. The film also represents a major breakthrough for its director. The 53-year-old Sissako, who was born in Mauritania but works mostly in Mali, is today among Africa’s foremost living filmmakers, with such notable films as the lyrical, understated drama Waiting for Happiness (2002) and the anti-globalization legal comedy-drama Bamako (2006) on his résumé. But Timbuktu, which has been nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year, might be the most prominent, ambitious, and passionate film he’s made yet. Sissako spoke with us during the film’s premiere at the New York Film Festival last fall.
Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of the late, great Whitney Houston, was found unresponsive in a bathtub on Saturday, according to the police. She was reportedly discovered by her husband, Nick Gordon, and a friend. They called 911 and administered CPR until the police and paramedics arrived on the scene to revive her. She has been taken to North Fulton Hospital, where she is currently recovering in the ICU. While the circumstances surrounding the incident are currently unknown, there is an eerie parallel to her mother's death almost three years prior, when Houston was found unresponsive in a tub and died. We wish Bobbi Kristina a speedy recovery.
The LAPD has charged Marion "Suge" Knight with murder after he allegedly ran over two men — killing one — on the set of Straight Outta Compton. Knight turned himself in and is currently being held on $2 million bail in a West Hollywood jail. His attorney James Blatt told the Los Angeles Times that a group of people were "attempting to drag him outside of the vehicle when he made an effort to escape ... in fear for his life." Blatt added, "I am confident Mr. Knight will be exonerated." Knight is no stranger to fishy, controversial narratives: May we remind you that he was driving the car when Tupac Shakur was killed.