Tuesday October 10, 2017

"On the heels of Harvey Weinstein’s ouster from The Weinstein Company, his name is being removed from all of the company’s TV series, on which he had served as an executive producer, sources told Deadline. The same step is expected to be taken on movie releases. Additionally, we hear TWC brass are auditioning ad agencies today that will be tasked with finding a new name for the overall production and distribution company."

Jessica Chastain said she was warned about Weinstein.

And Apple has pulled the plug on an Elvis Presley biopic series from The Weinstein Company in light of the controversy. #karma

A first look at Ben Stiller's Showtime series Escape at Dannemora. "On June 6, 2015, two convicted murderers named David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY. The men had used carpentry tools to tunnel out of the prison, triggering comparisons to The Shawshank Redemption. Or as one pun-ecstatic New York newspaper put it, 'Shaw-skank,' owing to the fact that prison seamstress Joyce Mitchell was sexually involved with both men and an accomplice in their escape. The ensuing three-week ­manhunt was one of the costliest and most intense in New York history — and riveting source material for a TV dramatization. In production now, Escape at Dannemora stars Benicio Del Toro as Matt, Paul Dano as Sweat, and Patricia Arquette as Mitchell. (The teleplay is co-written by Oscar-nominated scribe Michael Tolkin, who penned Robert Altman’s savage The Player, and Mad Men‘s Brett Johnson. The men brainstormed the idea for the series while Matt and Sweat were still on the loose.)"

Vulture has a very extensive sit down with Sarah Silverman.  Too long to post, but a good read if you're a Silverman fan.

The Sister Sister reboot is happening?

HBO Sports extended a multi-year agreement with Jim Lampley, who serves as the primary voice for its HBO Boxing franchise. Lampley will continue to serve on multiple HBO Boxing platforms, including as the host and PxP voice for World Championship Boxing, HBO Boxing After Dark and HBO Pay-Per-View. He will also continue to host The Fight Game With Jim Lampley

More Stranger Things fodder as we approach the premiere of season 2.

Ahead of its October 13 Season 1 premiere, Universal Kids, formerly Sprout network, has picked up a second season of Top Chef Jr., with Vanessa Lachey and Chef Curtis Stone to continue as host and head judge.

Helluva world in which we live, when we are hit with headlines like this: "NeNe Leakes Apologizes for Wishing Rape on a Heckler." 

We'll take any Jon Stewart we can get these days.  Stewart showed up on The Late Show last night to talk about what else, Donald Trump.

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Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines claim they are leaving their hit show because they 'need to take a breath.'

"But Page Six TV on Monday reveals it is actually because of HGTV’s 'horrible contracts' and the couple is betting on landing a bigger deal with Discovery.

"The Gaineses recently announced that the upcoming Season 5 of Fixer Upper, which starts next month, will be their last on HGTV, even though it is the highest-rated show at the network and its biggest ad revenue generator.

"HGTV is owned by Scripps, which is in the process of being bought by Discovery Communications — and insiders say Chip and Joanna are betting that Discovery will make them a bigger deal once the sale is finalized.

"An HGTV network insider told Page Six, 'Many years ago, when Scripps, which also owns Food Network, signed Rachael Ray, they didn’t think about Rachael starting a magazine, launching product lines, getting endorsement deals and her books selling millions of copies.

“'And so while Food Network turned Rachael Ray into a star, she made tens of millions and Scripps got none of it. After Rachael, they made sure no talent deal would ever put them in that situation again. Since the Gaineses were relatively unknown when they started, they signed the general Scripps talent contract.'

"The source added, 'Scripps talent contracts are very restrictive. The talent can’t do anything without their approval — any appearance, any publicity, any endorsement, any product — you have to ask them for permission. It is awful. And on top of that, Scripps takes a big percentage of everything you make — books, appearances, endorsements, products. If you make money, they take most of the money.'

"The Gaineses’ announcement they would quit was a bombshell for fans who have followed the couple on their journey from a small construction and decorating firm in Waco, Texas, to huge celebrities. Since the pilot aired in May 2013, Fixer Upper has become one of the highest-rated shows in HGTV’s history, attracting nearly 4.5 million viewers.

"The source added, 'As Chip and Joanna grew more famous and popular over the years, the HGTV conceded to a few changes to their contract — like not taking a percentage of their Target collection — but they still wanted the Gaineses to shoot long days, promote the show and just work their butts off.'

“'So they are using this end of their contract as a total renegotiation to get the deal they really want: more money, less work, more control. The timing of Discovery buying Scripps worked well in their favor. With Discovery hopefully now about to own Scripps, they are rolling the dice thinking the new owners will come running after them and give them the deal they really want.'

"Discovery’s deal to buy Scripps is still being vetted by the FTC, and Discovery execs can’t approach any Scripps talent until at least early next year. But a TV insider said, 'Discovery will surely go after Chip and Joanna, once the deal is cleared, because of their huge popularity. Discovery deals are traditionally much more generous to the talent, and the network can turn them into international stars, like Discovery did with Cake Boss.'

"A rep for HGTV said in a statement, 'Of course, this inflammatory information is inaccurate. Chip and Joanna have already shared with their fans why they made their decision and we support them.'

"The Gaineses had said in a statement on their website of their reason to quit, 'This is just us recognizing that we need to catch our breath for a moment. Our plan is to take this time to shore up and strengthen the spots that are weak, rest the places that are tired and give lots of love and attention to both our family and our businesses.'

"Brock Murphy, director of public relations for the Gaineses’ company Magnolia Market, told Page Six in a statement, 'Chip and Jo’s decision to leave Fixer Upper is truly just based on wanting to catch their breath for a minute; to rest, refresh, and spend even more time with their family and growing businesses. It is not based on anything else people might read. They were very open and honest about their reasoning behind this decision when they first shared the announcement.'”

I have a bunch to say here.  First of all, this makes me laugh: "they [Scripps] still wanted the Gaineses to shoot long days, promote the show and just work their butts off."  Cry me a river!  It's called work and is part of being on a popular television show.  Second, what I've learned of late is that the New York Post is about the biggest much of misguided bullshit available to consumers today.  They site "sources" who are more full of garbage than a 5-alarm dumpster fire.  These "sources" make statements that couldn't be further from the truth.  So, whether it's O.J. Simpson's whereabouts or demands or Chip and Joanna Gaines' real motivations, just a friendly reminder that the vast majority of what the New York Post offers up via it's "sources" is very very very likely to be false.

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Per The New York Times, "Jemele Hill, the ESPN SportsCenter host whose tweets last month calling President Trump a white supremacist caused the White House to call for her firing, was suspended by ESPN on Monday for again running afoul of the company’s social-media policy.

"After the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any players who 'disrespect the flag,' Hill suggested on Twitter that fans who disagreed with Jones’s stance should boycott Cowboys advertisers.

“'Change happens when advertisers are impacted,' she tweeted. 'If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers.'

"ESPN said in a statement that Hill was suspended for 'a second violation of our social media guidelines.' A spokesman for the company declined to say which specific guideline she violated and whether she would be paid during the suspension.

“'She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet,' the statement said.

"President Trump and his surrogates have criticized the N.F.L. for allowing players to kneel or sit during the playing of the anthem. But Jones’s comments raised the possibility of a showdown between some of its most powerful owners and the players’ union.

"Jones’s remarks were the most strident comments yet by an owner in the continuing debate over the players and their right to protest during the anthem.

"Jones, who called the president days after he urged owners to fire players who did not stand for the anthem, has been the most vocal of the 32 owners in saying that his players should stand. After his team lost to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, he went much further.

"Jones brushed aside a question about two of his players who raised their fists at the end of the anthem. 'But if there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag then we will not play,' he told The Dallas Morning News. 'You understand? If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play. Period.'

"Jones and the entire team took a knee on the field before the anthem on Sept. 25.

"The players who have protested by sitting or kneeling during the anthem have insisted that they are not disrespecting the flag or the military, but rather trying to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.

"Jones’s comments were the clearest sign yet that the owners are eager to not only move on from the public-relations crisis, but also to crack down on the players themselves. They may have inadvertently stirred up a more fractious fight with the N.F.L. Players Association. Late Sunday, the union issued a statement that defended its members’ right to free expression.

“'It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other,' the union said. 'We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.'

"The Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, who has backed the players’ right to protest, appears to be changing his stance. He told The Miami Herald that while many players insist their protests are about raising awareness of social injustice, the president has “changed that whole paradigm of what protest is” by turning it into a proxy for respect for the flag and support of the military."

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From Uproxx: "Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) spent the first season of Mr. Robot working with the show’s mysterious title character (Christian Slater) with one clear goal in mind: to destroy the global conglomerate they both referred to as EvilCorp. Elliot spent much of the second season grappling with the realization that both EvilCorp’s relationship with society and his own with Mr. Robot — who turned out to be an alternate personality modeled on Elliot’s late, abusive father — were much more complicated than he realized. At the start of the third season (it debuts Wednesday night on USA; I’ve seen the first four episodes), he has decided that he regrets all of it, and will do whatever he can to undo the damage he caused. The problem is that his creation has sprawled well beyond his control — in the same way that his own body often winds up being piloted by Mr. Robot — and nothing seems as easy to fix as he hoped it would be.

"It’s not hard to project Elliot’s dilemma onto the show’s gifted young creator Sam Esmail, and to the evolution of Mr. Robot itself. What was in its first season a streamlined story and a social media phenomenon strained in its second under the weight of an expanded story and expanded narrative ambitions. Its best moments were dazzling — at times even more impressive than anything Esmail and company had put together in that remarkable debut season — but the increasingly labyrinthine plot, along with some bad structural choices(*), began to feel like a heavy cost to get to the good stuff.

(*) For those who don’t remember — and it has been more than a year since the last episode aired — Esmail devoted a good chunk of the season to a storyline where Elliot seemed to be sequestering himself in his mother’s neighborhood, when in fact he was in prison and experiencing more hallucinations than usual. Most of the audience saw the twist coming from far away, and even though Esmail said he expected, and even wanted, viewers to figure it out ahead of time, it separated Elliot from the other characters and most of the plot, while also furthering the impression that this was more puzzle box than actual story, and that viewers would be better served sniffing out clues for the next twist than tracking the plot and character arcs. And having the main character spend so much of the season inside his own head only put more pressure on the closing episodes, which the anti-climactic finale couldn’t live up to.

"Season three finds both Elliot and Mr. Robot more focused in their efforts to get back to the way things used to be. For Elliot, it’s undoing the hack that erased EvilCorp’s loan records, which backfired by strengthening the company and hurting the world. For Mr. Robot, it’s going back to the more propulsive, less introspective mode of the first season, after large chunks of the second took place entirely inside Elliot’s head. Given how great Malek is — not to mention how creative Esmail can be at portraying the unreality of it all — Elliot’s head is usually an interesting place to be, but like a lot of season two (which had more episodes, almost all of them significantly longer than average), it can risk becoming too much.

"Based on the new season’s first four episodes, both character and creator have mixed success in their revised missions. Elliot inevitably finds out that hitting the reset button isn’t as easy as he had hoped, while Esmail, in turn, strains at times to get out from under the tonnage of plot and conspiracy he’s built around Elliot, fsociety, EvilCorp, Whiterose, the Dark Army, the FBI, and everyone else.

"Its best moments — and there are many of them — make it worth trudging through the rest. Esmail’s choices as a director (he is once again directing every episode, and writing many) often feel like that of an alien who’s watched a lot of Earth pop culture but can’t quite reconcile our cinematic grammar with his own. This is most overt with the way he still likes to place a shot’s most important character on the edge of the frame, but all of the choices are intentionally off, capturing the way that Elliot feels isolated from a world he sees differently from the rest of us. Scenes presented as long continuous takes have become almost a TV cliché in the last few years, yet most of Esmail’s oners contribute to that sense of being trapped here along with Elliot, and the soundtrack remains as hypnotically eclectic as ever as it cycles between ’80s soft rock ballads and contemporary electronic.

"Esmail and company also bring a welcome lighter touch to the proceedings. The show doesn’t permanently shift into multi-cam Alf mode, but there’s more of a sense of whimsy and oddness to it that, with its contrast, winds up enhancing the usual darkness rather than undermining it. We open with an extended glimpse of the season’s big addition: Bobby Cannavale as Irving, a fixer for the forces behind the mysterious 'Stage 2' that Elliot thinks he wants to stop. Cannavale’s a treat, in full character actor mode, sporting a pencil mustache and a spiky pompadour, coupled with a high-pitched outer-borough accent. The eccentricity of it risks Irving coming across as more tic than man, yet Cannavale and Esmail ride the line so that Irving can be both the funniest person on the show and a genuine threat to whoever tries to interfere with the master plan. It’s one of the best, most weirdly energetic performances Cannavale’s given in a long time.

"Elliot spends a fair amount of screen time with Irving, but he does that with many of the major players this time around: Mr. Robot, erratic fugitive Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallstrom), best friend Angela (Portia Doubleday), and sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin). No hiding him off in a corner while all the decisions are being made elsewhere, even if B.D. Wong’s Whiterose still knows much more than she’s telling.

"Still, there are so many interlocking agendas and conspiracies and secrets that the show feels more like work than it originally did, no matter how much Esmail tries to pare things back to the basics. Beat to beat, it can still knock me off my chair, but then we get back to keeping track of who’s really loyal to whom, when Angela might or might not be telling the truth, or what Tyrell’s motivations are, and the episodes can start feeling much longer than they actually are. The only real dud in this early bunch is the third hour, which catches us up on what Tyrell was doing while he was missing for nearly all of season two — and which presumes a far greater interest in the doings and motivations of Tyrell Wellick than I still had after such a long absence — but the plottier the show gets(*), the less exciting it tends to be. And there’s now so much plot that the show can’t easily set it aside.

(*) For the moment, it doesn’t seem like Esmail has a new twist in the works but it may just be that he’s gotten better at hiding them. Then again, there’s an offhand reference in the first episode to the concept of parallel universes, and I look forward to the Reddit threads about which reality’s Elliot we’re watching in a given scene.

"When it debuted in 2015, Mr. Robot felt as current as any new drama had in years. Because the story hasn’t advanced past that year, it now feels like an artifact of a bygone age, and the occasional references to Donald Trump feel like Esmail elbowing the viewer in the ribs to be sure we see how one era could lead to the next. Still, both Elliot and the show seem to be maturing thematically: at one point, he admits that nicknaming the company EvilCorp “was just my dorm room philosophizing run amok.”

"Late in the premiere, someone asks Elliot, 'What if I told you we could make it like none of this ever happened?' It’s a tempting thought, and one specifically appealing to Elliot at this moment in both his own life and history, but it’s not the way the world is supposed to work. You can’t magically erase every mistake you’ve ever made and go back to the way things used to be, whether you’re a mentally ill vigilante hacker or an acclaimed TV show that went through a sophomore slump.

"Both character and show are in a more promising place when we return to them. Mr. Robot may never again be as shiny and sleek as it was in its debut, but it’s become easier to focus on the many things it does so very well."

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, "'[y]ou have no idea what's happening here, do you?'

"The first official trailer for Hulu's Castle Rock closes out with this question, and honestly — it's a fair point! The upcoming anthology series, based on the works of Stephen King, is currently shrouded in secrecy, no doubt due in large part to the participation of infamous mystery-box builder J.J. Abrams as executive producer. Even after the trailer affords us little more than a minute in the gloomy New England town, very few conclusions as to what this series is actually about can be safely reached — which isn't to say there aren't some significant clues about tone and interconnecting stories to glean.

"For the uninitiated: Castle Rock takes place in the titular fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, home to a whole host of supernatural shenanigans. Castle Rock has been featured in numerous King stories over the years, including but not limited to The Dead ZoneCujo and The Body, the novella that provided the basis for Rob Reiner's Stand by Me. The Hulu series, bowing in 2018, stands to tie together many of the threads from these stories and beyond, while also unearthing brand-new horrors along the way.

"Given its status as a hub in the deeply interconnected Stephen King universe (among the many reasons why devout Dark Tower fans were so displeased with this past summer's decades-in-the-making film adaptation), Castle Rock already looks like it stands on the back of some classic King material. For instance:

• There are tons of familiar faces from past King adaptations featured in Castle Rock, with no greater example than Carrie herself: Sissy Spacek, starring as a woman named Ruth Deaver, who is the adoptive mother of Moonlight star André Holland's character Henry Deaver, seen at multiple points in the trailer.

• Another familiar face for the King crowd: Melanie Lynskey, who stars as Molly Strand, described as "a woman with a rare medical condition who's barely scraping by as a real estate agent in a town where every third property is the site of someone's worst nightmare." Not quite two decades ago, the actress was one of the stars of the Rose Red television adaptation, about a haunted mansion in Seattle. Will that haunted house aspect follow Lynskey's new character, given that she's a realtor? 

• Perhaps the most intriguing King veteran on the board, if only because of recency bias: Bill Skarsgård, whom you might not recognize right away on sight, but you're certainly aware of his creep factor if you were one of the countless moviegoers who braved It this summer. Skarsgård, of course, played the role of Pennywise the Clown. It does not look like he's reprising that role here in Castle Rock, seen in an almost catatonic stage at two points in the trailer. If nothing else, then, at least the creepiness remains on full display, even if the drooling smirk and clown makeup are sitting this one out.

• Lost veteran Terry O'Quinn goes unseen in the trailer (unless he's the Castle Rock mascot?), but he has King credentials of his own by way of 1985's Silver Bullet. Nothing further to add here, except overall enthusiasm about the erstwhile John Locke getting his Castle Rock on.

• Fresh from his turn as a former law enforcement officer on The Leftovers, veteran actor Scott Glenn once again hops into another literary adaptation as another cop. Here's at least one character with roots already firmly planted in the King catalogue: Alan Pangborn, a Castle Rock sheriff who has appeared in The Dark HalfThe Sun Dog and Needful Things. What's more, he's been brought to life twice before, once by Michael Rooker and later by Ed Harris. The Alan Pangborn of Castle Rock is a few paces further down the path than Rooker and Harris' long ago takes on the character, which makes one wonder what fresh new nightmares this man has weathered over the decades.

• There are countless references to past King works strewn about the Castle Rock trailer, including imagery that very much evokes It, such as views of a well from down below (perhaps a view from a place where everybody floats?) and dilapidated houses with curiously clothed boogeymen (let's try not to dwell on that scary Michael Myers-looking lunatic) — not to mention the very participation of Skarsgård himself.

• It's hard not to look at any animal in a King adaptation without Pet Sematary coming to mind, an occasion that arises twice in the trailer when one dog starts barking madly at the camera, following an earlier glimpse at a dog unearthing a poorly buried body. 

• That said, the dog imagery is more pressingly evocative of Cujo, King's devastating story about a deadly dog — a story that just so happens to take place in Castle Rock. 

• King famously does not have as much love for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining as other moviegoers, so any similarities in the Castle Rock trailer are likely accidental — such as the dark fluid flowing down a set of stairs, not unlike the blood pouring out of the elevator and throughout the Overlook Hotel. We also see a corpse's leg half-hanging out of a bathtub, which brings to mind the unforgettably harrowing Shiningbathroom scene.

• The bathroom scene also brings another King work to mind: Dreamcatcher, which features a vicious alien race termed "The Ripley," and also termed "shit weasels," due to the fact that they incubate inside of a human host and often burst out into the world via the host's anus. Don't count on seeing shit weasels in Castle Rock, even if the trailer gives off low-key shit weasel vibes. 

• The Castle Rock trailer ends on its most exciting and provocative note possible: In the final shot, a vehicle sinks into a body of water, with a very loaded decal on the bumper: "Shawshank Department of Corrections," also known as the prison facility at the heart of The Shawshank Redemption, officially confirmed as a key setting for the series. No, we probably won't see Andy Dufresne in Castle Rock, but perhaps someone else will find freedom by "crawling through a river of shit" — or perhaps even a river of shit weasels, if we're lucky."