Wednesday Apr 1, 2015

New boarding and pet programs: how airlines are trying to pull fast ones this April Fool's Day

From the world’s first dedicated airport lounge for pets to lounge seats that transform into airplane seats and a new name change aimed at mollifying sticklers for spelling, here’s an early look at some of the cheeky April Fool’s Day pranks from airlines around the world.When it comes to...
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TV

New boarding and pet programs: how airlines are trying to pull fast ones this April Fool's Day
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
New boarding and pet programs: how airlines are trying to pull fast ones this April Fool's Day

From the world’s first dedicated airport lounge for pets to lounge seats that transform into airplane seats and a new name change aimed at mollifying sticklers for spelling, here’s an early look at some of the cheeky April Fool’s Day pranks from airlines around the world.When it comes to pulling off elaborate, viral pranks on April 1, Canadian no-frills carrier WestJet is no slouch. In 2012, in response to customer complaints of noisy, crying, bothersome knee-high flyers, the airline 'debuted' an innovative new service called Kargo Kids that placed kiddies in the cargo hold, allowing adults to travel in peace. In 2013, the airline also announced plans to ease their travel restrictions on pets with their Furry Family program, allowing monkeys, ducks, bears, and assorted amphibians to buy seats and reserve overhead storage bins. New this year, WestJet has introduced a new boarding concept that allows passengers to board seven times faster than traditional boarding practices thanks to their SmartSeats: a program that allows flyers to strap into their plane seats straight from the lounge. That’s right. To cut down pesky boarding times, the airline has developed a motorized system that wheels seated passengers directly between the waiting lounge onto the aircraft. The program is not, however, without its glitches, with jerky starts, steering, speed and coordination issues. In other news April Fool's Day news, Virgin Australia, perhaps inspired by WestJet’s Furry Family concept, likewise announced plans to open the world’s first lounge for pets as an extension of their (real) frequent flyer program for pets. Top tier members are privy to grooming and pampering services and gourmet dining experiences that include ‘à la cat’ and ‘dog-ustation’ meal options. And finally, Australia’s flagship carrier Qantas announced plans to finally mollify spelling sticklers once and for all by adding the letter ‘u’ to its name. Watch WestJet’s video at http://bit.ly/1CwgLWC and Virgin Australia’s prank at http://bit.ly/1C6GvVR. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

'X Files' actor David Duchovny to release 1st album in May
Tuesday Mar 31, 2015
'X Files' actor David Duchovny to release 1st album in May

NEW YORK (AP) — "X Files" actor David Duchovny is releasing his first music album. He announced Tuesday he'll release "Hell or Highwater" on May 12. The album will include 12 tracks he wrote. Duchovny has won two Golden Globes and is best known for his roles in the TV series "The X Files" and "Californication." He says in a statement making the album was a "dream come true," though he adds it's shocking to think he has a musical career. The first single is the title track and already is available. The music is being released on ThinkSay Records. Duchovny will star in the upcoming NBC series "Aquarius," which debuts May 28. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Pssst: Don Draper doesn't really write those 'Mad Men' ads
Tuesday Mar 31, 2015
Pssst: Don Draper doesn't really write those 'Mad Men' ads

NEW YORK (AP) — Matthew Weiner is no "mad man." He's never worked in advertising. But as the creator of "Mad Men," AMC's drama series about advertising in 1960s-era New York City, he's cooked up more than a few advertisements. Lucky Strike cigarettes, Kodak Carousel slide projectors, Burger Chef, London Fog raincoats: These vintage products are part of the culture of "Mad Men," which let its audience experience them anew through the ads brainstormed by advertising whiz Don Draper and his colleagues — ads that in truth were conceived by Weiner with his fellow "Mad Men" writers as they fashioned each script. "The advertising was always reverse-engineered to serve the theme of the story," Weiner explained as "Mad Men" neared its final seven-episode run (Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT). Just think of Season 5's Jaguar account. It was landed only after the agency loaned sexy office manager Joan Harris to the lecherous Jaguar client for a night. The accompanying tagline Weiner devised: "Jaguar. Finally something beautiful you can own," which echoed the action: For a night, the client could imagine he owned Joan. Even so, the two former real-life ad men in the "Mad Men" writers' room shouted Weiner down. "They said, 'That's a terrible ad!' They said people who can buy a Jaguar can own LOTS of beautiful things: 'So what's the difference here?'" The difference they came up with was to add this one word: truly. "We made the ad 'Finally something beautiful you can truly own.' The idea was you can possess this in many ways beyond the literal purchase." It served as a great way to frame the story's subtext, never mind that it wasn't necessarily a great ad. "I'm not sure that, even with 'truly' in the tagline, it would have passed muster at a real agency," Weiner conceded. "But fortunately, that doesn't matter when you're creating both the pitch AND the client's response to it." Weiner remains proud of Draper's footprints-in-the-sand pitch for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Season 6, even though "Hawaii: The jumping off point" may have been a bit too avant garde for 1968. Note: The Hawaiian hotel itself wasn't pictured in the ad, nor was the traveler — just his clothes strewn on a beach with footprints leading to the water's edge. "He got off the plane, took a deep breath, shed his skin and jumped off," Draper explained in his pitch, then asked rhetorically, "What happened to him?" "I think, and I think people might think, that he died," said the client unhappily. Suicide-by-drowning wasn't what Draper was selling, but his belly flop of an ad fit snugly into that episode, which focused on issues of mortality. Weiner said that, in capturing the agency's sometimes contentious creative process, the writers' room at "Mad Men" sometimes took on the same atmosphere. "The biggest argument we had about advertising, ever, was in Season 2," he said. "It was whether to dump Mohawk Airlines, so the agency would have a shot at American Airlines. "I was like, 'That is so immoral! Don wouldn't DO that!'" And, indeed, Don protested in the finished scene, noting that, despite being smaller than American, Mohawk was "a good client who trusts us, who likes our work, who pays their bills on time. They don't deserve to be thrown out the door for a wink from American." But back in the writers' room, one of the show's agency veterans had chortled at such naivete. "He said to me, 'Are you nuts?!'" recalled Weiner, "and made a gesture with his hands like unbalanced scales — one hand, $1 million; the other hand, $7 million." Weiner put that same sarcastic gesture in the episode, exhibited by account services head Duck Phillips, who then snorted, "Is there an issue?" Don was overruled by this cynical logic. So was Weiner. But not before the "Mad Men" colleague threw up his hands and marveled, "This writers' room is just like an agency!" _____                  EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier . Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore                   _____                  Online:                  www.amctv.com Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Frazier Moore from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Barbara Walters making series for ID network
Tuesday Mar 31, 2015
Barbara Walters making series for ID network

NEW YORK (AP) — Barbara Walters resisted using the word "retirement" when she left "The View" and here's one reason why: She has a new series set to begin this October on the Investigation Discovery network. The fast-growing ID network said Tuesday that Walters will present "American Scandal," a series that looks back on well-known crimes where she worked on the stories initially. In the new series, she'll revisit cases involving Jean Harris, the former girls' school headmistress convicted of the murder of her lover, and Mary Kay Letourneau (leh-TUR'-noh), a suburban Seattle teacher convicted of raping a 12-year-old student. Walters has committed to making six episodes of "American Scandal." She joins a list of broadcast news veterans like Paula Zahn, Tamron Hall, Chris Hansen and John Quinones who do work for ID. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Just 7 more episodes of 'Mad Men' as its creator looks back
Tuesday Mar 31, 2015
Just 7 more episodes of 'Mad Men' as its creator looks back

NEW YORK (AP) — How time flies in this very mad world! It seems like only yesterday that the 1960s were dawning for Don Draper, his family and his comrades at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Now, as if in the blink of an eye, the '60s are waning as "Mad Men" nears the end of its glorious run. When the series begins its final stretch Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT on AMC, the passage of time will be palpable for all concerned — the series' characters, its audience and, oh, by the way, "Mad Men" mastermind Matthew Weiner. "I'm out of work," cracks Weiner, who wrapped shooting last July, finished postproduction last October and, in December, vacated his office of seven years. He is excited about what the last lap will bring, but, during this recent conversation, was customarily tight-lipped. "We deal with the consequences of material success," he says, only hinting at what lies ahead for the agency's newly well-to-do partners. "The incredible windfall they got at the end of last season wasn't just a plot device. It is propelling them into these last seven episodes: Once all your material needs are met, what else is on your mind?" In an interview a few weeks before "Mad Men" premiered in July 2007, Weiner explained why he had placed his ambitious new drama in the 1960s. "By talking about that era," he said, "I can talk about everything right now that I care about." Things like civil rights. Sex. Gender roles. The nature of adulthood. And that he has done, season after season, with a drama of modern society as viewed through the prism of modernity as it was a half-century ago. Weiner centered the action on Draper, whose gift for image-making, seduction and strategic chicanery was perfectly suited to the advertising game. Meanwhile, Draper, like the '60s, was sufficiently removed, but not too far removed, from the present day to lend it fresh perspective — what Weiner calls "the quotidian reality of everyday behavior and desire and aspiration and frustration" — with startling currency, not to mention retro chic. Even so, Weiner's choice of time frame was remarkable, since he, now 49, fell short of membership among the usual custodians of '60s lore: baby boomers. And his chosen hero, Draper, born in the 1920s, was significantly older than the boomer crowd. "The story has been told mostly through the baby boomers," Weiner says. "They got their hands on the wheel and they've been taking us on a tour of the quote-unquote 'Turbulent Sixties' ever since. But that way, we see it through the eyes of a child. I wanted to focus on what an adult was during that period." When "Mad Men" began, Draper was already in his mid-30s, and increasingly he has viewed that decade through wary eyes. "Matt used a lot of incredibly resonant 1960s touchstones," says Jon Hamm, who under his guidance brought Draper to life. "But it's in a very wise way, because he's never leaned on them. It's never been a travelogue through the '60s or a history lesson. It's just been about these people who came out of Matt's mind and have been working through their lives in this tumultuous, tricky time. We navigated those incredibly choppy waters with his characters," who have also included those portrayed by co-stars Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton and Robert Morse. "Mad Men" tapped into the '60s ethos with painstaking authenticity. But that wasn't all. From the vantage point of 50 years' distance, Weiner also drew on his unfolding life — even his experience of doing the show. When Don, in the second season, says, "I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I've already been," it's not just an expression of his existential angst. It's also Weiner's lament as a writer feeling pressure not to repeat himself in each subsequent script. Negotiations that pitted Weiner against AMC and the series' studio figured into "Mad Men" — particularly the bitter clash that dragged on for months before a new contract was signed in March 2011, a squabble that delayed the show's return for its fifth season. "There's a lot of negotiating that season," notes Weiner, including failed negotiations that spurred Draper's fed-up protegee, Peggy Olson (Moss), to leap to a rival agency. "That was on my mind." The autobiographical, historical and imagined commingle in a series that has always been fiercely formula-averse. The tale unwinds at times with crystalline specificity, at times like a half-remembered dream. Things that go unsaid become as forceful as the show's most penetrating dialogue. Episodes are densely packed and yet, somehow, meditative. Sometimes hard-edged, sometimes mystical. "In a weird way," says Weiner, "what happens is not as important as how it happens." No wonder viewers plunder "Mad Men" for any buried clues. Item: In the final moments of last year's finale, set in July 1969, agency founder Bert Cooper (Morse) appears a few hours after his death in a vision to Draper, breezily performing a song-and-dance number that had viewers stewing over its meaning. "The show is famous for being byzantine," Weiner acknowledges. "But I can't believe that someone singing 'The Best Things in Life Are Free' was up for conversation. That was EXACTLY what I was trying to say!" It was a sweet, poignant scene, all right, and it perfectly set up these final seven episodes with the most heretical message possible by a series whose characters proclaim: The best things in life are the products we sell. "Oh, my God! I didn't even THINK about that," says Weiner, laughing as his timeless drama nears the end. "Lucky for me I'm not in advertising!" _____ EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore _____ Online: http://www.amctv.com Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Frazier Moore from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Movies

Eastwood linked with 1996 Olympics movie
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Eastwood linked with 1996 Olympics movie

Hollywood veteran Clint Eastwood is being closely linked with a Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio project about a security incident at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.Eastwood is to direct, though the deal is thought to hinge on whether Fox and Eastwood's regular studio Warner Bros can find some common ground, according to Deadline. The picture has Jonah Hill as Richard Jewell, a security guard at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games who discovered a bomb-laden backpack during his rounds. Though initially hailed as a hero, he soon became known as a potential suspect, errant media reports turning public opinion against him as the investigation continued. It was an attorney acquaintance, L. Lin Wood (DiCaprio), who came to his defense and cleared Jewell's name in the libel lawsuits that followed. Hill and DiCaprio were Oscar nominated for their work together in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street." Current thinking is that Fox and Warners are investigating the possibility of treating the Jewell project as a co-production. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, farmer's son turned 'Hindi indie' star
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, farmer's son turned 'Hindi indie' star

It is a story worthy of a Bollywood plot: the son of a north Indian farmer, one of nine children, rising to become the face of independent Hindi cinema.But Nawazuddin Siddiqui is still getting used to his success. "When someone is looking at me, I feel they are looking at someone standing behind me, not at me," the 40-year-old confessed to AFP during an interview at a Mumbai hotel. "I have not got used to it and I won't allow myself to feel like a star." Winning awards for his roles in internationally-feted films such as "Gangs of Wasseypur" in 2012 and "The Lunchbox" the following year, Siddiqui has become one of India's most respected actors. It is a long way from his humble beginnings in Uttar Pradesh state, where he became the first graduate from his village with a degree in chemistry. After training at Delhi's National School of Drama, smitten with acting, he landed his first film appearance in the 1999 Aamir Khan movie "Sarfarosh" (Fervour), and moved to Mumbai, the entertainment capital, in 2000. But he faced years of struggle and bit parts, often earning little cash, before he really became established. The year 2012 was perhaps his best to date: along with the Wasseypur gangster epic and "Miss Lovely", both selected for the Cannes Film Festival, he turned heads in crime thrillers "Kahaani" (Story) and "Talaash" (Search). He said his family are still surprised by how far he has come. "And you cannot blame them. I am a five-foot six-inch, dark, ordinary-looking man. People didn't imagine that I would make it," he said. "It is the mindset of our country too, that people like (me) don't become stars. Maybe it's a result of 200 years of colonial rule." - Industry outsider - Being this "ordinary-looking" outsider to a dynastic industry, Siddiqui struggled to get a designer suit for his first red carpet appearance at Cannes in 2012. But three years later he just has to pick up the phone, and when he comes to meet AFP he is accompanied by a manager, a valet and a publicist. Despite his success he says "nothing much has changed". He still hangs out with old friends "who remind me of our days of struggle", and goes home to help out on the farm. Aside from Talaash and the 2014 action film "Kick" with Salman Khan, he has mostly avoided Bollywood blockbusters, tending towards more serious "Hindi indie" roles. But his forthcoming features are big budget flicks alongside A-list superstars -- much to the delight of his family, who travel 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the nearest cinema hall to watch his films. He will appear again with Salman Khan in upcoming romantic drama "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", and with Shah Rukh Khan in "Raees" (Rich Man), in which he plays a cop who is chasing Khan's mafia character. Siddiqui says he admires Bollywood megastars for their longevity -- "they're very well-maintained" -- and he wouldn't rule out doing a song-and-dance number himself, despite his reservations about Bollywood musicals. He describes them as a "borrowed culture", not rooted in the Indian tradition of folk music and classical songs and dance. "However I would do one such formula film to prove that I can dance and romance a heroine," he said. Siddiqui is also appearing in his first Hollywood film, with two scenes in the upcoming drama "Lion" directed by Garth Davis, and starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire" fame. But he is "not dying" to do more foreign movies. "I am very proud of the films I am doing here because they are of an international standard," he said. "I am very confident about my work because I have worked very hard." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Hotel's 'Lion King'-themed wake-up call becomes real-world and viral hit
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Hotel's 'Lion King'-themed wake-up call becomes real-world and viral hit

A Florida hotel has become the year’s hottest address for spring breakers for one single feature: blasting a "Lion King" anthem throughout the property as its mid-morning wake-up call.At 11 am, when it’s deemed socially acceptable to rouse sleepy, often hungover revelers from their beer-soaked comas, the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach plays the “Circle of Life” on their loudspeakers, a kind of clarion call that draws guests to their balconies for a rousing singalong. News of the morning ritual, which started in 2012 and has gradually been generating buzz with word of mouth, has helped give it the edge over its competition in the area, with spring breakers booking rooms specifically for the wake-up call this year, according to report from local TV station wjhg. The hotel cleverly chose "Circle of Life," (first released in 1994) to coincide with the spring breakers' own childhoods. A YouTube video of the wake-up call has also generated online interest, with more than a million views since being uploaded last year. Spring break is a rite of passage for American college students, a mid-term academic break that can happen between the first week of March and Easter weekend, generally known as a week of wet t-shirt contests, drinking games, and sexual excess. Traditional and popular spring break destinations include Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach and Miami Beach in Florida; Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico and beaches in the Caribbean. Watch the video at http://bit.ly/1EUlxeU. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Broadway's 'Honeymoon in Vegas' will close this Sunday
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Broadway's 'Honeymoon in Vegas' will close this Sunday

NEW YORK (AP) — The honeymoon between "Honeymoon in Vegas" and Broadway is over. Even Elvis couldn't save them. Producers said Tuesday that the musical starring Tony Danza, Rob McClure and Brynn O'Malley will close Sunday after good reviews but dismal box office receipts. The show was adapted from a 1992 movie starring James Caan, Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. It has music by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown and tells the story of a reluctant groom whose bride-to-be is courted by a Vegas wise guy. One of the highlights is a troupe of glittery flying Elvises. The show has been limping along ever since it opened in January. It never took in more than $500,000 despite having a $1.1 million potential and lately only half-filled the Nederlander Theatre. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Mark Kennedy from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

'Ex-Machina,' 'It Follows' breathe life into stale genres
Tuesday Mar 31, 2015
'Ex-Machina,' 'It Follows' breathe life into stale genres

NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Garland has learned a few things in his years as a science-fiction screenwriter: namely, that money doesn't always help. Garland is now making his directorial debut with the acclaimed science fiction film "Ex-Machina," after earlier scripting the influential zombie thriller "28 Days Later" and seeing his first book, "The Beach," turned into the Leonardo DiCaprio adventure. The 2007 Danny Boyle-directed space thriller "Sunshine," which Garland wrote, particularly drove home the lesson. "The thing I really felt about 'Sunshine' almost while we were making it, is that we were spending too much money," says Garland. "When you're spending that much money, either consciously or unconsciously, you start to think about recouping. You start to think about the business of film and trying to make it entertaining or trying to adrenalize it at moments when it's the wrong thing to do." Garland's "Ex-Machina," which opens in theaters April 10, was made for $15 million, not the $50 million it took to make "Sunshine," a philosophical journey to the sun that eventually dissolved into more of a monster movie. "Ex-Machina," however, holds its trance throughout the tale of a young computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who flies to the remote lair of a tech billionaire (Oscar Isaac), and is introduced to a very realistic artificial intelligence (Alicia Vikander). "The one thing I do know is that I really, really want creative freedom — not just for me but the people I'm working with," says the British writer-director. "You need to be Christopher Nolan to have creative freedom at that level. That's what, like, two or three people in the world." Instead of fighting those odds, a new generation of filmmakers is breathing fresh life into the often over-commercialized genres of sci-fi and horror. A regular diet of big-budget releases have helped stagnate genre thrills by over-relying on visual-effects spectacle ("Jupiter Ascending," ''After Earth"), while mainstream horror has been overrun by gimmicky shlock (the "Paranormal Activity" series) and familiar retreads ("I, Frankenstein"). But many of the most exciting horror and sci-fi films in recent years — "Under the Skin," ''The Babadook," ''Her," ''Upstream Color," the "Black Mirror" miniseries — have come from independent filmmakers working with small or even skimpy budgets, who prize creative control in genres where final cut is scarce. Janet Pierson, head of film at South By Southwest, where "Ex-Machina" premiered, has regularly programmed inventive genre fare. While she's witnessed steadily intrepid sci-fi and horror for years, she sees a larger shift. "What I've noticed is that the young people that come in here, particularly more and more of the women, their first love is genre films — which is a real change, which is something that didn't exist before," said Pierson. "I come from the more traditional art-house generation." David Robert Mitchell, writer-director of the indie horror sensation "It Follows," is a kind of combination genre-art house filmmaker. His first movie, "The Myth of the American Sleepover," was his version of a teen drama that portrayed the quieter moments of adolescence, rather than the melodramatic extremes usually depicted in the genre. "It Follows" is his stab at horror. The DVDs he pulled off his shelf in preparation make a respectable horror syllabus: "Nosferatu" (the original and the Werner Herzog version), Romero, Cronenberg, Polanski, the classic Universal monster movies, the Hammer classics, "The Shining" and many more. "There's a bunch of us that grew up watching what are now seen as classic horror films," says Mitchell, a Michigan native. "That's probably affected a lot of us to, if not update them, be inspired by them." Mitchell's deep appreciation of the genre is self-evident in "It Follows," an atmospheric suburban teenager thriller with a synthesizer score evocative of John Carpenter. "It Follows" has crossed over from art house to mainstream: it expanded last weekend to some 1,200 theaters, despite earlier plans for video-on-demand. It pulled in $4 million at the box office, about twice its budget. While he acknowledges "more money would definitely be helpful" and that he may later be interested in directing bigger studio films, "my intention is to kind of take my time with that," says Mitchell. "And that's by choice." "Ex-Machina" and "It Follows" both create suspense by relying on acting and atmosphere. "It Follows," in which an unseen, unknown entity is passed like a sexually transmitted disease, works like "Jaws" or "The Evil Dead": What we imagine is more fearful than anything a movie can physically represent. "Ex-Machina" has the distilled feel of a chamber piece: It's all questions and mysteries to unravel, none of the fat of special effects set-pieces. "What that stuff does is it takes the heat off characterization and themes and story," says Garland. "What a chamber piece does is it leaves you nowhere to hide." __ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Jake Coyle from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Events

New Jersey school cancels Common as commencement speaker
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
New Jersey school cancels Common as commencement speaker

UNION, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's Kean University has cancelled hip-hop artist Common as commencement speaker after police voiced concerns over a song about a woman convicted of killing a police officer who fled to Cuba. The school announced the Academy Award winner's selection on Monday, but said on its social media sites on Tuesday night that he would not be the speaker. University spokeswoman Susan Kayne told The Record (http://bit.ly/1yzl3Zi ) newspaper the announcement was made prematurely. Common won the Academy Award for composing the song "Glory" for the 2014 film "Selma." "The students expressed interest in Common because he composed the Oscar-winning song 'Glory' with our prior commencement speaker John Legend," Kayne said. "While we respect his talent, Kean is pursuing other speaker options." New Jersey State Police were troubled by the choice because of lyrics in Common's 2000 recording "A Song for Assata." The song is about Joanne Chesimard, who goes by the name Assata Shakur, and was convicted in 1977 of killing Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. She escaped from prison and has been living in Cuba as a fugitive. Chris Burgos, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, called the choice a "slap in the face." "What is troubling here is that a state university that is subsidized with state taxpayer funds, is once again being questioned on their decision-making at the highest levels," Burgos said in an emailed statement. An email seeking comment from Comment's publicist was not immediately returned Wednesday. ___ Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Maya Angelou play in development by Tavis Smiley, Kenny Leon
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Maya Angelou play in development by Tavis Smiley, Kenny Leon

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the nearly 30-year friendship that Tavis Smiley shared with Maya Angelou, he learned the renowned writer's views on life and how to live it to the fullest. One year after Angelou's death, TV and radio host Smiley is joining with Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon to develop a stage adaptation of "My Journey With Maya," Smiley's new memoir about the invaluable relationship. "I haven't been this excited by a project in a long, long time," Leon said. "I don't think there is another person like her in my lifetime or in the last 100 years of American artistry and literary achievement." Angelou, a poet, professor and author of the acclaimed 1969 autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," had much to share with a young man eager to grow, Smiley said. He was 21 and she was 58 when they first met in the mid-1980s. "We find our path by walking it," Angelou told him repeatedly over the years, he recounted. She also said that "nothing human is alien to me." "That was her way of saying, 'Live your life on your own terms. Don't be afraid to try anything. Experience everything,'" Smiley said. He and Leon, who are starting their search for a writer for the play, said it's premature to discuss casting. The pair will be working around other projects, which for Leon includes directing the newly announced TV and Broadway versions of the 1970s hit musical "The Wiz." Leon won a Tony for the 2014 revival of "A Raisin in the Sun" starring Denzel Washington. Smiley is the host of PBS' "Tavis Smiley" and Public Radio International's "The Tavis Smiley Show," a writer whose other books include 2014's "Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year" and founder of a nonprofit foundation tackling poverty in America. The release of "My Journey With Maya," co-written with David Ritz and out next Tuesday from publisher Little, Brown, coincides with the first-day-of-issuance ceremony in Washington for a Forever postage stamp honoring Angelou. The book is filled with Angelou's words and Smiley's remembrances of what she meant to him at difficult moments in his life. But there were conflicts as well: He writes of a 2008 call from Angelou expressing "a bit of alarm" that Smiley's broadcasts were pressing Democratic nominee Barack Obama too hard on the issues as he sought to become the first African-American president. Smiley said he defended his obligation to hold all candidates up to scrutiny, and his friendship with Angelou remained intact. Echoing Leon, Smiley said he believes her range of achievements — in fields ranging from acting to writing to teaching and more — are unparalleled. "I've been saying for the longest time she may be the greatest renaissance woman in black America. But I'm really wrestling with whether or not she may be the greatest renaissance woman, period," Smiley said. ___ Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Lynn Elber from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Singer Joni Mitchell hospitalized in Los Angeles
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Singer Joni Mitchell hospitalized in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joni Mitchell was hospitalized in Los Angeles on Tuesday, according to the Twitter account and website of the folk singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but details on her condition have not been released. "Joni has been hospitalized," said a statement on the Mitchell website. "We are awaiting official word on her condition and will post it here as soon as we know." Los Angeles fire officials said paramedics answered an afternoon 911 call in Bel Air, where Mitchell lives, and took a patient to the hospital. But they could not verify her identity. The 71-year-old singer-songwriter told Billboard magazine in December that she has a rare skin condition, Morgellons disease, which prevents her from performing. Still, she released a career-spanning four-disc box set last year and appeared at Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party in February. Mitchell has received eight Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 2002. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. She started her career as a street musician in her native Canada before moving to Southern California, where she became part of the flourishing folk scene in the late 1960s. Her second album, "Clouds," was a breakthrough with such songs as "Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning," winning Mitchell the Grammy for best folk performance. Her 1970 album, "Ladies of the Canyon," featured the hit single "Big Yellow Taxi" and the era-defining "Woodstock." The following year, she released "Blue," which ranks 30th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." Mitchell has released 19 original albums, the most recent in 2007. The anthology released last year, "Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced," features remastered versions of 53 of her songs. Her musical style integrates folk and jazz elements, and she counts jazz giants Charles Mingus and Pat Metheny among her past collaborators. As with music, Mitchell taught herself painting as a child and has produced hundreds of works in ink, watercolor and acrylic. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, farmer's son turned 'Hindi indie' star
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, farmer's son turned 'Hindi indie' star

It is a story worthy of a Bollywood plot: the son of a north Indian farmer, one of nine children, rising to become the face of independent Hindi cinema.But Nawazuddin Siddiqui is still getting used to his success. "When someone is looking at me, I feel they are looking at someone standing behind me, not at me," the 40-year-old confessed to AFP during an interview at a Mumbai hotel. "I have not got used to it and I won't allow myself to feel like a star." Winning awards for his roles in internationally-feted films such as "Gangs of Wasseypur" in 2012 and "The Lunchbox" the following year, Siddiqui has become one of India's most respected actors. It is a long way from his humble beginnings in Uttar Pradesh state, where he became the first graduate from his village with a degree in chemistry. After training at Delhi's National School of Drama, smitten with acting, he landed his first film appearance in the 1999 Aamir Khan movie "Sarfarosh" (Fervour), and moved to Mumbai, the entertainment capital, in 2000. But he faced years of struggle and bit parts, often earning little cash, before he really became established. The year 2012 was perhaps his best to date: along with the Wasseypur gangster epic and "Miss Lovely", both selected for the Cannes Film Festival, he turned heads in crime thrillers "Kahaani" (Story) and "Talaash" (Search). He said his family are still surprised by how far he has come. "And you cannot blame them. I am a five-foot six-inch, dark, ordinary-looking man. People didn't imagine that I would make it," he said. "It is the mindset of our country too, that people like (me) don't become stars. Maybe it's a result of 200 years of colonial rule." - Industry outsider - Being this "ordinary-looking" outsider to a dynastic industry, Siddiqui struggled to get a designer suit for his first red carpet appearance at Cannes in 2012. But three years later he just has to pick up the phone, and when he comes to meet AFP he is accompanied by a manager, a valet and a publicist. Despite his success he says "nothing much has changed". He still hangs out with old friends "who remind me of our days of struggle", and goes home to help out on the farm. Aside from Talaash and the 2014 action film "Kick" with Salman Khan, he has mostly avoided Bollywood blockbusters, tending towards more serious "Hindi indie" roles. But his forthcoming features are big budget flicks alongside A-list superstars -- much to the delight of his family, who travel 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the nearest cinema hall to watch his films. He will appear again with Salman Khan in upcoming romantic drama "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", and with Shah Rukh Khan in "Raees" (Rich Man), in which he plays a cop who is chasing Khan's mafia character. Siddiqui says he admires Bollywood megastars for their longevity -- "they're very well-maintained" -- and he wouldn't rule out doing a song-and-dance number himself, despite his reservations about Bollywood musicals. He describes them as a "borrowed culture", not rooted in the Indian tradition of folk music and classical songs and dance. "However I would do one such formula film to prove that I can dance and romance a heroine," he said. Siddiqui is also appearing in his first Hollywood film, with two scenes in the upcoming drama "Lion" directed by Garth Davis, and starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire" fame. But he is "not dying" to do more foreign movies. "I am very proud of the films I am doing here because they are of an international standard," he said. "I am very confident about my work because I have worked very hard." Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Broadway's 'Honeymoon in Vegas' will close this Sunday
Wednesday Apr 1, 2015
Broadway's 'Honeymoon in Vegas' will close this Sunday

NEW YORK (AP) — The honeymoon between "Honeymoon in Vegas" and Broadway is over. Even Elvis couldn't save them. Producers said Tuesday that the musical starring Tony Danza, Rob McClure and Brynn O'Malley will close Sunday after good reviews but dismal box office receipts. The show was adapted from a 1992 movie starring James Caan, Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. It has music by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown and tells the story of a reluctant groom whose bride-to-be is courted by a Vegas wise guy. One of the highlights is a troupe of glittery flying Elvises. The show has been limping along ever since it opened in January. It never took in more than $500,000 despite having a $1.1 million potential and lately only half-filled the Nederlander Theatre. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Mark Kennedy from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.