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"The Maze Runner," "This Is Where I Leave You," "A Walk Among the Tombstones" Open Friday


Fox(NEW YORK) -- Here's a look at the new movies opening nationwide Friday:

The Maze Runner
-- A boy named Thomas is mysteriously trapped in a maze along with other boys. In order to escape, he must try to remember his past. Will Poulter, Dylan O’Brien and Patricia Clarkson also star in the film, which is based on the best-selling novel by James Dashner. Rated PG-13.

This Is Where I Leave You -- Four adult siblings are forced to spend a week together at their childhood home after their father passes away. Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard and Jane Fonda star in the comedy. Rated R.

A Walk Among the Tombstones
-- Liam Neeson is a private investigator who helps a heroin trafficker track down the men responsible for murdering his wife. Rated R.

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Movie Review: “A Walk Among the Tombstones” (Rated R)


Universal(NEW YORK) -- Based on the best-selling novel by Lawrence Block, A Walk Among the Tombstones stars Liam Neeson playing an amalgam of his characters from the Taken films, The Grey and Non-Stop. Here he’s Matt Scudder, a former New York City cop and recovering alcoholic turned private investigator.
 
Matt is recruited by Howie, a guy in his AA group, to meet his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), who’s a drug trafficker.  Kenny’s wife has been kidnapped and killed, even though he met the kidnapper’s ransom demands, and Kenny wants Scudder to find who did it, so he can get even. Scudder doesn’t want the job but Kenny ultimately persuades him.
 
While Scudder’s investigating, he meets TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), a homeless young African-American teen who’s also a gifted artist, good with computers, and a class-A smartass.  Scudder takes a liking to TJ, a character clearly created to show us that Scudder has a heart.
 
As the movie progresses, we learn the kidnappers are sub-human sadists who aren’t necessarily kidnapping women for the money.  A Walk Among the Tombstones at times almost feels like a snuff movie, but director Scott Frank refrains from showing us too much. What Frank is particularly good at here is helping us suspend our disbelief by giving the film an authentic and creepy feel. What he’s not particularly good at is pacing: there are times when it feels as if we’ve been walking among the tombstones for days.
 
I’ve been finding violent movies a bit boring lately. I don’t need to see somebody being strangled with a metal wire or taking a hatchet to the head. Creative suspense is what excites me, and A Walk Among the Tombstones, luckily, does supply a bit of that. Otherwise, I prefer Neeson when he’s challenging himself with something other than a mediocre Brooklyn accent and the same character he keeps playing over and over again.  But Neeson fans who like seeing him in this sort of role will probably be thrilled.
 
Three out of five stars.

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“This Is Where I Leave You” (Rated R)


Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Warner Bros.(NEW YORK) -- This Is Where I Leave You boasts an incredible ensemble cast, including Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Timothy Olyphant, Rose Byrne, Dax Shepard, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Debra Monk, and Abigail Spencer -- and the list goes on.

Bateman, Fey, Stoll and Driver play the Altman siblings, with Bateman, as Judd Altman, serving as the film’s chief protagonist. When we first meet Judd, he’s a producer for a popular syndicated radio show hosted by Wade Beaufort (Shepard). Judd loves his wife, Quinn (Spencer), and even rushes home early from work to surprise her with a cake for her birthday -- only to walk in on his wife and his boss in bed together. Three months later, we find an unemployed, bearded Judd sleeping on a couch in a small, messy apartment when the phone rings. It’s his sister, Wendy (Fey), standing in a hospital room, delivering the news that that their father just died. 

The elder Altman’s dying wish is that the kids come home to sit shiva, the Jewish tradition of mourning the dead, even though dad was an atheist. The humor gleaned from this moment is a proper setup for things to come. 

The Altman siblings don’t hang out. They don’t even particularly like each other, and the person they like even less is their mother, Hillary (Fonda), a psychologist and famous author whose most popular book is about child rearing. The fact that the book uses embarrassing anecdotes about her four kids has haunted the Altman children from childhood through their adult lives. Hillary is a force of nature, with a matter-of-fact attitude about life and a very noticeable boob job, a visual joke that endows several scenes with ample humor.

Judd’s certainly got personal problems, but his siblings aren’t exactly sailing through life either. Wendy’s husband cares more about his job than he does about her or their kids; Paul (Stoll) and his wife Alice have been trying to have kids for years, and it’s taking a toll on their marriage; and Phillip (Driver) suffers from arrested development and struggles to stay faithful to his much older, more intelligent girlfriend, Tracy (Britton). Returning to their hometown, in the house in which they grew up in, forces all of them to revisit past emotions and conflicts none of them seem ready to confront.

Two of This Is Where I Leave You’s best performances come from supporting players Rose Byrne and Timothy Olyphant. Byrne is sweet and unforgettable as Penny, the goofy and adorable girl who loved Judd in high school but never left town. Olyphant is barely recognizable as Horry, Wendy’s ex-boyfriend and neighbor who suffered a relationship-ending brain injury. Olyphant’s quiet, brief on-screen moments are some of the movie’s strongest.

With This Is Where I Leave You, director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen) delivers his funniest film, and his most poignant. Like a great coach or manager, he plays to all of his actor’s strengths, turning the most subtle moments into powerful subtext and in some cases, punchlines without the dialogue. It’s an enormous cast, yet not one actor is wasted. Jonathan Tropper, who adapted the screenplay from his novel, dresses up sentimental and somewhat manipulative moments with hilarious, concise and relatable dialogue. He also piles on the drama a bit, negating some of This Is Where I Leave You’s organic appeal.  But as this film certainly shows us, nobody’s perfect.

Four out of five stars.

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Grand Ole Opry Star George Hamilton IV Dead at 77


Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Grand Ole Opry star George Hamilton IV, 77, died on Wednesday afternoon, less than a week after suffering a serious heart attack.

Hamilton IV released his signature hit, "Abilene," in 1963. However, he'd scored a number of hits before then, including "A Rose and a Baby Ruth," "Before This Day Ends," "Three Steps to the Phone (Millions of Miles)" and "If You Don't Know I Ain't Gonna Tell You."

Hamilton was known as, “The International Ambassador of Country Music,” a title he earned after becoming the first American country singer to perform in the then-Soviet Union and in Prague.

Hamilton had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1960.

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Reese Witherspoon's New Movie Sheds Light on US Lives of Sudan's Lost Boys


ABC/Image Group LA(NEW YORK) --  Reese Witherspoon's latest campaign has taken the star of movies such as Legally Blonde far from the glamour of Hollywood.

"It was one of those things where I was like, 'I can't not do this movie 'cause it's so important to me," Witherspoon told ABC News.

The Walk the Line Oscar winner's new movie, The Good Lie, tells the story of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, orphaned children who walked hundreds of miles, without food or shelter, to escape the civil war in 1983.

Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort brought 3,600 Lost Boys and Girls to the U.S. to start new lives.

The Good Lie, set to be released October 3, is inspired by the children's stories as well as the U.N. program that brought them to the U.S. The actors playing the Lost Boys were either Lost Boys themselves or descendants of Lost Boys; all of them fled Africa for the U.S. or U.K. as children.

The film's producers launched a fund this month to help raise monies for those in the Kakuma refugee camp, which Witherspoon visited in 2013 with her daughter.

Witherspoon plays a tough-talking employment counselor who is assigned to find the Lost Boys jobs when they first reach the U.S.

Some of Witherspoon's co-stars lived that hardship, including Emmanuel Jal, a hip-hop artist and former child soldier.

"This is the story of my home," Jal said. "This is the voice of those who was not heard."

The Good Lie is not just about where the Lost Boys started, though; it's also about how far so many have come.

On Wednesday night, former Lost Boys Thon Chol, Kuol Awan, John Dau and Moses Ajou, as well as several others, were honored during a special gala and congressional screening of the movie. The gala also helped raise nearly $400,000 for the Good Lie Fund, with all monies going to the Kakuma camp.

Chol, a former Senate intern, works for the government of Washington, D.C., and is a leader in the Lost Boys community, and more broadly as a refugee advocate. Awan fled Sudan in 1987. He now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, serving as executive director of The Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development in Phoenix.

Dau fled Sudan in 1987 and resettled in Syracuse, New York, in 2001, and is now the president of John Dau Foundation. And Ajou joined the U.S. Air Force and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Giuliana Rancic: "Fashion Police" Could End Due to Joan Rivers' Death


Ben Cohen/E! Entertainment(NEW YORK) -- No one was more shocked than Joan Rivers' Fashion Police co-hosts when she passed away earlier this month at age 81. In fact, earlier that week, they'd just finished filming an episode of Fashion Police, running down the red carpet looks in honor of the Emmy Awards.

Now that Rivers is gone, co-host Giuliana Rancic said the show's future is up in the air.

"They are looking at different scenarios, whether it moves forward or it doesn't," Rancic tells ABC News. "Melissa [Rivers]...a lot of that will be up to her and how she's feeling and how she decides what she wants to do, along with the execs here at E! There is no word now...they are seeing what Fashion Police looks like without Joan."

Melissa Rivers is an executive director for the program. Rivers' only child is still grieving and hasn't yet focused on Fashion Police's future, Rancic said.

"A part of me is like, Joan would want Melissa and us and the team to go on and I know she would, but it's just a matter of can there be a show without Joan?" Giuliana explained. "Do we want to do a Fashion Police without Joan? I don't know."

Rancic said she's going to miss being on set with the comedy legend, with whom she worked for 13 years.

"I still think she's going to walk through the door and yell, 'Giuliana, get back to work.' And it's hard to wrap my mind around never seeing her again. And I've experienced losing loved ones in my life and for some reason, this one is very different," Rancic said. "You hear people say, 'He or she was larger than life.' Joan really was larger than life. I think that's a reason I can't imagine her gone."

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Darrell Hammond to Return to "SNL" as New Announcer


Charles Norfleet/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Former Saturday Night Live cast member Darrell Hammond will return to the NBC show -- not as a member of the troupe, but as its new announcer.

Iconic Saturday Night Live announcer Don Pardo, who'd been with the show since its inception, died last month at age 96.

When the show's 40th season premieres on Sept. 27, it'll be Hammond reading the cast members' names, as well as those of the guest host, Chris Pratt, and musical guest Ariana Grande. It's not a role unfamiliar to Hammond -- he occasionally filled in for Pardo over the years, impersonating the veteran announcer when Pardo was unavailable.

Hammond was a cast member for 14 seasons, longer than any other member in the show's history. He was also the oldest cast member in the show's history.

He was well known for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Donald Trump, Regis Philbin and, perhaps most hilariously, Sean Connery, whom he played during the show's Celebrity Jeopardy skits opposite Will Ferrell's Alex Trebek.

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Shonda Rhimes Talks Strong Women, Weak Men


Todd Wawrychuk/ABC(NEW YORK) -- Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder are some of the most buzzed about television productions of the fall, and they’re keeping the shows’ creator, Shonda Rhimes, very busy.

ABC's Good Morning America's co-anchor, Robin Roberts, visited “Shondaland,” the name of Rhimes' production company and the term she and her colleagues use to refer to their workplace.

During the interview, they talked about the last time a producer had three top shows on at the same time.

“I think it was Aaron Spelling -- T.J. Hooker, (The) Love Boat, Fantasy Island,” Rhimes, 44, said.

Rhimes, a producer, director and writer, told Roberts what it was like for her to know people were watching her shows and connecting with her.

“I remember my first experience, Grey’s (Anatomy), I felt like I was kind of just writing in my diary,” she said. “And it felt really surprising to me that I everybody else was watching.”

Rhimes is known for vetting her casts closely. Actress Kerry Washington, who plays Olivia Pope on Scandal, has said auditioning for Rhimes was like being vetted for the White House, but harder.

“I'm with people for 11 seasons or six seasons or four seasons,” Rhimes, said, explaining the process. “And so it's a marriage. It's a family.”

There’s no shortage of drama on Rhimes' productions.

Rhimes and her team of writers shocked viewers with last season’s finale of Grey’s Anatomy, which saw the apparent departure of Dr. Cristina Yang, one of the pivotal characters on the medical drama.

Now, Rhimes is bringing film star Viola Davis to TV in the new series How to Get Away With Murder.

“That is a miracle to me, right? … Viola Davis is on our TV. I can't believe it,” she tells Roberts.

Rhimes is often credited for breaking race and gender barriers with her casting, but she doesn’t see it that way.

“Yeah. I mean, I feel like the television landscape should look like the world we see outside…,” she said. “The package that people come in is the package that they come in. What's inside is what's the most interesting thing.”

When Roberts asked her how many times she was told “no,” Rhimes replied: “I will be honest and say not very many…I mean, Grey’s Anatomy is my first job in television. Which is fantastic. And I'm thrilled that it is. But it -- it was pretty magical.”

She added that she “struggled in others ways" before getting to where she is today.

When Roberts asked who would play her, Rhimes said it’s already happening.

“I think (the character) Meredith Grey, you know, Ellen Pompeo, was already playing me. I think Sandra Oh was already playing me. I think Chandra Wilson is already playing me,” she said, referring to the female stars of Grey’s Anatomy, and later adding: “I think I'm being played every time I write a character. Those people are playing me in a lot of ways.”

Rhimes said someone once asked her what it was like to get to write the voice of a black woman on Scandal. “And I said, ‘Well, you know, McDreamy's been speaking in the voice of a black woman for a long time now.’ So it's been fine,” she said with a laugh.

“McDreamy” is the heartthrob surgeon Derek Shepherd, who is played by Patrick Dempsey.

Another head-turning leading man is President Fitz Grant, played by actor Tony Goldwyn on Scandal.

“He plays the damsel in distress a lot. And he plays it in a very masculine, interesting, complex, you know, well-acted way,” Rhimes said.

Washington plays a powerful political fixer and Goldwyn’s president is emotional and gets into situations that need the fixer’s ongoing services. It’s a role reversal.

“It's a very interesting gender switch that we purposely have done,” Rhimes said.

Rhimes said she’s often asked how she writes such smart, strong women.

“And I always say, ‘Is the alternative stupid, weak women?’ Like -- I don't know any of those,” she told Roberts. “And nobody asks, "How do you write smart, strong men?" That's not a question that anybody's ever asked before.”

Rhimes believes she’s set an example for her three daughters.

“I feel like -- I look at them and I go, ‘Their mother is happy. Their mother is fulfilled,’” she said. “They never have a mother who sort of -- didn't get to do. Which is nice. There are sacrifices that go with that. I think there are sacrifices that go with anything. But I do feel really proud that they get to grow up and think anything is possible for a woman.”

Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy both air on ABC. How to Get Away With Murder has its series premiere on ABC on Sept. 25.

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Matthew McConaughey Won't Appear in "Magic Mike" Sequel


Warner Bros.(LOS ANGELES) -- It looks like Dallas has danced his last. Magic Mike XXL director Gregory Jacobs tells E! News that Matthew McConaughey won't be reprising his role as the male stripper in the forthcoming sequel.

Although there's no word on why McConaughey isn't coming back, Jacobs said the film will be "very different."

"It's road trip movie, and put it this way: it's different enough that once you see it, you'll understand why we made a sequel," Jacobs said. "No one will be accusing us of making the same movie twice." 

The other strippers in the original Magic Mike -- Kevin Nash, Alex Pettyfer and Adam Rodríguez -- may not return either. Jacobs said he plans to hire new cast members for those roles as well.

McConaughey hinted earlier this year on ABC's Good Morning America that he'd reprise his role as Dallas "if it was the right thing, if it was the right area."

Also, co-star Channing Tatum revealed earlier this year that he used McConaughey to inspire the script for the sequel to the 2012 film. Tatum tweeted a photo of himself wearing a fedora, with paper in hand, staring at a bust of McConaughey. He wrote, "What better way to start writing #MagicMike2 than with my old friend Dallas?"

Regardless of who's onstage, Magic Mike XXL will strut into theaters July 1, 2015.

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Movie Review: “The Maze Runner” (Rated PG-13)


Fox(NEW YORK) -- Welcome to the weekly post-apocalyptic dystopian young-adult novel film adaptation review! Featured in this edition: The Maze Runner, a movie and story that finds its roots in Lord of the Flies, Peter Pan, and the more contemporary belief that we’re all screwed.
 
The Maze Runner starts out by teasing us, immediately throwing us into the action as we witness a tattered young man (Dylan O’Brien, MTV’s Teen Wolf) struggling to find a way out of a large, gated elevator ascending an industrial-type elevator shaft. It’s intense, claustrophobic and intriguing. When he gets to the top, a hatch opens and he’s greeted by a multi-ethnic group of other young men, who help him from the elevator, whereupon he immediately runs -- and falls.
 
Turns out, this young man has no idea who he is (his name is Thomas, he soon learns) or what he’s doing in this place, which is called the Glade: part forest, part jungle, surrounded by four thick concrete walls and with only one large opening that leads to a complex, ever-shifting maze -- a door that opens in the morning and closes at night.  That maze may, or may not, be the only way out of the Glade, but it’s full of Grievers -- giant, spider-like creatures that sting their prey.  Even with the danger, a few select young men explore and map the maze. They’re called runners, quite a few of whom went into the maze and never came back.
 
Other than his name, Thomas may not remember exactly who he is, but his motivation to leave the Glade and find out who put him there is strong enough to compel him to run into the maze with little thought or fear.  That courage earns him a place with the runners.  But can he find a way out?
 
The dizzying introduction to this particular world is unexpectedly fantastic. After that, however, it takes a while for The Maze Runner to build the momentum needed to get back to that emotional level.  That said, while The Maze Runner isn’t going to make anyone forget The Hunger Games, it’s a well-executed story, and fine performances from O’Brien, Will Poulter as a tough-guy Glade elder, and Ameen Aml as the Glade leader, give it considerable gravitas that, in the end, helps pack that emotional punch.
 
Three-and-a-half out of five stars.

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Melissa Rivers Thanks Fans for Support Following Mother's Death


D Dipasupil/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Melissa Rivers has posted a message to her fans on WhoSay thanking them for their support in the wake of her mother Joan Rivers' death on Sept. 4.

In a statement that represents her first public comments since her mother's funeral, Rivers writes, "As my son Cooper and I mourn the loss of my mother, we want to thank everyone for the beautiful cards and flowers conveying heartfelt messages and condolences, which continue to arrive from around the world and through social media. My mother would have been overwhelmed by the scope and depth of the love that people have expressed for her. It is certainly helping to lift our spirits during this time."

She adds, "We are forever grateful for your kindness and support in continuing to honor my mother’s legacy, and for remembering the joy and laughter that she brought to so many."

In honor of the late comic, E! will air a day-long Fashion Police marathon Friday. It will be followed by a 90-minute special in which Melissa Rivers will join her mother's Fashion Police co-hosts: Kelly Osbourne, Giuliana Rancic and George Kotsiopoulos. The special will include never-before-seen clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and funny outtakes.

The Fashion Police marathon will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the Fashion Police: Celebrating Joan special at 8 p.m. ET.

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Joan Rivers Biography Set for 2016


Charles Sykes/Bravo(NEW YORK) -- Fans of Joan Rivers can remember the late comedy icon as Little, Brown & Co. announced that they're set to publish a biography about her life.

According to Deadline.com, veteran journalist Leslie Bennetts will pen the currently untitled biography.

"Joan Rivers’ life story was…characterized by triumphant highs and devastating lows, one that is both wildly entertaining and deeply moving," Bennetts said in a statement. "But Rivers’ career was also enormously significant in American cultural history, breaking down barriers for women in television and comedy and continually redefining the acceptable boundaries of truth-telling for women in public life."

"It’s hard to imagine a more compelling subject for a book -- or one that would be more fun," the Vanity Fair contributing editor continued.

Rivers' biography will hit shelves in 2016.

Rivers died September 4, after doctors put her in a medically-induced coma after she went into cardiac arrest during a endoscopy procedure.

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Meredith Vieira Shares Her Experience with Domestic Violence


Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Meredith Vieira tackled the topic of domestic violence by sharing a personal story.

On Wednesday's episode of her talk show, Vieira discussed experiences she had with an abusive boyfriend many years ago.

"It started out with, we’d have a fight and he’d just sort of grab my arm. I didn’t think a lot about it, and then it turned into pushing me against the wall and then it went beyond that to actually taking his hand and grabbing my face and saying, ‘I could ruin your career if I wanted to and no one would want you,'" she revealed.

"Then there was the night that, we shared an apartment, and he threw me into a shower, naked in scalding water and then he threw me outside into the hallway, we lived in an apartment building, and I hid in the stairwell for two hours until he came again crying, and said, ‘I promise I won’t do this again.’ And I continued to stay in that relationship until I was offered a job in another state and that’s where I felt I had the ability to get away."

Vieira, 60, is now happily married to her husband of 29 years, journalist Richard Cohen. They have three children.

However, the experience helped shape the talk show host, who admitted that leaving her abusive ex was difficult.

"I’m a smart woman. A lot of people say, Well, who would stay in that situation? Somebody who doesn’t have the wherewithal to get out, the means to get out. I had that," she said. "Part of it was fear. I was scared of him and scared if I tried to leave something worse could happen to me. Part of it was guilt because every time we would have a fight he would then start crying and say, ‘I promise I won’t do it again’ and I would feel like maybe I contributed somehow to this."

Still, she encouraged others who have suffered at the hands of an abusive partner to seek help. And everyone, she said, should be aware of this "rampant" issue.

"We all have to accept the fact that it’s not just an issue with the NFL, it’s an issue with all of our lives," she said. "Until we take it seriously more and more women are going to get abused."

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Ben Affleck Cops to Counting Cards, Wishes Casinos Tossed Him Out


Jason Merritt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In an interview in the October issue of Details, Ben Affleck drew some parallels between his life and the life of his character in the upcoming movie Gone Girl -- at least in the way tabloids can play fast and loose with the truth.

In the movie, he plays a man whose wife goes missing, making for a juicy story for the 24-hour news cycle.

However, the Oscar winner does admit headlines earlier this year that he'd been booted from Las Vegas' Hard Rock Casino for counting cards were right, albeit partially.

"I mean, that took place. I took some time to learn the game...And once I became decent, the casinos asked me not to play blackjack. I mean, the fact that being good at the game is against the rules at the casinos should tell you something about casinos," the Argo director and Batman v. Superman star says.

"[T]hey don't even want you to have a sporting chance, really. There's a lot of hospitality, backslapping, when they think you're gonna come in and dump money, and if they think you might leave with some money, it's like, 'You know what? Why don't you try craps or roulette?'"

Ben also hit back at tabloid allegations that he was a compulsive gambler, offering, "I had always liked blackjack. I don't play any other games of chance. I don't bet on football games, and I don't gamble at all, really, outside of that. But I knew with blackjack that there's a way you can improve your odds. And so I started trying to learn...I tend to get myopic and get into one thing...And then get bored and switch to something else."

While counting cards isn't illegal, most casinos will stop card sharks from doing so -- and such was the case with Affleck. He jokes he wished he'd been physically tossed from the establishment, as some accounts painted it. "No, I wish! That would be awesome," he says, "'Get him outta here! He's a magician!' Unfortunately, they just came up and said, 'We can't let you play blackjack. But we have other table games! We have Chinese poker!'"

As for reports Ben's wife Jennifer Garner was indignant at the incident and his gambling, he said, "See, that's tabloid s**t. That's all bulls**t. They completely lie. I mean, I can show you 10 articles of Star and OK! -- those magazines feel totally comfortable absolutely fictionalizing every single element of the story...My only hope is that people with any common sense recognize that those stories are false."

Gone Girl, based on the Gillian Flynn bestseller of the same name and directed by The Social Network's David Fincher, opens Oct. 3.

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Math Teacher Becomes Third-Ever $1 Million Winner on "Wheel of Fortune"


Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images for PLAYERS INC(NEW YORK) --  A middle school math teacher from Maryland joined an exclusive club Wednesday night, becoming only the third person to win the $1 million grand prize on Wheel of Fortune.

Sarah Manchester of Silver Spring, Maryland, solved the winning puzzle -- the phrase “loud laughter” -- on the episode that aired Wednesday night during the show’s Teacher’s Week. In order to get to that bonus round, Manchester had to solve the prize puzzle, winning a trip to the Dominican Republic, and then also solved the third Toss Up Puzzle: “The Pacific Ocean.”

Manchester’s total take was $1,017,490 in the hotly-contested game.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” an excited Manchester said after her win. “I’m just soaking in every minute of it!”

The episode was filmed earlier this year.

“Teacher’s Week” kicked off the 32nd season of the show.

“What a way to start the season,” the show’s co-host, Pat Sajak, said after Manchester’s win.

Manchester teaches and coaches the math team at Takoma Park Middle School in Montgomery County, Maryland. When she was growing up, she watched Wheel of Fortune with her parents and now challenges her own children with cash prizes for each puzzle they’re able to solve before she does.

Wheel of Fortune introduced the million-dollar grand prize wedge in 2008. If a contestant collects the wedge, solves the puzzle and makes it to the Bonus Round without being bankrupted, the top $100,000 cash prize is replaced by $1 million on the Bonus Round wheel, according to a release from the show. The previous million-dollar grand prize winners are Michelle Lowenstein, who won in 2008, and Autumn Erhard, who collected her prize in 2013.

At the end of Wednesday night’s show, Sajak asked Manchester whether she had used her math skills to calculate the probability of winning the million-dollar prize. She replied: “I assessed that the probability was low, but even unlikely events sometimes happen!”


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wsar storm cancellations for SouthCoast, and Rhode Island

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ACTIVE CANCELLATIONS

 

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When the weather turns bad

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