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Of all the people we’ve lost in 2016, this one hits me the hardest. Gene Wilder gave me my love of movies. May he rest in peace.

Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and Blazing Saddles star, dies at 83

From the mania of Victor Frankenstein to Willy Wonka’s subtle lunacy, Gene Wilder — who died Sunday in Stamford, Connecticut from complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 83, his nephew told the Associated Press — lit up the funniest movies of the 1970s with an irresistible neurotic charm. But off-screen, Wilder’s life was no comedy: The actor was battered by tragedy, including a difficult childhood and the untimely death of his third wife, comedian Gilda Radner, of cancer in 1989.

Born Jerry Silberman in Milwaukee in 1933, Wilder grew up entertaining his sickly mother in the hope that laughter would prevent her death. He began his showbiz career on stage, where he met Mel Brooks while costarring in a Broadway production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children with Brooks’ wife, Anne Bancroft. The two became fast friends, and Wilder’s professional partnership with Brooks over the next decade would become the stuff of legend. Their first collaboration, The Producers (1968), garnered an Oscar nomination for Wilder, while 1974’s one-two of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (which Wilder co-wrote) established them as the brightest comedy team in the business.

“I started writing about what I would like to see [Frankenstein stories] become,” Wilder told Robert Osborne about the genesis of Young Frankenstein in a rare interview in 2013. “I wanted to make it a happy ending.”

In the meantime, Wilder found his calling-card role, the eponymous candy czar of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971). Over 40 years later, Wilder estimated that he still got five letters a day asking for him to sign his photograph. “It’s all because they saw Willy Wonka,” he told Osborne. “Sometimes it’s someone who’s 12 years old, sometimes it’s 21 years old, sometimes it’s 34 years old. But they want to have it signed.”

Around the same time, Wilder gave an unforgettably wry performance as a doctor who falls in love with a sheep in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask (1971). Still, the actor’s biggest commercial success came with a string of madcap comedies with comic Richard Pryor — including Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) — that made Wilder the most bankable star in Hollywood.

Wilder was already twice married when he met Saturday Night Live veteran Radner on the set of 1982’s Hanky Panky. The pair wed in 1984, just five years before Radner’s death, of ovarian cancer, in 1989. “She was always funny, and she loved doing what she was doing,” Wilder told Osborne, recalling how Radner teased him for never having seen any of her “Roseanne Rosannadanna” sketches, then made him watch them all. “And I saw those films, and she was wonderful,” Wilder said. “And then she got sick.”

The tragedy turned the actor — who was himself diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999 — into an activist, inspiring him to co-found the cancer outreach network Gilda’s Club. Wilder still worked sporadically after Radner’s death, notably in his own NBC sitcom Something Wilder (1994–95) and an Emmy-winning guest spot as Will Truman’s off-kilter boss on Will & Grace in 2003. In recent years, Wilder shifted his focus from performing to writing, producing a memoir (2005’s Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art), a book of stories, and three novels.

In a statement announcing his death, Wilder’s family confirmed the actor had lived with Alzheimer’s Disease for the last three years. “The choice to keep this private was his choice, in talking with us and making a decision as a family,” the statement read. “We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones – this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. It took enough, but not that.”

The statement, written by Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman, closed with a note about Wilder’s final moments: “He was 83 and passed holding our hands with the same tenderness and love he exhibited as long as I can remember. As our hands clutched and he performed one last breath, the music speaker, which was set to random, began to blare out one of his favorites: Ella Fitzgerald. There is a picture of he and Ella meeting at a London Bistro some years ago that are among each [of our] cherished possessions. She was singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as he was taken away.”

While Wilder will be remembered as one of the funniest actors Hollywood ever knew, he insisted otherwise. “When people see me in a movie, and if it’s funny, they stop and say things to me about ‘how funny you are,’” he told Osborne, saying that was the biggest misconception people have about him. “I don’t think I’m that funny. I think I can be, in the movies.”

The movies will miss him.

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There were so few winners this Summer Movie Season.

2016 summer movies: From The Rock to Spielberg, all the winners and losers

It was the hottest summer on record. And yet, the venues with the most reliable air conditioning – movie theatres – went largely unfilled.

How bad was it? You’d think the studios were serving hot soup instead of would-be blockbusters. Analysts are predicting the final box office tally will be at least 20% lower than last year’s summer movie season.

Supposed “sure things” like Ice Age and X-Men, Steven Spielberg and a long, long-awaited sequel to Independence Day were greeted by the movie-going public with a relative yawn.

There was no upside to controversy, as the rebooted, all-female Ghostbusters took what’s expected to be a $70 million loss (and saw its sequel plans put on hold) – possibly the biggest disconnect between pre-release awareness and post-release box office since Snakes on a Plane.

Critical acclaim/disdain seemed to be irrelevant, as recommended movies did well and flopped in equal measure.

So here’s a list of the hits, misses and underperformers. Might as well start with the big list first – bombs away!

 

BOMBS

– THE BFG: Spielberg is the man who INVENTED the summer blockbuster with Jaws. He returned to ET territory with a Roald Dahl-based family-film about a boy and his giant. Advance word is thumbs-up. The $140 million movie has a meager $20 mil opening.

– BEN HUR: Gosh, it worked with Charlton Heston back in the ‘50s, what could go wrong? How about everything? The sword-and-sandals saga with the fast-and-furious chariot races was in and out of theatres practically unnoticed.

– ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: It took in about a fifth of the original’s box office. Who knows? Maybe the $7 mil divorce Amber Heard got from Johnny Depp IS half of everything he owns at this point.

– ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE: Well, the fifth time’s a… um, what’s the opposite of “charm?” For once critics and audiences agreed. 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, $25 mil opening.

– THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR: A Snow White sequel without Snow White, or more importantly without Kristen Stewart. Apparently, she was the reason everyone went to Twilight movies all along.

– TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Cowabungle! Made about half what the previous reboot did.

-WARCRAFT: Everybody’s played the game. But do you know anybody who’s seen the movie? If so, are they Chinese? Because almost two-thirds of the movie’s (believe it or not) break-even $430 mil worldwide box office came from there. The video-game movie curse continues.

– GHOSTBUSTERS: An unfunny movie with a lot of baggage. Not sure who won the arguments, but it may be that people were just tired of the whole thing by the time it opened.

– NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING: Actually got some good reviews, but turned into another case of a sequel getting only half the audience of its predecessor. Chloe Grace Moretz may not be ready for her close-up, or Seth Rogen is on a down-swing.

– THE NICE GUYS: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as buddy comedy guys may sound counterintuitive, but 90% on Rotten Tomatoes says the chemistry worked. And then an $11 mil opening says, “Who cares what you guys think?”

– PETE’S DRAGON: Disney promoted the heck out of this boy-and-his-monster tale (inspired, inexplicably, on a not-really-beloved ‘70s Disney flick), starring grown-ups Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard. Took in about the same money as Spielberg’s BFG, though it cost less than half as much. Still a lot of red ink there.

– NINE LIVES: Kevin Spacey’s mind is in the body of a cat. How could that not work? The combination of Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken was good for a $6 mil opening. You could raise more auctioning off dinner with them.

 

UNDERPERFORMERS

In the olden days, this would just be a euphemism for “Bomb.” But today, a movie like Independence Day: Resurgence can attract crickets in North America, but make enough money overseas for everybody to get paid. In the case of the Star Trek and X-Men films, enough came in to justify further sequel plans, even if nobody was popping champagne corks.

-X-MEN APOCALYPSE: Apparently, at the Xavier Academy, attention is paid to what critics say. The previous film, Days of Future Past got great advance reviews and made about a third more in its first 10 days than the badly-reviewed Apocalypse. The feeling there is that the franchise needs a shakeup.

-STAR TREK BEYOND: Well received by Trekkers and critics (a Venn diagram that admittedly overlaps), the first Star Trek reboot not directed by J.J. Abrams had a $60 mil opening weekend, which Forbes pronounced, “just okay.”

-INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE: Proof that there is no movie so bad that it can’t be saved by the apparently less-discriminating overseas market.

 

HITS

– CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR: It may be impossible to totally fail with a superhero movie these days. But Civil War already had buzz as being nothing less than a new Avengers movie. Awash in iconic heroes and smartly executed, it made more than $1.1 billion worldwide in an as-noted dismal summer.

– SUICIDE SQUAD: The most truly critic-proof film since the last Transformers, the made-in-Toronto anti-hero saga with Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie has taken the slings-and-arrows to the bank. Suicide Squad’s box office is already double its budget and it’s been #1 for three weeks. Like the similarly-reviled-but-profitable Batman v Superman, there’s been a sizable drop-off week-to-week.

– CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE: Not a sequel and not based on anything except the popularity of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Kevin Hart. Result: $200 mil. Whatever buddy-comedy chemistry they’ve got, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling would like to know what it is.

– THE JUNGLE BOOK: Sure, you expected Captain America: Civil War to gross $1 billion. But a reboot of The Jungle Book using motion capture CGI a la the bear in The Revenant? Grossing just under a bil, Jon Favreau’s labour of love for Disney was THE family movie this summer. Okay, there was another.

– FINDING DORY: Proof that the public’s love for Ellen DeGeneres is bottomless, and that her ditzy, forgetful blue tang fish character is adorable beyond measure (okay, we measure it at about $900 mil).

– BAD MOMS: Forget the Ghostbusters brouhaha. There WAS a hilarious all-female sleeper hit in the theatres this summer, and it starred Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. That’s $100 mil worth of “underrated” and counting.

– THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE: Not quite as big in China as Warcraft, it did four times the business in North America, lofting it past the marks set by Prince of Egypt and other terrific movies-based-on-video games.

Other “Profitable Performers”: Lights Out, Conjuring 2, Jason Bourne, The Legend Of Tarzan, The Purge 3: Anarchy.

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I saw the new Woody Allen movie this week and that’s all. Its been a busy week.

Box office report: Don’t Breathe inhales $26.1 million

Continuing 2016’s streak of micro-budgeted horror successes, Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films’ Don’t Breathe took in an estimated $26.1 million, almost tripling its $10 million production costs after a mere three days in wide release.

Debuting on 3,051 screens, Don’t Breathe averages an impressive $8,559 per theater as the distributor’s effective marketing campaign (teasing chills instead of gory spills) pays off. Hitting its target demographic, the film averages an A- score with moviegoers under the age of 35, who’ve proven their appetite for scary movies is insatiable this year as they also carried June’s The Conjuring 2 to $102.4 million, and boosted both The Purge: Election Year and Lights Out to $79 million and $65.5 million, respectively, in July.

Overall audiences weren’t as impressed with the film as critics, however, as the film’s CinemaScore grade drops to a so-so B+ when the survey scope widens to include all ages. Still, with numbers spearheaded by Don’t Breathe, year-to-date box office is up around 5.5 percent from the same frame last year, with nine of the last 10 weekends outperforming their 2015 counterparts thus far.

Falling to No. 2 for the first time since it debuted is Warner Bros.’ DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad, which sheds 42 percent of its audience for a weekend finish at around $12.1 million. Its domestic total now stands at approximately $282.9 million. The $175 million film, with an ensemble cast that features Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, has grossed $635 million worldwide.

Animated holdovers Kubo and the Two Strings and Sausage Party finish the weekend at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, with the LAIKA stop-motion title jumping a spot from its fourth-place finish last week. Kubo falls a mere 37 percent across its second Friday-Sunday performance, pulling in an estimated $7.9 million, while Sausage Party dips another 50 percent to add around $7.7 million over its third weekend outing.

Rounding out the top 5 with an estimated $7.5 million is the action sequel Mechanic: Resurrection, as the Jason Statham genre pic averages $3,322 from 2,258 screens. The Lionsgate/Summit flick, a continuation of the 2011 remake, The Mechanic, also stars Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh, and Tommy Lee Jones. While critics weren’t exactly kind to the movie (it stands at 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 4/10), audiences were a little nicer, as it tied Don’t Breathe’s B+ CinemaScore grade.

It’s worth noting that STX Entertainment’s Bad Moms, now in its fifth weekend of release, adds $5.7 million to its ballooning total this weekend, bringing the film’s collective haul to a hair over $95.4 million to date. Featuring an all-female cast (Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith), Bad Moms’ impressive performance (atop long legs) at the box office falls in-line with other female-fronted comedies like Sisters, Spy, Trainwreck, and Bridesmaids, a group of well-received titles hitting big with a relatively-underserved demographic, proving there is an audience willing to pay to see women in the kind of adult-oriented films Hollywood has traditionally reserved for men.

Jason Bourne, while slowly descending the domestic charts, where it finishes with $5.2 million this weekend, debuts to a solid $50 million from theaters in China (it opened there Tuesday), bringing its global total to $347.9 million — the second-best performance for a franchise film, trailing behind The Bourne Ultimatum’s $442.8 million.

Outside the top 10, Roadside Attractions’ Sundance hit Southside with You, the dramatic retelling of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, grossed a lukewarm $3 million on 813 screens, averaging $3,764 per-screen. The film should stay afloat thanks to strong critical reviews, however, as it’s one of the best-reviewed titles of the week (93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 7.4/10).

The Weinstein Co.’s boxing drama Hands of Stone, starring Edgar Ramirez, Usher, and Robert De Niro, underperforms, even by platform standards, with a soft estimated $1.7 million on 810 screens. To get a jump start on the traditionally-lucrative Labor Day weekend, Weinstein plans to expand the film to 2,500 locations on Wednesday.

Check out the Aug. 26-28 weekend box office estimates, below:

1. Don’t Breathe – $26.1 million
2. Suicide Squad – $12.1 million
3. Kubo and the Two Strings – $7.9 million
4. Sausage Party – $7.7 million
5. Mechanic: Resurrection – $7.5 million
6. Pete’s Dragon – $7.3 million
7. War Dogs – $7.3 million
8. Bad Moms – $5.8 million
9. Jason Bourne – $5.2 million
10. Ben-Hur – $4.5 million

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This is great news!!

Gord Downie brain cancer fund raises $265K, still growing

There’s no doubt that Gord Downie has inspired Canadians through his music, bringing many fans to tears during his final Man Machine Poem concert over the weekend.

But Downie also inspired people to donate a whopping $200,000 to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research over the weekend alone. As of Monday morning, total funds were at $265,000 and were continuing to grow.

“We have heard from Canadians across the country, in the United States and around the world who organized events to watch the show and collect donations,” Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre said in a press release Monday.

Several corporations have contacted Sunnybrook hospital with interest in supporting the fund, according to the hospital.

Now that the tour is over, the band will get together with the hospital and decide how to direct the money donated to the hospital’s Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research. The money will likely be used for brain cancer research and technologies.

Downie is suffering from glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer with no cure. In May, it was announced the veteran singer and lyricist’s case was terminal.

Downie’s doctor, James Perry, has toured with the band every step of the way, from Victoria’s opening show to the last stop of the tour in Kingston this weekend.

Perry said fatigue is the main concern for brain cancer patients like Downie.

“He’s worked very hard to overcome that. It comes through rehearsal and his effort and dedication to do this, for not only his fans but now for a cause he’s probably never imagined in his life.”

He said although the tour is over, there’s something that won’t end.

“What this isn’t the end of is the opportunity for awareness and the opportunity to raise funds,” said Perry.

Perry said he noticed a lot of fans delivering the message about the urgent need for fundraising for brain cancer.

In terms of Downie’s health, especially after an ambitious 15-concert tour across Canada, Perry said that the singer’s condition is “still quite early in the disease course.”

“Gord is facing the time of his life, he’s taking this challenge and running with it. And he’ll run with it for as long as he’s able to do.”

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Only one more week and then the awful 2016 Summer Movie Season will be over!!!

Box office report: Suicide Squad leads underwhelming crop of newcomers

Kids across the nation aren’t the only ones feeling the back-to-school blues, as this weekend’s three new wide releases failed to drum up much interest at the box office, though year-to-date numbers are up around 5.2 percent from the same frame in 2015.

Warner Bros.’ DC Comics adaptation, Suicide Squad, won the box office crown for the third week in a row, pulling in a soft estimated $20.7 million atop a quiet crop of fresh titles. The action flick drops more than 50 percent across its third frame, a dip in-line with the trajectory of WB’s previous superhero title, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Suicide Squad’s estimated domestic total now outpaces the gross of 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, currently the top-grossing film ever to be released in August, which previously held the record for the month’s highest opening weekend ($94.3 million) before Squad blasted onto the scene with a $133.7 million debut. After 17 days in release, Guardians, en route to $333.2 million overall, had only amassed $222.7 million as compared to Squad’s $262.3 million earned over the same period.

Shedding more than 50 percent of its audience for a No. 2 finish, the R-rated animated comedy Sausage Party pulls in an estimated $15.3 million over its sophomore weekend, bringing its already-impressive domestic total to just over $65 million on a $19 million budget after just 10 days in North American theaters.

Warner Bros. scores a second top-three movie this weekend as the Miles Teller/Jonah Hill action-comedy War Dogs opens to an estimated $14.3 million on 3,258 screens for a modest per-theater average of $4,389. Though it holds off fellow newcomers like Kubo and the Two Strings and Ben-Hur, which take aim at very different audiences, Dogs earns an underwhelming B grade on CinemaScore, which means poor word of mouth could see the film take a nosedive next weekend.

Kubo, the latest stop-motion title from LAIKA, lands at No. 4 with approximately $12.6 million, the lowest opening gross of any of the animation house’s wide releases. Still, Kubo earned the best reviews of any LAIKA title in history on Friday, besting both the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores of films like The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline by a wide margin. The $60 million film also earned a rare A grade on CinemaScore, indicating the film could travel atop long legs toward a domestic finish in the $50-$60 million range.

Rounding out the top five is Paramount’s epic flop, Ben-Hur, an adaptation of Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (which was previously adapted as a 1959 movie starring Charlton Heston). The $100 million picture, which Paramount reportedly marketed heavily toward Christian audiences, opens to an estimated $11.4 million in the U.S. and Canada, while a further $10.7 million comes from foreign territories for a global premiere of $22 million. Ben-Hur’s less-than-impressive weekend total places the film in the same boat as films like Pompeii and Exodus: Gods and Kings, both expensive historical epics that failed to catch on with North American audiences.

Expanding to 472 locations, the Jeff Bridges crime thriller Hell or High Water adds $2.7 million to its growing total, averaging a decent $5,614 per screen. On the specialty front, Natalie Portman’s feature directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, averages $18,000 per theater for the week’s highest location average, while Kingslave: Final Fantasy: XV earns a modest $114,000 from 24 theaters across its opening weekend.

Check out the Aug. 19-21 weekend box office estimates below.

1. Suicide Squad – $20.7 million
2. Sausage Party – $15.3 million
3. War Dogs – $14.3 million
4. Kubo and the Two Strings – $12.6 million
5. Ben-Hur – $11.4 million
6. Pete’s Dragon – $11.3 million
7. Bad Moms – $8.1 million
8. Jason Bourne – $8 million
9. The Secret Life of Pets – $5.8 million
10. Florence Foster Jenkins – $4.3 million

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I begged him to do it! BEGGED HIM!!!

Ian McKellen rejected $1.5 million to dress as Gandalf for billionaire’s wedding

There’s no shortage of celebrities who are willing to sell themselves out. Whether it’s for an infomercial, autograph signing or otherwise, the list goes on an on. But one celeb, Sir Ian McKellen, stared $1.5 million in the face and turned it down.

The Daily Mail is reporting that McKellen was offered the whopping sum to dress up as his Lord of the Rings character, Gandalf, but said no, leaving his dignity in tact.

“I was offered one-and-a-half million dollars to marry a very famous couple in California, which I would perhaps have considered doing but I had to go dressed as Gandalf,” McKellen told the Daily Mail. “So I said, ‘I am sorry, Gandalf doesn’t do weddings.’”

That wedding was reportedly for Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, one of the co-founders of Napster and the first president of Facebook. The 2013 nuptials were held in the woods of Big Sur, California with a guest list that included Sting, Emma Watson, Olivia Munn, and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich among a gaggle of tech zillionaires. Depending on the source, the price for the affair was anywhere between $4.5 million and $10 million. According to Vanity Fair, each of the more than 350 guests “was custom-fitted in Tolkien-esque garb by Ngila Dickson, the costume designer who won an Academy Award for The Lord of the Rings.”

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Looks like I now have a reason to go back again.

Elvis Presley’s Graceland to Undergo Major Facelift

Graceland officials say a new 200,000-square-foot entertainment complex will be built across the street from Elvis Presley’s former home-turned-museum.

Officials with the Memphis-based tourist attraction said Thursday that the $45 million complex will include exhibits that highlight the late singer’s life and career exploits in music and film. Presley died in Memphis on Aug. 16, 1977.

Graceland says the entertainment complex is part of a $137 million expansion that includes the construction of a $92 million hotel, The Guest House at Graceland. The 450-room hotel is set to open Oct. 27.

The Commercial Appeal reports that the new complex will replace the existing complex, which contains a car museum, restaurants and memorabilia shops. Graceland says it is set to be completed in the spring of next year.

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Very sad news. May he rest in peace.

Kenny Baker, ‘Star Wars’ Actor Behind R2-D2, Dead at 81

Kenny Baker, the actor who portrayed the robot R2-D2 in six Star Wars films, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 81.

Baker’s niece Abigail Shield confirmed the actor’s death to the Guardian. “It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless. He had a very long and fulfilled life,” Shield said. “He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”

The 3-foot, 8-inch Baker started his career as a circus performer and comic actor before Star Wars director George Lucas cast Baker for the role of R2-D2. Alongside actor Anthony Daniels, who played servant droid C-3PO, Baker operated the hulking R2-D2 costume for six feature films, from 1977’s A New Hope to 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, as well as appearances in commercials, television cameos, the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special and Star Tours.

Although the R2-D2 role brought Baker fame among Star Wars fanatics, the actor didn’t have an especially good experience filming the sci-fi epics due to the clunky mechanics and excruciating heat he faced while inside the costume. “There weren’t any highlights,” Baker told Star Wars Interviews in 2010. “I was just there, in the droid. I was mainly in the end scenes of every movie. I can’t remember any highs or lows, it was just a job.”

Out of the R2-D2 costume, Baker also appeared in films like The Elephant Man, Time Bandits, Labyrinth and Amadeus.

While Baker did not reprise the role for 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he did serve as consultant on the film. Baker was invited to attend the blockbuster’s Los Angeles premiere in December but his illness prevented him from traveling to the U.S. Instead, Lucas joined Baker at the film’s European premiere in London.

Baker’s death comes five months after the death of Tony Dyson, the builder of the R2-D2 unit.

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That could be great!!

‘Ocean’s Eight’ will have all-female lead cast with Anne Hathaway and Rihanna

Another grand caper is underway, but this time with an all-female crew of thieves.

Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter and rapper Awkwafina are close to deals to join Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway and Cate Blanchett for the Warner Bros. heist film “Ocean’s Eight,” according to sources close to the production.

The casting of the spinoff, which was first reported by Deadline, follows the studios’ successful “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise. This time the crew will be all women.

Casting is still going on, and there’s been no word on who will fill the role of the eighth member. The film has been under development for some time.

The franchise — three films so far — starred George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, followed bank robbers who pulled off extravagant heists in Las Vegas and Europe. The series has made more than $1.1 billion worldwide at the box office.

The latest iteration of the series will be directed by Gary Ross, “The Hunger Games” director. It will be produced by the franchise’s original director, Steven Soderbergh, and the script will be written by Ross and Olivia Milch.

The cast features some of the most famous actresses in Hollywood — and some of the most award winning. Bullock, Blanchett, and Hathaway have all won Academy Awards, while Carter has been nominated twice.

The inclusion of Rihanna is also notable. The singer had roles like 2012’s “Battleship” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” which is due out next year.

“Ocean’s Eight” is a spinoff of 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” which is itself a reboot/remake of the 1960 film of the same name that starred Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

The film is set to begin production in October in New York. No release date has been announced.

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January?! Good luck with that!!

Bad Boys 3 Now Called Bad Boys For Life, Release Date Pushed To 2018

Will Smith’s given us plenty of updates on the proposed third Bad Boys movie over the years. The most recent came in February when the actor told BBC Radio that he’d recently met with his co-star Martin Lawrence to bat around the possibility of popping out another adventure for Lowery and Burnett. Apparently, all it took was a hug for them to agree on Bad Boys 3.

Sony Pictures felt even more confident, pencilling in release dates for a third and fourth installment in the franchise on February 17, 2017 and July 3, 2019 respectively.

Sorry to break it to you folks, but it now looks as if we’re not getting ANY Bad Boys movies for a while. A Tweet from Exhibitor Relations states that the third film is now slated for a January 12, 2018 release date. This isn’t exactly great news as the beginning of the year is typically where studio dreck goes to die. On the bright side, it’s now got a brand new title – Bad Boys For Life – that’s a neat reference to one of Smith’s lines in the first movie. There’s no word on a release move for the fourth film.

With the future of Sony’s other blockbuster properties like Jump Street, Men In Black and Ghostbusters looking less certain, it’s strange that Bad Boys 3 is being saddled with that less-than-optimistic opening date. But with Joe Carnahan writing and directing and Deadpool proving that release window curses are destined to be broken, there’s reason to be hopeful about this brand.