First Images from Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” Released

We have our first look at Greta Gerwig‘s upcoming star-studded take on the Louisa May Alcott classic Little Women, and if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be lush.

The images showcase the incredible cast, including Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Emma Watson as Meg March, Florence Pugh as Amy March, Eliza Scanlen as Beth March, Laura Dern as the matriarch of the March family, Meryl Streep as the overbearing Aunt March, and Timothée Chalamet as Theodore Laurence.

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Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan & Eliza Scanlen in Little Women; Photo from Screen Rant

One notable absence is Emma Stone, who was forced to drop out of the film in August of last year due to scheduling conflicts with promoting The FavouriteShe was quickly replaced with another Emma, this time of the Watson variety.

A couple cast members are already familiar with Gerwig’s style of filmmaking; Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet both starred in her acclaimed 2017 solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, which is currently the second-highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes, right behind Black Panther and just ahead of the 1939 timeless classic The Wizard of Oz. Gerwig also wrote the screenplay for the film.

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Greta Gerwig & Meryl Streep on the set of Little Women; Photo from Screen Rant

At the 90th Academy AwardsLady Bird was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Best Original Screenplay, but it failed to win in any of the categories for which it was nominated.

In Little Women, Ronan will once again be stepping into the role of leading lady, and Chalamet will again be playing a kind of “love interest” for Ronan as he did in Lady Bird. However, unlike Lady Bird’s 2002 Sacramento setting, Gerwig’s newest film will be set in Civil War-era Massachusetts.

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Saoirse Ronan & Timothée Chalamet in Little Women; Photo from Screen Rant

In an interview with Vanity Fair regarding the first images, Gerwig said Little Women feels personal to her.

“This feels like autobiography,” she said. “When you live through a book, it almost becomes the landscape of your inner life … It becomes part of you, in a profound way.”

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Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan & Eliza Scanlen in Little Women; Photo from Screen Rant

Gerwig has committed to making her version of the film as close to the source material as possible, shooting on location in Massachusetts and drawing inspiration from era-appropriate works of art.

“It gives gravity to what you’re doing,” Ronan told Vanity Fair. “The physical place really reminds you of the story you’re trying to tell.”

“Avengers: Endgame” has a Powerful Performance at the Box Office

It appears as though Marvel has done the impossible: In the grand finale of their epic Avengers saga, they’ve managed to please critics and audiences, all while making an unbelievable amount of money.

The film currently sits at a rating of nearly nine out of ten on IMDB, while its Tomatometer and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes are both over 90 percent.

As Oliver Jones writes in the Observor, “What you will be getting when you walk into an inevitably overstuffed movie theater is something singular that reflects our age in a way that none of the MCU films that preceded it have-indeed, very few Hollywood spectacles ever have.”

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The cast of Avengers: Endgame; Photo from Observor

Matthew Norman also sang the film’s praises in his review for the London Evening Standard entitled “Avengers: Endgame review – The first truly great superhero movie,” writing, “The only complaint about Avengers: Endgame is that it raises the bar so high that there may well never be a superhero movie to match it.”

While glowing reviews are certainly a good thing, another measurement of equal importance, if not more, nowadays, is its performance at the box office. Fortunately, the Avengers had nothing to worry about there either. In fact, its explosive $1.2 billion opening week is hurtling toward overtaking James Cameron‘s all-time highest-grossing record, which he broke in 2009 with Avatar.

As it stands, Endgame has already broken several records. Along with the record for highest-grossing opening weekend, it also took the prize for biggest domestic opening with $350 million in the United States, pulling ahead of the previous Avengers installment, Infinity War, as well as 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII –  The Force AwakensEndgame also smashed the record for biggest foreign opening weekend with $859 million, finally beating out The Fate of the Furious‘s $443 million 2017 opening overseas. In China alone, Endgame racked up an astounding $330 million opening weekend.

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Paul Rudd in Avengers: Endgame; Photo from Deadline

It’s truly the end of an era for Marvel fans, who have now followed the journey of this Avengers team for more than 20 films. The cast has repeatedly spoken of the emotional atmosphere on set as they prepared to pass the mantle on to the next great union of superheroes.

In the words of Captain America himself, Chris Evans, “Man, this one’s really good. I choked up like three times.”

 

Trailer Released for “Joker” Featuring Joaquin Phoenix

Warner Brothers has released the teaser trailer for their upcoming film Joker, based on the eponymous Batman villain, and the Internet is abuzz with excitement.

Anticipation for the film has been enormous, as fans of The Dark Knight and the late Heath Ledger have been eager to see how Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the Joker stacks up against Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance. But so far, reactions to the new trailer from fans and critics alike seems to be mostly positive.

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Joaquin Phoenix in Joker; Photo from IndieWire

Although Phoenix is aware of the pressure surrounding his performance, he appears to be wholly unfazed by it.

“I could care less,” he said in an interview with IndieWire. “I don’t really think that much about what people think. Who cares, who cares? My approach to every movie is the same. What I’m interested in is the filmmaker and the idea of the character.”

In regards to the number of different takes on the villain there have been to date, Phoenix said, “Maybe it’s like doing a play, like you always hear about people doing something, ‘You should have seen this actor in this performance,’ but then other actors do it and it’s a different kind of film. I think that genre, comic books, kind of lends itself to having different people play the same character and interpret it in a different way. It’s kind of built into the source material in some ways. I think it’s cool when people do that.”

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Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker; Photo from IndieWire

The trailer, eerily juxtaposed with Jimmy Durante‘s “Smile,” is chock-full of alarming and memorable imagery, from the Joker giving his mother a bath and twirling her around the living room, to an unknown patient violently thrashing around on a gurney, to Phoenix’s disturbingly contorting his emaciated torso. There’s a preview of Phoenix’s take on the legendary Joker laugh as well as a dramatic reveal of the iconic costume. Some think one scene where the Joker dances down a flight of stairs may even be a potential tribute to Heath Ledger’s character in the 1999 teen film 10 Things I Hate About You.

“I used to think that my life was a tragedy,” mutters Phoenix’s Joker in a voice-over, “but now I realize it’s a comedy.”

The film is set to be released on October 4, 2019, and it looks to be a suitably creepy movie for Halloween.

Jordan Peele’s “Us” Breaks Horror Movie Records

Jordan Peele‘s Usthe follow-up to his 2017 smash hit Get Out has been following in the footsteps of its predecessor in terms of success, grossing more than $70 million in its first weekend alone. That’s not only the best opening for a live-action original film since James Cameron‘s Avatar; it’s also the biggest opening weekend in history for an original horror movie. (It and Halloween edged it out for best horror opening weekend of all time.) As if those accolades weren’t enough, Us also had the biggest opening for an R-rated film after Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted.

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Lupita Nyong’o in Us; Photo from Deadline

In its first night, Us racked up a cool $6 million. That easily beats out the opening nights of other horror favorites A Quiet Place, which made $4.3 million, and Get Out ($1.8 million).

Us isn’t just performing well financially; it’s also sitting pretty with a 94 percent score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have praised the performances by actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss in particular.

The premise of Us centers around an African American family headed by Nyong’o and Winston Duke who find themselves in a fight for their lives after encountering their doppelgängers while on vacation in California.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the realization of Jordan’s imagination. He was such a joy to work with from the very beginning,” said Nyong’o of her experience working on the film. “One of the things that makes him an extremely incredible director is how compassionate he is, and he has incredible communication skills. At every turn of making this film, he was just very, very good at keeping everyone informed about what’s going on. And in doing so, you kind of get on board, and you root for him and you root for the work.”

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Jordan Peele; Photo from Deadline

When asked to elaborate on the theme of the film, Peele was quoted as saying, “We are in a time where we fear the other, whether it’s the mysterious invader who might kill us or take our jobs, or the faction that doesn’t live near us that votes differently than we did. Maybe the evil is us. Maybe the monster that we’re looking at has our face.”

“Green Book,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” Win Big at the Oscars

The 91st Annual Academy Awards were held on February 24, 2019 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, took home the most rewards of any film, with four awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, and Best Actor for Rami Malek‘s portrayal of Mercury himself. 

However, Rhapsody didn’t win the top prize of the night; that went to Green Book, which was also awarded Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali‘s portrayal of real-life classical and jazz pianist and composer Don Shirley.

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Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book; Photo from Deadline

The evening also came with a few surprises, as per usual. Of course, as previously announced, the ceremony had no host, which was the first time the awards show went on without a designated host since the 61st Academy Awards in 1989.

Many expected Glenn Close to receive the first Oscar of her lengthy career Sunday evening for her performance in The Wife, but the award for Best Actress went instead to Olivia Colman for her brilliant depiction of Queen Anne in The Favourite, which came into the night with 10 nominations but only left with one statue. Colman then delighted audiences with her acceptance speech, making it clear she hadn’t expected to win either. 

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Olivia Colman in The Favourite; Photo from Deadline

“To be in this category with these extraordinary women and Glenn Close,” Colman stuttered. “You’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be.”

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s performance of “Shallow” from A Star is Born made waves on social media, particularly the sizzling chemistry between the two stars. The song went on to win Best Original Song, marking Gaga’s first Oscar. 

“If you are at home, and you’re sitting on your couch and you’re watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work,” said Gaga in her acceptance speech. “I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion. And it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going.”

Alan Alda Receives SAG Lifetime Achievement Award

On Sunday, January 27, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is honoring Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) at their annual awards ceremony with their Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented by Tom Hanks. According to SAG, the award is given to an actor who fosters the finest ideals of the profession.

“He [Alda] is an artist whose body of work is a testament to the craft and the magic of our business,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. “His ability to make us laugh, to think and to feel is extraordinary. From theater to television, movies and new media Alan’s dedication and talent are exceeded only by his contributions to a just and caring society.”

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Photo from Hamptons Film Festival

Alda’s career has spanned more than six decades, taking him from the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea to Capitol Hill to being a psychiatrist. He has also acted on Broadway and written and directed films and television episodes. He was the first person to win an Emmy for writing, directing and acting in the same television series. And just last year, he won the Dick Cavett Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

While Alda is best known as the wise-cracking Hawkeye Pierce, a top chest-cutter saving lives just miles from the front in Korea, he has portrayed a variety of characters throughout his career, including Dr. Gabriel Lawrence on ER and Senator Arnold Vinick in The West Wing.

Alda and the MASH Cast; Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Off-screen Alda pursues a variety of activities, including writing, teaching and boxing. He has written four books, three of which are New York Times Best Sellers. His most recent work, titled “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face,” discusses the importance of communication and how we can better connect with one another.

Communication has always been of interest to Alda, particularly when it comes to difficult to understand subjects. This passion led Alda to help establish the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he serves as a guest lecturer on occasion. Alda has always had an interest in science and hosted Scientific American Frontiers for twelve years.

Last summer, Alda announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which affects one’s nerves and mobility. Rather than letting it slow him down, Alda has become more active. He continues to act and give speeches around the country. He also created a podcast called “Clear and Vivid” where he discusses the art of communication with guests ranging from authors to politicians to fellow actors. Alda has no plans to slow down and sees his recent diagnosis as a puzzle to solve rather than an inhibition.

“It hasn’t stopped my life at all,” Alda said. “I’ve had a richer life than I’ve had up until now.”

 

West Side Story Cast Announced

After months of searching and more than 30,000 auditions, the Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story has found its Maria. Rachel Zegler, a high school student from New Jersey, has been cast in the role opposite Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) who was tapped to play Tony last year. Zegler is a 17-year-old YouTube star, known for her covers of popular songs and played Maria in a local production of West Side Story.

Rachel Zegler Photo from Deadline

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler said. “‘West Side Story’ was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

Other lead roles have also been cast, with Tony nominee Ariana DeBose slated to play Anita, David Alvarez, who originated the role of Billy Elliot on Broadway, as Bernardo and Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino.

Spielberg announced the West Side Story remake just over a year ago and has spent that time searching for the perfect cast. He and his team have been committed to finding actors who were of Puerto Rican or Latinx descent to portray the Sharks in the film.

“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” Spielberg said. “I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”

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Photo from Deadline

In December 2018, Spielberg and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner (Lincoln), who is adapting West Side Story, traveled to the University of Puerto Rico to learn about the role performing arts plays on the island.

The new version, produced by 20th Century Fox, will include some tweaks, such as a replacing Doc, the owner of the corner store, with Valentina, played by Rita Moreno, the original Anita. However, Spielberg intends to remain true to the source material, including all of Leonard Bernstein’s original songs as well as some of the iconic dance numbers.