Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Xbox 360's 'Rez HD': What Does Cult Game's Creator Dream About?, In GameFile

'Sometimes I'm playing my games in my brain,' Tetsuyah Mizuguchi tells us at the DICE gaming summit.

LAS VEGAS — It's a game that's kind of like "Halo" or "Doom," but mixed with a rave. It's called "Rez," and a couple of weeks ago at the DICE gaming summit in Las Vegas, it was the game I was talking about with creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi.

When people talk about video games as art, "Rez" gets mentioned. When people talk about cult classics, that's "Rez." When people talk about the only game that got known for encouraging players to put vibrating controllers against their body while playing it — really — that's "Rez."

"Rez" was a cult classic. Mizuguchi said Sega, the game's original publisher, didn't even want to sell it in America. "It was too abstract," he remembers them saying. "But I had a confidence that if people played it once, they would feel something. And I wanted to give people a chance to play." So the game is back, six years after it was released in the U.S., in the no-confidence release window of the first week of January. It's back as the polished "Rez HD," a downloadable game for the Xbox 360's Live Arcade.

Soft-spoken, and frequently with a shy smile, Mizuguchi described the game as his "life work" and something he wants to do more of, given the proper motivation. "I need a reaction from the people — from real people, not just a cult reaction." Play it the new way, the way Mizuguchi intended, and a gamer will need to have one 360 controller in hand, another under their feet, and two behind their back and neck, each one vibrating to a different beat while the game's lead character flies and shoots rhythmically as techno music zips and pounds.

So what's the guy who made this game like?

He's not the kind of guy you'd expect to spend his morning in a really quiet place. But Mizuguchi had done just that before he sat down for his interview with GameFile early in the sunny Vegas afternoon. He had awoken at 5 a.m. and driven to Death Valley. He had gone there just to think.

"I was thinking about the future, life, being a human being," he said. "All that time, I wasn't thinking about the game."

He's not obsessed with games. Unlike some other game designers, he seems almost hesitant to talk about them. He said he spends his plane rides from his home base in Tokyo to the U.S. reading, not playing a PSP or DS.

But he does run a game company — Q Entertainment — and he does think about making games all the time — games like "Rez." And he dreams about them. "Sometimes I'm playing my games in my brain," he said. "Sometimes I have a vision, a very clear vision that 'this is going to be fun.' I wake up and take a memo. In the process of making 'Rez,' I had that kind of dream all the time."

He gave an example about how his dreams help shape his games. He cited a rhythm game he made in 1999. "When I was making 'Space Channel 5,' I played all the time in the studio. And in the night, I slept on the couch in the studio. I would play and play." He'd fall asleep and still be playing in his dreams. One night that happened and "suddenly I heard a voice when I made a mistake. [It said:] 'Hey, what are you doing?' It was different voices. But I thought, 'This must be fun.' Suddenly, I had the inspiration: 'Let's [base] this on a TV show.' " The "Space Channel Five" game went from a simple music game to one set in a space-age TV soundstage.

Mizuguchi started his career making more conventional games, like the "Sega Rally Championship" racing game. He's spent the last decade, however, following his musical muse. And with each game, he's been hopeful to prove that the experience of a game like "Rez," or anything else that flutters through his dreams, can be mainstream. "I think we are always fighting between art and commerce," he said. "Sometimes I think it depends on the thing [we're making]. I think the 'Rez' experience may be becoming a bit more commercial in the future."

Can that hope be true? A year earlier at the DICE Summit, the makers of "Rock Band" talked about their nine years of struggle and cult-favorite status before hitting it big with the "Guitar Hero" series. Mizuguchi's career might get to that stage. Or he might stay a cult favorite, his work an electrified acquired taste. Either way, he can keep dreaming.

"Rez HD" is available now on the Xbox 360's Live Arcade download service. Multiple controllers can be used for maximum vibration feedback, but players with less hardware or experimental ambition can play the game with just one in their hands. Mizuguchi hopes people will at least try the game's free demo, but fans of the game say the fifth and final level is, by far, the game's best bit.

More from the world of video games:

The Game Developers Conference has come to an end, but MTV News is just getting warmed up covering it. Check out a battery of GDC items on our Multiplayer blog, including the inside story on "Wii Fit," details on the next big "Star Wars" game, and a first look at "APB," a cross between "Grand Theft Auto" and "World of Warcraft."

LEGO video game news came fast, furious and sometimes a little garbled as we recently got some exclusive looks at the upcoming "LEGO Batman" and "LEGO Indiana Jones" video games. Check out our LEGO game index for more.

'Charlie Bartlett' Tackles Teen Prescription-Drug Abuse, In A Funny Way

In the wake of Heath Ledger's and Casey Calvert's deaths, star Anton Yelchin explains his movie's message of moderation.

SANTA MONICA, California — At first glance, you might assume "Charlie Bartlett" is another Hollywood coming-of-age wannabe in the mold of "Igby Goes Down," "Tadpole" and "Rushmore," movies that try to pour disparate classics like "Harold and Maude," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The Graduate" into a blender to see if a yummy concoction spills out. Look a bit deeper, however, and you might find a flick with its finger on the pulse of one of society's fastest-growing cancers.

" 'Charlie Bartlett' is the story of this kid that gets kicked out of private school and goes to public school with the intention of becoming popular," the film's 18-year-old star, Anton Yelchin, explained to us recently. "And he sells prescription drugs and becomes the school's psychiatrist."

As portrayed by Yelchin, Charlie is a smooth-talking kid from a broken home whose mother (Hope Davis) can't face the day without a handful of pills and a chardonnay chaser. Facing the age-old dilemma of how to become popular at a new school, Charlie begins telling his shrink that he's plagued by everything from depression to ADD, then sells the prescribed pills to classmates eager to enjoy a cheap high.

"The whole point isn't that Charlie Bartlett takes Ritalin to help him concentrate. The point is that he doesn't need Ritalin, so he has a reaction to it and gets really high off of it," Yelchin said of an early scene in which his character realizes the powers of the pill. "I didn't take Ritalin for preparation on [those scenes], but I think [writer/director] Jon [Poll] experimented with it, to try to figure out what he wanted Charlie to take."

Following the recent deaths of Heath Ledger and Casey Calvert, the dangers of self-medicating are finally emerging from society's shadows. According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of accidental drug poisoning rose 68 percent between 1999 and 2004, and the problem continues to get worse.

"If you look at recent news, there are a lot of stories about prescription drugs," Yelchin said. "I think it makes certain people smarter. ... We're so used to all these other drugs [being dangerous] that we feel more comfortable with pills, and I think that's a huge problem. They are no less of a drug than anything else you put in your system."

Undoubtedly, for every high-profile celebrity who struggles with addiction, there are tens of thousands of nameless people doing the same. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 48 million Americans have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime.

"A lot of the college students I know are using them," Yelchin sighed. "There's a certain [new belief] of our society that everything has become a lot more tedious, and you'd need a lot more than 24 hours in the day to get all your things done. At the same time, there's a tendency in our society to categorize everything, and put everyone into a box of their own. And you give them a prescription for their box.

"['Charlie Bartlett' explores] the whole idea of these drugs, and what they are doing to kids; how kids are getting these drugs, and who they're getting them from," he observed. "And what kind of society advocates the use of this medicine, to a point where kids can get them and pop them."

Insisting that the film was designed to "sound like a comedy, but look like a drama," Yelchin added that "these themes aren't to be taken lightly; they're to be taken into consideration, but it is a funny movie." As such, Charlie Bartlett isn't your garden-variety drug dealer. Instead, he sets up an "office" in the boys' bathroom, plays psychiatrist to his fellow students, then has his partner, the school bully (Tyler Hilton), fill the role of pharmacist.

"That's what Charlie Bartlett does," explained Yelchin, remembering characters like the school cheerleader who has slept with the whole football team in an attempt to feel wanted. "He takes each kid and really talks to them and gives them his honest opinion. He'll look up their symptoms, and he won't just give them Ritalin if they need Zantac or whatever."

By capitalizing on teenage insecurity, and giving kids a quick fix without ever involving their parents, Charlie soon becomes the coolest kid in school. But real life soon invades this fantasy tale, when a depressed student takes too many of his pills.

"He uses the pills and ODs," Yelchin shrugged. "If you don't learn from that, I don't know what to say.

"The whole point of that character is that you as an audience member learn from it, but also that Charlie Bartlett learns," he added. "Some people do need these medications; some people cannot function without these medications. And then other people can function perfectly without them and need something else. ... [Charlie] realizes that the most important thing he is giving is the honest advice [that kids aren't getting from adults]; it's not so much the pills. ... The point is that, if given the opportunity to vent, a lot of people just need that.

"At some point he does realize, 'I've got to adjust how I'm going to do this,' " Yelchin said, adding that he hopes viewers enjoy a few laughs with Charlie, but also take home the same message that he and his classmates do: "Selling prescription drugs isn't particularly the best thing to be doing."

Check out everything we've got on "Charlie Bartlett."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

Avril Lavigne Is Tickled Pink About Her Best Damn Tour ... Check Out Dates Here!

'The theme is pink!' singer says of jaunt, which kicks off March 5.

Forget about painting the town red — Avril Lavigne wants to paint the town pink on her forthcoming world tour, which kicks off March 5. "Yes! The theme is pink!" she squealed. "The theme is like a party!"

So on her stage, Lavigne will have a pink drum kit and a pink piano — and she'll be playing both of them this time around. "I play the drums, I play the piano and of course I play the guitar," she said. "There's a lot going on."

But just because Lavigne's third outing — called the Best Damn Tour after her album and next single, "The Best Damn Thing" — is pretty in pink doesn't mean it will be bubblegum. Lavigne is planning her biggest production ever — with backup dancers, outfit changes and a moving stage. "I've never played on a stage like this before," she said. "I've got a big stage. I've got stairs, and I'm coming out of the stage, and I got these LED screens behind me. I just wanted the show to be more showy. I wanted to take it to the next level."

To make sure there's a next level for intimacy as well, Lavigne plans a "coming-down" moment, a stripped-down acoustic session in the middle of the set, just "me performing by myself." She also plans to talk more while she's onstage, something she hasn't done much on her past two tours, and refuses to wear a microphone on her head so it doesn't seem artificial.

"It's very rockin'," she said, "but it's just there's more visually to see, a lot going on. I have to perform every single night, so it's like, I don't know if I want a mellow set, you know? I want a crazy, fun, rockin'-out-with-everyone set, so I've got a ton of people onstage with me. It's still very me, but it's just, I've grown."

And as the tour grows, moving through North America, Europe and Asia, fans will see if Lavigne's language skills have grown with her, as she plans to try to sing her hit "Girlfriend" in different languages for different countries (since that's how she recorded the song). "I may try to sing some of the easier ones live," she said. "I think Japanese I can pull off. I'm not sure about the other ones. It was almost impossible to record because there were so many words and more syllables and I had to squash them in, so I don't know. We'll see.

"There's a lot of stuff that we have to work out and a lot of preparation to do," she added. "So we've just been hard at work doing that. And when you work really hard at something, well, hard work pays off. So the show is going to be great. I feel like I'm at my best and this will be my best performance so far. I can't wait!"

Avril Lavigne's North American Best Damn Tour dates, according to her Web site:

· 3/5 - Victoria, BC @ Save On Foods Memorial Centre
· 3/7 - Vancouver, BC @ General Motors Place
· 3/8 - Kamloops, BC @ Interior Savings Centre
· 3/9 - Kelowna, BC @ Prospera Place
· 3/11 - Prince George, BC @ CN Centre
· 3/12 - Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
· 3/13 - Calgary, AB @ Pengrowth Saddledome
· 3/15 - Regina, SK @ Brandt Centre
· 3/16 - Saskatoon, SK @ Credit Union Centre
· 3/18 - Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre
· 3/20 - Minneapolis, MN @ Target Center
· 3/21 - Chicago, IL @ Allstate Arena
· 3/22 - Auburn Hills, MI @ Palace of Auburn Hills
· 3/25 - Pittsburgh, PA @ A.J. Palumbo Center
· 3/26 - Cleveland, OH @ Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University
· 3/28 - Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata
· 3/29 - Buffalo, NY @ HSBC Arena
· 3/30 - East Rutherford, NJ @ Izod Center
· 4/1 - Boston, MA @ Agganis Arena
· 4/2 - Montreal, QC @ Bell Center
· 4/3 - Ottawa, Ontario @ Scotia Bank Place
· 4/7 - Toronto, Ontario @ Air Canada Centre
· 4/8 - Kingston, Ontario @ Kingston Regional Sports & Entertainment Centre
· 4/9 - London, Ontario @ John Labatt Centre
· 4/11 - Uniondale, NY @ Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
· 4/12 - Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
· 4/13 - Manchester, NH @ Verizon Wireless Arena
· 4/15 - Fairfax, VA @ Patriot Center
· 4/18 - Atlanta, GA @ Phillips Arena
· 4/19 - Tampa, FL @ Ford Amphitheatre
· 4/20 - West Palm Beach, FL @ Sound Advice Amphitheatre
· 4/22 - Biloxi, MS @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
· 4/24 - Hidalgo, TX @ Dodge Arena
· 4/25 - Houston, TX @ Cynthia Woods Pavilion
· 4/26 - Dallas, TX @ Smirnoff Music Centre
· 4/27 - San Antonio, TX @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
· 4/29 - Las Vegas, NV @ The Pearl at the Palms Hotel and Casino
· 4/30 - San Diego, CA @ Cox Arena at Aztec Bowl
· 5/2 - Phoenix, AZ @ Cricket Wireless Pavilion
· 5/3 - Anaheim, CA @ Honda Center
· 5/4 - Los Angeles, CA @ Gibson Amphitheatre
· 5/6 - Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl
· 5/7 - San Jose, CA @ HP Pavilions
· 5/9 - Spokane, WA @ Spokane Arena
· 5/10 - Everett, WA @ Comcast Arena at Everett Events Center

Sean Kingston Goes For A New Sound With Juelz Santana ... But He's Still Mr. 'Beautiful Girls'

Producer J.R. Rotem gives his protégé permission to reach out to Timbaland, Pharrell for sophomore LP.

NEW YORK — Sean Kingston may be Miami-born, but sitting in a director's chair on the Brooklyn set of his latest video, "There's Nothin'," he's looking like the young King of New York. Biggie Smalls, that is, not Christopher Walken — just to be clear.

And apparently, Kingston, besides bearing a resemblance to the BK Don, is also connected like the legendary MC. For the track, the fourth single from his self-titled debut, the reggae-pop crooner said he personally reached out to Juelz Santana to be on the remix.

"Yessir, called him up direct, hit him up on the Sidekick and let him know like, 'Yo, you gotta be on this record,' " Kingston told MTV News recently from the video set. Santana answered and hopped right on the track, which originally featured Paula DeAnda.

"I wanted to come out and show Sean Kingston some love," Santana said. "I feel like he came in the game real strong, looks like he has a bright career in the game, so any way I could show a helping hand and just help out in any way, I was there to do it. So that's why we here; we getting busy."

DeAnda appears on the original version of the song, but Kingston said he called Rihanna, Ciara and Keyshia Cole for the remix. He didn't have as much luck that time, though.

Eventually, he and the label settled on Élan Luz of the D.E.Y., the bilingual trio who broke out recently with their hit "Give You the World," produced by J.R. Rotem, who also helmed "There's Nothin'."

"It's cool to be in the same family and go, 'Hey, I got an idea: Élan,' " the singer exclaimed. " 'Come fly over here to L.A., record this song and we're gonna make it a hit, baby.' "

"Having Luz involved is big for us, because it's a stepping-stone," her groupmate Divine said. "Sean Kingston is a big artist, our labelmate, and we're excited to see her shining on the remix."

The track, Kingston explained, is another heart-wrenching song about teen love. But this time it ends much better than his "Beautiful Girls" — and he's speaking from experience.

"I been with a girl before where it's been the relationship going smooth, that there's nothing in the world that can stop me from going out with you," Kingston said of the origins of the song. "Not my mom, not nobody, 'cause the way I feel, how I feel, is crazy. You the best one, you a dime piece, and nobody can stop it."

Next up for Kingston, who recently celebrated his 18th birthday, is prepping his sophomore album. He said he wanted to reach out to other producers, beyond Rotem, who exclusively produced his debut. Kingston said Rotem begrudgingly gave him the OK to reach out to the likes of Timbaland, Scott Storch, Pharrell and Polow da Don.

"He was kind of a little bit tough about it, but he's happy for me," Kingston said. "J.R. is an awesome guy. If you think about it, I'm still J.R.'s protégé. I'm still Mr. Beluga Heights, I'm still Mr. 'Beautiful Girls.' Nothing is gonna change. I just wanna go for a different sound."

Justin Timberlake To Induct Madonna Into Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

Tom Hanks to induct Dave Clark Five; Lou Reed to honor Leonard Cohen.

Justin Timberlake will induct Madonna into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the organization's March 10 ceremony, a rep for the Hall confirmed to MTV News Tuesday (February 26).

Perhaps Timberlake is returning a favor from his 27th birthday last month, when Madonna presented him with a cupcake and champagne and sang him "Happy Birthday" on the set of the video for her song "4 Minutes to Save the World." The track features JT as well as Timbaland; the two collaborated on several songs for Madonna's forthcoming LP.

Other inductors include Tom Hanks (for '60s group the Dave Clark Five — appropriate because he played the manager of a similar group in the 1996 film "That Thing You Do"), Lou Reed (for folk legend Leonard Cohen), Billy Joel (for John Mellencamp), Ben Harper (for blues harmonica player Little Walter), Jerry Butler (for legendary soul producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) and John Fogerty (for instrumental group the Ventures).

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony will take place at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel on March 10.

To be eligible for nomination this year, an artist must have issued their first single or album by 1982, which was the year Madonna put out her first dance tune, "Everybody." While no one would confuse her decades of dance-floor anthems with rock and roll, the most successful female artist of all time has had a remarkably strong, nearly three-decade career.

Indiana's John Mellencamp began his career as a generic pop singer named Johnny Cougar in 1976, but over the course of nearly 30 years in music, he has become one of the most thoughtful and respected singer/songwriters of his generation. Initially dismissed as a Bruce Springsteen wannabe, Cougar hit his stride in the early '80s, when he released the rock radio staples "Jack and Diane" and "Hurts So Good." He soon became known for chronicling the plight of the downtrodden American farmer and worker, with such folk-inspired albums as Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee. Along with Neil Young and Willie Nelson, Mellencamp helped found the annual Farm Aid concert benefiting small American farms.

Known for his seriously deep, froggy baritone vocals, Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen has been recording albums since 1968 in styles ranging from pop to folk and cabaret. His most famous, and most frequently covered, song is the meditative "Hallelujah." One of the most popular bands from the British Invasion of the mid-1960s, the Dave Clark Five rivaled the Beatles for a time in popularity thanks to hits like "Glad All Over." Rock instrumental band the Ventures, founded by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, are best known for such hits as "Walk Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O," as well as their pioneering use of space-age sound effects on some of their recordings, which have made them the biggest-selling rock instrumental group of all time.

Hard-drinking blues player Little Walter died at age 37 in 1968, but not before putting his indelible stamp on the art of mouth-harp playing, including being one of the first blues harmonica players to run his harp microphone through an amplifier, pioneering the use of electronic distortion in popular music.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff gave Motown a run for its money in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as they helped to pioneer the Philadelphia soul sound that was the signature of the Philadelphia International label. The production/songwriting team wrote hits for a galaxy of stars, including the O'Jays ("Love Train") and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes ("If You Don't Know Me by Now"). The duo are being inducted in the non-performer category under the newly named Ahmet Ertegun Award, in honor of the late Atlantic Records co-founder.

Britney Spears Case Won't Move To Federal Court; Plus Miley Cyrus, Amy Winehouse, Perez Hilton, Bono & More, In For The Record

Cyrus to host CMT Music Awards with her dad; Winehouse clothing line isn't a done deal; blogger in talks for major-label deal.

After an attorney who claimed to represent Britney Spears tried to make a federal case out of her father, Jamie, taking control of Brit's affairs, a U.S. district judge decided Tuesday (February 26) that the case had no place with the feds. Attorney Jon Eardley fought the singer's temporary conservatorship, claiming it violated her civil rights and was a misappropriation of her finances, but Judge Philip S. Gutierrez said that because the probate court had already appointed an attorney for Britney, Sam Ingham, as she was "incapable of retaining her own counsel," Eardley had "no authority" and "acted improperly." Since Eardley did not challenge Ingham's appointment, Judge Gutierrez ruled, Eardley is not Britney's attorney and, as such, cannot remove the case, no matter what grounds. "Mr. Eardley fails to explain why he can bring this claim for her in the first instance," Gutierrez wrote. "He cannot." However, Gutierrez did not entirely rule in the conservatorship's favor — he chose not to reward attorney fees to Jamie Spears for his law firm's time spent on the issue of removing it to federal court, which means Britney has to foot the nearly $43,000 bill. ...

Miley Cyrus might be a pop singer, but she has country music in her blood. So it makes sense that the CMT Music Awards invited the tween queen and her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, to host this year's ceremony in Nashville. The "Hannah Montana" star has some awards-show experience, having presented at the Grammys and Oscars this month. The pair will also perform at the April 14 show, alongside Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and others. ...

Will Amy Winehouse soon release her own clothing line, à la Gwen Stefani? Well, that's the claim several media outlets are making this week, but according to the singer's publicist, there's no deal in place just yet. According to several reports, Winehouse has been meeting with fashion and cosmetics experts, to help her with her line, which would reflect her distinctive style. But her publicist said that while Winehouse "has been approached by various clothing and makeup companies in the past year, no final decision has been made." ... According to The New York Times,Mario Lavandeira, better known to readers as Perez Hilton, is in negotiations with Warner Bros. Records to get his own imprint. Citing several anonymous "people associated with the talks," the Times reports that the blogger, who has made a habit of hyping little-known bands he likes, could be offered up an advance of $100,000 a year against 50 percent of profits generated by artists he discovers and releases through the label. ...

Not only did Frames singer Glen Hansard pick up an Oscar on Sunday night for Best Original Song (for "Falling Slowly" from "Once"), he got an ever bigger prize when a congratulatory text from fellow countryman Bono showed up on his phone. In an interview with Ireland's RTE radio, Hansard said, "What was really amazing for me was getting texts from family and friends. It was amazing beforehand, and then I got a text from Bono, and I was like, 'Ah, my God, that's just amazing.' For me it was just like getting a text off the King of the Tribe." According to reports, the message read, "A busker who plays the Oscars, that's the poetry." Hansard also revealed that he and singing partner Marketa Irglova plan to tour the U.S. in the next few months. ...

A comic book publisher has taken to the Internet to fire off allegations at My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. According to Hart Fisher, who has printed several comic books about some of the world's most notorious serial killers, Way has been dishonest about his own comic book dalliances and he has stolen some of Fisher's own words for some of My Chemical Romance's lyrics — although he wasn't specific. Fisher claims he met Way when he was just 16, then known as "Garry," and that he published Way's comic book "On Raven's Wings" on his Boneyard Press label. Fisher claims the characterization of Way's "The Umbrella Academy" series — published by Dark Horse Comics — as his first foray into comics is misleading. Dark Horse responded to the allegations, saying, "Hart published Gerard's first comics when Gerard was 15. ... [We] don't think we've ever said 'Umbrella Academy' is the first comic Gerard did." ...

Unknown 30-year-old actor Lathan McKay has been tapped to play late Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley in the upcoming biopic "Get Born Again." McKay, an Austin, Texas, native who looks eerily like Staley, was tapped for the role after meeting with journalist Adriana Rubio, who wrote the book on which the movie is based. According to a MySpace page for the movie, McKay has been working with a band called Motherweiser to hone his vocals for the movie. ...

The Sasquatch! Music Festival — which will be held May 24-26 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington — will feature headlining slots from a pair of alt-rock powerhouses, the Cure and R.E.M., as well as a landing of the Flaming Lips' U.F.O. Show and a debut of the band's years-in-the-making feature film, "Christmas on Mars." Also appearing at the festival will be: Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, M.I.A., Flight of the Conchords, the Breeders, the Hives, Built to Spill, Tegan & Sara, the National, the New Pornographers, the Kooks, Cold War Kids, Rogue Wave and Beirut. ...

There will be plenty of bands playing this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin in March, but if you can't get one of the coveted badges to gain entry to the always-packed showcases, you might want to wander down to the city's Waterloo Park for the free two-day festival, Mess With Texas. The outdoor fest with three stages will feature a headlining set by the Breeders, as well as shows by NOFX, Simian Mobile Disco, Islands, Kimya Dawson, Black Mountain, Yeasayer, F---ed Up, Lucero, Jay Reatard and Matt & Kim. There will also be comedy from Janeane Garofalo, Human Giant, Brian Posehn and Eugene Mirman. ...

Team Sleep, the side project of Deftones frontman Chino Moreno, have parted ways with their management and their record company, but the band is taking the splits in stride. "[We're] not going to assume that records will be relevant in 2010," reads a statement from the band. "[We] don't know how we'll be interacting with people who like our band two years from now [when Team Sleep's sophomore disc is slated for release], and that is the most exciting and inspiring thing in the world. Hopefully, Team Sleep will be able to make a small contribution to music and the way bands operate." ... While there's no release date yet, Spiritualized have finished recording their next album, Songs in A and E. The LP boasts 18 songs, including "Death Take Your Fiddle," "You Lie You Cheat" and "Borrowed Your Gun." ...

This summer's first RockStar Energy Mayhem Tour hasn't even gotten under way, and already, one of the bands on the bill has pulled out. Sevendust, who were to join the likes of Slipknot, Disturbed, Mastodon, DragonForce, and Machine Head on the trek, won't be able to participate, as a result of "changes in their touring schedule." But the band "will be touring in full support of its forthcoming release Hope & Sorrow, Chapter VII," which features a guest appearance by Chris Daughtry.


Jamie Lynn Spears was photographed last month in Louisiana carrying a GED book, and now the pregnant 16-year-old has passed the high school equivalency exam and is thinking about college, a family friend told People magazine. The "Zoey 101" star passed the test about a month ago, scoring particularly well in reading comprehension. "She's already got her diploma," the friend said of Britney's younger sister. "She wants to take her ACT [college-entrance test]. She's not wasting any time. People don't know her. When she gets something in her head, she'll make it happen. Everybody is so supportive of her." ...

Lil Wayne was in a New York courtroom Monday morning (February 25), where he entered a not-guilty plea at his arraignment on gun charges stemming from an arrest in July following his first major headlining gig in the city at the Beacon Theater. According to his lawyer, Stacey Richman, Wayne (born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) was arraigned on two felony charges of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Following the show at the Beacon, police searched Wayne's tour bus and arrested the rapper for criminal possession of a .40-caliber pistol. ...

Jay-Z has been all up in the headlines in recent days. First, he showed up at Madison Square Garden as a guest of Linkin Park on Friday night. Hov and his friends mashed it up once again on the songs "Encore" and "N---a What, N---a Who (Originator 99)." On Monday, he was at the center of more controversial news: New York's Daily News reported unsubstantiated talk that Jay and Nas are planning to release a duet LP called The Kings of Hip-Hop, for release through a Warner Music Group label, and also asserted that Jay will soon be launching a new label. Also on Monday, the New York Observer originally reported — erroneously — that hip-hop founding father Kool Herc (a.k.a. Clive Campbell) was suing Jay, developer Bruce Ratner and Barclays Bank for $5 billion, filing a "claim of lien" in property records that seeks slavery reparations; the three are associated through the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York, which is in the process of building more than 6,000 apartments and a new basketball arena in the NYC borough. Barclays owns the naming rights to the arena, and has been accused of having links with the slave trade; the bank has denied those claims, according to the report. The Observer later published a correction noting that the Clive Campbell who filed the suit was not in fact Kool Herc, but actually a Brooklyn activist with the same name. Campbell said in the claim, which was filed in October, that Ratner and Jay-Z worked "in concert" with Barclays and "profited from the African slave trade and continue to profit from these gains, through a conspiracy dating back hundreds of years and continue to date to oppress black people, enslave them, unlawfully deport them to all corners of the Earth," according to the report. Reached by MTV News on Monday, Jay-Z's rep had no comment on the Daily News and Observer stories. ...

The Oscars were a ratings dud. Viewership for Sunday's telecast was down 21 percent from last year, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen Media Research. The least-watched Oscars ceremony ever was in 2003 with 33 million viewers; Nielsen has no estimate yet on how many people watched, but based on ratings from the nation's biggest markets, the Oscars will be hard-pressed to avoid a record low. ... As the new honorary cultural ambassador for her home country of Barbados, Rihanna is already using her clout to do some good. According to People magazine, the singer is working with the international donor network DKMS to help find a bone-marrow donor for 41-year-old New Yorker Lisa Gershowitz Flynn, a mother of two young children who suffers from leukemia and has four to six weeks to find a donor. "When I heard about Lisa's plight, my heart broke," Rihanna told the magazine. "I said, 'I need to get the word out about Lisa right away.' " ...

A rep for Alicia Keys announced over the weekend that the singer/songwriter will have to postpone two U.K. tour dates this week, one in Glasgow and one in Manchester, after the Grammy winner's doctor ordered her to go on vocal rest. According to her publicist, Keys is suffering from laryngitis and will resume her tour after taking a few days off. ... Do all of DJ Khaled's friends happen to be hip-hop or R&B top dogs? The boisterous producer/record-spinner/self-promoter headlined the Winter Fest concert at New York's Nassau Coliseum on Friday night. After a T-Pain set (Pain brought out Fabolous as his special guest), Khaled brought out Fat Joe, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes and the Diplomats. Unfortunately, the show ended a little anticlimactically when another DJ had several miscues trying to get the music right for Jim Jones' "We Fly High." Snoop Dogg also performed earlier in the night. ...

On Friday, a California assemblywoman introduced a bill dubbed the "Donda West Law" that requires a health check before a person undergoes elective plastic surgery. The Associated Press reported that Democrat Wilmer Amina Carter was inspired by West's niece to propose the legislation. Carter said Dr. West's death — which occurred on November 10, a day after she underwent a number of plastic-surgery procedures — showed that patients should be required to get medical clearance before cosmetic surgery. Yolanda Anderson, Donda West's niece, said the late educator's son, Kanye, is enthusiastic about the bill. ...

Jimmy Kimmel got his revenge on longtime girlfriend Sarah Silverman on a special post-Oscars episode of his talk show Sunday night. In the wake of her hit viral video, "I'm F---ing Matt Damon," Kimmel unleashed his answer track, "I'm F---ing Ben Affleck," which not only featured the late-night talker cavorting topless with Damon's BFF, but was packed with a guest appearance from Brad Pitt as a FedEx guy, a drive-by kiss from Harrison Ford, and an all-star chorus, featuring Ashlee Simpson, Pete Wentz, Cameron Diaz, Josh Groban, Lance Bass, Benji and Joel Madden, Don Cheadle, Perry Farrell, Meat Loaf, Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse, Robin Williams, Huey Lewis, Joan Jett and Macy Gray. The video is available to stream at ABC. ...

It seems like the second weekend in August is just too juicy to ignore. Just weeks after the cancellation of the proposed New Jersey festival from the organizers of Lollapalooza and England's Reading Festival, another East Coast festival for August 9-10 was announced. The third-annual Virgin Mobile Festival will take place at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, just three hours from the Radiohead-headlined All Points West Festival that same weekend. The lineup for the Virgin Fest will be announced soon. ...

During As I Lay Dying's gig Sunday night in Australia, guitarist Nick Hipa was struck "in the head by an empty glass Maker's Mark bottle," he wrote in a statement. While the blow stunned and disoriented the rocker, he's doing fine. "Lucky for me the bottle was huge so it didn't break, and I have no need for stitches. I'm sorry we had to stop our set, but I was quite discombobulated for a good while, and more importantly the EMT dude wouldn't let me play because my head was bleeding quite a bit ... or some sort of mumbo jumbo like that."

The Deftones are looking to hit the studio in late March with producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera) and engineer Scott Olson (Deftones, Unearth) to begin tracking their forthcoming sixth studio album, Eros. ... The recently reunited Filter are planning a tentative May 13 release for their new album Anthems for the Damned. The track "Soldiers of Misfortune" is expected to serve as the first single from the release, and will hit the airwaves March 18. ... Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino has formed a new band called Magnetic Morning, with Swervedriver guitarist Adam Franklin. The band's self-titled EP, recorded with Claudius Mittendorfer, will be released on April 19. ...

Three Nine Inch Nails songs will be made available next week as premium downloadable content for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of "Rock Band," according to the game's developers. "March of the Pigs," "The Collector" and "The Perfect Drug" will be available individually and as part of a three-pack.

Mischa Barton Charged With DUI, Driving Without A License, Marijuana Possession

'O.C.' actress' arraignment set for Thursday; charges stem from late-December arrest.

Mischa Barton was charged Tuesday (February 26) with four misdemeanor counts stemming from her December 27 DUI arrest, according to People.

The "O.C." actress was cited for driving under the influence, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher, driving without a license and possession of marijuana. Her arraignment is set for Thursday in Beverly Hills Superior Court, according to the site.

According to an arrest report obtained by MTV News, Barton was stopped just before 3 a.m. in West Hollywood, California, after police noticed her car had been weaving back and forth, crossing the traffic line that runs down the middle of North La Cienega Boulevard. Police further noticed the car's driver failed to signal before making a turn.

Barton was taken into custody and transported to the sheriff's West Hollywood station, where she was booked and processed. It was at that time that police learned the 21-year-old actress was an unlicensed driver, and that she was intoxicated, the sheriff's department said. According to Reuters, Barton was also suspected to be in possession of marijuana and an unidentified controlled substance. TMZ reported that the actress blew a .12 on her breathalyzer test, above the California state legal limit of .08, and that she admitted to police that she had smoked pot earlier that day.

The actress was held on $10,000 bail after the arrest and spent about seven hours in jail.

Barton appeared on "The O.C." until the third-season finale. She co-stars in the upcoming movie "Assassination of a High School President" with Reece Thompson, due in April. In 2005, Barton also co-starred in James Blunt's video for "Goodbye My Lover," in which she played the ex-girlfriend of the singer/songwriter.

Madonna Gets Sweet And Strong With Timbaland, Justin Timberlake On Hard Candy

Pop icon's final album for Warner Bros., which will also feature Pharrell and Danjahandz, is due April 29.

She's a living legend, wrapping up an 11-album contract that has yielded some of her most classic songs. Now, Madonna is announcing that she'll be going out the same way she came in: hard.

Hard Candy is the new, official title of the pop icon's final album for Warner Bros. Records, MTV News confirmed, and will land in stores April 29. According to an Entertainment Weekly report, the newly christened record will feature production by Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Nate "Danjahandz" Hills.

One song on the album will be called "Candy Store" (not to be confused with 50 Cent's "Candy Shop"), and the first single is titled "Four Minutes to Save the World," reminding us once again that while advancing in age, Madonna certainly hasn't been bogged down by newfound modesty.

"She loves candy," her representative Liz Rosenberg told EW in response to Madonna's sweet-tooth album and song title. "It's about the juxtaposition of tough and sweetness, or as Madonna so eloquently expressed: 'I'm gonna kick your ass, but it's going to make you feel good.' "

The release of the album is timed just a few weeks after Madonna's eagerly anticipated induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month. The now-49-year-old Madonna Louise Ciccone Ritchie is aiming to prove she can still bring it on the dance floor, and Hard Candy will aid her with some high-wattage help that also includes multi-song collaborator Justin Timberlake.

As Timbaland told MTV News recently, he had been reaching out to the Material Girl, only to discover that she'd been looking for him at the same time. "It's crazy to see how many people want to work with me," he said of his collaboration with Madonna. "I'm still in shock."

Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman Admit To Booty-Dancing In Costume On 'Other Boleyn Girl' Set

'You've got some moves,' Portman tells her co-star, who also dishes about her upcoming Tom Waits cover album.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" features many delights for an audience member. It's a juicy period tale inspired by true events and adapted from a best-selling novel of the same name. It features fabulous costumes; provocative plot twists (adultery, betrayal of every stripe and, yes, even incest); and a moody turn by Eric Bana as King Henry VIII himself.

But forget all that: This one stars Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. Maybe it's not on the level of De Niro and Pacino teaming up for "Heat," but to see two big female talents side by side (and as sisters, no less) in a film like this is quite a rarity today.

MTV News chatted with the two stars about their divergent characters (here's a switch: Natalie's the bad girl), Scarlett's upcoming album covering Tom Waits tunes, and why all these two really want to do is dance.

MTV: Let's talk about these characters. One of you, we can definitely have some sympathy for, but is there anything redeeming about Anne?

Scarlett Johansson: [Sarcastically] Don't you feel sympathetic towards that character?

Natalie Portman: Aw, that hurts my feelings.

MTV: Nothing personal, but ...

Portman: Yeah, she's born into this world where it's been sort of prescribed for her to be like a power-monger. They label the kids at the beginning. Anne's the clever, tricky one, and Mary's the sweet, good one, and they sort of fulfill their labels.

MTV: It's refreshing to see a strong sister relationship onscreen. Was that part of the appeal for each of you?

Johansson: Absolutely. A huge part of why I decided to do this project was because Natalie was attached to it and I was desperate to work with her for a while. It's so rare to have the opportunity to have a project come up with two female leads around the same age, having such a close bond. It was an opportunity I could just not pass up. I was such a fan of Natalie's for so long. This was like, wow, it just seems too good to be true.

MTV: Scarlett, in this film you have to sing badly. Was that difficult?

Portman: It is so hard because she has such a beautiful voice! In between scenes, you'd hear her humming and it would be like, "Is Nina Simone playing or something?" She had to sing badly in this scene, and I was like, "What's she gonna do?"

Johansson: Oh, come on, it's not that hard to be tone-deaf, is it?

MTV: You've got an album coming out in a few months, right?

Johansson: I do.

MTV: Natalie, have you heard any of it?

Portman: I hope I get the first copy. I haven't heard any of it yet.

Johansson: You'll get one of the comps, I'm sure.

Portman: I wanna pay for it, man!

Johansson: One down. Woo!

MTV: That's your first 15 bucks right there.

Johansson: Is that how much it's going for these days? I'm gonna be rich!

MTV: Who's on the top of your duet list?

Johansson: Hmm ... that's a tough question. Leonard Cohen?

Portman: Is Tom Waits on your album?

Johansson: No, he's not. We have a couple of people who come on the album who are a surprise.

MTV: You've both worked with Woody Allen. Who does the better imitation?

Portman: I'm sure you. I was 14 [during "Everyone Says I Love You"].

Johansson: I have spent many an hour with that man just eating shrimp dumplings and staring at his face. Umm, I can't, it's hard when you're telling a story.

Portman: I think you're doing it right now. [She laughs.]

Johansson: Maybe we're just morphed into one. People ask me: "Do your Woody impression!," and I just can't.

Portman: You're not a monkey.

Johansson: Exactly. "Dance, dance!"

MTV: Speaking of dancing, who's most likely to break into a dance at any moment?

Johansson: [To Portman] I think you might be.

Portman: I feel like we've both had a couple dancing nights.

Johansson: We've broke it down together. Natalie's a good dancer.

Portman: Thanks, man.

Johansson: Don't let this sweet golden appearance ...

Portman: You've got some moves yourself.

Johansson: I try, I try.

Portman: You did a little booty dance in costume.

Johansson: Oh yeah, the costume booty dances! I have, like, this humongous costume with this long hair, and you'd just be like, "Yeah, yeah!" [She does a booty-slap hand movement in the air.] You know, that always ...

Portman: Never ceases to amuse.

Johansson: So wrong, but so right.

MTV: If you put that on the DVD extras, I think you're going to sell an extra few million copies.

Johansson: [She laughs.] I have to tell you, though, in the costume, it's anything but sexy. It's just very wrong.

Portman: It's very, very funny.

Check out everything we've got on "The Other Boleyn Girl."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

Are 'Halo' Or 'Grand Theft Auto' Better Than Great Albums?, In Bigger Than The Sound

Our columnist thinks music's emotional pull trumps the best video games.

On The Record: X-Groban 360

Let me begin this by saying that I am by no means a "gamer." (In fact, I don't even know if people still use the term "gamer" to describe one who avidly plays video games.) I am only remotely sure what an MMORPG is, or what an FPS is, and I've never been to E3 or the CES or the GDC. I don't speak "L33T," I've never played "Halo" or "BioShock," and I am comically lost when it comes to this generation of "Madden" games. Basically, my area of video game expertise begins with "Tecmo Super Bowl" and ends with "GoldenEye," an incredibly limited range of about six years and 58 bits.

So, clearly, I am no expert. But for the past three years, I've been lucky enough to sit directly in front of MTV News' video games reporter Stephen Totilo, a man whose knowledge of all things gaming is superseded only by his ability to not choke me to death for blasting the Plastic Constellations' We Appreciate You 15 times a day. So naturally, through some bizarre form of osmosis, I'm beginning to feel as if I know a whole lot about the wide, wide world of video games.

Like, for example, did you know that sometime after I finally retired my N64 controller, video games became incredibly, inexplicably huge? Like, generation-shaping, culturally important stuff, on par with hip-hop and MySpace and things like that? Well, they did. Also, video games are a colossally huge business — last year, sales topped $17 billion in the U.S. alone — one that shows no signs of slowing down in the slightest, which is fairly remarkable when you consider the economic outlook of pretty much everything everywhere.

And neither of those facts is really news to anyone who plays video games. For years now, they've been shedding the whole "geek" mantle. They are athletes and musicians and the heads of Fortune 500 companies. It's just taken most people until now to realize this (myself included). And, now that I do, I'm starting to believe something that I never, ever wanted to believe: Perhaps I've made the wrong career choice.

Because it's becoming apparent to me that somewhere along the line, when I wasn't paying attention, video games might have become more culturally significant — and, dare I say, more important — than albums.

There are several reasons this might be true. There's the raw data. For the eighth consecutive year, album sales fell, while the video game industry posted a 43 percent increase in sales. The top-selling album of last year was Josh Groban's Noël, with sales of 3.6 million copies. The top-selling video game of last year was "Halo 3," which sold 4.82 million units (and let's not even get into the price disparity ... suffice it to say, a video game costs more than a compact disc).

Then there's the rise of franchises like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," which would be the most natural overlap between music and gaming. Both were among the year's best-selling games ("Guitar Hero III" alone sold more than 2.72 million copies, about the same number as Fall Out Boy's Infinity on High and My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade combined) and have become so ingrained in our culture that they were famously parodied on "South Park." They've been so successful, it seems, that even actual rock bands have started to take notice: Just last week, aging rockosaurs Aerosmith inked a deal to have their very own version of "Hero," which will hit stores in June.

Couple that with reports like this, which ask if the success of the game would rekindle interest in actual guitar playing, and you start to get the idea that perhaps bands would be better off simply releasing their latest album in a "Guitar Hero"-compatible format, just to help boost sales.

Then, there are the emotional arguments. Last week, news broke of the proposed takeover of game publisher Take-Two Interactive (the folks behind titles like "Grand Theft Auto" and "BioShock") by Electronic Arts, they of the ultra-successful, world-uniting "Madden" line. (Stephen covered the finer points of the situation.) Apparently, this sort of thing happens in the video game industry quite often — in December, French developer Vivendi announced that it was merging with Activision in a deal worth something in the neighborhood of $18 billion — and gamers are none too happy about it. Seems they don't want to see the industry become the playground of multinational corporate behemoths, because, well, they tend to ruin things.

And reading page upon page of stunned reactions, I was stuck trying to figure out just what the equivalent of this would be in the music industry. And, it turns out, there really isn't one. After all, the past two decades have seen merger upon merger, wherein now basically the majority of the industry is controlled by four multinationals — Sony BMG, EMI, the Universal Music Group and the Warner Music Group — and yet, music fans aren't gathering in mobs, lighting torches and storming the Capitol building. Rather, everyone seems content to bitch about the way things have shook out. But, hey, that's just how it is. And even when someone tries to buck the system — like, say, Radiohead — they're roundly criticized for something as seemingly inconsequential as compression rates.

Of course, it would be shortsighted of me to not mention just how much file-sharing has walloped the music industry. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no way to download a promo of "Halo 3," no way of getting a copy before it hits the streets (at least not yet, anyway), so game publishers have fans lining up around the block to buy copies of games at the stroke of midnight. This doesn't happen in the music industry anymore, thanks in no small part to downloading, which is, in no small part, the fault of the industry itself. Why pay $14 for a CD when you can get it for free?

So, are video games more important than albums? Well, both the factual and the emotional seem to be saying yes, but when have I ever listened to either of them? I'm going to say no, if only for one simple reason: I have never heard anyone say that a video game saved their life.

There is an emotional attachment with music. It becomes your friend. It helps you through tough times. It is, for all intents and purposes, the soundtrack to your life, the thing that's with you at every moment of every day. A good album stays with you for a week, a month, maybe even a year. A great album stays with you forever. I cannot think that any of these things are true of a video game, which, by its very nature, is basically created to be disposable. You play for a while, you vanquish some foes, you emerge victorious, and then you move on to the next one. There is no emotional attachment to speak of. Even the best games aren't going to stay with you for life — for example, I swear by "Tecmo Super Bowl." I also swear by Radiohead's OK Computer. But guess which one I reach for at least once a month?

And basically, just because of that, I don't think video games will ever carry the cultural and emotional impact of music. I might be completely wrong about that — and the numbers certainly seem to be pointing to this — but that's what being a music fan (or a music journalist) is really all about: saying to hell with the rational and dealing almost exclusively with the intangible. There is magic in that, and there is magic in music, and no matter how terribly the industry continues to falter, that will never really change.

And I will always believe that. I sort of have to, at this point. After all, I made a career out of this.

Special Bonus Coverage (Of Me)

If you didn't get enough of my inane ramblings in this week's BTTS (or if you want to see a borderline-incriminating photo of me), then perhaps you'd be interested in this quick interview I did with the folks who run the South by Southwest blog. I take potshots at George W. Bush and Flight of the Conchords in it, so have a look. After all, my burgeoning ego needs all the stroking it can get.

B-Sides: Other Stories I'm Following This Week

Avril Lavigne on her upcoming tour: "The theme is pink! The theme is like a party!" Sometimes these things just write themselves.

Lil Wayne is a rock star, as evidenced by his mastery of the Axl Rose "make 'em wait" policy. Up next: setting off full-scale riots in Montreal!

For those keeping score at home, Madonna will soon be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Black Sabbath are not.

Questions? Concerns? You suxxors? Send to me at BTTS@MTVStaff.

Heath Ledger Remembered By Todd Haynes, 'Dark Knight' Co-Star: 'He Did Work That Just Blew Me Away'

'I'm Not There' director recalls late actor as 'so insanely gifted and so humble.'

SANTA MONICA, California — Honored with the inaugural Robert Altman Award at the recent Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, the cast and crew of "I'm Not There" walked the blue carpet with great satisfaction and pride.

But also sadness, admitted director Todd Haynes — sadness that their friend wasn't able to walk with them.

One of six people to portray Bob Dylan in the unusual biopic, Heath Ledger died last month from an accidental overdose at the age of 28.

"We got very close on this project. He was an extraordinary person," Haynes told MTV News. "[He was] so insanely gifted and so humble at the same time. I just love him and I'll miss him always."

Nominated for an Oscar for his work in "Brokeback Mountain," Ledger was a preternaturally talented actor. But the real tragedy of his loss is compounded by the fact that he was set to be just as talented a director, Haynes said.

"He was beginning his directorial ambitions himself. We really shared the set together, and he really dug the way we were making my film. He'd come over and whisper some suggestions and it would be brilliant, f---ing brilliant," Haynes acknowledged. "So we lost double, we lost triple. We lost a lot."

Although Ledger died young, he left a lifetime's worth of quality films, Haynes said, insisting that the actor's greatest legacy "really comes through in his work."

"I think people were so stunned by what happened because they had already put him in a different category because of his work. That's why the tabloid stuff and the personal stuff didn't explain it properly and never will," Haynes argued. "He was so much more than that, and I really think it's in what he's already given us that we see him best."

The very best may be yet to come. Ledger's performance as the Joker in the eagerly anticipated "The Dark Knight" — glimpsed briefly in a recent trailer — is already drawing raves from fans around the globe.

The trailer offers just a hint of Ledger's work in the film, "Dark Knight" co-star Aaron Eckhart maintained, confirming reports that, as Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, he shares the screen with Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime.

"I am glad that I was able to be in the same room and watch him work," Eckhart contended. "I had the chance to watch him shine in this movie. He did work that just blew me away. It's a shock."

Haynes' friend couldn't share the honor with him on Saturday. But with so many roles and so much time spent together, what memory of Ledger will the director hold most dear?

"Oh God," he said. "Every moment we spent together."

Jimmy Kimmel's Ben Affleck Revenge Clip Was 'A Labor Of Love' For Show's Staff

'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' executive producer explains how viral video hit came together.

The morning after comedian Sarah Silverman's "I'm F---ing Matt Damon" video — the supposed couple's duet about their affair — first aired on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" late last month, the clip was deemed a bona fide viral-video sensation. Links arrived in everyone's inbox, and the obscenity-laden tune inspired numerous online parodies. Much more than that, though, the video riled up the vengeful side of Silverman's boyfriend, Jimmy Kimmel.

On Sunday, minutes after "No Country for Old Men" was named Best Picture at the the Academy Awards, Kimmel had his revenge. It came in the form of "I'm F---ing Ben Affleck," a hilarious video response featuring more than 20 musicians and A-list actors belting out a "We Are the World"-esque chorus. Less than 48 hours later, the video had clocked more than 2.5 million YouTube hits.

"Jimmy enjoyed every second, every morsel of [Silverman's video], but immediately began plotting his revenge — from the moment that Sarah and Matt's video played on our anniversary show," explained Jill Leiderman, the show's executive producer. "The next morning, he said to me, 'I need to get Ben Affleck.' So I reached out to Ben's representation, Ken Sunshine, and wrote him an impassioned letter explaining the chronology and history of the Matt Damon/ Jimmy Kimmel feud. ... Within an hour, Ben was signed on to participate."

The "feud" Leiderman references is not much of a feud at all, but more of a joke that has carried on for years. Kimmel frequently ends the show by saying, "Our apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time."

"At the time he said that, on the show, the celebrity bookings were not of the caliber of Matt Damon. So to underscore that point, the irony of the joke was that Jimmy would say, 'My apologies to Matt Damon,' highlighting the fact that if Damon really had been sitting in the green room, picking at a fruit plate, how ballsy of Jimmy to not actually bring him out on the show," Leiderman continued, adding that Damon's was the first name that popped into Kimmel's head when he came up with the jab. "It was a labor of love for our staff, to support Jimmy in his quest to seek revenge against Sarah and Matt."

Kimmel's video stars the likes of Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Don Cheadle, Robin Williams, Huey Lewis, Rebecca Romijn, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, "Lost" star Dominic Monaghan, Joel and Benji Madden, Josh Groban, Christina Applegate, Meat Loaf, Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell, Lance Bass, Joan Jett, "Superbad" thespian Christopher Mintz-Plasse and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dicky Barrett, along with a gospel choir.

"Hearing a gospel choir and 20 celebrities singing this song about Jimmy and Ben f---ing each other was the most resonant, rich sound, bellowing and bouncing off the walls of the recording studio — it was a religious experience," Leiderman joked, adding that Sunday's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" repeats this coming Friday. "We delivered 22 celebrities in a single comedy piece, and for my money, that's redefining late night."

According to Leiderman, it was Affleck's idea to wrangle Harrison Ford for an appearance. "Ben found out that Harrison had seen [Sarah's] video and was tickled by it, and he encouraged us to reach out to Harrison to participate," she said. "They came back and told us that Harrison was interested in participating in any capacity we wanted him to — and he spent the entire day with us, shooting at the Roosevelt Hotel [in Hollywood] and then over at the recording studio. He was a trooper to be part of Jimmy's revenge."

As for the musicians who took part, Leiderman said a list was culled, based on the show's past guests. The names on the list constituted those who had shown themselves to be comically inclined — or had some affiliation with Kimmel, Affleck, Silverman or Damon.

"When it came to Josh Groban, he was an artist we brought in because he trusts Jimmy's comedic sensibility, and when he's been on in the past, he has always wanted to do a comedy bit with us," Leiderman explained. "So we knew he would be an exemplary artist to participate, and he knocked it out of the park. His voice added the exact gravitas we needed for this piece," which, she added, is the most expensive piece of tape to ever air on the show, "and worth every penny."

Were there any artists or Hollywood types who turned down an offer to aid in Jimmy's quest? If there were, Leiderman isn't talking. "The beauty of whomever we couldn't get means there's room for the next incarnation," she hinted. "Jimmy made his sentiment clear in the video, so I can't imagine there's any more to say. If Matt chooses to respond, we are certainly interested in what he has to say. In the interim, we're hoping that he and Sarah are very happy together.

"Everyone recognized how impassioned our request was and how there was an altruistic angle to this, which was that Jimmy and Ben needed to pronounce their love as publicly as possible and needed the celebrity support," Leiderman continued.

For Fall Out Boy's Wentz, signing on for the video was a no-brainer.

"Pretty much everyone there was a riot — egos all checked at the door for the most part," Wentz told MTV News on Tuesday (February 26). "Dominic [Monaghan] and I would pretty much bug Harrison Ford the whole time. Every time he would put the headphones on, we would be like, 'Tell us about "Indy 4," ' and he'd be like, 'What?' And then we'd say, 'Never mind.' I can't believe he got Huey [Lewis] on it. Jimmy's a funny guy, and I have to admit the Affleck idea is pretty insane. Besides, who would [turn] down the chance to do some homoerotic song that has Brad Pitt in it?"

Lil Wayne Blames Himself For Arizona Tour-Bus Bust

'If [the police] would have stopped [the bus] that night, and I had everything under control, it wouldn't have been nothing,' he says.

Lil Wayne and his now-infamous tour bus had an uneventful stay in his hometown of New Orleans last week. Well, uneventful for Wayne. Before stopping to pose for a magazine photo shoot, he showed MTV News his recent Billboard cover, previewed tracks from Tha Carter III (which is now slated for April release) and talked about his time on the road, among other topics.

Unfortunately for Weezy F. Baby, his current mini-tour (an official tour is expected later this year) has had to include a few stops in court, where he's up on a series of serious charges. The most severe allegations against the Cash Money Millionaire come from Yuma, Arizona, where he was recently indicted on possession of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of dangerous drugs, misconduct involving weapons and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Professionally, Wayne has suffered a handful of losses in the aftermath of his arrests. A few artists have withdrawn requests for the guest-appearance specialist. Some sponsorship and endorsement deals have also collapsed.

But have his legal entanglements had any effect on Weezy's own songwriting?

"None on my music," he answered. "Me, personally, I get looked at a little differently by some of my fans and some people, period. I can't do nothing about that. I can try. ... That's what it get looks at as, you're just trying. So I don't try. I just be me. It is what it is. Take it or leave it. But as far as my music, it's done nothing to my music. Nothing could stop that. I'd have to be brain-dead to stop that. Everybody has incidents, everybody's human. I made a mistake. I did make a mistake — a big mistake. I made a mistake with that, but things get better. I'll get better."

When Weezy says "mistake," he isn't making an admission of guilt. On the contrary, he has formally maintained his innocence pertaining to the assortment of charges in Atlanta, New York and Yuma. Wayne does say he was negligent in not policing his own bus. Still, he is miffed by the peers, friends and family who come up to him with words of advice and tell him to slow it down.

"To this day, a lot of rappers the game be coming up to me, like, 'Yo, man, you need to be ... You gotta be ... .' Don't tell me," he fumed. "You don't know what happened. You don't know what's going down. I had, like, 15 people on the bus. Who's to say what's what? But everybody puts on that black gown and becomes judges, so I'm always guilty.

"If [the police] would have stopped [the bus] that night, and I had everything under control, it wouldn't have been nothing," he continued. "I was irresponsible at that time. F--- up on my part. No ifs, ands, buts about it. I don't blame nobody but myself. I can't blame nobody for not taking my charge. ... This is my bus."

Wayne's frustration has boiled over to the stage and subsequently to the Internet, when footage from a late January concert in Richmond, Virginia, was uploaded to the masses.

At that show, he threw his jacket at friend/manager/DJ Cortez Bryant and vented to the crowd.

"I just flew in not even 10 minutes ago," he said to the fans. "I just had to deal with a whole lot of bullsh-- today. I want you to know that none of y'all up in this building have nothing to do with the attitude that I have right now. I'm not the most happiest man right now. When your friends turn their back on you and say one thing, and tell you they're gonna be there for you, and then when you get to that point ... ."

Wayne told MTV what he was going through at the time. "That right there, that's how the emotion and passion and adrenaline was running through me," he said. "I felt [like it was] me against the world that day. I just got out of jail that day. I'm getting calls all that day from everybody — my parents, my family, friends, people who don't know me, just judging me. ... Don't tell what I need to do. Look where I'm at. Look where you at. Look at your life.

"Let me die how I'm gonna die," he added with passion. "Let me live how I'mma live. You got something against it, then turn away. That's how I felt then; that's how I feel now. I ain't having nothing else. I love what I do, and I'm me. ... [God] loves me. I got a 9-year-old that loves the f--- outta me. That's all that matters. ... Every time I think about it, it pisses me off. They kill me with judging me."

Regardless of what Wayne thinks about his public or private perception, he will still have to face a real judge and jury soon.

"Deal with it when it comes, man," he said of his outlook. "[I] get on my knees every night and pray. [God's] gonna be with me everywhere I go. Ain't nothing new to a G."

"We want Weezy!" That's what fans are yelling. Well, you can find your fix here at MTVNews for the next several days, because it's Weezy Week! All week, we'll be rolling out articles in which Lil Wayne expounds on his controversy with 50 Cent, his boundless creativity, his legal difficulties and much more!

Famous pals belt it out in Kimmel-Affleck clip

By Ann Donahue
1 hour, 47 minutes ago

cutoff jeans

Among those in on the gag: Joan Jett, Good Charlotte's
Benji & Joel Madden, Perry Farrell, Macy Gray, Fall Out Boy's
Pete Wentz, Huey Lewis and Josh Groban, who is featured in a
heartfelt/obscene crescendo.

"From the minute Sarah's video with Matt played, revenge
has been percolating in Jimmy's mind," says Jill Leiderman, the
show's executive producer. "The Friday morning after it aired,
Jimmy came in and said 'I need Ben Affleck."'

"Basically, we devised the list: 'Who has been on the show
in the past that we really like?"' Igoe says.

The music for the song was written by Kimmel's bandleader
Cleto Escobedo, with the lyrics devised by Kimmel, Kimmel's
brother, John, and the show's writing staff. The video was
filmed in two days at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and at
nearby Henson Studios, site of the "We Are the World" session.

"Half the e-mails I've gotten the day after have been from
publicists so disappointed that their clients weren't in it,"
Igoe says, mentioning Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Paul

Whether the song will be released as an official download
is up to ABC, Leiderman says, but she promises they'll make the
appropriate inquiries to see if they can get a single put out.


McCartney-Mills divorce deal could be made public: reports

1 hour, 42 minutes ago

Details of the settlement in the long-running divorce case between former Beatle Paul McCartney and his estranged wife Heather Mills could be made public, media reports suggested Wednesday.

Divorce hearings in Britain are held behind closed doors, unless one side challenges the settlement, in which case the appeal is open to the public. Terms are also generally kept private, unless the parties agree otherwise.

But Britain's domestic Press Association news agency quoted unnamed sources as saying that the judge in the case, Hugh Bennett, was considering approaching McCartney and Mills to ask if parts of his ruling can be released.

London's Evening Standard, which carried a similar report, also quoting unnamed sources, said the likely approach was due to the "overwhelming interest" in the case and speculation about how much Mills could receive.

Both reports said a target date of March 17 has been set and that any public version of the settlement would only be partial. The Standard said provisions for the couple's four-year-old daughter, Beatrice, would not be released.

McCartney, 65, and Mills, 40, split in May 2006 after a four-year marriage.

They have been in legal discussions ever since to determine how much Mills, a former model turned charity campaigner, would receive from McCartney's estimated 825-million-pound (1.1-billion-euro, 1.6-billion-dollar) fortune.

Yoga novel starts strong, ends flat

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

"Fear and Yoga in New Jersey" (St. Martin's Press, 256 pages, $23.95), by Debra Galant: Like her first novel, "Rattled," Debra Galant's new book is a comedy of modern life in a New Jersey suburb. And it starts out, anyway, with promise.

Nina is a yoga teacher whose studied calm on the job masks an increasingly out-of-control domestic life. Her normally sober-minded husband is laid off work in an outsourcing, and proceeds to blunder into misadventures with a hard-nosed Homeland Security agent and a lap-dancer named Xenon. Nina's son, seduced by attending an opulent bat mitzvah, decides he wants a bar mitzvah, taking advantage of the Jewish roots Nina had rejected in favor of Unitarianism. And Nina's parents, including her overbearing and suspicious mother, drop in for a visit.

The story unfolds in a series of scenes that rotate among the main characters. It gets off to a promising start with some funny situations and good one-liners.

A beginning yoga student, meekly entering a class during quiet time, adopts "an exaggerated pretense of civility, or else her interpretation of Marcel Marceau imitating a burglar." A wealthy high school student who bought a souped-up iPod with her ton of bat mitzvah money passes on her old one to a friend "like it was a half-eaten tuna sandwich." A rabbi bears "a full beard with the texture of a Brillo pad."

Just as enticing are Galant's takes on suburban life, such as her descriptions of the women in Nina's yoga classes. And the author deftly portrays the petty resentments that build up between spouses.

As Nina's life unravels, it looks like the story is headed toward an inventive, screwball climax. But then, somehow, the fizz goes flat. Instead, toward the end of the book, loose ends are tied up in a way that is, well, workmanlike.

Nonetheless, it's a breezy read, a beach book. If that's what you're after, this will do the trick.

Reporter-murder tale is absorbing

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

"A Little Trouble With the Facts" (Harper Paperbacks, 288 pages, $13.95), by Nina Siegal: Maybe you've read your fill of novels with a plot like this: A naive young woman moves to Manhattan, gets into big-time publishing, faces professional crises, falls in love and, in general, ends up transformed.

True? Make room for one more.

"A Little Trouble With the Facts" is an absorbing tale that follows that path and throws in a murder as well.

We meet Valerie Vane, who by the time the book begins has already attained and lost a job as a hotshot style reporter at a major New York newspaper. After embarrassing her employer in a public incident at a nightclub, she was demoted to writing obituaries.

And that's where she takes the phone call that sets the story in motion. She'd written a brief obituary that said a graffiti artist killed himself by jumping from a bridge. Not so, insists her mysterious male caller, who promises to help her find the truth.

Some 250 pages later she does find the truth, but the best part is her journey along the way. In this debut novel, Siegal is a delightful writer.

She tells of tabloid newspapers illustrating a sensational story with "enough file photos to crush a librarian." And you can't help but admire a sentence like this, as Vane describes being goaded by her mysterious caller: "His words poked me in the chest like a frat boy looking for a brawl."

Siegal's newspaper experience serves her well in descriptions of Vane's newsroom, colleagues and journalistic world. Here's Vane describing her top-dog status as a style reporter: "I had identified gray as the new black and Thursday as the new Friday. And later, when the trends shifted again, I was the one who'd let everyone know that Monday was the new Thursday."

Truth to tell, Siegal occasionally gets a little out of hand in the flashiness of her writing. That's when the reader is left to think that he'd probably get a real kick out of her turn of a phrase if only he could understand what it means.

But that's a minor problem in a fun book. Siegal is working on a second novel, and I look forward to it.

Music Review: Janet Jackson

By BRETT JOHNSON, For The Associated Press

Janet Jackson, "Discipline" (Island Def Jam)

You'd think that after the flops of her last two sexually charged albums — "Damita Jo" and "20 Y.O." — Janet Jackson would be in full career-reinvention mode. Instead, on her latest disc, "Discipline," Jackson plows ahead down a similar path, teasing and titillating over dance-club beats and sultry-sounding ballads. The results, however, are decidedly mixed.

Despite a lukewarm reception at radio, the disc's first single "Feedback," is classic "sexy, sexy, sexy, sexy" Janet. The track's electro-synth melody and pumping bass line make for automatic dancefloor fodder. Meanwhile Jackson's familiar breathy vocal gushes one of the disc's better sex metaphors: "Strum me like a guitar/ blow out my amplifier/ when you hear the feedback/ keep going, take it higher."

Other highlights on the disc (which notably does not include any songs from longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) include "Luv," built on similar whiny synths and processed keyboards that T-Pain has popularized, the foot-stomping "Rollercoaster" and the pop-house track, "Rock With U." But too many between-song skits and slow jams detract from the disc's good times. The longing pleas on the piano-driven "Never Letchu Go" sound dated, while "Greatest X" is a saccharine-sweet reflection on an ex-boyfriend. The emotion seems calculated, rather than honest.

By disc's end, her message becomes painfully obvious: Jackson's a hot fortysomething with a sensitive side. Yet sadly we've heard it all before.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Her older brother Michael may have made a similarly titled classic, but on "Rock With U," the younger Jackson offers her own version for club DJs and house fans.

When comic books were under attack

By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer

"The Ten-Cent Plague" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 334 pages. $26), by David Hajdu: Hey, Kids! Dad was an abusive drunk, mom had a public boyfriend and angelic, blond-haired little Lucy hated them all.

So she shot dad, planted the gun, lied her face off in court, and the judge gave mom and paramour Stevie the hot squat. The last panels in the story "Orphan" show Mom and Stevie dying in the electric chair (separately) and one happy Lucy.

All this and more for a dime. Shock Stories, Entertainment Comics Group, April/May, 1954.

There were worse comics out there, dripping with crime, gore, sex and terror and leading to state and local censorship laws, church and school-inspired book burnings, thuggish youth posses policing malt shop magazine racks and televised U.S. Senate hearings.

Even "Archie" comics fed school yard pyres under codes that, evenly applied, would have torched some of the world's great literature.

Whatever the concerns, and as horrific as some comics were, David Hajdu's new book, "The Ten-Cent Plague," argues with persuasion that the reaction amounted to a full-blown assault on the First Amendment at a time when the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, McCarthyism, the Red Scare, The Bomb and more had a cowed, off-balance postwar America

The question arises: Was the "plague" the printed product or the volatile reaction to it? Hajdu leans to the latter.

Comics grew out of the turn-of-the-century New York newspapers, which often shot low and seldom missed.

When "The Yellow Kid" appeared in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World in the late 1800s, it fostered the term "yellow journalism" and numerous comic strip knockoffs that caused parents, clergy and some editors to decry them as depravity and the devil's path to delinquency.

But Hajdu says the early comics "spoke to and of the swelling immigrant populations in New York and other cities. The funnies were theirs, made for them and about them."

If grown-ups didn't like it, tough. Thus began, he writes, the generation gap, a long battle well worth fighting.

A Depression-era kid could usually scrape up a dime for a comic featuring a noble action figure such as Wonder Woman of scanty garb, which segued into the crime, lust and horror that reflected film noir and pulp fiction of later times.

Hajdu presents a readable, reasoned and detailed narrative of how it happened that will appeal to comics fans, civil libertarians, blue noses and history buffs, perhaps for different reasons.

Because of, or despite, the nature of such works as "Crypt of Terror," "The Corpse in the Crematorium" or "I Joined a Teenage Sex Club," by the late 1940s American teens were buying at least 100 million copies a month, shared and read by several others.

By 1952, more than 20 publishers were producing nearly 650 titles a month, and competition was cutthroat.

But cutthroat wasn't enough. If one comic cover featured sliced throats, next month's competitors needed severed heads, preferably dripping.

In the 1940s, states and cities were passing tough laws controlling sales and content. Washington state licensed comic book dealers.

To head it off, the industry developed a code, which collapsed. A much stiffer one that followed trimmed the field to stuff no kid cared about.

"Archie" artists were told to rein in Veronica's bustline and add some inches to her skirt.

Meanwhile, Bill Gaines, who proudly initiated the horror genre in comics in 1950, and Harvy Kurtzman went to work on Mad, which got under the radar by being a magazine, not a comic book.

"From its debut in the magazine section of the newsstands in 1955, Mad honored its charter to squirt soda in the face of mainstream America," Hajdu writes.

It worked because it was high-school humor that talked to kids yet tugged establishment whiskers.

Meanwhile, juvenile attention turned to television, and comics, now tamer, recovered slowly.

The "plague," however defined, was over.

`Penelope': This little piggy's adorable


No offense intended, but a pig snout is very becoming on Christina Ricci.

The actress is lovably adorable in the adorably lovable "Penelope," a fairy-tale romance that's a perfect mix of Ricci's oddball sensibilities and her inherent sweetness.

The film further establishes the tremendous range of James McAvoy, proving that the co-star of such heavy dramas as "Atonement" and "The Last King of Scotland" is just as engaging as a leading man in a sunny comedy.

Adding to the fun is producer Reese Witherspoon popping up in a small role and clearly having a blast just hanging in the background as the story of Penelope the pig-faced girl plays out.

You could hardly find a more different role than the one Ricci played in her last release, "Black Snake Moan," in which she spent much of her time chained to a wall by Samuel L. Jackson, who was trying to mend her character's slutty ways.

Like a storybook of old, "Penelope" offers a pithy prologue establishing long-ago events and the repercussions they have in the present.

An ancestor in the patrician Wilhern family gravely wrongs a servant girl, bringing down a gypsy curse that all female heirs to the clan will be born with the face of a pig. The only cure to their affliction: To earn the love of one of their own.

Five generations pass with only male heirs, until Penelope (Ricci) is born to Jessica and Franklin Wilhern (Catherine O'Hara and Richard E. Grant). Horrified by her daughter's appearance, Jessica keeps the girl in hiding until adulthood, when packs of potential suitors that might lift the curse come calling — and just as quickly run screaming at their first glimpse of Penelope's snout.

One such suitor (Simon Woods) goes public with tales of a fanged pig creature at the Wilhern mansion. His story grabs the attention of Lemon (Peter Dinklage), a news photographer whose encounter with the Wilherns years earlier cost him an eye.

Lemon enlists the help of down-on-his-luck aristocrat Max (McAvoy) to pose as a suitor and obtain photos of the monster.

What follows is a smart, funny, endearing twist on "Beauty and the Beast," with Ricci and McAvoy showing boundless charm and chemistry as possible lovers whose secrets run much more than skin deep.

Witherspoon turns up as a saucy, Vespa-driving messenger who befriends Penelope when she goes on a "Red Riding Hood" quest into the big, bad real world. The two short, effervescent actresses could be sisters, Ricci's bubbly manner and intonations reflecting Witherspoon's own girly disposition.

The movie touches on current issues — paparazzi and celebrity culture — but this is a story out of time and place, unfolding in a bubble where a dwarf with an eye patch can stalk a girl with a pig's nose without attracting undue attention.

First-time director Mark Palansky and screenwriter Leslie Caveny, a TV sitcom veteran, spin a breathlessly paced little ditty that doesn't have an empty moment and offers a few pleasant surprises along the way.

One of the best comic actresses ever, O'Hara takes on a part that could have been a flat, tedious mom role but which she turns into a hilarious whirlwind of misguided motherhood. Nicely complementing O'Hara's bluster is Grant's matter-of-fact resignation that he's got a little piggy for a daughter.

"Penelope" also shows that filmmakers need to find more uses for Dinklage, the star of 2003's "The Station Agent" who, like O'Hara, takes what could have been a plain old heavy-with-a-heart character and makes him a sympathetic person.

Ricci's Penelope is such a sweetheart — yearning but realistic, cynical but hopeful — that anyone who stuck with her through even the beginnings of a conversation quickly would overlook her snout, which actually is more pug-nosed cute than bestial (Witherspoon rivals her for cuteness in one scene when she goes to a costume party dressed as a bee).

The whole beauty lies within thing is the movie's timeworn message, but it unfolds in such an original and unassuming fashion that "Penelope" feels springtime fresh.

"Penelope," a Summit Entertainment release, is rated PG for thematic elements, some innuendo and language. Running time: 90 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G — General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.