Michael Jackson's estate executors are demanding the dismissal of another child molestation accusation, insisting the alleged victim has no grounds to sue. James Safechuck's accusations were added to a 2013 lawsuit filed by dancer Wade Robson, who claims he was repeatedly molested as a kid by the King of Pop.
Lawyers for Safechuck insist their client also had an inappropriate relationship with the Thriller hitmaker when he was a pre-teen, after appearing with Jackson in a 1987 Pepsi commercial.
In court papers, they write, "(Jackson) engaged in a calculated course of conduct to lure both (Safechuck) and his parents into a false sense of security and normalcy that was far from reality.
"And (Jackson) was successful in his efforts to the point that (Safechuck) endured repeated acts of sexual abuse of a heinous nature and was brainwashed by the decedent into believing they were acts of love and instigated by James himself rather than the decedent."
Safechuck's representatives are seeking permission from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff to file the late claim, reports the Los Angeles Times.
A hearing on the petition has been set for 4 September (14), but Howard Weitzman, Jackson's estate attorney, is adamant the case should be dismissed as the statute of limitations has long expired.
He has also called Safechuck's account into question, telling TMZ.com that he had previously "given sworn testimony that Michael never did anything inappropriate to him".
Jackson was acquitted of child molestation following a lengthy trial that began in 2004. The singer passed away in June, 2009.
"Punk? There's no excuse for making bad music, man. Just because you're being rude and frighteningly dramatic doesn't mean you can't have songs. Bad attitude is no substitute for great music like Joni Mitchell or James Taylor. By the way, I thought disco f**king sucked, too." Veteran rocker David Crosby is still a musical purist after 50 years in the industry.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
Palo Alto bleeds aimlessness in a lot of good ways. In the tradition of Dazed and Confused and The Last Picture Show, Gia Coppola's directorial debut lands us knee deep in the ennui of a self-contained society of small town teens, daring us to dive right into a neon cesspool vacant of hope or self-actualization. Keeping in step with the mentioned films, Palo Alto is far less interested in telling a story than it is in painting a picture. The spectacle that results is beautiful, piercing, and — quite definitely — Coppolian. But it hits some difficulty when it tries to move beyond its frame.
Adapted from the short stories of at-least-he's-always-interesting James Franco (who is featured in the movie as a sneakily lecherous soccer coach), Palo Alto tags us to the corroded souls of a gaggle of misguided high schoolers in suburban Central California. Emma Roberts is the ostensible lead; her April is a sullen young woman whose chief character trait is sympathetic disillusionment. Her paths cross here and there with Mr. B (Franco) and likewise wayfaring classmate Teddy (Jack Kilmer — son of Val, who has a brief part in the film as the space cadet stepfather to Roberts), who is lightyears away from appreciating the gravity in his drunk driving episode and subsequent community service.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
The highlight of the bunch is Teddy's pal Fred, a compulsively obnoxious clown who The Naked Brothers Band's Nat Wolff stuffs with palpable agony and confusion. Buried inside of him, April, Teddy, and the scattered secondary players who work to identify the core of the proper main character — Palo Alto itself — lives our story, never progressing in any direction thereon out. The film is a snapshot of the pangs, frustrations, misgivings, malfeasances, and so on of the kids, adults, and neighborhood in question. In this form, it glows.
But Palo Alto tries to drive its story forward, yanking April, Teddy, and Fred out from the stronghold of their communal desperation and throwing them into the beyond. It's this forward motion that brings our attention to the delicate seams of the film, its unpreparedness in handling the story as much more than a lasting glimpse. We feel the elements slipping away from Coppola as she attempts to set them on a motive course for the first time in the third act, and so we have a tough time staying adhered as we once were to the characters — the falter is doubled by the fact that this emancipation comes at the intended peak of their emotional journeys.
Although the film might leave off dabbling in undeveloped turns — feeling frayed, uneven, and incomplete (I suppose it's hard to insist that such qualities are inappropriate for the story at hand) — it spends the lion's share of its time in a remarkable establishment: a portrait as lifelike as it is dreamy and as funny as it is haunting. It might lose its balance when it grabs for agency, but it offers an image very much worthy of our eyes.
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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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Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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Penelope Cruz's young son made his stage debut in London this month (Dec13) by volunteering during a children's show. The actress and her husband Javier Bardem, who are currently living in the British capital, took their two-year-old boy Leonardo to see The Snail and the Whale, an adaptation of the children's book of the same name, at the St James Theatre in Victoria.
During the show, Leonardo enthusiastically joined the cast onstage and had to be led back to his seat by his mother.
The production's director Toby Mitchell tells the London Evening Standard, "The actors were saying, 'Come on everybody, we've got to save the whale'. And this little boy decided he wanted to save the whale as well and ran on to the stage to help. He was very into the play. The child's mum - Penelope Cruz - came on stage and just gently led him off."
The couple is also parents to a baby daughter, Luna.
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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Christmas may still be a month off, but when has that ever stopped the Hallmark Channel from rolling out its holiday themed movies a tad bit early? Quick answer: never! Which is why a snowy-white TV-flick starring none-other than Henry Winkler is just one of the great programs on our list this week. Here's what else you need to be watching.
Modern FamilyWhy Modern Family? Because it's still the most consistently funnyshow on network TV. And we all know how the Big Four's crop of brand spankin' new sitcoms have been faring lately. Just turns on The Crazy Ones for five minutes. A vomit bag may be required. A new episode of Modern Family airs Wednesday at 9PM ET on ABC.
JFK: Three Shots That Changed AmericaWant more JFK anniversary coverage? How could you not? Then you'll want to check out the History Channel's engrossing two-part documentary airing this Friday. Not only does it include rare and unseen footage of the Kennedy assassination, but it also repudiates claims that there was a conspiracy or government cover-up. Hope you're listening, Oliver Stone! JFK: Three Shots That Changed America will air this Friday on the History Channel. Check your local listings for times.
The Most Wonderful Time of the YearThanksgiving hasn't even arrived yet, but Christmas season is already in full swing on the Hallmark Channel. In this heartwarming gem from 2008, Henry Winkler goes to great lengths to teach his curmudgeonly sister (Brooke Burns) about the true meaning of the holiday. That's right, folks, he's leaving the Fonz jacket at home! The Most Wonderful Time of the Year airs this Wednesday at 8PM ET on the Hallmark Channel.
The SimpsonsYep, America's favorite animated family (sorry Griffins) are back at it for a record-braking 25th season. Who's still watching, you ask? Well, enough people for Matt Groening and company to score a cool $750 million after signing an immensely lucrative syndication deal with FXX last week. And with over episodes and counting, those chinless Springfieldians show no signs of slowing down. Another new episode of The Simpsons airs this Sunday at 8PM ET on Fox.
ChoppedFor 17 seasons and counting, Chopped has been pitting chefs against one another and seeing what they come up with. This week the cooks are asked to combine exotic dishes like kimchi and gefilte fish, as well as a dessert round featuring marshmallow cake and citrus water. Mmm...anyone else feeling hungry right about now? A new episode of Chopped airs this Tuesday at 7 PM ET on the Food Network.
A brother of Fifty Shades Of Grey author E.L. James is on trial accused of killing an elderly woman in a car crash. Daniel Mitchell allegedly drove his Porsche into the back of 73 year old Mollie Haines' car near Buckinghamshire, England last July (13).
Haines had broken down and had her hazard lights on after trying to restart her car. She died instantly when her vehicle exploded.
Mitchell was arrested at the scene and is currently on trial at Aylesbury Crown Court in England for careless driving. He denies the charge.
The trial continues.
On this week's episode of Three's Company, one character leaves the room just in time for another character to reveal something provocative to a third character, which eventuates in a wacky, sexually-themed misunderstanding. Later on, somebody walks in on two people making love, and a really gregarious dude uncomfortably hits on his heterosexual coworker. Hilarity ensues.
Oh, no, that was all on Mad Men, but you coulda fooled me.
Even more off the wall than this season's recent drug-addled ep is the sexually pervasive "Favors," which has just about everyone trying to sleep with just about everyone. Peggy tries to sleep with Stan. Ted, subtly, tries to sleep with Peggy. Ted's wife tries to sleep with Ted. Sally Draper's problematic friend Julie tries to convince Sally to sleep with Arnold and Sylvia Rosen's son Mitchell, who, in turn, looks pretty keen on sleeping with either of them (despite the fact that he's a good five years their senior). Pete's mother, who thinks that Pete is sleeping with Peggy, tries in her own right to sleep with her burly Latin nurse. And of course, the kicker of the lot: Bob Benson tries to sleep with Pete.
Let's back the hell up. First, the Don / Sylvia / Sally / Mitchell / Julie (that gal's trouble) Debacle:
When Don walks in on Megan tending to the sunken eyes of a long-haired, free-wheelin' hippie type, he learns that this young man is actually the son of Arnold and Sylvia Rosen, and that he's been assigned 1A (which, for the lot of us who have very fortunately grown up in an era past the draft, is apparently quite bad) for the Vietnam War. So Don, claiming to be channeling the father inside of him (that same father who admitted just a few weeks back to never feeling any love for his children), calls in a few favors to get Mitchell absolved from service. He attempts this with a client during a big pitch meeting, much to everyone's chagrin, but eventually lands the help of the noble Ted, who enlists the help of an Air National Guard buddy to ensure that Mitchell will never see combat.
And of course, it's all so that he can sleep with Sylvia again. And he does. And a visiting Sally, prompted into the Rosen's apartment to retrieve a compromising note left there by her nuisance of a pal Julie (seriously, Sally, just go hang out with Glenn again), walks in on the romantic union of her father and the lady from Freaks and Geeks. If Sally's image of Don hasn't yet deteriorated beyond repair, it does here. The young lass is shattered. And Don's malfeasances have finally stepped beyond his containment.
The only issue with the dramatism of this twist is just how little Don does indeed value Sally or her image of him. I can't imagine that Sally losing her sense of her father as a god should mean all that much to Don. Thinking of another AMC drama about crumbling father figures, Breaking Bad, we find a corrupt and criminal man who still needs his son to love and admire him. But has Don ever really needed that from Sally, or do his cold sweats here just come from the threat of her revealing the incident to Megan?
Now, the far more interesting Pete / Pete's Mom / Pete's Mom's Nurse / Bob / Peggy / Ted / Ted's wife / Stan / Whoever that Girl in Stan's Bed Was Calamity:
If you'll recall, a few weeks back, the ever generous Bon Benson took it upon himself to suggest to Pete the services of a military nurse named Manolo for his dementia-stricken mother. When Manolo and Mrs. Campbell pay a visit to SC&P this week, we learn a few things, via a covert conversation between the delusional woman and whom she believes to be Trudy (but is actually Peggy): the two are sleeping together.
Okay, we don't know if they're actually sleeping together. But we know that Mrs. Campbell thinks they're sleeping together. And that's enough to rile Pete up to give Manolo the axe, after he finds out during a liquor-fueled dinner with Peggy and Ted. A dinner with sexual tensions flying every which way: Ted still likes Peggy, right? Even though he has a loving wife and family, suffering from his lack of attention at home? And now there are hints that Pete harbors some affection Peggy's way, too? And maybe not entirely unrequited? Except for the fact that she's also totally willing to sleep with Stan, as she offers to "make it worth his while" if he high tails it over to her apartment in the middle of the night to kill a rat? But he can't, because he's actually in the middle of sleeping with someone else? And all this is made all the more complicated by the fact that Peggy shared kisses with both Stan and Ted a few weeks back?
And, oh yeah, she had a baby with Pete?
Remember that?! Because until Pete's mom, all out of sorts, made reference to the child that Peggy/Trudy and Pete/Pete have together, I had all but forgotten. Those two have a kid.
But we can shelf that in favor of the Bob Benson reveal for which everyone has been waiting. Pete brings his outrage over the Manolo situation to the attention of Bob, who, in his sensitive, philosophical manner, identifies Mrs. Campbell's feelings as natural and understandable. Manolo cares for her, makes her his top priority, shows her nothing but kindness. As such, she can't help but fall for him. This message, delivered with a gentle nudging of Pete's knee with his own, cements a new bit of information about Bob Benson.
At surface value, we could take this to mean that the rosey-cheeked do-gooder is simply gay. And maybe he is. But that's not a deep enough cut for the most bizarre character to grace Mad Men since Kinsey went all loony. Bob has tossed his unparalleled kindness toward just about everyone at SC&P: Pete, Joan, Ginsberg, Harry Hamlin. I don't think that homosexuality was meant to be the big reveal here, but a dark, pressing, all-consuming need to be loved. Really loved. By anyone.
And so, as he is rejected by Mr. Campbell, Bob retreats back into the pitch black cavern of his psyche, extending his golden heart to everyone at his company until someone finally returns his affections. Or until something... bad happens.
And since it's Mad Men, we're going to bet on the latter.
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