Will Ferrell & Molly Shannon To Host Amazon’s Live Rose Parade Coverage – Sort Of

Amazon is teaming with Funny or Die on a live stream of the 2018 Rose Parade hosted by Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan — but wait. On a closer look you might recognize the “longtime hosting duo” as Saturday Night Live alums Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon.

“Cord and Tish” announced The 2018 Rose Parade Hosted by Cord & Tish today in a video (see above). The event will stream live on Amazon Prime Video on New Year’s Day, Monday, January 1, 2018 at 8 AM PT/11 AM ET.

“Tish and I wait all year for this and this year it’s going to be the biggest, the best, the most fun parade ever!” said Cord. “Pasadena in January! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” added Tish.

Hosenbeck and Cattigan are no strangers to the New Year’s Day event, having covered it for the past 25 years for a local TV station.

“We are honored to work with Amazon Prime Video on this exciting broadcast,” said Tournament of Roses President, Lance Tibbet.

“Cord and Tish are parade legends, beloved the world over, and it was such a coup for us to steal them away to Amazon Prime Video for their first-ever live-streamed parade,” said Heather Schuster, Head of Unscripted, Amazon Originals. “We’re excited to bring Prime members this unprecedented live event from these veteran parade commentators.”

Hosenbeck is a frequent television and radio host dedicated to physical and mental wellness. He has authored over 30 books on subjects ranging from diet to dressing for success.

Cattigan, a former Miss Arizona, has written books about relationships, co-dependency, marriage and wellness. She’s also known for her two-show stint as Assistant D.A. Keller on L.A. Law.


Darkest Hour

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I’ve been trying to think when there was a historical drama I found as electrifying as Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour.” It may have been Stephen Spielberg’s “Munich,” which topped my 10-best list a dozen years ago. They are very different films, of course, and it could be that Wright’s boasts stellar accomplishments in more departments. While Gary Oldman’s phenomenal work as Winston Churchill had been heralded in advance, it is astonishingly equaled by the film’s achievements in direction, screenwriting, score and cinematography.

It’s a strange irony that the same patch of British history—a few days in the spring of 1940—has been treated in two big, Oscar-aimed 2017 movies (and even plays a role in a third film from earlier this year, “Their Finest”). In various ways, Wright’s film and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” are instructive companion pieces, with different aims that effectively orient them toward different audiences. “Dunkirk” imagines the evacuation of British troops under the onslaught of Nazi forces in a way that puts sensation over sense; it says nothing of the event’s historical context or import. Indeed, it could have been made with all action and no words, where “Darkest Hour” is all about words, words-as-action and this seminal event’s meaning to our world. It asks you to engage intellectually, not just viscerally.

But if it’s a history lesson, it’s one that plays like a tightly wound, pulse-pounding thriller. And why not: the decisions it depicts may have determined the fate of the world. The action takes place from May 8 to June 4, 1940 (the film regularly slams the dates at us in big block letters), and is framed by two important addresses in the House of Commons, the “Norway Debate” and Churchill’s rousing, epochal “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech. In between, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, because he’s the only member of his party acceptable to the opposition, and then rallies the country to fight Hitler when other politicians want to strike a deal with him.

Understanding the importance of this story’s events is not terribly easy now because it’s difficult to look at the world of 1940 as people did then. The Germans may have subjugated several European countries, but the coming slaughter of the continent’s Jews was still unsuspected, and Hitler was widely seen as a very effective authoritarian ruler (a quality that some non-Germans beset with dithering democrats frankly admired) rather than a murderous madman. Churchill’s virtue in this moment was to see the truth more clearly than others did, and to understand both the absolute necessity and the arduous difficulty of fighting the Nazi regime to the death.

The film’s title is entirely accurate. With the Germans threatening to obliterate Britain’s army prior to the Dunkirk evacuation (which is alluded to rather than shown here), and Churchill soon to hear Franklin Roosevelt decline to help the Brits due to the anti-interventionist sentiment in Congress, the United Kingdom was at a very dark and lonely place indeed. It’s no wonder that Churchill’s main opponents in this drama, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), encouraged having Mussolini negotiate a deal with Hitler that might have spared Britain from invasion and potential mass slaughter. Even King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn), before being won over to Churchill’s viewpoint, was amenable to dealing with the devil.

The Winston Churchill we see here is no cartoon hero or plaster saint. As the recent, wretched “Churchill” (which was as roundly denounced by historians and Churchill experts as “Darkest Hour” has been praised) did, Wright’s film notes the dark stain on the leader’s public career that the battle of Gallipoli in World War I represented, but doesn’t make it a psychological millstone. “Darkest Hour” likewise frequently shows us its protagonist from the viewpoints of his acerbic though supportive wife, Clemmie (the brilliant Kristen Scott Thomas), and his young, endlessly put-upon secretary, Elizabeth (Lily James). Yet the freshness of this film’s portrayal begins with the dramatic sharpness and historical intelligence of Anthony McCarten’s script, which gives us a Churchill who is drawn into dynamic action by the looming shadow of Hitler’s evil.

After charting the perilous political waters, he must navigate to gain the support of his war cabinet, the film climaxes with a sublime invention: a scene in which Churchill, on the way to Parliament, bounds out of his traffic-bound limousine, hops on the Underground and listens to a car full of average Londoners voice their support for his war aims. As corny as this may sound, it’s an entirely appropriate way of registering the kind of popular backing, even affection, that Churchill enjoyed during wartime (he was voted out of office as soon as the war ended), and it works in part due to the spunky charm and thoroughgoing excellence of Gary Oldman’s performance, which deserves every award it will inevitably win.

A kindred excellence characterizes the striking collaboration between Joe Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who together give the film a very nuanced and engaging balance of light and shadow, eloquent movement and meditative stasis. For my money, Delbonnel’s work surpasses even “Dunkirk” to emerge as the best cinematography of the year so far. Wright’s team also benefits from the understated lyricism of Dario Marinelli’s score.

The events leading up to the charged drama we see in “Darkest Hour” have not been totally forgotten, of course. The name of Neville Chamberlain, Churchill’s predecessor, will forever be associated with the term “appeasement,” which these days hardliners use at every opportunity to denounce attempts to negotiate with objectionable regimes and rulers. But Wright’s film indirectly makes the point that not every tinpot dictator is a Hitler nor is every posturing, hawkish politician a Churchill. Certain times and men are indeed exceptional, which is why a movie like “Darkest Hour” itself stands apart from more routine historical dramas.


The Man Who Invented Christmas

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Having seen pretty much all of the key cinematic depictions of the immortal Charles Dickens story “A Christmas Carol” over the years, I can honestly say that I could go the rest of my life without seeing another permutation of the tale. That feeling was again reinforced after watching “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” a saccharine stab at a new holiday perennial that tries to fuse the classic Yuletide yarn with a “Shakespeare In Love”-style literary origin story and manages to let both of them down, not to mention a performance by Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge that deserves a much better showcase than the one provided here.

The year is 1843 and Dickens (Dan Stevens) is in a commercial slump—his previous three novels have found little favor with the buying public—and he is in need of money in order to help support himself, his loyal wife Catherine (Morfydd Clark), their four children (with a fifth on the way) and an expensive home renovation. While casting about for ideas for a new book, he takes inspiration from his new maid (Anna Murphy), whose literary tastes are of a somewhat lurid bent (she is a big “Varney the Vampire” fan), and who mentions to him a folk tale about mysterious spirits being revived at Christmastime. This sparks something in Dickens and he decides that he will write and self-publish his own holiday-themed ghost story in time for Christmas as a way of replenishing his coffers. There is one little hitch to this endeavor—Christmas is about six weeks away and to miss that immovable deadline would be disastrous.

This might seem to be an impossible task to pull off, especially since he will be attempting to work in a house filled with children, workmen and the unexpected presence of his cheerful but constantly broke father (Jonathan Pryce). Luckily for Dickens, everywhere he goes in London offers him some nugget that he channels into his work, ranging from a lame nephew to an ancient waiter at his club with the delightful name of Marley. The real burst of inspiration comes when Dickens happens upon the evening burial of a man attended only by his aging and apparently heartless business partner (Plummer), who immediately becomes the model for Scrooge himself, especially his constant uttering of “Humbug.” While trying to work the story out from the confines of his study, Dickens finds himself interacting with the characters he has created as he tries to work out what happens to them. The story soon becomes a race against time as Dickens tries to resolve the ending of the book (he seems very keen on Tiny Tim dying) and get the manuscript to the publisher in time before it is too late while at the same time confronting the still-lingering after-effects of his father’s lifetime of financial irresponsibility in the hopes of reconciling with him before it too is too late.

Based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Les Standiford, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” has been adapted by screenwriter Susan Coyne and director Bharat Nalluri into the kind of hard-sell holiday whimsy that may appeal to those who wish that more places would start playing Christmas carols before Halloween while at the same time driving others up the wall. The notion of watching Dickens create his most everlasting work sounds intriguing in theory but the execution here is more off-putting than delightful. Not particularly keen on nuance or subtlety, this is a film in which everything, especially Stevens’ decidedly manic take on Dickens, is pitched as broadly as possible. An even bigger problem with the film is the way in which it handles its presentation of the creative process. Granted, watching someone sitting at a table and scratching away with a pen while working out story problems does not exactly make for great cinema, but the solution to that obstacle—having him constantly pilfering characters, ideas and even chunks of dialogue from his forays into the real world—feels like a cheat and does an enormous disservice to one of literature’s great imaginations. “Shakespeare in Love” was not exactly a realistic depiction of the writing process either but it feels like cinema verite when compared to what is depicted here.

The one aspect of “The Man Who Invented Christmas” that does work well is the striking turn by Christopher Plummer as the film’s ersatz Scrooge. Of course, Plummer is one of those actors who seems virtually incapable of turning in a bad performance, but his work here is really strong. Scrooge is, of course, a role that seems tailor-made for hamming it up, but Plummer instead takes a quieter and more delicate approach that stands in marked contrast to the rest of the film, and is all the more effective as a result. He is acerbically funny in his interactions with his creator but also manages to inject a few moments of genuine pathos into the proceedings as well, a feat all the more considerable since he is playing an overtly fictional character. You know, I would like to partially walk back what I said earlier and state that if someone were inspired by this film to cast Plummer in a straightforward version of “A Christmas Carol,” I would actually be interested in seeing such a thing. Until then, we will have to make do with his appearance here, which stands out like a delightful sugar plum in the middle of an otherwise stale cake.


Brimstone & Glory

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Small towns live and die according to what seem like whims of fate. But just as every great fortune has its origin in a great crime, every small town that survives has a particular economic motor. Some are more interesting than others. The Mexican town of Tulpatec survives through pyrotechnics.

“Brimstone and Glory,” directed by Viktor Jakovleski and backed by some of the talents behind “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is a documentary about that town’s annual Pyrotechnics Festival, an event that, it seems, is prepared for year-round by its residents. The fireworks engineered in this place, north of Mexico City, aren’t Macy’s Fourth of July high-tech displays, precision engineered and digitally controlled. But they’re not crude either. One hallmark of the festival is the evening devoted to large sculptures of bulls, each one packed with explosives. The point of this display is to have the bull as a launching site for various light-and-sound spectacles while never burning or in any other way damaging the sculpture itself. It’s like creating a candy-dispensing piñata that remains whole. There’s a lot of ingenuity required.

And there’s a lot of danger involved. Injuries during these festivals are common. Town elders tend to be cheerful fellows who are missing an eye or a limp or several fingers. Young kids working on fireworks projects are praised for having “gunpowder in the blood.” The film doesn’t have to push hard on a thesis about how economy determines culture. The town is an organic demonstration of it.

There are religious roots to the festival. It’s dedicated to a Portuguese saint who, according to legend, rescued the patients of a burning hospital without suffering a single burn. The day-to-day life of the town is lived in constant proximity to deadly materials—large signs reading “Peligro” are everywhere. The scenes of the preparations of the explosives are fascinating, particularly because everything is so analog. Mortar and pestle are primary tools in mixing powders and dyes.

And once the big day arrives, the nimble cameras operated by Jakovleski and his team get some awesome visuals. This is a movie that repays being seen on a big reflective screen, one on which the image is projected rather than one from which the image emanates. Because the light that comes off of the screen is strong and fierce. It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time.

The mode of this short movie is naturalistic. There are interviews of people in voiceover, but not a lot of talking-head footage. The perspective is of an observer sauntering through the town and then thrust into the middle of a fearsome but exhilarating spectacle. “Brimstone and Glory” took three years to make. I think the filmmakers needed that time to come up with a result that seems so simple and straightforward, yet has such deep resonance. 


Cannes Film Festival Moves Dates For 2018

The Cannes Film Festival will start one day earlier than in previous years but will run for the same length of time, according to the organisers.

The 71st Festival de Cannes will begin on Tuesday, May 8 and run until Saturday May 19, 2018.

The move means that the opening will take place on the evening of Tuesday, May 8, while the awards ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 19.

Festival President Pierre Lescure said that he hoped the move would allow it to “rebalance” the two week event and “bring new energy to the proceedings”.

“Following 2017’s anniversary edition, the Festival is beginning a new period in its history. We intend to renew the principles of our organisation as much as possible, while continuing to question the cinema of our age and to be present through its upheavals,” he said.

“What is more, starting on a Tuesday will allow us to hold an additional gala evening before the Festival weekend and to organise previews of the opening film throughout France,” the organisers added. “Finally, bringing forward the announcement of awards by one day, to Saturday evening, will increase its prestige, while at the same time giving the closing film better exposure.”

The 2018 edition marks 50 years since civil unrest in France in May 1968 led to the festival being called off after some directors got together in solidarity with the striking workers and students around the country. The movement, which was led by Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, led to the creation of the Directors’ Fortnight section the following year.


Russell Simmons’ Accuser Tells Megyn Kelly ‘He Actually Apologized’

UPDATE: Adds video, below.

Former model Keri Claussen Khalighi told Megyn Kelly this morning that music mogul Russell Simmons has privately apologized to her for sexually assaulting her, despite his public insistence that what happened in 1991, when she was 17 years old, was consensual.

NBC via Jeremy Gerard

“Russell and I have actually had a face-to-face confrontation about what happened, we’ve had phone conversations where there was no dispute about what we were taking about,” Khalighi told Kelly during a live interview from her home in Los Angeles with the NBC morning show host. “And he actually apologized,” Khalighi added.

‘What he’s speaking about privately with me is completely different from what’s come out publicly,’ Khalighi says.

“Part of what’s so confusing and re-traumatizing is that what he’s speaking about privately with me is completely different from what’s come out publicly,” Khalighi continued.”That’s the piece that’s been, quite honestly, repugnant with hypocirsy and the lies and the denial.”

Khalighi, who is about to deliver her third child, recalled 1991 incident in detail. Simmons and Ratner, she said, after meeting her, invited her to Simmons’ apartment on the pretext of seeing a music video they had produced. As the video played, she said, Simmons began making sexually assaulting her, ripping off  clothes, Kelly reported, forcing her to  perform oral sex and later intercourse, in Ratner’s presence.

“I looked over at Brett and asked for help, because I thought he was a friend,” Khalighi told Kelly, before realizing that “this was their plan all along. There was no help that was gonna come.” Khalighi said that “in the fashion circles it was widely known that they had a reputation for being modelizers…”

Simmons denied the claim of assault to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story. In an emotional dialogue this morning between Khalighi and Kelly, the ex-model said that her story was complicated by the fact that after the first assault, she had taken a shower and returned, only to be assaulted by Simmons a second time.

“After the oral sex part of the story,” she recalled, “I stayed. I didn’t run out. I stayed and I took a shower and an additional sexual assault happened there.” Women don’t always follow “a cut-and-dried, black-and-white story line…I’ve learned in a lot of the work I’ve done around this issue there’s a whole spectrum, a variety of response of fight, flight or freeze. I certainly froze. I did what I could to normalize what was an incredibly hard-to-process situation in the moment, as a 17-year-old.”

Watch the interview here.


Grasshopper Acquires Sundance Doc ‘Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun?’

Grasshopper Film has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun?, Travis Wilkerson’s documentary that played both the Sundance and New York film festivals

The film will open theatrically on February 28, 2018 at Film Forum in New York City, followed by a national rollout.

The film chronicles a 1946 murder in Alabama, committed by the filmmaker’s great-grandfather S.E. Branch, who killed Bill Spann, a black man. The murder has become hidden family lore and when Wilkerson sets out to unravel the mystery, he encounters obstacle upon obstacle, destroyed records and everyone refusing to talk. He’s accused of bringing shame upon the family, shaking up old trouble nobody wants.

“Travis has created an extraordinary work that is both a gripping investigative documentary and an urgent reflection on our present moment,” said Ryan Krivoshey, Founder & President of Grasshopper. “We’re thrilled to be releasing this landmark documentary.”

The deal was negotiated by Ryan Krivoshey, Founder & President of Grasshopper Film, with director Travis Wilkerson.


Justice League Cinematographer Also Wants Zack Snyder’s Director’s Cut

There were many aspects of Warner Bros. Justice League that were rather unexpected, especially the one hour and forty-nine minute runtime, which marked the shortest DCEU movie to date. Angry DCEU fans have been demanding the studio release Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of Justice League, including the original soundtrack by Junkie XL, and it seems that the original cinematographer, Fabian Wagner, wants to see that director’s cut too. The DP is quite a big fan of all Zack Snyder’s director’s cuts, including Watchmen, 300 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and he wants to see the director’s complete vision for his latest directorial effort, at some point. Here’s what Fabian Wagner had to say about the short run time.

“This one was even shorter than I expected, so there are scenes that aren’t in there. I really hope we get to see a director’s cut, which will give us everything that we shot that didn’t make it in. What I love about his [Snyder's] director’s cuts is they are long, but he takes his time to tell the story. I’ve never watched any of his director’s cuts and thought ‘This is long.” Whether they are three hours long, or three hours and ten minutes, they always seemed to go quick.”

While Fabian Wagner was the DP on Justice League with Zack Snyder was at the helm, he was not available for Joss Whedon’s reshoots due to scheduling complications. Taking over as cinematographer was second unit photographer Jean-Philippe Gossart, and while some had expressed concern about what may have changed under Joss Whedon’s direction, Fabian Wagner revealed he was glad Gossart took over because he knew the visual style originally set forth would remain intact. Here’s what he had to say about the reshoots below.

“He and I had been talking about what we’ve been doing, and he knew some of the style we’ve been going for. It was great to have someone I know and who knew the film beforehand and could come in and give it continuity.”

Wagner revealed that one of his favorite shots that didn’t make it into the film was included in the Justice League trailer that was released back in March, which featured Ben Affleck in full costume as Batman, perched atop a building. He also spoke about the praise he has been receiving for the way he shot Ezra Miller’s The Flash, revealing that the director and visual effects supervisor John ‘D.J.’ Des Jardin, wanted the cinematographer to, “do a lot of interactive lighting, and create some sort of visual language that we could use to portray Flash’s speed.”

Justice League only marks the third feature-length movie ever for Fabian Wagner, after the U.K. comedy Barney Thomson and the 20th Century Fox monster movie Victor Frankenstein. He is perhaps best known for his ubiquitous work on the small screen, particularly HBO’s Game of Thrones, where he shot six episodes in total, including the last two episodes of Season 6, Battle of the Bastards and Winds of Winter. He is currently working on the final season of Game of Thrones, and while he isn’t sure about the scheduling quite yet, he added in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he would love to be asked back to DP the Flashpoint movie.


Weekend Box Office: ‘Coco’ Celebrates $2.3M in Tuesday Previews

Pixar’s latest animated release has already become the top-grossing movie of all time in Mexico.

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Hits Tracking & A $200M Opening Would Come As No Surprise

Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi aka Episode VIII arrived on tracking this morning with similar polling points to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Unaided awareness – that part of movie polling which indicates how powerful a film property is among those who aren’t prodded to mention a pic’s title in a survey — is at 35 to Force Awakens’ 36. It’s a telling stat that tells studios how much non-fans are aware of a pic’s property, and depending on how a movie scores here, they’ll spend ad dollars specifically to make this quadrant grow. First choice is 23 for the Rian Johnson-directed sequel versus 22 for the previous J.J. Abrams title, while definite interest is 65 to 60.  Total awareness is huge at 94 to Force Awakens‘ 92.

These stats prompt our non-Disney box office analytical sources to point to a $200M start for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, making it the second highest-opening of all-time behind the studio’s Episode VII, Force Awakens, which posted $247.96M at 4,134 theaters in December 2015. Advance tickets for The Last Jedi have been on sale since Oct. 9.

Force Awakens triggered an audience turnout that was unheard for the last month of any year which, though a lucrative one during the holidays, typically saw movie openings capped by holiday activities like shopping and parties before Christmas Day. Oh, and snow and ice, let’s not forget about that. Sour weather has the potential to cut into ticket sales at that time of year. However, Disney has built a lot of intrigue in Last Jedi‘s marketing, sending fanboys’ heads spinning: Is Luke Skywalker bi-polar, swinging between the dark and light sides? Does Rey go evil? Does Kylo Ren go good? And how are the two related again? Prior to Force Awakens, December’s biggest opening belonged to The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey ($84.6M), so Disney radically changed the game for the month, truly blowing the doors off exhibition in regards to how much one movie could rake in three days for the winter month, not once, but twice: Last December, the studio’s spinoff movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story chalked up $155M, the second best three-day for the month and the third best last year behind Disney/Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M), and Warner Bros.’ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166M).


We’ve been hearing this projection from rivals for Last Jedi for quite some time, and today’s tracking confirms what they’ve been expecting all along. Of course with any box office projection this far out, we always need to asterisk and say there’s a chance due to unforeseen circumstances (such as the freeze-out of theaters in the Northeast due to Storm Jonas in January 2016) that Last Jedi could place in the high $100Ms, and again, that wouldn’t be an upset, because Disney once again would be expanding the month’s audience greatly. What is for certain is that The Last Jedi is bound to chart the best opening of the year, shooting past Disney’s own Beauty and the Beast ($174.7M) last March. When tracking is this high, it’s a challenge for some to predict with any statistical accuracy an opening north of $150M given the small pool of films that debuted north of that figure. Other hurdles during the weekend of Dec. 15-17: It’s one of the busiest traveling periods, plus there’s only 9% kids out of school, a figure which will grow to 50% the following week and then 100% from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1 with another 50% off until Jan. 8.

But still, Disney overcame such challenges before two years in a row with two Star Wars movies, and who says they can’t do it again?

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