Summer’s Coming: Hollywood’s Offerings for 2014

The big screen will light up this summer with several long-anticipated films that cover everything from romance to futuristic science-fiction.  The summer of 2014 is shaping up to be one of Hollywood’s most diverse in a decade, as studios hope that a “shotgun” approach may bring out moviegoers in greater numbers than in the past few years.

Here are previews of some of the hottest summer films of 2014, replete with big-name stars and action-packed plots!

  1.  X-Men:  Days of Future Past.  Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender star in this alternate future extravaganza.  Surviving mutants have been penned up in concentration-style encampments while Sentinels patrol America in a glimpse of the future while the X-Men are forced to stop a modern event to prevent that future from happening.  This movie promises to combine the best of Back To the Future plotting with the special effects that make the X-Men series great.
  2. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.  This is an odd little movie that promises to leave viewers thinking more deeply than the cast might suggest at first glance.  Robin Williams plays the title role and Mila Kunis the doctor who gives him a false diagnosis that leads him on a journey of reparation to all the people he has wronged.
  3. Words and Pictures.  Of all the romances this summer, this one may be the most thought-provoking.  A prep school teacher, played by Clive Owen, is depressed by his student’s disenchantment with language, although he himself has not published in years.  He is drawn to an abstract painter who is suffering from arthritis and has lost her ability to express herself through art.  His crippling drinking and her physical handicaps bring them together in a way that is unexpectedly tender and enjoyable.
  4. Maleficent.  This hommage to the idea of Wicked takes a look at the queen from Sleeping Beauty, played incredibly by Angelina Jolie.  A completely different look at the fairy tale will give a couple of hours of enjoyment and, surprisingly, some thought provocation as well!
  5. The Fault in Our Stars.  In an interesting take on the Romeo and Juliet trope, two teenagers meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.  Their wit, unconventionality and love take them on an incredible journey.  Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Sam Trammell round out the cast.

Enjoy your summer at the movies!

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Great Movies Produced in Hollywood

Blair StoverThere is no doubt that Hollywood studios produce great movies, but the consistency of these films leaves something to be desired.  Lately, Hollywood seems to have fallen into the trap of focusing too much on the gross receipts a movie can generate and too little on artistic value.  This is clearly evident in the rash of “genre” movies that plague the theaters each summer.  It is not unusual to see five or six superhero movies in a span of two years as well as numerous 30-something comedies, light romances and other movies that can instantly be typecast into a specific box.

Fortunately for those who want a better choice of movies, there are plenty of quality films being made outside of Hollywood.  These films are known as “indies” and include some of the most forward-thinking plots and character developments of today’s filmed art.

This summer, you may want to check out a couple of these great films rather than the fare at your local movie theater, particularly if you find one that speaks to an interest of yours.  If you are a little afraid of the indie film, just remember that you are broadening your horizons!

Here are five incredibly diverse films that promise to be some of the best of the summer offerings:

  • Ida.  This story of a young woman about to become a nun who discovers she is actually a Holocaust survivor is directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, the same director who uncovered the talent of Emily Blunt in My Summer of Love.  This film has received glowing reviews since it was released in 2013.
  • The Double.  In a hilarious version of Poe’s “William Wilson,” Jesse Eisenberg declares war on his Doppelganger who moves in next door and takes a job in his office.  Of course, they both love the same girl, Mia Wasikowska.
  • The Immigrant.  Filmmaker James Gray collaborates again with Joaquin Phoenix, this time with Marion Cotillard, to bring a 1920’s drama about a woman just “off the boat.”  The film resonates not only with great acting but also with wonderful cinematography by Darius Khondji.
  • Palo Alto.  Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, directs this story based on the work of James Franco.  Franco stars as a teacher having an affair with a student in a somewhat-comic rendition reminiscent of Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
  • Korengal.  This documentary is a parallel look at the war in Afghanistan, giving alternative viewpoints to a situation that may cause some deep introspection.

Try something new this year and take in an indie film.  You may be pleasantly surprised at how exciting an artistically-conceived film can be!

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Irish Movies, Irish Stars and Irish Awards–The Irish Oscars!

Blair StoverIt’s March, which means Academy Awards, but today, why not take a completely different approach and give a nod to another great March event—St. Patrick’s Day—and talk about movies with great Irish characters? Combining the idea of the Oscars with Irish film, here is a list of my personal favorite movies with Irish themes or Irish actors and why I like them.

Best “Serious” Irish Movie: Dancing at Lughnasa

To start with, it features Meryl Streep, but that is not really the best thing about this movie. Dancing at Lughnasa was a play before it was a movie and both do a wonderful job of portraying a segment of the human experience we might never think about. Five unmarried Irish sisters deal with singleness, illegitimacy, raising a child and the start of World War II in this beautiful film that is not only “arty” but also has a good story line. Michael Gambon, Sophie Thompson and an all-star cast head up this scintillating film.

Best “Action” Irish Movie: The Boondock Saints

If you don’t like bad language and blood, this movie is not for you. On the other hand, if you love action, you cannot miss it! The Boondock Saints is a cool movie because it was never really supposed to happen. The film was slated for the dustbin when it was rescued and turned into a direct-to-video cult phenomenon. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and the incomparable Willem Dafoe, the movie generated a great deal of controversy and stands out as unique in the annals of “good guy vs. bad guy” films.

Best “Kids” Irish Movie: The Secret of Kells

Kids and adults will enjoy the breathtaking animation as well as learn something about the history of Ireland. This is the story of the famed Book of Kells, the Irish illuminated manuscript that highlights the beauty of ancient monastic art. Starring the voice talents of Evan McGuire and Christen Mooney, this movie is one you can enjoy with the entire family.

Best Irish Actor: Liam Neeson

Since his roles as the protagonist in Ethan Frome and as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, we all knew Liam Neeson was something special. His latest films have only served to support that belief. He is probably one of the most versatile actors on the screen today and consistently shows his talents by taking on “stretch” roles, although he can still play a good tough guy when he wants to!

Best Irish Actress: Maureen O’Hara

Sure, we are going back a few years, but Maureen O’Hara, the beautiful redhead from Miracle on 34th Street and The Quiet Man opposite John Wayne, deserves the crown for most entrancing Irish actress. Maureen epitomized the Hollywood starlet but managed to get her teeth into some really good roles, as well!

That is my take on the Irish Oscars—Erin go braugh!

The History of The Oscars

Blair StoverThe 86th annual Academy Awards, popularly known as the “Oscars,” was held recently, with 12 Years a Slave winning “Best Picture,” Matthew McConaughey named “Best Actor” and Cate Blanchett named “Best Actress.” While most of us at least nod in the direction of the Oscars each year and a few of us are glued to our sets, few people really know the history of the Academy Awards or how they came to be. Since they have been going strong now for 86 years, perhaps it is time to educate ourselves about this fascinating American film staple.

The Beginnings

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927 as a way to promote harmony between film studios and unions. Today, the Academy has grown to promote excellence in the film industry. The academy is composed of 6,000 filmmakers from the United States and around the world, and routinely gives money in the form of scholarships and other financial incentives to upcoming filmmakers.

The first Oscar awards were given on May 16, 1929, to 15 people who achieved special things in the motion picture industry. The ceremony lasted approximately 15 minutes, and the winners had been announced in advance to the media. Clearly, the very first awards from the Academy were quite different from those of today!

How The Oscars Are Decided

Most people have voiced, at some point or another, disappointment with the Oscar choices in one category or another. There are currently 24 awards given, covering many of the aspects of the film industry. There are also five special categories for awards in chosen areas. A film must be a feature film of at least 40 minutes and must have opened no earlier than January 1 of the previous year in order to qualify for consideration.

Some people claim that the Oscars are simply a money-maker for the film industry. Others complain that the voting representatives either pay too little attention to critically-acclaimed films or focus on “artsy” films that the public does not like. Further, some actors have refused to accept their Oscar awards because of various personal or political beliefs.However, the Oscars continues to fascinate most of us and will probably do so for the future, as well. Ultimately, the Oscars represent a snapshot of the film culture at any given time in American history.

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R.I.P. Paul Walker

Paul Walker was found dead this past Saturday as a result of a car accident. The protagonist of the film series ‘Fast & Furious’ was headed to a charity event in California when the car he was in crashed.

Paul Walker at the Fast & Furious premiere at ...

Paul Walker at the Fast & Furious premiere at Leicester Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to police reports, Walker’s friend, Roger Rhodes, was at the wheel and was responsible for the crash. The LAPD ruled out that they were participating in an unlawful race, however many experts say the Porsche Carrera GT is very popular in illegal street racing – one of the world’s most dangerous sports.

Paul Walker, the 40-year-old Californian actor, rose to worldwide fame for playing Brian O’Conner in the movie saga “The Fast & Furious.” His death shocked the whole team in the series immensely. James Wan, the director of the film, was completely devastated by the news. Vin Diesel, usually a man of many words, couldn’t muster many about the death of his friend. Other stars took to Twitter to express their sympathies, as well.

The cause of the accident is still not clear. What is clear is that Rhodes was traveling at a high rate of speed. Media images have been posted where you can see that the car was not only was completely destroyed, but also swept away three lampposts before ending up crashing into a tree. It is unknown if the impact took the lives of the two or if it was the fire. One thing is sure, the world lost another great actor and human being on Saturday.

We’re big Paul Walker and ‘Fast and Furious’ fans here at Blair Stover, and Paul is already sorely missed! Tell us your favorite Paul Walker moment below.

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Lady Gaga Spends Thanksgiving With the Muppets

Kermit the Frog

Cover of Kermit the Frog

The eccentric and controversial Lady Gaga has worked her way into the lovable house of the cute and cuddly Muppets.  The star will sing in a special program that will air on Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The U.S. network ABC is especially looking forward to the peculiar superstar which combines a heterogeneous mixture with a super special day. Blair Stover has more of this story below.

The program, which will run for 90 minutes, airs the night of November 28 (Thanksgiving Day in the United States). Lagy Gaga will sing all the new songs from her new album “Artpop,” which will be released on November 11th. The singer, upon hearing the news, did not hesitate to show her happiness.

“When ABC called me, I was really excited,” she confessed. “I knew it would be a night full of laughter and memories. I cannot wait to see them… and I hope that Miss Piggy does not go crazy.”

The Muppets themselves are surprised, as well.

“What an incredible opportunity! We do not even care if Miss Gaga confuses some of the Muppets with pieces of her wardrobe again,” said Kermit the Frog.

English: Lady Gaga and Monster announce Projec...

English: Lady Gaga and Monster announce Project RED Heartbeats and RED Beats Solo at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition, the program will feature more special guests, including singer Elton John, Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Joseph Gordon-Levitt and artist RuPaul, who will appear in a very special sketch along with Lady Gaga and the Muppets.

Also provided, will be a preview of the upcoming Disney flick, “Muppets Most Wanted,” featuring a cameo with Gaga. The film will hit theaters on March 21, 2014.

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‘Orange is the New Black’ Most Watched Netflix Original

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Aside from letting the world know its subscriber numbers and earnings figures in its quarterly shareholders letter, Netflix decided to throw a little fluff in the mix by saying their original series’ House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are doing extremely well. One will end up as the most-watched series ever for Netflix and is even compared with other successful shows on broadcast TV and cable. Blair Stover has more on Netflix success below.

Orange is the New Black is a comedy-drama series that debuted in July only on Netflix, following the lives of a select few in a women’s federal prison. It beats out House of Cards, another original Netflix series that has had plenty of success so far, as the most watched original Netflix series.

Taylor Schilling (the lead character) and her prison guard heartthrob (played by Matt McGorry) said that they are very hopeful that the series will win an Emmy in 2014. The show wasn’t eligible this year but the first season will be next year and new fans will be on board by then.

In September, Netflix was nominated in 14 Emmy categories for Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development and House of Cards. House of Cards beat out shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. The fan base is expected to grow exponentially for both Netflix series in the coming months and that makes Netflix just as excited as the fans.

Are you an ‘Orange is the New Black’ fan?

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Jonas Brothers Cancel Tour, Delete Twitter

English: The Jonas Brothers perform at the &qu...

English: The Jonas Brothers perform at the “Kids Inaugural: We Are the Future” concert at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rumor has it that the three brothers could be about to end their musical careers as a group due to disagreements between them. This could have been the reason they deleted their Twitter account and cancelled their tour in the past few weeks. After years and years of successful tours, combined with multiple platinum records, the rumors are flying around about why the band is calling it quits. Blair Stover has more details below.

These rumors about the disintegration of the band formed by brothers Kevin Jonas, Joe and Nick have done nothing to counter any type of response, especially after their official Twitter account was deleted. Their Twitter page shows the “Sorry, the page does not exist” error when any user tries to access the virtual profile of the trio.

Though the group’s U.S. tour was scheduled to start on Friday in Philadelphia, the three artists finally decided to cancel the performance on problems stemming from arguing about the musical choices regarding the style of music the band plays.

“There is a deep division in the group. They disagree on the direction on the musical style,” said Jesse Derris, a spokesman for the Jonas Brothers, to the website HollywoodLife.com.

In spite of the disagreements between the three brothers, none of them want to take this issue to a personal level, so they are trying to reach an agreement to continue their career together.

“It is not a personal problem, but rather a musical one. After all, they are brothers and want the same thing and therefore, are trying to settle their differences,” said Derris.

Will you be sad to see the Jonas Brothers go, should the disagreements become irreconcilable?

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The Power of the Celebrity Brand

Blair Stover poses the question, could brand-building tactics that celebrities use work also for your company? Let’s take a look.

Heidi Klum

Cover of Heidi Klum

Well known celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Justin Timberlake, the Olsen twins, and Kim Kardashian have been able to generate income from various side ventures. They do this by fastening the power of their celebrity brand to something else.

As these celebrities have created names that are known and responded to by their audience, they are able to then use their name to generate consistent and significant revenue. This is even true when there is not necessarily a new album, movie, etc. driving their success. Most have effectively created a celebrity brand.

Are the rules really so different in the business world? You may not be a supermodel, chart-topping musician, or reality star, but you could establish a name for yourself which could create some very profitable results.

These celebrities have a very visible presence in the public eye. With concentrated exposure, any professional, entrepreneur or business owner can also develop a powerful personal brand. Such a brand pays off in many ways. These could include paid media appearance as a reputable expert, building of your client and customer base, increase of fees, recognition and establishment in your field which could lead to invitations into exclusive circles.

Unfortunately, there are some differences between the celebrity brand and the brand a business person would want to build. Negative attention is not always a bad thing in the celebrity world, yet it remains bad in the business world. So, keep your attention focused on building credibility, trust and expertise with your brand.

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Who’s Really Tweeting?

George Takei, the famous Star Trek actor from the 60’s (who is in his mid-70’s), has found fame on social media, boasting millions of followers. Yet his followers may be a little disappointed once they here that all of Takei’s tweets and messages on other social sites are not always coming from Mr. Sulu, himself. For instance, a ghostwriter was being paid $10 per post on Facebook alone to throw some messages out there.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

So how common is this trend among celebrities? How many post their own content to their social media pages, and how many hire out?

The sad thing, fans, is that Takei isn’t the only one doing this. In fact, Sarah Palin hires out as well. Kanye West, Barack Obama and Britney Spears all admit to paying professionals in order to maintain their social media accounts, and the list certainly doesn’t end there.

Oriana Leckert, Gotham Ghostwriters director of operations in NYC, said “At this point of having worked in this industry for a few years, I just assume that everyone has a ghostwriter. Whenever someone sounds drastically more coherent in a tweet then they do in person, they probably had some help.”

Ghostposting often involves multiple social media platforms. This means that if a person, like Mr. Takei, hires a person to do ghostwriting chances are it will be for all social media platforms involved, not just one site.

While the news is disappointing, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the updates celebrities put out. Just because tweets and posts are often paid doesn’t mean that your celebrity doesn’t post as well. So keep following and see if you can’t tell when Takei is posting and when his ghostwriter is! If you figure it out, be sure to share the tip here at Blair Stover Hollywood.

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