Equifax Failed to Apply Security Patch Available for Months, Leading to Hack

It looks like Equifax hates those irritating but necessary security updates as much as anyone else.

The credit reporting behemoth has pinpointed the vulnerability in its system that hackers exploited in taking the personal information of 143 million Americans. That’s good. The fact that the vulnerability, Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638, had a “patch” available for months that Equifax failed to apply? That’s not so good.

“Equifax has been intensely investigating the scope of the intrusion with the assistance of a leading, independent cybersecurity firm to determine what information was accessed and who has been impacted,” said Equifax, in its progress report revealing the issue. “We know that criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability. The vulnerability was Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638. We continue to work with law enforcement as part of our criminal investigation, and have shared indicators of compromise with law enforcement.”

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Apache Struts is a staple of Fortune 500 companies, used for Java web applications and front-end services, like Equifax’s consumer website. The Apache Struts vulnerability was first spotted in March, with a patch coming out a few days later.

More than a month elapsed between the Apache Struts fix became available and Equifax’s hack. Equifax noted last week its security was breached between mid-May and July, before finally noticing the hack on July 29. That’s, uh, not a good look for Equifax’s data security team. Hackers made off with a hoard of critical data on nearly half of the U.S. population, including social security numbers, addresses and birth dates.

This loot means big business for cybercriminals. Stolen identities sell for between $5 and $30 on the black market, according to Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cybersecurity firm Trend Micro. This can lead to major ramifications for the 143 million Americans with compromised information.

Also Read: ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ Release Pushed to December 2019

“These identity documents can be used in real-world identity theft,” Nunnikhoven told TheWrap. “So if you print up a fake social security card and walk into a bank that the originator of that social security number has never done business with, you can easily open an account in their name and be them for all intents and purposes.”

Equifax’s monumental negligence hasn’t been lost on investors, with shares of the company cratering more than 30 percent in the last week.

And the hits don’t stop there for Equifax. Dozens of lawsuits have already been filed against the company, and nearly 40 states are investigating the hack. The Federal Trade Commission and Congress are looking into it, too, with Equifax CEO Richard Smith set to testify before the House of Representatives on Oct. 3.

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How Angie Dickinson and Candice Bergen Shook Up Women’s Roles on TV – and Off (Guest Blog)

The most competitive Emmy categories this Sunday feature women. The names alone are dazzling: Elisabeth Moss, Robin Wright, Keri Russell, Claire Foy, Viola Davis, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Felicity Huffman. It is such a strong group that actresses like “Homeland” star Claire Danes were left out. And those are just for dramatic roles.

It has not always been thus. Starting in the 1950s, names like Lucille Ball, Jane Wyatt, Donna Reed and Loretta Young were beginning their repeated runs for Emmy glory, often for playing housewives who rarely were allowed to know best. Only Harriet Nelson was left off the list of those nominated for opening their doors with a smile on their face, and a roast in the oven, when the men came home.

Of course, those the ’50s television shows reflected what was going on in real — as well as reel — homes. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the labor force participation rate for women was 33.9 percent in 1950.

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So TV series, by definition, were focused on the guys — whether in their offices or on their horses. A few more females emerged by the mid ’60s, though they tended to be be-witched or needed a magic lamp to be empowered. And no one — either  journalists or viewers — was asking, Is there a Mrs. Ed?

There was no particular concern that Diahann Carroll’s Julia, a groundbreaking role for a black actress on TV, was a nurse and not a doctor. Betty Friedan was just warming up her pen, and those who reported on Hollywood didn’t even question the subservient roles women portrayed on television.

Sometimes, we get a story’s importance only in hindsight. There were two actresses who were pivotal in feminizing the face of television: one for being the face of a heretofore macho format, one for playing a character so independent and contemporary that the Vice President of the United States at the time attacked her.

Both also made what were then brave leaps from the large to small screen. They were certainly noted at the time, but better late than never to add some perspective — and gratitude.

Also Read: 33 Breathtaking 2017 Emmy Nominees, From Julia Louis-Dreyfus to Elisabeth Moss (Exclusive Photos)

In 1974, producer David Gerber offered Angie Dickinson the title role in NBC’s “Police Woman,” a spinoff from the original “Police Story.” If she took the role, he promised her, she would become a household name in America. (Fan Gerald Ford once even rescheduled a White House press conference because it conflicted with the show.) Dickinson had been known for a sultry voice, legendary legs, and a rumored dalliance with JFK. “I’m strong…I’m sturdy,” she told Mary Murphy in TV Guide. Murphy’s editors, and others reporting on the actress largely focused on her looks and private life.

What was less noted was that she earned three Emmy nominations and the show proved that a woman could not only lead a dramatic series, but that a female character could be efficient and tough in a man’s world. Successors like “Cagney and Lacey,” “Prime Suspect,” “The Closer” and others offered further confirmation.

On the comedic side, TV actresses certainly had proven they could be funny, none more so than Lucille Ball. Off screen, she was a powerful producer but on camera her character was zany and goofy, albeit beloved. Marlo Thomas’ “That Girl” and later, of course, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Designing Women” reaped attention for focusing on single women (who appreciated women friends) but they were not in charge.

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Fast forward to Candice Bergen and “Murphy Brown.” Here was a tough, funny, often abrasive, but likable (hey, it was network TV) woman who had the power to tell others they had spunk.

“The seminal change in television, in terms of women’s roles, was ‘Murphy Brown,’” said Larry Lyttle, whose company, Warner Brothers Television, produced the sitcom for CBS. “She proved that women could hold their own with their male counterparts — and look beautiful at the same time, by the way.” Lyttle reminded us that JoBeth Williams was all but committed to star in the show: She was a close friend of creator Diane English and a substantial advance was paid to keep her on hold.

However, Williams did not like the script and pulled out. (Something, she told others, she later regretted.) That’s when the producers got a call from Candice Bergen’s agent, saying the 42-year-old actress was interested. CBS Entertainment President Kim LeMasters was skeptical and insisted that she do an audition. She did, and the rest is history. Bergen won so many consecutive Emmys (five in all) that she subsequently pulled out of the category so others could take the trophy home.

“Murphy Brown” had a slow build in popularity, particularly in the entertainment press, but it hit the heights when the title character gave birth as a single mother. Vice President Dan Quayle took to the airwaves to ask what was happening to the moral fiber of a country that would honor an unwed mother in prime time. The character made the cover of Time Magazine, proving that even those who did not cover the biz understood its impact on the larger society. Ironically, the New York Times this month featured a photo of Murphy in its op-ed piece about how women in the workplace were probably doing better 20 years ago than they are today.

Also Read: Melissa McCarthy, Dave Chappelle Win at Creative Arts Emmys Night 2: Complete Winners List

“The significance of that character — and her move from features — was profound,” said Lyttle (who went on to turn a judge named Judy Sheindlin into a TV mega-star.) The move gave other actresses (and actors) permission to make the transition that was formerly considered a step down. And eventually, writers and producers started creating female characters of a certain age — just as features were losing interest in them.

Now, of course we have countless film actresses making the sideways shift. At a recent DGA screening of an episode of “Feud,” both Susan Sarandon and creator Ryan Murphy were asked about women’s roles on TV. “The fact we are even having these discussions shows how far we’ve come,” she said. Murphy explained that his experiences working with people like Sarandon, Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson had forced him to re-evaluate his hiring practices both in front of and behind the scenes. (Thus was born Murphy’s Half foundation, dedicated to promoting gender diversity in the industry.)

Entertainment reporters certainly get credit for not only keeping the conversation going, but disseminating the work of places like USC, Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media and Reese Witherspoon’s “Ask Her More” campaign.

On Emmy night, let us celebrate the wide array of female talent and the depth of their characters. As Witherspoon recently pointed out, actresses are not just playing wives and mothers anymore. If she has her way, reporters on the red carpet would not dare ask the nominated actresses about who designed their dresses, but about their decisions to take on passion projects and complicated characters.

And may the best woman win.

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Actresses Got More Emmy Noms This Year – But No Other Women Did

Hundreds of Hillary Clinton Suspicious Book Reviews Go Missing on Amazon

It looks like Amazon just deleted hundreds of suspicious reviews of Hillary Clinton’s book, “What Happened,” after several news reports and the book’s publisher questioned their authenticity.

Clinton’s book about how she lost the election, which hit bookstores Tuesday, received mixed reviews, with 50 percent one-star and 45 percent five-star reviews.

But a closer examination by Quartz suggests the a large chunk of the reviews were likely from “a concerted attack to bring down the average reviews on her page.”

Also Read: ‘Morning Joe’: Hillary Clinton’s Book Is ‘Not Helping the Democratic Party’ (Video)

Just hours later, Quartz reported that Amazon had apparently deleted more than 900 reviews of the book.

Of the book’s 1,699 reviews as of Wednesday morning only 338 were from users who actually bought the book on Amazon.com, according to Quartz’s report, suggesting many of the reviews were posted by people who never read the book.

The almost dead split between verified and unverified purchases in the reviews for Clinton’s book also raised some red flags, as it was outside the norm compared to the top-10 bestselling books so far this year on Amazon. The unusually high number of unverified reviews was also suspicious, according to ReviewMeta, an independent site that helps customers figure a product’s credibility.

Also Read: Bernie Sanders Jabs at Hillary Clinton Over Memoir Comments: Our Job Is to Go Forward (Video)

A spokesperson for Amazon neither confirmed nor denied the company deleted the reviews, telling TheWrap in a statement: “Amazon Customer Reviews must be reviews related to the product and are designed to help customers make purchase decisions. In the case of a memoir, the subject of the book is the author and their views. It’s not our role to decide what a customer would view as helpful or unhelpful in making their decision. We do however have mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of many do not drown out the voices of a few and we remove customer reviews that violate our Community Guidelines.”

According to Quartz, “What Happened” got a “big ol’ fail,”  with a 3.2-star rating on Amazon before the suspicious reviews were deleted. The number went up once Amazon removed the reviews, and now stands at 4.3 stars.

Also Read: Hillary Clinton Says Bernie Sanders ‘Isn’t a Democrat’ in Scathing New Memoir Excerpt

Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp told the Associated Press on Wednesday: “It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful.”

This isn’t the first time Amazon has deleted suspicious book reviews. In November, Amazon seemed to remove some negative reviews of Megyn Kelly’s autobiography, “Settle for More,” after groups of apparent Donald Trump supporters trolled the book online, leaving a boatload of one-star reviews.

And last month, Amy Schumer’s book “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” was flooded by one-star reviews despite being No. 2 on Amazon’s list of best-sellers and garnering critical praise.

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Hillary Clinton to Release Book About Her Election Loss: ‘What Happened’

Terry Moore’s Graphic Novel ‘Strangers In Paradise’ On Way To Big Screen

Terry Moore and filmmaker Angela Robinson are partnering to adapt Moore’s long-running graphic novel Strangers In Paradise for film. The comic follows Katchoo, a beautiful young woman living a quiet life with everything going for her. She’s smart, independent and very much in love with her best friend, Francine. Then Katchoo meets David, a gentle but persistent young man determined to win Katchoo’s heart. The resulting love triangle is a touching comedy of romantic errors…

The Evolution of Jennifer Lawrence, From ‘Winter’s Bone’ to ‘mother!’ (Photos)

Jennifer Lawrence has come a long way from her showbiz beginnings on TBS’ “The Bill Engvall Show” in 2007.

JLaw made one of her first red carpet appearances at the premiere of “The Burning Plain” at the 2008 Venice Film Festival.

Lawrence won critical raves as Ree Dolly in the 2010 independent film “Winter’s Bone,” for which she earned her first Oscar nomination.

Here’s Lawrence at the 2011 Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala.

Lawrence scored a nomination for “Winter’s Bone” at the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Lawrence arrived at the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she was also nominated for “Winter’s Bone.”

Lawrence snagged her first Oscar nomination at the 2011 Academy Awards, getting the nod for Best Actress in a Leading Role for “Winter’s Bone.”

Lawrence as Mystique in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”

Jennifer Lawrence mesmerized in an undulating blue dress at the 2012 People’s Choice Award, where she scored two nominations for “X-Men: First Class.”

Lawrence went with a two-tone look at the 2012 Academy Awards announcement, one year before winning her first  Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Lawrence became a box office sensation playing bow-and-arrow wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen in 2012’s “The Hunger Games.”

Lawrence was solid gold at the 2012 Los Angeles premiere of “The Hunger Games,” one of the roles that catapulted her to worldwide stardom.

Lawrence crossed the pond for the European premiere of “Hunger Games” in style.

And she sparkled in emerald at a 2012 screening of “The Hunger Games” in New York City.

JLaw greeted adoring admirers at a “Hunger Games” fan event in Madrid.

Lawrence in her Oscar-winning role as the troubled Tiffany Maxwell opposite Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Lawrence stepped out at the New York premiere of “Silver Linings Playbook.”

JLaw sizzled in a cutout dress at the 2013 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, where she snagged two Best Actress awards for “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Hunger Games.”

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Nicole Kidman, Ed Lachman to Receive Tributes at the Gotham Awards

Nicole Kidman and revered cinematographer Ed Lachman (“Carol”) will receive the Actress and Cinematographer Tributes, respectively, at the 2017 Independent Filmmaker Project Gotham Awards.

“It is truly an honor to present Nicole Kidman with the Actress Tribute this year. Her choices in projects throughout her career have been bold and carefully selected, ranging from thought-provoking independent films and studio blockbusters to unique and original television series. She has consistently sought out roles of complex characters and delivered them with unforgettable, iconic performances that have unequivocally placed her amongst one of the greatest actresses of our lifetime. We are delighted to celebrate her lasting contributions to the art of film and television,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director of IFP and the Made in NY Media Center, in a statement.

“Likewise, we are thrilled to present Ed Lachman with the Cinematographer Tribute,” she added. “His creative contributions to independent films along with his collaborations with countless filmmakers are legendary. His talent to transform what viewers see on screen is one of a kind and worthy of recognition.”

Also Read: Al Gore, Jason Blum to Receive Tributes at 2017 IFP Gotham Awards

Kidman first broke onto the scene in Philip Noyce’s critically-acclaimed thriller, “Dead Calm” in 1989. She was honored with her first Oscar nomination for her performance in Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” In 2003, she won an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for her role in Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours,” and in 2010, she received an Academy Award nomination for her role in John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole,” which she also executive produced. In 2006, Kidman was awarded Australia’s highest honor, the Companion in the Order of Australia. She also continues to serve as Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Development for Women.

Most recently, Kidman starred in The Weinstein Company’s “Lion” alongside Dev Patel, and Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled,” as well as in HBO’s limited series “Big Little Lies,” for which she received her second Emmy nomination. She will next be seen in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and Neil Burger’s “The Upside,” which just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Lachman is best known for his collaborations with filmmakers Todd Haynes, Coppola, Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard, Paul Schrader, Steven Soderbergh and Robert Altman. His work with Haynes scored Lachman Emmy and Academy Award nominations.

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The IFP Gotham Awards, which will be held this year on Nov. 27 in New York City, also honors selected film industry icons as tributes each year. IFP recently announced that former Vice President Al Gore will receive the Humanitarian Tribute, while founder of Blumhouse Productions Jason Blum will receive the Industry Tribute. Additional tributes will be announced in coming weeks.

Previous honorees include Amy Adams, Helen Mirren, Robert Redford, Haynes, Ted Sarandos, Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ebert, Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, David O. Russell and Gus Van Sant.

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TheGrill 2017 Announces More Speakers, Confirms Schedule

TheGrill 2017 announced the complete schedule for the eighth annual leadership conference to take place October 2-3 at the Montage Beverly Hills.

Joining a stellar lineup of previously announced speakers are veteran producer Nina Jacobson, Entertainment One President & CEO Darren Throop, Paramount Futurist Ted Schilowitz and Skydance Interactive President Peter Akemann.

The two-day event is packed with more than 40 speakers over 18 sessions, networking opportunities, two receptions and multiple product presentations.

Also Read: New at TheGrill Day 1! Speakers Announced for Focus on China

Highlights of TheGrill schedule include a block of sessions focused on VR/AR and the outlook on doing business in and with China. There will also be panel discussions tackling the challenges of diversity in the entertainment business, building a next stage media company, the revolution taking place in entertainment marketing and the coming wave of consolidation. A panel of powerhouse producers will also take the stage.

Returning this year is the invitation-only Silicon Beach Roundtable, bringing together leading digital media entrepreneurs, financiers, big media executives exchange ideas, solve problems.

New this year is an invitation-only Independent Producers Roundtable, a forum to tackle the challenges indie producers face across the spectrum of content.

Today’s newly announced speakers join Fox Television Group’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman along with Jason Hirschhorn of REDEF, Sandra Stern of Lionsgate Television, Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research, Michael Bloom of First Look Media, Megan Colligan of Paramount Pictures, Beatriz Acevedo of mitú, Dave Shull of The Weather Channel and more.

Also Read: Fox Television Group CEOs Dana Walden, Gary Newman Join TheGrill 2017 as Featured Speakers

Sponsors supporting the event include Abrams Artists Agency, Cinelytic, Cubic Motion, Entertainment One, Fox, Greenberg Glusker, ICM, Lionsgate, Loeb & Loeb, mitú, NBCUniversal, New Form, Ooyala, Paradigm, pocket.watch, The Weather Channel, Topic, and ZoneTV.

TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood.

As technology brings new models to the fore — in production, distribution, display and monetization — TheGrill is a platform for the leaders, the deciders and the disrupters to explore this reconfigured landscape as it continues to transform around us.

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BMG Production Music Beefs Up: Acquires AXS, Makes Two Key Hires

BMG Production Music announced today that it has acquired French independent AXS Music and hired executives to its business in France and the U.K. AXS Music was founded in Paris by Axel von Hueck more than a decade ago to provide music for film, TV and radio licensing and currently hosts more than 50 composers…. Read more »

‘American Assassin’ Review: Dylan O’Brien Mostly Hits the Target as New Secret Agent

“American Assassin” aims to be a political thriller with a contemporary mindset, but it feels like it was made for audiences from the 1990s that didn’t get enough Tom Clancy movies.

Dylan O’Brien, tackling not only his first proper “adult” role but also his first project since suffering a debilitating accident on the set of the third “Maze Runner” film, plays the protagonist of Vince Flynn’s bestselling book series with intensity and verve. But the meta-narrative of his rehabilitation provides a more compelling journey than the movie is interested in exploring with its lead character.

Nevertheless a suitably exciting action film that probably takes itself a little too seriously, “American Assassin” works best when it’s trying to replicate the rhythms of a pulpy page-turner and least when pausing to consider the deeper implications of politics and personal responsibility in a post-9/11 world.

Watch Video: Dylan O’Brien Lets Bullets Fly in ‘American Assassin’ Red Band Trailer

O’Brien plays Mitch Rapp, a young man consumed by rage after the murder of his fiancée during a mass shooting in Ibiza where the pair was vacationing. After preparing himself for months to take revenge on the people he blames for her death, CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) intervenes and apprehends him, thinking he would make a strong candidate for a black-ops program run by cantankerous Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).

Reluctantly, Hurley begins the process of integrating Rapp into his team and acclimating the young man to the responsibilities of working for a secret government organization. But when a mission leads the team to a mysterious arms dealer nicknamed “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch), Rapp becomes a pawn in an evolving game between Hurley and their quarry after the recruit discovers that his new adversary was once a trainee in the same role he now inhabits.

For those without strong feelings for the Harrison Ford-era Clancy adaptations, which were polished but largely unmemorable, “American Assassin” works best as a little-league version of one of those or, in more contemporary terms, as an unsurprising origin story for what the filmmakers obviously hope is the beginning of a franchise.

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Even frazzled and furious, O’Brien oozes charisma as Rapp, and he keeps us from thinking too deeply about the ongoing (and perhaps intensifying) emotional toll of his fiancee’s death, not to mention the more subtle shades of grey that lurk between the film’s inevitable need for good and bad guys. Particularly in the wake of the “Maze Runner” series, which he’s carried handily, O’Brien could easily pop in and out of these films for years while exploring bigger and better opportunities elsewhere.

But much like the Clancy adaptations that undoubtedly condensed much of the nuance in their source material, “American Assassin” pays too little attention to the moral implications of what may seem to some like an understandable choice — taking personal revenge on the perpetrators of a heinous crime — which leads to joining a cycle of violence and recrimination that inescapably results in more innocent deaths.

The script, by Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, maintains a narcissistic focus on the choices these individuals make without much regard for the world around them (at least until there’s a bomb that threatens a whole lot of people), and then tips the scales to justify their behavior even when it obviously led themselves and others to dangerous new paths.

Also Read: ‘Maze Runner: Death Cure’ Delayed to 2018 as Dylan O’Brien Recovers From Injury

Keaton’s Hurley, for example, is effectively responsible for training Ghost and setting him on the path towards vengeful megalomania, but their eventual face-off barely scratches the surface of the betrayal Ghost experienced, and mostly serves to underscore what a bad ass Hurley is. But even as Rapp carries an all-consuming determination to stop “bad guys,” up to and including hunting them down and killing them, he fails to develop the self-awareness to consider that his motivations and his actions aren’t that different from those of his enemies.

As Rapp’s mentor, Keaton sinks his teeth into Hurley’s no-nonsense, at-any-cost training methods, and almost makes us believe he really doesn’t care about the foot soldiers he’s sending off to stop America’s enemies. It’s a role unlike anything we’ve seen from the actor, and he injects humor and ice-cold indifference in compelling measures that distinguish Hurley from similar characters played by his contemporaries.

Conversely, Lathan is thankfully graduating into more sophisticated and authoritative roles, here playing Hurley’s commanding officer, a mildly more compassionate but no less focused operative who sees potential in Rapp; interestingly, her attitude towards him may be even crueler than Hurley’s. Meanwhile, Kitsch gives Ghost the skill and hurt feelings of being ousted as Hurley’s protégé, but neither the instability nor frightening ruthlessness to be a proper villain for the film’s needs.

Director Michael Cuesta’s previous work includes the pilot for “Homeland,” the 2014 CIA-themed crime thriller “Kill the Messenger,” and the 2001 independent film “L.I.E.,” about the relationship that develops between a grieving 15-year-old boy and a pedophile. As skillfully as he chronicles Rapp’s introduction to this world of black ops and the shifting motivations and alliances of its players, “American Assassin” could use more of the subtlety (and ambiguity) of that earlier film and less of the routine polish of his more recent work.

If nothing else, perhaps the film would have benefited from embracing its beach-read appeal and playing up the “American” aspect of its celebration of military heroism; “Assassin” wouldn’t have necessarily been a better film because of it, but that feels like an easier (or, let’s say, more commercial) route to get to explore this hero’s journey in future installments with, one would hope, some of the complexity that’s absent here.

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Nicolas Cage to Play a Big-Game Hunter in Action Movie ‘Primal’

Nicolas Cage will star in the independent action movie “Primal” as a big-game hunter. Production is scheduled to start on Oct. 23 in Puerto Rico. The project was unveiled Tuesday at the Toronto Film Festival, where the Exchange is launching international sales. “Primal” is the first project for Wonderfilm Media, launched by Kirk Shaw, Daniel… Read more »

7 Takeaways from Apple’s Product Launch, From Facial Recognition to Augmented Reality

Hundreds of millions of Apple fans were prepared for the company to unveil its new top-end iPhone at the first event ever held at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday — and the company did not disappoint, announcing the $999 iPhone X, equipped with facial recognition software and no home button.

But Apple also surprised with a big Apple Watch announcement, and a 4K Apple TV that’s built to show the latest hits in all their glory — and just in time for Apple to pour $1 billion into original content.

Here are our 7 takeaways from today’s Apple event:

Also Read: Netflix CFO David Wells Says Content Spending Will Pass $7 Billion a Year

1) Steve Jobs, guardian angel from tech heaven

As the event kicked off, the lights dimmed and a voice came down from above. It was Apple patriarch Steve Jobs — who passed away in 2011 — welcoming the crowd to the newly christened Steve Jobs Theater.

“So … we need to be true to who we are and remember what’s really important to us,” said the ethereal voice of Jobs, as piano music played. “That’s what’s going to keep Apple Apple, is if we keep us, us.”

Also Read: Netflix Acquires Jim Carrey’s Take on Andy Kaufman, ‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’

It was a fitting, dramatic, and yes, kind of creepy way to start the event. Apple CEO Tim Cook then took to the stage, and spent the first few minutes talking about Jobs and how important product launches were to him.

“It was only fitting that Steve should open his theater,” said Cook, seemingly misty. “He loved days like this.”

2) iPhone X: Worth the wait

After months of speculation and leaked images, anticipation from Apple fanboys reached a fever pitch over its new foundational device heading into Tuesday. In the end, the hype was warranted. A quick rundown of its features: Facial-recognition, the banishing of the ubiquitous home button, improved camera and video capturing, and augmented reality apps, make iPhone X the high-end smartphone people have been clamoring for. Not to mention, it also has animated emojis, allowing users to add their facial expression to their favorite icons — in case you’d been patiently waiting to add your face to the famed poop emoji — and can afford to pay $999 for the privilege.

Also Read: YouTuber PewDiePie Comes Under Fire Again for Using Racial Slur in Stream

3) Apple Watch, all grown up

Cook was quick to point out the milestones Apple Watch had reached — increasing its sales 50 percent year-over-year, and becoming the most popular watch in the world — although he still hasn’t revealed the exact number of smartwatches the company has sold. But with the debut of the Apple Watch Series 3, that might change by next year.

The new Apple Watch reduces both the company and the customer’s dependency on the iPhone — by making it operate independently of the phone. Its cellular-enabled, allowing users to go for a run without having to stash their iPhone in their pocket. Apple Watch is now water and dust resistant, too.

Also Read: ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ Release Pushed To December 2019

4) Apple TV looks cool, but where are the shows?

As expected, Apple unveiled a 4K version of the Apple TV with four times the graphics processing power of the old model. And while Apple announced some new content capabilities, most notably a “live sports” tab integrated with ESPN that alerts users when their team is playing or a good game is going on, there wasn’t anything new in the original content world. After bringing on veteran Sony TV execs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg and committing $1 billion on original content over the next year, some thought the first event at the Steve Jobs Theater could see the company lift the curtain on some new programming announcements. Not today.

5) Augmented reality is here — for real

Also Read: ‘Star Wars’ Fans Split on JJ Abrams’ Return for Episode IX: ‘Again???’

Augmented reality has generated plenty of hype in recent years — the “Pokemon Go” mania helped with that — but with Apple, America’s most important phone manufacturer, explicitly designing its latest generation of phones to support virtual reality gives it the type of foothold in the market it simply hasn’t had before. Being able to superimpose stats on a live game or a map on the sky are features that go beyond novelty to legitimately useful, and AR gaming — as Apple demonstrated with an experience from Directive Games at the event — could be a significant new selling point for the iPhone.

6) Is facial recognition the new fingerprint sensor?

Apple’s new flagship iPhone X unlocks by looking at your face (technically, it generates an infrared image of it and processes it through something called a neural network). That seems convenient, if a little creepy and fraught with some obvious concerns (what about sunglasses or unexpected changes in appearance?) but the treasure trove of photo data the feature generates seems valuable for manufacturers. We aren’t even sure how well FaceID works yet — but it’s likely to be in plenty of phones in the future.

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7) Steve Wozniak, still a delight 

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak continued to show why he’s the definitive “cool uncle” of the tech world. Before the event, Woz went Shakespearean in describing Apple’s new campus.

“It’s a type of beauty, and you can’t define beauty,” said Woz. “It doesn’t have words, it doesn’t have numbers. You just kind of see it and you know it.” Never change, Woz.

This is Woz talking about what Steve Jobs would have thought of Apple’s new campus. #AppleEvent pic.twitter.com/0RToYAsfkG

— scott budman (@scottbudman) September 12, 2017

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Watch ‘Fox & Friends’ Equate 9/11 Memorial to Confederate Statues (Video)

President Donald Trump’s preferred news program “Fox & Friends” equated Confederate statues to the 9/11 memorials on Monday, the 16th anniversary of the terror attacks.

For Monday’s show, “Fox & Friends” invited Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior Ryan Zinke on to talk about his visit to Pennsylvania to commemorate 9/11.

Zinke is visiting the Quaker State to see the Shanksville memorial to the innocent victims on United Flight 93 who thwarted another attack on Washington, D.C. The passengers’ actions “is an example of America sticking together,” Zinke said. He described the memorial as “magnificently designed and magnificently done — an example of public-private partnerships, communities, and our National Parks System working together to commemorate, I would think, American heroes.”

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Host Brian Kilmeade then asked Zinke if he worries that “that 100 years from now, someone is going to take that memorial down like they are trying remake our memorials today?”

Many conservatives have pushed back against the removal of Confederate statues and monuments in the wake of the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

It should be noted that there is a clear difference between memorializing Confederates who fought for slavery and innocent airplane passengers who were hijacked.

“I’m one who believes, you know, that we should learn from history. And I think our monuments are a part of our country’s history,” Zinke replied.

Also Read: How 20 Movies and TV Shows Portrayed 9/11 (Photos)

“I think reflecting on our history, both good and bad, is a powerful statement and part of our DNA. I’m an advocate, again, of learning from our monuments, understanding the period they were made,” Zinke concluded. “But also we live in a great country and monuments are not Republican, Democrat, or independent. Monuments are a tribute to all of us.”

See the exchange above.

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‘One of Us’ Review: Breaking Up with G-d Is Hard to Do

The biggest issue facing the modern documentary is that there are too many documentaries. This complaint may sound silly or prosaic, but it’s true.

Since its creation, the format has never been in such high demand. On streaming services, from Netflix to Amazon Prime to Hulu, documentaries are often the most played and downloaded. The audience is there, and so are the films. Complaining about an embarrassment of riches can only take you so far. The point is: where there’s endless choice, there’s endless mediocrity. Worthwhile stories that are hurried and unfocused, made by people with good intentions but not-so-good execution.

This is where directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady stray from the pack. Responsible for films like “Jesus Camp” and “Detropia”, the directing duo have a knack for presenting lives as they are: rich, complex, idiosyncratic. With “One of Us,” their sixth collaboration — premiering on Netflix October 20 — they’ve turned their focus to the lives of three people who have chosen to leave the world of Hasidic Judaism. These three subjects are wildly different from one another; what binds them together is their shared fear of alienation.

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There is Etty, a strong mother of seven, who has dealing with the fallout of violent, unseemly divorce. Then there is Ari, a bright and uncharacteristically warm teenager who’s grappling with his own problems with addiction. Lastly, there is Luzer, a burgeoning actor whose transition into the secular world has not been an easy one.

Ewing and Grady share a few gifts as filmmakers. Throughout the duo’s evolving body of work, they’ve figured out how to foster trust with their subjects. Part of this has to do with their insistence on limiting how many crew members are on set. Often times, the room will include the subject, Ewing or Grady (they rarely shoot a scene together), and the DP. This information may seem ancillary, but it’s vital to how something like “One of Us” comes together.

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There’s intimacy on screen that other documentaries only dream of creating. Together Ewing and Grady strike the perfect balance between informal, fly-on-the-wall chatter, and rigorous, journalistic questioning. They appear to be direct aesthetic descendants of Errol Morris.

“One of Us” also benefits from a genuine visual language. The composition is not rushed. There’s been serious consideration for how an image is going to look. Frequently, cinematographers Alex Takats and Jenni Morello will frame a scene in ingeniously creative ways. Throughout there are layered shots where two people are talking, but only one can be seen. The other is tucked away, or hidden behind a door. Takats and Morello make it seem like we’re watching something we’re not supposed to.

It’s this clandestine approach that makes some of “One of Us” especially thrilling when it‘s not intimately focusing on the heart of what’s being said. Avoiding the standard shot-reverse-shot technique, the filmmakers decide to have a camera oscillate back and forth from person to person — except that the individual talking is rarely who we see in the frame. Instead, they focus on the subject receiving information. It’s a small technical move, but it‘s significant, capturing the intricacies of an interaction. The gestures, the facial tics, the moans, sighs, and hand movements. A face can say everything.

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Unlike some of their peers, Ewing and Grady don’t let their style overrun the film’s substance. “One of Us” is first and foremost a heart-wrenching account of three lives, lost and scared and searching for repair. The film shows us how painful it can be to turn your back on all that you once knew. All that seemed familiar and comfortable and regenerating, and just how quickly good things can transmute into bad ones.

The directors don’t look at these individuals from a distance, either with despair or sympathy. There’s human empathy, because of course there is: Ewing and Grady have routinely demonstrated curiosity; it‘s what fuels their life’s work. May it continue to do so.

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ITVS’ Sally Jo Fifer Credits Diversity and Inclusion For Making America Strong–Creative Arts Emmys

Independent Television Service (ITVS) has picked up the Governors award at the Creative Arts Emmys. Chairman and chief executive officer of the Television Academy Hayma Washington presented, saying, “Since 1989 ITVS has been a leading funder and co-distributor.”
Accepting was President and CEO of ITVS, Sally Jo Fifer.”We’re so proud and humbled to be here,” Fifer said, “to represent the creators of 1400 films and counting.” She credited the filmmakers and storytellers for…

‘Mudbound’ Producer Cassian Elwes Talks Google’s Threat To Cinema, Weighs Streaming & Dings Marvel Movies – Toronto

Streaming’s dominance of the film industry is imminent, per producer Cassian Elwes, so we might as well get used to it, as companies like Apple, YouTube and Facebook are poised to invest in independent film-making. The producer made his statements at a Toronto International Film Festival moguls session yesterday.
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‘The Children Act’ Review: Emma Thompson Grapples with Conscience in Sluggish Legal Drama

If Emma Thompson can’t make “The Children Act,” a drama about a family-court judge conflicted over her own decisions and the precarious state of her own family, into something interesting and meaningful, then no one can. And she can’t.

Screenwriter Ian McEwan, adapting his own novel, and director Richard Eyre (“Notes on a Scandal”) have assembled a fine cast to tackle controversial subjects brimming over with dramatic possibility, but the results are stultifyingly subdued. It’s all so polite, so sober, so convinced of its own importance, that it never has a pulse. This is love and life and death discussed as though they were paint swatches for the guest room.

Thompson stars as Fiona Maye, a high-court judge who specializes in hot-button issues that often put her in the crosshairs of religious fundamentalists. (The “Act” of the title is a noun and not a verb.) As the film opens, we see her giving the Solomonic ruling to separate a pair of conjoined twins, over the objection of the parents, as she argues that the possibility of one of the newborns living supersedes both of them definitely dying.

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Her next big case involves Jehovah’s Witnesses who want to keep their almost-18-year-old son from receiving blood transfusion treatments for his leukemia; before handing down a decision, Fiona takes the near-unprecedented step of meeting the young man herself to get a read on his devotion to his church’s teachings. Adam (Fionn Whitehead, “Dunkirk”) strikes her as lively and intelligent and capable of thinking independently from his parents — although he too wants to refuse the treatment — and the two of them sing a song together before she returns to court and rules that he must receive the transfusions.

As a healthy Adam grows estranged from his parents and his faith, he begins stalking Fiona — in a friendly way, but it’s still a little disconcerting to her how he keeps turning up, even when she goes off to Newcastle for a business trip. While Fiona’s various work dramas are unfurling, her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) registers his dissatisfaction with the marriage. He asks permission to have a mistress, but takes one anyway after Fiona says no — and kicks him out of the apartment.

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Is this going to be yet another movie where an accomplished, intelligent woman has to bear blame for not having children? You bet it is, down to a scene where Jack reads bedtime stories to visiting nieces, a moment designed to show us how great he is with kids (and thus implying how terrible Fiona is to deprive him of them).

There are big ideas swirling around “The Children Act” about love and fidelity and spirituality and guilt and responsibility, but McEwan and Eyre have each of them either land with a thud or dissipate into the mist. We’re left with Thompson looking glum and unsatisfied, while Tucci tut-tuts and Whitehead has explosions of exuberance that get creepier as the film progresses.

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“The Children Act” is the very model of a handsome production, with Fiona and Jack’s London digs tastefully assembled by Peter Francis and shot with Architectural Digest specificity by Andrew Dunn (“Bridget Jones’s Baby”). The peeks behind the scenes at British courtrooms provide some of the film’s most compelling moments, as Fiona’s treatment of her long-suffering assistant provides one of the film’s few emotional barometers for its lead character until her big Act III moments.

A film this steeped in respectability really wants you to take it seriously (and to consider it during awards season), but its many fine pieces never add up the way they should.

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‘It’ Stalks $103 Million Opening as Box Office Gets Frightful Boost Despite Irma

Pennywise may be the terror of Maine, but he’s the hero of the box office, rescuing it from two weeks’ worth of record lows with an estimated opening weekend of $103 million from 4,103 screens, beating even the high projections set by independent trackers. 

At the start of the week, projections for “It” were set at $60-65 million, but quickly jumped to $80-85 million after the film earned critical praise and an 88 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The strong marketing from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema has culminated in a huge turnout from “It,” and the R-rated horror film will likely become the fifth film of 2017 with a $100 million-plus opening despite losing hundreds of theaters due to closures forced by Hurricane Irma, which the studio estimated to account for a revenue loss of about 5 percent.

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On top of that, “It” is set to rack up several records this weekend. The Stephen King adaptation made an estimated $51 million on Friday, beating the September opening weekend record set by “Hotel Transylvania 2” ($48.4 million) in a single day.

“It” also set the record for the biggest opening weekend for a horror movie, and dwarfs the openings for any October release as well. The opening day total is the highest for any R-rated film, and it’s expected to score the second-highest opening weekend for an R-rated film behind only the $132.4 million made by “Deadpool” last year.

Another encouraging sign for the film is its B+ grade on CinemaScore. While lower than the A- scored by the “Conjuring” films, it’s a solid grade that could lead to strong word-of-mouth and the long-term box office that Warner’s two recent hits, “Wonder Woman” and “Dunkirk,” enjoyed this past summer.

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Below “It,” it’s slim pickings for the rest of the movies in theaters as the Stephen King adaptation is estimated to account for 75 percent of total box office revenue this weekend.

By virtue of being the only other new release in a market that didn’t see any wide releases the past two weekends, Open Road’s romantic comedy “Home Again” will take second place with an estimated $8.5 million from 2,940 screens. That’s far short of the $10 million mark set by studio and independent projections, no doubt impacted by the weak 32 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and a B on CinemaScore.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” will take third this weekend with an estimated $4.8 million, followed by “Annabelle: Creation” with $4 million. “Wind River” completes the top five with $3.2 million.

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Bill Maher Wants to Convince Ken Bone He ‘Should Have Voted for Hillary Instead of Godzilla’

Bill Maher is on a mission to convince independent voters from the 2016 presidential election that, maybe, Donald Trump wasn’t the best choice for the office. And Maher is starting with the best-known independent, undecided voter of them all: Ken Bone.

“You are the person we – the liberals – need to get if we want to turn this country around,” Maher told Bone during “Real Time” Friday night. “I want to convince you that you should have voted for Hillary [Clinton] instead of Godzilla.”

“I tell you this much, I didn’t vote for Godzilla,” Bone said.

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Bone and his red cardigan became an internet phenom during the second presidential debate when he articulated a question to the then-candidates. Between his everyman quality and that bright crimson sweater, he briefly became America’s darling.

Maher persisted in trying to find out who Bone voted for, but the power plant operator from Illinois kept his lips sealed.

“Like it or not, we are obsessed with celebrities in this country, and even an F-list celebrity like me, people put stock in my opinion and it’s not fair to the democratic process if I tell them what to believe,” Bone said. “I’m a random dude that works at the power plant. People don’t need to be informed by me.”

Also Read: Bill Maher Definitely Not in the Ken Bone Zone (Video)

And Maher still pushed… to no avail.

“I’ve been exposed to politics enough to know how to not answer questions,” Bone said, getting a laugh out of the audience.

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Keanu Reeves Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Replicas’ Sells to Entertainment One Studios

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has acquired North American rights to the Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller “Replicas” for $4 million.

Alice Eve (“Star Trek Into Darkness”) also stars in the film, which is directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (“The Day After Tomorrow”) from a script written by Stephen Hamel and Chad St. John.

After a car accident kills his loving family, a daring neuroscientist (Reeves) will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force and the physical laws of science themselves.

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See Keanu Reeves’s latest POWER MOVE.

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“Replicas” wasn’t in the Toronto International Film Festival lineup, but was part of a CAA program of private screenings of films and promo reels for buyers that was held Thursday.

Reeves produced “Replicas,” along with Hamel and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Bill Johnson and Jim Seibel executive produced for Lotus Entertainment, along with Nik Bower, James Dodson, Deepak Nayar, Maxime Remillard, Clark Peterson, Walter Josten and Erik Howsam of Di Bonaventura Pictures.

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has become a whale of an acquisitions player in recent months, having released the most successful domestic independent film this year, “47 Meters Down.”

CAA brokered the “Replicas” deal on behalf of the filmmakers, with Lotus Entertainment handling its international sales.

Deadline first reported the sale of “Replicas.”

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