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'Transformers 5' Endures Franchise Low As Indies Perform Well At The Box Office (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 15:35:15 -0400)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - It seems the “Transformers” franchise is rusty.

As of Sunday morning, “Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fifth installment directed by Michael Bay, looks to bring in $69.1 million from 4,069 domestic locations during its five-day opening weekend. That’s a franchise low for the sequel from Paramount and Hasbro, behind the first in the modern series, which earned $70.5 million in 2007. “The Last Knight” carries an estimated $217 million production budget.

This makes “Transformers: The Last Knight” the latest summer blockbuster to bank on overseas ticket sales to have a shot at turning a profit. In China, the big-budget action sequel made $41 million in its opening day alone. The projected international come through Sunday is $196.2 million, powered by $123.4 million in China.

“The Last Knight” comes at a time when Paramount could have used an all-around hit, following recent misses “Baywatch” and “Ghost in the Shell.” While the latest “Transformers” movie has been advertised as “the final chapter” and Bay’s last go-around, the franchise will continue ― Paramount has at least two more movies slated, including a spinoff that could star Hailee Steinfeld. The franchise has historically been massively profitable and seen solid multiples for the studio. Together, the first four earned over $1.3 billion domestically and well over $3.5 billion worldwide.

The latest take on the series centers on an alliance between Bumblebee, Cade Yeager ― who Mark Wahlberg also played in 2014′s “Age of Extinction” ― and roles played by franchise newcomers Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock. Together, the team works together to save the world. Audiences have earned the film a B+ CinemaScore, while critics have mostly dismissed it ― it currently holds a 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The Last Knight” was uncontested at the box office this weekend, but a few indie releases showed traction. Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” remake from Focus Features played at four theaters this weekend, and should gross $240,545 with a strong per screen average before it expands to over 500 locations next weekend.

“We’re thrilled by this opening,” said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features’ distribution president. “This is Focus’ third collaboration with Sofia and she’s created an entertaining, atmospheric thriller featuring strong female representation in front of and behind the camera.”

And Kumail Nanjiani’s critically adored romantic comedy “The Big Sick” should earn $435,000 during its opening weekend in five locations ― that would give the Lionsgate and Amazon Studios release the highest per screen average of any film that has opened this year so far.

“Kumail and Emily’s true story provided audiences of all ages a much-needed alternative to the summer blockbusters,” said Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ distribution chief.

Otherwise, “Wonder Woman” continues to post impressive numbers, and holds onto second place during its fourth weekend in theaters. This weekend, it should earn an additional $25.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $318.4 million. Earlier this week, the film became the highest-grossing live-action movie to be directed by a woman ― a major distinction for Patty Jenkins.

Disney and Pixar’s “Cars 3” also looks to earn $25.2 million domestically during its second weekend. Some estimates have the film slightly lower, just below $25 million. The family film, which won last weekend’s box office, is expected to pass the $100 million mark in North America by Monday.

“Transformers: The Last Knight’s” performance is a tough break for the summer box office’s bottom line domestically. For the past two years, this weekend has seen monster grosses for “Jurassic World” and “Finding Dory.” Now, attention is turned toward a trio of releases next weekend, as the box office hopes for a shot in the arm from “Despicable Me 3,” “Baby Driver,” and “The House.”

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Netflix Cancels 'Girlboss' After One Season (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 14:15:52 -0400)

After not-so-great reviews and fan critique, Netflix has decided to cancel “Girlboss” ― the show “loosely” based on the life of Nasty Gal founder and #Girlboss writer Sophia Amoruso. The series ran for one 13-episode season. 

According to Variety, Amoruso took to her Instagram story on Saturday to share the news, writing:

So that Netflix series about my life got canceled. While I’m proud of the work we did, I’m looking forward to controlling my narrative from here on out. It was a good show, and I was privileged to work with incredible talent, but living my life as a caricature was hard even if only for two months. Yes, I can be difficult. No, I’m not a dick. No, someone named Shane never cheated on me. It will be nice to someday tell the story of what’s happened in the last few years. Ppl read the headline, not the correction, I’ve learned.

Once she posted the statement, many assumed she was “throwing shade” at the show for misrepresenting her life and personality. Amoruso headed to Instagram again to silence the haters. 

“Jesus Christ. I absolutely loved the show and am so sad it’s over. I am grateful for it all,” she wrote on her Instagram story. “But how a website can conflate ‘throwing shade’ with saying that a woman is excited to own her narrative after bankruptcy headlines, false lawsuits, and a dramatized series is created (which I will repeat: I loved and am proud of) is bonkers. I’m sorry if I hurt anyone. Being me usually means hurting someone at any given time. Maybe I am a dick after all.” 

Thank you @charlizeafrica for choosing to play and produce flawed female characters. Proud to be one.

A post shared by sophia amoruso (@sophiaamoruso) on

Amoruso’s fashion retailer Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy last year just as the show was gearing up to be released. It debuted on Netflix on April 21, but seemingly failed to secure a committed following. “Girlboss” received a 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, as sites like The New York Times and The Guardian said the on-screen Sophia (Britt Robertson) “isn’t particularly interesting” and is “a walking selfie, whining about having to work for a living.”

“Pitch Perfect” screenwriter Kay Cannon served as executive producer and showrunner of the series, with Charlize Theron also executive producing alongside Laverne McKinnon, Beth Kono, Christian Ditter and Amoruso.

“Girlboss” joins other canceled Netflix series, such as “The Get Down” and “Sense8.” 

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'Spider-Man' Producer Uses Perfect Word To Explain Why The Cast Is So Diverse (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 13:24:34 -0400)

With a great “Spider-Man” movie comes a greatly diverse cast.

Marvel and Sony’s new spin on the story, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” includes actors from all different backgrounds, ethnicities and ages taking on pivotal roles. Zendaya and Jacob Batalon play Spider-Man’s friends, Laura Harrier is his love interest, and Marisa Tomei plays a younger version of Aunt May.

Everyone seems flipped around in one way or another, and the actors are into it.

At the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” press conference in New York on Sunday, Latino actor Tony Revolori thanked producers for giving him the role of Flash Thompson, which is traditionally a white character.

“Thank you to Jon [Watts], Amy [Pascal] and Kevin [Feige] for casting a 5-foot-8 brown guy to play a 6-foot-2 blond, blue-eyed guy,” said the actor. 

The actors and producers of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” were asked about the inspiration behind the casting during the press conference, and producer Amy Pascal stepped up and dropped the mic.

“I would say the inspiration for it was reality,” said Pascal.

Yup. Reality.

The response was met with applause and “amens” from the cast and audience. 

It appears everyone in production was on the same page from the beginning. Director Jon Watts previously addressed the diversity topic, similarly telling The Daily Beast:

Peter Parker goes to high school in Queens, and Queens is one of ― if not the ― most diverse places in the world. So I just wanted it to reflect what that actually looks like. 

By looking at the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” cast, it’s clear this is not the same old “Spider-Man” movie we’ve become accustomed to. This is something better, and it has the positive social media reviews — and will likely get the box-office numbers — to prove it.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” swings into theaters July 7.

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'Pitch Perfect 3' Looks Like An Aca-Awesome Action Movie In New Trailer (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 10:35:32 -0400)

The wait is over, pitches. 

The trailer for “Pitch Perfect 3” is here and by the looks of it, the new installment in the a cappella franchise is action-packed. (What is this, “Mission: Impossible”?)

After the Barden Bellas graduate college, they struggle to find a place in the real world. That’s when they decide to reunite and hit the road on the USO tour in Europe to prove they still got it. But what would a “Pitch Perfect” movie be without some intense competition? 

Beca (Anna Kendrick), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and Aubrey (yes, Anna Camp is back!) battle it out with Calamity (Ruby Rose) and crew to earn back their distinction as one of the best singing groups out there ― instruments and explosives included. 

This should be aca-awesome. Watch the full trailer above.

“Pitch Perfect 3,” written by Kay Cannon and directed by Trish Sie, hits theaters in December.  

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Erin Andrews Marries Jarret Stoll In Intimate Sunset Ceremony (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 09:34:44 -0400)

A big congratulations goes out to Erin Andrews

The “Dancing with the Stars” co-host and sportscaster, 39, married former NHL player Jarret Stoll in a romantic, intimate ceremony in Montana on Saturday (his 35th birthday!), her rep confirmed to People. The couple reportedly said their “I dos” at sunset, with Andrews wearing a gorgeous white, off-the-shoulder Carolina Herrera gown with her hair pulled back. Stoll looked dapper in a black tuxedo.

Congrats to @erinandrews & @jarretstoll28 for their wedding on Saturday ♥️ #dwts #dwtshost #wedding #dancingwiththestars #ErinAndrews #JarretStoll

A post shared by Videos&Infos Upload (@dwtsupdate) on

A small group of family and friends celebrated at a reception, designed by celebrity wedding planner Yifat Oren.

Andrews took to Instagram earlier in the week to share a photo of a Montana sunset, simply writing, “Stop.” 


A post shared by Erin Andrews (@erinandrews) on

Andrews and Stoll got engaged last December after dating for three years. They’ve supported each other through many ups and downs, most recently Andrews’ cervical cancer diagnosis in September 2016, which she kept secret until this year.

“I’m somebody who never misses a doctor’s appointment,” she told HuffPost of the surprise diagnosis. “That’s why I think my situation was so scary and so unbelievable. I hadn’t missed an annual with my gynecologist. This came up over a year and it really took us by shock.”

Andrews said the entire situation made her relationship with Stoll stronger than ever, as she saw that he would stand by her side through the toughest of times. 

“We hadn’t even been discussing marriage. We hadn’t discussed babies! It really puts things on the fast track for you — because you have an oncologist saying to you, ‘We highly recommend that you guys do your embryos right now, freeze them,’” she told Health magazine. “I’m like, ‘Hi, hon. I love you. I hope we’re spending  our lives together.’ And he was amazing.”

Cheers to the happy couple!

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Here's An Amazing Way To Explain Drag Culture To Kids (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 09:28:54 -0400)

The latest episode of our favorite queer web series for kids is tackling the nuances of drag culture and performance in the queer community.

“Queer Kid Stuff” is an LGBTQ web series that breaks down queer themes, experiences and topics in ways that are accessible, fun and educational for children. Creator and star Lindsey Amer is pushing out extra episodes this June for Pride month, and this week she’s focusing on drag.

For this very special episode, Amer brought on her friend, Brooklyn-based queen Ms.Ter, to talk about performing in drag.

“Drag is something that’s really accessible to kids because they’re so used to dress up and play as a part of their everyday routine,” Amer told HuffPost. “We wanted to talk about it for Pride Month because of the deep roots drag has in LGBTQ+ celebrations and because kids going out to parades with their grown ups are going to see lots of people in drag and they might have questions. Who better to answer those questions than a drag queen?”

Check out the episode above and head here to see more from “Queer Kid Stuff”.

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Friend Of Late ‘Toy Story’ Writer Reveals What May Be Andy’s Heartbreaking Backstory (Sun, 25 Jun 2017 02:04:44 -0400)

Two days after the friend of a late “Toy Story” writer revealed a previously untold and devastating story about Andy’s dad, a Pixar writer lashed out on Twitter calling it “utterly” false.

Let’s back up. This week, Jonathan Carlin of Super Carlin Brothers published his YouTube video interview with Mike Mozart, a toy designer who was friends with Joe Ranft, the Pixar head writer who co-wrote “Toy Story.” 

According to Carlin’s interview, which went viral this week, Mozart said Ranft had revealed to him over lunch why the dad of main character Andy was suspiciously absent from the film. Mozart told HuffPost he had met Ranft through his work in toy design. Their conversation about Andy’s backstory took place over a decade ago, he said, before Ranft died in 2005.

The video of Mozart and Carlin eventually caught the attention of Andrew Stanton, who was on the writing staff with Ranft for the first two “Toy Story” films. 

Stanton on Saturday rebutted Mozart’s claim that Ranft had a secret backstory by tweeting a link to a news article about Mozart’s interview and calling it, “Complete and utter fake news.” He included the hashtag #Iwasthere.

However, Stanton’s tweet did not specify what was fake about the interview and representatives for Stanton and Pixar did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for clarification. 

Ranft’s story, as Mozart recalled to Carlin, goes like this: Andy’s father is also named Andy. He was the original owner of the Woody doll. As a kid, Andy Sr. was poor, bullied and a huge fan of the TV show “Woody’s Roundup.” He was also the only kid in the world who had Woody, which he received after writing a letter to a cereal company, because the doll was the sole prototype of a marketing gimmick that had been cut short after Woody’s TV show was canceled. (This theory would explain why Woody was considered so rare in the sequel.)

Then, Andy Sr. contracted polio and nearly all of his toys ― except for Woody, Slinky and Mr. Potato Head ― were burned as a result. He eventually recovered from the disease, grew up, got married and had a son whom he named after himself. Later in life, Andy Sr. was diagnosed with a fatal case of post-polio syndrome. On his deathbed, Andy Sr. asked his son to retrieve a chest from the attic. By the time Andy Jr. returned with the chest, his father had already died.

Andy Jr. opened the chest with a key left to him by his father after the funeral. Inside was Mr. Potato Head, Slinky and, of course, Woody.

Despite Stanton’s denial, Mozart stands by the retelling of his conversation with Ranft.

“It’s not a theory,” Mozart told HuffPost. “The story was told to me by Joe Ranft about 12 to 14 years ago over lunch.” 

Mozart said Ranft was so animated and passionate when detailing Andy’s dad’s life that he believed the Pixar writer had created the storyline, at least in his head, for a good deal of time.

When asked if he was upset by Stanton’s tweet, Mozart said no, adding that Stanton “never said [Ranft’s story for Andy’s dad] was a lie.”

And while Ranft is unfortunately unable to back up Mozart’s claim, one thing is certain: That backstory for Andy is truly heartbreaking.

Watch Carlin’s full video with Mozart below.

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Tamra Judge On What's Ahead On 'Real Housewives Of Orange County' (Sat, 24 Jun 2017 21:39:21 -0400)

It’s hard to believe that Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC), the oldest in Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, has been on the air for over a decade. Although Tamra Judge joined the show during its third season in 2007, it feels like she was part of the introductory ensemble which included Vicki Gunvalson, often referred to as “The OG of the OC.” Vicki is still a part of the cast and has been integral to the show’s many and varied story lines from Seasons 1 through 11. Unsurprisingly, she rejoins the cast again in the upcoming Season 12. Back in Season 3, she bonded with then-newcomer Tamra and the two have been through the highest of ups and the lowest of downs. Tamra, like Vicki, has proven she too can maintain a committed relationship with a network and franchise through reality TV’s tests, tricks, twists, trials and tribulations. The show has seen Tamra through a bitter marital demise (she’s now remarried), being screamed at by all her cast mates to the point of having to flee a room, and the turbulent on-again off-again (currently off) dysfunctional relationship with Vicki.

Somehow, Tamra and Vicki always seemed to find their way back to being close friends and partying together despite swearing they would never speak again. Last season however, it seemed that things were truly final, that there was no love left between the two ladies and there would be no reconciliation this time. Vicki had been spreading salacious rumors about Tamra’s husband Eddie, an understandable “last straw” for someone who cherishes her “third time’s a charm” marriage. What made matters worse was that Season 11 newcomer Kelly Dodd, outspoken to the point of verbal diarrhea, was Vicki’s partner in shit-talking crime.

The Housewives were divided as things became contentious. After filming for Season 11 wrapped, rumors began to fly about Kelly’s marriage and an alleged adulterous paramour. The blogs had a field day. Watch What Happens Live had to screen out callers after a few went rogue dropping bombshells live on air. Luckily for Bravo and its leading ladies, the cast would soon stop doing any press interviews because the season was over. The ensuing hiatus would give everyone a chance to catch their breaths. We, the viewers, collectively held ours, unsure of who would return the following season to pick up the pieces, clean up the mess and attempt to (as Dorinda Medley of RHONY says) “make it nice.”

I had the opportunity to speak with Tamra Judge to get a sense of how she feels going in to her tenth season, Season 12 of The Real Housewives of Orange County:

There was a ton of drama at the end of last season with Kelly Dodd and Vicki Gunvalson. However, you all have to hang out together regardless when you start filming. What was it like going into this season when you hadn’t spoken to these ladies in months?

It was scary!

I had this uncomfortable feeling going into it and I didn’t know what to expect. The girls, Vicki and Kelly, had a lot to say about David Beador (cast mate Shannon’s husband) and Eddie (Tamra’s husband). It ended in a really ugly way last season and I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t want to rehash that stuff. Also, even though you’re on a show together with these people, you just don’t want these people in your life.

That brings me to a question that my friend Megan T. has: If you weren’t filming RHOC, would you have anything to do with Vicki?

NO. There’s no need for me to.

Amy C. asks: Are there any particular Housewives that viewers will turn against this season?

You know…I don’t know…I was actually just saying that it’s such a different season this year. The cast was a little bit split almost three quarters of the way through filming .

I don’t know what Kelly and Vicki did most of the time because I was filming much more with Meghan and Shannon. Peggy is the new girl and I didn’t film with her all that much either. This season, there was lots of filming done individually and a focus on family stuff, whereas in the past there was lots of group stuff. I could be wrong but that’s how it felt. You’ll see that I am participating in a documentary about parents who have been unfairly estranged or separated from their kids called Erasing Family. (This is something that Tamra is personally passionate about – she has recently reconnected with her daughter and their relationship is a work in progress. In the first episode, she briefly mentions that she would regularly text her daughter and one day her daughter finally responded. Tamra says this relationship is on the mend with her ex-husband Simon’s cooperation).

Shannon is struggling with her weight and that’s something that lots of people connect to. She’s in her 50s, there are all sorts of hormones and it’s not as easy to lose weight as it is to gain it. Shannon is very open and candid, which makes her the perfect housewife. She really lays it all out there and that takes balls. People will really just want to hug her.

What did you think of Kelly Dodd’s return to the show after last season?

I was a little surprised, however I think she’s good TV. There’s a fine line and Andy Cohen talks about this. When people love to hate you, It’s still makes for good TV but when people hate to hate you, it’s uncomfortable and the line has been crossed. She was really close to that line and I didn’t know if she could redeem herself, but she does this season. I mean, she’s still Kelly, but you see a softer side of Kelly. She said outrageous things last season and I honestly didn’t know if she was capable of redeeming herself. She must have internalized “I was a bit of a jerk” and reflected. She knew what she had to work on and she is less abrasive this season. Last season she got in trouble for things that she said, but this season she really controlled her mouth. She is a great example of someone who learned from seeing her mistakes play back on TV and I was impressed by this softer side of Kelly Dodd.

You are friends with both Lydia and Shannon and we see in the trailer that the two of them clash. How was it navigating things between these ladies who are both your friends?

Actually, it was very stressful for me. You see that I try to be a peacemaker and I explain to Lydia that “Shannon is expressive, she’s not yelling at you” and I’m trying to tell Shannon that Lydia’s really sweet which Shannon wasn’t buying. The thing is, Shannon is intense and people take something she says in a way that she really doesn’t mean. You have to get to know Shannon and once you do, it’s easy. Shannon and I are extremely close and we didn’t start out that way when we first met.

In the first episode, there’s a quick scene with you and your granddaughter. How does it feel to be a grandma?

I haven’t gotten to use the word “grandma.” Someone brought me a baseball cap that says “Glamma “and even with that, I just can’t bring myself to wear it. I had Ryan when I was really young and my mom said at the time “I’m too young to be a grandma.” Now I know how she feels! Eddie sure gets a kick out of it and constantly says “Hi Grandma!”

Jim Edmonds, the former professional baseball player and husband to Real Housewife Meghan King Edmonds, has gotten a really rough edit in prior seasons. He has seemed grumpy and not so interested in his wife, but in the first episode of Season 12 we see how amazing he is with their adorable newborn. Having met him in person, what do you think of him?

Jim IS a really nice guy and I think he might be a little uncomfortable in front of the cameras. He’s very loving to Meghan and very supportive.. but he does travel a lot so that’s gotta be stressful. He is a great dad, a really great dad.

Vicki’s new guy Steve seems to have it all together and he’s a former homicide detective!! Have you met him and what are your thoughts on this relationship?

Even though Vicki and I are not the friends we once were, I have met him a couple of times. I don’t know him really well but he seems like a nice guy, also a very handsome one.

Didn’t he do his detective work to find out more about Vicki?

I didn’t say that! (laughs) You did. I was being nice, but seriously he is a good guy. Sometimes you’ll look for things…like ‘hmm what could possibly be wrong with this guy?’ when you’re in this situation and it’s very hurtful that people were talking about Eddie and spreading malicious lies…Steve was a police officer who seems to have it all together. He appears to be a solid guy.

Amanda D. wants to know which Housewives you are closest with outside of the OC franchise.

The ladies that you see me hang out with the most this season are the ones I am also closest with: Shannon is my girl. I had kept in touch with Lydia and you’ll see us together. I’m also close with Meghan.

Why has Vicki’s daughter Briana never become a Housewife? We do see so much of her and what it’s like for her to be a mother now. Are you still close with Briana?

I don’t know why she’s not a Housewife. I actually just got together with Briana’s designer and had a full conversation about her. I like Briana but have had to pull back because I don’t have a relationship with her mother. So, out of respect to Vicki, I don’t initiate conversations or really see her. Of course, if she writes me, I’ll write back but Vicki did say to me at one point that she would not like me to talk to her daughter. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I try to put myself in her shoes.

Erica R. asks: Are there any surprising new friendships or friendships that fall apart in Season 12?

There are some friendships that get strained, but that will occur towards the end of the season so I’m not going to spoil it for you. You will have to stay tuned. Me and Shannon and Meghan are all good friends and Shannon, Kelly and I have moved forward from where we were last season. As you know, Lydia who was on the show a few seasons ago returned for this season and we always maintained a friendship. It was nice to have Lydia back. It’s definitely a lot different this season. Lydia really has a voice this season and comparatively, she was quiet the last time she was on. Now she really stands up for what she believes in.

Real Housewives of Orange County premieres July 10 at 9/8c on Bravo.

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Dan Harmon Finally Reveals Reason Behind 'Rick And Morty' Delays (Sat, 24 Jun 2017 15:16:23 -0400)

It’s been roughly an eternity since the last season of “Rick and Morty” (or more accurately, roughly under two years).

The delay for the third season has gone on so long that co-creator Dan Harmon is now worried that fans are speculating the Adult Swim’s animated show won’t be coming back at all. “Rick and Morty” debuted the season three premiere on April Fool’s, but since then there’s essentially been radio silence on the subsequent episodes.

So to quell online rumors that he’s been fighting with co-creator Justin Roiland or that the show is doomed, Harmon wrote a statement truncated into tweets this morning. This apparently isn’t like the 2012 situation with Harmon’s former show, “Community,” when the NBC network and Sony ousted him, leaving a carcass of the television program to decay through a horrid Harmon-less season. 

Harmon and Roiland are just taking forever to perfect this thing. 

“But the truth in this case is so very boring,” wrote Harmon. “I will put it to you as objectively as I can ... The reason S3 took long is because it took long to write, because it was S3 of a show that we were scared to make worse than S2 or S1.”

Fair enough. It’s still entirely unclear when this wonderful show is coming back though.

Below is Harmon’s long, “hungover thread” on Twitter:

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Real Frustrated Lawyers Tell A Fake Trump They Won't Save Him (Sat, 24 Jun 2017 12:39:36 -0400)

Throughout the last month, President Donald Trump and his team keep confirming and then denying that he is under investigation by the Department of Justice.

Besides Trump confirming an investigation on Twitter, the most notable instance was his lawyer, Jay Sekulow, claiming that Trump was under investigation and then that he wasn’t under investigation during the same “Fox News Sunday” interview.

It remains unclear whether Trump truly is under a high-level investigation, but that didn’t stop Comedy Central’s “The President Show” from constructing an entire segment to parody the president’s dire/maybe-not-dire situation.

You’ve defended con-artists, foreign agents and mobsters, but have you ever done all three at once?
Parody of Donald Trump

The parody Trump addresses this confusion by saying, “I realized this week that I need to build a tremendous legal team to help me with this investigation that I’m totally not under ― wink!” Of course, he didn’t really wink towards the camera because his eyes were already in an uncomfortable-looking squint.

The parody Trump, played by Anthony Atamanuik, then auditioned real lawyers to join his legal team.

“You’ve defended con-artists, foreign agents and mobsters, but have you ever done all three at once?” the parody Trump asked one of these lawyers while pointing to himself.

It quickly became clear, though, that the underlying premise for this sketch was for lawyers to vent their overwhelming frustration with Trump to this stand-in for the president.

One of the recruited lawyers is Gloria Allred, a civil rights lawyer who has filed a lawsuit against Trump in New York. She is representing women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. 

Trump isn’t getting away from facing his problems this time. Even if it’s sadly just a parody.

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'Julius Caesar' Star Considered The Play To Be Donald Trump 'Resistance' (Sat, 24 Jun 2017 10:53:04 -0400)

The New York Public Theater’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s 400-year-old play, “Julius Caesar” was embroiled in controversy this month, with protests over a choice to costume the titular character as President Donald Trump. This wardrobe decision was controversial because senators plot to stab Caesar to death in the play. 

Now that this run of “Julius Caesar” has come to an end, actor Corey Stoll has written a piece for Vulture about what it was like to star in the play. Stoll had the role of Marcus Brutus, a reluctant assassin of Caesar.

Although the play is explicitly about the pitfalls of assassination, Stoll wrote that following through with the play amid the protest eventually felt like a contribution to the “resistance.” These days, that term is loaded to evoke the phrase ”#resist” which refers to a rallying cry against Trump.

“The protesters never shut us down, but we had to fight each night to make sure they did not distort the story we were telling,” wrote Stoll in the piece that was published Friday. “At that moment, watching my castmates hold their performances together, it occurred to me that this is resistance.”

Watch video of two protestors disrupting a performance:

Stoll, who memorably played an eventually murdered politician in the first season of “House of Cards,” said that he had no idea this production would portray Trump so explicitly before signing on to the role.

After four weeks in the rehearsal room, we moved to the theater and I saw Caesar’s Trump-like costume and wig for the first time. I was disappointed by the literal design choice.
Corey Stoll

Stoll was frustrated by the choice at first, as he feared involving Trump would overshadow the rest of the performance. 

A passage from Stoll’s piece:

When I signed on to play the reluctant assassin Marcus Brutus in this production, I didn’t know Caesar would be an explicit avatar for President Trump. I suspected that an American audience in 2017 might see aspects of him in the character, a democratically elected leader with autocratic tendencies. I did not think anyone would see it as an endorsement of violence against him. The play makes it clear that Caesar’s murder, which occurs midway through the play, is ruinous for Brutus and his co-conspirators, and for democracy itself ...

After four weeks in the rehearsal room, we moved to the theater and I saw Caesar’s Trump-like costume and wig for the first time. I was disappointed by the literal design choice. I had little fear of offending people, but I worried that the nuanced character work we had done in the rehearsal room would get lost in what could seem like a “Saturday Night Live” skit. I was right and wrong.

After the president’s eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., blamed this production for the actions of the gunman who fired on a baseball team made up of Republican congressmen, Stoll began to fear for his own life.

“Like most Americans, I was saddened and horrified, but when the president’s son and others blamed us for the violence, I became scared,” wrote Stoll.

The production was plagued with disruptions from protestors, but fortunately had none that caused physically critical harm.

Read the whole piece at Vulture.

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Diva Devotee Seth Sikes Honors Pride With A Celebratory New Show (Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:46:37 -0400)

Few performers are as perfectly suited for Pride weekend as Seth Sikes.

The 33-year-old cabaret star has been thrilling audiences with his tribute concerts to Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli for nearly three years. On June 24, however, he’ll go all out with a no-holds-barred show at New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below featuring songs made famous by the aforementioned divas, as well as Bernadette Peters and Barbra Streisand. (Catch a sneak peek of Sikes performing a tune from the musical “Gypsy” above.) 

“Usually my goal is to keep the songbook alive and celebrate the ladies,” Sikes told HuffPost. “But this time, the goal is to get people in a happy, happy mood to go out dancing afterward... what celebrates Pride more than a bunch of diva songs?” 

What began as a “one-night-only stunt” in 2014 has taken Sikes across the country, and even internationally, since then. Most recently, he celebrated what would have been Garland’s 95th birthday with a performance in London ― a particularly fitting tribute, as the “Wizard of Oz” star capped off her unparalleled career with a string of shows in England’s capital. 

Of course, Sikes is aware that his Pride weekend show comes at a time when many LGBTQ people are still reeling from the election of President Donald Trump, who ran on an explicitly anti-queer platform. The performer, who has not shied away from politics on social media, won’t mention Trump during his performance, but rather “have some fun” while reminding people that the LGBTQ community is “mighty and not going away.” 

“I talked a little bit about Trump in my last show,” he said. “But frankly, at this point, I’m so sick of hearing about him and talking about him, I probably won’t bring it up at all this time. Let’s forget the asshole for a moment!” 

For now, Sikes couldn’t be happier to be honoring Pride with a brand-new show. “I think Pride is about family and community and a celebration of our unique culture. We have a lot of that to celebrate right now ― including our lady icons ― and we have a lot to be grateful for, including marriage equality,” he said. “But we can’t take any of it for granted.” 

Seth Sikes performs at New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below June 24. Next up, he’ll visit the Crown & Anchor in Provincetown, Massachusetts on July 8 and Aug. 7. 

Find ways to celebrate Pride by subscribing to the Queer Voices newsletter. 

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Bill Maher On GOP Health Care Bill: 'Behold, A Turd!' (Sat, 24 Jun 2017 02:00:13 -0400)

Bill Maher was an equal opportunity political offender during Friday night’s monologue on “Real Time.” Between the Republicans’ secret health care bill and the “losing” Democrats, no one was safe from his savage burns.

Maher dug right in to “lame” Democrats first in an attempt to understand how Jon Ossoff lost the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District even after the party poured so much money into his campaign.

“He came so close,” Maher quipped. “Party leaders are calling it a terrifying brush with success.”

The comedian begged Democrats to stop losing elections because “the wrong people are in power.” Then he turned his attention to the so-called “wrong people” by tearing apart the release of the Senate Republican’s secretive health care bill.

“Everybody is saying it was unveiled — unveiled is not the right term,” Maher said. “You unveil a sculpture. Nobody goes, ‘Behold, a turd!’”

The comedian highlighted the darkest items on the bill, which he called “a manifesto from the Zodiac Killer.”

The bill makes deep cuts to Medicaid, it allows states to drop protections established by Obamacare for people with pre-existing conditions and, Maher explained, “just for spite, it defunds Planned Parenthood.”

“No more gynecological exams,” he added. “Although Trump says he’s still available to grab pussies.”

Maher ended his rant on the health care bill with a grim warning: “Do not kid yourself. This will pass. Republicans get shit done.”

Watch the full segment above.

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Craig David On His Unstoppable Rise As One Of Britain’s Biggest Black Music Stars (Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:02:01 -0400)

Craig David spoke his career into existence when he titled his debut album “Born To Do It.”

The British-born singer came on the scene in 2000 with a soulful single titled “7 Days,” breaking into the booming R&B era of the early aughts with a song that carried the smooth melodies and sensual lyrics that defined the genre at the time. His second single, “Fill Me In,” which came with a faster tempo, dropped shortly after to much fanfare.  

With the release of several other bangers like “Walking Away” and “Rendezvous,” David’s popularity rapidly grew. Although he was just 18 years old when his first album dropped, he proved that he had the appeal to quickly amass a legion of fans worldwide while selling millions of records.

Within months of the album’s debut, David had become a superstar ― and over the years, he has effectively cemented his status as one of Britain’s biggest black music stars. 

Arena shows so soon. Fired up & ready to go @lukedyson

A post shared by Craig David (@craigdavid) on

David’s debut album was a powerful and well-executed project that truly catapulted his career, which has spanned nearly two decades, six studio albums, countless collaborations and endless sold-out shows in cities across the world.

The singer, who was based in the U.K. throughout much of his life, was named the 2017 British Male Solo Artist for the influence of his latest album, “Following My Intuition.” Now, he splits his time between England and Miami, traveling to perform at packed venues and build better connections with audiences around the globe. In light of June being Black Music Month, HuffPost spoke to the star during his recent tour stop in New York about his evolution over the years and just how much of a roller coaster ride his journey to success has been.

“The ride I’ve been on has been amazing because there’s been a lot of character-building,” David told HuffPost in an interview at the New York office for Sony, his record label. “What are you really doing this for and where are you going? You ask those questions and when you answer them honestly, I realize that the only thing I ever really loved is being in the studio and making music and going out and performing and positively impacting people’s lives.”

For David, life is all about the journey and the experiences that build the memories, connections and foundation that help to define who he is ― and, perhaps more importantly, who he wants to become. 

“It used to be about getting from one place to the destination and always looking for the next thing ― which is great, that’s drive and passion for what you do,” he said. “But one thing I’ve learned over the last 16 years is that it’s about the journey. It’s OK to have the goals, but what was fun was leading toward it.” 

David’s journey has indeed been a remarkable one ― but he said his success is simply a result of him learning to listen to his heart and better believe in his abilities to provide unforgettable musical experiences. This new approach led him to title his latest album “Following My Intuition.” The 18-track album was released last September and boasts a repertoire of songs that reflect various styles of music like pop, garage and EDM. There are upbeat singles like “16,” featuring Justin Beiber, which mashes together his classic hit “Fill Me In” with “Where Are Ü Now.” And then there are soothing numbers like “Got It Good” with music star Kaytranada. 

While many of the songs are a departure from the slower-paced R&B ballads he was known for on his first album, David said he enjoys the process of experimenting with and evolving his musical style by exploring new songs with new artists and identifying new ways to express himself. Whatever the case, staying true to himself remains his top priority.

“Authenticity comes up to me as being the key to everything that I’m experiencing now and maybe in the earlier parts of my career, which was a very dynamic moment,” he said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride … but it’s all come down to authenticity. It’s like as soon as I start to follow my intuition ― yes, that is a pun ― that’s when it all started to happen.”

“[Growing up] I was exposed to a lot of R&B, a lot of hip-hop, a lot of dance, I was hearing this mix of music, I was very aware,” he added, going on to explain what makes “Following My Intuition” so special for him: “When I made the album, it connected on such a level that I never expected.”

‪Listening to the album getting prepared for the arena tour next year is getting me way too excited #FMI

A post shared by Craig David (@craigdavid) on

David’s deep love for music also led him to dabble in DJ’ing, which he said has always been a passion of his. In fact, he frequently hosted lavish personal parties at his mansion in Miami, which quickly drew plenty of buzz and helped to establish his early start as a DJ. He has since mastered the skill of DJing to create TS5, a stage name he established for himself in 2013 for all of his live sets and singing performances.  

“TS5 is an experience,” he said. “It’s everything I’ve learned in the last 16 years as a life performer, all encapsulated with what I learned when I was doing vinyl mixing in clubs back before I released ‘Born To Do It.’”

TS5 is now a large component of David’s presence at his concerts. He DJs and sings at the same time, and opts to use a “very simplified situation” in regard to performance equipment. There are no dancers or elaborate stage props ― merely a small DJ booth and a mic ― making for a much more intimate and personal experience.  

“It’s very hands-on and my thing is not to stay behind the booth, but to come out of the booth,” he said. “It’s a performance, a live performance and an open format of what I’m gonna play. I want to keep your attention for every single minute I’m on that stage.”  

“I want to give 110 percent onstage,” he added. “I just feel like I want to give everything on that stage and in the studio. No regrets, no would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, I’ve got to give it everything.” 

I attended his show that evening following the interview, and David delivered on his word. By mixing his own vocals, songs and instrumentals with classic throwback songs from artists like Whitney Houston and TLC, David dominates onstage and does not disappoint. And if selling back-to-back sold-out shows isn’t any indication of his current success as a performer, simply check out a clip from a recent show and note the rousing crowd reaction:

So ready✨Who's coming to my @TS5 shows this summer? ☀️ #TS5

A post shared by Craig David (@craigdavid) on

David said he wouldn’t be the artist he is today if it weren’t for the influences from classic R&B legends including Boyz II Men and R. Kelly. He also credits rappers like Biggie, Big Pun and Tupac for the inspiration they have given him. As for more contemporary artists he admires, David mentioned Drake ― and while he notes that “a lot of people compare me to him,” he said he’s “never seen it like a competition.”

David did admit, however, that he has his sights set on building more traction with American fans and expanding his exposure in cities around the country. This year alone, he has already sold out several shows in the States and is returning in October for more performances.

“I’m coming for you, Miami, I’m coming for you, Madison Square Garden,” he said with confidence ― and if his unstoppable rise so far is any indication, David only has more dreams to accomplish. 

“I know, first hand, that when I do something and I actually have conviction with it and I just go, special things happen,” he said. “It’s a force to be reckoned with when you speak on it, act on it and you keep it going.”

“You’ve got to follow your intuition,” I said, to which he replied with a smile: “You know the drill.”

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Willie Nelson Lights Up Toby Keith's New Marijuana Ditty 'Wacky Tobaccy' (Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:09:21 -0400)

Toby Keith knows you can’t do a country song about cannabis without having Willie Nelson involved in some capacity.

On Thursday, the country superstar released “Wacky Tobaccy,” a ditty about the joys of smoking marijuana ― the real stuff the lyrics emphasize, not the synthetic kind.

Although Keith has collaborated with Nelson before, the Red-Headed Stranger only appears on camera this time.

“Willie Nelson’s in the video. He didn’t sing on it, but he’s in the video,” Keith told News OK, adding that he favors legalizing pot because “if you drink liquor you ought to be able to smoke weed.”

No word on whether Keith mentioned this to Donald Trump when they visited Saudi Arabia together back in May.

The complete clip can be seen below, including a few scenes of Nelson blowing smoke ― a lot of smoke ― into Keith’s face.

Not everyone is high on the song.

Lorie Liebig, a columnist for Wide Open Country, thinks the song is Keith’s “lame attempt to stay relevant.

What could have been a fun and fresh collaboration with Willie Nelson just seems like a cheap way of keeping people interested,” she wrote. “Watching him stroll out of the bathroom with a blunt in hand feels like they are using him for a laugh instead of his talents.”

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