Saturday, October 4, 2008

VP Debate: Tina Fey's Job Just Got Harder

By Sarah Lai Stirland

It's a far cry from the universal admiration that Sarah Palin elicited after her debut at the Republican National Convention this summer, but Thursday night's performance during the vice presidential debate with Joe Biden allayed many conservatives' fear that Palin would bomb, and take down the campaign with her. Bidenpalin

Republican tech strategist Jon Henke, part of the coveted youth demographic that the presidential candidates are trying to win over, voiced a common sentiment when he opined that Palin did well because "she didn't make any major mistakes."

Initial polls showed that Biden's performance appealed to those who haven't committed themselves to either camp. A CBS poll found that 46 percent thought Biden had performed the best while 21 percent thought Palin did. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll showed that just over half of those surveyed thought Biden had performed the best during the debate, while 36 percent thought Palin did.

Other than that, opinions in the blogosphere about Thursday evening's vice presidential debate were all over the map.

For his part, Henke spun it this way: "Face it, Biden did well. He was serious, fluent, he had gravitas. He didn't pull a Biden. And yet, Biden reinforced the real problem he represents for the Obama campaign: Whatever he may be, senator Biden is not 'Change.'"

Patrick Ruffini, a fellow blogger on the site, was more emphatic.

"Tonight, Sarah Palin was sharp, articulate, and connected with the middle class," he wrote. "The #1 political effect tonight will have is an important one for the McCain campaign: she shut the doubters up, and then some. In this important sense, she stopped the bleeding."

But Palin's folksy performance Thursday night didn't shut the doubters up at all.

In fact, one of Palin's most prominent doubters, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker of and the National Review, wrote in PostPartisan, a Washington Post blog, that she "experienced the uneasy feeling throughout that I was witnessing a data dump from a very appealing droid. Even the winks and jaw juts seemed slightly programmed. And the question remains: Is she ready to be president should the need arise?"

Last Friday, Parker made news when she had called for Palin to step aside because she was "out of her league."

Parker said that Palin's performances during her interviews with the networks television anchors had revealed that she didn't know much about anything. The columnist's most damning line: "If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself."

Over on the left, MyDD's Jonathan singer wrote that Palin's performance on Thursday didn't do much to change anything.

"While it may have staved off the hemorrhaging of support for the Republicans, it did little to nothing to swing the momentum back away from the Obama-Biden ticket," he wrote.

And Nate Silver, an Obama supporter, wrote on his blog that he thought this was another missed opportunity for the McCain campaign.

He said that he thought Palin's scripted responses and lack of spontaneity allowed Biden to get in effective shots at John McCain.

In fact, that's probably the most interesting insight that emerged from the storm of opinion that poured forth on the web Thursday night, both on Twitter and on the blogs: That despite all the folksy charm, Palin fell short because her debate performance, like her television interviews, was so scripted and unengaging

"Sprphoto" said it on Twitter: "You know what bothered me most about Palin? She came off like a badly voiced cartoon character."

But she didn't make any obvious gaffes. So Tina Fey is just going to have to actually do some work next time around when she presents the world with her next Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live.

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Astley shortlisted for MTV award

Rick Astley
Rick Astley had a number one hit in 1987 with Never Gonna Give You Up

Eighties pop singer Rick Astley has become the surprise contender for best act ever at this year's MTV Europe Music Awards in Liverpool.

The star, who has never been nominated in the history of the event, is up against U2, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Green Day and Tokio Hotel.

The winner, chosen by fans online, will be unveiled at the show on 6 November.

Astley returned to prominence this year when internet users were "tricked" into watching the video of his biggest hit.

Sole nomination

A craze called "Rickrolling" saw web users unwittingly follow links to Astley's videos. It led to millions of plays of Astley's song Never Gonna Give You Up, which reached number one in the UK in 1987.

It went on to become a number one hit in 15 other countries.

"Rick's fans have obviously decided that he deserves recognition as a pop icon and no doubt they are determined to make sure he wins on the night," said the award show's producer Richard Godfrey.

Madonna is up for the video star category with 4 Minutes - the only nomination she has received this year.

The 50-year-old pop star will battle it out with 30 Seconds to Mars, Santogold, Weezer and Snoop Dogg, who hosted the ceremony last year.

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Coming to a theater near you: more 3-D

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Five Hollywood studios have agreed to help pay for a $1 billion-plus rollout of digital technology on about 20,000 movie screens in North America, a precursor to showing more movies in 3-D.

Hollywood will help bankroll a $1 billion-plus rollout of digital technology on some 20,000 movie screens.

Hollywood will help bankroll a $1 billion-plus rollout of digital technology on some 20,000 movie screens.

Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, a consortium of major theater chains, announced the deal Wednesday. The rollout in the U.S. and Canada, covering about half of all screens, is planned to start early next year.

To help offset the costs -- about $70,000 per screen -- the studios plan to pay the consortium slightly under $1,000 per movie per screen, roughly the same amount it costs them to print and ship a celluloid film copy.

Adding digital equipment is the critical first step in the technological upgrade to being able to show 3-D movies.

More than 20 3-D movies are set to hit theaters through 2010, but only 873 locations in the U.S. and Canada, with 1,264 3-D screens, are available now, according to The Walt Disney Co., a signatory to the digital rollout.

Disney plans to release five 3-D movies next year, including a Jonas Brothers concert movie in February.

The digital expansion will help convert more screens to show 3-D movies, which have packed theaters and commanded higher ticket prices than their 2-D counterparts.

"It should ultimately improve the grosses," said Chuck Viane, president of domestic distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. "People will just fall in love with the medium."

Viane expected 1,500 to 2,000 locations, many with multiple screens, would be able to show 3-D movies by the end of 2009.

The studios in the deal include The Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Blackstone Group are leading the financing but will have to tap the turbulent credit markets in the fourth quarter, said consortium chief executive Travis Reid.

"We'll be needing to execute in the debt markets and we hope to do that during the fourth quarter," Reid said. "We don't believe that the markets will be closed forever."

Regal Entertainment Group, one of the consortium's founders, announced in May that it would outfit 1,500 more of its screens with 3-D technology from a company called RealD, contingent on their being equipped with digital projectors.

The technology uses a filter in front of a digital projector to polarize separate images for the left and right eyes, which viewers use polarized lenses to see.

"We ... consider this a major milestone in our ongoing digital conversion and strategy," said Regal Chief Executive Officer Mike Campbell, in a statement.

RealD, which is responsible for 97 percent of the 3-D add-on technology for the digital screens in the U.S., has a contract to install its equipment on another 1,500 Cinemark USA Inc. screens as the digital rollout progresses.

"This triples our footprint," said the company's chief executive, Michael Lewis. "We're trying to work with everyone to get as many RealD screens out there as fast as possible."

AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark and Regal Entertainment Group formed the original DCIP consortium in February 2007. The studios each negotiated separately with DCIP to pay for the rollout, which delayed a deal for many months.

Reid said the group hopes to sign several other studios by the end of the year, including Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., The Weinstein Co. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

The rollout is expected to take more than three years.

Meanwhile, a group of independent theater owners operating some 8,000 screens is hoping not to miss the digital wave.

The National Association of Theatre Owners on Wednesday called on studios to sign a similar deal with smaller operators so that "independent exhibitors, often in small towns, are not left behind."

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Exclusive: Clip from Bill Maher's 'Religulous'

by Erik Davis

has just received this exclusive clip from the new documentary Religulous, starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles (Borat). In the docu-comedy, Maher travels from country to country examining faith and religion and the role it plays in the world. In the clip below, Maher, demonstrating his pro-marijuana beliefs, discusses whether you can be high and spiritual at the same time.

On Religulous, Cinematical's James Rocchi said, "it's a funny film about some depressing things, it's a lighthearted tour through terrorism, injustice and intolerance. But those contradiction and challenges are, ultimately, what make the film linger uneasily in your mind, reaching past comedy and confrontation to challenge the audience with a fierce and forceful prayer that there might be no god." You can listen to our audio interview with Bill Maher over here, and you can catch Religulous in theaters this weekend.

Steven Seagal! Under Seige 3! In Space! Almost Definitely!

Die Hard 4, Rocky Balboa and the new Indiana Jones were really all just warm-ups for one almighty action comeback movie - Under Siege 3.

Yeah, you heard. Buoyed up by the recent success of his peers, Steven Seagal has decided that he’s going to follow suit and make Under Siege 3. And there’ll be none of this ‘acknowledging the aging process’ malarkey, either - if Steven Seagal gets his way, then Under Siege 3 will be set in outer space where he’ll get to kung-fu a bunch of evil aliens.

So that’s Under Siege 3, coming soon to a theatre near you. Provided that the theatre nearest you happens to be the theatre playing inside Steven Seagal’s wonky and somewhat deluded brain.

There’s been such a glut of elderly movie stars revisiting their action roots lately that reaction to them has run the gamut from surprised appreciation (Rocky Balboa, Die Hard 4) to bemused hostility (Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull) to please-god-never-let-this-happen outright fear (Predator 3).

But there’s one upcoming action movie revival that literally defies reaction. One that, if you think about it in any depth for more than a couple of seconds, will overwhelm your mind with every possible human emotion and turn you into a vegetable. We’re talking, of course, about Under Siege 3.

The original Under Siege was, of course, a masterpiece of modern cinema. The perfectly feasible story of a chef who just happens to have the skills required to single-handedly defeat a gang of mercenary killers who just happen to be onboard the ship trying to steal a shipment of nuclear weapons, Under Siege won every Oscar going for an unprecedented five consecutive years, and made Steven Seagal so famous there’s at least one giant golden statue of him in every country in the world.

Then Under Siege was followed up with Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which was shit.

But now Steven Seagal wants to get back in the ring and make Under Siege 3. And, just in case the thought of a portly 57-year-old man with a bad ponytail taking down a team of dangerous killers with his bare hands doesn’t sound ridiculous enough, don’t worry - Steven Seagal wants to set it in space. MTV reports:

“There are offers and we’re looking at them,” Seagal told MTV News. And he even has some ideas…of a more alien nature. “I personally want it to be something more modern. In other words I wouldn’t mind if it was about something more mystical or… maybe extraterrestrial in nature. Some real government top secrets instead of just the typical.”

Listen. If anyone who has the ability to greenlight movies is reading this, we want you to greenlight Under Siege 3 immediately. Immediately. Just call up Steven Seagal and tell him you want to make Under Siege 3. You don’t even need a script - just a spacesuit, some wires, 100 blokes dressed up as gun-toting aliens and the speed of reactions necessary to capture all of Steven Seagal’s ass-busting martial arts dynamite.

It’s such a brilliant idea. Part Under Seige, part X-Files. We’d definitely watch it. We’ve even thought up a proper name for the movie - Under Siege: I Want To Believe That Nobody’s Actually Thinking About Making This Bag Of Crap.

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Harrison Ford says George Lucas in 'think mode' on another 'Indiana Jones' film

Harrison Ford said Friday that momentum is building for a fifth movie in the "Indiana Jones" franchise and that George Lucas is already cooking up a suitable plot for a heroic senior citizen with a penchant for whips and fedoras.

"It's crazy but great," the 66-year-old Ford said. "George is in think mode right now."

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" grossed $318 million in the U.S. alone and $770 million worldwide and is expected to be powerhouse seller on DVD and Blu-Ray when it arrives in stores Oct. 14. It was a film that many people in Hollywood assumed would never be made considering the difficulty in finding the right time and the right script to reunite Ford, Lucas and franchise director Steven Spielberg after the 1989 hit "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

Now, though, the latest success and the fact that the franchise's old machinery was revived has Ford thinking a fifth movie is not only a viable idea, but an attractive one.

"It's automatic, really, we did well with the last one and with that having done well and been a positive experience, it's not surprising that some people want to do it again," Ford said.

I asked Ford who specifically is stirring up the idea of another revival, whether it was Lucas, Spielberg or the star himself? "Really, it comes from the ethos, from the ether. It's natural. It's a way of nature, of course, success breed opportunities ... also we don't stay as closely in contact as have in the last year, that's part of it."

Spielberg_lucas_ford_at_cannesFord said, though, he would not be game to making an animated "Indiana Jones" film, a notion that became at least a possible option after Lucas took his "Star Wars" theatrical saga into the computer-generated realm with "The Clone Wars" this summer.

"I'm not philosophically against doing animation roles but not for Indiana Jones," Ford said. "I'd hate to see it reduced in any way from the movies that we have done and the way we have done them."

The iconic star said he had some doubts that his long-gone archaeologist hero would be an automatic 21st century sensation.

"It was never a lead-pipe cinch," Ford said. "It was a calculated business risk but I believe it paid off. I was somewhat surprised and gratified to see it did the business that it did. It was successful in almost every market. The first time we showed it to a disinterested outside audience was at Cannes. That' s a crap shoot of the first order. Not only is that audience sophisticated and film-knowledgable, it's French! And it's their country and their festival and we somewhat expected to be seriously slapped around. But we were not, we were was very gratifying."

The action hero long ago became accustomed to seeing his likeness on action figures, but even he was taken aback by the proliferation of his face and fedora this past summer as Indiana Jones became a pop-culture blizzard.

"It was everywhere I turned, I was on a Corn Flakes box or something else. That's what it takes now to do a good job of marketing a movie like this."

Did the star's 7-year-old son like the movie? "He hasn't seen it. It's a little scary for his experience at this point." What about the toy aisle, was he jolted to see Daddy on so many boxes? "He doesn't take it personally. It doesn't mean very much to him."

-- Geoff Boucher

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Crappy Batman & Robin 'Changed My Career,' Clooney Says

By Scott Thill

Believe it or not, there was a time when George Clooney was a struggling actor. Everything changed when he took on the starring role in what may perhaps be the worst film of the Batman franchise, 1997's stone-cold horrible Batman & Robin.

But, as Clooney told Showbiz Spy, he wouldn't change history even if he had a time machine.

"I don't regret anything," he said. "With hindsight it's easy to look back at Batman and go, 'Woah! that was really shit, and I was really bad in it. The truth is, Batman is still the biggest break I ever had. It changed my career. I wouldn't be doing this now if it hadn't been for Batman."

It's hard to believe that one has to thank Joel Schumacher and Batman & Robin for the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Good Night and Good Luck, Michael Clayton and more, but there it is.

One wonders who Batman will turn into a star next. The Dark Knight has made Christian Bale a superstar and Christopher Nolan a Hollywood player. But there are no assurances that either will be back to film the next installment, even though preproduction is rumored to take place as early as February 2009 in Chicago.

So who do you think should be the next Batman, or the franchise's next director, should Bale and Nolan bail? One imagines that Guillermo del Toro could capably steer the Batman multiverse back to its fantastical origins or that Billy Crudup, fresh off the Watchmen film, might be able to hack the cowl. But it looks like all options are on the table.

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