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Precious pair Lee Daniels and Gabourey Sidibe reunite for TV hip-hop drama
1 hour ago
With her lead performance as an abused teenager in Lee Daniels' film Precious, Gabourey Sidibe went from unknown to Oscar-nominated within a year – and now the pair are reuniting on Empire, a drama for Us TV network Fox.
Daniels will direct the drama, which focuses on a successful hip-hop record label, with Terrence Howard starring as the label head and Taraji P Henson as his ex-wife. Sidibe will have a role playing Howard's assistant.
It's the first TV project from Daniels, who also directed The Paperboy and last year's The Butler as well as Precious. The series will be written by Danny Strong, who wrote The Butler as well as the forthcoming Hunger Games sequel Mockingjay, and who has also acted in Mad Men, »
- Ben Beaumont-Thomas
Salt of the Earth
1 hour ago
Demonised and hounded off screen on its release, Salt of the Earth, released in almost impossible circumstances 60 years ago, has a strong claim to being the most ambitious American film ever made. According to its director Herbert J Biberman and screenwriter Michael Wilson, it was the "first feature film ever made in [the Us] of labour, by labour, and for labour". More than that, it was "a film that does not tolerate minorities but celebrates their greatness".
Biberman, Wilson and producer Paul Jarrico had all been exiled from Hollywood for their politics. Biberman had worked in theatres in Moscow and co-founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League before being jailed for six months for refusing to testify before the House Committee on »
- Sukhdev Sandhu
How we made Breaking Glass
2 hours ago
It turned unknown punk singer Hazel O'Connor into a household name, but that wasn't the only way the 1980 movie mirrored events in the star's own life
Hazel O'Connor, singer/actor
I was a struggling singer-songwriter who had signed to Albion Records for a pound. To make extra money, I also did shifts answering their phones. One day, a casting agency rang up asking if they could speak to someone about Hazel O'Connor. I said: "That's me."
Andy Czezowski, who ran the Roxy punk club in London, had suggested me for a role as an extra in Breaking Glass, a film about a struggling punk singer who makes it big and goes gaga. I'd been reading a book called Bring Out the Magic in Your Mind. So I daydreamed three things: a) at the auditions they go, "My God, she's amazing – let's give her the lead"; b) they ask me to »
- Dave Simpson
Nicolas Cage: 'It sucks being famous'
2 hours ago
Actor bemoans era of the 'celebutard' and slams critics for focusing on actors' personal lives instead of their acting
• Read more about film at SXSW
• Read a review of Joe
Nicolas Cage has said film critics must try harder to ignore an actor's fame when reviewing movies, or risk contributing to a culture where artists are known only for their celebrity and not their work in front of the camera.
Speaking at the SXSW festival in Austin, Cage lamented his own notoriety and the way it affected how his films are perceived. The actors who inspired him to learn his art, he suggested, didn't face the same indignity.
"I started acting because I wanted to be James Dean," Cage told an audience of journalists. "I saw him in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden. Nothing affected me – no rock song, no classical music – the way Dean affected in 'Eden'. »
- Ben Child
Studio cut of Noah 'featured Christian rock song'
2 hours ago
Paramount's desperate efforts to market Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic to Christians appear to have failed
Studio executives tested an alternate version of Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming biblical epic Noah that opened with a montage of religious images and ended with a Christian rock song, it has been revealed.
Aronofsky said recently that he had won a battle with executives to screen his own version of Noah in cinemas after around half a dozen alternate cuts failed to find traction with evangelical filmgoers. Now a new profile of the film-maker in The New Yorker details the desperate lengths to which Paramount went to court religious audiences in the Us, who had earlier turned their noses up at a test screening of Aronofksy's edit.
"In December, Paramount tested its fifth, and 'least Aronofskian', version of Noah: an 86-minute beatitude that began with a montage of religious imagery and ended with a Christian rock song, »
- Ben Child
Lee Hall: Spielberg, Scargill and me
2 hours ago
I'm watching Billy Elliot the Musical in a state of shock. Forget the movie – this is incendiary drama, militant to its core. Not only does it open with Labour MP Herbert Morrison's paean to the newly nationalised mines and common ownership ("Now I want you men of the pits to come through ... The great experiment of socialism in a democracy depends on you"), it also pre-empts the passing of Margaret Thatcher with a feelgood singalong: "We all sing together in one breath/ Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher/ We all celebrate today/ 'Cause it's one day closer to your death."
The astonishing thing is that the musical, with tunes provided by the not notably radical Elton John, has been a worldwide success, »
- Simon Hattenstone
The Lego Movie Videogame – game review
4 hours ago
PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC; Warner Bros; cert: 7
What's the story
The Lego Movie was an assured success. Although Warner likely didn't dare to predict it would be as much of a hit as it has proven to be, it was a no-brainer for them to have Tt Games prepare another one of their action-adventure games for release at around the same time.
Unlike those Lego games that are based more on the general gist of a franchise, this one closely follows the events of the film. The plot is conveyed through levels that involve switching between characters to overcome obstacles, interspersed with cut scenes taken from the film. Added action extends the capacity for actual play, but sticks close to the script.
Highs and lows
The familiar, satisfying act of smashing up the scenery to build new objects makes more sense here than it does in some of the other Lego games, »
- Jordan Erica Webber
Ernest Hemingway letter to 'dearest Kraut' Marlene Dietrich to be sold
11 hours ago
Surreal correspondence reveals intense but 'un-synchronized passion' between the literary and cinema icons
A surreal, graphic letter from Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich, in which the author addresses the film star as "Dearest Kraut" and imagines her "drunk and naked", is set to be auctioned to the public next week.
The pair first met on the New York-bound liner Île de France in 1934 and went on to enjoy a lifelong friendship. Although their letters to each other were full of feeling, they never became lovers, with Hemingway once calling them "victims of un-synchronized passion. Those times when I was out of love, the Kraut was deep in some romantic tribulation, and those occasions when Dietrich was on the surface and swimming about with those marvellously seeking eyes, I was submerged".
In his 1955 letter to Dietrich, signed Papa, the Nobel prize-winning writer responds to her complaints about her Las Vegas show, »
- Alison Flood
SXSW 2014 review: The Possibilities Are Endless brings beauty from tragedy
19 hours ago
Collins suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 2005. He was hospitalised for six months. He lost his memory; his speech was destroyed. He was cast off from his previous persona – as the singer/songwriter who fronted the Scottish alt-rock band Orange Juice. He was left out in open water.
Hall and Lovelace interviewed Collins and his wife, Grace Maxwell, six years after the stroke. Collins was still working on recovering his ability to speak. Where some might have struggled with the lack of clarity, the directors instead use this as a hook »
- Henry Barnes
300 assaults the charts
22 hours ago
Zack Snyder's gorefest slaughters competition at the cinemas, Grand Budapest Hotel makes a grand appearance and Oscars winners get box-office boost
• More Us box office analysis here
300 rules the roost
Critical scoffing about its fanboy roots notwithstanding, 300: Rise of an Empire got the last laugh at the weekend. A sequel to the 2007 movie that established director Zack Snyder as a genre rock star, the Warner Bros action film smashed its way to the top of the charts in North America. Its estimated $45.1m (£27m) haul contributed to a $132.9m global assault. Next weekend's action release Need for Speed may apply the brakes to a degree, but that movie's largely unknown cast and brand may struggle to stop Rise of an Empire from holding on to pole position for a second weekend. And if that's not enough of a belaboured car racing metaphor for you, try this for size: »
- Jeremy Kay
Slave's Ridley regrets not thanking McQueen at Oscars
23 hours ago
Screenwriter points out he had thanked McQueen at previous awards amid rumours of a rift over director's request for co-credit
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly a week after his victory in the best adapted screenplay category, Ridley pointed out that he had thanked McQueen the previous day at the Independent Spirit awards. But he did little to dispel rumours that the film-makers fell out after he rejected McQueen's request for a co-credit on the screenplay.
Ridley and McQueen did not acknowledge each other as the former walked to the stage to accept his prize, though the screenwriter stopped to hug American Hustle director David O Russell. Ridley did not thank McQueen in his speech, and McQueen failed to thank Ridley in his own acceptance speech for the best film prize. »
- Ben Child
The Goldfinch film adaptation from Hunger Games producers in works
10 March 2014 3:38 AM, PDT
Bestselling novel by Donna Tartt to be made into a movie by outfit behind smash hit young-adult series
A screen adaptation of Donna Tartt's bestselling novel The Goldfinch is on the way after the producers behind The Hunger Games announced that they have taken up an option on the book.
According to the Wrap, Nina Jacobson, CEO of Color Force and producer on all four Hunger Games films, said: "We are looking for the right film-maker, and then we'll choose the right home based on that film-maker ... With a piece of material this great, there are a lot of conversations to be had."
The Goldfinch, Tartt's third novel and her first since 2002's The Little Friend, is about a 13-year-old boy who survives an art-gallery bombing that kills his mother, and ends up in possession of the Dutch Old Master painting (by Carel Fabritius) of the title. Since its publication »
- Andrew Pulver
Movie theatre noise ban sought in Connecticut
10 March 2014 2:46 AM, PDT
Legislators aiming to limit sound levels of films and trailers to a maximum of 85 decibels
Connecticut is aiming to become the first Us state to impose a ban on excessive sound levels at public film screenings, it has been reported. A bill is currently before the state legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee that would ban the showing of any film or trailer that exceeds 85 decibels.
The ban attempt was initiated by chemical industry consultant William Young, a Stamford resident who was quoted as saying: "Why they need such loud sounds is beyond me ... Hopefully this will be a wakeup call to the theater owners and the MPAA to get their act together and do something that's good for the public and still will satisfy their needs." Democratic senator Carlo Leone, who helped introduce the bill, said: "I support the concept moving forward ... If there are other corrective measures without »
- Andrew Pulver
Channel 4 buys UK rights to the TV adaptation of Fargo
10 March 2014 2:33 AM, PDT
Small-screen production of Coen brothers' film is a 'perfect Channel 4 show with a stunning cast' says TV station
Freeman, star of BBC1's Sherlock and the big-screen version of The Hobbit, plays small town insurance salesman Lester Nygaard, similar to the character played by William H Macy in the 1996 film. Hollywood star Thornton is rootless, manipulative Lorne Malvo in the 10-part series.
Channel 4's chief creative officer Jay Hunt said: "Fargo is a perfect Channel 4 show – a dark comedy, beautifully directed with a stunning cast. We are excited to be bringing it to a British audience."
The TV series, »
- John Plunkett
Cereal killer: Amazing Spider-Man 2 spoiler revealed in Kellogg's advert
10 March 2014 1:32 AM, PDT
• Full coverage: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
A major spoiler regarding the death of a leading character in forthcoming superhero sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 appears to have been let slip via a cereal advert.
The spoiler, which readers can avoid by turning away now, was revealed in a commercial spot for Kellogg's' The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Web-Slinging Game. It is one of three videos released into the internet over the weekend, all of which are narrated by Marvel comics icon Stan Lee.
The offending video clearly states that Chris Cooper's Norman Osborn, a character who in the comics and previous big screen versions has doubled as villain The Green Goblin, has died as the film's events unfold. His son Harry Osborn, played by Dane DeHaan, is seen inheriting Oscorp Industries, the multimillion-dollar corporation founded by Norman. »
- Ben Child
Veronica Mars has sprung back to life, and deservedly so
9 March 2014 11:00 PM, PDT
Ah, Veronica Mars, how you linger in the memory after all these years. Can it really be seven years since I came back to Los Angeles after a month in England, ready to savour four spicy, bitchy, twisty new episodes of hard-boiled high-school noir on DVR, only to discover that the Paul Rudd-as-mean-jerky-rock star episode had been obliterated by extended news coverage of the ferocious Griffith Park fire of May 2007? Jet-lagged and exhausted as I was, I knelt down and grasped my skull in anguish right there in front of the telly, bathed in the apocalyptic orange flames. It was a very Veronica moment.
This show really put you through it sometimes, both within the drama and without. »
- John Patterson
James Ellis obituary
9 March 2014 5:31 PM, PDT
The actor James Ellis (also known as Jimmy), who has died aged 82, was the longest-serving original cast member of the hugely popular BBC television series Z-Cars. When Z-Cars began in 1962, it represented a major change in the way the police were characterised in fiction. The BBC police series Dixon of Dock Green had been running for seven years, with Jack Warner playing the understanding, avuncular police constable Dixon. Z-Cars, by contrast, had the actors Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor making cynical remarks about the death of a murdered police colleague whose funeral they were attending, and Ellis, as Constable Bert Lynch, hearing from a colleague how he beats up his wife, without doing anything about it. Z-Cars attempted to show how moral anarchy in the rundown industrial area of the »
- Dennis Barker
The week ahead in arts
9 March 2014 5:05 PM, PDT
Opening this week
■ Grimm Tales
Immersive theatre for children in the bowels of Shoreditch Town Hall. Do you dare to follow Red Riding Hood into the forest or watch Rapunzel let her hair down? Philip Wilson adapts and directs tales in versions by Philip Pullman. Shoreditch Town Hall, London (020-7739 6176), Friday until 24 April.
A mixed programme of contemporary dance includes a revival of Christopher Bruce's swaggering Rolling Stones tribute, Rooster. Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold (0845-330 3565), Wednesday until 15 March and touring.
Programmes featuring Ives, Adams and Berlioz, and Mahler's Third Symphony are on the menu for the UK leg of Michael Tilson Thomas's European tour with his fine orchestra. Symphony Hall, Birmingham (0121‑345 0600), Friday; Royal Festival Hall, London (0845 875 0073), Saturday & Sunday. »
- The Guardian
Annie remake: casting of black lead provokes negative Twitter posts
9 March 2014 5:05 PM, PDT
Oscar-nominated Quvenzhané Wallis stars in the new film version of the musical. Cue Twitter comments that all begin: 'I'm not racist, but …'
Appearance: Headstrong, smartass, black.
Oh, her! She was great in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Yes, she was. And, provided you're into musicals about toothy orphans singing about tomorrow, she'll probably be great in this too.
Well, super. Fantastic, isn't it? Everyone's agreed that Wallis is a fabulous actor, and that she will do a great job as Annie even if the film seems slightly beneath her. »
Fatal Attraction writer: why my stage version has a different ending
9 March 2014 5:05 PM, PDT
It is hard, even for me, to fully recall the furore Fatal Attraction caused on its release back in 1987, appearing on the cover of both Time and People, and generating hours of highly charged and sometimes hysterical debate. It was seen by some as a parable about Aids, by others as a critique of the permissive society, and by others still as an attack on feminism in general and single career women in particular. All of which could not have been further from my mind as I was writing the screenplay. It was even alleged that the cop shaking Michael Douglas by the hand at the end is actually congratulating him on a job well done – the crazed career woman put out of her misery, »