Hollywood Resolutions for 2017

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With the garbage fire of a year that was 2016 fading away in the rearview, it’s time to look forward at the prospects that 2017 holds. While 2016 was pretty awful in most respects, it did manage to deliver some excellent films, including a few instant classics. But will the studios learn the right lessons from these critical and financial successes, or will the new year simply regurgitate the same wrong-headed mistakes from years prior? To help Hollywood navigate the stormy seas of success, below is a list of five resolutions it should adopt in 2017 (and beyond) to ensure delivery of more great films in the future.

1) Embrace Diversity in Casting (and Behind the Camera, Too)

Two of the biggest successes of the year, “Doctor Strange” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” were populated by a diverse cast of actors that were of different races and genders. And while they weren’t without controversy (the whitewashing of the Ancient One, for example) or their token white saviors (Benedict Cumberbatch and Felicity Jones, respectfully), it was still refreshing to see large studio films actually utilize women and people of color in bigger roles in their tentpole movies. But there needs to be more of this, and it needs to happen behind the camera, too.

The reason why this is so important, especially for blockbusters, is that it helps inspire the next generation of nerds and cinephiles. It’s easy to forget how transformative it can be to “see yourself” up on screen, especially for the white male population, but it really does matter to younger generations to see representations of themselves in movies. Embracing diversity in film helps audiences (particularly non-white, non-male viewers) connect better to what they’re seeing, which helps to inspire their dreams and imaginations, as well as reflects the actual diversity of audiences in today’s world. 2016 did an okay job of inclusiveness, but there are many miles to go before we sleep.

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Movie Review: “Hidden Figures”

Starring
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali
Director
Theodore Melfi

In the wake of famed astronaut John Glenn’s recent death, it seems appropriate that some of the unsung heroes of the Friendship 7 mission (and the NASA space program in general) have finally been given their due in director Theodore Melfi’s new movie, “Hidden Figures.” An incredibly timely and well-told story that serves as a nice counterpart to 1983’s “The Right Stuff,” the film shines a light on the African-American women who helped put Glenn into space during a time when neither African-Americans nor women were given those kinds of opportunities. Though it risks falling into the same traps as other feel-good dramas (after all, it’s basically an underdog sports film for the STEM crowd), “Hidden Figures” rises above its formulaic plot thanks to some terrific performances from the cast.

In the early 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a race to see who could get a man into space first, and with the U.S. desperately lagging behind its Cold War rivals, NASA needed all the brainpower it could get. What most people don’t know is that many of these employees were women (several of them African-American) who worked at the Langley Research Center in Virginia as human computers performing the complex calculations on the agency’s various projects. But because they were black, these brilliant mathematicians were tucked away in a room on the segregated west campus and largely ignored.

That all changes when math whiz Katherine Gobel (Taraji P. Henson) is promoted to the all-white east campus to work under NASA official Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) on the Atlas rocket launch. Though she’s treated like a second-class citizen by her co-workers (not only does she have to run half a mile across campus just to use the colored bathroom, but she can’t even share the same pot of coffee), Katherine quickly proves herself instrumental to the program’s success. Meanwhile, fellow colleagues Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), a headstrong supervisor who takes it upon herself to learn how to operate the IBM computers that will eventually replace her, and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), an aspiring engineer who’s stymied by a law that prevents her from attending the classes required to advance in the field, make strides of their own through hard work and determination.

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5 Ways to Afford Expensive Holiday Gifts This Year

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Holiday season is right around the corner, meaning it is almost time to start buying gifts. Whether it’s for a family member, a friend or even yourself, the end of November until the end of December is the perfect time to buy a gift with all of the major holidays converging around the same time. However, if you are on a budget, you may find affording some of the things that you want to buy is a little difficult. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to make affording expensive holiday gifts just a little easier.

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Movie Review: “Passengers”

Starring
Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Director
Morten Tyldum

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum may not be as flashy as some of the other filmmakers who’ve broken into Hollywood recently, but between his little-seen 2011 thriller “Headhunters” and his Oscar-winning drama “The Imitation Game,” it’s evident that he has serious chops behind the camera. Despite that past success, Tyldum’s latest project is easily his biggest movie to date – a heady slice of genre-hopping sci-fi developed from one of the hottest scripts in town and starring two of its most bankable stars. Though the film fails to reach its lofty ambitions, “Passengers” is still a surprisingly thought-provoking holiday release that’s biggest misstep is succumbing to the very formula that it works so hard to resist.

Sometime in the distant future, interstellar space travel has not only become a reality but a way for humans like blue-collar mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) to immigrate to other planets. Jim is one of 5,000 passengers traveling aboard the Starship Avalon, a luxury cruise liner currently en route to the colony world of Homestead II. The Avalon is just 30 years into its 120-year journey, however, when it sustains damage during a meteor storm that causes Jim’s hibernation pod to malfunction, waking him up 90 years too early. Stranded on the ship alone with no way to contact the sleeping crew and only a robotic bartender (Michael Sheen) to keep him company, Jim spends the next year slowly spiraling into depression until he becomes smitten with a fellow passenger named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and decides to wake her prematurely against his better judgement. Jim keeps his involvement a secret from Aurora at first, but as the two grow closer together over time, he becomes racked with guilt. Meanwhile, a larger threat looms in the background when the spaceship inexplicably begins to break down.

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DJI Mavic Pro: Great drone for travelers and hobbyists

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Drones are one of the hottest gadget gifts this holiday season, and new models are also driving sales for consumers and hobbyists who love exploring all the fun and interesting uses for these devices. New features, particularly built-in camera technology, make these gadgets interesting for so many more potential consumers, particularly adventure travelers, hikers, etc. who want to capture video of their adventures. It’s safe to assume drones will be one of the most popular self-gifting options this holiday season.

The DJI Mavic Pro is one of the best drones on the market and is available at many retailers, including online at Amazon.com. This drone is packed with an amazing bundle of features that make it easy to take amazing video; it’s also portable, so you can easily take it with you on your travels.

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