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James Gunn Brings Hilarious, Holiday Hijinks in Instantly Classic ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Special: TV Review

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There will be no coal in James Gunn’s stocking this year. His “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” is stuffed with funny, feel-good Christmas joy, and it’s one of the best pieces of content Marvel Studios has released in years.

Just like Marvel and Disney+’s Halloween-themed “Werewolf by Night” Special Presentation, the “Guardians” short film oozes holiday cheer, but this time with elves, candy canes and…Kevin Bacon. Despite the short runtime, it plays exactly like a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie, complete with Gunn’s signature, laugh-out-loud, zany style. Not only that, it pays homage to the nostalgic tropes of Christmas specials that make you want to cozy up next to the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate — and a stack of Marvel comic books, because this is the MCU, after all.

It’s a tale as old as time, flipped on its head by the Guardians of the Galaxy. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is missing Christmas while in outer space, so his teammates Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) try to cheer him up with the ultimate present: Peter’s beloved ’80s movie star Kevin Bacon. Being otherworldly aliens, Drax and Mantis have zero Christmas knowledge, and they can’t tell a candy cane lawn decoration from a “red-and-white curly man.” Even so, they’re determined to cheer up their friend, so they fly down to Earth and embark on a hilarious, fish-out-of-water journey showered in Christmas magic.

After appearing alongside each other in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” Bautista and Klementieff have already developed a sweet, side-splitting rapport. Drax, ever oblivious to sarcasm and figures of speech, is all-too willing to throw the sweetly naive Mantis into danger — sometimes literally — but they share a bond as close as any family. After being relegated essentially to a side character in her previous films, Mantis shines in the holiday special. She lets loose on Earth, holds her own in a fight or two and uses her mind-control powers in creative, funny and occasionally dubious ways. The other Guardians of the Galaxy each get their own gratifying moments, but Drax and Mantis dazzle here, carrying much of the emotional weight and lesson-learning.

It wouldn’t be a Gunn film without some excellent songs and a few surprise cameos, and the “Guardians” special delivers within the first few minutes. Without spoiling anything, the memorable opening scene ranks as one of Marvel’s strongest, and some of the wacky original songs should go down in the Christmas pantheon. The rest of the deep-cut holiday soundtrack further underlines how off-the-wall this “Guardians” special is, and how Gunn is a master at his craft.

This is still the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which means there are a few overt tie-ins to Gunn’s upcoming trilogy capper “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — set to be released in May — as well as references to preceding films that newcomers may not understand. Since we last saw them in “Endgame” and briefly in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Guardians have purchased the planet Knowhere, pilot a new ship named the Bowie and are accompanied by Cosmo, a talking Russian astronaut dog (voiced by “Borat 2” breakout Maria Bakalova). Peter is still broken up about losing his girlfriend Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), and Mantis has a big secret of her own. But those are stories for another time, i.e. “Vol. 3.”

It’s a Christmas miracle that Gunn was able to pull off this superb special and simultaneously make the third “Guardians” film, not to mention switch allegiance from Marvel to DC and land a gig as co-CEO of DC Studios in the process. This is not just a great MCU film; it’s an excellent Christmas special that hardcore Marvel fans and newcomers can delight in. If “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” really is the end of Gunn’s run with Marvel, then this holiday special is a near-perfect, penultimate film from one of the superhero genre’s best.



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Ryan Eggold, Isaiah Mustafa Join Aldis Hodge in Alex Cross Series at Amazon

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Ryan Eggold and Isaiah Mustafa have been cast in Amazon’s upcoming series based on James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels.

The pair join previously announced series lead Aldis Hodge in the series, which is titled “Cross.” Amazon ordered the show to series in October.

“Cross” is described as thriller mystery series. Per the official logline, “Alex Cross is a detective and forensic psychologist, uniquely capable of digging into the psyches of killers and their victims, in order to identify—and ultimately capture—the murderers.”

Eggold will play Ed Ramsey. The character is said to have “humble Midwest roots that are the core of his irresistible charm, but he’s got elbows sharp enough to carve out space in the elite social and political circles of DC and New York. Smooth, well connected, and devious, Ramsey can also be physically imposing when he needs to be – and he has some very dark secrets. While he’s initially a fan of Cross’s, he soon becomes a formidable adversary.”

Mustafa will play John Sampson, also known as “Two-John” and “Man-Mountain.” Sampson is described as “Alex’s partner on the force and best friend of 30 years. Full of swagger and larger than life, he believes that Cross is at a crisis point in his life and needs to seek professional help.”

Eggold currently stars in the NBC medical drama “New Amsterdam,” which is airing its fifth and final season at present. He is also known for his role in the NBC drama “The Blacklist” and the spinoff series “The Blacklist: Redemption.” His other notable credits include The CW series “90210” as well as films like “BlacKkKlansman” and “Fathers and Daughters.”

He is repped by Gersh, Entertainment 360, and Hirsch Wallerstein.

Mustafa is known for starring in the cult hit Freeform series “Shadowhunters” and in films like “IT: Chapter Two” and “Murder at Yellowstone City.” He got his big break onscreen in the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertising campaign, which was very well received by the public.

He is repped by APA, Megan Silverman Management, and Yorn Levine.

Variety exclusively reported that “Cross” was in the works in January 2020. Ben Watkins is writing and executive producing the series, and will also serve as showrunner. Hodge is a producer in addition to starring. Sam Ernst, Jim Dunn, and Craig Siebels also executive produce, with Patterson, Bill Robinson, and Patrick Santa executive producing for James Patterson Entertainment. David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Bill Bost executive produce for Skydance Television. Paramount Television Studios and Skydance are producing.



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Billie Eilish Addresses Euphoria Season 3 Casting Rumors

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Billie Eilish clarifies social media rumors claiming that she will make an appearance in the upcoming Euphoria season 3 on HBO.


Pop sensation Billie Eilish addresses the rampant rumor claiming she was joining the cast of Euphoria season 3. Earlier this year, a viral tweet from an account posing as an entertainment update page reported that Eilish had been cast in season 3 of the Sam Levinson-created teen series as Nate Jacob’s (Jacob Elordi) latest love interest. Though no official sources confirmed the news at the time, social media was instantly flooded with speculation surrounding Eilish’s potential burgeoning acting career that would see her appear in one of the biggest dramas currently airing.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

Now, in her annual interview with Vanity Fair, Eilish clears up the rumor that she will appear on Euphoria season 3 alongside Zendaya and Elordi. Though the pop star grew up in Los Angeles where she tried her hand at acting under the guidance of a family of performance artists, Eilish has made it clear that the offer to appear on the HBO show, though tempting, never came her way. Check out what she had to say below:

“[The biggest rumor about me is that] I’m in the third season of Euphoria. That’s not true. I’d like to be. Euphoria’s fucking fire.”

Why Billie Eilish Would Be Perfect For Euphoria

Zendaya as Rue in Euphoria S2

Though Eilish has made it clear she is only a fan of Euphoria rather than one of its incoming stars, her public image and the thematic interests she has explored through songwriting would make her a natural addition to the darkly cinematic teen series. Not only has Eilish’s music been featured on the show, but her depictions of the specific type of teenage angst that is particular to the Gen-Z era reflect many of the same modern struggles that Euphoria has explored since its 2019 release. Both breakout sensations, Eilish and Euphoria, have come to prominence for their ability to create moving art out of the pain and conflict of the teenage experience during an era that has seen a rise in technology and adolescent addiction, making a collaboration or cameo seem more fitting than it may appear at face value.

Everything We Know About Euphoria Season 3

Maddy floats in a pool while babysitting in Euphoria.

With Euphoria quickly becoming one of HBO’s most watched shows, second only to Game of Thrones, it should come as no surprise that the series was renewed for a season 3 following the dramatic eight-part second season that saw protagonist Rue try to maintain her sobriety amidst a new friendship with Eliot that threatened her relationship with Jules. Additionally, best friends Maddie and Cassie endured a ruthless falling out that came to physical blows in the season 2 finale. While filming for Euphoria season 3 is not expected to begin until February 2023, the cast and Levinson have teased some of what fans can expect. Similarly to the show’s first two seasons, Euphoria season 3 is expected to contain 8 episodes that various cast members have teased will explore even darker storylines, which Zendaya has expressed she hopes will extend into an exploration of the characters once they graduate from high school and enter their collegiate years.

Though Eilish hasn’t joined the show’s upcoming season, viewers can still expect a cast shakeup. Following speculation of on-set tension between cast member Barbie Ferrera and Levinson, Ferreira took to Instagram to announce she would not be reprising her role as the vibrant fan-favorite Kat. Furthermore, though there was talk of lead Zendaya, who now has 2 Emmys under her belt for her depiction of Rue, leaving the show after season 2, she has been confirmed to return to the series alongside the rest of its central cast. The biggest cliffhanger that Euphoria season 3 is expected to address is the possible death of Ashtray and Fezco’s impending prison stay. How Euphoria answers the open-ended questions it has posed and deals with its evolving central cast will only become clear when season 3 hits HBO.

Source: Vanity Fair

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Will Smith Appears on ‘The Daily Show’ in First Late-Night Interview Since Oscars Slap: ‘That Is Not Who I Want to Be’

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After a series of online statements and quiet public appearances over recent months, Will Smith took further steps back into the spotlight Monday evening, appearing for an interview on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.” Promoting his new historical drama “Emancipation,” Smith’s conversation with the late-night host naturally dug into his Oscars night controversy, in which he slapped Chris Rock onstage as the comedian was introducing the category of best documentary feature.

“I have been away,” Will Smith said, drawing a laugh from the crowd when the topic of his absence from the public eye came up. “What have y’all been doing?”

“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine. There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just — I lost it, you know?” Smith continued. “I was going through something that night, you know? Not that that justifies my behavior at all… It was a lot of things. It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know? All of that just bubbled up in that moment. That is not who I want to be.”

Noah interjected, offering his own perspective on the situation and recalling the discussions about the controversy that he had with peers.

“I love Chris. I’m friends with him. I love you, but this is fucked up… I know that as Black people, Black people get together and go, ‘What was Will doing? What the hell happened?’ A lot of Black people were like, ‘He should go to jail.’ Like, you need to relax yourself,” Noah said, earning a laugh from Smith. “Some people were overreacting, which made some people underreact.”

Smith shared an anecdote from the aftermath on Oscars evening, when he was already having to deal with the reverberations of his outburst in his private life.

“I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time,” Smith said, “My nephew is nine. He is the sweetest little boy. We came home. He had stayed up late to see his uncle Will and we are sitting in my kitchen and he is on my lap and he is holding the Oscar and he is just like, ‘Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’ Damn it. Why are you trying to Oprah me?”

Smith also discussed “Emancipation,” sharing the decision-making that led him to the project. Based on true events, the film stars Smith as a runaway slave who becomes known to the world as “Whipped Peter” after widely distributed photographs of keloid scarring on his back expose the extreme brutality of slavery.

“First seeing that image was one of the things that really got me excited to explore this, because you see the image, but you don’t know who he is. You don’t know what the story is,” Smith said. “American slavery was one of the most brutal aspects of human history… It is hard to understand the level of human cruelty. My daughter asked me, ‘Daddy, do we really need another slave movie?’ I said, ‘Daby, I promise you, I wouldn’t make a slave movie. This is a freedom movie.’”

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, director Antoine Fuqua addressed the decision to release “Emancipation” eight months after Smith’s Oscars controversy, saying “the film to me is bigger than that moment.”

“400 years of slavery is bigger than one moment,” Fuqua stated. “My hope is that people will see it that way and watch the movie and be swept away with the great performance by Will and all the real hard work that the whole crew did.”

“Emancipation” will debut in select theaters this Friday before premiering on Apple TV+ on Dec. 9.

Watch Noah’s full interview with Smith below.



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