The Cast of “The Breakfast Club” Makes the News

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 © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Though it’s been decades, this week was a surprisingly eventful one for “The Breakfast Club.” Though none of the cast members have been involved in major Hollywood roles recently, two of the film’s stars trended on Facebook this week, though the attention was for very different reasons.

Judd Nelson was trending into Tuesday simply because of his birthday, which he celebrated on November 28. Website The Hits put together a collection of Bender-themed gifs dedicated to their “favorite member of the Breakfast Club,” whom they called the “criminal” of the group based on his alter-ego’s rogue personality.

But it was his costar Anthony Michael Hall that made hard news headlines that same day. The actor, who played meek Brian, allegedly attacked his neighbor outside their condominiums. He was charged with felony assault. Hall was previously arrest in 2011 after disturbing his complex with loud, erratic behavior, and allegedly stalked his ex-girlfriend in 2009, after which a judge ordered him to avoid her.

James Cameron on the”Avatar” sequel that’s always a day away

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Photo (cc) by Steve Jurvetson

Do you remember a little film called “Avatar” from back in ? Yah, me neither.

The film exploded during it’s debut, breaking the Word Record for highest-grossing film of all time, which was previously held by Cameron’s “Titanic,” and changing the film industry fundamentally and permanently.

And yet it’s been seven years and there’s been no sequel and little buzz. The cinematic giant has shrunk into the background while series like the MCU and the “Star Wars” films have owned the decade in its place.

But, as a reminder that the saga of Pandora is coming back someday to take over theaters again, James Cameron spoke about the sequel at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers’ Centennial Gala last week, where he was awarded an honorary membership.

“I’m going to push,” he said about the sequels. “Not only for better tools, workflow, high dynamic range and high frame rates — the things we are working toward. I’m still very bullish on 3D, but we need brighter projection, and ultimately I think it can happen — with no glasses. We’ll get there.”

His speech comes after several years of delays on the film, which was first slated for 2016.The film is now expected in 2018.

Donald Glover Lands Lando in new “Star Wars”

Photo (cc) 2011 by Loxy!!
Photo (cc) 2011 by Loxy!!

Lando Calrissian is the forgotten hero of “Star Wars.” Added the the original saga in “The Empire Strikes Back,” he gets off to a rocky start by betraying Leia and Han (though it’s to protect his people, which is an important, oft forgotten detail), but by the “Return of the Jedi” he’s become a fully entrenched and accepted member of the Skywalker and friends gang. He even has the honor of piloting the Millennium Falcon in the final battle, and he’s included in the last, celebratory cast shot of the film with the other stars. He’s one of the gang, a solid fourth to Luke, Leia and Han, but still an important fourth.

I have therefore always been sad that history seems to have given him the short end of the stick. As a “Star Wars” fan, I never hear anyone talk about him. He’s not in any modern merchandise. Billy Dee Williams’ absence from “The Force Awakens” isn’t even given an throw away line of explanation.

It’s no surprise then that I was ecstatic when it was announced that everyone’s favorite rapper/actor/comedian Donald Glover would be playing Lando in the prequel film set to follow a young Han Solo. It makes sense, since Lando was the original owner of the Falcon and a friend of Han’s from back in the day, and it’s a great moment for the few of us out there who love Lando.

IGN quickly posted a video explaining why they liked the casting:

Since this was about “Star Wars” and a famous actor, the Twitterverse naturally had lots to say:

A (Rocky) Night of Horror

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Photo (cc) Ingrid Richter and 20th Century Fox

For the cult of people out there who love the one-of-a-kind Tim Curry-fronted musical of the ’70s, prepare to be either excited or disappointed: as of tonight, it’s a little less one-of-a-kind.

Tonight on Fox, Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) will take over the role of Frank-n-Furter in a new adaptation of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, which also stars Victoria Justice, Adam Lambert, Annaleigh Ashford and Tim Curry, who narrates this time around.

Cox, who is transgender, told OUT Magazine that “…in so many ways [The Rocky Horror Picture Show] was the beginning of me allowing myself to fully be.”

However, some in the trans community are worried about trans tropes being reinforced in tonight’s film.

Mari Brighe, who is a trans woman and a journalist, said this about the casting:

“With her playing the lead role, there’s a subtle but potentially very damaging conflation of crossdressers with trans women. In an era where trans people (and trans women in particular) are still consistently struggling to shed the social view that we are little more than men in dresses, the once sexually subversive Rocky Horror Picture Show becomes simply a tool for the re-entrenchment of oppressive and harmful tropes about transgender people.”

The film can be seen at at 8 p.m. tonight on Fox, or, if you’re in Boston and old enough, at club Machine’s viewing party.

Before you head out, however, it’s important to note that the reviews are in, and they aren’t as gold and shiny as the movie is.

Vulture’s Jesse Green had this to say:

“The director, Kenny Ortega, known for the High School Musical trilogy, seems to think that by mixing overbusy sequences with others that have almost no content or momentum he can achieve a nice average. That didn’t work; I found myself alternately falling asleep and squinting at the visual mess. (If you ever wondered whether you could get too much of the theatrical costuming genius William Ivey Long, the answer is yes.) And though Laverne Cox, as Frank N. Furter, brought some amusing intonations and an undeniable queer spark to the proceedings — she is transgender — most of the cast, drawn from film and television, could not sell the material, especially the songs, no matter how much electronic help was provided.”

The Guardian’s Bryan Moylan was a little lukewarm but somewhat positive.

“Faithful, fast-paced, and largely entertaining, this new Rocky Horror Picture Show is neither the calamity fans like myself were fearing nor the triumph that we were all hoping for. While some of its interpretations don’t quite hit the mark, it is still good enough to get first-time viewers pumped to see the original movie. 

I personally don’t understood why this project wasn’t done as live Halloween theater, given the recent rise in televised live musical on the broadcast networks. Since Rocky Horror started as a stage musical, it seems like it would have been a fun return-to-roots.

But we must live with what we have, which, in this case, is a possibly subpar remake of the film. So, all together, folks:

Let’s do the time warp…again.

You can now go see Michael Moore’s movie about Donald Trump

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Photo (cc) 2011 by David Shankbone

You all remember Michael Moore, right? Most people know him as an edgy, liberal documentarian and the man behind “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It turns out, he’s also a stage star.

Last month, the director announced that he was working on a a political film, “Michael Moore in Trumpland.” It’s not one of his typical documentaries; instead, it’s a filmed one-man stage show.

Moore explained that the theater he had chosen for the show in swing-state Ohio had turned him down because conservatives on their board were afraid the director was trying to convince people to vote for Clinton.

“Well, they got that right. They aren’t stupid,” he said on Facebook.

Moore was able to find a contingency plan, and the film was shown last night for free in New York City. He had this to say about his goals:

“This election is going be decided by whether people will stay home. I hope I can light a fire and get it out in the next weeks to millions of people‎.”

The New York Times published a review today titled ‘“Michael Moore in Trumpland” Isn’t About Trump,” and it’s not exactly glowing. Here’s a excerpt:

“Mr. Moore has basically made an earnest but not very entertaining pro-Clinton campaign film, occasionally funny, momentarily heartfelt when he takes up the subject of universal health care and the lives lost for lack of it. Against the rest of his work (“Bowling for Columbine,” “Roger & Me”) it’s fairly tepid stuff.”

Tonight marks to official start of the film’s non-preview run in New York’s IFC Center.

The Saga Behind “The Legend of Mulan”

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Photo (cc) 2012 Jennie Park

To quote Disney’s 1998 musical classic, let’s get down to business.

After buzz around Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” remained relatively quiet over the last year, the project has come back into the spotlight, but it’s probably not the kind of buzz Disney marketing wants.

The film follows the already-released “Maleficent,” “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book” in a line of live-action redos for older animated properties. The film is set to be released in 2018, after this spring’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast.”

This week, Angry Asian Man, a blog that discusses Asian American issues, potentially broke a story about the adaptation. Disney hasn’t confirmed the news, so I hope you will all read this with an open mind and stay educated, but it’s big enough news that it’s worth mentioning here.
An anonymous guest post on the site, supposedly by someone in the film industry, claimed that Disney had purchased a spec script that focused, not on Mulan or her love interest from the animated film, Li Shang, but on a new white male love interest.
This post started what would become one more in a number of recent controversies regarding the role of Asian actors in cinema, which have included controversies over the casting of Matt Damon in a film about the Great Wall of China, the casting of Natalie Dormer in a film about Japan’s suicide forest and the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the live-action adaption of the “Ghost in the Shell” manga. Just like in those cases, there was an internet outcry over the Angry Asian Man post.

 

However, another, equally iffy piece of information came to light shortly after. Vulture reported that the film will feature an asian love interest (though it didn’t clarify if it’s still Li Shang) and that it centers on Mulan, as the original film did. The unnamed source had this to say about the alleged script:
 “The spec script was a jumping-off point for a new take on the story that draws from both the literary ballad of Mulan and Disney’s 1998 animated film. Mulan is and will always be the lead character in the story, and all primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese.
The film is two years away, so it’s hard to tell what it will look like, and Disney has stayed out of the controversy thus far, so at this point it is all speculation.
Still, the possible news has already inspired a hashtag, #MakeMulanRight, and at least one petition.

The Mystery of Spidey Zendaya

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Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore

Everyone here knows Zendaya, right? Of course you do. The one-time star of “Shake It Up” on the Disney Channel has made a name for herself across genres in the entertainment industry. Her casting in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a 2017 film that’s one of many recent Spider-Man films but the first to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (think Avengers, et al), has put her name in the news even more.

When her casting was announced, a lot of the internet started discussing the possibility of her playing famous “Spider-Man” character Mary Jane Watson, so much so that I originally thought it was a done deal from my casual internet perusal. This wasn’t just some minor rumor or a misunderstanding that stemmed from a Reddit forum that too many people believed, like can be the case with entertainment scuttlebutt.

Both James Gunn, the director of the MCU film “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Stan Lee, who co-created Spider-Man back in the day, made comments supporting a potential Zendaya-as-MJ scenario. Even though Gunn specified he didn’t know who she was playing and neither man confirmed her as MJ, it increased the power and spread of the rumor.

As is often the case with casting decisions, there was controversy, and much of it stemmed from Zendaya’s race. As Mic reported, there was anger directed at the fact that the traditionally white redhead was being played by a woman of color.

“The color of their skin doesn’t matter, their religion doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this [sic] the right person for the role,” Lee told the Toronto Sun in reference to the Zendaya conversation.

Some fans may remember the similar response that occurred when Michael B. Jordan was cast in the traditionally white role of Johnny Storm in the “Fantastic Four” reboot. He shared his thoughts in a 2015 Entertainment Weekly essay:

People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.

As a big fan of superheroes and movies, I thought it was a smart casting choice and was pleased that the iconic Mary Jane role was going to be more diverse than usual. To be frank, I’m used to seeing a lot of white people in superhero movies, and I supported the idea of saying, “Hey, this famous character really can be any race.”

With the likes of Stan Lee backing up the idea that Zendaya could playing MJ, I was surprised when I kept investigating and discovered that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” director, Jon Watts, as well as several other news sources, had something very different to say. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, Watts announced at San Diego Comic-Con that Zendaya’s character is named Michelle. This could be a lie, of course, since filmmakers can and do lie to hide film secrets, but it’s coming from an official source in regards to the film and therefore can’t be ignored. LRM reported on speculation that Michelle is meant to be Michele Gonzales, a real “Spider-Man” comics character. 

So if Zendaya is not actually playing Mary Jane, what does this mean? Is it a good thing that the filmmakers are including a new character? After all, we are now on our third Spider-Man series this century, and there is precedent for films choosing alternative female leads over Mary Jane (see Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel). But fans who were excited about the iconic redhead being played by a woman of color might not be so thrilled upon realizing that, as far as we’ve been told, they aren’t actually getting that.

So if Zendaya is Michele Gonzales, a relatively obscure character, then perhaps the question for Hollywood is this: why can’t someone who looks like Zendaya just be a Mary Jane?