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Very sad news. May he rest in peace.

Miguel Ferrer, ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ and ‘RoboCop’ Actor, Dies at 61

“Miguel made the world brighter and funnier and his passing is felt so deeply in our family that events of the day, (monumental events), pale in comparison,” cousin George Clooney said in a statement.
Miguel Ferrer, best known for starring as Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles, died Thursday of cancer. He was 61.

Ferrer, who appeared in numerous films and television shows throughout his career, passed peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends, according to CBS.

“Today, NCIS: LOS ANGELES lost a beloved family member,” showrunner R. Scott Gemmill said in a statement. “Miguel was a man of tremendous talent who had a powerful dramatic presence on screen, a wicked sense of humor, and a huge heart. Our thoughts go out to his wife Lori, his sons, and his entire family. He will be greatly missed.”

Ferrer was the son of actor Jose Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney, making him a cousin to George Clooney, who sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement on the loss of his family member:

“Today history will mark giant changes in our world, and lost to most will be that on the same day Miguel Ferrer lost his battle to throat cancer. But not lost to his family. Miguel made the world brighter and funnier and his passing is felt so deeply in our family that events of the day, (monumental events), pale in comparison. We love you Miguel. We always will.”

Ferrer played Bob Morton, the man who came up with the idea for a robotic police officer, in the 1987 cult classic RoboCop. Other memorable roles include Dr. Garret Macy on TV’s Crossing Jordan and Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks. The actor also had a number of notable voice roles over the course of his career, as he voiced characters in Mulan, Rio 2, Robot Chicken and more.

Earlier on Thursday, it was announced that Ferrer would lend his voice along with Christina Ricci to Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, the DC Universe animated original movie from Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. He had completed voice work for the mercenary villain Deathstroke in the movie prior to his death. The film, directed by Sam Liu (Justice League vs. Teen Titans), adapts the classic storyline from the 1980s comic Tales of the Teen Titans.

Last week, Ferrer was set to appear at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour panel for the revived Twin Peaks, but was not in attendance.

He is survived by his wife Lori, sons Lukas and Rafi, brother Rafael Ferrer and cousin Clooney.

Shortly after the news broke, Crossing Jordan co-star Jill Hennessy shared on Twitter: “Can’t believe this gut-punch…just heard @Miguel_J_Ferrer passed..loved that hilarious, brilliant dude.”

Twin Peaks co-star Kyle MacLachlan also tweeted his condolences, saying, “Agent Rosenfield, I love you.”

Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost also shared his condolences, writing, “We go back to 1974. Broke in on the same show. Great talent, better man. Working & writing for him a highlight in every part of my life.”

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Such great news! Congratulations to Tim Raines along with Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez!!

Former Expo Tim Raines elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Montreal Expo Tim Raines has finally been granted a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Raines was elected in his 10th and final year of eligibility, and will be joined by Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez.

Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short, and steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. But they received a majority of votes for the first time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Raines was on 380 ballots (86 per cent). He started at 24.3 per cent in 2008 and jumped from 55 per cent in 2015 to 69.8 per cent last year.

“Last night probably the worst night I’ve had out of the 10 years,” he said. “I knew I was close, but I wasn’t sure.”

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, is just the fifth player elected in his final year of eligibility after Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975) and Jim Rice (2009). Raines was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport’s dominant speedster. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

“I think social media played a big role,” he said. “There are some things that I did that a lot of the guys that’s already in the Hall of Fame didn’t actually do. So I think it kind of made them look a lot at me a lot closer and they looked a lot deeper, and I think the more they looked, I think the better it turned out for me.”

Bagwell , on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 per cent. Players needed 75 per cent, which came to 332 votes this year.

“Anxiety was very, very high,” Bagwell said. “I wrote it on a ball tonight. It was kind of cool.”

Rodriguez , at 45 the youngest current Hall member, received 336 votes (76 per cent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

“”I’ve been having trouble sleeping for three days,” the popular Pudge said. “Johnny Bench was my favorite player growing up.”

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

“Falling short of this class is disappointing,” Hoffman said in a statement. “I am truly humbled to have come so close. I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego.”

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 per cent, followed by Clemens (54.1), Bonds (53.8), Mike Mussina (51.8), Curt Schilling (45), Lee Smith (34.2) percent and Manny Ramirez (23.8).

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time all-star for Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs. Among 220 Hall of Fame players, he is the 50th who spent his entire career with one big league team.

Rodriguez, a 14-time all-star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball’s 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: “Only God knows.”

Rodriguez displaced Pedro Martinez as the youngest of the record 74 living Hall members.

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 per cent in his initial appearance, in 2013 and jumped from 44.3 per cent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 per cent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time all-star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball’s drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

“Barry Bonds was the best player I played against in my entire life,” Bagwell said.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Twelve players have been elected by the BBWAA in the past four years, the most over a span of that length since the first four ballots from 1936-39.

Lee Smith, who had 478 saves, got 34 percent in his final time on the ballot. Jorge Posada, Tim Wakefield and Magglio Ordonez were among the players who got under 5 per cent and fell off future ballots.

Pete Rose, the career hits leader who has never appeared on a ballot because of a lifetime ban that followed an investigation of his gambling, received one write-in vote.

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The perks of being President.

Bruce Springsteen Played Secret White House Concert for Obama Staffers

Bruce Springsteen staged a secret acoustic concert at the White House January 12th to reward President Barack Obama’s staff for their hard work over the past eight years, Backstreets revealed Wednesday.

The 15-song set took place in front of approximately 250 staffers in the White House’s East Room, where two months earlier Springsteen was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The set list for the unique performance leaned towards the singer’s more political works, and Springsteen frequently discussed politics and Obama’s impact between each song.

Before “Born in the U.S.A.,” Springsteen called the 1984 hit single a “protest song” and lamented that the track had been misinterpreted in the past, and it would continued to be misinterpreted in the future, Backstreets reports. He also played a triptych of “home” songs, “My Hometown,” “My Father’s House” and “Long Walk Home.”

Springsteen also dedicated “Tougher Than the Rest,” which also featured Patti Scalfia, to the Obamas for all they endured during their time in the White House. The concert concluded with the one-two punch of “Dancing in the Dark” and the optimistic “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

Following the concert, Obama thanked Springsteen. “He’s been with us for some time now, performing his craft to show his support,” the president told his staff.

Springsteen was also reportedly in attendance at the White House a week earlier when the Obamas threw one final star-studded bash, with Paul McCartney, Jerry Seinfeld, Beyonce and Jay Z, Solange, Chance the Rapper and many more celebrities present at that fete.

Bruce Springsteen White House setlist (via Backstreets):
“Working on the Highway”
“Growin’ Up”
“My Hometown”
“My Father’s House”
“The Wish”
“Thunder Road”
“The Promised Land”
“Born in the U.S.A.”
“Devils & Dust”
“Tougher Than the Rest” (with Patti Scialfa)
“If I Should Fall Behind” (with Patti Scialfa)
“The Ghost of Tom Joad”
“Long Walk Home”
“Dancing in the Dark”
“Land of Hope and Dreams”

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Best of luck, Q!!

Quincy Jones’ Royalties Dispute With Michael Jackson Estate Inches Toward Trial

One music icon and the estate of another are set to go to trial Feb. 21.

Quincy Jones’ breach of contract claims involving posthumous Michael Jackson releases will proceed to trial next month, after a judge on Wednesday denied a motion for summary judgment.

The fight began in 2013 when Jones sued Sony Entertainment and MJJ Productions, a song company controlled by the King of Pop’s estate, claiming master recordings he produced were wrongfully edited and remixed to deprive him of backend profit participation. The works at issue including the This Is It film and soundtrack album and the 25th anniversary edition of Bad.

Zia Modabber, attorney for MJJ, argued that Jones is trying to pass off breach of contract damages claims as separate causes of action.

In a Wednesday morning hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern said the case isn’t as clear cut as Modabber would like. He says issues concerning the contracts between Jones and MJJ require the examination of extrinsic evidence before they can be resolved. Stern has questions specifically in regard to whether the parties’ deal precludes Jones from being paid more favorably than Jackson himself, whether revenue from digital downloads should be treated as those of licenses or sales, and whether Jones is entitled to royalties from broadcast public performances and SoundExchange revenue.

The judge said he’s been hearing the same arguments from the beginning of the case and still believes the issues are ripe for trial. “I hate to sound trite, but it really is déjà vu all over again,” he said Stern. (Stern denied a previous summary judgment motion last February.)

Jones is represented by Robert Allen and J. Michael Hennigan of McKool Smith. MJJ is also represented by Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir of Kinsella Weitzman and Tami Sims and Leah Solomon of Katten Muchin Rosenman. Sony is represented by Mitchell Kamin and Jonathan Sperling of Covington & Burling.

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Can’t wait to watch it!!

How Tina Fey’s Great News will (or won’t) tackle fake news

When NBC ordered Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s newsroom-set series Great News last May, the world of cable news was less a headline and more a punchline, but ahead of the show’s March 7 premiere, Fey and company seem to have inherited all the zeitgeisty trimmings that now seem expected with the loaded term.

The workplace sitcom was created by former 30 Rock-er Tracy Wigfield and follows Katie (Briga Heelan), a rising journalist whose job at a cable news network is shaken up when her mother (Andrea Martin) accepts an internship at the channel. Executive producers Fey, Carlock, and Jack Burditt joined Wigfield and the cast during the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour and spoke not only about the show’s DNA link to 30 Rock, but to the inevitable question of whether the midseason comedy would use its subject matter to comment on where news — real and fake — sits on the political front today.

For one thing, Fey said the broadcast schedule meant a majority of the first 10 episodes were shot ahead of the fake news melee that emerged after (and during) the election. “We shot these knowing that we’d be on midseason, so with the delay on broadcast, you can sort of take ideas from the headlines, but you can’t do a joke that will…feel really old by the time the show airs,” she said. “I think if we’re lucky enough to do a second season…you’d be closer to [the headlines], but you can never quite keep up with Saturday Night Live in that way. It’s a different game. I think you take bigger ideas more than day-to-day moments.”

Wigfield confirmed that she would be interested in making more of a statement on news veracity in the show’s would-be second season. “I’d love for the show to be able to do more commentary on…the state of news and where news is going,” she told reporters, adding that she was surprised to have “picked what now is the most interesting job in the world—to work at a cable news station.” However, Wigfield agreed with Fey’s assessment that as a new show, it must first and foremost find and stay grounded in its foundation: “There’s a core. For a series to sustain itself, it does have to be about the people and the relationships.”

Carlock noted that the show’s subject matter already packed significantly higher moral stakes than 30 Rock. “Even if we’re not trying to deal with the news as the news, there are stakes to it,” said Fey’s frequent creative partner, summarizing some of the stakes on 30 Rock as “Tracy won’t do the sketch!” With Great News, he says, “What we were able to do with this is to have things that matter. Just from a story standpoint, it feels more propulsive.”

Certain aspects of the present state of news are cornerstones of the sitcom, though. Among the ensemble, John Michael Higgins and Nicole Richie costar as the network’s anchors, Chuck and Portia, who sit on the opposite side of the generational gap and reflect that age discrepancy in their judgment of, as Carlock says, things that matter. “Portia wants to share…what she considers actual news,” said Richie. “Chuck wants to report on actual news that’s going on in the world, and Portia really wants to report about Snapchat and lipstick and anything really important to her.”

Cast member Horatio Sanz sums up the show’s premise fairly well. “It’s impossible to not have an opinion on the news,” he says. “[But] I would watch this even if I wasn’t on it because it’s fascinating—a news team or a news organization, if you’re sitting inside—how weird they are. We’re always presented with this perfect picture, but when you go inside, it’s a lot more… odd.”

Great News premieres March 7 on NBC.

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This is good news as we don’t get Hulu in Canada. I was worried it was all going there. Thanks Netflix!!

Jerry Seinfeld Ditches Crackle for Netflix, New ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ Coming Late 2017

Jerry Seinfeld is taking “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on the road to Netflix.

The talk series, which had previously debuted new episodes on Sony’s ad-supported streaming service Crackle, will bring 24 new episodes exclusively to Netflix starting in late 2017, with subsequent installments coming in 2018 and further forward in time. The move is part of a multi-faceted production deal Seinfeld has inked with Netflix that will also include two new stand-up specials filmed exclusively for the streaming service.

News of the deal comes mere days after the announcement that Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton was leaving the company for Snap, Inc.; itself preceded by Sony TV head Steve Mosko’s departure in June 2016. Seinfeld’s relationship with Sony extends back to the days of his first TV success with “Seinfeld,” produced by Sony Pictures Television.

“When I first started thinking about ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,’ the entire Netflix business model consisted of mailing out DVDs in envelopes,” Seinfeld said in a statement. “I love that we are now joining together, both at very different points. I am also very excited to be working with Ted Sarandos at Netflix, a guy and a place that not only have the same enthusiasm for the art of stand up comedy as I do, but the most amazing technology platform to deliver it in a way that has never existed before. I am really quite charged up to be moving there.”

Netflix has indeed been heavily investing in original comedy, with new stand-up specials popping up several times a month.

“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” has racked up three Emmy nominations; most recently, in the variety talk series category, virtually unheard-of for a streaming service. “This has been such an exciting Lewis-and-Clark, ‘paddle down the river and see what’s down there’ adventure, there was no expectation of anything,” Seinfeld told Variety shortly after his nomination. “I’m flattered and humbled our little show has gotten this far. We didn’t even know if audiences would watch a TV show on the internet every week.”

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This is great, so great! So very, very great!!! Go Jays Go!!!

Jose Bautista strikes 1-year deal with Blue Jays: reports

He doesn’t fit the Blue Jays’ off-season mantra to get younger, more athletic and left-handed, but Jose Bautista was probably the most productive bat remaining on the free-agent market Toronto could have secured.

The 36-year-old’s re-signing on Tuesday, pending a physical, is reportedly a one-year guaranteed contract worth $18 million US with two mutual option years that could make the deal worth $60 million. It would address the team’s need for a corner outfielder, and unlike free agents Mark Trumbo and Brandon Moss, Bautista is familiar with his teammates, the Jays’ clubhouse and manager John Gibbons.

“I’d be stupid to leave. I love the city,” Bautista told Sports Illustrated last spring, about seven months before rejecting the Blue Jays’ $17.2-million qualifying offer for one season in November.

Bautista, who was said to have demanded a contract extension for more than $150 million US for at least five years last spring training, will make more than the rejected qualifying offer in 2017, according to reports. The Blue Jays would have gained a compensatory draft pick had he signed elsewhere.

After posting a .234 batting average with 22 home runs in an injury riddled 2016 season, many believed Bautista would leave Toronto, thus allowing management to spend some extra money to bring back fellow free agent Edwin Encarnacion.

But Encarnacion officially left for Cleveland recently after agreeing to a three-year contract worth $60 million with the team that knocked out the Jays in the American League Championship Series and finished one win shy of a World Series.

Toronto has had a fairly quiet off-season, signing slugger Kendrys Morales, utilityman Steve Pearce and prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but failing to bring back the popular Encarnacion did not go over well in the Ontario capital.

Before last season, Bautista hit .268 with a .390 on-base percentage, .555 slugging percentage and 45 home runs per 162 games played since his 2010 breakout campaign (.260, 54 homers, 124 RBIs, .378 OBP).

But the Dominican’s 22 long balls in 2016 were his fewest since he hit 13 in 2009, and his 69 runs batted in were his fewest since 2012 (92 games). Bautista, who was in the final year of a team-friendly contract of six years and $78 million, also failed to make the AL all-star team last summer for the first time in seven seasons.

In addition to his power numbers, Bautista’s on-base percentage of .366 would also help a batting order that he would co-anchor with third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Morales.

Knee and toe injuries saw Bautista placed on the disabled list a couple of times, and his on-base-plus slugging percentage of .817 was his lowest since 2009.

From 2010 through 2015, only Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.996), Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (.971), Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels (.963) and retired Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz (.945) had a higher OPS mark than Bautista’s .929.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and Bautista’s representatives reportedly met face-to-face at the winter meetings six weeks ago, with the understanding the team was interested in exploring potential trades for an outfielder.

Unsuccessful in completing a deal — some say the Blue Jays were interested in Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets — Toronto circled back to Bautista, who struck out 103 times in 423 at-bats last season, compared with 106 strikeouts in 543 at bats in 2015, and is on the decline defensively.

According to BrooksBaseball.net, Bautista’s slugging percentage on four-seam fastballs also declined from .554 in 2015 to .475 last season.

But since 2010, Bautista has hit more home runs than any player in Major League Baseball with 249. With 265 overall as a Blue Jay, he ranks second behind Carlos Delgado (336) on Toronto’s all-time list.

Shortly after the Jays snapped a 22-year playoff drought with an AL East title in 2015, Bautista hit an epic three-run homer in Game 5 of the Division Series against Texas, punctuating his shot with a bat flip.

Toronto is now expected to focus on improving its depth in the bullpen and at the backup catcher and left field positions.

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I saw a lot of movies this week and the best of them was HIDDEN FIGURES. It’s completely worthy of your time too.

Box office report: Hidden Figures repeats, La La Land surges

After captivating audiences to the tune of $22.8 million across its first weekend in wide release, Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures again rockets to the top of the domestic box office for the second week in a row, falling a slight 10 percent to an estimated $20.5 million.

The film’s take represents only the first three days of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday stretch, and will certainly climb higher into the mid-twenties when Monday figures roll in; its domestic total now stands at roughly $54.8 million on a reported $25 million budget, with no signs of stopping in the coming weeks as it translates its status as a top-earning crowd-pleaser into a prospective Oscar nominee.

Fellow awards player La La Land — which won a record seven Golden Globes last Sunday — surges with North American audiences, reaching a new peak at No. 2 with an estimated $14.5 million. Damien Chazelle’s modern musical, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, averages around $7,846 per theater at 1,848 locations (including 148 IMAX screens) for a 43 percent increase over its three-day number last week, bringing its domestic haul to $74.1 million ($128.9 million globally) through Sunday, though Lionsgate is expecting the film to earn another $3 million on Monday. Regardless, La La Land will sit at the No. 13 spot on the all-time movie musical chart, surpassing 2014’s remake of Annie ($85.9 million) by the end of the coming week.

The latest Illuminations/Universal animated collaboration Sing spends its fourth straight weekend in the top three, finishing the three-day period with an estimated $13.8 million.

Hot on Sing‘s trail is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which posts a solid $13.76 million over its fifth weekend in theaters. This weekend, the film surpasses Finding Dory as the highest-grossing film to be released in 2016 with $498.9 million — a number that will exceed $500 million once Monday ticket sales are counted.

Among a relatively weak crop of newcomers, STX Entertainment’s The Bye Bye Man — a horror flick that marks Hollywood legend Faye Dunaway’s first major theatrical role in years — earns an estimated $13.4 million through Sunday, becoming the only new release to notch a spot among the weekend’s top five grossers. STX is expecting $15 million with holiday sales included, a total that more than doubles the film’s modest $7.4 million production budget. The Bye Bye Man hit largely with the distributor’s core demographic, attracting an audience comprised primarily of young women (61 percent were female, 75 percent were under the age of 25).

Outside the top five, a wealth of fresh or expanding titles fail to catch on with audiences. The third Mark Wahlberg/Peter Berg project, Patriots Day, debuts in wide release at No. 6 as the pair’s weakest opener yet, nabbing a soft $12 million for the three-day ($14.25 four-day). Still, the project — about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings — scores a rare A+ grade from polled moviegoers on CinemaScore.

Paramount’s Monster Trucks — made for an astronomical $125 million — takes in a paltry (but expected) $10.1 million ($14.1 million four-day) at No. 7, though it managed to pull off a stellar A grade on CinemaScore. The actioner, starring Lucas Till, Jane Levy, and Rob Lowe, attracted an audience base that was 60 percent under the age of 25, according to the studio. It opened in an additional 17 territories this weekend, earning around 34-37 percent more than the comparable Pete’s Dragon in Australia and Malaysia.

At No. 8, Jamie Foxx’s Sleepless takes in a so-so $8.5 million for the three-day, while Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort Live By Night flops as it widens nationwide, amassing a lowly $5.4 million over the weekend.

Also premiering in wide release this weekend is Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Following a limited run that launched Dec. 23, Silence made $1.94 million over its first three days, which Paramount estimates will grow to $2.3 million by Monday’s end. The film, a passion project for Scorsese, was produced for around $45 million after nearly three decades of gestation.

Year to date box office is down approximately 4.2 percent from the same frame last year. Check out the three-day weekend box office estimates below.

1. Hidden Figures – $20.5 million
2. La La Land – $14.5 million
3. Sing – $13.81 million
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – $13.8 million
5. The Bye Bye Man – $13.4 million
6. Patriots Day – $12 million
7. Monster Trucks – $10.5 million
8. Sleepless – $8.5 million
9. Underworld: Blood Wars – $5.8 million
10. Passengers – $5.6 million

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It is such a classic album. One of my Desert Island Classics.

The Story of John Fogerty’s Lengthy Path to ‘Centerfield’

On January 16th, 1985, roughly a decade after he’d last released an album of new material, former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty returned with his fourth solo LP, Centerfield. Happy as fans were to hear from him, everyone wanted to know the same thing: Where had he been?

As with anything that takes 10 years, Fogerty’s hiatus was due to a number of things – the first of which was the rejection of what was supposed to be his fourth solo outing, then titled Hoodoo, in 1976. Instead of leaning on him to deliver something better, Elektra chief Joe Smith told Fogerty to take his time and come back when he was ready – a stunning turn of events for a performer who’d always felt pressure, both internal and from his label, to churn out hit product on a regular basis.

“That was the greatest thing that ever happened,” Fogerty told BAM in 1985, acknowledging that Smith’s gentle rejection helped him get past what he deemed “a lot of problems.” As he put it, “The first thing I decided was I could take the time to have taste again, you know, the way it was before, when nothing came out until it was ready.”

Meanwhile, Fogerty found himself embroiled in a nasty, drawn-out legal war over Creedence Clearwater Revival’s legacy and the disbursement of contested royalties – a parade of lawyers and divided royalties that he admitted sent him spiraling into a terrible case of writer’s block.

“I would see these people’s faces in front of me, holding big bags of money they’d gotten from us, like a spectre, a hallucination,” he recalled. And although he ended up spending untold hours practicing in the studio – time he said helped him sharpen his chops considerably – he wasn’t sure where all that work would ever lead. “It was getting worse, more and more depressed, and further away from the center of John Fogerty. I could play but I didn’t know what to play. … A blind man in a fog, just flitting around.”

The song that ultimately snapped John Fogerty’s dry streak was ‘I Saw It on TV,’ a track that became a cornerstone of the nine-song Centerfield. Recalling that he’d “thought about this song for three or four years, with just a verse, and a smattering of melody,” he traced its watershed moment to a fishing trip that left him with a day of nothing but drifting and thinking on his hands.

“I quit about six o’clock in the evening and walked back to the car with maybe a verse-and-a-half and a chorus. I was starting to feel a little confident. And I got my fishing gear straight and shut the door in the car and CLICK – my brain said ‘Hey, I can do this!’ It felt like before, when I’d give myself that certain space and write ‘Proud Mary’ or whatever,” he continued. “I had jumped over the hurdle. I was a songwriter again. It was a great moment for me.”

That moment helped launch John Fogerty past a crucible that nearly warped his childhood dream beyond repair. “Our goal was to be like Elvis [Presley] or Little Richard in eighth and ninth grade, and we came up from El Cerrito and we succeeded, and we’re traveling around the world in Lear jets,” he pointed out. “And then suddenly I found myself chained to the dungeon wall, and I was cranking out little gems to pay for the cost of keeping a guard on my door.”

With “I Saw It on TV” under his belt, Fogerty was back in business as a songwriter, but that didn’t mean he was back to cranking out classics at the same speed he had during Creedence Clearwater Revival’s glory days. The album that would eventually become Centerfield came together slowly – partly due to Fogerty’s commitment to detail, and partly because he simply wasn’t sure what he should sound like anymore.

Finally, after toying with various approaches, he “drop-kicked the keyboards out the window” and more or less made his way back to where he started. Many critics pointed out that ‘Centerfield’ sounded a lot like a Creedence record. It’s a similarity that might have seemed like a cynical cop-out, if CCR’s rootsy approach was still paying dividends on the synth-coated Top 40 of the mid-’80s. But it actually served as a sign that after years of struggling to put it behind him, one of rock’s greatest songwriters was starting to come to terms with his past.

It was a slow process, however. “I knew it sounded like Creedence, and I wondered if Warners thought they were getting Michael Jackson or some modern synth-rock,” Fogerty later admitted. “I had to find out if I was working on the right thing. It was like in The Shining, when you think the guy is working on a book, but all he’s been doing is typing the same line over and over. I thought maybe I was out there somewhere, lost.”

If the label’s enthusiasm reinforced those first steps, then the public’s response to Centerfield took John Fogerty the rest of the way. A hit beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, the album rose all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, and sent leadoff single “The Old Man Down the Road” to No. 10 on the Hot 100. A follow-up, “Rock and Roll Girls,” hit No. 20; the title track, a No. 4 rock hit, stalled just outside the pop Top 40.

Initially, it seemed like the success of Centerfield might have signaled the opening of a creative logjam that could trigger a flood of new material approaching Fogerty’s legendarily prolific pace with Creedence Clearwater Revival; the following October, he followed it up with another solo effort, Eye of the Zombie. Unfortunately, that album led into another lengthy break that lasted nearly as long as the one before Centerfield – but this time, Fogerty had really started to make peace with his turbulent creative past, and begun to appreciate his own place in the rock firmament.

“There’s this guy buried there, and maybe some guy named Morris Stealum of Cheatem, Beatem & Whatever owns [his] songs in some big building in Manhattan,” Fogerty later mused in an interview with Rolling Stone, recounting a visit to Robert Johnson’s grave. Reminded of his own fight with Fantasy Records boss Saul Zaentz for control of his earlier songs, he couldn’t resist drawing a parallel – and a line in the sand.

“It’s Robert [Johnson] who owns those songs; he’s the spiritual owner of those songs. Muddy [Waters] owns his songs; Howlin’ Wolf owns his songs,” Fogerty pointed out. “And someday, somebody is gonna be standing where I’m buried, and they won’t know about Saul Zaentz – screw him. What they’ll know is if they thought the life’s work was valuable or not. Standing among all those giants, I went, ‘That’s the deal here. It’s time to jump back into your own stream.’”

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May he rest in peace.

Tommy Allsup, Guitarist Who Avoided ‘Day the Music Died’ Crash, Dead at 85

Tommy Allsup, the guitarist who famously avoided “the Day the Music Died” after losing his plane seat in a coin toss to Ritchie Valens, died Wednesday following complications from a hernia operation. He was 85. His son, Austin, confirmed Allsup’s death in a Facebook post.

“A message from Austin’s team: Austin’s father, guitar legend and western swing icon Tommy Allsup has passed away today,” the post read. “We want to continue to pray for Austin and his family and those immediately effected by his passing.”

Over the course of a career that spanned decades, Allsup performed with artists like Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard and Bob Wills. However, Allsup will best be remembered for the fateful “lost” coin flip resulting in the musician winning “an additional 57 years and 11 months,” as his friend Randy Steele told BBC News.

Allsup, who was touring with Holly after the two met during a recording session in 1958, was initially supposed to be on the ill-fated, Holly-charted flight from Mason City, Iowa to Fargo, North Dakota. However, Valens, who suffered from a fear of flying, asked Allsup if he could take his spot on the plane.

“[Valens] asked me four or five times could he fly in my place. For some reason, I pulled a half dollar out of my pocket and flipped it. He said ‘heads’ and it came up heads,” Allsup recalled of the February 2nd, 1959 flight. “So I went out to the station wagon and told Buddy. I said, ‘I’m not going. Me and Ritchie flipped a coin. He’s going in my place.’ Buddy said, ‘Cool.'”

Waylon Jennings also avoided the plane crash after giving his seat to J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

When the plane crashed, Allsup was originally one of the five people reported dead by the Associated Press. As the guitarist clarified later, Holly had Allsup’s wallet on him at the time of the crash because Holly agreed to retrieve Allsup’s mail at a Minnesota post office.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Austin Allsup, a recent The Voice contestant, said his father considered his coin flip loss “a blessing.”

“I know my dad has talked about that many times and knew that he was very lucky to be here. It could have been the other way around,” Austin Allsup said.

Austin Allsup added that Valens’ sister contacted him after his father’s death to offer her condolences. “I told her in my message back, now my dad and Ritchie can finally finish the tour they started 58 years ago,” he said.

Allsup, an inductee of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, will be buried in his native Oklahoma.

“Tommy Allsup was one of western swing and rockabilly music’s finest,” Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. “The Oklahoma native and was admired by his peers and fans alike [and] heralded by Paul McCartney as one of the finest guitar players in the world. Our deepest condolences go out to Tommy’s family, friends and creative collaborators.”