Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“Movie Gallery plans to liquidate, close all Hollywood ... - Los Angeles Times” plus 3 more

“Movie Gallery plans to liquidate, close all Hollywood ... - Los Angeles Times” plus 3 more

Movie Gallery plans to liquidate, close all Hollywood ... - Los Angeles Times

Posted: 10 May 2010 03:34 PM PDT

Movie Gallery Inc., owner of struggling movie rental chain Hollywood Video, is planning to close its remaining stores and liquidate as consumers increasingly get movies through the mail, vending machines and high-speed Internet connections.

The No. 2 rental chain behind Blockbuster Inc. filed a notice with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond that it would terminate its business operations after defaulting on a loan from one of its creditors.

An agreement filed with the court says the move to close more than 1,900 remaining stores is in the "best interests" of the company and its creditors. The agreement does not specify a time line. It must be approved by a bankruptcy judge.

Phone calls to Movie Gallery and an attorney representing the company were not immediately returned Monday.

The company, based in Wilsonville, Ore., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, buckling under the competitive pressure from movies-by-mail service Netflix Inc., DVD kiosk company Redbox and delivery of movies and TV shows over the Internet.

The bankruptcy filing does not include Movie Gallery's Canadian operations.

It was the second trip through Bankruptcy Court in just three years for Movie Gallery. The company first landed there in October 2007, unable to sustain the debt it took on in its $850-million acquisition of rival Hollywood Entertainment Corp. in 2005. Movie Gallery agreed to assume about $350 million of Hollywood Entertainment's debt as part of the deal.

Although the acquisition made Movie Gallery the second-largest rental chain, it has been forced to close more than 2,400 of its stores in the last three years, according to court filings. It had since announced plans to close more stores as part of its restructuring.

Despite moving to shut down unprofitable locations, the company said it continued to see significant losses in 2009. Annual revenue fell $546.3 million, or 28%, to $1.4 billion.

In a court filing, Movie Gallery Chief Restructuring Officer Steve Moore said the company was facing "looming defaults" on its loan agreements. The company listed debts of between $500 million and $1 billion, compared with assets of between $10 million and $50 million.

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Christina Aguilera to Tour North America - The Celebrity Cafe.com

Posted: 10 May 2010 08:13 PM PDT

Pop singer Christina Aguilera, whose new album Bionic will debut June 8, is set to tour North America and will be joined by British singer Leona Lewis.

According to MTV, the tour dates for North America kick off July 15 and end August 19. But first, Aguilera will entertain at the MTV Movie Awards on June 6 and then make an appearance on the Today Show Summer Concert Series on June 8.

Ticket sales will be in effect starting May 21 via Live Nation, while cardholders with Citibank get a presale two days prior, as stated by Consequenceofsound.net. Fans who buy tickets before June 4 can expect to receive a download code for a digital replica of the disc on June 7.

Aguilera didn't want to dish out too much information to the public about the tour, but said, "It'll be a fun, fun tour; again with the look and feel of Bionic."

According to AZCentral.com her new single, "Not Myself Tonight," is available online and can be viewed at YouTube.com.

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Pioneering entertainer Lena Horne dies at 92 - Detroit News

Posted: 10 May 2010 10:08 PM PDT

With video

Aljean Harmetz / New York Times

Lena Horne, who was the first black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio and who went on to achieve international fame as a singer, died on Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in New York. She was 92 and lived in Manhattan.

Her death was announced by her son-in-law, Kevin Buckley.

Horne might have become a major movie star, but she was born 50 years too early, and languished at MGM in the 1940s because of the color of her skin, although she was so light-skinned that, when she was a child, other black children had taunted her, accusing her of having a "white daddy."


Horne was stuffed into one "all-star" musical after another -- "Thousands Cheer" (1943), "Broadway Rhythm" (1944), "Two Girls and a Sailor" (1944), "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), "Words and Music" (1948) -- to sing a song or two that could easily be snipped from the movie when it played in the South, where the idea of an African-American performer in anything but a subservient role in a movie with an otherwise all-white cast was unthinkable.

"The only time I ever said a word to another actor who was white was Kathryn Grayson in a little segment of 'Show Boat,' " included in "Till the Clouds Roll By" (1946), a movie about the life of Jerome Kern, Horne said in an interview in 1990. In that sequence she played Julie, a mulatto forced to flee the showboat because she has married a white man.

But when MGM made "Show Boat" into a movie for the second time, in 1951, the role of Julie was given to a white actress, Ava Gardner, who did not do her own singing. (Horne was no longer under contract to MGM at the time, and according to James Gavin's Horne biography, "Stormy Weather," published last year, she was never seriously considered for the part.) And in 1947, when Horne herself married a white man -- the prominent arranger, conductor and pianist Lennie Hayton, who was for many years both her musical director and MGM's -- the marriage took place in France and was kept secret for three years.

Horne's first MGM movie was "Panama Hattie" (1942), in which she sang Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things." Writing about that film years later, Pauline Kael called it "a sad disappointment, though Lena Horne is ravishing and when she sings you can forget the rest of the picture."

Even before she came to Hollywood, Brooks Atkinson, the drama critic for the New York Times, noticed Horne in "Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939," a Broadway revue that ran for nine performances. "A radiantly beautiful sepia girl," he wrote, "who will be a winner when she has proper direction."

In 1945 the critic and screenwriter Frank Nugent wrote in Liberty magazine that Horne was "the nation's top Negro entertainer." In addition to her MGM salary of $1,000 a week, she was earning $1,500 for every radio appearance and $6,500 a week when she played nightclubs. She was also popular with servicemen, white and black, during World War II, appearing more than a dozen times on the Army radio program "Command Performance."

"The whole thing that made me a star was the war," Horne said in the 1990 interview. "Of course the black guys couldn't put Betty Grable's picture in their footlockers. But they could put mine."

Touring Army camps for the USO, Horne was outspoken in her criticism of the way black soldiers were treated. "So the USO got mad," she recalled. "And they said, 'You're not going to be allowed to go anyplace anymore under our auspices.' So from then on I was labeled a bad little Red girl."

Horne later claimed that for this and other reasons, including her friendship with leftists like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois, she was blacklisted and "unable to do films or television for the next seven years" after her tenure with MGM ended in 1950.

This was not quite true: as Gavin has documented, she appeared frequently on "Your Show of Shows" and other television shows in the 1950s, and in fact "found more acceptance" on television "than almost any other black performer." And Gavin and others have suggested that there were other factors in addition to politics or race involved in her lack of film work

Although absent from the screen, she found success in nightclubs and on records. "Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria," recorded during a well-received eight-week run in 1957, reached the Top 10 and became the best-selling album by a female singer in RCA Victor's history.

In the early 1960s Horne, always outspoken on the subject of civil rights, became increasingly active, participating in numerous marches and protests.

She continued to record prolifically well into the 1990s, for RCA and other labels, notably United Artists and Blue Note. And she conquered Broadway in 1981 with a one-woman show, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," which ran for 14 months and won both rave reviews and a Tony Award.

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Movie Review: 'Babies' beautifully captures the universality of the ... - Canada East

Posted: 04 May 2010 07:20 AM PDT

A clear line will be drawn in the sand - or the sandbox, if you will - when it comes to the way people respond to "Babies."

If you've never had one or you're not into them - if the sound of cooing sends chills down your spine and the idea of changing a diaper turns your stomach - then you're unlikely to be moved by this documentary that follows four babies from around the world, starting with birth and ending with their first steps. Be warned, the cute factor is high.

But if you're already a mom or dad - or better yet, a new mom, like yours truly - you'll be moved nearly to tears by the beauty of the film's universality, by moments that are so artful and intimate, they'll make you wonder how it's possible that any family would let a filmmaker in so close to shoot them.

French director Thomas Balmes brings us the daily ins and outs, from mundane moments to milestones, of four infants living disparate lives: Ponijao, a girl from Namibia; Mari, a baby girl in Tokyo; Hattie from San Francisco, and Bayarjargal, the only boy (and the biggest scene-stealer) in Mongolia. Balmes does this without narration, without marking the passage of time or even subtitles to clarify what's being said; then again, there are very few words. Instead, he roams from one baby to the next as they cry, eat, sleep, play and - eventually - crawl, stand up and walk.

It's a bold storytelling approach: Balmes runs the risk of alienating his audience members, the vast majority of whom won't be able to understand what's being said. "Babies" frequently lacks momentum because there's no strong narrative drive, just an easy, casual stroll from baby to baby, moment to moment. Then again, the familiarity of infancy emerges in time. When a mother assuages her child on an African plane or in a Japanese high-rise, it's clear what she's saying.

At the same time, the differences are striking. Helicopter parenting doesn't seem to exist in Mongolia, for example, where adorable Bayarjargal crawls out by himself into a scruffy field in the sunshine wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a diaper. Soon he's surrounded by cattle, all of whom seem to know instinctively to step carefully around this delicate creature, to protect him. When Ponijao bends down to sip water from a stream in the desert, you can almost hear the moms in the audience cringing because it's not sanitary.

But parents in the United States will also get a kick out of Hattie's reaction when her mom drags her to a crunchy-granola, mommy-and-me song circle. Her instinct is to run screaming for the door. (Smart cookie. Learning early.) Similarly, Mari has a prolonged and hilarious tantrum when she can't figure out how to stack a series of blocks in her bedroom. These are little people with big personalities, and Balmes lucked out in finding them; after all, he arranged to film these families while the babies were still in the womb.

Balmes shot nearly all this footage himself, 400 hours of it, all on a tripod, and the stillness of the lengthy moments that result can be mesmerizing. In crisp high definition and accompanied by Bruno Coulais' gorgeous score, he shows us everything from grand vistas of the Mongolian planes to nighttime quiet of a Namibian family's hut.

At a time when there are so many conflicting parenting theories - and so much militant mommyism about the "right way" to raise a child - one of the greatest strengths of "Babies" is that it refrains from judging any of these parents or pushing any agenda, and just lets us admire the sweetness and strength of the family bond for a little while.

Three stars out of four.

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