Canadian actress Barbara Bennett is one of actor Richard Bennett's three daughters. She and her sisters Constance and Joan all became actresses, but of the three, Barbara was the least known. She firs...
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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UPDATE: Samuel L. Jackson denied dropping an f-bomb (but does admit to cursing) on Twitter:
I only said FUH not FUCK!K was sposed to cut off da BULLSHIT, blew it!! twitter.com/SamuelLJackson…
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) December 16, 2012
EARLIER: We're used to cheering like a Spartan whenever Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon or another recently departed Saturday Night Live alum returns to Studio 8H. But SNL fans found themselves disappointed when a former SNL legend returned to glory on the sketch comedy show's stage. Dana Carvey — also known as one of the main reasons (save Chris Farley) the early 1990s is still held up on an SNL pedestal — seemed a promising host for fans in 2011, but, sadly, the actor's revival of popular characters like Wayne's World's Wayne, Ross Perot, and Church Lady seemed more unoriginal than nostalgic.
So, considering Carvey's stint, Martin Short's hosting gig Saturday seemed worrisome — would we be forced to sit through Ed Grimley and Jerry Lewis sketches years after we already grew sick of them watching best of SNL VHS tapes?
As it turned out, absolutely not. Short proved to be a delightful host who was just as hilarious as he was current. We were subjected to a split second of Ed Grimley, but only during Short's jolly monologue, which brought us even more exciting SNL characters of seasons past. Well, rather, cast members — Fey, Fallon, Kristen Wiig (complete with Junice baby hand), and honorary cast member Tom Hanks (making his second SNL cameo this year) all joined in Short's Christmas-centric musical number, which marked the seventh this season. This week, however, the musical monologue was worth it — it's hard to say what sight was better: Abe Lincoln with a llama or Short planting a smooch on the predictably stoic Lorne Michaels. Still, each paled in comparison to Short's astute ad lib, "How does a man sit on a piano, I wonder?"
The SNL cameos continued with "A Tony Bennett Christmas," headed up by Alec Baldwin's fan-favorite impression of the crooner. The sketch veered into ESPN Classic territory with its ad-shilling bathroom humor ("It's sure easy to get down in the dumps when you can't take one"), but, then again, anything that reminds us of Will Forte's Greg Stink picks us out of the dumps.
But, following the sketch, we hardly said "Cheerio!" to bathroom humor. The next sketch — about a royal OBGYN being trained to treat the Duchess of Cambridge — mainly centered on euphemisms for female genitalia: "The King-Maker," "Thomas' English Muffin," and, of course, "Her Downton Abbey" among them. Anyone else in the role of the consultant tasked with prepping Bill Hader's OBGYN would have been groan-worthy, but Short even managed to make a dated Camilla Parker-Bowles funnier than the prospect of her Downton Abbey being guarded by a troll that asks you a riddle. Just ask Hader, who couldn't keep a straight face while Short revealed euphemisms for the anal cavity. (In case you were wondering, "The Church of Taint Andrews" is one.)
More impressive, though, was Short's impeccable impression of Larry David as Linus in an adult-themed, star-studded Charlie Brown special, You're a Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown. Typically, Hader's impersonations steal SNL sketches, but his Al Pacino paled in comparison to Short's David. The actor even looked like the Curb Your Enthusiasm star. Other highlights included Taran Killam's Michael Keaton and Jason Sudeikis' Philip Seymour Hoffman — though I can't be the only one wishing Nasim Pedrad's celebrity impressions all didn't sound like Nasim Pedrad. Kristin Chenoweth deserves better — and no, this time around, I'm not talking about Jake Pavelka.
Speaking of zingers, Seth Meyers' one-liners were the highlight of Weekend Update, attracting more laughs than Vanessa Bayer's adorably funny roasting Bar Mitzvah boy and Cecily Strong's ho-hum revival of Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party. Jokes about Jersey Shore's finale and criticism of Barbara Walters for asking Hillary Clinton about her hair over her policies were astute enough, but the funniest one-liner of the night was also the bluest: “An Ohio woman who gave birth to her daughter at 12:12 p.m. on 12-12-12 has named her 'Forever.' Which I suspect is how long she’ll be a stripper.”
Samuel L. Jackson, who made a cameo alongside SNL's stars in Short's monologue, returned to appear in Kenan Thompson's recurring — but long dormant — "What's Up With That?" sketch. The premise remains the same, and so does Sudeikis' jaunty tracksuit dancing — but this week, the sketch came with a NSFW twist. Pulling a Jenny Slate, Jackson dropped an f-bomb at the end of "What's Up With That?" and followed it up with a "bulls--t." "Come on now, that costs money," Thompson ad-libbed. Your move, FCC.
SNL rounded out its episode with a sketch about two old friends (Fred Armisen and Short) with bizarre hobbies (acting for EMT training) and habits (eating 25 bagels a day) that was sorely lacking a Stefon, and a Christmas pageant audition sketch with Short and musical guest Paul McCartney that quickly turned into a Christmas-themed performance from the former Beatle. But while McCartney turned in two other lovely performances — including a reprise of his "Valentine" single — the rock legend was overshadowed by SNL's touching cold open, which featured the New York Childrens Chorus singing "Silent Night" as a quiet tribute to the Sandy Hook tragedy. The moment echoed Paul Simon's post-9/11 performance of "The Boxer" on the sketch comedy series, and proved, once again, SNL can be as heartfelt as it is funny. We might not be able to sleep in heavenly peace for some time, but dammit if SNL didn't help us try.
[Image Credit: NBC]
Saturday Night Live: Should Series Address Sandy Hook Tragedy?
Saturday Night Live Recap: Fast Forwarding With Jamie Foxx
Saturday Night Live Promo: Martin Short Keeps A Comedy Tradition Going
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Liv Tyler has baby boy
Lord of the Rings star Liv Tyler and her husband, Royston Langdon of the band Spacehog, welcomed a baby boy Tuesday. The baby, born at New York-Prebysterian Hospital, hasn't yet been named. According to People magazine, the baby was born at 4:11 a.m. and weighed 8 pounds. "They are both doing great," Tyler's publicist, Stephen Huvane, told The Associated Press Wednesday. Besides playing the elf princess Arwen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tyler's screen credits include Jersey Girl and Armageddon--both alongside co-star Ben Affleck. But it was her appearance as a teen vixen in Aerosmith's 1994 video for "Crazy" that really put her on the map. The 27-year-old actress is the daughter of model Bebe Buell and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, which now makes the sexy 54-year-old rock star a grandfather. It's probably too early to tell if the baby will have the same, sensual, full-lipped mouth the Tylers are so famous for.
Whitney Houston rams Porsche into bus
Singer Whitney Houston rear-ended a city bus with her sports car in Alpharetta, Ga., Wednesday afternoon but no one was hurt, the AP reports. According to Sgt. Chris Lagerbloom, the accident happened as Houston was making a left turn. The bus sustained minor damage and the bumper of Houston's Porsche was mangled--but the 41-year-old singer was not injured. She was given a citation for failure to yield, a misdemeanor. Houston and her husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown, live near the suburb of Alpharetta, about 25 miles north of Atlanta. The couple met in 1989 and were married in July 18, 1992. They admitted to marital problems in in the mid-'90s and reportedly separated in June 1998, but have since reunited.
Anderson gets naked for anti-fur campaign
Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson may have posed naked for an anti-fur billboard, but China's straight-laced media regulators might not allow the billboards to go up, the AP reports. The posters, featuring the slogan "Give fur the cold shoulder" in English, show the 37-year-old actress topless with her back to the camera and an arm partly hiding her right breast. "Depending on the censors, they may be concerned about it, but it's very tastefully done," Jason Baker, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told AP. "We may end up having to crop (the photo) a bit." China was the origin of 40 percent of all American fur imports in 2000, according to PETA. Anderson has been an longtime and outspoken supporter of PETA and their initiatives.
Critics Choice pick Sideways
The indie comedy Sideways scored a leading eight nominations, including best picture, for the 10th annual Critics' Choice Awards, Reuters reports. Other Critics Choice contenders included Miramax Films' Finding Neverland with seven nominations, and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator which scored six nods. In the acting categories, Jamie Foxx picked up a best actor mention for Ray and a best supporting actor for Collateral, while Kate Winslet was nominated as best actress for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and as best supporting actress for Finding Neverland. The Critics Choice Awards, organized by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, will announce their winners Jan. 10 in Los Angeles. The WB will broadcast the ceremony live at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Wife Swap producers sue over rival show
British producers of the ABC's popular reality show Wife Swap have filed suit over the Fox show Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy, labeling it as an illegal rip-off, the AP reports. The suit, filed by RDF Media, targets Fox Broadcasting and the show's producers, claiming the show, "more aptly might be entitled 'Trading Copyrights' or perhaps 'Copyright Swap,'" and calls the Fox series "a blatant and wholesale copycat" of Wife Swap. RDF Media is asking for more than $18 million in damages plus all "gains, profits and advantages" derived from the Fox show, the AP reports. Fox spokesman Scott Grogan said the network had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
James Brown comes through surgery with flying colors
James Brown underwent successful surgery Wednesday in Atlanta to treat his recently diagnosed prostate cancer, the AP reports. "Mr. Brown has successfully undergone a localized prostate cancer procedure and is resting comfortably," Dr. James Bennett, his urologist, said in a statement. "We expect a full recovery. With proper follow-up and care, we can also expect a full cure." Before the operation, the 71-year-old Godfather of Soul said, "I have overcome a lot of things in my life. I will overcome this as well." Brown is due to release an autobiography next month and is planning a tour of Asia and Australia early next year, the AP reports.
Blake's trial gears up
Before the murder trial against actor Robert Blake begins on Monday, Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp reversed herself and has decided to allow segments of jailhouse interviews the former Baretta star gave, including the interview he granted journalist Barbara Walters in February 2003, to be used in the prosecution's case, the AP reports. Snippets will also be played from a recorded conversation that Blake had in jail in 2002, in which he told comedian Mort Sahl that Bakley's family were "monsters" who would never get his daughter, which, according to the prosecution, will prove Blake killed his wife because he despised her and her family. Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach said the comment came some 20 months after the night of the killing and had no relevance to Blake's state of mind at the time of the murder, the AP reports.
Top Story: Jackson's Parents Offer To Adopt Children
In an interview airing today at 10 p.m. EST on ABC's 20/20, Michael Jackson's parents said he is innocent and have offered to adopt his children if they're taken away from him. "Some people are trying to accuse him of being a pedophile, and that is not true," Katherine Jackson. "Hhe said, 'Mother, don't worry, it's not the truth.' But I told him you don't know these wicked people, the people are just mean and wicked." Jackson, who was arrested Nov. 20 on suspicion of molesting a boy at his Neverland Ranch outside Santa Barbara, Calif., has denied the allegations. He was released on $3 million bail the same day and has not yet been charged. When asked whether they would try to adopt the two boys and a girl if that happens, Jackson's father Joe answered, "Well ... they're my grandkids. I have to."
George Clinton Files Innocent Plea
Funk musician George Clinton, who was arrested in Tallahassee, Fla., over the weekend and charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, filed an innocent plea to drug charges Thursday, The Associated Press reports. No trial date has been set. Police said Clinton was sitting in the passenger side of a car at a gas station when they approached him and told them he had cocaine in his pocket. He was arrested, charged and later released on $2,650 bail. Clinton headed the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic in the 1970s and 1980s and his 1983 solo album, Atomic Dog, rose to the top of the R&B charts.
It's "Sir" Mick Jagger Now
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger received Britain's ultimate accolade Friday when he was knighted by heir to the throne Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Reuters reports. Jagger, 60, rejected suggestions that he had sold out to the same establishment that he had scoffed at for so long: "I don't really think the establishment as we knew it exists any more," he said, tossing his head slightly. Jagger, who attended the ceremony with his 92-year-old father Joe and two of his daughters, showed his rebellious streak by shunning the traditional top hat and tails and opting instead for a long black leather coat, purple scarf and sports shoes.
Deschanel and Gyllenhaal Host Sundance Awards
Zooey Deschanel and Jake Gyllenhaal, who played discontented discount store employees in last year's The Good Girl, will team up again to co-host the Sundance Film Festival Awards on Jan. 24. Playing at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, which is scheduled for Jan. 15-25, are The Woodsman, starring husband-and-wife team Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and We Don't Live Here Anymore with Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts. Another film selection is The Clearing, starring Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe and Robert Redford, the festival's founder.
Will & Grace Creators Sue NBC Companies
David Kohan and Jason "Max" Mutchnick, creators of the hit NBC comedy Will & Grace, sued the network and its in-house production company, NBC Studios, Thursday, claiming the companies conspired to keep them from their fair share of the show's earnings. According to Reuters, the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty by the NBC companies. Kohan and Mutchnick say the licensing terms for the show were "insufficient even to cover a reasonable percentage of the series' production costs" and accuse companies of deliberately undervaluing the sitcom in the deal by which the production company licensed the show to its sister network.
Pharrell To Launch Clothing Line
Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes announced Thursday the launch of two new apparel ventures in partnership with Reebok: Ice Cream, a collection of men's and women's footwear, and Billionaire Boys Club, a men's clothing collection. According to MTV.com, the lines will launch next summer and feature a select run of five or six items available only in high-end boutiques and better department stores. Pharrell's Billionaire Boys Club T-shirts made brief appearances his Frontin' video and onstage during recent shows by his band N.E.R.D. The line will offer T-shirts, athletic clothing, jeans and button-down shirts.
Luciano Pavarotti To Wed Longtime Girlfriend
Opera star Luciano Pavarotti will marry longtime partner Nicoletta Mantovani in his hometown Saturday, the AP reports. Guests will include U2 frontman Bono, Sting, fashion designer Donatella Versace and soccer star Alessandro Del Piero. Giorgio Armani is providing the wedding gowns for Mantovani and the couple's year-old daughter Alice. Pavarotti, 68, has three children from his marriage to former manager Adua Veroni.
Sting Honored by MusicCares
Tony Bennett, the Black Eyed Peas, Elvis Costello, Dido, Elton John, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Rufus Wainwright will perform at the 2004 MusiCares Person of the Year gala in honor of Sting, the AP reports. Sting, 52, is set to receive the honor at a special tribute dinner, concert and silent auction Feb. 6 in Los Angeles. The gala is part of a weeklong festival leading up to the Grammy Awards, which will be presented Feb. 8. He was selected for his accomplishments as a musician, humanitarian and environmental activist by MusiCares, which provides assistance to music people in times of need.
Role Call: Haven Draws Bruckner and Cannavale
Blue Car's Agnes Bruckner and
Canadian actress Barbara Bennett is one of actor Richard Bennett's three daughters. She and her sisters Constance and Joan all became actresses, but of the three, Barbara was the least known. She first gained recognition appearing on Broadway in The Dancers (1923). Later she was a ballroom dancer and during the late '20s appeared in a few films. She married popular entertainer Morton Downey in 1929. With him she raised five children. Later she married actor Addison "Jack Randall. She died at the age of 52 of a heart attack.