Steve Harvey’s Daytime Talk Show Renewed For Second Season

Steve Harvey’s daytime talker is returning for a second season.

The nationally syndicated Steve has already been sold in 90% of the U.S. on NBC Owned Television Stations, as well as leading station groups across the country including Sinclair and Hearst.

Produced by IMG and Steve Harvey, the program tapes before a live studio audience at the Universal lot in Los Angeles, where Harvey relocated to this past fall.

Steve follows Harvey’s five-season run on The Steve Harvey Show, which ended in November 2016. The new show features more celebrity guests, daily audience games and Harvey’s unique viewpoint on all things pop culture.

Steve started the year on a ratings upswing, with a 1.5 rating for the week ending January 7. The show averaged a 1.4 National Household rating for the November 2017 sweep, delivering the highest November sweep rating for a new first-run one-hour syndicated program in 5 years.

Steve is produced by EPs Steve Harvey, Shane Farley, Gerald Washington and IMG’s Mark Shapiro and Mike Antinoro.


TGIT Returns Strong, ‘The Four’ Steady, ‘Supernatural’ Ratings On Par With Spinoff Episode

Veteran Grey’s Anatomy once again led the trio with a 2.2 adults 18-49 rating, +22% vs. its last original, and 8.2 million total viewers (Live+same day), its largest audience in almost a year and its best demo number since premiere week. Scandal (1.3, +18%, 5.2 million) also posted best-since-premiere numbers, while How to Get Away With Murder (1.0, +11%, 3.8 million) logged its best results since mid-October.

With Grey’s back in the 8 PM hour, CBS’ 8-9 PM comedies, The Big Bang Theory (2.9, 17.7 million) and Young Sheldon (2.4, 13.2 million) each dipped two tenths in the demo vs. last week’s finals (one tenth vs. the fast nationals) but still ranked as the top two programs of the night in both 18-49 and total viewers. From 9-11 PM, Mom (1.6, 9.3 million) and Life in Pieces (1.2, 6.8 million) were steady while S.W.A.T. (1.0, 6 million) dipped a tenth. CBS won the night in viewers and the 18-49 demo.

While not a big breakout, Fox’s  The Four (1.1, 3.5 million from 8-10 PM) is being pretty consistent, up a tenth from its fast national demo rating last week, even with the final, and only a tenth behind the premiere. It built each half-hour, ranking as No.1 in the demo from 9:30-10 PM (1.3).

At the CW, Supernatural (0.6, 1.87 million) was steady in 18-49 and up in viewers with its planted Wayward Sisters spinoff episode. Arrow (0.5, 1.42 million) ticked up.


Producers Guild Sets Anti-Sexual Harassment Guidelines

The Producers Guild of America has adopted new guidelines designed to combat sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. The guidelines, which were unanimously ratified Wednesday at a special meeting of the PGA board, represent the initial recommendations from the PGA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force, which was created last October in response to the avalanche of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by high-profile industry figures.

That same month, the PGA moved to kick disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein out of the guild for life, but he resigned before he could be expelled.

“Ultimately,” the guild said, “prevention is the key to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace. Through sufficient resources we can educate our members and their teams. Together we must model our commitment to a workplace free of harassment and encourage colleagues to do the same. “


“Sexual harassment can no longer be tolerated in our industry or within the ranks of the Producers Guild membership,” said PGA presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary in a joint statement. “As producers, we provide key leadership in creating and sustaining work environments built on mutual respect, so it is our obligation to change our culture and eradicate this abuse. While the PGA is a voluntary membership organization, the PGA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Guidelines are sanctioned as best practices for our members.”

“It’s in the producer’s DNA to look forward and to try to make proactive changes, and we hope we’ve made real progress with these guidelines,” McCreary told Deadline. “But this is just a first step.”

“We have the opportunity,” Lucchesi said, “to make certain that the mistakes of the past will never happen again, and as a result make our industry and our culture better.”

Coming up with guidelines that everyone could agree upon “has been intense,” a PGA source said. “It was not easy to get consensus on this. These are ever-evolving guideline. These are first steps. They’re not set in stone. The PGA is interested in changing the culture that’s allowed sexual harassment to happen. Producers are some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, and by them setting the tone, we can change the culture and the way business is conducted.”

The guild’s recommendations to its members include the following:

  • First and foremost, all productions comply with federal and state laws regarding harassment. If you are uncertain about the nature of the law, please consult with your in-house legal department (if you have one) or with an attorney.
  • Each production, in whatever medium or budget level, provides in-person anti-sexual harassment training for all members of the cast and crew, prior to the start of production and prior to every season of an ongoing production. Effective training should not be simply focused on avoiding legal liability, but must be part of a culture of respect that starts at the top. Such training takes different forms and styles; make certain that the training you utilize is tailored to your specific production and its needs. Producers should ensure that the individual trainer has experience providing training in the area of sexual harassment laws and that all levels of management are present at the training in order to demonstrate the production’s commitment to the policy.
  • Each production continue to be vigilant in efforts to prevent sexual harassment during the production process. Consider taking steps to maintain awareness of harassment on an ongoing basis, such as periodically adding sexual harassment to the assistant director’s safety briefing.
  • Each production offer reporting procedures that provide a range of methods, multiple points of contact, including contacts at different organizational levels and in different geographic workplaces (e.g., a TV series that shoots in New York but maintains a writers’ room in Los Angeles), if applicable. We suggest designating at least two individuals, ideally of different genders, that cast/crew members can approach if they are subject to or witness harassment.
  • Reports of harassment are listened to with attention and empathy. If a cast or crew member reports an incident of harassment, assume the complainant is being sincere until further inquiry can be undertaken, while bearing in mind that the report itself does not predetermine guilt. Reassure the reporting party that the production takes harassment very seriously and that s/he will face no retaliation for reporting. The production should move quickly to address the allegations or engage a third party to do so, allowing for as much transparency as can be provided.


The PGA said that its Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force “is undertaking a thorough review of the tools currently available to facilitate prevention, reporting, counseling and protection.  We also are working with other organizations in the entertainment community, such as the industry-wide Commission led by Anita Hill, as well as Time’s Up.”

Formed last month, the Anita Hill-led Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Inclusion in the Workplace seeks to establish a “comprehensive strategy to address the complex and inter-related causes of the problems of parity and power,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy after its founding meeting, which was attended by a who’s who of industry leaders, including Susan Sprung, the PGA’s associate national executive director.

The PGA also provided a summary provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces laws that prohibit sexual harassment, which is a type of sexual discrimination.

  • Producers should be alert for any possibility of retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur. Retaliation is illegal, and it is a serious concern for individuals reporting harassment and can take many forms. Anyone making a complaint or participating in an investigation is protected against retaliation. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, firing, change in work responsibilities, transfers, ignoring or excluding, unwarranted discipline, or otherwise making a complainant feel uncomfortable or unwanted in the workplace.
  • Producers should be sensitive to interpersonal power dynamics and the way even their casual questions or requests may carry implicit authority. We recommend that producers conduct all meetings and/or casting sessions in an environment that is professional, safe and comfortable for all parties, and encourage others on the production to adhere to these same standards.


The guild also noted that a substantial body of law protects individuals from workplace harassment, and made the following recommendations intended to supplement and facilitate observance of those laws.

  • If you are (or believe yourself to be) the victim of a crime, contact the appropriate authorities immediately. Be aware of the statute of limitations on filing a charge for acts of harassment or abuse in your state.
  • Create and maintain documents. Make notes regarding any harassment you suffered or witnessed, or any conversation or exchange with the harasser, including dates, times, places, and the specific behavior(s) you felt to be harassment. Make such notes as soon as possible following any incident, while your memory is still fresh. Keep these notes in a place outside the workplace. If possible, send yourself or a trusted friend a time-stamped email containing all of the relevant information. Also, maintain any relevant texts, emails, pictures or other documentation.
  • If the behavior is not a crime, and if you are comfortable doing so, consider speaking to the offending person. Be specific about the behavior that made you uncomfortable, and try to communicate and help them understand what made you uncomfortable and/or feel unsafe. An example of what you may say is, “The comment you made to me the other day made me uncomfortable, and I am asking that you do not make similar comments to me in the future.”
  • Report the incident(s) to one of the designated individuals working on the production. If that avenue is not available or for whatever reason feels unsafe, report the incident to the relevant human resources department and/or seek the guidance of an attorney, if necessary.
  • If you are aware that a member of the team is being harassed and does not feel comfortable speaking to the alleged offender, the producer needs to step up on behalf of the team member, engaging in a candid discussion with the person about the harassing speech or behavior and ensure that they understand that the behavior must stop immediately. The producer then should ensure that the allegations are further addressed as warranted.

The PGA also provided numerous resources for reporting sexual harassment dealing with the legal and emotional fallout.

  • If you are looking for an attorney, you can contact the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is housed at the National Women’s Law Center:
  • Women In Film has launched a Sexual Harassment help line to refer victims of harassment to designated mental health counselors, law enforcement professionals, and civil and criminal lawyers and litigators: (323) 545-0333
  • You also may contact the California Bar Association or your local state bar association, which should provide you with referrals and/or access to free legal services.
  • The Actors Fund provides free and confidential help for those who have experienced sexual harassment. Services include short term one-on-one counseling, referrals for helpful resources and assistance in locating legal services. Click here for more information.
  • SAG-AFTRA has a hotline to report sexual harassment or abuse: (323) 549-6644. Members of the SAG-AFTRA union, as well as all other relevant unions, also may contact their union representative for assistance.
  • If you do not have a Human Resources department or the internal reporting process at your company is not effective, then consider filing a formal complaint with a federal or state agency. The three most common states where production takes place and the corresponding agencies are: California, New York and Georgia.
  • Or you may contact the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Chelsea Handler: How Trump, Weinstein, #MeToo Changed Gender Politics On Anniversary Of Sundance Women’s March – Guest Column

Last year, Chelsea Handler was literally and figuratively on the front lines of the March on Main that dominated the first weekend of the Sundance Film Festival, as millions of Americans nationwide took to the streets for Women’s Marches protesting Donald Trump’s accession to the Presidency and in support of a variety of causes. Handler will not be in Park City for tomorrow’s Respect Rally, but the longtime talk-show host, who announced in October she was stepping back from her Netflix series to focus on activism and the 2018 midterm elections, remains passionate about issues that had her out in the Utah snow last year front and center, as is clear in this guest column she penned for Deadline.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I, along with 8000 other nasty women (and men), walked down snowy Main Street in Park City, Utah. I was still feeling completely in shock from the election at that time; devastated, angry, and grieving for women all over the country whose elected leader had boasted about how he’d “grab ’em by the pussy” and later shrugged it off as locker room talk. This was after he called Mexicans “rapists” and told Mexican reporter Jorge Ramos to “sit down and shut up” during a press conference. And who had defeated the first woman candidate who ran for the office, not in terms of total numbers, but instead by picking off enough votes in targeted areas to win the electoral college.

Something about the combination of those things – this particular candidate beating that particular candidate – stung in a unique way. We had no idea at that time just how momentous that day would be. We were just one of hundreds of marches across the country, with women showing up in over 400 U.S cities and another 150 around the world. The numbers were organic, and surprised even those of us most passionate; something was going on. Collectively our marches that day served as a battle cry to everyone, everywhere that we refused to give up. To the contrary, we were just getting started.

Sundance Women's March On Main

Women’s March On Main at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

I’m proud of the sisterhood that the Women’s March got started and how the momentum of that day has grown. But if 2017 taught us anything, it is that we have a long and difficult way to go. The outpouring of women who have spoken out about their personal experiences regarding sexual assault and harassment since the Harvey Weinstein allegations surfaced is yet another painful chapter in the movement we began in January of last year. As difficult as it may be to hear these stories, and even more difficult (and sometimes dangerous) for those who tell them, my fear of this important movement dwindling, as so many have in the past, gets smaller every day. The Women’s March wasn’t just a moment, a blip, a short burst of anger. It was and, most importantly, still is a burst of change that, with diligence and care, will not be undone. In other words, the March marked the starting point for a new chapter, a chapter that is still being written. But it will never be unwritten. Things are different now.

Of course, the path forward has hurdles. The solidarity that so many of us demonstrated then and continue to find strength in has been met with what can only be described as the transparent weakness of Republican Party leaders, who have consistently refused to stand up to not only Trump’s damaging legislative agenda but his disgusting and shameful rhetoric. In the past year we’ve seen the alt-right become more emboldened than ever by Trump, whose refusal to condemn their sickening actions in Charlottesville was as dark a day as any since he took office. We’ve watched in terrifying awe as he’s tried to enforce a barbaric immigration ban, as he not only defended but endorsed and promoted an accused child molester in Roy Moore, and as he’s taunted Kim Jong Un on Twitter, threatening nuclear war and further solidifying his lack of regard for our safety and standing in the international community. It has been dizzying.

The whiplash we have felt as one assault on American values overtakes another can be disorienting. In fact, sometimes I wonder if it’s designed to prevent us from staying focused, and organized. With all the noise, many outright attacks on our foundational ideals get lost. Certainly the individuals do. There is no space in the noisy assaults for human stories. Just this week, Jorge Garcia was deported from Detroit as his wife and 15- and 12-year-old children tearfully said goodbye. Garcia came to this country with an aunt when he was 10 years old, two years too old to be considered for DACA relief; his parents had already emigrated to this country. He worked his whole life in Michigan, and his wife is retired from Ford Motor Company. He came to the attention of immigration enforcement when he and his wife attempted to make sure his paperwork was in order. Under President Obama’s ICE he was able to get deferrals, to continue to work and contribute to his community and raise his children. But this year ICE has arrested more people than in any of the past three years, and Jorge Garcia is now living in a country that is foreign to him, apart from his family. This administration is separating children from their parents. Removing active, participatory fathers from their children. There are few things that are more inhumane.

In a way, Garcia is not special. There are so many others, whose stories have been lost in the noise of the louder news feed. Cindy Garcia’s kids are not going to break through the larger attacks on civic virtue that capture our attention each day. I understand that airtime and attentions are limited, but I’ve become concerned that the chaos is intentional. If our target is constantly moving, it won’t matter how ready we are to fight back or even how many of us there are. Because we will not know where to aim.

Doug Jones Alabama

Doug Jones


And yet we have had some successes. Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama, for example. The last
time a Democrat won in Alabama it was a quarter of a century ago. And Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 30 points in Alabama. There is no doubt that Roy Moore’s flaws were an important factor in this extraordinary victory. But there is more to the story. Jones ran a superb campaign, focusing on persuasion and turnout. And in both he delivered. He talked to voters about values rather than issues, and about what doing what was right for Alabama. And he committed to turnout efforts. Jones joined forces with the Alabama NAACP who phoned every registered voter who did not show up in 2016, and they organized poll rides and direct voter contact. Doug Jones figured out where to aim.

I was inspired by the Jones’ campaign’s success as I was last January by my friends and allies in Park City. And it got me thinking about how important it is to contribute to solutions, instead of to noise. The noise is enticing; it’s hard to tune it out, and it evokes emotion and passion in response. But I want to make sure that, at least for my part, I am contributing to making sure my own efforts contribute to knowing where to aim.

It is for these reasons (and many more) that I’ve decided to dedicate my indefinite future to activism. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to travel to some amazing places and never more so have I needed that escape as I prepare for what’s ahead. In doing so, I’ve had the chance to properly clear my head and really focus my energy on how I can best contribute to affecting change. The shock of the election may have subsided, but each news cycle’s replacement shock is threatening to paralyze us; at the very least it weakens our efforts to fire back.

The urgency with which I started 2017 with the Women’s March caught up with me and I needed a minute to compose myself for the marathon that we all need to run to survive a Trump presidency. There are so many who are continuing to fight. I want to contribute to the fight they all are ready for in the most effective and efficient way that I can. It seems to me that it is important that we know exactly where we’re going – that we know our target — and that has and will continue to be my focus. No one could have predicted the chaos that ensued in 2017, but now that we’ve seen that it can, in fact, get worse, we can arm ourselves with better tactics and clearer direction as we face it. I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to help everyone else’s effort to see the target. I’m ready to do my part. Let’s all try and do our part— knowing we are not alone, knowing we are all in this together.


‘Mr. Mercedes’: Tessa Ferrer Cast In Season 2 Of Audience Network Series

Grey’s Anatomy alumna Tessa Ferrer is set as a series regular opposite Jack Huston in Season 2 of AT&T Audience Network’s breakout series Mr. Mercedes. Production begins next month in Charleston, SC, on the Sonar Entertainment-produced Stephen King adaptation.

The second season will be based on King’s best-selling Bill Hodges Trilogy, which includes Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.

AT&T Audience Network

Season 1 followed a demented killer Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) who taunts a retired police detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) with a series of lurid letters and emails, forcing the ex-cop to undertake a private, and potentially felonious, crusade to bring the killer to justice before he is able to strike again.

Ferrer will play Cora Babineau, wife of Dr. Felix Babineau (Huston) and head of marketing at a major pharmaceutical corporation, who’s even more ambitious than she is beautiful. If her husband has a genius for manipulating people from the inside out as he reaches into their brains and rewires them, Cora has a genius for influencing people from the outside in. Her beauty, brains and force of will, judiciously softened with poise and extreme charm, make her a formidable saleswoman, of whatever she’s peddling.

Ferrer is onscreen in Blumhouse’s Insidious 4: The Last Key. On TV, she played the series regular role of Leah Murphy on Grey’s Anatomy and recurred on CBS’ Extant and FXX’s You’re the Worst. Ferrer is repped by Lasher Group, CAA & Surpin, Mayersohn & Coghill.

Season 2 of Mr. Mercedes will air this summer on AT&T Audience Network.


The Real Reason Sean Connery Said No to Indiana Jones 4

Many fans were disappointed when it became obvious that Harrison Ford and Sean Connery wouldn’t be reuniting for Indiana Jones 4. Then Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hit theaters, and fans were just disappointed. Some went as far as to call it Steven Spielberg’s Phantom Menace. It appeared that Sean Connery had dodged a bullet. But it wasn’t for a lack of Spielberg’s aim. The iconic director actually wanted the former James Bond actor back in the movie. But Sean Connery couldn’t do it. Or rather, he wouldn’t. Why? Because the role was just too small.

That’s right, despite Sean Connery playing Henry Jones, father to Indiana, in 1989′s (seemingly) trilogy ending sequel The Last Crusade, he was being relegated to a cameo appearance in the next one, and that didn’t sit right with Sean. If he was coming back, it would have to be for a co-starring role again. Or it just wasn’t worth the effort. He had this to say in an interview that was recently unearthed.

“I spoke with Spielberg, but it didn’t work out. It was not that generous a part, worth getting back into the harness and go for. And they had taken the story in a different line anyway, so the father of Indy was kind of really not that important. I had suggested they kill him in the movie, it would have taken care of it better.”

Sean Connery is now retired from acting, and his Henry Jones character was shown as having passed away in Crystal Skull. So there’s no chance he’ll be back for Disney’s Indiana Jones 5, which is coming to theaters summer 2020. So, unimpressed with Spielberg’s Indy 4 pitch, the actor said goodbye to the franchise for good.

2008′s Crystal Skull would have marked Connery’s first return to the big screen in five years. He’d decided to call it quits after starring in the universally panned 2003 comic book adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The movie wasn’t a good experience for the actor. And he decided his time in front of the camera had reached its end.

“The last one I did, [Gentlemen director Stephen Norrington] was given $85 million to make a movie in Prague, but unfortunately he wasn’t certified before he started because he would have been arrested for insanity. So, we worked as well as we could, and [I] ended up being heavily involved in the editing and trying to salvage.”

While Connery did consider returning for Crystal Skull before politely saying no, there was a PR that claimed the actor would return. When pressed for why he didn’t reemerge in the role of Henry Jones, the actor gave a slightly different take on the reasoning. Instead of revealing his disappointment at such a small cameo, which would have happened at the end when Indy gets married to Marion Ravenwood, he told reporters that he was just having way too much fun being retired. And he wished Spielberg and his crew the best.There’s always the chance that Sean Connery could show up in another movie some day. And in 2012, he did provide a voice for the little seen 2012 animated comedy Sir Billy. This lost interview appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.


The Final Year

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Greg Barker’s “The Final Year” is an engrossing documentary about the last year’s worth of foreign policy work during the Obama administration. It’s also about the grim surprises that life sometimes has in store for the complacent, an idea expressed not just in the actions of the diplomats and politicians onscreen, but through the storytelling itself, which becomes increasingly anxious and dire as 2016 steams towards November and it becomes clear that the person they all expected to become president and continue their work is, in fact, not going to be moving into the White House after all.

The surprise factor ironically deepens what might otherwise have been a well-made but unchallenging film, aimed primarily at the like-minded. “The Final Year” admiring, often laudatory work, which is not a huge shock given the level of intimacy that’s been permitted to the film crew. Notwithstanding the occasional exploding cigar like Michael Wolff’s muckraking 2017 bestseller Fire and Fury—for which the Trump White House granted thorough access, only to end up denying that Wolff saw much of what he says he saw there—the executive branch tends not to let journalists or film crews roam around the West Wing and on diplomatic missions all over the world, gathering mountains of raw material and talking to powerful people without handlers present and, in this particular case, even revealing that the West Wing has mice and roaches just like everybody else, unless they are pretty sure the take is going to be positive at the end.

And this is an affectionate take, verging on worshipful—though in retrospect you might wonder if the wistful aura comes from editing footage of a movie about functional adults who seem dedicated toward avoiding war, and rancor generally, rather than constantly posturing in a playground-macho way, as the Obama team’s successors in the Trump White House do, emulating a man at the top whose entire adult life has revolved around confrontation, domination and peacocking, and who isn’t above using social media to bait countries with nuclear weapons.

President Obama is a strong presence here, but he’s not central. Barker mostly follows Secretary of State John Kerry, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power and Deputy National Security advisor and speechwriter Ben Rhodes as they deal with problems and crises all over the globe, in an array of locations, including Austria, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Vietnam, Japan and Greenland. All come across as measured, educated, decent, even idealistic people, with the partial exception of Rhodes, an obviously smart and committed person who also has an arrogant and intemperate edge (a section early in the film deals with the fallout from a New York Times profile where he blasted the Washington press corps and many of his colleagues as ignorant fools who didn’t know as much as he did).

The looming possibility of a Trump presidency spurs Obama’s people to redouble their efforts during the administration’s final months, in particular during the post-election period when it becomes clear that the incoming crew doesn’t merely believe the opposite of what the last group did, but is adopting a scorched earth policy towards everything Obama did, domestically and internationally. Despite notes of doubt about the Iran nuclear agreement and the administration’s handling of the humanitarian disaster in Syria, this movie is enthusiastically bullish on Obama and his people, to the point where it veers close to the sort of sentimentalization that the political fantasy “The West Wing” lavished on the Clinton administration during its first three seasons.

But it’s impossible to say what the take might have been had Obama been succeeded by Hillary Clinton, which is obviously what both the film crew and the regulars in the West Wing expected to happen. Maybe equally approving, or much more skeptical and probing—who can say at this point, really? Trump’s ascension seems to have made everyone involved behind-the-scenes, as well as everyone depicted onscreen here, grade Obama on a more forgiving curve, by virtue of the simple fact that he reads books and seems able to get from the end of one sentence to another without losing his train of thought or deliberately insulting other people, nations, and races.   

As an evocation of on-the-ground political reality, “The Final Year” is a a solid and often entertaining work in much the same wheelhouse as the durable political documentary “The War Room,” adopting a basically affectionate attitude while serving up lively and sometimes unglamorous details, such as shots of Rhodes texting backstage during Obama’s delivery of a historically important speech in Hiroshima, Japan, even though he wrote the first draft himself, because the obligations never stop when you’re in job like that; and Power going to Africa in the wake of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls.

But a record of what it feels like to expect one outcome and have to adapt to another, it’s unique. Envision a film from the point-of-view of people still recovering from an out-of-nowhere car accident, set during the period before they were still in traction and being fed intravenously while looking back on their life before. Any problems they might had before the wreck would seem relatively minor, and there would be a tendency to sentimentalize everything without meaning to. This is how the old days become the good old days.


Weekend Box Office: ‘Den of Thieves’ Nabs $950K in Thursday Previews

’12 Strong’ and ‘Forever My Girl’ also debut nationwide.

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Den of Thieves

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The first thing you should know about this movie is that, yup, it really is two hours and twenty minutes long. A fellow reviewer and I were discussing the timing given by the IMDb and we both thought, no way can this probably relatively dinky cops-and-robbers picture be almost two and a half hours. But it is.

“Den of Thieves” opens with some text explaining just how many bank robberies occur in Los Angeles California over the span of one year—broken down by months, days, hours, and minutes. Having rolled out the stats, and they are impressive, the text concludes that “Los Angeles in the bank robbery capital of the world.” Already one feels the movie, co-written and directed by Christian Gudegast, is doing some kind of special pleading. There are four million stories in this naked city, and not all of them can be “Heat,” but this one is KINDA like that, okay?

Indeed, the movie begins with crime that’s committed like a paramilitary operation. An armored car stops at a donut place and an SUV full of masked men armed to the teeth swoop in on it. A dropped coffee sets off a trigger-happy heist man, and a near-massacre ensues. This crew didn’t want it that way, but as its mastermind, Merriman (Pablo Schreiber) glumly notes when they’ve gotten to safety, “Now we’re cop-killers.” And they did it all for an empty truck. 

That’s one of the things that Gerard Butler’s “Big” Nick Davis, the major crimes cop on the scene, has to figure out. He runs a half-rogue crew he calls “The Regulators,” and they’re not above kidnapping and torturing suspected perps to get their men. Butler, sporting a slightly unruly beard, plays the role as if he’s imitating Mel Gibson during his drunk driving arrest. He’s crude, boorish, and cavalier. Genre mavens will see where Gudegast, who wrote Butler’s last film, “London Has Fallen” and is making his feature directorial debut here, is pulling his threads from. The Neal/Vincent dynamic of “Heat” isn’t duplicated here; it’s more like the Chance/Masters dynamic in “To Live And Die In L.A.,” in which cop and criminal dealt in the same kind of corruption but the criminal was ultimately the more ethically pure of the two. Thing is, though, “Den of Thieves” never really gets that deep, and turns out not to be all that terribly serious a movie anyway. The various character dynamics are almost a smokescreen for a convoluted heist targeting the only bank in Los Angeles that has never been robbed: the branch of the Federal Reserve where, among other things, old money is destroyed around the same time as the serial numbers attached to it are erased. 

The plot thickens … and thickens … and thickens. Gudegast is clearly an avid student of heist pictures, and he layers this one with a lot of spectacular complications even while he muddles the average viewer’s potential rooting interest. As charismatic as Schreiber’s gangleader and the criminal lieutenant played by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson can be (Gudegast engineers a scene involving Jackson’s character’s daughter going on a prom date for a comic-relief “dad gives the date a talking to” scene), they’re still guys who blew away almost a dozen cops in the opening scene, so the suspense when they’re finally inside the Fed building and almost pulling things off is potentially slightly compromised. As for Butler’s Nick, yeah, he’s consistently asking for a spanking to say the least. But where Gudegast really shows his hand, if you’re in the mood to stay ahead of this movie, is in the casting. There’s one character, played by an actor of star-quality charisma, who keeps getting put off to the side in the story, and you have to wonder why. Once you’ve decided why, you can figure out at least one of the twists. And of course, the actor, who I won’t name, is winning enough that you suddenly understand exactly where your rooting interest was supposed to have been all along.


12 Strong

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“Understated” isn’t a word you’d ordinarily use to describe a Jerry Bruckheimer production, but that’s surprisingly what “12 Strong” ends up being.

That’s not to say it’s completely restrained, by any means. In telling a tale of real-life heroism against staggering odds, this is a rousing war picture, meant to stir equal amounts of excitement and patriotism. Set soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “12 Strong” is packed with protracted battle sequences, full of deafening bombings and seemingly endless amounts of gunfire. The cumulative effect is draining; you’ll walk out of the theater with the feeling that you, too, have gone to war – and an appreciation for those who are brave enough to do so themselves.

But Danish commercial director Nicolai Fuglsig, making his feature filmmaking debut, draws on his previous experience as a photojournalist to bring a sense of gritty realism to the action rather than sweeping sentimentality. The vibrant sound design also plays a crucial role in immersing us, as does a score that increasingly cranks up the tension.

It’s all solid from a technical perspective. Where the film could have used more power is in its narrative momentum. Based on the screenplay from Ted Tally (“The Silence of the Lambs”) and Peter Craig (“The Town”)—itself inspired by Doug Stanton’s book “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan”—“12 Strong” eventually feels overlong and repetitive. And the impressive line-up of actors comprising the ensemble cast can only do so much with their thinly drawn characters.

Chris Hemsworth leads them all as Capt. Mitch Nelson, the head of a dozen Green Berets who were the first American troops to set foot in Afghanistan after 9/11. Among his men are the older and more experienced chief warrant officer, Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon); wisecracking Sam Diller (Michael Pena); and weapons expert Ben Milo (“Moonlight” star Trevante Rhodes). Their orders come from the no-nonsense Col. Mulholland (William Fichtner) and the thoroughly unamused Lt. Col. Bowers (comedian Rob Riggle, a Marine Corps veteran himself in a rare dramatic role).

Their mission is to enter northern Afghanistan through Uzbekistan with the help of the Uzbek warlord General Dostum (Navid Negahban), who has his own reasons for taking on the Taliban. Together with Dostum and his men, Nelson and his team must capture the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a Taliban stronghold. But despite their extensive training and boundless bravery, the American troops don’t realize they’re going to have to navigate this unforgiving terrain—which notoriously has destroyed empires for centuries—on horseback. And they’ll have to do it before the winter freeze comes in three weeks.

It’s an amazing story but also an absurd sight: muscular soldiers strapped with high-tech gear and weaponry, galloping along on horses, facing down massive tanks and rocket launchers. Fuglsig depicts these showdowns in relentless, unflinching fashion. He’s methodical but he finds room for swagger, especially when it comes to Hemsworth’s character.

One of the more compelling dynamics here is the way everyone underestimates Nelson, which isn’t what you’d ordinarily expect in a character the hunky Hemsworth plays. Here, he’s too pretty, too young. He has too little field experience and constantly has to prove himself. And this is especially true within the ever-evolving relationship between Nelson and the mystically wise Dostum. Negahban is formidable but he brings a much-needed calm to the tense proceedings.

Naturally, Hemsworth is up to the physical demands of the role—he is Thor, after all—but he never gets enough credit for his acting chops, both dramatic and comedic. He also has a nice buddy chemistry with both Shannon and Pena. But except for a sweet subplot involving Rhodes’ character, the remainder of the team barely registers. They are ideas; they are cogs.

Similarly, “12 Strong” as a whole isn’t terribly interested in going any deeper into the larger ramifications of the United States’ prolonged involvement in Afghanistan. That’s not its purpose, though, and that’s not why you’re here. You’re here to feel good, if only for a little while, about some men who were great.

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