Week in review: 8/18 - 8/22


The team behind the unfortunately titled Jungle Book: Origins, the Rudyard Kipling adaptation to be directed by Andy Serkis and distributed by Warner Bros. (not to be confused with the Rudyard Kipling adaptation to be directed by Jon Favreau and distributed by Disney), this week announced the addition of several new cast members. The most high-profile among the group are Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale, who have agreed to voice python Kaa and panther Bagheera, respectively. Benedict Cumberbatch had earlier signed his name to the role of bad guy Shere Khan, officially making this Jungle Book the cooler of the two competing projects.

It must be said, however, Favreau's film does have Lupita Nyong'o, Bill Murray, and a title that does not make it sound as if robots, aliens or other tired mainstays of an action franchise are involved. The film's simplicity of moniker is to its credit, much as Rian Johnson's decision to use less CGI and more "practical" effects in Star Wars: Episode VII is to his.

Let's hope by the time Johnson's film hits theatres next year, the current domestic box office trend will have reversed itself. Despite a record-setting August, thanks to the strong debuts of Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this summer's revenue is still down. In fact, its 15 percent year-over-year deficit is the steepest year-over-year downturn in 30 years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Perhaps one of the films screening at this year's Toronto Film Festival, which has announced its full slate, will help rejuvenate the flagging industry?

Featuring protagonists who neither wield nunchucks nor engage in intergalactic bantering, The Metropolitan Opera's theatre transmissions may not be the blockbusters our box office needs, but their dedicated base of fans must nonetheless be pleased their favorite shows will, in fact, go on. The Met reached a deal with another of its labor unions earlier this week, veritably ensuring the upcoming season, transmissions included, will proceed as normal.

Very little that is "normal" is occurring in Ferguson, MO, at the moment. On Monday, SAG-AFTRA issued a statement condemning the treatment of journalists covering the region's riots, themselves a response to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a police officer. “SAG-AFTRA joins the rest of the journalism community in condemning the arrest and detention of reporters covering the events happening in Ferguson, Missouri,” said the union in its statement. The Screen Actors Guild had also been in the news earlier on Monday, though for reasons of a distinctly lighter nature: The organization will honor Debbie Reynolds with its 51st Lifetime Achievement Award at this winter's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The 82-year-old actress is a beloved star from an earlier era, though as we learned this week, not everything once beloved endures so well. Leonard Maltin's famed Movie Guide, for instance, will soon see its final printing. The upcoming 2015 edition will be its last, as the rise in Internet resources such as IMDB has rendered the helpful read obsolete.

In need of a nostalgia boost after hearing such news? Try downloading Tom Hanks' free Hanx Writer app, the new No. 1 app on the Apple Store: It "simulates the experience of a modern typewriter," says Variety, "but with modern conveniences like a 'delete' key."

Finally, we leave you with two recommend longreads: A profile of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who is trying, and it seems, well on his way toward succeeding, to establish a new political party in New Zealand; and a wonderful, thoughtful piece on Let's Be Cops and Ferguson, MO, from Grantland's wonderful and thoughtful Wesley Morris.