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Miss Ntertainment

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We all have our favourite Robin Williams roles.

There are numerous memorable parts he played, accompanied by lines only he could deliver. You only need to hear “gooood mooorrrniiiinnnggg, Vietnam!” to think of his irrepressible, feather-ruffling DJ in the Armed Services, or “hellloooo” to think of Mrs Doubtfire and see his face covered in pie. “Oh, Captain, my captain” takes us to his inspiring turn in Dead Poets Society, where he told us “we don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute; we read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.” The park bench scene in Good Will Hunting where he schools Matt Damon’s character is unforgettable. Sure, it won him the Best Supporting Actor accolade, but he won over 50 other awards, and was nominated over 60 times. His career was as memorable as they come. Yes, he had a few dud comedies, but on the whole, he left a body of work behind that is a treasure for many.

The authorities in North California where he was found dead at his home say they believed he died of asphyxiation, and that it was a suicide. Williams’ battles with depression and addiction had been public knowledge – he was in rehab just last month, after a stint in 2006 too. But, as has been noted by many people, just because we were aware that he had his struggles, doesn’t make his death easier to accept. He is one of those actors who is truly beloved. For certain, we didn’t know him personally, but as it was with Philip Seymour Hoffman, we just want to know that someone we admire and respect, who has given us so much pleasure as fans, is happy, and healthy, and well.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21 1952, Williams became one of Hollywood’s greatest – adept at both comedy and drama. He shot to fame on the TV show, Mork and Mindy, and from then on continued to feature in our lives, on our TV screens, in our cinemas, on our stages. The Julliard-trained performer has been remembered by colleagues for his generosity of spirit, his knack for impersonations and improvisation, and his kind heart. Everyone from US President Barack Obama to Questlove have shared memories about him. He leaves behind 3 children, and countless fans across the world.

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I had the chance to meet him once, when I first moved to New York, and I had hoped I would get to again, for an interview. Although his TV show with Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Crazy Ones, had been cancelled, he had 4 movies he was working on, so I always thought that I would still get that chance.

I had the chance to meet him once, when I first moved to New York, at the gallery his daughter-in-law ran in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood. I had hoped I would get to again, for an interview. Although his TV show with Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Crazy Ones, had been cancelled, he had 4 movies he had still coming out, so I always thought that I would still get that chance. 

There was the sequel to 1993’s Mrs Doubtfire that was still in the early stages, but he had reprised his role as Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, another sequel, which wrapped production in May, and is due out in December. Another Christmas movie, titled Merry Friggin’ Christmas is also due out then. At the TriBeCa Film Festival earlier this year, he starred in a drama called Boulevard that hadn’t yet been set for release, and he voiced a dog in an animated British film called Absolutely Anything, alongside Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale.

Nonetheless, he remains one of my all-time favourite actors, and I know for many, the same is true. I will be watching The Birdcage for the gazillionth time in his honour, and hugging my friends a little tighter this week.

[Pic: Williams in Good Will Hunting]

Howzit from New York! Hope you caught the Super Moon on Sunday night – the next chance will only come in about 30 years! 

* Despite its 19% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, still earned a hefty part of the box office this past weekend, more than was expected. The reboot made over $65 million in North America, $20 mill more than was expected, breaking Guardians of the Galaxy‘s stronghold. It really goes to show that critical acclaim doesn’t mean much in the face of a family-oriented action flick.

* The Teen Choice awards gave surfboards to The Fault in Our Stars cast, Pretty Little Liars, Demi Lavato, and Donald Sutherland as choice villain for The Hunger Games, among others. According to the show’s hosts, over 165 million votes were cast for the public-vote awards. Wonder how many of those were repeat votes?

* Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett is spending part of the US summer on a New York stage, for a limited run in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Maids, by French playwright Jean Genet. From the sounds of things – and the $375 upwards ticket prices – Blanchett is dazzling, alongside French astar Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth Debecki (who played Jordan Baker in Baz Lurhmann’s film version of The Great Gatsby).

* Actress Gillian Anderson will soon release her debut novel, A Vision of Fire, and of course, it’s a science-fiction one. The X-Files star has teamed up with best-selling author Jeff Rovin, to help kick-start a new imprint from Simon & Schuster publishing house that will focus on fantasy and stories of the supernatural.

* “An August moon surrenders to a dust cloud on the rise…” Duran Duran collaborated with Nile Rodgers on The Wild Boys (*clap clap*), among others, and now the British group is reuniting with the producer, as well as Mark Ronson, for their latest album. They had such success with collaborating in the past, so I’ll be happy if this partnership leads to another track like Wild Boys.

[Pic: Paramount Pictures]

There’s really no better place to watch James Cameron’s DeepSea Challenge than at the American Museum of Natural History, in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, to be exact, with its giant whale perched up above, and all the various other sea creatures spread around the cavernous room. That’s where the premiere for the film took place, complete with vegan catering, as per the Oscar-winning director’s wishes, earlier this week.

On the cusp of his 60th birthday, Mr Cameron – ahem Jim – is letting the world witness how he became the first person to travel solo to the deepest part of the ocean. It was a feat he achieved in 2012, but the National Geographic documentary about the expedition is releasing this weekend in the US, and in other countries in the months to come.

For Cameron, this feat is one more to be added to his list of achievements. He has, after all, climbed to the top of the artistic ladder, smashing all kinds of box office records with Titanic and Avatar – films that are just as critically-lauded as they are commercially successful. At the same time, he’s achieved his dreams of exploring ocean wreckages and creating new technology to make his movies, reaching the depths of the scientific world. This documentary, which he didn’t direct but is the star of, takes us back to show how this latest feat was achieved and how Cameron’s team came together under pressing deadlines and the tragedy of two deaths, to still make it all possible.

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The film follows the crew (which features a very young-looking guy in charge of the electronics who wears great t-shirts) and Cameron, from his dream as a child to be in a submarine, to talking about, and then building, the submersible and testing it, before he actually completes the task himself. In the beginning there are a lot of re-enactments of a little boy, and also of the two explorers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, who first went to the deepest part of the ocean in 1960, which I didn’t care for too much as they felt a little out of place and inauthentic. Nonetheless, you get the gist that Adult Cameron is fulfilling Boy Cameron’s dream by taking on this task.

What I enjoyed about the doccie is it traces how Cameron’s love for the ocean developed alongside his movie-making – from The Abyss to Titanic and Avatar. Those last two, of course, went on to become the two highest-grossing films of all time, but throughout it all, Cameron’s passion for diving deep below the surface of the earth is unshakeable. As I watched his dreams get bigger, I found my appreciation of the ocean and what lies beneath it, grow too. As he gets closer to achieving his dreams – from exploring the Bismarck wreck to maneuvering a robotic camera into the sunken Titanic – so I found myself getting more interested in the so-called nuts and bolts of how it all works.

Far away from being a science geek and still very uncomfortable with numbers, I found it hard not to be enthralled seeing the kind of fish and sea critters that swim on past Cameron as he’s submerged underwater. Seeing them in 3D made me actually mouth out the word ‘wow’ and I may have even let out a little squeal at the sight of one particular little multi-coloured creature. It’s when the use of 3D really pops. More than just an appreciation for sea-life, though, the doc tries to somewhat put it all into a bigger context – why there’s the need to understand the ocean better, clearer, and what impact that understanding has on dealing with natural disasters like tsunamis.

I will admit though, I did wonder while watching the film, whether this was just one big expensive adventure, sponsored by Rolex, to make one man’s dream to reach the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean come true. Cameron addresses the question of why one wouldn’t just send a robot down to the bottom of the ocean – he believes there’s something to be said for a human being doing it, someone who can bear witness to what really is down there. One of his crew members, whom I spoke to after the premiere, said he disagreed with Cameron and believes there is no need for humans to do what robots can, at a cheaper cost. But the engineer told me he does understand the marketing power behind having someone like the Oscar-winning director complete the task. As Cameron details his love for the ocean, and therefore preserving and appreciating it, he shares that with a wider audience than just those who are already interested in the subject.

Once Cameron finally reaches his goal, as seen at the end of the doccie, I had to wonder though, if any film could ever give him the same kind of fulfillment he seemingly gains from this once-in-a-lifetime, record-breaking achievement. Even if the actual moment doesn’t prove to be quite as eventful as the days leading up to the actual dive. That was one of the questions I got to ask him during an interview that took place the day after the premiere. Cameron’s reply is in my story that’s coming out when the movie hits the South African big screen, tentatively scheduled for next month.

When he was preparing for the DeepSea Challenge, James Cameron sent "selfies" to his crew from inside his sub. In that spirit, I took one post-interview - only he called it an "usie."

When he was preparing for the DeepSea Challenge, James Cameron sent “selfies” to his crew from inside his sub. In that spirit, I took one post-interview – only he called it an “usie.”

[Top pic: National Geographic Society/Rolex]

Hello Weekend! Looking forward to celebrating the second week of Summer Streets in NYC…

* Fresh from reuniting and performing on the Daily Show, Wu Tang Clan have released their new single, Ron O’Neal from the forthcoming album A Better Tomorrow. The song, named after the actor from Super Fly, is the second single off the album, but it’s the first one that’s been released since RZA and Raekwon declared a truce of sorts in order to go ahead and get the album out. It’s due out in November, but the group is still working on that one-of-a-kind performance album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, too.

* Rihanna and Eminem kicked off their co-headlining tour, Monster, in Pasedena on Thursday night, during which the pair performed a mix of their own songs, the singles they’ve recorded together, and a cover of B.o.B and Hayley from Paramore’s Airplanes. I would have liked to have heard that track as done by the two of them. According to USA Today, Em delivered the more energetic set out of the two.

*It’s hard not to get choked up watching the trailer for the Stephen Hawking movie, The Theory of Everything. Eddie Redmayne plays the respected scientist, who developed motor neuron disease, and Felicity Jones plays his committed and steadfast wife, Jane. The film is out in November. (And while we’re at it, the trailer for the hopefully heartwarming sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, featuring Richard Gere, is also out.)

* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases on the big screen in the US this weekend. Directed by South African born, LA-based Jonathan Liebesman, the film has been getting some rather scathing reviews, but it’s still expected to bring in a decent amount of mula for its opening weekend. Such is the summer blockbuster.

* On a much smaller scale, James Cameron‘s latest project is also out this weekend. The Oscar-winning director is the subject of DeepSea Challenge, which chronicles his expedition to become the first solo man to reach the deepest part of the ocean. His passion for the subject is contagious, and it’s great to see how his passion for the sea has developed alongside his movie-making career.

Good day to you – it’s been a momentous time in Washington DC with 50 heads of state from Africa taking part in the US/Africa Summit, and I’m glad to see there have been a lot of African musicians and actors participating too. 

* Cheryl Boone Isaacs will stay on for another year as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The former publicist, who acts as the public face of the Academy and decides who will produce the Oscars telecast, is the third woman to hold this role, so it’s good to see she’s been voted in for another term to stay the course.

* The Script filmed their latest music video in South Africa, for the first single off their upcoming album, No Sound Without Silence. The latest band to set a video in my home country (this one takes place in Alexandra in Johannesburg) and the song pays tribute to ordinary, every-day ‘superheroes.’ While the highly unlikely scenario of a father and his young daughter going to see a pop act perform in the heart of the township made me chuckle out loud, I appreciate the sentiment of the video – hardworking parents help fire up the dreams in young kids, after all.

* Maroon 5 will perform at the MTV Video Music Awards, which will be happening at the end of the month in LA. Previous winners themselves, the band will use the opp to showcase a song from their album V, which is coming out next month. Newly-married Adam Levine and co join a list of other entertainers who’ll be playing the show, including Usher and Ariana Grande.

* Grammy-winning folk duo The Civil Wars announced their break-up, which had been hovering over the group for some time now. Two years after they stopped touring owing to “irreconcilable differences”, Joy Williams and John Paul White will go their separate ways for good, and pursue their solo careers, as per Joy’s website message.

* And in case you missed the most epic wedding picture in the history of epic wedding pictures – thanks Jeff Goldblum!

[The Civil Wars, in happier times]

Good day from New York! I attended the premiere of James Cameron’s 3D doccie, DeepSea Challenge at the American Museum of Natural History last night. There is truly no place better to watch the underwater adventure than in the museum’s Ocean Life Room!

* Let us take a moment to celebrate the Purple One, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Symbol, Prince again, and his classic soundtrack for the film Purple Rain, which marks its 30th anniversary right around this time. It hit no.1 and stayed there for 6 months – giving us Let’s Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U and, naturally, Purple Rain.

* The Flaming Lips‘ Wayne Coyne posted a pic on Instagram revealing who he has on board for his Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover album, With a Little Help from my Fwends, due out in October. Seems he’s managed to get everyone from Miley Cyrus to Tegan & Sara, MGMT and My Morning Jacket for this Beatles tribute, which, like most other Lips projects, should be something quite special.

* There have been so many changes taking place in comic-book land, which is great for keeping up with the times, and now onscreen, it seems to be happening more so too, with Sony announcing it is planning a female-centric Spider-Man spinoff. There are several possibilities as to who this will be, from Silver Sable to Black Cat to Stunner, Firestar and Spider-Woman, of course.

* Last week we heard Robert Downey Jr topped the list of highest paid male actors, this week Forbes estimates Sandra Bullock is his female counterpart, coming in above fellow Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence. But where RDJ earned $75 million, Bullock came in around $20 million less, so we know Hollywood still has a way to go before things truly are equal.

* 21-year-old actress and TV’s youngest talk show host, Keke Palmer is heading to Broadway. She’ll be playing Cinderella, a role Brandy played on TV in the late 90s (with Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother), but it’ll be the first time an African-American takes up the part on the Great White Way. One day, we won’t need to marking these milestones of men, women, black and white…until then, “break a leg” Ms Palmer!

 

Good morning from New York City – where I’ll be interviewing  James Cameron tomorrow!

* “Songs are like a bolt of light, and love’s the only light you should invite…” so sings Sinead O’Connor on the first single off her new album, Take Me To Church. A much more urgently-paced track than the Hozier one of the same name, this song serves as the Irish singer’s declaration of intent for her new album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. The album drops next week, but in the meantime, enjoy the euphoric music video with an intro that plays over her iconic Nothing Compares 2 U one.

* A Saturday surprise came courtesy of Beyonce‘s Flawless remix with Nicki Minaj. It’s the first time the two have collaborated and the track also just so happens to address that elevator scene a few months ago, with Beyonce rapping: “Of course, some s*** go down when it’s a billion dollars on that elevator.” That aside, it makes sense that the track the two would collaborate on would be something like Flawless, especially given Nicki’s booty-embracing cover for her latest album, Anaconda.

* No surprise that Guardians of the Galaxy won this weekend’s box office, but the surprise, according to pundits, was how well it did. $94 million in the US, and over $160 globally. For a film that isn’t a sequel and is based on a bunch of ragtag, lesser-known Marvel characters, this  feat is even more marvelous.

* Lollapalooza ended its 3-day music festivities with rain-drenched sets from Kings of Leon, Skrillex, Chromeo and my current new faves, Bleachers. It seems lots of covers were performed, including KoL doing Robyn’s Dancing on My Own, and Australia’s Betty Who doing Say My Name.

* Haruki Murakami’s latest novel sold more than a million copies in its first week on sale in his home country of Japan, and book critics are predicting a big debut in the US too. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage centres on a railway-station engineer who re-visits the reasons for his school-friends abandoning him. This time though, Murakami’s story has been described as more of a fable than a novel, but still with his peculiar touch of the surreal. 

 

* It’s heeeere! Guardians of the Galaxy earned so much pre-opening buzz and box office mojo that the filmmakers announced at Comic Con last week it would be getting a sequel, before it even screened at cinemas. The film opens in the US, and the rest of the world today, so this weekend should be spent in the Marvel Expanded Universe – with Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel), Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Batista).

* Lollapalooza hits Chicago this weekend. Headliners Eminem, Outkast and Arctic Monkeys will play alongside the likes of Phantogram, Bleachers, Chrvches and those South African-born rockers Kongos.

* Kendrick Lamar will present a short film inspired by his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city as part of the first Sundance NEXT Fest, which has been created to showcase budding directors and artists at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Made by The 14-minute film was made by Khalil Joseph who won acclaim for his 2012 collaboration with Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes. The rapper has also, according to reports, been working on new music for a follow-up to his debut.

* Lorde has a new task ahead of her – curating the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 movie, plus coming up with a song for the lead single off the album. Should keep the 17-year-old Grammy winner busy for the next few weeks.

* And in case you missed it, the trailer for Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman will leave you excitedly awaiting the opening night of the New York Film Festival, when the movie premieres. Michael Keaton looks like he’s nailed it as a washed-up actor, who once played a superhero, trying to make his comeback through a Broadway play. The music, the imagery, the white underpants – bring on October!

I was walking on the Lower East Side the other night and a poster kept grabbing my attention, yet I wasn’t familiar with what I thought was the name of a band or a new album on it, so I carried on walking by. The following night, near Union Square, the same poster caught my eye.

Turns out there’s a reason it was calling me.

The poster was trying to tell me about a documentary that’s showing at the Lincoln Center as part of their Sound & Vision music doccie fest. Called Spier and Shield, it is directed by Petter Ringbom. The doccie had its world premiere at Hot Docs in Canada earlier this year, and has just shown at the Durban International Film Festival. It looks at South Africa’s 20 years of democracy milestone, through the eyes of its artists – particularly Brett Murray, who painted a caricatured image of SA president Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed that led to a defamation lawsuit and sparked riots, Fofokpolisiekar, a rock outfit that has channelled the voice of a post-Apartheid Afrikaans youth, and the fashion crew The Smarteez, who featured in the music video for Solange’s Losing You.

The poster for the film is actually an outline of the controversial painting that Murray did called The Spear. But in the New York night-time light, it looked like the silhouette of a bear. Perhaps there’s something in that in itself, and how the issues the painting – and other works of art like it – provoke.

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Murray’s The Spear

Ringbom, who is from Sweden but lives in Brooklyn, also made The Russian Winter, a documentary about former Fugees member and Grammy-nominated artist Jon Forte travelling on a 9-week trip across the country, collaborating with artists there.

The Sound & Vision fest was created last year to showcase films that explore the music and art that has become a part of cultures from all over the world. This year’s lineup alone is as varied as featuring a Japanese trance didgeridoo player to looking at music created on 1980s video-game hardware. The opening night film is Beautiful Noise, which tells the story of how underground groups like Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and others inspired the next generation of music, and the closing night film is Pulp, which debuted at SXSW with Jarvis Cocker in tow. Director Florian Habicht will be on hand here in NYC to talk about the British band’s final concert in their hometown of Sheffield, which he shot, together with vox pops of fans who attended.

[Pic: Xander Ferreira, aka Gazelle, in the Drakensberg mountains, by Petter Ringbom]

 Sound & Vision runs from 31st July to 6 August at the Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s Walter Reade Theater. Petter Ringbom will be doing a Q-and-A after his screening on the 5th.

 

 

Step Up All In is the fifth installment of the oh-so-successful dance series. I sat down with the cast – although I would have preferred them to teach me a new step or two – to talk about going ‘all in’, director Trish Sie and the dance moves people come up to them in public to show off.

 

Step Up All In is currently on circuit.

The past few days have been a haze of “fandemonium”, freak-outs and fun. That’s San Diego Comic Con for you! It was my second time at the famed popular culture fest, and here are a few of my highlights:

* Spending time with the cast of The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead panel at Hall H boasted a spoiler-heavy, gasp-inducing trailer for Season 5, which is due to air in October. At a press breakfast, Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun and other members of the cast talked as much as they could without giving too much away, as usual, about what’s coming. Aside from The Walking Dead experience that was set up at Comic Con, there was also a mock ‘Terminus’ set up across the street from the Convention Centre, playing on the would-be cannibals who are set to feature prominently in the next season. The first time I came to Comic Con, it was Gurira’s first time too – and seeing how comfortably she fits in, joking with Lincoln and co, now is great. She says the number one question they get asked is if there’ll be any kind of romantic hook-up between her character and his. The laughter that accompanies the answer suggests not, but it still remains a series where even beloved characters can die, and nothing is out of the question.

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A Norman Reedus-taken selfie

 

* Mad Max: Fury Road footage and poster reveal

The ‘H’ in Hall H at Comic Con could stand for ‘hallowed’, ‘hard-as-hell-to-get-into’, ‘hopeless’ and yet ‘hopeful’ too. You can spend your entire Comic Con experience queuing to get into the hall, but you’ll be rewarded with seeing exclusive footage before anyone else, and have the very-slim, yet still possible, chance of asking one of the big-name stars a question. For the rest of us journalists, there’s real-time Twitter, followed by the press line where we have the chance to interview the some of the cast and filmmakers. But I was pretty bummed not to be inside Hall H for the video message from Charlize Theron, on set in South Africa, talking about her dream come true in working with George Miller on Mad Max: Fury Road. The trailer looks insane – and I want to blow up the Imperator Furiosa poster and put it somewhere I can see it every morning to start my day on a kick-ass note.

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* The camaraderie of the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron cast

While interviewing Jeremy Renner about the sequel, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L Jackson popped up behind him…”We saw you had all the women here interviewing you, so we wanted to join in,” joked Smulders, referring to myself and the three women next to me who had formed a little pack to pool our interview questions. As they started talking Mark Ruffalo joined in too, joking about how he just did an interview for 45 minutes and he hadn’t got the chance to move down the press line. Similarly, during Chris Evans’ interview, Robert Downey Jr snuck on up behind him, and the two ended up hugging and laughing like the rockstars they are. It felt genuine, as they testify it is, and it was also endearing and too-cool to witness. Saturday belonged to Marvel – well, the whole of Comic Con did – as people spent all their time trying to get into that panel, during which Josh Brolin raised his Infinity Gauntlet-hand as Thanos, and Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Peyton Reed talked about Ant-Man, which begins filming in 2 and a half weeks’ time in Atlanta.

A sneaky snap during the Avengers interview on the press line (with apologies to Jeremy Renner who was chopped off).

A sneaky snap during the Avengers interview on the press line (with apologies to Jeremy Renner who was chopped off).

* Teaser Art  for Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie in the foyer of the Hard Rock Hotel

At Comic Con in 2012, a giant Elysium spaceship protruded from the Hard Rock Hotel, in front of the San Diego Convention Centre. This year, Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, Chappie, took over the elevators, doodles of figures with ‘N’ and ‘Y’ holding hands, and ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mommy’ written above them – hinting at the role Die Antwoord’s Ninja and Yolandi might be playing in the South African filmmaker’s next film, which also stars Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel.

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* The marvels of Cosplay

Yes, the actors, writers, illustrators, authors, show-runners and filmmakers get all the attention at Comic Con, but, as most attendees will tell you, it’s the fans who dress up that end up becoming the true stars of the event. The effort, attention to detail and pure passion that goes into creating a costume to wear is remarkable. Some are really intricate, and you wonder how the person wearing the outfit doesn’t faint on the spot in the San Diego-heat, while others work simply because the person just has an uncanny resemblance to the character they’re portraying.

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I’m on my way to San Diego Comic Con! In the meantime, some entertainment news worth knowing…

* The Venice Film Festival has announced its lineup for the 71st edition of the world’s oldest film fest. Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, will open the event, while Ann Hui’s The Golden Era, will close it. In between, 20 films will compete in the main slate – and audiences will get to see two new movies starring Al Pacino.

* Wednesday was dedicated to Batman, in honour of the first appearance by the black-caped superhero, 75 years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing the actual cape and cowl worn by Ben Affleck in the upcoming Batman & Superman, which was unveiled at the opening night of Comic Con.

* Filming on an Elton John biopic is due to begin later this year – with Tom Hardy playing the superstar in a story, written by Billy Elliot‘s Oscar-nominated Lee Hall, that spans from the singer’s birth to his stint in rehab. I’m eager to see Hardy in this flamboyant role – suspect he’ll give us a turn similar to Matt Damon’s in Behind the Candelabra, turned down a notch or three.

* And finally, something many fans have been waiting a long time for – the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey has just been released. We get a preview of how Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) meet and, the on-screen couple oozes chemistry. For added viewing pleasure, a snippet of a stripped down Crazy in Love from Beyonce.

[Pic: Birdman, Venice Film Festival]