‘Fabulation’ Theater Review: Lynn Nottage’s Riches-to-Rags Story of a PR Queen

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Casual theater fans familiar with the work of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage may be surprised at the broad, sitcommy nature of her 2004 play “Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine,” which gets a broad, sitcommy revival at Off Broadway’s Signature Theatre.

Nottage is no novice to humor, which she deploys cunningly in plays with more serious themes such as “Intimate Apparel,” “Ruined” and “Sweat.” But here, she crafts a satirical, punchline-heavy riches-to-rags story that plays like the opening episodes to a network comedy — one that would not feel out of place following a Tyler Perry jam.

The show centers on Undine, a New York uber-PR executive whose wardrobe is as sharp as her wit. As played with hilarious hauteur by Cherise Boothe, she’s a formidable woman who suffers no fools — until she experiences a series of sudden reversals when her husband runs off with all her money and she learns she’s pregnant by the louse.

She loses her livelihood and the life she struggled to build from scratch. As her similarly self-invented pal Allison (Nikiya Mathis) tells her, “There is nothing less forgiving than Bourgie Negroes.”

For Undine, the reversal of fortune comes as a shock to her very self-image. “Anxiety happens to other people,” she tells a doctor, shortly after she names the pain in her chest “Edna” for no other reason than to get a laugh.

But the real pain comes when she is forced to return to the Brooklyn projects where she grew up, crashing with the family she once told a magazine reporter had died in a fire.

There, she encounters her Iraq war veteran brother, her dope-addicted grandmother, childhood friends who know nothing about her Dartmouth education and the entitled Social Services counter clerks who create a special purgatory for all those waiting in line. She also meets a sweet ex-con and recovering addict who admits he’s been “that brother you cross the street to avoid,” but still is sweet on her.

Director Lileana Blain-Cruz keeps all of Nottage’s comic balls in the air, swiftly changing scenes as the eight-person cast take on multiple roles. Mathis, Mayaa Boateng and Ian Lassiter are particular standouts, stealing scenes with the smallest of gestures or the slightest of twists to a line reading.

In the end, though, “Fabulation” feels both slight and abbreviated, like the pilot for a promising but canceled-too-soon series that might have developed Undine and the characters around her over time.

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That Time Dick Van Dyke Peed in the Bushes and Paid Walt Disney for 2nd ‘Mary Poppins’ Role

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In this month’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” Dick Van Dyke plays a surprisingly nimble elderly London banker — who bears an uncanny resemblance to the elderly Mr. Dawes he played in the original 1964 film “Mary Poppins.”

The 92-year-old actor, who’s best know for playing the “step-in-time” chimney sweep Bert in the Walt Disney classic, has said that he went to great lengths — and his own personal expense — to land the bonus role in the film.

“I loved portraying old men, and since first reading the script, I had been secretly eyeing that part, which included the song ‘Fidelity Fiduciary Bank,'” the actor wrote in his 2011 memoir, “My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business.” “I saw a lot of potential for extracurricular amusement.”

To his surprise, though, studio chief Walt Disney insisted that his young star test for the role. So Van Dyke donned white hair and a beard to be made up like “a balding old man in his nineties.” “I was stooped over, talking like the very senior banker, and having a blast amusing both the crew and myself,” he wrote.

During the actual screen test, he ad-libbed lines in front of the on-set house of George and Martha Banks where much of the film took place — and even pretended to “pee in the bushes” every few minutes.

“‘I’m a weak old man because of a hernia,’ I explained in a wheezy voice,” he wrote.

The gambit worked. Disney relented and allowed him to take on the extra role — but at a steep price. Namely, he insisted that Van Dyke donate $4,000 to his 3-year-old art school, California Institute of the Arts — which would be more than $32,000 in 2018 dollars.

“I ended up paying him a not insignificant amount of money to play a part I had offered to do for free,” the actor wrote. “I’m still scratching my head over at that one.”

Even so, Van Dyke added, “It was worth every dollar. I would have, in fact, paid even more.”

The actor’s cameo in “Mary Poppins Returns” was considerably less costly. At a Q&A in New York earlier this month, director Rob Marshall explained that Van Dyke’s character was the son of the original Mr. Dawes since the new film is set roughly 25 years after the original.

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‘Slave Play’ Theater Review: A Twisty Play That’s One Giant Trigger Warning

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Jeremy O. Harris’ “Slave Play,” which opened Sunday at Off Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop, is a giant trigger warning in three acts. This is an ambitious, at times uneven satire about race and sex and power and politics that seems designed to provoke.

It begins with the surprisingly graphic onstage couplings of three interracial couples on an antebellum Virginia plantation. A white overseer named Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan) hooks up with a broom-wielding slave named Kaneisha (Teyonah Parris, “If Beale Street Could Talk”) — though not before forcing her to eat cantaloupe off the floor. A white mistress (Annie McNamara) orders an educated mixed-race slave, Phillip (Sullivan Jones), to play the violin before penetrating him with a dildo. And a black overseer (Ato Blankson-Wood) brings himself to orgasm when he makes a white indentured servant (James Cusati-Moyer) lick his boots.

But since we first meet Keneisha twerking to Rihanna’s “Work” and Phillip picks out an R. Kelly tune on his fiddle, things are not quite what they seem. Indeed, Harris — a student at Yale Drama School who has two shows opening Off Broadway this season — has a very big twist up his sleeve. (No spoilers here.)

Harris’ intentions become clearer in the middle section of his three-act, intermissionless play, with the introduction of two modern-day academics-cum-therapists (Chalia La Tour and Irene Sofia Lucio) who use terms like “heteropatriarchal” and “positionality” in an attempt to help people to “process” their feelings.

That processing does not seem to go well for anyone, including the well-intentioned therapists themselves who seek to impose in-vogue theory on the messy reality of American race relations. Nor does it bolster the white (or paler) people, who seem surprised to get no credit for good intentions.

“You’re the virus,” one character tells them at one point, recalling the decimation of indigenous peoples by the arrival of Europeans to the American continent. “Your mere presence was biological warfare.”

“Slave Play” can be saggy; each of the three acts would benefit from some trimming. And the third act, which reunites one of the couples in an encounter that is both intimate and humiliatingly raw, seems more designed to shock than illuminate.

At no point do we believe that these are flesh-and-blood humans who might have chosen to be together in a relationship; they seem more like props — or in this case, agitprops — for Harris’ provocative message about the dreadful state of race relations, which seems to have hobbled everyone, white and black.

In Harris’ view, patterns of oppression have become so ingrained that even African Americans fail to recognize its footprints — even when they are clearly marked on their backs. “Slave Play”  recalls the work of Thomas Bradley and Robert O’Hara (who directs this production, sometimes too broadly) and it announces the arrival of a bold and challenging new voice in theater.

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‘The Jungle’ Theater Review: A Vital, Necessary Journey Into a Modern Refugee Camp

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The refugee crisis can seem like an abstract, far-off issue. But “The Jungle,” which opened Sunday at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse after a run in London, drops us smack in the center of a camp of asylum-seekers — with all its slapdash infrastructure, clash of cultures and pulsing humanity.

The St. Ann’s theater space has been transformed by set designer Meriam Buether into the Afghan Cafe, where the audience sits in front of long, narrow tables on a dirt floor with wider platforms that serve as walkways for the actors to walk among us.

We are in a re-created version of the Jungle, an actual camp that emerged on a landfill site near Calais, France, for refugees seeking asylum in the U.K. just 22 miles away. We meet people from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Sudan who manage to set aside their religious, cultural and histroic differences to create a kind of functioning city with a common purpose.

In due course, we also meet a group of British do-gooders who are initially viewed with skepticism. “You have destroyed my village three times in the last 200 years,” the Afghan restaurant owner Salar (Ben Turner) tells one of the Brits, whose number includes a naive selfie-stick-wielding Eton graduate (Alex Lawther, “The End of the F—ing World”) who describes the setting as “Glastonbury without the toilets.”

Before long, though, the interlopers become part of the community, helping to establish basic services like housing, sanitation and schooling for the increasing number of unaccompanied children in the camp.

But these outsiders have their own reasons for being there, sometimes just as flawed despite meaning well. “Everyone here is running away from something. We’re all refugees,” notes the banjo-playing drunkard Boxer (Trevor Fox), who is estranged from both his ex-wife and young daughter back in the U.K. but finds a sense of purpose in the camps.

“When does a place become a place?” asks Safi (Ammar Haj Ahmad), an English literature scholar from Aleppo who serves as one of our many narrators. Playwrights Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson address that question in a most vital way — aided by the sharp direction of Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin — by intermingling moments of conflict and horror with lighter moments of warmth, music and laughter.

Because despite their many differences, the refugees we meet share similar stories of deprivation and of hope that they might yet seek a better life in a far-off land. “A refugee dies many times,” a teenager from Darfur named Okot (John Pfumojena) says at one point as he recounts his remarkable and harrowing journey to a camp that French authorities seem bent on breaking up. (They did just that two years ago — though a video update late in the show informs us that 2,000 refugees, including 200 unaccompanied minors, are still seeking shelter outside Calais.)

“The Jungle” is that rarest of theatrical experiences. It makes us think, it makes us feel and it challenges us to find the human faces in the masses of images we see on newscasts.

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Kevin Hart Quotes Martin Luther King Jr. After Anti-Gay Tweet Fiasco and Things Do Not Go Well

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Kevin Hart stirred up another online firestorm after tweeting a quote on Friday from Martin Luther King Jr. about how moments of crisis test the measure of a man — but his fans and critics just weren’t having it.

“You’re quoting Martin? Finally, you’re making me laugh!” one commenter wrote.

“What you’re going through is very comparable to what Martin Luther King Jr battled. How brave of you, Kevin,” another wrote, while a third offered: “Dude it’s the Oscars not Selma.”

Hart appeared to want to take the high road following his announcement as the 2019 Academy Awards host was derailed after dozens of his old anti-gay tweets resurfaced. The comedian offered an apology for the old tweets, and deleted many, but only after he twice insisted he would not apologize because he had already “moved on.”

In a Friday morning tweet after his Oscar-hosting dreams unraveled, he quoted the civil-rights legend King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

But commenters were quick to find fault.

Ira Madison, the former Daily Beast critic and host of the Crooked Media pop culture podcast “Keep It!” noted that Hart left off the second half of King’s original statement: “The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”

Madison added, “That’s what happens when you google a quote to make a point but haven’t actually read it before.”

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Golden Globes Shatters Diversity Record: 4 of 10 Best Picture Nominees Have Non-White Directors

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In a record for diversity at the annual Golden Globes Awards, four of the 10 nominees in the two Best Picture categories this year have non-white directors.

Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” all were recognized in the Best Picture-Drama category, while John M. Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians” made the cut in the Best Picture – Comedy or Drama competition.

Of these, only Lee received a nomination for Best Director, where he was joined by the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma” — which as a foreign-language film was not eligible in the Globes’ Best Picture – Drama category.

The other directing nominees are Bradley Cooper for “A Star Is Born,” Peter Farrelly for “Green Book” and Adam McKay for “Vice.”

Last year, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” were both recognized in the top drama and comedy categories, respectively. Del Toro wound up winning the directing prize, though “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Lady Bird” took the picture prizes.

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Amy Sherman-Palladino to Receive PGA’s Norman Lear Achievement Award in TV

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Amy Sherman-Palladino, the mastermind behind the cult fave “Gilmore Girls” and the Amazon Prime hit “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” will receive the Producers Guild of America’s 2019 Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television, the guild announced Wednesday.

The 20-year veteran producer, creator, writer, and director will receive the award at the 30th annual Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 19, 2019 at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles.

In January, Sherman-Palladino won the PGA’s Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy, for her work on “Mrs. Maisel.”

Sherman-Palladino also made history at this year’s Emmys by taking home the awards for both comedy writing and comedy directing, becoming the first woman in the awards’ 70-year history to do so.

“Amy Sherman-Palladino is everything you want a TV producer to be. She’s smart, she’s tenacious, she knows the story she wants to tell and how to put together the right team to tell it,” PGA presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher said in a statement. “Her characters and stories may span different eras, but her sensibility is unique and unmistakable. Watch any episode from one of her series for just five minutes, and you’ll instantly understand why she’s built such a wide and passionate following.”

Ryan Murphy was the 2018 recipient of the PGA’s Norman Lear Award. Previous honorees include James L. Brooks, Shonda Rhimes, Mark Gordon, Chuck Lorre, J.J. Abrams, Dick Wolf, Jerry Bruckheimer, Lorne Michaels, David L. Wolper, Aaron Spelling, Carsey/Werner/Mandabach, Steven Bochco, David E. Kelley, Mark Burnett and Norman Lear himself.

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Philip Bosco, Tony-Winning Actor and ‘Working Girl’ Star, Dies at 88

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Philip Bosco, a Tony and Emmy-winning character actor who also starred in such movies as “Working Girl,” died Monday at age 88, according to his grandson Luke Bosco.

Bosco received the first of his six Tony nominations for his Broadway debut, the 1960 drama “Rape of the Belt,” and his last for a 2004 revival of “Twelve Angry Men.” He won in 1989 for playing an outrageous opera company head in the comedy “Lend Me a Tenor.”

He also appeared in more than 50 Broadway productions over his storied career.

Though he told the New York Times in 1986 that he had turned down a seven-year contract with a Hollywood studio early in his career because he did not want to live in California, he did appear in many movies starting in the 1980s.

Bosco had small but crucial roles in films like Mike Nichols’ 1988 comedy “Working Girl,” where he played the corporate honcho who fires Sigourney Weaver’s scheming executive and hires Melanie Griffith’s ambitious secretary instead.

His other big-screen credits included Woody Allen’s 1997 film “Deconstructing Harry,” 1983’s “Trading Places,” the 1986 drama “Children of a Lesser God” and the 1997 rom-com “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

He also made frequent appearances on TV, from soap operas like “Ryan’s Hope” and “As the World Turns” to “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” in which he had a recurring role as a judge. In 1987, he won a Daytime Emmy for an “ABC Afterschool Special” called “Read Between the Lines.”

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'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' Becomes Broadway's Top-Grossing Non-Musical Play of All Time

‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Becomes Broadway’s Top-Grossing Non-Musical Play of All Time

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“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” just became the top-grossing non-musical play in Broadway history, hitting nearly $75.8 million in total box office receipts as of Dec. 2, according to the Broadway League.

The Tony Award-winning stage sequel to J.K. Rowling’s saga about the now-grown boy wizard has consistently earned $2 million per week since it began performances at Broadway’s Lyric Theatre on March 16 ahead of an official opening on April 22. It grossed $2.02 million for the week ending Dec. 2.

Despite breaking the record in just eight and a half months, “Cursed Child” has had extra advantages as a two-night (and two-ticket) epic that has played in a musical-sized auditorium to diehard Potterheads.

The previous record-holder, “War Horse,” accumulated just under $75 million over 21 months in 2011-13.

“Cursed Child” brings back a grown-up Harry Potter, along with his childhood pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley — as well as Harry’s second son, Albus, as he befriends Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius at Hogwarts.

The magic-laden production earned six Tony Awards in June, including Best Play and Best Director for John Tiffany. Jack Thorne wrote the script, based on a script he co-wrote with Rowling and director John Tiffany.

The show also won for scenic, lighting, costume and sound design. As TheWrap’s Robert Hofler wrote in his review, “What’s definitely prize-worthy is the fantastic redesign of the Lyric, a modern barn if ever there was one on Broadway.”

“Cursed Child” also became the biggest winner in the history of Britain’s Olivier Awards, with a record-breaking nine awards, including Best New Play.

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Ken Berry, Star of ‘Mayberry, RFD’ and ‘Mama’s Family,’ Dies at 85

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Ken Berry, the veteran comic actor who starred in such 1960s, ’70s and ’80s sitcoms as “F-Troop,” “Mayberry, RFD” and the “Carol Burnett Show” spinoff “Mama’s Family,” died Saturday at the age of 85.

His ex-wife Jackie Joseph-Lawrence reported the news, “with very deep sorrow,” on her Facebook page. “F-Troop” co-star Larry Storch also shared the news on his own Facebook page, adding, “Goodnight Captain. We miss you already.”

The Illinois native known for his aw-shucks charm also made memorable appearances in Disney films such as “Herbie Rides Again” and “The Cat From Outer Space.”

After serving in the U.S. Army under Sgt. Leonard Nimoy, mostly entertaining the troops, Berry landed a spot on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He became a contract player for Universal Studios, appearing mostly in musical films, and then transitioned to TV.

He served as comic relief on the early-’60s medical show “Dr. Kildare.” By the end of the decade, he starred as clumsy Captain Parmenter on the Western spoof “F-Troop,” and then the widowed farmer Sam Jones on both “The Andy Griffith Show” and later “Mayberry, RFD.”

Berry also had a long association with Carol Burnett, first on her eponymous sitcom and later as a co-star on the 1980s spinoff sitcom “Mama’s Family.”

Over the years, he also performed in multiple stage production across the country, mostly musicals like the George M. Cohan bio-musical “George M!” as well as cameos in TV shows such as “The Brady Bunch,” “CHiPs” and “The Golden Girls.”

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That Time George HW Bush Invited Dana Carvey to the White House to Spoof Him to His Face (Video)

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It was a kinder, gentler time — December 1992.

President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at age 94, had just been soundly defeated by Bill Clinton in his bid for re-election.

But he extended an unexpected invitation to Dana Carvey — the comedian/impressionist who had mocked him on an almost weekly basis on “Saturday Night Live” — to appear at the White House for a holiday party for outgoing and deeply dispirited staffers.

And so Carvey appeared in East Room, entering to the tune of “Hail to the Chief” and addressing his audience with his spot-on Bush voice and wild hand gesticulations.

“This is a very, very strange,” the Canadian-born comic soon said in his own voice, and then recalled his evening in the Lincoln bedroom the night before.

“I couldn’t resist getting on the phone and I called up the Secret Service as the president: ‘I feel like going jogging tonight. In the nude,'” he joked, back in Bush’s voice. “‘Fully unclothed.'”

Unlike President Donald Trump, who bristles publicly at Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him on the current “SNL,” Bush seemed to take Carvey’s mockery in stride.

“Dana has given me a lot of laughs,” Bush said when he reclaimed his podium, joined by his wife, Barbara (who herself died earlier this year). “And the fact that we can laugh at each other is a very fundamental thing.”

The elder President Bush even occasionally adopted some of Carvey’s Bushisms as his own in public appearances, including the memorable “Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.”

According to the Washington Post, Carvey was initially reluctant to make the White House appearance back in 1992. As Bush wrote in his diary, “He told me I’ve tried not to cross the line of fairness. I told him I didn’t think he had.”

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7 classic sketches with “SNL” star Dana Carvey as George H.W. Bush

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Latest Lars von Trier Outrage: IFC Films’ Unrated ‘The House That Jack Built’ Screenings Broke MPAA Rules

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IFC Films could face sanctions from the MPAA due to Wednesday’s nationwide screenings of an unrated version of Lars von Trier’s art-house gorefest “The House That Jack Built,” the organization said.

“The MPAA has communicated to the distributor, IFC Films, that the screening of an unrated version of the film in such close proximity to the release of the rated version — without obtaining a waiver — is in violation of the rating system’s rules,” the MPAA said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The effectiveness of the MPAA ratings depends on our ability to maintain the trust and confidence of American parents,” the organization continued. “That’s why the rules clearly outline the proper use of the ratings. Failure to comply with the rules can create confusion among parents and undermine the rating system — and may result in the imposition of sanctions against the film’s submitter.”

On Wednesday, IFC Films staged a one-night-only screening of an uncut version of von Trier’s ultraviolent film starring Matt Dillon as a serial killer in more than 100 theaters nationwide — less than three weeks before the Dec. 14 release of an R-rated version in select theaters and on-demand platforms.

According to the rules of the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration, which oversees the film ratings system, the indie studio could face disciplinary action including the revocation of the film’s R rating and even a temporary suspension from the ratings system.

A rep for IFC Films did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The film, which includes graphic depictions of the mutilation of men, women and children, prompted widespread walkouts during its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for what early critics called its “vomitive” and “turturous” content.

“It is a repulsive thing to watch, perhaps made even more repulsive by the fact that you know your feelings of disgust are pretty much what von Trier wants you to feel,” TheWrap critic Steve Pond wrote in May.

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‘Artemis Fowler’ Trailer Teases Kenneth Branagh’s New Fantasy Franchise With Fairy People (Video)

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A young boy is introduced to an underground fantasy world with magical creatures who can do seemingly impossible things in the first teaser trailer for Kenneth Branagh’s “Artemis Fowl.”

“Human greed is what drove us underground,” the craggly-voiced narrator intones as we meet 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl.

He’s the antihero of Eoin Colfer best-selling sci-fi/fantasy book series and the descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds who finds himself in a battle of strength and cunning against a powerful, hidden race of fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance.

The film stars Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Nonzo Anozie, with Josh Gad and Judi Dench.

Judy Hofflund and Kenneth Branagh are producing with Angus More Gordon and Matthew Jenkins serving as executive  producers. The screenplay, based on the first two books of Colfer’s series of eight books, is by Conor McPherson.

Disney’s “Artemis Fowl” is set to hit U.S. theaters on Aug. 9, 2019.

You can watch the teaser trailer above.

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NRG Hires Ben Rogers as President of Platform and Technology Clients

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National Research Group has hired Ben Rogers to be president of platform and technology clients, the company announced Wednesday.

Rogers, who most recently served as EVP and head of media development at Ipsos, will be charged with accelerating growth with tech clients across the product and services lifecycle. including market landscaping, innovation, brand and positioning strategy, creative and platform optimization and performance tracking. He will remain based in the San Francisco Bay area.

Rogers began his career at NOP, and led various teams on technology accounts for Kantar before spending nearly a decade at Synovate where he led the company’s Microsoft relationship globally.

“I’m excited to build upon NRG’s core expertise as trusted advisors to bold storytellers everywhere on every screen,” Rogers said in a statement. “Given the confluence of technology, platforms, and content — it’s a natural next step for NRG to expand upon its content creator focus to help clients solve a broader set of strategic business challenges. “

NRG CEO Jon Penn said, “Ben is a preeminent technology research executive and business leader with a deep history of success in using insights to drive impact across the lifecycle of technology products and services.”

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Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Directorial Debut ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ Blows to Netflix

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Netflix has picked up Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” the story of a real-life Malawian boy named William Kamkwamba who built a windmill that helped save his village from famine.

The streamer acquired global rights to the film excluding Japan, China and U.K. free TV rights, and plans to launch the film worldwide next year — including in select theaters in the U.S. and U.K.

Ejiofor, the Oscar-nominated star of “12 Years a Slave,” also co-stars and wrote the script, adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

The film follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba (newcomer Maxwell Simba) who is thrown out of the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees. Sneaking back into the school library, he uses the bones of the bicycle belonging to his father, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), to build a windmill that proves a godsend to his community when famine strikes.

The cast also includes Aïssa Maïga (“Anything for Alice”), Lily Banda, Lemogang Tsipa (“Eye in the Sky”), Philbert Falakeza, with Joseph Marcell (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) and Noma Dumezweni (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”).

Potboiler Productions’ Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan produced the film; executive producers include Joe Oppenheimer, Rose Garnett, Natascha Wharton, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Peter Hampden and Norman Merry.

Netflix, Participant Media, BBC Films and BFI will present the film in association with Head Gear Films & Metrol Technology, Lipsync and Cornerstone Films, a Potboiler Production.

“William’s story represents, what has to be, the future in countries like Malawi: developing countries, overflowing with beauty and harboring enormous potential,” Ejiofor said in a statement. “A global story, such as this, requires a global platform and I’m thrilled to be working with Netflix on bringing William’s extraordinary tale of determination and inventiveness to audiences worldwide.”

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Broadway’s Next Evan Hansen Will Be 16-Year-Old High School Junior

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Broadway’s hit musical “Dear Evan Hansen” has announced its new title star — and it’s 16-year-old Andrew Barth Feldman, who is much closer in age to the high school nerd at the center of the Tony Award-winning show.

Feldman, a junior at Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Woodmere, New York, will take over for Taylor Trensch this January. Trensch replaced Ben Platt, who won a Tony for his performance as a high schooler who becomes an accidental social-media icon.

“As a real-life high school student, I relate to the character of Evan Hansen immensely,” said Feldman, who was cast after winning the Best Actor Award at this year’s Jimmy Awards (a.k.a. the National High School Musical Theatre Awards). “Dear Evan Hansen” was a sponsor of this year’s competition.

“There’s nothing more exciting than discovering young talent,” director Michael Greif added in a statement. “Evan is such a complex role — and one that is difficult cast. But the moment Andrew walked into the room, we knew we’d found our next Evan, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the role.”

After opening on Broadway two years ago, “Dear Evan Hansen” became an immediate hit and won six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score for Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. original cast recording also won a Grammy Award earlier this year for Best Musical Theater Album.

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‘Toy Story 4’ Teaser Trailer: The Toys Are Back in Town (Video)

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The toys are back in town in the first teaser trailer for this summer’s “Toy Story 4.”

Nostalgia runs high in the first teaser, with the camera panning along to the old gang of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Mr. Potato Head and the rest — all to the tune of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” — until a new toy named Forky shouts, “I don’t belong here.”

The new film revisits Woody, who has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

Josh Cooley (“Riley’s First Date?”) directs the new film, which was produced by Jonas Rivera (“Inside Out,” “Up”) and Mark Nielsen (“Inside Out”).

Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is set to hit U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

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E’s People Choice Awards 2018: Complete Winners List

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“Avengers: Infinity War” dominated the E’s People’s Choice Awards on Sunday, winning best movie, best action movie and best female movie star for Scarlett Johansson.

The 44th annual popularity contest also gave a lot of love to Freeform’s fantasy series “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments,” which dominated the TV categories.

The show, broadcast live from Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, also recognized popular figures from the world of comedy, fashion and music.

Here’s the complete list of winners.

MOVIES

Movie of 2018: “Avengers: Infinity War”

Comedy movie of 2018: “The Spy Who Dumped Me”

Action movie of 2018: “Avengers: Infinity War”

Female movie star of 2018: Scarlett Johansson, “Avengers: Infinity War”

Male movie star of 2018: Chadwick Boseman, “Black Panther”

Action movie star of 2018: Danai Gurira, “Black Panther”

TV

Show of 2018: “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments”

Male TV star of 2018: Harry Shum, “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments”

Female TV star of 2018: Katherine McNamara, “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments”

Competition show of 2018: “The Voice”

Nighttime talk show of 2018: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

Reality show of 2018: “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”

Reality TV star of 2018: Khloe Kardashian, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”

Sci-fi fantasy show of 2018: “Wynonna Earp”

MUSIC

Album of the year: “Queen,” Nicki Minaj

Female artist of 2018: Nicki Minaj

Country artist of 2018: Blake Shelton

Group of 2018: BTS

Concert tour of 2018: Taylor Swift, “Reputation Tour”

POP CULTURE

Beauty influencer of 2018: James Charles

Animal star of 2018: Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund

Comedy act of 2018: Kevin Hart

Fashion icon of 2018: Victoria Beckham

People’s icon of 2018: Melissa McCarthy

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‘Thom Pain (Based on Nothing)’ Theater Review: Michael C Hall Turns Nothingness Into High Art

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Will Eno’s one-man tour de force “Thom Pain (based on nothing),” now in a thrilling revival at Off Broadway’s Pershing Square Signature Center, reimagines Samuel Beckett as if through the filter of Jerry Seinfeld.

But if Seinfeld’s long-running NBC sitcom was a “show about nothing,” Eno’s 2004 drama is a show about nothingness — a philosophical but funny examination of the human state and our seeming inability to get a firm handle on our all-too-brief experience in the world.

We meet Michael C. Hall’s Thom Pain in darkness, fittingly enough. “How wonderful to see you all,” he says wryly, trying (unsuccessfully) to light a match.

He then launches into several stories — about a young boy in a cowboy outfit who watches a dog get electrocuted, about falling in love with a woman who tells him “You’ve changed” on their first date — but keeps interrupting himself to tumble into various digressions. And digressions on digressions.

The stop-and-start storytelling alternates from the wry to the absurd to the profound, like some kind of existential stand-up act. He jumps from promises of magic tricks with handkerchiefs to silly wordplay (“Love cankers all”) to more philosophical observations about life and love, or as he calls it, “unaloneness at last.”

As Pain, our rambling tour guide through the abyss and bliss of existence, Hall proves a charismatic charmer who ambles about the mostly bare stage dressed in a nondescript, off-the rack dark suit and tie. (Oliver Butler, who directed Rainn Wilson in a Geffen Theatre production in L.A. two years ago, repeats his duties here.)

Hall commands the stage just as he did when he played the M.C. in Broadway’s “Cabaret,” especially when he leaves the stage to wander into the audience, asking questions without actually waiting for (or expecting) answers. In one case, he even lures a theatergoer on stage for a finale that defies all expectations of audience participation.

But he also introduces the sinister energy of the serial killer Dexter Morgan he played for eight seasons on Showtime, as in lines that already have a hint of menace to them: “I am — because of my own pains — going to make someone else suffer, without proportion.”

The suffering here, though, is mostly rhetorical. Because despite the odds, despite the jokey non sequiturs and detours into narrative cul-de-sacs, Hall’s (and Eno’s) Pain never plunges into nihilism as he struts and frets his just-over-an-hour upon the stage. “Keep in mind how little time there is, how little time there always was,” he says in an unexpected affirmation of life. “Then try to be brave. Try to be someone else. Someone better.”

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‘The New One’ Broadway Review: Mike Birbiglia Now Sleepwalks With a Stroller

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In the last decade, Mike Birbiglia has emerged as one of America’s most gifted comedians and monologists, bringing his brand of suburban self-deprecation and Everydude wit to shows like “Sleepwalk With Me” and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.”

And now Birbiglia has brought his latest routine, aptly titled “The New One,” to Broadway, where he settles into a much larger space with the same slackerly geniality that has served him well in smaller venues.

His subject here is parenting — and his admitted reluctance to join the club that seemed to bring tears of both joy and frustration to so many of his peers. “My brother used to be cool,” he notes early on. “Then he had two kids.”

Part of Birbiglia’s reluctance stems from a fear of a diminished status in his own home — and with a wife he seems to truly adore. “I didn’t know what ‘nothing’ meant until I became a dad,” he says. “You’re this pudgy milk-less vice president of the family. Your whole job is to be around and have no opinions.”

Don’t let Birbiglia’s Build-a-Bear physique, schlubby uniform (khakis and ill-fitting casual shirt) or milquetoasted voice fool you. Or maybe do — because his very relatability allows him to get away with surprisingly sharp-edged humor about some very serious subjects.

When Birbiglia runs down a numbered list of his arguments against having kids, most revolve around his own insecurities and suspected shortcomings as a dad. “If we’re being honest with ourselves, kids hold us back,” he says, before edging into more charged waters. “My best example of this is the history of women.”

This is just one of the outrageous, did-he-just-say-that? shockers that Birbiglia laces into his routine — one that he quickly walks back with a convoluted explanation about how “women are smarter than men, their brains are more sophisticated, and they make 21 cents on the dollar … How did this HAPPEN!? The answer is…children.”

No, the logic doesn’t quite track — but he somehow manages to verbally dig himself out of his own rhetorical hole, like any quick-thinking husband might when he finds that he’s run afoul of the Mrs.

In another revealing moment, he recalls a seven-hour drive home with a bad case of the flu to a sleepless newborn and a yelling wife. At that low point, he confesses, “I get why dads leave.”

Not that Birbiglia himself ever would, of course (“I love my wife and where would I go?”), but he finally understood the impulse.

After all, the guy who went to Amsterdam’s Red Light district when he was 23 and chose the prostitute with the shortest line (“she was a cross between Matt Damon and Bill O’Reilly”) is the sort of guy who sticks around, even when things get a little rough. Maybe because he’s able to laugh at the situation — and make everyone else laugh, too.

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