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’Furious 7’ outpaces ‘Paul Blart’

Photo courtesy Sony Pictures -- Kevin James returns as Paul Blart in ‘Paul Blart: Mall  Cop 2.’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Even in its debut weekend, Kevin James’s “Paul Blart” sequel couldn’t outpace “Furious 7.” The reigning box office champion might have slowed from its blockbuster debut, but “Furious 7” maintained first place for the third weekend in a row with an estimated $29.1 million, according to box office tracker Rentrak on Sunday.… Continue reading →

British director Rupert Goold tells ‘True Story’

Photo by MARY CYBULSKI -- Director Rupert Goold assesses a scene on the set of 'True Story.'

In “True Story,” Michael Finkel, a star reporter at The New York Times, loses his job after he fictionalizes a story about modern-day slavery in Africa. Reeling from his swift dismissal, Finkel learns that an accused murderer, Christian Longo, assumed the reporter’s identity prior to being apprehended. Later, the ex-reporter and imprisoned alleged murderer agree to… Continue reading →

Review: Disneynature explores ‘Monkey Kingdom’

Photo by JEFF WILSON -- Kip's a character in Disneynature's 'Monkey Kingdom.'

In the ruins of an ancient city in the Sri Lankan jungle, a community of macaque monkeys goes about its organized, even ritualistic monkey business. And monkeys, like the most powerful humans on Earth, play politics. “Monkey Kingdom,” an immersive new Disneynature documentary, quickly establishes the troupe’s rules and pecking order. As in human society, there… Continue reading →

Review: Tom Hardy excels, but ‘Child 44’ feels like 40 movies

Lionsgate photo by LARRY HORRICKS -- Tom Hardy appears in a scene from the film, 'Child 44.'

The best-selling novel “Child 44” by Tom Rob Smith runs well over 400 pages, and that’s perhaps the first hint as to why the movie based on it seems to veer in 40 different directions. It’s a political movie. It’s a war film. It’s a crime thriller. And suddenly, late in the proceedings, it becomes an… Continue reading →

Coming from a 'galaxy far, far away: All ‘Star Wars' fans sneak a peek at the 'Force Awakens’ trailer

Star Wars fans wait in line to enter Star Wars Celebration: The Ultimate Fan Experience held at the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday, April 16, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Variety reported today that Disney and Lucasfilm have released the second trailer for the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the Star Wars Celebration event in Anaheim, Calif. “The new footage gives fans their first glimpse of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca from ‘Episode VII,’ as well as a voiceover from Mark… Continue reading →

’Furious 7’ keeps speed, tops box office with $60.6 million

This photo provided by Universal Pictures shows, from left, Tyrese Gibson as Roman, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, Paul Walker as Brian, and Chris Ludacris as Tej, in a scene from "Furious 7."  (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Scott Garfield)

NEW YORK — The high-octane thriller “Furious 7” maintained speed in its second week, racing away with $60.6 million at North American theaters and bringing its box-office total to a robust $252.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. Universal’s “Furious 7” more than lapped the competition. The only new wide release of the weekend, the rodeo… Continue reading →

Review: ‘The Longest Ride’ tells 2 love stories, old and new

Twentieth Century Fox photo by Michael Tackett -- Oona Chaplin as Ruth and Jack Huston as Ira star in 'The Longest Ride.'

Ever since “The Notebook” made moviegoers swoon in 2004, Nicholas Sparks’ name has been synonymous with teary-eyed romance. The author’s latest novel adapted for the big screen, “The Longest Ride,” is no exception, offering two love stories at once. But the most heartfelt affair here isn’t between its impossibly good-looking stars; it’s shared by a couple… Continue reading →

Review: ‘Woman in Gold’ a remarkable story lifelessly told

Photo provided by The Weinstein Company -- From left, Ryan Reynolds, Helen Mirren and Daniel Bruhl share a scene in the film, 'Woman in Gold,' opening Friday.

“Woman in Gold” has a rich story to tell. The true account of Maria Altmann’s fight to reclaim a famed Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” first stolen by the Nazis and then appropriated by Austria after the war, is laced with riveting history, deep and complex emotion, and fascinating bureaucracy. Yet… Continue reading →

Pixar gets emotional with film 5½ years in the making

This photo provided by Disney-Pixar shows a progression image from the animated film, "Inside Out." For animation and simulation - when layout is complete, the primary and secondary characters are animated and brought to life by the Animation department.  Animators create the personality and "acting" of the characters.  The secondary motion of the hair and garments is added by the Simulation department and this simulation allows the hair and garments to move naturally to complement the acting.  (AP Photo/Copyright Disney-Pixar)

Fear, anger, disgust, sadness and joy have taken over Pixar headquarters, and things are going great. The Oscar-winning animation studio is celebrating the completion of “Inside Out,” a film that features each of those emotions as personified characters controlling operations inside a little girl’s head. Sculptures,… Continue reading →

Box office: ’Furious 7’ races to $143.6 million

This photo provided by Universal Pictures shows, from left, Tyrese Gibson as Roman, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, Paul Walker as Brian, and Chris Ludacris as Tej, in a scene from "Furious 7."  (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Scott Garfield)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The high-octane “Furious 7” peeled out of the gates in its opening weekend, picking up a stunning $143.6 million from 4,004 locations to easily top the domestic box office, according to Rentrak estimates Sunday. The expectation-shattering sum is a studio and franchise best for the homegrown car-obsessed series, which has continued to grow… Continue reading →

Vin Diesel says Oscars weighted against action films

Invision/AP photo by CHRIS PIZZELLO -- Vin Diesel speaks on stage at the 45th NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif. in February.

Vin Diesel said last week that the latest “Fast & Furious” film deserves a best picture Oscar but has two strikes against it when it comes to the Academy — it’s an action flick and it’s a sequel. “Do I shy away from aiming high? No, I don’t,” said the 47-year-old actor,… Continue reading →

Session players behind music history take spotlight in new documentary

Photo provided by Magnolia Pictures -- Drummer and New Orleans native Earl Palmer moved to Los Angeles and became an in-demand session musician there.

The behind-the-scenes studio musicians who helped shape the sound of Motown finally got their due in the 2002 documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.” Backup singers to the stars received their long-time-coming acknowledgement in 2013’s Oscar-winning “20 Feet from Stardom.” “The Wrecking Crew,” a music documentary, turns the spotlight on West Coast session musicians… Continue reading →

Review: ‘Get Hard’ plays with stereotypes with mixed success

In this image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Kevin Hart, right, and Will Ferrell appear in a scene from "Get Hard." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Patti Perret)

While the stereotypes in “Get Hard” may be gross exaggerations, its characters live in the real world: A place where the chasm between rich and poor is vast and growing; where black men are disproportionately jailed and white-collar criminals often evade punishment. In this New Orleans-filmed comedy from first-time director Etan Cohen, James (Will Ferrell)… Continue reading →

Review: Animated alien adventure ‘Home’ lands with a thud

Photo provided by DreamWorks Animation -- Characters Lucy, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, left, and Tip, voiced by Rihanna appear in a scene from the animated film 'Home.'

In “Home,” the latest adventure from DreamWorks Animation, the misfit alien protagonist is called Oh (“The Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons) simply because that’s the resigned reaction everyone has when he’s around. “Oh,” his brethren say with deep indifference at his desperate, over-the-top attempts to fit in and make friends. It’s meant to turn into something positive… Continue reading →

Louisiana Film Society slates ‘Woman in Gold’ screening

Photo provided by the Weinstein Company -- Left to right, Ryan Reynolds, Helen Mirren and Daniel Bruhl in a scene from 'Woman in Gold.'

The Louisiana International Film Festival and Louisiana Film Society will screen “Woman in Gold,” a drama starring Helen Mirren, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at Cinemark Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge. Mirren plays Maria Altmann, a Holocaust survivor who, with the help of a young lawyer, played by Ryan Reynolds, battles the Austrian government for… Continue reading →

’Insurgent’ seizes top spot; ‘The Gunman’ misfires

This photo provided by Lionsgate shows, Kate Winslet, left, as Jeanine, and Ansel Elgort, as Caleb, in a scene from the film, "The Divergent Series: Insurgent."  The movie opens in U.S. theaters Friday, March 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Andrew Cooper)

LOS ANGELES — Sean Penn’s “The Gunman” was no match for the rebel kids of “Insurgent.” The second installment in the “Divergent” series easily topped the box office with $54 million from 3,875 theaters, according Rentrak estimates Sunday. Penn’s geopolitical thriller stumbled with only $5 million. While the second films in both the “Hunger Games”… Continue reading →

Review: Penn flexes action-hero muscles in ‘Gunman’

Open Road Films photo by EKITH BERNSTEIN -- Sean Penn stars as mercenary Jim Terrier in 'The Gunman.'

At one point in “The Gunman,” the new Sean Penn geopolitical thriller, our star goes surfing. It’s supposed to show he has a reckless side, since he’s surfing in unsafe territory, but it seems to have a larger, much more obvious purpose: To show us that Penn, at 54, is ripped. Very, very ripped. It’s no… Continue reading →

Review: The rebellious women of ‘Insurgent’ break the action mold

Photo by Andrew Cooper -- From left, Theo James, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley share a scene in 'The Divergent Series: Insurgent.'

On the surface, “Insurgent,” with its dystopian setting and teenage heroine, might just seem like another by-the-numbers young adult tale. Look a little closer and it’s clear that this second installment isn’t merely capitalizing on a popular genre, but, with its half dozen female leads and supporting characters, actually represents a subtle… Continue reading →

Review: New ‘Cinderella’ can’t fill predecessor’s slippers

Photo by JONATHAN OLLEY --Lily James is Cinderella and Cate Blanchett plays the Stepmother in the live-action feature 'Cinderella.' Opening last weekend, the film topped the box office, earning $67.9 million.

Walt Disney’s 1950 animated-feature version of the fairy tale “Cinderella,” produced for the then-risky sum of $3 million, became a popular hit and another Disney classic. Walt Disney Pictures’ new live-action “Cinderella” features attractive leads in Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) and Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”), grand fairy-tale settings and, when it counts, affecting… Continue reading →

N.O. singer wins ‘The Voice’ battle round

Photo provided  by NBC -- Tonya Boyd-Cannon

New Orleans singer Tonya Boyd-Cannon won her first battle on NBC’s “The Voice” Monday night. “I’ve always wanted to share my voice with the world,” Boyd-Cannon said before her “battles round” performance. She entered the ring with fellow Team Adam (Levine) member James McNeiece, of Howell, Michigan, to sing their duet of Continue reading →

LPB, State Archives launch Louisiana Digital Media Archive to house and preserve historic video footage

Photo provided by LPB -- Robyn Merrick, director of Alumni Affairs at Southern University, left, and LPB archivist Leslie Bourgeois check out the new Louisiana Digital Media Archivest.

One video at a time, Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Secretary of State’s Office are preserving the past. Federal marshals escorting Ruby Bridges as she integrated New Orleans public schools; President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald distributing information on Bourbon Street; footage of the devastation left by Hurricane Camille all along the Gulf Coast… Continue reading →

Review: ‘Unfinished Business’ should never have started

20th Century Fox photo by JESSICA MIGLIO -- From left, Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco star in 'Unfinished Business,' opening Friday.

In the years since he strutted onto the scene — lean, handsome, mouth running a mile a minute — in Doug Liman’s “Swingers” (1996), Vince Vaughn has become one of the poster boys for the mainstream American comedy: from romantic (“The Break-Up”) to bromantic (“Old School”), pretty good (“Wedding Crashers”) to very bad (“Fred Claus”) to frankly unnecessary… Continue reading →

Review: The jumbled machinery of ‘Chappie’ never clicks

This image released by Columbia Pictures shows Hugh Jackman, left, in a scene from "Chappie." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures, Stephanie Blomkamp)

Neill Blomkamp’s “Chappie” is a curious Frankenstein. It’s set in a near-future Johannesburg policed by robots, but it’s not about law enforcement or social order. It focuses on the first creation of a sentient artificial intelligence, yet it’s not about the consequences of this radical invention or the nature of consciousness. Instead, though “Chappie” bears all… Continue reading →

Lillete Dubey returns in sequel to ‘Marigold Hotel’

Photo by LAURIE SPARHAM -- Lillete Dubey, left, as Mrs. Kapoor and Richard Gere as Guy Chambers in 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.'

In the delightful 2012 comedy “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a cast of veteran British thespians play a group of pensioners who retire to a hotel in India. The hotel turned out to be a work in progress. The film became an unexpected hit. Original cast members Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald… Continue reading →

Review: ‘Marigold Hotel’ sequel full of confusion, energy

Photo by LAURIE SPARHAM -- From left to right, Celia Imrie as Madge Hardcastle, Ronald Pickup as Norman Cousins, Diana Hardcastle as Carol, Judi Dench as Evelyn Greenslade, Maggie Smith as Muriel Donnely and Bill Nighy as Douglas Ainslie in 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.'

The first “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” movie, based on Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel about British pensioners who retire to a hotel in India, is a lovely, lively mess. Despite tone that’s all over the place and ill-fitting pieces that make it a bumpy ride, a great bunch of mostly British thespians make the film worth a visit, if… Continue reading →

N.O. jeweler prepped for new reality show

Photo provided by Food Network --  Thomas Mann poses on the set of 'All-Star Academy, Season 1.'

Thomas Mann crafts brilliant baubles by day and dazzling dishes by night. The nationally known New Orleans jewelry designer and metalsmith takes his personal culinary expertise to the Food Network’s new reality cooking competition series, “All-Star Academy,” starting Sunday night. For “Academy,” network casting culled 10 skilled home cooks from around the country. They’ll… Continue reading →

Louisiana cook practices basics for Food’s ‘Academy’ TV show

Photo provided by Food Network -- Competitors gather before their first 'All-Star Academy' challenge. Fmo left, are August Dannehl, Joseph Harris, Vanesssa Craig, Bill Joerger, Sharon Damante, Thomas Mann, Angela George, Mike Castaneda, Mimi Turbitt Chang and Sherri Williams.

Thomas Mann crafts brilliant baubles by day and dazzling dishes by night. The nationally known New Orleans jewelry designer and metalsmith takes his personal culinary expertise to the Food Network’s new reality cooking competition series, “All-Star Academy,” starting Sunday night. For “Academy,” network casting culled 10 skilled home cooks from around the country. They’ll… Continue reading →

LPB encourages filmmakers to enter PBS Film Festival

Wanted: local short films. Louisiana Public Broadcasting is seeking the work of budding filmmakers for the 2015 PBS Online Film Festival. The national online festival encourages independent filmmakers to submit their unique, thought-provoking creations for possible entry to the festival. The only restrictions are that the films must be between… Continue reading →

’Birdman’ takes flight at an Oscars punctuated by politics

Associated Press photo by JOHN SHEARER -- Alexander Dinelaris, from left, Armando Bo, Alejandro G. Inarritu and Nicolas Giacobone accept the award for the best original screenplay for "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" at the Oscars on Sunday.

LOS ANGELES — The long take of “Birdman” has stretched all the way to the Academy Awards, where the jazzy, surreal comedy about an actor fleeing his superhero past, took Hollywood’s top honor in a ceremony punctuated by passionate pleas for equality. On a stormy night in Hollywood, the 87th annual Academy Awards — which came… Continue reading →

‘McFarland, USA’ runs an inspirational race

Photo by RON PHILLIPS -- From left, David Diaz (Rafael Martinez), Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts), Victor Puentes (Sergio Avelar), Danny Diaz (Ramiro Rodriguez), Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz) and Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran) are featured in a scene from 'McFarland USA.'

“McFarland, USA” tells a heartwarming story about underdogs who, to the surprise of everyone, including themselves, establish a sports dynasty. The all-Latino cross-country Cougar teammates at McFarland High School, residents of California’s farm-heavy Central Valley, aren’t the story’s only underdogs. Their coach, Jim White, a non-Latino newcomer to the McFarland community, is, in the… Continue reading →

Teen comedy ‘DUFF’ gives genre a social media spin

CBS Films photo by GUY D ALEMA -- Mae Whitman, left, and Bella Thorne star in 'The DUFF,' opening in theaters Friday.

All teen comedies owe some debt to John Hughes and Amy Heckerling. The milieu of suburban teenage life that they explored decades ago has defined the genre since. The social divisions, the boredom, the dances, the irrepressible awkwardness and the irrational dreaminess of high school students never before seemed so accessible, and so neatly packaged with… Continue reading →

4 La. singers still in ‘Idol’ race

Rachael Hallack, a singer-songwriter from Baton Rouge, is competing on 'American Idol.'

The whittling away of “American Idol” Season 14 hopefuls moves to LA’s House of Blues Sunset tonight for the first of two “Showcase Week” episodes. Among the 48 young singers still hoping to make the top 24 of the Fox reality competition series are Baton Rouge singer-songwriter Rachael Hallack; Quentin Alexander and Anjelika Joseph, both… Continue reading →

WBXH, LPB2 feature Mardi Gras coverage

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- Rex, King of Carnival, Christian T. Brown, addressed members of the press after his arrival by train at Spanish Plaza for Lundi Gras in New Orleans.

Think it’s too cold to go to Mardi Gras? Viewers can catch the Carnival action live from New Orleans until 3 p.m. today on WBXH, Channel 39 (cable Channel 16). Also, coverage of the annual meeting of the courts of Rex and Comus will air 9 p.m.-midnight tonight on LPB2 (cable Channel… Continue reading →

’Fifty Shades of Grey’ whips up stunning $81.7 million

In this image released by Universal Pictures and Focus Features, Dakota Johnson, left, and Jamie Dornan appear in a scene from the film, "Fifty Shades of Grey."  (AP Photo/Universal Pictures and Focus Features)

LOS ANGELES — Audiences were more than curious to check out the big-screen adaptation of the racy phenomenon “Fifty Shades of Grey” this weekend. The erotic R-rated drama sizzled in its debut, earning an estimated $81.7 million from 3,646 theaters in its first three days, distributor Universal Pictures said on Sunday. In addition to destroying… Continue reading →

‘Fifty Shades’ of ‘trashy fairy tale’

Photo providedI by Universal Pictures and Focus Features -- Dakota Johnson, left, plays Anastasia Steele, and Jamie Dornan is Christian Grey in 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'

Opening Friday, the film adaptation of E L James’ best-selling erotic love story, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” launches what likely is Hollywood’s next blockbuster film series. Like “The Twilight Saga” and its tale of a forbidden love shared by a human girl and vampire boy, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has its parallels with “Beauty and the… Continue reading →