Monday, July 24, 2017

News Briefs

Displaying 1 - 10 of 2539
  • Sunday, Jul. 23, 2017
Wonder Woman sequel gets a title: "Wonder Woman II"
Gal Gadot speaks at the Warner Bros. "Justice League" panel on day three of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 22, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

Wonder Woman has a few reasons to celebrate.

As of Sunday, the superhero pic is now the highest-grossing film of the summer with $398 million from North American theaters, and the sequel is official. Warner Bros. is not saying much about the inevitable follow-up to the smash hit, but the studio did flash a title card with the words "Wonder Woman II" during its Comic-Con presentation Saturday.

But that was the extent of the "Wonder Woman II" talk at the fan convention. There is no official word on whether or not Patty Jenkins will return to direct, who is penning the script or even when the film might hit theaters.

Not even Gal Gadot mentioned it during the Comic-Con "Justice League" panel.


  • Sunday, Jul. 23, 2017
"Westworld" cast talks existentialism, robots at Comic-Con
Evan Rachel Wood speaks at the "Westworld" panel on day three of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 22, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

Actress Evan Rachel Wood says working on "Westworld" changed her life.

She says the series about a futuristic park manned by robot hosts where humans can live out their fantasies has inspired existential questions about her own life. She also says the powerful character she plays has empowered her off-screen as well.

"It's so fulfilling," she said Saturday at a Comic-Con panel for the HBO show. "Because especially as women, and I don't know if this is true for men too, but a lot of times you feel as if your wings have been clipped and you're not being represented the way that you want to. And this was like just like somebody had given me (expletive) condor wings and I got to take off and fly."

Wood appeared alongside showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and her fellow cast members for a presentation inside the San Diego Convention Center's largest exhibition hall. Other cast members at the panel included Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Tessa Thompson and Thandie Newton.

Newton said she's been inspired and empowered by her role on the show, which recently received 22 Emmy nominations.

"I'm so into the existential stuff on the show," she said. "In moment of chaos, when you think you know nothing, that's when gifts come. I just think that's incredibly profound."

Though her character is an android prostitute, she gradually becomes more self-aware.

Nolan and Joy said they parsed out their scripts incrementally during the first season so the actors wouldn't know too much about the story line or their characters' trajectories.

Joy said her work on the show's second season has been inspired by the poetry of William Blake. Nolan added that he's been inspired by video games, including "Grand Theft Auto" and "Red Dead Redemption."

The second season of "Westworld" is set to debut next year.


  • Saturday, Jul. 22, 2017
Spielberg debuts action-packed "Ready Player One" footage
Steven Spielberg attends the Warner Bros. "Ready Player One" panel on day three of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 22, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

When Steven Spielberg first read the book "Ready Player One," which is about a dystopian future where humans take refuge in a virtual reality world, he had one thought: "They're going to need a younger director."

But Spielberg decided to take on the challenge anyway, spending two and a half years bringing author Ernest Cline's vision to life. The director unveiled a new action- and nostalgia-packed trailer for the film Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con to much excitement.

The 6,500-person Hall H crowd gave the director a standing ovation and cheered heartily when the first images of "the stacks" appeared showing a bleak vision of the housing situation in Columbus, Ohio, in 2045. Tye Sheridan stars as the lead character Wade Owen Watts, who longs to have been born in the 1980s.

For Spielberg, the film was a chance to both go back to his heyday of filmmaking while also gazing into the future. Eagle-eyed viewers spotted references to everything from "Tron" to "The Iron Giant" in the footage.

"It was like the most amazing flash-forward and flash-back at the same time," Spielberg said.

For Cline, having Spielberg directing the adaptation of his book was like closing a circle. He grew up on Spielberg's films, which informed how he evolved as a writer.

"They are woven into the fabric of my DNA," Cline said. "I learned how to be a storyteller because of this man."

He brought his DeLorean to his first meeting with the director in honor of "Back to the Future," which he had Spielberg autograph, Cline said.

Co-star T.J. Miller went one step further in his Spielberg fandom, sporting "Back to the Future" inspired sneakers, and "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" inspired red hoodie and T-shirt.

Spielberg, who simply smiled at his gushing actors and collaborators, said that he was really proud of the footage, which gives "a slight taste of things to come."

"Ready Player One" opens in March 2018.

  • Saturday, Jul. 22, 2017
"Walking Dead" Comic-Con panel pays tribute to late stuntman
Danai Gurira, from left, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, and Alanna Masterson attend "The Walking Dead" panel on day two of Comic-Con International on Friday, July 21, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Al Powers/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

There will never be an antidote or immunity to the zombie apocalypse in "The Walking Dead."

"It's kind of a mythology-breaking proposition," creator Robert Kirkman said Friday during the show's presentation at Comic-Con.

Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple were joined by a dozen cast members for the panel inside the San Diego Convention Center's largest exhibition hall, where they unveiled the trailer for season eight and shared a retrospective of the show's previous 99 episodes.

But Gimple said the panel almost didn't happen after a stunt performer was fatally injured during production earlier this month.

"We didn't really know if we should do this panel today, but we wanted to be here for you," Gimple said.

He opened the presentation by paying tribute to stuntman John Bernecker, citing his many film credits and his passion for the work.

"He was beloved in the stunt community," Gimple said of the 33-year-old. "He was living his dream and he helped other people do the same thing."

The stars and writers spent the bulk of the hourlong panel taking questions from fans, who said they'd come from as far away as Sweden and Peru to attend the pop-culture convention.

The Swedish fan asked if the show would ever have an international setting. Gimple demurred.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the bat-wielding Negan, was asked about his thoughts on his character. He said he finds Negan amusing and appreciates his sense of humor.

"What do I like least about him? That he wears a leather jacket on a 120-degree day," the actor said.

Khary Payton, who plays Ezekiel, said he thinks the show's appeal lies in its characters' fight for humanity.

"Every one of these guys has been knocked down in some way or another, but they come back and they fight, and I think that's what draws people to the show," he said. "They fight to hold onto who they are as people. Not everyone turns into a psychopath. People find their way to be a little bit better."

Norman Reedus, who plays the motorcycle-riding Daryl, said the cast shares a camaraderie that mirrors its characters' collective determination.

"This has been such a good experience for all of us," the actor said, adding that he was "almost tearing up" during the retrospective of the show's past seven seasons. "We've always had each other's backs and we have your back and you guys have our backs, and it's been fantastic."

Even if there will never be a cure for the zombie apocalypse.


  • Saturday, Jul. 22, 2017
Marvel TV shows 1st episode of "The Defenders" at Comic-Con
Finn Jones, center, gestures to the audience as Mike Colter, left, and Sigourney Weaver look on at the "Marvel's The Defenders" panel on day two of Comic-Con International on Friday, July 21, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Al Powers/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

The head of Marvel Television surprised fans at Comic-Con Friday by showing the entire first episode of the new Netflix series "The Defenders."

The show that unites superheroes Jessica Jones, Luka Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist premieres next month. Sigourney Weaver plays the villain.

Weaver and the rest of the cast, including Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Charlie Cox and Finn Jones, appeared during the presentation inside the San Diego Convention Center's largest exhibit hall.

Marvel Television's Jeph Loeb got a surprise himself: He received the Comic-Con Inkpot Award just as he was beginning the presentation. Comic-Con's programming director Eddie Ibrahim choked up as he presented Loeb with the award, saying his work in comics and television inspired his career path. The award recognizes achievements in sci-fi, fantasy and comics.


  • Friday, Jul. 21, 2017
Studios deploy VR experiences to promote "Blade Runner 2049," "Stranger Things"
This image shows an installation for the Netflix series, "Stranger Things," at Comic-Con in San Diego on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Sandy Cohen)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

Comic-Con visitors are getting more than an early look at anticipated movies and shows. They're going inside them with virtual reality.

The studios behind "Blade Runner 2049" and "Stranger Things 2" have created temporary installations in downtown San Diego where fans can soar through the Los Angeles of the future in a Spinner ship from "Blade Runner 2049" or visit the Hawkins, Indiana, house where Will Byers lives in "Stranger Things."

The "Blade Runner 2049" experience happens inside a replicated set from the film. Guests sit in theater-style chairs that move and shake as a Spinner ship "flies" through the city. When they remove their virtual-reality headsets and headphones, they find themselves in a real-life version of the setting they just digitally experienced.

For "Stranger Things," individuals stand in a booth that transforms into Will's house. Participants use props to navigate the space, following flickering lights and the sound of his voice. The Netflix series centers on Will's mysterious disappearance and his friends' efforts to find out what happened to him.

Both experiences are free and continue through Sunday.


  • Friday, Jul. 21, 2017
Netflix makes Hall H debut with big budget Will Smith pic
Will Smith reacts at the Netflix Films' "Bright" panel on day one of Comic-Con International on Thursday, July 20, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Al Powers/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) -- 

Imagine "End of Watch" but with orcs and fairies and magic. That's the vibe of Will Smith's big budget Netflix film "Bright ," which unveiled its first full trailer Thursday in a presentation at Comic-Con.

The film reunites Smith with his "Suicide Squad" director David Ayer and takes audiences to a gritty Los Angeles setting where two police officers, one human (Smith) and one orc (Joel Edgerton) have to contend with some mythical, evil forces plaguing the city. Noomi Rapace and Edgar Ramirez also star.

It was the Hall H debut for the streaming service, which brought out Smith, Edgerton, Ayer and the film's other stars to charm the 6,500 super fans in attendance and get them excited about the $90 million movie, which makes its Netflix debut on Dec. 22.

Ayer said "Bright" is not some "standard issue PG-13 movie."

"I was able to do some real (expletive)," Ayer said. "I was able to tell a real story. I was able to do my thing."

He praised Netflix for its support.

Smith said the film has the hard "rated-R grind of 'Training Day'" mashed up with "Lord of the Rings."

His character is stuck with the force's first orc cop, which Smith said gave him a rare character opportunity: to be racist.

"You never get to be racist when you're black," Smith said. "You're like, 'Look man, I don't want no orcs in my car.'"

Smith is just the latest A-list movie star to try his luck doing a big film with Netflix and has made waves in Hollywood with his support of the service.

"There is a difference between seeing a movie in a theater and seeing it on Netflix," Smith conceded, but added that he is "really excited" to see "whatever this new wave of entertainment is going to be."

Netflix also trotted out the director and cast of its upcoming film horror pic "Death Note," which some Comic-Con attendees will get to see in full Thursday night before its Aug. 25 Netflix launch.

Based on the manga series of the same name "Death Note" follows a high school student (Nat Wolff) who discovers a supernatural notebook that grants him the power to decide who dies and how. All he has to do is write a name and a method in the notebook and the Willem Dafoe-voiced demon Ryuk carries out the grim task.

Netflix is just one of a few studios previewing films for audiences at the annual fan convention. Earlier on Thursday, Fox showed footage from "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" and on Saturday the comic book giants DC and Marvel will go head-to-head with lengthy presentations.

Comic-Con runs through Sunday.


  • Thursday, Jul. 20, 2017
PrePro diversity mentorship program now accepting applications
A composite of mentees and mentors taken at the PrePro meeting held last February at The Mill in New York.

PrePro, the mentorship program designed to expose culturally diverse students to careers in postproduction and music and sound for brands and ad agencies, is now accepting applications for its Fall 2017 session. Co-sponsored by AICE and AMP, the program is expanding to the Chicago market with this new session and is actively recruiting post production and music companies to participate. Full details on PrePro can be found here.
PrePro is open to students between the ages of 18 and 23. The program matches eligible students with working professionals, who provide hands-on learning opportunities in editing, audio mixing, visual effects, music scoring and related disciplines. In addition, mentors share up-close looks at the day-to-day operations of their companies and provide guidance that can help them obtain the skills needed to land an entry level position. “The kinds of professional relationships developed through PrePro will be invaluable when these mentees are ready to launch their careers,” said PrePro co-organizer Gloria Pitagorsky, president of AICE’s New York Chapter and EP and managing director of audio post studio Heard City.
PrePro’s inaugural session, which kicked off in New York this past January, saw approximately 20 students from high schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx paired with mentors from such companies as BANG Music, Big Sky Edit, Blast, Bodega Studios, Butter Music & Sound, COPILOT Music + Sound, Cutters, Exile Editorial, Freefolk, Groove Guild, Heard City, Human Music and Sound Design, KYLE, Northern Lights, PS 260, The Mill and Uppercut.
Jon Desir, executive producer at Optimus in Chicago and co-organizer of the program, is heading up the expansion of PrePro to Chicago for the upcoming session, working with Optimus producer Terra Zenteno. He noted that the PrePro committee is in discussion with Free Spirit Media, a non-profit group that provides arts education, access, and opportunity in media production to over 700 underserved youth in Chicago every year. Simultaneously, Desir is working to build a roster of potential mentors from Chicago-area post and music studios. (For more on the benefits of being a mentor, click here.)
“After our successful first run in New York, Chicago is ready to follow suit,” said Desir.  “Growing a more diverse talent base for the postproduction and advertising music and sound industries is needed now more than ever. We’re confident there’s going to be tremendous support in our community and in various communities outside of post that are related to production overall.”
Commenting on the program’s value to mentors and companies, Marlene Bartos, managing director of Yessian Music in New York, past national president of AMP and a PrePro mentor herself, noted that “this is such a positive program for our community. We can give a young person a chance to discover all the wonderful opportunities in our industry and have a positive impact, while also bringing in new and diverse talent. It’s a win/win for all parties.”

  • Thursday, Jul. 20, 2017
Brandon Murphy named president, Richard Ward upped to chairman/CEO of 22squared
Brandon Murphy

22squared, a national independent agency, has named Brandon Murphy to serve as its president while elevating Richard Ward to the new role of chairman and CEO. Murphy is currently chief client officer and Ward is president and CEO. Over the past decade, 22squared has tripled in size and expanded clients, employees, service offerings and revenue. 22squared currently has full-service, dual-headquarter offices in Atlanta and Tampa. 
Ward joined the agency in 2006 as president and CEO, and has been a key visionary and growth-driver since that time. He stated, “Our agency is recognized for our unique culture and thoughtful, methodic, strategic transitions. Unlike most agencies, we take a very long view of our business which facilitates the lost art of growing and grooming leaders from within an organization. For the past 12 years Brandon has held leadership positions in every department in the agency, and earned both the loyalty and passionate commitment of our staff. This is the perfect next move for Brandon, at precisely the right time for 22squared.”
Murphy has a unique agency career pedigree, rising though the strategy department ranks at Campbell-Ewald/Detroit, and subsequently joining 22squared (branded as WestWayne), in 2005 as SVP, strategy director. Murphy was involved in the repositioning and renaming of the agency as 22squared in 2007. He has worked in all corners of the agency, leading the strategy, analytics, account management, content marketing and media departments.
Murphy has been instrumental in 22squared’s growth. On the brand side, he helped position client Buffalo Wild Wings as the ultimate social experience for sports fans with the resulting campaign, ‘Overtime,’ which propelled the brand from a regional wing-joint to the nation’s fastest growing casual dining restaurant. Murphy also oversaw planning efforts on the Effie award-winning campaigns for American Standard and Costa Rica Tourism, and the evergreen campaigns 22squared produces year after year for legacy client, Publix Super Markets.

  • Thursday, Jul. 20, 2017
Amazon's new social network is looking a lot like Pinterest
This screen grab shows Amazon's new "social network," Amazon Spark, displayed on an iPhone. The service, which launched publicly Tuesday, July 18, 2017, and is only available to Prime members in Amazon's loyalty program, is aimed at hardcore Amazon users and encourages them to spend more money with the e-commerce giant. (Courtesy of Amazon via AP)

Take Amazon Prime, mix it with Pinterest and add a dash of Instagram. The result is Amazon Spark , a new shopping-focused "social network" aimed at getting hardcore Amazon users to spend even more money with the e-commerce giant.

The service launched publicly on Tuesday on Amazon's iPhone app, although it's already chock full of posts, so the company has clearly been testing it for a while. It's only available to Prime members, who pay $99 a year for free shipping, streaming videos and other perks. An Android version is planned.

Like Pinterest, Spark lets users share photo-heavy posts about their interests, ideally those leading to shopping. "It's to learn more, to sell more and to connect to customers," said Bob Hetu, research director for retail at Gartner.

He noted that it's not intuitive to find Spark on the Amazon app, suggesting that the company is not pushing it hard — at least not yet.

To use it, go to the "programs and features" section on the app's menu bar. The tool will first ask you to select at least five interests. Once you do, you'll see an Instagram-like feed of photo posts bearing shopping-bag icons that enumerate how many pictured items — plus related products — you can buy on Amazon.

A cursory glance on Wednesday showed polished-looking photos of travel scenes, cosmetics and kitchen gadgets for the interests "travel," ''food" and "beauty & grooming." A user named Kassandra posted a stylized photo of a hand holding a bottle of bright red nail polish. Clicking on the photo highlights yellow dots on the purchasable items — and one tap will take you to an Amazon product page. In this case, the Smith & Cult nail polish was available for $18.

Spark has drawn comparisons to both Pinterest and Instagram, but it's unclear if it will be a threat to either. Tech companies like Amazon, however, appear increasingly fond of cloning popular apps from fast-growing startups. Facebook, for instance, has been trying to copy Snapchat one way or another since it failed to buy the youth-oriented network several years ago. Many of those efforts failed, though a Snapchat-like feature on Instagram, called Stories, has proven popular.

Hetu said it's too soon to say whether Spark will be a threat to Pinterest. But if it is, over the long term, it will be Amazon's direct connection to retail that would make the difference. Pinterest, a seven-year-old service now valued at more than $12 billion, didn't respond to a request for comment.

Representatives for Amazon did not immediately respond to messages for comment on Wednesday afternoon.