The Best Movie Roles of Kevin Hart

11. November 2014 07:08 by Julie Merar in Theater  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Kevin Hart is a comedian and actor well-known for having a gigantic sense of humor despite his small stature. Often making brutally honest jokes at his own expense, the comic has wowed audiences nationwide with his stand-up tour live performances, and several of his routines have also become successful films. He's starred alongside numerous A-list celebrities and boasts a filmography of more than 50 movies. On top of that, Hart is a social media phenomenon with millions of followers over Facebook and Twitter. It's easy to say Kevin Hart has become one of the most recognizable comedians around today. 

Yet, Hart's road to stardom was anything but easy. After graduating from community college, Hart found work as a shoes salesman, but quickly set that job aside to pursue a career in stand-up. In his early days on stage, Hart was ruthlessly booed. He started entering comedy competitions throughout the New England area and across the country, perfecting his signature style of delivering jokes. An appearance at the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival helped earn him his spot in television and feature films. 

Hart caught the attention of Judd Apatow early in his career and has worked with him often since 2000. While Hart began performing small roles, he quickly gained fame in movies such as "Scary Movie 3" in 2003 and "Soul Plane" in 2004. Today, Hart continues to lead in a wide range of comedic films and sell out shows when he tours. Here is a look at five of Kevin Hart's best movie roles:

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
"The 40-Year-Old-Virgin" was instantly well-received by critics and is ranked on Bravo's list of 100 Funniest Movies. Still early in Hart's career, the comedian plays a dissatisfied customer shopping at Smart Tech, a store similar to Best Buy in which several of the main characters work. Hart causes a scene and, in classic Kevin Hart fashion, several jokes are made regarding his height. This is a relatively early example of Hart's long-lasting collaborations with Apatow. 

About Last Night (2014)
"About Last Night" is a reinvented version of the 1986 film of the same name, both of which are based off of the David Mamet play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago." The film modernizes the plot by having a black cast (the original actors were white) and moving the setting from Chicago to Los Angeles. Hart starred in the film along with Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant. Hart had previously worked with Ealy and Hall on the 2012 film "Think Like a Man." "About Last Night" follows two passionate couples early in their relationships and tackles the classic question of what men and women really want. Following these couples from the bar to the bedroom, this remake of "About Last Night" showcases Hart's comedic acting talent. 

Ride Along (2014) 
"Ride Along" partners up Hart with the rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube for a police action comedy. Hart plays Ben, a high school security guard hoping to marry the sister of an undercover police officer named James (Ice Cube). Ben accompanies James on a ride along to prove his masculinity and worth, which results in a humorous chain of events as the duo attempt to hunt down a passport smuggler. Though the movie was released to mixed reviews, many critics praised Hart's energetic comedic performance for bringing life to the otherwise generic film. 

Soul Plane (2004) 
Despite "Soul Plane" being a box office flop, this is an early work of Hart's that brought him mainstream attention. It is one of the first films in which Hart starred, and it placed him onscreen beside celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Mo'Nique, D.L. Hughley and Tom Arnold. 

Fool's Gold (2008) 
This romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey casts Hart in the role of a gangster named Bigg Bunny. Although Hart plays the bad guy in this film, his enthusiastic, vibrant wit makes it hard to entirely dislike his character. This film also marks the beginning of Hart's status as a major celebrity. Starting in 2008 with the release of his stand-up album "I'm a Grown Little Man," Hart would release a string of well-received comedy routines over the next several years. 

Kevin Hart has also acted in such films as "The Five-Year Engagement," "Death at a Funeral," and "Drillbit Taylor." In the television world, he has a recurring role on "Modern Family" and is one of the stars of "Real Husbands of Hollywood." Hart has also won the NBA Celebrity All-star Game MVP award on several occasions (ironically, despite constantly joking about his height). Over his career Hart has become a celebrity in the world of stand-up, television and film, and continues to prove that honesty, energy and hard work can lead to success.

Behind the Scenes of Broadway's 'The Lion King'

19. October 2014 11:15 by Julie Merar in Theater  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Believe it or not, many critics expected the Broadway musical adaptation of the 1994 Disney film "The Lion King" to be a tremendous flop. Now the show has grossed over $5 billion, has been performed around the globe, and has become one of few productions to play longer than 10 years. That's probably because "The Lion King" is one of the most elaborate performances of all time. Directed by the brilliant Julie Taymor, each production requires massive collaboration of 100 workers including puppeteers, stage hands, actors, electricians, musicians, wardrobe staff and prop experts. From the opening moment when Simba is held for all the world to see until the curtain closes, "The Lion King" is a vibrant and energetic masterpiece that has wowed millions worldwide, and a lot of that is because so much work goes into it backstage. Here's a look behind the scenes of the Disney Broadway musical "The Lion King."

Pride Rock
It takes 18 tractor trailers to transport the entire set of the production. Perhaps the most challenging element to pack in this convoy is Pride Rock, which weighs in at a whopping 8,500 pounds. It towers on the stage at 35 feet, making it difficult to transport on one truck. However, Pride Rock is in many ways the centerpiece of the scenery, as it is essential to the monumental opening scene where Simba is lifted above Rafiki's head. Pride Rock is remote controlled and has the ability to rotate so it can alter the scenery while maintaining its dramatic presence.

Huge puppets
When most people imagine puppeteers, they likely think of street performers manipulating small figures or quiet artists in rafters fiercely pulling at numerous strings. In the Broadway production of "The Lion King," puppets are of a slightly larger proportion. Actors have to climb into gigantic animal puppets, using their entire bodies to control the beasts. For example, a giraffe on stage walks in at 18 feet tall, and is controlled by an actor on mounted stilts. Learning to operate these puppets smoothly takes an immense amount of practice. Imagine, the actor manipulating the puppet must have full control of how the animal walks and moves, working diligently to make sure it looks natural. The enormous elephant puppets require four actors to maneuver, and all of them must work in sync to assure there are no gaffs or slip-ups.

There are almost 700 lighting instruments used to give depth to the show. The production requires such a large number of lights to recreate the natural feel of the sun rising and setting, as "The Lion King" takes place outdoors in the animal world. When the show hits the road, the crew often has to create new places from which to rig up lights. Considering each venue is entirely different, this can be a daunting task. One production can require the work of up to 10 electricians.

Movie stars that bring their talents to Broadway

11. September 2014 13:45 by Julie Merar in Theater  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

America certainly loves its celebrities, and Broadway producers are capitalizing on that fact to get audiences into the theater. It used to be a stigma of stage acting that film and television stars would only resort to it once their 15 minutes of fame were up. However, the current Broadway season is full to the brim with movie stars at the height of their fame lending their presence and talent to a Broadway show. The benefits run both ways - producers have someone they can attract an audience with, while the actors themselves get to practice their stage acting skills, further developing their craft. Here is a look at some of the high-wattage celebrities you will be able to see in New York this season:

Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper's career actually started in New York as a student at the Actor's Studio Drama School. It was there that he trained for his Master's of Fine Arts degree while picking up roles in television shows such as Sex and the City and The Beat. For his graduation thesis, he performed the role of John Merrick in Bernard Pomerance's drama The Elephant Man. He is now returning to that role for a production of the play at the Booth Theater. The play chronicle's Merrick's experiences in Victorian England living with a terrible disfigurement. Cooper's recent Academy Award nominations for American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook are sure to help sell plenty of Elephant Man tickets.

Hugh Jackman
Another movie star who has extensive theater credits to his name, Hugh Jackman has starred in Australian productions of both Beauty and the Beast and Sunset Boulevard. These performances would lead to his being cast as the lead in a West End production of Oklahoma! in 1998 and the Broadway production of The Boy from Oz. These days he is better known as Wolverine from the X-Men movie franchise, but he still makes time to return to the New York stage whenever he can. This fall he is starring in The River at the Circle in the Square theater. Not much is known about the new play written by Jez Butterworth, but the story focuses on a man and a woman stranded in a mountain cabin at night.

Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint
The Harry Potter boys will each be starring in their own Broadway productions. Daniel Radcliffe, whose portrayal of Harry Potter shot him to stardom, is currently in a production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Cort Theatre. Radcliffe's previous Broadway credits include a run as the lead in the latest revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

For Rupert Grint, who played Harry's best friend Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, this will be his Broadway debut. He has been cast in Terrence McNally's comedy It's Only a Play at the Schoenfeld Theatre. That production will have the added star power of high-wattage performers such as Stockard Channing, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally.

If you could cast an iconic Broadway role with any movie star you wanted, who would it be?

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