Archive for September, 2007

The Rock Could Conquer ‘The Kingdom,’ In Projection Booth

They say the best things in life are free, but don’t tell that to several sentimental flicks opening this weekend, all of which will be clamoring for your hard-earned dollar at the multiplex. Love is all you need? Please. You’re gonna need a lot more than that if you expect your film to come out at #1.How about the Rock? There’s no denying that the artist currently known as Dwayne Johnson has the presence, but does he have the drawing power? “The Game Plan,” which stars the Rock as a football player who suddenly learns he has a daughter, is the actor’s sixth project as a leading man (see “The Rock Is On A Roll With 9-Year-Old ‘Game Plan’ Co-Star; ‘Don’t Knock’ Leotards, He Warns”). Only “The Scorpion King,” the prequel to the blockbuster “Mummy” franchise, opened north of $20 million. “Doom,” “Walking Tall” and “Gridiron Gang,” meanwhile, all opened at $15 million and below.

“The Game Plan,” though, has something all those other films lacked: a little girl from the Disney Channel (Madison Pettis), which will make it the highest-profile family film currently in wide release (it’s opening in 2,800 theaters). Beat that, Morgan Freeman.

His “Feast of Love,” an adult meditation on love in all its funny, silly, tragic forms, opens this weekend in 1,200 theaters. Problem is, it’s an adult meditation on love in all its funny, silly, tragic forms. The great Robert Benton (“Kramer vs. Kramer”) directs a cast that also includes Greg Kinnear and Radha Mitchell. Also this: It has gratuitous nudity.

Odds are you’re stuck between the Rock and a hard place, and they don’t come harder these days than the Middle East. Opening in 2,700 theaters, “The Kingdom” stars Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper (and wife-of-an-Oscar-winner Jennifer Garner) as a team of agents sent to investigate the bombing of an American embassy. In a way, this film shows a lot of love too: the type of love you can have for your country, even when you don’t approve of its policies — love strong enough to make you speak up when you think it’s doing wrong. The type of love we used to call “tough.”

Also opening in extremely limited release is Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited.”

The Predictions: We have nothing but love for our prognosticators, but what films this weekend will they show love for? Find out below.

What’s the #1 flick? How much will it rake in?

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “The Game Plan” ($22 million)
“Who doesn’t love a flick pairing a ginormous action hero with a sassy, pint-size tyke? I’m guessing that’s a nearly direct quote from a Disney boardroom right before they green-lit a movie starring the Rock and some girl who is not a Fanning (that’s how I separate child actresses now: Fannings and not Fannings). I’m going with this family-friendly flick a smidgen over ‘The Kingdom.’ ”

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “The Game Plan” ($25 million)
“Please remember: Just because I’m predicting it doesn’t mean that I want it to happen. Two years ago, ‘The Pacifier’ was one of the most God-awful films I had ever sat through, and it opened to a stunning $30 million weekend. ‘The Game Plan’ is trying its best to be the exact same movie, will certainly appeal to the same crowd and couldn’t possibly be any worse. So I’m predicting a $25 million opening for the Rock — and talk of a sequel by Monday morning.”



September 29, 2007 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment

Malin Akerman Talks Watchmen

Malin Akerman, star of Paramount Pictures’ remake of The Heartbreak Kid as the lunatic wife of Ben Stiller, excitedly told Hype at the press day that although she loves her comic role and working with the Farrelly brothers, she’s looking forward to shooting Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, because it’s such a change from her current project.

Malin Akerman: This is a really cool role. She’s sort of the psychology of the film because she’s the only woman in the “Watchmen” aside from the previous “Watchmen.” She is a femme fatale, she is a kick ass fighter, and I think she sort of carries the emotion of the film because she is the only woman amongst all of these men. They’re going through sort of not being the Watchmen anymore and dealing with that as well as trying to figure out who is trying to kill them off. It’s a really, really, really well written script. [It’s a ]Really great role that I’m so excited to do because it’s so opposite from what I just did. It’s a wonderful novel and very true to the novel. If you’re familiar with the novel that’s it.

SHH: When do you start filming?
Akerman:They’ve already started this week actually. I start October 15th.

SHH: How long are you shooting for?
Akerman: Until February. It’s a long shoot.

SHH: Are you ready for that process with the green screen and all?
Akerman:There’s not that much green screen because it’s very real. We’re not superheroes or anything like that. We just fight. We fight crime. There’s only one scene on Mars that I think will be a green screen. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to trying new things.

SHH: What’s your rehearsal process been like for this?
Akerman: It is not fun. I’ve been training for a month and a half and I still don’t see the results. I have no muscles. I’m starting to get aggravated. It’s actually been a lot of fun because we’ve been doing a lot of fight training. You go in and you have these amazing fighters that are doing this and they show you what to do. You try to do it and you look like a ballerina trying to do karate and it’s so hard. It looks a lot easier than it is. Trust me. I’ve got a few more months of training I think.

SHH: Are you prepared for the fans to go crazy over this film and your character?
Akerman: It’s exciting. I don’t ever feel like you’re really ready for it. I just hope we do it justice.

SHH: Are fans starting to approach you about the film?
Akerman: Not yet. I haven’t been out.

Before then, you can see Akerman being very funny in the Farrelly Brothers’ The Heartbreak Kid, out on October 5, and Watchmen is scheduled for March 6, 2009.


September 29, 2007 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Rodriguez Accused of Violating Probation

Actress Michelle Rodriguez violated probation again in a drunken driving case by failing to complete her community service and not following an alcohol education program, prosecutors said. Rodriguez went to court Friday to answer to the latest claims by the city attorney’s office, which said the former “Lost” actress submitted a document stating she performed community service on Sept. 25, 2006, but later admitted she was actually in New York City that day.

The document was required as part of the 30 days of community service Rodriguez was ordered to serve for violating probation in a 2003 drunken driving case, according to court papers filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. If she is found to have violated terms of her probation, Rodriguez could face between 477 to 537 days in county jail and a $2,000 fine.

Rodriguez, 29, kept quiet in court as her attorney, Richard Beale, argued that she performed 30 days of community service and said “a clerical error” caused the discrepancy in the paperwork.

Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell granted Beale’s request to call two county sheriff’s supervisors who signed off on her community service forms to testify. The judge set a hearing for Oct. 12 and ordered Rodriguez to spend 30 days doing road maintenance work after finding that she did not complete an alcohol education program.

He also admonished Rodriguez to take her probation more seriously.

“I’m not impressed with your completion schedule,” Mitchell said. “There were 55 people here in court today and all but very few have completed their responsibilities. They work on much less flexible schedules than you do.”

Rodriguez was placed on three years’ probation after she pleaded no contest to hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license and drunken driving in connection with two incidents that occurred in Hollywood in 2003.

She was found to have violated terms of her probation after she was arrested in Hawaii on a drunken driving charge.

When she returned to Los Angeles, Rodriguez was ordered to spend 60 days in jail, but she served less than a day because of jail overcrowding. She was then ordered to perform community service and remain on probation until June 2009.

Rodriguez appeared in one season of ABC’s “Lost.” Her film credits include “The Fast and The Furious,” “Blue Crush” and “Girlfight.”


September 29, 2007 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

Alan Ladd Jr. Gets Walk of Fame Star

Alan Ladd Jr., the Academy Award-winning producer and former 20th Century Fox head who green-lighted “Star Wars,” was honored Friday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“It’s lovely to be here among my friends and family,” Ladd said at the ceremony for the 2,348th star.

Ladd’s father, the late actor Alan Ladd, also has a Walk of Fame star. Mel Brooks praised the man known to many as “Laddie.

“He is one of the sweetest and nicest guys and he has saved my life many times. If anybody deserves a star, it’s this legendary, incredible, iconic filmmaker,” Brooks said.

Born in Los Angeles, Ladd, 69, became an agent in the ’60s to clients including Judy Garland and Warren Beatty before going into producing.

After heading up creative affairs for 20th Century Fox, he became the studio’s president.

It was his decision to back George Lucas’ “Star Wars.”

Ladd went on to found his own company, which released “The Right Stuff” “Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner,” among others. He also headed up MGM in the early 1990s.

Ladd snagged a best-picture Oscar for producing Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.”

His latest film, the Ben Affleck-directed “Gone Baby Gone,” is slated for release next month.


September 29, 2007 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

Inside the ‘High School Musical’ Craze

Jessica Benjamin is a bit bashful about admitting this. But sometimes, driving by herself, this mother of four in suburban New York has been known to slip the “High School Musical” soundtrack into the CD player.

And Terri Welch, a mother in Houston, often catches herself alone singing “What Time Is It?” from “High School Musical 2,” the second installment of the Disney Channel megahit.

Thus these two women slip into a parallel dimension, one inhabited largely by tween-aged girls (roughly 6 to 13) and the people who live with them. This universe spans the globe, and its deities are Zac and Vanessa (or sometimes “Zanessa”) two smiling teens as familiar and adored by inhabitants of this universe as they are unknown and irrelevant to those who don’t live there. So foreign is the “High School Musical” franchise to those with no connection to the tween world that Kenneth Feld, co-producer of the new ice tour that kicks off this weekend, calls it “almost underground.” Tongue in cheek, of course. How many underground movements can claim the top-selling CD of 2006 and a global viewership of over 250 million? Or become the source of hundreds of amateur productions across the nation, not to mention untold numbers of preschool birthday parties?

Less than six weeks after the premiere of “High School Musical 2,” it appears the tween world is still passionate about Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan and the rest of their pastel-colored fantasy world of secondary education. More than 17 million watched the first U.S. telecast. Since then it has reached nearly 49.8 million people across 12 countries, The Walt Disney Co. says.

Meanwhile, the sequel’s CD has sold 1.6 million copies in the United States alone, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The DVD isn’t out yet, but the first movie sold more than 8 million discs globally.

So it’s as good a time as any to ask: What makes this scrubbed-up, 21st-century “Grease” the continued cultural phenomenon it is? For one thing, parents say, it’s something the whole family can watch together that entertains kids without either embarrassing their parents or making them want to jump off a bridge. (One word: Barney.)

But getting even more philosophical, it shows that maybe young people and their families want a little more fantasy and a little less reality.

“It’s something a lot of producers have missed,” says television historian Tim Brooks. Many of them “think it’s still the ’60s. They think that because adults want to see sex, kids do, too. But a lot of kids don’t, especially girls. Most sitcoms on TV are really meant for adults.”

“This is a reminder that as American TV hurtles toward ever more explicitness, there is a market of people who don’t want any of that,” says Brooks, also an executive at Lifetime.

Before going further, a little HSM primer may be in order. The fictional East High is set in Albuquerque, but could be any American high school. There’s a pretty girl (Gabriella, math geek) and a dreamy guy (Troy, basketball star), but unlike “Grease,” there’s no spandex, no cigarettes, no drag racing and most of all, not a hint of sex. (There IS finally a kiss in the sequel.)

In this world with no rough edges, the geek gets the jock, the cliques melt like butter, and despite a few bumps, everyone gets along. Sound like any high school YOU went to? But never mind.

“I like the message of inclusion and diversity,” says Diane Kendall, a mother in Weston, Conn. “I like that at least a couple of the problems they face are real. And I like that they’re not all too beautiful.”

That remark definitely does not apply to Zac Efron, who plays Troy. Kendall’s daughter, 13-year-old Allie, says some might call Efron feminine-looking, “but he’s gorgeous, if you ask me.” Her door is plastered with a poster of the actor.

In Jessica Benjamin’s home in Bronxville, N.Y., the two resident boys may be slightly less interested or that’s what they say but Grace, 13, and Faye, 4, both are certified “HSM” nuts.

“Maybe it’s just that it’s good clean fun,” says Benjamin. “And the singing and dancing it’s a little bit of the ‘American Idol’ phenomenon. We make a bowl of popcorn, and we watch. It kind of harkens back to the Sunday night movie that everyone watched together.”

Of course, shrewd marketing by the Disney machine has played a huge role. “My cynical side says my daughters like it because of ceaseless promotion on the Disney Channel and Radio Disney,” says Welch, the Houston mother, whose girls are 6 and 7. But she likes it herself “because there’s no sex, no inappropriate behavior and no bad words.”

Not that a dose of harsh reality can’t rush in from time to time. Earlier this month, Vanessa Hudgens, who plays Gabriella, apologized for nude photos that surfaced on the Internet. Disney said quickly that it was sticking with the 18-year-old star despite her “lapse in judgment.” Hudgens and Efron, said to be dating in real life (hence the name “Zanessa”), are still negotiating to appear in the “High School Musical 3” feature film.

One prominent pop culture analyst takes the somewhat radical view that HSM is a prism through which we can examine the 21st century. “Shake that thing up hard enough, and the secrets of our nation come pouring out,” says Robert Thompson of Syracuse University.

Sure, HSM is fairly well made and expertly marketed. But what really interests Thompson is its total lack of irony, of hipness, of the “wiseguy” humor so prevalent today. “We are so deep into the age of irony,” Thompson says, “that when you encounter something as naive as ‘High School Musical,’ it’s almost avant-garde. It’s cutting edge!

Jessica Benjamin is a bit bashful about admitting this. But sometimes, driving by herself, this mother of four in suburban New York has been known to slip the “High School Musical” soundtrack into the CD player.

And Terri Welch, a mother in Houston, often catches herself alone singing “What Time Is It?” from “High School Musical 2,” the second installment of the Disney Channel megahit.

Thus these two women slip into a parallel dimension, one inhabited largely by tween-aged girls (roughly 6 to 13) and the people who live with them. This universe spans the globe, and its deities are Zac and Vanessa (or sometimes “Zanessa”) two smiling teens as familiar and adored by inhabitants of this universe as they are unknown and irrelevant to those who don’t live there. “I would even go so far,” says Thompson, “as to call HSM subversive. The fact that they pulled this off in 2007 is amazing.”

For Gary Marsh, entertainment president of the Disney Channel, what’s amazing is the international response to HSM. “The passion is global,” Marsh says. “The concert tour played to huge soccer stadiums in Latin America. The first movie attracted 50 million viewers in China.”

“We couldn’t have imagined that it would have caused this kind of phenomenon,” he says. “But that’s the alchemy of entertainment. You can’t set out to make a phenomenon.”

Meanwhile, a national touring stage version opened in Detroit in June. Disney expects as many as 2,000 schools to produce licensed amateur stage productions by the end of this year. And the ice tour will consist of three companies, one of them international.

“This is the largest investment that my company has ever undertaken,” says Feld, co-producer of the ice tour. His Feld Entertainment, Inc. has produced Disney ice shows for 28 years.

Grace, the 13-year-old from New York, has seen the first film about 25 times. She echoes her mother’s view that “good clean fun” has its value. “I like the Lindsay Lohan drama as much as the next teenager,” she says. “But this is a breath of fresh air. There are times I think ‘Oh God, this is so stupid.’ But then I just keep watching it.”


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September 29, 2007 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Taylor Sparkles at AIDS Fundraiser

Elizabeth Taylor, wearing a coffee-colored, gold-sequined Naeem Khan gown accented with diamond jewelry, put some superstar sparkle into an HIV/AIDS fundraiser. Taylor, 75 and in a wheelchair, is a founding chairwoman of the annual Macy’s Passport event, a charity auction and showcase for food and fashion.

Since 1988, Passport has raised $25 million for HIV/AIDS services, prevention and research. The actress was honored Thursday night with its first Humanitarian Award for AIDS Activism. “I have done this every year for years,” Taylor told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s tradition and it’s part of my existence.”

As her longtime friend Rock Hudson battled AIDS, which killed him in 1985, Taylor began work to raise funds and increase awareness of the disease.

“I used to have doors slammed in my face, telephones hung up on me,” she said when asked about the differences between her early fundraising efforts and today. “This (is) 100 percent turnaround.”

Taylor, who has been married eight times (twice to Richard Burton), appeared amused when asked if she’d ever marry again.

“Noooooooo!” she shouted, and then laughed. “Now I’m gonna howl.”

Then she actually howled.

So, how’s she doing?

“Physically?” asked Taylor. “I’m going to try and walk on the stage tonight. And say a little prayer for me that I don’t fall.”

She did not. Taylor, with some assistance, walked on the stage to a standing ovation. She made her way to a chair, sat down and accepted her award.

“I was here at the first night, here last year,” she said. “I will continue to be here until we defeat the enemy of HIV and AIDS.”


September 28, 2007 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Scorsese to Direct George Harrison Film

Martin Scorsese will direct a documentary film on the late Beatles guitarist George Harrison. “Harrison’s music and his search for spiritual meaning is a story that still resonates today and I’m looking forward to delving deeper,” Scorsese said in an e-mailed press release Thursday.

“It would have given George great joy to know that Martin Scorsese has agreed to tell his story,” Harrison’s widow, Olivia, said.

Scorsese, who won his first Academy Award this year for directing “The Departed,” has made other films focusing on music stars, including the 2005 documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” and 1978’s “The Last Waltz”

Harrison, born in Liverpool, England, and the youngest of the Beatles, died at 58 in Los Angeles on Nov. 29, 2001, after battling lung cancer and a brain tumor.


September 28, 2007 at 6:29 pm Leave a comment

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