Archive for April, 2008

A prize-winning comedy writer and comic from Montreal is putting John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to “Give Peace a Chance” up for auction at Christie’s in London.

In 1969, 16-year-old Gail Renard dodged security at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel and managed to sneak into suite 1742, where Lennon and new wife Yoko Ono were staging an eight-day bed-in for peace. She stayed with the couple for a week.

Upon the last night of the bed-in, Lennon gave Renard an autographed picture and a piece of cardboard on which he had scribbled in black marker the lyrics to “Give Peace a Chance.” The song was sung and recorded in the suite June 1, 1969.

“It will be worth something someday,” predicted Lennon.

The prized memento will go on the auction block July 10 and is expected to fetch upwards of $400,000.

The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass has been dubbed a children’s story but the film’s ability to truly charm the heart of anyone may be limited by his or her familiarity with the written version.

In a charming parallel world, witches soar, Ice Bears rule the north and your soul is a daemon that lives by your side in the shape of a representative animal. Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is a mischievous child who is given the responsibility of keeping a mystical truth-telling device. During her journey, Lyra uncovers the evil plans of Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) and discovers the fate of the universe rests in her young hands. With the help of Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott) and a group of other unlikely allies, Lyra embarks on an extraordinary quest.

The original story by Philip Pullman is quite intricate and filmmaker Chris Weitz’s need to pare it down to simple, comprehensible essentials leads certain aspects to be omitted or reordered while other elements remain unclear until they are explained in the commentary or one of the many featurettes (like why do we have to separate children from their daemons?). Of course, this confusion only applies to those who have not read the source material.

It’s recommended only very serious fans of the film or the really curious pickup the two-disc edition, as the second disc is more than two-and-a-half hours of detailed, short documentaries exploring the original material, the adaptation, and the incredibly hard work put in to creating such a visually elaborate film.

The Diving Bell and the ButterflyAt first one wonders how the story of a man that can do nothing but blink one eye could be made accessible and watchable by an audience – but that is why Julian Schnabel received the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) was the director of Elle magazine in France; he was successful, rich and known around Paris. Then, at 42, he suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed his entire body except for one eye. He was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Bauby chooses to embrace his condition and make the best of his time by fulfilling a book contract. Communicating through a series of blinks, Bauby dictates a novel containing thoughts about his life up to and after the stroke.

Realizing this is a difficult story to transfer to the screen, Schnabel brilliantly decided to tell the first 40 minutes from Bauby’s point of view. As a result, everyone acts toward a stationary camera that can only pan and tilt within a limited range. This forces the audience to identify with Bauby in a way that would not have been otherwise possible; without this identification, one could not truly understand his triumph.

The “making of” documentary sheds some light on how the point of view of a paralyzed man was captured, highlighting the work of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. On the other hand, the Charlie Rose interview is somewhat annoying – mostly because Rose constantly interrupts Schnabel. Finally, the director commentary provides little insight.

However, despite their presence, this DVD is more about the inspired film than the supplements.

Amy Winehouse (Photo: Universal Music)The 24-year-old singer was arrested on suspicion of assault Friday following reports she scuffled with two men during a night out in the Chalk Farm area of north London.

Winehouse was held after she arrived at a central London police station to be questioned about an incident said to have occurred Wednesday. She had no comment for photographers as she walked into the station late Friday afternoon.

Earlier, a spokesman for the singer said she would be attending “voluntarily,” by appointment with officers.

A man told tabloid newspapers he was hit by Winehouse when he got in her way while she was playing pool at a bar and then she head-butted another man who was trying to hail her a cab in the early hours Wednesday morning.

Police did not confirm Winehouse was in custody. A Scotland Yard spokesman only said, “A 24-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of assault after attending a central London police station by appointment. She is currently in custody.” However, British authorities don’t usually name suspects until they have been charged.

The multi-Grammy winning soulstress recently entered rehab after years of erratic behaviour and cancelled concerts.

Meanwhile, Winehouse’s husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, has appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, where a provisional trial date was set for him to face charges of assault and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The 25-year-old has denied the allegations and is due to stand trial June 2.

The pair married last May.

‘ALMOST LIKE CENSORSHIP’: Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee attacks proposed Bill C-10 (Photo: Focus Features)Oscar-winning director Ang Lee spoke out against proposed Bill C-10 in a talk to Vancouver filmmakers Sunday, urging them to “make a noise, whatever” to stop Bill C-10. “It’s almost like censorship.”

The pending legislation would give the Heritage Minister power to deny tax credits to Canadian productions deemed contrary to public policy, even after government agencies have invested. The bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate.

The acclaimed director declared, “People should be free to say anything.” He also pointed out he was not censored in making the film about gay cowboys, which was shot in Alberta.

Upon hearing of his comments, Heritage Minister Josée Verner issued a statement Monday: “I’m surprised about the comments of Mr. Ang Lee, director of the world acclaimed movie Brokeback Mountain.”

In addition to pointing out that as a non-Canadian Lee is exempt from being denied the particular tax credit included in the bill, Verner denied Lee’s charges of censorship.

“Our government is determined to ensure freedom of expression and will continue to support the production of entertaining and high quality content,” the statement said. “We are reaching out to industry to work with them on Bill C-10. Together, we will find the best solution for the industry, for Canadian citizens and tax payers.”

Lee’s Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain was banned in his homeland of China, while his recent Lust, Caution was cut for Chinese audiences as the sex and nudity was deemed contrary to the country’s puritan values. In addition, Beijing authorities have blacklisted Tang Wei, Lust, Caution’s young protagonist, because her character glorifies unpatriotic behaviour.

Earlier this month, Sarah Polley, Wendy Crewson and other prominent members of the Canadian film industry appeared before the Senate to make clear the difficulties filmmakers would face if the bill was passed, particularly in securing funding for projects.

Jet Li and Jackie Chan in a scene from Forbidden Kingdom (Photo courtesy of Maple Pictures)After nearly a decade, the wait is finally over – Jet Li and Jackie Chan are sharing the big screen. However, those that yearned for a ruthless, blood-spattered thrill ride may be a little disappointed.

Jason (Michael Angarano) is a teenaged boy with few friends and an obsession with kung fu movies. One night Jason is suddenly thrust into his martial arts fantasy and entrusted with a great responsibility: awakening in ancient China, Jason must successfully return a magical staff to the Monkey King (Li), whom the Jade War Lord (Collin Chou) has imprisoned in stone. He is joined on his quest by drunken kung fu master Lu Yan (Chan), Silent Monk (Li again), and vengeance-seeking Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei). But only by learning the true principles of kung fu will Jason be able to complete his task and find a way home.

The core of this film’s plot is the ancient Chinese legend of the Monkey King; the centre of its promotion is the pairing of two martial arts legends; however, the Western take on these two results in a story little better than the adolescent dream fulfillment flicks that came before it – particularly the predictable bully ass-kicking that Jason delivers at the end with his newly acquired kung fu.

The fortunate thing is filmmakers did not hold back on the action. Fans will have to wait about half an hour but their patience is rewarded with a captivating eight-minute martial arts fight sequence between Chan and Li. All the battles were designed by famed fight choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen, who also worked on The Matrix series, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Li’s Fearless and Unleashed. No one else could have effectively instructed these veteran talents.

Furthermore, shooting the epic action fantasy on location in China meant stunning locales reminiscent of those in House of Flying Daggers and authentic set design comparable to that of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Are the wedding bells ringing because Ashlee Simpson’s pregnant?

Rumours started swirling Monday when Us Weekly and OK! magazine both claimed a source close to the couple confirmed a bun in the oven. But fiancé Pete Wentz is calling the whole thing a “witch hunt.”

In an email to MTV News, the Fall Out Boy bassist, 28, wrote, “There is a witch hunt for people to be pregnant whenever they get engaged in Hollywood. This is all news to me. I can’t wait for the story about how I’m really in a gay relationship and this is all just a cover… I mean really, this is crazy… I mean we’re engaged, that’s true, and happy about it.”

Asked again if he was denying reports that Simpson, 23, is pregnant, Wentz replied, “Yeah.”

The couple announced their engagement on the social networking site FriendsorEnemies.com late Wednesday. In a joint statement, they wrote, “we are thrilled to share that we are happily engaged,” adding they wanted their fans to be the first to know. “We wanted to be the first to tell you and to hear it straight from us.”

However, the rumour inferno burned bright when a spokesperson declined to confirm or deny the baby bump reports that surfaced Monday. “We are thrilled to confirm their engagement and congratulate this happy couple. Beyond that there is nothing to add.”

The pair has been romantically linked since 2006.