Cowell sued for Idol rival show
Simon Fuller, creator of U.K. talent show Pop Idol and its U.S. spinoff American Idol, is suing his former collaborators, including Simon Cowell, claiming that Cowell's new project, The X Factor, is a rip-off of the Idol format, Reuters reports. The X Factor, which premiered on U.K. broadcaster ITV last Saturday, follows a panel of judges--including the infamously acerbic Cowell as well as Sharon Osbourne--who select wannabe stars from hundreds of hopefuls. In its later stages, the show pits the judges against one another when each has to act as a mentor to their preferred candidate. Fuller's production company 19 TV said in a statement it sued the makers of The X Factor, Cowell and Fremantle Media, for copyright infringement and breach of contract. In response, a statement was issued Friday by Fremantle Media on behalf of itself and Cowell, saying it hopes to resolve the matter amicably, but would defend any legal action "vigorously" in court. It insisted that the shows are quite different, Reuters reports.
Tape released of former Jackson accuser's dad
NBC's Dateline has acquired tapes revolving around the 1993 case of child molestation against Michael Jackson, The Associated Press reports, in which the accuser's father talks about the case. The show played the tapes Friday, which they received from the boy's uncle a decade after the singer reached a settlement with the boy that included an agreement not to discuss the case. The boy's father said on one recording that he initially thought Jackson was harmless, and even felt bad for him. "He's childlike. He's a child. Nothing to fear. You put that together with the way he looks ... and you feel sorry for him. OK. And you know that he--this tells you that he grew up an intensely lonely person." The father eventually grew more suspicious of the singer. Authorities were investigating the allegations when the singer reached a settlement with his accuser, paying him a sum reported at $15 million to $20 million.
Leigh's Drake wins in Venice
Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, the tale of a good Samaritan abortionist, was the Venice International Film Festival's big winner, scooping the Golden Lion and also the best actress award for Imelda Staunton, Variety reports. "In a cynical world, it is a wonderful thing, and most reassuring, when low budget, serious committed, independent, European films are recognized," said Leigh. Other winners included Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside, about a quadriplegic who wants to die by euthanasia, which took the Jury Grand Prize and gave its star, Javier Bardem, the Coppa Volpi for best actor. The Special Director's prize went to Korean helmer Kim Ki-duk's 3-iron, a romance in which a nomadic serial squatter falls in love with a woman he finds in one of the houses he breaks into.
Grace wins in Deauville
Maria Full of Grace, a documentary-like tale of the travails of a teenage drug runner from Colombia from first-time filmmaker Joshua Marston, took the top prize at the Deauville Film Festival in France, AP reports. Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon as a child molester trying to build a new life after 12 years in prison, won the festival's jury prize. The 30-year-old festival at the Normandy resort, which started Sept. 3, is a European showcase for mainly American movies.
C-3PO actor talks Revenge of the Sith
Anthony Daniels, best known for voicing Star Wars robot C-3PO, said the final installment in the prequel's trilogy is his favorite. "I finished filming on the last film last week," the 58-year-old actor told Reuters in an interview. "The first film spoke to everyone on the planet. It still works as a funny, bright movie. It still has legs." Revenge of the Sith, set for release in May 2005, tells the back story of the original Star Wars movie about a battle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. Anthony added the final scenes were emotionally tough on him. "He (C-3PO) has been a best friend for me. He is going to live forever in the ether." The worldwide DVD launch of the first three movies, meanwhile, is set for Sept. 21.
P. Diddy looks for all-girl band
For the third season of Sean P. Diddy Combs' MTV reality series Making the Band, the music mogul has decided to search for the next girl band. In the show's second installment, Combs developed the now-disbanded hip-hop group Da Band, who could never seem to get their act together. Auditions for singers and musicians for the as-yet-unnamed group are scheduled for the first two weeks in October in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City, AP reports. The second incarnation of Making the Band will premiere next year on MTV.
Broadway lyricist Ebb dies
Fred Ebb, who wrote the lyrics for the hit Broadway musicals Chicago and Cabaret as well as the big-city anthem New York, New York, died of a heart attack Saturday at his home in New York. Ebb was believed to be 76, although he was "sweetly vague" about his age, director Scott Ellis, who worked with him on several shows, told the AP. At the time of his death, Ebbs and longtime collaborator John Kander were working on several projects including revising Over and Over, a musical version of Thornton Wilder's classic The Skin of Our Teeth and a murder-mystery musical called Curtains. Funeral services will be Tuesday.
Britney is getting hitched…again
This time it's for real. Although it's been just six months since her quickie Las Vegas marriage--and just as quick annulment--to a childhood friend, pop princess Britney Spears is willing to again try her hand at the whole marriage thing, announcing she is engaged to her new boyfriend, dancer Kevin Federline. Spears' personal publicist and label, Jive Records confirmed the engagement to Reuters Friday but gave no further details. Federline, 26, reportedly met Spears, 22, during her 2000 tour, when he was in the opening act, but the two began dating only a few months ago. The dancer recently moved in with Spears to help her recuperate from knee surgery. According to Reuters, Federline also has a 2-year-old daughter by his ex-girlfriend, actress Shar Jackson, who also is pregnant with their second child.
Broadway stays open, for now
Although contract talks between Broadway producers and the actors' union broke down over the weekend, the Actors' Equity Association said actors would keep performing on Monday, The Associated Press reports. "It's important for the city's economy and we're very, very aware that this is the tourist season and taking a strike is the last resort," Maria Somma, a spokeswoman for the Actors' Equity Association, told AP. She explained the producers abruptly left the table Sunday while an Equity representative was speaking, but Bob Chlopak, a spokesman for the League of American Theatres and Producers, said talks ended because progress had slowed to a near halt, AP reports. "There won't be a strike," Chlopak said. The two sides have been intensely negotiating since June 10, imposing a news blackout; the key points of contention include rising health care costs and non-union tours of Broadway shows.
Kutcher lends name to clothing company
Ashton Kutcher has signed on to endorse Zoo York, a skate-influenced collection of clothing and accessories, AP reports. "He engages everything with such sincerity that you can't help but know that you are seeing a true representation of who he is…no matter what his surroundings. This consistency is similar to the philosophy which drives Zoo York," Greg Lucci, the company's vice president, told AP. The actor will be featured in a new ad campaign premiering in magazines next month and in another set of ads for spring 2005.
Lange, Shepard put estate up for sale
Longtime couple Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard have decided to sell the estate where they've lived for nine years, AP reports. The 12-room Victorian mansion, which sits on a 2 1/2-acre site overlooking the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minn., has been on the market since mid-May with an asking price of $3.3 million.
Unknown Soldier wins top prize at LA film fest
Writer/director Ferenc Toth won the top prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival Saturday for Unknown Soldier, about a Harlem youngster forced to live by his wits on the streets. Toth, a 35-year-old New Yorker who funded the project with help from an investment banker, will get the jury's $50,000 cash prize, the biggest bestowed by a major U.S. film festival, according to festival organizers. The $25,000 prize for documentary went to Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation, in which he revisits his family's troubled past. Joshua Marston's Maria Full of Grace, a Spanish-language drama about a Colombian teenager who becomes a drug mule, won the audience prize for narrative feature, while Mike Wranovics won the audience documentary prize for Up for Grabs, about the litigation over the ownership of the baseball hit by Barry Bonds when he made his record-breaking 73rd home run in 2001, Reuters reports.
Controversial documentary Celibacy to air on HBO
British filmmaker Antony Thomas' documentary Celibacy, which links the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the U.S. Catholic Church to mandatory celibacy among its clergy, airs on tonight at 10 pm on HBO, as part of the cabler's America Undercover series. The film was shot in 10 countries and features disturbing images, including a roomful of skulls in a desert cave inhabited by early Christians and modern-day self-whippings and reenactments of crucifixion. It also includes interviews with current and former priests as well as historians, scientists and psychologists while examining the primal power of the sex drive and the social-sexual development of priests. A critic's review in the Catholic News Service accused the documentary of "trotting out the hoary chestnuts about the Church's thinking that sex is, at best, a necessary evil," Reuters reports.
Legendary host Bob Barker inducted into TV Hall of Fame
Bob Barker, who has hosted the TV game show The Price is Right since in first aired in 1972, has been inducted into the Academy of Television and Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, the AP reports. Barker, 80, received the honor Saturday from action star Chuck Norris, his friend of 30 years. "They may in the future induct people who deserve it more than I, but they will never induct anyone who appreciates this honor more than I," Barker told KCAL-TV. Barker also hosted the TV game show Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1974, first with NBC and later in syndication. Other inductees Saturday included Katie Couric and Dan Rather.
Jewel first artist to sign on to Instant Live roster
Clear Channel Entertainment's live CD recording division, Instant Live, has signed its first major-label artist--Jewel. Instant Live creates master stereo recordings of concert performances, burns them at the venue and delivers them on-site immediately following the show. Prices range from $10 for a recorded club performance to $20 to $25 for multi-CD "digipaks." Billboard.com reports the company also has pegged a series of dates to record and sell CDs on the summer tours of Kiss, Peter Frampton, the Allman Brothers Band and the Cowboy Junkies. Jewel, meanwhile, will sell live CDs at select dates on her summer tour.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.
It's graduation day for Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) but the celebration comes to an abrupt end when his girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk) dumps him by blatantly announcing she has been unfaithful to him--over and over again. At a graduation party that night Fiona makes her point by jumping on stage during rockers Lustra's performance of "Scotty Doesn't Know " which goes something like this: "Scotty doesn't know that Fiona and me do it in my van every Sunday..." Dumbfounded Scotty gets drunk and goes home to confide in his Berlin-based computer pen pal Mieke (Jessica Boerhs) who suggests coming to America for a "rendezvous." Scott rudely rebuffs him (and that's putting it mildly) not aware that Mieke is not a guy but actually a really hot high school girl. He tries to make amends but Mieke won't read his e-mails so his pal Cooper (Jacob Pitts) convinces him to go to Berlin and meet her face-to-face. Short on cash they take a cheap courier flight to London where they meet up with twin pals Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Jamie (Travis Wester) before hopscotching to Amsterdam Bratislava Rome Vatican City and finally Berlin. Of course the chase is always better than the kill and Eurotrip is no different: Whether Scotty gets Mieke is beside the point; the amusement is all in the journey there. Who knew for example that you could spend the night in a five star hotel and partake in a night of clubbing in Eastern Europe on $1.87 U.S.-and still have 27 cents left over when it's all over?
Newcomer Mechlowicz is perfectly cast as the lead here playing a character that is simple-minded daring sympathetic and charming. But it's Mechlowicz's personal spin--his bewildered expressions--that really nails the role for him whether he is witnessing the twins accidentally making out on the dance floor in a drunken stupor or waking up to find a strange passenger cozying up to him on a train. As his buddy Cooper Pitts (K-19: The Widowmaker) plays the wisecracker of the bunch and although he doesn't go over the top with the crassness there is a little too much David Spade influence in his delivery (and the similar haircuts don't help the matter either). Like the rest of the cast Wester is careful not to typecast his character Jamie a meticulous planner who can't travel without Frommer's by loosening him up slightly. Jamie for example knows when it's time do drop the book and experiment even if it means nude sunbathing. Trachtenberg (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) also infuses her twin character Jenny with the perfect blend of sexuality and innocence. The result is a cast of mishmash characters that are just so darn likeable. Look for a surprise cameo from Matt Damon as well as small but hilarious performances from Vinnie Jones as Mad Maynard a Manchester United soccer hooligan; Lucy Lawless as S&M mistress Madame Vandersexxx; and Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen credited as "the creepy Italian guy."
Jeff Schaffer makes his directorial debut here from a screenplay co-written with his longtime partners scribes Alec Berg and David Mandel. And ads touting it as a comedy "from producers of Road Trip and Old School " may be exactly what Eurotrip a comedy starring relative unknowns needs to draw the coveted teen crowd. After all Ivan Reitman the producer responsible for catapulting low budget comedies into box-office gold territory has secured quite a following--and fans won't be let down with this latest offering. Unlike its predecessors Eurotrip isn't afraid to be crass and while the characters are sweet the storyline is anything but. In this Euro-centric tale writing trio Schaffer Berg and Mandel proudly embrace every stereotype imaginable but do so at the expense of the inexperienced foursome which makes the material funny rather than offensive. Nude beaches the young Americans discover aren't necessarily packed with hot gorgeous women and Amsterdam's sex industry isn't exactly the stuff young male fantasies are made of. With one hilarious gag after another as well as funky map graphics with dotted lines that transport viewers from city to city the film maintains its fast-moving pace throughout. Surprisingly the film was shot entirely on location in the Czech Republic with Prague doubling as London Paris Berlin Amsterdam Rome Vatican City Bratislava--and even Hudson Ohio with landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower the Coliseum and Big Ben added using CGI. Accompanied by an awesome soundtrack featuring Lutsra's "Scotty Doesn't Know " Chapeaumelon's "My Generation" and The Salads "Get Loose " this film succeeds on all levels.