Thursday, October 18, 2007

Star Wars TV Series Coming Soon

The head Jedi confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Lucasfilm has "just begun work" on a new live-action spinoff that will bring the Star Wars mythology to the small screen. Additionally, Lucas Animation is deep in production on a weekly computer-animated 3-D series dubbed Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which the filmmaker expects to shop to various networks when finished.

Lucas considers the live-action program to be the more ambitious of the two, because it will be completely Skywalker free and instead center on supporting characters.

He admitted he was taking a risk that viewers—save the die-hard geeks who turn up at the Star Wars Celebration conventions in Greedo and Princess Leia getups—might not warm to Jedis, Sith and droids largely unfamiliar to them.

"The Skywalkers aren't in it—it's about minor characters," the 63-year-old Lucas told the newspaper. "It has nothing to do with Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader or any of those people. It's completely different."

Nevertheless, the Star Wars mastermind maintained that "it's a good idea, and it's going to be a lot of fun to do."

Lucas characteristically refused to divulge details about the storylines or even which minor characters might turn up in either starring or cameos. (We're lookin' at you, Boba Fett.)

Star Wars prequel producer Rick McCallum is currently auditioning writers for the live-action series, which Lucas envisions running for at least 100 episodes.

As for the new Star Wars CGI series, this is not your average Saturday-morning cartoon.

Unlike its 2-D forerunner Clone Wars, an Emmy-winning series of shorts that aired on the Cartoon Network, Lucas says the 3-D Clone Wars will break new technological ground.

As a result, Lucas acknowledged that some network suits have been a little skittish about the projects—perhaps recalling the so-so ratings of Lucas' Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which eschewed the thrills of its big-screen progenitors in favor of history lessons. (At Celebration III two years ago, Lucas said the live-action series will be similar in tone to those tube adventures.)

"They are having a hard time," Lucas said. "They're saying, 'This doesn't fit into our little square boxes,' and I say, 'Well, yeah, but it's Star Wars. And Star Wars doesn't fit into that box.'"

If old-school Stars Wars and high-octane action is what you're looking for, fear not, young Padawans.

Anthony Daniels, who played C-3P0 in the original trilogy and its prequels, has signed on to voice the protocol droid in Clone Wars, alongside animated versions of R2-D2, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker, General Grievous, Princess Amidala and Count Dookoo. A trailer is now up at the official Star Wars Website.

In an interview with TV Guide last month, Lucas said his team of animators has completed more than 40 episodes and that he believed the CGI series needs "to go after 9 o'clock, and it can't be a kiddie channel."

These aren't the first Star Wars TV spinoffs. There were the animated Ewoks and Droids Saturday-morning cartoons, two live-action made-for-TV Ewok movies and, most infamously, the universally ridiculed 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.

For fans of the big screen, Lucas is also planning to tweak his Star Wars movies yet again and release all six episodes in a 3-D digital format. No word yet on a release date.

Madonna deal more about money than music

The deal confirmed Tuesday between Madonna and Live Nation tells us a lot about the future of the corporate music world. But it has very little to do with ensuring the future of great music or serving the dedicated music fan.

It's a deal for the few, the rich, the branded.

Unlike Radiohead's recent end-run around the music industry, which was about using the Internet to get music from band to fan as directly and inexpensively as possible, Madonna's global megadeal with the nation's largest concert promoter is all about maximizing revenue streams.As the first performer signed to the Artist Nation imprint, her agreement with Live Nation is built on the idea that an aggressive entertainment company can sell Madonna in more ways than ever.

It points the way toward a major-label system that will be even less about innovative music, and even more about innovative marketing.

Executives valued for their ability to find talented bands and artists who excel only at music, and not glamour, will become extinct at this mega-corporation level. Their future will be in smaller niche markets, on smaller labels, which cater to hardcore music fans. Those fans are still out there by the tens of millions, as peer-to-peer file sharing has demonstrated, but the Artist Nation model isn't for them. It's for and about celebrities, and the people who can't get enough of them.

No one can begrudge Madonna's business smarts. She saw this as a way to get even more rich and more famous, if that's possible. Live Nation is taking a huge risk investing so heavily in an icon who will turn 50 next year. It's betting on the idea that it can sell Madonna not just through concert tickets, where the two shared $86 million in revenue last year, but also through record sales, merchandising, fan clubs, Web sites, DVDs, music-related television and film projects, and sponsorship deals.

The deal likely means the rich will get richer if the music industry adopts the Artist Nation model. Multimedia stars such as Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, U2's Bono and a handful of other established performers for whom music is just one part of what they do, and how they sell, should be smacking their lips.

Meanwhile, it's more bad news for the established major labels. Live Nation presents a threat to the near monopoly once enjoyed by Warner Brothers, with whom Madonna has been contracted for 25 years, as well as Sony BMG, Universal and Capitol/EMI.

In the past, the majors have worked out Madonna-style partnerships with artists such as Robbie Williams and Korn to share not just in their record sales but in all their music-related income. But they have been slow to remake their business model, and some artists -- such as Radiohead -- are beginning to abandon the majors as a 20th Century relic and set off on their own. Last week, Radiohead started selling its new album as a digital download through its own Web site at a price determined by each consumer.

Madonna's decision strongly suggests that even the artists who benefited most from the majors' business-as-usual approach are no longer interested in living in the past.

Now the nation's dominant concert promoter has set itself up as a new breed of record company, gunning to sign the same big-name artists that have been the majors' meal ticket for a half-century and offering them one-stop shopping benefits. With Starbucks and Live Nation now in the music-label business, can other powerful corporations with music-related product -- such as Steve Jobs' Apple or Paul Allen's Microsoft -- be far from establishing their own labels?

But these multifaceted deals only make sense for a few artists. For a new or midsize band with a niche audience, the Live Nation-Madonna model has nothing to do with their reality, and probably never will. Artist Nation points the way toward a future where the biggest corporations will be about only the biggest stars and the most revenue streams. Smaller artists will likely gravitate toward some variation of the Radiohead model, a combination of touring, niche marketing and direct-to-fan sales that doesn't require the involvement of multinational conglomerate.

As for Artist Nation, celebrities only need apply. Hello, Madonna -- a celebrity with a profound understanding of who she is at this stage in her career. She no longer needs a record company. She needs a marketing machine that can help her cash in on all the business opportunities that her music made possible.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Leno, O'Brien lead late-night for another year

NBC still rules the roost in late-night.

"The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" lodged its 12th consecutive broadcast year in the lead, with "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" winning 13 straight years in its time period, according to Nielsen Media Research data for the TV season ending last week.

"Leno" (5.5 million viewers) came out ahead of CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" (4 million) and ABC's "Nightline" (3.4 million) for the full year. "Leno" was down from 5.7 million viewers the year before, and "Letterman" down from 4.1 million. "Nightline" remained even.

ABC's "The Jimmy Kimmel Show," which airs at 12:05 a.m. ET, was up to 1.7 million viewers from 1.6 million.

NBC won again at 12:35 a.m. with "Conan O'Brien" (2.3 million vs. 2.4 million the year before). CBS' "Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" (1.9 million) at 12:35 a.m., and "The Carson Daly Show" (1.4 million) at 1:35 a.m. were about even with the previous year.

Madonna nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Madonna and disco queen Donna Summer are among nine acts nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the hall embraces more musical genres.

Other nominees include rock singer John Mellencamp, Canadian poet-singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, 1960s English band The Dave Clark Five and instrumental rock band The Ventures.

Also nominated are New York-based funk group Chic, rap pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and hip-hop group The Beastie Boys, reflecting the Hall of Fame's willingness to accept a diversity of genres.

Five-hundred music industry professionals will choose five of the nominees to be inducted at a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel next March.

Last year, rap group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip-hop artists to be inducted.

Chic, the Dave Clark Five and Mellencamp have been nominated previously.

Artists become eligible for Hall of Fame induction 25 years after the release of their first record and are represented at a permanent exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Madonna, 49, made her debut in 1982 and her first album "Madonna" included hits such as "Holiday," "Borderline" and "Lucky Star" which helped her become one of the best-selling pop artists, with more then 200 million albums sold worldwide.

Paris to pack her bags for Rwanda

Paris Hilton plans to visit Rwanda as part of her post-jail commitment to use her celebrity status to bring attention to social causes.

"I'll be going in November, after I get back from filming my movie," she teld E! Online in a story posted on the website.

"There's so much need in that area, and I feel like if I go, it will bring more attention to what people can do to help," Hilton says.

The 26-year-old US hotel heiress-actress vowed to use her fame to bring attention to social causes after serving a 23 day jail sentence earlier this year for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

"I want to visit more countries where poverty and children's issues are a big concern," she said. "I know there's a lot of good I can do just by getting involved and bringing attention to these issues."

Hilton co-stars with Paul Sorvino and Alexa Vega in Repo! The Genetic Opera, a movie about organ harvesting.

The horror rock opera, based on a stage musical, is set in a plague-ravaged future where people can purchase new organs on the installment plan from a corporation called Geneco.

The catch is that if the payments stop, the organs are repossessed.

Hilton also says she is planning to add eco-friendly touches to her new home in Beverly Hills, California.

"I just bought the house and haven't been able to work on it yet," she says. "But I intend to."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Preparing for another tumultous ‘Grey’s’ season

“Grey’s Anatomy” is like a rambunctious dog.

It never seems to do what you want it to, it makes a mess of things, but that sweet face reminds you of how dearly you love it, and that’s why you’ll never take it to the pound.

After a wild season that saw one character leave to start her own show while another left, well, under less glamorous circumstances, fans prepare for another season of frustration, heartbreak and — ultimately — reluctant acceptance. As the fourth season approaches (premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 26 on ABC), it’s a good time to catch up on where the storylines left off, what viewers are hoping for, what the writers should avoid, and what they’ll ultimately deliver.Cristina and, umm, what was that guy’s name?
Where it left off:
Cristina all but left that-guy-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned at the altar. He abruptly called the whole thing off, left their apartment empty, and was never to be seen again. Viewers now know this was no accident. The actor who played that-guy-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned had gotten himself into some hot water, and that pretty much doomed any future the two could have together.

What viewers are hoping for: Cristina getting back to her old self would be nice. Most fans didn’t have a problem with the career-focused Cristina who didn’t care to make room for someone else in her life so that she could concentrate on becoming a great heart surgeon. She needs to pull it together, make her career the priority, and love will come in time. One thing that-guy-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned didn’t take with him was his mother, played by Diahann Carroll, who is on board to make a return early in the season to collect a certain family heirloom.

What the writers should avoid: Dragging it on too long. Sure, Cristina is devastated by having her love life turned upside-down, but this is why TV life is so much more fun than real life. If they want to, they can have her get over it fairly quickly and move on like fans would expect Cristina to do.

What they’ll likely deliver: This could be where the promised “fun ‘Grey’s’” will happen. Cristina, while heartbroken, ought to bounce back nicely and maybe overcompensate for the brief departure from her selfish, wise-cracking self. Or she could hook up with George.

George and Izzie … and Callie
Where it left off: Strange that George’s “wife” seems like the third wheel, huh? Fans last saw George wanting to go to another hospital because he just couldn’t stand the constant presence of Izzie, who he really loves, because their affair threatens his marriage with Callie, who he also seems to love — as much as a lying cheater can. Turns out he can’t leave, even if he wanted to, because he failed the intern exam at the end of the year. If anybody will give him another chance, it’s Seattle Grace. That’s sure to keep George and Izzie crossing paths for a while. Meanwhile, Callie wants to get pregnant and it’s a little tough to do that when your husband’s off boinking someone else — although Callie doesn’t seem to know that’s what’s happened.

What viewers are hoping for: This, probably more than anything, is the one move fans seem to be universally behind: George and Izzie getting together was a bad idea and it should stop immediately.

What the writers should avoid: More George and Izzie sexual tension — if not outright sex.

What they’ll ultimately deliver: More George and Izzie sexual tension — if not outright sex. Sorry.

Meredith and McDreamy
Where it left off:
They’re the de facto power couple on this show, but their stock dropped big-time as Meredith and McDreamy were mostly a sleepy, uninteresting couple last season. There was some forced tension in the otherwise perfectly quaint relationship when Meredith famously didn’t try to swim to save her own life after falling into the frigid waters of Seattle’s Elliott Bay. That made McDreamy question his effort to save her when she didn’t even want to save herself.

Once Meredith came to after seeing her dead mom, Denny and Coach Taylor from “Friday Night Lights,” while hovering between life and death, the relationship began to sour. MerDer weren’t talking to each other much and McDreamy semi-threatened Meredith, who he doesn’t think is fully invested in the relationship, by telling her he “met a woman.” That woman just happens to be Meredith’s half-sister, Lexie, who is a new intern at Seattle Grace this season. Oh, the drama!

What viewers are hoping for: McDreamy snaps out of it, Meredith fully commits and stops whining, and they live happily ever after, so the other messed up couples on the show can get sorted out.

Scorsese to direct George Harrison documentary

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese plans to direct an authorized documentary about George Harrison, the former Beatle who died of lung cancer in 2001, Daily Variety reported on Thursday.

Interviews and early production will begin this year, and the film will take several years to complete, the trade paper said.

"It would have given George great joy to know that Martin Scorsese has agreed to tell his story," the paper quoted Harrison's widow, Olivia, as saying.

She will serve as a producer of the untitled project, and will supply archival materials. Daily Variety added that surviving Beatle members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr would participate, as would the Beatles' Apple Records label.

Scorsese, who won an Oscar this year for directing the crime saga "The Departed," is preparing for the April 2008 release of a concert documentary about the Rolling Stones, called "Shine A Light." He turned his attention to Bob Dylan in the 2005 documentary "No Direction Home," and depicted the Band's farewell concert in 1976's "The Last Waltz."

The Harrison movie will cover his time in the Fab Four, when he composed such memorable tunes as "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," his inconsistent solo career, his foray into movie production with such projects as "Monty Python's Life of Brian," and his enthusiastic embrace of Eastern mysticism, Daily Variety said.

Transformers 2 Rolling Out

After weeks of "will he or won't he return?" buzz, Michael Bay will reportedly reprise his directing duties for Paramount and DreamWorks' Transformers 2, which is targeting a tentative June 26, 2009 release.

According to Variety, "Bay has not yet inked a deal to helm the follow-up but is in the final stages of negotiation. With Bay's involvement, [the first film's star, Shia] LaBeouf is expected to return as well."

Also, even if DreamWorks topper Steven Spielberg, who exec produced Transformers, leaves the studio as industry pundits suggest he might, the trade claims he'll remain involved with the sequel.

The studios are said to want Transformers 2 in production before the expected industry strikes happen mid-next year even if, as Variety suggests, "they have to finish after it." The June 26, 2009 release date isn't set in stone because of that.

Art or Porn? Elton John's Photos Seized

Legendary singer-songwriter Sir Elton John is defending the work of award-winning photographer Nan Goldin after one of her photos, which he now owns, was seized by British authorities. Officials say they received a complaint that the image was pornographic.

The passions of John could stir up legal troubles in the United Kingdom, according to a First Amendment expert on this side of the pond.

Goldin's "Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing" depicts two young girls, one of whom is lying down with her legs spread open.

John lent 150 of the Goldin photos he owns to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England, for an exhibition.

The New York artist's work is well-known for its gritty and urban themes and is often graphic, provocative and sexually explicit. Her subjects frequently include family, friends and children.

"The photograph exists as part of the installation as a whole and has been widely published and exhibited throughout the world," writes John on his Web site.

"It has been offered for sale at Sotheby's New York … and exhibited in Houston, London, Madrid, New York, Portugal, Warsaw and Zurich without any objections that we are aware of," the singer said in defense of the photograph.

Daily Entertainment Break: Jessica Biel the next Wonder Woman?

She may be able to handle Justin Timberlake on her arm, but is Jessica Biel ready to take on the role of Wonder Woman?

The actress is currently in talks to play the lasso wielding DC Comic superhero in the movie "Justice League of America," Daily Variety reports. If Biel is chosen to suit up in the superhero's iconic star-spangled bustier, she will join forces alongside Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and the Flash in the Warner Bros. film. No other actors have been named for the parts of the male superheroes.

Warner Bros. remained silent on the Biel casting rumor, claiming they preferred to announce the cast ensemble all at once, Access Hollywood says ( Christian Bale and Brandon Routh will not reprise their roles as Batman and Superman in the upcoming film, citing concerns that it will diminish the success of their already existing superhero franchises, E! Online reports ( George Miller, the man behind the movies "Babe" and "Happy Feet," is set to direct the film.

A Wonder Woman movie has long been on the drawing board for Warner Bros., Access Hollywood reports. Former Buffy the Vampire Slayer director Joss Whedon was set to write and direct the film, but pulled out of the project last February, E! Online says. Rumor has it that Whedon considered former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Charisma Carpenter (also on "Angel") for the lead role.

'Reaper': The CW Scores with a Devilishly Funny New Series

Like many twentysomething slackers, Sam Oliver is a college dropout who punches in at a warehouse store and lives with his parents, but with one big difference: he's the Devil's bounty hunter, conscripted to retrieve renegade sinners who've escaped from Hell. Sam's parents sold his newborn soul to Satan, and now that he's turned 21, Lucifer collects on the IOU.

Starring Bret Harrison (Grounded for Life, The Loop) as Sam and Ray Wise as the Devil, Reaper is a hybrid of action, fantasy, drama and comedy that gets that delicate balance just right.

Executive producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, who met as assistants on the X-Files, came up with the premise eight years ago and continued to develop the idea and tone. That some may find Reaper reminiscent of Ghostbusters, which Fazekas admits to having seen ""about 5,000 times,"" is not coincidental, but the 2004 flick Shaun of the Dead was even more influential for the creators.

""Here were two ordinary guys who were too hung over to realize the world's been taken over by zombies. I started thinking about these kinds of kids in their twenties who live in a nice suburb and have a nice car and Xbox and all the comforts of home so they're not really motivated to do anything. Why would you leave to live in a crappy apartment downtown? So I kind of married the two ideas together,"" she explains.

'Private Practice' star adapts to the hype amid a rocky start

At times, Kate Walsh seems a bit stunned by all that has happened to her in three years, from her first appearance on "Grey's Anatomy" to being the star of her own show, the new "Private Practice."

"I could have never, ever dreamed this up," says the San Jose-born Walsh, who left the Bay Area before high school to live in Tucson.

Walsh, who will turn 40 next month, caught the acting bug from Children's Musical Theater of San Jose and other local community theater groups. After graduating from the University of Arizona, she spent close to two decades doing stage work (in New York and Chicago) and playing small to medium parts on such television series as "The Drew Carey Show."

Then, in late 2004, Walsh signed a five-episode deal with ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," a series that had yet to air. Her part: Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd, the estranged wife of Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), one of the series' leads.

Walsh's character didn't appear until the 13th episode of the show's first season. But her first, very short scene was memorable. Her opening line to Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) was, and we're paraphrasing here, "And you must be the woman who's been (sleeping with) my husband."

"I had been very fortunate just to be a working actress who hovered along," Walsh says. "And then it was like, bang, 'Grey's.' "

"Dirty Sexy Money" a tiresome family soap

If it's true we are fascinated by the lives of the very rich, then "Dirty Sexy Money" may be the cure. In this curious mix of "Dynasty" and "Arrested Development," just about the only thing the wealthy accomplish is keeping us from feeling inferior to them.

Part drama, part mystery and part unintentional comedy, "Dirty Sexy Money," the creation of executive producer Craig Wright, is full of well-drawn characters. Unfortunately, except for the two played by Peter Krause and Donald Sutherland, each is more tiresome and off-putting than the last.

Krause plays Nick George, whose father had the all-consuming job of being personal attorney to the Darlings, the wealthiest family in New York. Nick's dad was such a workaholic that Nick's mother couldn't stand it and left, thereby depriving little Nick of a close relationship with either parent.

As the series begins, Nick's dad has died in a plane crash. By now, Nick is a lawyer himself, specializing in low-paying but fulfilling work for charitable groups. The funeral was to be Nick's last contact with the Darlings.

However, Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland), the family patriarch, thinks Nick was the only one who could replace his dad. "No one seems right," he tells Nick. "You're the guy." That may not seem sufficiently persuasive to overcome a lifetime of negativity, but when coupled with a big salary and an offer of $10 million a year for charity, the deal is sealed. Nick assures his wife that, this time, things will be different. Of course.

In just hours, the five adult Darling children start calling. Patrick the politician (William Baldwin) needs help dumping his transgender hooker girlfriend. Karen (Natalie Zea) needs a pre-nup for her fourth husband but still carries an Olympic-sized torch for Nick.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Die Hard director in jail

JOHN McTiernan, the Hollywood director behind such blockbuster action films as Die Hard and Predator, was sentenced to four months in prison today for lying to federal agents.

McTiernan was one of seven defendants who pleaded guilty in connection with the conspiracy and racketeering case of disgraced celebrity detective Anthony Pellicano, who was charged with using illegal wiretaps and illicit database searches to eavesdrop on dozens of Hollywood celebrities and movie executives.

McTiernan, 56, pleaded guilty in April, 2006, to making knowingly false statements to FBI agents investigating Pellicano when he denied having asked Pellicano to wiretap producer Charles Roven, with whom the director worked on the 2002 film Rollerball.

US District Judge Dale Fischer denied a motion by McTiernan to withdraw his guilty plea. In addition to his four-month prison sentence, McTiernan also received two years of supervised release and a $US100,000 fine.

Kiefer Sutherland arrested on DUI charges

Actor Kiefer Sutherland was arrested early today on misdemeanor drunk driving charges after failing a field sobriety test and breathalyzer, police said.

Sutherland, 40, was pulled over about 1:30 a.m. in West Los Angeles near La Cienega and Beverly boulevards after police spotted him making an illegal U-turn, said Officer Ana Aguirre, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Despite rumors, Miley Cyrus not pregnant

Despite internet rumors, teen sensation Miley Cyrus is definitely not pregnant, a rep for the star confirmed to Access Hollywood.

The rumors started after a host of celebrity Web sites picked up a doctored article from J-14 magazine, which claimed the “Hannah Montana” star was pregnant.

“It is 100% not true,” a rep for Miley told Access Hollywood.

Resident Evil captures box office

The latest film in the flesh-eating zombie series Resident Evil has made it to the top of the US and Canadian box office chart in its first weekend.

Resident Evil: Extinction made $24m (£12m) between Friday and Sunday, according to studio estimates.

The film, starring Milla Jovovich and R&B singer Ashanti, is the third in the franchise based on the hit video games.

Jessica Alba's romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck was another new entry at number two, taking $14m (£7m).

It pushed last week's number one, Jodie Foster's revenge drama The Brave One, down to number three.

Britney’s jabbering scares her kids

Britney Spears often leaves her young kids frightened by talking to them in weird voices, the singer’s former bodyguard Tony Barretto has revealed.

Barretto, who recently testified against the former pop princess in court, has further given a detailed account of Britney’s parenting skills.

In a recent interview, Barretto divulged that Spears frequently conversed with her two sons, Jayden James and Sean Preston, in weird, creepy, baby voices, in made-up languages.

"She speaks to them in weird, creepy, baby voices, in made-up languages, which they just don't get. All it does is unsettle, upset and scare them. Often she would scream and cry uncontrollably. Imagine what that is like for young children,” News of the World quoted Tony, as saying.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Romance blooming on Heroes set?

Does Ellen Degeneres know something we don't about behind-the-scenes love affairs on the set of Heroes? The talk show host grilled actor Maki Oka about a possible romance with our current girl crush, Kristen Bell.

"Is there a little something going on?" DeGeneres gently prodded when Oka, who plays the lovable Hiro on the NBC breakout hit, appeared on her show Friday (Sept 21).

Oka would not confirm or deny the rumoured romance, simply telling DeGeneres, "Kristin is an absolutely amazing individual both on and off screen. We're great friends. Everyone has a crush on her."

Bell, who accompanied Oka to last weekend's Emmy Awards, joins the Heroes cast this season, offering geeks everywhere (ourselves included) a reason to cease our hate mail campaign against the CW, comforted by the knowledge that Veronica Mars will live on someplace other than just our hearts.

French mime artist Marceau dies

The French mime artist Marcel Marceau has died at the age of 84, his family has announced.

The performer was known around the world for his portrayal of a white-faced clown with battered hat.

Born in Strasbourg in 1923, Marceau studied under mime master Etienne Decroux in Paris.

His daughter Camille said he died on Saturday evening, adding that details of the burial at Paris's Pere Lachaise cemetery would be given out later.

Dogg doing community service

The rapper, who pleaded guilty to one charge of possession of a dangerous weapon, also received three years probation and was ordered to donate $10,000 to charity as part of the plea bargain.

His lawyer, Donald Etra, said the felony conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanour after one year if Snoop does not violate the law. Etra said: "We are very pleased with the outcome. Snoop's goal is to make music, not make court appearances."

The hip-hop star was arrested last September after a collapsible baton was found in his luggage at Orange County's John Wayne Airport.

It was classed as a dangerous weapon by the authorities, while Snoop claimed it was a prop for a video he was filming in New York and he did not realise it was a weapon.

Is Lindsay Lohan homewrecking from rehab?

Everyone has already heard about the busy schedule Lindsay Lohan keeps at Utah’s Cirque Lodge. But what does Lindsay do to fill the rehab gaps between chores, exercises and therapy? According to a recent story in the Daily Mirror, LiLo’s used some of that downtime to get cozy with Dead Stays Alive frontman Tony Allen.

Rumor has it that Lindsay and the married rocker hooked up after bonding over their mutual addictions and creative careers. The Mirror reports that things took off from there. It’s even alleged that the pair had sex in a bathroom at the rehab facility.

A friend of Tony’s wife, British heiress Stephanie Allen, spoke to the Mirror about her pal’s devastation. “She's has had it, period. They tried forever to have kids. She went through IVF three times and suffered two miscarriages, and when they finally got two beautiful babies, he hooks up in rehab with a girl half his age. All Stephanie wanted was for him to be a good husband and father.”

‘Reporter’ Marcia Clark all over O.J. story

Twelve years after Marcia Clark heard jurors pronounce O.J. Simpson innocent of murder, the former prosecutor carried her enduring guilt into another courtroom with the ex-football star.

This time, Clark was the most startling member of the media pack covering Simpson's Las Vegas felony arrest. As legal correspondent for "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider," she had the chance to tell the world what she thinks of Simpson — and she used it.

"Just seeing him back in court again, facing charges. I can't believe it. It's just surreal," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "He skated on two murder charges, and he managed to get out of other charges of much lesser gravity since then. How did he manage to get himself back in trouble again?

T.R. Knight says George is a mess on ‘Grey’s’

The season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” is Sept. 27, and according to T.R. Knight, who plays George, things at Seattle Grace are going full steam ahead.

“Good, good,” Knight replied when “Access” asked how shooting has been going so far. “We’re at episode six out of 24, so the marathon has begun and we just started... It’s going really well.”

Knight confirmed what many suspected, that George is back at Seattle Grace, but unlike his class, most of whom have graduated, he is repeating his intern year. That year, the actor said, comes with plenty of problems.

It’s a girl for Salma Hayek, fiancĂ©

Salma Hayek has given birth to a baby girl, Valentina Paloma Pinault, her publicist announced Friday.

"Mother and child are doing well," publicist Cari Ross said in a statement. No other details were released.

The Mexico-born actress, 41, is engaged to businessman Francois-Henri Pinault.

Costner's Band Holds Free N.M. Concert

Kevin Costner and his rockabilly band drew a crowd of more than 1,000 at a free concert for a scene in his upcoming film "Swing Vote."

The Santa Fe Rodeo Grounds was transformed Friday night into the site of a presidential debate, complete with red, white and blue bunting, fake news vans and a sign reading " presents The Final Debate."

A helicopter shooting scenes for the movie buzzed overhead, while crew members barked instructions to extras through a bullhorn.

Cynthia Watros Is Returning to Lost

According to TV Guide, Cynthia Watros is returning to ABC's Lost. Her short-lived character Libby is not returning from the dead, though. Instead, she will be featured in more flashbacks.

Executive producer Carlton Cuse stated, "She'll be in enough of the show for us to fill in the missing pieces of her story. We could not be more pleased. Cynthia is a smart and engaging actor, and [executive producer] Damon [Lindelof] and I have some very cool parts of her story left to tell."

The date of Watros return has not been set yet.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Clooney breaks rib in motorcycle crash

George Clooney suffered a broken rib and some scrapes Friday when the motorcycle he and a friend were riding collided with a car as the actor tried to pass the vehicle, authorities said.
Weehawken (N.J.) Police Sgt. Sean Kelly said the collision occurred at 3:30 p.m. as Clooney and friend Sarah Larson were traveling north on Boulevard East and sped up to pass on the right a 1999 Mazda Millenia that was preparing to make a right turn.
Kelly said it is not known whether the driver of the other vehicle, who has not been identified, had used his turn signal. Boulevard East is a narrow road with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.
"It's a he-said, she-said right now, but you can't pass on the right in Weehawken or anywhere in Jersey," Kelly said.
Kelly said the accident remains under investigation and no summonses have been issued.
The 46-year-old actor was treated at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, N.J., and released, spokesman Stan Rosenfield said in a statement.
Larson suffered a broken foot. She and Clooney were wearing helmets, Kelly said.

Friday, September 21, 2007

ABC and AOL team up for free prime-time shows

But when one of the players comes out with a blockbuster idea, especially on the business operations front, it's like watching a flock of geese take off. One leads the pack, the others follow. The formation may not always be perfectly aligned, but they're all headed in the same general direction.

The Walt Disney Co.'s Disney-ABC Television Group announced a deal with Time Warner's AOL today that calls for ABC to offer free, full-length prime-time episodes online a day after they premiere. ABC's free prime-time shows, which will begin appearing on AOL Video today, will include the likes of The Bachelor, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. Users will be able to view about four episodes per TV series at any one time.

As noted in a blog by David Kaplan on, ABC is making a move to syndicate its prime-time shows online, much like CBS.

And ABC's free-prime-time-show announcement follows one made by NBC Universal a day earlier, in which NBC said it tuned in to the concept of offering free downloadable TV shows. NBC's Wednesday announcement said it would offer ad-supported prime time shows, such as The Office and Heroes, that could be downloaded after they aired and remain on users' computers for seven days before virtually vaporizing, according to a report in The New York Times.

For Jay-Z, Inspiration Arrives in a Movie

Jay-Z, the rap superstar and president of Def Jam Records, has quietly returned to the studio to record an album of new songs inspired by the forthcoming movie “American Gangster,” his first “concept” album and second CD in less than a year.

The album, which his label plans to release in early November, came together over the past few weeks after Jay-Z was shown the film, directed by Ridley Scott, in which Denzel Washington portrays Frank Lucas, a early 1970s Harlem heroin kingpin.

Following the underwhelming critical and commercial reception for his “Kingdom Come” CD late last year — and as Jay-Z grapples with whether to stay on in his post at Def Jam — the tie-in to a major motion picture gives him a chance to rebound strong and extend his reach to a wider audience.

At the same time, it could help Universal Pictures excite younger moviegoers, whom it will need to make money on a costly film with a troubled history. Though it’s not uncommon for films to be released alongside “inspired by” albums, it is rare for them to be recorded by a single artist, let alone by a major star who had no role in the movie.

In an hourlong telephone interview, Jay-Z, 37, who has spoken of spending his early years in Brooklyn both rapping and drug dealing, said that the movie had tremendous resonance for him and had sparked a burst of creative activity that even he found surprising. He has already recorded nine tracks, almost every one prompted by a specific scene.

“It was like I was watching the film, and putting it on pause, and giving a back story to the story,” he said.

The movie, set for a Nov. 2 release, depicts the Lucas character as an underworld Horatio Alger and an innovator who, despite keeping a low public profile, rose to such power that he was able to defy the Mafia bosses who had traditionally dominated the New York drug trade before being brought down by a special narcotics task force. (Its leader is played by Russell Crowe.) Jay-Z said he thought his fans would be struck by the image of a black man reaching such heights of success, even on the wrong side of the law, much like such ruthlessly efficient Al Pacino antiheroes as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone.

“It immediately clicked with me,” said Jay-Z, who has made passing references to gangster movies in previous recordings but has never delved so deeply into the genre. “Like ‘Scarface,’ or any one of those films, you take the good out of it, and you can see it as an inspiring film.”

A $100 million gritty period piece that largely takes place before the birth of hip-hop or many of its fans, “American Gangster” marks a sizable gamble for Universal, which fired one director, Antoine Fuqua, and scrapped the project at a cost of $30 million before restarting it with Mr. Scott in charge and with Mr. Crowe in place of Benicio del Toro. (Though they share a name, Universal Pictures and Universal Music Group, the parent of Def Jam, are no longer corporate brethren.)

Third Narnia film delayed to 2010

The release date of the third Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has been put back a year to 2010.

A Disney spokeswoman blamed the delay on "the challenging schedules for our young actors" and said production will begin next summer, instead of January.

The movie, which is being directed by acclaimed film-maker Michael Apted, was originally scheduled for May 2009.

Prince Caspian is the second film to be made from CS Lewis's novels and is scheduled to open 16 May in the US.

Caspian's release date was also delayed by five months because the film's production company, Walden Media, already had another movie, The Water Horse, coming out in December.

Relative unknown Ben Barnes will play the lead role, and will return for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Georgie Henley (Lucy) and Skandar Keynes (Edmund) from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe will also feature.

Starring James McAvoy and Tilda Swinton, the first instalment of the Narnia series took $744m (£373m) worldwide.

Meanwhile, another high profile movie has had its release date moved forward.

According to industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter, DreamWorks Animation has bought Monsters vs Aliens forward by two months in the US.

The film will now open in March instead of May 2009 to avoid clashing with James Cameron's Avatar, which is currently scheduled for release in May.

Heroes returns for sophomore year

Tim Kring is a little light on intel about the second season of his geek-tastic creation Heroes, but that comes with the territory.

He was swamped by fanboys and fangirls at Comic-Con in San Diego in July, and he didn't crack under pressure then -- except to reveal that Dominican actress Dania Ramirez, familiar to connoisseurs of geek chic as one of the sirens from last summer's movie X-Men: The Last Stand, will join the cast as Maya Herrera.

According to Heroes's second-season program notes, Herrera is a young woman "plagued by a threatening ability that has driven both her and her twin brother Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz) from their home in the Dominican Republic to ... the U.S. in search of help."

Press him a little harder, and some other details emerge.

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) will appear in a recurring role, beginning with the fifth episode, as a mysterious siren, Elle, with cryptic ties to the Petrelli and Bennet families.

The new season will incorporate storylines based in Egypt, Haiti, Mexico, Ireland, Lithuania and Ukraine, in addition to the U.S. and of course Japan, where, in May's season-ending cliffhanger, Masi Oka's character, Hiro, found himself trapped in time, back in the 16th century and facing bushido-blade-wielding characters straight out of an Akira Kurosawa samurai epic.

Mention that season finale -- and some of the more lacklustre reviews for the final chapter in what was one of last season's few TV Cinderella tales -- and Kring is apt to take on a slightly pained demeanour. Heroes is unusual in that it tapped into the mainstream audience, and not just the comics crowd. It was one of Global and NBC's highest-rated dramas last season and was nominated for a best drama Emmy.

"I don't read a lot of the Internet chatter," Kring said, taking a break between scenes on Heroes's main soundstage at Sunset Gower Studios, the former home of Columbia Pictures. "I'm never 100-per-cent satisfied with anything I do, but I was pretty pleased that we were able to wrap up that much story and give ourselves enough of a blank slate to start season two with."

Making Heroes on a week-to-week basis is an exercise in time travel in itself, Kring suggests, with all its attendant headaches and frustrations.

"When you make a TV show, you are often several months ahead of where the audience is. The daily brush fires we're putting out often have very little to with what the audience is reacting to in any given moment."

Rewind to July 2006. Heroes made its original debut at Comic-Con, untried and untested. Kring was, frankly, terrified. He screened the original 72-minute pilot to a hall full of fanboys and fangirls. He knew they wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but that he also knew they would turn on him if he trotted out the TV equivalent of the John Travolta flop Battlefield Earth.

He needn't have worried, as it turned out. Heroes's first chapter was still two months away from being shown on TV in a shortened, 50-minute version, but that first screening was one of those "click" moments that come along once or twice in a TV producer's lifetime. If he's lucky.

Sex Pistols to reform for one show

British punk rock band The Sex Pistols will reform in November for one concert to mark the 30th anniversary of their album "Never Mind the Bollocks."

The four surviving original band members -- John Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock -- told a British music paper the band would play south London's Brixton Academy on November 8. Tickets for the concert go on sale this Friday.

The Pistols spearheaded the British Punk rock movement in the 1970s, helping to spawn hundreds of similar bands like the Clash and the Damned, who railed against the establishment and supergroups who they said had become boring.

The band split in 1978 shortly before the death of bassist Sid Vicious in New York from a drugs overdose.

Denise Richards seeks to 'protect' kids from ex

It looks like the gloves are coming off -- again -- in Denise Richards' and Charlie Sheen's custody battle. After months of playing nice, Richards was back in court this week to request her two daughters be "protected" from her ex-hubby. The actress' attorney, Neal Raymond Hersh, says she is seeking "the assistance of the court to obtain orders to protect her children" from Sheen, reports People magazine. She believes that Charlie has significant personal issues which he has failed to address and which require her to take action to protect her children," Hersh says. "This is not a vindictive action. Any responsible parent in Denise's shoes would go to the ends of the Earth to protect her children." Though the court documents have not been released, Access Hollywood claims that Richards filed papers accusing her ex of "inappropriate behavior ... and conduct," including "his attraction to underage women and his sexual explicitness on the Internet, including revealing his private parts."

Pitt signs up for new boxing movie

Brad Pitt has signed up to star in a new boxing movie called The Fighter.

According to Empire, the Fight Club actor will star alongside Mark Wahlberg in the film, which is based around the life of the famous Irish-American boxer Mickey Ward.

Pitt will play Dicky Eklund, the half-brother of the one-time World Lightweight Champion, who also had a successful career in the ring before he became involved with crime and ended up in prison.

Eklund was famed for helping Ward reach success in the ring after he was let out of jail. Wahlberg will play the part of Ward in the film.

The movie will be directed by Darren Aronofsky, with a script provided by 8 Mile's Mile Silver.


Stacy Keach added a star on the Walk of Fame to his list of honors the other day -- inaugurating the new Walk of Fame in Oldenburg, Germany, that is. Keach's career was celebrated there with a 20-film retrospective and a Lifetime Achievement Award at this month's Oldenburg FilmFest, and then he was surprised with the unveiling of his star as the first such tribute on that town's Boulevard der Stars. According to Keach, "It's right outside one of the biggest banks in town, so I hope that's a good sign." So, on this occasion, Keach was doing something Hollywood folk love to do ... laughing all the way to the bank.


Soccer icon David Beckham's membership in the L.A. Galaxy has certainly raised the excitement level about soccer in the United States -- at least around the "Rules of Engagement" set. "Rules" actress Bianca Kajlich, who's married to Galaxy star Landon Donovan, tells us people are a lot more interested in seeing her husband when he visits her at work now that he's teammates with Beckham.

"It's great that we really genuinely enjoy going to the other's workplace and watch each other do what we do. Now it's a little more interesting because there are more people attracted to watching the Galaxy. It's funny how I came back to work after hiatus and suddenly everyone knew more about soccer," says Bianca. And when she goes to meet Landon at the field, things are different, as well. "I don't ever remember security being that big of an issue, and now I drive up and they're like, `Where's your ticket?' I'm like, `I've never had to show my ticket before."'

Bianca's been glad to get back in front of the studio audiences for her CBS sitcom, which has its second season premiere Monday, Sept. 24. Speaking of her on-screen love interest, Oliver Hudson, she admits, "We are quite competitive with each other. We talked the entire summer trying to figure out who's been working out more and who's going to be more buff when we returned. I think I won."

Scandal-plagued Tara Conner wouldn't change a thing

Despite the scandals that plagued her reign last year, former Miss USA Tara Conner says if she had the chance to do it all over, "I wouldn't have done anything differently."

Controversy became Conner's last name after reports surfaced that she turned into a party animal, had been sneaking men into the Trump Place apartment appointed for Miss USA, was drinking underage, tested positive for cocaine, and kissed Miss Teen USA Katie Blair in public. Conner escaped dethronement only after Miss USA pageant owner/exec producer Donald Trump decided to give her a second chance and she entered rehab last December.

"I know it sounds crazy," says Conner of not wanting to change a thing about the past year, "but we all make mistakes. No one in this world is perfect. I can sit here and try to beat myself up about being the one who did go out too much, but all of these mistakes have formed the person I am today, who is someone I'm very proud of and have a lot of respect for."

Connor will be seen offering the benefit of her hindsight to 2007's reigning beauty queens, Miss Universe Riyo Mori, Miss USA Rachel Smith and Blair, in MTV's Oct. 10-debuting reality series "Pageant Place," which chronicles what happens to a beauty queen after the win.

"I pretty much touched base on every issue you could touch base on," notes Conner, "so I'm an unofficial peer consultant there to try to keep them sane, help them look on the bright side of things and realize everything in life is temporary."

In retrospect, she says, "The crazy thing about it is that when I received the title, I didn't know what I wanted to achieve because of this disease, alcoholism, and all the `isms' I fell into." In fact, she says now, "In no way did I think I would win and be put in this position, and when the first runner up got called, I thought, 'Oh, s---! What do I do now?' I was scared to death. I didn't realize how much went into it, how stressful it was. ... I was only able to get three good sober months in as Miss USA, but it was still the best year of my life. It was the hardest year but still the best."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pitt Says He & Jolie Want More Kids

Brad Pitt, who stars as legendary outlaw Jesse James in a new film, jokes that the advantage of today's celebrity culture is that people aren't carrying six-shooters around the way they did in James' day.

Even so, as the father of four young children, the 43-year-old actor is mindful of the potential dangers that come with fame.

"It's something that I want to be aware of and be cautious about, especially with the family, that everybody's protected," Pitt told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

"I mean it's rare, but there are imbalanced people out there. I've had break-ins in the house. ... I've had some of these abnormal incidents that can be a bit frightening," he said.Pitt, who stars in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," and Angelina Jolie have been the quarry of celebrity photographers and the object of incessant tabloid gossip since they got together amid the breakup of Pitt's marriage to Jennifer Aniston. A media vigil preceded the birth of their daughter Shiloh in Namibia last year.

When Pitt or Jolie is working, the other takes time off to tend the children, who travel with them wherever they are filming.

"We just take turns and make sure we keep the family together," he said.

Pitt is quick to acknowledge reporters' questions about the couple's plans for more children.

"We're not done. They say, 'Any plans for a fifth?' And I say, 'And a sixth, and a seventh, and an eighth, and a ninth.' That's my answer," he said.

"We also made a 9-foot-wide bed" that can fit him, Jolie and all four children, Pitt said. "Just big enough. One more and we'll have to go to 11 feet."

Glover, Moore, Ruffalo: filming 'Blindness' in South America

Danny Glover, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo closed their eyes and opened their senses to this small South American capital, a backdrop in the upcoming movie "Blindness."

The three actors wrapped up filming in Uruguay on Wednesday on the story of an unnamed city where everyone suddenly loses their eyesight, and the chaos that ensues.

Moore's character is the only one unaffected by the epidemic in the movie, based on a novel by Portuguese writer Jose Saramago.

"When you are blind you try to adopt another kind of sensitivity, so this role is definitely a challenge from a physical point of view," said Glover, 60, from the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo.

"The story is powerful and it addresses how we relate to each other as human beings," he said.

The three actors took time out to dance a tango, buy souvenirs and drink mate, a tea-like infusion sipped with a metal straw.

The production heads to Brazil on Friday, where "Blindness" director Fernando Meirelles first won fame for "City of God," which depicts life in a Rio de Janeiro shantytown.

Justin on Britney: 'She has huge heart and is a great person'

Justin Timberlake had kind words about Britney Spears, but said he hasn't spoken to his ex-girlfriend in a long time and couldn't offer any explanation for her recent bizarre behavior.

"What do you think is going on with Britney?" asked talk-show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview with Timberlake that aired Wednesday."I don't know, to be honest with you. I haven't spoken to her in years," the 26-year-old singer said. "There's no ill will. I have nothing but love for her."

"It's funny because we dated each other at a time," he said. "Wow, I haven't talked about this in a long time, this is interesting."

"We were teenagers," he said.

"Famous teenagers," Winfrey added.

"And I think that's basically the best way to describe what happened to us," Timberlake said. "I think she's a great person. And I don't know her as well as I did."

Spears and Timberlake, both Mouseketeer alumni, dated for three years before breaking up in March 2002.

Timberlake wouldn't speculate about what's going on now with Spears, who has divorced Kevin Federline, shaved her own head, spent time in rehab and delivered a sloppy performance at MTV's Video Music Awards during the past year.

"What I do know about her is she has a huge heart and she's a great person," he said.

Asked if he's dating anyone now, Timberlake said yes, but wouldn't give her name.

During his appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Timberlake did talk about his struggles to deal with the paparazzi who shadow his every move. He said tabloids try to turn celebrities' lives into soap operas.

"If two famous people are dating each other, what I've found and I could be wrong, but just in my personal experience, if you're not going to get married, then you're breaking up," he said. "It's one or the other."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jennifer Lopez pregnant with first child

Actress and musician Jennifer Lopez will have her first child with husband Marc Anthony, sources confirmed this week. After as much as two years of trying to conceive with Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez wore a baggy green dress to the New York Fashion Week launch of her new clothing line, JustSweet, and the press was in an uproar trying to decide if she was covering a baby bump. An insider spoke to In Touch, who is reporting that Jennifer Lopez is not only pregnant, but that she's three months along.

In Touch reports that Jennifer Lopez is pregnant as a byproduct of in-vitro fertilization, after she couldn't conceive naturally with Marc Anthony. They even report that there may be more than one child waiting in Jennifer Lopez' womb. There could be twins on Jenny's block. The source, who has reportedly seen the J.Lo sonogram, told In Touch, "The way the fetus is lying made it difficult for the doctor to tell if there was more than one baby in there."

The magazine also noted that it wasn't just the outfit at fashion week that sparked the pregnancy rumors for Jennifer Lopez fans. They noted that at Fashion Week, Jennifer Lopez was clearly watching her food intake and wouldn't eat tune or drink wine, two good signs that a woman at least thinks she's pregnant. Neither Jennifer Lopez nor Marc Anthony have actually confirmed the news as of yet and there's no word if it will affect the tour that the two have scheduled for November.

The new recording from Marc Anthony, the soundtrack to El Cantante, hit stores last month and the new recording from Jennifer Lopez hits stores in October. The 38-year-old Marc Anthony has always been much bigger in his own language than in the United States, but has had a few hits albums here including 1999's Marc Anthony (which hit number 8 on the US charts) and 2002's Mended (which hit number 3 on the US charts). Marc Anthony has also appeared in Big Night, Bringing Out the Dead, and Man on Fire. The biggest hits of the musical career of Jennifer Lopez have been 1999's On the 6 (7 million copies sold worldwide), 2001's J. Lo (13 million copies sold worldwide), and 2002's This Is Me...Then (6 million copies sold worldwide).

On-screen, Jennifer Lopez hasn't been as busy as she once was, focusing more on music than movies lately. She did appear in El Cantante with her husband and has finished shooting the yet-to-be released Bordertown. You can catch Jennifer Lopez on DVD in Money Train, Jack, Blood and Wine, Selena, Anaconda, U Turn, Out of Sight, The Cell, The Wedding Planner, Angel Eyes, Enough, Maid in Manhattan, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Shall We Dance, Monster-in-Law, and An Unfinished Life.

In the footsteps of Jesse James

Hollywood offers a new spin on the legend of Jesse James when "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," starring Brad Pitt as James, opens Sept. 21.

If the movie sparks your interest in the famous outlaw, there are plenty of places in Missouri where you can learn more about his life, his gang and the era in which they lived.

In the countryside just outside Kearney, you can visit the James family home, where his mother, Zerelda, began giving tours not long after he was assassinated in 1882. Today it's known as the Jesse James Farm and Museum.

Fifteen kilometres away, in Liberty, you can visit the Jesse James Bank Museum, where a bank robbery was carried out by James's gang in 1866. The museum is designed to look like the bank looked the day of the crime.

In Stanton, you can take a guided tour of the Meramec Caves, reputed to be a hideout for James. And in St. Joseph, you'll find the house where James was killed, and the courthouse where two men were tried for his murder.

After James was assassinated, his elder brother Frank James spent six months in the 1859 Jail in Independence, where admiring locals brought him gifts, a carpet and fine furniture. You can still see his furnished cell there today, complete with a picture of Shakespeare, his favourite author, hanging over his bed. Frank was never convicted of any crime, and his ashes were buried in the Hill Park Cemetery in Independence, where you can find his headstone.

A covered wagon historical tour with stories about the James gang is also offered through December around Independence by Pioneer Trails Adventures.


McConaughey takes Owen Wilson's place in 'Tropic Thunder' film

Matthew McConaughey is taking Owen Wilson's role in the comedy movie "Tropic Thunder."

Wilson, 38, dropped out of the DreamWorks movie after an apparent suicide attempt in August.

The Ben Stiller-directed "Tropic Thunder," which is filming in Hawaii, stars Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Bill Hader and Steve Coogan.

McConaughey has an uncredited cameo in the movie, his publicist Nicole Perez said Wednesday.

The movie is about a group of actors who gather on a remote island to shoot a big-budget war movie and are forced to become the soldiers they are playing.

Wilson publicist Ina Treciokas didn't immediately return a telephone message seeking information on Wilson's recovery.

Wilson was taken by ambulance to a hospital after police responded to a call about a suicide attempt at his Santa Monica home. The day after he was hospitalized, he issued a statement asking for privacy so he could "receive care and heal."

Mirren takes third US award in year at Emmys

Helen Mirren was at her regal best on Sunday night in Los Angeles as she scooped her third award at her third major US awards ceremony this year. Following earlier success at the Oscars and the Golden Globes for The Queen, the grand dame of British drama was back to claim an Emmy award for best actress in a mini-series for her final outing as DS Jane Tennison in the last instalment of Prime Suspect.

Spears retains conditional custody of her children

Britney Spears has retained 50/50 custody of her children, but the singer is going to have to work for it.

Calling her a "habitual, frequent and continuous" user of drugs and alcohol, a judge ordered Spears to submit to random drug testing twice a week and work with a parenting coach for at least eight hours a week.

"The parenting coach is to observe [Spears'] interaction with the minor children and her parenting skills," Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner Scott Gordon wrote in court documents.

Controversial 'Kid Nation' set to air

CBS' reality show "Kid Nation" launches tonight under a cloud of controversy, making it the new season's most-talked-about series even though few have actually seen it.

"Kid Nation" - airing at 8 p.m. - follows 40 youngsters, ranging in age from 8 to 15, who spent 40 days setting up their own world on a ranch in New Mexico.

"The series raises a really interesting question: What are our children capable of doing?" said executive producer Tom Forman.

That question has been obscured in recent weeks as Forman and CBS officials have been peppered with questions about how the kids were treated and whether child-labor laws were violated.

One parent complained after a child was burned in a cooking accident, and the New Mexico attorney general's office has conducted an inquiry - not a formal investigation - into the issue. There's never been a formal complaint from the mother of the burned child, said Phil Sisneros, director of communications for the attorney general's office.

The child was treated on the scene and, after consulting with the mother, remained on the show.

"The show really answers the critics and then some," said Forman. "What you'll see on the show is kids really coming together to build a community, kids exceeding our expectations in every way."

CBS officials did not send out the show for preview (something not unusual for reality shows), in part to help fuel stories about the series.

"If there's little meat to the claims and the content is compelling, then the increased awareness will translate the greater initial tune-in to ongoing interest," said Stacey Lynn Schulman, CEO of Hi: Human Insight, a media consulting firm. "If its not compelling, then the show will fail more rapidly."

Katz Media executive Bill Carroll said the controversy can only help drive viewership. "You need to have a louder voice," Carroll said.

As for the show's critics: "I personally think it's a bunch of baloney, the stuff they're saying," said Guylan, 11, a cast member from Massachusetts. "I was there, I know what happened. I don't think anything worthy of this bashing happened. Once the first episode airs, all this controversy will kind of float away."

In casting, the producers sought exceptionally bright kids. And Forman said he met with every parent to discuss the production. The parents, he said, have gotten a bad rap in the flap, which is unfair.

"Look, from the minute I thought of [the show], and certainly every step along the way, we just knew we'd have to be more careful than any show in the history of television," he said.

The kids on the show set up their own government, worked on the ranch, set up their early bedtimes and held regular "town meetings." At any of the meetings the kids could leave. There was no reality-show elimination.

"Without giving away too much, I was very surprised by the outcome," Forman said. "I was blown away every day by what they accomplished. When they are good to each other, which is 99% of the time, they are more kind, more just and more fair. Adults do it so badly."


Behind the scenes: Kanye rises to the top

Listen to his current album, "Graduation," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, besting 50 Cent's "Curtis" in a much ballyhooed face-off, and you're more likely to hear the sounds of chests being thumped than backs being patted.

But Tuesday evening at GQ's 50th-anniversary party at Cedar Lake, a club in Manhattan's popular Meatpacking District, West was surprisingly gracious.

"I feel bad about beating 50," he said, "but I feel good about being number one."

According to Nielsen SoundScan, West to date has sold more than 957,000 albums. Fifty, who has said that he'd retire from rap if West was victorious, sold 691,000 copies in the past week. Will 50 be heading to Shady Pines? His people would not "confirm or deny his retirement."

No matter. The GQ party was as much a celebration of the magazine's storied history as it was of West. "He's the perfect marriage between artistic integrity and mainstream," said GQ's editor Jim Nelson. Video Watch Kanye talk about how he'll celebrate »

Supermodel Cindy Crawford, who arrived solo in a silver micro-mini dress and matching pumps, gushed about the magazine and then quickly moved on to the 50-Kanye tiff. She remained neutral.

"I love both of them," she said, referring to the rappers. "I could never pick sides, but I heard Kanye kicked some serious butt. 50 shouldn't retire," she added. "We still love him."

West worked the red carpet in a white Calvin Klein suit and matching canvas sneakers. His fiancee, Alexis, opted for a curve-hugging black number that looked more befitting a dominatrix than a bride-to-be. As she quietly hovered in the background, West was showered with congratulations, hugs and handshakes, declarations of his genius and even a few who took to quoting his lyrics.

Earlier in the evening West reminisced about the days when he wasn't so beloved. After spending an entire summer perfecting his game, he tried out for his high school's basketball team. He made all of his shots, completed all of the drills, but was cut nevertheless. The coach told him he wasn't tall enough, the 5-foot-8 rapper recalled. "And I keep feeling like all these awards shows, it's just them telling me I'm not tall enough. It's like what else do you want me to do?"

He said some of his temper tantrums (the latest backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards), stem from that moment. They are less about his ego and more about his passion. "I play to win. I look at it like it's a sport, man. And all I'm doing is basically screaming at the refs," he said.

Jay-Z, the rapper turned Def Jam executive, said that Kanye's current success was owed to his obsessive work ethic. "There are 75 iterations of 'Stronger,' " he said, referring to West's current hit single. "There are 16 versions of the 'Good Life.' He cares more about the music than anyone."

In recent days 50 Cent has alleged that Island/Def Jam purchased albums to bolster West's sales. It's a charge that the label's CEO, L.A. Reid, vehemently denied shortly before posing for photos with West on the red carpet.

"This is a very clean and legitimate success," said Reid. Did he expect 50 to retire? "No, I expect him to go back into the studio and make a better album."

Moments later, hip-hop mogul P. Diddy sauntered down the red carpet, toothpick firmly in mouth, black Gucci loafers gleaming. Like Crawford, he refused to choose sides.

"I'm very political," he said, grinning slyly, "and this is a very emotional situation."

Ever the businessman, Diddy quickly launched into a sales pitch about his new women's fragrance, Unforgivable, which hits stores today. "I had so much success with my men's fragrance and the women were demanding their own fragrance, so I had to oblige them," he said.

He also had his own dares to make. In a video that was released to YouTube earlier in the day, he challenged Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Sarah Jessica Parker and any other female celebrity with a fragrance to a "scent off."

"I know mine will win," he said. "I'm going to invite all of them to my penthouse suite, and if any of their scents smell better than mine I'll take 'em shopping and they can run up my credit cards." As of yesterday, none of the ladies had obliged.

British crooner James Blunt, of "Beautiful" fame, was also ready for his own showdown. Blunt's sophomore album, "All the Lost Souls," was released on Tuesday and he joked that he was eager to take on 50 and Kanye. "I'm throwing my hat into the ring," he said. "I'm comfortable coming in from behind and if my album sells more than either of theirs this week, I will retire from the American music industry."

West hit the stage shortly after 11. He did not come alone. He was accompanied by a band, an elaborate string section, several back-up singers, a DJ, fog and a highly choreographed light show. He ran through his past hits ("Gold Digger") and current chart-toppers ("Stronger"), whipping the crowd of tastemakers, fashionistas, and celebrities like Beyonce into a frenzy.

Lawyer sues Vanessa Hudgens for $150,000

As if her nude photo scandal wasn’t enough, “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens is now being sued.

According to court papers obtained by “Access Hollywood,” a former lawyer for the “HSM” star says she owes him $150,000 in legal fees.

The lawsuit, filed by Brian L. Schall in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, alleges a breach of contract and unjust enrichment by the 18-year-old Hudgens.“Perhaps Vanessa Hudgens… needs to go back to school to learn a very basic lesson in contractual obligations,” Schall states in the lawsuit.

The suit claims Hudgens and Schall entered into a written contract for legal services in October 2005.

According to the suit, Schall claims he advanced costs and expenses on Hudgens’ behalf for her songwriting and recording career.

A rep for Hudgens was not available for comment.


50 Cent: From Queens to king of rap

It is hard not to see an element of spoilt-brattishness in the assertion by the rapper 50 Cent that he would retire as a solo artist if the new album by his rival Kanye West outsold his own. But his bluff could be called today when the US chart is published – West is expected to top it, as he has in the UK, and some people think this might be behind 50 Cent’s decision to cancel the European visit during which he was to perform at the MOBOs tonight. Fifty, as he is known, is a man with a publicity-grabbing history of feuds with rivals, and ambitions far beyond the music scene. Still only 32, he already has lines of video games, clothes and footwear to his name and when asked if there could be a President 50 Cent, he replied: “Never say never.” 50 Cent (real name: Curtis Jackson) grew up in one of the roughest areas of New York and had a spectacularly grim childhood. (The name comes from a Brooklyn robber of the same name; “I’m the same kind of person 50 Cent was,” the rapper has said. “I provide for myself by any means.”) His father wasn’t around and his mother, a drug-dealer, was 15 when she had him and 23 when she was murdered. Brought up by his grandparents, he began dealing crack at 12, impressed by the flashy cars and smart clothes of the local drug dealers. “Some people criticise my lyrics for being aggressive,” he has said, “but in my eyes it’s a direct reflection of the environment I grew up in.”

He ended up in and out of jail, and in 2000 had a run-in with another drug dealer, who shot him nine times. He now wears a bullet-proof vest constantly, travels in a bullet-proof car and says that anger is the feeling he is most comfortable with. “I know I did the wrong thing,” he once said of his drug-dealing past, “but it didn’t feel like there was any options.”

He credits the birth of his son, Marquise, now 10, with being the impetus he needed to turn his life around. Rap was his salvation, and he was the first artist Eminem signed to his record label. Get Rich or Die Tryin’, his debut album, sold nearly 11 million copies (he thanked his parole officer on the album sleeve). An attempt to break into films followed, when he appeared in a semi-auto-biographical film of the same name as his debut album, but it was voted by one internet film site as the 27th worst movie of all time.

But Fifty has had the last laugh: now worth upwards of $60 million (£30 million), and with a penchant for statement diamond jewellery, he lives in the former mansion of the boxer Mike Tyson in Connecticut, and has a stated ambition to become a billionaire. “I might be the rapper from Queens,” he said in 2006, “but most of my time is now spent thinking about brand names, company profiles and empire-building. In that sense I see myself primarily as a businessman.” Or possibly president.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sean Penn's 'Into the Wild' forages for meaning in fatal quest

Fifteen years after Chris McCandless starved to death in the Alaskan wilderness, the story of his quest to escape from society back to nature still inspires controversy: Was he a hapless amateur who threw himself into harm's way - or a genuinely idealistic seeker with a run of bad luck that cost him his life?

"Into the Wild," writer-director Sean Penn's film adaptation of Jon Krakauer's 1996 nonfiction book about McCandless' ultimately fatal search for himself, may only fan the flames when it opens Friday.

"Alaskans have every reason to be outraged by the way Chris went into the wild - but Chris wasn't an Alaskan," says actor Emile Hirsch, who plays McCandless in the film. "When you talk about a tale of survival, you can't really glorify the survival lifestyle if you don't survive."

Yet Hirsch, 22, understands completely what drove McCandless. "Now [I get it], more than ever," he says. "I know a whole generation of young men like myself who are so immersed in technology, with the cushions and comforts of life, that they need things to help them define when they become a man."

"Some people thought he was a nut," says actor Hal Holbrook, who plays a retiree who befriended McCandless in the California desert before McCandless, who renamed himself "Alexander Supertramp," lit out for Alaska. "But the other side is kind of fascinated by what the young man was searching for. I'm for him; I think we need an examination of this kind of seeking, daring individualism in the world we live in, which is crushing out the individualistic spark at every turn."

Penn's impressionistic film follows McCandless' journey to reconnect with and test himself against nature. As Krakauer chronicled - first in Outside magazine, then in his best-selling book - after McCandless graduated from college, he gave away the remainder of his college fund - $24,000 - to charity and hitchhiked around the American Southwest and Midwest, trying to escape the materialism of society. He worked as everything from a Burger King fry cook to a South Dakota wheat harvester, then used his earnings to buy supplies and walked into the Alaskan wilderness. His emaciated body was found by moose hunters several months later. He was 24 years old.

To play McCandless, Hirsch had to get himself into the kind of condition required for mountain climbing, kayaking and wilderness hiking. But director Penn challenged Hirsch to do more than just get in strong physical shape.

"Sean didn't allow me to bring my boy self on set," Hirsch says. "He forced me to be an adult and brought maturity out of me I didn't know I had. Not that we sat around all serious all the time - but there was a level of responsibility and commitment that, for me, was very new."

Hirsch also developed a profound respect for the power and cruel indifference of nature in the Alaskan wilderness.

"It's this beautiful, harsh land that is unforgiving and does not care about man," Hirsch says. "When something so beautiful becomes the thing that is preventing you from living, you realize it's not there for your amusement. Sean calls Alaska 'nature on steroids.'"

Brian Dierker, the film's marine coordinator, also played a role in the movie, after being persuaded by Penn to move to the other side of the camera ("A lot scarier than whitewater rapids," Dierker says). He sees a mirror of McCandless' questing spirit in Penn, with whom Dierker subsequently spent time on a family rafting trip.

"There's definitely a similarity," Dierker says. "I think Sean has a profound love of adventure and nature - and the natural world in general. In some ways, he and Chris McCandless are kindred spirits."

Adds Marcia Gay Harden, who plays McCandless' mother, "Sean is one of the bravest men I've ever met."

Penn - whose fourth film this is, after 1991's "The Indian Runner," 1995's "The Crossing Guard" and 2001's "The Pledge" - draws that same aspect out in others, says Holbrook, who climbed a steep, rocky terrain on camera after Penn told him he thought he couldn't do it.

"He said he thought he should get a stand-in to do it for me," Holbrook, 82, says. "I said, 'I can climb that goddamned hill!' I did it three times."

There are other troublesome aspects to McCandless' journey. As a parent herself, Harden says, she has a hard time with McCandless' decision to cut his parents off completely - to disappear after his college graduation and never communicate with them again.

"There were years of hidden anger at his parents - but there's an element of cowardice to that," she says. "It's incredibly brutal and cruel not to call. At some point, just a phone call and a 'F--- you' would have been [better]."

At the same time, she says, "I understand his exodus and I appreciate it.... We live in a society of capitalism run amok. And the rhythms of society are so different than the rhythms of nature."

Holbrook concurs. "I know people don't agree with what Chris did, but they'd have said the same thing to Sir Edmund Hillary," he says. "In fact, they'd have said it to everyone from Daniel Boone on up. 'Don't go! It's too dangerous!'

"What about the astronauts? They also had to leave their families and risk their lives. Why? Because there was something so alive in them that they just had to go and do that."