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Judd Apatow wants to do his part for racial healing.

The comic maestro behind “Knocked Up,” “Crashing” and other projects will take part in a livestreaming Q&A Jan. 22. The event, established by director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), is one element of the “National Day of Racial Healing.”

Others slated to appear include Laverne Cox, Melissa Etheridge and child actress Storm Reid (DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time”).

Apatow’s inclusion here isn’t surprising. He’s embraced progressive activism following the election of Donald Trump. The celebrated director has gone so far as to compare the Trump administration to Nazi Germany.

He’s been burnishing his woke bona fides for months, including his attack on Louis C.K.’s politically incorrect routine. Yet a quick look at his film and TV work suggest he might not be the best person to explore racial healing.

Few comedy filmmakers wield the clout Apatow possesses. Yet from the start of his film career to his current projects, his casts typically lack people of color.

Let’s start with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” The 2005 comedy established Apatow as a comic maestro, one who can introduce us to lesser known talent. That film, which he co-wrote and directed, helped establish future film stars like Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and Elizabeth Banks.

They’re all white, as are co-stars Jane Lynch, Catherine Keener and Leslie Mann. The film’s most prominent black actor, Romany Malco, is part of the main character’s work group.

The 40 Year Old Virgin (3/8) Movie CLIP - How to Talk to Women (2005) HD - YouTube

His 2007 directorial follow up, “Knocked Up,” featured even fewer people of color. The movie’s main stars are Rogen and Katherine Heigl. The co-stars? Rogen, Mann, Rudd, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Martin Starr. Charlyne Yi, an Asian actress, has a small part.

By now Apatow is a superstar, a man who makes movies almost universally criticized as being too long. That didn’t matter. He called the shots and likely cast whoever he liked.

His 2009 dramedy “Funny People” similarly featured a mostly white cast. Think Adam Sandler, Rogen, Mann, Hill, Eric Bana, Aubrey Plaza and Jason Schwartzman. Aziz Ansari snagged a modest role, to be fair.

Funny People (4/10) Movie CLIP - Kill Me (2009) HD - YouTube

“This Is 40” followed suit, starring Rudd and Mann. The film’s cast also included Graham Parker, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Segel, Albert Brooks and John Lithgow.

“Trainwreck” found Apatow directing Amy Schumer’s tart script. The film’s cast featured LeBron James in a small but scene stealing turn. Other cast members? Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Brie Larson and Tilda Swinton.

All white.

Apatow went on to produce HBO’s “Girls,” the low-rated series featuring star/creator Lena Dunham. That show got pounded for being set in New York City but having few people of color on screen. Only after media outlets shamed Dunham and co. did viewers see any change.

His Netflix rom-com series “Love” (he served as the show’s creator as well as writer/producer), focused on a white couple’s romantic entanglements. That show’s cast also proved primarily white despite being set in a diverse city like Los Angeles.

LOVE | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube

His latest producing effort, “Crashing,” also focuses primarily on white characters. Here’s a screen shot from the “cast” portion of HBO’s web site.

The prolific creator has produced a crush of comedy projects over the last decade. His 2017 comedy “The Big Sick” features an Indian-American star in Kumail Nanjiani.

Other comedies, including “The Five-Year Engagement,” “Step Brothers” and the “Anchorman” sequel again offer mostly white actors.

Apatow deserves significant credit for bringing stars like Rogen, Lynch, Hill and others into the mainstream. Each owes a debt to Apatow. He not only spotted their gifts but gave them exemplary showcases for them.

So why didn’t he do the same for more minority actors? Malco’s funniest screen role, to date, is “Virgin.” Could more actors of color have benefited from an Apatow film or TV show role?

His upcoming livestream appearance may talk up diversity in 2019. Here’s what DuVernay had to say about the event, to be held following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“The responsibility of fighting inequality and injustice is all of ours,” the Oscar-nominated Selma helmer added. “But it’s particularly important that those of us with certain visibility and influence use our platforms to urge bold conversations. We can never give up on pushing this nation to live up to its promise.”

Apatow may be part of an emerging conversation. He still had the chance to directly impact racial opportunity in Hollywood but came up short.

The post The Blinding Whiteness of Judd Apatow, Inc. appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Jason Reitman, son of original “Ghosbusters” director Ivan Reitman, just dropped a cultural bomb on us.

The “Up in the Air” director will be overseeing “Ghostbusters 3,” coming to theaters in 2020. Some of us were happier than others about the news.

Among those less thrilled was Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the 2016 Sony reboot with an all-woman Ghostbusting team. Jones was particularly ticked off that the sequel will skip her film in the Ghostbusters storyline.

She took to her favorite medium, Twitter, with a bitter, profanity-laden tweet attacking the new film as a Trump-worthy sexist “d— move” that betrayed everything her film had allegedly accomplished.

Ghostbusters (2016) - Heavy Metal Demon Scene (7/10) | Movieclips - YouTube

Naturally, the Hollywood press has been at pains to portray the reboot as a triumph of gender equality. Reporters also cheered on Jones’s nasty Twitter wars in 2019, as they did in 2016.

RELATED: Roeper Says Critics Graded ‘Ghostbusters’ on a Curve

The popular media line is that ignoring the reboot nullifies its great accomplishment. But there’s a reason that Reitman and crew are treating her movie as though it were Nickelback covering the Beatles.

It was terrible.

GHOSTBUSTERS - Official Trailer (HD) - YouTube

It lost the studio the ungodly sum of $70 million, grossing about a quarter of the original, adjusted for inflation.

The fact is, neither sex-swapping nor remakes draw a crowd in and of themselves. They need to succeed on their merits, just like any other film. “His Girl Friday,” one of the earliest of the genre, worked because it had Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Howard Hawks and Charles Lederer, not because of the novelty of a woman reporter.

“The Incredible Shrinking Woman” and “The Next Karate Kid” are forgotten because they had nothing new to say, and said it poorly.

RELATED: Paul Feig Finally Learns Lady Ghostbusters Lesson

Jones’s reaction reeks of ingratitude, and would even had the 2016 “Ghostbusters” succeeded. Reboots, remakes and even sequels inevitably feed off of the original source material. Sony was clearly banking on the goodwill of the original when it green-lit the project.

Jones and her team bought the right to remake the 1984 classic, but it was theirs to score with or fumble. The franchise owners don’t owe her anything else, up to and including any acknowledgement that her characters exist.

For her to pretend otherwise, and for the Hollywood press to cheerlead, does a disservice to actresses and women directors who actually have broken new ground with their work.

Joshua Sharf is a Denver-based web developer, writer, photographer and consumer of popular culture. He serves as a Fiscal Policy Analyst for the Independence Institute.

The post Jones’ ‘Ghostbusters’ Trump Rant Is Pure Ingratitude appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Mary Gallagher could have followed in her parents’ military footsteps, but she opted for a different path.

She hit comedy stages across the country, leaning on that military discipline along the way. She eventually made it to her national television debut last year, a stand-up segment on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Mary Gallagher Performs Standup - YouTube

That doesn’t mean she forgot the values instilled in her by Mom and Dad, who both served in the U.S. Marines. Discipline and a devout Catholic faith are crucial to both her performing career and other artistic endeavors, which include works as a cartoonist and children’s book scribe.

She combined the latter two to teach children self-esteem. Now, she’s trying to save lives through laughter — with a kinder, gentler brand of humor.

“I’ve been battling that you can’t be funny and nice at the same time, because people always told me comedy has to have a meanness to it,” Gallagher said. “Then I heard [comic] Brian Regan in an interview say he only likes kind comedy. When I saw that, I gave myself permission to be who I was. I have a certain kindness in my comedy, and Ellen Degeneres’ comedy is also based on an element of kindness.”

Gallagher grew up in Wisconsin, and first performed stand-up comedy by opening for stars like Pauly Shore and Sam Kinison at a Green Bay comedy club when she was 20. Her inspiration came in 1987 after Wayne Cotter perform what she believed to be “the perfect set” on David Letterman’s iconic show.

Clean comic Mary Gallagher

Years later, she met Cotter at the Hollywood Improv and did more than thank him for the inspiration. She recited his entire routine back to him.

That mental effort reflected the drive and dedication she later applied on stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater for Colbert’s CBS showcase.

She honed that six-minute routine for four years, sharpening every last joke after taking an extended break to raise her daughter, Mia, now 12.

Yet her innate decency thrived. She’s proud to be a trusted confidant for many of Mia’s friends, as she tries to help them navigate life’s challenges. She herself didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, growing up with a troubled brother who eventually took his own life.

“I have a strong urge to help children, and I’ve had my daughter actually bring to my attention some of her friends that need a kind, caring adult,” said Gallagher.

“Children trust me and tell me things. I feel with everything I’ve gone through because I had a lot of pain with my brother in childhood, all is as it was meant to be because now I can help people. I believe in empowering children to feel good, and really all people. Everyone’s on a path to figuring out how can we feel good about ourselves.”

RELATED: 16 Comedy Scenes Guaranteed to Make You Howl

On a deeper level, she has teamed up with her friend, comic Brian Kiley (a staff writer for TBS’s “Conan”), to create a book bolstering discussion between middle-school kids and their parents about suicide. She hopes to encourage children to discuss their feelings while avoiding tragedies.

“It’s not jokey, but there’s a lightness to it,” she said. “It’s a conversation about the topic of suicide for 10- to 12-year-olds, since once they get to high school, it’s something they’re hearing about and dealing with. Last year, three freshmen at Mia’s school in Burbank killed themselves. We talk about drugs, we talk about sex, but rarely do we talk about and have a conversation about suicide. I’m not a psychologist, but it shouldn’t be a dark secret we don’t talk about.”

Gallagher’s faith guides her not only in being kind in her comedy, but being clean and clever as well. She performs frequently at Los Angeles area parish fundraisers, and is a regular presence in area clubs such as Flappers near her home in Burbank.

Everyone’s on a path to figuring out how can we feel good about ourselves.

Her comedy is the exception to the bawdy rule.

She’s sad to see so many young female comics embrace “filthy” humor meant to shock first and foremost. She sees comedy is having a higher purpose.

“Laughter is so powerful, so healing,” noted Gallagher. “Just the pure entertainment of it, the whole idea of presenting this to people — that this is who I am and what I think about. It’s one of the greatest things you can do. I just want to spread a good vibe in the world. When we see someone go onstage and make light of their own shortcomings, it gives us all permission to laugh at our own because it disarms the heaviness of our faults.

“Seeing what happened with my brother gave me a lesson that every day is so precious, and I will truly live my life for the glory of God and the gift that I’m given,” she concluded. “I pray every day for the ability bring joy to more people and make the world nicer and kinder.”

The post Mary Gallagher Proves Kind Comedy Can Crush It appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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The director of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise lost the gig after his old jokes about pedophilia surfaced.

Disney reluctantly fired James Gunn, and the studio is now searching for his replacement.

it’s safe to say Scott Derrickson’s gig as the man behind the “Doctor Strange” films won’t suffer a similar fate even though one of his toxic Tweets is only a few hours old.

Derrickson, like the vast majority of Hollywood denizens, loathes President Donald Trump. That’s crystal clear from his Twitter account, which boasts a hefty 92K-plus followers.

And, like an embarrassingly large sub set of the group, his Trump derangement takes him into some rdark directions.

Take his Saturday afternoon Tweet. The director, a self-described Christian, goes out of his way to not just slam Trump as a white supremacist but anyone who dares support his policies.

Now, in a sane world Disney, which oversees the Marvel Cinema Universe, might be sad to see one of its directors slam a large group of potential “Doctor Strange 2” patrons. Any MCU film is guaranteed to make money, but these films must earn millions to compensate for their massive budgets and marketing campaigns.

Every ticket sold matters.

Still, Team Disney will likely ignore this missive. Here’s why:

  • The target is Trump, remember?
  • The mainstream press will ignore this Tweet. So will Hollywood news sites
  • Plus, this isn’t his first hate tweet

For Thanksgiving 2017 he shared a Tweet calling American Christianity “racist, greedy and nationalistic.”

Earlier this month, he attacked his fellow Christians anew, saying, “In America, we Christians are not the solution. We are the core problem..”

Derrickson’s most recent Tweet drew plenty of agreement from fellow Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers. A few fought back, though.

So you’re calling half of America racist? Great strategy movie director!

— Anthony Sisco (@SirAnthonySisco) January 19, 2019

Who are you to judge what people think? The whole “if you disagree with me you’re ___” game that you rich babies play is old and tired but go ahead continue virtue signaling, hell, I don’t even like trump but you lot make it difficult to root against him

— New Year’s Ham (@Hansican) January 19, 2019

The post ‘Doc Strange’ Director: Trump Fans ‘Straight-Up Racist’ appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Judd Apatow went from middling stand-up to Hollywood’s unofficial king of comedy.

Films like “Knocked Up,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Superbad” cemented his status as the industry’s comedy powerhouse. His fingerprints were everywhere, and still are, witness shows like HBO’s “Crashing” and Netflix’s” “Love.”

Lately, he saves enough time to tell fellow comics what they can and cannot say. It begs an uncomfortable question.


It helps to revisit a fascinating exchange from earlier this week on SiriusXM’s “Jim Norton and Sam Roberts” show. Apatow and “Crashing” creator Pete Holmes appeared to talk up the show’s new season.

Norton brought up Apatow’s rage against disgraced comic Louis C.K. during the interview. The former FX star is attempting a comeback after admitting to sexually exposing himself to a number of women. That comeback hit a snag, of sorts, when Apatow, Jim Carrey, Andy Richter and media outlets condemned him for telling jokes involving the Parkland student activists and the new Gender Pronoun Police.

Judd Apatow & Pete Holmes - Louis C.K.'s Leaked Set, Artie Lange, 'Crashing' - Jim & Sam Show - YouTube

The ensuing debate should be seen in its entirety. Suffice to say Norton repeatedly defended a comedian’s right to say what he or she wants to say, to hone their material over time and to tweak subjects that others fear to touch.

“There’s no subject that wouldn’t be on the table for me as a comedian,” Norton countered.

Apatow? He said topics like the Parkland students are all but off limits. He went further, arguing that if a comedian is exposed as a person who has hurt others, then it’s problematic to hear them tell off-color jokes.

“The medium matters. Who’s saying it matters,” Holmes said, firmly on Team Apatow.

Norton kept counter-punching. He made an excellent point about the lack of outrage in certain scenarios, a key factor that renders the current Outrage Culture inauthentic.

“That outrage was not there when [C.K.] was talking about Sarah Palin,” Norton said. C.K. called the former Alaskan governor the “C-word.” He also tweeted this about her: “I want to rub my father’s c*** all over Sarah Palin’s fat t***.”

C.K. eventually apologized – five years later.

Holmes then blames the new comedy restrictions on Trump, even though, as Norton correctly noted, the PC Police began pulling over comedians long before Trump’s ascension. It simply ramped up post-Trump’s election through no fault of Trump or his administration.

In fact, the new, depressing wave of “joke-free” comedy is a direct result of Trump fury.

Throughout the debate Apatow talked about the folly of “punching down” even though he once used President Trump’s own child, young Barron Trump, against him. In that same routine he jokingly referred to Trump raping the country, the kind of unwoke joke you’d think he’d avoid.

If the joke is anti-Trump Apatow can be as “regressive” as anyone, apparently.

RELATED: Will Hollywood Protest the Anti-Semitic Women’s March?

Apatow then reveals a monumental disconnect. He questions if comedians have been adversely affected by political correctness.

“Who’s really taking a hit?” he asks, as if Kevin Hart was still prepping his tux for his Feb. 24 Oscar date.

“Norm Macdonald almost lost his Netflix show for not apologizing the right way,” Norton calmly fired back. Next, Norton mentions how Chris Rock got attacked for comments made in a 2011 video before co-host Roberts mentions the obvious Hart situation.

Apatow had no real answer to these examples.

Norton then went back to the Trump issue, with Apatow claiming his Trump jokes inspired death threats.

“We all know that attacking Trump and coming at it from that angle, even if you get flagged, is not going to hurt you in our business,” Norton said.

The caustic comic went on, saying a comedian’s goal is “to be funny,” not worry about what direction they happened to be punching.

“The goal is to make people laugh .. it’s not whether he’s being nice or mean. It doesn’t mean s***. He’s just trying to make people laugh …a good joke is a good joke,” Norton said.

He’s right, of course. So why doesn’t Hollywood’s so-called comedy king grasp that essential truth?

FAST FACT: Judd Apatow once shared a $900 apartment with a young, struggling comic named Adam Sandler.

Let’s go back to the source of Apatow’s fame. His breakout film, “Virgin,” featured some exchanges that would be blasted by the PC Police today. Need one rock solid example? The “You know how I know you’re gay” running gag.

“You know how I know you’re gay? Because you macramed yourself a pair of jean shorts,” Paul Rudd’s character tells Seth Rogen.

“You know how I know you’re gay? You just told me you’re not sleeping with women anymore.”

There’s much more, and it even extended to a deleted scene from the film.

Knocked Up Deleted Scene - Know How I Know You're Gay? (2007) - Judd Apatow Movie HD - YouTube

At a time when pop culture scolds are digging through older material for “offenses,” it’s only a matter of time before Apatow gets busted. It’ll typically happen when he’s given great news or otherwise makes the news cycle.

That’s when the scolds love to strike. Just ask recent Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

And Apatow would give them so much material. Consider “Knocked Up,” a film which sexualizes women constantly, not to mention its implied anti-abortion stance.

The film “Superbad,” which Apatow produced, features even more unwoke material. Co-star/co-screenwriter Rogen pre-emptively called himself out for the 2007 film, dubbing some of his jokes “blatantly homophobic.”

Superbad (2007) Official Trailer 1 - Jonah Hill Movie - YouTube

Rogen did so while promoting “Neighbors 2: Sorority Uprising,” a comedy so woke it hired two female script doctors to crank up the empowerment.

For what it’s worth, the film bombed.

Yet the new, woke Apatow talked up the #MeToo movement last year in a way that directly contradicts his previous comedy efforts.

The most important part is that there is an awakening where people realize how badly women are treated. We want there to be new attitudes. In the entertainment industry, five per cent of movies are directed by women. That’s just criminal. There are so many ways in which women are disrespected, both in employment practices and how they’re paid and sexual harassment. So it’s very good that it’s all being brought out into the light. When that happens, we hope that large-scale changes occur as a result. It’s a seismic shift.

Apatow may have other pragmatic reasons for failing to defend his fellow comic’s right to joke as they please. He’s still a power player in Hollywood, and likely plans to stay that way for the foreseeable future. If he says the wrong thing now, his entire career could disappear.

Just ask Roseanne Barr.

So cowardly agreeing to the PC rules ensures his career continues to thrive. If it means attacking other comics and reinforcing the restrictions placed on his fellow creators, so be it.

The post Is This Why Judd Apatow Bows to the PC Police? appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Ted Balaker’s most recent film could be described as a “message” movie.

That’s not the way he envisioned it.

Yes, frustration over Susette Kelo’s story sparked “Little Pink House,” a film about eminent domain abuse. Still, Balaker approached the material, alongside his wife/director Courtney Moorehead Balaker, by keeping the narrative foremost in mind. It’s one reason the Libertarian-leaning project cajoled progressive singer David Crosby to pen an original tune for the film.

Rock legend David Crosby on composing 'Home Free' ('Little Pink House') | GOLD DERBY - YouTube

Balaker says that approach honors the story while letting audiences ponder the big picture. It’s also how he ducks the label of an ideological filmmaker. He cares more about characters, scripts and drama than partisan score keeping.

That’s evident with “Little Pink House,” one of 2018’s nicest surprises.

Balaker discussed his unique approach to filmmaking, why the story behind his 2016 documentary “Can We Take a Joke?” is far from over and much more on the latest HiT ‘cast.

Listen to “HiT Episode 102 Ted Balaker (‘Can We Take a Joke?’)” on Spreaker.

Also please visit HiT ‘cast sponsor Speakeasy Ideas, a critical ally for homeschooling parents and so much more. Here’s a sample lesson to start you in the right direction.

The post HiT Episode No. 102 – Ted Balaker (‘Little Pink House’) appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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M. Night Shyamalan hit a pop culture nerve with “Unbreakable.”

Few filmmakers took comic book movies seriously back in 2000. An even smaller group dropped these figures into the real world.

No spandex costumes, thank you.

Unbreakable (2000) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers - YouTube

That means the gimmick behind “Glass,” which connects both “Unbreakable” and the director’s surprise 2017 hit “Split,” is already yesterday’s news. We’ve seen plenty of films and TV shows pretending superheroes walk amongst us.

Look no further than Netflix’s “The Punisher,” which rarely dresses star Jon Bernthal in his signature skull shirt.

That’s hardly “Glass’s” only miscue. Shyamalan can’t deliver on “Split’s” spectacular potential nor the nostalgia circuits firing at the sight of Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price.

Glass - Official Trailer [HD] - YouTube

The third part of Shyamalan’s trilogy opens on a promising note. We reunite with David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the unlikely hero from “Unbreakable.” Now, he’s in charge of a security company, but he’s still a one-man wrecking crew off hours.

Only he knows saving the day could get him arrested, vigilante style. You could see him bellying up to the bar with Mr. Incredible to swap stories.

David’s moral compass won’t be denied. That leads him to track down The Beast (James McAvoy), the fiend with more than a dozen distinct personalities. McAvoy’s character, also dubbed “The Horde,” is up to his old kidnapping tricks.

David’s pursuit leads them both into the arms of Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson). She wants them to believe their super powers are all in their heads. It’s what she’s been telling Jackson’s Elijah Price, AKA Mr. Glass, for years.

Shyamalan, working with a fraction of the cash given most MCU joints, dazzles out of the chute. Willis remains an ageless action hero at 63, and the director captures an early fight sequence without aping his directorial peers.

We’re in, creeping toward the edge of our seats just as the pre-release hype promised. It doesn’t last long.

The film’s mid-section, a flabby, disjointed affair at the Raven Hill mental hospital, sheds little light on the characters or universe in play. David remains a cipher, while McAvoy gamely goes through the multiple personality motions with inferior results.

We barely see Mr. Glass for a large stretch of screen time. When he’s center stage he’s been drugged into a stupor, an understandable way to keep his brain deactivated. Cinematically, it’s a bit, fat zero to unplug mother-blanking Sam Jackson.

When he finally emerges, only the actor’s innate fire sparks the screen.

FAST FACT: The suits at Disney implored Shyamalan not to peddle his 2000 film “Unbreakable” as a superhero film, worried it could “alienate everyone in the room,” the director recalls being told.

That’s missing completely from the rest of the film. Willis is in Bored Mode again, and you can’t blame him. Worse is Casey Cooke, the survivor from “Split” played again by Anya Taylor-Joy. Her role here is vague and unconvincing. And that’s being kind.

Shyamalan’s screenplay can’t find a focal point despite the generous running time. Instead, we’re spoon fed stale crumbs, the kind superior superhero films brush aside. Mr. Glass keeps the “it’s just like a comic book” theme alive, but rarely in compelling fashion. Paulson’s character sticks to her two-dimensional portrait, never allowing us into her methods.

RELATED: Four ’90s Superheroes with Retro Roots

So we wait, and wait, for the inevitable clash of the titans. When it arrives, it reveals the limits of Shyamalan’s vision.

Was this really the plan dating back in 2000? Was David’s unexpected appearance at the end of “Splinter” a surprise to the director as well as audiences? After all, even studio executives were caught napping here.

“Glass” caps with a protracted explainer that doubles as the start of a new Shya-universe. It’s the height of arrogance from a director who once used his screenplay to mock film critics.

“Split” made us believe “the Next Spielberg” had come all the way back from his career nadir AKA “The Happening.” Instead, “Glass reveals a visionary with ambition and arrogance to spare.

HiT or Miss: “Glass” is the first big letdown of 2019, a film that flickers with greatness before running head first into a bloated third act.

The post ‘Glass’ Big Reveal Is a Big, Fat Nothing appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Here we go again.

It’s easy to watch “The Punisher” season two and see more Christianity bashing out of Hollywood. The major villain is a man of faith, a monster dressed in black like a priest dredged out of the abyss.

The industry’s eagerness to weaponize faith is obvious. What’s equally true? Dismissing the new season for one hacky decision is a mistake. The first four episodes are terrific, a near perfect marriage of ultra-violent glory and bruised humanity.

Marvel’s The Punisher: Season 2 | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube

The season opens with, what else, gun fire. We then flash back to see Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) knocking back a few cold ones at a Michigan bar. He ends up flirting with the bartender, but not before locking eyes on a Millennial (Giorgia Whigham) with a serious attitude.

You’ll soon forgive this snowflake for that quick temper. Amy is being hounded by a group of battle-tested killers. Too bad they didn’t anticipate Frank feeling all paternal around her.

A few corpses later, and both “Amy” and Frank are targeted by John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart, mesmerizing). a spiritual thug with a Bible verse to explain away his cruelty.

Josh Stewart’s quiet menace makes The Punisher Season two a worthy addition to the Netflix MCU roster.

Episode one takes its sweet time, but there’s a purpose to the pacing. The hour ends with a ferocious bang. Suddenly we’re immersed in a story that demands several more hours to complete.

We’re also re-introduced to Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), the frenemy Frank nearly killed last season. He’s picking up the pieces, both physically and mentally, and it’s here where the show avoids simplistic answers.

FAST FACT: “Punisher” Season two star Jon Bernthal says his nose has been broken 14 times.

Billy is genuinely tortured, a broken man teeming with rage and confusion. That’s clear during his therapy sessions with Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima). Yes, her professional boundaries are looser than a Nutrisystem client’s waist band. Still, their connection is palpable, granting Barnes enough room to make the man known to comic fans as “Jigsaw” his own creation.

Even more chilling is Billy’s reunion with an older man who played a part in his psychological downfall.

Stewart’s Pilgrim proves formidable, in part, because he rarely raises his voice. Stewart turns every syllable into a tiny torture device. The fact that he shares so much tenderness for his ailing wife makes his monstrous portrait even more compelling.

RELATED: Meet Luke Cage, Your Next Netflix Addiction

Naturally, little of this clicks if the wrong man stands at the heart of it all. Bernthal’s blend of grace and fury remains essential. Netflix’s MCU casting, to date, has been near perfect. Think Charlie Cox (“Daredevil”), Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”) and Krysten Ritter (“Jessica Jones”).

Bernthal is a bad ass of the first order. The “Walking Dead” alum boasts enough range to make the quiet sequences just as vital.

Season two reminds us how tricky it is to play a character like the Punisher cold sober. This isn’t a comic book, mind you, but we’re supposed to swallow all the contrivances that keep Frank a free man. It’s convoluted at best, but the series wouldn’t exist without some huge leaps in logic.

It’s worth the bother.

Trouble doesn’t fix itself. You have to fight back. pic.twitter.com/Bgj9dWBywg

— The Punisher (@ThePunisher) January 16, 2019

The new season features some woke nods, although they all stem from the show’s young co-star. What else would a Millennial say?

In between, the dialogue hints at meatier themes, like responsibility, redemption and regret.

Heady stuff for a superhero story, right? Not in 2019. That’s what we crave in popcorn entertainment, and “The Punisher” understands that.

Take one small, magnificent moment early in the new season. Frank’s brief moment of bartender-related bliss is gone, probably forever. He’s missing it already, when he’s reminded it was his choice to end it.

That duality drives both Bernthal’s performance and the series. As long as Netflix honors it, the show will soar.

“The Punisher” Season Two debuts Jan. 18 on Netflix.

The post ‘Punisher’ Falls Back on Hollywood’s Go-To Villain appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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Hollywood raged against both President George W. Bush and the Iraq War for years until studios realized no one wanted to see more movies on the subject.

Think commercial duds like “Green Zone,” “Redacted,” “Grace is Gone,” “In the Valley of Elah” and “Lions for Lambs,” even if the latter focused more on the Afghanistan battles.

Along comes “An Acceptable Loss,” and it’s like filmmakers want to dredge up those Bush-Cheney arguments anew.

  • “Manufactured” intelligence
  • Taking the fight to the terrorists
  • War hawks on the march

Only “Loss” adds a layer of intellectual absurdity those films lacked. You’ll laugh when you’re not rolling your eyes.

An Acceptable Loss ft. Tika Sumpter & Jamie Lee Curtis - Official Trailer I HD I IFC Films - YouTube

Tika Sumpter (“Southside with You”) stars as Libby, a bright, beautiful professor at generic Grant University. Only Libby is much more than that. She once played a critical role in a foreign policy decision that divided the nation.

We’ll say no more because the details are kept hidden for quite some time. Suffice to say some students aren’t too pleased to see her arrive on campus.

The story shifts back in time to show Libby plotting with a major political figure (Jamie Lee Curtis). We get a gaggle of banal dialogue, including Curtis repeatedly stating, “the stars have aligned,” to defend her strategic play.

It’s a “boo! hiss!” role far beneath Curtis’ talents.

RELATED: The Great Iraq War Movie Scam

Meanwhile, one dogged student (Ben Tavassoli) is stalking Libby day and night. What could this young Middle Eastern man want?

Writer/director Joe Chappelle (“Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers”) churns out a political thriller with all the gravitas of a TV film project – circa 1998. Everything about “Loss” reeks of small budget storytelling. That once would doom a fair number of projects.

Today? Many filmmakers stretch their dollars out to craft smart, sophisticated yarns. At a time when filmmakers create heralded work on iPhones, budgetary excuses only go so far.

FAST FACT: Tika Sumpter struggled financially in her 20s before landing a four-year contract for the soap opera “One Life to Live.”

It’s hard to tally up all the absurdities dragging down “An Acceptable Loss.” Let’s start with a college inviting Libby to teach on campus in the first place given her background. Snowflakes students wouldn’t have it.

Or how Libby eschews not just technology but email, cell phones and more. She’d make an Amish farmer blush with envy.

“How do you connect with the world,” someone asks Libby.

“Slowly,” she replies.


From there the conversation dovetails into spoiler territory. The movie suggests a key tactical strike can literally end the War on Terror.

Really? The war involving rogue agents spread across the globe? The one where one side doesn’t wear a uniform? The kind of asymmetrical warfare where new enemies pop up each week?

That one.

“We can end this thing once and for all,” someone says. That dialogue, along with other snippets, is so “on the nose” you can spot the nostril hairs.

FAST FACT: Director Joe Chappelle’s eclectic career includes time directing excellent TV shows like “The Wire” along with genre films fare like “Phantoms” and “The Skulls II.”

We’re even treated to the old line, “you’re either with us or against us.” The quote, along with the movie’s ideological instincts, sound as if it were unearthed from a 2004 time capsule.

Need a Trump era connection? Libby’s father holds the one job you expect him to have, given the film’s leanings.

To be fair, “An Acceptable Loss” regularly puts key characters in jeopardy, allowing us to stay engaged on a pedestrian level. The film also packs a large surprise in the waning minutes, a twist that’s more challenging than expected given the story’s modest ambitions.

.@jamieleecurtis on her new film, “An Acceptable Loss”: “We’ve hit a sort of nuclear indifference in the world. And we have to be very, very, very wary of that nuclear indifference.” pic.twitter.com/qL4eYuSRny

— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) January 14, 2019

Chappelle’s screenplay, to its credit, doesn’t trot out pat ideological labels. Audiences may suss out the parties involved. Still, kudos for not going down that all too obvious road.

Otherwise, “Loss” squanders a magnetic lead and a geopolitical reality demanding far more finesse than shown here.

HiT or Miss: “An Acceptable Loss” would fit in with bland TV movies of yore. In 2019, audiences deserve, and expect, far more.

The post Is ‘Acceptable Loss’ More Cheney Obsessed than ‘Vice?’ appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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The team behind Fox’s “Family Guy” is trying to stay one step ahead of the PC Police.

The show recently announced it will be phasing out “gay jokes” on the ribald series. It’s been part of “Family Guy’s” comedy repertoire for some time. Now, with stars like Kevin Hart suffering career setbacks for old “homophobic” jokes, it’s clear “Family Guy” wants to avoid a similar attack.

The show has a history of “crossing the line.”

Top 10 Family Guy Jokes that Crossed the Line - YouTube

Only the Parents Television Council noticed something lost in the “Family Guy” hullabaloo. The show’s most recent episode made waves for featuring President Donald Trump sexually groping Meg, the family’s high school-aged daughter.

The grope happens just out of view, but it’s crystal clear what happens. A doorbell sound effect goes off, just to make sure we know something awful just happened.

Naturally, The Resistance and media reporters, which sport significant overlap, reported on the episode sans outrage.

PTC president Tim Winter saw it differently.

“When is it appropriate to joke about the sexual assault of a teenage girl? The answer, of course, is ‘never.’ It has been several years since we last documented content on Family Guy that included jokes about sexual assault; and it was our sincere hope that the show’s producers had forever put such content in their rearview mirror. Sadly we were wrong,” Winter said in a statement.

“The fact that this program content was used for political satire doesn’t make it right. And justification that the show has similarly satirized politicians from both sides of the political aisle is equally baseless. Washington, DC may be a political circus, but the producers do not have to prove a point by depicting a teenage girl being sexually assaulted, regardless of partisan stripe.”

The rest of the episode included numerous comic attacks on the Trump family, including First Daughter Ivanka Trump.

A 2015 PTC study found similar behavior commonplace on the long-running show. The group’s research, covering “Family Guy” episodes shown from 2012-2015, found that 79 percent of all the sexually violent scenes “were perpetrated on children and teens.” The PTC adds that, according to Nielsen ratings, “Family Guy’s” audiences includes children as young as 2 and that it’s one of the most watched TV shows with kids ages 12-17.

The post PTC: Where’s Outrage Over ‘Family Guy’ Groping? appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

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