Friday, April 25, 2008

Sean Bell Shooting Case -- Referenced In Songs By 50 Cent, Papoose -- Ends In Acquittal Of Three New York Police Detectives

Mood outside the Queens courtroom is upset, but still calm.

The scene outside the New York courtroom was tense but peaceful Friday morning, as a judge declared three police detectives not guilty of manslaughter, assault or reckless endangerment in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who was killed outside a strip club in New York in 2006 in a barrage of 50 bullets.

The verdict prompted a number of Bell's supporters to storm out of the courtroom, with screams audible outside the chambers moments later, according to The New York Times. Outside the courtroom, thousands more supporters of Bell — who was 23 years old when he was gunned down just hours before he was to marry — gathered, shouting and taunting police, who were out in force in case any violent protests broke out.

Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, and his parents were in the courtroom when the verdict was read in the case, which became a flashpoint for the city and many in the hip-hop community, including 50 Cent, Papoose and Prodigy — all of whom recorded songs or wrote lyrics about the shooting. After the incident, Nas released a statement to MTV News, saying, "The cops need to be charged the way gangsters are charged."

As the judge read his decision, CNN reported that Paultre Bell ran from the courtroom saying, "I've got to get out of here."

After a seven-week trial, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman said that many of the prosecution's witnesses, including Bell's friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. "The testimony of those witnesses just didn't make sense," he said, adding that some of the witnesses contradicted themselves and that their demeanor on the witness stand helped to decide the case, CNN reported.

After reading through the timeline of the evening, Cooperman concluded that the response by Detectives Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper, "with respect to each defendant, was not found to be criminal." The men were found not guilty of the eight counts — five felonies and three misdemeanors— they were facing. Among other charges, Isnora and Oliver had faced first- and second-degree manslaughter, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison. Cooper was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment. According to the Times, they could still face disciplinary action from the police department, though a decision on that will be delayed until it is decided whether federal charges will be filed against them.

The prosecution attempted to show that the shooting was the result of a frightened, possibly enraged group of disorganized police officers who began their shift that night hoping to arrest a prostitute or two at the club, which was being investigated for prostitution, guns and drug dealing. Suspecting Bell and his friends of possessing a gun, the prosecution said the detectives quickly got in over their heads.

The defense portrayed the shooting as the tragic end to a justified confrontation in which Isnora had what his lawyers described as solid reasons to believe he was "the only thing standing between Mr. Bell's car and a drive-by shooting around the corner." Witnesses claimed to have heard talk of guns during a heated argument between an intoxicated Bell and a stranger outside the club. And witnesses said that as Bell and his friends left the club, the undercover detectives believed that one of the men was going to retrieve a gun from Bell's car, so they followed the men and called for backup.

According to testimony, Bell and two friends got in the car, with Bell driving, and the detectives drew their weapons. Bell panicked to get away from what he believed were armed men. The detectives, who said they thought Bell was trying to run them over and that their lives were in danger, began firing. No gun was found near Bell or his friends.

Once word of the verdict leaked out to the crowds gathered outside the courtroom, CNN reported that one woman shouted at a black police officer, "How can you be proud to wear that uniform? Stand down! Stop working for the masters!"

The case drew immediate response from the hip-hop community, with Papoose dropping a song just a week after the shooting titled "50 Shots," which sampled Sam Cooke's anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come" and featured the lines, "Mike Oliver said his gun jammed, he the main one/ 12-year veteran and don't know how to use a gun." Paultre Bell was featured in a controversial ad from Rocawear as part of their "I Will Not Lose" campaign, which launched just before the trial began. In addition, 50 Cent has referenced the case on cuts, and Prodigy also has several references to Bell on his just released album, HNIC2, on a track titled "Field Marshall P."

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Neil Gaiman's 'Anansi Boys' Gears Up For Big-Screen Adaptation

'Stardust' writer talks about a bevy of upcoming projects and the stars who want to be involved.

Twenty years after first publishing his legendary "Sandman" series, Neil Gaiman is busier and more in-demand than ever. Last year's movie adaptation of his 1998 novel "Stardust" wasn't a box-office hit, but "Beowulf," which he co-wrote, definitely was. And up next is the stop-motion version of his 2002 novella "Coraline" — starring Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher — as well as film adaptations of his 2005 best-selling novel, "Anansi Boys," and his old BBC series, "Neverwhere." And of course there's always the possibility of some sort of "Sandman" film to tantalize fans with — "Death," anyone? — although that doesn't seem to be high on his list of projects right now. We pressed him for a complete update.

MTV: You've already been doing readings for your upcoming novel, "The Graveyard Book" — a sort of "Jungle Book" with dead people raising the boy.

Neil Gaiman: And a lot of people in Hollywood are already trying to buy [the rights to] "The Graveyard Book."

MTV: But it hasn't even come out yet!

Gaiman: I don't know how they do it, but they got copies. I was going to hold off on sending it out until at least we had reading copies, because they're more impressive, but a week after the manuscript went in to my publishers, my agent was getting phone calls from people who had it on their desk.

MTV: So by the end of this year, you'll have "The Graveyard Book"; your new movie, "Coraline"; and then there's the 20th anniversary of "Sandman."

Gaiman: That's always been the way of my life — things I've done years and years apart always seem to come out more or less at the same time. Last year, I was at the "Stardust" premiere in the U.K., and then two weeks later, I was at the "Beowulf" premiere, two things that were done years apart. I would never have expected "Beowulf" to be made. It was a script I wrote in 1987 that I thought was dead in 1988. But it clawed its way out of the grave, pulled itself up and coughed, and then you're watching Angelina Jolie in it. That's what happens. Right now, I'm writing an "Anansi Boys" movie.

MTV: That's actually happening? What else is happening?

Gaiman That's actually happening. It suddenly came to life when a film producer was stuck at an airport with a star on a tour, and they picked up the book, just as something to read on the plane. Halfway through, they were reading it to each other. When they landed, I got a call saying, "Can we make this into a movie?" And the lovely thing about "Anansi Boys" is that it's more or less movie-shaped — it just needs a little trimming so it won't be a five-hour movie. So I have to write that. And "Neverwhere," which I walked off of in 1999, I was asked to come back and polish the script that I did then and bring that back to life, so I'm doing that.

"Death" was with New Line, and now that New Line has sort of expunged itself from existence, we are figuring out right now where in the Warner [Bros.] family it will be and what is happening with it. It's not back to the drawing board — we do have a script and a lot of stuff, we have people like Shia LaBeouf who have said, "I want to be in this thing" — but we're figuring out where and when.

MTV: Do you ever play the casting game and think about who you'd want in each role? Like who would be a good Spider for "Anansi Boys," or Richard Mayhew for "Neverwhere"? Rachel McAdams, for instance, just came to us recently and said she'd want to be Black Orchid, if that series is ever made into a film.

Gaiman: I love that. I hope she is. I hope they make it. Make "Black Orchid," people out there! And make Rachel McAdams Black Orchid.

You always start thinking about casting, because it's fun. But the problem with talking about casting is the moment that something is about to be made, it becomes problematic. You might say, "I would love Ellen Page to be Death. I've loved her since 'Hard Candy'; she'd make an amazing Death." And then suddenly you're negotiating for Ellen Page, and you say to her agent, "We can take her or leave her," and then they say, "No, we've seen the interviews. You really want her." You're in a slightly different world out there. If you start saying who you want, if it's going to be real, you want to shut up.

For something like "Anansi Boys," I get kind of torn. Half of me would love to just cast one actor as Fat Charlie and one as Spider and see what you get with one person playing both of them. Will Smith playing both of them, what are you going to get? But then what would you get if you have Will Smith playing one, and Chris Tucker the other? Beyond that, more than anything I would just want Morgan Freeman to play Mr. Nancy. Wouldn't that be fun? But I can only say that because I'm not negotiating for any of those people.

MTV: You're not going to take on a producer role, as you did with "Stardust"?

Gaiman: I probably will produce, but not quite as seriously as I did with "Stardust." With "Stardust," I was signing off on casting, I was watching auditions on the Web, and I don't know if I'd want to do that again. It's a strange and thankless thing to do.

MTV: Do you ever look back at "Stardust" and wonder what you could have done differently?

Gaiman: I loved the movie. I think the marketing should have been done better. The film company had no idea how to sell anything like this. If you could compare it to anything, it would be "The Princess Bride." But they said, "We can't mention 'Princess Bride,' that didn't make box office." But you're the only people in the world who know that in 1987, "The Princess Bride" was #3 at the box office. It was beaten by "Fatal Attraction" and a Dudley Moore movie. No one knows. No one remembers. It's just a movie that people love. And "Stardust" is set to be that, too.

MTV: Which Dudley Moore movie? "Like Father Like Son"? I was an extra in that.

Gaiman: You were? You beat "The Princess Bride," personally? I hope you're ashamed of yourself. Now I have to watch it.

MTV: No, now you have to do a cameo in one of your own movies.

Gaiman: The only thing they ever persuaded me to do a cameo in was the BBC adaptation of "Neverwhere." You see a running figure in a black coat in the title credits, and that was me. And that was just because everyone else was busy.

MTV: Can you please make sure they get the lighting right for the new movie? It's so cheesy in the BBC version.

Gaiman: They lit it for film and shot it for video. But it used to be that the only way you could see it was a fifth-generation copy, which would be blurred and moody, and people would think, "How cool." It wasn't until it was professionally released that people could see how cheesy it was. I definitely also want a great beast that's not a cow — more than anything, I want a great beast that's scary and terrifying. Beyond that, it's just a matter of doing it justice and doing it well, and doing it with a budget. The BBC had the best intentions, and these days, they come and apologize and they wish they could do it now. Too late. Harvey Weinstein owns it.

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Motley Crue Get Cryptic About Tommy Lee's Band Status; Plus Most Precious Blood, Burst & More News That Rules, In Metal File

'This society ... is so ridiculous. It's all about gossip,' Nikki Sixx says, when asked whether drummer is still in the band.

Remember how, back in September, there were all those news reports floating around the Web about outspoken, Kid Rock-hating Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and how he had either resigned or been booted from the band? Yeah, well, so does Metal File.

At the time the news first broke — by way of a lawsuit the band had filed against its former manager, which stated, "Lee recently informed [bassist Nikki] Sixx and [guitarist Mick] Mars that he was resigning from the band, and his resignation was accepted" — the Crüe's representatives would neither confirm nor deny Lee's ouster. So ever since, like most of the band's fans, we'd simply assumed Lee was done with the Crüe — that, perhaps, spinning records as a celebrity DJ was more his speed.

Considering all this, Metal File must admit we were awfully confused by Lee's appearance with the band last week in Los Angeles, when the boys revealed their upcoming Crüe Fest tour, which makes its inaugural run this summer, starting July 1 in West Palm Beach, Florida. So when we had the opportunity to sit down with the band following the press conference, we just had to ask: What's the deal with Tommy?

Of course, the Crüe have been in the rock and roll game long enough (make that 27 years) to know how to dodge a few questions — which is precisely what they did.

"You know, it's so funny," started Sixx, whose side project Sixx:A.M. will also be on this summer's Crüe Fest. "[Saints of Los Angeles] is loosely based on the book 'The Dirt,' and originally, we were going to call it The Dirt. But this society, where it's at right now, is so ridiculous. It's all about gossip. Everything is gossip. It's demented to have people standing in line at the grocery store, reading something they know is a lie and buying it. And so, that's the thing with this band — we fit into that perfectly. Mick just told me a few minutes ago that he found out he's dead, on the Internet. That's the second time that's happened to him. I have one death, and he has two. I'm jealous."

And that was that. Lee, who was present for the interview, said nothing. While we may never know what really happened with Tommy and the band (perhaps that's a story they're saving for "The Dirt, Part 2"), it's at least good to know that the Crüe were able to overcome whatever problems they were having, so fans could have another LP from the world's most notorious rock band.

On June 17, Saints of Los Angeles, which boasts 11 tracks, including "Face Down in the Dirt" and "Mother----er of the Year" (Lee's favorite cut on the disc), will land in stores. It's the band's first all-new studio effort since 2000's New Tattoo. The record, the Crüe said, marks a return to their original sound and is chock-full of hard rockers for longtime fans to latch on to.

"We started talking about what should be the first single, and everybody had something different," frontman Vince Neil said. The band elected to go with the record's title track, which is now streaming at the Crüe's MySpace page. "Usually, when people put out an album, there's maybe one or two songs where you know that's the single. I kept singing these songs, and going, 'Nah, that's the single.' And then the next song — 'Nah, that's the single.' That's cool, and it's a good sign. It's all hits."

"This album really tells the story of Mötley Crüe," Sixx added. "It's about coming from nothing, playing the clubs and getting a record deal, and then making it to the top and then kind of imploding, and all the fun stuff and the craziness that went along with it. And then, it's about making it back to where we're at today. It's a cool rock record, and 'Saints of Los Angeles' is just one of the songs in that story."

For this forthcoming LP, the Crüe wanted to decimate everyone's expectations, deciding to churn out a guitar-heavy masterpiece that honored their unique sound while still taking it to the next level.

"Every time we make a record, we talk about it," Sixx said. "What is it that we really want? On this one, everybody agreed we wanted something that was really guitar-driven, and then it just fell into place."

"It's a nice blend of today, yesterday and a few years ago," Lee chimed in. "It's Mötley 2008."

"But it's perturbing," Sixx interjected. "People go, 'So you went back to your original sound.' But if you played Saints of Los Angeles alongside [1989's] Dr. Feelgood, you'd say, 'Oh, no.' What you're hearing is guitar, and oh, is it dirty. We've always been dirty, but this is a perfect record for 2008."

The first-ever Crüe Fest will hit 40 cities before winding down August 31 in Pittsburgh. In addition to Sixx:A.M., Buckcherry, Papa Roach and Trapt have been enlisted as the tour's support acts. The fest had been in the works for sometime, and Sixx was surprised that details hadn't leaked before last week's news conference.

"It's hard, when you're putting something together, to keep it quiet," Sixx explained. "One person can overhear somebody say something and put it on the Internet, and next thing you know, it's headline f---ing news. On this tour, we've got some great bands with great songs — bands that are exciting to watch. These are the young guns coming up, and it will make for a great show. Loud, aggressive rock and roll with great frontmen. ... It's what we would want to see."

The rest of the week's metal news:

Former Otep guitarist Rob Patterson — who most recently served as Korn's touring guitarist — is reportedly engaged to his girlfriend, Carmen Electra. According to People magazine, he popped the question this past weekend; the two have been dating for less than a year. Considering Carmen's been married to Dennis Rodman and Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro, we're giving this next marriage three months. ...

Not only do they slay, but the Dillinger Escape Plan dudes are also advocates for animal rights. The band recently shot an ad for peta2, in which they appear alongside dogs with the tagline "Be an Angel for Animals." Head on over to peta2's Web site to see the ad. ...

The lineup for the sixth-annual "Dude Fest" in Indianapolis has been completed. Taking the stage June 20 will be — among others — the Red Chord, Nachtmystium and Plague Bringer. On June 21, Pig Destroyer, Hewhocorrupts and Lords perform. Closing things out on June 22 will be Kylesa, Skeletonwitch and Demiricous. ...

Necrophagist have added drummer Romain Goulon of Disavowed fame to their lineup; that means Marco Minnemann is out of the band. "[We want] to thank 'human metronome' Marco Minnemann for playing drums on last year's Summer Slaughter Tour. It was an honor and a lot of fun playing with one of the world's greatest drummers," the band said in a statement. ...

Russian Circles and Daughters will be hitting the road together June 3, starting in Iowa City, Iowa. The tour will run through July 1, when it lands in Buffalo, New York. ...

Sweden's Burst are in the midst of tracking their forthcoming LP Lazarus Bird. The disc will feature the tracks "I Hold Vertigo," "Cripple God" and "I Exterminate the I." Look for the record in stores this fall. ...

Thrash specialists Toxic Holocaust have been added to reunited metallers At the Gates' upcoming North American tour. Also opening will be Darkest Hour and Municipal Waste. ...

Most Precious Blood are in the studio, recording their fourth album, Do Not Resuscitate. "While all our spineless contemporaries reach for the stars, we've returned to our roots," guitarist Justin Brannan said in a statement. "The new songs are short, fast, hard and mean. We wrote an album to remind us of the stuff we grew up on, the music that got us into hardcore when we were teenagers. We harnessed that raw energy and power, the unbridled passion of those days at CBGB and basements and VFW halls across the country, sleeping on concrete floors and shoplifting for fun, back when it felt like you were really part of something different. We've checked the rock and roll ambitions and delusional fantasies at the door, and wrote a hardcore record like only we knew how."

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Guillermo Del Toro To Direct 'The Hobbit' And Its Sequel

While 'Lord of the Rings' stars have expressed interest in flick, casting is still up in the air.

What acclaimed, Oscar-nominated director does Peter Jackson have in his "pocketses"? It's no longer a great riddle worthy of those "tricksy hobbitses," with news Thursday (April 24) that "Hellboy" helmer Guillermo del Toro has signed on to direct two new features in J.R.R. Tolkien's expansive legendarium: "The Hobbit" and a yet-untitled sequel that will take place during the 60 years between the end of that book and the beginning of "The Lord of the Rings."

The announcement, first reported in Variety, comes after months of negotiations between Del Toro, Jackson and New Line Cinema. For his part, Del Toro has seemed positively giddy over the prospect of stepping into Jackson's shoes, telling MTV News this past weekend at New York Comic Con that he was eagerly awaiting an announcement so he could begin work on the adaptation.

According to the trade magazine, Del Toro will move to New Zealand for the next four years, where he will film the two flicks back-to-back while working closely with Jackson and his Wingnut and WETA Digital production teams.

He'll no doubt also be joined by many more familiar faces. Over the past year, nearly all the actors from the original trilogy, including Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood, have told MTV News of their wish to return to Middle-earth for a "Fellowship of the Rings" prequel. More recently, Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf, expressed his wish to reprise the role on his personal blog.

"The Hobbit" follows Bilbo Baggins in his quest to help a band of dwarves recapture a hoard of stolen treasure from the dragon Smaug. In the course of their many adventures, Bilbo stumbles upon the One Ring, a physical projection of the Lord Sauron's evil and manages to steal it from the unsuspecting Gollum.

The second film's focus is anyone's guess, as Tolkien himself wrote very little of the time between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," save for some backstory in various appendices. It would most likely center on Aragorn, as he grows up among the elves, befriends Gandalf and begins his quest to protect the hobbits as a Ranger.

It is not known at this time whether Ian Holm, who played Bilbo in "LOTR," will return for these two sequels.

Check out our picks for who should be in "The Hobbit," and weigh in on whether Holm should return on the MTV Movies Blog.

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

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'Baby Mama': Womb Service, By Kurt Loder

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in a chick flick for everybody.

Still-single career woman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) is screwing up another of her increasingly desperate dinner dates. "I'll be the oldest mom in day school," she tells the startled guy across the table. "I want a baby now. I'm 37." Cue shot of guy beating a retreat out the restaurant door.

A couple of plot developments later, trailer-bait doofette Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler), whose hired womb will soon be home to Kate's artificially fertilized eggs, is being infused with hospital-grade drugs for the implantation. She's loving it. "This is good," Angie says, taking off. "What's the street name for this?"

These two scenes suggest the several strengths and a minor weakness of "Baby Mama," a movie that may be rooted in the familiar bog of TV sketch comedy, but which blossoms, by way of sharp writing and some inspired performances, into a picture that's funnier than you might expect, and occasionally hilarious.

Any movie about reproductive anxiety and surrogate motherhood is a chick flick by definition. But a good chick flick — "Moonstruck," say, or "Bridget Jones's Diary" — is always a good guy flick, too. "Baby Mama" isn't a lecture about sex-role burdens; it's really about social worlds in collision. Kate, a top exec with a Philadelphia-based health-food chain called Round Earth (a name to savor), has everything except what's beginning to seem the most important thing. "I just woke up one day," she tells a friend, "and I felt like every baby on the street was staring at me." She sets out on a quest for motherhood, but learns that pregnancy is not in her particular cards. Deciding to try in vitro fertilization, she winds up at an agency that specializes in recruiting surrogate mothers. After handing over a hundred grand, she is soon hooked up, most unpromisingly, with Angie.

Angie has been steered into this line of work by her layabout boyfriend, Carl (Dax Shepard). Carl is a classic of his kind (the sort of guy who has a pet iguana called Hellboy), but Angie has been glued to him since "the summer after I discontinued high school." When they suddenly split up, Angie, having no place else to go, decides to move into Kate's swank apartment. This could only be a good idea in a movie, of course. Kate lives in an idiotically upscale world in which baby strollers come not just with iPod holders, but with airbags, too. Angie, on the other hand, is into aura-reading and junk food. As you'd hope — as in fact must by comedy law be the case — chaos soon reigns.

Fey, in full, gorgeous fluster, and Poehler, a master of comic delirium, are nicely paired; and the script, by writer-director Michael McCullers (who toiled on the "Austin Powers" movies), gives them a sizable number of killer lines to work with. Greg Kinnear, affable as always, is on hand to offer Kate romantic hope as the owner of a struggling juice shop; and the movie also has the immeasurable benefit of two small, scene-jacking performances by Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin. Weaver plays the insufferably smug owner of the surrogate agency, a woman in her fifties who has managed to become pregnant herself with no artificial assistance. ("You should see my uterus," she tells the despondent Kate.) And Martin, heavier here, and more satirically zestful than he's been in years, is Kate's ponytailed boss, Barry, a health-food mogul and new-age buffoon ("I was swimming with the dolphins this morning in Costa Rica ..."). Add on the invaluable Romany Malco as a nuts-and-bolts love man ("I don't have relationships, I have relations"), and you have a comedy that delivers more smart laughs than its genre might seem to promise. Guys, please be advised.

Check out everything we've got on "Baby Mama."

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

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Jam Master Jay Murder Twist: 'Person Of Interest' In Investigation Sentenced To 17 Years For Other Crimes

Judge declines to consider Ronald 'Tinard' Washington's alleged involvement in murder.

BROOKLYN, New York — The Jam Master Jay murder investigation took another turn Wednesday when Ronald "Tinard" Washington, who has been implicated by two unnamed witnesses in Jay's murder, was sentenced in federal court to 17 years in prison and three years' supervised release.

The sentencing follows the defendant's conviction last year on a series of robbery charges dating back to 2002.

Prosecutor Sean Haran argued for a stronger sentence for Washington "due to the defendant's involvement in two separate murders," presumably referring to the murders of Jay and Tupac Shakur's bodyguard Randy "Stretch" Walker, but Federal Judge Nina Gershon declined to consider the murders in her decision.

"If it was such an overwhelming case, someone would have prosecuted him, instead of hanging a murder on a string of robberies with a BB gun," she said in her ruling.

Dressed in an off-white T-shirt and ash-colored baggy sweatpants, a visibly distressed Washington sat quietly in the corridor.

According to federal documents, Washington, 40, confessed his role to a former girlfriend, although he has not been charged with the murder. His defense lawyer, Susan Kellman, told the paper, "If the government had a case, they'd bring it. The reality is, they have no idea who [killed Jam Master Jay]."

However, Washington may not have seen his last day in court: Police officials have told MTV News that he is "a person of interest" in the ongoing investigation of the murders.

For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.

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Ice Cube, Chamillionaire, Al Sharpton Are Disgusted By The 'Injustice' Of Sean Bell Verdict

'As much as things change, the more they stay the same,' DJ Drama says of acquitted police detectives.

Unadulterated anger, confusion but certainly not shock are some of the feelings that members of the hip-hop community have expressed about the verdict in the Sean Bell case. Three New York police detectives were acquitted Friday morning (April 25) of any wrongdoing in the Bell case. Bell was shot 50 times by the cops, who claim they thought he had gun after leaving his bachelor party in Queens. Investigations proved he was unarmed.

"This is just another example that the justice system in America views a black life as worthless," Ice Cube bluntly fumed in a statement.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that shooting an innocent, unarmed man 50-plus times is an excessive use of force," Chamillionaire said. "... I'm sure a lot of people are as disappointed with this verdict as I am. It scares me to know what type of power is given to people who are supposed to be protecting us from harm. It seems like they are all just protecting themselves. The verdict sends a terrible message to people across the nation who already don't have faith in the law or our justice system. It will be hard for people to see this as anything other than a case of police protection. Our prayers go out to the family and friends of Sean Bell."

"I don't know what implications a guilty or not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case has on our society," Russell Simmons said in a statement released to MTV News on Friday. "I only know for certain that we need more sensitivity training as part of the police curriculum. I also believe a more intimate dialogue must be promoted between police and communities. This process could change the perception by some in the 'hood who view the police presence as an occupying force when they could or should see them as a security force working for the people."

"The verdict is almost as tragic as the incident," UGK's Bun B said. "We've already lost [a] life, and now we've got a loss of justice and loss of reciprocation for what's happened. And it cuts you on so many levels."

Bun insisted that the law has to change. "Some kind of legislation that holds police more accountable [is needed]," he said. " ... I would love to see the Sean Bell bill passed, you know what I'm saying? Something in his name. Let's not mar his memory with violence. ... I feel like people should be upset. They should be mad, but that's what they expect for us to do with our anger. That's what they expect us to do with our energy, is to put it back out and to take their negative energy and turn it into something even more negative. We gotta take that sh-- and do it into something positive for this dude, because ... Sean Bell could've been anybody, literally. Sean Bell wasn't a celebrity. He wasn't an athlete. ... He was just a man trying to take care of his family, trying to do his thing, just do him. This could be anybody. Any man."

DJ Drama said the Bell case is just one more instance of injustice, and he wasn't surprised by the outcome at all. He was almost expecting it.

"I almost had a feeling of how the outcome is gonna be," Drama said Friday in Atlanta. "To wake up and see that — as much as things change, the more they stay the same. You look at this country on one hand, you have a black man and a woman running for president. Then you look at the justice system, and every cop in the Sean Bell case getting acquitted. We got a lot of work to do. The struggle never ends. It affects all of us. Anybody with a voice, you gotta use your voice and speak on it when you see injustice. That's what I think it is: injustice."

"I just got sick, man," Bun B agreed. "You can't even be surprised, 'cause it's not like this hasn't happened before. It just knocks the wind out of you. For one, I'm like, 'Jesus Christ, so the wife and family get nothing.' Of course, they get the appeal of the verdict or whatever, but it's disgusting, to be honest."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who called the verdict an "abortion of justice," is planning a protest rally in Harlem on Saturday morning alongside Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre-Bell, and victims Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. On Friday, MTV News caught up with Sharpton and the victims' lawyers.

"I think that we need a cross-section of groups to come together," Sharpton said from his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. "We need to sit down immediately and plan a strategy and make it international, with the goals being a structural change in policing. I believe we can get to the federal government. Then we're going to wait again for another trial. There's something wrong with the law, and we must change that."

Lawyers for the victims' families echoed Sharpton's statements. "We feel as though justice was snatched out of our hands," said attorney Michael Hardy. " ... It's just hard to believe that we can live in a city where several years ago, Amadou Diallo could be shot at 41 times and no one is responsible, and now you can be shot at 50 times with no justification and no one's held accountable for that."

Meanwhile, the hip-hop community will continue to speak out against the case as well. Some are even venting their frustrations in the studio.

"The song is called 'Get Your Issue,' " Bun B said of one of his recent recordings. "It's talking about police brutality in the 'hood and how many brothers over the past years have gone down. It's just really been ugly ... but New York police have been out of line for a long time.

"I don't really know if they're gonna wanna listen to music right now," he added about the Bell family. "But [I made the song] just so they know that people do care. I don't know Sean. I've never met him or seen him before, but he's a black man. He was a human being. He was a husband and a father. I relate to that on all levels, you know what I'm saying?"

Mobb Deep's Prodigy raps about the infamous case on his album H.N.I.C., Pt. 2, which was released Tuesday: "I only lie to the police/ On the real/ New York pricks and di--s/ Know the deal/ They wanna do the kid/ Like my n---a Sean Bell/ F--- that, it be a racist cop/ Burial with the bagpipe music."

Before ending his press conference, Sharpton told a packed room of protesters they had "lost a round, but the fight was still on."

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Amy Winehouse Arrested On Suspicion Of Assault, After Allegedly Punching, Head-Butting Two People

If convicted, singer could be sentenced to six months in prison.

According to a representative for Scotland Yard, Amy Winehouse was arrested Friday afternoon (April 25) on suspicion of assault. The 24-year-old singer was due to be questioned by police on Friday, and the Grammy-winning artist voluntarily walked into a London police station to face interrogation.

The charge stems from a recent incident in the north London neighborhood of Camden earlier this week, when Winehouse allegedly punched a 38-year-old man in the street. Tabloid newspaper reports claim the singer hit the man when he got in her way while she was playing pool at a bar. She allegedly head-butted another patron, who was trying to hail her a cab early Wednesday morning.

If convicted, Winehouse — who was expected to be released from police custody within the hour — could be sentenced to six months behind bars.

The news comes on the same day that Winehouse's husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court to face charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and inflicting grievous bodily harm. He had denied any wrongdoing, and when he appeared in court Friday morning, Winehouse was nowhere to be found. A June 2 trial date was set during Friday's proceedings, and Fielder-Civil will remain in police custody until the trial starts.

Winehouse's arrest is merely the latest in a string of legal troubles she's faced over the last year. She and her husband were both arrested in the Norwegian city of Bergen back in October, on charges of drug possession, and Winehouse was arrested in London late last year on suspicion of attempting to interfere with her husband's court case. Those charges were dropped in February.

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50 Cent Quashes Eminem Weight-Gain Rumors: 'He's Gonna Look Real Good When You See Him Return'

Despite all the tabloid gossip, Fif says Em is in shape and playing basketball.

50 Cent wants you to know that despite what you may have heard, his good pal Eminem is not — as one tabloid so delicately put it — "starting to look like an M&M."

In a recent sit-down with MTV News' Tim Kash, 50 laughed off recent rumors that Em — who has all but disappeared from the public eye in recent years — has been packing on the pounds, and that as a result of his weight gain, has become a recluse, venturing out of his Detroit-area mansion only to gorge himself on meals from Taco Bell and Outback Steakhouse. The G-Unit captain insisted that fans are going to be seeing a slim-and-trim Eminem real soon.

"Em is in shape right now. He looks good. I seen him in Detroit. He's gonna look real good when you see him return," Fif laughed. "He's in shape right now."

The rapper has been on hiatus ever since releasing his official Shady Records mixtape, Eminem Presents the Re-Up, in December of 2006. In mid-2007, he called in to Angie Martinez's show on New York radio station Hot 97 to say he was "in limbo" and "debating" whether to release another album. Then, in January of this year, news broke that he had been rushed to a Detroit-area hospital for complications related to pneumonia, and in at least one of those reports, sources were quoted as saying his weight had exceeded 200 lbs.

Those rumors — coupled with a National Enquirer story that quoted an "insider" as saying that the rapper "[has] got a double chin, a potbelly and droopy man-breasts. And he's living a reclusive lifestyle in an attempt to hide his new body" — had fans worried about Eminem. But 50, who in recent weeks has battled rumors about his own weight thanks to online photos that show him looking extra gaunt, said that those worries are unfounded. According to him, Em's fine and in fighting shape (or at least, balling shape).

"The last time I seen him we played basketball together," 50 said. "He had a knee injury, so we chilled for a little bit."

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NY judge dismisses counterclaims vs Clear Channel

By Jessica Hall
2 hours, 54 minutes ago

A New York judge dismissed
counterclaims against Clear Channel Communications Inc on
Friday in a lawsuit over the funding of a $20 billion buyout of
the radio station operator.

Clear Channel joined the buyout firms in the Texas suit,
but was not a plaintiff in the New York case. The banks had
filed several counterclaims against both Clear Channel and the
buyout firms.

The judge on Friday dismissed the counterclaims against
Clear Channel, but said the counterclaims against the buyout
firms would continue. The buyout firms must answer those
counterclaims within 10 days, the judge said in the ruling. A
copy of the ruling was obtained by Reuters.

"We are grateful that Justice Freedman sent our case back
to Texas where it belongs," Clear Channel said in a statement.

Clear Channel had agreed to be acquired at the height of
the private equity boom last year. The credit markets has
changed significantly since then, causing the cost of financing
leveraged-loan debt to surge.

The banks were to provide more than $22 billion financing
and earn more than $400 million in fees, but they balked when
the debt markets deteriorated and asked for the terms of the
deal to be changed, according to a copy of one of the suits.

"The banks can have their lawyers churn out as many motions
and briefs as they want, but ultimately this case boils down to
a simple question of right and wrong, and they will face a jury
in Texas to decide that question," Clear Channel said.

The banks include Citigroup Inc, Morgan Stanley, Credit
Suisse Group
, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Deutsche Bank
and Wachovia Corp.

"We are happy that the court has ordered that the banks
counterclaims against the sponsors should proceed in New York,"
the banks said in a joint statement.

The buyout firms could not be immediately reached for

New York State Supreme Court Judge Helen Freedman heard an
hour of oral arguments on Thursday. The banks sought to have
Judge Freedman dismiss the lawsuit, arguing they were not yet
in breach of contract according to the commitment letter they
signed with the private equity firms. That commitment does not
expire until June 12.

The banks' attorney argued that, in New York State, there
was no law covering an arbitrary breach of contract and that
the private equity firms' lawsuit was premature.

Mark Hansen, a lawyer for the private equity firms, said
the bankers, "cooked up a set of loan documents that are
nuclear, draconian and punitive" in an attempt to void the
funding contract.

(Reporting by Jessica Hall; Editing by Andre Grenon and
Carol Bishopric)

(For more M&A news and our DealZone blog, go to

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    EMI's slow restructuring gains clarity

    By Ed Christman
    1 hour, 26 minutes ago

    NEW YORK (Billboard) -
    The restructuring of British record
    EMI will be one of the most ambitious reworkings of a
    major music company yet seen by the industry.

    EMI, now owned by private equity firm Terra Firma, wants to
    lay off 2,000 employees as part of a plan to tear down label
    walls and international boundaries, and focus more on finding
    new talent.

    So far a small amount of the expected job cuts have taken
    place at EMI's Christian Music Group and, most recently in the
    radio promotion department at Capitol/Virgin, which handles
    such acts as Coldplay and Lenny Kravitz.

    These moves only hint at what's to come. When all is said
    and done, EMI will have three centralized groups, divided by
    function, instead of by label and region, sources say.

    The company is centralizing all marketing, sales, catalog
    and digital forces under a global music services group. The
    purpose of peeling away these functions from the labels was to
    have a smaller head count but allow for more efficiencies. In
    the traditional music business, if one label was hot and
    another cold, or if one had a heavy release schedule and the
    other didn't, it became a resource allocation challenge.

    A support services group will round up EMI's back-office
    functions. Driving the music will be a centralized group, to be
    headed by former Island Records Group president Nick Gatfield.
    In some cases some labels will remain intact, like EMI Latin
    and EMI Christian. But other A&R (artists and
    repertoire)staffers will be genre or regional specialist,
    instead of reporting to specific labels like EMI Nashville,
    jazz division Blue Note, Virgin, Capitol or dance-focused


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      TV Lookout: highlights (and lowlights) for April 27-May 3

      By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer
      41 minutes ago

      Even the numbers are monstrous. Within a few months' span in 1944, more than 400,000 innocent people were delivered to the Auschwitz death camp. The arrival rate each day was approximately 8,000 victims, who were exterminated with chilling efficiency by the Nazis and their collaborators.

      But the unfathomable numbers of the Holocaust are supplemented by something new in "Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell" — a disturbing vision of the killers not as a collective monstrosity, but as ordinary people off the job, unwinding after their workday.

      This National Geographic Channel documentary examines photographs from a scrapbook presented to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum little more than a year ago by an anonymous donor. The album was compiled by Karl Hocker, an SS officer at the Auschwitz complex who served as the assistant to the commandant. Hocker snapped more than 100 pictures of himself and colleagues enjoying themselves at cocktail parties, sing-alongs and other afterwork activities.

      The photos don't argue against the killers' capacity for evil. But Hocker's album exposes them as humans, and they emerge all the more evil for it. Meanwhile, they are all the more disturbing for how, in some respects, they seem to resemble the rest of us.

      This engrossing documentary also helps shed light on the shadowy Hocker, who in war trial testimony (excerpts of which are heard during the program) would deny playing any role in the executions. His own innocent-seeming photographs are subjected to computer analysis for the documentary, and help support a case that concludes otherwise.

      "Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell" premieres 9 p.m. EDT Sunday.

      Other shows to look out for:

      • Presto! Seven wannabe celebrity magicians will suddenly turn into just six, on the premiere of VH1's "Celebracadabra." Starring genuine magician Rocco Silano, this new reality series gathers the contenders at Hollywood's Magic Castle, where they'll attempt to learn and perform tricks as they vie for the title of Best Celebrity Magician. In each episode the celebs will be instructed in a different style of magic, from sleight of hand to large-scale illusions. And the loser of each challenge will have to disappear. Competitors include comedian Hal Sparks, singer Carnie Wilson, rapper Chris "Kid" Reid and Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt. The series premieres Sunday at noon and 9 p.m. EDT.

      • What will happen when 10 attractive city gals head to the heartland to compete for the heart of a sexy farmer? That's the premise of "Farmer Wants a Wife," which finds 29-year-old, down-home hunk Matt growing corn, wheat and soybeans on his spread in Missouri — but also growing a little lonely. Who among the ladies will best adapt to tending farm animals, sewing quilts and taking part in bingo night — and thus win Matt's affections? It all sounds remarkably like "Girl Meets Cowboy," which, airing last fall on WE, was set in Montana. But this show is located 1,200 miles southeast, and located on the CW network, where it premieres 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

      Nicktoons Network is launching "Speed Racer: The Next Generation" with a 90-minute opener 7 p.m. EDT Friday. Based on the classic kids' show that debuted 30 years ago, this new series follows Speed Racer's son, Speed, after he arrives at the Racing Academy. With his new friends Lucy, Conor and Conor's robot monkey, Speed must learn to balance studying and racing, while avoiding the evil schemes of oil tycoon Zile Zazic and his racer daughter Annalise. Meanwhile, Speed and his pals try to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. And he discovers his father's schematics for a revolutionary gasless engine, which will power the car he builds, the Mach 6 — the ultimate racing machine.

      • An exquisite painting links bygone moments in the life of Penelope Keeling, the 64-year-old daughter of a famous artist, in "The Shell Seekers," a made-for-TV film starring Vanessa Redgrave that premieres 9 p.m. EDT Saturday on the Hallmark Channel. Based on Rosamunde Pilcher's best-selling novel, this is a portrait of a woman who has traveled from her childhood in London through an unhappy marriage and an all-too-brief romance, to her fractious relationship with her children, now grown. How will her late father's painting affect Penelope's efforts to bring her shattered family back together? The film — also featuring Maximilian Schell, Charles Edwards and Alastair MacKenzie — is a remake of a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production starring Angela Lansbury that was aired by ABC in 1989.


      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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        British jazz maestro to quizz master Lyttleton dies

        By Jeremy Lovell

        LONDON (Reuters) -
        British jazz-age trumpet maestro
        Humphrey Lyttleton, fondly known as "Humph" who later made a
        seamless transition to radio presenter and quiz-master has died
        at the age of 86, his website has announced.

        The master of the innuendo, whose ready smile and quick wit
        won him an army of admirers in his many other incarnations as a
        cartoonist, writer and radio host, had been admitted to
        hospital earlier this week for heart surgery.

        "Humph died peacefully with his family and friends around
        him," it said on Friday. "We would like to thank everyone for
        their support."

        The BBC, where Lyttleton spent much of his later career as
        a host for both radio music shows and television quiz programs,
        added its voice to the tributes to one of the stalwarts of
        popular broadcasting.

        "Humphrey Lyttelton will leave an enormous gap not just in
        British cultural life as a whole but in the lives of many
        millions of listeners," said BBC director general Mark

        "One of the towering figures of British jazz, he excelled
        too as a writer, cartoonist, humorist and of course as a
        broadcaster on television and radio.

        "He was a unique, irreplaceable talent. Like his many fans,
        we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Like them, all of us
        at the BBC feel a tremendous sense of loss."

        Lyttleton, born on May 23, 1921, had a privileged
        upbringing but did not let that get in his way as he moved into
        the seamy world of jazz.

        The son of a senior Eton schoolmaster and educated at the
        same upper crust school, Lyttleton discovered jazz at an early
        age, inspired by trumpeters like America's Louis Armstrong.

        His first, inadvertent, broadcast recording is still in the
        BBC archives when he took to a wheelbarrow with his trumpet to
        celebrate the end of World War Two on May 8, 1945.

        From the barrow he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist at
        the same time as following a burgeoning career as a jazz

        His Bad Penny Blues became the first British jazz record to
        enter the top 20 in 1956. That same year his Lyttelton Band
        supported Louis Armstrong in London.

        The program regularly attracted audiences of two million.

        A father-of-four Lyttleton, who was a long-standing
        president of the Society For Italic Handwriting, married twice,
        first in 1948 and then again following divorce in 1952.

        (Reporting by Jeremy Lovell)

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          A twist of lime, indie music for beer launches

          By Kamau High
          2 hours, 15 minutes ago

          NEW YORK (Billboard) -
          On a recent evening at New York's
          Maritime Hotel, the members of electronica duo Yacht are
          spastically flinging themselves about in front of a crowd of
          indie-label types and their fans, advertising salespeople and
          Anheuser-Busch executives from St. Louis.

          It's one of several events in such cities as Los Angeles
          and Chicago leading up to the national release of Bud Light
          Lime on April 28, a Mexican-style beer in the vein of Corona
          Extra. While Bud Light Lime takes its cue from Mexican culture,
          much of its $35 million launch will be directed at fans of
          indie rock, electronica and dance music.

          Bud Light Lime joins a crowded field of established beers
          including Miller Chill, which was introduced last year by
          Anheuser-Busch rival SABMiller. Miller Chill, flavored with
          lime and a hint of salt, saw sales of $40 million with a
          Latin-themed campaign last year dubbed "Viva Refreshment."

          The national campaign for Bud Light Lime will feature the
          music of multigenre performer Santogold. A remix of her song
          "Lights Out," as well as the ringtone, will be released online
          next week at budlightlime.

          In addition, a CD sampler, with up to 18 tracks, will be
          released in June to tastemakers and music blogs. Tentatively
          titled "Bud Light Lime + Fader Presents," it will feature
          existing music from such indie labels as Downtown Records.

          Anheuser-Busch also is attuned to Bud Light Lime's
          potential appeal to the Latin market. Its Hispanic agency,
          LatinWorks, is working on spots that focus on people enjoying
          Bud Light Lime in such outdoor settings as rooftops and pool
          parties while "Yo Marco El Minuto" by Spanish hip-hop artist
          Mala Rodriguez plays.

          "It definitely has a Latino segment but we're not trying to
          say it's about any one demographic. It's a beer for everyone,"
          Bud Light brand manager Ryan Moore says.

          The competition, of course, is responding. The week before
          Bud Light Lime's launch, Miller Chill debuted a campaign that
          features the music of Brazilian singer Curumin.

          In one of the spots a young man at a dance club has a
          Miller Chill placed before him. As the song "Guerreiro" by
          Curumin begins to play, a chill spreads throughout the hot
          club. The frozen parts of the floor stop at the feet of a
          dancing woman who gratefully looks for the source of the
          cooling effect, and once she spots him, she gives him a
          come-hither look.


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            Christian rock tour targets mainstream fans

            By Deborah Evans Price
            1 hour, 45 minutes ago

            NASHVILLE (Billboard) -
            Christian music quartet Third Day
            will headline a traveling festival it hopes will attract music
            fans of all religious persuasions.

            The 23-city Music Builds tour, also featuring Switchfoot,
            Jars of Clay and Robert Randolph & the Family Band, kicks off
            August 21 in Detroit and concludes October 12 in Denver.

            The amphitheater trek will also include a side stage
            featuring up-and-coming acts. MySpace will be the exclusive
            online media partner.

            "Hopefully the church and people who listen to Christian
            music are going to be big supporters of the tour," says Third
            Day frontman Mac Powell.

            "But I think because of the lineup, it's going to be a
            little bit more friendly to people outside of the church as
            well. It's not going to be a normal Christian music festival."

            A portion of the proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity
            affiliates in tour cities. Artists on the tour will
            collectively donate $1 to charity from every ticket sold. Money
            will also be raised from ticket auctions, event packages and
            special merchandise items. Plans even call for band members to
            grab tools and help build some Habitat houses along the way.

            "More than just playing music, this is something that's
            going to reach a community and change the communities that we
            go and play for," Powell says. "That's what really gives us a
            huge reason to go do it, (in addition to) just making great
            music together."

            In the meantime, Third Day is gearing up for the July 29
            release of its first studio album in three years, "Revelation."


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              French cinema sees gloom amid box-office triumph

              By James Mackenzie

              PARIS (Reuters) -
              Like one of the moody, enigmatic heroes
              in which it specializes, French cinema is going through a
              period of crisis and introspection just as it prepares to
              celebrate one of its greatest triumphs.

              The runaway success of "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis," an
              amiable comedy about a damp and unglamorous northern province,
              is expected to be crowned in the coming days when it takes the
              title of the most popular film ever shown in France.

              The film, made for just 11 million euros ($17.15 million),
              has already claimed the box office record for a French film and
              is poised to overtake the attendance record set by the
              Hollywood blockbuster "Titanic" of more than 20 million viewers
              in France.

              With Marion Cotillard claiming France's first best-actress
              Oscar in almost 50 years for her performance as chanteuse Edith
              in "La Vie en Rose" and a string of popular local romances
              and comedies in movie theaters, the industry should be buoyant.

              But away from the commercial giants like Pathe, producer of
              "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" and owner of France's biggest chain
              of multiplex cinemas, the mood is somber.

              Some independent filmmakers say the growing dominance of a
              handful of distributors and weakening state support threatens
              the future of the smaller "films d'auteur" that have been the
              hallmark of French cinema since the days of Francois Truffaut
              and Jean-Luc Godard.

              "Cinema is going through a deeply troubled period of worry
              and self questioning," said an article in this month's Cahiers
              du Cinema, the highbrow bible of arthouse films and birthplace
              of the "New Wave" of French cinema in the 1960s.

              It said the industry's problems had reached a level not
              seen in at least 25 years and noted: "The whole system of
              public support for cinema is in crisis."


              Pascale Ferran, director of "Lady Chatterley," a French
              version of D.H. Lawrence's classic, recently presented a
              194-page report warning of the threat to films that were
              neither big budget blockbusters nor tiny avant-garde art

              "For some time now, we have been witnessing a slide away
              from a logic of film to a logic of business," the report says.

              Margaret Menegoz, president of Unifrance, the body that
              promotes French cinema abroad, said she sympathized with parts
              of the report but was skeptical about the question of funding
              and said the arthouse sector remained the mainstay of exports.

              "I don't think the success of a film is tied to its
              budget," she said. "A film has to be well made and catch a mood
              but the public couldn't care less what it costs to make."

              In terms of pure numbers, the industry appears to be doing
              well, backed by rising investment from television broadcasters
              like Canal Plus and TPS.

              The National Centre for Cinematography said 185 local
              productions were approved last year and investment in French
              films passed one billion euros for the first time.

              Fueled by "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis," attendance in French
              cinemas rose 17.8 percent in the first three months of the year
              to 61.75 million entries, with local films enjoying market
              share of 63.7 percent against 56.5 percent a year earlier, it

              But the change in climate is perhaps summed up by the fate
              of the Cahiers du Cinema, which provided the launching pad for
              Truffaut's later career as a director but which is now up for
              sale by its publisher, the newspaper group le Monde.


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                Threat of an actors strike boosts movie production

                By LYNN ELBER, AP Entertainment Writer
                2 hours, 42 minutes ago

                LOS ANGELES (AP) — Feature film production in the Los Angeles area jumped 11 percent in the first three months of the year as studios moved to get ahead of a possible actors strike.

                FilmL.A. Inc., an agency that tracks on-location filming, said the increase came in comparison to the first quarter of 2007.

                "The studios are trying to get production wrapped before June 30," the expiration date for the current Screen Actors Guild contract, Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., said Friday.

                A film shoot interrupted by a strike would a "very expensive proposition," he said.

                SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers held their 10th day of negotiations on Friday as another actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, waited in the wings for its contract talks to begin on May 5.

                AFTRA delayed the start of its talks for a week to give SAG a better chance to complete a three-year deal covering movies and prime-time television.

                Kyser said the reprieve for SAG gave many workers in Hollywood hope that there won't be a repeat of the 100-day strike by writers that brought the entertainment industry to a standstill.

                FilmL.A. said TV production was making a slow recovery from the strike. TV location filming was down 45 percent in the first quarter of 2008, compared to last year, the agency said.

                A key issue in the SAG talks is improved compensation for shows and movies distributed online, just as it was for the writers guild.

                SAG sent a report to members on Thursday outlining why projects distributed digitally are important to actors. It said 134 million Americans — three in every four Internet users — view online videos each month.

                In addition, it said that by 2010, the top 100 media companies will collect an estimated $20.7 billion a year in Internet revenue, with advertisers spending $2.9 billion annually on online video ads.

                "All this adds up to tremendous opportunities for actors," SAG told members.

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                  Reprise time: Summer offers Indy, Batman, Narnia, X-Files

                  By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer
                  39 minutes ago

                  LOS ANGELES - Studio executives hope they've trained their audience well as the season of summer blockbusters arrives.

                  From May through mid-August, Hollywood will bank on the idea that there is at least one movie every week — and sometimes two — that you simply must see.

                  Summer features such box-office staples as Will Smith, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Jack Black, and brings back beloved characters such as Indiana Jones, Batman, Speed Racer, Carrie and her "Sex and the City" gal pals, the "Narnia" kids, the Incredible Hulk and two very different agent couples: paranormal troupers Mulder and Scully and comic spies Maxwell Smart and Agent 99.

                  A look at the lineup:

                  MAY 2: Heavy hitters like "Spider-Man" and "Superman" are established big-screen figures, but the comic-book world has a deep bench.

                  Robert Downey Jr. takes the lead in "Iron Man," playing a wealthy inventor who lacks superpowers but does have a nifty high-tech suit of armor that really leaves an impression when he gives villains a knuckle sandwich.

                  Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges co-star in the tale based on the Marvel Comics hero, a man with a subversive sense of humor who starts off as "not the most likable fellow," said director Jon Favreau.

                  With "Iron Man" less familiar to audiences than Supe or Spidey, it took an actor of Downey's status to ease some worries Favreau had.

                  "My biggest concern was that it would slide into some B-hero wheeled out by Marvel, that this movie would be a poor man's `Spider-Man,'" Favreau said. "Hiring Robert, the challenge shifted from whether it was going to be good or bad to how far we were going to push things and bend the genre."

                  MAY 9: Andy and Larry Wachowski turned virtual reality on its head with "The Matrix." Now they follow their R-rated franchise with the family-friendly adventure "Speed Racer," an adaptation of the animated show starring Emile Hirsch as the kid roaring along the roadways, Christina Ricci as his helicopter-flying girlfriend and Matthew Fox as mystery man Racer X.

                  A fan of "Speed Racer" growing up, Hirsch said he wanted in as soon as he heard the Wachowski brothers were writing and directing.

                  "Seeing `The Matrix' for the first time when I was 13 to this day is one of my most memorable experiences ever in a movie theater," Hirsch said. "I already loved the show, and for guys of that kind of caliber to get involved with it could only be something special."

                  MAY 16: Things sure can change in 1,300 years, as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie learn when they go over the rainbow again in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," the second installment in the fantasy franchise based on C.S. Lewis' books.

                  Only a short time has passed for the siblings in England, but centuries have gone by in Narnia, which now is under the bootheel of the tyrannical Telmarines and mean King Miraz. The Pevensies encounter a new ally — Caspian (Ben Barnes), the rightful heir to Narnia's throne — and are reacquainted with old buddy Aslan the lion, again voiced by Liam Neeson.

                  The three years since the first movie, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," have resulted in huge digital advancements in how director Andrew Adamson could depict computer-generated creatures such as Aslan.

                  "It's little things like when Lucy first sees him this time, she runs up and gives him a hug. ... It's a great image to see a little girl hug a lion," Adamson said. "And there's a great shot in this film where Aslan actually tackles someone off a horse and rolls around on the ground with them. The level of interactivity makes it so much more real."

                  MAY 22: Cue the Indy fanfare. Henry Jones Jr. is cracking his whip again.

                  "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" reunites the dream team of Harrison Ford as the archaeologist-adventurer, director Steven Spielberg and creator-producer George Lucas.

                  It's been 19 years since the last movie, and the fourth film hurtles the aging Indy from his Nazi-fighting days of the 1930s to the Cold War era of the '50s, with Cate Blanchett as a Soviet operative and Karen Allen returning as Marion Ravenwood, his love interest from 1981's "Raiders of the Ark."

                  Unlike film franchises that crank up the action and effects with each sequel, Spielberg, Lucas and Ford are offering an old-school Indy.

                  "We did everything exactly the way we did it before, so if you expect F-14s flying into freeways, it ain't gonna happen," Lucas said. "If you expect this to suddenly have bells and whistles and have 10 times more whatever than the first ones, it's not. It's just like a continuation. It's like sitting down on a cozy old sofa that you've had for 20 years and having the same experience."

                  What sort of toll did the action take on 65-year-old Ford, who sustained knee and back injuries on some of the earlier "Indiana Jones" movies?

                  "I broke a fingernail," Ford said. "I walked away with a hangnail."

                  As for the big question fans have posed — is co-star Shia LaBeouf the love child of Indy and Marion? — neither Ford nor Lucas will say.

                  "I can't say that. I'm not allowed. Steven would kill me. You'll have to get that out of Steven," Lucas said. "If you get it out of him, then it must be true."

                  MAY 30: Is "Monogamy and the City" as much fun?

                  When we last saw "Sex and the City" stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon, their TV characters were settling down and seemingly leaving behind their randy ways.

                  The movie reunites the four with co-star Chris Noth as Big, the on-again, off-again beau of Parker's Carrie, with whom she finally wound up as the series ended four years ago.

                  While the movie maintains the show's cheeky humor and ribald conversation, it's not a sex romp but a story about women dealing with commitment, family and all the issues of growing older, Parker said. Newcomer Jennifer Hudson, as author Carrie's young assistant, helps contrast where the characters are now with where they were then.

                  "Carrie looks at her and says `Wow, I was that girl. I came to the city looking for love. I believed in all the promise and potential that New York offered,'" Parker said. "It's not like a slumber party in sweats, anymore. It's about the beauty and heartache of getting older. It doesn't mean you're old. It just means things have a different value than when you were in your 20s."

                  JUNE 6: Adam Sandler's Zohan will do anything to stay out of the line of fire. Jack Black's Po is dying to get in on the action.

                  "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," whose co-writers include Sandler and Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up"), stars the comedy king as an Israeli commando who pretends he's been killed so he can become a New York City hairdresser.

                  The animated action comedy "Kung Fu Panda" features Black voicing the tubby Po, a panda stuck working at his family's noodle shop when he's tapped to train as a martial arts master and battle an evil snow leopard threatening the land.

                  The voice cast includes Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Seth Rogen.

                  Directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne wanted to pay respect to the live-action martial arts movies they admire while offering a fresh approach to fight sequences carried out by creatures that include a viper, a tigress and a crane.

                  "We didn't want it to look like people wearing animal costumes," Stevenson said. "It took a lot of work to figure out a special martial arts style that worked for animals, using animals' anatomy and the natural qualities of animals, while still being actually accurate to those kung fu movies."

                  JUNE 13: When we last saw Marvel Comics' big angry green guy, he was hopping around in the desert in Ang Lee's "Hulk," a critical and commercial disappointment.

                  The Marvel gang went back to the drawing board for "The Incredible Hulk," starring Edward Norton in a new take that the filmmakers say will channel both the comic books and the 1970s and '80s TV show starring Bill Bixby.

                  The movie wastes no time explaining how Norton's Bruce Banner was transformed into a man who mutates into the Hulk when angered, said producer Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios' head of production. The story hints at what happened to him then jumps into the action, he said.

                  "This is not an origin story," Feige said. "We are assuming everyone buying a ticket will know Bruce Banner is a scientist on the run who grows into a green hulk 9 feet tall. That's all people need to know. So the adventure is off and running right from the beginning."

                  JUNE 20: Maxwell Smart took himself seriously, even when he was talking into his shoe phone. So the makers of "Get Smart," an update of the 1960s TV comedy, took him seriously, too.

                  Taking on the character created by Don Adams, Steve Carell plays bumbling spy Max as a desk jockey finally promoted to field work, paired with veteran operative Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) as they try to stop a doomsday scenario by the KAOS crime boss (Terence Stamp). Dwayne Johnson co-stars as the superstar agent Max idolizes.

                  Carell and Hathaway say the idea was not to parody spy flicks but to do an authentic one with lots of action — and loads of laughs.

                  "I'm not sure we actually succeed as a spoof," Hathaway said. "I think we're more silly. We're not lampooning the genre. We just have a lighter take on it."

                  "What about a comedic `Bourne Identity?' You take the action in that and you make it a legitimate spy movie that's funny, as opposed to taking the cliches of spy movies and turning them on their heads," Carell said. "If the villains are like Terence Stamp, these guys are scary and actually have some threat to them. There's some sense of jeopardy. The comedy laid on top of that might resonate more."

                  JUNE 27: So far, the Pixar-Disney animation outfit has done no wrong, crafting such acclaimed hits as the "Toy Story" movies, "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille."

                  "Finding Nemo" director Andrew Stanton now offers up "Wall-E," the tale of a janitorial robot toiling away for centuries because no one remembered to turn him off after humanity trashes Earth to the point that the planet must be abandoned.

                  Here's Stanton's short take on the story: "The last robot on Earth crosses the galaxy for love."

                  "I thought it was the saddest character in the world, this poor little guy that doesn't know it can stop what it's doing," said writer-director Stanton. "It's the ultimate definition of futility. Machine or not, you have to be asking yourself, `Does what I'm doing mean anything at all?'"

                  JULY 2: With such hits as "Independence Day" and "Men in Black," Will Smith has owned the Fourth of July weekend.

                  He aims to dominate it again with "Hancock," which co-stars Charlize Theron in the tale of a churlish superhero with real problems like the rest of us.

                  "It's the very authentic version of an alcoholic superhero," Smith said. "You will scream laughing, then there's some dramatic turns that just leave your jaw dropping. Huge special effects. It is all things."

                  JULY 11: Brendan Fraser finally offers scientific proof that there is an albino dinosaur at the Earth's core — and he does it in 3-D.

                  "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is a modern twist on Jules Verne's classic tale presented entirely in three-dimensional digital video that practically sets the characters and effects in the audience's lap.

                  Gimmicky old 3-D films "made the brain and eyeballs do calisthenics. Frankly, it made you feel kind of queasy and ill," Fraser said. "This allows you to live in the environment that the actors inhabit."

                  The weekend's other big name, Eddie Murphy, gets to inhabit his own weird environment — himself — in the comedy "Meet Dave."

                  Murphy stars as the leader of a group of tiny aliens scouting Earth because their own race is endangered. They blend in with humanity by tooling about in a ship that looks just like Eddie Murphy.

                  "He's robotic and not quite in control of his form, his human form," said co-star Elizabeth Banks. "Eddie's performance, he has a lot of naivete about the world around him. He comes off as being extremely strange and odd, and that naivete translates very nicely into charm."

                  JULY 18: Batman is back with "The Dark Knight," reuniting star Christian Bale with director Christopher Nolan and pitting the soul-searching crimefighter against his greatest enemy, the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger in his next-to-last role.

                  With great buzz on Ledger's frantic performance and his demonic makeup, the Joker is the corrupted flip-side of Batman, who lives by a strict code despite raging inner turmoil.

                  "It's a fine line, something which we kind of toy with in the story, of this fine line, essentially both being freaks to most people, both being idealists," Bale said. "The Joker trying to show the hypocrisy of society and trying to show Batman that his way just ultimately can't work. These rules that he places on himself are just a joke."

                  JULY 25: The basic story for "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" has been kicking around in writer-director Chris Carter's head since his paranormal TV series went off the air six years ago.

                  Carter reunites with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson for the second big-screen adventure of Mulder and Scully, who spent years in the FBI chasing aliens and supernatural phenomena.

                  So what's the story? Carter's not telling, other than to say it's not about aliens but an earthbound tale "within the realm of extreme scientific possibility."

                  "It takes into consideration that the characters have grown or aged or progressed in the six years since we last saw them," Carter said. "I think we are true to everything that the characters have experienced not just in the last six years but over the course of the television show."

                  AUG. 1: After digging way down under with "Journey to the Center of the Earth," Brendan Fraser comes up for air with "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," the third outing for the adventuresome family who, as he puts it, "by some bizarre coincidence just always encounters the undead."

                  Maria Bello replaces Rachel Weisz as Fraser's British wife, the couple coming out of bored retirement to join their grown-up son on a dig in China, where they end up battling an ancient ruler (Jet Li) who springs back to life aiming to conquer the world.

                  Director Rob Cohen said it was not necessarily a hindrance that Weisz decided against returning.

                  "The truth is, I was happy to have a new opportunity to bring something different to the movie, so that you really have a sense of freshness," Cohen said. "I thought, Brendan will be more on his toes with a new actor, and Maria threw him as much new stuff as anyone could."

                  AUG. 8: America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel and Blake Lively are back as the gal pals who like to share a particular hand-me-down in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2."

                  Three years have passed, they've just finished their first year of college, and "we kind of come back together to realize everyone's growing in a lot of different directions," Bledel said. "It's about the four of us finding our unique selves but finding a way to keep this relationship that means so much to us."

                  "I'm sure that young girls really appreciate seeing fun female relationships like this that aren't competitive or kind of just sidebars to male stories," added Ferrera.

                  AUG. 15: What if pampered, hapless actors went off to make a Vietnam War movie and got caught in a real battle?

                  That's the idea behind co-writer, director and star Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder," a comedy that features Robert Downey Jr. as a white actor portraying a black character with insanely serious devotion and Tom Cruise as a bald, raving studio boss with hilarious dance moves.

                  The germ of the idea struck Stiller 20 years ago, and it eventually percolated into a story about self-centered actors (Stiller, Downey and Jack Black among them) whose location shoot in the jungle pits them against brutal drug smugglers.

                  "The movie's kind of taking off on actors who obviously have to take it seriously when doing these films, and you see these interviews where they talk about the experience as if they've been in a real war," Stiller said. "I think it's very easy to see the humor in that."

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                    Hollywood has broad summer range behind the blockbusters

                    39 minutes ago

                    LOS ANGELES - Along with the major blockbusters, Hollywood offers loads of other films this summer. A look at the highlights:


                    "The Fall" — A bedridden man in early Hollywood spins wild fantasies to encourage a young girl at the same hospital.

                    "How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer" — America Ferrera and Elizabeth Pena star in a comedy about three generations of Mexican-American women.

                    "Made of Honor" — Patrick Dempsey covertly romances his best pal (Michelle Monaghan) after she asks him to be "maid of honor" at her wedding.

                    "Meet Bill" — A lingerie saleswoman (Jessica Alba) helps turn life around for a loser (Aaron Eckhart).

                    "Noise" — Tim Robbins stars as a man who turns vigilante to combat the constant racket of Manhattan.

                    "Redbelt" — David Mamet directs Chiwetel Ejiofor as a man of honor in a corrupt world of mixed martial arts fighting.

                    "Son of Rambow" — A British charmer follows two wildly different boys who team up to make their own "Rambo" action flick.

                    "The Strangers" — A couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) face terror as masked intruders invade their home.

                    "War, Inc." — A hit man (John Cusack) poses as a corporate flunky to pull off an assassination in a war-torn country. The dark satire co-stars Hilary Duff.

                    "What Happens in Vegas" — Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher are scheming strangers who wed on a whim then battle over a Vegas fortune they've won.


                    "The Happening" — M. Night Shyamalan's latest features Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel in a tale of a couple running from an apocalyptic terror.

                    "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" — Abigail Breslin stars as a plucky Depression-era girl in an adaptation from the American Girl book series.

                    "The Love Guru" — Mike Myers is a self-help weirdo trying to patch things up between a hockey star and his wife. With Jessica Alba and Justin Timberlake.

                    "The Promotion" — John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott are supermarket workers duking it out for a management job.

                    "Wanted" — Angelina Jolie's an operative for a secret agency who helps train a dormant prodigy (James McAvoy) to use his super abilities. With Morgan Freeman.


                    "American Teen" — It's the "Breakfast Club" in real life with this teen documentary about a jock, a nerd, a stud, a popular girl and an artsy one.

                    "Brideshead Revisited" — Hayley Atwell, Ben Whishaw and Emma Thompson star in an update of Evelyn Waugh's 1930s-era classic.

                    "Gonzo" — Director Alex Gibney's documentary examines the outrageous life of boozing, drug-abusing writer Hunter S. Thompson.

                    "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" — Ron Perlman and director Guillermo del Toro reunite for another adventure about the superhero from way down under.

                    "The Longshots" — An ex-high school jock (Ice Cube) coaches his niece (Keke Palmer), the first girl to play Pop Warner football.

                    "Mamma Mia!" — Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and the music of ABBA highlight this musical about a woman sorting out which of three old flames is the dad to walk her daughter down the aisle at her wedding.

                    "Religulous" — Bill Maher goes globe-trotting to talk with people about God and religion.

                    "Space Chimps" — Stanley Tucci and Cheryl Hines provide voices for an animated tale of lower primates in space.

                    "Step Brothers" — Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are adult slackers who become family when one's mom marries the other's dad.

                    "The Wackness" — Ben Kingsley's a frustrated shrink who forms a bond with an equally frustrated teen. With Mary-Kate Olsen and Famke Janssen.


                    "The Accidental Husband" — Uma Thurman's wedding plans are knocked for a loop when she learns a prank left her married to a man she's never met.

                    "Babylon A.D." — Vin Diesel's a courier in a post-apocalyptic world whose package turns out to be a mystery woman.

                    "Bangkok Dangerous" — Nicolas Cage is an assassin whose loner life is altered as he connects with a shop girl and a street punk in Thailand.

                    "Crossing Over" — An ensemble including Harrison Ford, Sean Penn and Ashley Judd are featured in a Los Angeles immigrant drama.

                    "Fly Me to the Moon" — A 3-D animated adventure centers on three young flies that tag along on the Apollo 11 moon landing.

                    "Hamlet 2" — Steve Coogan and Catherine Keener star in a comedy about a teacher staging an irreverent musical sequel to "Hamlet."

                    "Hell Ride" — A Western on two-wheels features bikers avenging a murder by a rival gang. With Michael Madsen and David Carradine.

                    "Henry Poole Is Here" — Luke Wilson's a shut-in whose nosy neighbors teach him he can't live in isolation.

                    "The House Bunny" — An exiled Playboy bunny (Anna Faris) offers lessons on living to the social misfits of a college sorority.

                    "The International" — Interpol agent Clive Owen and prosecutor Naomi Watts take on a global bank that finances terrorism.

                    "Mirrors" — Kiefer Sutherland's a night watchman at a department store whose mirrors hold a horrible secret.

                    "Pineapple Express" — A pothead (Seth Rogen) who witnesses a murder ends up on the run with his dealer (James Franco).

                    "The Rocker" — Rainn Wilson and Christina Applegate star in the tale of an '80s rock drummer who stages a comeback 20 years after he's booted from his band.

                    "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" — George Lucas presents an animated adventure featuring Jedis Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi as prelude to a TV cartoon series.

                    "Swing Vote" — A critical election comes down to the vote of one apathetic, beer-chugging nobody (Kevin Costner).

                    "Towelhead" — An Arab-American teen deals with her sexual awakening amid the Gulf War.

                    "Traitor" — Don Cheadle's an ex-American operative suspected in a terrorism conspiracy. With Guy Pearce.

                    "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" — Woody Allen's latest features Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in a romantic drama in Spain.

                    "Wild Child" — A teen brat (Emma Roberts) is packed off to a strict British boarding school. With Aidan Quinn and Natasha Richardson.

                      This content was originally posted on © 2008 If you are not reading this text from the above site, you are reading a splog