Beaming families, teary smiles, mortarboards in the air — it’s graduation season, which means that more importantly, it’s celebrity commencement address season. While some high-profile speakers have received a chillier reception than others, the A-lister speech has long been a reliably amusing diversion in between long-winded orations from dusty academic types. Maya Rudolph took plenty of artistic license with “The Star-Spangled Banner” at my graduation ceremony from Tulane a few years ago, an unforgettable experience that I was too drunk to currently remember. But today brings video of another movie star taking the stage before a mass of fresh-faced students blissfully unaware of how hard getting a job is. Ladies, gentlemen, Will Ferrell is in the house.
Johnny Depp needs some public image rehabilitation, and badly. When it came out last year that he had physically abused former spouse Amber Heard, a dark and sickly pallor was cast over the heretofore beloved actor’s profile. It isn’t helping that he hasn’t been in a good movie since 2011 (Rango, though Verbinski’s follow-up The Lone Ranger has its supporters), and hasn’t been in a really profitable one since 2014’s Into the Woods. The guy has to save a little face if he wants to secure his future in this business, and what better way to do that than to play to the only demographic unaware of his unsavory personal life: the youth!
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.
In the years since Shrek Forever After, our most recent check-in with the friendly Mike Myers-voiced ogre, DreamWorks’ animated franchise has matured from a massively successful creative property into something vaster and stranger. Gradually but undeniably, the Shrek films have turned into a Whole Big Weird Internet Thing, with various denizens of the World Wide Web creating disturbing fan-art and cracking absurdist jokes about the smart-alecky series of animated films. In certain online circles, even uttering the words “Some-BODY once told me” is enough to prompt a barrage of surreal humor and warped image macros. And now that Shrek lives on as a sense-stymieing parody of its former self, what better time to revive the franchise?
After the release of the shocking Sausage Party racked up an equally shocking $140 million (far more than any of us expected a movie involving anal beads forcibly yanked out of an anthropomorphized hot dog bun to make), it was only a matter of time until more bawdy animation followed. Cartoons for grown-ups may be on their way to a moment in the sun, as today brings the news that Netflix has launched production on an R-rated project in a similar vein. But they won’t stop at desecrating the sacred space of the grocery store. This time, nothing short of our nation’s origin story will provide the canvas for whatever vulgarity they’ve got in store.
You may remember pop star Beyoncé Knowles from her stint in the late-’90s/early-’00s R&B girl group Destiny‘s Child with “Pretty Girl Rock” singer Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams (not the one from Manchester by the Sea). But did you know that the celebrated performer has cultivated an active solo career in the years since the group that made her famous broke up? Believe it or not, Knowles released a string of successful studio records over the past decade, starred in the music-video-compilation film Lemonade last year, and wed rapping man Jayson Z in 2008. And with that, I have completed my impression of someone who only heard of Beyoncé when scanning her Wikipedia page just now. We all know who Beyoncé is. She‘s Beyoncé.
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.
Last night viewers shuffled in for a late showing of Moonlight at the Rio cinema in the Dalston neighborhood of London’s Hackney region. As they settled down with their bags of Licorice Allsorts, Sherbet Fountains, and Jelly Babies (all of which are, incredibly, real candies), they were greeted by a surprise on screen. Instead of the opening strains of a chopped-and-screwed remix of Boris Gardiner‘s “Every N----- Is a Star,” however, they were greeted by the bright blue sky and the first twenty seconds of “Another Day of Sun,” the opening number of none other than La La Land! “Cor, bit cheeky, innit?” the audience said in perfect unison, in my imagination.
We‘re now a couple days out from the incident itself, and everyone’s still trying to figure out just what in the Sam Hill happened at the Oscars on Sunday night. When Faye Dunaway wrongly named La La Land instead of Moonlight as the recipient of the Best Picture Academy Award, she created a buzzy moment and sparked a full-blown investigation as to how things could have gotten mixed up. Fingers have been pointed every which way, with the show’s producers and vote-tabulating accountants both scrambling to cover their respective hindquarters in the wake of the embarrassing gaffe. Today, however, Dunaway‘s co-presenter Warren Beatty – the man with his hand on the envelope — has offered his official response to the hubbub, and he’s decided to shift blame elsewhere.
I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of Get Out earlier this week, and hoo boy, that right there is one fine motion picture. Our beloved Editor-in-Chief Matt Singer made as much clear in his ringing endorsement from Sundance, but take it from me: very spooky, very funny, has something to say, insanely well-cast and even more well-acted. It’s an easy movie to love, and while the box-office receipts from this upcoming weekend will rule on whether audiences agree, the critics of America have already made their voices heard. And those voices are ringing out in perfect unison, a harmony sounding out as if from an angelic choir: “THIS MOVIE RULES.”
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