Saturday, April 19, 2008

Salman Butt stars in series whitewash

The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran

It was as if the series result was decided even before Bangladesh agreed to tour the country. Pakistan took their second consecutive 5-0 series sweep at home - their first was against Zimbabwe - with a comprehensive 150-run victory in the fifth and final one-dayer at the National Stadium and extended their winning streak to a record 11. The win was set up by a career-best 136 off 124 balls by Salman Butt, and his stand of 179 for the second wicket with Younis Khan propelled Pakistan to a massive 329 which proved way beyond reach for Bangladesh who effectively lost the game after Mohammad Asif inflicted a top-order wobble.

Shoaib Malik had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss, a move prompted by the fact that there was little chance of dew troubling the bowlers later in the evening. It was a good toss to win, as the batsmen were rarely challenged under the blazing afternoon sun.

The pitch had a sprinkling of grass, though it only helped to bind the cracks together. The opening bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain, bent their backs early, hoping to get some pace and nip but the pitch wasn't very cooperative. That was to be the trend through Pakistan's innings after Kamran Akmal's early departure, when Butt and Younis took control and milked the bowling authoritatively.

The feature of Butt's innings was the ease with which he lofted the ball into the gaps while staying rooted to the crease. The surface wasn't by any means quick, and Butt merely stayed back, waited for the ball to come to him before powering it past the infield. The outfield was lightning quick and all Butt had to do was to place it just wide of the fielders to get a boundary. All this meant that the margin for error was minimal for the bowlers and once again it was Butt who made them pay. Bangladesh could have had him on 57 had Mortaza hung on to a difficult diving catch to his right at mid-off after the batsman had given Shakib Al Hasan the charge.

Younis was his usual busy self at the crease, pushing the singles, and the pair brought up the 50 stand in 49 balls. The introduction of the spinners did little to stem the run rate. Shakib and Abdur Razzak, the left-arm spinners, varied their lengths, pushing it in quicker, sometimes giving it more flight, but the lack of turn allowed the pair to get the singles. Younis brought up his half-century with a reverse-sweep and by then the pair had gone past Pakistan's highest second-wicket stand against Bangladesh, beating the 123 between Rameez Raja and Saeed Anwar in 1997.

Mohammad Ashraful decided to bring on his seamers in the middle overs and the move paid off when Younis fell to a miscued pull off Shahadat. Mohammad Yousuf joined Butt and the pair clattered 17 off one Shahadat over, before Butt finally fell to a well-judged catch at long-on by Shakib. With two centuries and as many 70-plus scores, Butt entered the record books by going past Javed Miandad for the most runs scored by a Pakistan batsman - 451- in any tournament or series.

Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq later added a breakneck 52 off just 5.4 overs to take Pakistan past 300. In the middle of the carnage, Mortaza managed 4 for 65 the only bright spot for the visitors.

Batting, however, didn't appear as easy under lights when Bangladesh took guard. Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique faced some quality seam bowling from Asif and Umar Gul and the pair lacked the technical nous to see off the new ball and then attack. Shakib was squared up by a brute of a delivery which beat him for pace and shaved the top of the offstump. With that wicket, Bangladesh lost their in-form player and it was only a matter of time before the rest tumbled.

There were only two periods of resistance in the chase, though very contrasting in nature. Ashraful went on the attack in characteristic manner, peppering the on side with pulls and hoicks. Though not all came off the middle of the bat, it was entertaining all the same. The cameo knock of 30, off 26 balls, ended thanks Misbah's quick reflexes at slip. A slow seventh-wicket stand of 57 between Mahmudullah and Dhiman Ghosh was never threatening, as it was only to prevent them from being rolled over quickly. Razzak then delayed the inevitable with some lusty blows before the chase ended in the 41st over. The Twenty20 international on Sunday gives Bangladesh the only chance to save face on this tour.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Emma Watson replaces "old" Johansson in romance

"Harry Potter" heroine Emma Watson is attached to star in the period romance "Napoleon and Betsy," replacing Scarlett Johansson who was deemed too old for the role.

Watson, 18, will play Betsy Balcombe, a young, impetuous noblewoman trapped on the isolated British island of St. Helena who falls in love with Napoleon, who has been exiled there.

Johansson, 23, is still serving as a producer. The indie project comes from writer-director Benjamin Ross.

Watson is known for her role as Hermione Granger in Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter" films, and is completing filming on the sixth installment, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

With filming of the last chapter, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," scheduled to commence in early 2009, Watson hopes to shoot "Napoleon and Betsy" in the fall.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood hopes theme parks, superheroes fly in Middle East

By RYAN NAKASHIMA, AP Business Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iglesias says Kournikova keeps rebuffing marriage proposals

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

`X-Files' movie title is out there: `I Want to Believe'


LOS ANGELES - The truth is finally out there about the new "X-Files" movie title.

The second big-screen spinoff of the paranormal TV adventure will be called "The X-Files: I Want to Believe," Chris Carter, the series' creator and the movie's director and co-writer, told The Associated Press.

Distributor 20th Century Fox signed off on the title Wednesday.

The title is a familiar phrase for fans of the series that starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents chasing after aliens and supernatural happenings. "I Want to Believe" was the slogan on a poster Duchovny's UFO-obsessed agent Fox Mulder had hanging in the cluttered basement office where he and Anderson's Dana Scully worked.

"It's a natural title," Carter said in a telephone interview Tuesday during a break from editing the film. "It's a story that involves the difficulties in mediating faith and science. `I Want to Believe.' It really does suggest Mulder's struggle with his faith."

"I Want to Believe" comes 10 years after the first film and six years after the finale of the series, whose opening credits for much of its nine-year run featured the catch-phrase "the truth is out there."

Due in theaters July 25, the movie will not deal with aliens or the intricate mythology about interaction between humans and extraterrestrials that the show built up over the years, Carter said.

Instead, it casts Mulder and Scully into a stand-alone, earth-bound story aimed at both serious "X-Files" fans and newcomers, he said.

"It has struck me over the last several years talking to college-age kids that a lot of them really don't know the show or haven't seen it," Carter said. "If you're 20 years old now, the show started when you were 4. It was probably too scary for you or your parents wouldn't let you watch it. So there's a whole new audience that might have liked the show. This was made to, I would call it, satisfy everyone."

Hardcore fans need not worry that the movie will be going back to square one, though, Carter said. The movie will be true to the spirit of the show and everything Mulder and Scully went through, he said.

"The reason we're even making the movie is for the rabid fans, so we don't want to insult them by having to take them back through the concept again," Carter said.

Carter said he settled on "I Want to Believe" from the time he and co-writer Frank Spotnitz started on the screenplay. It took so long to go public with it because studio executives wanted to make sure it was a marketable title, he said.

The filmmakers have kept the story tightly under wraps to prevent plot spoilers from leaking on the Internet, a phenomenon that barely existed when the first movie came out in 1998.

"We went to almost comical lengths to keep the story a secret," Carter said. "That included allowing only the key crew members to read the script, and they had to read it in a room that had video cameras trained on them. It was a new experience."


20th Century Fox is owned by News Corp.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rowling: Potter reference book is theft

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - J.K. Rowling says the Harry Potter characters she created are as dear as her children, too precious to allow an inferior Potter encyclopedia to be published without letting the world know the ordeal is draining her of her will to write.

"I really don't want to cry because I'm British, you know," the mother of three told a judge Monday in U.S. District Court as she described how much her characters and seven books mean to her. "You know, these books, they saved me, not just in the very obvious material sense, although they did do that. ... I would have to say that there was a time when they saved my sanity."

Last year, Rowling sued Michigan-based RDR Books to stop publication of Steven Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon," claiming copyright infringement. Vander Ark runs the popular Harry Potter Lexicon Web site, and RDR wants to publish a print version of the site and charge $24.95.

RDR publisher Roger Rapoport, who testified in the case Monday, was to return to the witness stand Tuesday.

Rowling claims the lexicon is nothing more than a rearrangement of her material, and she told the judge it copied so much of her work that it amounted to plagiarism. She said she was "extremely shocked" because Vander Ark had said on his site he would not publish a book.

"I did feel a degree of betrayal," said Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her husband and children. "I believe that it is sloppy, lazy and that it takes my work wholesale, verbatim. This book constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work."

She also said she recently started work on her own encyclopedia but does not expect to complete it for two to three years. If Vander Ark's lexicon is published, "I'm not at all convinced that I would have the will or the heart to continue with my encyclopedia," she said.

The case caused her to stop working on a new novel, as well, she told the packed courtroom.

"It's really decimated my creative work over the last month," she said. "Again, it's very hard to describe to someone who's not engaged in creative writing, but you lose the threads, you worry if you will be able to pick them up again in exactly the same way."

In his opening statement, RDR lawyer Anthony Falzone defended the lexicon as a reference guide, calling it a legitimate effort "to organize and discuss the complicated and very elaborate world of Harry Potter." The small publisher is not contesting that the lexicon infringes upon Rowling's copyright but argues that it is a fair use allowable by law for reference books.

The nonjury trial will be decided by U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson Jr., who must determine whether the use of the material is legal because Vander Ark added his own interpretation, creativity and analysis. The testimony and arguments could last most of the week.

The trial comes eight months after the publication of Rowling's final book in the series. The books have been published in 64 languages, sold more than 400 million copies and produced a film franchise that has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

In sometimes emotional testimony, Rowling recalled starting work on the first book in 1991 when she was 25 and so destitute that she sometimes had to choose between buying typewriter ribbon and food. She said the Harry Potter characters helped her escape from the hard work of raising a child on welfare.

"It was a place into which I liked to vanish, and it was a discipline that was very important in keeping me sane," she said.

She said Vander Ark sometimes made incorrect translations and that it was "laughable" that he barely explored the subject of death.

"Any guide to the Harry Potter books should have a lengthy entry on death," Rowling said. "It is probably the major theme of the whole seven-book series, and it appears in so many different ways."

Vander Ark, 50, has said he joined an online discussion group devoted to the Harry Potter books in 1999 before starting his Web site as a hobby a year later. The Web site attracts about 1.5 million page views per month and contributions from people worldwide.

Vander Ark said he initially declined proposals to convert the Web site into an encyclopedia, in part because he believed until last August that in book form, it would represent a copyright violation.

After Rowling released the final chapter in the "Harry Potter" series last July, Vander Ark was contacted by an RDR Books employee, who told him that publication of the lexicon would not violate copyright law, he said. Still, to protect himself, Vander Ark said he insisted that RDR Books include a clause in his contract that the publisher would defend him and pay any damages that might result from claims against him.

Rowling acknowledged she once bestowed an award on Vander Ark's Web site because she wanted to encourage a very enthusiastic fan.

But she said she "almost choked on my coffee" one morning when she realized Vander Ark had warned others not to copy portions of his Web site. She said she now has second thoughts about all the encouragement she has given to online discussions and Web sites devoted to her books.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

'Potter' author seeks to block fan book

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - Author J.K. Rowling is eager to tell a judge this week that one of her biggest fans is in fantasyland if he believes a "Harry Potter" encyclopedia he plans to publish does not violate her copyrights.

The showdown between Rowling and the fan, Steven Vander Ark, is scheduled to last most of the week in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Rowling is scheduled to testify Monday in a trial that is sure to generate huge interest among Harry Potter fans and the public. Her lawyer has arranged with the judge to have a private security guard for Rowling in the courtroom and for the author to spend breaks in the seclusion of a jury room — away from any die-hard Potter fans in attendance.

The trial comes eight months after Rowling published her seventh and final book in the widely popular Harry Potter series. The books have been published in 64 languages, sold more than 400 million copies and spawned a film franchise that has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

Rowling brought the lawsuit last year against Vander Ark's publisher, RDR Books, to stop publication of the "Harry Potter Lexicon."

Rowling is actually a big fan of the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site that Vander Ark runs. But she draws the line when it comes to publishing the book and charging $24.95. She also says it fails to include any of the commentary and discussion that enrich the Web site and calls it "nothing more than a rearrangement" of her own material.

One of her lawyers, Dan Shallman, on Friday told Judge Robert P. Patterson, who will hear the trial without a jury, that Rowling "feels like her words were stolen."

He said the author felt so personally violated that she made her own comparisons between her seven best-selling novels and the lexicon and was ready to testify about the similarities in dozens of instances.

David Saul Hammer, a lawyer for RDR Books, which plans to sell the lexicon, said the publisher will not challenge the claim by Rowling that much of the material in the lexicon infringed her copyrights.

But the judge will decide whether the use of the material by the small Muskegon, Mich., publisher was legal because it was used for some greater purpose, such as a scholarly pursuit.

In court papers filed prior to the trial, Rowling said she was "deeply troubled" by the book.

"If RDR's position is accepted, it will undoubtedly have a significant, negative impact on the freedoms enjoyed by genuine fans on the Internet," she said. "Authors everywhere will be forced to protect their creations much more rigorously, which could mean denying well-meaning fans permission to pursue legitimate creative activities."

In court papers, Vander Ark, 50, said he was a teacher and school librarian in Byron Center, Mich., before recently moving to London to begin a career as a writer.

He said he joined an adult online discussion group devoted to the Harry Potter books in 1999 before launching his own Web site as a hobby a year later. Since then, neither Rowling nor her publisher had ever complained about anything on it, he said.

In May 2004, he said, Rowling mentioned his Web site on her own, writing, "This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an Internet cafe while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing). A website for the dangerously obsessive; my natural home."

The Web site attracts about 1.5 million page views per month and contributions from people all over the world, Vander Ark said.

He said he initially declined proposals to convert the Web site into an encyclopedia, in part because he believed until last August that in book form, it would represent a copyright violation.

After Rowling released the final chapter in the Harry Potter series that same month, Vander Ark was contacted by an RDR Books employee, who told him that publication of the lexicon would not violate copyright law, he said.

Still, to protect himself, Vander Ark said he insisted that RDR Books include a clause in his contract that the publisher would defend and pay any damages that might result from claims against him.

He said it was decided that the lexicon would include sections from the Lexicon Web site that give descriptions and commentary on individual names, places, spells, and creatures from Harry Potter stories.

In his court statement, Vander Ark still sounds like a fan, saying the lexicon "enhances the pleasure of readers of the Potter novels, and deepens their appreciation of Ms. Rowling's achievement."

But the affection no longer seems a shared experience.

In court Friday, Hammer said Rowling's lawyers did not want Vander Ark in the courtroom while Rowling testifies.

Link :

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ACSU questions three Pakistan players

Cricinfo staff

The International Cricket Council has confirmed that its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) carried out interviews with three Pakistan players, Danish Kaneria, Younis Khan and Umar Gul.

The interviews took place in Lahore over April 5 and 6. The ICC said the purpose of these interviews was to seek specific information and that the ACSU was provided the required details by the players.

A report in the News, quoting unspecifed sources, said the interviews were related to a function the three players may have attended while touring India in November-December 2007 and the identity of one of the other guests. Naghmi said the board could not confirm whether that was the case, though a source close to one of the players suggested to Cricinfo this was the case. An ICC spokesperson confirmed to Cricinfo that the questioning was not connected to Shoaib Akhtar's recent claims and that it was in relation to "a separate issue".

The confirmation does clear up considerable confusion over the purpose of the ACSU's visit to Pakistan. Though the visit was widely reported, its purpose was thought to be to question Shoaib and specifically comments he had made last week when he told a local news channel he had been offered money to underperform while touring India and South Africa.

The Pakistan board said they had been informed prior to the visit and insisted the purpose of the visit was only to share information. "The ICC itself says there has been no alleged breach of the code of conduct," Shafqat Naghmi, chief operating officer PCB, told Cricinfo.

"It was just an information-sharing exercise. They called us before and told us 'We're not raising any red flags, we're not accusing anyone. We just want to share some information with them and get some information from them,'" Naghmi said.

"A briefcase full of money was placed before me and I was asked to under-bowl in a match at Johannesburg but I refused," Shoaib told Geo TV. "Then on tour to India I was offered money but I again turned it down." The ICC said subsequently the claims would be investigated.

The visit has already had an indirect effect on the team. Cricinfo has learnt that Younis was upset about the questioning, particularly that he hadn't been warned of it beforehand. He then threatened to pull out of the first ODI against Bangladesh, though he was eventually convinced to take part by the board chairman and selectors. Shoaib Malik, during his post-match press conference, however, denied these claims

Link :

Radcliffe to make B'way debut in fall

NEW YORK - Harry Potter is headed to The Great White Way.

Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the "Harry Potter" movies, will make his Broadway debut on Sept. 5, playing the disturbed stable boy in a revival of Peter Shaffer's play, "Equus," it was announced Tuesday.

Radcliffe, 18, earned rave reviews for his performance in the London production of the Tony Award-winning play. He also received loads of media attention for appearing naked onstage — a departure from his wholesome image as the bespectacled boy wizard in the big-screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling's best-selling fantasy novels.

"Equus" begins previews Sept. 5 for a limited 22-week run at the Broadhurst Theatre. The play opens Sept. 25-Feb. 8, 2009. Thea Sharrock directs.

Richard Griffiths, who portrays Harry's mean Uncle Vernon in the "Potter" movies, reprises his London role as the psychiatrist who treats the stable boy, who has blinded six horses.

Mike Myers to host 2008 MTV Movie Awards

NEW YORK - Mike Myers will host the 2008 MTV Movie Awards, which will air live from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif., on June 1.

This will be Myers' second time hosting the show. The celeb-filled event is MTV's irreverent nod to the typical awards shows. Award categories include best kiss, best villain and best comedic performance.

MTV says nominees will be announced in May.

Myers stars in the upcoming film "The Love Guru."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Film legend Charlton Heston dead at 84

By BOB THOMAS, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - Charlton Heston, who won the 1959 best actor Oscar as the chariot-racing "Ben-Hur" and portrayed Moses, Michelangelo, El Cid and other heroic figures in movie epics of the '50s and '60s, has died. He was 84.The actor died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills with his wife Lydia at his side, family spokesman Bill Powers said.

Powers declined to comment on the cause of death or provide further details.

"Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played," Heston's family said in a statement. "No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country."

Heston revealed in 2002 that he had symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease, saying, "I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure."

With his large, muscular build, well-boned face and sonorous voice, Heston proved the ideal star during the period when Hollywood was filling movie screens with panoramas depicting the religious and historical past. "I have a face that belongs in another century," he often remarked.

Publicist Michael Levine, who represented Heston for about 20 years, said the actor's passing represented the end of an iconic era for cinema.

"If Hollywood had a Mt. Rushmore, Heston's face would be on it," Levine said. "He was a heroic figure that I don't think exists to the same degree in Hollywood today."

The actor assumed the role of leader offscreen as well. He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute and marched in the civil rights movement of the 1950s. With age, he grew more conservative and campaigned for conservative candidates.

In June 1998, Heston was elected president of the National Rifle Association, for which he had posed for ads holding a rifle. He delivered a jab at then-President Clinton, saying, "America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don't trust you with our guns."

Heston stepped down as NRA president in April 2003, telling members his five years in office were "quite a ride. ... I loved every minute of it."

Later that year, Heston was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. "The largeness of character that comes across the screen has also been seen throughout his life," President Bush said at the time.

He engaged in a lengthy feud with liberal Ed Asner during the latter's tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild. His latter-day activism almost overshadowed his achievements as an actor, which were considerable.

Heston lent his strong presence to some of the most acclaimed and successful films of the midcentury. "Ben-Hur" won 11 Academy Awards, tying it for the record with the more recent "Titanic" (1997) and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003). Heston's other hits include: "The Ten Commandments," "El Cid," "55 Days at Peking," "Planet of the Apes" and "Earthquake."

He liked to the cite the number of historical figures he had portrayed:

Andrew Jackson ("The President's Lady," "The Buccaneer"), Moses ("The Ten Commandments"), title role of "El Cid," John the Baptist ("The Greatest Story Ever Told"), Michelangelo ("The Agony and the Ecstasy"), General Gordon ("Khartoum"), Marc Antony ("Julius Caesar," "Antony and Cleopatra"), Cardinal Richelieu ("The Three Musketeers"), Henry VIII ("The Prince and the Pauper").

Heston made his movie debut in the 1940s in two independent films by a college classmate, David Bradley, who later became a noted film archivist. He had the title role in "Peer Gynt" in 1942 and was Marc Antony in Bradley's 1949 version of "Julius Caesar," for which Heston was paid $50 a week.

Film producer Hal B. Wallis ("Casablanca") spotted Heston in a 1950 television production of "Wuthering Heights" and offered him a contract. When his wife reminded him that they had decided to pursue theater and television, he replied, "Well, maybe just for one film to see what it's like."

Heston earned star billing from his first Hollywood movie, "Dark City," a 1950 film noir. Cecil B. DeMille next cast him as the circus manager in the all-star "The Greatest Show On Earth," named by the Motion Picture Academy as the best picture of 1952. More movies followed:

"The Savage," "Ruby Gentry," "The President's Lady," "Pony Express" (as Buffalo Bill Cody), "Arrowhead," "Bad for Each Other," "The Naked Jungle," "Secret of the Incas," "The Far Horizons" (as Clark of the Lewis and Clark trek), "The Private War of Major Benson," "Lucy Gallant."

Most were forgettable low-budget films, and Heston seemed destined to remain an undistinguished action star. His old boss DeMille rescued him.

The director had long planned a new version of "The Ten Commandments," which he had made as a silent in 1923 with a radically different approach that combined biblical and modern stories. He was struck by Heston's facial resemblance to Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses, especially the similar broken nose, and put the actor through a long series of tests before giving him the role.

The Hestons' newborn, Fraser Clarke Heston, played the role of the infant Moses in the film.

More films followed: the eccentric thriller "Touch of Evil," directed by Orson Welles; William Wyler's "The Big Country," costarring with Gregory Peck; a sea saga, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" with Gary Cooper.

Then his greatest role: "Ben-Hur."

Heston wasn't the first to be considered for the remake of 1925 biblical epic. Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and Rock Hudson had declined the film. Heston plunged into the role, rehearsing two months for the furious chariot race.

He railed at suggestions the race had been shot with a double: "I couldn't drive it well, but that wasn't necessary. All I had to do was stay on board so they could shoot me there. I didn't have to worry; MGM guaranteed I would win the race."

The huge success of "Ben-Hur" and Heston's Oscar made him one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. He combined big-screen epics like "El Cid" and "55 Days at Peking" with lesser ones such as "Diamond Head," "Will Penny" and "Airport 1975." In his later years he played cameos in such films as "Wayne's World 2" and "Tombstone."

He often returned to the theater, appearing in such plays as "A Long Day's Journey into Night" and "A Man for All Seasons." He starred as a tycoon in the prime-time soap opera, "The Colbys," a two-season spinoff of "Dynasty."

At his birth in a Chicago suburb on Oct. 4, 1923, his name was Charles Carter. His parents moved to St. Helen, Mich., where his father, Russell Carter, operated a lumber mill. Growing up in the Michigan woods with almost no playmates, young Charles read books of adventure and devised his own games while wandering the countryside with his rifle.

Charles's parents divorced, and she married Chester Heston, a factory plant superintendent in Wilmette, Ill., an upscale north Chicago suburb. Shy and feeling displaced in the big city, the boy had trouble adjusting to the new high school. He took refuge in the drama department.

"What acting offered me was the chance to be many other people," he said in a 1986 interview. "In those days I wasn't satisfied with being me."

Calling himself Charlton Heston from his mother's maiden name and his stepfather's last name, he won an acting scholarship to Northwestern University in 1941. He excelled in campus plays and appeared on Chicago radio. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and served as a radio-gunner in the Aleutians.

In 1944 he married another Northwestern drama student, Lydia Clarke, and after his army discharge in 1947, they moved to New York to seek acting jobs. Finding none, they hired on as codirectors and principal actors at a summer theater in Asheville, N.C.

Back in New York, both Hestons began finding work. With his strong 6-feet-2 build and craggily handsome face, Heston won roles in TV soap operas, plays ("Antony and Cleopatra" with Katherine Cornell) and live TV dramas such as "Julius Caesar," "Macbeth," "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Of Human Bondage."

Heston wrote several books: "The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-1976," published in 1978; "Beijing Diary: 1990," concerning his direction of the play "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" in Chinese; "In the Arena: An Autobiography," 1995; and "Charlton Heston's Hollywood: 50 Years of American Filmmaking," 1998.

Besides Fraser, who directed his father in an adventure film, "Mother Lode," the Hestons had a daughter, Holly Ann, born Aug. 2, 1961. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1994 at a party with Hollywood and political friends. They had been married 64 years when he died.

In late years, Heston drew as much publicity for his crusades as for his performances. In addition to his NRA work, he campaigned for Republican presidential and congressional candidates and against affirmative action.

He resigned from Actors Equity, claiming the union's refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian role in "Miss Saigon" was "obscenely racist." He attacked CNN's telecasts from Baghdad as "sowing doubts" about the allied effort in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

At a Time Warner stockholders meeting, he castigated the company for releasing an Ice-T album that purportedly encouraged cop killing.

Heston wrote in "In the Arena" that he was proud of what he did "though now I'll surely never be offered another film by Warners, nor get a good review in Time. On the other hand, I doubt I'll get a traffic ticket very soon."


Associated Press writer Thomas Watkins contributed to this report.

Link :

Saturday, April 5, 2008

DiCaprio buys 'green' NYC condo

NEW YORK - Every time he comes home, Leonardo DiCaprio is practicing what he preaches. The environmentally conscious actor has bought an apartment in Riverhouse, an eco-friendly building overlooking the Hudson River.

The purchase was confirmed on Friday by Christopher Daly, president of Sheldrake Organization, the developer of the Battery Park City complex. Occupancy is slated for this summer.

The 264-unit condominium glass tower overlooks the river and a park, and boasts low emission paints, a 24-hour fresh filtered air system, a water treatment facility and rotating solar panels.

DiCaprio seemingly also will have everything at his fingertips. The David Rockwell-designed high-rise features an indoor 50-foot lap pool, media cafe, fitness center, landscaped terrace — and dog spa.

The building also will house the City Bakery and a branch of the New York Public Library.

DiCaprio has served on the board of directors of the environmental organization Global Green USA. He also owns a hybrid car and had solar panels put on his Los Angeles home.

The 33-year-old actor has won Oscar nominees for "The Aviator" and "Blood Diamond." He is currently filming "Shutter Island," directed by Martin Scorsese.

An e-mail sent to his publicist was not immediately returned.


James Bond finds 'Solace' a bit Chile

By RYAN PEARSON, AP Entertainment Writer

ANTOFAGASTA, Chile - After getting the bad end of his own ax in a fight, a bloodied villain limps alone in a stark desert. Mathieu Amalric stumbles to the red, rocky ground. "CUT!" rings loudly from the set of the 22nd James Bond film.

Picking up an hour after "Casino Royale" left off, "Quantum of Solace" is the spy franchise's first direct sequel. Filming began in January and has taken the crew from Britain to Panama to this moonlike landscape in northern Chile, which is standing in for Bolivia.

It's a place that director Marc Forster said evokes Bond's "isolation and loneliness."

"He is an assassin, he is a secret agent, and that reflects a certain lifestyle, which is lonely," said Forster.

Indeed, the big news on the set is that one of the two Bond girls, Olga Kurylenko, doesn't get in even a single kiss with star Daniel Craig. ("Why would I be disappointed?" Kurylenko insisted. "I'm just doing my work.")

The question is: Do audiences want an emo Bond?

Craig says not to worry too much.

"We're not making a kitchen sink drama here. We are making a Bond movie," he said. "What Marc wanted and the producers and what I wanted is to bring back a visual flair to the movie, so that every frame in every shot that we see is beautiful. And there may be things exploding, but they're good to look at."

Still, Forster, the youngest-ever Bond director at 39, was hired on by longtime producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson because of his emotionally intense films like "Monster's Ball" and "The Kite Runner."

Despite the heightened realism of the last Bond film, not to mention its commercial success (over $500 million worldwide), the German-born Swiss director was wary of joining the bombastic franchise.

Forster negotiated with producers to ensure he had as much creative control as possible on the $200 million-plus production. Nevertheless, he's still squeezed into the "framework of Bond."

"But I like it because you feel like it can make you very creative," he said. "And a lot of interesting things come out of that. Because, if you look at filmmakers that worked under politically repressive regimes, (they) made sometimes really interesting movies."

Filming is about halfway done on "Quantum," which is the name of the organization Bond is going up against. Craig said the emotional tone is lighter than "Casino Royale," in which Bond's lover Vesper Lynd betrayed him and then died — but only a smidgen so.

"It's kind of Bond's journey into, at first we think it's vengeance, but it goes somewhere else," Craig said. "They've killed the love of his life, this organization, and we don't know who this organization are, and he needs to find out who they are. And it's for personal reasons but also professional reasons."

Craig said that aside from some communications equipment, "Quantum" puts little emphasis on gee-whiz electronics.

"The Aston Martin's there, and that's still the best gadget we have," he said.

During reporters' visit to the set, Forster was filming the climax. Offices and a lodge underneath one of the world's largest telescopes at Paranal Observatory acted as an eco-hotel, used by the villain. Back in London, it would be re-created — in order to be blown up, Broccoli said.

Craig fired into the skylight above the offices, and Kurylenko's character Camille ran separately off the roof of the building, flipping into a balcony. Amalric, playing the villain Dominic Greene, roamed the set in post-Bond fight makeup, bloodied and bruised on his cheeks.

A French director and actor known internationally for his star turn in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Amalric was allowed no shortcuts to villaindom.

"No scars, no eye that bleeds, no metal jaw," he said. "I tried everything to have something to help me. I said to Marc: No nothing? A beard? 'No.' Can I shave my hair? 'No. Just your face.'"

Craig, muscles flexing under a dark polo shirt, said he was exercising more than he had on the "Casino Royale" set, to avoid injuries when doing his own stunts.

He laughingly steered conversation away from health concerns. "It's just not very Bond-like," he said. "Bond should be able to do ten press-ups, then smoke 60 cigarettes, and then drink a bottle of something and pop a pill, I think."

Kurylenko, a 28-year-old Ukranian-born model-actress with few films to her credit, said her character also has "a masculine spirit."

"When she meets Bond, it clashes," she said. "She's careful and she doesn't trust that easily. So basically with men, she either uses them, or if they're no use, and she sees that they can't serve her, then she throws them away."

There have been several noteworthy confrontations around on the Bond production so far. In Panama, riots near the set forced a shift in schedule. And in Chile, a local mayor interrupted production claiming producers didn't get his permission.

National media has reported on Chileans' disappointment in not seeing more of Craig during his stay in their country. And in a separate controversy, Chile-as-Bolivia has not been a popular choice, either: Hurt feelings remain between the South American neighbors over an 1879-84 war in which Chile took Bolivia's Pacific coastline. The two have not had diplomatic relations since 1978.

"We knew there was a war 100 years ago, but we didn't know it was still an issue," Wilson said.

Next, the eternal question: What's next for Bond?

Wilson said he expected Bond production to pause for at least a year following "Quantum of Solace."

"I need a break for a little while," he said.

Forster said he won't be back for Bond 23.

"If I would ever do a big movie again in that size," he said, "it has to be my own franchise, which I would create from scratch, which I would cast, create the look and really create the franchise on my own."

And Craig, who turned 40 while filming in Panama, said he'd keep playing Bond — so long as the quality remains high.

"I want them to stand alone and be good films," he said. "As long as that continues, then we'll keep making them. And if it doesn't, then we'll stop."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Stan Lee to be Honored at NY Comic Con

Source: POW! Entertainment, Inc.

POW! Entertainment has announced that Stan Lee will be honored at the New York Comic Con:

The New York Comic Con and POW! Entertainment, Inc., announce; legendary comic book writer and creator Stan Lee will be a Special Guest of New York Comic Con this year where he will appear on several panels, as well as receive the first-ever New York Comics Legend Award at a special VIP party at the Virgin Megastore in New York City’s Times Square. Celebrated by millions of fans worldwide for building Marvel into a comics and motion picture powerhouse, Stan Lee is revered for co-creating Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and the Incredible Hulk, among other original and wildly popular characters. New York Comic Con, the biggest and most exciting popular culture event on the East Coast, will take place at the Jacob K. Javits Center, April 18-20, 2008.

“This is a double whammy for us,” notes Lance Fensterman, Show Manager for NYCC. “First, we get to have the extreme privilege of hosting Stan Lee at our show, and second, we have the distinct honor of awarding him our first-ever New York Comics Legend Award, which we have created to honor New York City’s greatest contributors to comic books and to New York life. I can’t possibly think of anyone more suited to be the first recipient of this award than Stan Lee! He has done so much through the years for both comics and for New York City.”

The reception for Stan Lee where he will receive his New York Comics Legend Award will take place on Thursday, April 17th at 8:00pm at the Virgin Megastore, 1540 Broadway, in the heart of Times Square in New York City. Attendance is extremely limited and so fans are encouraged to buy tickets immediately via the website at The reception, which will provide New York-based food and beverage (i.e. Nathan’s Hot Dogs and Brooklyn Lager!), will include a presentation of the award, followed by comments by Stan Lee, as well as brief comments by select friends and colleagues of Mr. Lee.

The inimitable Stan Lee, whose creative genius propelled Marvel to its preeminent position in today’s market place, is doing it all over again with his newly founded company POW! Entertainment Inc., (POWN). Under the umbrella of POW!, Stan is creating at an unprecedented rate and a whole new cast of contemporary Stan Lee Originals are just beginning their premieres.

Stan Lee commented on his up and coming New York Comic Con appearance:

Even though Los Angeles has been my play pen for the past few decades, I'll always consider New York my home town. It's the beautiful city where I was born (a beautiful baby!) grew up (beautifully!), got married to my beautiful wife and had my beautiful daughter. (When I find an adjective I like, I stick with it!)

So, whenever I can wheedle an opportunity to return to the greatest city in the world, it's an indescribable thrill for me. And, to make it even more fabulous, it gives me the chance to meet old friends - artists, writers, editors, fans, all sorts of terrific people who speak the same language - the language of creativity.

Hey, what I'm trying to say is - I can't wait to see ya!

Your Man Stan

New York Comic Con organizers note that the New York Comics Legend Award will be given to one recipient each year during the convention. Each recipient will have made a major contribution to the advancement of comics, either through achievement in art or business; they will have made a significant contribution to the civic life in New York either through charity, education, public service or by advancing the image of New York City through direct involvement with New York City causes, or through positive depiction of the city and its culture within their body of work; and they will each have lived in New York City for a minimum number of years in order to be eligible for the award.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

'High School Musical 3' films in April

SALT LAKE CITY - The "High School Musical" gang is returning to Utah this month for their senior year.

Unlike its predecessors, the third installment in the series will be filmed during the school year at East High School in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen says setting up will begin in a couple weeks and shooting will start toward the end of the month. He says much of the filming for "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" will take place before and after school to minimize disruptions.

The first two movies brought $8 million and 180 jobs to the state during filming. The third project is slated to cost $13 million.

Shoaib banned for five years

Cricinfo staff

Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, 32, has been banned for five years by a disciplinary committee of the PCB for violating the players' code of conduct. The ban extends to cricket for and in Pakistan but will leave him free to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which begins later this month.

Legspinner Danish Kaneria, also charged with criticising the PCB, was let off with a severe reprimand as it was his first offence.

Shoaib had appeared before a disciplinary committee in February after being charged with publicly criticising the Pakistan board for offering him a retainership instead of a contract. The board had offered contracts to 15 players, based on a formula that took into account their performance, but Shoaib was demoted to a retainership from the Category A contract he held last year.

"The board has lost confidence in Shoaib Akhtar and therefore felt his presence in the field was damaging to the Pakistan team, for Pakistan players and for the image of Pakistan cricket," the PCB chairman, Nasim Ashraf, told AFP. "The committee has recommended a five-year ban for Shoaib Akhtar. He will be ineligible to play in Pakistan or to play for Pakistan anywhere else in the world. [It is] a sad day for me and for Shoaib Akhtar. He is such a talented player."

Shoaib, 32, said he was "deeply disappointed and hurt" by the decision. "I will go to court and fight against the ban."

He also dismissed Ashraf's claims that he was a negative influence on the team and vowed to make a comeback. "Ask the captain (Shoaib Malik), ask coach Geoff Lawson and they would vouch for me. I had played with high fever on the India tour (last year), which proved my commitment," he said. "I bowl fast so I am prone to injuries, but I have given my heart, soul and body to this team. I know some vested interest did not want me to be the part of the team, but I will be back."

Shoaib, who can appeal this decision, was already on two years' probation for hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat before the start of the World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007. That offence saw him fined 3.4 million rupees ($52,000 dollars) and banned for 13 matches, and left him facing the prospect of a life ban today.

He felt the ban was stiff punishment for the offence. "I was demoted from central contract 'A' category, which was very hurtful and as a reaction I said something. I have apologised to the PCB, before the disciplinary committee and before everyone," he said. "So I thought that they would take a lenient action, but this harsh decision has effectively ended my career. I still want to play for my country."

Kaneria, Ashraf said, had been let off with a severe reprimand and has been barred from issuing any press statements. In his column on, Kaneria said he felt he deserved more respect as an established senior player in the side and was not satisfied with the board's explanation of his demotion from category B to C in the central contracts.