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Sunday, February 1, 2009

New pornography laws 'could make comic books illegal', say campaigners

By Jon Swaine

Comic books: New pornography laws 'could make comic books illegal', say campaigners
Comic book campaigners claim that if the new rules are interpreted harshly, their hobby could be criminalised Photo: REUTERS

They are protesting against two pieces of legislation. The first, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, comes into force later this month.

It will make possessing "extreme pornography" - defined as any "extreme image" produced "solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal" - illegal.

The Government defines an "extreme image" as any "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise ... obscene" moving or still depiction of someone any "reasonable person" would think real being sexually injured or engaging in sexual activity with an animal or corpse.

Films given an official classification are exempt from the new law, meaning portrayals of such extreme activity by actors will be allowed on screen. However, imitations by characters on paper will not enjoy such an exemption.

The second is the Coroners and Justice Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament. It will introduce a similar law banning the possession of any image involving sexual activity and children. For the purpose of the law, an image is said to contain a child if "the impression conveyed ... is that the person shown is a child".

The comic book campaigners claim that if the new rules are interpreted harshly, their hobby could be criminalised.

In a statement, comicshopvoice.co.uk, a comic fans' website, said of the rules outlawing sexual violence: "Isn't that how Batman, Punisher, Judge Dredd get anything done?

"A kick in the balls or a--- would constitute this, and a kick in the balls is a well trodden part of humour."

It added that the new law on images of children would make owning some comic books, and "particularly some forms of Manga" - the Japanese form often featuring young-looking cartoon characters - illegal.

The statement added: "Because this is a minefield for the law it then falls on the Police to enforce it, and it is their judgement that could lead to a prosecution.

"We COULD get to a point where the police could legitimately visit your home or workplace, and sanctioned by an un-elected magistrate or judge go through your collection and if they find any comic book that they feel will cause sexual arousal or displays extreme violence then they could arrest you."

Calling on comic book fans to lobby their MPs, the group added: "What is frightening about this law is that it gives [the Government] carte blanche to invade our lives, to shut down our comic shops and ultimately it could lead to censorship of books and films as well."

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Why Is Gaeta So Bad?

By Annalee Newitz

Last night's Battlestar Galactica episode, "The Oath," about a violent, tragic anti-cylon rebellion in the Fleet, was one of the series' best. It was also a character study of how a good person goes bad.

Spoilers ahead!

In "The Oath," a young tactical officer named Felix Gaeta lead a rebellion against Admiral Adama's leadership, challenging the military government's choice to ally with the Rebel cylon fleet. Though Gaeta has been living in an ethical gray area for a while, many were taken aback by his sudden flare-up of evil.

His transformation, however, represented the culmination of several plot lines stretching all the way back to the Fleet's encounter with the fascistic Battlestar Pegasus, whose violent, military leader Admiral Cain was a dark foil for Adama. If you were a dork like me and watched the DVD extras, you'd have seen a plucky, cute side of the early Gaeta. In one extra scene, the young tactical officer meets with officers from the Pegasus, who say they can transfer to him all the data on their shipboard computers, including some kind of futuristic mega-Wikipedia that contains all human knowledge. Gaeta smiles and says, "Hey, do you have any porn?"

We know that Gaeta served with Adama for a few years before the Cylon attack, and his talent with techie tactics has helped the Fleet out of several scrapes. He's also often held the ship's leadership to a high moral standard, and has a history of acting on his convictions. He's the guy who uncovered Tigh and Dualla's plot to rig the election when Baltar is running against Roslin. When he refuses to keep quiet about this perversion of democracy, he's rewarded by new president Baltar with the position of presidential aide.

And that's when our plucky, idealistic young Gaeta started to go bad. Baltar decides to bring the Fleet to New Caprica, which is soon occupied by a cylon force. During the cylon occupation, Gaeta tries his best to retain his strong moral center. When he discovers that resistance leaders are being executed, he betrays Baltar and begins secretly passing information to resistance leaders. Without his aid, it's likely the human resistance would never have succeeded. But when he returns to the Fleet, after risking his life repeatedly to save it, he's spit on by the people he saved.

Nobody believes that he was part of the resistance, and Starbuck's secret court almost has him airlocked. He's treated like a pariah, beaten, and nearly killed for a crime he did not commit. At the last minute, he's able to prove he was the resistance mole and Starbuck lets him go. Eventually, his role in the resistance is widely-known and he's given proper credit by the Fleet. Even after he's reintegrated into the fleet, however, he's still punished. He loses his leg in a clash between Helo and Starbuck during their search for Earth.

Still, as we learned in the webisodes "Face of the Enemy" that took place between the first and second half of this season, Gaeta has a lot on his conscience that we didn't know about. When he was working with the resistance on New Caprica, it turns out he developed a romantic relationship with a Number Eight Sharon model cylon whom he thought was helping him to sneak prisoners out of the cylon jail. But in "Face of the Enemy," his Number Eight reveals that she was, in fact, killing many of the prisoners he'd asked her to release. And then she kills more humans when they are stranded in a space capsule together, arguing that they had to die so he would have enough oxygen to survive. Worst of all, she blames Gaeta for the deaths of the prisoners back on New Caprica, claiming he suspected what she was doing and had done nothing to stop her.

At that point, it seems that all of the pain Gaeta has endured in his efforts to help the human Fleet comes crashing back into his brain. He's lost everything, now. All the sacrifices he made on New Caprica, and all the horrors he endured when he returned, seem for naught. Perhaps he really was the evil collaborator that Starbuck believed he was all along. In a fit of rage, he murders his Number Eight right before the Galactica rescues him.

It is this Gaeta who returns to the Galactica and begins the insurrection as the second half of season 4 begins. His confidence in his own moral goodness has been shattered, and his one positive relationship with a cylon has turned to terrifying betrayal. Though he hates Starbuck, he suspects that she may have been right about him after all. What happens to a person who believes they have been doing good, but then learns they have been collaborating with evil?

I think we have to regard Gaeta's actions in "The Oath" in this light. We know that the once-carefree and idealistic tactical officer has a history of speaking truth to power. He may not be one of the most powerful people in the Fleet, but he wasn't afraid to call shenanigans when Tigh tried to destroy the Fleet's nascent democracy by rigging the election. And he also wasn't afraid to challenge both Baltar and the occupying cylon fleet's power by passing intel to the human resistance. Throughout these trying times, Gaeta has kept himself together by believing that he's upholding moral principles and protecting the Fleet from abuses of power. He's the quintessential little guy who stands up to the Man.

The problem is that when Gaeta challenges the Man, even on legitimate moral grounds, it always makes things worse. When he challenged the rigged election, he wound up putting the weak and corrupt Baltar into power. And when he challenged Adama and Lee's alliance with the cylons - whom he knows from experience cannot be trusted - he allied himself with the power-hungry Zarek. While Zarek's intentions may have been good at one point, he long ago became a classic Machiavellian politician who uses people's idealism to manipulate them.

Unfortunately, the shattered Gaeta falls for Zarek's manipulation completely. Gaeta is still an idealist at heart, and he believes that the military's alliance with the cylons is yet another instance of corruption of power on Galactica. He's just discovered that cylon allies may not be what they seem. He sees the Zarek mutiny as the only way to save the human Fleet from the same fate that met those prisoners on New Caprica, the ones whose lives he trusted to a Number Eight.

If you consider Gaeta's actions from the perspective of all this history, it makes perfect sense that he tries to save the Fleet by taking out its most powerful members. And it also, tragically, makes sense that his efforts result in a situation far worse than the one he's trying to fix. Instead of saving his human brethren, he turns them against each other. Instead of saving lives, he destroys them.

It seems that Gaeta is beginning to realize this when Zarek kills an innocent bystander at the beginning of the episode, but at that point it's too late to turn back. Zarek has become a new version of Gaeta's Number Eight - an ally whom he trusts to save humanity, but who is actually bent on violently controlling it.

I think what's brilliant about "The Oath" is that Gaeta's perfidy may have the unintended consequence of saving the Fleet, just not in the way he expected. In the face of his mutiny, many of the characters who have been wallowing in ethical ambiguity suddenly sharpen up and remember their true duties. Starbuck returns to heroic soldier form when she rescues Lee from mutineers. Adama and Tigh reaffirm their bromantic love for each other as they fight side-by-side for the freedom of the Fleet - and for peace with the cylons. Even the tormented Tyrol returns to form, aiding the resistance against Zarek and Gaeta, risking his life to save president Roslin and Baltar.

Indeed, one of the most promising results of Gaeta's mutiny is the return of Roslin to the role of strong, decisive leader. She's been wanting to step down, enjoy her new romance with Adama, and slowly fade away. But when push comes to shove in "The Oath," she thinks fast and takes command, guiding Starbuck and Lee to Baltar's quarters, where she knows Baltar has a secret wireless communications system she can use to entreat the Fleet to resist the mutiny.

She delivers a stirring speech, begging for peace, and forges what I believe will become an important alliance with Baltar. Even Baltar, the whiny, greasy, morally blank fake religious leader, is redeemed by Gaeta's mutiny. In a pinch, he aids the president and Adama, despite their long history of animosity. And he tries to convince Gaeta to stand down, in a scene that's taut and moving.

For the first time in his life, Gaeta's efforts to save the Fleet may have worked. Just not in the way he intended.

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Springsteen calls Wal-Mart deal a mistake

The Boss is owning up to a mistake.

In an interview with The New York Times, Bruce Springsteen says he shouldn't have made a deal with Wal-Mart. This month, the store started exclusively selling a Springsteen greatest-hits CD.

Some fans were critical because Springsteen has been a longtime supporter of worker's rights, and Wal-Mart has faced criticism for its labor practices. Springsteen's team didn't vet the issue as closely as it should have, and that he "dropped the ball on it," he told the Times for a story to be published in Sunday editions and previewed on its Web site.

Springsteen went on to say: "It was a mistake. Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be."

"Millions of Springsteen fans have counted on Wal-Mart over the years to deliver his music into their lives, and we will continue to offer those fans this 'Greatest Hits' exclusive and his other popular albums at unbeatable prices," Wal-Mart said in a statement, adding: "We are proud of the good jobs, benefits and career opportunities we provide to more than 1.4 million U.S. associates who choose to work at Wal-Mart and serve our customers every day."

Springsteen released his new CD "Working on a Dream" this week and is performing the halftime show at the Super Bowl.

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Lithuania presents Baltimore with a Frank Zappa statue

Sean Michaels

Bronze bust of Frank Zappa's head in Vilnius, Lithuania

Head's up ... The bronze bust of Frank Zappa's head in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photograph: Richard Gardner/Rex

When we were last in eastern Europe, we almost made a sidetrack to Vilnius. We were enticed by Lithuania's fascinating history and rich cultural heritage. But mostly we just wanted to see their statue of Frank Zappa's head.

Now, at last, Baltimore is taking a page from Vilnius' book.

Thirteen years ago, a band of plucky Lithuanian intellectuals pooled their funds, solicited their friends, and built a bronze bust of the musical iconoclast. Saulius Paukstys, longtime president of a Zappa fanclub, even convinced authorities that the statue should be erected in downtown Vilnius, in front of the Belgian embassy.

Zappa had died of cancer just two years before, in 1993, but Lithuania's capital city was an odd place for a tribute. Zappa was not, after all, Lithuanian (or Belgian, for that matter). He had never even visited the place. But his music was dearly loved by the avant-garde hipsters in the Lithuanian independence movement - and these same intellectuals were the ones running the show after the Baltic state declared independence from Russia in 1990.

"The opportunity for this Zappa statue was also like a trial for the new system and the newly established democracy," Paukstys explained to the Associated Press this week.

Before long the Zappa bust had become Vilnius' second-most popular tourist attraction (behind the rather-less-quirky Museum of Genocide Victims).

This week, Paukstys journeyed to Baltimore, USA, to make an offer to Frank Zappa's hometown: would Baltimore like a bronze Zappa-head of its own? Baltimore's Public Art Commission voted unanimously to accept the gift. "I think it's incredibly generous," said commissioner Steve Ziger. "I find the piece a good piece of art that I think we would be honoured to have here. We just need to find an appropriate placement."

Paukstys and his comrades had already arranged for the casting of a replica, and were just awaiting the OK from Baltimore authorities before shipping it across the ocean. The cost of creating and shipping the bust is estimated at $50,000 (£25,000), but the city will be responsible only for installation and maintenance.

Vilnius's mayor, Juozas Imbrasas, said he approved heartily of the project. "I hope that replication of the original statue of Frank Zappa in Vilnius and bringing it to Baltimore will perpetuate the memory of one of the greatest artists of the [20th] century," he wrote. Frank Zappa's widow, Gail, is also understood to have given her blessing.

All that Baltimore needs now is a better source of Lithuanian dumplings

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National Geographic to Launch Record Label

By Dylan Stableford


The National Geographic Society announced today that it will launch a full-service record label, Nat Geo Music—which also serves as the music division the company established in 2007.

The label will “record, release and promote modern music from around the globe” from a variety of artists and genres, the company said, and be distributed globally through various distribution partnerships.

Mat Whittington, a former record executive and concert promoter, has been tapped to head up the label, reporting to National Geographic Entertainment president David Beal.

“Despite the challenging climate, there is an enormous appetite for music,” Whittington said in a release. “And we know that the National Geographic brand can deliver amazing new artists to this global audience.”

The appetite for recorded music in the U.S., however, is shrinking. According to Nielsen Soundscan, which tracks retail sales data, album sales were down 14 percent in 2008. Music sales worldwide didn’t fare much better, falling about 7 percent, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. (Digital music downloads did grow last year, but at a slower rate than 2007.)

National Geographic’s flagship magazine, meanwhile, saw ad pages fall 6.5 percent, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. (Ad pages for National Geographic Adventure and Kids fell 0.8 and 21.6 percent, respectively; National Geographic Traveler posted a 3.1 percent ad page gain.

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Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter stunt double seriously injured in filming

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson
Injured stunt double ... Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.
DANIEL Radcliffe's stunt double on the Harry Potter set has been rushed to hospital after suffering serious injuries.

The man in his 20s fell to the ground following a planned explosion while performing an aerial stunt on set at Leavesden Studios north of London, during filming of the last Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"The guy was rigged up to a harness for the scene and was flying through the air. It is thought he may have been caught by the explosion and hit the ground very hard," a source said.

"Everyone is just hoping he makes a good recovery."

A spokesman for Leavesden Studios confirmed a member of the Harry Potter production team was injured.

"We are awaiting further news. Out of respect for the family we are unable to comment further," he told the Daily Mail.

A Warner Bros spokesman told the BBC the man had been taken to hospital.

The Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling have sold over 400 million copies, been translated into 67 languages, and spawned a successful series of films and a theme park.

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Ghost Rider Sequel in Development

by: Peter Sciretta

Bloody Disgusting has confirmed that Columbia Pictures is officially out to screenwriters for Ghost Rider 2, and star Nicolas Cage is already signed on to reprise the role as Johnny Blaze.

This is shocking because nobody I know enjoyed the 2007 film when it was released. In fact, the Internet Movie Database user rating is a 5.3 (which is somewhere between bad and very bad) and a 28% on the Rotten Tomatoes critics-rated Tomatometer. The film didn’t even make big bucks at the box office. Made for $110 million, the film grossed $228 million worldwide (again, about half of which went to exhibitor costs) which means the film barely made a theatrical profit. But for a superhero movie like Ghost Rider, the real money is made in merchandising and DVD sales, which explains the interest in a sequel.

I use to read Ghost Rider comic books when I was younger, and I really believe that the comic property could be turned into a pretty cool movie. Lets just hope that Mark Steven Johnson isn’t sitting in the director’s chair this time around. Sony needs to learn from Marvel’s recent wins and hire a director who is a few levels higher than the material.

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'Notorious' scribe takes on Run-DMC

By Jay A. Fernandez

hr/photos/stylus/39702-run-dmc_341x182.jpg

Run-DMC (Getty Images photo)

Cheo Hodari Coker is making himself quite a morbid niche: writing biopics about slain rap stars.

The "Notorious" screenwriter is attached to adapt Bill Adler's "Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-DMC -- The Authorized Biography" for DJ Classicz, the urban arm of Davis Entertainment. DJ Classicz president Dallas Jackson optioned the book recently and will produce with production partner John Davis.

Adler, the group's former publicist, will executive produce.

While Fox Searchlight's "Notorious," released two weeks ago, outlines the life and premature death of Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., "Tougher" will explore the history of hip-hop's first superstars: Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, who was shot to death in his Queens studio in 2002.

With such hits as "It's Like That," "It's Tricky," "My Adidas" and "Walk This Way," Run-DMC exploded from the Queens neighborhood of Hollis onto the international stage with the help of future mogul Russell Simmons. An early MTV staple and platinum-selling act, the group influenced much of rap's future royalty. Retired since Mizell's death, Run-DMC will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4.

"It's an extraordinary rags-to-riches journey that I'm eager to bring to the screen," Jackson said. "And I'm hoping to have Run, DMC and Russell Simmons' involvement. This will be a big movie about the 1980s hip-hop movement that took over the world."

Jackson also has "Lil Homiez" at Overture, with Robert Townsend attached to direct, and is writing and producing a remake of "The Last Dragon" for Columbia, with Samuel L. Jackson attached to star. Davis is producing "Gulliver's Travels," starring Jack Black, for Fox, where Davis Entertainment has a home. Davis and Jackson formed DJ Classicz two years ago.

Coker, repped by CAA and Caliber Media, this week signed on to pen the Imagine/Universal car-culture project "Lowriders." A former journalist, Coker also is a co-executive producer on "Tougher."

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'Dawn Treader' lands at Fox 2000

By Borys Kit

"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" will be setting sail from a new port.

The third installment of Walden's "Chronicles of Narnia" franchise, which was let go by Disney last month, is landing at Fox 2000, which will develop it with an eye to release the movie in the holiday season of 2010.

Many of the key players are expected to stay with the project, including director Michael Apted and actor Ben Barnes, though a new writer might come aboard.

Elizabeth Gabler will oversee for the studio.

Because of the epic scope -- and accompanying production costs -- of the books, Walden partnered with Disney to produce and co-finance the adaptations. Disney backed out of "Dawn Treader" after failing to come to an agreement with Walden over budgets and release-date issues. Although the first installment, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," was an unabashed hit, the second, "Prince Caspian," ran over budget and performed below the studio's expectations.

Despite a couple of suitors, including Columbia, Walden only had eyes for Fox, with whom it partnered to market and distribute its fare under the Fox Walden banner after the first "Narnia" film.

The third film faces creative as well as budgetary challenges. Although the C.S. Lewis book has quests, dragons and sea monsters galore, the story also has been criticized for lacking a clear antagonist.

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The A-Team film directed by Ridley Scott to hit cinemas in 2010

The A-Team film directed by Ridley Scott to hit cinemas in 2010
Dwight Schultz as 'Howling Mad' Murdock, George Peppard as John 'Hannibal' Smith and Mr T as B A Baracus in the original The A-Team Photo: UNIVERSAL TELEVISION

The production will be a "fast-paced action movie" that avoids the campy tone of the original and replaces Vietnam with the Middle East as the place the do-gooder soldiers of fortune served before escaping to the “Los Angeles underground”, Hollywood newspaper Variety has reported.

Sir Ridley is lined up to produce the 20th Century Fox project alongside his brother, Tony Scott, while Joe Carnahan, who wrote and directed 2006’s Smokin’ Aces, will direct. The film is due out in June 2010.

Co-creator of the original series Stephen J Cannell is also on board as a producer.

The show, which ran for five series from 1983 to 1986 on American television network NBC, featured George Peppard, Mr T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz as the mismatched band of mercenaries on the run from the government “for a crime they didn’t commit”.

It spawned a host of catchphrases including Peppard’s character Hannibal's oft repeated line “I love it when a plan comes together”.

A film version has spent years in development with a number of different names previously attached to the project.

Sir Ridley told Variety the newly assembled team aimed for “a fast-paced, exciting franchise – one we hope will be around for years to come.”

Carnahan said he hoped to make “a classic summer popcorn film” that “reflects the real world” and said it would stick to the original’s premise, in which the army veterans escape from a military prison after being wrongly convicted of armed robbery.

”This was a coveted property, and re-imagining a show that I remembered as a kid was tough to turn down,” Carnahan said. “Fox hired me to make it as emotional, real and accessible as possible without cheesing it up.”

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Lost In Translation: 20 Baffling Foreign Movie Posters

By Jay Thomas


Most movie posters are boring as hell. It's always some Photoshop of the stars, and maybe an explosion thrown in if it's an action movie.

Or at least, that's the way they are in America. Go to Eastern Europe, or Japan, and you'll find posters that have absolutely nothing to do with the film, and everything to do with melting a hole in your brain.

#20.
Alien (Poland)

"I've got an idea for a poster. It'll convey that the movie is so awesome, your skin will melt off!"

"Great. So there'll be, like, a skull there?"

"Sure, sure."

"And you have seen a skull before, right?"

"Eh, I can pretty much guess what one looks like."

#19.
Star Wars (Russia)

Star Wars = space cowboy, which is understandable. Why the space cowboy seems to be constructed out of appliance catalogs, however, is not.

#18.
Star Wars (Russia)

Another Star Wars poster for the Russian market, in which Vader is some kind of robotic disco puma. So, the people who went to see the movie based on this poster ... were they disappointed?

#17.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Turkey)

Little known fact: The Turkish Director's Cut featured Shelly Duvall and swashbuckling zombies. Seriously, can you fuck up the poster for a Jack Nicholson classic any worse than this?

#16.
Chinatown (Poland)

Yes, yes you can. Poland makes our list for the second time by portraying Chinatown as the fantastic tale of an uptight middle-aged woman tormented by Pedro the mischievous, nostril-stabbing elf.

#15.
Ghostbusters (Czech Republic)

Ghostbusters (1984): Patrick from Spongebob tries to avoid being prison-raped by Giant Aardvark Man. Rated PG.

#14.
Bad Lieutenant (France)

We have to hand it to France. If somebody ever enacts some kind of "Truth in Advertising" law for movie posters, this is what the Bad Lieutenant poster would look like. The above image gives you everything you need to know before making your ticket purchasing decision.

#13.
Weekend at Bernie's (Poland)

So Poland is going to try to dominate this list, isn't it? Just look at that shit. Now here's the thing; they have TV ad campaigns for these movies, right? Don't the Polish people get confused when these ads show a couple of wacky kids in a slapstick farce with their dead boss, while the poster shows whatever the hell that is up there?

Or do they change the ads, too; replacing them with just the above image over the sounds of a heartbeat and a child crying softly in the background?

#12.
Alien (Czech Republic)

"The Americans have not allowed anyone in Eastern Europe to see this 'Alien' film, but we must have the poster completed by this afternoon!"

"Well... I have this thing I was making last night, it's an album cover for my band."

"Perfect!"

#11.
King Kong (France)

Choke slamming a shark and "Mega Sound"? This is how you sell a freaking movie, kids.

#10.
Big (Czech Republic)

"That's your poster for the JFK movie? You're fired, you sick bastard."

"Uh... no! Of course not! This is the poster for... Big, the Tom Hanks comedy about a man who changes bodies with a child!"

"Perfect! Here is your raise."

#9.
Army of Darkness (Japan)

Having just watched the first few minutes of the film before slapping their poster together, the Japanese marketing department renamed Army of Darkness to Captain Supermarket because, you know, Ash worked in one.

You can just picture the poster designer tapping the pencil on his desk thinking, "Okay, supermarket. Let's get a bag of groceries on there. What else do they sell at the supermarket? Soup! Campbell's soup! And the star is named Bruce Campbell! It almost makes too much sense!"

#8.
Bullitt (East Germany)

We're too terrified to make a joke.

#7.
Easy Rider (Czech Republic)

Well it would appear that this poor man has a dove for a dick, and is trying to fuck the horseheaded guy. The question is: Which one is Jack Nicholson?

#6.
The Fly (Poland)

Of course you have to tell the audience that the movie has a scene with a fly-monster puking. Why else would they buy a ticket? Oh, and go ahead and imply that the fly is played by Kojak's Telly Savalas just to make sure.

#5.
First Blood (Japan)

Japan repackaged First Blood as a kickass motorcycle chase through the city with Dukes of Hazzard-esque ramping of cop cars (bottom). But at least they portray the safety-conscious Sly as wearing a nice padded helmet.

#4.
Planet of the Apes (Poland)

Props to the designer for both drawing a literal planet made out of an ape and giving away the twist ending.

But here's the problem: Once audiences have actually seen the movie and realize it's not actually about humans landing on a monkey-headed globe in space, how do you do posters for the sequels?

#3.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (Poland)

We knew we would regret asking that question.

#2.
Deliverance (Yugoslavia)

We all know why this could have been worse.

Okay, before we go, let's hear from Poland one last time. Let's pick a movie they couldn't possibly turn into nightmare fuel: The Muppet Movie.

#1.
The Muppet Movie (Poland)

And... you are now insane. Sorry.

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Michelle Obama bans daughters Malia and Sasha from mixing with celebrities

By Philip Sherwell in New York

Michelle Obama bans daughters Malia and Sasha from mixing with celebrities
Michelle Obama, America's First Lady, has banned celebrity socialising for her daughters Malia and Sasha as she attempts to forge a normal family life in the White House Photo: REUTERS

The girls' final encounter for now with A-list stars came on the night of Barack Obama's inauguration. The Jonas Brothers boy band made a surprise appearance in the White House as Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven, explored their new home and their parents danced at the inauguration balls.

But family friends told Us Weekly that Mrs Obama is "trying to keep them grounded" and insisting on no special treatment as they begin their new lives in Washington. That means an end to hanging out with celebrities such as Beyonce, whom the girls were thrilled to meet during the campaign, according to their father.

So after the excitement of the election, the move from Chicago and the inauguration, Mrs Obama's priority as self-styled "mom-in-chief" is to make sure her daughters settle in well at Sidwell Friends School, a prestigious private Quaker academy.

"Michelle is spending a lot of time talking to the girls about the new school and she's reached out to fellow parents at Sidwell," another friend says.

Although the Obamas did not speak directly to the magazine for the report, they posed for a happy family portrait and clearly authorised friends and staff to be quoted, on and off the record.

The gushing coverage is an early example of the Obamas' "paparazzi presidency" tactic: wooing glossy magazines by offering access and pictures in return for uncritical reporting that will help maintain the new president's high popularity ratings.

Us Weekly notes that Mrs Obama will not be hiring a nanny as her mother, Marian Robinson, 71, has moved into the White House to help look after the two grandchildren on whom she is said to dote.

The First Lady has reportedly confided to friends that the biggest plus for their family set-up is that President Obama can have breakfast and dinner with his wife and daughters - a luxury he rarely enjoyed during the previous two years on the campaign trail.

The magazine also has details of the first party that Mrs Obama threw at her new 55,000 sq ft residence: two days after moving in, she invited the entire White House staff to a welcome celebration in the East Room.

The invitees returned the honour by presenting her with a belated cake to celebrate her 45th birthday five days earlier.

Mr Obama takes on the hosting duties on Sunday when he holds a Super Bowl party for both Republican and Democratic congressman, including members from the home states of both finalists - the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the president is backing, and Arizona Cardinals.

Aides say it is the latest example of his efforts to build a mood of bipartisan co-operation in Washington. But that strategy failed its first key test last week when his $820 billion economic stimulus package secured no Republican support in the House of Representatives.

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Cash4Gold nabs Ed McMahon, MC Hammer for Super Bowl spot

Mcmahonhammer
Please, Cash4Gold, don't hurt 'em.
Photos: Matt Sayles / Associated Press; Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Cash4Gold.com, the "As Seen On TV" meltdown factory that solicits baggies of your unused chains, rings, coins and earrings in exchange for a bit of quick cash, has kicked a PR field goal.

The company said today it had signed Ed McMahon and MC Hammer to star in a commercial for Sunday's Super Bowl, one of the last few slots NBC had available. Hammer will bring a veteran's touch to the endeavor, having starred in this Lay's Super Bowl spot in 2005. And McMahon is no stranger to corporate sponsorship himself. In fact, when they finally establish the Hall O' Fame for Eazy Money Infomercials, Cash4Gold may end up right alongside McMahon alma mater Publishers Clearing House.

It's not clear to me whether there's an intentional ironic element here, given that both Hammer and McMahon are famous for their serious financial woes. Hammer blew through a multimillion-dollar fortune in a few years, and McMahon recently contended with a near-foreclosure on his Beverly Hills home.

On the other hand, it could be a brilliant sympathy play. Times are just as tough for these faded stars as they are for average Americans. Which is why, obviously, we should all dross our valuables.

"As a nation, we are in uncharted economic territory, and Cash4Gold’s rapid growth is a clear indicator of our new reality," CEO Jeff Aronson said in a press release trumpeting the signings. “Since the credit and housing market collapses, Americans are feeling strapped for cash. Cash4Gold.com has become the reliable source of fast cash for anyone who needs it, without driving them any further into debt.”

For his part, Hammer seems excited about the whole affair. He sent out a tweet today noting he was on his way to Tampa: "Got to work that SuperBowl.... 'Melting Gold Baby' .... fun commercial !!!"

Let's hope that he was just typing hastily there, and that the commercial isn't actually called "Melting Gold Baby." That would be an immodest proposal indeed.

-- David Sarno

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Thrown for a Loss: Super Bowl Parties

By Sean Gregory

Playboy's Super Bowl party. This year, only four are slated to attend" title="Last year 22 Bunnies were on hand for Playboy's Super Bowl party. This year, only four are slated to attend">
Last year 22 Bunnies were on hand for Playboy's Super Bowl party. This year, only four are slated to attend

Add this to the growing pile of previously unthinkable fallout from the nation's economic crisis: in 2009, the star-studded parties and corporate blowouts of Super Bowl week might take a backseat to, believe it or not, the actual game.

With the economy sacked this season, even the activity surrounding the Super Bowl, which will be played on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, is slowing down. "It's never been this soft before," says Alan Bachand, a party promoter and hotel broker who has been working the Super Bowl for the past 12 years. "There just aren't as many good parties going on. Hot tickets that were going for $3,000 are now selling for between $400 and $700. The parties aren't getting as much sponsorship." (See pictures of Super Bowl entertainment over the years.)

A case in point is Playboy, whose Bunny-filled blowout is usually the signature event of Super Bowl week. Last year in Arizona, Hugh Hefner hosted 2,500 people in a 52,000-sq.-ft. pavilion for his party, and tickets were going for $3,000 in the secondary market. This year, with Playboy's stock down more than 70%, Hef has canceled its Super Saturday Night party. Instead, the company is sponsoring a DirectTV event; four Playmates will be on hand, compared with the 22 who showed up at last year's Playboy bash. (See the best and worst Super Bowl commercials of 2008.)

Sports Illustrated, which throws another popular bash, is also feteless this year. The magazine (which, like TIME, is owned by Time Warner) just suffered a round of job cutbacks. "In this historically challenged economy, hosting an extravaganza was not realistic," says SI spokesman Scott Novak. Nike is passing on a party. Cadillac, which has sponsored a celebrity go-kart race the past six years, also shuttered its event. Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks, who play for the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had scheduled a celebrity party and golf tournament for Jan. 29-30. But the event fell about $100,000 short of the $200,000 sponsorship goal and was shelved. Even CAA and Octagon, the sports agencies, aren't throwing parties.

The floundering economy actually puts companies like Octagon and Playboy in a tough spot. If you usually throw or sponsor a party but cancel this year, people may assume that your company is struggling. In many cases, like Playboy's, that's obviously true. But for firms like Octagon, perception does not match reality. The agency represents Michael Phelps and had the best year in its history. "We looked at the circumstances out there," says Octagon executive Phil de Picciotto, "and decided that being more understated would be more appropriate for these times." (See pictures of Michael Phelps winning eight gold Olympic medals.)

Octagon's calculation makes sense, but it's a delicate balance. Even if your company can afford a little frivolity now, shouldn't that cash be stocked away in case things get even worse in 2009, as every economist in the world is predicting? "You absolutely walk a fine line of sending the wrong message to your business, vendors or clients about the health of your business," says Paul Swangard, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at Oregon University. "You have to be respectful of the environment, but if you're a marketer looking to reach a certain audience through a party, or a company trying to keep clients happy, you might have to spend a little bit to get out of this recession." (See pictures of the recession of 1958.)

For many who flock to America's annual weeklong bacchanal, of course, the Super Bowl is all about the parties. Star athletes and entertainers go to be seen; corporate employees look to schmooze and booze; and average yokels, cameras firmly placed in fanny pack, come to soak up the scene. And just because many corporations are scaling back doesn't mean there won't be any pregame celebrating going on. (See pictures of celebrities at the Inauguration.)

The biggest partier on the planet, Diddy, will be in town to host a bash. Lad mag Maxim, Playboy's rival for absurd Super Bowl extravagance — its 2004 bash in Houston, "Circus Maximus," featured Ferris wheels, fortune tellers, cancan dancers and Paris Hilton — is proceeding but with half as many guests as last year. "We're not immune to what's going on," says Glenn Rosenbloom, president of the Alpha Media Group, which publishes Maxim. "But having said that, our readers love football, our advertisers love football, and so do we." The sponsors for the party, which will take place on Friday and feature two well-known DJs, include Samsung and Gillette.

Sponsors have also lined up for ESPN The Magazine's big affair, which will take place in a 22,000-sq.-ft. outdoor space in downtown Tampa on Friday. Wyclef Jean will perform for 1,250 people. The party is a no-brainer for ESPN because the marketers are paying for the whole thing. "If we did not have full sponsor support, we would not do the event," says ESPN The Magazine publishing director Steven Binder. Ford, Corona, Old Spice and H&R Block are picking up the tab.

And even if some companies are scaling back their event spending, the pinch isn't being felt by NBC, this year's broadcaster. While veterans like FedEx and General Motors are sitting out this year, the network says it has sold 90% of its advertising inventory, at a record average price of $2.9 million per 30-second spot. Which means that, in the end, the game will probably continue to be eclipsed by the commerce, if not the parties, built around it. (See pictures of the Giants' stunning Super Bowl victory last year.)

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Cancer-stricken Patrick Swayze 'stops treatment after doctors say there is little they can do'

By Jane Bunce

Actor Patrick Swayze has reportedly given up chemotherapy

Actor Patrick Swayze has reportedly given up chemotherapy

Cancer-stricken movie star Patrick Swayze has reportedly given up all medical treatment.

The 56-year-old is said to have made the decision after doctors told him there was little they could do to stop the progress of his illness, according to reports from US magazine The National Enquirer.

The Dirty Dancing star was diagnosed twelve months ago with pancreatic cancer, one of the most virulent forms of the disease.

Medical experts say most patients have less than six months to live after being diagnosed with such cancer.

Swayze had been determined to fight but earlier this month suffered a setback when he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia.

He was released on January 16 after a week under doctors' supervision.

The magazine claimed the Ghost star was now growing increasingly weak.

A family friend told the Enquirer: 'There's nothing more doctors can do for him.

'We are down to the wire and the goal now is to keep Patrick comfortable.

'His condition is inoperable and they have stopped the chemo. He's still losing weight and he's very weak.'

The friend added: 'Patrick regards himself as a cowboy, and is determined to die with his boots on and no regrets.'

In an interview earlier this month Swayze spoke of his prognosis, with the words: ‘I’d say five years is wishful thinking. Two years seems likely if you’re going to believe the statistics.’

Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi discuss his battle with pancreatic cancer with Barbara Walters

But he remained defiant, adding: ‘There's more I want to do. Lots more. I want to last until they find a cure.'

Swayze told ABC television's Barbara Walters that his year-long battle with cancer had put him 'through hell' while he pushed on with his new TV series.

He also owned up to his fear: 'Yeah, I'm scared. Yeah, I'm angry. Yeah, I'm (asking), 'Why me?'

The acknowledgment that his time was limited was a departure from the upbeat approach the star had adopted over previous months.

Despite the disease, Swayze had accepted a part as an under-cover FBI agent in a Chicago TV series called The Beast and refused to use painkillers in case it affected his performance. The program debuted on US television this week.

Swayze first realised his health was failing a year ago as he celebrated the start of 2008 with his wife Lisa Niemi, and found it painful to drink champagne.

The actor first found global fame as dance instructor Johnny Castle in the 1987 hit movie Dirty Dancing

The actor first found global fame as dance instructor Johnny Castle in the 1987 hit movie Dirty Dancing

Doctors found that Swayze had a malignant tumour in his pancreas. As it had spread to his liver, he was told surgery was not an option.

A spokesperson for the star was unavailable for comment on Wednesday night.

But a family friend said: 'He is touched by the flood of support from fans all over the world.

Dr Judy Kuriansky, a leading clinical psychologist who has not treated Swayze, said: 'When you are as determined an individual as Swayze, you want to have some control over how you spend your last days. I am sure he will summon every last vestige of strength to fulfill his desire.'

The news comes as it was announced that Swazye and his wife are penning a memoir of his life.

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