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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
September 15

Entertainment News September 15 - TOP 3 Stories for Saturday
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EA CHIEF: FILMS MORE VIOLENT THAN GAMES

The film and television industries make "far more violent" output than the "unfairly demonized" video games industry, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello told British executives here Friday, rejecting the accusation that the games industry is promoting violence in "a moral vacuum."

Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference, Riccitiello said that such shows as "24" and "CSI" and movies including "Kill Bill-Vol. 2" and "300" were as violent, if not more so, than even the most controversial video games such as "Manhunt" and "Grand Theft Auto."

"Compared with programs like '24' or 'The Shield,' or any movie from Quentin Tarantino, games are not any more violent," Riccitiello said.

Citing the example of British and U.S. regulators' decision to ban the video game "Manhunt 2" this year because it encourages players to commit a series of murders, the EA boss said the existing system of regulation was sufficient.

"There is also a rating system that works," he added. "The publishers went back and re-edited it."

Riccitiello rejected a challenge by ITV executive chairman Michael Grade, who said that the violence in games lacked the moral context and consequences of narrative drama on television and the big screen.

"Those acts of violence (shown in games) exist in a moral vacuum, whereas in films and television, it is set in a moral context, with real consequences, such as pain," Grade said.

But his comments were dismissed by the EA boss.

"Any number of films show violence in a moral vacuum, and they are scenes we have become comfortable with," Riccitiello said. "As storytelling in games increases, there will be more moral context. When you are playing games, there is a clear line in the sand between good and evil."

'VALKYRIE' GETS OK TO SHOOT ON HISTORIC SITE

After months of debate and controversy, Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie," which stars Tom Cruise as would-be Hitler assassin Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, has been granted permission to shoot at a key historic site in Berlin.

The German Defense Ministry on Friday overturned an earlier decision not to allow "Valkryie" to shoot at Bendlerblock building, the site where von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators plotted the assassination and where they were later executed by the Nazis.

The German government had banned the production from shooting on site, saying that Bendlerblock, now a memorial to von Stauffenberg, was a building of important historic significance whose "dignity" could be damaged by a film shoot.

Defense Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe said in an interview that the ministry changed its mind as a result of a letter from "Valkyrie" producer-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie.

"(McQuarrie) explained plans to use the site to cinematically link present-day, democratic Germany with the spot where the men were shot," Raabe said. "To show that it wasn't barbarism that triumphed but that a democratic Germany finally did emerge. I think the film can make a contribution (to understanding the history of World War II)."

Producer United Artists said in a statement: "We are extremely grateful to the German government for allowing us to film at the Bendlerblock. Filming at the Bendlerblock has always been important to us symbolically, creatively and for the sake of historical authenticity. As a result, we have been in constant communication with the government in an effort to dispel any concerns or misperceptions about the nature of 'Valkyrie.' "

Sources near the production said the defense ministry did impose some conditions on the shoot—including a ban on swastikas and Nazi flags at the Bendlerblock location. Showing the swastika in public is a criminal offense in Germany, and film crews need special permission to use the symbol for outside shoots.

Last year, Dani Levy's comedy spoof "Mein Fuhrer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler," raised eyebrows when it shot Nazi crowd scenes with a sea of swastikas in downtown Berlin.

The "Valkyrie" shoot has been the source of a different sort of controversy in Germany, controversy linked to Cruise's high-profile association with the Church of Scientology. Many in Germany view Scientology not as a legitimate religion but as a dangerous and democratically suspect cult.

Several prominent German politicians have criticized the decision to cast Cruise in the film. Von Stauffenberg's son, Graf Berthold von Stauffenberg, publicly attacked the project, saying a Scientologist such as Cruise "should keep his hands off my father."

But Germany's film community has come out in support of Cruise. Oscar-winning director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Others") wrote a long defense of the project in an article for national daily the Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Having a world star of Cruise's caliber playing the hero of the German resistance movement, Donnersmarck wrote, will do more to improve Germany's image internationally "than hosting 10 soccer World Cups."

AL GORE AT EMMY'S TO COMPLETE HOLLYWOOD LOOP

By the end of this weekend, Al Gore will have completed what could be described as the Hollywood loop: He will have been to the Grammys, the Oscars and, on Sunday, the Emmys.

He and business partner Joel Hyatt are nominated for Current TV, their two-year-old cable network that's aimed at the 18-34 demo and younger and that depends in part on viewer-generated content. Although Internet sites like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook draw the lion's share of attention, Current TV is available in 41 million U.S. homes and has been profitable since the end of last year.

Current is making its Emmy debut the same year that the Academy has decided to present the interactive TV nod at the live telecast instead of at the lower-profile Creative Arts Awards ceremony. Also nominated in the interactive category are MLB Mosaic, Bravo Media, DisneyChannel.com Broadband Video Player and BIAP Fantasy Football Television Tracker.

The shift to the primetime telecast, Hyatt said, shows the importance the TV Academy is placing on the award.

Gore, who was a presenter at the Grammys (he used the occasion to round up talent for the Live Earth concerts) and attended the Oscars as part of the team behind winning doc "An Inconvenient Truth," said the Emmy nom for Current "is an exciting recognition of the quality of user-generated content and the quality of the work of the people who are making this network hum every day."

Current TV launched Aug. 1, 2005, after Gore and Hyatt, along with an investment team, bought the Canadian news network Newsworld Intl. for a reported $70 million. Defying the expectations of many observers, who assumed that they would launch a progressive alternative to Fox News, they created a network of eclectic programming in so-called pods, short segments often less than 10 minutes in duration, touching on everything from student loan practices to the crystal meth crisis to International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

At times, the channel's programming can resemble a film festival of short subjects. In the recent mix, for example, was a segment on architect Santiago Calatrava and a viewer-submitted piece on the Kibera slums in Nairobi.

About one-third of the programming comes from viewers who submit their shorts and see them posted online for viewers to vote on what they want to see on air.

There was skepticism that such a network could succeed, but some validation has come with the rise of YouTube and, more importantly, with TV news outlets like ABC News and CNN calling for their own citizen-generated video. Most new cable nets try to achieve traction with a few signature programs or personalities, but Gore and Hyatt said that they have not been tempted to adopt more traditional formats, like a 30-minute network-style newscast.

"Rather than us trying to be like them, we are sometimes tempted to be flattered that they are trying to be like us," Gore said.

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