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ENTERTAINMENT

 

Celebrity Extra

By Cindy Elavsky



Q: I was frustrated to see one of my favorite soap stars, Arianne Zucker, being dragged back into that “Access Hollywood”/Donald Trump fiasco recently. Can you tell me how she’s doing?

-- Barbara F.

via email

 

A: Arianne is one classy lady, and she’s handling the renewed interest in the allegations of President Trump’s inappropriate sexual misconduct from years past with grace -- and with a drive to try to effect change. Trump recently disputed the veracity of the “Access Hollywood” tape where he is talking with host Billy Bush about things rich men can do to women without asking. (That’s about all the detail I’m going to go into because it disgusts me.) Arianne was the actress they were on the NBC studio lot to meet for a backstage tour of “Days of Our Lives.”

Arianne told me: “I feel like there is some responsibility there (for me to speak up), but finding a way to do it is hard. I do know the first thing for anyone who has gone through any type of physical situation against their will is healing. How do you start that? Where do you go? Who do you talk to? You hear the way men spoke in the ‘60s and ‘70s about women; that was the way, and you dealt with it. How do we reprogram our children to not think that way? I’m in a position where I can help from the heart.”

But Arianne is not all about recent hot-button issues: She’s also starring in the Lifetime thriller called “Web Cam Girls,” which premieres Saturday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. According to Arianne, it’s “a psychological thriller based on family relationships. So many parents have these relationships with their children that go sour -- how do you find that way back? How do you bring your kid back? That’s what I really love about this movie because, in some shape or form, every parent goes through something like this with their teenager.”

***

Q: Do you have any “House of Cards” news? -- Brian K., Baltimore

A: Production on the hit Netflix drama was halted amid sexual harassment and assault allegations against series star Kevin Spacey. The streaming giant recently announced that Spacey will not be involved when production resumes in early 2018, The sixth and final season will consist of eight episodes instead of the usual 13. The story will center on Robin Wright’s character, newly elected President Claire Underwood.

***

Q: Is it true that “Big Little Lies” is coming back? -- Rain F., via email

A: It’s getting closer becoming a reality. Executive producer/writerÊDavid E. Kelley told TVLine.com: “We’re kicking around ideas and trying to lasso the talent (to) get the band back together. ... I’m optimistic because everyone wants to do it. We feel we still have storytelling to do.” Word has it production could start as early as spring 2018. 

 

  


 

The Movie Review



By Michael Phillips

Chicago Tribune

Oldman embodies Churchill in ‘Darkest Hour’


An Oscar-bound performance delivered on a silver platter, “Darkest Hour” makes up for a lot of the money gigs Gary Oldman has done in recent years, slithering through one action movie after another, portraying a Eurotrash or Slavic adversary wielding a slippery combination of dialects like switchblades.

An actor needs to eat, of course. But in “Darkest Hour,” director Joe Wright’s posh dramatization of a few key weeks in the life of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Oldman—barely recognizable, supremely vital—isn’t just eating; he’s feasting.

Many of his peers consider Oldman to be the finest living screen actor, which may surprise moviegoers too young to remember “Sid and Nancy” or “Prick Up Your Ears,” or those who’ve missed his recent stealth achievements, notably in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Spymaster George Smiley was, in Oldman’s own description, a “sitting-down role,” reliant on poker-faced minimalism. “Darkest Hour” pulls from both extremes of Oldman’s prodigious but often unexploited skill set, the subtlety as well as the flamboyance.

The famous Churchill jowls, the hairline in retreat, the larger-than-life John Bull countenance all require an actor (who bears no resemblance to his subject) be able to make himself at home underneath one of the most exquisitely detailed makeup jobs in modern movies. This visual realization of Churchill owes a huge debt to prosthetics, makeup and hair designer Kazuhiro Tsuji, a master of his craft. Woody Harrelson may have spent a similar number of hours in the chair while filming “LBJ,” but that ended up being a film about a president at war with his own latex. “Darkest Hour” works on a higher plane. The top-of-the-line visual concealment allows Goldman to concentrate on what matters: finding the physical details, activating the Churchill speeches, putting all his evident research to good use.

It’s a lovely performance, and while the movie has its phony aspects, it’s never less than entertaining. “Darkest Hour” depicts Churchill’s life in 1940, as the newly installed prime minister succeeds Conservative Party statesman Neville Chamber-lain (Ronald Pickup, glowering over his mustache) amid the Nazi ravaging of Europe. As Foreign Secretary Viscount Halifax, Chamberlain’s partner in Third Reich appeasement, Stephen Dillane keeps his chin tucked low while playing up, slyly, the Elmer Fuddian w-for-r consonants. Dillane shares some screen time with Ben Mendelsohn’s King George VI (the one Colin Firth played in “The King’s Speech”), and when they’re together, the air is thick with royal privilege. “Darkest Hour” benefits from some exceedingly witty actors, including Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill (sadly marginalized and somewhat neutralized here; theirs was not a placid marriage). Everyone’s having a discreet ball portraying the private side of highly public figures in crisis.

In part “Darkest Hour” concerns how Churchill hit upon Operation Dynamo as a way of pulling off the astonishing evacuation of British troops stranded at Dunkirk, across theEnglish Channel. In the recent Dunkirk movie sweepstakes, director Wright has placed first and third, first being “Atonement” (featuring a grandiose, show-offy one-take panorama of the French coastal evacuation) and the third being “Darkest Hour.” The one in the middle, Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” took you there, to the beach and to the skies, and put you through the wringer. “Darkest Hour” serves as the strategy- and process-focused bookend to Nolan’s film.

Director Wright’s penchant for theatrics suits the highly theatrical Churchill nicely. There are images of Oldman’s Churchill, isolated in an elevator or a bathroom, when the screen becomes an ink-black diorama surrounding a lonely, fraught man of destiny. Less effectively, Wright over-relies on dizzying practical and digital overhead shots of a teeming, fractious Parliament, for example, or (unforgivably) a bomb’s-eye-view perspective as the Luftwaffe attack British forces.

And yes, “Darkest Hour” provides another kind of service. It’s a reminder of the power of oratory. It’s an illustration of the value and necessity of working with ideological opposites in the spirit of bipartisanship, sometimes against a larger enemy. And it’s a nostalgic glimpse of political life before Twitter, a time before our own, when world leaders (one in particular) fiddle while nations burn.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some thematic material).

 


 

Hollywood

 By Tony Rizzo


 

Jennifer Lawrence, who joined with director Darren Aronofsky for the psychological horror film “Mother” released in September, had off-screen love scenes but ended their one-year romance. Now she’s focused on the release of her next two films, the spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” with Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons, due March 2; and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, opening Nov. 2, 2018.

Meanwhile, we’ll finally get to see John Travolta as Mafia “Don” John Gotti come Dec. 15. Playing Gotti’s wife is Travolta’s wife, Kelly Preston, who hasn’t made a movie since the disappointing “Casino Jack,” with Kevin Spacey. Travolta already is shooting another film, “Trading Paint,” with Michael Madsen, singer Shania Twain and “Gunsmoke” TV series alumnus Buck Taylor.

***

“The Night of the Living Dead,” which gave birth to the zombie genre, was shot in black and white in Pittsburgh in 1968 for a mere $114,000. It grossed $30 million. The creator and father of the zombie genre was George Romero, who left us July 16 at age 77 due to lung cancer. On Jan. 5, the last film he co-wrote based on his original characters, “Day of the Dead: Bloodline,” will open. Romero directed five sequels to “Night” between 1978 and 2010, the most successful of which was “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). He also hit big with “Creepshow” in 1982 and the TV series “Tales from the Darkside” (1983-1988). When you watch “The Walking Dead” or see the upcoming “World War Z 2,” remember ... it all started with George Romero.

***

Best-actor nominee Peter Fonda (for 1993’s “Ulee’s Gold”), son of Oscar-winner Henry Fonda and brother of two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda, was last seen in the Netflix film “The Most Hated Woman in America,” with Oscar-winner Melissa Leo. Now he has completed two films: “The Ballad of Lefty Brown,” with Bill Pullman, Jim Caviezel and Kathy Baker (hitting theaters Dec. 15) and “Boundaries,” with Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer and Bobby Cannavale.

Fonda has just been cast in Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” reboot with John Krasinski in the title role (he’s also producing). It’s set for release in early 2018. Krasinski also will direct and star with his wife, Emily Blunt -- who will be seen as Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins Returns,” landing Christmas Day 2018 -- in the supernatural/horror thriller “A Quiet Place,” due for an April 6 release. They say, “The couple that plays together ... stays together,” but how do you direct your own wife?