News for 1/8/2007

'Lincoln Heights' Promotes Inner City Family Values

Kate O'Hare

LOS ANGELES -- Finding fractured or dysfunctional families on television is not hard these days. It's become almost the norm to feature families outside the traditional nuclear structure of mother and father -- married to each other and living together -- and their children.

But that's just the family at the heart of the new drama "Lincoln Heights," premiering Monday, Jan. 8, on, aptly enough, ABC Family.

Executive-produced by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson ("Soul Food") and director Kevin Hooks ("Prison Break," "City of Angels"), it stars Russell Hornsby ("Get Rich or Die Tryin' ") as Eddie Sutton, a dedicated police patrol officer in the fictional Southern California town of Mission Vista.

Eddie and wife Jenn (Nicki Micheaux), a nurse, are raising their three children (Erica Hubbard, Mishon Ratliff, Rhyon Brown) in a suburban area when the police department begins a program to urge officers to move into high-crime areas.

Seeing the program both as opportunity for homeownership while also bringing about positive change, Eddie convinces his family to move from its cramped apartment into a former crack house in the tough neighborhood where he grew up.

During a break in filming at the show's sets in Culver City, Calif., Hornsby settles down in the office of Eddie's police boss to talk about what brought him to the series.

"For me," he says, "it was being able to have a drama that depicted an African-American family, first and foremost, and then they have a nuclear family -- father, mother and kids. Here's a blue-collar, working-class family that is trying to do its best.

"America is ready to go back to traditional values of seeing parents take a larger role in their kids' lives. I think that's what these parents do. These are parents who are involved in their kids' lives. They're two parents working together."

While dramas centered on black families are rare on broadcast networks or basic cable, Hornsby doesn't see it as a basic flaw of the idea but of the execution.

"The thing is," he says, "what are you trying to sell? What are you trying to market, and who are you trying to market to?

"I think everybody, from stem to stern, wants what's real. They don't want to be placated. They want what's honest and true. In today's society, things are in upheaval and just going crazy and people going every which way.

"Kids aren't getting a proper education; the breakdown of the family; the divide and conquer -- all that's going on. People want to come home, turn on the TV and see something that says, 'We care about you. We believe in you. You're doing your best as a parent, and we want to show you how it can be done.'"

Eddie and Jenn are imperfect as people and parents, and Hornsby thinks that's the point.

"They live together," he says, "and they love each other. That's visible. They fight, and they argue. They make up sometimes, sometimes they don't, but you know at the end of the day, they're not going anywhere. They're not going to leave.

"Eddie's not walking out the door because it got a little rocky. Jenn's not running around looking for a young stud because it's getting a little rocky. They're in for a penny, in for a pound. That's the kind of images that we need to see on television."

For McGhee-Anderson, a native of the once-thriving city of Detroit, "Lincoln Heights" is also an opportunity to talk about battling urban decay.

"There's something that needed to be said about the phenomenon of cities that have been abandoned," she says. "It's an important story for our country in a time like today where the infrastructure in so many cities has really deteriorated.

"For many decades, people have moved to the suburbs and deserted the urban areas. Now, gradually, people are moving back into the cities and realizing that connection with people that are different from yourself.

"One of the objectives for 'Lincoln Heights' is to show the community connections. Eddie's world is not monolithic. He works in a police department that is representational of the city of Mission Vista, not just the specific community of Lincoln Heights."

While drama often turns to damaged, troubled or sketchy characters as a source of conflict, Hornsby believes that a basically good man like Eddie can be just as interesting for an audience.

"That's what's interesting about 'Lincoln Heights,'" he says, "we have good people, three-dimensional people. We're taking a journey with them and finding out what it is, at the end of the day, that makes them good."

While many of the Suttons' problems are universal, Hornsby also believes the show has something specific to say to black families.

"We got so caught up in affluence," he says. "People of color realized, 'We have money now. We're doctors; we're lawyers; we're ballplayers; we're singers; we're entertainers; we're dancers.' But we forgot where we came from.

"We forgot about the barbecues on Saturday. We do have the alcoholic uncle. We forgot that we have a cousin who's in jail. We got hoity-toity, caught up in the materialism."

Hornsby believes the Suttons represent a solidarity and a generosity of spirit from an earlier time. "That's the spiritual nature of what African-American families do. There's always room at the inn. There's always food. There are always clothes. Whatever you need, we got it. It may not be much, but we got something for you.

"That's the nature of what this family -- their fundamental beliefs -- hearkens back to."

Weekend Boxoffice

`Museum' marks third weekend at No. 1

"Night at the Museum" pulled in $23.7 million in ticket sales over the weekend, giving the Ben Stiller comedy the top box-office spot for the third straight weekend.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Media By Numbers LLC are:

1. "Night at the Museum," Fox, $23,743,960, 3,730 locations, $6,366 average, $163,840,714, three weeks.

2. "The Pursuit of Happyness," Sony, $12,880,926, 3,027 locations, $4,255 average, $124,039,482, four weeks.

3. "Children of Men," Universal, $10,197,775, 1,209 locations, $8,435 average, $11,805,273, three weeks.

4. "Freedom Writers," Paramount, $9,405,582, 1,360 locations, $6,916 average, $9,405,582, one week.

5. "Dreamgirls," Paramount, $8,663,680, 852 locations, $10,169 average, $54,322,145, four weeks.

6. "Happily N'ever After," Lionsgate, $6,608,244, 2,381 locations, $2,775 average, $6,608,244, one week.

7. "Charlotte's Web," Paramount, $6,598,179, 3,303 locations, $1,998 average, $66,963,119, four weeks.

8. "The Good Shepherd," Universal, $6,446,345, 2,250 locations, $2,865 average, $48,344,025, three weeks.

9. "Rocky Balboa," MGM , $6,017,649, 3,018 locations, $1,994 average, $60,642,611, three weeks.

10. "We Are Marshall," Warner Bros., $4,875,400, 2,502 locations, $1,949 average, $35,165,379, three weeks.

11. "Eragon," Fox, $4,810,405, 2,625 locations, $1,833 average, $67,043,851, four weeks.

12. "Code Name: The Cleaner," New Line, $4,244,142, 1,736 locations, $2,445 average, $4,244,142, one week.

13. "Happy Feet," Warner Bros., $4,004,462, 2,212 locations, $1,810 average, $185,414,182, eight weeks.

14. "The Holiday," Sony, $3,845,411, 2,320 locations, $1,658 average, $58,815,572, five weeks.

15. "Blood Diamond," Warner Bros., $3,822,423, 1,510 locations, $2,531 average, $43,894,082, five weeks.

16. "Casino Royale," Sony, $3,002,507, 1,266 locations, $2,372 average, $159,837,718, eight weeks.

17. "Black Christmas," MGM , $1,798,578, 1,504 locations, $1,196 average, $15,224,364, three weeks.

18. "Apocalypto," Disney, $1,762,525, 903 locations, $1,952 average, $47,335,193, five weeks.

19. "Notes On a Scandal," Fox, $1,125,281, 93 locations, $12,100 average, $2,056,476, three weeks.

20. "The Queen," Miramax, $1,048,232, 323 locations, $3,245 average, $29,933,112, 15 weeks.

Pirates, Penguins and Potboilers Rule the Box Office

The New York Times

Correction Appended

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 1 — A year after Hollywood rediscovered weighty political and social issues in movies like “Syriana,” “Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain,” the box office story of 2006 was that moviegoers finally said, “Enough.”

They showed no appetite for a critique of their eating habits in “Fast Food Nation.” They weren’t ready to fly along on “United 93,” no matter how skilled its exposé of homeland insecurity. They didn’t care to see combat or suffer its after-effects in “Flags of Our Fathers.” And even Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t interest them in touring the ravaged Africa of “Blood Diamond.”

While Al Gore’s prophecies in “An Inconvenient Truth” produced a respectable $24 million for Paramount, it was the message-movie exception that proved the rule. The big money was to be made making people laugh, cry and squeeze their dates’ arms — not think.

“What worked was classic, get-away-from-it-all entertainment,” said Rob Moore, Paramount’s marketing and distribution chief. “What didn’t was things that were more challenging and esoteric.”

Comedy, animation and adventure, all with a PG-13 rating or tamer — and for young adults, R-rated horror flicks — were the escapist recipe for success.

Reminding moviegoers of what was on the news, and in an election year at that, only turned them off. (Unless it was on the news nine years ago, as in “The Queen.”)

While Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” set a new opening-weekend record and topped the box office tables with $423 million, the winner among studios was Sony Pictures, which said it would end the year with nearly $1.7 billion domestically — besting its own industry record — and $3.3 billion overseas.

In an off year for its Spider-Man franchise, Sony managed to win a record 13 weekends, led by Adam Sandler (“Click”); Will Ferrell (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”); an animated hit (“Open Season”); James Bond (“Casino Royale,” which has grossed $155 million, a franchise record); and Will Smith (“The Pursuit of Happyness”).

Mr. Smith’s film broke $100 million, and he appears to have bolstered his stature as Hollywood’s man who can do no wrong, a bankable star in dramatic, romantic, comedic or action roles.

(When actors play against type, however, it can be deadly, as Russell Crowe showed in Ridley Scott’s film “A Good Year,” for 20th Century Fox. Coming after his nose dive in “Cinderella Man,” Mr. Crowe’s belly-flop raised questions about his status as a top box office draw.)

Then there was what Jeff Blake, Sony’s marketing and distribution czar, called “that rare adult blockbuster,” Ron Howard’s “Da Vinci Code.” Fans of the book ignored the film’s reviews, and it grossed $218 million.

“Really, we brought the adults back to the movies this year, which is part of the reason why we’re doing so much better,” Mr. Blake said of the industry, tipping his hat to Warner Brothers’ “Departed” and 20th Century Fox’s “Devil Wears Prada.”

Sony also got a boost from its Screen Gems unit; four of its horror films opened at No. 1. Typical was “When a Stranger Calls,” made for just $15 million, which grossed $48 million domestically.

Over all, the top tier of the box office held its usual contours: 5 blockbusters exceeded $200 million, and 12 fell in the $100 million to $200 million zone. In addition, 39 exceeded $50 million, 7 more than in 2005. Total domestic box office reached $9.4 billion, a shade shy of the 2004 record but 5 percent more than in 2005, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers, which tracks box office results. Attendance was up 3.3 percent.

No. 2 Disney had its second-best year ever worldwide, with more than $3.27 billion internationally, and exceeded $1 billion domestically for the 10th time, thanks largely to “Pirates” and the year’s No. 2 movie, Pixar’s “Cars,” with $244 million.

Mark Zoradi, who runs marketing and distribution for Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, said basic entertainment had proved to be the cure for the industry’s woes. “People love to go to the movies to laugh, to feel emotion and cry,” he said. “That’s why ‘Cars’ is so big. It wasn’t a straight-out slapstick comedy. At its core, it was an emotional movie with comedy in it.”

The slate of movies at year’s end was much stronger than on the same weekend a year earlier: up 10 percent in the aggregate, and 12 percent when comparing just the top 12 grosses. Fox’s “Night at the Museum,” the Ben Stiller comedy, led the field, raking in $38 million for a total so far of $117 million.

Among animated films, Fox’s “Ice Age: The Meltdown” came in at No. 2, nearly hitting $200 million. Bruce Snyder, president for domestic distribution, said Fox had been wise to get its movie into theaters well before the deluge of more than a dozen other computer-animated movies about animals.

One that suffered was Warner’s “Ant Bully,” which was sandwiched between Sony’s “Monster House” and Paramount’s “Barnyard” and came away with just $28 million in sales. Paramount, too, might have regretted the title of its “Flushed Away,” which cost $150 million but grossed only $62 million. “Happy Feet” was a much-needed big hit for Warner, which had been less than overjoyed by the $200 million gross of “Superman Returns.”

Despite the animation glut, the potential payoffs — Paramount’s “Over the Hedge” grossed $155 million, and “Happy Feet” reached $176 million on Sunday — are huge enough to make this a recurring phenomenon.

For Fox it was a strong year; “X-Men: The Last Stand” was the No. 3 movie, at $234 million, and Meryl Streep’s performance turned a formulaic comedy into a worldwide hit in “Prada.” Fox also had the year’s most original film, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which was made for less than $20 million and grossed more than $125 million.

Among thought-provoking movies, “Flags of Our Fathers” showed how treacherous it can be to open an Oscar contender in September or October. While “The Departed” was a hit, “All the King’s Men,” “Hollywoodland” and “Running With Scissors” all bombed. Back-to-school audiences much preferred Lions Gate’s “Saw III.”

Warner missed, meanwhile, with “Blood Diamond,” a big action movie that also had something to say. Alan Horn, the studio’s president, said he thought the film had managed the feat, but audiences didn’t, and the film has grossed $36 million so far.

“The audience is telling us that either they want lighter fare, and they just don’t want to go there and have a movie as thematically heavy as ‘Blood Diamond’ is, or it’s the quality of the movie,” he said.

Audiences apparently weren’t eager to read, either. With directors like Clint Eastwood, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Mel Gibson pushing for authenticity, the studios wound up releasing subtitled movies that were shot largely or entirely in Japanese, Spanish, Berber, Mayan and Russian. But even Brad Pitt couldn’t draw big crowds for “Babel,” and the Fox Searchlight release of the Russian blockbuster “Night Watch” proved that some cultural exchanges will remain a one-way street.

It remains to be seen whether “Letters From Iwo Jima,” Mr. Eastwood’s critically adored Japanese companion piece to “Flags,” could lure sizable audiences once it expands from a micro-release.

Fifth-place Paramount was cheered by the low-budget comedies “Jackass Number Two” and “Nacho Libre,” but was counting for redemption on “Dreamgirls,” which opened to packed houses on Christmas Day. In just 852 theaters, the movie grossed $38.5 million through New Year’s weekend, and the studio was counting on Oscar attention to make it a megahit.

Universal, in a leadership transition, struggled to fill a gaping hole in its slate. The studio hasn’t released a movie that it made since August, and won’t have one till April. (“The Good Shepherd,” its lone prestige release at year’s end, was financed by Morgan Creek.) Its biggest movie was “The Break-Up,” at $118 million, but more typical were duds like “Miami Vice,” “Man of the Year,” “Let’s Go to Prison,” and “The Black Dahlia.”

New Line’s year, finally, was summed up by “Snakes on a Plane,” a trip you’d want to forget, as long as you could survive it. The studio’s standout performers were “Final Destination 3” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” New Line’s stab at exploiting the religious Christian market, “The Nativity Story,” cost $35 million, but grossed just $37 million.

By comparison, a tiny proselytizing football movie called “Facing the Giants,” made for just $100,000 by a Southern Baptist congregation in Georgia, grossed $10 million in a limited release.

Correction: January 4, 2007

An article in The Arts on Tuesday about the most popular movies of 2006 and others that did not do as well at the box office referred incorrectly to two languages spoken in “Babel,” one of the films with subtitles that did not draw big crowds. They are Spanish and Berber, not “Mexican” and “Moroccan.”

DiCaprio, Carell Top SAG Nominees

'Broken Trail' and 'The Sopranos' had the most TV nominations

The guys have it at this year's Screen Actors Guild nominations. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Steve Carell topped their peers with three nominations each for their work in theatrical motion pictures and primetime television.

"Grey's Anatomy" actress Sandra Oh and "Bobby" actor Elijah Wood made the announcement Thursday morning, Jan. 4 at Los Angeles' Pacific Design Center Silver Screen Theater in West Hollywood.

Unike his dual Golden Globe nominations, DiCaprio won't be competing against himself in the lead actor category since the SAG awards require that actors be entered in separate categories. Thus, the 32-year-old actor was tapped for his leading role in "Blood Diamond" and supporting role in Martin Scorsese's "Departed." He earned an additional nod for "The Departed" in the cast category.

Funnyman Steve Carell received his nominations for best male comedy lead as the self-absorbed boss on "The Office" and for being in the sitcom's ensemble cast (comedy). He was also recognized for being in the cast of the road trip comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" on the big screen.

On the film side, DiCaprio will compete against Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson"), Peter O'Toole ("Venus"), Will Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness") and Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") in the lead actor category and against Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Jackie Earle Haley ("Little Children"), "Blood Diamond" co-star Djimon Hounsou and Eddie Murphy ("Dreamgirls") for their supporting roles.

Helen Mirren once again nabbed the female lead nomination for "The Queen" (and another for her TV movie "Elizabeth I"), pitting her against Penelope Cruz ("Volver"), Judi Dench ("Notes on a Scandal"), Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada") and Kate Winslet ("Little Children"). Supporting actress nominations went to "Babel" actresses Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, Cate Blanchett for "Notes on a Scandal," Abigail Breslin for "Little Miss Sunshine" and Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls."

As expected the casts for "Babel," "Bobby," "The Departed," "Dreamgirls" and "Little Miss Sunshine" were nominated as a whole, giving "Babel," "Dreamgirls" and "Sunshine" tied for the lead for the most nominations at three each.

Carell's competition in the male lead category on TV include Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock," Jason Lee for "My Name Is Earl," Jeremy Piven for "Entourage" and critical favorite Tony Shalhoub for "Monk." The dramatic male lead nominations went to James Gandolfini for "The Sopranos," Michael C. Hall for his appealing serial-killer turn on "Dexter," Hugh Laurie for "House," James Spader on "Boston Legal" and Keifer Sutherland for "24."

Dramatic female leads on TV were also recognized, including Patricia Arquette for "Medium," Edie Falco for "The Sopranos," Mariska Hargitay for "Law & Order: SVU," Kyra Sedgwick for "The Closer" and Chandra Wilson for "Grey's Anatomy." On the comedy side, nominations went to newcomer America Ferrera on telenovela adapation "Ugly Betty," Felicity Huffman for "Desperate Housewives," Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," Megan Mullally for "Will & Grace," Mary-Louise Parker for "Weeds" and Jaime Pressly for "My Name Is Earl."

HBO leads the networks with a whopping 10 nominations, just ahead of NBC and ABC's eight nominations apiece. AMC, FOX, Showtime and TNT tied with three nominations each.

The 13th Annual SAG Awards will announce the winners on Sunday, Jan. 28 on TNT and TBS. The full list of nominees is listed below:


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:

Leonardo Di Caprio, "Blood Diamond"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:

Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:

Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"
Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"
Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:

Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:

"The Departed"
"Little Miss Sunshine"


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries:

Thomas Haden Church, "Broken Trail"
Robert Duvall, "Broken Trail"
Jeremy Irons, "Elizabeth I"
William H. Macy, "Nightmares & Dreamscapes"
Matthew Perry, "The Ron Clark Story"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries:

Annette Bening, "Mrs. Harris"
Shirley Jones, "Hidden Places"
Cloris Leachman, "Mrs. Harris"
Helen Mirren, "Elizabeth I"
Greta Scacchi, "Broken Trail"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series:

James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Hugh Laurie, "House"
James Spader, "Boston Legal"
Kiefer Sutherland, "24"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series:

Patricia Arquette, "Medium"
Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"
Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"
Chandra Wilson, "Grey's Anatomy"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series:

Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Jason Lee, "My Name Is Earl"
Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"
Tony Shalhoub, "Monk"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series:

America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"
Felicity Huffman, "Desperate Housewives"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine"
Megan Mullaly, "Will & Grace"
Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds"
Jaime Pressly, "My Name Is Earl"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series:

"Boston Legal"
"Grey's Anatomy
"The Sopranos

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series:

"Desperate Housewives"
"The Office"
"Ugly Betty"

Click here to visit the Screen Actors Guild Official Website.

News for 1/1/2007

Weekend Boxoffice

'Museum' wins box office with $37.8M

Associated Press Writer

Ben Stiller's playful "Night at the Museum" was the top box office draw during the New Year's weekend with $37.8 million, a 24 percent jump over its debut the previous week, according to studio estimates released Sunday.

Uplifting movies dominated the Top 10 for the holiday weekend, a busy period at turnstiles.

Will Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness" took second place with $19.3 million, up 30 percent, while the musical "Dreamgirls" finished third with $15.5 million.

"The Pursuit of Happyness" was expected to cross the $100 million threshold on New Year's Day.

No. 4 "Charlotte's Web" was up 59 percent with $12 million in its third week. "Rocky Balboa" was in fifth place with $11.4 million.

No new movies went into wide release.

"Dreamgirls" saw a major surge in business, averaging a whopping $18,192 per screen as Paramount rolled it out slowly with word-of-mouth creating a buzz. It was showing on just 852 screens, compared to 3,768 for "Night at the Museum."

"Dreamgirls," the first musical sensation since "Chicago" in 2002, will expand to about 1,800 screens on Jan. 12.

"We knew it was a movie that was a real crowd-pleaser," said Rob Moore, Paramount's president of marketing and distribution. "The amazing word of mouth is bringing it along. It's been a while since a musical really worked."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Wednesday.

1. "Night at the Museum," $37.8 million.
2. "The Pursuit of Happyness," $19.3 million.
3. "Dreamgirls," $15.5 million.
4. "Charlotte's Web," $12 million
5. "Rocky Balboa," $11.4 million.
6. "The Good Shepherd," $11.2 million.
7. "Eragon," $8.5 million.
8. "We Are Marshall," $8 million.
9. "Happy Feet," $7.8 million.
10. "The Holiday," $6.7 million.

News for 12/27/2006

Spike Lee to direct James Brown movie

Director Spike Lee has signed on to shoot a movie about James Brown, the late "Godfather of Soul," Daily Variety reported on Wednesday.

The authorized project is being developed for Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures by Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning producer of "A Beautiful Mind," the trade publication said, adding that production would likely begin in 2008.

Brown, the self-proclaimed "hardest working man in show business," died of congestive heart failure on Monday, aged 73. The energetic singer of such soul anthems as "Sex Machine" and "I Feel Good," invented funk music, inspired the dance moves of Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, and helped pave the way for hip-hop.

In recent years, posthumous movies about soul singer Ray Charles and country outlaw Johnny Cash have scored at the box office and won Academy Awards.

Daily Variety said Brown played an active role in the project's development, and granted access to his music rights.

"Like everybody, I was surprised and saddened that James Brown died," Daily Variety quoted Grazer as saying. "Having known him well, and after spending lots of time with him and researching his life, it's somehow not surprising that he died on Christmas Day. He was the ultimate showman, all the way to the end."

Lee, the director of "Malcolm X," was most recently in theaters with the thriller "Inside Man," which Grazer produced.

Weekend Boxoffice

`Dreamgirls' has dreamy Christmas Day

AP Business Writer

It was a great Christmas for the Paramount Pictures musical "Dreamgirls."

The film, starring Eddie Murphy and Beyonce Knowles, earned $8.7 million on Christmas Day according to studio estimates as it expanded from three locations to 852 theaters nationwide.

That was good enough to push it into the top-10 grossing films for the four-day holiday weekend, knocking the religious-themed "The Nativity Story" to 11th place.

"The response to the movie has been spectacular," Rob Moore, president and chief operating officer at Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., said Tuesday.

The studio will release the film to about 2,000 theaters in a few weeks, giving the musical a good financial head start, Moore said.

The film, which also stars Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Hudson, also has dreams of Oscar.

"Dreamgirls is an Oscar contender if ever there was one," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "It's a crowd pleaser."

The Ben Stiller comedy "Night at the Museum" retained its No. 1 standing, pulling in $42.2 million over the holiday weekend, including $12.4 million on Christmas Day.

The horror flick "Black Christmas" from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer earned a respectable one-day total of $3.3 million on its debut Monday.

"There's always an audience that wants to be counter to the norm," Dergarabedian said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Wednesday.

1. "Night at the Museum," $42.2 million.
2. "The Pursuit of Happyness," $23.1 million.
3. "Rocky Balboa," $17 million.
4. "The Good Shepherd," $13.9 million.
5. "Charlotte's Web," $9.5 million.
6. "Eragon," $9.3 million.
7. "Dreamgirls," $8.9 million.
8. "We Are Marshall," $8.6 million.
9. "The Holiday," $7 million.
10. "Happy Feet," $6.6 million

Sheldon Turner Penning Super Freak

Source: Variety

The Longest Yard screenwriter Sheldon Turner is set to write Super Freak, a film about the life of colorful and controversial punk-funk singer Rick James, reports Variety. Jennifer Klein will produce through her Apartment 3B Productions.

The project isn't set at a studio; development is being funded by John Farbes, a Texas-based entrepreneur who owns the Athens Development Corp. Farbes will be an executive producer along with Mark Gill and Turner. Patrick Aluise of Aluise Entertainment will produce with Klein.

James was a stylish performer also known for his long battles with cocaine and legal trouble.

Turner said he's not interested in writing the typical rags-to-riches-to-drugs music biopic.

Klein is also teamed with Turner on the Fox dramas Two Minutes to Midnight and Orbit. Turner is also writing Magneto, an "X-Men" spinoff film at Fox.

News for 12/23/2006

Mike Evans, 57; Lionel in 'Jeffersons' created 'Good Times'

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Mike Evans, 57, an actor best known for his role as Lionel Jefferson in the TV sitcoms "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," died of throat cancer Dec. 14 at his mother's home in Twentynine Palms, his niece Dr. Chrystal Evans said.

With writing partner Eric Monte, Evans went on to create and write for "Good Times," one of the first TV sitcoms that featured a primarily African American cast.

Michael Jonas Evans was born Nov. 3, 1949, in Salisbury, N.C., to a dentist father, Theodore Evans Sr., and his schoolteacher wife, Annie Sue Evans.

The family moved to Los Angeles when Mike was a child. He graduated from Los Angeles High School and studied acting at Los Angeles City College before landing the role of Lionel Jefferson in Norman Lear's iconic 1970s situation comedy "All in the Family."

Evans kept the role of Lionel when "The Jeffersons" was launched in 1975 as a spinoff featuring bigoted Archie Bunker's black neighbors in Queens who "move on up to the East Side" of Manhattan and an upscale life.

Evans was replaced by Damon Evans (no relation) for four years, then he returned to the series from 1979 to 1981.

He also acted in the 1976 TV miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man" and made guest appearances on the TV series "Love, American Style" and "The Streets of San Francisco." His last role was in a 2000 episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger."

In recent years he had invested in real estate in the Inland Empire.

Eastwood, DiCaprio play doubles in Globe noms

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. doubled down on Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio on Thursday as it announced nominations for the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton.

With seven nominations, "Babel" was the most-nominated film, followed by "The Departed" with six and "Dreamgirls" with five. In the television categories, the drama "Grey's Anatomy" and the comedy "Weeds" were the most nominated series, with four each.

Eastwood received two nominations in the same category, picking up noms as best director for his bookend films "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima." DiCaprio also twice scored in one same category, dominating the list for best dramatic actor with noms for his work as a Boston undercover cop in "The Departed" and a South African mercenary in "Blood Diamond."

Helen Mirren did them one better. Not only did she receive two nominations in the category of best performance by an actress in a miniseries -- for "Elizabeth I" and "Prime Suspect: The Final Act" -- but she was gifted with a third nom, as best motion picture actress for portraying Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen."

For all their love of Eastwood, though, the 83 voting members of the HFPA did not nominate "Flags" as best drama. They spread their noms among "Babel," "Bobby," "Departed," "Little Children" and "Queen."

For best motion picture comedy or musical, the noms went to "Borat," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Dreamgirls," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Thank You for Smoking."

Joining Eastwood as best director nominees are Stephen Frears for "Queen," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for "Babel" and Martin Scorsese for "Departed." Despite its five nominations, "Dreamgirls" failed to earn a nomination for its director, Bill Condon, who may have been edged aside by the dual Eastwood noms.

As if offering an antidote to "Babel," a globe-trotting tale of cultural misunderstandings, the nominations themselves took on a multicultural hue. "Babel" supporting actresses Adriana Barraza, who hails from Mexico, and Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi were invited to the Globes' annual party, to be held Jan. 15 at the Beverly Hilton and broadcast live by NBC. London-born comedian Sacha Baron Cohen crashed the best actor in a comedy lineup with his alter ego, Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev. And the circle of nominated composers read like a survey of world music with the French-born Alexandre Desplat ("The Painted Veil"), British-born Clint Mansell ("The Fountain"), Argentinean Gustavo Santaolalla ("Babel"), Italian Carlo Siliotto ("Nomad") and German-born Hans Zimmer ("The Da Vinci Code").

A strong streak of Anglophilia also carried through the nominations. In the best dramatic actress heat, for example, American Maggie Gyllenhaal, who stars as an ex-con trying to re-establish her life in "Sherrybaby," and the Spanish-born Penelope Cruz, playing a resilient widow in "Volver," are pitted against such formidable British talent as Judi Dench, who portrays a repressed schoolteacher in "Notes on a Scandal"; Kate Winslet, who plays an adulterous suburbanite in "Little Children"; and Mirren in "Queen."

In addition to DiCaprio, the best actor nominees are Peter O'Toole, earning his 10th Globe nomination by playing an aging rogue in "Venus"; Will Smith, for portraying a struggling dad in "The Pursuit of Happyness"; and Forest Whitaker, who stars as the mercurial Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

In the best actress in a comedy or musical category, the nominees are Annette Bening, who plays an unstable mom in "Running With Scissors"; Toni Collette, the long-suffering wife in "Little Miss Sunshine"; Beyonce Knowles, who portrays a rising recording star in "Dreamgirls"; Meryl Streep, for her turn as a fearsome magazine editor in "Prada"; and Renee Zellweger, who plays author Beatrix Potter in "Miss Potter."

Collette picked up a second nomination as TV supporting actress for "Tsunami: The Aftermath," and Knowles joined the pack of double nominees because she also shares in the composing credits for best song nominee "Listen" from "Dreamgirls."

For best actor in a comedy or musical, the HFPA nominated Baron Cohen; Johnny Depp, scoring his second Globe nomination for playing Jack Sparrow, this time for "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"; Aaron Eckhart, who appears as a tobacco lobbyist in "Thank You for Smoking"; Will Ferrell, who plays a man whose life unfolds like a novel in "Stranger Than Fiction"; and in what amounted to a surprise choice, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who dresses up as a London drag queen in "Kinky Boots." Like Collette, Ejiofor picked up a second nomination for "Tsunami," for which he earned a best actor in a TV miniseries nom.

For best supporting actor, the nominees are Ben Affleck, who portrays the late actor George Reeves in "Hollywoodland"; Eddie Murphy, for his role as an R&B singer in "Dreamgirls"; Brad Pitt as an American encountering trouble abroad in "Babel"; and Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, for the crime saga "Departed."

For best supporting actress, the nominees are Barraza, who appears as a Mexican housekeeper in "Babel"; Cate Blanchett, for her turn as a reckless teacher in "Scandal"; Emily Blunt, who plays a chic editorial assistant in "Prada"; Jennifer Hudson, who sings up a storm in "Dreamgirls"; and Kikuchi, who portrays a deaf girl yearning for connections in "Babel."

Just as "Babel" also suggests that mankind is more interconnected than it might first appear, the traditional studio rivalry that surfaces when awards are announced also underlines the many business dealings among the major studios.

Paramount Pictures laid claim to 15 nominations, including the seven "Babel" noms earned by its specialty division Paramount Vantage. Warner Bros. Pictures had a hand in 13 noms. Both companies staked a claim to "Flags" and "Iwo Jima," co-produced by Paramount's DreamWorks and Warners. Similarly, Fox Filmed Entertainment, with a big assist from specialty division Fox Searchlight, counted 14 noms in its column by including "The Fountain," which was co-produced with Warners by Fox-based Regency Enterprises.

In any event, the noms represent a resurgence for Warners, which is glad to put a disappointing summer behind it, and Paramount, whose new management team is enjoying time in the awards spotlight.

"In the past it has often been the year of the indie. I think this year is the year of the studio," Weinstein Co. co-head Harvey Weinstein said as his outfit picked up four noms -- three of which went to "Bobby" and "Miss Potter," which will be released through MGM.

But, in fact, several indies have sparkled. Buoyed by "Smoking," "Sunshine," "Scandal" and "Scotland," Searchlight is on a roll. "Jubilation is how we felt; we had so many good phone calls to make today," division head Peter Rice said.

Daniel Battsek, completing his first full year as the new head of Miramax Films, saw noms roll in for "Queen," "Venus" and "Kinky Boots." "I'm very superstitious about these things, but to have such a broad range of top nominations at 14 or 15 months into the new company, it feels like we're heading in the right direction," he said. "We did fantastic last year with our first movie, 'Tsotsi,' and it's great to be able to build on that."

In the foreign-language category, Eastwood's Japanese-language "Letters From Iwo Jima" and Mel Gibson's Mayan-speaking "Apocalypto" scored nominations. The others are Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others," Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" and Pedro Almodovar's "Volver."

In the animated film category, something new for the Globes, the nominees are the motoring "Cars," the penguin-filled "Happy Feet" and the spooky "Monster House."

Nominated for best motion picture screenplay are Guillermo Arriaga for "Babel," Todd Field and Tom Perrotta for "Little Children," Patrick Marber for "Scandal," William Monahan for "Departed" and Peter Morgan for "Queen."

Nominees for best original song are: "A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit of Happyness," music by Seal and Christopher Bruce, lyrics by Seal; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls," music and lyrics by Henry Krieger, Anne Preven, Scott Cutler and Knowles; "Never Gonna Break My Faith" from "Bobby," music and lyrics by Bryan Adams, Eliot Kennedy and Andrea Remanda; "The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet," music and lyrics by Prince; and "Try Not to Remember" from "Home of the Brave," music and lyrics by Sheryl Crow.

Nicole Sperling in Los Angeles and Gregg Goldstein in New York contributed to this report.

Click here for the list of nominees or see the list of the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards nominees below.


Picture, Drama

"Babel," "Bobby," "The Departed," "Little Children," "The Queen"

Actress, Drama

Penelope Cruz, "Volver"; Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"; Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Sherrybaby"; Helen Mirren, "The Queen"; Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Actor, Drama

Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"; Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"; Peter O'Toole, "Venus"; Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"; Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Picture, Musical or Comedy

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Dreamgirls," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Thank You for Smoking"

Actress, Musical or Comedy

Annette Bening, "Running With Scissors"; Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Beyonce Knowles, "Dreamgirls"; Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Renee Zellweger, "Miss Potter"

Actor, Musical or Comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"; Aaron Eckhart, "Thank You for Smoking"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Kinky Boots"; Will Ferrell, "Stranger than Fiction"

Supporting Actress

Adriana Barraza, "Babel"; Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"; Emily Blunt, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"; Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Supporting Actor

Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland"; Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"; Jack Nicholson, "The Departed"; Brad Pitt, "Babel"; Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"


Clint Eastwood, "Flags of Our Fathers"; Clint Eastwood, "Letters from Iwo Jima"; Steven Frears, "The Queen"; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"; Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"


Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"; Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"; William Monahan, "The Departed"; Peter Morgan, "The Queen"

Foreign Language

"Apocalypto," USA; "Letters from Iwo Jima," USA/Japan; "The Lives of Others," Germany; "Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico; "Volver" Spain

Animated Film

"Cars," "Happy Feet," "Monster House"

Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, "The Painted Veil"; Clint Mansell, "The Fountain"; Gustavo Santaolalla, "Babel"; Carlo Siliotto, "Nomad"; Hans Zimmer, "The Da Vinci Code"

Original Song

"A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit of Happyness"; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls"; "Never Gonna Break My Faith" from "Bobby"; "The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet"; "Try Not to Remember" from "Home of the Brave"


Series, Drama

"24," Fox; "Big Love," HBO; "Grey's Anatomy," ABC; "Heroes," NBC; "Lost," ABC

Actress, Drama

Patricia Arquette, "Medium"; Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"; Evangeline Lilly, "Lost"; Ellen Pompeo, "Grey's Anatomy"; Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Actor, Drama

Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy"; Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"; Hugh Laurie, "House"; Bill Paxton, "Big Love"; Kiefer Sutherland, "24"

Series, Musical or Comedy

"Desperate Housewives," ABC; "Entourage," HBO; "The Office," NBC; "Ugly Betty," ABC; "Weeds," Showtime

Actress, Musical or Comedy

Marcia Cross, "Desperate Housewives"; America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"; Felicity Huffman, "Desperate Housewives"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine"; Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds"

Actor, Musical or Comedy

Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"; Zach Braff, "Scrubs"; Steve Carell, "The Office"; Jason Lee, "My Name is Earl"; Tony Shalhoub, "Monk"

Miniseries or movie

"Bleak House," PBS; "Broken Trail," AMC; "Elizabeth I," HBO; "Mrs. Harris," HBO; "Prime Suspect: The Final Act," PBS

Actress, Miniseries or Movie

Gillian Anderson, "Bleak House"; Annette Bening, "Mrs. Harris"; Helen Mirren, "Elizabeth I"; Helen Mirren, "Prime Suspect: The Final Act"; Sophie Okonedo, "Tsunami, The Aftermath"

Actor, Miniseries or Movie

Andre Braugher, "Thief"; Robert Duvall, "Broken Trail"; Michael Ealy, "Sleeper Cell: American Terror"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Tsunami, The Aftermath"; Ben Kingsley, "Mrs. Harris"; Bill Nighy, "Gideon's Daughter"; Matthew Perry, "The Ron Clark Story"

Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie

Emily Blunt, "Gideon's Daughter"; Toni Collette, "Tsunami, The Aftermath"; Katherine Heigl, "Grey's Anatomy"; Sarah Paulson, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"; Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds"

Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie

Thomas Haden Church, "Broken Trail"; Jeremy Irons, "Elizabeth I"; Justin Kirk, "Weeds"; Masi Oka, "Heroes"; Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"

'Day Break' Goes Dark at ABC

The pre-Christmas housecleaning of ABC's schedule continued Friday, with the crime drama "Day Break" and game show "Show Me the Money" being shown the door.

The moves come a day after ABC booted the comedy "Help Me Help You" from its lineup, opting instead to run back-to-back episodes of "Big Day" in the 9 p.m. Tuesday spot for the next few weeks.

The dumping of "Show Me the Money" is a bit of a surprise considering that just last week ABC ordered six more episodes of the William Shatner-hosted quiz show and announced it would move to Tuesdays after the new year. That won't be happening now; news reports say the network still has several finished episodes waiting to air, but there aren't at the moment any set plans to burn them off.

As for "Day Break," its future was already in doubt when ABC announced that two comedies, "The Knights of Prosperity" and "In Case of Emergency," would take over its 9 p.m. Wednesday timeslot starting Jan. 3. That would have left the serialized thriller starring Taye Diggs without a home a month before its scheduled conclusion.

The decision follows a weak ratings performance this week, with both shows hitting new lows in the key adults 18-49 demographic (1.6 for "Money" and 1.4 for "Day Break").

Reruns of "George Lopez" and "According to Jim" will fill the two hours from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday for the next two weeks (both shows begin new seasons on the night in January). "America's Funniest Home Videos" will slide into "Show Me the Money's" Tuesday spot starting Jan. 2.

Weekend Boxoffice

'Happyness' pays off at box office

AP Movie Writer

Not even a dragon or the world's most-beloved spider could deny Will Smith another first-place finish at the box office.

Sony's father-son drama "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Smith and his own son, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, debuted as the No. 1 movie with $27 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Smith's latest topped 20th Century Fox's dragon fantasy "Eragon," which opened in second place with $23.45 million, and Paramount's children's tale "Charlotte's Web," which premiered a distant third with $12 million.

The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Mel Gibson's Mayan saga "Apocalypto," fell to sixth place with $7.7 million, raising its 10-day total to $27.9 million.

The story of a struggling dad who becomes homeless along with his young son, "Pursuit of Happyness" joins a long line of No. 1 openings for Smith, including the action tales "Independence Day" and "I, Robot."

"Audiences around the world love him," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony, whose past hits with Smith include the "Men in Black" flicks and last year's romantic comedy "Hitch."

"Everyone who sees Will Smith or meets Will Smith feels like he could be their best friend," Bruer said. "He has that type of charisma that resonates throughout whatever room he's in."

Combining live action and computer animation, "Charlotte's Web" had a soft opening despite an all-star voice cast including Julia Roberts, Robert Redford and Oprah Winfrey in E.B. White's classic about a spider that befriends a lonely pig.

Don Harris, executive vice president of distribution at Paramount, said the studio hopes "Charlotte's Web" will follow the pattern of other pre-Christmas family releases such as "Stuart Little" and "The Prince of Egypt," which opened in the same range but held on through the holidays to become hits.

"The movie has every chance to get to $100 million off of this opening," Harris said.

Paramount's musical "Dreamgirls," starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson in an adaptation of the stage hit, opened to big numbers at three theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Premiering with reserved seating and special programs at a premium ticket price of $25, the film took in $360,000, a healthy start to its nationwide release on Christmas.

George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's latest collaboration, "The Good German," debuted solidly with $78,572 at five theaters. Clooney stars with Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire in a black-and-white tale of murder and intrigue in Berlin just after World War II.

Overall business was off, with the top 12 movies taking in $112.3 million, down 8.3 percent compared to the same weekend last year, when two blockbusters — "King Kong" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" — were Nos. 1 and 2.

This weekend's holdover films retained strong audiences, though, a sign that many current movies may have a long shelf life, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

"It's hard to say this is a positive thing that this is a down weekend. But the strength of this weekend has been the holdovers," Dergarabedian said. "There is a lot of depth to the marketplace. It's a direct reflection of audience satisfaction. That's more important I think than beating last year's competition."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Pursuit of Happyness," $27 million.
2. "Eragon," $23.45 million.
3. "Charlotte's Web," $12 million.
4. "Happy Feet," $8.5 million.
5. "The Holiday," $8.2 million.
6. "Apocalypto," $7.7 million.
7. "Blood Diamond," $6.3 million.
8. "Casino Royale," $5.7 million.
9. "The Nativity Story," $4.7 million.
10. "Unaccompanied Minors," $3.7 million.

News for 12/13/2006

Orlando Jones Climbs 'Trees'

'Evidence' star will guest on ABC series

John Amos' character on "Men in Trees" has previously mentioned having a son -- not counting the one he just found out about. Soon, we'll get to meet him, and he'll look a lot like Orlando Jones.

Jones, who starred in another ABC series, "The Evidence," earlier this year, has signed on to guest-star on "Men in Trees" episodes later in the season. He'll appear in two episodes, playing George, the estranged son of Amos' Buzz.

George has been corresponding with his newfound half-brother, Patrick (Derek Richardson) -- the product of a long-ago tryst between Buzz and Celia (Cynthia Stevenson), the police chief in Elmo, Alaska, and decides to head north to meet Patrick. We're guessing the news doesn't go over that well with Buzz.

There's no word yet on when Jones' guest arc will air.

Jones played San Francisco detective Cayman Bishop on "The Evidence," which had a brief run last spring and summer on ABC. The former "MADtv" star and 7-Up pitchman has also appeared in "Drumline," "Unbreakable," "Office Space" and "Runaway Jury."

He'll next be seen on the big screen in the thriller "Primeval," due for release next spring.

4 films get seven nods for BFCA awards

The Departed," "Babel," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Dreamgirls" have each collected seven nominations for the 12th annual Critics' Choice Awards. All four films got a nomination for best picture.

"The Queen" collected four nominations, while "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Notes on a Scandal," "Little Children" and "Charlotte's Web" garnered three each.

Leonardo DiCaprio scored two acting nominations for his work in "The Departed" and "Blood Diamond."

He'll be up against Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson," Peter O'Toole for "Venus," Will Smith for "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland."

Nominees for best actress were Penelope Cruz for "Volver," Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal," Helen Mirren for "The Queen," Meryl Streep for "The Devil Wears Prada" and Kate Winslet for "Little Children."

Directing nominations went to Bill Condon for "Dreamgirls," Clint Eastwood for "Letters From Iwo Jima," Stephen Frears for "The Queen," Paul Greengrass for "United 93" and Martin Scorsese for "The Departed."

The Critics' Choice Awards, presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, will be held Jan. 12 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The ceremony will air Jan. 20 on E! Entertainment Television.

Click here for the entire list of nominees.

Martin Lawrence is The Better Man

Source: Variety

Universal Pictures has signed Martin Lawrence to star in Malcolm Lee's The Better Man and set a March start date for the comedy, reports Variety.

Scott Stuber and Mary Parent will produce through their Universal-based Stuber/Parent production company.

Lawrence will play a single father who has just made it big as an outrageous syndicated talkshow host. When he returns home to attend the 50th anniversary of his parents with his famous fiancee, he begins to question his path in life.

Kirk Franklin is the Church Boy

Source: Lionsgate

Lionsgate announced today that it will partner with gospel music icon Kirk Franklin to develop Church Boy, a screen version of his inspirational life story. The announcement was made by Lionsgate President of Production Mike Paseornek. Franklin will star in the film and compose its soundtrack, which will include old favorites in addition to several brand-new songs.

Franklin will produce CHURCH BOY along with Paul Hall (Pride, Johnson Family Vacation, Higher Learning), Bobby Smith Jr. (screenwriter, Their Eyes Were Watching God, screenwriter/co-producer Jason's Lyric), and Emmy Award-winning casting director Robi Reed (casting The Tuskegee Airmen, co-producer Never Die Alone), who will also cast the film. Will Young will co-produce. Lionsgate Music Publishing will work closely with Franklin and his publishers on the newly-created compositions and will co-publish those works.

Said Paseornek, "We are very excited to welcome Kirk Franklin to the Lionsgate family. Kirk is an incredible talent who has touched countless lives through his music and his spiritual message. To hear his story is to realize how faith and dedication can help a person overcome the most daunting obstacles. With Kirk playing himself and bringing in brand-new songs -- audiences are sure to be feeling the spirit with 'Church Boy.'"

Commented Franklin, "Lionsgate is the perfect home for 'Church Boy.' This is a studio that has made a strong and genuine commitment to African-American audiences and faith-based audiences. Lionsgate puts everything they have behind their films, and they are endlessly creative and resourceful in reaching the commercial marketplace."

Church Boy is the rags-to-riches story of Kirk Franklin, abandoned by his teenage mother and raised by a great aunt in Ft. Worth, Texas. A precocious musical talent, Kirk is directing a church choir by age 11. But as he enters his teens in a tough neighborhood mired in poverty and rife with drugs, street violence, and easy sex, Kirk grows rebellious and loses his way. As his life spirals out of control, Kirk undergoes a dramatic conversion... and begins a remarkable journey towards stardom.

Kirk Franklin is the top-selling gospel artist in the SoundScan era. In 1994, he changed the face of contemporary gospel with his debut album, "Kirk Franklin and the Family," which introduced elements of R&B, hip-hop, rock and pop to traditional gospel. It became the first gospel album to sell more than a million units. To date, Franklin has recorded six albums, earning three Grammy Awards; 11 Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association; and 33 Stellar Awards, honoring African-American gospel artists. Franklin's latest CD, "Hero," was released on his Fo Yo Soul Entertainment label in October 2005 to rave reviews. It debuted in the #1 position on Billboard Magazine's Top Gospel Album and Top Christian Albums charts, and reached #4 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Album chart, and #13 on the Billboard 200. Well-known for his dynamic performances, Franklin recently completed the first leg of his critically acclaimed "Hero Tour," playing to sold-out venues across the country.

A businessman and youth pastor as well as a musician, Franklin has launched Fo Yo Soul Entertainment, Inc., a multi-tiered venture that reflects his dedication to music, faith, and community services. The Fo Yo Soul Entertainment properties include a record label, a production company, an advertising agency, a full service youth outreach initiative, and a cutting edge urban-styled youth ministry, NuNation Ministries, LLC. Exemplifying Franklin's fresh spiritual approach, NuNation Ministries offers bi-weekly presentations filled with dance, rappers, acting, singing, DJ'S, spoken word, and other forms that express the perspectives of young people and encourage them to share their faith in innovative ways.

A husband and father, Franklin was recently named Faith Ambassador to The Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a private, nonprofit organization that for more than 30 years has provided a strong, effective voice for children in America. In this new role, Franklin will help promote the tenth anniversary of CDF's "Stand for Children" initiative and advocate for better policy choices affecting the 37 million Americans, 13 million of them children, living in poverty.

Bebe Moore Campbell, 56; best-selling novelist wrote on racism, mental illness

By Mary Rourke
Times Staff Writer

Bebe Moore Campbell, a best-selling author who wrote with compassion and candor about social issues from the African American perspective, died Monday. She was 56.

Campbell died at her home in Los Angeles of complications from brain cancer, her publicist Linda Wharton Boyd said.

In her novels, she took up such topics as racism and the problems of mental illness. Her closely observed details about characters engaged in complicated relationships led reviewers to compare her to such literary masters as Anton Chekhov and Edith Wharton.

Several of Campbell's novels are set in Los Angeles, including "Brothers and Sisters" (1994), which explores the strained aftermath of the city's 1992 riots. The novel's main character, a black woman banker, is torn between her commitment to a white co-worker and the black man she accuses of sexual harassment.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- FOR THE RECORD: Campbell obituary: The obituary of author Bebe Moore Campbell that appeared in Tuesday's California section reported that she is survived by a son, Ellis Gordon III. He is her stepson. — --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"This book is about succeeding and surviving, even being happy in a society where every card seems stacked against you," novelist Carolyn See wrote in a review for the Washington Post.

See called Campbell one of the most important African American novelists of the 20th century and regularly included "Brothers and Sisters" in a course she taught about writers of the American West.

Another of Campbell's novels set in Los Angeles, "What You Owe Me" (2001), is a saga of two women who launch a cosmetics empire and the struggles that follow.

The book is "a meticulously reinvented landscape of 1940s Los Angeles," noted a Times review in naming Campbell's novel one of the best books of 2001.

"Bebe was a passionate voice for Los Angeles," novelist Paula L. Woods said Monday. "She wrote about the historical and social forces that make us rub against each other and spark. Her heart was in the African American community.

"There will be a gap without her. Already, you feel that absence."

As a novelist Campbell was attracted to strong female characters, caught up in a life-changing drama.

In "72 Hour Hold" (2005), a woman struggles with family members and the healthcare system when her grown daughter becomes mentally ill.

Campbell also wrote about mental illness in an unusual children's novel, "Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry" (2002), about a little girl whose mother is unbalanced and erratic.

"It was courageous of Bebe," to write the book, said James Fugate, co-owner of Eso Won bookstore in Los Angeles, where Campbell regularly attracted "out-the-door" crowds when introducing her newest novel.

"The book is a way of expressing to children what they need to know, " Fugate said. The little girl in the story learns to call a grandmother or an aunt for help if her mother is not well.

Campbell was open about the fact that there was mental illness in her family but was not specific about the details.

"Bebe put her compassion and sensitivity into the writing," Woods said.

Campbell's first book, "Successful Women, Angry Men: Backlash in the Two Career Marriage" (1986), was nonfiction.

She also wrote a memoir, "Sweet Summer, Growing Up With and Without My Dad" (1989), about her young life as the daughter of divorced parents. She would spend the school year with her mother in Philadelphia and summer with her father, a paraplegic, in North Carolina.

Her journalistic articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Ebony magazine and elsewhere.

Along with her best-selling author's status, she received an Image Award for Literature from the NAACP for her 1992 novel "Your Blues Ain't Like Mine" about the segregated Deep South.

Born Elizabeth Bebe Moore in Philadelphia, she received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh before she began a career as a schoolteacher.

She married Tiko Campbell. The couple settled in Washington, D.C., and had a daughter, Maia Campbell, before the marriage ended in divorce.

Campbell later married Ellis Gordon Jr., and they settled in Los Angeles. They had one son, Ellis Gordon III.

In addition to her husband and two children, she is survived by her mother, Doris Moore, and two grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

Contributions in her name can be made to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at NAMI Urban Los Angeles, 4305 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008; or to the United Negro College Fund, 8260 Willow Oaks Corporate Park Drive, P.O. Box 10444, Fairfax, VA 22031.