Hard to believe that eight years have already passed since Michael Jackson’s death, but time’s a goon like that. And as the King of Pop settles in the ground, the question of what shape his legacy will take must be answered. While we’d be remiss to gloss over the ethical lapses and general trainwreckishness of the man’s final years (and doubly remiss not to point out the cruel, exacting factors in his life that drove him to that mental state), the time has come for a bit of enshrinement. Next month, the Michael we prefer to remember — the virtuosic performer, the boundary-pushing titan of black art — will return for a glorious new tribute.
Though Michael B. Jordan was the breakout star of Creed as Apollo Creed’s rip-snorting fighter son Adonis, Sylvester Stallone got the best material (and the Oscar nomination). His arc saw aging boxer Rocky Balboa coping with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, mourning the loss of his friends and loved ones, and ultimately confronting his own mortality. It was meaty stuff, ending on a note of hope and rehabilitation as Rocky scaled the famed Philly steps once again, a bit worse for wear but still tough as nails. Stallone recently spoke out about his plans for the character in the impending Creed sequel, and with Rocky’s health back on the upswing, it looks like the Italian Stallion may have some fight left in him.
For a franchise about slightly sketchy space crooks and intergalactic military types, the Star Wars films are almost conspicuously free of profanity. It makes sense from a business perspective — keeping the series PG-13 ensures that it’ll be open to a wider array of viewers — and yet the absence of cussing feels especially noticeable in a movie starring the famously coarse-tongued Carrie Fisher. The closest the series came to a four-letter word was Han Solo getting dissed as a “scruffy nerf-herder,” but a recently discovered cache of lost footage from the original 1977 Star Wars is going to change all that in short order.
Much in the same way that I have always wondered who delivers mail to mailmen (if they live in their own district, are they allowed to deliver mail to themselves? is that a conflict of interest?), the writers of the new action-comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard ponder who a career killer goes to when he finds himself a mark. Even professional assassins need a little muscle from time to time, and when one especially ill-tempered sunuvagun hires a body guard with a short fuse, violent egos clash with nose-crushing results.
A few years ago, I wrote up a brief item about an incident taking place at Los Angeles’ AFI Film Festival wherein an irate woman maced a man in the face for having the gall to ask her to turn off her cell phone during a screening of Mike Leigh’s J.M.W. Turner biopic Mr. Turner. “Wow, being at the movies sure makes people do crazy things!” I thought to myself. “I wonder how long it’ll be until the next time I get to write about a violent movie theater conflict over petty nonsense.” That day has come at last, and this time [beat to let the moment breathe] the stakes are even higher.
Kyle Davies, the President of Domestic Distribution for Paramount Pictures, is not having a great week. The early eruption of a backlash to his studio’s newest release (the generously-budgeted Ghost in the Shell remake) and its whitewashed casting was cause for concern. But up until recently, he could assuage his shareholders’ worries by clinging to the notion that hackle-raising on the Internet would not have any tangible effects on the box-office receipts. That changed after this past weekend, when the Scarlett Johansson vehicle mustered a piteous $19 million in wide release. Left to answer for the film’s commercial failure, Davies has placed the blame on the controversy over tapping confirmed white woman Johansson to portray an Asian role, to which the whole of the Internet will now respond with a hearty “DA-DOY.”
Almost exactly a year ago, tech entrepreneur Sean Parker (better known as the guy who correctly identified a billion dollars as cooler than a million dollars in The Social Network) fronted a proposed business venture called The Screening Room, a potentially game-changing set-top box through which Hollywood studios would offer their biggest new releases to stream at home the same day they premiered in brick-and-mortar theaters. (With an astronomical price tag, naturally.) Though it gained some traction and support from significant voices in the film community, it ultimately sputtered and spun out. But with the rebirth of spring, so comes a rebirth for this impractical, frightening, cineplex-annihilating idea. (Kinda.)
Samuel L. Jackson has never shied away from controversy. To quote Samuel L. Jackson (as the fitted-cap-sporting, status-obsessed supervillain from Kingsman): “Do I look like I give a f–k?” And in fact he did not, speaking candidly earlier this month about his disappointment in the preponderance of black British actors taking roles Jackson feels should have gone to African-Americans.
Samuel L. Jackson’s a man of many hats: actor, philanthropist, and on occasion, opinionated public intellectual. (He’s also a man of many hats in a more literal sense, owning what I estimate must be upwards of 800 Kangols.) He‘s currently working the press circuit in promotion of his latest picture, the big-budget monster mash Kong: Skull Island, and no Samuel L. Jackson press tour is complete without one or two headline-grabbing soundbites. We thought we had hit the jackpot when Jackson happily admitted to a familiarity with the anime pornography known as ‘hentai,’ but the actor’s buzz-baiting statements were far from over.
Armond White is something of a notorious name in the world of film criticism. While the caliber of his writing commands respect from many of his peers, his contrarian opinions and coarse manner often land him in the middle of mini-controversies within cinephile circles. This is a man who got himself expelled from the New York Film Critics Circle for heckling 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen at the organization’s annual awards dinner. This is a man who publishes an annual ‘Better Than’ list of favorite movies, so he can both name the films he loved and diss the ones that you did in one fell swoop. This is a man who could not give less of a damn what you, me, or anyone else thinks.
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