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Jennifer Lopez to Star in Romantic Comedy 'Second Act' for STX
Jennifer Lopez is returning to her romantic comedy roots for STX.
The Wedding Planner actress will star in and produce a new rom-com, titled Second Act, which follows a big box store employee reinvents her life and her lifestyle, she gets the chance to prove to Madison Avenue that street smarts are as valuable as a college degree. The project is pitched as Working Girl meets Maid In Manhattan.
- Mia Galuppo
‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Ups Alexis Bledel to Series Regular for Season 2
Bledel appeared in a guest starring role during the critically-acclaimed show’s first season as Emily/Ofglen. She befriends Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and tells her of a secret resistance group called Mayday.
Bledel is repped by CAA, Industry Entertainment, and Jackoway, Tyerman, Wertheimer, Austen, Mandelbaum, Morris & Klein.
The series is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. It tells the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the United States. »
- Joe Otterson
Ron Howard will direct the Han Solo movie following Lord & Miller’s departure
After yesterday’s surprising news that Disney and Lucasfilm had parted ways with directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, The Hollywood Reporter have broken word that Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) has taken over. An official announcement is expected by Disney soon.
Howard was revealed to be the front-runner yesterday.
The split between Lord, Miller and Lucasfilm came from disagreements over the film’s tone, and with the film’s writer Lawrence Kasdan. It was reported that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy wasn’t happy with Lord and Miller’s early cut of the footage they’d shot, and Kasdan agreed, one one source saying it “wasn’t like a Star Wars movie”.
- Luke Owen
‘Downton Abbey’ Movie Aims for Production in 2018
The much anticipated “Downton Abbey” movie project is moving forward, with the big screen adaptation of the period series set to head into production next year.
The series, which follows the lives of an aristocratic English family, ended its six season run on ITV in the U.K. and PBS in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and the producer of the show, Carnival Films, and its studio owner, NBCUniversal, have frequently spoken about making a “Downton” movie.
- Stewart Clarke
Box Office: 'Transformers 5' Posts Series-Low Opening Day With $15.7M
Paramount and Hasbro's Transformers: The Last Knight easily topped the Wednesday box-office chart with $15.7 million from 4,069 theaters, but that's the lowest opening day for any film in the franchise, including those titles that likewise debuted midweek.
Prerelease tracking suggests Transformers 5 will post a five-day domestic debut in the $70 million-$75 million range, notably behind the $100 million North American launch of the last title, Transformers: Age »
- Pamela McClintock
Glow Series Premiere Recap: Mat Finish
This Netflix show about women’s wrestling in the ‘80s has a strong Police Academy vibe. »
- Kenny Herzog
Film Review: ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff’
Most real-world and folkloric taboos alike have lost some of their ability to outrage in entertainment form — the never-ending zombie vogue has devalued cannibalism, while childhood sexual abuse has become the lazy screenwriter’s fallback explanatory plot revelation. But even in an era of almost-anything-goes internet content, snuff movies retain their ickiness and ambiguity as a possibly mythical phenomenon that humanity’s capacity for evil suggests surely must have really existed somewhere.
It’s a gamy thing to use as fodder for humor. It’s central to the mixed bag that is “A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff” that Mitchell Altieri’s film turns a tasteless comic conceit fairly frivolous and inoffensive. Murder has long been fodder for lightweight black comedy — what community theater hasn’t staged “Arsenic and Old Lace” with nary a murmur of controversy? — but snuff is something else, with its suggestions of sadistic perversion and seamy entrepreneurship. It’s somewhat impressive that this latest feature by the prolific Butcher Brothers (erstwhile co-director Phil Flores takes a backseat as executive producer here) renders an inherently repulsive idea farcical enough to bounce jokes off. The problem is that this watchable indie isn’t all that funny, clever or surprising despite its outré premise.
Lower-rent versions of the Wilson brothers whom no Wes Anderson has yet “discovered,” Dresden (Joey Kern) and Dominic Winters (Luke Edwards) are Minnesota siblings transplanted to L.A. in search of acting fame. It’s proved elusive to the point where they face returning to Chez Mom & Dad’s in shamed defeat. Dresden, the older and more maniacal blond of the two, cannot stomach that fate. He seizes on a potential last-chance breakthrough: Entering a horror-movie contest whose winner gets a quarter mil in production costs plus industry contacts. It’s also his brainstorm that they not only make a faux snuff film but heighten its prize-magnetizing “realism” by actually kidnapping and terrorizing their star. Once the footage is in the can, the prospect of career liftoff will presumably keep her from, say, criminally prosecuting the Winters.
All this seems a pretty terrible plan to the comparatively grounded Dominic, but he lets himself be pushed into it by big bro. After an unfunny sequence in which the latter insults auditioning actresses at a cattle call, they settle on Jennifer (Bree Williamson), who seems smart, attractive and game enough to forgive them when the ruse is exposed. They duly kidnap her — not without considerable bruising struggle — then take her to the warehouse their doting landlord, Jorge (Perry Layton Ojeda), has lent them for the evening.
Strapped to a table, at the mercy of two masked abductors, Jennifer appears terrified at first, despite her ersatz tormentors’ bungling and bickering. Dresden begins taking his role a little too seriously (evidently he has a history of instability), which exacerbates tensions between the brothers. Then there’s the fact that a real-life killer has been running around L.A. castrating men, something noted insistently enough to ensure it will sooner or later prove central to the narrative.
Kern and Edwards make an amiable pair of goofballs, and there’s an occasional bright line (amid too many in-joke movie references) in the team-written script. Still, “Beginner’s Guide” is rather tepid in laughs and outrageousness so long as the focus is on the boys, with their familiar “Dumb and Dumber” dynamic and ineptly faked bwa-ha-ha villainy. It gets livelier when the tables are turned, our heroes discovering their captive is considerably craftier — not to mention deadlier — than they.
Even then, the film feels relatively uninspired and tame, raising a few chuckles but nary an eyebrow. It should be said, however, that soap veteran Williamson fully rises to the occasion of her character’s hidden dimensions — if the material were better, she’d have knocked it out of the park. There’s also fun to be had from the scenes with Ojeda, who wrings sly notes from the potentially tired stereotype of the older gay neighbor whose lust objects are so corn-fed clueless they assume he’s a “ladies’ man.”
It’s another middling effort by the Butcher Brothers, who haven’t matched the pleasant-surprise peak of their 2006 vampire-family opus “The Hamiltons” (not even in its 2012 sequel, “The Thompsons”). While they’ve stayed pretty much within the horror genre since, at least they continue to approach it from different angles, with variable success but no lack of industry.
Though small in cast and location scale, “Beginner’s Guide” is decently paced and shot. The retro ’70s look of the opening credits proves one among several avenues it doesn’t pursue enough (or at all) after introducing, another such being the underlapped satirical potential in Dresden’s crazy inner voice being that of a motivational infomercial spokesman (Carter MacIntyre).
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- Dennis Harvey
ABC Studios Strike First Look Deal With Hoodlum Entertainment
Disney’s ABC Studios International and Australian production company Hoodlum Entertainment have signed a worldwide first look deal. The agreement expands an existing partnership and steps up their international development and production efforts.
Under the new pact, ABC Studios International and Hoodlum will develop new content for the global international marketplace, including the U.S. Disney Media Distribution will have international rights across all media for productions resulting from this collaboration.
The venture will be run by ABC Studios International MD of international content and talent, Keli Lee, based in London, Tracey Robertson, Hoodlum CEO, based at Disney Studios in Los Angeles, »
- Patrick Frater
Hollywood Bids Adieu to Retiring Directors Guild Chief Jay D. Roth
More than 400 attendees — and many top Hollywood players — assembled Thursday night for a heartfelt sendoff for DGA National Executive Director Jay D. Roth, who’s retiring after more than two decades.
The 90-minute tribute at the DGA Theatre highlighted Roth’s penchant for preparation and truthfulness in conducting seven contract negotiations with the companies during his tenure. Michael Apted, the current DGA secretary-treasurer evoked a major laugh when he asserted that one of Roth’s key techniques was to get both sides to agree initially on the facts.
“Together we agreed — there weren’t to be alternate facts on his watch,” Apted added. “He always knew what we had to have at negotiations and what we could pass on.”
Several speakers stressed Roth was able to be effectively blunt. “Jay can really be tough,” said former Warner Bros. topper Barry Meyer. “Not screaming and yelling tough, but Don Corleone tough — soft-spoken tough.”
Carol Lombardini, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said, “A friendship with Jay is not for the faint of heart.”
The gathering had plenty of light-hearted moments, such as DGA President Paris Barclay thanking Roth for not forcing him to go golfing. Roth himself gave thanks his eighth grade shop teacher Mr. Jacobs for show candor to his parents via a note that said, “Jay is going to fail wood shop; you need to find another path.”
Roth’s replacement Russell Hollander provoked big laughs by displaying a photo of wild-haired Roth’s tax license from 1972. He also asked the audience, “Have you ever had a conversation with Jay where you knew more than he did?”
Barclay presented Roth with a trip to New Zealand to play golf at an exclusive club on the north island, adding, “We are happy to feed your addiction.”
Roth closed out the tribute by saying, “We don’t do anything alone. We understand that through the commonality of our effort, we better serve this wonderful industry. I love you all. Now let’s have a drink.”
High-profile executives in attendance included Disney chairman Robert Iger, Paramount Pictures chief Jim Gianopolus, Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara and Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Union leaders included SAG-aftra national executive director David White, Teamsters Local 399 secretary-treasurer Steve Dayan and SAG-aftra senior adviser John McGuire.
Related storiesHan Solo Firing: Will Ron Howard Share Directing Credit With Lord & Miller?Judd Apatow to Sony: 'Shove the Clean Versions of Movies Up Your A--!'Directors Guild of America Awards Ceremony Lands 2018 Date »
- Dave McNary
Heartbreaking Footage Emerges of Little Girl in Philando Castile’s Car
On Wednesday, Minnesota police released further video from the July, 2016 shooting of Philando Castile that sheds heartbreaking light on what Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year old daughter were going through in the moments immediately following his death. The footage, from the back seat of a patrol car, shows Reynold’s daughter begging her mother to stop screaming out of fear that she might end up killed by police. “Mom, please stop saying cuss words and screaming because I don’t want you to get shooted,” the girl can be heard pleading. At this, Reynolds kisses her daughter. »
- Ross A. Lincoln
China Probes Finances of Wanda, Fosun (Reports)
The China Banking Regulatory Commission is understood to have begun a probe into the sources of finance used by some of China’s most acquisitive companies. Companies within the scope of the review are believed to include Dalian Wanda, Fosun International and Rossoneri Sports Investment, a Chinese company which recently acquired the Italian soccer team AC Milan.
Reports of the investigation surfaced in investigative financial title Caixin and have been elaborated on by others with access to China’s state financial system. Other companies include airlines to property giant Hna, and freewheeling insurance group Anbang. The billionaire chairman of Anbang, Wu Xiaohui was recently detained by security forces and is currently prevented from leaving China.
On Thursday there was sharp selling in the shares and commercial debt of Wanda Film Holdings and Fosun International. The shares of both dropped dramatically, though both companies issued statements attempting to reassure investors that business was continuing as normal and that they knew of no issue that required a regulatory alert.
The surge of share trading on Thursday appears to have been triggered by rumors that state-controlled banks had been ordered to sell down their holdings in the companies. The emergence of the banking probe now appears more likely to be the reason for the investor nerves.
According to Chinese financial media, the Cbrc is interested in the scale and source of the companies’ debt financing, rather than any specific wrongdoing. Chinese companies and local governments have amassed massive amount of debt, with much of it coming from off balance sheet vehicles and non-state sources. Anbang in particular is believed to have made extensive use of the so-called shadow banking system.
The companies targeted are also among the busiest in China in overseas mergers and acquisition activity. Outside China, Wanda has acquired AMC, Carmike, Odeon Uci Legendary Entertainment, Infront Sports, World Triathlon, and yacht maker Sunseeker. Fosun has stakes in Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8, Cirque du Soleil, travel giant Club Mediterrannee and English soccer club Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The regulatory moves follow the announcement last November of capital controls by a separate regulator. Those were aimed at limiting the massive flows of capital out of China in 2016, stimulated by the weakening of the Chinese currency. The currency controls appear to have stymied Wanda’s proposed $1 billion takeover of U.S. TV producer Dick Clark Productions. Other deals that were called off also blamed China’s official brakes on capital export.
China’s currency has since stabilized and national financial reserves have begun expanding again since February. That would point to a quick victory for the policymakers at the macro economic level. But the fear remains that some companies have over-leveraged themselves in their headlong charge for growth.
The new probe is understood to require Icbc, China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications and Guangfa Bank, among others to look at their credit exposure and conduct a risk assessment.
Hna, parent of the Hainan Airlines operator, has spent billions buying overseas assets that include the Reuters headquarters building in London, U.S. golf courses, a stake in Deutsche Bank, and 25% of the Hilton Hotels group.
By lunchtime Friday, the shares of both Fosun and Wanda Film appeared to have stabilized. Fosun International was down 0.3 at Hk$11.7, while Wanda Film was up 0.4% at RMB52.13.
Related storiesChina's Wanda Denies Rumors as Shares, Bonds Slide SharplyWanda Joins With Tencent on IP Venture, Unveils Huge Production SlateChina Box Office: 'Alien: Covenant' Wins Quiet Weekend »
- Patrick Frater
Johnny Depp Casually Jokes About Assassinating Donald Trump, References John Wilkes Booth
“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” »
- Tim McGovern
Sean Hannity Dredges Up Seth Rich Murder Conspiracy After Saying He’d Stop
Fox News and radio host Sean Hannity brought up murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, a month after saying on his TV show he wouldn’t bring up the subject anymore. Hannity mentioned Rich again on his radio show, resurrecting a conspiracy theory he’d previously pushed that Rich, who was shot and killed in July 2016 in Washington D.C., had been murdered as part of a cover-up by Democrats. As The Hill reports, Hannity mentioned Rich while talking about DNC emails that were sent to WikiLeaks, showing that DNC leaders tried to undermine Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Hannity suggested those leaks. »
- Phil Hornshaw
11 Stars Who Imagined Violence Against Donald Trump, From Kathy Griffin to Johnny Depp (Photos)
Since the election, many celebrities have voiced their displeasure over President Trump and his administration. Some have even called for violence. From Robert De Niro to Snoop Dogg, here are nine left-leaning noteworthy people who have incited violence toward Trump and the Gop. Moby Moby’s latest video is simultaneously nostalgic and dystopian. In 1980s cartoon fashion, a giant Transformer-like Trump morphs into a swastika/dollar sign and wreaks havoc on a city before meeting a fiery, explosive demise. Madonna Madonna admitted to a crowd of thousands at the Women’s March on Washington that she had “thought an awful »
- Ashley Eady
Johnny Depp on Trump: ‘When Was the Last Time an Actor Assassinated a President?’ (Video)
During an appearance Thursday at the annual Glastonbury music and arts festival in Southern England, Johnny Depp had some harsh words for Donald Trump — and along with them a historical joke even he realized might end up backfiring on him: “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” Depp’s joke is of course a reference to John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln who was an actor, from a famous family of actors. Depp made the comments while introducing “The Libertine,” his 2004 film directed by Laurence Dunmore, as part of the festival’s film component. »
- Ross A. Lincoln
‘Dynasty’ Reboot Gets International Distribution on Netflix
Following its earlier deal to distribute “Star Trek: Discovery,” Netflix has landed international rights to another CBS-owned series, the upcoming “Dynasty” reboot set to debut October 11. The Dynasty reboot was ordered to series in May and was the networks first new series pickup for the 2017-2018 season. The modernized take on the classic 80s primetime soap follows two of America’s wealthiest families, the Carringtons and the Colbys, as they feud for control over their fortune and their children. The series will be told primarily through the perspectives of two women at odds: Fallon Carrington — daughter of billionaire Blake »
- Ross A. Lincoln
DJ Goldie May Have Just Confirmed the Identity of Banksy With a Slip of the Tongue
Mystery solved? »
- Tim McGovern
Island Records Founder Chris Blackwell Teams Up With ‘Narcos’ Exec for Reggae Documentary
Island Records founder and entrepreneur Chris Blackwell has teamed with “Narcos” showrunner Eric Newman and Propagate Content’s Ben Silverman to develop a narrative TV series about the birth of reggae music and the rise of Jamaica’s music industry in the wake of the Caribbean island nation’s independence from Britain in 1962.
Silverman, co-ceo of Propagate Content, and Newman pitched the idea to Universal Music Group and Studiocanal, both owned by French conglom Vivendi. Universal Music Group has been actively expanding its operations in film and TV. Sascha Penn, an alum of the Starz drama “Power,” will pen the pilot script. Studiocanal chairman-ceo Didier Lupfer will executive-produce the yet-untitled project with Blackwell, Newman, Silverman and Marlon James, author of the Booker Prize-winning novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” which is set in 1970s Jamaica. Studiocanal plans to shop the series to premium TV and streaming outlets.
Blackwell, who was raised in Jamaica and cofounded Island Records in 1959, is essentially a character in the story, given his huge role in popularizing Jamaica’s music via his work with Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals and others. Blackwell sold Island to Polygram in 1989; Polygram was in turn acquired by Seagram in 1998 and merged with its current parent company, Universal Music Group.
Review: ‘Who Killed Bob Marley? ’
“I am thrilled by the team we have assembled and we are honored to be entrusted by Chris Blackwell to tell an amazing story about a little island that made, and continues to make, a lot of noise,” Newman said.
Silverman added: “This is a groundbreaking premium series focused on an extraordinary man who brought underrepresented music and ideas to the forefront of popular culture. Sascha Penn and Marlon James are perfect collaborators for the extraordinary Chris Blackwell, Eric and me.”
Jeff Berg, former ICM chief, brought the project to Blackwell’s attention and negotiated the deal for Blackwell, Silverman and Newman.
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- Variety Staff
‘Beat Shazam’s’ First Million-Dollar Winners Spent Three Months Cramming for the Show
(Warning: Spoilers ahead for Thursday’s episode of “Beat Shazam”) Shazam has been beaten. Christine Porcelli and Steve Lester became the first team to win the the coveted million-dollar prize during Thursday’s episode of the Fox game show “Beat Shazam.” Host Jamie Foxx rewarded the Nashville-based couple after Porcelli correctly identified the Tears for Fears hit “Shout.” “It still hasn’t sunk in,” Lester told TheWrap about the seven-figure windfall. “We’re very blessed.” Also Read: Jamie Foxx Shuns Players Over 'Friends'-Theme Fail on 'Beat Shazam' (Exclusive Video) Not every moment went smoothly for the couple, as »
- Ryan Gajewski
Nashville Recap: Memes Like Old Times
This show constantly gets the internet and modern technology wrong. »
- Max Weiss
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