Thursday, January 27, 2011

‘King's Speech’ reigns with Producers Guild award

"The King's Speech" won best-produced film from the Producers Guild of America on Saturday, a regal boost to its Oscar aspirations in an awards season so far swept by "The Social Network."

The producers of "King's Speech" -- Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin -- said they thought they were "the last guys in the running" among the 10 nominees for the top Producers award, which comes just before Tuesday's Oscar nominations.

The drama depicts the struggles of the stammering British King George VI, played by Colin Firth, and his unlikely savior of a speech therapist.

Firth won best actor at the Golden Globes a week ago, but his film did not fare as well there. The Facebook founding saga "Social Network" took home four Globes, including best dramatic film and best director, and has won several of the critics and industry awards this season.

While "The King's Speech" has also made several best movie lists among critics, the Weinstein Company-backed film has not been considered a front-runner. It was not even nominated by the Writers Guild of America for its awards this season.

Other films in contention for the best-produced movie of the year were "Black Swan," "The Fighter" and "Toy Story 3," which won best-produced animated film.

Natalie Portman eyes box office crown










LOS ANGELES: Natalie Portman goes up against herself at the North American box office this weekend when her romantic romp "No Strings Attached" opens on Friday.

Few would have guessed that Portman's awards contender "Black Swan" would still be going strong when "No Strings" -- also starring Ashton Kutcher -- hit theaters. Last weekend, when "Swan" ranked at No. 5 with cumulative sales of $73 million, Portman won a Golden Globe for "Swan."

The big question is whether reigning champ "The Green Hornet" can fend off "No Strings." Last weekend, "Hornet" debuted to $33.5 million, and the Sony comic-book adaptation will probably lose about half its audience in its second round.

"No Strings" distributor Paramount expects its film to open in the mid-to-high teen millions, in line with other R-rated romantic comedies. It was produced for a modest $25 million, so the studio doesn't need a huge opening weekend. Women are the primary audience for a storyline that explores whether casual sex can actually stay casual.

Other new releases include Peter Weir's survivor drama "The Way Back" in 650 theaters; and John Wells' corporate-downsizing drama "The Company Men" in 106 theaters, exactly one year after the film made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Originally, the Weinstein Co. was going to open "Company Men" last year in time for awards consideration, but it pushed back the release.

Overall, it's going to be another down weekend at the box office. Once a movie graveyard, January turned in strong performances the past several years, and especially last year with Avatar. January 2011 is a return to less prosperous times.

Clooney got malaria in Sudan, had 'bad 10 days'










LOS ANGELES: Hollywood heartthrob and rights activist George Clooney contracted malaria during his recent visit to Sudan for voting there and had a "bad 10 days," he said in comments to be aired Friday.
The A-list star jokingly agreed that Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, who is wanted for war crimes and genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC), may be to blame for the mosquito bite that infected him.
"I guess the mosquito in Juba looked at me and thought I was the bar," he quipped, according to an advance copy of excerpts of an interview with new CNN talk show host Piers Morgan.
Morgan, who took over from Larry King at the cable news channel this week, asked whether Clooney thougt Beshir had "detached a detail of sickly, vengeful mosquitoes to target you whenever you arrive?"
"Yeah," Clooney responded, pursuing the joke. "I think so."
Malaria can cause fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea, as well as jaundice, turning the skin and whites of the eyes yellow. Clooney said he had suffered from it twice, but did not elaborate on what symptoms he had.
A spokesman for Clooney told AFP the star was now well again. "George is completely over the malaria he contracted while in the Sudan during the first week in January. This was his second bout with it."
And he quoted Clooney as saying: "This illustrates how with proper medication, the most lethal condition in Africa, can be reduced to a bad 10 days instead of a death sentence."
Morgan, a media-savvy former British journalist turned talent show host and celebrity expert, later tweeted: "Clooney malaria update: now have 24,563 offers to nurse him.
"But his rep says medication's worked and he's OK. Sorry, ladies," Morgan added on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Clooney traveled to southern Sudan in early January in a show of support for the impoverished region ahead of a referendum on separating the mainly Christian, African south from the mainly Arab, Muslim north.
The actor was working on a Google-powered mapping project aimed at preventing abuses in Sudan, and in theory to gather evidence that could be used if Beshir is ever brought before the Hague-based ICC.
"We are hoping it is one of many tools to continue to apply pressure, at the very least, to gather evidence that could be used at The Hague later if there are infringements or rules broken," he told Morgan.

Britney Spears debuts at No. 1 on singles chart










NEW YORK: Britney Spears has become just the second artist in the 52-year history of Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart to debut multiple songs at No. 1, as "Hold It Against Me" took the top spot in its first week.
Spears previously came in at No. 1 with "3" in 2009. The only other act with multiple No. 1 starts is Mariah Carey with "Fantasy" and "One Sweet Day" in 1995 and "Honey" in 1997.
"Hold It Against Me" is Spears' fourth No. 1 on the Hot 100. Prior to "3," she reigned with her debut single "...Baby One More Time" (1999) and "Womanizer" (2008). The new track sold 411,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It marks the highest first-week tally for a lead female artist, besting the 325,000 downloads sold by Taylor Swift's "Today Was a Fairytale" in February 2010.
Two other tracks stormed the upper reaches of the Hot 100. "What the Hell," the first single from Avril Lavigne's fourth album, "Goodbye Lullaby," due March 8, opened at No. 13.
At No. 23, Kanye West and Jay-Z debuted with "H*A*M.," the first single from the superstar pair's upcoming collaborative album, "Watch the Throne."
Directly below "Hold It Against Me," three titles dipped one notch each: Bruno Mars' "Grenade" (No. 2), Katy Perry's "Firework" (No. 3) and Rihanna's "What's My Name?" (No. 4).
Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" rose two to No. 5; Enrique Iglesias' "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" held at No. 6; and Ke$ha's "We R Who We R" fell three to No. 7.
Pink fell three to No. 8 with "Raise Your Glass," the Black Eyed Peas' "The Time (Dirty Bit)" and Mars' "Just the Way You Are" each slipped one place, to Nos. 9 and 10, respectively.

Friday, January 14, 2011

'The Green Hornet' Movie Review










When Michel Gondry was hired to helm Columbia Pictures’ The Green Hornet, I became immediately more enthusiastic about the project than I was before. Even after all the publicized production woes, I was sure that his avant-garde aesthetic and bittersweet style of storytelling would put a fresh spin on the standard superhero flick. However, sandwiched between the frat-house comedic sensibilities of Seth Rogen and the energetic guidance of explosion-savvy producer Neal Moritz, there just wasn’t enough room for the artist to conjure his movie magic.
That’s why the film, though not frustratingly formulaic, feels incredibly manufactured: more a product of convenience for its stars and studio than a standalone piece of entertainment. Perhaps it’s just because superhero cinema is so commonplace today I’m beginning to feel jaded about movies like this, but while watching the film I wondered whether or not Rogen and Co. consciously adhered to the tried-and-true checklist of the genre’s conventions. Tragic motives for fighting crime? Check. Maniacal villain? Check. Flipping SUV’s? Check? Predictable plot? Unfortunately, check. Every element of the movie, from jokes to pacing, is easy to foresee, but that doesn’t mean it’s not somewhat entertaining.
Rogen, who co-wrote the picture with his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, will continue to amuse audiences with his every-man persona, even when miscast as a billionaire playboy turned masked vigilante. The Green Hornet doesn’t sound like anything he has written before; the limitations of language in a broad blockbuster result in less laughs than the raunchy R-rated comedies he’s best known for, but the delivery of the dialogue is his best weapon against tonal conformity. Still, post-modern humor is abundant throughout the film, with plenty of pop-culture references that are good for a grin or two.
The biggest surprise came in the form of Jay Chou. A hugely successful pop singer in his native Taiwan (as well as other Chinese-speaking regions of the world), his charisma transcends language barriers in the iconic role of Kato, created by the legendary Bruce Lee. Though technically the sidekick, Chou displays more depth than Rogen ever has and outshines his co-star in nearly every creative department. Christoph Waltz, as the violent villain Chudnofsky, doesn’t generate the electricity he did in his career-defining role in Inglourious Basterds, but had significantly lower-brow material to work with. He goes through the motions with a smile on his face that suggests he’s not quite sure how (or why) he got into this picture in the first place. On the other hand, I’m sure that Cameron Diaz knew exactly why she was hired to portray Britt Reid’s sexy secretary Lenore Case. Between her performances in 2010’s Knight and Day and this, Ms. Diaz has hit a new career low. The only difference is that her character was central to the story in the Tom Cruise summer vehicle; here she’s nothing more than eye-candy.
As stated before, if I’ve got one regret above all regarding The Green Hornet it’s that director Gondry wasn’t allowed to make the movie his own. His stamp is present in only a handful of sequences, where visually inventive special effects serve the story and, in many cases, enhance it. He makes the most of the adequate 3D conversion in these select scenes (including a revelatory summation of the events that lead to the films climax and the closing credits, both which are very cool), whereas in the rest of the picture it’s just unnecessary. I had hoped his involvement meant that the narrative was going down an unconventional path, but in the end his contributions to the film amount to little more than rainbow sprinkles atop a very vanilla piece of cinema.

'Green Hornet' poised to be first hit of 2011










Fueled by younger males, Sony Pictures' 3D superhero pic "The Green Hornet" should sport a potent sting this weekend. Universal Pictures' "The Dilemma," directed by Ron Howard, will have a tougher time and could bring muted numbers for a Vince Vaughn or Kevin James comedy.
Conservative estimates have "Green Hornet" grossing in the mid-$30 million range for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The film goes out Friday in 3,584 theaters domestically, including 174 Imax runs, and will easily place No. 1. Favorite holdovers to watch include Paramount Pictures' "True Grit," Fox Searchlight's "Black Swan" and the Weinstein Co.'s "The King's Speech."
With the Golden Globes airing Sunday, many moviegoers will rush to catch up on awards frontrunners.
"Black Swan" and "King's Speech" are assisting in this task by making major expansions "Swan" ups its theater count from 1,552 to 2,331 on Friday, while "King's Speech" goes from 758 theaters to 1,543.
Among other Globe-nominated films, the Weinstein Co.'s "Blue Valentine" expands from 40 runs to 230, and Sony Pictures Classics opens "Barney's Version" in four theaters in New York and L.A. after a brief qualifying run last month.
"Green Hornet," converted to 3D, is poised to become the first commercial hit of 2011. Tracking has been exceptionally strong, enough to impress one-time skeptics.
The film also makes a major push overseas, opening day and date in a number of key territories.
Directed by Michel Gondry and toplining Seth Rogen and Jay Chou, "Green Hornet" cost upward of $100 million to produce. Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz also star.
Opening in 2,941 theaters domestically, "The Dilemma" will have to compete for adult eyeballs with "True Grit" and "Black Swan."
Universal expects "The Dilemma" to gross in the mid to high teens over the four-day weekend. That would be enough to put the movie which cost $70 million to make on the right track financially, according to the studio.
However, "The Dilemma" will need good word-of-mouth and strong legs to end up in the black. Universal is comparing the movie to "Something's Gotta Give," which opened to $16.1 million and grossed $124.7 million domestically. However, that film played during the Christmas frame, when the multiple is much higher.
"The Dilemma," also starring Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly and Channing Tatum, is the first comedy directed by Howard in more than a decade. The plot revolves around a man (Vaughn) who discovers that the wife of his best friend and business partner (James) is having an affair and doesn't know what to do.
The film is tracking best among women over 25. The softest quadrant is men over 25, prompting some box-office observers to suggest the subject matter could be off-putting.
Universal says "The Dilemma" deals with serious relationship issues, similar to "The Break-Up," which paired Vaughn with Jennifer Aniston. "Break-Up," also a Universal film, opened to $39.2 million domestically on its way to grossing $118.7 million. Vaughn's previous film, "Couples Retreat," bowed to $34.3 million in October 2009 and brought in $109.2 domestically. "The Dilemma" opens in the same slot that Sony used to debut "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," which rocketed James to movie stardom after opening to an unexpectedly strong $31.8 million en route to a $146.3 million domestic gross.
This week at the domestic box office, "True Grit" has continued to place No. 1, followed by "Black Swan" and Universal's Christmas comedy "Little Fockers." "True Grit's" gross through Wednesday was $113.8 million, with "Black Swan" at $63.9 million and "Fockers" at $126.2 million.

Jackson doctor to stand trial for manslaughter










A judge on Tuesday ordered Michael Jackson's personal doctor to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly killing the singer with an overdose of powerful sedatives.
Conrad Murray, who claims he was just treating the pop icon for insomnia when he died in June 2009, also had his license to practice medicine in California suspended.
The doctor will be arraigned on January 25, the Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled after six days of hearings which heard evidence that Murray tried to cover having given Jackson an overdose of the drug propofol.
Jackson's death shocked the entertainment world and triggered intense debate over the performer's health in the run-up to the London concerts, known as the "This is It" tour.
Murray, who was born in Grenada and raised in Trinidad before he moved to the United States, could face up to four years in jail and lose his doctor's license if the case goes to full trial and he is convicted.
Prosecutors claim his defense team will argue that Jackson effectively killed himself by administering an extra dose of propofol while Murray was out of the room, although the defence have not commented on this.
Specifically they allege that Murray, 57, "abandoned his patient" after administering the propofol some time between 10:40 am and 11:00 am to help Jackson sleep, and then tried to cover it up after the singer's death.
Tuesday's widely-expected ruling came shortly after a forensic expert testified Tuesday that Jackson's death was homicide, saying the singer was in generally good health when he died on June 25, 2009 at his LA mansion.
Christopher Rogers, head of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said the star died of acute intoxication with propofol, which is usually used as an anaesthetic in hospital settings.
He said he would describe Jackson's death as homicide even if, as claimed by Murray, the singer had himself administered an extra dose of propofol while the doctor was out of the room.
"Based on the quality of the medical care, I would still call this a homicide, even if the doctor did not provide the propofol to Mr Jackson," he said, on the second week of the pre-trial hearings.
Last week the pre-trial hearings heard from a series of witnesses who testified that Murray delayed calling 911, tried to conceal what drugs he had administered, and did not know how to carry out emergency resuscitation.
Paramedic Martin Blount said that when he arrived Jackson seemed to have been dead for at least 20 minutes, despite Murray's claim that he had stopped breathing a minute before they were called.
He added that Murray initially denied having given Jackson any medications, but said he saw the doctor holding a needle and spotted three bottles of the anesthetic Lidocaine on the floor.
On Friday investigator Elissa Fleak said she found 12 vials of propofol in Jackson's house after he died, while a pharmacist testified Monday that he supplied 255 vials of the drug to Murray in the two months before his death.
On Tuesday forensic expert Rogers said propofol should not be used to treat insomnia, adding that he was told "that the doctor left Mr Jackson while he was anesthetized, and this is something you would not do."
"Bad things can happen very quickly" when a patient is anaesthetized, he added.
Various members of Jackson's family have been attending the LA pre-trial hearings. On Tuesday they included sisters Janet and LaToya and his brother Randy.