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Short Takes – May 2007
by Andrew Dowd
In other big-budget franchise news, Sam Raimi, whose Spider-Man 3 swings into theaters this week, has reportedly expressed interest in directing the proposed Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit. Raimi said that his involvement in the project would be contingent on the approval of Rings master Peter Jackson, who has strongly suggested that he won’t be making the prequel. So where does this leave Spidey? Probably without its principal players—both Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst have said that, without Raimi onboard, they’re jumping ship on Spider-Man 4.
Richard Gere stirred up international controversy this past month by embracing and repeatedly kissing Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS-awareness benefit. Such public displays of affection are considered taboo in traditional Indian culture, a fact that has led to numerous protests from Hindu fundamentalists. Despite a public apology from Gere and words of defense from Shetty, the situation has only worsened. Several days ago, it culminated in an Indian court issuing a warrant for both actors’ arrest, citing “obscene acts.”
Munich star Eric Bana walked away uninjured from a Rally Car crash last week in his native country of Australia. The actor was competing in the Targa Tasmania Rally when he misjudged a tight turn and careened into several nearby trees. The accident came just four days after it was announced that he would be starring alongside Rachel McAdams in the big-screen adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. What Bana won’t be starring in is the upcoming sequel to Ang Lee’s Hulk—Edward Norton has reportedly replaced him as intrepid scientist Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, Louis Leterrier’s follow-up, due next summer.
More comic book movie/prequel news! Blade and Batman Begins writer David Goyer has been tapped to direct Magneto, the prequel/spin-off to the popular X-Men film franchise. Goyer’s previous directorial efforts were the poorly received Blade: Trinity and last weekend’s The Invisible.
Director Rob Marshall and the Weinstein Company are teaming up to bring the Tony Award-winning Nine to the big-screen. The last time Marshall and the Weinsteins collaborated on a Broadway musical adaptation—Chicago, in 2002—their efforts yielded six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
For the first time ever, international stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li are starring in a movie together, a family-friendly adventure called The Forbidden Kingdom. Stuart Little’s Rob Minkoff is directing, with a September 2008 release date.
The Weinstein Company is offering artists an opportunity to design a one-sheet for the upcoming Zach Braff/Jason Bateman comedy, The Ex. One winner will be treated to a private screening of the film, autographed prints of their poster, and other prizes. To enter, log onto www.starpulse.com. The deadline is May 25th.
Finally, former pop star Willa Ford will star as Anna Nicole Smith in a biopic of the recently deceased celebrity. Look for the film in 2008.
As if Nirvana fans needed yet another reason to hate Courtney Love, the Hole singer has just announced that she plans to auction off the personal belongings of late husband Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in 1994.
Having already mimicked the look and sound of the King of Pop, Justin Timberlake’s going after The Queen. The pop star is reportedly writing songs for none other than Madonna, whose latest LP—her eleventh!—is due later this year.
The initial line-up for Live Earth has been announced. The Live 8 style event—seven concerts on seven continents, all taking place on July 7th—will bring together a number of high-profile rock and pop acts to promote change in global environmental policy. The U.S. show, set to take place at Giants Stadium in New York, will feature Bon Jovi, reunited rock legends The Police and Smashing Pumpkins, and Kayne West, among others. The U.K. edition has nabbed Madonna, The Beastie Boys, and a reunited Genesis; Australia’s got Kylie Minogue and Jack Johnson; Brazil has Lenny Kravitz and Snoop Dogg; and China’s show will feature Sarah Brightman. More acts to be announced in the coming weeks.
Speaking of enormous music festivals, The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival went down this past weekend in Indio, California. The event drew thousands of fans and a plethora of indie rock’s finest to the desert for three days of live music and performance art. Numerous highlights, but the big draw was Sunday night’s headliner, agitprop rap-rockers Rage Against the Machine, onstage together for the first time in seven years. The erstwhile group’s return engagement continues with a stint at the Rock the Bells Festival, this July and August. After that, who knows—full reunion tour? New album? Unannounced, guerilla performance on the White House lawn? Come back, guys, we need you!
In light of a recent drunk driving arrest, Baldwin’s 30 Rock co-star Tracy Morgan has been forced by a Los Angeles judge to wear a high-tech ankle bracelet that can detect alcohol consumption. He’s also been forced to complete five hours of community service.
Rosie O’Donnell is reportedly leaving The View in June, citing disagreements over her contract and salary. ABC was apparently willing to pay her $10 million a year, but with the stipulation that she sign on for three more years. Some have speculated that the outspoken celeb’s departure may be directly linked to the feud she was involved in with Donald Trump earlier in the year—Trump himself, for example, is already taking credit for “getting her fired.” Show host Barbara Walters, who has sparred on air with O’Donnell since she joined the panel last year, has expressed her regrets over the sudden departure.
The radio show of Don Imus was officially axed by both CBS and MSNBC late last month, following a backlash over comments he made on his program. The aging shock jock disparaged the Rutgers women’s basketball team, using language that many deemed offensive and racially insensitive. Imus later claimed that he was merely mimicking the rhetoric of “black gangsta rappers.” According to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the story itself was the most heavily covered of any on cable news networks this year. Regardless, Imus and his producer, who delivered his own barbs that day, remain unemployed.
CBS has given the green light to Dynasty, an American Idol-style singing competition show that will feature three members of the Jackson family. Can you guess which ones? Here’s a hint: the big ones aren’t involved. Jermaine, Tito, and LaToya will serve as judges for the show, which will seek to anoint a new pop star family. The first eight episodes of Dynasty will likely air in the fall.
Jack Valenti, 85. Longtime head of the MPAA, Valenti passed away due to complications from a stroke he suffered last year.
Kurt Vonnegut, 84. The famous novelist and short-story writer—best known, perhaps, for Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle—died as a result of a “brain injuries” he suffered from a fall weeks earlier.
Bob Clark, 67. The director of holiday classic A Christmas Story—not to mention holiday slasher classic Black Christmas—was killed in a head-on, highway collision in Los Angeles. His 22-year-old son Ariel also died in the crash.
Don Ho, 76. The legendary nightclub crooner died of heart failure in Hawaii.
Most information is derived from IMDB's daily news, the Chicago dailies (Tribune and Sun Times), Entertainment Weekly, MSN.com, various sources as listed, and by just paying attention.
Andrew Dowd is a writer and filmmaker living in Chicago.
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