Saturday, April 19, 2008

Metallica's Lars Ulrich Really Did Like The Sword; Plus Velvet Revolver, Divine Heresy & More News That Rules, In Metal File

The guys didn't quite believe that the drummer was a fan — and now they'll be on tour with him.

Back in fall 2006, the Sword — who, at that time, were just a retro-metal four-piece out of Austin, Texas, who were trying to spread the word about their doom-chord-thick debut, Age of Winters — were on tour in Canada with Trivium, when out of nowhere, they were approached by an ominous man, claiming to be the brother of Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach.

Of course, they reacted like most folks would in the face of lame, has-been name-dropping. Still, they humored the man and decided to chat him up.

"He tells us that he was hanging out with [Metallica drummer] Lars [Ulrich] and that he loved our record," recalled bassist Bryan Richie. "We just sort of laughed it off, and after that, as a joke, we just started putting Lars on the guest list each night. We figured, 'If he does like our record, maybe he'll show up wherever we're at.' "

But Lars never showed, and the inside joke lived on. That's until the Trivium tour took the Sword to San Francisco's Slim's. "We were shocked, because he actually showed up to see us," Richie continued. "It was crazy. He totally just wanted to hang with us. He didn't necessarily care about watching Trivium." And really, who could blame him?

Ulrich wanted to talk shop with the Sword, but, since Trivium had taken all the club's dressing rooms, the boys snatched up a couple of bar stools and escorted the file-sharing detractor to a shadowy back alley. "That's where we kicked it with Lars," the bassist explained. "We're talking, and Lars goes, 'We're going to take you guys on tour.' And I'm just like, 'Sure. This is one hell of an ego inflator, but I'll believe it when I'm on it.' "

In July, following their appearance at this year's Bonnaroo Music Festival on June 12, the Sword will, indeed, be heading out with Metallica and Down for a seven-gig European tour, which launches July 16 in Bergen, Norway. "It's pretty mind-blowing," Richie enthused.

For a little-known band, signed to an independent label, the Sword have certainly come a long way since forming back in 2003. They've released two critically lauded LPs, 2006's Age of Winters and 2008's Gods of the Earth, and may even participate in this summer's Ozzfest (when asked if his band had been approached for the heavy-metal festival, Richie demurred, saying, "I don't really know that I'm at liberty to talk about that").

Sales of Gods of the Earth — which was released earlier this month and, had it not been for time constraints, would have featured guest appearances by Lamb of God's Mark Morton and Clutch's Mick Schauer — have been better than you'd imagine. The record debuted at #102 on Billboard's Top 200, selling more than 7,500 copies, and last week, it fell to #145, selling around 5,000 units.

"It's insane what writing some badass songs will do for your career," Richie joked.

While the Sword's J.D. Cronise wrote the majority of Age of Winters on his own, over the course of four years, Gods of the Earth was a group effort, from beginning to end — an effort wrought with the pressures most bands face while trying to evade that "sophomore slump."

"It went from one very large contributing member to four contributing members," Richie said. "We all brought ideas to the table, and even though the general parts for the first record were written by J.D., there were a lot of things that were fleshed out in the studio. Each member was able to put his own spin on those tracks. This time, it was much more of a group experience. They were both a labor of love to make and get finished, and I feel the same way when I listen to both of them. These are two really good albums that don't necessarily sound alike.

"We could have played out the whole 'every song in the key of C' thing, and done another record like Age of Winters," he added. "But we didn't want to. All along, I had the confidence that, whatever record we were going to make, it wasn't going to suck to us. That's really what matters — putting something out you really believe in."

Now that they've got two albums under their belt, and a glorious opening slot on Metallica's upcoming tour, the Sword — who will be out with Slough Feg and Children through April 29 in Oklahoma City — can now concentrate on what really matters: investigating the smoking habits of extraterrestrials.

"We're trying to find out if aliens smoke [marijuana]," Richie explained. "We're really trying to get to the bottom of that one, and that's why we feel our shows in Lubbock, Texas [on April 14], and Albuquerque, New Mexico [on April 15], were canceled — because we have been thumbing around and trying to figure out if aliens do smoke the kind. I'm guessing they're not stoked and not looking to be had just yet."

Richie said that the guys' gig in New Mexico was nixed after the club they were supposed to play at burned to the ground, and the Texas date was canceled after police busted the joint for serving alcohol to its underage patrons.

"[The aliens] went so far as burning down the club in Albuquerque and informed the police that Jake's in Lubbock had been selling booze to children," the bassist explained. "I'm just going to go ahead and assume it was the aliens, because I think we know too much."

The rest of the week's metal news:

It's been little more than two weeks since Velvet Revolver sent frontman Scott Weiland packing, and guitarist Slash is still running his mouth about the split. During a recent interview with Kerrang! magazine, Slash said that Weiland's dismissal was a long time coming. "[Scott] didn't know that we were already planning on extraditing him," the guitarist said. "When we started touring the second record, it just felt like we were losing Scott, as far as our connection went. We basically didn't speak a word [during the band's recent U.K. tour]. We gave him the cold shoulder like nobody's business. There were a couple of arguments around the stage, but other than that, nobody spoke to him. I imagine he was quite uncomfortable." Slash, who spent years alongside Axl Rose in Guns N' Roses, said the band is looking forward to finding Weiland's replacement. "At least people know what we're doing — they know we're a rock-and-roll band and that we're successful enough that you're going to have to be on your game if you're going to hook up with us," he said. "I just want to find this guy so we can write some songs." ...

Following the recent departure of bassist Todd Evans, Gwar have announced the return of Casey Orr to his "Beefcake the Mighty" role. Guitarist Balsac the Jaws of Death said fans will get their first chance to see Orr's return this May, when the band heads out on a brief tour of the Midwest and East Coast. No dates for the trek have been released yet. Evans left Gwar so he could focus full-time on his band Mobile Deathcamp, which, rumor has it, will serve as direct support for Green Jellÿ's upcoming summer jaunt. ... Divine Heresy, featuring former Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, have been added to the lineup for this year's New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. If you can't make it up to Worcester, Massachusetts, you can catch the Heresy this May, on tour with Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity and Firewind. ...

Gwen Stacy were struck with some bad luck recently in Los Angeles, when nearly $3,000 was pilfered from their van. "We stopped at [a] grocery store to get some food and just to get out of the van for a little bit," the band said in a statement. "After being inside for close to 10 minutes, we came out, [and] we noticed our driver's-side window was busted out. We found that our cash box was stolen." Needless to say, the band's in a tight spot — but rather than establish a PayPal account and beg for donations, the Christian metallers ask only that "you keep us in your thoughts and prayers." Or maybe you could go see the band live and buy some merch. Check the band's MySpace page for a complete list of dates. ... The pride of Brazilian death metal, Krisiun, are hard at work on their next LP with producer Andy Classen (Rotting Christ). The still-untitled effort is slated for release this summer, and when more information about the record is released, we'll bring it to you here. ...

Canadian prog-metallers What's He Building In There? have lost two guitarists — Christopher Cookson and David Halk — and replaced them with another. Mason Tikl will be taking over guitar duties, and Aiden Stevenson has joined the band as its new bassist. The band's self-titled debut hit stores last year, and already, the boys are working on new material, they said in a statement. ... Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky will soon hit the studio to begin tracking their debut offering for Nuclear Blast. The Grand Partition and the Abrogation of Idolatry is being produced by former Death guitarist James Murphy and could be in stores as early as fall. ... Duck Duck Goose have inked a deal with Warcon Entertainment. The newcomers have posted a new track, "Sgt. Slaughter," on their MySpace page. The song appears on the band's forthcoming LP, Noise, Noise and More Noise.

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Foxy Brown Weeps, Plugs New Album As She's Released From Prison

Rapper did eight months of her one-year sentence for probation violations.

After serving an eight-month sentence at New York's Rikers Island for probation violations, rapper Foxy Brown left the prison on Friday (April 18).

Foxy (born Inga Marchand), who is reportedly in talks with television networks about a reality show chronicling her life after prison, is slated to release her next album, Brooklyn's Don Diva, in May.

Looking relieved, Brown emerged from a white Bentley wearing a headscarf, big sunglasses, a brown leather jacket and black top and was immediately swarmed by photographers and well-wishers shouting things like "You did it," "Stay strong," "Foxy stay home" and "Free at last!"

The diva smiled and said, "I feel good to be back home! Brooklyn's Don Diva, May 17," she told the throng of reporters and fans, referring to her album's upcoming release date.

At one point, she yelled out, "I been in jail too long," adding a few minutes later, "They said I couldn't do it ... eight months." Basking in the glow of attention and tearing up a bit, she asked the crowd for a "big round of applause for my mother," one of several well-wishers, along with an aunt and attorneys, who crowded in as she was packed back into the car after shouting, "I love y'all."

Brown isn't out of hot water just yet. She's scheduled back in court May 5 for allegedly throwing a BlackBerry at a neighbor during an argument last summer, the New York Post reported.

Brown was originally sentenced to serve one year in prison for violating her probation from a 2004 fight with two manicurists in a New York nail salon but was released early for good behavior. She was put in solitary confinement for 76 days in October after an altercation in the prison and for reportedly being verbally abusive to prison staff and refusing to take random drug tests. During her incarceration, a judge also denied a request from the rapper to obtain an early release in order to get treatment for her hearing condition.

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'Forgetting Sarah Marshall': Trouble In Paradise, By Kurt Loder

Ladies and gentlemen, Russell Brand.

Going to a Judd Apatow movie is like dropping into a neighborhood bar. There's Judd himself, mixing the drinks. And Bill Hader talking back to the TV. And Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen banging away on the foosball machine. And chubby Jonah Hill over in the corner, hittin' on chicks. It feels just like home.

Rogen is sitting this one out, but everybody else is on hand for Apatow's latest production, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Also aboard this time are one of his many writing partners, Nicholas Stoller, who directed the picture, and his old "Freaks and Geeks" pal Jason Segel, who wrote it and stars in it. Also, very happily, there's Russell Brand, an English comic most Americans have probably never heard of, but who is the most compelling reason to see the movie.

The story has an Etch-A-Sketch simplicity. Peter Bretter (Segel) is a frustrated composer who makes his living scoring a TV series called "Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime." (We're shown several excerpts from this show, and since Segel actually worked for a bit on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," the snippets have a knowing snap to them. Contemplating one particular atrocity-of-the-week, the show's male lead, drolly played by Billy Baldwin, says, "I don't think she's goin' back to the pageant ... without a face.")

"Crime Scene"'s female star, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), is also Peter's girlfriend — until she surprises him as he's coming out of the shower one day with the news that she's dumping him. "We've been growing apart," she says, sadly. "Who's the dude?" he asks, not fooled for a second. Thus sandbagged, Peter inadvertently drops his towel, treating us to a burst of full-frontal nudity, in which state he plays out the rest of the scene — a first even for an Apatow movie.

Now heartbroken, Peter seeks counsel from his acidulous brother, Brian (Hader), who recommends some simple, no-strings sex. Peter embarks on a series of one-night stands that, while fairly hilarious, are no help. Finally, he decides to just get out of L.A. and head for Hawaii. However, no sooner does he arrive at his Oahu hotel (the whole movie is a budget-slimming advert for the Turtle Bay Resort) than he runs into Sarah, who's there with her new boyfriend, an English rock star named Aldous Snow (Brand). Aldous, who fronts a band called Infant Sorrow, has an alarmingly arched upper lip that forms a perpetual sneer. He's too thoroughly self-absorbed to be offensive, though — he's barely aware that other people exist, except as grateful recipients of his legendary sexual favors. (These can be a mixed blessing, actually. As he says to the appalled Sarah at one point, "I've not told you I have genital herpes, because it's not inflamed at the moment.")

Trying to avoid Sarah and her intimidating new squeeze, Peter heads for the beach to attempt surfing. There he encounters the resort instructor, a perma-baked head case named Chuck (Paul Rudd) — or "Kaunu," the Hawaiian name he's adopted. (Peter asks what Kaunu means. "It means Chuck," says Chuck.) At dinner, securing a pathetic table-for-one in the hotel restaurant, which is thronged with loving couples, Peter makes the acquaintance of a wise-cracking waiter named Matthew (Jonah Hill), an aspiring rock star himself. (Later, when the groveling Matthew asks for Aldous' opinion of a demo he's slipped him, Brand delivers the movie's funniest line with tossed-off perfection.)

Peter is finally pulled out of his downward misery spiral by a beautiful hotel receptionist named Rachel (Mila Kunis), who sets him up in a $6000-a-night suite that happens to be going unused (sure) and then guides him out onto the local party circuit. Love soon blooms. But then Sarah realizes that Aldous — who'll have it off with any woman who even slows down in his vicinity — is definitely Mr. Wrong, and she comes sniffling back to Peter. What now?

That's a rhetorical question, of course. As in most Apatow movies, it's not what's going to happen that concerns us, but how, exactly — and how hysterically — it's going to play out. The picture is very funny in many parts, and it's structured with Apatow's trademark conflation of boundary-nudging raunch (when an S&M-inclined bedmate asks Peter if he'd like to gag her, he replies with a dismayed "Kind of ...") and boldly old-fashioned romantic innocence (Peter is repulsed by casual sex; he wants a relationship). It's Segel's script, of course (Apatow's only one of the producers), but it has the Apatow sensibility — a little sweeter this time around, and not nearly as scabrous as in, say, "Superbad."

Part of this lighter touch is attributable to Segel the actor, who, despite his fearless penchant for the full Monty, is essentially a soulful sad sack. His subtle appeal is not entirely a good thing, however. He's a big, doughy guy, and his hangdog presence is a little too soggy to really carry the picture all the way through. We miss the sort of sneaky comic subversion that Seth Rogen might have brought to the film. Segel always seems to want a hug. Rogen always looks like he'd rather have a beer.

The movie would have benefited from a lot more of Russell Brand, whose surreal egocentricity and vast reserves of disdain light up every scene he's in. The man wields a great line like a whip. Regaling Peter with a story about a disastrous vacation trip with an unsuitable sex bunny, he says, "It was like going on holiday ... not with Hitler maybe — but Goebbels, yeah." Yeah.

Head here for Kurt Loder's review of "Anamorph."

Check out everything we've got on "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

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

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Akon's Con? Singer Allegedly Made Up Most Of His Felonious Past

The Smoking Gun says the Konvict Music mastermind isn't as bad as he's claimed.

Just weeks after breaking open the faked documents that were the basis of the Los Angeles Times' since-retracted front-page story on the 1994 ambush of Tupac Shakur at a New York recording studio, The Smoking Gun appears to have another whopper on its hands.

The site claims that Akon has fabricated most of his past as the ringleader of a "notorious" car-theft ring and that he did not spend four and a half years in prison as he's claimed, but rather a few months in an Atlanta jail for stealing one car. The debunking of Akon's stories — which he has repeated frequently in multiple interviews since the release of his 2004 debut, Trouble — cast doubt on the singer's claims that he did a long jail stretch for his lead role in a car-theft operation that specialized in stealing Porsches, Lamborghinis and Mercedes. It also questioned his claims that at one point, he owned four chop shops that catered to "celebrities and drug dealers" and that he often had to flee from police in high-speed chases.

The singer has also claimed that, after being ratted out by jealous underlings who cut deals with the cops, he spent three years in a Georgia prison fighting other inmates on an almost-daily basis for two years, emerging as a "champion" who, despite coming in at a trim 150 pounds, whupped inmates bigger and smaller than him, because he knew "where to hit you to knock you out, so I didn't fear you."

So is it possible that the man who named his company Konvict Music, his second album Konvicted and his upcoming third one Acquitted may have been pulling a con all along? The Smoking Gun reports that the singer's "ad nauseam claims about his criminal career and resulting prison time" have mostly been "exaggerated, embellished or wholly fabricated."

By reportedly sifting through police, court and corrections records, the site claims that Akon's rap sheet does include a half-dozen arrests but only one felony conviction, for gun possession in New Jersey in 1998, which resulted in a guilty plea and three years' probation. In another arrest that same year in suburban Atlanta, contrary to the singer's frequent claims, the site says he was nabbed for possession of a single stolen BMW and held in the DeKalb County jail for five months before prosecutors dropped all charges against him. "So there was no conviction. There was no prison term between 1999 and 2002. And he was never 'facing 75 years,' as the singer claimed in one videotaped interview," The Smoking Gun reports.

In a DVD interview, Akon claimed that when he was arrested on the stolen-car charge in Georgia, he was surrounded by police cars and officers with their weapons drawn, barking at him to get out of the car, though one of the arresting officers told The Smoking Gun that the singer was busted by only two officers "without incident."

And the FBI agent who was called in to help on Akon's stolen-car case, now-retired Agent Peter McFarlane, reportedly laughed out loud when told of Akon's claims about running a "notorious" auto-theft ring, owning chop shops and being brought down by turncoat underlings. "Ah, this is bullsh--. This guy is so phony. He's an arrogant SOB," McFarlane told the site.

Akon's representatives had not granted MTV News' requests for comment at press time.

The site chalks up the prison tales to an elaborate, "cynical" marketing plan that has been wildly successful, since almost no interview of Akon goes by without the questioner bringing up his alleged criminal past. In fact, while alluding to his car-theft ring as being similar to those depicted in movies like "Gone in 60 Seconds," the site says that Akon has used the phrase "notorious" so many times that "it seems like he is reading it from a sheet of talking points."

Last year, he told Vibe magazine that as a suburban New Jersey teen, he sold marijuana and test questions from his high school locker and that a friend got him his first gun, a .22 pistol, which he claimed he rented out for $100 a day.

The site takes music journalists to task for not vetting Akon's claims, citing only one reporter, from the Washington Post, who wrote in March that some of the bullet points in Akon's biography sounded like "the stuff of creation myth." Perhaps due to this lack of scrutiny, Akon has taken to embellishing his colorful backstory even more, claiming in a February VH1 special that he was a carjacker who "used to literally snatch cars from people. And they would be traumatized for months."

(Note: In interviews with MTV News, Akon has alluded to a criminal past but has not elaborated on it.)

The Smoking Gun began investigating Akon's record in December, after he was arraigned on criminal charges from a June incident at one of his shows, during which he lifted a 15-year-old fan over his head and tossed him into the crowd. The singer (born Aliaune Thiam) was charged with harassment and endangering the welfare of a child and then released after a December 3 court appearance without bail after a computer check turned up no outstanding warrants or, according to the site, any prior criminal history. The latter seemed odd, considering his allegedly "notorious" past.

A second check turned up the six prior arrests (during which Akon allegedly used several different aliases and birth dates while being processed), and prosecutors set a nominal bail of $5,000.

One of the central pieces of Akon's "creation myth," the 2004 jailhouse lament "Locked Up" — which features the lines, "They won't let me out/ They won't let me out" — allegedly written during his 1999-2002 stint in prison, was registered by Akon's publishing company as having a date of creation in 2003. So, The Smoking Gun concluded, " 'Locked Up' was not even created during the three-year period in which Akon was not even in prison."

One more thing: A paternity suit over Akon's son, Tyler, filed last year in Georgia, states that he was born on July 26, 2001, which puts his conception date at around October 2000, right in the middle of Akon's alleged prison bid.

A British report recently quoted Akon as boasting that he's recorded a country album under an alias and that he already has a chart hit with the first single, though no evidence exists of any unknown new country artist scoring a mystery hit recently.

So is Akon a phony? When the singer talked to Vibe last year, after dodging a question about how hold he is, he said, "The only thing I hide is my age. ... Before I lie to you, I'd rather say nothing." But later he added, "I always had a way of getting over on people, whether manipulating or conning them."

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'Rock Band' Game's First Downloadable Album Revealed, But Nirvana Still Just A 'Rumor'

Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance will be available next week, with LPs from the Cars and the Pixies to follow.

In what is said to be the first of a steady stream of announcements, MTV Games announced Friday (April 18) that Judas Priest's 1982 album, Screaming for Vengeance, will be the hit video game's first fully downloadable, playable album. The album will be available next week.

"That album was an important, seminal heavy-metal album in the early '80s," Alex Rigopulos, co-founder of MTV-owned development studio Harmonix, told MTV news during a Thursday phone interview. "It was on the short list of albums that had to be available on the platform."

Following Priest will be the Cars' The Cars in May and the Pixies' Doolittle in June.

While more than 100 tracks have been offered for download since "Rock Band" was released in November, albums — promised shortly after the game was announced — have yet to be offered.

Rigopulos said that it has taken time for record companies to find full masters for classic albums and for the material to then get encoded into songs that can be played via his game's guitars, drums and microphone.

The idea of offering a full album clicks with him, even if he recognizes that it's not the most modern of ideas. "In the last decade or so, we've gotten primarily used to listening to music as singles in our iPod," Rigopulos said. "But a lot of this music was composed and structured to be listened to as an album." Playing through the album can transform or enhance one's appreciation of a band, something that has already happened for him with the Judas Priest record. "I only knew about four of the songs on the album before this whole process started. It was by playing it in 'Rock Band' that I first experienced it as an album. It struck me how powerful it is to play through an album. ... Doing it as a play experience gets this music inside you."

If you've been a follower of the "Rock Band" hype, you might be confused why Judas Priest is getting the debut slot. The first album announced for the game was the Who's Who's Next?, which Rigopulos said is still caught up in the process of a record company delivering the master music assets to the game developer. And what of Nirvana's Nevermind? Rigopulos said that one is just a rumor.

(Regarding the Who, Rigopulos added that there has been so much interest from fans that there will be "another announcement of something" regarding that band and the game.)

The developer wouldn't tease any albums beyond the three announced, but when asked if more recent bands like Fall Out Boy could also get the "Rock Band" album treatment, he said, "I think we're going to be doing all of the above, [keeping] in line with the platform strategy that will include all decades of rock and all subgenres of rock."

Downloading an album for "Rock Band" won't be much different than downloading a song. The download will not include any special play-the-album mode or add-ons based on the band. It will strictly provide a new slate of songs. So don't expect to download Judas Priest avatars or anything. Rigopulos said Harmonix sees the character a "Rock Band" gamer plays as a projection of that player. "For us, the idea of injecting licensed characters doesn't make a lot of sense for 'Rock Band.' "

While singles are released weekly for "Rock Band," Rigopulos said his team could not yet promise a regularly scheduled offering of albums, not even at the monthly rate. And in the weeks that albums do come out, no other singles may be offered. In the longer term, however, the offering of music will ramp up.

Albums will be offered as $15 downloads on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The tracks can be bought individually for $1.99; Screaming for Vengeance has 10 songs. It will be downloadable on Tuesday on the Xbox 360 and on Thursday for the PS3.

And to owners of the PS2 version of "Rock Band" or the upcoming Wii version? Downloading the albums won't be an option, but those gamers aren't being forgotten. "Suffice it to say that all of this content we're amassing for next-gen consoles, we want to make it available to as broad an audience as possible as we can."

Also on Friday, MTV Games announced that more than 8 million songs have been purchased as paid downloads for "Rock Band" via the PS3 and Xbox 360, a significant increase from just three weeks ago, when the 6 million mark was achieved.

Check out the Multiplayer blog, updated daily, for even more gaming coverage.

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'Harry Potter' Star Emma Watson To Replace Scarlett Johansson As Napoleon's Young Love: Report

Actress, who plays Hermione in the 'Harry Potter' series, has reportedly signed on for 'Napoleon and Betsy,' out in 2009.

In "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Hermione Granger begins S.P.E.W., the Society for the Protection of Elfish Welfare, to advocate for the rights of her short-statured magical friends. Now the actress who plays her is about to fall in love with one.

Well, sort of.

Emma Watson, known to millions as Harry Potter's pal, has signed on to "Napoleon and Betsy," a period drama about a romance between a young girl and the former emperor of France in the last years of the despot's life, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It will be the 18-year-old actress' first leading film role outside of the "Harry Potter" franchise.

The movie, written and directed by Benjamin Ross, will center on Napoleon's life beginning in 1815, starting with his imprisonment and exile to the British-held island of St. Helena. Initially, Napoleon was held captive at "The Briars," an estate belonging to William Balcombe. It was there that he befriended Balcombe's pubescent daughter, Lucia Elizabeth (Betsy), in a relationship that may have bordered on romantic love.

The pair spent three years together before their relationship ended when Balcombe was accused of facilitating communication between Napoleon and loyal supporters in Paris.

According to the magazine, the part of Betsy was originally slated to be played by Scarlett Johansson, who ultimately left the project after the part skewed younger.

Watson is currently filming "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment in the blockbuster series. Early next year, she'll return for the seventh and final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which will be broken into two parts.

"Napoleon and Betsy" is slated for release in 2009.

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

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Young Veterans Put Their Energy Into Barack Obama's Campaign

'We are here to show that Obama is the best candidate to address all [veterans'] concerns," one says.

In presidential elections, conventional wisdom suggests that veterans of the military, when presented with a choice between a candidate who has served in the armed forces and a candidate who has not, generally support the one who spent time sacrificing life and limb for their country. This was the case for many years in this country, and those who were thought to have avoided military service in any way were chastised in the mainstream media (e.g., Bill Clinton).

However, in the 2004 campaign, when Republican incumbent George W. Bush beat Democrat Senator John Kerry for a second term in office, that mold was broken. A group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth launched a series of ads that called into question Kerry's decorated service record in Vietnam, and many feel Kerry's failure to counter those attacks effectively cost him the election.

This year's campaign for president features two Democratic candidates who have no military record (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) and a Republican candidate who not only served in Vietnam and has a long family lineage of military service, but who was also a prisoner of war, tortured and held captive by the Viet Cong (John McCain). The natural assumption is that many current young veterans who have served in our five-year conflict in Iraq would gravitate toward McCain.

But that hasn't necessarily proven to be the case, and we found a group of young veterans who understand what conventional wisdom suggests and are actively campaigning against it. This week, in the crucial Democratic primary state of Pennsylvania, where the April 22 primary could decide a Democratic candidate, we followed two young men who are Iraq war veterans and are a part of an organization called Veterans for Obama.

Manny Arevalo, 24, is the deputy director of operations for Veterans for Obama's statewide Pennsylvania outreach, based in Philadelphia. Phil Nelson, 25, is a representative for the group's outreach in Harrisburg, a new recruit to the cause who joined in January after spending five years in the army. Both were members of the 82nd Airborne unit, stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and now find themselves working the telephone lines, speaking at local events and meeting people at Obama rallies, all in the hope of letting people know that they are veterans of the Iraq war and feel very strongly about the potential presidency of Senator Obama.

It's Obama's position of "setting a deadline to get out of Iraq, and for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people to take over," that interests Nelson. He served one tour in Iraq, moved to a tour in Afghanistan, then went back to Iraq for a second tour. He suffered from the U.S. military's stop-loss policy, which delayed his departure from the military for one year. "It was hard on me," he confessed, "but it's really hard on families, too."

Arevalo was drawn into Obama's camp in much the same way, seeing Obama as a candidate he felt could best end the war in Iraq. Both are doing what they can not only to address issues for veterans by their candidate, but also to show others that there are veterans who do indeed support the candidate who himself is not a veteran. "This [election season] has shown that veterans' issues can't be pigeonholed into one platform," Arevalo told us. "There are veterans who are teachers, who need health care and who have concerns that extend beyond the war. And we are here to show that Obama is the best candidate to address all their concerns."

When MTV News held "Choose or Lose Presents Clinton & Obama Answer Young Veterans" last month, it was clear that there are many issues on the minds of our newly created class of Iraqi war veterans, and Arevalo and Nelson have put their thoughts into action.

Get informed! Head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election, including everything from the latest news on the candidates to on-the-ground multimedia reports from our 51 citizen journalists, MTV and MySpace's Presidential Dialogues, and much more.

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'Harold & Kumar' Stars Beg Slacker Fans: Escape The Couch, Go To Theaters For 'Guantanamo Bay'

'This one is a doozie,' John Cho says, adding that a threequel could be in the works.

BEVERLY HILLS, California — Four years ago, our nation was introduced to a dynamic, drug-addled duo named Harold Lee and Kumar Patel. With a mere $18 million at the box office, many assumed that it wasn't a meeting most of the country cared to attend. Then, the sarcastic stoners hit DVD, and an underground audience rose up from their couches to ask one collective question:

Dude, where's our sequel?

"There was a moment there when someone was suggesting we make a straight-to-DVD sequel, and at that moment, nobody wanted to do it," remembered John Cho (Harold), who was famously teased in the original "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" trailer as "that Asian guy from 'American Pie.' " "I thought, 'Well, there's that. That was what they offered, and maybe it's going away now, so that's it.' "

The original flick had wrapped itself up with an open-ended conclusion that had the guys heading off to Amsterdam to track down Harold's dream girl, Maria — and eager to explore the country's relaxed marijuana legislation. But after the Hollywood suits had deemed the franchise dead or even worse, straight-to-video, home viewers realized that this comedy was (to paraphrase their friend Goldstein) like the Holocaust, only the exact opposite.

"With the first one, we had no idea if anybody would find it funny," remembered Kal Penn (Kumar), similarly immortalized in the original trailer as "that Indian guy from 'Van Wilder.' " "It didn't do well at the box office, then suddenly it takes off on DVD, and people are enjoying the movie."

After "H & K" 's DVD release more than doubled its box-office take, Hollywood suddenly wanted a whiff of secondhand smoke. Now, all the filmmakers had to do was write a script, and shoot it cheaply enough to take the hit if its audience again finds itself, um, unmotivated to put down the munchies and drive themselves to a movie theater.
First-time directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the original movie's scribes, came up with "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," in which the two buds take an unexpected detour on their way to Amsterdam.

"We shot [the first movie] for no money, and we are shooting the second one for no money," Penn said. "But the script is awesome. We love the characters. We are really going into [this again] for the love of it."

Typically, it's a bad idea to try to recapture the magic of a comedy hit (see "Caddyshack 2," "Legally Blonde 2" and "Evan Almighty" — or better yet, don't), so our slacker heroes needed to call in some reinforcements.

"Neil Patrick Harris is back; I have to point that out," Cho grinned. "He is back in serious fashion in this movie."

"I don't know if my reputation precedes me or not," laughed Harris, who hilariously lampooned himself as a hard-partying, sex-crazed former teen star in the first film and was happy to return for the sequel. "I was like the crazy, go-out guy when I was 18, 19 or 20. I had a fake ID, and I thought that was cool."

"But once I turned 21, 22, 23, it all seemed less interesting to me," the actor insisted, cautioning that the movie's "Neil Patrick Harris" is just a performance by Neil Patrick Harris. "I'm just not a big fan of the super, über-loud clubs, and lots of people that I really don't care to know. [In real life], I'm a hang-out-at-home, cook-dinner-for-friends kind of guy. So if I do have that reputation [for partying as hard as NPH in the movies], that would be awesome."

The reunited trio hope the sequel keeps all their reputations intact. "We were just as fearful as you were; we didn't want to grind out a bad sequel," Cho said. "In fact, none of us would have done [a sequel] unless we felt that it had the potential to be better than the first one. I think we made a good movie."

In the years since they made the original, Cho and Penn have monitored their rising cult classic status by the number of people who've come up to them looking to party. But, compared to the popularity of such pot-friendly pop culture figures as Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg, they insist they still have a long way to go.

"Me and Kal, not as much as Willie and Snoop; surprisingly not often," Cho laughed. "What's up, people?"

"Maybe they're looking for an offer from me and they're not getting it," he added. "If so, I apologize."

But on the screen, Harold and Kumar's bizarre, out-of-left-field antics seem likely to continue endearing them to their core audience. In the new flick, they sit down for a surprisingly insightful, high-minded moment with George W. Bush to discuss the War on Drugs.

According to Cho, they're already brainstorming ideas for another addicting adventure.

"Hopefully," he added. "People have to go out and buy tickets, really. I mean, people, it's the same situation as the first one. Someone has to say it makes financial sense to make a third one. Also, we have to come up with a script that would top this, so give us some time. Because this one is a doozie."

Check out everything we've got on "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."

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

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Why Does 50 Cent Look So Skinny?

The rapper has been shedding pounds to star in 'Microwave Park' with Val Kilmer and Sharon Stone.

For somebody who was in the headlines a few months ago for alleged ties to a steroid scandal, 50 Cent sure doesn't look like the beefy 200-pound-plus MC we've been accustomed to seeing shirtless onstage the past five years. Now tipping the scales at around 185 pounds, Fif obviously is no lightweight and still in shape, but after yesterday's post about G-Unit making too much noise in 50's house, our Newsroom Blog quickly filled up with comments from fans asking about his weight loss.

50 told MTV News on Tuesday that he's shedding the bulk to have a more regular physique for a new movie he's about to start filming called "Microwave Park." He's also grown his hair out into an Afro — well, he grew it out as far as it can go. "It stops growing at a certain point," he laughed about the do, which can still be covered with a fitted baseball cap.

"I leave on May 8," he said about his plans to head to New Orleans for the film's production. "I play a police officer right after Hurricane Katrina. It's me, Val Kilmer and Sharon Stone."

The pound-dropping in G-Unit hasn't stopped with 50 Cent. Tony Yayo looked to have trimmed down at least 10 or 15 pounds. In fact, 50 announced a weight-loss challenge for members of his staff, with a cash prize for the winner.

And it's probably a good thing that his clique is busy in the gym: That way they won't have time to come with him to the movie set.

"I keep them away from me," he smiled, sitting between Yayo and Lloyd Banks. "I don't want too many of them there because they'll start laughing while I'm doing sh--. They see me doing something that's so not me that they're laughing. It's too much of a distraction so I keep them away."

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'Anamorph': Blood Simple, By Kurt Loder

Been there, slaughtered that.

No matter how many ways you shuffle around its lurid components, the new movie "Anamorph" never adds up to "Se7en," the David Fincher blood feast that this film tries so hard to be.

Where to begin? Willem Dafoe is Stan, a New York City police detective still paralyzed with guilt over his role in the murder investigation, four years earlier, of a serial killer called Uncle Eddie. Eddie was eventually caught and shot dead, and Stan became a municipal hero. Whether it was actually Eddie who was killed, however, is currently in question, since a series of very Eddie-like slayings is now once again underway. Deep in his barely beating heart, the listless Stan knows he shot the wrong man in that earlier case; and of course the killer knows it, too. What next?

Not much, really. Having a po-faced mope for a central character is a wildly ill-advised idea. Stan hardly speaks to anyone (sometimes you wonder if he's actually breathing), and his unvarying lassitude sucks the life, such as it is, out of the picture. He lives in a grim downtown apartment, the centerpiece of which is a gaudy, throne-like chair. This chair plays a central role in the story, apparently symbolic, but I never quite figured out why. In fact, Stan has something of a chair fixation, which drives him to barroom consultations with an antiques dealer named Blair (Peter Stormare, less over-the-top than usual, alas). Stan and Blair chew over the new series of murders, all of which involve intricately-staged death tableaux, each of them suggesting that the killer has both Wikipedia access and possibly a first-year art-school education. His death scenes reference the well-known connection between Velázquez and Francis Bacon, among various other things, and Stan himself throws in an allusion to the photographer Cartier-Bresson, whom Stan admires for having "spent his life chasing the decisive moment." Whatever. Some rather arcane gadgetry is paraded through the proceedings, too — a camera obscura, a great big pantograph — to little real effect.

Given the movie's desperate aspirations to the macabre, all of this is surprisingly dull. Having directed Dafoe to tamp down his trademark intensity, first-time feature director Henry Miller can't infuse the film with any energy — even with cinematographer Fred Murphy doing a creditable job of replicating the clammy horror of Darius Khondji's work in "Se7en." Miller had the good fortune to be able to cast some engaging actors in the film, especially Scott Speedman as Stan's increasingly suspicious partner, and Clea DuVall as a young woman whose significance in the story unfortunately remains unclear for far too long. As for the killer, though, he's a little-seen cipher in the beginning, which is appropriate; but he's still a cipher at the end, which isn't. (Miller's good fortune didn't extend to casting someone of Kevin Spacey's freakazoid esprit in the role.)

Fincher's mini-classic was a work of grimy wonder: It reveled in its gruesome trappings, and it was funny, too. On a scale of one to, well, seven, Miller's doomed rip barely rates.

Head here for Kurt Loder's review of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

Check out everything we've got on "Anamorph."

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

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'American Idol' Dropped Kristy Lee Cook A Little Too Soon, She Thinks: 'I Had At Least Another Week In Me'

'I was starting to come out of my shell and sing the songs I felt comfortable with,' the country crooner says of her recent improvement.

Last week, everyone was shocked when Michael Johns left "American Idol" after spending no previous time in the bottom three. This week, bottom-three mainstay Kristy Lee Cook got the boot — and yet it was still kind of surprising.

The Selma, Oregon, 23-year-old has cheated elimination so many times that she seemed unstoppable. And with back-to-back well-received performances (Martina McBride's "Anyway" for "Idol Gives Back" week and "Forever" for Mariah Carey night), it seemed like she might even be the last girl standing. (See what our four soldiers in Iraq had to say about Kristy Lee and the rest of the gang's performances — and what Naomi Judd had to say about David Archuleta's dad — in Newsroom blog.)

But the "Idol" crown wasn't meant for this Cook. We caught up with the country cutie to talk about her patriotic song choice, her horse drama and what Simon thought of her serenade.

Q: When you were put in a group with David Cook on Thursday, did you think you were safe?

A: Actually, I think I was just to the point where Carly and them were like, "Oh, no. They're the safe group over there." And they were saying that they were in the bottom three, and I was telling them that, "You know what? They're going to do something just so off-the-wall that they're going to throw us off, and we're not going to know what's going to happen." So I was just trying to be as relaxed as possible and play it by ear and see what happens.

Q: Did Simon say anything to you after you performed to him on Thursday?

A: Yeah, he did. He said, "Well, you made it awkward for me." And I said, "Well, now you know what it's like to be in front of you all the time," and he just started laughing and it was kind of funny.

Q: Why do you think Simon gave you such a hard time throughout the competition?

A: I believe that he was just being skeptical, because I started out kind of weak. I was struggling the first three weeks, being sick, and recovery took awhile. I think I outlasted what he thought because I got stronger towards the end, and I was getting in the comfort zone of the songs I was used to and had been doing for a while. So I was starting to come out of my shell and sing the songs I felt comfortable with, and he saw that a couple times. And unfortunately, it ended when I had to leave, but I thought my performance was pretty strong this past week. I'm happy I went out on that note.

Q: Did it make it tougher to leave this week after improving so much over the past few weeks?

A: It definitely did. I was kind of upset that I went, because I felt that I was getting stronger. I thought that was my best performance, and it was vocally more than what I've given in the show so far, and I connected emotionally with the song, and so I thought it was my best performance so far. So I was a little upset to go. I thought I had at least another week in me.

Q: Any new word from the guy who bought your horse?

A: You know, I've talked to him a few times, and he doesn't want to sell. He doesn't want to sell him back. He's really attached to him, because he's such a good horse, but the least I could have asked for is a good home, and he got a really good home. I'm happy with that, but it does kind of suck that I won't be able to get him back as my own horse.

Q: Was singing "God Bless the U.S.A." a strategic move?

A: It wasn't, like, a huge thought process for me. The year I was born, [the song] came out again, and my dad was in Vietnam and he absolutely loved that song ... and I love that song. I sang it for a long time, and it just kind of hit me when I saw that, and my sister called me and said, "You should do 'God Bless the U.S.A.' It was done in that year." I was already thinking about it, and I was like, "That's the one." So we kind of just stuck with that one. It was kind of an instant "yes" in my mind.

Q: After all the criticism surrounding your version of the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week," are you proud of the performance?

A: Well, you know, I kind of have mixed feelings on it. A lot of people actually liked it. A lot of people on the stage and in the band loved the version. I thought it was kind of cool and deserved a little bit more praise, because I did make it my own. I made sure to add my own sound to it and stuff and do my own stuff with my voice in the song, but I know the judges have a lot of influence on the viewers. So it would have been different if [Simon] would have said, "That was amazing. I love how you changed it up." It would have been a totally different story, and America would have agreed, you know what I mean? Because even me being a viewer now, it's kind of like, I used to listen to what they would say about Carrie Underwood and stuff, and it does affect the way you think about it. So I try to have a little bit more of an open mind, and now I am not listening. I've been on the show and I'm like, "I know who's good."

Q: After already being in the business prior to the show, did you ever regret putting yourself through the judges' criticism?

A: Actually, it was a great learning experience. And my career was a long time ago, when I was 17, so it was definitely a long time ago, and I needed this push to get my career started going again. Because no one knew who I was before "American Idol," so it was the biggest push I could have ever done to get my career started. All the criticism and everything, it made me a stronger person. To be able to sing in front of that many people and to sing in front of judges who are criticizing you, I think anybody who can sing in front of that and remain a contestant will be able to sing in front of anybody. It's a pretty amazing feeling.

Q: Do you think the fact that a lot of the contestants have previous professional experience this year shows how tough the music industry is?

A: Yeah. You know, I never got to release an album. I got most of the music done for my album, but I never got to release it. ... But I did have the contract, and Carly's had music and David Cook, and Brooke, and they all have CDs. Everybody has some sort of music background, so it's kind of like we weren't discovered before this whole thing, and this is kind of like a second chance. And I believe everybody deserves a second chance. It was a great opportunity for all of us.

Q: What was it like to work with Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton?

A: I definitely learned a lot. They are the sweetest people. I mean, they're huge stars, and for them to remain sweet and caring and supportive of everything we were doing — that's I how I want to be if I become a famous singer. I want to be able to carry that and still be the genuine and humble girl. I don't want to come across as being a diva or something like that. [Laughs.] But they both were just so nice. And they gave you advice, and they both had wonderful things to say to me, and I took that to heart and I will never forget it. That meant a lot to me to hear that from them.

Q: Who do you think will end up in the finals?

A: It's anybody's playing field. You know, with Michael Johns last week, it just goes to show you that people you think will be safe can go at any time. I really don't know. All of them have their own unique talent and tons of talent, and I don't know which one it will be, but I know they will all have great careers.

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of "Idol" hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline.

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Miley Cyrus' '4 Minutes' Viral Video Gets A Reply From Madonna -- Apparently

Material Girl cleans up her video set after 'Hannah Montana' star's online dance battle becomes a hit.

Though it stars two best friends goofing off in front of a webcam in a bedroom, "The Miley and Mandy Show" is not exactly your typical YouTube channel. And not just because it stars the country's highest-earning teen celeb, Miley Cyrus, and Mandy Jiroux, Miley's backup dancer on the Best of Both Worlds Tour. Their latest video, a high-flying dance video set to Madonna's "4 Minutes," appears to have prompted a YouTube response from the Material Girl herself.

The "Hannah Montana" star and her friend have been uploading a series of videos to the Web for the past two months, but none has garnered as much attention as last week's, which has received over a million hits since it was uploaded on Sunday.

In their new installment, the M&M Cru with a U — a name the pair came up with for the video — fight ninjas and take part in a well-choreographed dance battle with the crew from "Step Up 2: The Streets," which includes the film's director, John Chu, star Adam Sevani, and "Step Up" star Channing Tatum. There's even a cameo by Cyrus' grandmother.

Aspects of M&M's latest production resemble Madonna's "4 Minutes" video, which features Justin Timberlake in an apocalyptic dance-off, but in an interview with E! News, Cyrus and Jiroux insisted that their version is not a spoof.

"We do, like, two moves Madonna has done in the past," Jiroux said, explaining that the video is a response to a challenge made by the "Step Up 2" crew.

"[Chu and Sevani] made a video first calling us out, and we made this video responding to theirs," Jiroux told E!. "M&M Cru definitely won."

Nevertheless, it seems to have caught Madge's attention, inspiring the pop icon to address those who've decided to re-create her new music video while she does a little "cleanup."

Not your typical cleaning lady, Madonna wears stiletto boots, a black dress and a long gold necklace as she vacuums what she says is the set of her new music video. Madge never actually says that her YouTube entry is a response to the Miley and Mandy creation, but she's not fooling us.

"All you people out there who are making videos to my new single, '4 Minutes,' keep up the good work, nice job," she says in the video, before sternly offering some words of advice: "You've got to clean up after yourselves, all right? Because cleanliness is next to godliness."

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50 Cent Makes Shocking Allegations Against Young Buck, Says A Dis Track From Buck Is 'Inevitable'

Fif admits that Buck's recent behavior and habits played a role in his ouster from G-Unit.

NEW YORKShoot to Kill or Lock & Load? Nah. 50 Cent has abandoned the previous two names he was playing with for the June 24 G-Unit LP, but finally the Queens collective has settled on a title.

"T.O.S.," Tony Yayo revealed Tuesday in the MTV offices, as he sat next to 50 and Lloyd Banks. (See more from this interview in the Newsroom blog — where Fif says he might downsize his house so the G-Unit will party elsewhere — and talks about his recent weight loss and upcoming film.)

"Terminate on Sight," Fif explained. "It's like a spinoff — the sequel to [G-Unit's 2003 debut] Beg for Mercy. It was a statement towards the competition, towards other artists. T.O.S. is the version where you get more aggressive. This record embodies that. I kinda know where I need to go, because I tested the waters with the material I put out [on our mixtapes]. I get to tell with the response to certain records where I need to be and chill out from other stuff."

Last week, 50 announced that G-Unit member Young Buck had been relieved of his duties as part of the crew but was still signed to G-Unit Records as a solo artist. On Tuesday, Fif revealed that Buck is still contractually bound to be in the group as well but, for the most part, will not participate in their activities. Buck is featured on the album's first two singles, "Rider Part 2" and "I Like the Way She Do It," as well as a couple of other cuts from the project.

"He'll still be on those records," 50 said. "I wouldn't pull him off of the records. I like the records the way they are. He's on the [album] three or four times. He's not gonna be in the videos, but he can shoot [videos for] his solo project when he's done — when he gets himself together."

Buck's ouster, according to the Unit, was not just a 50 Cent choice. Banks and Yayo were in full agreement with the move.

"Before I make the decision, my decision is based on their discomfort to the situation," 50 detailed. "I can withstand it more because what he's doing isn't important. I'll be like, 'What did he say? Who was listening?' He'll throw tantrums because he's emotional. He says things."

50 admitted that it was Buck's recent behavior that prompted him to distance himself from his once-close group member. One of the last straws happened a couple of months ago, when Buck jumped onstage with Lil Wayne and Baby. Prior to that, Buck and 50 Cent had publicly denounced the Cash Money Millionaires. Buck had even made a verse dissing Wayne on the G-Unit track "The Party Ain't Over." And, of course, there was the interview that surfaced, in which Buck said he never received a royalty check from G-Unit Records. All these situations have the G-Unit General saying that it is fair to compare Buck to the Game, who was acrimoniously ousted from G-Unit in 2005.

"As far as Buck is concerned, he can be compared to Game because he did some of the same things," 50 added. "He went on and said he was cool with some of the people that it isn't public I'm cool with. The public's impression is [that] me and these people have issues. So how are you cool and we down with each other? When a person has that much inconsistencies in their character, how can you value them or call them a friend when you don't know what you gonna say or do tomorrow? That was the same issues I had with Nas. Nas didn't do anything to me. He was just so wishy-washy that I said, 'I can't value a friendship with you.' You can't gauge who they are. You call them a friend for what? So tomorrow when it's convenient for them to go in another direction, regardless what position it puts you in, they'll just do it?

"I'm a Cancer," 50 added. "I'll pull back and I'll cut you off — I don't care — once it gets to the point where it doesn't make sense to me."

"We feel the same way," Banks said. "If 50 gets resistance, we get the same resistance."

"50 took him and made him who he is today," Tony Yayo weighed in. "Where I'm from, you don't bite the hands that feed you. I just get confused. I just remember not having nothing. I never will bite the hand that feeds me."

The most staggering assertion 50 made of his former Unit member's behavior was that Buck has a drug problem, alleging that he's gained knowledge of Buck using cocaine and sipping on syrup (commonly a mixture of promethazine and codeine), the latter of which played a role in Pimp C's death earlier this year.

"Buck's probably high right now," he said, adding sarcastically, "He doesn't even get high anymore — he just maintains his [high]. You have to get sober to be high," 50 said. "When they say, 'Party like a rock star,' he goes beyond what they are talking about. Multiple, different sh--."

Despite multiple attempts, MTV News was unable to reach Young Buck or any of his representatives for comment about these allegations at press time.

50 thinks he knows what Buck's next move will be: a dis record. "That's inevitable," he said about Buck coming at the Unit on wax. "In confusion, you gonna try to do anything you can do to try and be aggressive. I predict he'll say disrespectful things as we move forward."

In fact, up-and-coming producer J.A. has informed MTV News that he and Buck are currently working on a mixtape called Honorable Discharge: Cashville Chronicles.

Buck's last public word on the friction with 50 came in last month's XXL magazine: "I'm just comfortable with my n---as, and I don't wanna see myself parting from something so dear to me."

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Jay-Z Jumps On Upbeat Mariah Carey Remix, Mature Usher Song For Jermaine Dupri

'Young Hov and Mariah crank it up,' JD says of 'Bye Bye' remix.

Jermaine Dupri made the most of some recent time in the studio with Jay-Z, having Hov lay guest vocals for an Usher track and a Mariah Carey remix.

The Carey remix is a reworking of "Bye Bye," the second single from her E=MC2 LP. On the original, Mariah sings about losing family members, but JD hints that the remix will be more upbeat.

"The remix for the Mariah record is crazy," Dupri said Friday (April 18). "Young Hov and Mariah crank it up, and myself, JD — a.k.a. Barry Bonds — cleans up."

When asked if it was awkward to remix such a melancholy song, Dupri said we'll forget about the sad sentiments.

Just last week, Jermaine leaked footage online, in which Jay-Z paid a visit to the studio after the Atlanta stop of the Heart of the City Tour. Jay, Usher, Dupri and Anthony Hamilton were seen laughing it up and promising a hit record.

"It's a Jay-Z and Usher record produced by me," the mogul said. "It's about their lives right now. They talk about their past relationships and how they are where they are now."

"The Best Thing" will be featured on Usher's May 27 release, Here I Stand.

"It's cool," the producer said. "They not really sappy. It's not a sappy song. Usher's album is more about teaching men [that] at some point, you gotta grow up. And growing up is respecting a woman and having a woman in your life and taking care of your woman. That's his definition of growing up. A lot of other n---as have a different definition. That's his definition of becoming a man, taking care of home. This song is kinda like that. It's a responsible type of record. When that girl you settled down with, she leaves you. You realize you lost the best thing that ever happened to you.

"The hardest part about this Usher album is that I'm not involved in the record-company process," he added. "This is the first album where we're not in charge of who picks the singles. So I can't speak on that part of it. I would hope it would be the next single. It feels like it should be. Usher left the studio saying it was the next single. But he also told y'all weeks ago [that] 'Moving Mountains' was the next single. Lyric-wise, hearing Jay-Z say what he's saying and Usher saying what he's saying, people wanna hear this. I could tell you that. N---as wanna hear that."

Another Dupri remix on the horizon is O'Neal McKnight's "Check Your Coat." No, Jay-Z does not appear, but Greg Nice raps on the song. Dupri even threw his own flavor on there as well.

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Madonna seeks delay in Malawi adoption case

1 hour, 35 minutes ago

BLANTYRE (Reuters) -
Madonna has asked a Malawian court to
delay a hearing to finalize her adoption of a boy from the
southern African nation, a lawyer close to the case said.

The singer's law firm in Malawi filed an application
requesting the High Court in Lilongwe to hear her adoption of
David Banda on May 15 instead of April 22, as originally
scheduled, the lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Madonna's need to travel to the United States for business
reasons was cited as the reason for the delay, the lawyer said.

Court officials refused to confirm the application.

"Adoption is a confidential matter and we separate adoption
files from the regular case files," Thomson Ligowe, assistant
registrar in the High Court, told Reuters.

Malawi's government recommended earlier this month that the
court approve the adoption of Banda.

The pop diva met the boy in an orphanage in 2006 and began
adoption proceedings soon after. He has been living with
Madonna and her film director husband Guy Ritchie in London
since shortly after the adoption process began.

The adoption has been controversial, with critics accusing
the government of skirting laws that ban non-residents from
adopting children in Malawi, one of the countries in Africa
hardest hit by AIDS.

The epidemic has left an estimated one million orphans in
the country.

(Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Paul Simao and
Caroline Drees)

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    Mom's having tummy tuck? What to tell the kids

    By Jill Serjeant

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
    Mom's getting a tummy tuck and a
    new nose. But how does she tell her kids?

    A Florida plastic surgeon has written the first known
    picture book aimed at 4-7 year-olds that seeks to reassure them
    about mom going under the knife.

    But the book, "My Beautiful Mommy," has stirred up a
    hornet's nest among feminists and even some cosmetic surgeons
    who feel it may undermine the self-esteem of the very young.

    Dr Michael Salzhauer, a father of four, said he wrote the
    book because many of his patients are having "mommy makeovers"
    to fix saggy breasts and slack tummies a few years after
    childbirth and were concerned about what to tell their kids.

    "It sounds like a joke but there really is a need to
    address this issue," Salzhauer told Reuters. "It is for the mom
    who has already booked her plastic surgery and now has to tell
    her kids, why she is going to be in bed, why daddy is picking
    the kids up from school and all those other issues."

    "Hundreds of thousands of women have this operation in the
    United States. This is for a specific consumer at a specific
    time in their life that is going to turn their household upside
    down for a couple of weeks."

    Salzhauer said feedback to the book from his own patients
    has been very positive. But some of the explanations from the
    attractive, cartoon-style mom in the book have sparked a
    furious online debate.

    "As I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into
    my clothes anymore. Dr Michael is going to help fix that and
    make me feel better," the mother tells her daughter.

    Jessica Valenti, executive editor of the Web site
    www.feministing, said she did not wish to sit in judgment
    of those who get plastic surgery.

    "But do we really have to teach our kids that we need it to
    'feel better' and be 'beautiful'? Ugh," Valenti wrote.

    Dr Stephen Greenberg, a New York cosmetic surgeon and
    author of "A Little Nip, A Little Tuck," said elementary school
    age children should not be exposed to plastic surgery.

    "Let them feel that self esteem comes from within and not
    necessarily related to how somebody looks," Greenberg said.

    "This book was written with the best of intentions. It
    wasn't trying to corrupt society. It is not glamorizing plastic
    surgery. It is not intended to be a best seller that children
    read with their parents before they go to sleep," he said.


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      Romance writer, publisher split up over plagiarism claims

      By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer

      NEW YORK - Romance writer Cassie Edwards and publisher Signet Books have decided to break up after allegations emerged in January that in she lifted passages in several of her books from other sources.

      "Signet has conducted an extensive review of all its Cassie Edwards novels and due to irreconcilable editorial differences, Ms. Edwards and Signet have mutually agreed to part ways," the publisher said in a statement Friday.

      "Cassie Edwards novels will no longer be published with Signet Books. All rights to Ms. Edwards' previously published Signet books have reverted to the author."

      Signet publicist Craig Burke said that the publisher, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), would have no additional comment. Edwards, whose many books include "Bold Wolf," "Silver Feather" and "Falcon Moon," was not immediately available for comment.

      Penguin initially said that Edwards, who lives in Mattoon, Ill., had "done nothing wrong" and that any use of other texts was protected by "fair-use doctrine."

      Edwards has written more than 100 novels, although not all with Penguin, which has said that more than 10 million copies of her work are in print.

      "Writing my Indian romances is my small tribute to those beautiful first people of our land who have suffered so much injustice," Edwards writes on her home page on Penguin's Web site. "And I have just begun. My upcoming books will continue with more passion and adventure and rich historical settings. Enjoy!"

      In a phone interview in January, the author told The Associated Press that she indeed "takes" material from other works, but said she didn't know she was supposed to credit her sources. She then asked her husband to get on the phone. Charles Edwards said the author got only "ideas" from other books and did not "lift passages."


      On the Net: http://us.penguingroup

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        TV Lookout: highlights April 20-26

        By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer

        The dramatically promising "K-Ville" didn't last long on Fox last fall. It was done in by low ratings and the disruption of the writers strike. But its star has wasted no time bouncing back, right into TV's longest-running drama.

        Anthony Anderson joins the cast of "Law & Order" as this NBC institution airs the first of five new episodes to complete its 18th season. And on the same episode (10 p.m. EDT Wednesday) veteran cast member Jesse L. Martin makes his final appearance after nine seasons as Detective Ed Green.

        Does good-cop Green really kill a notorious hustler who resurfaces inconveniently from his past? That's how it appears to his partner, Detective Cyrus Lupo, when called to the crime scene. Then the case is turned over to internal affairs Detective Kevin Bernard, played by Anderson. The real question seems to be: What secrets has Green been keeping from his colleagues and from viewers all these years?

        Look for Bernard to fill the slot Green is about to vacate in the show's six-character template. But only time will tell how Bernard gets along with Lupo (Jeremy Sisto, in his own freshman year on the series).

        Anderson, a gifted performer in both comedy and drama, has appeared in such films as "The Departed," "Me, Myself & Irene" and "Transformers," and was riveting as an L.A. gang leader on FX's "The Shield."

        Now he becomes the 25th actor (give or take) to be a "Law & Order" regular.

        Receiving him in New York's criminal justice system are S. Epatha Merkerson (as Lt. Van Buren), Linus Roache (as Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter), Alana De La Garza (as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa) and Sam Waterston (as District Attorney Jack McCoy).

        Other shows to look out for:

        • A poignant, inspiring story for the start of baseball season: Roberto Clemente is profiled by "American Experience." Born in a poor rural barrio in Puerto Rico, he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 (and met with 1950s-era racism), then went on to become baseball's first Latino superstar. In his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he led the team to two World Series championships and won four National League batting titles. In his final turn at bat for the 1972 season, he got his 3,000th career hit. But by then he was also focusing on humanitarian causes. The last day of 1972, he boarded a DC-7 aircraft with relief supplies for survivors of a catastrophic earthquake in Nicaragua. Shortly after takeoff, the overloaded aircraft crashed, cutting short the life of the 38-year-old baseball legend and budding statesman. Clemente's wife, Vera, hall of famer Orlando Cepeda and former teammates are among those who appear in the one-hour portrait, which airs 9 p.m. EDT Monday on PBS (check local listings).

        • You couldn't ask for better traveling companions than "Car Talk" radio hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi when PBS' "NOVA" goes in search of the "Car of the Future." The wisecracking, car-wise Magliozzi brothers visit engineers and designers with high-rev concepts for better, more fuel-efficient ways to drive. And they ask the question: Will we get where we need to be, before it's too late? The brothers make the scene at the souped-up North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and at the AltWheels Festival in Boston, where they squeeze into a tiny three-wheeler that boasts 100 miles per gallon (but zero elbow room). They investigate hydrogen-powered cars and cars you plug into a wall socket every night. This is an entertaining, informative progress report and call to action for a gas-guzzling age. "Car of the Future" airs 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday (check local listings).

        • These days, the guys are grounded while the gals hit the road. All-girl vacations are the rage. Find out why — or, at least, good places to go — on "All-Girl Getaways" on Fine Living Network. Hosted by travelgirl Magazine Editor Stephanie Oswald, this new "docu-travel" series joins a group of women as they take a break from husbands, kids and obligations for a rejuvenating escape. The premiere episode, airing 9 p.m. EDT Thursday, takes viewers along with best friends Traci, Dana, Cheryl and Michelle for a Caribbean cruise. Then, at 9:30 p.m. EDT, five gal pals meet up for a weekend in Philadelphia, city of sisterly love. (After this week, the series travels to 9 p.m. EDT Wednesdays.)

        Amy Poehler is a versatile performer, as she demonstrates weekly on "Saturday Night Live." Still, she has a distinctive comic voice. If you don't think so, tune in as she voices a kookie, irrepressible 9-year-old girl on the Nickelodeon cartoon, "The Mighty B!" Co-created by Poehler, this new series focuses on Bessie Higgenbottom, gung-ho leader of her local Honeybees scout troop (she wears her Honeybees uniform every day). On the first episode, Bessie adopts an equally spirited pooch so she can compete in the Honeybees-sponsored dog show. Then Bessie takes a long-awaited ride on the world's most terrifying roller coaster — but only after proving she's tall enough to gain admission. "The Mighty B!" is mighty silly, hyperactive and fun to watch (and not necessarily just by kids). It premieres 10:30 a.m. EDT Saturday.


        EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)

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          R&B singer Ne-Yo "bored" by urban music

          By Mikael Wood

          LOS ANGELES (Billboard) -
          As he prepares to release his
          third album in as many years, R&B singer/songwriter Ne-Yo says
          he is "a little bored" with urban music.

          The genre has served him well, to be sure. His first two
          albums have both been certified platinum, and he has co-written
          such monster hits as Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," which spent 10
          weeks atop the Hot 100 singles chart in 2006.

          "There's some stuff on there that sounds like something the
          Beatles might've done," Ne-Yo told Billboard. "There's some
          stuff on there that sounds like something Billy Joel might've
          done. I can't do just straight urban music no more, because to
          be completely honest with you, I'm a little bored with it. I'm
          just moving with what music excites me now."

          An early preview does indeed indicate something a little
          different from traditional R&B: "Closer" is a Stargate-produced
          club track with pulsing strobe-light synths and a high-energy
          house beat that calls to mind Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music."

          "So You Can Cry" sports a mellow, easy-listening vibe, with
          Ne-Yo making a priceless rhyme of "pity party" and "calamari."
          Guitars and cymbals figure prominently in "What's the Matter,"
          which Ne-Yo likens to "a Beatles-style rock record."

          But will the little girls understand? Def Jam wants to
          expand Ne-Yo's audience beyond its core of 16- to 24-year-old

          "The records he's written don't just speak to young black
          girls," says Ashaunna Ayars, Def Jam's VP of marketing. "We're
          trying to build an adult audience that appreciates his music as

          Part of the strategy involves Ne-Yo opening for Alicia Keys
          on her two-month North American tour, which begins Saturday in
          Hampton, Va.

          "That partnership gets him in front of the more mature fan
          base we're after," Ayars says.

          But Ne-Yo is anxious about overdoing the stylistic

          "My worry is that I'll do something that's so far left of
          what I've already done that it's going to go over my fans'
          heads. I pray that my fans are smarter than that."

          And he hopes they will understand that if he keeps writing
          songs like "So Sick" or "Sexy Love" or "Because of You," both
          he and they will eventually get bored.

          He says he always envisaged the third album would mark a
          musical departure, and was expecting "to chill for a minute and
          really take some time to figure out what I wanted that to be.
          Fortunately, it didn't take me that long, which is why the
          album's coming out now."


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            Drew Lachey raring to win car race for charity

            By DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer

            LONG BEACH, Calif. - Drew Lachey has traded in his dancing shoes for a racing helmet.

            The second-season "Dancing with the Stars" champion and former member of the pop group 98 Degrees qualified Friday for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, a 10-lap charity race that is part of 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

            "This is very different than 'Dancing with the Stars,'" Lachey told The Associated Press before his run. "The only way it's similar is that you have a very short window to try to perfect an art form."

            Lachey will compete against celebrities including William Fichtner from "Prison Break" and Wilmer Valderrama from "That '70s Show" in race-modified Scion tCs on a 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach, Calif.

            "You get to race very fast and legally," Lachey said. "That was one of the big draws for me to do this."

            The other was charity. The race benefits the Miller Children's Hospital and Children's Hospital of Orange County. The celebrity winner will also receive a $20,000 donation to the charity of their choice.

            Lachey and NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little are the evenly matched 4-to-1 famous favorites to win the Saturday race, according to LasVegasAdvisor president Anthony Curtis.


            On the Net:

            Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: http://www.gplb

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              LA photog wins damages after conflict with Zsa Zsa's husband

              By DENISE PETSKI, Associated Press Writer

              LOS ANGELES - A photographer who said he worried he would be killed when Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband punched him in the face on a Beverly Hills street was awarded $4,510 in damages Friday.

              The eccentric hubby, Frederic Von Anhalt, said he initially wanted to give the man much more for busting open his lip.

              In his complaint, Dirk Smeten claimed Von Anhalt, 62, angrily approached and began punching him while Smeten tried to photograph him in May 2005. The blows caused Smeten to fall to the sidewalk, according to the complaint.

              Smeten claimed he suffered lip lacerations, cuts to his face, swelling, pain, high blood pressure, headaches and stress symptoms.

              "Plaintiff thought he was going to be killed by defendant," according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Smeten was seeking $137,000 in damages.

              Smeten continues to get psychiatric care for stress-related symptoms since the incident, according to court documents.

              Attempts to locate Smeten for comment were not successful.

              Von Anhalt told The Associated Press he was taking his wife to the hairdresser and was trying to get her out of his car and into her wheelchair when the photographer approached.

              "I have this camera over my shoulder trying to photograph my wife. No respect whatsoever," Von Anhalt said. "I pushed him away. He came back. I pushed him away again. He came back again."

              Von Anhalt said he wanted to settle the case, and had offered Smeten $20,000.

              "I knew I had to pay something. His lip was bleeding. The bleeding lip was probably when I pushed the camera in his face," Von Anhalt said.

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                Jury dismisses woman's lawsuit against Kid Rock

                PONTIAC, Mich. - A jury has dismissed a lawsuit against Kid Rock brought by a woman who claimed the rocker roughed her up outside his Michigan recording studio. A jury on Friday dismissed a claim by 29-year-old Kelly Ann Kozlowski for $25,000 in damages.

                Kozlowski sued the 37-year-old Kid Rock, whose real name is Robert James Ritchie, after the incident last year in Clarkston. Authorities investigated but did not bring charges.

                Ritchie's attorney, William Horton, says he and his client are pleased. Kozlowski's attorney, Scott Norton, says he'll appeal.

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                  Iglesias says Kournikova keeps rebuffing marriage proposals

                  SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Spanish pop singerEnrique Iglesias says he has tried repeatedly to convince his girlfriend Anna Kournikova to marry him — with no luck.

                  Iglesias spoke to reporters Friday after arriving in the Dominican Republic for the first of nine concerts planned across Latin America.

                  Iglesias says he's been involved with the tennis star for at least three years and says she keeps ignoring his appeals to wed. In his words, "I always try, but she pays me no attention."

                  The Madrid-born artist is the son of crooner Julio Iglesias.

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                    Hollywood hopes theme parks, superheroes fly in Middle East

                    By RYAN NAKASHIMA, AP Business Writer

                    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Wonder Woman, King Kong and Shrek are heading for the Persian Gulf as part of the rush to build what could become the world's largest theme park playground.

                    But even as the ink dries on the billion-dollar deals in the United Arab Emirates, movie studios are grappling with ways to make their signature characters and amusement parks fly in the conservative Muslim region.

                    Politically sensitive characters such as Captain America could be left at home. Prayer rooms will join the list of accommodations, and menus will likely feature falafel and humus alongside pizza and hot dogs.

                    There's even a move afoot to offer Bollywood dance shows to lure Indian visitors.

                    Investors, studios and park operators are all aiming to cash in on what some observers call the Middle East's decades-long fascination with American culture. Hollywood movies are popular in the region, and Western fashions are hot commodities among residents who travel abroad.

                    "On the one hand, they hate America. On the other hand they love America to the bone," said Michael Izady, an expert on Middle East culture who reaches history at Pace University in New York.

                    The theme park market is open — with no major facilities currently operating in the Middle East.

                    The projects are no-brainers for the entertainment companies that have jumped at what amounts to free brand expansions with no capital at risk. Few details have been provided about the deals, which entertainment companies simply describe as licensing arrangements for intellectual property and help on designing the parks and attractions, with no mention of possible royalty payments.

                    Their investment partners have money and land to build the parks but lack the star-powered attractions to draw the millions of visitors needed to make them profitable.

                    Dubai, one of the seven constituents of the UAE, has thrived and turned into a magnet for the wealthy as oil money flowed in. The government wants to more than double the number of annual visitors from nearly 7 million last year to 15 million by 2015.

                    In recent months, eight major licensing deals have been struck between oil-rich investors and entertainment giants such as Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment Inc. for theme parks and other attractions.

                    The first, a $2.2 billion Universal Studios park based on franchises such as King Kong and Jurassic Park, is set to open in an area dubbed Dubailand on the city's desert outskirts in 2010.

                    Designs for the parks are moving quickly, despite lingering doubts about the long-term availability of financing and the lack of highways and other infrastructure to support the huge developments. Several projects are planned for a manmade island being reclaimed from the sea called Palm Jebel Ali.

                    Most of the parks are proposed for Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the region's most Westernized and cosmopolitan cities, where expatriates outnumber local citizens, bars and restaurants serve alcohol and foreign women stroll some beaches in bikinis.

                    Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. home entertainment group, is convinced that Superman, Batman and other DC Comics characters licensed by Warner will be readily accepted by those who visit the park from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia.

                    Even the bare-shouldered Wonder Woman shouldn't raise too many eyebrows "unless we depicted her as a Muslim woman," said Tsujihara, who is spearheading the Warner theme park in Abu Dhabi.

                    Even so, "we probably wouldn't have her running around in costume around the park," he said.

                    With plans to help build a $1 billion theme park in Abu Dhabi by 2011, Marvel Entertainment Inc. is downplaying Captain America, a World War II creation draped in the American flag, in favor of attractions based on popular characters such as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men — none of whom carry the same political baggage.

                    "One of the things that's nice about our characters is they're either about individuals helping people or they're about teams of people of different types, like mutants, that band together and solve problems," Marvel chairman David Maisel said.

                    "If anything, that's a good message for today's world with all the different cultures," he said.

                    Park designers also plan to tweak the models used for North American theme parks.

                    Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. will include beer-tasting zones in its four-park complex anchored by SeaWorld, set to open in Dubai in 2012. The discreet zones will receive little advertising, in accordance with UAE government guidelines.

                    "Realistically, Dubai is a very cosmopolitan market. It's not unlike visiting Paris or New York or London or Berlin or Milan," Busch Entertainment president Jim Atchison said.

                    The Walt Disney Co., the world's largest theme park operator by far, is notably absent from the rush to the region. Disney parks and resorts chairman Jay Rasulo said Disney is studying the market.

                    Some observers said the cultural barriers might be easier to overcome than financial and infrastructure hurdles. Massive construction on a variety of projects is causing traffic jams as road construction has failed to keep pace with the building.

                    "The development in the UAE is outrunning the ability of the infrastructure to keep up," said Keith James, president of Jack Rouse Associates, which is helping develop a Ferrari automobile theme park in Abu Dhabi to open next year.

                    "I'm not going to say they're not going to happen, I just don't know that they're going to happen on the tight timeframe that everybody is talking about," he said. "There's simply not enough labor and design effort to pull it off."

                    The scale of the theme park plans, estimated to cost a total of at least $20 billion, puts them on par with developments in Orlando, Fla., home to a dozen parks including Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios.

                    "Up until very recently, the Middle East has been theme-park deprived," said Paul Ruben, North American editor of Park World magazine. "They've suddenly joined the 21st century."

                    The parks will also provide Dubai, and to a lesser extent Abu Dhabi, with an economic buffer against diminishing oil reserves, expected to run out in Dubai in a decade or more.

                    Funded by sky-high oil prices, government-backed companies in both areas have gone on a worldwide investing sprees, taking stakes in everything from casinos and cruise ships to electronics makers, banks and ports.

                    Studios and their UAE financiers are taking a risk with the theme parks, said Ibrahim Warde, adjunct professor of international business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

                    "There are two separate issues," he said. "One is whether, financially, all those projects will come to completion. The other question is if they do, will the customers show up?"

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