Sometimes my Pop Culture Radar doesn’t work for spit.
When I first heard about a TV show in which secondary celebrities would team up with professional instructors for a dancing competition, I thought that show would last about as long as “Cop Rock.” And when I learned Hollywood was going to turn the old “Transformers” cartoon/toy franchise into a movie, well, that seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Same thing with the NFL draft. I never understood the mentality of superfans who would don jerseys and face paint and spend hours in a cavernous arena, cheering or booing when the NFL commissioner announced who their favorite team was taking in the seventh round. Have an off-season, people. And I certainly never thought the NFL draft would provide material for a highly rated extravaganza on TV.
Now draft day is the basis for a feature film — a sentimental, predictable, sometimes implausible but thoroughly entertaining, old-fashioned piece.
Directed by the sure-handed Ivan Reitman and bolstered by breezy performances from Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, “Draft Day” is a cornball “Moneyball,” one of those “all in one day” movies in which game- and life-changing decisions are made and fates are decided over a period of about 12 hours. (I always wonder what the characters do after one of these “all in one day” movies. Stay in bed, exhausted?)
Kevin Costner has a thing for Americana sports films, from “Bull Durham” to “Field of Dreams” to “For Love of the Game” (all baseball) to “Tin Cup” (golf). Now he moves from the playing field to the executive suite, playing Sonny Weaver, the beleaguered general manager of the hapless Cleveland Browns, who are coming off another losing season and in desperate need of some star power to energize the loyal, long-suffering fan base.
One of the things I like about this movie is it’s set in the real NFL (which means, of course, it’s going to be largely complimentary to the NFL way of life). This is not one of those football movies where teams have names like the Chicago Stallions and the Los Angeles Warriors, and they’re all playing in the “North American Football League.” Sonny wheels and deals with the Seahawks and the Broncos in a parallel NFL universe. (Seattle’s fans are restless and the coach is under siege. Obviously “Draft Day” was filmed before the most recent Super Bowl.)
Costner looks, sounds and talks like a general manager as he deals with the most crowded agenda any GM has ever faced on Draft Day. Ready?
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Here is a horror movie that will reach out and grab that spot on your spine that produces all the chills.
It takes a high level of confidence, maybe even audacity, to set out to make yet another haunted-mirror movie — but thanks to the wonderfully twisted style of director Mike Flanagan and four terrific young actors playing two characters some 11 years apart, “Oculus” is one of the more elegant scary movies in recent memory.
Expanding his 2006 short film to feature length (and, not surprisingly, leaving plenty of room for an “Oculus 2” et al.), director, co-writer and editor Flanagan delivers a carefully paced, superbly photographed psychological thriller in which the villain is a sadistic and very patient entity that seems to revel in playing excruciatingly elaborate mind games before exacting its bloody toll.
Brenton Thwaites is Tim Russell, who is released from an institution on his 21st birthday, some 11 years after a horrific tragedy left both his parents dead. Karen Gillan is his 23-year-old sister Kaylie, who waits about five minutes after Tim’s release to remind him they’ve got a job to do: They must kill the antique mirror responsible for the carnage to their family.
Well, it’s not just the mirror. It’s whatever the hell is inside that mirror, wreaking the usual horror-movie havoc, i.e., making plants die, filling the night with ominous whispering sounds, messing with the family dog, jamming cell phone signals and causing inexplicable fluctuations in the temperature.
The dog. Won’t these characters in horror movies ever listen to the dog? If Max or Rusty or whatever his name is starts howling at unseen threats, whimpering in the night and otherwise acting up, LISTEN TO THE DOG AND GET OUT…
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The CBS Television Network today announced that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Colbert Report,” will succeed David Letterman as the host of THE LATE SHOW, effective when Mr. Letterman retires from the broadcast. The five-year agreement between CBS and Colbert was announced by Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation, and Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment.
Letterman, the legendary, critically acclaimed host of the CBS late night series for 21 years, announced his retirement on his April 3 broadcast. Colbert’s premiere date as host of THE LATE SHOW will be announced after Mr. Lettermen determines a timetable for his final broadcasts in 2015.
Specific creative elements, as well as the producers and the location for the Colbert-hosted LATE SHOW, will be determined and announced at a later date.
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” said Moonves. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
“Stephen is a multi-talented and respected host, writer, producer, satirist and comedian who blazes a trail of thought-provoking conversation, humor and innovation with everything he touches,” said Tassler. ”He is a presence on every stage, with interests and notable accomplishments across a wide spectrum of entertainment, politics, publishing and music. We welcome Stephen to CBS with great pride and excitement, and look forward to introducing him to our network television viewers in late night.”
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” said Colbert. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”
Adding, “I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Since its launch on Comedy Central in 2005, “The Colbert Report” has received widespread critical acclaim while earning two Peabody Awards and 27 Emmy nominations, including an Emmy win for Outstanding Variety Series (2013) and three Emmy wins for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2013, 2010, 2008). Prior to that, Colbert spent eight years as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” as an on-air personality and writer of news satire for the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series.
In addition, Colbert is an accomplished author, with two books, I AM AMERICA (and So Can You!) and AMERICA AGAIN: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, appearing on the New York Times best-seller list. AMERICA AGAIN also won a Grammy Award for Spoken Word (2014).
In music, Colbert’s original holiday musical special on Comedy Central, “A Colbert Christmas,” won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album (2009) and Emmy nominations for Art Direction, Picture Editing and Original Music and Lyrics. In April 2011, Colbert starred as Harry in the New York Philharmonic presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”
After graduating from Northwestern University, Colbert was a member of Chicago’s acclaimed Second City improv troupe with Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. The trio later created and starred in the CableAce-nominated sketch comedy series, “Exit 57,” and created the cult-hit narrative series “Strangers with Candy,” both for Comedy Central.
Colbert has appeared on series such as HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” He was also a cast member and writer on ABC’s “The Dana Carvey Show,” wrote for “Saturday Night Live” and voiced roles in DreamWorks’ animated films “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
THE LATE SHOW is broadcast weeknights on the CBS Television Network from 11:35 PM – 12:37 AM, ET/PT.
About CBS Corporation
CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS) is a mass media company that creates and distributes industry-leading content across a variety of platforms to audiences around the world. The Company has businesses with origins that date back to the dawn of the broadcasting age as well as new ventures that operate on the leading edge of media. CBS owns the most-watched television network in the U.S. and one of the world’s largest libraries of entertainment content, making its brand – “the Eye” – one of the most recognized in business. The Company’s operations span virtually every field of media and entertainment, including cable, publishing, radio, local TV, film, outdoor advertising, and interactive and socially responsible media. CBS’s businesses include CBS Television Network, The CW (a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment), Showtime Networks, CBS Sports Network, TVGN (a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Lionsgate), Smithsonian Networks, Simon & Schuster, CBS Television Stations, CBS Radio, CBS Outdoor, CBS Television Studios, CBS Global Distribution Group (CBS Studios International and CBS Television Distribution), CBS Interactive, CBS Consumer Products, CBS Home Entertainment, CBS Films and CBS EcoMedia. For more information, go to www.cbscorporation.com.
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The scene: backstage at the “Tonight Show.”
The time: the mid-2000s.
Roger and I were hanging out in the dressing room when the first guest for the evening, Matthew McConaughey knocked on the doorframe and introduced himself.
This was right around the time McConaughey was squandering his talent and smothering his own career by playing guys with names like Tripp and Dirk Pitt in tripe such as “Failure to Launch” and “Fools’ Gold.” He was 10 years past the Vanity Fair cover where he looked like a young Paul Newman and he was being touted as THE next leading man in Hollywood.
“I just wanted to let you know I have to leave right after my spot to catch a plane,” McConaughey said. “It’s no disrespect to you guys. I just want to see my girlfriend before she leaves for a location shoot for the next three months.”
We chatted a bit more, said our goodbyes. McConaughey’s politeness and class impressed Roger and me—especially given that we were hardly pointing our thumbs skyward for movies such as “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
Fast forward to 2013. The Year of McConaughey. In late spring, I saw a little film called “Mud,” which had a kind of modern day Mark Twain vibe. It was the story of two young boys in rural Arkansas who come across a mysterious figure on a small island. A guy who calls himself Mud.
I thought “Mud” was one of the best movies of the year, and McConaughey should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work as a delusional fugitive who is equal parts dangerous and kind-hearted. Sadly, the great majority of moviegoers overlooked this film.
At least once every few weeks on “Ebert & Roeper,” Roger’s take on a movie would be surprise. He’d champion something I was sure he wouldn’t care for, or he’d come down hard on a film I expected him to embrace. But I think he would have loved “Mud,” and I believe he would have been overjoyed to see the renaissance in McConaughey’s career as the actor reached his full potential with this little film, his Oscar-winning turn in “Dallas Buyers Club” and his Emmy-worthy performance in HBO’s “True Detective.” (I would have hounded Roger to watch the show.)
What would Roger say? What would Roger write? What would Roger’s take be? Those thoughts cross my mind nearly every time I exit a screening.
I wonder what Roger would have thought of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the wonderfully entertaining but overly indulgent look at wretched excess as seen through the lens of one of his favorite filmmakers, Martin Scorsese.
When I stood nearly alone as a fan of Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor,” would Roger have countered with one of his trademark “You’ve got to be kidding me!” looks before shredding the film—or would he have explained, in a far better manner than I could ever muster, why he loved it too?
I think Roger would have loved “American Hustle” as much as I did. I believe he would have given a four-star rave to Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” with Bruce Dern’s magnificent, hauntingly perfect performance.
I have no idea what Roger would have thought about “Spring Breakers” and “This is the End.” I’m not sure he would have loathed “White House Down” and “Movie 43” as much as I did, but I sure would have enjoyed getting his take.
How great would it have been to hear Roger’s reaction to Robert Redford not getting an Oscar nomination for “All Is Lost?” Wouldn’t it be such a gift to read Roger’s essays on the controversies surrounding the factual accuracy of “Captain Phillips” or the criticism from some factions about Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”?
Of course I miss my friend, just as everyone who knew Roger misses him. There’s a void that can never be replaced. It still seems strange to take my seat in the screening room on Lake Street, or at AMC River East or the ICON Theater, and not see Roger. Especially at screenings that also included members of the public, there was always an instant buzz in the room when Roger and Chaz walked in. You’d see people elbowing each other and pointing him out. Later that evening, there would be posts on Social Media, with folks saying, “I saw a movie with Roger Ebert tonight!”
Whether I see a dark comedy such as “Bad Words,” an unnecessary remake such as “About Last Night,” an old-fashioned bomb such as “Winter’s Tale” or a guilty pleasure such as “3 Days to Kill,” I can’t help but wonder what Roger’s take would have been. So many times, he would surprise us with an insight about a film, or a reason he loved something we might have expected him to loathe, or a one-liner that perfectly summed up why a particular film didn’t achieve its goals.
Those of us that were lucky enough to share time with Roger lament that there wasn’t more time.
But even if you knew him only through his magnificent writing and his television work, I know you miss him too.
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