Archive for the ‘NEWS STORY’ Category

by Peter Martin May 30th 2010 // 3:02PM

Tony Jaa, preparing to become a monkYou might remember that Tony Jaa, who came to prominence as the high-flying, hard-kicking star of the highly entertaining Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, experienced some trouble during the production of Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, his directorial debut. At one point he reportedly walked off the set and into the jungle to work out his problems.Everything seemed to work out all right, old friends came back to help out, and the movie was released to good success in Thailand. Reviews were mixed to negative (in both my view and that of Todd Gilchrist), but everyone agreed the fight scenes were spectacular. Not so the follow-up, Ong Bak 3, which failed at the box office. And now Jaa has left acting behind, at least temporarily; he rode atop an elephant to a ceremony where his head was shaved, he took vows, and he was ordained as a Buddhist monk, as reported by Twitch.

“Thai Buddhist men routinely enter the monkhood at various auspicious times in their lives for short duration,” observes local film journalist Wise Kwai. Jaa’s service as a monk may well be temporary, but whether that means months or years is up to Jaa. In his report for Twitch, Todd Brown provides context on Jaa’s career and details the troubles on the Ong Bak 2 set. He’s seen Ong Bak 3 and thinks it “stinks of contractual obligation,” that Jaa has lost his fire as a performer, and that the actor and budding filmmaker will wait out his 10-year contract with the production company behind Ong Bak 2 and 3. Personally, I think if that’s what it takes for Jaa to find peace and happiness, that’s what he should do.

Posted by Cole Abaius ( on May 31, 2010 Share

I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t know Bela Lugosi was actually Lt. Lugosi of the Austro-Hungarian Army. He’s just one of many Hollywood legends who served in the military, and on this Memorial Day, I think it’s fitting that we take a look at 20 movie icons that you might not have realized had careers in the Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marines.

A few of these names won’t be all that surprising, but most will make you look twice. Some of them had illustrious careers in horror, others as dancers, still others as directors and producers. Comedy, drama, westerns, war movies (oddly enough), science fiction, and romance – all major genres are represented here. The bond that these men (and one woman) shared was that before (or during) their stellar careers on the silver screen, they strapped on a uniform and reported for duty.

This list concludes our week long Boots on the Ground countdown to Memorial Day. Now go out, have a moment of silence, and then toss a few steaks on the grill.

Flt. Lt. Donald Pleasance, Royal Air Force

Before trying to calm Michael Myers down or escaping from a POW camp in The Great Escape, Donald Pleasance was actually in a German POW camp. He flew in WWII with the 166 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, and was captured after being shot down. Interestingly, he reportedly produced plays while imprisoned. There’s no word on whether he dealt with a masked psycho killer in real life, though.

Lt. Alan Alda, US Army Reserve

It’s impossible to think of Alan Alda without thinking of “M.A.S.H.” After a decade of being on a show that produced the single largest viewing audience of all time, it’s easy to see why he was a bit typecast. However, he joined the cast of the show with a bit of his own real life experience serving as a gunnery officer in Korea after the Korean War.

Col. Frank Capra, US Army

Before making It’s a Wonderful Life, Capra joined the Army and taught during WWI. He would go on to start building an unbelievable career in film which included You Can’t Take it With You, It Happened One Night, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and even after massive success, he would return for WWII. He used his expertise to create educational films for the War Department (including what some believe is a masterpiece of propaganda filmmaking) with the next entry on the list.

Lt. Col. Dr. Seuss, US Army

If you got a chance to read my write up of The Dark Side of Dr. Seuss (or were fortunate enough to see it yourself) then you already know that Theodor Geisel joined the Army and worked with Capra’s First Motion Picture Unit. There, he made educational cartoons featuring a bumbling private named Snafu and, like Capra, directed propaganda films. So, yes, it’s safe to assume that the Cat in the Hat was anti-Hitler.

HM Bill Cosby, US Navy

The man who gave us advice, made kids say the darndest things, and sold us pudding was also a Navy Hospital Corpsman. He worked with soldiers, marines and airmen severely injured in the Korean War. That’s right everyone. Ghost Dad was in the military.

Humphrey Bogart, US Navy

Not only was Bogart in the Navy, he may owe his entire career to it. The stories are not exactly clear, but several different accounts tell of how the actor was injured doing his duty in such a way that left him with a scar you might recognize and a lisp that developed. Of course, like most things with Bogart, that could all be tall tales, but his military service isn’t.

Airman Chuck Norris, US Air Force

It may or may not be true that, at one time, Chuck Norris was the U.S. Air Force.

Lt. Col. David Niven, British Army

David Niven was terrible at being in the military during peace time. He was insubordinate, got arrested for it, got his guard drunk, and escaped to New York City to send a telegram back home announcing his resignation. Of course, when WWII started, he paused his budding film career to rejoin the Army, took part in the Invasion of Normandy, and eventually won the Legion of Merit – the highest honor the US bestows on foreign servicemen.

Rod Serling, US Army Air Force

The master of science fiction and creator of “The Twilight Zone” was apparently so eager to get to war that he enlisted in the army the day after graduating high school. He’s another example of a talent that was born from serving – citing that his time fighting in WWII (and earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star) made him turn to writing.

Audrey Hepburn, Dutch Resistance

Hepburn wasn’t in the military, so I’m cheating here, but I couldn’t leave her off the list because 1) she raised money for the Dutch Resistance in WWII by performing ballet routines 2) was a volunteer nurse in a Dutch hospital which received many Allied wounded and 3) it was getting a little dude-centric in here.

Sean Connery, Royal Navy

Bond, James Bond was not only in the Navy, but he enlisted when he was 16 years old and spent 3 years of service right after WWII.

Lt. James Doohan, Royal Canadian Army

What you may not know about the Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise is that before he beamed anyone up, he was a complete bad ass. After joining the Army, his first mission was the D-Day invasion of Normandy and was shot six times by a machine gun (and saved by a silver cigarette case). He then trained as a pilot and went on to be called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces.” I have no idea how one earns that nickname, but it’s clear that Doohan’s service was impressive – crazy or not.

Clint Eastwood, US Army

Like many men his age after WWII, Eastwood was drafted into the Army. Luckily for him, it was a major turning point in his life. He taught life-saving at Fort Ord where he encountered several film stars who convinced him to move to Los Angeles and become an actor. It was Chuck Hill, a man stationed at Fort Ord with Eastwood that would later introduce him to contacts at Universal.

Don Knotts, US Army

So you might have heard that Don Knotts was a hard ass drill sergeant in the marines, but that’s just an urban legend. In truth, Knotts was drafted into the Army in 1943, but he never fought. Instead, the military saw fit to use his special talents by having him entertain troops throughout the Pacific.

Lt. Alec Guinness, Royal Navy

There was no way I’d include someone from “Star Trek” without including someone from Star Wars. I couldn’t afford the fines. Fortunately, Obi-Wan himself was an officer in the Royal Navy during WWII. Before becoming obsessed with building a bridge on the river Kwai and becoming a Jedi Master, he commanded a vessel which took part in the invasion Sicily and Elba island.

Jack Palance, US Army Air Force

Modern audiences remember him as Curly but film fans know him as the scariest-looking villain to ever grace a Western. Unfortunately, that iconic, rugged look came from a tragic crash Palance was involved in while training with a B-24 Liberator. He was discharged in 1944, and would later head out to try his luck in show business. Luckily, he’d already changed his name from Vladamir Palahniuk to Jack Palance years before which undoubtedly helped his casting chances.

Michael Caine, British Army

After a giant career, Michael Caine has burst back into the mainstream spotlight helping out Batman, but before all of that, he served from 1952-1954, seeing active duty in Korea with the Royal Fusiliers.

Lt. Kirk Douglas, US Navy

The man who would later appear in Kubrick’s anti-war Paths of Glory (and, of course, The Final Countdown) was in the Navy during WWII. Douglas was with an anti-submarine patrol in the Pacific but was injured in 1944 and subsequently discharged. Of course, almost immediately after, he caught a big break in his acting career that would make him one of the best known stars of that generation.

Lt. Gene Kelly, US Navy

It’s hard to imagine the all-singing, all-dancing Gene Kelly storming the beaches of Normandy, which is good, because he didn’t. However, he did serve his country proudly by joining the Navy and writing/directing several documentaries while based in Washington, DC.

Cpl. Mel Brooks, US Army

This is the most surprising name on the list. Mel Brooks is the consummate comedian, a man who has made millions laugh with some of the funniest films ever made. But before writing “Springtime for Hitler,” he was in the Army during WWII. He joined up at 17 and was set to work defusing landmines. Later, he would fight in the famous Battle of the Bulge.

Editor’s Note: There are a ton of movie stars and directors who served in the military (including even more who served their home countries while building a career in Hollywood). For a fairly extensive list, go here. And be sure to celebrate war films by reading our Boots on the Ground entries.

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New york universal 003

The price tag would impress Donald Trump.

Universal Studios revealed on Thursday that it had invested $200 million to rebuild its New York Street back lot, along with the King Kong attraction, both of which burned down two years ago.

Universal executives wouldn't say how much of the cost was covered by insurance, but described the rebuild as the largest set-construction project in Hollywood history.

"This is a proud day for Universal,'' Universal Studios President Ron Meyer said during an unveiling ceremony attended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who shot several movies on the property in his acting days — and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "The opening of New York Street shows the company's commitment to film and television production in Los Angeles and to supporting filmmakers worldwide."

The back lot's closure was a blow to the production community because it was a fixture in Hollywood for decades and was used in scores of TV shows, commercials and movies such as "To Kill a Mockingbird,"  "Back to the Future" and "The Blues Brothers."

Redesigned with the help of filmmaker Steven Spielberg and his longtime production designer Rick Carter, the new back lot features taller buildings, narrower streets and more interior spaces to cater to current film-making needs.

The set spans 13 city blocks and includes 15 distinct shooting locations representing such areas as Wall Street, the Broadway theater district and Central Park, as well as a London section and a Paris square. Universal worked with L.A. County Fire officials to include fire safety features in the facades.

Studio executives thanked local firefighters for their efforts to contain damage from the 2008 blaze and showed their gratitude by presenting a $100,000 check to local firefighting departments.

— Richard Verrier

Photo credit: Universal Studios

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These are cool photos

This Is How You Lift a Sunk War Ship Off the Sea

With huge chains and honking cranes, that’s how. Example: This Republic of Korea Navy’s corvette—half of it, actually—floating over the sea’s surface. And before you cry “PHOTOSHOP!”, check out the scene from a distance.

This Is How You Lift a Sunk War Ship Off the Sea

It’s the Cheonan, a South Korean Pohang-class corvette that broke in two on March 26. According to an international investigation, the cause was a torpedo fired from a North Korean Yeono class miniature submarine, killing 46 crew members. A few weeks later, on April 15, the South Korean Navy recovered the stern part from the bottom of the sea using a giant floating crane. On April 24, the bow was recovered.

Cheonan sinking information from Wikipedia

Send an email to Jesus Diaz, the author of this post, at

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Posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 by David Chen


It looks as though Kevin Costner’s Waterworld wasn’t a complete and massive waste of time and resources after all. While he was working on that film, Costner paid scientists millions of dollars to develop a device that could do what his fictional character’s invention could do in the film: purify ocean water. Working prototypes of the device actually exist, which Costner has dubbed “Ocean Therapy.” Now, with the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers, British Petroleum has given the go-ahead for Costner to test six of his devices to help clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf.

First, a little bit of background on the spill. The result of an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig, the Gulf oil spill is currently sending over 210,000 gallons of oil into the water per day. British Petroleum have been trying everything to slow down the rate of spillage. In fact, some of their solutions have sounded pretty, well, silly. As usual, no one breaks the situation down better than Stephen Colbert.

Costner’s machines use centrifuge technology to separate oil from water, rendering the water 97% pure. “It’s like a big vacuum cleaner,” explained one of Costner’s business partners. Costner, a longtime environmentalist, was glad that his invention would finally be deployed, but saddend at the occasion. “We’ve moved this to a technology that we know works, and has worked for a long time,” Costner said, “It’s prepared to go out and solve problems, not talk about them.” He added: “I just [am] really happy that the light of day has come to this, and I’m sad about why it is. But this is why it was developed, and like in anything that we face as a group, we all face it together.”

According to the New York Daily News (via Erin Equill’s Twitter) “Costner has 300 machines in various sizes, with the largest able to clean water at a rate of 200 gallons per minute.” Below is a news report that contains a demonstration of Costner’s invention.

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As I read Nicole LaPorte’s lively new history of DreamWorks, “The Men Who Would Be King,” I found myself transported to a time long, long ago, an era so far gone that when DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg once complained to titular DreamWorks production chief Walter Parkes that he didn’t have anything resembling a tentpole action extravaganza on the production slate, Parkes calmly replied: “If this is the kind of place where you need to have a big summer movie, well, maybe I’m not the right person for the job.”

Ah, those were the days. Founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Katzenberg when they were three of the uber-titans of the entertainment business, DreamWorks was supposed to be the studio that would transform the movie business, a modern-day media behemoth with its tentacles in music, TV, video games and all sorts of other gaudy new media arenas.

Instead of making dumbed-down comedies and  throwaway programmers, DreamWorks would offer glossy, sophisticated films that would appeal to quality-conscious moviegoers — and still make plenty of money in the process.

It didn’t pan out. For all the hoopla about DreamWorks being the studio of the future, it was very much a studio steeped in the past. Its aspirations had far more in common with the MGM of the 1930s and 1940s than the Pixar of the 21st century. DreamWorks turned out to be nothing more than just another struggling new movie studio — and quite a whopper of a dysfunctional studio at that — with its admirable output of quality fare ultimately outweighed by a host of costly live-action misfires and a mixed bag of animation releases.

In short, when you look back at all the high expectations, it was a pretty big disappointment. 

DreamWorks 2.0 is back in business, now run by Spielberg and Stacey Snider with its films being distributed by Disney. But as LaPorte’s book makes abundantly clear, the original DreamWorks was doomed from the start. Parkes’ reaction to Katzenberg’s initial concerns about the studio’s mandate is especially revelatory on several levels. Even back in the late 1990s, when the exchange occurred, studios were already turning themselves into franchise engines, filling up their slates with tentpole movies and tons of sequels.

But Parkes was simply reflecting the attitude of his real boss – -Spielberg, who as the book reveals, was so in awe of Parkes’ Ivy League erudition, good looks and certitude that as one observer put it, “If an alien from space landed in a room with Steven and Walter, it would think that Steven worked for Walter.” So Parkes was reflecting Spielberg’s vision for the company, as an artist-oriented studio that would do good works, an admirable vision, but not one that entirely reflected the views of Geffen, a man with a fierce desire to win, and Katzenberg, who having worked for years under Michael Eisner, had both feet firmly planted in the camp of making crowd-pleasing entertainment.

As the book also points out, the tension between Katzenberg and Spielberg, via Parkes, wasn’t just about a different attitude toward class versus crass. It also reflected Katzenberg’s not always unspoken feeling that after years of studio experience, he was far more qualified to run DreamWorks’ live-action division than Parkes, a talented writer-producer with, well, zero actual experience running a studio. But to Spielberg, Katzenberg may have been his partner, but he was still a schlepper. Parkes had good taste. So when “The Peacemaker,” DreamWorks’ first live-action film, went into production, shooting in Slovakia, its star, George Clooney, was furious to discover that he was always having to learn new lines faxed in from L.A. by Parkes, who it turned out wasn’t just the studio chief and a producer of the film but its rewrite man as well.

This sort of thing happened all the time at DreamWorks, which never managed to have any clear divisions of authority, except for the fact that Katzenberg had full sway over its animation wing. A series of production chiefs came and went, including such highly touted talents as ex-HBO executive Bob Cooper and ex-New Line production chief Michael De Luca, none of them lasting very long, quickly discovering that Parkes and his wife, Laurie MacDonald, were the real powers behind the throne.

Shortly after De Luca arrived, LaPorte writes that Parkes and MacDonald took him around town to introduce the new studio president at the top talent agencies. But over and over, De Luca and the other DreamWorks production execs were made to wait outside until Parkes and MacDonald finished the most important piece of business — offering a presentation of the movies they were producing themselves. “It was unbelievable,” one agent told LaPorte. “The writing was on the wall, right there. [Their] agenda was first, and Mike was an afterthought.”

After I finished reading the book last week, I asked LaPorte the obvious question: What went wrong? She has some intriguing theories about the company’s failure to live up to its high expectations. Keep reading:

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After the coffee. Before wondering if “Saturday Night Live” will get Abe Vigoda to host next season’s opener.

“Iron Man 2” huge but not HUGE. We’re all so jaded that the news for some press is that “Iron Man 2” took in $133.6 million in its opening weekend but didn’t set a new record. It only became the fifth-biggest opening of all time. Even with the inflation factor, that still seems somewhat impressive. As my dad, also a journalist, once said of the craft: “Behind every silver lining is a cloud.” Anyway, box-office analysis and spin from the Los Angeles Times, Hot Blog, Wall Street Journal and Hollywood Reporter.

More laughs at NBC? That’s laughs at NBC, not laughing at NBC. The network’s prime-time entertainment head, Angela Bromstad, tells the Hollywood Reporter that the peacock network will consider adding another hour of sitcoms on its schedule beyond Thursday night. That’s about the only tidbit in the interview. Oh, and sorry “Chuck” fans, she wouldn’t say whether the show would be coming back. Variety offers us a broad overview of network TV’s week ahead, including issues facing CBS (Charlie Sheen) and NBC (nailing down a deal for another season of “Law & Order”). Could Sheen walk? Anything is possible, but the cynic in me still says he gets a deal done by next week.

iTunes tax? The Wrap looks at a battle between North Carolina and over whether the online retailer’s customers in that state owe sales tax and wonders whether it will extend to iTunes and other Web-based merchants. If a state can tax it, the odds are it will try.

CBS to play with iPad. lands an interview with Anthony Soohoo, senior vice president of CBS Interactive, who says the network will have a heavy load of content on Apple’s iPad come this fall.

If you think “Family Guy” is obscene …: Take a look at some of the salaries at Fox parent company News Corp., including the paycheck of chief executive Rupert Murdoch. Hey, we’re not calling Rupert’s base salary obscene (anyone who still believes in news is OK with us), but that was the word used by one executive pay analyst. More on how media executives continue to pull in big paychecks while the industry struggles from the Los Angeles Times.

Forget “American Idol,” buy ads in “Chuck.” Advertising Age’s Brian Steinberg does some analysis of Nielsen’s IAG rankings, which looks at how engaged viewers are with the shows they’re watching and finds that cult shows such as ABC’s soon-to-be-history “Better off Ted” has a higher viewer engagement than “American Idol.” No surprise that the show with the most engaged audience (lunatic is the word that comes to my mind) is ABC’s “Lost.” NBC’s “Chuck” and ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” also have obsessed followers. In theory, these folks are also more likely to recall the commercials they’ve seen.

Thank you, Robert Bianco. The USA Today TV critic dares to pan Betty White’s hosting duties on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.” He’s not anti-White mind you, he’s against lame writing, which “SNL,” as usual, offered up. We get it, watching a sweet-looking 88-year-old with a soft voice talk dirty is funny — the first six times or so, but a whole night of it? The show did do very well in the preliminary ratings, as Deadline Hollywood notes. Final ratings for “SNL” won’t be out for several more days as Nielsen apparently runs numbers about as fast as Betty White runs.

Keeping tabs. One of the biggest challenges of doing this roundup (besides getting up at 5:30 a.m.) is keeping up with all the reporters who routinely have interesting takes on our industry. A few have found new homes, including the Wrap’s Joe Adalian, who is going to New York magazine’s site Vulture; Claire Atkinson, who leaves Broadcasting & Cable for the New York Post; and Peter Lauria, who left the Post for The Daily Beast. I realize the Morning Fix is read as much by other reporters as industry folks and wanted to let the industry know where some of the folks they read are going or have gone. And for all the writers out there, I can’t find everything, so if you have a clip that you think is Morning Fix worthy (and Lord knows I’ve set a high bar), then send it my way.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: The FCC has given a green light to the movie industry that could lead to movies premiering in the home when they premiere in the theater. Soft-core adult entertainment is still a staple of pay cable.

— Joe Flint

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