Tuesday, July 29, 2008

’80s Metal Music Throwdown: UK vs US

By Metal Marcy

Metal hit its commercial peak in the 1980’s, with countless bands from around the globe hitting it big. It was mainstream whether we liked it or not. To this day, the ’80s will always be remembered for metal music, most of it (aside from such massive bands as Scorpions and AC/DC) coming out of the United States and United Kingdom. When it comes to ’80s metal, who reigns supreme, the US or UK?

Share your 2 cents and vote in the ultimate ’80s metal throwdown!

United Kingdom
United States
Def Leppard

Def Leppard
City of Origin: Sheffield
Seminal ’80s Album: Pyromania (1983)
Power-pop chartoppers who like sugar.

VS Motley Crue

Motley Crue
City of Origin: Los Angeles
Seminal ’80s Album: Shout at the Devil (1983)
LA glam metal gods.

Who do you prefer?

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Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne (solo years)
City of Origin: Birmingham
Seminal Album: Blizzard of Ozz (1980)
Ozzy soared after the Sabbath fall.

VS Metallica

City of Origin: San Francisco
Seminal Album: Master of Puppets (1986)
Thrash metal superstars with street cred.

Who do you prefer?

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Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden
City of Origin: Leyton, East London
Seminal Album: The Number of the Beast (1982)
Operatic vocals & powerhouse instrumentation.

VS Guns 'N Roses

Guns ‘N Roses
City of Origin: Los Angeles
Seminal Album: Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Raw, ugly and authentic. Massive hitmakers, too.

Who do you prefer?

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Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath (Dio years)
City of Origin: Birmingham
Seminal Album: Heaven and Hell (1980)
Post-Ozzy, Sabbath still rocked with a fury.

VS Van Halen

Van Halen (David Lee Roth years)
City of Origin: Los Angeles
Seminal Album: 1984 (1984)
Sexy showmanship & explosive guitar wizardry.

Who do you prefer?

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City of Origin: London
Seminal Album: Ace of Spades (1980)
Precursor to speed & thrash, Lemmy likes it loud & fast

VS Slayer

City of Origin: Huntington Beach
Seminal Album: Reign in Blood (1986)
Thrash monsters with ghoulish lyrics.

Who do you prefer?

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Judas Priest

Judas Priest (mid period)
City of Origin: Birmingham
Seminal Album: British Steel (1980)
Metal pioneers hit the big time.

VS Kiss

Kiss (mid period)
City of Origin: New York
Seminal Album: Creatures of the Night (1982)
Glam metal godfathers.

Who do you prefer?

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City of Origin: London
Seminal Album: White Snake (1987)
Hair band rockers fronted by Cloverdale.

VS Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister
City of Origin: New York
Seminal Album: Stay Hungry (1984)
Picked up the glam torch & ran up the charts.

Who do you prefer?

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City of Origin: Barnsley, Yorkshire
Seminal Album: Strong Arm of the Law (1980)
Highly influential & heavy metal thunder.

VS Megadeth

City of Origin: Los Angeles
Seminal Album: Peace Sells… (1986)
Faster & thrashier than Metallica.

Who do you prefer?

View Results

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Saving 'The Dark Knight' from online pirates

Building buzz for "The Dark Knight" was easy. The tough part for Warner Bros. was keeping the film off the Internet before it was released in theaters.

Reporter Dawn Chmielewski takes you behind an unprecedented anti-piracy effort by Warner Bros. to keep the latest Batman film from being bootlegged, which the studio feared would have cut into box-office sales. As she notes, "The success of an anti-piracy campaign is measured in the number of hours it buys before the digital dam breaks." To that end, Warner Bros. employed a strategy that included staggered delivery of film reels, spot checks of theaters and even distribution of night-vision goggles to keep would-be film pirates at bay.

It seems to have worked. She writes:

Warner Bros. executives said the extra vigilance paid off, helping to prevent camcorded copies of the reported $180-million film from reaching Internet file-sharing sites for about 38 hours. Although that doesn't sound like much progress, it was enough time to keep bootleg DVDs off the streets as the film racked up a record-breaking $158.4 million on opening weekend. The movie has now taken in more than $300 million.

Read the full story for more details about the effort and to learn how "The Hulk" provided inspiration for the bootleg-fighting campaign.

-- Chris Gaither

Photo: Heath Ledger as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." Credit: Warner Bros.

Original here

Secrecy cloaked 'Dark Knight'

By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

For Warner Bros., the mission was to keep "The Dark Knight" from seeing the light of day.

In an era of instantaneous digital copying and widely available high-speed Internet access, the premature and unauthorized release of a movie to the public -- especially a coveted summer blockbuster -- can spell disaster. If the movie's a stinker, the word will travel at the speed of a mouse click, ruining chances of making back money. And if the movie's popular, piracy can rob ticket sales and cut into revenue.

Executives at Warner Bros. knew they didn't have to worry about the first scenario: Buzz had been building for months about late actor Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker and director Christopher Nolan's dark rendition of the Batman legend. And marketing surveys pointed to a record-smashing opening weekend for "The Dark Knight" at the box office.

Instead, Warner Bros. was worried about what would happen if a copy of the movie slipped into public before the theatrical opening, which would result in it competing against pirated DVD copies. The ardent fan-boy appeal of "The Dark Knight" created opportunity and risk in equal measure for the studio.

The Batman sequel's core audience of superhero geeks is the same group of young men who gravitate to online file-sharing communities. Fear that pirated copies would pop up on the Internet during the film's crucial opening weekend prompted Warner to devote six months to an unprecedented anti-piracy strategy, painstakingly locking down the movie as it moved from production to post-production to movie theaters.

Warner created a "chain of custody" to track who had access to the film at any moment. It varied the shipping and delivery methods, staggering the delivery of film reels, so the entire movie wouldn't arrive at multiplexes in one shipment, in order to reduce risk of an entire copy being lost or stolen. It conducted spot checks of hundreds of theaters domestically and abroad, to ensure that illegal camcording wasn't taking place. It even handed out night-vision goggles to exhibitors in Australia, where the film opened two days before its U.S. launch, to scan the audience for the telltale infrared signal of a camcorder.

Warner Bros. executives said the extra vigilance paid off, helping to prevent camcorded copies of the reported $180-million film from reaching Internet file-sharing sites for about 38 hours. Although that doesn't sound like much progress, it was enough time to keep bootleg DVDs off the streets as the film racked up a record-breaking $158.4 million on opening weekend. The movie has now taken in more than $300 million.

The success of an anti-piracy campaign is measured in the number of hours it buys before the digital dam breaks.

"One of the reasons why it's so important to try to protect the first weekend is that it prevents the pirate supply chain from starting," said Darcy Antonellis, president of Warner's distribution and technical operations. "A day or two becomes really, really significant. You've delayed disc manufacturing that then delays distribution, which then delays those discs from ending up on street corners for sale."

Piracy experts say such tight security measures are now commonplace among studios seeking to protect big-budget summer blockbusters.

Studios fear a reprise of the "Hulk" piracy debacle. A rough, early version of Ang Lee's 2003 summer movie made its way to the Internet two weeks before the film's scheduled premiere, provoking negative reactions from the comic-book film's devoted fans, whose opinion carries far more weight in determining the success of this film genre than that of mainstream film critics.

"A lot of people decided not to go near it. Hollywood argued, correctly, that many more people would have gone to see it, had online buzz not been so critical of the movie," said Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne Online Media Measurement, which monitors file-sharing networks and is a consultant to the entertainmentindustry.

"Hulk" still had an impressive opening, grossing $62 million in its first weekend. But by the second week, mediocre reviews and corrosive word of mouth pushed grosses down 70%. The studios aren't eager to give the audience advance -- and uncontrolled -- viewings of its tent-pole films.

"If the movie's a stiff, and word gets out too early that it's a stiff, it's devastating to the business model," Garland said.

Paul Kocher, president of Cryptography Research Inc., a San Francisco company that develops anti-piracy technology, said that unlike with music, one viewing of a film -- even in blurry, camcorded form -- often is enough.

"With rare exception, once you've seen the movie you're unlikely to watch it a second time," Kocher said. "You don't have the benefit the music guys have, that piracy can help build buzz. For the movie industry, it's purely a destructive force."

Studios use tracking methods to keep tabs on who handles a film and when, and mark the prints sent to theaters. That makes it possible to identify where a pirated copy was recorded, Kocher said.

The thorniest issue, when it comes to anti-piracy measures, is advance screenings. Studios balance the desire to perform the kind of rigorous bag checks that would make airport security blush against the fear of antagonizing critics.

"That's the one where there's the endless debate about what you do," Kocher said.

Big-budget summer popcorn flicks hold powerful lure for Internet bootleggers. Last year's Disney/Pixar Animation Studios animated film "Ratatouille" leaked out five days ahead of its cinematic premiere, and George Lucas' 2005 film, "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith," similarly found its way to file-sharing networks days before it reached the big screen. The illicit Star Wars copy contained time codes indicating it slipped out of post-production. It nonetheless went on to gross $380 million domestically.

Michael Robinson, the Motion Picture Assn. of America's director of North American anti-piracy, said all the studios had improved security at post-production facilities. The trade group, in turn, uses a combination of gumshoe tactics and technology to crack down on piracy after the fact, going so far as to follow suspected pirates into theaters.

"At any given time, there are only a handful of truly professional camcorders out there who are recording," said Robinson, who spent 30 years in law enforcement, including a dozen years as head of the Michigan state police. But all it takes is one good-quality recording to generate thousands of Internet downloads and bootlegged DVDs sold at swap meets.

MPAA investigators used the lure of "The Dark Knight" to catch a suspected bootlegger in the act during a 9:40 a.m. showing in a theater in a southeast suburb of Kansas City, Mo.

A Lee's Summit Police Department spokesman said the MPAA investigators spotted the man in the back row of the theater, trying to cloak his video camera with black tarps as he allegedly made an illicit recording. A subsequent police search of the man's home turned up hundreds of DVDs that are believed to be pirated, the spokesman said. The case has been referred to the FBI.

"This wasn't necessarily one of our most covert operations," Robinson said. The investigators in the theater looked like G-men from central casting, wearing MPAA letters emblazoned on their shirts. "It was kind of brazen on this guy's part. Maybe he thought all the MPAA did was rate the movies."

It's hard to quantify how the broad availability of pirated online copies of films affects box-office receipts. But a study commissioned by the MPAA found that Hollywood's major studios lost $6.1 billion to film theft in 2005.

Warner Bros took no chances with "Dark Knight," a movie that opened in 12 overseas markets before it reached the U.S. It even maintained a swat team of sorts, composed of the piracy and production teams, which remained in constant contact as they continuously scanned the pirate networks throughout the weekend for illicit copies.

"As we have often said, we view piracy as a competitor," Warner distribution chief Antonellis said.

Still, the anti-piracy hurdles are enormous, and in the end success is determined by how long a studio can stave off the inevitable.

The first pirated copy of "The Dark Knight" was available on a top-level pirate site by Friday night, two days after its Australian premiere, said Mark Ishikawa, chief executive of BayTSP Inc., a Los Gatos firm that does online tracking of copyrighted works. By Sunday, it could be downloaded on BitTorrent file-sharing sites or viewed on YouTube, he said.

"Such a widely released film in such high demand, by virtue of its following, significantly increased chat and overall online interest in the title within pirate networks," Antonellis said. "Whenever those factors come together, it makes our challenges from an anti-piracy perspective much harder."

Original here

Forrest Gump: How to Build Your Self-Confidence

The history of the world is full of men who rose to leadership, by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity.
-Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Preeminent leader of Indian nationalism.

Have you found yourself riding on the emotional tidal wave when you stumbled upon an interesting idea for several days only to end up flirting with another idea that intrigued your mind with the touch of magic? What made you abandon the original idea as an after thought or a bad dream? Have you changed jobs or businesses often in the vain hope of striking the passion of you life? You are not alone.

It’s a contagious disease that has intoxicated the brightest amongst us. It’s a maelstrom in our own mind that can reduce our mighty ambition to a measly hallucination. It is the awesome power of our own mind working against us by throwing us into the whirling depths of watery self-doubt and self-sabotage to achieve a fraction of what we are born to achieve.

I’m ceaselessly amazed to witness the brightest people with the highest IQs living mediocre lives at best while those with an IQ of 75 achieve things beyond our wildest imagination. The secret lies in these two words — Self-Confidence.

If I have to think of a role model to prove the fallacy of IQ when it comes to human achievement, Forrest Gump leads the pack. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, became the world ping-pong champion, got President Nixon impeached, built a national shrimping empire — made a fortune with his investment in Apple Computers, and, last but not least, taught Elvis how to dance!

How did Forrest Gump achieve these incredible feats with a mediocre IQ? He achieved these feats by his mastery of self-confidence — his yearning for the positive outcome and his ability to defy the failures by his willingness to persist and try harder.

Lesson # 1. Never allow imagination to hold you hostage.

My Momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” - Forrest Gump

We have to learn to visualize our success. When we embark upon an idea or a goal, we are told to constantly visualize the end result. It may have some truth, but it also can be our Achilles Heel. Obsessive visualization creates a phobic sense of self-defense. We tend to harbor a creature of our mind called “self-doubt.” Often we feel paralyzed by this overwhelming sense of defeat that derails our visualization wagon. Forrest Gump had an obvious edge. With his limited power of imagination, he was boundless in his pursuit to keep working at his skill in catching shrimp. When we bite every chocolate of opportunity that comes our way without thinking about its taste, we learn to immerse the best of our ability with boundless energy that knows no defeat. The universe takes care of its part by delivering success to reverberate the power of our self-confidence.

Lesson # 2. Never label the outcome.

When I had to go… you know… I went. — Forrest Gump

Often with our higher IQ, we tend to subvert our focus and attention by engaging in the mindless game called - “Analysis of paralysis” After all, our smartness has to rein in its power, even if that ends up stealing our passion. Forrest Gump had a distinct advantage. With the IQ unworthy to possess smartness, Forrest Gump could do what he loved to do without analyzing the finest details of his actions. His actions were dictated by his passion. Forrest Gump spent days learning how to catch shrimp. He caught boots and license plates instead of shrimp but that didn’t shake his determination. His endless pursuit eventually made him a fortune with his shrimp empire. Success comes to those who have an attitude to keep doing what they love and to do it long and hard enough.

Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.
– Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) British author.

Lesson # 3. Claim your confidence.

Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. — Forrest Gump

We all have a companion, which follows us more than our own shadow. The moment we wake up till going to bed, this companion chatters with our mind. It is more destructive than our worst foe by constantly dragging us into the pit of negativity. “I can’t do it!,”, “I’m never going to succeed!,”,” How am I going to pay my bills?,”, and so on. If we don’t believe in ourselves, who else will? If we constantly undermine ourselves with negative self-talk, soon it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Guard your mind with your strong suits or accomplishments when the influx of negative waves sweeps through your mind. Forrest Gump knew how to run, and he shamelessly bragged about it. We can double up our self confidence simply by reminding ourselves what we can do rather than throwing ourselves into a bull pit of self-pity.

Lesson # 4. Do something for others.

Jenny taught me how to climb. And I taught her how to dangle. — Forrest Gump

Obsessive thoughts of ego nurturing elevate your own imaginary woes to decimate your self confidence. When we focus on others, we develop thoughts of positivity and tranquility. Our positivity transcends our own woes and transforms our attitude to one filled with passion and self confidence. Another aspect of giving is receiving. As paradoxical as it sounds, by giving - we receive from others the act of kindness with interest. We are destined to climb the mountains of our life with an abundance of self-confidence if we help others while they are “dangling” from their own tree of life.

Lesson # 5. Always give your best effort.

– Forrest Gump’s response to sergeant’s claim that he had set a company record for assembling rifles.

The easiest way to crucify our self-confidence is by doing less than what we can. Most people don’t achieve greatness not because they are less smart or less intellectual than those who achieve greatness — they simply give less than the best of their untapped energy to whatever they pursue in life. Regardless of the fate of the outcome, the way you really feel about yourself matters most in life. When we are excited about our work and give it our best, everyone around us feels positive vibes from us. Our positive attitude generates new energy for all of those who work with us. Forrest Gump could have replied to the comment of the sergeant in a lackluster way with the gentle reply, “Yes Sir”. Instead, he chose to portray an abundance of positivity with his response. Try this form of attitude for several days in your personal and professional life and see for yourself the astounding results it produces.

Lesson # 6. Maintain your integrity.

I gotta save Bubba! — Forrest Gump

bubba.jpgIntegrity to our self-confidence is like what oxygen is to our survival. When we try to fool ourselves, we are depriving soul nourishment to our self-confidence. How can I stand tall if my act is so short? How can I dream big when my thoughts are spiraling down in the depths of self-pity? Our acts of benevolence come back to us in multiple ways by our giving to others. Forrest Gump made Bubba his partner posthumously and made sure to share the profit with his family when he built a successful Bubba Gump shrimp empire. He never forgot the fact that it was his friend Bubba who inspired him to go into the shrimp business.

Lesson # 7. Run to lead.

My momma always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where the go, where they’ve been. I’ve worn lots of shoes, I bet if I think about it real hard I can remember my first pair of shoes. — Forrest Gump

Running creates a wave of excitement within and around us. The natural act of running breeds a great sense of positivity in our attitude and the way we view our life. Even those who add a little pep in their walk feel a jolt of positive feelings by creating an impression that they are on an exciting journey — to learn and to achieve more in life. The Universe never fails to respond positively to these people. When Forrest Gump ran three times across the nation, he found loyal followers running behind him. Amazingly enough, when he stopped, they stopped to hear the words of wisdom from a guy with an IQ of 75.

Once we believe in ourselves, others will begin to believe in us. Once we place a high value on our self-confidence, others will surely bid our value even higher. When was the last time you felt proud of yourself? When was the last time you felt great about the fact that you are unique; that there was never anyone like you before and that there will never be anyone like you ever again?

Those who believe that they are exclusively in the right are generally those who achieve something.
– Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) British author.

Original here

Keira Knightley Refuses Breasts Enhancement For "The Dutchess"

Keira Knightley has refused to allow any enhancement of her cleavage on publicity photos for her upcoming movie, "The Duchess," Britain's Daily Mail reports.

Studio heads reportedly want to enlarge Knightley's bosom in the photos, but the actress, 23, put her foot down.

"She has insisted that her figure stay in its natural state," an insider said. "She is proud of her body and doesn't want it altered."

This isn't the first time Knightley has faced this dilemma. The actress drew negative attention in 2004 with her larger-than-usual breasts in publicity stills for "King Arthur."

Keep reading.

Publicity Stills For "King Arthur"

Or read about how magazines have had to perform "reverse airbrushing" on Keira Knightley.

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Watchmen, Spirit Vie for Comic Future on Silver (& Green) Screen

Will the fallout from Batman's newfound domination mean more stark reality for the future of comic-book movies, or the death of the green screen? On the floor of this weekend's Comic-Con with special sit-down interviews, PopMech.com's Hollywood geek charts the high-tech evolution of two classic books on their way to becoming next year's biggest blockbusters.

MPAA planning site to offer legit movie links

By Jacqui Cheng

The Motion Picture Association of America has tried any number of tactics to fight piracy, but its latest scheme might actually prove useful to movie consumers on the Internet. The group is supposedly working on a new website that will offer information on how to find legit sources of movies so that users won't have to resort to copyright infringement.

The site, which does not yet have a name, would allow users to search for film titles, and in return it would provide links to places to buy movie tickets, to locations where searchers could buy or rent a DVD, or to sites where they can buy or rent a download from an online source. All of the major movie studios are behind the initiative, an anonymous movie studio source told Variety, and all legit "partners" would be linked on the site. Assuming this information is accurate, it could include links to Fandango, Movietickets.com, Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Xbox Live Video, Hulu, and more. The site will be not-for-profit (except, of course, that it will be pointing to a million places that sell/rent movies for profit).

The rationale for the venture was allegedly provided by research from the studios that found that many users have a hard time differentiating between legal and illegal content online. While some of us may scoff at such an assumption—it's not exactly difficult for tech-savvy users to know the difference between downloading a movie from iTunes versus BitTorrent—such a confusion does sometimes come up among your average Joes and Janes. Just casually chatting with several of my own family members shows that they haven't the foggiest idea of where to start looking for legal music and video content outside of "the Google," which has sometimes in the past pointed them directly to not-so-legit content. Having a one-stop shop could definitely help in this case, especially if it doesn't discriminate between various online stores and merely provides a comprehensive listing for each film. Hell, throw in a column to list the price and even I would use it.

An MPAA spokesperson declined to comment on the website, but said that the organization is always looking for new ways to help users find legal alternatives. Of course, most of the MPAA's past efforts to "help users" have not exactly revolved around making things easier for anyone; they have instead included legal attacks on P2P sites, pushing for Internet filtering on college campuses, trying to stop DVRs from recording movies, and paying $15,000 for the private e-mail addresses of TorrentSpy users. But, if this initiative turns out being as simple and straightforward as it sounds, and if it gains enough popularity to be widely used, then it could actually offer something of value to consumers.

Original here

'Dark Knight' reigns overseas


"The Dark Knight" dominated the international box office with $65.6 million at 7,143 playdates in 43 markets.

With its first European launches and impressive holdover biz pushing foreign cume to $126.3 million, "The Dark Knight" appears well on its way to becoming a massive blockbuster outside the United States. Combined with its record-setting domestic take, worldwide gross has already hit $440 million in a dozen days.

The Batpic sold 8.5 million tickets overseas and its offshore weekend total exceeded the combined grosses for the next four pics -- "Hancock," "Kung Fu Panda," "Mamma Mia" and "X-Files: I Want to Believe" -- even though Warner Bros. has held off launching "The Dark Knight" in many key markets. France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Spain will see August openings.

"Hancock," "Panda" and "Mamma Mia!" all racked up solid holdovers while Fox's "X-Files" sequel duplicated its modest domestic launch with $9.3 million at 2,595 in 22 territories -- led by Russia with $2.3 million and Spain with $1.5 million. Per-location average for "I Want to Believe" was a moderate $3,576.

Early foreign performance for "The Dark Knight" represents a triumph for Warner Bros.' Batman franchise, which had seen respectable rather than spectacular overseas numbers with "Batman Begins" topping international cumes at $166 million. The studio noted that the "Knight" weekend number bested "Batman Begins" in the same territories by 156% and "Hancock" by 30%.

"The Dark Knight" led the way in the U.K. with $22.3 million and captured over 50% among the top five pics with four weeks of school holidays starting Monday. In Australia, it declined only 37% to $7.2 million for the third best soph sesh ever, trailing "Shrek 2" and the final "Lord of the Rings."

In Italy, "Knight" obliterated the competition with a $5 million launch that represented over 70% of the top five. And its $3.2 million in Brazil represented the third-best second frame ever for that market.

After a softer than usual June due to the Euro Cup soccer tourney, July's biz has helped pull overall overseas biz for the six major studios about even with same point with last year's pace. With "The Dark Knight" providing a major shot in the arm, the final 2008 number could match or even top last year's $9.5 billion record.

Sony's "Hancock" has been a key contributor with $294.6 million in less than a month, including $19.2 million at 7,563 this weekend with no new openings. And Paramount's "Kung Fu Panda" has become the second-leading foreign grosser this year with $305 million, including $17.8 million at 6,565 during the frame, second only to its "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" with $455.5 million.

Combined with domestic grosses, "Hancock" and "Panda" have now topped half-billion dollar mark in worldwide cume, becoming the 57th and 58th pics to do so.

And Universal's "Mamma Mia!" remains surprisingly tuneful with a $111.7 million foreign cume with the weekend seeing a decline of only 34% to $17.5 million at 2,390 in 22 holdover markets. The feel-good musical held well in the U.K. against the launch of "The Dark Knight," edging down 11% to $5.9 million for a Brit cume of $49.5 million -- U's fourth highest grosser of all time in Blighty.

With 35 more markets to open over the next three months, "Mamma Mia!" looks likely to nail down grosses in the same range as the $230 million overseas total for "Sex and the City."

Disney's "Wall-E," another pic still early in its foreign run, scooped up $8.9 million at 3,081 from 21 markets for a $70 million foreign cume. The Pixar toon heads into Benelux and France next weekend.

Sony opted to hold back "Step Brothers" from foreign markets and won't launch the comedy until Aug. 29 in the U.K.. in a reflection of the mixed prospects for many American laffers outside the United States.

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Mark Hamill’s 10 Greatest Post-Star Wars Roles

trickster.pngBy Todd Ciolek

We’ve all heard of Mark Hamill’s unique struggle to escape the shadow of Luke Skywalker, and you might think that he’s had a stagnant career since Return of the Jedi. Well, you’d be wrong. Hamill’s been busy in all sorts of films and TV series: some good, some hilariously terrible.

So we dug through Hamill’s history, setting aside his acclaimed Broadway turns and any parts he had in between the Star Wars movies. We were after his ten most memorable performances since then, and, surprisingly, not all of them turned out to be voice-overs. Oh, and his bit on Stripperella isn’t here, so don’t look for it.

10) Jonathan in Amazing Stories
Here’s a gyp: fellow Star Wars lead Harrison Ford became the focus of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films, while Hamill got only a starring role in an Amazing Stories episode called “Gather Ye Acorns.” As a young man, Hamill’s character encounters a hairy, capering troll who advises him to buy himself a car and hoard all of his beloved childhood possessions. Hamill takes this advice to the extreme, running away from his disappointed parents with a new car and a heap of toys, comics, and other juvenile things. Decades later, he’s a friendless hermit in the desert, feeling just a bit bitter that he’s wasted his life collecting junk. A few more decades pass, and he’s now a lonely, suicidal old man trying to trade a jar of pennies for one last tank of gas, but a chance meeting with an antique dealer reveals that all of his accumulated kitsch is, in fact, priceless collectibles. The last scene finds Hamill at an auction where his treasures are bringing him wealth and significantly younger girlfriends. Yes, the troll was right all along. He was just a dick about it.

In some ways, “Gather Ye Acorns” was prescient advice to the Star Wars fans out there: buy all the toys, preserve them, and they’ll be worth a couple thousand in about 20 years. Unfortunately, some fans missed the more cogent point of the piece: you can collect crap without becoming a bearded old shut-in.

9) The Trickster in The Flash

Several superheroes got terrible live-action films in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the cruelest hand was dealt to the Flash, who had a CBS TV show parading its shame each week. The low-aiming scripts and costumes were awful, but the Flash was a gimmicky second-string DC hero in the first place, and the series struggled to find worthy villains. Hamill’s turn as the Trickster was the best part of the show, even if the character’s look shows us how the Joker would’ve turned out in Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies.

Hamill’s Trickster would survive the mercifully canceled Flash TV series, as he reprised the role for an episode of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. It was only one episode, of course, because no one really likes The Trickster.

8) Tobias LeConte in Seaquest DSV
For SeaQuest DSV, Hamill’s character was a walking example of just how desperate the show became during its second and third seasons. In a series that initially explored the undiscovered depths of a semi-realistic ocean, Hamill played a brilliant professor who’d been blinded by a comet as a child and, in the process, merged with an alien from the warlike planet of Hyperion. He aided the Seaquest’s crew in fighting off an alien invasion and later plunged them into a war on Hyperion itself, but the Tobias helping the Seaquest turned out to be a clone and so they had to rescue the real alien-human professor and…oh, the hell with it.

Despite all of that, Hamill put in a solid performance, proving that a role seemingly pulled from a rejected Far Out Space Nuts script is only as terrible as the actor playing it.

7) Muska in Castle in the Sky

When Disney began bringing over Studio Ghibli films in the ‘90s, they insisted on recruiting well-known actors for the English version, hoping to avoid the mediocre returns that often came with dubs during that decade. For the most part, it paid off, though Castle in the Sky is perhaps the roughest. Someone apparently decided that James Van Der Beek’s turns in Dawson’s Creek and Varsity Blues made him ideal for voicing a 10-year-old boy.

For the most part, though, Castle in the Sky dub is quality stuff, with Cloris Leachman as the motherly harridan leader of a sky-pirate gang and Hamill as Muska, the scheming, balding villain of the picture. Whether he’s yanking the heroine’s braids or dumping an entire platoon of soldiers to their deaths, Muska sounds even more villainous than his original Japanese actor, Minori Terada, and Hamill even gets to hurl a few crazy screams toward the end.

6) Donald Swan in Comic Book: The Movie
Hamill has never made a secret of his fondness for comics, and there’s no more open example of this than his 2004 “mockumentary” (the quotes are there because I hate the word) called Comic Book: The Movie. Hamill plays Donald Swan, a comic geek making a documentary about his favorite superheroes, Commander Courage and Liberty Lad, to coincide with a big-budget movie adaptation that transforms his beloved characters into examples of everything wrong with modern entertainment. Amid appearances from Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Bruce Campbell, and voice actor Billy West, Hamill plays an old-school fan striving to preserve his manchild roots, with his haircut and beard evoking that world-weary William H. Macy look.

5) Adrian Ripburger in Full Throttle

The point-and-click graphic adventure game wasn’t invented at LucasArts, but it was arguably perfected there, through a steady evolution that started with Labyrinth in the 1980s and peaked with Grim Fandango in 1998. Full Throttle is the second-best step in that chain, with its rough-edged biker tale of murder, revenge, and the American motorcycle industry. That murder’s committed by the madly ambitious Adrian Ripburger, who provided Hamill with another opportunity to voice a sneering villain. Part amoral corporate lickspittle and part Dick Jones from Robocop, Ripburger hobbles around, but later proves a surprisingly imposing villain, particularly when he’s hounding the game’s heroes with a heavily armed construction vehicle. True to LucasArts’ tone, he’s defeated by a minor, indirect slip-up.

4) Max Reed in The Guyver

Long before Dragonball fans were crying over Hollywood mutating their beloved cartoon, a little violence-fest called The Guyver went from anime and manga to a film full of real-life rubbery creatures pounding each other. It was also the source of a thoroughly misleading ad campaign, which suggested that Mark Hamill was playing the hero and, we hoped, getting inside the big, gooey, plastic superhero armor.

Sadly, he didn’t. Hamill plays an undercover cop named Max Reed and spends much of the movie investigating the Guyver armor and its connection to a sinister corporation. Reed’s a fifth wheel in battle, as he watches from the sidelines during the Power Rangers rehearsals that compose the movie’s action scenes. You can see him for a split-second during this little cheese serving.

He makes up for it in the end, though, when an evil experiment turns him into a hideous slug-roach creature and thereby gives him the most touching death scene ever granted to a hideous slug-roach creature with Mark Hamill’s face.

3) Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Calling Avatar an anime rip-off might be fair if the show didn’t shame an awful lot of the actual superhero-ish anime aimed at kids. Its multifaceted characters are an interesting bunch, even in the case of little-seen villains like Hamill’s Fire Lord Ozai, who’s less a cackling Star Wars emperor and more the fire-throwing equivalent of that asshole dad who lets his two-year-old burn his hand on a hot stove so it’ll “build character.” Ozai’s responsible for just about everything wrong in the world of Avatar, from the militant aggression of the nation he rules to his son’s half-justified tantrums.

In fact, the show’s villains are generally more compelling than the heroes. Perhaps it’s Hamill’s voice that gives Ozai that likeable edge. Or perhaps it’s because the opposition consists of annoying, goody-goody whiners like Prince Zuko there.

2) Christopher Blair in Wing Commander

The buzzword “full motion video” should strike terror into the soul of anyone who liked video games around 1990, as the phrase spawned a cottage industry of terrible, grainy movie clips strung together in stumbling mockery of a real game. Some series had the right idea, though, and used such videos to enhance a conventional game. Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger was one of them. Granted, the scenes of human actors in hostile negotiations with haughty, spastic cat-puppet-things resemble some community-theater Babylon 5, but Origin Systems had the good grace to use some accomplished actors, including Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, and, just before the hit Fox sci-fi series Sliders made him a household name, John Rhys-Davies.

Hamilll played Christopher Blair, the retroactively named hero of the earlier two Wing Commanders, and does a fairly good job, considering that he’s acting in front of a green-screen most of the time. Could be worse; he could’ve been doing it for The Phantom Menace. Yes, we can still make fun of that. Shut up.

1) The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series

As the story goes, Hamill was originally denied the part of the Joker in the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series. The role had already gone to Tim Curry, who, by that point, had a resume of cartoon villain voice work stretching from TaleSpin to Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates. Hamill was instead cast as the one-off villain in the Mr. Freeze showcase episode, “Heart of Ice,” but his performance so impressed the producers that he bumped Curry out of the prized role. And he’s been the voice of the Joker ever since, even to the point where the short-lived crapfest Birds of Prey had him overdub another actor during the Joker’s cameo. How well did Hamill do as the Joker? So well that someone edited together a video dedicated solely to his laugh.

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The Screening Room's top 10 movie psychos

By CNN's Mairi Mackay

(CNN) -- This month it's all about killer attitude.

Funny guy: Joe Pesci (left) as Tommy DeVito the gang sociopath in Scorsese's mob masterpiece, "Goodfellas."

Funny guy: Joe Pesci (left) as Tommy DeVito the gang sociopath in Scorsese's mob masterpiece, "Goodfellas."

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As the Joker in the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" reignites fascination with the celluloid psycho, "The Screening Room" has compiled a list of its favorite on-screen monsters.

Don't agree with our list? Think we've missed one? Share your views by using the Sound Off box below and we'll publish the best responses.

1. Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) "Sexy Beast"
(Jonathan Glazer, 2000)

Glazer casts Kingsley completely against type as Cockney nutjob Don Logan who travels to the Costa del Crime to force Gary 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone) out of retirement for one last bank job. Pint-sized Logan uses vicious mind games -- childish petulance one minute, "I won't let you be happy, why should I?" and bursts of antagonistic rage the next -- to wear down mild-mannered Gal. Even his last breaths are expletive-littered gurgles of belligerence as if dying doesn't matter -- he'll just bide his time in Hell and get Gal in the next life.

2. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) "No Country for Old Men"
(Ethan and Joel Coen, 2007)

Silly hairdos don't normally accompany on-screen evil but in this case Bardem's bob is as terrifying as his performance. He's a cold-blooded killing machine whose menace only grows when you realize that if he doesn't have a reason to kill someone he decides their fate on the flip of a coin. He may be a relative newcomer on the psycho scene, this pageboy-sporting villain who dispatches victims with a cattlegun connected to a tank of compressed air, but he's still worthy of his high ranking.

3. Frank Booth (Denis Hopper) "Blue Velvet"
(David Lynch, 1986)

If David Lynch is the high priest of freaky cinema then Frank Booth is his masterpiece. He's a sleazy, monstrous toddler, getting wasted on helium that he inhales through a medical mask and crawling across the floor moaning "Mommy" to his abused girlfriend.

4. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) "The Shining"
(Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

That Jack Torrance is relatively normal in the beginning makes it all the more disconcerting watching the American everyman (with a few issues -- he's a recovering alcoholic with a few anger management problems) being driven into insanity by malevolent spirits in the remote hotel he has taken his wife and son to. When he flips out completely, starts hacking into the door of the bathroom where his terrified wife is hiding and sticks his head through shouting "Heeeere's JOHNNY!", he becomes a cinema icon.

5. Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman) "Leon" (aka "The Professional")
(Luc Besson, 1994)

Like many a genius British actor, Gary Oldman has forged a career playing villains in Hollywood and his portrayal of drug-addled, amoral copper Stansfield is one of the best. "I like these calm little moments before the storm," he sighs outside the apartment door of Matilda's family, who he's about to butcher for skimming a little off the drugs they are meant to sell for him. Oldman plays the pre-carnage facial ticks, all dead-eyed stare and shuddering, as well as his post-massacre insouciance.

6. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) "Goodfellas"
(Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Despite Robert de Niro taking top billing, Pesci takes center stage as the gang sociopath who shoots first and wisecracks later, thinking nothing of unloading his gun into any punk who disrespects him while the rest of the gang howl with laughter 'cos "he's a funny guy." But in the end his casual disregard for human life is his downfall and the bosses have him bumped off as carelessly as he shoots a waiter who fails to get him a drink.

7. Rupert Pupkin (Robert de Niro) "The King of Comedy"
(Martin Scorsese, 1982)

Think it should have been Travis Bickle from earlier de Niro/Scorsese collaboration "Taxi Driver?" Maybe, but de Niro plays one of his greatest roles as Rupert Pupkin in this overlooked black comedy about an aspiring stand-up comedian whose ambition far outweighs his talent. Pupkin's obsession has created a talk show set in his basement complete with a cardboard cutout presenter and audience members where he can live out his fantasies. From there he joins forces with equally cracked stalker Masha (Sandra Bernhardt) to kidnap and hold to ransom his idol, late night talk show host, Jerry Langford for a slot on the show.

8. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) "Night of the Hunter"
(Charles Laughton, 1955)

Even if you have never seen Laughton's feature, you will probably recognize Robert Mitchum's Preacher Powell -- the smooth-talking snake oil salesman with "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed on his knuckles. He hasn't been an acquaintance of the good Lord for a long, long time when he marries and murders the wife of a condemned man who has $10,000. The almost expressionistic images -- like Mitchum's satanic preacher casting a shadow on the kids' bedroom wall -- just add to the shivers.

9. Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) "Ichi the Killer"
(Takashi Miike, 2001)

When "Ichi the Killer" had its international debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, the audience was warned about the ultra-violent content and offered complimentary sick bags. And it is Kakihara the sadomasochist yakuza enforcer who is responsible for a whole lot of that horror and gore. He has piercings, has scarified his cheeks and there are also the slashes at the corners of his mouth, held closed with rings that he blows cigarette out of. Perhaps his crowning psycho moment is when he cheerfully cuts out his own tongue to apologize for talking out of turn.

10. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) "American Psycho"
(Mary Harron, 2000)

Bateman is a modern, American monster, a Wall Street yuppie who has all the trappings; the right suits, restaurants and business cards. But at night he dons a butchers' apron and chases prostitutes around with a chainsaw and lectures the audience on the superiority of Genesis with Phil Collins as opposed to Peter Gabriel. Arguably the culture Bateman is living in is as diseased as he is: he makes no secret of his amoral 'hobbies' -- "I'm into murders and executions" -- but then everyone else is so self obsessed that they don't pay any attention.

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Wolverine Trailer Leaked Online

The trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine has leaked online, after making a surprise premiere during the Fox panel a couple days ago at Comic Con. Check out the first and second parts right now.

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