What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:21 AM 12/21/2017

by Ray Rahman

Bright Still 6 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Netflix

What's news: The reviews for Netflix's big-budget Will Smith film Bright are here, for better or for worse. Plus: Fears are spreading at Fox over the network's future, the 2017 cable news ratings are in and the #MeToo movement puts black clothing in high demand. — Ray Rahman

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  • Is 'Bright' Dull?

    The review embargo on Bright, Netflix's ambitious attempt at a Will Smith blockbuster, has lifted, and, well... John DeFore writes: 

    As genre hybrids go, you might be able to imagine films less promising than director David Ayer and screenwriter Max Landis' Bright — a Holocaust rom-com, perhaps, or a musical about zombies? In pairing the gritty, Los Angeles cop flick Ayer often makes with the fantasy world of orcs and elves, though, Bright is sufficiently weird-sounding that it all but begs viewers to come in armed with tomatoes and rotten eggs.

    Alas, the finished product, though plenty embarrassing, isn't quite involving enough to merit the kind of pile-on mockery that greeted Ayer's DC Comics abomination Suicide Squad. Stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton play it mostly straight here, doing their part to sell the dopey premise, but the screenplay offers viewers little reward for our own suspension of disbelief. Rumored to be the most expensive Netflix original film to date, the pic may well attract eyeballs on the streaming outlet. But its potential as a franchise-starter is laughably small. Full review.

    + What others are saying: It's not very pretty. "The worst movie of 2017," IndieWire declares, writing: "There's boring, there's bad, and then there's Bright." "A mess," says Vulture. Over at Vanity Fair, words like "tedious," "generic" and "cringeworthy" were thrown around. The L.A. Times sums it up thusly: "This film is a chore."

    + Director responds. David Ayer replied to IndieWire critic David Ehrlich, writing: "This is going on my fridge. Highest compliment is a strong reaction either way. This is a f*cking epic review." 

    + Do two Brights make a wrong? Despite the cool critical reception and the fact that the first one isn't even out yet, Netflix has reportedly ordered a sequel. Then again, why not? Critics scoff at most of the streaming service's Adam Sandler movies, but viewers keep watching them anyway.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Former Marco Polo producer hits Harvey Weinstein, TWC with $10 million sexual harassment suit. The suit, filed on Wednesday, cites "sexual harassment," "battery" and "assault," among other violations by the disgraced former mogul, and went on to address further address TWC's complacency with Weinstein's actions.

    Hollywood's big tax-bill windfall: The tax overhaul passed by Congress yesterday is setting entertainment industry corporations up for billions in annual savings. Everyone from the MPAA to Comcast is downright giddy about the news, and some are even celebrating by giving all its employees thousand-dollar bonuses.

    Will Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's A Star Is Born be an awards contender? After execs saw a locked cut of the movie, Warner Bros. announced that it's moving Cooper's directorial feature debut from May 18 to Oct. 5, 2018, perhaps setting it up for trophy season consideration. Though this isn't the film's first release-date change: It had originally been planned for a September release before moving up to May.

    Josh Gad joins Judi Dench in Artemis Fowl. Disney’s Kenneth Branagh-directed adaptation of the bestselling book brings on Gad as well as newcomer Ferdia Shaw, who’ll the play the movie’s lead. The movie is slated for an August 2019 release.

    ^Kareem's Top Ten: From I Am Not Your Negro and Wonder Woman in film to Ozark and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in TV, THR columnist and NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes about the year's best entertainment:

    During times of roiling political and social unrest, artists and entertainers often feel compelled to create provocative works that expose the causes of the unrest and inspire the angry populace to rally together to overcome them. These works are often sharply subversive in that their goal is to be entertaining but also to yank back the dark curtain on those weaselly wizards attempting to manipulate the rest of us into being nothing more than nodding bobble-heads of docility. Hollywood has a significant power to influence people’s perceptions and thereby change the country for the better — or worse. Read more.

    ? Get Out's latest honor: The Jordan Peele movie continues its year-end hot streak with the Producers Guild of America announcing that the film will receive the 2018 Stanley Kramer Award. Previous winners have included The Hunting Ground, An Inconvenient Truth and Loving

    ? “Every role I was auditioning for before was sort of this same side character”: In an interview with the L.A. Times, Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran discusses struggling as an Asian-American actor in Hollywood. “I had resigned myself to thinking that one day I would be just the weird side character who always talks about being Asian and brings kimchi to the party,” she says.

    ? Making Downsizing: How Alexander Payne poached Matt Damon from Manchester By the Sea. Pamela McClintock tells the inside story of the Oscar hopeful's creation: "I just wanted to be in an Alexander Payne movie," Damon says. Full story.

    ? Jessica Chastain talks Aaron Sorkin and Molly’s Game: “I can’t tell you how many incredible directors I long to work with, but then I look at their IMDb page, and they haven’t made a single movie about a woman,” she tells Time. “So I’m incredibly inspired by Aaron for acknowledging he dropped the ball, saying he is sorry and working to change the industry.”

    Oscar watch: Why mother-daughter relationships are rich material for the awards race. Lady Bird, I, Tonya and Patti Cake$ are just a few of this year's films that explore the complicated parent-child partnership.


  • Best TV Episodes 2017

    A fresh perspective on a classic Hitchcock scene, a surreal California detour, a reckoning with God unlike any other, a nightmarish memory inside another memory, a confronting #MeToo moment and a wordless dance drama are among our critics' top picks.

    One Mississippi (Amazon), "Can't Fight This Feeling" Before #MeToo became a movement, TV this year was already deeply invested in issues of consent and sexual manipulation through power. The most raw and exposed consent-themed episode of the year found Tig Notaro seemingly directly addressing accusations against one of her show's executive producers, Louis C.K. In "Can't Fight This Feeling," the horror and betrayal of a boss masturbating in front of a main character forces nearly every character on the show into a reckoning or catharsis. It's honest and shattering and weirdly funny. — Daniel Fienberg??

    Fargo (FX), "The Law of Non-Contradiction" This episode had more Coen Brothers echoes than maybe anything Noah Hawley has done so far, plus it's now famously self-contained, set in the hot sun of Los Angeles (but there are Santas) and not in the snowy Midwest. It's basically about nothing, but of course that's not true either. A lovely single-episode detour, and anyone who says otherwise knows nothing about Fargo. — Tim Goodman See the full list.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Fox fears: A new report from The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint goes inside the immense uncertainty surrounding the future of the Fox network, which Rupert Murdoch kept after selling off most other Fox assets. “Inside Fox Broadcasting, the general mood is one of anxiety and sadness, according to several company employees," he writes. 

    + Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan: “Fox Broadcasting is a big unknown right now so, as a producer with a new show [LA to Vegas] about to debut there, that’s a concern. Will they remain a buyer of big, quality dramas and comedies that bring in the types of viewers who will watch our show? I certainly hope so.”

    + Flint: “There are also questions about which executives will be steering the ship once the Disney deal closes. Fox Networks Group Chairman Peter Rice, along with executives Dana Walden and Gary Newman who oversee the Fox network and 20th Century Fox Television studio, could end up at Disney or strike out on their own.”

    ? Fox News settles: The cable news network settled claims by Julie Roginsky, who alleged in a lawsuit that she was denied a position co-hosting The Five after refusing to have a sexual relationship with Roger Ailes

    + Two more women have joined a defamation lawsuit against the network and Bill O'Reilly over breaches of prior settlement agreements. 

    ? And the cable news ratings winner is... Yep, Fox News. The network once again ran away in the yearly ratings race, handily beating rivals CNN and MSNBC with 2.42 nightly primetime viewers in 2017.

    + MSNBC's surge: While it lost the overall numbers game, MSNBC saw the biggest increase in 2017, averaging 1.62 million primetime viewers a night — a 50 percent increase from 2016. CNN, on the other hand, dipped in the same metric but still saw an increase in total daily viewers. See the full breakdown.

    Glenn Thrush not fired: The New York Times political reporter and MSNBC contributor was suspended by the Times while an investigation into misconduct allegations took place, but the has paper decided not to terminate him; instead, they'll be moving him off the White House team. No word yet on what his new beat will be. 

    ^Who's up for an Office reunion? Angela Kinsey and Creed Bratton have expressed interest, but who else could be in? Lesley Goldberg examines which cast members may or may not be available to reprise their roles: “Steve Carell, sources confirm, is not expected to be part of any potential revival. Sources caution that a deal is far from set for a revival, which could include some returning faces as well as a new cast of characters.” Read more.

    TV Academy expands membership: Personal publicists, shortform writers, colorists and more are now welcome to join the party. See the new membership rule changes.

    ? The royal engagement photos are here. You know you want to see them.

    ? Matt Smith has some thoughts on Kim Kardashian: Speaking of royals, the Crown star tells the L.A. Times: “The type of fame they have, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. You think Kim Kardashian has a tough life? Try being the queen in the ’50s and ’60s — 100,000 people would turn up to see her catch a train.”

    ? Grace and Frankie and Lisa Kudrow: The Netflix comedy released the official trailer for its upcoming fourth season, which finds newcomer Kudrow inserting herself into the titular friendship. Watch it here.

  • All Black Everything

    Golden Globes fashion preview: A run on black gowns is taking place in Hollywood, writes Booth Moore:

    Representatives from L.A.'s fashion and accessory showrooms in the business of dressing celebrities are reporting a run on all-black clothing, from gowns to cocktail dresses to men's suits. "Every request we've received thus far has been for black," reports one publicist, noting that "It's been quite a shuffle for fashion agencies."

    "We are working hard to get in more all-black options to support those who are adhering to the Golden Globes consensus,” and that includes menswear, said another rep, noting that Hollywood's peacocks are turning it down a notch. “It’s going to be an inevitable thing out of solidarity. I think the majority of men are going go safe in a black suit with a white shirt so no one’s going to look the odd man out,” says New York-based stylist Michael Fisher, who is dressing nominees Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman) and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Can Anita Hill fix Hollywood's harassment problem?" Cara Buckley writes: "The hard part will be figuring out what comes next. As Ms. Hill concedes herself, there’s no blueprint for ridding an industry of sexual harassment. At least not yet." [New York Times]

    — "Has this 35-year-old Swedish man figured out the future of fashion?" Emilia Petrarca profiles Oscar Olsson, the mind behind H&M's new brand for millennials. [The Cut]

    — "Eminem is not the political voice we need." Ann-Derrick Gaillot critiques the rapper's latest album: "Along with the classic Eminem tracks about his family, relationships, and struggle with fame, listeners also get his stab at becoming a political thought leader, something pretty much no one asked him to do." [The Outline]

    — "Cornel West's reckless criticism of Ta-Nehisi Coates." Ismail Muhammed writes: "Why his broadside should feel like a crushing disappointment to any young critic who writes about race in America." [Slate]

    — "Through ups and downs and forgotten girl groups, R&B singer Mila J is still standing tall." Makeda Easter writes: "Mila had her first brush with fame at the age of 9 when she appeared in Prince’s 1991 music video “Diamonds and Pearls.” In the 1990s and early 2000s, she performed with R&B girl groups before reinventing herself as a solo artist. But while a breakout hit has eluded her, Mila hasn’t lost her determination." [L.A. Times]

    — "Going viral." Vince Dixon goes long to reveal "how restaurants and agencies are working together to achieve Cronut-level fame." [Eater]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Jimmy interviews Cardi B." [Tonight Show]

    + "Fox & Friend." [Full Frontal]

    + "Ansel Elgort kept the car from Baby Driver." [Late Night]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "John Skipper & social media: Interview." James Andrew Miller has a raw and revealing conversation with the former ESPN president (recorded before his resignation). [Origins]

    + "Tina Brown." An in-depth interview with the renowned former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor. [Longform]

    + "General Hugs edition." Slate's culture roundtable takes on The Last Jedi, HQ Trivia, memes and more. [Culture Gabfest / Slate]

    Today's Birthdays: Steven Yeun, 34, Emmanuel Macron, 40, Julie Delpy, 48, Kiefer Sutherland, 51 Steve Mnuchin, 55, Ray Romano, 60, Jane Kaczmarek, 62, Chris Evert, 63, Jeffrey Katzenberg, 67, Samuel L. Jackson, 69, Jane Fonda, 80, Phil Donahue, 82.