Tuesday, November 13, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018
Actor Douglas Rain, who supplied HAL's voice in "2001," dies at 90
In this June 7, 1979 photo provided by Stratford Festival, actor Douglas Rain appears as King Henry IV in this scene from The Second Part of Henry IV at Stratford's Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario. Rain, who played some of Shakespeare's most intriguing characters onstage but perhaps is best known for supplying the creepily calm voice of the rogue computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" has died. Douglas Rain was 90. (Robert C Ragsdale/Stratford Festival via AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Canadian actor Douglas Rain, who played some of Shakespeare's most intriguing characters onstage but perhaps is best known for supplying the creepily calm voice of the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" has died at 90.

The Stratford Festival said Rain died Sunday of natural causes at St. Marys Memorial Hospital, just outside of Stratford, Ontario. He was one of the festival's founding company members and spent 32 seasons performing there, until 1998.

His roles at Stratford included playing Claudio in "Measure for Measure" in 1954, Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" in 1957, Edgar in "King Lear" in 1964 and Prince Hal in "Henry IV, Part 1" in 1958, a play and a role he would return to in 1965 and would eventually take on the title role in 1966.

But it was the aloof voice of the artificially intelligent HAL 9000 — the forerunner of today's Amazon's Alexa or Google Home — where Rain entered the public's consciousness. Kubrick had heard Rain's voice in the 1960 documentary "Universe," a film he watched multiple times, according to the actor. Rain was initially hired to narrate 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey," but the director chose to go a different direction.

HAL is the onboard master computer on the spaceship Discovery 1 but goes rogue. When astronaut Dave Bowman asks HAL to open the ships' pod doors, HAL famously balks. "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that," the machine blandly refuses. "This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."

When the astronauts try to disconnect HAL, he fights back. During his shutdown, HAL sings the nursey rhyme "Daisy Bell" and memorably utters: "I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it." The American Film Institute named HAL the 13th greatest movie villain of all time, joining a list that includes Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader.

Stratford Festival Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino called Rain one of Canada's greatest acting talents and a "guiding light in its development." He said the actor's humanity shone through in HAL.

"Douglas shared many of the same qualities as Kubrick's iconic creation: precision, strength of steel, enigma and infinite intelligence, as well as a wicked sense of humor," Cimolino said. "But those of us lucky enough to have worked with Douglas soon solved his riddle and discovered that at the center of his mystery lay warmth and humanity, evidenced in his care for the young members of our profession."

Rain attended the University of Manitoba and studied in London at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He started out performing radio plays. From 1974 to 1977, Rain was head of the English acting section of the National Theatre School of Canada.

Rain performed at theaters and festivals all over Canada, including the Shaw Festival, where he played such roles as Caesar in "Caesar and Cleopatra" in 1983. He shared stages with such luminaries as Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith and Colm Feore. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1972 for his role as William Cecil in "Vivat! Vivat! Regina!" His other Broadway credits include "The Golden Age" in 1963 and "The Broken Jug" in 1958.

Rain is survived by his two sons, David and Adam, daughter Emma, granddaughter, Salima, and a daughter-in-law, Asira.

  • Monday, Nov. 12, 2018
Mira Sorvino urges #MeToo to do more than "name and shame"
In this May 10, 2018, file photo Mira Sorvino attends the 20th Annual From Slavery to Freedom Gala at City Market Social House in Los Angeles. Sorvino believes the key to eradicating sexual misconduct lies more in preventative education than in “naming and shaming” the perpetrators. The Oscar-winning actress was one of the first to come forward with allegations of abuse against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and her resilience has not wavered. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Mira Sorvino believes the key to eradicating sexual misconduct lies more in preventative education than in "naming and shaming" the perpetrators.

The Oscar-winning actress was one of the first to come forward with allegations of abuse against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and her resilience has not wavered.

She wants to work with students — from younger grades to the end of high school — to make them understand consent and their physical rights.

"So we don't raise boys — because it's mostly boys who do this, some girls, but mostly boys — who turn into men who commit these heinous crimes," Sorvino told the Associated Press during a recent interview while promoting her role on the new season of the Sony Crackle series, StartUp."

Sorvino agrees that the culture has changed over the past year, but feels there's a long way to go, especially when bad behavior is validated in entertainment.

"That was sort of taught to us by like '80s movies culture like 'Sixteen Candles' or 'Porky's' or 'Animal House' which made it OK to commit date rape and it was the women's fault because she was drunk rather than, 'That's date rape. How could you possibly take advantage of somebody who can't even speak?'" she said.

She added: "That's not cool. That's not fun.' But that's what my generation of guys were brought up on. I mean I was brought up watching those movies, so we've got to change the culture. It can't just be punishment and naming and shaming, it's got to be prevention because that's what we really want. We want no one victimized," Sorvino said.

Sorvino has found some solace as a prominent voice in the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. Advancements by these organizations have become a rallying cry for women victimized over the years by varying degrees of sexual misconduct. On Dec. 1, she will join the Mika Brzezinski-led line-up for the "Know Your Value" event in San Francisco, which is designed to support and empower women.

She's kept acting, too. In "StartUp," Sorvino plays a quirky NSA agent with a deadly side that tries to take down a dark-web site to find a terror cell. The series raises questions about online privacy and the government. It's currently streaming on Sony Crackle.

She also has helped lobby for legislation in California that provides protections and opportunities for women and girls. Three of the bills presented under the proposed #TakeTheLead legislation have been enacted into law after being singed by California Gov.  Jerry Brown.

And she has bigger plans in mind, namely a change to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women.

"This year coming up I really want to see the Equal Rights Amendment passed. It's nuts that we don't have explicit equality in the constitution," Sorvino said.

  • Friday, Nov. 9, 2018
Emerging screenwriters honored with Nicholl awards
This combination photo shows Lily Collins (l) and Ken Jeong who read selected passages from a couple of Nicholl Fellowship winning scripts on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- 

Five emerging screenwriters are experiencing a breakthrough of a lifetime earning praise from the film academy for their work.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized each screenwriter at the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting on Thursday night. The three individuals along with a husband-and-wife writing duo received $35,000 and had their work read live by actors Jamie Chung, Lily Collins, Ken Jeong and Blair Underwood.

The event was held at the academy's headquarters in Beverly Hills, California.

Four screenplays selected include: Allison and Nicolas Buckmelter, "American Refugee"; Joey Clarke, Jr., "Miles"; Grace Sherman, "Numbers and Words"; and Wenonah Wilms, "Horsehead Girls."

All those countless hours writing movie scripts, cranking out rough drafts and reading screenwriting tutorials to perfect their craft have paid off for them.

"You sit at a Starbucks hoping that maybe someday you'll get the recognition and someone will read your work," said Allison Buckmelter, who had been writing with her husband for more than a decade. "When we found out, we were excited. This is very validating."

Her husband, Nicolas Buckmelter, offered a tip to other aspiring screenwriters: "Just keep writing. Put something on paper, even if it's bad. Nobody is going to read a blank page."

Winners will receive guidance from academy members as they complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year. The winning screenplays were chosen from nearly 6,900 submissions.

Since 1986, the competition has awarded hundreds of fellowships, aiming to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters.

Past fellows have included writer-director Allison Anders, Pulitzer-winning novelist Jeff Eugenides and Oscar winner Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich"). The films "Finding Forrester" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" were also written by past Nicholl fellows.

Actor Lily Collins is starring in the upcoming Ted Bundy biopic "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." The film's original script, written by Michael Werwie, won a Nicholl Fellowship prize in 2012.

"We to get to bring life into these scenes," she said. "These writers get to see and get a little taste of what it feels like to hear actors read their work. So the idea of one getting off the ground and finally gets made is pretty cool."

  • Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018
Disney results jump on strong movie slate
In this Aug. 8, 2017, file photo, the Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Walt Disney Co. reports earnings Thursday, Nov. 8. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Walt Disney Co.'s earnings for the latest quarter sailed passed expectations, boosted by a strong slate of movies such as "Incredibles 2" as the company moves toward closing its $71.3 billion deal to buy 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets.

Disney and other media companies are facing a shifting landscape as more TV watchers switch to streaming rather than traditional cable bundles.

But Disney's diversified entertainment portfolio, which runs from films and cable channels to theme parks, helped buoy its results. Studio entertainment revenue, which includes theater box office and streaming, jumped 50 percent to $2.15 billion on the strength of films such as "Avengers: Infinity War" and the latest "Ant-Man" movie.

Net income for the quarter ended Sept. 29 rose 33 percent to $2.32 billion, or $1.55 per share, from $1.75 billion, or $1.14 per share last year. Excluding one-time items, net income totaled $1.48 per share. The average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.31 per share.

The Burbank, California-based company's revenue rose 12 percent to $14.31 billion from $12.78 billion last year. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $13.81 billion.

A reduced tax rate also boosted results by $1.2 billion.

Disney is building its streaming service offerings. It launched $5-a-month ESPN Plus streaming service with sports in April. And a Disney-branded streaming service is expected to launch later next year.

In a call with analysts Thursday CEO Bob Iger gave a few new details about the new streaming service, which will be called Disney Plus. No pricing has been disclosed.

The company plans to keep investing in Hulu and use it as a home for more general programming. Family-friendly shows and movies will head to Disney Plus.

The streaming service will feature five categories of material: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Original programming will include "The Mandalorian," the first live action Star Wars series, created by Jon Favreau; a rebooted "High School Musical" series and a new documentary series focused on Disney.

Disney Plus will also produce original movies specifically for streaming. Initial titles will include a prequel to the "Star Wars" film "Rogue One" starring Diego Luna; "Noelle," starring Anna Kendrick as the daughter of Santa Claus; a live-action "Lady and the Tramp" and a movie about the Marvel character Loki starring Tom Hiddleston.

With the pending Fox deal, Disney now also takes a controlling stake in streaming service Hulu, which is jointly owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and AT&T.

The Fox acquisition is expected to close at the beginning of next year. With it, Disney gets Fox TV and film studios, Marvel's X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox's productions also include "The Americans," ''This Is Us" and "Modern Family."

Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights using data from Zacks Investment Research. 

  • Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018
Israel Film Fest addresses reaction to Jason Blum after he made anti-Trump remarks on stage
Jason Blum (photo by Kurt Iswarienko/courtesy of Israel Film Festival)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- 

This past Tuesday (11/6) during opening night proceedings of the 32nd Israel Film Festival (IFF) at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning producer Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions, was honored with the 2018 IFF Achievement in Film and TV Award. But during his acceptance remarks, he was critical of President Trump, prompting some in the audience to walk out and others to boo. Blum was then escorted off stage, quite a departure from what was to have been a tribute to him.

The Israel Film Festival issued a statement today (11/7) clarifying what happened, noting that a majority of the 1,200 attendees was respectful as Blum made his remarks. Festival organizers did not in any way remove Blum from the stage. To protect him when an audience member in no way associated with the Festival charged the podium, event security ushered Blum off the stage.

“Over the past three decades, we have never shied away from allowing a filmmaker or actor to express themselves either personally or through their work,” said Meir Fenigstein, IFF director and founder.  “We have often highlighted films that some may deem not to their liking or are controversial. We in no way condone violence but do wholeheartedly support dialogue that allows people to share ideas and viewpoints in a respectful way.  Sadly, some audience members at last night’s opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.

“This is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this,” Fenigstein continued.  “I am in total shock, but I realize that yesterday was a very tense day in America with the elections.”

The IFF continues through Nov. 20. Screenings will be held at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018
Bryan Cranston confirms "Breaking Bad" movie in development
In this July 19, 2018 file photo, "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan speaks at the "Better Call Saul" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston has confirmed that a film based on the series is in development. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Bryan Cranston has confirmed that a "Breaking Bad" movie is in development, though he's not sure he's in it.

Following reports that "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan is prepping a two-hour movie connected to the AMC series, Cranston on Wednesday called into the sports talk radio show "The Dan Patrick Show" and confirmed the project is indeed in the works.

Cranston said he hasn't yet read the script and that his character, Walter White, may not even be in it.  Cranston said he would "absolutely" return to the character if he was in it.

The two-hour spinoff is set to begin shooting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in mid-November under the code name "Greenbrier."

Gilligan's "Breaking Bad" prequel series "Better Call Saul" last month concluded its fourth season.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018
Trial for acclaimed director opens in Russia
Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov waits for a start of court hearing in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
MOSCOW (AP) -- 

Russia's arguably best-known contemporary theater and film director pleaded not guilty Wednesday as his fraud trial opened in Moscow.

Kirill Serebrennikov's midnight arrest during a movie shoot in August last year sent shockwaves through Russia's art circles and was seen by some as a chilling omen of a return to Soviet-style censorship.

Serebrennikov's work both on stage and on the screen challenged the establishment, its values and lifestyle. But despite that, his productions have enjoyed lavish state funding and his plays are still frequented by top Russian officials.

A Moscow court on Wednesday opened the trial against Serebrennikov, three of his associates and an accountant who has pleaded guilty in the case and testified against him.

Serebrennikov, 49, is accused of embezzling 133 million rubles (about $2 million) of state funding. Investigators initially claimed that the director and his associates stole the funds allocated for staging several productions, claiming that one of these plays never saw the light of day — when in fact it was staged to critical acclaim. The investigators later withdrew that claim, and have not clarified where they believe money was stolen from.

Serebrennikov and the three people who worked for his projects pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, all of them saying that the indictment is too vague and does not explain how the money was embezzled.

Speaking at the start of the trial Serebrennikov said he has "never stolen anything from anyone."

He called on the Culture Ministry which is the injured party in the case to explain why it believes that he swindled them.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018
Aretha Franklin doc "Amazing Grace" to finally see the light
In this March 13, 1972 file photo, Aretha Franklin holds her Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blue performance of the song "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," in New York. More than 46 years after it was shot, the Aretha Franklin concert film “Amazing Grace” is finally being released. “Amazing Grace” will premiere Monday at the DOC NYC film festival. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

More than 46 years after it was shot, the Aretha Franklin concert film "Amazing Grace" will finally be released, ending one of the most tortured and long-running sagas in documentary film.

The late gospel singer's estate and film producers said Monday that "Amazing Grace" will premiere Nov. 12 at the DOC NYC film festival with the full support of Franklin's estate. The film, largely shot by Sydney Pollack, captures Franklin's performance at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood in January 1972.

The music from the two performances was released as a landmark double live album in 1972. But Pollack's footage proved virtually impossible to edit because the filmmaker failed to sync the sound. After acquiring the film's rights from Pollack in 2007, producer Alan Elliott brought in a team to construct the film, which Elliott calls "a labor of love."

"Aretha's fans will be enthralled by every moment of the film as her genius, her devotion to God and her spirit are present in every frame," Elliot said in a statement.

Franklin first sued Elliott in 2011 for planning to release the film without her permission. "Amazing Grace" nearly saw the light of day in 2015, but it was yanked at the last minute from the Telluride and Toronto film festivals after Franklin's attorneys obtained an injunction against its release. They argued the film was "the functional equivalent of replaying an entire Aretha Franklin concert," and couldn't be screened without her consent.

A Colorado court largely agreed, ruling in 2016 that the concert film didn't constitute "fair use," prompting a new round of negotiations. Telluride also listed the film in its 2016 lineup only to pull it yet again. Last year, Telluride executive director Julie Huntsinger told Variety that "(Franklin's) resolve for it not being shown is so intense, and I don't think any us really understand it all the way."

Franklin passed away in August. Pollack died in 2008.

The late singer's estate said "Amazing Grace" was an important part of Franklin's legacy.

"'Amazing Grace' is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin," Sabrina Owens, Franklin's niece, said Monday. "This film is authentic and is my aunt at her core. She was a daughter of the church, she loved gospel music, and she always incorporated some form of sacred music in her concerts."

An Oscar-qualifying release of "Amazing Grace" is planned for this fall, with a larger rollout in theaters likely coming next year. The film doesn't yet have distribution.

  • Monday, Nov. 5, 2018
AICP Gives initiative expands to Dallas
Ali Brown, VP, executive producer, PRETTYBIRD
LOS ANGELES -- 

With Thanksgiving almost here, efforts are underway around the country to collect food, clothing and other goods for those in need, and AICP is doing its part with the annual AICP Gives campaign. This year marks the first year the food and goods drive will be conducted in Dallas, joining efforts in L.A., Austin and New York,.

AICP Gives got its start in 2010, put in motion by the West chapter board in an effort spearheaded by Ali Brown, VP, executive producer at PRETTYBIRD; Jessie Nagel, co-founder of communications agency Hype; and Mikel Elliott, co-founder and CEO of the production services company Quixote. Since then it’s helped thousands of people with its donations and that number is sure to grow as the campaign expands to new cities within different chapters. 

“A hallmark of our industry is generosity, and it’s especially powerful to see that spirit of caring harnessed in a unified effort,” Nagel, who continues as a West Board member, commented. “With the addition of Austin in 2017 and Dallas in 2018, AICP Gives continues to grow in scale and scope as we reach towards a national initiative of goodwill, kindness and sharing.”

In both L.A. and New York, AICP Gives donations are forwarded to Gobble Gobble Give, a nonprofit that’s fed and provided care packages to thousands of needy families and individuals for the last 21 years. Founded by a group of friends in the Echo Park neighborhood of L.A., it’s expanded to communities in cities like Las Vegas, San Diego, New York, Boca Raton, Detroit and Nashville. 

Among the items that are encouraged for donation are canned or packaged foods that can be consumed without cooking, preferably with flip-top packaging to avoid the need for a can opener. Also on the list are new clothing items, particularly packages of socks; used coats and blankets in good condition; new towels; unopened soap and shampoo bottles; toothbrush and toothpaste kits; and miniature can openers.

More info on AICP Gives, including lists of the drop-off locations in L.A. and New York and coordinator contacts in Austin and Dallas, can be found here.  In L.A. and New York, the locations includes production houses, editorial shops and visual effects studios. In L.A., the list also includes Quixote facilities in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Sun Valley and Pacoima. 

In Austin, drop offs can be arranged by contacting Brandon Tapp, EP at Lucky 21. In Dallas, drop-offs can be coordinated through producer Laura Lyons.

AICP members--indeed, all industry partners and affiliates--are encouraged to collect donations both on sets and in offices. Deadlines and final drop-off dates will vary by city, and those details will be posted on the AICP Gives web page in in anticipation of Gobble Gobble Give’s Thanksgiving Day distribution.

Nagel said the choice of Gobble Gobble Give was a natural. “They’re scrappy and independent, like us, and so it felt like the right match. We hoped that the people they serve would feel the impact of our contributions in a big way, and they have. This is a relationship that’s grown since we first launched AICP Gives.”

In addition to PRETTYBIRD’s Brown, Nagel credits EP Rick Fishbein, now with Element but previously with Green Dot Films, as a key player in the creation of the effort. She also credits Quixote, the bicoastal production services and studio rental company, for supporting AICP Gives from the outset.

With the new campaign efforts in Texas, AICP Gives has provided support for Hurricane Harvey victims, an Austin-based women’s shelter and the North Texas Food Bank near Dallas.

In New York, AICP Gives partners with Wits End, the production equipment and rental company, which handles pick-ups at drop-off locations in the city. In L.A., production rental shop Line 204 has joined in to provide hub location pick-ups to be delivered to Quixote, which is handling deliveries to GGG. Postal, the post production studio that’s a sister shop to Humble, has contributed notably as well, designing this year’s AICP Gives poster. 

What’s next? It’s time to pitch in and give, Nagel summed up. “AICP Gives is a great opportunity to try and spread a little joy at holiday time,” she noted. “It’s always amazing to see our industry come together for people in need.” 

  • Monday, Nov. 5, 2018
Shaquille O'Neal, Ken Jeong team for reality TV comedy pilot
This combination photo shows actor Ken Jeong at the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film "Crazy Rich Asians" in New York on Aug. 14, 2018, left, and retired Hall of Fame basketball player Shaquille O'Neal during an NBA basketball news conference in Miami on Dec. 22, 2016. (AP Photo)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Shaquille O'Neal and Ken Jeong are trying out as comedy teammates.

TBS said it has ordered a reality series pilot that will test the pair's ability to take on odd jobs.

The pilot, with the working title "Unqualified," could be the basis for a series.

The concept: O'Neal and Jeong try to master jobs including mall rent-a-cop, substitute schoolteacher and train conductor.

TBS said basketball great and sports commentator O'Neal and doctor-turned-actor Jeong showed their chemistry when they appeared on the series "Drop The Mic."

In a joint statement, O'Neal and Jeon said they are "built to hustle."

Jeong's credits include "Crazy Rich Asians," ''The Hangover" and "Dr. Ken."

O'Neal has appeared or done voice-overs in films including "Scary Move 4" and "The Lego Movie."

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