Review Category : Entertainment

Movie Reviews: “True Story,” “Child 44,” “Unfriended,” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”

Sony / Columbia(NEW YORK) — It’s a busy weekend at the box office. Several movies with big-name stars are opening, but it seems studios are using the time between box office champ Furious 7‘s release and the May 1 opening of The Avengers: Age of Ultron to dump some duds.

First up, the drama True Story, which has so much star power that on paper, it looks like an Oscar contender: Academy Award nominees Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones head the cast, and Brad Pitt is a producer. But once you see it, you realize why it’s being burned off in mid-April and not opening later in the year, where most awards contenders debut.

As the title declares, True Story is based on a true story, about disgraced journalist Michael Finkel and his discovery that an accused murderer was assuming his identity. Hill plays the former writer for The New York Times, who gets drawn into the mind of Christian Longo (Franco), on trial for killing his wife and three kids in 2001. It’s a fascinating story, ripe for a film adaptation and probably a slam-dunk in the right hands, but here it’s not nearly as juicy or as gripping as you want it to be.

The acting and directing are solid — Franco knows his way around a creep, Hill is serviceable but forgettable, and Jones does a lot with little to chew on as Hill’s long-suffering wife. The script appears to be the weak link here: at times boring, at time just ridiculous, with one jailhouse speech given by Jones that’s meant to be chilling, but just comes off as absurd.

Then again, it’s no more absurd than Child 44, another star-packed film that fails to deliver. Tom Hardy stars as a Stalin-era Soviet soldier hunting down a child murderer. The main problem with this movie is its lack of focus: it starts out as a gripping thriller about the destructive nature of communism, and by the end it’s basically an episode of Law & Order: Moscow. With mud wrestling. Seriously.

Again, there are solid performances from the big names involved, including Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman. But you have to wonder if they burst out laughing after each take — some of the lines are just that silly.

Speaking of silly, there’s Kevin James’s return as the title character in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, which actually may not be silly. I have no idea — the studio didn’t screen it for review, which is never a good sign. So why did Sony feel the need to make a sequel to the 2009 comedy? Because it made over $180 million on a budget of just $26 million, numbers no studio is going to ignore.

Which bring us to our final wide release of the week — the horror film Unfriended. If you’d told me before I saw it that a movie filmed almost entirely on Skype, and starring five little-known actors, was going to be a whole lot more enjoyable than movies starring James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, Tom Hardy, et. al., I would have suspected you’d smoked too much of Jonah Hill’s stash. And I’d have been way wrong.

Unfriended is basically a scary version of that Modern Family episode from February that took place entirely on mobile devices. You’re watching five of the most annoying teens in the world having an inane conversation, and then they satisfyingly get killed off one by one. It drags a little here and there and could have actually used more gore, but in the end, Unfriended‘s moral of “bullying people online leads to stupid teens getting dead” should be mandatory high school viewing.

Our scoreboard:

Unfriended (R): Three-and-a-half out of five stars.
Child 44 (R): Two out of five stars.
True Story (R): Two out of five stars.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (PG): ?

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Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott Escapes Bus Fire on Way to Dallas; Everyone OK

ABC/Image Group LA(DALLAS) — Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott had a close call Thursday morning when her tour bus caught fire on the way to Dallas for the ACM Awards.

Everyone is safe and back on the road.

Hillary posted a picture of the burned-out bus on Instagram with the caption, “EVERYONE IS SAFE AND SOUND. It was me, my husband, our tour manager, and driver. Thanking God for our safety and the safety of all of those who helped put this fire out and keep us safe. Love you all!!”

Hillary’s daughter, Eisele, was not on the bus, and her band mates, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, were traveling to Dallas separately.

Lady Antebellum will perform at the ACM Lifting Lives Charity Gala Friday night at the Omni Hotel in Dallas.

Of note, Hillary was asleep in the bus’s back lounge when she had to evacuate. Later on, Hillary got a message saying all off her personal items were destroyed except for her Bible.

She posted a picture of the Bible on Instagram, saying, “The outside cover was burned and messed up but NOT ONE PAGE was missing. Yall, God’s Word will always stand. He is FOR YOU, WILL PROTECT YOU, AND HIS LOVE FOR YOU WILL NEVER FADE. My faith is forever deepened because of today. I hope this story deepens yours.”

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“Real Housewives” Star Kim Richards Charged with Public Intoxication, Battery, Trespassing

Rodolfo Martinez/Bravo(LOS ANGELES ) — Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kim Richards was arrested early Thursday and charged with public intoxication, trespassing, resisting an officer and battery on a police officer following an incident in Beverly Hills, according to police.

Lt. Lincoln Hoshino, a representative for the Beverly Hills police department, told ABC News that officers reported to the Beverly Hills Hotel around 1:30 a.m., after receiving a report from security there.

Security claimed that an individual, later determined to be Richards, was causing “a disturbance” at the hotel restaurant and would not leave, though she had been asked repeatedly to do so. While being escorted off the premises, Richards asked to use the bathroom and barricaded herself inside. Security at the hotel made a citizen’s arrest, and then officers took her into custody at 2:04 a.m., police said.

“Richards was displaying symptoms of alcohol intoxication including slurred speech and belligerent insolent behavior,” Hoshino said in a statement. “[She was] cursing at the officers and passively resisted arrest. After being transported to the station for booking, Richards kicked one of the officers in the leg; however the officer was not injured.”

Richards was released at approximately 10:36 a.m. and is expected to appear in court on May 10.

The reality TV star has struggled with substance abuse in the past. In 2012, after spending time in rehab, she told Real Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen, “I’m an alcoholic.”

A rep for Richards has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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New Trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Debuts

LucasFilm(ANAHEIM, Calif.) — A brand new teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has just debuted online, and in Anaheim, California, during the Star Wars Celebration event. The trailer gives us a glimpse of three beloved characters, and lets us hear another one.

The trailer opens with a shot of a landspeeder driving across what looks like the planet Tatooine, and it passes the huge, wrecked remains of an Imperial star destroyer. Then, we hear a voiceover, delivered by someone who is almost certainly Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.

“The Force is strong in my family,” he says. “My father had it.” Cut to a scene of a ruined, melted Darth Vader helmet. “I have it.” Cut to a scene of a cloaked figure with a fake hand — Luke lost one of his hands when Vader cut it off — reaching out to touch R2-D2.

“My sister has it,” he continues, as we see a male hand handing a light saber to a female hand. “You have that power too,” he adds.

What follows is a montage of exciting scenes: X-Wing fighters flying over water, stars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley running from an explosion, a glimpse of new villain Kylo Renn, stormtroopers in a Nazi-like setting, Boyega removing his stormtrooper helmet, TIE fighters engaged in battle — and then comes the kicker:

We see Harrison Ford as Han Solo, standing next to Chewbacca. “Chewie,” he grins. “We’re home!”

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens premieres Dec. 18, 2015.

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Peabody Awards: 2014 Entertainment Winners Announced

Eric Liebowitz/HBO(NEW YORK) — Television shows featuring comedians Amy Schumer and John Oliver were among the entertainment names announced Thursday as winners of 2014 Peabody Awards.

The Peabody Award recipients for entertainment were announced live on ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Schumer’s show, Inside Amy Schumer, has been on Comedy Central since 2013. The comedian most recently hosted the 2015 MTV Movie Awards on April 12.

Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, premiered its second season on HBO earlier this year. The host recently made headlines when he grilled National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on an episode of the satirical news show.

The Peabodys are an annual award that recognize excellence across platforms of radio, TV and the Web, or “stories that matter,” according to the organization. Other entertainment winners for 2014 include the American TV shows Jane the Virgin and Fargo, and the British miniseries The Honorable Woman.

The awards will be handed out May 31 at the 74th annual awards ceremony in New York City. The red-carpet affair will be hosted by Portlandia star and Saturday Night Live alumnus Fred Armisen.

Peabody announced Tuesday that British producer and conservationist Sir David Attenborough and the public-radio series AfroPop Worldwide will receive the Individual and Institutional awards at this year’s ceremony.

Winners in the categories of news and radio will be announced on April 20, while winners for documentary, Web/interactive, public service, education and children’s programming will be announced on April 23.

Here’s the full list of the 2014 Peabody Award entertainment winners:

  • Inside Amy Schumer, produced by Jax Media LLC
  • The Honorable Woman, produced by BBC Worldwide, Drama Republic, Eight Rooks Productions, Sundance Channel
  • Rectify, produced by Gran Via Productions, Zip Works
  • Jane the Virgin, produced by Eye Productions Inc.; CBS Television Studios Inc.; Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; Electus; RCTV; Poppy Productions
  • The Knick, produced by Cinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Productions, Anonymous Contend and Extension 765
  • Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, produced by HBO Entertainment in association with Sixteen String Jack Productions and Avalon Television
  • The Americans, produced by Fox Television Studios and FX Productions
  • Fargo, produced by MGM and FX Productions
  • Black Mirror, produced by Zeppotron/Channel 4

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    “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” Sneak Peek Released

    Warner Bros.(LOS ANGELES) — Director Zack Snyder basically shut down the Internet Wednesday night when he revealed the official Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer is coming this Monday in IMAX theaters.

    “Confirmed 4.20.15 #BatmanvSuperman @IMAX special teaser screening events. Limited space,” he tweeted with a link to RSVP for the show, which is practically full in almost every theater across the country, and a 21-second video.

    Confirmed 4.20.15 #BatmanvSuperman @IMAX special teaser screening events. Limited space. RSVP http://t.co/TasYGlJGig https://t.co/fnxFIERUlv

    — ZackSnyder (@ZackSnyder) April 16, 2015

    The teaser comes after Snyder already shared pics of the cast over the past few months. The cast features Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman.

    Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is set for release in March 2016.

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    Avril Lavigne Says She’ll Be ‘Healthier’ After Lyme Disease Fight

    Peter Kramer/NBC(NEW YORK) — After revealing not long ago that she was incapacitated for months with Lyme disease, Avril Lagivne is now optimistic about the future.

    “I believe that I will come out of this healthier and stronger than I was before,” she said on Thursday’s Good Morning America. “I’ve gained a lot of perspective on my life. I’ve never had so much down time in my life, so it’s been good in that sense and I’m really just choosing to look at the positives.”

    Avril began feeling ill while on tour last April. Doctors told her it was just dehydration and exhaustion, but she said she knew it was more than that.

    The singer called the search for her diagnosis “unacceptable” and “frustrating.”

    “I went from doctor to doctor for about eight months until I found somebody that had the knowledge of Lyme disease and the experience of treating it,” Avril explained. “I actually knew I had it the whole time, probably since the summer, and was just up against a lot of doctors telling me, ‘You’re crazy.’ Some of them were like, ‘It doesn’t exist.'”

    She added, “I was like, ‘But this is happening to me.'”

    After receiving the diagnosis, which Avril believes she got from a tick bite last spring, the singer was bedridden for five months in her Ontario home.

    Avril kept a low profile during her recovery, sending a tweet to a concerned fan on Twitter in December and then publicly revealing her Lyme disease in an interview that was published earlier this month in People magazine. Now the singer is back on the music scene with her song “Fly,” which will be featured during the 2015 Special Olympics World Games July 25-August 2 in Los Angeles.

    “It’s just about inner strength and courage,” Avril said of the song, which she wrote a few years ago before partnering with the Special Olympics. “This song took on a whole new meaning for me during the time that I’ve been sick, which was pretty magical.”

    Avril debuted the music video for “Fly” Thursday on GMA. “I wanted the athletes to be the stars of the video and, just like the message of the song, to show the world that they can overcome the challenges and that everyone is meant to shine,” she said.

    The song is available now on iTunes and all the net proceeds of “Fly” will go to Special Olympics, according to Avril.

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    Jennie Garth Gets an Unusual Engagement Ring

    Charles Sykes/Bravo(NEW YORK) — When Jennie Garth accepted the marriage proposal from actor David Abrams, she also accepted his unusual taste in engagement rings.

    According to a photo on People magazine, Garth showed off her one-of-a-kind ring while on vacation in Tulum, Mexico. The Beverly Hills, 90210 alum’s sparkler is a black diamond, with several smaller white diamonds surrounding it. It’s all set on a tiny gold band.

    Garth and Abrams, who announced their engagement last week, reportedly met “a couple years ago” and began dating last fall.

    Garth’s relationship with Abrams is her first serious relationship since her reportedly painful divorce from Twilight star Peter Facinelli in 2012 after 11 years of marriage. The two have three daughters.

    Garth has also been linked to media executive Michael Shimbo, photographer Noah Abrams and musician Jeremy Salken.

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    “Empire” Sued over Alleged Similarities to Man’s Story

    Chuck Hodes/FOX(NEW YORK) — A man has filed a lawsuit against Empire star Terrence Howard, series creator Lee Daniels and others, claiming the popular Fox series ripped off his movie about his life as a “gangster, pimp and drug dealer,” reports TMZ.

    Ron Newt claims he once met Howard at the Four Seasons hotel and they talked about Ron’s documentary, Bigger than Big. According to Newt, Terrence liked the film, and said he wanted to play him in a project.

    However, when Empire debuted Ron noticed many similarities, he claims. For example, in Empire, four drug dealers were killed, and in Bigger than Big four drug dealers were killed, the lawsuit states. He also cites several other alleged similarities between his documentary and the television series.

    Newt seeks a billion dollars — that’s billion with a “b.”

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    J.J. Abrams Buys Pizza for “Star Wars” Fans Camping Out for “The Force Awakens” Event

    Chris Haston/NBC(ANAHEIM, Calif.) — At the Anaheim Convention Center, Star Wars Celebration attendees camping out to get an eyeful of Thursday’s Force Awakens Q&A panel got a bellyful, thanks to director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy.

    Fans were already queuing up Wednesday evening for the panel, which kicks off the expo at 10 a.m. Pacific time, and will feature the anticipated movie’s director and producer, as well as other guests. At the event, fans expect the first peeks of the new film since the 88-second teaser that debuted last November.

    To sustain those braving the overnight wait, Abrams and Kennedy had pizza delivered to the already massive line, according to a Lucasfilm staffer who tweeted pics of the supply drop.

    The seventh Star Wars movie’s Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Anthony Daniels — and many other stars from the series — are on hand at the event that runs from April 16-19; it remains to be seen which actors appear at Thursday’s panel.

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on Dec. 18 by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

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