Welcome back to the Hollywood Heat Index, where we determine who’s hot and who’s not! Let’s take the town’s temperature, shall we?
10.Daniel Craig – The former James Bond star (it still feels weird typing that) has been all over the news of late… and he hasn’t even done anything! He doesn’t have a new movie out or a buzzy profile in some magazine. So why does he rule the roost this week? Well, for starters, rumors are rampant that Craig came thisclose to appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. One report claimed that Craig was the top choice for Reed Richards, aka Mister Fantastic, but that the actor backed out after deciding that the risk of contracting COVID-19 and bringing it back to his family was too high for such a small role. John Krasinski subsequently appeared as Mister Fantastic, delighting many Marvel fans in the process. However, another rumor claimed that Craig was actually going to play Balder the Brave, and that when he backed out, Marvel simply decided to sub in Krasinski’s Reed Richards. Either way, the fact that Craig is on Marvel’s radar, and that he was open to an appearance if it hadn’t meant risking COVID and the health of his family for the sake of a cameo, is pretty interesting. I don’t really think of him as the superhero type but as 007 himself might say, never say never again.
Meanwhile, Craig was also at the center of a Bloomberg report that claimed Knives Out 2 will receive a 45-day theatrical window before it debuts on Netflix, which is willing to rewrite its own rules for the star-studded sequel. Of course, Netflix has released movies in theaters before, but never for that long, and usually, the purpose was to simply qualify a movie for the Oscars. Netflix never really spent much money marketing those theatrical releases. This time around, the streamer is actually thinking about spending some money to make even more money, and I think it’s a smart play, as they’re leaving a lot of exhibition dollars on the table to chase new subscribers who can’t possibly make up the difference. Look for Craig to return to theaters this fall with a heavy marketing push behind him.
9.The NBA – Did you see the ratings for the Bucks-Celtics series? And that was a conference semifinal! People still love watching basketball, especially playoff basketball. And the four remaining teams have real stars on them, from Steph Curry and Luka Doncic out West to Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler in the East. Those teams also represent four well-sized TV markets — Boston, Dallas, Miami and San Francisco. It’s not like Milwaukee or Memphis are playing. Meanwhile, the NBA is being broadcast in China again more than 2.5 years after China Central Television stopped broadcasting games back in October 2019 — another big win for the league and its owners, who have billions invested in China.
Elsewhere, the Lakers series Winning Time was a hit for HBO, Apple recently debuted its own Magic Johnson series They Call Me Magic, Netflix will soon release the Adam Sandler movie Hustle, Disney+ will release Rise, a movie about Giannis Antetoukoumpo and his family, on June 24, and NBC is now developing a show about the Boston Celtics that boasts principal owner Wyc Grousbeck as an executive producer. The NBA is red hot right now, and that’s “FANtastic” for basketball junkies around the world.
8. Just Like Heaven Festival – Make fun of me all you want, but this is THE place to be this weekend if you live in Los Angeles and like indie rock. Modest Mouse and Interpol are headlining this all-day fest at the Rose Bowl, which also features bands such as Wolf Parade, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, The Shins, and The Hives. I dig all of those acts, and while you may be wondering what year it is, I’d gladly go back to 2004 instead of whatever hellish timeline we’re living in today. If you can’t make it on Saturday, don’t worry. Not only does Interpol have a new album coming out soon, but so do Arcade Fire and rising stars Automatic, so it’s shaping to be a great summer for rock music. Tickets are still available, and you can thank me later.
7.The Offer – Everyone who I’ve spoken to about this Paramount+ series likes it, and if they don’t, they still can’t help but watch it. I’ll admit that initially, I wasn’t terribly enthused about this idea. A TV show about the making of The Godfather? Granted, I don’t worship that movie in the same way as most of my peers, but still, it seemed like a studio trying to reinvent its own legend, which doesn’t always work. And sure, there may still be some qualms about the accuracy and authenticity of some of its scenes. But who cares? The whole point of television is to be entertaining and that’s an accurate description of this series, which is notably based not on “a true story,” but on producer Al Ruddy’s “experiences” making The Godfather. In other words, it’s not a documentary, folks!
Miles Teller, who will soon be riding high off the success of Top Gun: Maverick and Netflix’s upcoming thriller Spiderhead starring Chris Hemsworth, makes for a solid dramatic anchor as Ruddy, even though the real reason to watch this show is the madness around him, from producer Bob Evans (a fantastic Matthew Goode) to Gulf + Western’s Charles Bluhdorn (scene-stealer Burn Gorman) to passionate director Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) and his hungry co-writer Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo). Paramount+ gets a bad rap among streamers but this is another win on the heels of Yellowstone and Mayor of Kingstown, and it’s nice to see the service build some momentum after being prematurely written off early on.
6.Stranger Things 4 – I’m not quite feeling the same level of excitement for this new season. Maybe it’s because the kids have all grown up, or we know Hopper’s fate, but the buzz feels oddly muted. I know the pandemic wreaked havoc on the schedule but did Netflix let too much time pass between seasons? Of course, this could all blow up in my face if Season 4 puts up Squid Game-like numbers but I’m sensing a general fatigue on the part of audiences. I’m not sure whether feature-length episodes will help or hurt this franchise but it sure feels like time to wrap this up, even though Netflix is likely just getting started, as some kind of sequel or spinoff will almost certainly be announced in due time. It’s the only way to keep this gravy train rolling, so unless the Duffer brothers put their foot down, expect things to get even stranger…
5. Downton Abbey: A New Era – Speaking of hot properties with muted buzz, the Downton Abbey sequel arrives in theaters this weekend, and with older audiences still reluctant to return to theaters, tracking is way down. The first film opened to $31 million at the domestic box office en route to grossing nearly $100 million, but A New Era will be lucky to open to half of that. It’s one thing for a popular TV series to make the initial leap to the big screen, but it’s another to stay there as a successful film franchise. You can pull off that trick once, but it’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle the second time… even with a few new cast members and a trip to the South of France.
4. Star Wars – Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy did a big (i.e. safe) interview with Vanity Fair in which she admitted it was foolish to try to recast the beloved characters from the original trilogy. But seeing Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo isn’t why that movie underperformed. The movie was fine. He was fine. That describes pretty much everything I’ve seen from the Star Wars franchise since it “awakened” in 2015 — “fine.” Sure, some movies have been better than others, but none of the movies have been great, and none have really been terrible, either. It’s a middling franchise (frankly, it always was). Even as a kid, I never got what all the fuss was about, and after five new movies and countless TV shows, I’m still not swayed one way or the other.
As with Marvel, the Star Wars shows are killing the appeal of this big-screen franchise. None of them feel special, and they’re all designed to cater to hardcore Star Wars fans instead of general audiences, further alienating casual fans such as myself. It would be nice to see Kennedy sit down with an outlet/journalist that isn’t predisposed to carrying water for the franchise, but that’s Vanity Fair’s whole m.o. They get the best access to Lucasfilm because they don’t ask the tough questions or write challenging coverage. They exist to put up new Annie Leibovitz photos and that’s about it. Sigh…
3. Cannes Film Festival – I admit to having FOMO from time to time, but not once in my life, which includes nearly 20 years as an entertainment reporter, have I had FOMO about missing the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, I’m sure it’s lovely if your employer is willing to fly you to the South of France for a week of yacht parties and pretentious cuisine, but I’ve never understood flying 5,000 miles to watch boring European movies while wearing a tuxedo.
It’s a festival that is hopelessly stuck in the past, from its leadership (find me a year in which Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux hasn’t said something embarrassing) to its formal wear requirements to the way it divides the press into little fiefdoms with pink badges and yellow dots and white dots and a bunch of class distinctions that are antithetical to today’s arts and entertainment scene. But I guess any time you can fly around the world to see a middling zombie comedy from the director of The Artist, you’ve gotta do it.
Cannes couldn’t even score the World Premiere of Top Gun: Maverick. CinemaCon got first licks, then Paramount had a huge premiere down in San Diego, then London, and now France. So the whole pomp and circumstance surrounding the premiere there has already been done. I don’t even know what else is playing there. James Gray‘s Armageddon Time and David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future? I’ll stick with Sundance and Toronto, thanks…
2.She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – I’ve been hearing that Marvel brass has been nervous about this show, and I said as much on The Hot Mic podcast I co-host with John Rocha. A few weeks later, Puck’s Matt Belloni wrote that he’d heard the same. And now the proof is in the pudding, as Disney+ released the first trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and it looks, well… it looks bad. I mean, if I’m thinking about Shrek while I’m watching your Hulk trailer, something is wrong. Tatiana Maslany is a good actress but I don’t think the general public knows her or cares much about seeing her transform. The trailer was filled with sexual innuendos, so it seems to skew a bit older than, say, Hawkeye, but I suppose the MCU has long catered to grown children as much as it does actual children. I mean, are kids really racing home after school to watch shows about attorneys these days? Featuring the star of Orphan Black and Perry Mason? I guess we’ll see…
1.Firestarter – This Blumhouse movie sure did crash and burn on Peacock, which is really earning itself a reputation as a dumping ground for sub-par Universal content. John Carpenter actually delivered a nifty synth score and Michael Greyeyes did the best he could with the underwritten bad guy role of Rainbird, but Ryan Kiera Armstrong simply wasn’t up to the task of filling Drew Barrymore‘s shoes, and Zac Efron looks a lot better when he’s not bleeding from his eyes. Sadly, this wasn’t even the best movie about a kid with superpowers to come out last week, as the Norwegian movie The Innocents proved to be far better. Be sure and check that one out on VOD.