If this film critic picked the Oscar nominees ...

Filling out an Oscar nomination ballot - even a hypothetical one - can be an exercise in purest agony. That turned out to be especially true this year. I remain startled by the sheer quantity and range of great movies and performances I saw in 2017, which made it even harder than usual to settle on a short list of favorites.

4 pressing questions ahead of Tuesday’s Oscar nominations

Oscar nominations balloting might be finished but Hollywood’s #MeToo moment has kept right on going.

’90s folk star Jewel is finally happy

She has sung for a pope and a president, but tonight, Jewel will style her own hair and sing Christmas carols with her dad at a cozy theater in small-town Pennsylvania. It is a dramatic drop in altitude for a folk singer-turned-megastar whose debut album went platinum 15 times over back in the ’90s, when she posed for the cover of Time magazine and sang duets with Bob Dylan. But Jewel Kilcher -- who became first-name famous -- says this is exactly the life she hoped for, the outcome of a promise she made to herself long ago.

In 'Alienist,' Dakota Fanning breaks 1890s rules for women

Dakota Fanning was unfazed by being on her own for six months in Budapest or the dark nature of the TV series that brought her there, TNT’s adaptation of “The Alienist,” Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel. The young actress said creating a life in Europe proved an exciting and “transformative” time, one that allowed her to disconnect from routine demands and “lean into the experience” and her role.

Review: 'Den of Thieves' is throwback cops and robbers tale

Cops and robbers, robbers and cops. It’s a classic genre, from children’s games to cinema. And it’s the spine of Christian Gudegast’s directorial debut, the LA crime noir flick “Den of Thieves,” where “cops and robbers” is writ so large it nearly becomes abstract. It’s a film that wears its inspirations openly, with a whole lot of “Training Day,” “Rampart,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Inside Man” in the mix. With excellent cinematic craftsmanship and some clever twists, “Den of Thieves” just about places itself within that canon, even when it’s too enamored of its own tricksiness.

Review: 'Forever My Girl' doesn’t stray from Southern romance formula

Romance novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks cornered the market on a subgenre he essentially invented - exceedingly pleasant, Southern-set epic romances (between young, attractive, white, Christian, heterosexual couples). But this is a genre that overwhelmingly appeals to a female movie-going audience, so it’s about time female creators have been given a place behind the camera to shape the voice and perspective of these stories. Writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf has adapted Heidi McLaughlin’s novel in “Forever My Girl,” a tale of love lost and found.

Hip-hop’s television takeover

The ceremony for the 60th Grammy Awards is still two weeks away, but already music’s biggest TV night has made history. For the first time, hip-hop artists dominate in the academy’s top categories, including record, album and song of the year. But that sound you’re hearing isn’t champagne corks popping in celebration. It’s exasperated sighs that the Recording Academy only just discovered what the rest of the entertainment industry noticed back in the flip-phone era: Hip-hop, once an outlier, is now the status quo.

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  • Review: '12 Strong' infuses heart into war, but doesn’t dive too deep

    If you’re doing your job right in the U.S. Special Forces, it likely means no one will ever know. It’s a tough, elite and highly classified position, where acts of incredible heroism never get the ticker tape parade, and that’s kind of the point. These soldiers are supposed to slip into and out of secret missions without making the evening news. “12 Strong” tells just one of those extraordinary stories, fought in the mountains of Afghanistan in the winter of 2001.

  • Review: Jack Black cons his way into the audience's heart in 'The Polka King'

    Playing con artists seems to bring out the best in Jack Black.

  • 'Black Lightning' delivers a jolt of reality to superhero lineup

    The new year isn’t even a month old, and a new superhero is charging onto the scene, smashing into the jam-packed universe already occupied by Superman, Batman, Thor, Wonder Woman and a seemingly endless parade of costumed crime fighters. But the producers of "Black Lightning," the new CW series based on the DC Comics character, have a broader agenda than creating another fantastic world where good battles evil.

  • Franco claims add to an awards season of controversy

    "Can I change my vote?" That was the question several motion picture academy members were asking after five women accused actor James Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior in a Times investigation published Jan. 11.

  • Carrie Coon on 'The Post,' working with Steven Spielberg and defending the First Amendment

    Carrie Coon just wrapped a magnificent 2017. She won wide critical acclaim for her roles in two TV series, "Fargo" and "The Leftovers," scored an Emmy nomination, starred in the off-Broadway production of "Mary Jane," was written up in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s "Entertainers of the Year" alongside Gal Gadot, Jimmy Kimmel, Jordan Peele and Stephen King. What do you do for an encore?

  • It’s winter and Liam Neeson is back with another thriller, this time on a train

    This is Liam Neeson’s bad-guy-stomping time of year. He is an everyman avenger, a rangy vigilante who runs headlong into danger, pummeling villains and dodging bullets, knives, cars, bombs, fire and whatever unholy ploys cross his path of wreckage and redemption. He is an antidote to injustice who in a couple of furious, implausible hours delivers the sweet taste of righteous empowerment. He may be bruised and slightly tainted, a bit creaky in the joints, but his heart is pure. Mostly.

  • No wedding, no 'Crown': What’s a royal obsessive to do?

    Are you a royal desperado, in that binge watching kind of way? The House of Windsor, under that and other grand names, has provided five British monarchs to date, but it took you a quick minute to breeze through the recently released second season of “The Crown” on Netflix. And the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle isn’t until May 19, for heaven’s sake.

  • 2018 Grammys

    Morgan Heritage adds Southern touch to Grammy winning reggae

    Alongside Nashville’s famous row of honky-tonk bars and nightclubs, a new island-inspired sound is emerging in Music City thanks to a Grammy-winning ambassador for reggae music.

  • Review: 'Paddington 2' is even better than the first

    It seems miraculous when a film adaptation gets a much beloved character just right, but when the sequel is even better? That’s nearly impossible. That’s a unicorn. Director Paul King (with writer Hamish McColl) managed to set the bar high with 2015’s “Paddington,” and now, incredibly, King and co-writer Simon Farnaby raise it with “Paddington 2,” bringing the warmth and gentle humor of the late Michael Bond’s indelible children’s books to the screen, along with Britain’s finest actors.

  • Review: 'The Commuter' gives visceral look into train life, but ultimately derails

    Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has carved out a nice niche for himself as a purveyor of elegantly-crafted schlock. Although he started in horror, Collet-Serra has found a groove with highly efficient, extremely effective thrillers. His 2016 feature “The Shallows” became a cultural phenomenon with the simplest of premises: Blake Lively vs. shark. In his latest effort “The Commuter,” he teams up for the fourth time with his muse, Liam Neeson, for a pop noir set aboard a commuter train: “Conspiracy on the 6:25 to Cold Spring.”

  • As Oscar season gets underway, it's time to praise great actors in bad movies

    Anyone who sees "Darkest Hour" this weekend will come away with at least one certainty: Gary Oldman is a shoo-in to receive an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of British prime minister Winston Churchill. But there's a name that deserves to be called and probably won't -- not because the performance was lacking, but that the film surrounding it just didn't have the stuff. As breathtaking screen performances go, there's no doubt that James McAvoy delivered one in "Split."

  • 'Three Billboards,' 'Big Little Lies' the top winners of a different kind of Golden Globes

    In a year that has seen the entertainment industry upended by a wave of sexual harassment scandals, the 75th Golden Globes flipped the usual script. At Sunday evening’s ceremony, everything -- from the black dresses women wore on the red carpet in solidarity to the jokes and speeches to the winners themselves -- seemed freighted with meaning.

  • How Molly Bloom went from 'poker princess' to the movie heroine of 'Molly’s Game'

    A hotel manager was circling the Polo Lounge, surveying the stately dining room, when he suddenly did a double take. “Molly? Molly Bloom? I thought I saw you come in,” he said. “Mind if I sit -- just briefly?”

  • Anderson, Duchovny and Carter keep seeking the truth that’s 'out there' as 'The X-Files' returns

    If you had found yourself contemplating rewatching some old episodes of "The X-Files" to brush up before the Season 11 premiere, you were in good company. "The mythology of this show, it was complex," said series creator Chris Carter in a wild understatement. "Sometimes," he admitted, "I have to go back and remind myself of the way the puzzle pieces fit together."

  • Angela Bassett’s new action role in '9-1-1' shows us 'what 59 can look like'

    Angela Bassett turns 60 next year and she’s determined to act her age. So she’ll be starting the year getting shot at and assaulted by bad guys, and defending herself accordingly. It’s all part of her role as an L.A. street cop named Athena Grant in "9-1-1," a new series about first responders that premieres stateside Wednesday on Fox amd premieres Thursday on AFN-Pulse.

  • Directors such as Nolan and Tarantino are banning cellphones from sets -- but not everyone is on board

    It’s hard to imagine any corner of the planet where smartphones aren’t ubiquitous. But director Christopher Nolan is fairly certain that in the not-so-distant future, every movie set will be like his own: entirely devoid of phones and the zombified addicts they spawn.

  • Need a break from new plot twists and cable news? Try these comfort TV favorites

    In the "Peak TV" era, there are literally hundreds of shows on our cable and streaming services. Yet with fresh programming showing up weekly on our home screens, we tend to spend our time with new series or catching up on critically acclaimed shows from the recent past with challenging narratives, edgy humor or award-winning performances.

  • America’s anxious times made it a banner year for villains and bad guys in films, TV

    The Scripture-quoting Frank Griffin of "Godless" is one of many standout villains in what has been a banner year for bad guys in movies and TV. In an era when men from Hollywood to Congress are being called to task for generations of discrimination, sexual harassment and holding power, our latest round of miscreants tend to be white, some born of privilege, others not.

  • A guide to the creatures of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and how they were made

    From the crystal foxes of Crait to the Caretakers of Ahch-To to the tiny porgs you love or hate (or love to hate), the alien creatures of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" leave their own distinct mark on the galaxy already filled with Wookiees, wampas, tauntauns, Banthas and Ewoks. As created by writer-director Rian Johnson, each new addition also contributes to an underlying environmental theme that runs throughout the latest addition to the "Star Wars" universe.

  • Dubious Achievements: the best, worst and weirdest in movies in 2017

    Another movie year has come to an end — so it’s time for an annual tradition begun long ago by my friend and predecessor John Hartl. With a little help from my able freelance colleague Soren Andersen (who saw way more superhero movies this year than I did), here are the Dubious Achievements in Movies for 2017:

  • Bono thinks music has 'gotten very girly'

    Teenage boys out there who are looking to channel their anger somewhere productive but can't because the music industry is just so feminine, Bono feels your pain.

  • Wes Studi has been shattering Native American stereotypes for years. It's time for Hollywood to catch up.

    Growing up in rural Oklahoma, speaking only the Cherokee language until age 5, Wes Studi didn't exactly see Hollywood as the most obvious career path. By the time he started working in movies, he was already in his 40s -- but it didn't take him long to make an impact.

  • 'Call Me by Your Name,' 'The Florida Project' lead Justin Chang's 12 best films of 2017

    A lot of walls came crashing down in the American movie industry this year, mostly for the better, though often in ways that made us feel a whole lot worse. The film world, like the greater world that it reflects, has changed irrevocably in the three months since the first wave of sexual-harassment accusations emerged against Harvey Weinstein, the beginning of a reckoning that continues to rage in every sphere of political and cultural influence.

  • Q&A

    Alexander Payne’s sci-fi satire 'Downsizing' grapples with big ideas and (extra) tiny characters

    With his new film "Downsizing," Alexander Payne -- the director of such critically acclaimed, sharp-edged comedies as "Election," "About Schmidt," "Sideways" and "The Descendants" -- is going big by going small.

  • Branagh teases return of old friends in ’Death on the Nile’

    Kenneth Branagh is teasing the return of “old friends” in his planned sequel to “Murder on the Orient Express.” Branagh is expected to both direct and reprise his role as the fancifully mustachioed lead character Detective Hercule Poirot in “Death on the Nile,” another mystery based on an Agatha Christie novel, which screenwriter Michael Green will return to adapt.

  • Playing Prince Philip in 'The Crown' has deepened Matt Smith's fascination with royals

    When Matt Smith heard there was a television series in the works that was devoted to poring over the British royal family, two words came to mind: "Who cares?" For so long, at least for this English actor, they were just that stuffy family that lived in those opulent "old houses" that he’d visited on school trips as a young boy or whizzed past in his car as an adult.

  • Through ups and downs and forgotten girl groups, R&B singer Mila J is still standing tall

    If attaining stardom is a mix of talent, image and pure luck, then singer Mila J should be in a better position than most. Mila had her first brush with fame at the age of 9 when she appeared in Prince’s 1991 music video "Diamonds and Pearls." In the 1990s and early 2000s, she performed with R&B girl groups before reinventing herself as a solo artist.

  • What makes Will Smith’s world ‘Bright’ — money, he jokes

    “Just money. Lots of money.” So goes Will Smith’s tongue-in-cheek summation of why he took on what has turned into one of the worst reviewed films of the season, the big-budget Netflix release “Bright.”

  • Ridley Scott thrives on stress of making 'All the Money in the World'

    Initially, Ridley Scott had little interest in directing “All the Money in the World,” the story of the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson. It wasn’t that the man behind such movies as “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “The Martian” was opposed to making a movie based on a true story. He did that with “Black Hawk Down” and it won two Oscars and earned himself a nomination as best director.

  • 'Fuller House' continues family-friendly approach

    It started with a lunch in 2007. Jeff Franklin, the man behind numerous television comedy series including “Full House,” was dining with John Stamos, one of the actors who helped turn “Full House” into a ratings hit for ABC. Their conversation finally got around to the state of television, especially the lack of family-friendly programs on the networks.

  • ’The Last Jedi’ opens with $220M, second-best weekend ever

    “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will happily settle for second. Rian Johnson’s second installment in the third “Star Wars” trilogy rocketed to a debut of $220 million at the North American box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. That gives “The Last Jedi” the second-best opening ever, slotting in behind only its predecessor, “The Force Awakens.”

  • 3 car gurus from 'The Grand Tour' ponder the car’s future

    When it comes to cars, three names instantly come to mind. No, not Ford, Chevy and Honda. We’re talking Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, the former “Top Gear” hosts who have just launched season two of their new automotive show, “The Grand Tour,” on Amazon Prime. They stopped by to discuss the importance of the car and why gas engines aren’t going away.

  • Q&A

    Don’t believe everything you hear about ’Call Me by Your Name’

    "Call Me by Your Name," the sexy new film -- a coming-of-age story of first love that has already racked up multiple awards -- has been criticized in some quarters for its central relationship, a summer tryst between a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man. It is criticism that Italian director Luca Guadagnino feels misses the film’s larger point about the importance of an unexpected f-word: family.

  • Golden Globe nominee Margot Robbie on the topical conversations in 'I, Tonya'

    Nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as figure skater Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya,” Margot Robbie talked to The Times Monday about the movie and the female-driven films of 2017.

  • As Hollywood struggles with inclusion and sexism, the Golden Globes are being parsed with Oscar-like intensity

    There was a time when the Golden Globes nominations were taken seriously only as potential Oscar indicators.

  • Rock Hall 2018 class: Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, the Moody Blues

    Iconic singer Nina Simone and New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi lead the 2018 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, which includes four first-time nominees.

  • 'Last Jedi' cast reveals tidbits about next Star Wars film

    Director Rian Johnson (“Looper”) and 10 members of the cast of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” -- Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran -- face a small army to journalists to discuss the latest film in the galactic franchise.

  • Q&A: Five minutes with John Cena

    There isn’t much that can turn down the volume on a symphony of excited grade schoolers. On Wednesday, even Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden could only press pause on the giddiness as nearly 400 kids waited - at times patiently, at times not - for a very special story time.

  • 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' keeps getting better in season 5

    A lot of terrific comics-based shows are competing for attention in this era of Peak TV, so it would be easy to overlook "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." But that would be a mistake -- it has become uncommonly good.

  • James Roday and Dule Hill reteam for 'Psych: The Movie'

    Dule Hill was searching for the right word to sum up how it felt that some original crew members from his series “Psych” turned down other jobs to work on “Psych: The Movie.”

  • Q&A

    Gary Oldman and Joe Wright on Winston Churchill -- as an icon and a man

    Words, in the new movie "Darkest Hour," are weapons. Set roughly during the same time period as "Dunkirk," between May and June 1940, the World War II drama takes place not on the beaches of northern France, where hundreds of Allied soldiers were cornered by German troops, but in the backrooms of England’s war cabinet. It is there that the newly installed prime minister, Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman), struggles with how to rally Parliament and the British people for the coming Battle of Britain.

  • Brosnahan, Borstein lend fast-talking charm to ’The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’

    Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, stars of the Amazon series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," are posing for photos on a window sill overlooking Midtown Manhattan as a swarm of stone-faced handlers looks on.

  • 'Greatest Love Story' is the surprise country hit of the year -- with some help from Netflix

    In 2013, Brandon Lancaster was playing shows around Nashville with his band, Lanco. He lived with four people in a two-bedroom house, except when he couldn’t afford the rent and briefly had to move back in with his parents. He wasn’t established enough to book any co-writing sessions with famous Nashville writers, so when he had an idea for a song called "Greatest Love Story," inspired by his girlfriend, he wrote it himself.

  • Do you have reservations about reserved seats at movies?

    The 1980s posed the question "Tastes great" or "Less filling?" Shakespeare's Hamlet pondered the question: "To be or not to be? But what thoughts do you have about the query: "Reserved or unreserved seating at movie theaters?"

  • Why do Nashville singers save the most meaningful track on an album for last?

    Taylor Swift’s new album "Reputation" couldn’t be further from her country music roots. Until you get to the very last song. "Hold on to your memories, they will hold on to you," Swift sings on "New Year’s Day," a quiet ballad about love that lasts beyond a midnight kiss on Dec. 31. "Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I would recognize anywhere."

  • Jim Carrey on losing himself inside Andy Kaufman and why he relived it for a new documentary

    Jim Carrey sat in a Los Angeles hotel room on a recent evening explaining that he was not really Jim Carrey anymore -- at least not in the way he once was. "I use his name," Carrey said, dressed all in black, his lanky frame folded onto a couch. "That’s the mailing address."

  • 3 themes to look for this Oscar season

    Sure as the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of Christmas shopping for major retailers, the holiday season contains an alternate marketing blitz in the film world.

  • 'Darkest Hour' gives Oldman, Mendelsohn big chance to work together

    Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn had only one scene together when they worked on “The Dark Knight Rises.” That was all they needed as the pair struck up an immediate friendship. They exchanged contact information and parted with the hope that they would work together again.

  • Bratt, Bernal faced new challenges with 'Coco'

    Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal provide the voices for two male adult characters in “Coco” who prove to be the most instrumental in the efforts by a young boy to find his way back to the land of the living. In keeping with the main theme of the new Pixar film, both actors “seized the moment” to do something very different.

  • Streisand on not touring again, Netflix film and assault

    If you want to see Barbra Streisand sing live, watch her upcoming Netflix special because you won’t see her onstage again. And she’s not just saying it to get you to watch “Barbra: The Music ... The Mem’ries ... The Magic!” when it debuts on the streaming service Nov. 22: Streisand, who didn’t tour for 27 years after forgetting the words at a show in 1967, said performing live concerts are too nerve-racking for her to consider doing them again.

  • Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on their quietly subversive new album

    It didn’t come as a huge surprise when Tim McGraw broke from his regular set list on a recent evening at the Rabobank Arena here to sing a couple of old classics by Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. The two late legends put this dusty oil town on country music’s map, so pulling out "Act Naturally" and "Mama Tried" -- well, that was a surefire way to win over the thousands of Bakersfield fans who’d come to see McGraw and his wife, Faith Hill, on what the couple call their Soul2Soul tour.

  • For Laurie Metcalf in 'Lady Bird,' this is the moment for her kind of honesty

    There's a scene in "Lady Bird," this fall's remarkable coming-of-age movie by Greta Gerwig, where the title character, a complicated Sacramento 17-year-old encapsulated by Saoirse Ronan, finds herself in the dressing room of an off-price clothing store with her mother, Marion McPherson, who happens to be played by Laurie Metcalf.

  • How People's 'Most Beautiful' reveals changing beauty standards

    People magazine, which focuses on celebrities and personal interest stories, boasts the largest audience of any American periodical. One of its most popular features is the annual Most Beautiful People list, which recently served as a tool for researchers trying to determine if beauty standards have changed over the last few decades. Comparing the lists published in 1990 and 2017, they discovered significant differences in skin color, age, gender, race, hair color and eye color.

  • Owen Wilson loves how 'Wonder' deals with tough issues

    Owen Wilson’s not 100 percent certain how he got through his childhood without major emotional scars. He remembers how hard it was as a kid trying to fit in, handling peer pressure and getting through a dance without someone having their feelings hurt.

  • Yes, she’s Jonah Hill’s kid sister. More importantly, Beanie Feldstein kills it in 'Lady Bird' and 'Dolly'

    When Beanie Feldstein was 9, she woke up one morning to find she could no longer speak. She’d developed nodules on her vocal cords, a condition that could be fixed only through daily speech therapy and singing lessons. The health scare made her realize she wanted to become an actress: If she was putting in so much work to fix her voice, she wanted it to pay off.

  • Comedians not laughing at character in 'The Simpsons'

    Growing up in New York in the 1980s, comedian Hari Kondabolu was like many young people. He watched “The Simpsons” and he adored “The Simpsons.” There was just one thing that bothered him about it. Amid the fictional Springfield barflies, incompetent doctors, clowns and crazy eggheads was a truly cartoonish character — Apu, the Kwik-E-Mart clerk who sold expired food, ripped off customers and delivered the sing-songy slogan “Thank you, come again.”

  • 14 movies worth seeing this holiday season, and none about Santa Claus

    There are holiday movies, and then there are holiday movies.

  • For Aussie actress Margot Robbie, it’s no more Ms. Nice

    Margot Robbie is becoming a bit disagreeable. Deliberately.

  • Will Ferrell finds unlikely co-star in Mel Gibson for family film 'Daddy’s Home 2' over a decade after rant

    This family reunion comes with a dose of holiday hijinks - and some extra baggage.

  • Which Chris is the best superhero? A definitive ranking, from Pratt to Hemsworth

    “Thor: Ragnarok,” Marvel’s most well-reviewed film ever, hits theaters Friday, and its star, Chris Hemsworth, is fantastic as the main character. But that got us thinking: In a world filled with so many men named Chris playing superheroes - there was even a “Saturday Night Live” sketch about it! - who is actually the best?

  • How an obscure New Zealand comedy director transformed the 'Thor' franchise

    When Marvel launched its Thor film franchise in 2011, the studio turned to Kenneth Branagh, a filmmaker who could bring the gravitas of Shakespearean drama to the Norse mythology of a comic-book movie. But after two films, it was time to lighten the mood. So who better to draft for "Thor: Ragnarok" (opening Friday) than a director of quirky indie comedies who doesn’t even take his own career overly seriously. "I didn’t want to do any of this," says Taika Waititi, 42. While growing up in eastern New Zealand, "I was doing acting and art, but it was never my dream as a kid. I’m not one of these people who played around with a camera as a kid.

  • 'Moms' rule: The stars behind the comedy franchise share a 'told you so' moment

    It hasn't been a good year at the box office -- especially for live-action comedies. Over the past 15 months, only three films in the genre -- "Bad Moms," the "Ghostbusters" reboot and "Girls Trip" -- were able to crack $100 million in domestic ticket sales.

  • The villains of 'Thor': Cate Blanchett uses sugar to play villainous role

    There are two critical elements to making a movie based on a comic book work: an interesting hero and a captivating villain. In the case of the majority of films spawned from the Marvel Comics universe, there is often more than one champion for good and one enveloped in evil. "Thor: Ragnarok" features numerous villains, including one who is powerful enough to take on Thor and the Hulk, and the introduction of two new evil minions.

  • Rising singer Daniel Caesar blazes trail with celeb fan base

    What do Stevie Wonder and Kylie Jenner have in common? They’re both fans of rising R&B singer Daniel Caesar. The golden-voiced Canadian singer, who also counts Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Rick Rubin and Erykah Badu as admirers, has built a strong celebrity fan base, thanks to his smooth, soulful R&B sound.

  • Horror movies: Loving big-screen scares from 'The Exorcist' to 'It'

    A woman once complained to Alfred Hitchcock that she had not been able to take a shower ever since being horrified by “Psycho.” The director responded that, in that case, he was glad he had not staged the murder on a toilet.

  • Q&A

    Katey Sagal: ’I have an enormous appreciation for life’

    If you didn’t already know Katey Sagal from her role as tacky housewife Peg Bundy in the long-running Fox sitcom "Married . With Children," you may have discovered her later as Gemma Teller Morrow, the leather-clad mother hen of a California biker gang in the FX drama "Sons of Anarchy." But the actress, 63, has led a life as colorful as any of her characters, some of which you can read about in her memoir "Grace Notes: My Recollections," released this year.

  • Q&A

    Kidman, Farrell on the surrealism of 'Sacred Deer'

    Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ movies aren’t the sort that typically attract a stampede of Hollywood A-listers. His films, which he writes with Efthymis Filippou, are deadpan, midnight-black comedies that carry out grim allegorical absurdities to extreme ends. Characters speak stiltedly in cliches while an intensifying menace envelops them. Things get weird and then they get brutal.

  • Beulah Koale is proud to represent Pacific Islanders in ’Thank You for Your Service’

    New Zealand’s South Auckland isn’t what one might call ripe training ground for Hollywood newcomers. To Beulah Koale, the place he calls home “is kind of like the ghetto, the ’hood.” And there, most guys don’t dream of being an actor.

  • Miles Teller took special care playing a real-life firefighter and a soldier

    For any actor, playing a living, breathing person carries its own special weight. That goes double when you’re chronicling the most traumatic moments in that person’s life. “If you take pride in what you do, you always have a bar you’re trying to hit,” Miles Teller said on a recent afternoon in Beverly Hills. “But playing a real person, there’s an extra obligation.” Teller has been feeling that obligation a lot lately.

  • Jennifer Connelly still seeking intriguing roles

    Jennifer Connelly’s role in “Only the Brave” is the latest example of the kind of intriguing parts she’s been playing since making her feature film debut in the 1984 production “Once Upon a Time in America.” Whether it has been a mind-twisting film like “Labyrinth” or an Oscar-winning effort like “A Beautiful Mind,” Connelly has always worked hard to make sure her performance is as textured and full as possible.

  • Commentary

    It's a real horror show

    In one of the scarier moments of “It,” Andy Muschietti’s smash-hit movie adaptation of the 1986 Stephen King novel, seven kids survey a map of their Maine hometown, searching for clues that will help them battle the child-murdering clown known as Pennywise. The slide projector they’re using suddenly starts behaving like a demon-possessed zoetrope, and to the kids’ horror, the sharp-toothed Pennywise himself lunges into and out of the frame, obliterating the boundaries of the screen. It’s a potent illustration of the idea that cinema can take on a terrifying life of its own. Or, indeed, that life can suddenly turn into a horror movie, as it no doubt feels for those who have interpreted “It” as a thinly veiled parable of life in Donald Trump’s America.

  • Finn Wolfhard on casts, cursing and those heavy ’80s bikes

    The two hottest horror commodities right now have two things in common: a band of kids in distress and Finn Wolfhard. In Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Wolfhard broke out as Mike Wheeler, dungeon master and leader of the bike-pedaling gang seeking to solve the mystery of their missing friend. More recently, he was the profanity-punctuated comic relief Richie in Warner Bros.’ hit horror film “It.”

  • He was the king of late night, but David Letterman doesn’t miss it ’for a second’

    Sometimes — OK, all the time — David Letterman, who used to host his very own television program, is asked whether he still wishes he were on TV. Back then, he could do almost anything he wanted in front of millions of viewers: chat with a president, toss a wheel of runny brie off a building, even mock his once-mortal frenemy Jay Leno. He must miss it terribly. “Not for a second,” Letterman says before delivering a lengthy analogy about a prison sentence that references beatings, food poisoning and a knife fight.

  • Willem Dafoe finds the warmth of 'The Florida Project'

    Willem Dafoe is the very definition of a working actor with dozens of roles to his credit. Later this year he will be seen in both the superhero adventure “Justice League” and the remake of the thriller “Murder on the Orient Express,” and earlier this year his voice was heard as the villain in “Death Note.” But it’s the transformative performer’s role in “The Florida Project” that has garnered him the most attention he has had in years, a reminder of the way in which Dafoe has often been hiding in plain sight.

  • Q&A

    Pop star and mom Pink focuses on her new album, which puts her singing first

    “You want a beer?” Pink asked, though she seemed more than happy to drink alone. Standing in her cheerfully cluttered kitchen on a recent evening, the pop star had just finished a lengthy television shoot at her home north of Los Angeles and was now overseeing dinner for her 9-month-old son, Jameson.

  • Springsteen on Broadway creates new performance template

    “Springsteen on Broadway,” which opened Oct. 12, is a deeply personal life story with a soundtrack, a one-man (or one-man and one-woman for two songs) show that’s by turns funny and touching. Bruce Springsteen is onstage five nights a week through Feb. 3 in what has been called his Broadway debut.

  • The porgs are the new stars of Star Wars

    Just in time for the holidays, the porgs are having their moment in the Ahch-To sun.

  • Original Bananarama line-up announces first US tour

    It took a kitchen sing-song to get ‘80s British pop group Bananarama back together and out on the road after 30 years. The girl group’s original members — Sarah Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey — say they are touring the U.S. for the first time in February.

  • Olympian Shawn Johnson East competing for different gold

    Shawn Johnson East knew that like every athlete before her, there would come a time when she would no longer be able to compete. "A lot of athletes are afraid to do something else," the Olympic medal-winning gymnast said. "After being the epitome of perfection at the Olympics, they are afraid to start over."

  • Morgan Freeman looks to understand 'Story of Us'

    Morgan Freeman’s chatting about being born in Memphis and how he will probably take a break from a long day of talking about his new cable project, "The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman," to have a quick snack. With anyone else, this would be dismissed as idle chatter but because Freeman’s voice has the command tone of a deity laced with just enough of his Southern upbringing to make him devilishly charming, even his small talk has weight.

  • Little Steven on music, politics, and Springsteen: 'I never wanted to be the boss'

    Steve Van Zandt almost lost his faith in rock and roll. And if not for a flag football game, a dislocated finger, and a stint on the oldies circuit with the Philadelphia vocal group the Dovells, he might never have gotten it back.

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda releases a star-studded Puerto Rico tribute song, 'Almost Like Praying'

    Lin-Manuel Miranda’s "Almost Like Praying" tribute to Puerto Rico is over, and the fundraising song was worth the wait.

  • Why losing Tom Petty feels like losing a piece of ourselves

    If you sing karaoke, you’ve probably performed “American Girl.” If you play guitar, you’ve likely strummed “Learning to Fly.” And if you’ve driven a car while celebrating some personal achievement or another, you’ve almost certainly belted out “Free Fallin’” at the top of your lungs as you drummed the steering wheel, just like Tom Cruise in that indelible scene from “Jerry Maguire.”

  • End of the line for 'The Middle'

    "The Middle" has reached the end. The ninth season of the ABC comedy about a middle class family living in the Middle America city of Orson, Ind. will be the last. Coming to such a decision was not easy for the cast and executive producers but they all finally agreed the time was right to stop production.

  • Beware, David S. Pumpkins: How ‘Saturday Night Live’ ruins its best sketches

    The short David S. Pumpkins sketch on “Saturday Night Live” was a perfect example of anti-comedy, something that’s funny because it’s both absurd and inherently unfunny. NBC thinks it can stretch that joke into a half-hour animated Halloween special, set to air in October. But fans of the wildly popular 2016 sketch should pause before devouring five pounds of candy corn in celebration.

  • Ellen Page explores the 'profound sadness, profound joy' of art in three new movies

    Half a lifetime ago, Ellen Page figured she had options if the acting thing didn't go anywhere.

  • 'Will & Grace' just the latest example of TV recycling

    Eric McCormack and his wife spent a recent Thanksgiving night binge-watching "Will & Grace," the beloved 1990s sitcom starring ... Eric McCormack. "My son finally woke up, kind of rubbed his eyes, looked at the screen and said, ’You’re just going to sit and watch yourself on television?’" he said. With a highly anticipated reboot premiering this week (Sept. 28 stateside, Sept. 29 on AFN-Prime), NBC bets McCormack isn’t the only one nostalgic for "W&G."

  • TV

    Cast, crew says 'SEAL Team' is more than just another military show

    The large soundstage at the CBS Studio Center is filled with the rear section of a military transport plane. Scattered around the rest of the space is an assortment of military items ranging from uniforms to a member of the military canine corps. All of these items are used in the filming of the new CBS drama “SEAL Team.”

  • Q&A

    Jackie Chan is defying age with some new moves

    Jackie Chan would probably be perfectly happy if he didn’t break any more bones. For decades, the Hong Kong-born action superstar has put his life on the line performing mind-boggling stunts, kung fu fights and acrobatic feats, racking up injuries along the way to virtually every part of his body. Fractured skull, dislocated pelvis, shattered ankle, cracked vertebrae -- you name it, he’s probably had it in a cast or a sling at some point.

  • Lady Gaga reveals her life, her thoughts and herself in a new Netflix documentary

    "Do I look pathetic?" Lady Gaga asks, covering her face with her hands to hide her tears. She is lying on a couch in her apartment, only a towel covering her body. A physical therapist places an ice pack on her cheek and massages her head. "I’m so embarrassed," she says, sobbing quietly.

  • Top 10 movies of the fall

    Ten don't-miss movies of fall 2017:

  • 'Young Sheldon' born out of 'Big Bang'

    It doesn’t take a theoretical physicist to figure out why CBS is adding "Young Sheldon" to its fall schedule. It’s not unusual for successful television shows to spawn spinoff series and there’s been no network program over the past 10 years that’s been as big a hit as "The Big Bang Theory."

  • HGTV superstars Jonathan and Drew Scott bring 'House Party' on tour

    Jonathan Scott dreamed about entertaining thousands like master illusionist David Copperfield. Twin brother Drew figured he’d have an NBA contract by the time he was 20. Plan B was to get their contractor and real estate licenses. Guess that worked out.

  • Revisiting 'Jerry Before Seinfeld'

    From variety hours to talk shows to dedicated specials, stand-up comedy on television is just about as old as television. Millions (I am guesstimating) who have never seen a comic work a nightclub or theater have seen dozens upon dozens of them on TV. Some of these people decide to become comedians themselves.

  • Politics, diverse winners, new voices top key Emmy moments

    It was, not surprisingly, a night for politics, with everyone from host Stephen Colbert to Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Alec Baldwin getting in zingers about Donald Trump — all to be upstaged by Sean Spicer himself, in a controversial appearance that set social media afire. But Emmy night was not only about politics.

  • Dylan O’Brien, back in action: Actor talks about his return after on-set accident

    For the past year, Dylan O’Brien has been in hiding. He spent most of his time inside his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., wondering whether he’d ever be the same person he was before the accident. Not just emotionally, but physically too: After major reconstructive surgery that left him with four metal plates holding one side of his face together, he feared he’d never look the same again.

  • Lady Gaga postpones European leg of world tour

    Lady Gaga has postponed her world tour’s European leg until next year because of ongoing health problems, the tour’s promoter said Monday.

  • Darren Aronofsky was driven to make ’mother!’, and he apologizes for it

    The brassy, flashy American auteur has made a movie in a fugue state about the world’s current state. It’s set up as a marital drama and designed to feel like a horror movie. But those are just clothes, adornments to disguise the angry body throbbing underneath.

  • Starr has new music to ‘Give’

    Were Ringo Starr the kind of guy to delve deep into the blues, he might well have taken a stab at Willie Dixon’s classic “I Can’t Quit You Baby” on his forthcoming album, “Give More Love.” Perhaps not in the original context of being unable to escape a toxic relationship with a romantic partner but more a heartfelt expression of his attitude about continuing to play music at age 77.

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