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Cher drops from Flint water crisis movie, cites family issue

Cher will no longer appear as planned in “Flint,” a Lifetime original movie about contaminated river water that became a main water source in the Michigan city in 2014.

The announcement came weeks after news was released that the 70-year-old singer would star in and produce the film.

>> Read more trending news

Cher, who has helped donate more than 100,000 bottles of clean drinking water to the residents of Flint, cited “a serious family issue” as the reason for dropping out.

“This has been a project so near and dear to my heart, and I was truly looking forward to helping tell this story,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I will be unable to leave Los Angeles during the scheduled filming as I am dealing with a serious family issue that prevents me from going on location for the April filming. I’m so glad that [producers] Craig [Zadan] and Neil [Meron] plan to move ahead, and I know that this Lifetime movie will be done beautifully.”

According to Deadline, producers have been in the process of casting other roles for “Flint,” but the film is still on track to begin production in Toronto next month.

The film is based on Time magazine’s February 2016 cover story by Josh Sanburn titled, “The Toxic Tap.”

Cher’s role was a Flint resident whose family was impacted by the crisis.

“Flint” is described as “a hard-hitting, fact-based drama that will explore the events that led to the toxic crime and shed light on politics of the poor management and the human element of residents who suffered and were ignored,” according to Variety magazine.

Katie Couric will also serve as an executive producer for the Sony TV-produced film.

This week, comedian Amy Schumer announced she will no longer star in another Sony-produced film as previously planned.

>> Related: Amy Schumer drops out of live-action ‘Barbie’ movie

Reynolds and Fisher honored with humor, music and dance

Laughter, music and the tapping of dancing shoes reverberated throughout a public memorial to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, which loved ones say is just how the actresses would have wanted it.

There were few tears throughout the two-hour ceremony Saturday, which honored the mother-daughter duo's impact on film, culture and those who knew them with a mix of photos, videos, and anecdotes that kept the audience laughing and applauding.

Todd Fisher led the ceremony, which he said was intended to bring fans an intimate view of his mother and sister. He called it a show, saying his mother hated to attend memorials.

Hundreds of fans — some wearing "Star Wars" attire — attended the public ceremony that featured numerous family photos and Reynolds' final interview reflecting on her life and philanthropy, and one of Fisher's high school friends sharing some her off-color emails to him.

A troupe from Reynolds' dance studio performed an homage to "Singin' in the Rain," the film that catapulted Reynolds to stardom at age 19. After an opening film that was an ode to Fisher's "Star Wars" role, a working R2D2 unit came on stage, mournfully beeped and parked next to a director's chair with Fisher's name on it. Across the stage, near a piano, sat an empty chair with Reynolds' name on it.

Fisher, 60, an actress and writer who starred as Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, died Dec. 27 after suffering a medical emergency days earlier aboard a flight from London. Reynolds, an Oscar-nominated actress for her role in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," died the following day at age 84.

Todd Fisher recounted his mother's final moments and her remark that she wanted to be with her daughter.

"It was a very peaceful exit that only my mother could have orchestrated," he said to booming laughter. "She was trained in Hollywood where they teach you to make a great entrance, and exit."

Fisher and Reynolds had a complex relationship, with some years of estrangement before they reunited and became close confidantes.

Actor Dan Aykroyd described Fisher, his one-time fiancée, as a chatterbox who never let him speak. He described using the Heimlich maneuver on her once, and joked that if he had been on the plane where Fisher fell ill in December, he "might have been able to save her again."

He echoed a sentiment expressed by many early in his remarks. "We really shouldn't be here this soon," he said.

The ceremony was attended by several stars, including Renee Russo, Beverly D'Angelo, "Dallas" actress Morgan Brittany, actor-director Fisher Stevens, "Brady Bunch" actress Susan Olsen and actor Griffin Dunne.

Dunne recounted living with Fisher in New York when they were both young actors, and her initial reactions to working on "Star Wars." He recounted Fisher's assessment of the film: "It's stupid and it's terrible."

After the first screening, they both knew she had been wrong. "We knew movies would never be the same, and you just knew Carrie's life would never be the same."

When speakers weren't delivering one-liners — some that had been uttered or penned by Fisher and Reynolds — music and dance took over the stage. The ceremony featured a new song James Blunt wrote after Fisher's death, and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles performed a somber rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" that celebrated Fisher's status as a feminist icon.

Actress Ruta Lee celebrated Reynolds' philanthropy in her eulogy, which included her singing to troops during the Korean War and her later efforts raising millions to help those suffering from mental illness. Carrie Fisher battled mental illness and addiction, exploring her struggles in the book "Postcards from the Edge."

Fisher discussed her mother's charitable work in a video clip, joking: "She sort of started what this town was going to need quite a bit of, which was treatment for the mentally ill."

Lee said it was OK to feel sadness at the deaths of Reynolds and Fisher, but not to dwell on it. "Debbie the unsinkable and her beautiful daughter would never want us to mourn," she said.

Author Gavin de Becker, who attended high school with Fisher and recounted how his infatuation with her turned into a lifelong friendship, said his friend "zoomed through time" and made so many people's lives better. He recounted how Fisher took him on international trips and "gave me so many firsts.

"The first time I had sex was at Carrie's house," de Becker said. "It wasn't with Carrie, but she arranged it."

It was one of many tales about the actresses that drew boisterous laughter.

After the service, fans were invited to see the actresses' final resting place at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills, a storied cemetery where numerous celebrities, including Bette Davis and Liberace, are buried or interred.

Many also paused to snap photos with some of the actresses' memorabilia that was displayed outside the theater, including two dresses Fisher wore while filming "Star Wars" and "When Harry Met Sally," and two of Reynolds' costumes from "Singin' in the Rain" and "Unsinkable Molly Brown."

___

Associated Press producer Nicole Evatt contributed to this report

___

Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

TCM Classic Film Fest dedicated to late host Robert Osborne

Turner Classic Movies will continue memorializing Robert Osborne at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles next month.

Festival organizers announced Friday that the eighth annual film festival will be dedicated to the channel's longtime host, who died on March 6 at age 84.

Osborne's TCM colleagues and friends will share stories about him during a panel discussion on the festival's opening day, April 6. All festival screenings that day will be preceded by an Osborne tribute video.

Other special screenings are planned, including the "20th Anniversary Tribute" honoring Osborne that premiered in 2015.

Osborne was the TCM Classic Film Festival's first host. TCM's Ben Mankiewicz has taken over those duties in recent years.

Amy Schumer drops out of live-action ‘Barbie’ movie

According to a new report from Variety magazine, actress and comedian Amy Schumer will not appear in the live-action “Barbie” film, as previously planned. 

>> Read more trending news

News that Schumer would star in the production was announced in December

This week, Schumer announced that she would no longer be able to participate in the production due to scheduling issues. 

“Sadly, I’m no longer able to commit to ‘Barbie’ due to scheduling conflicts,” the actress said in a statement to Variety. “The film has so much promise, and Sony and Mattel have been great partners. I’m bummed, but look forward to seeing ‘Barbie’ on the big screen.”

“We respect and support Amy’s decision,” a spokesperson for Sony said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing Barbie to the world and sharing updates on casting and filmmakers soon.”

Sony will more than likely have to stick with the previously planned June 29, 2018 release date since Mattel has already produced merchandise and plans with that date in mind. 

According to IMDb, the film is about a doll who sets off on an adventure in the real world after being expelled from ‘Barbieland’ for not being perfect enough.

Sony is still seeking a director for the comedy.

Netflix re-ups with Sandler, plan 4 more films together

Netflix is doubling down on Adam Sandler. The streaming giant has extended its deal with the comedian for four more feature films.

As part of a previous four-movie deal, Sandler has already produced and starred in two films for Netflix. While neither "Ridiculous 6" nor "The Do-Over" received anything close to good reviews, Netflix said Friday they are the biggest film releases for the service. Sandler's next Netflix film, "Sandy Wexler," debuts April 14.

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said Sandler's films have proven "extremely successful" with Netflix subscribers.

To date, the majority of Netflix original films have been smaller dramas or documentaries. But some of its most ambitious and priciest acquisitions are due out this year, including "War Machine" with Brad Pitt and "Bright" with Will Smith.

Are 'gay moments' in 'Beauty' and 'Power Rangers' progress?

A hug. A wink. A dance. A non-answer. These are the so-called gay moments in a handful of recent high-profile studio movies that have sparked both rapturous celebration and startling backlash.

From Sulu in "Star Trek Beyond" to LeFou in "Beauty and the Beast" and now Trini in "Power Rangers," the latest Hollywood fascination is the subtle nod that a once straight or undefined character is now or has always been gay.

But it's often so subtle that if it wasn't first discussed by filmmakers or actors, it's a wonder whether anyone would notice at all. Sulu can be seen hugging a man. LeFou winks at Gaston and later dances with a man. And Trini fails to answer a flirty question about whether she's having "boyfriend problems"... or "girlfriend problems?"

What are we to make of these "blink and you'll miss them" moments in a year when "Moonlight," with its explicit exploration of gay themes, can rise to become the best picture winner at the Academy Awards? Is this progress? For some, it is. For others, it's too much acclaim for too little action.

Buzzfeed film critic Alison Willmore wrote an article on Wednesday exploring the "outsized credit" that Hollywood is getting for the recent "seriously small moments of LGBT inclusivity."

"While, to be sure, even incremental progress should be celebrated — any forward movement is better than none — this is an incredibly unsatisfactory beat to go on to be widely disseminated as a breakthrough for inclusivity," Willmore wrote of the ambiguous "Power Rangers" moment.

Not so ambiguous is how the film industry is lagging in LGBT representation, especially compared with strides that have been made in television. A 2016 report by the University of Southern California found that 82 of the 100 top movies of 2015 did not depict one LGBT speaking or named character. In a study by the gay advocacy group GLAAD of major studio releases in 2015, 17.5 percent contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — a percentage that was unchanged from 2014.

But even "Beauty and the Beast" director Bill Condon and many of his cast quickly retreated from previous comments about the film's "gay moment," saying the response had been "overblown."

Hollywood might not be to blame for the dozens of articles that help to amplify small moments that are also socially significant firsts ("first gay superhero" and "first gay Disney character"). They're eminently clickable and part of the modern business model of internet news, especially as the public, actors and filmmakers weigh in.

For GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, however, the minor moments are "incredibly important," especially in major studio films with significant youth audiences. A film like "Moonlight," she noted, is an adult film that came out from an independent distributor and producer.

"LGBT youth have a right to see their happily ever after, too," Ellis said.

A recent exhaustive GLAAD study found that 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBT — a statistic she thinks might have contributed to social media movements like the #GiveElsaaGirlfriend and #GiveCaptainAmericaaBoyfriend campaigns.

Ellis knows the "moments" are just a first step — she would like to eventually see LGBT protagonists in all-ages films — but for her, it shows that major studios, often too risk averse to change, are making an effort to test the waters.

For years, writers, fans and LGBT scholars have enjoyed speculating about which Disney characters were secretly gay — from "The Lion King's" isolated bachelor Scar to the marriage-averse Merida from "Brave." But none have ever been outwardly confirmed as such.

It's also noteworthy that all three recent gay-moment examples can be justified as tributes to the unsung gay history behind many of these stories. LGBT activist George Takei originated the character of Sulu. The late lyricist Howard Ashman wrote much of "Beauty and the Beast" while dying of AIDS and passed away before the film even came out. And, in the case of "Power Rangers," the original Blue Ranger David Yost left the series after being harassed for his sexual orientation.

"There have been in the past these coded moments threaded through stories that we've seen on the big screen, but no studio has been big enough or bold enough to own those moments," Ellis said. "If you were part of the LGBT community or ultra-observant, you might pick up on it. But having the studio own it and not back down from it was a big move forward for us."

From a business perspective, there was speculation that perhaps there could be a downside when reports emerged that a theater in Alabama was not going to show "Beauty and the Beast," and a few predominantly Muslim countries had pulled the film for review because of the gay moment. Then the film opened to a whopping $357.1 million globally.

"I don't think it impacted Disney's bottom line one bit," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore. In fact, he said the spotlight on LeFou likely benefited the movie in the end, creating buzz, awareness and a conversation.

Ellis has observed that in just a few weeks, the tides have turned significantly. She saw some extremist anti-LGBT sentiments being thrown at "Beauty and the Beast," but now, with "Power Rangers," she's had trouble finding any backlash.

It's the perfect scenario to prove their point that "inclusive content wins across the board." Ellis just hopes that studios are taking notice.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Are 'gay moments' in 'Beauty' and 'Power Rangers' progress?

A hug. A wink. A dance. A non-answer. These are the so-called gay moments in a handful of recent high-profile studio movies that have sparked both rapturous celebration and startling backlash.

From Sulu in "Star Trek Beyond" to LeFou in "Beauty and the Beast" and now Trini in "Power Rangers," the latest Hollywood fascination is the subtle nod that a once straight or undefined character is now or has always been gay.

But it's often so subtle that if it wasn't first discussed by filmmakers or actors, it's a wonder whether anyone would notice at all. Sulu can be seen hugging a man. LeFou winks at Gaston and later dances with a man. And Trini fails to answer a flirty question about whether she's having "boyfriend problems"... or "girlfriend problems?"

What are we to make of these "blink and you'll miss them" moments in a year when "Moonlight," with its explicit exploration of gay themes, can rise to become the best picture winner at the Academy Awards? Is this progress? For some, it is. For others, it's too much acclaim for too little action.

Buzzfeed film critic Alison Willmore wrote an article on Wednesday exploring the "outsized credit" that Hollywood is getting for the recent "seriously small moments of LGBT inclusivity."

"While, to be sure, even incremental progress should be celebrated — any forward movement is better than none — this is an incredibly unsatisfactory beat to go on to be widely disseminated as a breakthrough for inclusivity," Willmore wrote of the ambiguous "Power Rangers" moment.

Not so ambiguous is how the film industry is lagging in LGBT representation, especially compared with strides that have been made in television. A 2016 report by the University of Southern California found that 82 of the 100 top movies of 2015 did not depict one LGBT speaking or named character. In a study by the gay advocacy group GLAAD of major studio releases in 2015, 17.5 percent contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — a percentage that was unchanged from 2014.

But even "Beauty and the Beast" director Bill Condon and many of his cast quickly retreated from previous comments about the film's "gay moment," saying the response had been "overblown."

Hollywood might not be to blame for the dozens of articles that help to amplify small moments that are also socially significant firsts ("first gay superhero" and "first gay Disney character"). They're eminently clickable and part of the modern business model of internet news, especially as the public, actors and filmmakers weigh in.

For GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, however, the minor moments are "incredibly important," especially in major studio films with significant youth audiences. A film like "Moonlight," she noted, is an adult film that came out from an independent distributor and producer.

"LGBT youth have a right to see their happily ever after, too," Ellis said.

A recent exhaustive GLAAD study found that 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBT — a statistic she thinks might have contributed to social media movements like the #GiveElsaaGirlfriend and #GiveCaptainAmericaaBoyfriend campaigns.

Ellis knows the "moments" are just a first step — she would like to eventually see LGBT protagonists in all-ages films — but for her, it shows that major studios, often too risk averse to change, are making an effort to test the waters.

For years, writers, fans and LGBT scholars have enjoyed speculating about which Disney characters were secretly gay — from "The Lion King's" isolated bachelor Scar to the marriage-averse Merida from "Brave." But none have ever been outwardly confirmed as such.

It's also noteworthy that all three recent gay-moment examples can be justified as tributes to the unsung gay history behind many of these stories. LGBT activist George Takei originated the character of Sulu. The late lyricist Howard Ashman wrote much of "Beauty and the Beast" while dying of AIDS and passed away before the film even came out. And, in the case of "Power Rangers," the original Blue Ranger David Yost left the series after being harassed for his sexual orientation.

"There have been in the past these coded moments threaded through stories that we've seen on the big screen, but no studio has been big enough or bold enough to own those moments," Ellis said. "If you were part of the LGBT community or ultra-observant, you might pick up on it. But having the studio own it and not back down from it was a big move forward for us."

From a business perspective, there was speculation that perhaps there could be a downside when reports emerged that a theater in Alabama was not going to show "Beauty and the Beast," and a few predominantly Muslim countries had pulled the film for review because of the gay moment. Then the film opened to a whopping $357.1 million globally.

"I don't think it impacted Disney's bottom line one bit," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore. In fact, he said the spotlight on LeFou likely benefited the movie in the end, creating buzz, awareness and a conversation.

Ellis has observed that in just a few weeks, the tides have turned significantly. She saw some extremist anti-LGBT sentiments being thrown at "Beauty and the Beast," but now, with "Power Rangers," she's had trouble finding any backlash.

It's the perfect scenario to prove their point that "inclusive content wins across the board." Ellis just hopes that studios are taking notice.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Disney CEO: 'Last Jedi' not changed due to Fisher's death

Disney CEO Bob Iger says the upcoming "Star Wars" sequel has not been changed due to the death of Carrie Fisher.

Fisher completed filming her role as Princess Leia in "The Last Jedi" before her death following a heart attack in December.

Iger said in an interview at a University of Southern California tech conference Thursday that Fisher "appears throughout" the film and her performance "remains as it was."

Iger says Disney is discussing "what could be another decade and a half of Star Wars stories."

Iger's remark came on the same day Disney ended speculation that he would retire this year by extending his contract one year to 2019. He says he and Disney's board thought they needed more time to work on a succession plan.

3-time Oscar-winning cinematographer being honored

A three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer is being honored by the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, for his work with such Hollywood icons as Francis Ford Coppola and Warren Beatty.

Vittorio Stararo will be presented with the George Eastman Award during a ceremony Saturday night at the museum's Dryden Theater.

The 76-year-old native of Rome, Italy, won Oscars for Coppola's 1979 film "Apocalypse Now"; the Beatty-directed 1981 movie "Reds"; and Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" in 1987.

On Friday night, Stararo will provide the introduction to a screening of "Apocalypse Now Redux," Coppola's re-edited version of his epic. Saturday night's festivities includes a conversation with Storaro and a screening of a rare 35mm print of "Dick Tracy," the 1990 film Beatty also directed and starred in.

Review: 'Life' is a mediocre science-fiction thriller

In Daniel Espinosa's "Life," an international space station orbiting the Earth intercepts an automated capsule returning from Mars with samples: rocks, dust and, as it turns out, a tiny monocellular organism that proves the existence of life on another planet. The thing, though, about those monocellular organisms from Mars is that they grow up.

When Dr. Hugh Derry (Arioyon Bakare) injects the cell with glucose, it begins rapidly growing bigger, beyond its petri dish. (Yes, "Life" is, above all, a lesson in the dangers of too much sugar.) The crew — including Jake Gyllenhaal's troubled veteran, Ryan Reynolds' cocky engineer, Rebecca Ferguson's microbiologist and Hiroyuki Sanada's new father — celebrate their remarkable discovery and observe its development. "You're going to be a daddy," Reynolds' astronaut tells the proud Derry.

Derry, the biological expert of the bunch, hopes the organism — dubbed "Calvin" — will teach the scientists about the origin, the nature "and maybe even the meaning of life." Such glories, however, aren't in store. The harsh revelation that Calvin brings is that life — violently striving for survival — finds a way.

Unfortunately, "Life," the movie, doesn't. Once the alien lifeform strengthens and gets loose, "Life" surrenders to a tiresome chase away from not just its ravenous creature but from the movies "Life" so obviously takes it cues from. "Life" certainly can't come anywhere near the well-earned horrors of "Alien," nor does it boast anything like the silky splendor of "Gravity."

Espinosa ("Safe House," ''Child 44") claustrophobically encloses the drama in a fairly realistic space station that, lacking sufficiently cinematic production design, doesn't allow for much movement. Unlike Hollywood's recent, more ambitious sojourns into space, "Life" is a grittier, clunkier B-movie monster movie in zero gravity. An extraterrestrial Frankenstein is hunted with implausible dimwittedness by a bickering human crew.

Calvin (sadly there is no Hobbes in sight) grows in size and shape, but he mostly looks like a super-powerful, fearfully smart starfish. As he slithers this way and that, he almost resembles the alien cousin of Hank, the equally resourceful octopus of last year's "Finding Dory."

Penned by Rheet Reese and Paul Wernick ("Deadpool," ''Zombieland"), "Life" doesn't have much of the sarcastic wit the screenwriters have shown before. Instead, it's merely a terse, prickly cheap-thrill. Not until the film's final moments — finally free of the space station — does the movie find its own bite.

"Life," a Columbia Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror." Running time: 102 minutes. Two stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian

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Follow AP Film Writer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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