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Will Smith resigns from Academy over Chris Rock slap backlash

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Will Smith, facing possible expulsion or suspension after he assaulted Chris Rock during last Sunday’s Oscars telecast, has instead resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The move comes as the actor is embroiled in the gravest crisis of his career and as the organization behind the Academy Awards has struggled in its attempts to deal with the fallout from the altercation. In a statement, Smith called his actions “shocking, painful and inexcusable” and said that he will accept any additional consequences that the Academy’s Board of Governors deems appropriate.

“The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home,” Smith said. “I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”

Smith also acknowledged that his actions overshadowed other winners at the 94th Academy Awards. “I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film,” he stated, concluding with “change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

Academy president David Rubin replied to his resignation, saying in a statement, “We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”

During the ceremony, Smith charged the stage and struck Rock during the broadcast after Rock made a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, likening her shaved head to the buzzcut sported by Demi Moore in “G.I. Jane.” Pinkett Smith suffers from hair loss due to alopecia.

The Academy later said it asked Smith to leave the ceremony and he refused. However, sources tell Variety that the organization’s leaders never formally requested he be ejected and producer Will Packer urged him to stay. During an appearance on GMA on Friday, Packer said that he said Smith should stay at the request of Rock — something Rock’s camp has denied.

It’s a very tangled narrative about what exactly went down behind the scenes. What is certain is that Smith ended up remaining at the Dolby Theatre, where he went on to win best actor for his performance in “King Richard.” In an emotional speech, Smith seemed to try to justify his actions by saying that his outburst was the result of the same protective instincts that led his character in the film, Richard Williams, to push his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, to succeed in the world of tennis. His speech, initial failure to apologize to Rock and his decision to attend the Vanity Fair party following the awards did not sit well with some members of the Academy.

On Monday, Smith finally apologized to Rock, saying, “I was out of line and I was wrong.” He added that he reacted emotionally because “a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear.”

After initially offering up a statement that said it did not condone violence, the Academy followed up with two subsequent statements that more forcefully criticized Smith. On Wednesday, the group said Smith had violated the Academy’s standards of conduct and that he had 15 days to provide a written response explaining his actions. The organization said Smith faced suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.

MOVIES

Amber Heard says ‘Aquaman 2’ role got cut, action scenes ‘taken away’

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Amber Heard claims that Warner Bros. “didn’t want to include me” in the upcoming ‘Aquaman’ sequel due to the fallout of her divorce from Johnny Depp. The actor said during her defamation trial against Depp that she was “actively scheduling timing for filming” the second ‘Aquaman’ movie until Depp’s team called her a liar regarding her abuse claims against Depp. Heard said that “communications” about the sequel “stopped at that point.”

Heard stars as Mera in several comic book films from Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. She debuted as the character in ‘Justice League’ in what she called “a three-picture option.” The second film was ‘Aquaman’, in which she had a more co-lead role opposite Jason Momoa and for which she earned $1 million. Heard said she earned twice as much for ‘Aquaman 2’, the third film in her contract, but also said that he role in the film was “a very pared-down version.”

“I was given a script and then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it, that depicted my character and another character, without giving any spoilers away, two characters fighting with one another, and they basically took a bunch out of my role,” Heard said. “They just removed a bunch out.”

Reports surfaced earlier this year that Head only appears in about 10 minutes of the sequel, which is officially titled ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’. James Wan returns to the direct the film after earning solid reviews for 2018’s ‘Aquaman’, which earned over $1 billion worldwide. Joining Momoa and Heard in the sequel are Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman.

‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ is scheduled to be released on March 17, 2023.

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First trailer for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel drops

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After 13 years and numerous delays, 20th Century Studios has finally released a glimpse into James Cameron’s ‘Avatar 2’, due Dec. 16. This marks the long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time. The sequel’s official title is ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’. See video below:

After being re-released last year in China, the first ‘Avatar’ overtook ‘Avengers: Endgame’ as the most lucrative film of all time (according to ticket sales) when its revenue surpassed $2.8 billion globally. Its original run in the United States was unprecedented, with the film thriving in theaters for over 10 months.

The second ‘Avatar’ is set to star many of the original film’s cast members, including Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, Sigourney Weaver in a new role and Sam Worthington as Jake Sully. Joining the cast are Kate Winslet as Ronal, Michelle Yeoh as Dr. Karina Mogue and Oona Chaplin as Varang, among others. The new film picks up where the last left off, with Sully and Neytiri building their family on the planet of Pandora and fighting new threats to its burgeoning civilization.

‘Avatar 2’ is scheduled for release on Dec. 16. Cameron initially said he was aiming for a 2014 release, which was pushed back seven times until its current date later this year. Shooting for the film wrapped back in 2020 in tandem with ‘Avatar 3’, which is set for a 2024 release. Cameron said he combined the filming process for the first two sequels, plus “a little bit of ‘4.’”

“We mixed the schedules for ‘2’ and ‘3’ together, based on the types of scenes and the environments,” Cameron said. “I said, let’s just treat it like it’s a six-hour miniseries and we’re only going to go to Frankfurt once. We’re going to shoot all the scenes from ‘2’ and ‘3’ at the same time. That was more or less the motif.”

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REVIEW: Doctor Strange sequel proves to be a crazy romp in ‘Multiverse of Madness’

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With hints of horror in its DNA and pure superhero craziness, the return of Benedict Cumberbatch and co. – new characters in tow – is weirdly fun and cumbersome at the same time. But mostly fun, as our reviewer opines.

By Abdukareem Baba Aminu

It’s stating the obvious that ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ has a lot resting on its shoulders. After all, it is coming after the highly successful ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, the last Marvel movie wherein the titular sorcerer had a major role. That movie, starring Tom Holland and Zendaya, went on to gross well over $1.8 billion, becoming the sixth-highest grossing movie of all time. Set in several universes at once – and regularly ricocheting into deeper and more spiraling dimensions of alternate realities – the plot for Dr. Stephen Strange’s second solo film begins with fully-formed chaos.

It opens with America Chavez and an alternate version of Dr. Stephen Strange fleeing through the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti to stop a demon chasing them. Strange is killed, and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that sucks them all in. Meanwhile, on our Earth, Strange is at the wedding of his ex-fiancé, where a tentacle monster wreaks havoc chasing Chavez, but Strange saves Chavez and kills the demon with help from Sorcerer Supreme Wong. Chavez explains that the demons are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the Multiverse, and it is at that exact point it becomes clear that this will be a crazy romp of a movie.

There is a lot at stake in the film, and at the same time, there isn’t much, as it’s leaning heavily into the whole Multiverse shtick, which makes long-lasting consequences spare and far between.

Strange finds traces of witchcraft on the demon and alternate-reality Strange’s corpse, and he consults Wanda Maximoff, finding out secrets that send the story spiraling into the dark story it becomes. There is a lot at stake in the film, and at the same time, there isn’t much, as it’s leaning heavily into the whole Multiverse shtick, which makes long-lasting consequences spare and far between. Like when a major character is in danger and you know somehow that the whole alternate reality situation will ensure he or she comes out unscathed. But if that sounds like a complaint, forgive me, it’s not: Because that’s where some of the biggest, sweetest goodies in this film lurk.

After a ton of magical battles pitting sorcery against witchcraft and giving us some really heartfelt performances from a notable Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda, we (and Strange) end up in the courtyard of this reality’s version of the Illuminati, which in the comics is a collective of some of the most powerful and brilliant characters in the Marvel universe. The theatre I watched the movie in exploded in cheers at this point, as member after member of the shadowy super-group was introduced. It goes without saying that some of the surprise appearances are truly jaw-dropping.

This movie is probably the most important one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to hardcore fans) since ‘Avengers: Endgame’, continuing the shared continuity’s foray into an exploration of parallel universes. Theoretically, this should make it even more compelling and fun, but I found myself exhausted at the end, even when what’s played out is saying I should be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a very engrossing movie, but one which presents the irony of being interesting and at the same time feeling like a walk through 10-inch snowfall. Or mud, depending on where your geographical idioms rest.

(Continued after break/poster)

It’s a very engrossing movie, but one which presents the irony of being interesting and at the same time feeling like a walk through 10-inch snowfall. Or mud, depending on where your geographical idioms rest.

Of course, there will be stellar performances galore, led by the perfectly-cast and always on-point Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong as stoic Sorcerer Supreme Wong, and brilliantly precocious Multiverse-hopping teen America Chavez played by equally brilliant Xochitl Gomez. Elizabeth Olsen, too, shines as she does in all her MCU appearances, giving layers and nuance to the tragically heartbroken (or just broken) character of Wanda Maximoff, whose spiral into all shades of darkness needs to be seen. After all, she’s had enough revving time in the absolutely perfect Disney+ series ‘WandaVision’.

We are, as the movie title posits, treated to a variety of alternate universes, some of which will have you cheering. But by the end of the film, all two hours-plus of it, you will find yourself wanting more. Almost like wanting a whole meal for a snack after a full dinner. But I forgive director Sam Raimi since he is making his first movie in nine years. Only he could cook up a gloriously inventive fight scene fought with literal musical notes. And yet I couldn’t help but feel there’s an ‘anything-goes-ness’ to all of it, similar to his over-the-top campy offerings of the past like the ‘Evil Dead’ films, or ‘Drag Me to Hell’.

But I forgive director Sam Raimi since he is making his first movie in nine years. Only he could cook up a gloriously inventive fight scene fought with literal musical notes.

With all its contradictions, however, ‘Multiverse of Madness’ proves itself a continuation of MCU tradition, that which satisfies long-waiting fans with a strangely satisfying ending, prompts multiple viewings and inspires speculation about the future direction of the franchise. This is more so, after the Illuminati encounter, and at the end of the movie in a mid-credits scene, when a major character in the Dr. Strange comics makes her debut, played by a surprising actress. It was a genuine surprise, really, as much as it was a pleasant one that holds strong promise. So strong that it warrants repeated viewings to take it all in. Nothing strange about that.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is showing now in cinemas.

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