It would not ordinarily be newsworthy that a performer named Gordon Sumner took over a secondary role in a struggling Broadway musical. You do not hear much about cast changes at On the Town, for instance. But the circumstances under which Mr. Sumner, better known as Sting, joined The Last Ship last week are far from ordinary. For one thing, Sting wrote the show’s songs and conceived its story, which concerns the decimated shipbuilding industry in his own hometown of Wallsend, England. The musical is thus, for him, a labor of love, which is not to say it isn’t also a commercial venture. (His longtime manager is one of the lead producers.) After ten weeks of middling box office, with some theater mavens saying audiences were disappointed to find that the new Sting musical did not feature Sting, the unusual though perhaps inevitable idea of his stepping in was announced and then promoted like crazy. The resulting turnaround eerily parallels the musical’s plot, in which the desperate shipbuilders revive their spirits, if not their fortunes, by building and captaining their own anomalous vessel. The moment Sting replaced his friend Jimmy Nail in the role of Jackie White, ticket sales leapt by two-thirds.
Michelle Maxwell MacLaren has a vivid imagination. During a lunch last month at the Soho House in West Hollywood, I ask the director for details about the DC Comics epic Wonder Woman, which she was picked to direct after a lengthy, widely publicized search. She stirs her tea. Then she warns that at the moment there is no script, no release date. There’s not even an official green light from the film’s releasing studio, Warner Bros.—and even if there were, nondisclosure agreements and her paranoia about jinxing things would keep her mum. “I really, really, really can’t talk about this,” she says, then gestures toward the restaurant’s picture windows, with their action-film-worthy Hollywood panoramas. “I just picture a drone coming in over the hills and crashing through the glass and flying over here and putting duct tape over my mouth, you know?”
From 21 Jump Street to The Spectacular Now to Short Term 12, Brie Larson has consistently elected to participate in films she wholeheartedly believes in. Her latest is Rupert Wyatt’s The Gambler, out in wide release this week, a reimagining of the 1974 film of the same name written by James Toback. Larson recently spoke to Vulture about the biggest change in her career, the complexity of William Monahan’s script, and how she lived like a monk in preparation for the role of college student Amy Phillips.
Sony co-chair Amy Pascal wrote a lot of regrettable things in her leaked e-mail correspondences, so it's nice to read something we can agree with: she wants Idris Elba to be the next James Bond. The Daily Beast reports that in an e-mail to Elizabeth Cantillon, a former vice president for Columbia Pictures, which distributes the Bond films, Pascal simply typed, "Idris should be the next bond." Yes, please.
Though The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies didn't surpass the first film's $100.2 million haul, but it still took the top spot at the box office, with $56.2 million for a five-day total of $90 million. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb marked a low for the series, bringing in $17.3 million over the weekend. Meanwhile, Annie did almost just as well while playing in almost 400 fewer theaters with $16.3 million. Otherwise, last week's box office winner Exodus fell a cursed 66.6% to bring in just $8 million. The Hunger Games meanwhile stuck around the top five with $7.7 million bringing its total to $289.2 million. It now sits in second on the 2014 list behind Guardians of the Galaxy, which leads with $332.6 million.
There's a joke in the middle of Chris Rock’s Top Five that almost scuttled the movie for me. I say this as a fan of both Top Five and of Chris Rock: His press tour for Top Five has been a refreshing injection of candor and common sense into the absurd theater of American racial politics. The movie itself is a stylistic breakthrough for him — a work he wrote, directed, and starred in that populates an entire world with a multiplicity of black men who are diverse, interesting, and above all, funny. But there’s a crucial scene involving a gay character — or at least, a guy on the low — that’s cheap and almost ruins an otherwise good movie.
On Sunday, Sony lawyer David Boies said that the studio still plans to release their move embattled movie ever, The Interview. "Sony only delayed this," Boies said on Meet the Press. "Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it's going to be distributed, I don't think anybody knows quite yet. But it's going to be distributed." Boies's words echo CEO Michael Lynton's comments about how Sony still very much wants to see The Interview distributed. "I shouldn't say if — when," Lynton said on NPR regarding digital distribution. "We would very much like that to happen. But we do need partners to make that happen. We ourselves do not have a distribution platform to put the movie out."
If you're an avid watcher of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal (as we are), then we have some bad news: Michael Pitt, who plays the psychopathic rich kid Mason Verger, won't be back. That doesn't mean his character is gone, though. TV Line reports that Joe Anderson (pictured here), who comes to us from TV shows like The River and The Divide, will take his place. Hannibal fans know that Mason's face is now virtually unrecognizable (I mean, remember what happened?) so it will be a matter of the kind of vocal and physical tics he brings. Either way: Bring on season three! We're starving.
Hip-hope sage Q-Tip, one of the founding members of A Tribe Called Quest, took to Twitter to have a discussion with Iggy Azalea about her ongoing beef with Azealia Banks. However, unlike the tweets from hackers @TheAnonMessage, who threatened to release a sex tape of Iggy Azalea unless she apologized, Q-Tip took a more thoughtful approach. In a long series of tweets, he explained the history of hip-hop as a socio-political movement, and argues that an artist's engagement with it must acknowledge those roots. It's a primer that goes beyond conversations of appropriation to get at how artists — regardless of race — can engage with the medium.
I've always known that one day President Barack Obama would hold a press conference expressing support for Seth Rogen, and that day has come. (Believe me, I'm now looking over everything else I predicted about the future during Freaks and Geeks' initial run, and yeah, Limp Bizkit may soon wear out its welcome.) In the meantime, it seems that everyone even tangentially involved in the entertainment industry has been rattled by Sony's hacking scandal and every juicy tidbit it has revealed — not to mention the disappearing act the company pulled on Rogen's film, The Interview. It's a weird time to be in show business, and the current trauma definitely loomed large over this entire episode of SNL. However, despite some clear fatigue, the team managed to pull together a Christmas episode safe enough to watch with one's parents, but also capable of drawing Kim Jong-un's ire.
Could we be more excited about the streaming premiere of Friends on Neflix on January 1? We're so excited, we're counting down to the day throughout all of December — call it another one of our very own Advent calendars. Every day we'll open a new "door" to something very fun and very Friends. What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Friends for an entire month? Good.
Halfway through the first season of Friends, Phoebe shares with Rachel three cardinal facts about herself: “One,” she starts, “my friends are the most important thing in my life. Two, I never lie, and three, I make the best oatmeal raisin cookies in the world.” Three bold statements, but one totally boldfaced lie. Because over ten seasons of Friends, Phoebe lies and lies and lies and lies — both straight out and she lies by omission. Does anyone lie to their BFFs as much as Phoebe does? Here is our list of offenses.
Longtime partners Elton John and David Furnish have tied the knot. They got a civil partnership back in 2005, and when England changed the law in March to allow gay couples to wed, they said they would do so. "For this legislation to come through is joyous, and we should celebrate it," John told BBC News. "We shouldn't just say, 'Oh, well we have a civil partnership. We're not going to bother to get married'. We will get married." And get married they did! The couple made it official at their Windsor estate in Berkshire on Sunday with a number of celebrities in attendance including Victoria and David Beckham, Ed Sheeran, and David Walliams. Their sons, Zachary and David were there, and yes, so too was Instagram.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the 2007 spoof starring John C. Reilly as a Johnny Cash–like singer, so aptly skewered the biopic’s dreary formulas that it exposed the absurd phoniness of the entire genre and its lazy conventions. It didn’t, however, stop biopics from continuing to proliferate — and from maintaining adherence to standard-issue clichés, as evidenced by two of this year’s Oscar front-runners, The Imitation Game (about code-breaker Alan Turing) and The Theory of Everything (about scientist Stephen Hawking). Both of those character studies go out of their way to maintain the mold set by their predecessors, taking a safe, superficial approach to their subjects and, in the process, delivering portraits of brave, intellectual men that are, themselves, timid and simplistic. Their shared failure stems from a fear of showing life, and people, as they really are — and from a concurrent belief that telling a story in a predictable manner is the best way to satisfy audiences. And they’re all the more dispiriting because, thanks to a stellar trio of movies, 2014 was the year the biopic finally re-energized itself.
After publicly confessing to sexually abusing children earlier this week, former 7th Heaven star Stephen Collins sat down with Katie Couric on 20/20 and told her that he had been sexually harassed by an older woman when he was an adolescent. Collins said that the woman had exposed herself to him "quite a few times" when he was between the ages of 10 and 15. "I think that that distorted my reception in such a way," Collins said. "It was a very intense experience, but I think somewhere in my brain, I got the equation of, well, this isn't so terrible." He says he doesn't blame her for his behavior, though. "It's not why I did it. I'm not blaming her," he said. "That's an aspect that went into my own distorted thinking as a young man."
So this Iggy Azalea–Azealia Banks beef is spinning out of control. Hackers posting under the Twitter handle @TheAnonMessage jumped into the fray Friday night, threatening to release still images from an alleged sex tape of Iggy Azalea unless she publicly apologizes to Azealia Banks and the protesters of the #blacklivesmatter movement. The account posted a string of tweets last night saying they would bring Iggy Azalea down further than Bill Cosby, calling her a " trashy bitch" and promising "a life of suffering" unless she complies with their demands.
After another very high-profile farewell this week, Craig Ferguson, the host of The Late Late Show, made a quieter adieu. Ferguson called it quits when he found out he wasn't going to succeed David Letterman at The Late Show. As expected, his good-bye was modest and charming. "You came to a show that was a bit of a fixer-upper, and it kind of stayed that way," he said during his opening monologue. "But what I think we managed to do here was make something that wasn't here before."
Nicki Minaj's latest album, The Pinkprint (which our critic Lindsay Zoladz called a "badass breakup album"), got a visual accompaniment yesterday: three music videos staged in three acts, starting with "The Crying Game," "I Lied," and ending with "Grand Piano." As you might expect, it's her most emo moment yet: a little bit Matthew McConaughey in the Lincoln ads, a little bit Enya in the rain, and all Nicki Minaj. If you have a spare 16 minutes or need to wind down before you go to bed on a Saturday night, here you go.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant in 2003 was the first film I’d ever seen that depicted characters who actually sounded like the Turks I knew — in all our halting inexpressiveness, our occasional bursts of eloquence, our maddening, passive-aggressive judgmentalism. It felt like a revelation. It was also a remarkable turn-around from Ceylan’s first film, 1998’s The Small Town, an extremely low-budget and ultimately abortive attempt at chatty, Chekhovian languor. Over the years, I’ve continued to marvel at Ceylan’s work: He’s managed to maintain his somber, highly aestheticized yet observational style, even as he’s told more and more complex tales and ventured further into the realm of myth. His 2011 film, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, feels more monumental with each passing day.
This article was originally published on May 25, 2014.
The Turkish film Winter Sleep (or, in Turkish, Kış Uykusu, which technically means “hibernation”) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes yesterday. It was a major victory for its writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who has been winning all the other awards at Cannes for some years now. Unfortunately, many in the U.S. — even among cinephiles — are unfamiliar with his work. Since I have been (for perhaps obvious reasons) obsessively following his career for well over a decade, here are some things you may want to know about this year’s winning director.