All posts by Michelle B. Kaplan

‘Star Trek 4’: S.J. Clarkson Becomes the First Female Director in Franchise’s History

‘Star Trek 4’: S.J. Clarkson Becomes the First Female Director in Franchise’s History

S.J. Clarkson has been tapped to direct Star Trek 4, making her the first female to helm a film in the “Star Trek” franchise.

Paramount Pictures had no comment. The studio announced at CinemaCon in Las Vegas that it was planning a fourth movie with Chris Hemsworth,who appeared as Chris Pine’s father in 2009’s “Star Trek.” Zachary Quinto is also set to return. Paramount is developing another “Star Trek” film from J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino, but sources say it is still being written and would come after the fourth movie.

While details on “Star Trek 4” are vague, sources say a key plot point sees Pine’s character running into his father (Hemsworth) in a time travel ploy.

J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay penned the screenplay. Abrams and Lindsey Weber will produce through Bad Robot Productions, while David Ellison and Dana Goldberg of Skydance Media will executive produce.

The original 2009 reboot “Star Trek” earned $385 million worldwide, while its sequel “Star Trek: Into Darkness” made $467 million globally in 2013. The third, “Star Trek Beyond,” brought in $343 million worldwide in 2016.

Clarkson is best known for her work on the TV scene with shows such as “Dexter,” “Bates Motel,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Jessica Jones.” She recently directed a handful of episodes for Marvel’s “The Defenders.”

 

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Heads to Monster $225+ Million Opening Weekend

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Heads to Monster $225+ Million Opening Weekend

In case you haven’t heard, Avengers: Infinity War  is heading towards an opening weekend that could end all opening weekends.

The Marvel superhero adventure is eyeing a debut weekend of $225 million to $245 million, with a possibility of even crossing the $250 million mark. If numbers reach the end of that range, “Infinity War” could have one of the biggest debuts of all time. The hefty launch should go a long way to justify its wildly expensive price tag of somewhere from $300 million to $400 million.

As of now, the biggest opening weekend of all time belongs to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which bowed with $248 million in 2015 and went on to make over $936.6 million domestically. Only five films in history have hit the $200 million mark in their debuts.

“Infinity War” picks up two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” with the Avengers teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop the evil Thanos from inter-galactic dominance. The heroic ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk.

Joe and Anthony Russo directed from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. “Infinity War,” the sequel to 2012’s “The Avengers” and 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The original “Avengers” had the highest opening to date for a Marvel film, debuting with $207.4 million. Its sequel, “Age of Ultron,” launched with $191 million. The first movie earned $623 million in North America, while the second made $459 million.

“Infinity War” comes on the coattails of the Disney-owned Marvel’s most recent success, “Black Panther,” which opened to a massive $202 million in February. Ryan Coogler’s tentpole continues to shatter records, and has earned an impressive $1.3 billion worldwide.

Naturally, no other studio considered a wide release for the superhero-intensive weekend. A Quiet Place will likely drop to the No. 2 slot in its fourth frame. The surprise hit, directed by John Krasinski and co-starring Krasinski and Emily Blunt, has made $131 million in North America. Other recent releases, such as Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” and Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage” should also see drops as “Infinity War” will presumably gobble up the rest of the box office.

Disney Debuts Live-Action ‘Lion King,’ ‘Dumbo,’ ‘Aladdin’ Footage at CinemaCon

Disney Debuts Live-Action ‘Lion King,’ ‘Dumbo,’ ‘Aladdin’ Footage at CinemaCon

Disney dazzled CinemaCon attendees Tuesday with footage from its upcoming live-action The Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin  movies, all opening in 2019.

The studio closed its 90-minute presentation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with “The Circle of Life” opening sequence to Jon Favreau’s The Lion King  which opens July 19, 2019 — 25 years and a month after the original.

The footage appears to mirror the opening minutes of the 1994 animated blockbuster in which King Mufasa’s newborn son, Simba, is presented to the animal kingdom at Pride Rock by Rafiki the baboon, the shaman and adviser to Mufasa. Rafiki, who has the same colorful facial markings as in the animated film, rubs Simba’s face with red dust before presenting him.

Exhibitors were also impressed by the early footage from Dumbo directed by Tim Burton and loosely inspired by the 1941 animated film. The period movie includes Danny DeVito as the circus ringmaster and Michael Keaton as the owner. The footage included image of the CGI pachyderm with massive ears, but did not include any actual flying by the elephant.

“We had to hold something back,” said newly named distribution head Catherine Taff, who presided over the presentation.

Attendees also gave a positive response to footage from the live-action Aladdin, starring Will Smith as the Genie.  The film — a remake of the 1992 animated hit — also stars Mena Massoud with Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, and Numan Acar. It is scheduled to be released on May 24, 2019.

“Disney knows how to do it,” Smith said in a clip. “This is going to be beautiful.”

Disney has continued to exert its box office dominance in recent years with an array of live-action remakes of its animated films, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Jungle Book,” and last year’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which grossed $1.25 billion worldwide.

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ Crosses $500 Million Worldwide

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ Crosses $500 Million Worldwide

Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One has earned more than $500 million for Warner Bros. around the globe, with a large portion emanating from China.

Ready Player One is also now the 10th-largest Chinese grosser for Warner Bros, earning more than $200 million from the country. The action-sci fi’s opening marked Warner Bros.’ largest ever in the nation with $61 million. On top of the earnings from China, the film has taken in another $179 million from foreign markets. It opened in Japan this weekend, completing its international rollout.

Domestically, “Ready Player One” has brought in more than $120 million.

Tye Sheridan stars in the film alongside Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe and T.J. Miller. Zak Penn and Ernest Cline wrote the script, based on Cline’s bestselling novel of the same name. Sheridan plays a young man living in 2045 Ohio who also leads a dual life in the virtual reality game Oasis, where many find respite from a difficult reality in a second life.

The film was produced by Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg and Dan Farah. Adam Somner, Daniel Lupi, Chris deFaria and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.

Spielberg became the first director whose films’ grosses topped more than $10 billion earlier this week, with “Ready Player One” marking the director’s highest-grossing film of the last 10 years. Not adjusted for inflation, Spielberg’s biggest earner was 1993’s “Jurassic Park” with $983.8 million globally.

Ash vs. Evil Dead’ Canceled at Starz After Three Seasons

Ash vs. Evil Dead’ Canceled at Starz After Three Seasons

Ash vs. Evil Dead has been canceled at Starz

The series will air its third season finale on April 29, which will now serve as the series finale. The series saw Bruce Campbell reprise the role of Ash Williams, the chainsaw-wielding anti-hero tasked with saving the world from evil in the “Evil Dead” film franchise. The series also starred Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Lucy Lawless.

The third season saw Ash, having gone from murderous urban legend to humanity-saving hometown hero, discovering that he has a long-lost daughter who has been entrusted in his care. Meanwhile, Kelly (DeLorenzo) witnessed a televised massacre with Ruby’s (Lawless) fingerprints all over it, and she returned with a new friend to warn Ash and Pablo (Santiago) that evil wasn’t done with them yet.

Campbell was also an executive producer on the series, along with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert from the original film franchise. The show had seen a steep fall off in its ratings during Season 3, averaging just a 0.08 rating in adults 18-49 and 177,000 viewers per episode with two episodes remaining in the season.

Starz current originals slate includes “Power,” “American Gods,” and “Counterpart.” They will also launch the shows “Sweetbitter” and “Vida” in May. The premium cabler previously canceled the comedy “Survivor’s Remorse” back in October after four seasons.

Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in ‘Austin Powers,’ Dies at 49

Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in ‘Austin Powers,’ Dies at 49

Verne Troyer, the actor best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Power films and one of the shortest men in the world, has died. He was 49.

The news was announced in a post to his official Facebook page.

“It is with great sadness and incredible heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today,” the statement reads. “Verne was an extremely caring individual…[he] hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.”

In addition to his credits in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Austin Power in Goldmember,” Troyer also acted in the first Harry Potter film as Griphook the goblin. He had more than 25 other film credits to his name, including roles in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Love Guru,” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

Born January 1, 1969 in Michigan, Troyer was raised in the Amish faith for a time, but his parents eventually left the religion. He graduated from Centreville High School in 1987.

Troyer’s unusual height of 2’8″ was a result of achondroplasia dwarfism. He has stated that his parents “never treated me any different than my other average-sized siblings. I used to have to carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals.”

Read the full announcement of Troyer’s death below.

“It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today.

Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible. Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.

He inspired people around the world with his drive, determination, and attitude. On film & television sets, commercial shoots, at comic-con’s & personal appearances, to his own YouTube videos, he was there to show everyone what he was capable of doing. Even though his stature was small and his parents often wondered if he’d be able to reach up and open doors on his own in his life, he went on to open more doors for himself and others than anyone could have imagined. He also touched more peoples hearts than he will ever know.

Verne was also a fighter when it came to his own battles. Over the years he’s struggled and won, struggled and won, struggled and fought some more, but unfortunately this time was too much.

During this recent time of adversity he was baptized while surrounded by his family. The family appreciates that they have this time to grieve privately.

Depression and Suicide are very serious issues. You never know what kind of battle someone is going through inside. Be kind to one another. And always know, it’s never too late to reach out to someone for help.

In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation in Verne’s name to either of his two favorite charities; The Starkey Hearing Foundation and Best Buddies.”

Weinstein Co. Adds Board Member to Navigate Bankruptcy Sale

Weinstein Co. Adds Board Member to Navigate Bankruptcy Sale

The Weinstein Co., which is two weeks away from a bankruptcy auction, appointed a new board member on Friday who will weigh in on the sale.

Ivona Smith is a consultant at Drivetrain Advisors, a firm that provides independent board service for companies in bankruptcy. According to a statement on Friday night from the Weinstein Co., Smith was added at the urging of the committee of unsecured creditors. The five-member committee includes an actress and former Weinstein Co. employee who have filed suits accusing Harvey Weistein  of sexual misconduct.

The committee is seeking to maximize the value of the Weinstein Co. estate, providing the largest possible return for creditors. In addition to Weinstein’s victims, the unsecured creditors include numerous law firms, studios, and vendors.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Smith to our Board,” Bob Weinstein, the company chairman, said in a statement. “Ms. Smith brings not only substantial expertise in the bankruptcy sale process, but also enhanced transparency toward [the] Board’s goal of maximizing value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Smith has 20 years of experience in distressed investment. The other board members are Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov, and Frank Rainone.

Lantern Capital has submitted a stalking horse bid of $310 million, plus assumption of debt, for the company. Lantern, based in Dallas, intends to keep the company going. Other bidders are said to be solely interested in the company’s 277-title library. Bids are due on April 30.

Film Review: William Friedkin’s ‘The Devil and Father Amorth’

Film Review: William Friedkin’s ‘The Devil and Father Amorth’

William Friedkin films an exorcism, all to revive the mystique of his most famous movie. But is it real?

In The Devil and Father Amorth director William Friedkin , still hale and hearty and hectoring at the age of 81, returns to the subject of his most legendary film The Exorcist. The new movie is a documentary built around a video, recorded by Friedkin in 2016, of what purports to be an actual exorcism. If you think that sounds like material that’s ripe for a musty old episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” you’d be right. But if you claim that you aren’t just a wee bit curious as to whether you’re going to get to witness something…demonic, you’re probably lying. The Devil and Father Amorth is Friedkin’s shot-on-the-cheap, reality-based version of a “Mondo Cane” stunt, yet for 68 minutes (it’s that short), it is often an oddly compelling tabloid foray, since it winds up shedding a crucial ray of light on the mad moment we’re in now. Whether or not you believe in the Devil, the film helps to color in how our culture got possessed.

Most of the movie takes place in Italy, where Friedkin walks around talking directly into the camera, in what sounds like scripted “off-the-cuff” narration (though it’s possible he improvised it). To call him blunt would be an understatement; there’s a distinctly Trumpian bombast to his in-your-face oratory — he sounds like an ambulance-chasing lawyer on a late-night commercial. He’s working hard to sell us something, though there’s no denying that he’s an arresting carny barker.

Friedkin serves up a shocking statistic: that 500,000 Italians, out of a population of 60 million, have undergone exorcisms. For them, it’s like Californians getting high colonics — either that, or the Devil is alive and working overtime in Italy. The director also returns to Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., where he shot The Exorcist” 45 years ago, and speaks to us from the famous concrete stairway where Father Karras met his death, as if something genuine had happened there. That’s a standard shlock-TV-news ploy, but in this case it has a resonance. The real theme of “The Devil and Father Amorth” is the degree to which people now believe that exorcism is real.

The belief didn’t begin yesterday. Friedkin sketches in how William Peter Blatty came to write his smash-hit novel “The Exorcist,” spinning it out of a 1949 case of demonic possession that he became obsessed with when he was a student at Georgetown. In hindsight, that case, along with the alien incident at Roswell in 1948 and the 1974 Amityville haunting, constitute a kind of popular triptych of the otherworldly: a testament to how the spirit of the uncanny got recast — re-mythologized — for a secular age. “Rosemary’s Baby,” in 1968, famously pictured the Time magazine cover that asked “Is God Dead?” This trilogy of incidents — and, beyond all of them, the film version of “The Exorcist” — answered that question by saying: “Yes, He is. But He’s now going to be reborn as occult tabloid sensationalism, with a patina of Old Time Religion.”

A lot of movie buffs, especially if thy saw “The Exorcist” at a certain age, will tell you that they think it’s the scariest movie ever made. I wouldn’t call it that (“Psycho,” in its day, was scarier), but “The Exorcist” is the movie that terrified people into believing. It made the Devil “real.” It has often been noted that the film proved to be an extraordinary recruitment tool for the Catholic Church (exorcism became a part of the Church’s brand), though the “presence” of the Devil on our ’70s multiplex screens didn’t hurt the rise of the Evangelical movement, either. “The Exorcist” was a cinematic earthquake that has never stopped giving off tremors.

“The Devil and Father Amorth” shows you how deep the mystique of the demonic goes. Friedkin introduces us to Gabriele Amorth, an Italian Roman Catholic priest who’s also an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome — essentially, the Vatican’s chief ghostbuster. Ninety-one when the film was shot (he died in September 2016), Father Amorth is an ancient bald elfin tribal ringmaster who understands that religion, like politics, can always use a dash of showbiz. His favorite movie is “The Exorcist” (though he thinks the special effects were a bit overdone), and if he seems more casual about his work than Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin did, maybe that’s because he’s performed hundreds of exorcisms and lived to tell the tale.

The woman he’s going to be exorcising is no stranger to the Devil. Her name is Cristina, she works in an architecture firm in a small town 200 kilometers from Rome, and this will be her ninth exorcism. Friedkin interviews her, and she’s a polite, self-aware, rather neurasthenic woman in her mid-thirties, officious in manner, with a slight aura of damage. Then, having agreed to the stipulation that he’ll bring no crew with him at all (no lighting or sound assistants — just himself and his small camcorder), Friedkin enters a rather humdrum-looking conference room to film the exorcism. Cristina is surrounded by 20 or so of her relatives, and we can see that this is, for them, a therapeutic ritual that they accept and believe in. It’s the spirit version of an intervention, only with screams and a dash of holy water.

What do we see? Cristina sits in a chair, as Father Amorth talks gently to her, places his hand on her head, strokes her knees, and listens as she — or could it be…Satan? — screams at him. Cristina certainly seems like she’s channeling another personality, one that’s fierce, raging, merciless, insane. Yet this doesn’t necessarily strike us as all that exotic; it could be footage from an old est seminar. A lot of us would probably agree with the team of Columbia University psychiatrists Friedkin interviews, who say that Cristina journeys to a place deep inside her, but not necessarily a demonic one. The most striking aspect of what goes on has to do with her voice, which hits a low register rather strikingly like that of Linda Blair’s Regan in “The Exorcist.” In fact, the voice sounds as if it’s been manipulated. By Friedkin? He’s not telling, but in a movie like this one the devil is in the details.

Watching the exorcism in “The Devil and Father Amorth,” what we see is that Italians, in the DNA of their consciousness, still carry around the seeds of a medieval culture. The Devil, and exorcism, is part of the psyche of this passionately Catholic country. But we also see something that Friedkin, with supreme irony, never acknowledges: the profound influence of his own movie. Whether or not Cristina’s deep dark Devil voice was tweaked in post-production, it seems more than likely that she is, in fact, imitating the sound and spirit of the Devil when he spoke through Regan MacNeil in “The Exorcist.” The movie has fed, like a loop, into religion, which is now feeding into the chaos of a world that, increasingly, needs the Devil to explain why everything appears to be spinning out of control. “The Devil and Father Amorth” is a rather tawdry charade. But it channels that force.

‘Deadpool 2’ Final Trailer Digs at DC Universe

‘Deadpool 2’ Final Trailer Digs at DC Universe

Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool is forming a “super duper f—ing group” in 20th Century Fox’s final trailer for Deadpool 2

The action-packed footage, released Thursday morning, sees the Merc with a Mouth coming together with Zazie Beetz’s Domino and T.J. Miller’s Weasel to defeat the powerful Cable, played by Josh Brolin.

Deadpool doesn’t miss the opportunity to poke fun at Brolin’s villainous double-duty this summer in both Deadpool 2 and “Avengers: Infinity War.” (“Pump the hate breaks, Thanos,” he prods.)

Later, Cable calls Deadpool “a clown dressed up as a sex toy,” to which he responds, “So dark — are you sure you’re not from the DC universe?”

The new trailer also introduces audiences to Peter, who is looking to join Deadpool’s coveted X-Force team.

So what is his superpower? “I don’t have one,” the character, played by Rob Delaney, tells Deadpool and Weasel. “I just saw the ad.”

The superhero sequel — also staring Brianna Hildebrand, Morena Baccarin, Leslie Uggams, and Stefan Kapicic — follows Deadpool’s team of mutants as they protect a young boy (Julian Dennison) from Cable.

David Leitch directed the film from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds. The original film went on to gross $783 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.

“Deadpool 2” hits theaters on May 18. Watch the trailer above.

Bilingual YouTube Star Mariale Marrero Signs With CAA

Bilingual YouTube Star Mariale Marrero Signs With CAAMariale Marrero - CAA

Mariale Marrero, a Venezuelan-born bilingual beauty and lifestyle influencer with more than 20 million fans online, has signed with CAA for representation in all areas.

The 27-year-old creator launched her main Spanish-language YouTube channel, Mariale, in 2010 — seeing the opportunity to reach an underserved Hispanic audience.

Today she’s a cross-cultural digital star, one of the biggest U.S.-based Hispanic YouTube personalities, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She has a fan base of 13.5 million subscribers across her three YouTube channels — Mariale, Mariale SinPatuque (“without makeup”) and the English-language Mar — and has large followings on Instagram (4 million), Facebook (1.8 million) and Twitter (934,000).

Her most popularvideo on  Youtube with nearly 12 million views: a “roast yourself” challenge in which she makes fun of herself in a music video set to Luis Fonsi’s smash hit “Despacito.” Among Marrero’s other top videos is one from July 2017 documenting her breast-augmentation surgery.

Marrero was nominated in the “Styler del Año” category at the 2017 MTV Latin America Millennial Awards  On her digital channels, she has partnered with brands like SmashBox Cosmetics, Revlon, Bliss, L’Oréal Paris, Lancôme, and TooFaced.

CAA will work to create opportunities for Marrero in all areas, including television, motion pictures, touring, digital distribution and partnerships, endorsements, personal appearances, publishing, and beyond.

Marrero continues to be managed by Kimberly Perplies and Vanessa DelMuro of James Grant Management Inc