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Subject of film 'Bernie' appeals lengthy sentence for murder

A former Texas mortician whose legal issues were the subject of the 2011 film "Bernie" is appealing his sentence of 99 years to life in prison in the killing of a wealthy widow.

Bernie Tiede (TEE'-duh) was resentenced last year for his 1999 murder conviction in the fatal shooting of 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent, whose body was found in his freezer.

In a petition filed Tuesday with the Sixth Texas Court of Appeals, Tiede's attorneys argue that his 1997 indictment was tainted by a biased grand juror and that the jury that sentenced him was "repeatedly exposed to outside influence" in the form of non-case-related publicity, including the film in which he was played by actor Jack Black.

They also say a previous plea agreement calling for a 20-year prison system was breached.

Prosecutors say Tiede stole millions of dollars from Nugent.

Movie of Vince Flynn's 'American Assassin' to debut Sept. 15

The late Minnesota author Vince Flynn's counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp is coming to the big screen in September.

CBS Films and Lionsgate announced Wednesday that "American Assassin," based on Flynn's best-seller, will hit theaters Sept. 15 nationwide and in North America.

"American Assassin" stars Dylan O'Brien as Rapp and Michael Keaton as his mentor, Stan Hurley. Sanaa Lathan plays Deputy CIA Director Irene Kennedy, who pairs Rapp and Hurley on an investigation into attacks on military and civilian targets. That leads to Rapp and Hurley teaming up with a Turkish agent to prevent a world war from erupting in the Middle East.

Michael Cuesta (the film "Kill the Messenger" and Showtime series "Homeland") directs.

Flynn wrote a series of thrillers featuring Rapp. Flynn died in 2013 after battling prostate cancer.

Box office reaches new record, but international sales flat

The Motion Picture Association of America said Wednesday that the worldwide box office reached a record $38.6 billion in 2016, though international revenues were essentially stagnant.

The MPAA's annual report showed a global increase of .5 percent in ticket sales from 2015. While China, the world's second-largest market after the U.S., has long been a priority of Hollywood, it dropped 1 percent last year with $6.6 billion in ticket sales.

Box office in North America hit a record $11.4 billion, although the increase of $300 million was due largely to rising ticket prices. About 11 percent of North Americans, the MPAA said, are frequent moviegoers — those who go to the theater at least once a month. They make up 48 percent of all tickets sold.

About 71 percent of the U.S./Canadian population went to the movies at least once in 2016, up 2 percent from 2015.

Among the year's biggest box-office hits were "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," ''Finding Dory" and "Captain America: Civil War" — all of them, it's worth noting, released by the Walt Disney Co. The MPAA noted that three of the top five grossing films drew a majority female audience.

"Even with an incredible variety of viewing choices available to audiences, cinema remains the premier way to experience the magic of our movies," said MPAA chief Chris Dodd. "And the good news is, there are positive signs for growth in the future."

Other notable conclusions from the report include:

— Younger moviegoers increased. The biggest jump was for 18- to 24-year-olds, who went on average 6.5 times in 2016, up from 5.9 times in 2015.

— The appeal of 3-D continued to slide. Sales of 3-D movies fell about 8 percent to $1.6 billion, even though there were 30 percent more 3-D releases.

— African-American and Asian moviegoers continue to increase. Per capita, Asians/Other Ethnicities go more than any other group, seeing on average 6.1 movies a year.

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This story has been corrected to show the Chinese box office declined 1 percent, not 3 percent.

The film is 'CHIPS' and 'CHiPs TV fans are poised to hate it

Hardcore "CHiPs" fans hate it and the real California Highway Patrol seems not quite sure what to make of it.

But Larry Wilcox, who rode his motorcycle to everlasting fame in the old "CHiPs" TV series, says that for now, he'll give the benefit of the doubt to "CHIPS," the forthcoming film based loosely — very loosely — on the show that made him and Erik Estrada two of the biggest stars of the 1970s and early '80s.

"I have not seen the film but the trailers looked like a soft-porn version of 'Dumb and Dumber,'" Wilcox said recently. "However, I hear the actors are both very talented and funny, so maybe it all works."

Fans of the original "CHiPs," still widely seen in reruns and on DVD, are far less forgiving. They've been posting angry messages all over the internet since the first trailers for the R-rated action comedy emerged, calling it garbage and disrespectful to police officers everywhere.

In a lengthy "open letter" to Dax Shepard, Sue Walsh of New York accuses the film's writer, director and co-star of mocking the original show with a ridiculous remake filled with nudity, penis jokes and raunchy bathroom humor. (She left out big-breasted women but they're in there, too.)

"'CHiPs' was not just a '70s cop show. It wasn't Shakespeare, no, but it did and does mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people," said Walsh, who is organizing a 40th anniversary reunion of the show this fall that most of the original cast is expected to attend.

To understand why fans are so upset, one must remember what a gentle, family-oriented show "CHiPs" was.

CHP Sgt. Jon Baker (played by Wilcox) and his partner, Estrada's Officer Frank "Ponch' Poncherello, were hunky young straight-arrow cops cruising sun-splashed, surprisingly uncrowded LA freeways on their motorcycles when not cracking jokes or flirting harmlessly with cute female sheriff's deputies.

To the thump of a persistent disco track, Baker and Ponch kept busy rescuing people from cars, occasionally solving folks' personal problems and frequently chasing down miscreants before carting them off to jail without ever drawing their weapons.

"I know that there are people that grew up watching 'CHiPs' and that was part of the reason they decided to join the department," said CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader. "I watched it when I was growing up."

In the film version, however, Shepard and Michael Mena's Baker and Ponch are anything but straight arrows. They accidentally destroy vehicles, cause fiery crashes, blow stuff up and sometimes shoot the wrong people.

"I understand it's a broad comedy," said Clader, adding she hasn't seen the film and won't offer an opinion on the trailer.

She said the CHP did grant the producers some technical assistance, for which the agency was reimbursed. But there's also this disclaimer at the beginning of "CHIPS": "This film is not endorsed by the California Highway Patrol. At all." And sharp-eyed fans will notice the title punctuation of "CHIPS" was changed from the original "CHiPs," further distancing the film from the department.

Estrada, who has a cameo, did not respond to multiple phone and email messages. But in a video clip from a recent premiere, he described it as "a movie you have to view with your adult sense of humor."

As for Wilcox, he says he'll probably see it — eventually.

"I think I will wait for the video," he added.

Butterbeer ice cream hitting shelves for Harry Potter fans

A Pennsylvania ice cream maker is courting Harry Potter fans with a new flavor based on Hogwarts' favorite drink, "butterbeer."

Yuengling's Ice Cream notes that J.K. Rowling once described butterbeer as tasting "a little bit like less sickly butterscotch." With that in mind, Yuengling's says the new butterbeer variety combines buttercream and butterscotch ice cream. Yuengling's says "the result is magical decadence that will transport you to another place and time."

President David Yuengling says the company hopes it made Rowling proud with the flavor.

Butterbeer may be a good fit for Yuengling's. The ice cream company began as an offshoot of the well-known Pennsylvania brewery during the prohibition years. It's now a separate company.

Review: So-so 'Power Rangers' reboot is cheesy, self-serious

There's no right answer. There've been successful versions of both. Irreverent and meta takes on dated or impossible material have worked (usually thanks to Phil Lord and Chris Miller) as have deathly serious interpretations.

In the case of "Power Rangers ," that cheesy Saturday morning show that cobbled together shameless merchandising goals, dubbed Japanese action footage and sanitized high school shenanigans, they went mostly serious. And it might not have been the best call for a story that still involves a villain named Rita Repulsa who wanders around town eating gold. But we'll get to her later.

Even with such campy morsels to play with, the vibe director Dean Israelite seems to be going for is "Friday Night Lights" meets "Fantastic Four," which actually isn't totally awful at the beginning as we meet the five high school students destined to wield their newly found superpowers to save the world.

There's the star football player, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), who's rebelling against his good-boy image; the once-popular girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott, who looks like a combination of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Emma Roberts); the "on-the-spectrum" Billy (RJ Cyler); the mysterious new girl Trini (Becky G.); and the adventurous Zack (Ludi Lin). They're angsty teens with secrets and zero perspective so imagine how weird things get when they all happen to be hanging out one night in a restricted mining area, stumble upon some jewels, get into a would-be fatal car crash and wake up with the ability to crush iPhones and scale mountains.

It's hard to muck up the excitement of testing out your newfound superpowers, but then the ridiculous plot has to kick in (and all the requisite origin story clichés) and you can see the film struggling to maintain its straight face while Bryan Cranston's pin art face bellows at the Rangers and Elizabeth Banks' Rita Repulsa devours every piece of gold she can find.

Banks is actually fairly fun in the part — she snivels and sneers with campy glee under the pounds of zombie makeup as she fiendishly terrorizes some engagement ring shoppers at a jewelry store like she's the only one who understands what movie she's in.

But good lord does this film overstay its very conditional welcome. Israelite, who also made the occasionally riveting found-footage, time-travel pic "Project Almanac," gives the images some grit and visual interest but the story just spends too much time on the maudlin coming-of-age and teambuilding. A little less therapy and a little more action would have gone a long way in the mushy middle section.

By the time the Power Rangers figure out how to morph, you're already looking for a way to morph out of the theater, which is a shame because for whatever it's worth, the cheesiest, most Power Rangers-y moments are saved for the final battle.

Much like the teens at the center, "Power Rangers" goes through some awkward growing pains in real time trying to figure out what movie it wants to be or even should be.

"Power Rangers," a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor." Running time: 124 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Ryan Gosling on Malick, directing again and that Oscar flub

Even amid the chaotic melee on the Dolby Theatre stage during the infamous best-picture Oscar flub, Ryan Gosling was typically unflappable. While most reacted with shock and confusion, there was the "La La Land" star — cool and bemused — chuckling on the side of the stage.

"What can you say?" Gosling said in an interview by phone from Los Angeles. "I was very happy for 'Moonlight' at the same time. It's such a wonderful film. It's great to see such great work acknowledged."

It takes a lot to rattle Gosling. But making Terrence Malick's largely improvised "Song to Song," the 36-year-old actor grants, was like working "without a net." Gosling stars in the film, which expands in theaters this weekend, alongside Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara. It's broadly speaking a love triangle set against the music scene of Austin, Texas, but plot describes only so much in a Malick movie. "Song to Song" is a careening kaleidoscope of light and love, wandering between the everyday and the transcendent.

Gosling is currently readying for another film with "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle, in which he'll play astronaut Neil Armstrong. And he stars in this fall's sci-fi sequel "Blade Runner 2049." But his experience on "Song to Song," shot all the way back in 2012, is still powerful for him.

AP: How did Malick approach you?

Gosling: It was just: Would you be interested in working without a script? I said sure. A little more than a year later, he asked me to come out to Austin. They were doing some kind of preliminary shooting at one of the music fests out there. The idea was that he wanted to try to cause what he called "collisions" between a narrative film and this music scene in Austin, to take these scenes into real environments that you couldn't control and see what happened.

AP: How did you talk about the film?

Gosling: There were these themes of love and betrayal he was discussing a lot with us. It seemed to me that what he was trying to do with this unique process of shooting was to sort of take a sledgehammer to those themes and break them into smaller pieces so he could reassemble them into a different form that would give the audience an opportunity to see them from a different perspective — maybe his perspective. It was more like pointillism or something where you're creating fleeting moments that he can later assemble into a bigger picture.

AP: What was the atmosphere like while shooting in Austin during a festival?

Gosling: My job was to try to encourage passersby on the street — non-actors, musicians, people in the crowd — to come into the world of the movie and take the scene where they wanted to take it and to try to keep in the world in the movie. To try to keep them from looking into the camera, to try to make them address me as not an actor but as a fellow concertgoer or whatever the situation required. It was very different than just playing a character. It was almost like, I don't know, your job — to get these people to reveal themselves.

AP: It sounds like a challenging process, but you, Fassbender and Mara often exude such joyfulness in the movie.

Gosling: We would basically travel in a van together with a small group of people. You would just hop out and play out the general idea of the scene in a certain location, and then hop in a van and look for another location to do the scene in. We spent most of our days that way. A lot of days you felt like you weren't able to get something that Terry was looking for, because he's looking for something beyond the scene. You just have to be ready for when it happens. We did kind of hit a wall at a certain point and Terry said, "Let's just go to Mexico." So the next day, we picked up and went to Mexico.

AP: Fassbender's chimpanzee impression on the Mexican beach was impressive.

Gosling: He does an incredible chimpanzee.

AP: You directed "Lost River," a highly personal Detroit-set fairy tale, shortly after making "Song to Song." Was Malick an inspiration?

Gosling: He would give me the camera almost every day and have me shoot something. It was great for me just to be having that practice knowing I was about to go make a film on my own. He doesn't place a lot of importance on the rituals that most people in the industry kind of depend upon: continuity, linear storytelling, traditional coverage, a script, hair, make-up, wardrobe, location. In some cases, he refers to them as cinderblocks holding you down. Obviously that doesn't work for every film, but it's very helpful to see from that perspective to sort of demystify the importance of all those things.

AP: Do you think about directing again?

Gosling: Absolutely. It was one of the best experiences of my professional life. I look forward to doing it again.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyle

Writer's lawsuit says Disney copied his plans for 'Zootopia'

A screenwriter and producer sued Walt Disney Pictures on Tuesday claiming the studio copied his ideas to create the Oscar-winning animated film "Zootopia."

Gary L. Goldman, whose credits include work on film adaptations of "Total Recall," ''Minority Report" and "Big Trouble in Little China," filed the copyright infringement lawsuit Tuesday in a federal court in Los Angeles. His lawsuit states he pitched his "Zootopia" concept to Disney in 2000 and 2009 and there are substantial similarities between his project and last year's animated blockbuster.

Disney rejected the lawsuit's claims in a statement. "Mr. Goldman's lawsuit is riddled with patently false allegations. It is an unprincipled attempt to lay claim to a successful film he didn't create, and we will vigorously defend against it in court."

The lawsuit states Goldman pitched Disney his "Zootopia" concept as a way to explore life in America through a civilized society of animals. Disney's "Zootopia" explores prejudice through a bunny's quest to become a respected police officer in a city where predator and prey co-exist side-by-side. The film won the best animated feature at last month's Academy Awards.

"About five years ago, almost six now, oh my god, we got this crazy idea to talk about humanity with talking animals in the hopes that when the film came out, it would make the world just a slightly better place," said Byron Howard, one of the film's directors during his acceptance speech at last month's Oscars.

The lawsuit includes drawings Goldman commissioned for his pitches to Disney. He contends the ideas of his project and the animated film, as well as the style of some of its characters, are substantially similar.

"Both works explore whether the societies can live up to utopian ideals and judge and credit others fairly as individuals not as stereotypes, based on conceptions of merit not natural order, and the protagonists are challenged to strike a balance between the utopian and counter-utopian positions, optimism and pessimism, nature and individuality, and self-acceptance and self-improvement," the lawsuit states.

In Disney's film, Ginnifer Goodwin plays the bunny character, Judy Hopps, who strikes up an alliance with a sly fox played by Jason Bateman to thwart a conspiracy that threatens peace in their metropolis. Goldman's lawsuit states the two main protagonists of his pitch were a doe-eyed squirrel named Mimi and a hyena named Roscoe.

The lawsuit does not state how much damages Goldman and his company, Esplanade Productions, are seeking. He is asking a federal judge to block Disney from future "Zootopia" projects until the case is resolved.

"Zootopia" earned more than $341 million in theaters domestically according to box office analyst comScore.

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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

Dax Shepard takes "CHIPS" from primetime to "Bad Boys"

Dax Shepard was only 2 when "CHiPs" started airing on NBC and 8 by the time the popular series about the California Highway Patrol ended. He remembers the show — the sunshine, the motorcycles, the diversity (there weren't many Latinos in his hometown of Detroit). It was like a vacation from the greyness every night on prime time.

But it was a faint memory until recently, when Shepard found himself googling how to spell Poncherello for a joke for a screenplay he was writing and came across a photo of Jon and Ponch looking "kind of cool." Suddenly he saw something else: A cool "CHiPs," in the vein of "Lethal Weapon" or "Bad Boys."

Suffice it to say, the names might be the same (other than some punctuation), but "CHIPS" is not your father's "CHiPs." The once family friendly show has veered into hard-R territory in the feature film, out Friday.

It's not an uncommon practice. "21 Jump Street" and its sequel, and also "Miami Vice" veered successfully into the R zone, as will this summer's "Baywatch" remake.

And "CHIPS" wasn't always going to be that way. When Shepard signed on to write, direct and star in the adaptation, it was envisioned as PG-13 with a $45 million budget. When that was slashed to $25 million, Shepard insisted on the R.

"I generally like to see R-rated movies and I think you should make what you want to consume even though it's really tempting to make something you think people want to see," he said in a recent interview at a Los Feliz coffee shop. Shepard blew into the place, Matcha-filled coffee mug in hand, apologizing for any tardiness. The father of two, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, had been up all night with his youngest and was dealing with a hot water heater replacement while his wife, actress Kristen Bell, was out of town.

"People don't usually bring their own Matcha in here, do they?" Shepard asked the barista, who just shook her head "no." Shepard laughed and ordered another.

At 42, Shepard has a few writing and directing credits to his name, including "Brother's Justice" and "Hit and Run," but he's no doubt more widely known for his acting in films like "Idiocracy" and televisions shows like "Punk'd" and "Parenthood." He didn't have any delusions of his own star power to actually open a film. When he pitched his modern vision for "CHiPs," he actually assumed the studio would go with a proven star like Chris Pratt or Channing Tatum for Jon Baker.

But Warner Bros. liked Shepard, and his plan to cast Michael Pena as Ponch, and they got the green light. For one, Shepard is an economical director. "Brother's Justice" cost $5,000 to make and "Hit and Run" cost $1 million. They also had the intellectual property cushion on their side.

"I could have never gone to a studio and said, 'Hey here's this original comedy called 'Bonkers for Motorcycles' and it's me and Michael Pena and we need $25 million.' They would have never done it. I knew if I were going to get any movie made it was going to have to be within a brand or a property that provided the studio with some insurance," Shepard said. "And then I get to make a completely original movie that just has the known title in it."

From there, Shepard got to make the action comedy he's felt has been missing from cinemas in the past 15 years — one that doesn't treat the action as a throwaway.

"I see pretty big budget action movies where there's a lot of cheating going on," he said. "I just get bored when I watch computer generated battles in movies. I've walked out of more movies in the last five years than I have my whole life."

Shepard took pains to do everything practically, from the motorcycle stunts to blowing up propane tanks. With the exception of one small shot, nothing in the film is digital.

Andrew Panay, who produced "CHIPS," said Shepard is an "incredibly gifted filmmaker," whose clear vision and kindness permeates the set. He's also deft choreographer of action sequences.

"Everything is about timing and you can't really mess up when you're blowing up cars and splitting trailers in half..you have one shot to get it and you better get it," Panay said.

Getting the right mix of action and comedy wasn't all Shepard had to balance. As the screenwriter, Shepard also tried to infuse a little bit of his own social consciousness into the script. There's an ongoing thread where Ponch is repulsed by the thought of touching a naked man and the two debate whether or not that's homophobic.

"I love talking about stuff in an apolitical way. I have a unique opportunity because I have a very male, motorsports fan base to bring these things up in a way that's not preachy," Shepard said. "We're always going to be making race jokes, sexuality jokes, those jokes are never going away. That's what comedians do. So the fun challenge is how do you do it that's appropriate to 2017? That's a big juggling act."

The top 10 movies on the iTunes Store

iTunes Movies US Charts:

1. Passengers (2016)

2. Moana (2016)

3. Patriots Day

4. Fences

5. Why Him?

6. Sing

7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

8. Doctor Strange (2016)

9. Arrival

10. Hacksaw Ridge

iTunes Movies US Charts - Independent:

1. Fittest On Earth: A Decade of Fitness

2. Moonlight

3. Manchester By the Sea

4. My Scientology Movie

5. 20th Century Women

6. Solace

7. Mean Dreams

8. Captain Fantastic

9. Knight of Cups

10. Loving

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(copyright) 2017 Apple Inc.

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