Tuesday, November 25, 2014

'Annie' In Theaters Nationwide December 19

This winter, Academy Award nominated Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) returns to the big screen as America’s most adorable and inspiring orphan in the remake of the 1984 classic, Annie. In a performance that is sure to leave us all amazed, Annie sings and dances her way into our hearts just in time for the holiday season. Quvenzhane graced the stage last night on Dancing With the Stars Fall 2014 Season Finale and gave America a sneak peek of what to expect in theaters, singing and dancing to the film classic “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” Catch the magic below! 

  ANNIE is in theaters December 19th!

'Luna Gale' Set To Open At Kirk Douglas Theatre

 L-R: Mary Beth Fisher, Richard Thieriot and Erik Hellman in the Goodman Theatre world premiere production of Rebecca Gilman’s “Luna Gale.” Directed by Robert Falls, “Luna Gale” is presented by Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre November 23 through December 21, 2014. Tickets are available by calling (213) 628-2772. Contact: CTGMedia@CenterTheatreGroup.org/(213) 972-7376.  Photos by Craig Schwartz

The Goodman Theatre’s world premiere production of Rebecca Gilman’s “Luna Gale,” directed by Robert Falls, opens Tuesday, December 2 at 8 p.m. at the Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre.  The production continues through December 21, 2014.
            The cast, who originated their roles in Chicago, includes Jordan Baker, Reyna de Courcy, Melissa DuPrey, Mary Beth Fisher, Erik Hellman, Colin Sphar and Richard Thieriot.
            Gilman, whose “work reaches the heart and head with equal force,” according to Time magazine, explores with profound humanity the issues of faith, family and one child’s uncertain future.
            A veteran social worker, Caroline, thinks she has a typical case on her hands when she meets Peter and Karlie, two teenage drug addicts accused of neglecting their baby, Luna Gale. But when Caroline places their daughter in the care of Karlie’s very religious mother, she sparks a family conflict that exposes a shadowy past and forces her to make a risky decision with potentially life-altering consequences. 
            Set design for “Luna Gale” is by Todd Rosenthal, costumes by Kaye Voce, lighting by Robert Wierzel and original music and sound design by Richard Woodbury.  The production stage manager is Kirsten Parker.  

87th Oscars® Production Team Announced

LOS ANGELES, CA – Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron today announced 13 key members of the production team for the 87th Academy Awards®, which will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 22, 2015, on ABC. 
Director Hamish Hamilton returns to the show for the third time, after receiving an Emmy® nomination for his work on last year’s telecast.  He made his Oscar debut with the 82nd Academy Awards telecast in 2010.  Hamilton has directed many other celebrated live televised events, including the 2014 Super Bowl halftime show featuring Bruno Mars, the 2013 Super Bowl halftime show featuring Beyoncé, the 2013 “MTV Video Music Awards” and the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, for which he also received an Emmy nomination.  He shared a 2011 Peabody Award for the fifth annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” and a 2003 Grammy Award® nomination for the musical special “Robbie Williams – Live at the Albert.”

Production designer Derek McLane has been part of both Oscar shows that Zadan and Meron have produced.  He won a 2014 Emmy for his production design of the 86th Academy Awards, and earned a nomination in the same category the previous year.  McLane also has designed sets for numerous acclaimed Broadway and Off-Broadway shows; he has received four Tony Award® nominations and won the award in 2009 for his work on “33 Variations.”  McLane’s designs can currently be seen in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”  His other Broadway credits include “The Heiress,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” “Follies,” “Anything Goes,” “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” “Grease” and “I Am My Own Wife.”  McLane’s television credits include “The Sound of Music Live!” which was executive produced by Zadan and Meron.

Choreographer Rob Ashford has worked on the last two Oscar telecasts as well as the 81st Academy Awards show, for which he won an Emmy.  He was recently nominated for a Directors Guild Award for his work on “The Sound of Music Live!”  Ashford has been nominated for eight Tony Awards® and won for Best Choreography in 2002 for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”  His other Broadway choreography credits include “The Wedding Singer,” “Curtains,” “Cry-Baby,” “Evita” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”  He also has served as choreographer on such feature films as “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and “Cinderella,” due out next year.

Writer, producer and director Greg Berlanti joins the team as head writer for his first Oscars telecast.  Berlanti’s writing credits include the television series “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Everwood” and “Dawson’s Creek,” and the feature films “Wrath of the Titans” and “Green Lantern.”  Berlanti also has executive produced such series as “The Mysteries of Laura” and “Brothers & Sisters” as well as the miniseries “Political Animals,” for which he received an Emmy nomination.  His directing credits include the 2010 film “Life as We Know It.”

Zadan and Meron have brought in Michael Green, Seth Grahame-Smith and Andrew Kreisberg to complete the writing staff.  Green is a writer and producer whose writing credits include the feature film “Green Lantern” and the television series “Everwood” and “Heroes.”  Grahame-Smith is a writer and producer known for his work on the television series “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” and such films as “Dark Shadows” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”  Kreisberg, a longtime writer and producer, has written episodes of “The Simpsons,” “Boston Legal,” “Fringe,” “Arrow” and “The Flash.”

Music director Stephen Oremus makes his Oscar debut this year.  A music director and Tony Award-winning orchestrator, he has worked on Broadway shows including “Avenue Q,” “Wicked,” “All Shook Up,” “9 to 5,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots.”  The latter two shows, which are still running, earned him 2011 and 2013 Tony Awards for Best Orchestration.  Oremus also served as the orchestra conductor and music director for Rufus Wainwright’s Carnegie Hall and London Palladium tributes to Judy Garland in 2006 and 2007.  He did his first feature film work on 2011’s “Shame,” arranging and producing “New York, New York,” which was sung by actress Carey Mulligan.

Costume designer Julie Weiss returns to the show after working on the 85th and 86th Academy Awards.  Weiss has designed costumes for more than 40 feature films, and received Oscar nominations for her work on “12 Monkeys” and “Frida.”  Her other feature credits include “Steel Magnolias,” “Searching for Bobby Fischer” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “A Simple Plan,” “American Beauty,” “Auto Focus,” “Bobby,” “Blades of Glory” and “Hitchcock.”  Weiss earned Emmys for her work on the TV movie “The Dollmaker” and the miniseries “A Woman of Independent Means.”  Her Broadway credits include “The Elephant Man,” for which she earned a Tony nomination, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Ann.”  In 2011 she received the Costume Designers Guild Career Achievement in Film and Television Award.

Talent producer Taryn Hurd joins the Oscar telecast team for the second consecutive year.  Hurd has served as talent producer on events including the FOX network’s “New Year’s Eve Live,” the Breeders’ Cup telecast, “Teen Choice 2013” and “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops.”  She also has served as talent producer on the FOX series “So You Think You Can Dance” and ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”  Previously, Hurd amassed numerous credits as talent executive on broadcasts such as “The ESPYS,” the “Billboard Music Awards” and the “Critics’ Choice Awards.”  She also was the talent producer for the Academy’s 6th Annual Governors Awards.

Also rejoining the production team are supervising producer Michael Seligman, co-producer Lee Lodge and lighting designer Robert Dickinson.  Seligman has more than 300 major television events to his credit and has earned 12 Emmy nominations, including 10 for his work on Oscar telecasts.  Seligman’s other producing credits include “The American Giving Awards,” “America Celebrates July 4th at Ford’s Theatre,” “Stand Up to Cancer” and “Return to the Titanic…Live!”

Lodge served as co-producer on last year’s Oscar telecast and screens producer on the previous five.  His credits also include co-executive producer on the “MTV Video Music Awards” in 2012, 2013 and 2014, creative producer on the “CMA Awards” since 2010, and screens producer on the “Billboard Music Awards” since 2011.

Winner of 18 Primetime Emmys, lighting designer Dickinson has worked on 25 Oscar broadcasts, including the 86th Academy Awards earlier this year.  His numerous other credits include the “Kennedy Center Honors,” “Grammy Awards,” “Emmy Awards,” “Tony Awards,” “American Music Awards,” Olympic ceremonies in Atlanta, Salt Lake and Athens, and the television broadcasts “The Sound of Music Live!” and “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”

The 87th Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

# # #

87th Oscars Social Media Guide
Follow the Academy, Oscars producers and host Neil Patrick Harris for the latest updates throughout Oscar season.
Neil Patrick Harris: http://twitter.com/ActuallyNPH
Oscars Producers
Neil Meron:  http://twitter.com/neilmeron
Craig Zadan http://twitter.com/craigzadan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheAcademy
Twitter: http://twitter.com/theacademy
Instagram: http://instagram.com/theacademyY
ouTube: http://www.youtube.com/oscars
Google +: https://plus.google.com/+Oscars

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" On Fire

By Darlene Donloe

“Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us.” ---Katniss Everdeen

Katniss Everdeen is back in action in one the year’s most anticipated films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.

The first Hunger Games film generated nearly $700 million at the worldwide box office. The second film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was the #1 domestic film of 2013 and the 10th highest-grossing North American release of all time, grossing over $860 million around the world and bringing the combined global box office of the first two films to over $1.5 billion.

In the last Hunger Games installment, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) literally shattered the games forever.  In the latest film she is back in District 13.

Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation, which continues to hold her in high esteem.  Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) is Coin’s key strategist.

Part of the strategy is for Katniss to become to face of the revolution by making a series of PSAs. The sequences showing Katniss in the process of making the public service announcements bring some levity to the dark drama.

The story begins again as Katniss has just been rescued from the destruction of the Quarter Quell. She awakens in a shocking world she didn’t even know existed: the dark underground of a supposed annihilated District 13.  Unfortunately she soon learns that District 12 has been destroyed and that Peeta is being held, manipulated and brainwashed by President Snow in The Capitol.

This time around there are no actual games. There is still some action. There are moments of bang, bang, shoot ‘em up, but nothing the caliber of the first two installments.
That means this film has to rely on the story and the performances.  There are moments that drag, but the film is still full of energy. 

Strong performances buoy the film. The ending, of course, is designed to make the audience drool in anticipation.

Whether or not it was a good decision to split the final chapter in two will not be known until the next installment.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, directed by Francis Lawrence with a screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 gets an O (oh, yeah).

Running time: 123 minutes; Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

The 2014 American Music Awards® Winners

The 2014 American Music Awards®, hosted by Pitbull, was broadcast tonight on ABC. 
Following is a list of winners.
Single of the Year
Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J – Dark Horse

Artist of the Year
One Direction

New Artist of the Year
5 Seconds of Summer

Dick Clark Award for Excellent
Taylor Swift

Favorite Male Artist – Pop/Rock
Sam Smith

Favorite Female Artist – Pop/Rock
Katy Perry

One Direction

Favorite Band, Duo or Group – Pop/Rock
One Direction

Favorite Album – Pop/Rock
One Direction – Midnight Memories

Favorite Male Artist – Country
Luke Bryan

Favorite Female Artist - Country
Carrie Underwood

Favorite Band, Duo or Group – Country
Florida Georgia Line

Favorite Album – Country
Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am

Favorite Artist – Rap/Hip-Hop
Iggy Azalea

Favorite Album – Rap/Hip-Hop
Iggy Azalea – The New Classic

John Legend

Favorite Male Artist – Soul/R&B
John Legend

Favorite Female Artist – Soul/R&B

Favorite Album – Soul/R&B
Beyoncé – Beyoncé

Favorite Artist – Alternative Rock
Imagine Dragons

Favorite Artist – Adult Contemporary
Katy Perry

Favorite Artist – Latin
Enrique Iglesias

Favorite Artist – Contemporary Inspirational
Casting Crowns

Favorite Artist – Electronic Dance Music (EDM)
Calvin Harris

Top Soundtrack

'All Relative' Has Family-Relationship Flaws

By Darlene Donloe

What are the odds?  Really, what are the odds? J.C. Khoury’s second feature film, All Relative, has an interesting premise, but not one that many are likely to believe.

The drama/comedy is all about relationships and how some of them are fragile, some are doomed, some are meant to be and some should never happen.

What do you do when a relationship that shouldn’t happen – does happen?  Suffice it to say there is a lot of tension, angst and work to do. The phrase, “I’m sorry” is frequently bantered about.

All Relative, written and directed by J.C. Khoury, is both a dysfunctional family comedy and a romantic comedy that touches on all the themes of modern dating and what happens when family life and romantic life collide. The story is based on Khoury’s own experiences dating in New York City. 

Jonathan Sadowski and Connie Nielsen

The story is about love, honesty, trust and family and what it means to be hurt by the very people who are supposed to love and protect you.

Harry is getting over a breakup. While bowling, his friend, Jared (Al Thompson) encourages him to talk to a pretty girl in another lane. 

Sara Paxton and Jonathan Sadowski

Sparks immediately fly at the bowling alley when Harry (Jonathan Sadowski), a graduate student in New York City, meets Grace (Sara Paxton). However, Grace, admittedly, is seeing someone, so Harry is relegated to the end of the line. The same day he meets Grace, at a bar he meets Maren, a seductive 40-something woman who is vague about her marital status, but does reveal she’s a mom of three (Connie Nielsen). Dating hasn’t been on Harry’s radar for a while. He’s still getting over the pain of splitting with his former fiancee after she cheated on him. He, admittedly, hasn’t had sex in a year. However, Maren is a sexy woman and Harry is, after all, a man. The two have sex that night, but agree to keep their relationship casual. When Grace becomes free, Harry decides he wants a relationship with her. Maren isn’t happy and decides to end the sex. 

When Grace and Harry hit it off, she decides to take him home to meet her parents.  But when he's introduced to her parents, a shared secret turns his world into a living nightmare. Maren is Grace’s mother!!!!!  Huh?  What? What are the odds???  When Grace’s father asks Harry to join him in a game of golf the following morning, Harry is forced to stay for the weekend. He finds it to be more than he can stand. How will he ever survive the weekend?

The storyline is a bit hard to believe, especially when it’s revealed that Harry is studying architecture and Grace’s father happens to be a partner in the company Harry is supposed to interview with the following week. The notion of Harry having sex with both the mother and daughter surely must satisfy every man’s fantasy. Hmmm!

The film, directed by J.C. Khoury, stars Connie Nielsen, Sara Paxton, Jonathan Sadowski, David Aaron Baker and Al Thompson .

All Relative opened on VOD and theatrically in 10 cities, including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, and Detroit.

Running time: 85 minutes.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), All Relative gets an L (likeable).

Jacob Latimore Is Keeping His Feet On The Ground

Jacob Latimore

By Darlene Donloe

Jacob Latimore is a triple threat. The 18-year-old heartthrob is a singer, actor and dancer who is making tidal waves in the industry.

Everything is going his way.

For the last three years he was nominated for BET’s YoungStars Awards.

His song, Heartbreak Heard Around The World, featuring T-Pain, premiered on Idolator on June 9.  Last October he was part of the High School Nation Tour, where he performed alongside Drake Bell, Bean and Dakota Bradley.

Jacob Latimore, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker 
in Black Nativity (courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

 His movie credits include Vanishing on 7th Street and Maze Runner, which hit theaters last September. He also appeared in Ride Along with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart and in the holiday film, Black Nativity with Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson with whom he collaborated on Hush Child (Get You Through This Silent Night), which appeared on the film’s soundtrack.

 Jacob Latimore (second from the right) in The Maze Runner

If you missed his performance in The Maze Runner, which grossed $225 million worldwide, don’t worry, the DVD and Blu-ray (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) are set for a December 15 release. The film is a survival thriller based on the best-selling novel.  Black Nativity was released on Blu-ray and DVD last October.

I recently caught up with the extremely busy Wisconsin native to talk about how he keeps his feet on the ground while dealing with showbiz.

DD:  The holiday season is upon us, why should anyone watch or buy Black Nativity?

JL: I think it’s a relatable family situation. My character, Langston, is living with a single mom who is falling on hard times. But he doesn’t know who his family is. He doesn’t understand what went on. He wants to have that relationship with the family. The film shows family togetherness and faith. Be thankful for what you have.

DD: Thanksgiving is coming fast. Any plans for the holidays?

JL: I will be with my family in Milwaukee. It’s going to be fun. We sing. There are four singers. We also play Monopoly.

Jennifer Hudson and Jacob Latimore in Black Nativity 
(courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

DD: The Black Nativity DVD is coming out soon. Talk about working with Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett and Jenifer Hudson.

JL: They are incredible. Being in their presence and seeing how focused they are was inspiring. I had to hold my responsibility of the film. I had to step my game up and be on point.
DD: Did you learn anything from any of them?

JL: I learned about focus.

DD: The Maze Runner did well at the box office. How did you approach that role? The Maze Runner starred Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf,” The Internship), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (“Game of Thrones”), Will Poulter (We’re the Millers), and Kaya Scodelario (“Skins”).

JL:  I auditioned for another role, but by the time I auditioned everyone was cast. Once I saw the movement behind the book and film, I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t care what I was playing. I was happy to be a part of it.

DD: You have booked several commercials and voiceovers, done movies and you are a recording artist.  You’re moving fast. What is your plan for your career?

JL: My plan, I see myself like a Justin Timberlake or Will Smith. I want to balance out my music that I’ve been doing since I was nine. My own film company and record label.

Jacob Latimore and Thandie Newton in Vanishing on 7th Street
DD: How did you prepare for your first lead role in early 2011 with the feature film, Vanishing on 7th Street, starring Hayden Christensen and Thandie Newton?

JL: I definitely pray. I like to be natural. I read the script a lot. I have the character on my mind al the time. I try to put myself in the situation.

DD: Were you any good?
JL: I’m my worst critic. I was bad. I’m not too hard on myself. It makes me cringe to watch me.  Sometimes I shock myself.

DD: Are you going to study acting?

JL: I just jumped into. But I’m looking forward to doing that. I want to train.  I’ve had quick acting coaches.

DD:  Have you seriously studied acting?

JL: It’s a really cool experience. You challenge yourself to be in someone’s shoes. You get to feel different emotions. Get out of your comfort zone.

DD: What does music do for you?

JL: What would we do without music? It helps us explain things. It makes you feel good.

DD: Your father is a singer with the Latimore Brothers. Music is in your blood.  What did you learn from your father?

JL: Growing up, he helped me on the road. He makes sure I don’t over sing. A lot of my family helps me with that. They make sure I’m on top of what I need to get on top of.

DD:  What did you expect when you got into showbiz and what did you get?

JL: I think sometimes being a young artist you think it’s easier than what it is. You have to keep pushing yourself. There will be a lot of nos. Sometimes they won’t believe in your vision. Some people say things you don’t like. R Kelly gave me some advice. He said to stay humble. I’m a faithful guy.

DD: What do you think when people compare you to Chris Brown and Usher?

JL:  That’s incredible. I look up to those guys. Michael Jackson and Timberlake are the best. I still want people to know who Jacob Latimore is.

 DD: You had a good year.  How do you keep your feet on the ground?

JL:  It’s important to keep family members around. When I was younger I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. It keeps me humble. It’s important to keep people around who have always been around.

DD: 10 years from now where do you want to be?

JL: Winning Grammies, Oscars, Emmys, directing films and writing scripts. I want to do the executive type of things.

DD:  What’s next for you?

JL:  I’m in the studio right now. I’m constantly working. I’ll be putting out music in a few months. Right now I’m living in the studio.

BLACK NATIVITY DVD and BLU-RAY  is currently in stores. Running time: 143 minutes; Rated: PG

THE MAZE RUNNER DVD and BLU-RAY   is in stores Dec. 16, 2014.  Running time: 113 minutes; Rated: PG-13

 *The Maze Runner photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment