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Eli Roth might be the last director you’d pick to adapt John Bellairs’ “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.”

The man who gave us “Hostel,” “The Green Inferno” and the new “Death Wish?” Surely you have the wrong auteur for this 1973 kiddie classic.

Roth proves a pragmatic choice all the same. In fact, the film flirts with an instant classic status. An exhausting finale and one too many scenes pandering to a child’s easily amused funny bone mar the  PG romp.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls - Official Trailer 2 - YouTube

Youg Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) moves in with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) after the death of the lad’s parents. Jonathan’s home is a sprawling mansion with oodles of secrets, a hint of magic and a cantankerous chum (Cate Blanchett) who can’t stop bickering with the uncle.

It’s a perfect fit for Lewis, a loud and proud eccentric who wears aviator-style goggles to school. Slowly, the boy learns the truth behind both the mansion and Uncle Jonathan’s peculiar moods. Only Lewis’ curiousity could spell doom for this newly christened “family.”

FAST FACT: Author John Bellairs started out penning stories for adults, including a Catholicism spoof called “Fidgeta and Other Parodies,” before seguing into kiddie literature.

Roth concocts scenes meant to delight both young and old, and he’s a natural at it. The laugh lines land while we get to know the film’s colorful characters.

The screenplay  delivers, too, with relatable exchanges and fine banter between Black and Blanchette. Give these two a road trip comedy — stat.

The spooks start to pile up mid-movie, and they’re certainly not for the youngest members of the family. Roth isn’t kidding around, even if the PG rating holds his baser instincts back.

Then we’re reduced to smirking at potty humor, Nickelodeon approved sliming and a crush of needless FX. It’s still an invigorating ride, a kiddie horror primer that doesn’t forget adults may be watching, too.

There’s something gently affirmng about Lewis, a lad who doesn’t flinch at danger or the chance to cause mischief. He’s flawed but formidable, and young Vacarro brings those elements out without any child actor gimmicks.

Black evokes his usual theatrics without overshadowing his character’s compassion for the suddenly orphaned boy in his home. With every movie Black proves we underestimate him at our own peril.

A few of the scares in this “House” are cheap by design, another way to inculcate youngsters to the glories, and pitfalls, of horror fare.

HiT or Miss: “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is a first-rate introduction to horror films for the pre-teen set. Their parents will be more than happy to sbare the lesson.

The post ‘House with a Clock in Its Walls’ Flirts with Excellence appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” is a 129-minute call to shake the broken United States like an Etch-a-Sketch and start anew.

Where to start, Moore demands? Stop Hitler 2.0, better known as President Donald Trump.

How Moore can make those statements (and the one below) while retaining the respect of Hollywood, film critics and major media outlets beggars belief.

Michael Moore Says He's Unsure We'll "Get To 2020 As A Democracy" | The View - YouTube

Here we are all the same, taking in Moore’s most relentlessly crude screed to date, and that’s saying something given his film canon.

The lies, misdirection and outright tomfoolery come at you so fast in “Fahrenheit 11/9” it’s hard to tally them all. Here’s a microscopic sample:

  • Trump ran for the presidency because of a grudge with “The Voice” judge Gwen Stefani. Proof?
  • The teens behind the March for Our Lives organized the big day all by themselves.
  • The Flint water crisis is 100 percent the fault of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who we’re told is evil, relishes hurting minority children and “ethnically cleansed” his own state.

Moore has gotten away with this shtick for decades. He’s an Oscar winner, for Pete’s sake. His mantle brims with documentary honors. It’s a story for another day exactly how that happened.

RELATED: Media Cover for Moore, Ignore Matlins’ Critique

Even by the lowest of low Moore standards “Fahrenheit 11/9” is an abomination. When the film settles down and peddles generic socialist propaganda you can’t trust what he’s saying. It’s like hearing a deranged man’s rant and noticing a few syllables seem coherent.

Michael Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 11/9 : OFFICIAL TRAILER - In Theaters 9/21 - YouTube

That’s particularly true when he speaks with parents dealing with the fallout from the Flint water crisis. In anyone else’s hands the interviews would be devastating. Captured in the middle of this traffic accident, you can’t help wondering what wool is being yanked over our eyes.

Taken from a purely cinematic standard, it’s Moore’s ugliest film. He even uses stock photos with the watermarks still in place. Was the budget so low he couldn’t pony up for the rights? Are times tough for a socialist who once owned 9 homes, one of which sold for $5.2 million … in Michigan!

He uses so many edits to manipulate reality it makes what the late night news crews pull look legit.

WARNING: Major Spoilers Throughout to Fully Grasp the Presentation

It all starts on Election Night, a moment Moore makes us relive for no apparent reason. We see the usual soundbites, including how many pundits got the presidential election all wrong.

Moore bends the truth right out of the gate, using deceptive editing to show Team Trump looking miserable to pull off the upset of the young century.

“How the [bleep] did this happen,” Moore wails. He’s not actually interested in answering his own question. That would take insight, wisdom and an open mind. None of those qualities are showcased here.

He flirts with the answer all the same, noting how Trump connected with the same blue collar workers who grew disillusioned with President Obama’s middling economy. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton’s own team told her to avoid some swing states lest she slump in the polls.

Let that one sink in.

Moore even hammers Democrats for denying Sen. Bernie Sanders his rightful place on the party’s presidential ticket. Once again he’s not telling the whole truth. Nor is Moore on target when he says The New York Times is too tough on progressives.

But … if you select a few op-eds from the paper that seem to prove his point, ignoring many that don’t, you’ve got a perfect talking point.

RELATED: Read Kyle Smith’s Take on “Fahrenheit 11/9”

One of many bizarre tangents early in the film suggests Trump sexually assaulted his daughter, Ivanka.Trump. How does Moore know? Snapshots of them cuddling, with the father’s hands going on her hips a time or two, and him talking up her physical beauty.

Any proof beyond that? Of course not! By this photo-centric standard Vice President Joe Biden is a sexual predator. Editor’s Note: He’s not.

Let’s remember this is a documentary.

Taken from a purely cinematic standard, it’s Moore’s ugliest film.

Moore offers plenty of proof that Trump already is a dictator less than two full years into his first term. We see a montage of video clips where the press waits for the a tardy Trump to arrive.

Just like Hitler!

Need more evidence? Cue up the clip of him at a large MAGA rally, imploring the camera man to pan the room to show the size of the crowd.

Even Hitler wouldn’t stoop that low.

RELATED: Moore Mocks Patriots, Honors ‘Hanoi Jane’ Fonda

A large swath of the movie recalls the Flint water crisis. There’s plenty of blame to be spread around for the debacle, but Moore claims it’s 100 percent Gov. Rick Synder’s fault. We even get “old school” Moore shtick to prove his point, even while the facts beg to differ.

First, he attempts to make a citizen’s arrest on the governor. Later, he shoots “Flint Water” at the governor’s modest mansion.

That’ll serve ‘em!

It plays out as pathetic as it sounds, like a classic rock troupe begrudgingly playing their big hit for the umpteenth time.

Naturally, Moore cozies up to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, eager to bank on their current fame. Unmentioned? How so many entrenched systems failed to stop the future killer.

Let’s call them highly inconvenient truths that distract from Moore’s gun control narrative.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” sneaks in a few surprises all the same. We’re treated to President Barack Obama’s arrival in Flint, Michigan, to address the water crisis’ fallout.

Finally, the progressive cavalry is here! Except President Obama takes a theatrical swig of Flint water but barely swallows any. He also leaves Flint without leaving any concrete plans for the city’s revival, the film notes.

That’s how you got President Trump, Mr. Moore … assuming we can even trust those facts that make Democrats look incompetent.

FAST FACT: Michael Moore’s 2004 film “Fahrenheit 9/11” made an astounding $23.9 million during its opening weekend on just 868 screen.

The filmmaker assembles a few nimble threads all the same. Our institutions are failing us, he argues, although Moore ignores how crooked the mainstream media has become as well as the collapse that led to the Parkland, Fla. shooting. Power corrupts, and even liberal darlings like President Obama are full of you know what at the end of the day, we’re told.

Why, you could almost argue for a smaller, leaner government where officials have less power over our lives.

He also argues for the power we have when we leverage social media for the greater good. That’s … right, actually, no matter if you agree with the results.

The film swerves in another optimistic direction later in the film, highlighting renegade candidates to the left of Team Pelosi. At one point Moore even claims the U.S. is a liberal nation, pointing to a series of cherry-picked polls to bolster his claim. “Victory is ours,” he cries, as if he hasn’t actually watched his own movie.

So how did the GOP come to control all three branches of government? He’s got the simple, stupefying answer: The Democrats compromised too much.

We’re then treated to series of video clips of Democrats saying the word, “compromise” over and again. This is an Oscar-winning filmmaker at work?

Wow.

Meanwhile, the same compromise-obsessed Democrats have turned the political system upside down to derail an absurdly qualified Supreme Court nominee. What pushovers.

Are there some cold, hard truths lurking within Moore’s latest? Probably. Would you trust any of it coming in this package? It’s like the Weekly World News spiking the football after accidentally nailing a story.

The film’s lead testing sequences are, by far, the most chilling scenes in “Fahrenheit 11/9.” These Michigan residents have real stories to share. One person who worked for the local government busts the bureaucrats for lying about the lead levels.

Is that entirely the governor’s fault, too? We’re meant to assume it is, even though Democrats are well represented in Flint politics. Or is there more Fake News peddle by the Master of the Art?

Let’s ignore the fact that recent studies have shown the lead levels, while elevated, don’t represents a fraction of the threat originally suggested.

There are some accidental flashes of humor too. We see someone raging against Trump for shutting down questions at an event … after watching Ocasio-Cortez highlighted on screen. Remember how she famously banned the press from one of her events and used the Snowflake Defense when caught.

RELATED: ‘Dark Money’ Doc Only Tells Half the Story

Some critics noticed how Al Gore gave himself plenty of love in his own movie, the bust 2017 documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

The same holds true here. Moore injects himself not just into the narrative as usual but we see him shmoozing with his political enemies … even Steve Bannon.

Moore says he was ready to take down Trump years ago when they appeared together on an old Roseanne Barr talk show. The producers suggested he play nice for the show’s sake, and he demurred.

What a hero. (again, assuming that’s what actually happened)

We also see Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, praising and promoting the Moore documentary “Sicko.” Why include this footage? To stroke Moore’s ego? The film also showcases Bannon extolling Mooe’s filmmaking chops.

FAST FACT: Moore brieflfy worked for Mother Jones magazine during the 1980s.

Moore is on more solid footing when playing “gotcha” with the media. We see CNN’s Jeff Zucker, when asked why his networked religiously showed Trump’s rallies during the campaign, stammer for a very long time rather than admit the truth.

“It’s great ratings!” – he just couldn’t admit it.

Disgraced CBS chief Les Moonves is more forthcoming, boasting how Trump helped his company’s bottom line even if his emergence isn’t “good for the country.”

Next, we see a montage of journalists asking Hillary Clinton tough questions, followed by what sexual allegations the reporters were later accused of doing.

Is that why they were so “mean” to her, Moore silently suggests. If not, what’s the point? It can’t be that the media lionized Trump. Please, tell us that’s not the angle in play…

Naturally, Russia comes up early in the film. Yet while Moore pins Trump’s election victory on “Russia and James Comey” his film otherwise abandons the Russian angle. Has even the Left’s most vocal filmmaker given up on CollusionGate?

The bumpy narrative eventually veers back to Trump, with Moore playing an entire deck of Hitler cards. Once again, loose facts, selective edits and Trumpian slabs of humor are weaponized to make us believe concentration camps are coming our way.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” even shows footage of a Hitler speech with Trumps’ words dubbed into the audio. Yes, that’s the level of intellectualism on display.

Sarah Silverman beat him to the Hitler punch two years ago, for what it’s worth.

Adolf Hitler Hates Being Compared To Donald Trump - YouTube

Moore even turns the Flint water crisis into a way to slam Trump in the cruelest way possible. His narration takes a stab at the president’s thought processes:

“He must be thinking, ‘the government got away with poisoning a majority black city. What can I get away with?’”

The film shows its cards late in the excruciatingly long running time. There’s not a public figure in America who seethes with hate for his own country more than Moore. He makes Sen. Bernie Sanders look like Lee Greenwood.

To view the U.S. through such a prism you must ignore the millions of lives uplifted by the American dream, the countless aid we’ve shared with the world, the people freed thanks to our military and the role this country played in defeating Hitler 1.0 is ignored.

Not to mention the U.S. has been very, very good to Moore,. You’d think he’d have an ounce of gratitude for the country that made that all possible.

The opening credits for “Fahrenheit 11/9” show an artist creating a wax figure of Trump. The camera work is elegant, refined. It’s the most mesmerizing part of the movie and a reminder that Moore has a knack for arresting visuals.

It’s all downhill from there, the depths of which have to be seen to be believed.

HiT or Miss: It’s hard to imagine any clear-eyed liberal seeing “Fahrenheit 11/9” as anything other than a garbage dump of lies, misdirection and cartoonishly dumb arguments against both Trump and the American experiment.

The post Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ – Fake News on Steroids appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Breathe it in.

“The Song of Sway Lake” isn’t manufactured or cloy. There’s nothing ironic in its presentation. And a key character hungers for the American dream, even if he has curious ways of showing it.

The indie film unfolds slowly but doesn’t require our patience. The cast performs admirably, evoking another time and place with such precision it feels lifted out of a stranger’s scrapbook.

It won’t change the world. It just transports you in a way you won’t soon forget.

The Song of Sway Lake Trailer #1 (2018) | Movieclips Indie - YouTube

Young Ollie (Rory Culkin) and his Russian pal Nikolai (Robert Sheehan) hatch a clumsy scheme as the story opens. They plan to steal a precious 78 record from Ollie’s grandmother (Mary Beth Piel). She lives on an enchanted lakeside property brimming with history.

The record is part of Ollie’s family lore, something all the more important since his father’s suicide.

Finding the record won’t be easy. Oliie is distracted by a local beauty (Isabelle McNally) and his complicated ties to Nikolai deepen as the movie progresses.

Nostalgia all but swarms “Sway Lake,” but not in the way most projects are engulfed by it. This isn’t “Stranger Things 2.0,” where era clues litter the landscape.

Look, a “Charlie’s Angels” lunchbox!

Director/co-writer Ari Gold gently deploys old photographs, scratchy music and voiceovers (provided by the great Brian Dennehy) to illuminate the past. It doesn’t just catch up with the main characters. It refuses to let them go.

Director @arigold discusses #TheSongofSwayLake & his short films Culture, Frog Crossing, & Helicopter on @FilmThreat with @ThatChrisGore & @thisgamecheats! Check out this rousing conversation about film, philosophy, life, politics, Jodorowsky, & more:

— The Song of Sway Lake (@SwayLake) September 18, 2018

Sheehan’s Nikolai feels like a star-making turn, if only enough people see this indie gem. The Irish actor trots out a consistent Russian accent and a playful, irrepressible spirit. More vital? He’s a supporting player who often feels like the star.

Nikolai gives an impassioned speech about his love for America mid-movie, but the film itself is equally smitten with that subject. It’s not flag waving or chest thumping, to be clear. Nor does it sand away the rough edges from our collective pasts. It merely captures all the possibilites in the country’s DNA.

The film’s trickiest subplot taps into Nikolai’s patriotic mien. Gold arranges it so delicately you’ll offer up a slow, silent clap.

FAST FACT: Ari Gold’s brother, Ethan Gold, provides the throwback original compositions for “The Song of Sway Lake,” including the title track.

Culkin has a harder task, making his hirsute slacker endearing. It takes time, but he pulls it off by not trying too hard to win us over.

Piel is as luminous as the landscapes on display. She’s a fully realized soul, someone we feel like we’ve known for some time.

“The Song of Sway Lake” isn’t fussy or pretentious. It’s a throwback all the same, from its old school soundtrack to the small but potent emotions illuminating the screen.

HiT or Miss: “The Song of Sway Lake” is an invigorating experience, sweeping across generations in ways we rarely see today.

The post ‘Song of Sway Lake’ Shimmers with American Lore appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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A funny thing happened when Oscar winner Sean Penn took aim at the #MeToo movement.

Nothing.

In today’s hyper sensitive age, “nothing” is funny, at least not in the “ha ha” sense.

Penn spoke out recently against a movement which took down Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and other high profile men in the entertainment business.

That simple act typically inspires fierce blowback.

Just ask Matt Damon. The “Bourne” superstar dared to say the movement conflated predators like disgraced Sen. Al Franken, accused of groping numerious women and Weinstein, who allegedly raped multiple starlets.

Matt Damon says there are different scales of sexual misconduct and we need to figure out 'our appet - YouTube

That caused a firestom of rebuttals. Damon quickly apologized.

“I love them and respect them and support what they’re doing and want to be a part of that change and go along for that ride,” he said. “(But) I should get in the backseat and close my mouth for a while.”

Norm Macdonald also questioned the movement, saying he was happy to see its power fade.

I’m happy the #MeToo movement has slowed down a little bit (emphasis added). It used to be, “One hundred women can’t be lying.” And then it became, “One woman can’t lie.” And that became, “I believe all women.” And then you’re like, “What?” Like, that Chris Hardwick guy I really thought got the blunt end of the stick there.

He also had sympathy for stars whose careers vanish overnight due to allegations. Media outlets pounced. Hard.

Macdonald quickly embarked on an Apology Tour to make things right. And, perhaps, save his new Netflix talk show.

Penn’s were similarly critical of the #MeToo movement. The two-time Oscar winner also committed the ultimate progressive sin — “mansplaining” the issue in front of his female co-star (Natascha McElhone) and a female interviewer (Natalie Morales).

The subject? Was Penn’s new Hulu series “The First,” influenced by #MeToo?

Sean Penn Talks His TV Debut, Criticizes #MeToo Movement | TODAY - YouTube

“I’d like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo,” he said. “I think it’s influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women who’ve been acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men. This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious.”

“Well, we don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases,” he said. “Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded.

“The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women.”

He kept going.

“I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to in great stridency and rage and without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked … It’s too black and white … in most things that are very important, it’s really good to just slow down (emphasis added).”

Agree? Disagree? You can do both. It’s still America.

Yet the Outrage Police didn’t pull him over. No major media outlets demanded an apology or simply pummeled him for his comments.

Why?

Here are several potential explanations:

  • Penn is left of center, to the extreme, and SJWs were less willing to scorch one of their own.
  • It’s Penn being Penn. He’s an eccentric who we expect to say the unexpected.
  • Those outraged by these statements don’t really mean it. They simply want attention and relish taking down select targets.

The latter offers the most context. The Outrage Mob often won’t complain when Republican women are shamed, judged by their physical appearance or sexualized. That makes their outrage a political weapon more than a legitimate concern.

RELATED: Jim Jefferies Trashes Melania as ‘Wooden, Dirty’

That applies, at least partly, to the attacks on Macdonald. Macdonald isn’t a hard-left comic. He even vowed not to use his Netflix platform to aid The Resistance. So knocking him down a peg or two suddenly became more attractive to the Left.

The comic also committed the sin of defending Roseanne Barr against charges she’s a racist due to one racially charged Tweet.

Combine the two, and the Left had no problem attempting to get Macdonald’s professional scalp. And they nearly succeeded.

Penn, by comparison, walked away from his #MeToo critiques without so much as a wrist slap.

The post Where Is Sean Penn’s #MeToo Apology Tour? appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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There’s an unofficial rule in comedy: Never punch down.

That means joking about the disabled, for example, is frowned upon in more ways than one. Progressive comics expanded that old saw to include those in society they perceive to be victims of western culture.

None of that stopped dethroned sitcom queen Roseanne Barr from getting crushed at the Emmy Awards telecast.

Hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che trotted out the usual Nazi references during their opening monologue. It’s comic shorthand for, “hey, that President Trump is bringing the Third Reich back” without actually mentioning his name.

Then they ran down Barr, who lost her eponymous show, and likely her professional career, in May for a racially charged Tweet mocking former Obama administration advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is black.

Roseanne Barr's emotional first interview since she was fired for racist remarks - YouTube

Barr lost her signature showcase, the untold millions she’d earn from its continued success and her good standing in the Hollywood community.

All for one single Tweet.

Her subsequent apologies didn’t help. Show business cast her out. All the while, stars who said much, much worse didn’t receive so much as a wrist slap:

That’s only a partial list.

So naturally Che and Jost slammed the disgraced star during their monologue. Even more odd? The Barr kerfuffle happened months ago. The news was hardly topical. The “Saturday Night Live” regulars insisted on smiting her all the same.

“Roseanne was canceled by herself, but picked up by white nationalists” Jost said.

“She’s had a rough year… I heard Roseanne’s actually moving to Israel. How messed up is your life when you have to move to the Middle East just to get peace of mind?” Che added.

The duo then chuckled over the show getting (mostly) blacklisted for Barr’s single Tweet.

“By the way, congratulations to Laurie Metcalf. You know how great an actress you have to be to get nominated for Roseanne now? That’s like nominating a cop for a B.E.T. award.”

What’s more galling about the attack? Barr paved the way for powerful women in Hollywood. She ruled over “Roseanne” during its heyday, showing Hollywood she could stick to her principles and draw a crowd.

One wonders how many young, impressionable women drew inspiration from her pluck.

That doesn’t capture her impact on pop culture and Hollywood. Comedian Norm Macdonald, who served as a writer on the show’s successful return earlier this year, said Barr actively hired hire minority writers during the show’s initial run.

Co-star John Goodman, long after her firing, insisted the Barr he knew couldn’t be racist.

None of that mattered. ABC showed her the door. Monday night, the Emmy Awards telecast slammed it repeatedly on her while the crowd helped them punch down.

The post Emmy Hosts Bully Down and Out Roseanne appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Some audience members might approach The Phamaly Theatre Company with skepticism.

The Denver-based troupe exclusively employs actors with a range of disabilities, from neurological disorders to partial paralysis.

Regan Linton, the company’s artistic director, felt that way at first.

The word “disabled” comes with plenty of emotional weight, says Linton, whose 2002 car accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. The first time Linton took in a Phamaly Theatre production, though, erased any doubts.

“This isn’t a pity party,” Linton says.

Phamaly Theatre, a partner with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, offers large-scale versions of “Evita,” “Annie” and other classic productions. The theatre’s creative team embraces their actors’ challenges, adapting parts to align with their gifts.

“Our perspective can be an asset,” she says. “A lot of our performers feel their disabilities are something they have to deny or get around. We believe it can be part of your success.”

Arts District: Phamaly Theatre Company - YouTube

One Phamaly production featured a witch who walked with a cane. So the show had her casting spells with the walking aid. Later, when the witch shed her ugly exterior, she emerged with a “bedazzled” cane in hand.

“It’s an opportunity for creativity,” she says of such adjustments.

The unconventional witch is but a sample of how Phamaly shows tweak story elements to align with the talent.

“We cast [actors] in a way that fits with their communication [level]. It takes forethought and planning. It takes knowing the individual,” she says.

Regan Linton hasn’t let her disability stop her theatrical ambitions. Here, she’s front and center in a production by Phamaly Theatre.

It still takes courage to hit the stage with a disability. Linton studied theater prior to her accident and remembers returning to her craft for the first time.

“I was hesitant to roll on stage,” she recalls. “I was coming out as disabled.”

Her first few minutes on stage found her alongside a performer with memory challenges who missed a line. That didn’t slow him down. Nor did it rob the joy from his performance.

“That’s what matters. We get caught up in all the minutiae. From that point on I was a whole-hearted believer,” she says.

RELATED: This Is an Immersive Theater Actor’s Biggest Challenge

Linton’s accident had a profound impact in more than the expected ways. As a teen she struggled to accept who she was.

“I was constantly running away from myself,” she says. “After my injury, from a body image perspective and an identity perspective, I said, ‘oh, I am what I am. There’s no changing this.’ I might as well embrace that.”

“How do I throw myself into who I am? That’s been my greatest artistic opportunity, just solidifying who I am as Regan and not trying to change that,” adds Linton, who has performed with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (the first rep acting company member to use a wheelchair), La Jolla Playhouse and the Big-I in Osaka, Japan.

That realization often happens to older, more established actors, she says. Many of the Phamaly performers faced serious trauma earlier in life. That profoundly impacted how they view themselves.

“When you see our actors there’s a level of vulnerability and authenticity that’s inescapable,” says Linton, the only wheelchair user to lead a major U.S.-based theater group.

The Disability Etiquette Video with Regan Linton - YouTube

Linton went Hollywood for a spell, hoping to find work within the film and TV industry prior to her Phamaly duties.

“If you’re different in L.A., not just that you’re still beautiful but have a slightly different nose … if you use a wheelchair, if you have a different gait, they’re not ready for that,” she says without bitterness. “They’re stuck in the mold of what they’ve always done.”

She sees some progress within the industry regarding actors with disabilities, but more work remains to be done.

That doesn’t mean she’s on board with the strict casting rules facing Hollywood today. A recent example had A-list star Scarlett Johansson quit a role in “Rub and Tug” where she would have played a trans character.

RELATED: New Play ‘Human Error’ Tweaks Both Liberals, Conservatives

A similar kerfuffle occurred last year when a disability organization complained Alec Baldwin shouldn’t have played a sightless lead character in the indie feature “Blind.”

“It’s Alec Baldwin, for God’s sake,” she says. ”You’re not going to find a blind actor of that stature, but he’s not the only person in that movie. Where are the other places you can bring in a blind actor?”

Progress, she notes, doesn’t demand firing an actor who brings both talent and star appeal to a production.

“There are other ways of representing a population. It takes thinking beyond [casting] just the one role … what about the neighbor, the best friend or the store clerk?” she asks.

The Phamaly Theatre Company’s production of “Harvey” runs from Oct. 18 through Nov. 11 at The Olin Hotel in Denver. Please visit the company’s official site for tickets and more information.

The post Disabilities Make This Theatre Shine Brighter appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict what we’ll see at the Emmy Awards tonight.

That doesn’t refer to the creators shaping the current Golden Age of Television. We won’t know who wins the biggest awards until the envelopes start ripping open.

We’re talking about the show’s politics.

SNL Hosts Colin Jost And Michael Che Offer Emmy Awards Sneak Peek | TODAY - YouTube

Picture a crush of anti-Trump jokes to kick-start the ceremony. Next, a few winners supporting the woman alleging Brett Kavanaugh sexually attacked her 35 years ago without a lick of credible evidence.

President Donald Trump’s border wall might get slammed. So will his allegedly dictatorial mien.

We’ve seen this play out in virtually every awards ceremony since Trump shocked the world on Nov. 9, 2016. And, every time, the ratings sink like a stone.

Tonight’s Emmy hosts, Michael Che and Colin Jost of “Saturday Night Live” fame, initially teased the event would be less political than expected.

They’re bluffing, of course.

“We might have to tell a joke about President Pence,” Che added. “Who knows?”

RELATED: Politically Charged Oscars a Sign of the Times, Says Roeper

But… what if something else played out? Imagine if the assembled stars did something dramatically different throughout the night.

What if…

  • A female winner used her podium time to blast Hollywood for ignoring the Dr. Kermit Gosnell tragedy while promoting the Oct. 12 release of “Gosnell.” “Thank you, Nick Searcy, for bringing this horror story to the big screen so more Gosnell monsters can be brought to justice!”
  • A best actor honoree chided the media and Democrats alike for supporting a last-minute attack on Kavanaugh, saying it smacked of the very worst instincts in our body politic. “The people in this room wouldn’t like it if Republicans tried this tactic with a Democratic nominee…”
  • The presenters got serious for a moment, saying free speech must be defended for those who lean to the right. “It’s time for all the snowflakes out there to melt away.”
  • A winner gave an extended shout out to capitalism and dragged socialist It Girl Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her misguided take on the U.S. economy. “We’ve seen her version of America, and Venezuela is not a good look.”
  • Hosts Che and Jost spend the evening’s first five minutes torching the violence emanating from today’s progressive movement. “Enough is enough.”

Now, imagine the fallout.

Instead of chummy AP reports depicting the night’s political banter is drinking game fodder you’d get stern warnings about the messages shared throughout the night.

Celebrities would rush to Twitter to attack the presenters and declare an Emmys telecast may not be the best place to share those opinions.

The stars who made those statements would fire up their Twitter accounts to apologize for their actions. Others might go further, cutting checks to charities to let the healing begin (and save their next gigs).

We’d get a glut of media fact checks about the statements uttered as well as “think pieces” decrying that they were shared in the first place. The same outlets that demanded a more political Emmys telecast will quickly reverse course.

Does anyone doubt this?

If not, why is it business as usual for the awards ceremony to veer hard left, insult the political ideology of roughly one half the country and take a night meant for entertainment excellence and turn it into a progressive screed?

Andre Guerra

The post Imagine If This Happened at the Emmys Tonight… appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the gold standard of modern film criticism. And for good reason.

Their signature show, “Siskel & Ebert,” made movie reviewing cool. They fought like Itchy and Scratchy at times, but their love of movies always conquered all.

This was before Facebook, Twitter and comments sections, the places where modern movie goers hash it out now. Their passionate debates were must-see TV for film buffs. There’s nothing quite like it on TV today, even if countless YouTube channels attempt similar exchanges on the movies du jour.

They also didn’t overstep their bounds, something that happens with some modern critics. Ever fume over a review that spoils one too many plot points? What about reviewers who slam movies for having themes with which they disagree?

The duo fell into the latter trap over a slasher movie classic.

Friday the 13th Official Trailer #1 (1980) - Horror Movie HD - YouTube

The year was 1980, and a new horror film hit theaters nationwide. “Friday the 13th” rode the red slasher wave started by John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” The former couldn’t match the latter’s fright quotient, but it snagged a successful formula all the same.

  • Scantily clad women
  • Sex, the R-rated kind
  • Cool kills
  • A killing machine with an intriguing back story

The film made $39 million at U.S. theaters, a bonanza given its tiny budget. Suffice to say it launched endless sequels, a 2009 reboot and fitful talk of more installments.

Siskel and Ebert tried to stop the potential franchise before it got started. The duo spoiled the film’s ending on their television review show.

Why?

It might steer potential ticket buyers away from the film. Bad box office equals no sequels. No sequels means a body blow to the budding genre.

Boy, were they wrong.

FAST FACT: Betsy Palmer snagged $1,000 per day to film “Friday the 13th,” a fee that helped her buy a new car after her old one died.

The pair pushed even further, stepping outside their roles as movie reviewers. According to J.A. Kerswell’s “The Teenage Slasher Movie Book, 2nd Revised and Expanded Edition,” the critics tried to directly shame Palmer for appearing in the film. How?

They implored their viewers to write the actress and, as Kerwell puts it, “share their disapproval.”

Siskel’s print review is even more dramatic, moving beyond his role as audience surrogate. He called director Sean S. Cunningham “one of the most despicable creatures” in the film business. Later in the “review,” Siskel gives the mailing address for Gulf & Western Industries chairman, Charles G. Bludorn. (Paramount Pictures was a subsidiary of the company).

What happened next? Audiences ignored their pleas, making the “Friday the 13th” franchise both a cash cow and iconic monster series.

RELATED: Sexy Horror Movies … from a Female Perspective

Truth be told, it’s one of the lesser horror franchises. The unstoppable Jason Voorhees, though, remains a screen villain for the ages. Just ask Kane Hodder, who built a curious type of fame by playing killer Jason in a number of “Friday” sequels.

Even the very best critics get it wrong sometimes.

Photo by eyecmore on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

The post FLASHBACK: Siskel, Ebert Spoil Slasher Classic appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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It all began with a childhood speech impediment.

Trump impersonator John Di Domenico in full regalia.

Young John Di Domenico spent years in speech therapy to iron out the problem. What he also gleaned from those lessons is how our voices work. More importantly, he learned why people sound the way they do.

Like Donald Trump, for example.

Di Domenico discovered a knack for impressions early on, and he’s been using it to make us laugh ever since. His career exploded shortly after a certain real estate mogul rocked the GOP primaries.

It takes about an hour for him to transform into Trump, but it’s that voice that seals the deal. It helps with the bottom line, too. At his Election Year peak, the impersonator brought in $40,000 a month.

Can you say, “yeah, baby!”

Yes, that’s another impression he crushes, along with Guy Fieri, the Love Guru, Dr. Phil and Jay Leno (who you’ll hear in a moment).

Still, Trump is now his calling card, getting him invites on Fox News, “Conan” and more.

Di Domenico shares the birth of his impersonation career, how he knew more than most pundits that Trump could win the White House and his beef with Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression in the newest HiT ‘cast.

Listen to “HiT Episode 86 John Di Domenico” on Spreaker.

You can follow John on Twitter @JohnnyD23, find out his latest news at his site johnnyd.net and watch him in action via an array of YouTube clips. Here’s just one example:

Donald Trump impersonator John Di Domenico׃ The Briefcase Always Rings Twice 6.16.16 - YouTube

The post HiT Episode No. 86 – John Di Domenico appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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If it bleeds, we won’t notice the gaping plot holes in this ’80s reboot.

“The Predator” arrives with all the bells and whistles writer/director Shane Black can summon. For fits and starts that’s enough to distract us from the silly sci-fi theatrics and a narrative veering from PC to “problematic.”

Plus, few action scribes care about the spoken word as much as Black. The “Nice Guys” auteur had a small role in the 1987 original. Now, he’s best known for his work on the other side of the camera.

So why does someone with intimate knowledge of the Ah-nuld classic think we wanted the comedy dialed up to 11?

The Predator | Final Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX - YouTube

“The Predator’s” first 10 minutes are so rushed, so clunky we fear the worst. A predator’s alien vessel slips through a hole in space and ends up on Earth. Once on the ground, he wipes out a small group of soldiers save for a Special Forces sniper named Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook).

Now, the authorities want to shut Quinn up, hoping to keep their investigation into the creature a secret. Why? It’s all hush-hush, evil military stuff.

You know the cliche.

Quinn eventually teams up with a rogue’s gallery of antiheroes including Thomas Jane’s Tourette Syndrome afflicted soul and Keegan-Michael Key playing … Keegan-Michael Key. They join a tougher than nails biologist (Olivia Munn) to avoid Johnny Law and protect Quinn’s son (“Wonder’s” Jacob Tremblay) from the Predator’s clutches.

They might just save the day in the process.

Black’s “Predator” glibly connects to the past films in the franchise. The tone? It couldn’t be more different if Arnold Schwarzenegger made a cameo wearing a tutu. The jokes are fast, furious and almost always on target.

The pace? You may need to take a yoga breath between action set pieces.

Where’s the mystery, sense of danger or chills? You’ll have to rewatch the original, which holds up beautifully in case you were wondering.The new film’s opening scene shows a Predator lumbering about, instantly negating any sense of wonder we might have for the rebooted species.

And boy do this film’s missed opportunities hurt.

Take Sterling K. Brown’s character. You never know which way he’ll zag, and that’s not because he’s playing an unpredictable soul. The actor leaves a vivid impression. It’s just not consistent from scene to scene.

Our hero is more direct, a Mel Gibson ripoff from the actor’s ’80s heyday. Holbrook has the requisite swagger, and his brand of personal responsibility is refreshing. So, too, is Black’s affection for soldiers, the heroes who risk it all for the rest of us. They’re never happier than, seconds before certain death, they realize their sacrifice won’t be in vain.

Tremblay’s character captures that sentiment while chatting with the local postal carrier about his Pappy.

“He kills people so you can be a mail man.”

Why, it’s like “Toxic Masculinity: the Movie.”

Predator Clip - Ultimate Predator Ambush - YouTube

Munn’s character represents Hollywood’s course correction for treating women so shabbily for so long. While action movies once relegated fine actresses to perfunctory roles like “the wife,” now they’re darn near superheroic. Munn’s character is a scientist by trade, but watching how she hangs with the professional soldiers requires some sizable belief suspension.

Other female characters are equally strong, as if auditioning for the inevitable sequel(s). There’s even a reverse Al Franken moment played for laughs.

The film also clumsily introduces, and that’s being generous, a gay couple for no other reason than o check off some Woke Points. Those touches are joined by a snort-worthy plot point Al Gore might cheer.

Then again, the film plays Jane’s profane outburst for the cheapest of laughs. Black, who suffers from Tourette himself, is too good a scribe to fall back on such lazy bits..

Finally officially acknowledging that I have Tourette’s… yup, for real. Anybody out there on that page? pic.twitter.com/Kfg7oirYJQ

— Shane Black (@BonafideBlack) June 29, 2018

If you guessed there’s too many elements in this brand extension, take your pick between the fluffy bunny and the neon teddy bear.

The film gives Tremblay’s character Asperger syndrome, a novel twist that ties smartly into a third act reveal. Otherwise, the film is all kinds of stupid, with sci-fi mumbo jumbo we allegedly moved past in the 1980s.

The scientists here either know way too much or too little. The anti heroes suffer a similar screenwriting tick. Their personal motivations make little sense.

Add some alien dogs and a finale that begs for a sequel and you’ve got a cinematic mess. You’ll laugh and savor some action beats, but otherwise you’ll pine for the original.

HiT or Miss: “The Predator” brings the laughter and some thrilling action. What’s missing? For starters, you’ll forget much of the movie by the time your car leaves the theater’s parking lot.

The post New ‘Predator’ Blends ’80s Grit with Woke Theatrics appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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