Monday, March 31, 2008

Mos Def to Star in Chuck Berry Movie

Rapper Mos Def is to play the role of Chuck Berry in 'Cadillac Records', a film chronicling the rise of legendary '50s and '60s blues label Chess Records.

The film, which also stars Beyonce as R'n'B legend Etta James, will see Adrian Brody take the lead role of Chess co-founder Leonard Chess.

Written and directed by Darnell Martin, the film will follow the lives of some of the Chicago label's famous artists, including Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Cedric The Entertainer.

Slated for release next year, the project began filming in New Jersey earlier this month.

Mos Def has already hit cinema screens this year in Michel Gondry's 'Be Kind Rewind'. He previously starred in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' and has acted on London and New York stages.

Hindu's Concerned over Mike Myers Parody in "The Love Guru"

As the people of Kazakhstan know all too well, mockery of culture and religion seems to be kosher in Hollywood, under the following conditions:

The humour must be so over-the-top, so beyond reality, that it could never be misconstrued as mean-spirited. That, and the targeted groups cannot be large enough, loud enough or organized enough so that their hurt feelings make an impact at the box office.

Just ask Borat. Though Kazakhs complained that their country and customs were misrepresented in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the film was a $128 million success in the U.S. – among 2006's top-grossing films.

In the context of Sacha Baron Cohen's uncomfortable in-character interactions with unwitting Americans, Mike Myers' parody of another cultural minority in the U.S. – as the oversexed, overly ambitious, American-born spiritual leader in the summer comedy The Love Guru – would hardly seem cause for complaint.

Myers' character is an amalgamation of Eastern-style spiritual movements, never making reference to any particular religion. And yet the Guru Pitka – billed as "the second best guru in India" – draws a distinct picture.

He wears long hair, a long beard and a flowing caftan. "Prepare to get your enlightenment freak on," Pitka tells visitors to his MySpace page, where he blends real information – such as the Sanskrit origins of the word "guru" – with silliness, including impossible yoga poses that would require elastic limbs. He plays sappy pop songs on the sitar. His mantra is "Mariska Hargitay."

Pitka identifies himself as "a spiritual teacher affiliated with no one faith" and has the same crass-and-goofy charm as Myers' Austin Powers and Wayne's World characters. And the movie's plot – he heads West when he's offered $2 million to heal a hockey star's romance so the team can win the Stanley Cup – is harmless enough.

Still, weeks before the film is even ready for screening, some in the Hindu community feel The Love Guru has the potential to ridicule vital elements of their religion.

Rajan Zed, a self-described Hindu leader from Nevada, demanded that Paramount Pictures screen the film for members of the Hindu community before it's release in June. Based on the movie's trailer and MySpace page, Zed says The Love Guru "appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus" and uses sacred terms frivolously.

"People are not very well-versed in Hinduism, so this might be their only exposure," he said. "They will have an image in their minds of stereotypes. They will think most of us are like that."

Paramount, which has screened sensitive films for select audiences in the past, said early screenings would be held for the Hindu community.

"Love Guru, which is not yet complete, is a satire created in the same spirit as Austin Powers," Paramount said in a statement. "It is our full intention to screen the film for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders once it is ready."

Myers, who declined to be interviewed for this story, says in an episode of the Sundance Channel's Iconoclasts that spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra, his longtime friend (who also appears in the movie), was the inspiration for the Love Guru character.

"He is the basis of why I went down this path of a character like that, and it's because I am interested in higher states of consciousness and I am interested in comedy," Myers says. "The guru, he breaks down your barriers, gets you silly and gets you light so you're in a place to receive love."

But religious communities rarely take well to faith-themed comedies, said Diane Winston, a professor of media and religion at the University of Southern California.

"To be funny, you have to get in people's faces and disturb their complacent perspectives," she said. "Religious groups have tended to be very concerned about their portrayal in the media, especially the entertainment media. Often ... in comedies, it's a very broad representation which they perceive as offensive. It's the nature of stereotype."

Her take on The Love Guru trailer and website? Rather than a spoof of Eastern religion, it seems more of a satire of American culture's tendency toward materialism, promiscuity and quick spiritual fixes told through a pseudo religious figure.

"The character didn't have to be a guru. He could just as well have been a rabbi, minister, priest or imam," she said. "These are problems within the culture at large.

"Hindus were a fresh target," she continued. "Jews and Christians have been parodied before so perhaps Myers thought this was a different take on a familiar comedy routine."

Paramount officials point out that The Love Guru is ``non-denominational comedy that celebrates spirituality and that the character has his own fictional belief system."

For all its sight gags and goofy jokes, the film is about three things, Myers says: "It's about fate versus choice ... it's about self love and the third part of it is that internal validation trumps external validation."

Interview with Leatherhead John Krasinski

John Krasinski, best known as the sardonic sales rep Jim Halpert on NBC's "The Office," says sports "always have been a major part of my life."

In "Leatherheads," a George Clooney-directed, 1920s-era screwball comedy opening Friday, the 28-year-old former high school basketball player and distance runner from Newton, Mass., plays a World War I hero and college football star who is recruited to play on a struggling professional team. The film also stars Clooney as the team's aging star and Renee Zellweger as a journalist pursued by both men.
Question: Did your athletic background come into play in making this movie or in helping you land the role?

I don't know if it helped me land the role. I would assume that George probably figured that if I played any sort of sport that I'd at least be athletic enough to look like I knew how to play. That's the actor's thing: We all look like we can do whatever we're doing, and we probably don't have the first clue. As far as helping me with the role, I've played pickup football my whole life with family and friends and, believe it or not, that's actually more like how the game was played back then than putting on pads and actually playing organized football.

Did you play organized football?

I played one year -- in seventh grade -- and it was pretty clear that I was better at playing for fun. I could never really get past the facemask. I could never catch the ball with the facemask on. So, with this movie, problem solved.

Clooney, nearly 20 years older and a few inches shorter than you, says he won a $2,000 bet by outscoring you in a one-on-one basketball game. True?

Yes, it is. I'm going to be the bigger man and admit it. All I'll say is, I thought I had him and then, all of a sudden, he throws that "People's Sexiest Man" smile on you and you're stunned for just long enough for him to run by you.

You'd like a rematch?

Oh my God, I've tried to yell it from the rooftops, so if you want to print that, we'll do this in Vegas. We can charge money, all proceeds to charity.

Renee Zellweger has attended Lakers games and starred in "Jerry Maguire" and "Cinderella Man" and now "Leatherheads." Is she a sports fan?

Yeah, I think absolutely. She's definitely an athletic girl; she runs every day. And as far as being a sports fan, when you're from Texas I'm pretty sure that football is literally in your blood; they give you a shot when you're young. So, when we talked about doing the football scenes, she actually knew what she was talking about.

As a moviegoer and sports fan, what do you like about sports movies?

What I love about sports movies is when they're able to capture the nostalgia that everybody experiences and wants to continue experiencing with sports, whether you're playing or just watching. You never really remember the days where you had a mediocre game or when your team won by 30; you always remember the one that was down to the final tick of the clock. And I think there's something awesome about capturing that feeling. Movies like "Hoosiers" did that for me. That's probably my No. 1 sports movie. And "Leatherheads" is definitely a similar type of vibe. It's shot like an older-time movie. It's from the golden era of film, so as much as it is a sports movie, football is the backdrop for all these characters to come together.

The Super Bowl must have been a downer for you, obviously, but has there ever been a better time to be a New England sports fan?

Absolutely not. I think all Boston fans probably feel like this is the dawn of a new era. We're ecstatic to be in this position we're in now, as far as fans go, but I think we're all shocked. I don't think any Boston fan can believably say, "Yeah, we knew this was coming." To be not only competitive but dominant in almost all the sports, it's a day that I don't think we ever even dreamed of.

Is Jim Halpert an ex-jock?

Yeah, definitely. I think he probably played basketball at the University of Scranton, or in high school. Very similarly to me, he didn't get a chance to excel at it all the way. It wasn't really in the cards.

You live in L.A. now, so who do you root for if the Lakers and Celtics meet in the NBA Finals?

Without a doubt, the Celtics. Not only am I Celtics fan, but I've got to say, I went to a game over Thanksgiving with my family and there's an energy in the Garden now that I haven't seen since I was really little. I remember going when Larry Bird was playing and they were incredible, but I remember going when I was in high school in the '90s and it was the most quiet I've ever seen a basketball game.

Do you go to Lakers games?

I actually don't. I think I made a promise to a bunch of Boston fans that I would try not to be caught dead in Lakers Stadium.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New X-Files Movie to stay true to original

The creative core of the upcoming X-Files sequel is dropping some hints about what fans can expect. The popular TV series, starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as paranormal investigating FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, aired on Fox from 1993 to 2002. The film hit the big screen for the first time in 1998 with The X-Files: Fight the Future. The sequel is due July 25th.

Speaking Wednesday (March 26th) at the William S. Paley Television Festival in Hollywood, series creator Chris Carter, who also directs the new movie, says the show's alien conspiracy subplot won't be part of the plot this time, although there is a reference to Scully's seemingly supernatural son, born in season eight and later given up for adoption.

Writer Frank Spotnitz says the new installment is "true to everything that's come before. It's true to Mulder and Scully, who they are and where they would be this point in their lives and all of the experiences that they've had."

Carter, who sued Fox in 2005 over profits from the franchise and eventually settled the case, says he's not at liberty to reveal the title of the new film. He explains, "I know what I want it to be, but Fox has some ideas of their own."

Lindsay Lohan to star in Manson Girls

Lindsay Lohan, fresh off her big-screen role opposite John Lennon's killer in Chapter 27, has signed up to star in another film about a murderer - this time, it's Charles Manson.

The 21-year-old will play one of Manson's cult followers, Nancy Pitman, in the movie Manson Girls, reports say. The site quotes the film's producer, Brad Wyman, as saying, "Yes, I am doing it with Lindsay."

Lohan will portray Nancy Pitman, aka 'Brenda,' who at 16 fled her Malibu life of wealth and joined the Manson Family, after reportedly being introduced to Charles Manson by a friend.

Pitman reportedly was with Manson the night he sent "family members" to the ex-home of former business associate Terry Mechler, which ended with the killing of actress Sharon Tate and four others.

The actress has been busy back at work since her departure from rehab last fall. She's also recording a new album and will co-star in an upcoming Jack Black movie, Ye Olde Times.

The Mummy Returns AGAIN - "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor"

After a long hiatus, one of cinema's greatest archaeologists is making his way back to the big screen. But if Rick O'Connell's leading lady looks a little different, it's not the age: It actually is a different person.

And that suits Maria Bello just fine, the actress told MTV News, saying she was eager to step into the role of Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell, made famous in the first two "Mummy" films by Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz.
"Let me tell you, I like the other two movies. I love this movie," Bello said of "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" from the blue carpet at the Independent Spirit Awards. "It's so dynamic and like nothing you've ever seen. [Director] Rob Cohen has so changed the franchise." The biggest change of all, of course, being Bello herself.

The blond actress understands that comparisons to Weisz — who reportedly refused to sign onto the sequel due to script issues — are inevitable. But despite the fact that she plays the same character, Bello insists that the roles are not that similar.

"I think Rachel is so brilliant, and she was beautiful in that part, but they wrote my character so differently, I felt like it was a totally different woman," Bello said. "She has the same name, but she's quite a different character."

Part of that manifests itself in more action-oriented challenges, Bello said. While the official plot synopsis centers on father-son duo Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Alex (Luke Ford) waking the shape-shifting mummy Emperor Han (Jet Li), it's Bello, not the rough-and-tumble gentlemen, who gets the film's first kick-ass fight sequence, the actress revealed.

"In the beginning of the movie I do a sword fight with an invisible mummy," Bello said. "I had to be on wires and do sword work. It took days to do, and it was so much fun. I would do flips on the wire and I'd land down and be like a little kid."

Bello admits to having so much fun, in fact, that she's looking forward to three more "Mummy" movies, confessing that she's already signed on for a whole trilogy of sequels.

"I don't know when, but it's going," she said. "[There will] absolutely be 'The Mummy 4.' "

And when there is, Bello says she's already got an idea for where it can film.

"Something that takes place in the Amazon," Bello suggested.

"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" opens August 1.