How the 'Aladdin' remake redefines a Disney princess with Naomi Scott's Jasmine

LOS ANGELES -- Growing up in England, Naomi Scott, like so many other young girls, fell in love at an early age with Disney's animated heroines -- particularly Mulan, Pocahontas and Jasmine from "Aladdin." But while those three are officially part of Disney's juggernaut princess line of media franchises and toys, alongside the likes of ...Read more

New Illinois film office head Peter Hawley hopes to attract a Netflix production hub to Chicago

CHICAGO -- In the fall, Netflix acquired a major soundstage complex in Albuquerque. Last month came news that the streaming service is opening a new production hub in Brooklyn, as well. Peter Hawley, who now heads up the Illinois Film Office under Gov. J.B. Pritzker, says one of his goals is to persuade Netflix to consider the same for Chicago. ...Read more

Harvey Weinstein reaches $44 million settlement with accusers and creditors

Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a tentative $44 million settlement with women who have accused him of sexual assault as well as creditors of his former studio, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

The proposed deal, which has not been finalized, was hammered out this week during mediation hearings stemming ...Read more

Review: 'Volta' by Cirque du Soleil brings all the old excitement to Chicago

CHICAGO -- Cirque du Soleil has brought 25 different shows to the Chicago area over the last 30 years. I've reviewed 24 of them, from "Alegria" to "Saltimbanco" to "Varekai," from the old North Pier to the parking lot of the United Center to the new digs alongside Soldier Field, which is a fine spot to pitch le grand chapiteau. Once, Cirque was ...Read more

Rotten Tomatoes launches audience verification tool

Rotten Tomatoes, which relies on credible ratings to drive traffic to its website, on Thursday took a step to prevent fake movie reviews.

The Beverly Hills, Calif.-based company said it would offer a new feature that shows reviews and ratings by verified moviegoers.

The push is part of an effort by Rotten Tomatoes to increase consumer ...Read more

Discoveries from the past with Joanna Hogg and Honor Swinton Byrne in 'The Souvenir'

For most audiences in the U.S., the new film "The Souvenir" will make for not one but two major discoveries. One is the raw, emotional performance by its 21-year-old star in her first significant screen role. The other is its 59-year-old writer-director making her fourth feature film.

The film is about a young woman (Honor Swinton Byrne) in ...Read more

'Non-Fiction' review: Love, sex, publishing, deception, Juliette Binoche. Ah, Paree!

Smoother than cafe au lait, the low-keyed French confection "Non-Fiction" has a few things to say about publishing in the digital age; the old bourgeois guard making way for an adept, hungry new generation unattached to non-digital media; and touchy literary and artistic egos, falling in and out of favor, and bed.

The considerable appeal of the...Read more

Looking ahead to the 2019 Tony Awards: What should win

What makes an acting performance worthy of a Tony Award?

It's always a fascinating question on Broadway: Must such a performance command a marquee, spare no prisoners and take change of any and all the proceedings, much as Bryan Cranston does in "Network" or Stephanie J. Block does in "The Cher Show"? Lovable divas both.

Is greatness open to ...Read more

Margo Price, nine months pregnant, has a message for male Alabama lawmakers

Singer-songwriter Margo Price could hardly be more engaged with issues of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. She's due to deliver her third child any day now -- she noted with pride that her due date is Friday, or as she put it, "Bob Dylan's birthday."

All of which places her in a position of special authority as she's chosen to speak out in...Read more

GLAAD report: LGBTQ representation in films is up, but less diverse

Hollywood made some gains last year when it came to representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer characters in mainstream films, but it has plenty of room for improvement, according to a new study from GLAAD.

The media advocacy group released its 2019 Studio Responsibility Index on Thursday, which showed an uptick in major ...Read more

Television Q&A: Is 'The Cool Kids' returning?

You have questions (and comments). I have some answers.

Q: Could you please tell me if "The Cool Kids" (one of the best shows on TV now) has been renewed and will be back in the fall?

A: It appears to be done. In spite of a swell cast -- Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, Leslie Jordan and Vicki Lawrence -- and some amusing moments, the show did ...Read more

Homeless artist wants to 'be the light' on LA's skid row

LOS ANGELES -- He keeps his spray paint cans in an old cooler. His acrylic paints and chalk are stashed in a cracked milk crate. They are piled under a blue tarp beside two large dog kennels. A pair of well-trained pit bulls, Big Ugly and Space Ghost, sniff the air. If a stranger with bad intent ducks into this space, they know what to do.

...Read more

Alan Menken scores big with live-action 'Aladdin'

LOS ANGELES -- Alan Menken's score for the 1992 animated Disney film "Aladdin" earned him one of his eight Oscars. That same year he shared the Best Music, Original Song Oscar with Tim Rice for "A Whole New World." That's the kind of success that could be used to argue it might not be wise to mess with the music, even with the animated tale ...Read more

'Aladdin' stars explain 12 ways the new remake stands out from the original

LOS ANGELES -- The story of the diamond in the rough is back, with some of the rough spots worked out.

Disney's live-action version of "Aladdin" debuts Friday, 27 years after its animated original. Writer-director Guy Ritchie gives the story some necessary updates, like having Jasmine (Naomi Scott) aspire for more than choosing the right ...Read more

Mavis Staples is history. Jamila Woods is making history. How new music from two Chicago artists remind us that 'progress is a process'

CHICAGO -- "Bullets flying, mothers crying ... What good is freedom if we haven't learned to be free," Mavis Staples sings at the outset of her new album, "We Get By" (Anti).

It's a tough-as-nails gospel-blues, written by producer Ben Harper, that voices a central tenet of the singer's 70-year music career: the lessons and sacrifices made over ...Read more

'Aladdin' review: A whole new same old world … this time with Will Smith

While quality cannot be measured by minutes, the new live-action version of Disney's "Aladdin" runs 37 minutes longer than the animated 1992 film famous for Robin Williams' inspired vocal riffs and the song "A Whole New World."

And those 37 additional minutes are not high-quality minutes.

The studio has reaped the financial rewards of its ...Read more

'Diego Maradona' is the newest documentary by Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia

CANNES, France -- It's not as if master documentarian Asif Kapadia, whose films have profiled Formula One legend Ayrton Senna and revered singer Amy Winehouse, is unfamiliar with famous folk. But there is fame, and there is Diego Maradona.

In his prime the greatest, most celebrated and most controversial player in the world's most popular sport...Read more

Philly DA's office says Meek Mill's judge is biased, should not oversee case

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's office believes that the judge overseeing Meek Mill's case has been biased against the celebrity rapper, abused her discretion when she sentenced him to prison in 2017 for probation violations and should be removed from making decisions in his ongoing appeal.

Those assertions, made ...Read more

'Overzealous' Cardi B postpones tour to recover from liposuction

Cardi B has postponed concerts through the end of May to allow her body time to recover from post-baby liposuction and breast surgery.

A show Tuesday night in El Paso, Texas, was postponed, as was the rapper's appearance at a Memorial Day weekend event in Baltimore.

"Cardi was overzealous in getting back to work; she didn't take the time ...Read more

At Cannes, genre filmmaking from 'Parasite' to 'The Wild Goose Lake' turns heads

CANNES, France -- Times critic Justin Chang is filing regular dispatches from the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, which runs through Saturday in France.

A surge of excitement runs through the crowd at the beginning of every gala screening at the Cannes Film Festival, as the movie's director walks into the Grand Thetre Lumiere and is ...Read more


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