This past weekend, a seismic shift in box-office history took place and went largely unnoticed. The writing was on the wall for Star Wars’ legacy in the all-time top 10 highest-earning films, as noted on Reddit prior to the start of this past weekend. Box-office behemoth Beauty and the Beast continued to generate healthy grosses in its fifth weekend of release, ending the weekend with a princely (or should I say, princessly!) sum of $471.1 million. This gave the film a slight edge of the next-most-lucrative film on the list, which just so happened to be George Lucas’ original space opus. Star Wars and its lifetime gross of $461 million have now slid down to the #11 spot.
Much online e-ink has been e-spilled over the question of which actor will take up the mantle of international superspy James Bond for the 25th installment of the perennial franchise. Will incumbent star Daniel Craig return for another go-round as 007, or will he be replaced by the likes of new challengers Tom Hiddleston, Dan Stevens, Emily Blunt, or Idris Elba? Who knows (not us), but as the mission to secure a star has been playing out, another big change-up has unfolded largely in the background.
Yesterday, Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich ran an illuminating essay on Netflix’s testy relationship with the original films it releases, explaining how their model of bypassing theatrical release and going straight to streaming ultimately degrades the viewing experience and makes the movies harder to find and appreciate. (This comes hot on the heels of an official denunciation from the Federation of French Cinemas against the Cannes Film Festival for allowing TV into their lineup for the first time ever.) Clearly, his words went straight to the top of Netflix’s corporate office, as the online video giant has issued a letter to their shareholders assuring them that everything’s going to be fine and movies aren’t dead, probably.
One of last year’s finest films, and certainly the most challenging documentary, was Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine. The concept was ingenious: the film tracks actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to portray the late newswoman Christine Chubbuck and tease out what factors could have compelled a woman to shoot herself in the head on live television. It was a beguiling interrogation of authenticity and artifice, tracing the limits of performance as a means to locate truth, and now the world of documentary film has begun to follow Greene’s groundbreaking example. The new trailer for Casting JonBenet offers a glimpse at a film using Greene’s methods, and applying them to an equally disturbing footnote in history.
The Avatar franchise has turned into James Cameron’s Xanadu, a vanity project of staggering scale to which the public will seemingly never be permitted access. It’s kept him busy since 2009, as he’s concurrently scripted a whopping four sequels to the immensely lucrative 2009 sci-fi epic. Perhaps, one day, it shall be his tomb. But to us unwashed rabble in the general populace, the grand Avatar franchise is little more than an idea, and a weird idea at that. As our beloved Editor-in-Chief Matt Singer noted not too long ago, pretty much everybody has moved on from Avatar as a cultural touchstone. Cameron seems more jazzed about this plan than anyone else, but he’ll have to put his dreams on hold for a little while longer.
L. Frank Baum‘s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has proven a malleable property over the years. Of course everybody knows and loves Victor Fleming’s 1939 film adaptation, then came the urban-set musical revision The Wiz, the villain’s-eye-view retelling Wicked, Sam Raimi’s limp-noodle Oz the Great and Powerful, NBC’s crazytown new gritty-reboot series Emerald City, not to mention the dozens of films that have paid homage to the timeless scenes of Fleming’s film. (The bit in O Brother, Where Art Thou? when our heroes sneak into a KKK meeting like it’s a Winkie stronghold is a particular standout.) And today brings the news that the merry old land of Oz will get yet another new spin, and this time, there will be blood.
So long as you’re not bothered by the ruthless capitalistic spirit of six-dollar bottled water and don’t stumble into the clandestine torture facility concealed within the giant EPCOT globe, everyone loves Disney’s amusement parks. They earned the title of Happiest Place on Earth through a militant doctrine of mandated cheer, and with a new amusement park based on James Cameron’s unkillable sci-fi series Avatar opening soon, they’ll add the distinction of Trippiest Place on Earth to their pedigree. Today brings two brief sneak peeks at the facility set to open this summer, and it’s like you can already hear the hallucinating 20-year-olds begging to be let off the ride.
After months of rumormongering and speculating and debating over whether Lin-Manuel Miranda has what it takes to make the jump to the big screen from Broadway, sequel Mary Poppins Returns has finally begun shooting. Disney sent out an official press release yesterday announcing that the production was officially underway at Shepperton Studios in Burbank, California, with a project release date of Christmas Day in 2018. (Nothing gets people in the mood for a movie-musical quite like the holidays, it would seem, as director Rob Marshall’s last film Into the Woods found a release date in late December as well.) And along with the news that the gears are now turning, the press release provided a full cast list and more comprehensive description of the plot as well.
We’ve got 11 long months to go before anyone will get a look at Star Wars: Episode VIII, so Lucasfilm has tried to pace itself with leaking details of the hotly anticipated upcoming release. Today, however, they dropped a big one: on the official Star Wars web site, a new announcement revealed the subtitle for the eighth installment in what the site refers to as “the Skywalker saga.” The post declared, “We have the greatest fans in this or any other galaxy. In appreciation of the fans, we wanted them to be the first to know the title of the next chapter in the Skywalker saga: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.”
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