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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

AMC’s The Walking Dead Set For Season 2

Unless you’ve been invaded by zombies and didn’t manage to survive… AMC’s The Walking Dead is an epic, edge-of-your-seat drama where personal struggles are magnified against a backdrop of moment-to-moment survival. A survivalist story at its core, the series explores how the living are changed by the overwhelming realization that those who survive can be far more dangerous than the mindless walkers roaming the earth. They themselves have become the walking dead. Shot on location in Atlanta, The Walking Dead is led by a cast that includes Lincoln (Teachers, Love Actually) as Rick Grimes, Jon Bernthal (The Pacific, The Ghost Writer) as Shane Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break) as Lori Grimes, Laurie Holden (The Shield, Stephen King’s The Mist) as Andrea, Jeffrey DeMunn (Stephen King’s The Mist, The Green Mile) as Dale, Steven Yeun (The Big Bang Theory) as Glen, Emma Bell (The Bedford Diaries) as Amy and Chandler Riggs (Get Low) as Carl Grimes.

Joining Darabont and Hurd as executive producers are Kirkman; David Alpert from Circle of Confusion; and Charles “Chic” Eglee (Dexter, The Shield). Jack LoGiudice (Sons of Anarchy, Resurrection Blvd) serves as co-executive producer with Denise Huth (Stephen King’s The Mist) as producer. The Walking Dead was written by Darabont, Eglee, LoGiudice, Kirkman, Glen Mazzara and Adam E. Fierro. In addition to Darabont, directors for the series include Michelle MacLaren, Gwyneth Horder Payton, Johan Renck, Ernest Dickerson and Guy Ferland.

Production has already begun and the show is set to debut in October of 2011. But here are some questions and answers from Gale Anne Hurd, The Walking Dead’s brilliant Executive Producer— DIRECTLY from the set:

What’s the production been like so far?
It has been pedal to the metal. We had the zombie invasion, the herd on the highway… It was certainly as big, if not bigger, than anything we had in the first season. It’s interesting, though, because now that people are aware of the show, we do have visitors. Sometimes they’re in helicopters for the local TV stations. Sometimes they’re fans that show up at five o’clock in the morning waiting for us to arrive.”

What changes have you noticed since The Walking Dead is on everyone’s radar?
The number of people who want to be zombie extras has blown up. And when we say that we’re working on The Walking Dead, as opposed to the blank stares that we got last year, now we hear “Oh, it’s a great show,” or “My boyfriend is a fan,” and “Hopefully, you’ll have more episodes this year.” So we’re happy to be able to tell them we’ve got a full 13-episode season.

What challenges do those additional episodes present?
The challenge, of course, is surviving the heat and the humidity for more than double our shooting schedule. We were essentially on the same schedule starting the beginning of June as we were on last year. And Atlanta has had unseasonably hot weather. I think we’ve broken a few records already with over 90 degree temperatures. But, we were prepared this season. We had all the right clothing. We have a lot of our zombie extras back from last year— they were totally prepared. We really were able to start back up without missing a beat.

Have the zombie extras been instructed to change their behavior this season?
We really want people to bring their own unique take to it. We still have the same rules, but now we’re dealing with some people who have been zombified a little longer. So they’re much skinnier, but they’re just as deadly.

Last season you told us you would consider dressing as a zombie for Season 2. Any chance that will happen?
I’d probably have to lose about 15 pounds in order to fit with the terrific group that we’ve got, and I don’t know if that’s in the cards.

What about Season 2 are you most looking forward to?
We have such terrific character-driven stories. Since we set up the world, now we’re able to delve into the dynamic of the characters among those survivors to a degree that we weren’t last season given the short order of episodes. And that’s what I’m most excited about—- to really deliver on that promise from last year. We want to take some literary license with the comic book, such as being able to develop a love triangle between Rick and Shane and Lori. So that’s something that clearly, although it deviates from the comic book in the sense that Shane’s around a lot longer, it also gives us an opportunity for us to really explore what it means to each one of the characters.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Truth is Determined, Not Discovered.

We live in an age that is characterized by denials of the reality of truth. To our postmodern apologists, “truth” is not discovered, but rather is determined by each individual. In other words, truth is not truth for everyone; it is only truth for a particular person or cultural group. It is not uncommon to hear statements like “you have your truth and I have mine.” Consequently, we are told that, since absolute truth does not exist, we must not condemn or judge anyone negatively who holds to a different set of values. We are to “tolerate” all views, since there is no one view of the world that is right. Those who claim to be “right” in their view of the world are demonized. They are the bigots of this world. (In other words, we can tolerate all views, unless those views are completely intolerant!)

Logically, this kind of thinking is nothing but nonsense. And I mean that in the true sense of logic. There is a fundamental principle by which all logical thinking conforms; it is inescapable. This principle is known as the “law of non-contradiction.” This says that no two contradictory statements can both be true at the same time and in the same exact sense (A is not non-A). This is inescapable because should people try to deny it, they would be confirming it through their denial. How so? If you were to say, “The law of non-contradiction is false,” you would be arguing true verses false; but any argument about that which is true or false necessarily employs the law of non-contradiction. Without this fundamental principle, you could not draw any conclusions about reality; you could not say that anything is true or false. To argue against it is to assume that it is a valid principle.

Further, when one denies the reality of truth, that person necessarily assumes that some truth exists; otherwise he/she would not be in a position to say that something exists or does not exist as a part of reality. When we say that one thing is false, we necessarily are saying that something else (i.e., the opposite) is true. So once again, to deny the reality of truth, one must assume that some truth actually does exist. That is why a denial of truth is pure nonsense. It forces one to be self-contradictory. If someone says that there is no such thing as “truth,” we would respond by asking, “Is that a true statement?”

“Truth” is a statement or expression that corresponds to its object. When speaking of reality, a statement is true if it corresponds to reality. And reality, as does truth, exists independent of our perceptions. In other words, truth is truth whether we accept it or not; reality is real whether or not we believe it. The existence of truth is therefore undeniable. Anyone who argues otherwise is engaging in logical nonsense.

This is the same problem when one argues against “absolutes.” “There are no absolutes” is a self-defeating and illogical statement. Just ask, “is that an absolute statement?” and you’ll see the point. If it is an absolute statement, then it contradicts itself; if it is not an absolute statement, then it is false. Either way, it is false.

So now the question is not “does truth really exist?” but rather “which world view best corresponds to truth?” In order to answer that, we must have some idea about what reality is. This may not be an easy pursuit, but at least when we accept the existence of truth and reality, we are in a position to actually search for it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse— A Fallen Tortured Angel.


All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate have been putting off making reports or statements about what we all feel is yet another completely unnecessary tragedy, one that especially touches all of our editors overseas. Singer/Songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead yesterday ­afternoon after a suspected drink and drugs binge at the age of just 27. The troubled star— who has spent years battling heroin and alcohol addiction— collapsed at her flat in North London. Friends called an ambulance ­immediately but she died before help arrived. One friend said she had been taking ecstasy but everything at this point will be “speculation” and the truth may never be fully revealed.

We are 900% certain that there will be a tabloid ONSLAUGHT of stories and angered people feeling that Amy was completely at fault and that she’s just another footnote in a long line of tortured singers… Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin… all of which mysteriously died at almost the exact same age. But you see, these creative geniuses all had inner demons prior to their inevitable demise. It’s easy to make a “blanket statement” about an entertainer and place the weight of the world onto their shoulders, saying that they should “know better” or that they should always “be more responsible”— that they are OBLIGATED to be “role models”.


I’m just going to say it. All of those blanket statements are BULLSHIT. These people are NOT obligated to raise your children in any way shape or form. They did not sign on to make sure that they were “good enough” to guide ANY of their fans. They were all human beings… flawed as we all are. The creative mind is not made to withstand the massive waves upon waves of pressure inspired by GREED [a word that I will use quite a bit as it applies].


Most of the artists I mentioned, including Amy Winehouse, essentially were bled dry by agents, managers, major record labels, a entourage of “hanger-ons”… none of which could ever sincerely say that they cared about these performers. Don’t kid yourself. It is always about the money. And to the big corporate machines that control media, entertainment and everything in between are nothing more than greedy soulless bastards accustomed to discovering rare talents and then placing more than enough tensions and demands on them to push every last one off of the cliff and into the abyss. And the money just keeps rolling into the pockets of the suits, executives, managers, publicists and a sleuth of leaches who hang onto the rotting corpses without even a moment of remorse.

All of the talented artists/performers I mentioned are still money machines. You see, once someone like Amy Winehouse passes on, her music becomes priceless. She is “re-branded”, “repackaged” and her album sales skyrocket and then… demos are found, bootlegs are “magically” discovered, recording sessions and concerts that were ALL captured on camera find their way onto DVD and Bluray… and we cannot help but want to cling to some piece of these gifted artists… so we buy everything that the snake oil salesmen are peddling... but none of it will ever reveal the pain behind the artists who are merely numbers and dollar signs.


As a tribute to Amy, we decided to post an interview with Amy conducted by Mark Gatty Saunt [Captain Caveman] and myself. Words cannot describe how truly disappointed and saddened we are right now. When our interview was conducted [in 2008], Amy was on top of her game… or so it seemed. But as journalists and human beings, we sensed that perhaps she was merely meeting her contractual obligations.



Amy Winehouse— A Fallen Tortured Angel.  

by Mark Gatty Saunt and Bridget Petrella (originally published in 2008)


UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate’s Original Interview

As a journalist, I will openly admit to anyone who will listen to me… I am hooked on Amy Winehouse. The music, the personality, the “I don’t give a shit” tattoos. Stale cigars, and bluesy night clubs. Thin bird like solo guitar players belting out their sorrow for a bottle of bathtub gin in somewhere New Orleans… before it was destroyed by the upper class college punks… before the flood. Darkness. A lone blue light floats down like dust from center stage. The ghost of Billie Holiday shimmers out the rear exit into a black sedan to chase the next fix. The band starts out soft, slow. Jazz cut by Motown tinged in Blues. All eyes leave their drinks. Amy Winehouse takes the stage. Perhaps in a black velvet sequined dress…perhaps in a pair of torn blue jeans… Fresh from her triumphant performance at the Brits where she picked up the British Female Solo Artist award, Amy Winehouse has had her much anticipated new single, ”Back To Black”, released on April 16th through Island Records.


The single is the title track from Amy’s stunning album “Back To Black”, which this week re-gained the number 1 slot, and looks set to go triple— platinum in a matter of weeks with sales fast approaching the 900,000 mark. It’s been a fantastic few years for Amy since the release, at the end of October 2006… of her anthemic single “Rehab”. “Rehab” entered the chart at number 7 and was quickly followed by “Back To Black” which was released to universal acclaim and finished the year topping many end of year polls. A second single, “You Know I’m No Good”, featuring Ghostface Killah, was released in January and gave Amy her second big hit. Two Brit nominations, a South Bank Show award and an Elle Style award followed before Amy scooped the British Best Female last week at Earl’s Court. Amy’s live shows feature songs drawn from her platinum debut “Frank” and “Back To Black” which she wrote from her own experiences.

“Frank” established Amy Winehouse as one of the most exciting and challenging artists in pop music, and “Back To Black” merely proves, beyond any reasonable or unreasonable doubt, what a truly remarkable talent she is. Winehouse’s song-writing and fearlessness as a lyric writer has been grafted and infused onto some of the most astonishing material in her short career thus far. “Back To Black” sees her teaming up once again with “Frank” producer Salaam Remi and, for the first time, with New Yorker Mark Ronson (Lily Allen, Robbie Williams and Christina Aguilera).


Following the ongoing success of “Frank”, Amy began thinking about what she’d like to do with her second record. “Frank” was her grand and suitably blunt-speaking break-up record, and it won her a battalion of fans around the world, marking  her out as one of the most distinctive new voices in pop; confessional, elemental and with that most rare of combinations: humor and soul. “I didn’t want to play the jazz thing up too much again. I was bored of complicated chord structures and needed something more direct. I’d been listening to a lot of girl-groups from the fifties and sixties. I liked the simplicity of that stuff. It just gets to the point.” You can hear it on the subtlety Supremes-referencing intro of “Back To Black”.


While the girl-groups of the sixties to which she had become enthralled contained their vocals, Amy can break loose with Aretha-style vocal stylings on “Just Friends” or by turning the whole idea of drying out into a gospel spiritual on the stunning opener “Rehab”. “Love is a Losing Game” is pure classic modern song-writing: brief, to the point and drenched in emotion. Other profound highlights  include the Nas inspired “Me and Mr. Jones”,  the positively beautiful  “Wake Up Alone”, “I’m No Good”, the personal epiphany that you can behave just as badly as all of those atypical bad boys that have messed you around and stamped all over you without bothering to care...  and the bluesy cool of the title track, “Back To Black”.


February of 2008 saw Amy Winehouse duly honored with 5 of the US Recording Academy’s most prestigious awards: Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best New Artist, Song of the Year (Rehab) and Record of the Year (Rehab) at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles. This incredible haul made Amy the first ever British female artist to win 5 Grammys in one night and saw her join Lauryn Hill (in 1998), Alicia Keys (in 2001), Norah Jones (in 2002) and Beyonce (in 2003) in the elite group of female artists who have won 5 awards in just one evening. The Grammys had capped off a remarkable 18 months for this hugely talented and unique artist.


During that time “Back To Black”, her second album (and the biggest selling UK album of 2007), sold over 5 million copies worldwide and turned Amy into one of the hottest stars in the world. The critical response to the record has been every bit as impressive and in addition to the Grammy’s Amy has picked up a series of awards including a Brit, South Bank Show Award, Ivor Novello, Mojo, Glamour, Elle Style Award, Mobo, MTV Europe’s Artists’ Choice Award and Q Award for Album of the Year. Meanwhile Amy’s 2003 debut album ‘Frank’ has now gone double platinum selling an incredible 300,000 copies in 2007 alone. I had the unique opportunity to share a pint with Amy at one of London’s seedier sections of town. But trust me when I tell you… it was cool. What follows is an overview of our conversation…


UPBEAT: Things have taken off rather quickly for you— how exactly… are you dealing with all of your well-deserved fame?
Amy Winehouse
“It’s really cool. Look around you [laughs]. My life isn’t really different to how it used to be. It’s better in that I’m working more now. You know how when you don’t go to work, you don’t always feel 100 percent? Well, because I’m working a lot, I feel like I’m doing good things now. [she takes a drag on her cigarette and pauses reflectively] I never wanted any of this and that’s the truth. I would have been happy to sing in a cover band for the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t have gone on one of those shows in a million, billion years, because I think that musicality is not something other people should judge you on. Music’s a thing you have with yourself. Even though the people who go on those shows are shit, it’s really damaging to be told that you are.”


UPBEAT: Is it fair to say that your lyrics are overtly emotional?
Amy Winehouse
“They’re very personal and very intense, in a way. But I think there’s a lot of humor in there as well. I’ve always wanted to present a point with a twist. You know, like ‘I’m really angry about this, you’re a bastard and you can’t even get a boner!’ I just want to say things I would find funny if I heard them.”


UPBEAT: Where do you see yourself ten years down the road?
Amy Winehouse
“Well, I’ll have at least three beautiful kids. I want to do at least four or five albums and I want to get them out of the way now. And then I want to take ten years out to go and have kids, definitely. I never used to be broody, but then I realized that I’m turning into a soppy bitch. Goodness in life comes from a sense of achievement and you get that from having a child and putting the child before yourself.”


UPBEAT: Are you religious?
Amy Winehouse
“I’m not religious at all. I think faith is something that gives you your strength. I believe in fate and I believe that things happen for a reason but I don’t think that there’s a high power, necessarily. I believe in karma very much though. There are so many rude people around and they’re the people that don’t have any real friends. And relationships with people— with your mum, your nan, your dog— are what you get the most happiness in life from. Apart from shoes and bags.”


UPBEAT: Are you going to turn into a diva?
Amy Winehouse
“I’m probably already one, if that means that you don’t give a shit about people’s opinions. I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’m not really here to make friends. I’ve learned all of that the hard way— I used to not say things like ‘I really want to hold a guitar in my video’, because I was trying to make everyone like me. But I don’t give a shit now. At the end of the day I’m there to do my job, I’m not there to have picnics. So, if that’s being a diva then yeah, I will be one.”


Most people have multiple systems of measuring time. They wear a “hip” watch on their wrists, hang a culturally correct clock on the wall, and a calendar next to the clock covered in sharpie notes with a different kitten for each month of the year. I measure time in a very different, but no less accurate manner. It’s usually a three-month cycle, common amongst nearly all drug and alcohol abusers… it is marked by the amount of time that it takes for Amy Winehouse to have a new drug-addled video crop up on the web. She’s like the Icarus of drug addiction and represents, unfortunately, the darkest depths of the rock n roll lifestyle. But let me just say for the record… it takes real guts to walk out on stage and perform your personal tragedies for public consumption in a stadium-size venue. It takes even more to defend yourself when a few people think your emotions might just consume you whole. I know that I couldn’t do it. I doubt many of her fans could. Because Winehouse is a real, honest talent. A great unflinching songwriter with a raw voice. And, in the tradition of artists like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, she comes out and gives it all to us, how it felt. Passionate, desperate, tragic and lonely. She is a little lost girl with the strength to howl it all exactly like it was. I’ve seen Winehouse perform many many times, apparently completely drunk yet seemingly sober.


To be perfectly honest, it’s pretty tough these days… to tell the difference. She always slurs, wanders, wobbles, gets caught up in the emotions. I saw her sing to a small group of about 12 or so people in a small London pub with nothing more than an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. She poured her entire soul into all of those songs. She didn’t seem to care who was listening. And that’s true artistry.

Friday Night Lights Goes Dark

Friday Night Lights is, without a doubt, one of the best television series I’ve had the honor of watching over the years. I also spoke with several of the cast members in the past five years, which was like talking with a TEAM of actors/actresses who gave so much to their roles. And, during the past several years, I’ve interviewed a LOT of actors and actresses and watched a number of shows that turned out to be true gems. For that, I am fortunate. Friday Night Lights was like watching people you knew… friends that you might have shared a cold one with or lived next door to on a street in Any Town, USA. This show illustrated “community”, in a way that translated beautifully and touched all of us whether we were aware of it… or not...

Friday Night Lights took its inspiration from the non-fiction book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream and the 2004 film based on it. The book, published in 1990 and written by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, detailed the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Texas. The book itself was intended as a work of journalism and was assumed to be completely factual. The characters in the book are not renamed, and the book made no attempt to conceal their identities.

The series debuted to strong critical reviews. Virginia Heffernan wrote for the New York Times that “if the season is anything like the pilot, this new drama about high school football could be great— and not just television great, but great in the way of a poem or painting.” Friday Night Lights enjoyed what former NBC President Kevin Reilly called a “passionate and vocal fanbase.” And what an understatement that turned out to be. Comedienne/Author/Late Night Talk Show Hostess Chelsea Handler was one of the show’s biggest supporters. She brought so many of the cast members on her show as guests in an all out effort to save what she called, “Real television, worth watching…”
Hailed as one of the top ten shows by numerous publications such as Time magazine, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times, the critically-acclaimed drama Friday Night Lights also had been honored two years in a row (2006/2007) as an American Film Institute (AFI) Television Program of the Year, received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 2006, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series in 2007.

The Save FNL Campaign raised money to send footballs and contributions to charity foundations that were all related to the show. The Save FNL Campaign raised a total of $15,840 for 18,750 footballs, $2061 for charities, and $924 worth of DVDs for troops stationed overseas. The first shipment of 50 boxes of footballs was sent to Ben Silverman at NBC on February 28th, 2009, and the second was sent to Jeff Zucker on March 3rd, 2009. Friday Night Lights fans were like all of us… who remember sitting out in the cold rain draped in blankets and rain gear to watch high school football with a passion… because football was… and still is, to so many small towns across this country… life.

Hollywood Studios Blame Netflix

Apparently EVERYONE is pissed off at Netflix. But let’s get this story straight right from the start. The Massive Film Studios are allowing GREED, which has always been “accepted” in the past as being… “The Hollywood Way” are the REAL CULPRITS in this struggle to allow the web to stream films at a “REASONABLE” cost. But let’s face it, the soon to be dinosaurs, those gargantuan studios with all of the over-priced executives and CRAPPY products, aren’t planning on letting go until they are inevitably forced to let go. And trust us, the ball is already rolling and people are no longer buying into the “Hype Machine”. Just look at the box office numbers if you think we’re kidding. They are dropping each and every year… and it’s become a costly effort having to purchase lobbyists as well as doll out GUARANTEED salaries to A-Listers who are becoming moguls as a result. Wave goodbye to the Big Studios folks, because we can assure you… they will inevitably fall.

The Internet’s memory is short so let’s go back a week ago to when Netflix lost the Sony movies and almost lost Starz. Why did that happen? Netflix WI subscribers passed a certain number specified in the contract with Starz and Sony and so they lost the right to stream that content. After some talks they came back online and now, one week later, Netflix is breaking apart their WI subscribers from their DVD subscribers. I find it hard to consider this a coincidence because IT ISN’T!!!

Having a ton of DVD viewers that are not using WI artificially inflated their WI subscriber numbers and almost invalidated a content contract. The only way to lower that number is to remove their access and only let people that want WI subscribe to it and pay into the service. So now WI isn’t a bundled service but one you ask for and then inevitably pay for... it's just that simple. This way, Netflix lowers their perceived WI subscriber count, keeps their content deals without re-negotiations, and generally carries on.

This is all incredibly similar to the debate over cable-TV pricing, where the status-quo is that you pay a flat fee for a bundle of channels, and there’s a vocal constituency— in which I include myself saying that we should move to an a-la-carte pay-only-for-what-you-watch approach. Netflix has always been about convenience, and a flat monthly fee, buried on your credit card statement somewhere, is certainly more convenient than paying for movies one at a time, as you have to do on say iTunes. But just because Netflix charges consumers on a flat-monthly-fee basis doesn’t mean that’s the best way for it to make deals with movie studios.

Up until now, it seems, Netflix has paid the studios a flat monthly fee, linked to the number of subscribers it has with access to their content. And when that got too expensive, it wound up cutting off streaming from its DVD subscribers to save on its own library-subscription costs. Netflix paying a flat monthly fee for a bundle of movies is a bit like a cable-TV subscriber paying a flat monthly fee for a bundle of channels. The idea is that you pay the same amount each month whether you actually watch any movies or not; people who only use the DVD service and who never use the thrown-in streaming service are still very expensive for Netflix (this is a massive departure from the old business model, where people who barely used the DVD service were actually Netflix’s most profitable customers).

It makes sense, under this model, for Netflix to unburden itself of DVD customers who barely stream any movies but who still cost Netflix itself lots of money in subscription fees. But that just means that everybody would be better off under a different model— for instance, one in which studios got paid every time one of their movies was streamed (that kind of system would also be wonderful for independent filmmakers, who could upload their movies to Netflix at no charge and then get a stream of payments as and when Netflix’s subscribers started watching their film).

Such a system would probably be better for the movie studios, too, since it would align their incentives with those of Netflix: they would get more money when people watched more movies and used Netflix more. As the studios and Netflix teamed up to persuade people to stream their movies, everybody would win.

So why isn’t this happening? Because the media business is calcified, and has to be dragged kicking and screaming into any kind of new business model. The studios have a reliable revenue stream from Netflix right now, and they have no real incentive to swap that for something less reliable, even if that would make them more money. It’s short-sighted, but Netflix certainly doesn’t have the power to make them change their minds. And so we end up with Netflix removing the streaming option from a large proportion of its subscribers— something I’m sure it absolutely hates to do. People are blaming Netflix here, but it’s surely more likely that the real villains of the story are the studios… and DO NOT believe that the audience isn’t figuring it all out. They are.

The 63rd Annual Emmys… Okay.

Now that the nominations for the 63rd Annual Emmy Awards have been announced, and all of the hype and hoopla has simmered a bit… we felt compelled to wait a bit… and as such critics and fans can wage their campaigns and place their bets for the winners. The list of the top contenders in the top categories follow below. And as you peruse it, you’ll discover a plethora of outstanding entertainment. But among the predictable nods, there are a few [as usual] UNBELIEVABLY startling omissions. Sure, HBO’s new critical and fan fave “Boardwalk Empire” earned 18 nominations, including Best Drama Series and Best Actor for Steve Buscemi. Be we were all a little shocked to see the cable juggernaut’s other new drama “Game of Thrones” fighting strong with 13 nods, including a coveted Best Drama mention. Category mainstays like multiple winner “Mad Men”, and “The Good Wife” are also strongly represented. We’re guessing this year will be a battle between “Empire” and “Mad Men,” with the prohibition gangsters beating the ’60′s adsters to the finish line.

Why Showtime’s “The Borgias” was shut out completely in the top acting catagories is a major mystery as Jeremy Irons captured the nefarious Spanish Pope with dignity hidden beneath the propaganda of the church. Also noteworthy was actor Francois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia, who gave a stunning performance as the eldest son of the Pope, whose believable passion and vulnerability were both tragic and mesmerizing to watch. But fear not Francois fans, “The Borgias”, from what our sources have told us, is set to be picked up and run for nothing less than four seasons!

But there’s time for all the who will, who should win fun later. Right now we’re far too busy being irritated about who wasn’t even nominated. The greatest snub is the flat-out “Treme” shut-out. The Emmy judges must have been doing their best FEMA performance when they came up with nary a nom for HBO’s post-Katrina drama. I know the show was too languid and preachy for most viewers during its first season, but it has since simmered into piquant gumbo, as rich and colorfully dramatic as the city itself. It deserved top honors in the Best Drama category as well as Acting noms for Khandi Alexander’s beautifully turbulent performance, Wendell Pierce’s frustrating and subtly funny work, Steve Zahn’s quirky turn, and Melissa Leo’s powerful, occasionally heartbreaking portrayal.

“True Blood” fans will, no doubt, feel completely abandoned as well… as the hip vampire cult fave, which landed a few heavy nominations last year; picked up just four measly nominations, but none in the top spots. Alan Ball is beyond the “politics” of it all and this is why we respect him so much. The entire cast, crew [and every last one of the writers, directors, etc. etc.] should at least be allowed to BITE the Emmy judges! “True Blood” has infused its way into pop culture with such fervor that Emmys or no Emmys, the audience continues to grow and swell in massive numbers… and all of us here at UPBEAT are completely, utterly obsessed by “True Blood”. With Fangbangers, Truebies and an entire subculture of supernatural material to build upon, Alan Ball will indeed be around for several more unpredictable seasons to come.

While Andre Braugher has another well-deserved shot an Emmy Gold for his work on “Men of A Certain Age” his equally deserving co-stars Ray Romano and Scott Bakula, as well as the hearty little dramedy itself was left in the cold. Kyra Sedgwick, who grabbed the Emmy last year for her work in “The Closer,” which, by the way, has apparently been canceled after this season, wasn’t even nominated. Neither was Katey Sagal, who snagged a Golden Globe for her work on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” These are just ridiculous snubs that are often put into play by, yet again, the political ramifications of the “suits” who cater to the media moguls that decide what needs to sell and to whom. It’s all about the power.

Wondering what snagged up the most Emmy nominations? “Mildred Pierce,” HBO’s ambitiously indulgent mini-series racked up a whopping 21 nominations including a nod for Best Movie or Mini-series. If voters go for endurance, it’s a shoe-in, otherwise “Downton Abbey” or “Cinema Verite” might still have a shot. But Kate Winslet, who clearly endured in every single dramatic scene, will easily take home the Best Actress prize. “Mad Men” was the most nominated series, with 19, followed closely by “Boardwalk Empire” with 18, “Modern Family” with 17 and… “Saturday Night Live,” with 16. Really people? And we sincerely thought “SNL” had a mediocre season at best.

Check out the list of the top categories below. We are EXTREMELY biased so we doubt very much that our picks [in bold] will be walking off with well-deserved statues [most of which should be life-sized], but we NEVER claimed to believe in the painfully well-known “politics” of Emmy Awards, nor do we subscribe to those critics who base their selections on being “safe”, “politically correct” and completely “filled with… something that rhymes with pit.” We really don’t need to say it now do we?

Outstanding Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
Dexter
Friday Night Lights

Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men

Outstanding Comedy Series
Big Bang Theory
Glee

Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama

Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Margo Martindale, Justified
Michelle Forbes, The Killing

Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights

Michael C. Hall, Dexter
John Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
Timothy Olyphant, Justified

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Walton Goggins, Justified
John Slattery, Mad Men
Andrew Braugher, Men of a Certain Age

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C

Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy

Jane Lynch, Glee
Betty White, Hot In Cleveland

Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Louis C.K., Louie
Steve Carrell, The Office
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy

Chris Colfer, Glee
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Outstanding Variety, Comedy Or Musical Series

The Colbert Report
Conan
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Reality Show

The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance
Top Chef

Outstanding TV Miniseries or Movie

Cinema Verite
Downton Abbey
The Kennedys
Mildred Pierce

The Pillars of the Earth
Too Big To Fail

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy

Idris Elba, The Big C
Nathan Lane, Modern Family

Zach Galifianakis, Saturday Night Live
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
Matt Damon, 30 Rock
Will Arnett, 30 Rock

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy

Kristin Chenoweth, Glee
Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Gwyneth Paltrow, Glee
Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope

Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Mini-series or Movie

Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite
Taraji P. Henson, Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story
Jean Marsh, Upstairs Downstairs

Outstanding Leading Actor in an Mini-Series or Movie

Greg Kinnear, The Kennedys
Barry Pepper, The Kennedys
Edgar Ramirez, Carlos
William Hurt, Too Big To Fail

Idris Elba, Luther
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-series or Movie

Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce

Bryan F. O’Byrne, Mildred Pierce
Tom Wilkinson, The Kennedys
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
James Woods, Too Big to Fail

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-series or Movie

Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce
Melissa Leo, Mildred Pierce
Mare Winningham, Mildred Pierce
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Eileen Atkins, Upstairs Downstairs

Monday, July 11, 2011

Captain America Film Makes a Statement

Captain America (the Super Soldier alter ego of young patriot Steve Rogers) marked his first Marvel appearance in March of 1941, eight months prior to the U.S. entry into WWII; the unforgettable comic book cover image displayed a young hero, with the American flag on his chest, punching Adolf Hitler square in the jaw. Such an unadulterated political stance landed creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in hot water, but it also forever announced the arrival of a bold champion for those suffering at the hands of tyranny and militaristic authoritarianism. Simon and Kirby made no bones about the super hero’s overriding goal. The staunchly aggressive art created quite a stir, and Simon remembers, "This was the time just before the War, and we were besieged by political activists who used to have big rallies at Madison Square Garden.

There would be 50,000 people in the rallies. Some found out where we lived, and these very aggressive people would protest at us and spit on us. The FBI found out what was going on and they assigned agents to be at our offices, just in case." (Marvel Studios President and "Captain America: The First Avenger" producer Kevin Feige observes, "When you have Captain America punching out Hitler in March 1941, before Pearl Harbor, it's definitely a statement, which proclaimed, 'We cannot sit by on the sidelines anymore.' That immediately spoke to Steve Rogers and Captain America as a character.")

Casting Steve Rogers/Captain America was a long and arduous task. On paper, his character goes from one extreme to the other, from put-upon reject to dynamic leader. Where do you find someone who can start off as a shy, undersized adult, capable of gaining audience sympathy and respect, who transforms into a tough, believable leader, able to legitimately challenge an elite force of Hitler's most unscrupulous soldiers? Filmmakers went through many names who, for one reason or another, were ticked off the list.

Chris Evans found his way onto the list, having previously collaborated with Marvel, portraying Johnny Storm/Human Torch in "Fantastic Four" and its sequel. As the list grew smaller, Evans' name remained. Feige comments, "We all really liked Chris and, it's funny, his name was there from the start— it's just, as filmmakers, we took this roundabout journey back to him. Like once you clear the forest, you can see the tree at the center." Johnston picks up, "We realized that Chris met with all the criteria, everything that this character needed to be. He was charming. He is boyish, but still capable of being a man and being a leader. He looks like he's just walked out of the comic books."

Evans, at first, experienced a little hesitation when approached about the project. The scope and scale of the commitment was a little daunting. Evans says, "I was scared and nervous— this is a huge property for Marvel and is a character a lot of fans care about. I'd be lying by saying I wasn't massively apprehensive at first, but it's a role that is an honor to play and I really wanted to do him justice. I couldn't be more grateful for the role, but…well... just a little nervous at the same time. As far as building my character is concerned, I really concentrated on looking at the comic books that dealt with his transformation," Evans says. "It's the story of the making of a hero,  something that starts before he even has the suit and the shield."

For fans of the original Captain America, fear not as this film has been meticulously driven. Even though filmmakers were aiming for the Marvel version of the 1940s, care was taken to keep it all grounded in reality. Co-Producer Victoria Alonso says, "We always have a compilation of what was historically accurate, and then we augment as necessary to fit our story."

Dallas is Back!

TNT has given the green light to Dallas, an all-new series based upon one of the most popular television dramas of all time, about the bitter rivalries and family power struggles within a Texas oil and cattle-ranching dynasty. Famous for its ratings-grabbing cliffhangers, the original series was known for its wealth, seduction, scandal and intrigues. Set in the big state of Texas, TNT’s new Dallas— from Warner Horizon Television— also lives life large and in the fast lane and  brings a new generation of stars together with cast members from the original drama series. The new Dallas stars Josh Henderson (90210), Jesse Metcalfe (John Tucker Must Die), Jordana Brewster (Fast & Furious), Julie Gonzalo (Veronica Mars) and Brenda Strong (Desperate Housewives), and they will be joined by iconic stars Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. TNT has ordered 10 episodes of Dallas, which is currently slated to premiere in the summer of 2012.

TNT will give viewers their first look at Dallas on Monday with a special sneak peek during the season premieres of the network’s blockbuster hits The Closer, which starts at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT), and Rizzoli & Isles, which airs at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT). TNT is unveiling today a website dedicated to the new Dallas series, where fans can view an online photo gallery that features a first look into the show’s new and returning cast. Fans can visit the new site, http://www.Dallastnt.com, to watch sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes videos. The website will be periodically updated with new materials.

“TNT has explored the possibility of an updated version of Dallas for several years, but it wasn’t until we read Cynthia Cidre’s outstanding pilot script that we knew we had the foundation for a great new series,” said Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). “It is incredibly exciting to see both new and familiar characters in the hands of a dream cast under the guidance of the enormously talented Cidre and Mike Robin. We couldn’t be more pleased with how Dallas has come together.”

The original Dallas aired from 1978 to 1991 and centered on the Ewing family, a cattle and oil dynasty occupying the expansive Southfork Ranch in Texas. A long and bitter rivalry between brothers J.R. Ewing (Hagman) and Bobby Ewing (Duffy) eventually led to J.R. losing control of most of the Ewing industries. In the new Dallas, this explosive rivalry now lives on through another generation, with the future of the family fortune in the hands of the Ewing offspring: cousins John Ross Ewing (Henderson), the son of J.R. and ex-wife Sue Ellen (Gray), and Christopher Ewing (Metcalfe), the adopted son of Bobby. Brewster stars as Elena, who is involved in a love triangle with Christopher and John Ross. Gonzalo stars as Christopher’s fiancée, Rebecca. And Strong stars as Ann, Bobby’s wife.

Executive producer Cynthia Cidre, who wrote the acclaimed film The Mambo Kings and produced the TV series Cane, wrote the pilot for the new Dallas. TNT’s series is based on the original series created by David Jacobs. The new Dallas comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television. Michael M. Robin (The Closer) is the director and executive-producer of the pilot.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Dragon's Milk is Beyond Compare

Dragon's Milk Ale is part of New Holland's High Gravity Series and is only available in kegs or in 22 oz. bomber bottles. It's classified as an American Strong Ale.Being an ale that's been aged in oak barrels, I expected to get some interesting aromas from this beer and I wasn't disappointed. The woody and vanilla overtones were definitely present here. It's one of the first things I detected after pouring this beer into the glass. I also got a full nose worth of caramel and dark roasted malts. The aroma was very pleasing. The taste/feel was one of medium to thick bodied. The ale tingled the front of my tongue.

The beer slightly coated the back of my tongue and after swallowing gave me yet another sensation and taste that was enticing as well. Call it an after glow affect. The ale itself was very tasty from the start. Rich malts blended with a woody base and vanilla overtones. The malt was noticeably sweet but is offset well by the wood and slight bittering hops. The affect of this beer was very smooth and warming. Despite being a high ABV beer, I had no difficulty in drinking this ale.

At first I might have been fooled into thinking this was a stout, but the dark malts in this beer are not quite as roasty as other dark beers. There's a lighter tasting balance put into this brew. Still, it's too dark to see through and will give some subtle hints of the darker, roastier malts. I split the 22 oz. bottle with my staff and everyone loved this beer. I would definitely drink this ale again as would the rest of our drunken staff here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate. http://www.newhollandbrew.com/

Daytime Television’s Savior is The Web

There may be a life after television for the Daytime Soap Opera Genre. Prospect Park, a production company, announced the launching of the soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” on the internet. The heroes from the movies will have a final appearance on ABC in the next month. After this period, the online environment will revive the old soap operas that were once at the top of the ratings. The cancellation decision of ABC came after the audience in the US began decreasing every day. In this context, CBS’ decision to put an end to their two soap operas “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns”, was only the beginning of the end.

Both ABC and CBS’ decisions leave the audience with only four of their favorite soap-operas that is a reflection of the audience’s dimensions. But the online environment didn’t seem (according to executives like Brian Frons) to hit the soap opera audience. We found that to be shocking considering the fact that Brian Frons considers himself to be an “authority” on what works in all things entertainment. Arrogant bastard [LOL!]. This latest decision comes in another context. There are a number of web-based companies, such as Google, Netflix and HBO [with HBOGo] that are pushing video content (movies, television shows, original series) onto the internet, because of the fact that studies are continuing to show that the average viewer spends a 4 to 1 ratio of time, 4 being the internet, 1 being television… on the web.

Will it all run smoothly? Personally, I believe that the internet audience, from a “global” perspective will embrace and has embraced the American Daytime Soap Opera for a few years now. Right before the cancellation of CBS’ “Guiding Light”, audiences as far as Bangkok and New Zealand were glued to the internet to watch what was unfolding. This really isn’t a surprise considering that American “culture” has long been directly linked overseas to Daytime Soap Operas.

The other question which will linger for a bit is, what exactly does this mean for cable television? All of the televisions currently being sold are web-ready. They can be hooked up to keyboards, towers, laptops, cell phones and gaming consoles. Yet another debate will be whether or not censorship from the FCC will be able to “control” soap opera content. And what about this production company, Prospect Park? Who are they? To uncover more information with details, check out our pal Michael Fairman’s column: http://michaelfairmansoaps.com/news/breaking-news-abc-confirms-deal-struck-amc-and-oltl-will-live-on-online/2011/07/07/ as he has been on top of this entire story for the past month. We love you Michael!

Anyway, as we all know, the “Guiding Light” Otalia storyline [played to perfection by Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia] came to a grinding halt when the “suits” at P&G decided that two women should not be given a love scene or be able to display affection in the same manner as heterosexual couples have for years. What was even more interesting was that the two characters were not necessarily “gay” as much as they were perhaps bisexual or just two people of the same sex who fell in love. No matter how it was defined by the writers, the actresses or the viewers, the story was never given the proper ending causing fans all over the world to be outraged. And rightfully so as the story itself became a worldwide phenomenon.

According to The Wallstreet Journal, the deal gives Prospect Park exclusive rights to “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” for more than a decade, and pays Disney millions of dollars a year in royalties for as long as the shows are produced, according to people familiar with the terms. Prospect Park’s move to buy the shows is a gamble on the growing— but still relatively small world of producing original, scripted content online. Earlier this year, Netflix Inc. struck a lucrative deal to buy exclusive rights to a new TV series starring Kevin Spacey. Other companies including Yahoo Inc. and AOL Inc. are also ramping up their efforts to make original web shows.

Prospect Park says that it aims to keep producing the shows, which currently air hour-long episodes five days a week, at the same “format and length,” although a person familiar with the deal said the production budget would be somewhat lower after subtracting ABC’s royalties. Prospect Park is just beginning the process of meeting with actors and others involved with the soaps to work out whether they will stay on board, the person added. Producers could sell the shows as an online subscription to consumers, the person familiar with the plans said. They are also exploring advertising sales and sponsorships or product-placement deals, the source added.

So how does this translate with daytime actors and fans? Well, for one thing, SAG will more than likely have to encourage the actors/actresses to take pay cuts as the medium is no longer going to be “production cost dinosaurs”. As for the audiences, it is, as we said, going to be strongly based in a more “global” market which means language variations as well as a much less censored product with far more “creative freedom”. We will all have to wait to uncover the eventually outcome of this new distribution twist… but we are predicting a far more open-ended environment with stories that are far more provocative than ever before.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Stone Sour— Melodic and Metallic

When members of a highly successful band like Slipknot form another band, critics are quick to label the new group a “side project.” But after three Grammy nominations, two gold-certified albums and several packed tours since its debut in 2002, guitarist Josh Rand isn’t worried about Stone Sour living in another band’s shadow. In fact, he’s confident that with the upcoming release of a third album, “Audio Secrecy,” Stone Sour is continuing to cast its own distinctive silhouette. After playing the Download Festival in England in early June, Stone Sour has returned to the States to co-headline the 36-date Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. Rand, a Des Moines, Iowa, native, said he never expected the band, or his life, to develop the way it has.

“When me and Corey (Taylor) started Stone Sour, I didn’t think it would grow into what it is,” said Rand. “If you had told me 10 years ago when we were at his grandma’s house cutting vocals to ‘Get Inside’ that we would have this conversation 10 years later, I wouldn’t have believed it at that point, because we never set out to do that. It was just us buddies getting together to cut some songs and have fun.”

Rand was a childhood friend of Taylor, who quickly rose to fame in 1999 as the singer of heavy metal band Slipknot. After the band signed to Roadrunner Records, Slipknot was playing a show in Des Moines, so while he was in town, Taylor met with Rand at a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve of 2000. Rand said he played him some music he was working on, and Taylor became excited at the prospect of playing with him again, remembering their days in a garage band together as teenagers. After a Canadian tour with Slipknot, Taylor returned to their hometown to record some songs with Rand.

Taylor was the creator and singer of a band called Stone Sour before replacing founding vocalist Anders Colsefini in Slipknot, so they found that after writing songs that included more of the clean, melodic vocals he used to sing, it was only natural to return to the name of his old band as well. Guitarist Jim Root had also served as an axman in both bands, so he and Rand formed the current dual guitar assault that has helped define Stone Sour’s distinctive but unpredictable sound, gentle and quiet on one track and brutally punishing on the next.

“We can have that 14-year-old pissed-off kid that hates the world that will listen to ‘Get Inside,’ ‘30/30-150,’ or ‘Hell and Consequences,’ but at the same time, we can have his mom, who might be a soccer mom, listening to ‘Through Glass,’ ‘Sillyworld,’ and ‘Bother.’ It’s a cool thing,” Rand said with a laugh.

He explained that this unique dichotomy served them well on their highly anticipated new album, Audio Secrecy, recorded with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush, Alice In Chains) and due to hit shelves September 7th. “’Mission Statement,’ I believe, was the first song we did, and there was just an energy there. (Raskulinecz) was just like, ‘This is sick.’ We’re not perfect in terms of looking at it on a computer screen using the track markers, but it feels good, more locked-in to each other. So we said, ‘The hell with it. We’ll do all of it like that.’”

The gamble paid off. The band recently offered “Mission Statement” as a free download on its website for a limited time, and fans downloaded the track more than 1,000 times an hour within a two-day period. While being very thankful for such a loyal fan base, Rand said that Stone Sour have never let others control the direction of its music, even if people have certain predispositions towards what it should sound like.

“We do what we want to do. It’s in our guts, and we have yet to be proven wrong,” he said. “There are no expectations except for ourselves on ourselves.”

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Caylee Anthony— Why God?

Citizens of this country have long since lost respect and hope for our justice system, for elected officials, a number of which have used this case as a political platform... cold hearted, phony opportunists. Politicians acting like a flock of buzzards circling a tragedy while jockeying for political position. News flash: this isn't about left or right, it's about right and wrong. For the longest time I couldn't understand how calling our justice system blind held any relevance. Now, with a heavy hearted sadness... I fully understand the implications within what was supposed to be a judicial statement about 'fair'. But life isn't fair, a harsh lesson for each of us to have to bear. How could anyone justify NOT reporting a small child missing after 31 days had passed?

How can a jury NOT doubt the lack of responsibility/conscience/compassion of Casey Anthony? How is any of this considered conscionable? Did the jury really even bother to look into the eyes of 2-year-old Caylee in all of the photos presented? The tragedy of the death of a small child is much more than unexplainable. This case was not justice. It's the end result of a much larger problem [which continues to grow exponentially], the detachment, the complete disconnect from what really matters. This jury is yet another example of this desensitization.

There is probably no more horrifying crime than infanticide, the murder of an innocent child- especially when the suspect in such an atrocity is the mother or father. Such wretched crimes sicken and frighten the public, inflame its indignation and heighten the demand for justice (or, perhaps, more appropriately, revenge). The fact that the defense [including Casey Anthony] left the courthouse after making various sympathetic comments and headed to a club across the street [in full view of a TON of onlookers] and began celebrating with an inappropriate  champagne party bash.

As they laughed and danced in celebration of the verdict, horrified reporters as well as a large number of citizens watched in total dismay. According to CNN's Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell, the defense team for Casey Anthony closed down Orlando's Bistro 360 for a private party that lasted a long time on Tuesday afternoon. But the high-profile celebration— which came after the verdict that many considered shocking— was frowned upon by some in the media. CNN's Anderson Cooper played a clip of the video and noted that it had raised eyebrows among many since 2-year-old Caylee was still dead and there are still unanswered questions about her murder.

Meanwhile, HLN's Nancy Grace was far more blunt with her reactions. "The defense team is inside a bar having a champagne toast right now," she said. "Now you know what? I'm not a preacher and I'm not a rabbi, but there's something wrong with that. Because Caylee is dead and her body decomposed just 15 houses away from where the Anthony's put their head on the pillow every night, every day searching for this little girl. Now I know it is our duty as American citizens to respect the jury system and I do, believe me I do. I've struck over a hundred juries. But I know one thing. As the defense sits by and has their champagne toast after that not guilty verdict, somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight."

"I spent probably an hour and a half in there today," truTV's Jean Casarez told Velez-Mitchell. "It is a celebration. It is a celebration, they say, for justice, they say for innocence, from someone who did not commit crimes of a great magnitude." Casarez added that when the verdict being read was replayed on the seven flat-screen televisions in the restaurant: "They would cheer amongst each other, because they believe that victory had come to them on this day of a verdict."

All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate are reaching out to all of you. Please take a few moments this evening, walk out onto your porch, or into your yard. If you have children, hold onto them tightly and let them know that they are loved. Bring with you some candles; they can be small or large. Then light the candles, and give Caylee Anthony a moment of silence followed by your thoughts and prayers. Do not think about rage or anger or revenge... just send waves of loving energy to this poor little soul in hopes that she will be guided toward peace. Our thoughts and words are powerful.

We believe that love does exist, that it can be sent out as a guide to hope and compassion. We are far better than the hatred, malice and desensitization that stole this child from our world. Let us prove that to ourselves tonight.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

LeBeouf Exits— Transformers Numbers Down

We'll be the first to admit we may have spoken too soon about Transformers: Dark of the Moon being a blockbuster hit no matter what. The film will inevitably be successful once DVD and Blu-ray sales as well as PPV kicks in. Perhaps Shia LaBeouf was trying to add some "behind the scenes" hype, as we suggested when the actor went on about his co-star affairs in Details Magazine. According to our contacts at The Los Angeles Times, it also looks like Shia LaBeouf is ready to transform his career yet again: The actor has announced he's done with Michael Bay's larger-than-life "Transformers" film franchise. "I'm done," he said resolutely. "I'm sure they'll make more of them, it's still a very hot franchise, there's still value in it. I think people will still go to see it. I just don't know if I have anything left to contribute."

For anyone concerned that LaBeouf may be lacking gratitude for the heights the films have propelled his career to, worry not. "I love making them. I love the crew, I love Michael, I love the cast, I love [the character] Sam. I like doing it," he said. "I don't have anything new to contribute to the franchise."

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is already well-behind where Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was at this point two years ago, according to early box office estimates. Not only that, but Dark of the Moon had a one-day advantage on Revenge of the Fallen because it had a one-day “preview” on Tuesday that wasn’t at all available for Revenge of the Fallen back in 2009. At this point two years ago, Revenge of the Fallen had brought in $91.11 million just for its first two days in theaters— on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 and Thursday, June 25th, 2009. Fast forward two years and the latest installment in the Transformers franchise has brought in $64 million with it in theaters three days— from Tuesday through Thursday.

While $64 million is still a monster number for any other movie during three weekdays, that is about 30% off-track from how Revenge of the Fallen drew two years ago— and that wasn’t even on the weekdays leading up to the Independence Day Holiday, and it didn’t have an additional day like the latest incarnation does. It is estimated that it did about $32.9 million in the box office Friday, off about 10% from Revenge of the Fallen‘s initial Friday— $36.74 million. With the addition of the other three days,Transformers: Dark of the Moon now has an estimated gross of $97.58 million.

At this time two years ago, Dark of the Moon had $127.85 million in the bank, which is off about 24%, better than the movie-to-movie percentages during its initial days not counting Friday, but if the movie wants to remain on track with its predecessor, it’ll have to pull in much bigger numbers this holiday weekend. Going for it this weekend is that it has the addition of a holiday on Monday this time around for the movie to make gains.

The good news is Dark of the Moon has much better reviews than Revenge of the Fallen, which may entice more people that were disappointed with the second film to go out and watch the third movie in the franchise.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Lucy Lawless— A Kind-Hearted Soul

It's no secret that Lucy Lawless is an all-time favorite here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate. She's one of the most dedicated, loyal, sincere, kind-hearted souls we've ever known. Recently, the actress' fan club site reported that Lucy Lawless has returned to her roots. Born in the upscale Mount Albert area of Auckland, New Zealand, the spectacular 5-foot-11-television actress (35-25-36) converted a large part of her tony estate into what has been described as a multi-dollar eco-friendly Garden of Eden. The Xena actress and Greenpeace climate change ambassador converted two of her four consolidated properties— with a total worth of more than $7 million— into a 1600-square-meter garden.

The cost of the garden design alone would probably exceed $10,000, and the final bill could run into hundreds of thousands, an award-winning landscape designer explained. The design will include a large raised stone vegetable garden, poultry house, rainwater tank and rolling lawns, according to architectural and landscape plans lodged with Auckland City Council.

The garden will also feature a conservatory and courtyards from which she, husband, Robert Tapert, and their two sons, Julius and Judah, can enjoy their tranquil green surroundings. The Lawless’ home, complete with swimming pool, spans two front lots, which the couple have owned since the late ‘90s.

The natural ash blonde’s father was mayor of Mount Albert, where little Lucille Francis Ryan was the fifth of seven children: five brothers and a single sister. She was married to Garth Lawless 1988 to 1995 and since 1998 to producer Robert Tapert. Famed for her starring role in the Xena Warrior Princess television series 1995 to 2001, more recently she has portrayed Lucretia in television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010) and this season Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. All of which have yielded ample funds to create new landscapes.

But make no mistake about it, Lucy donates all of her free time to her favorite charity, The Starship Foundation, of which she has been a board member for several years now. http://www.starship.org.nz/. The "Starship Foundation" is a New Zealand charity which raises funds for Auckland's Starship Hospital.

Lucy has taken up the role of activist for causes she passionately believes in. In May 2009, Lucy became involved with "Greenpeace" and their Sign On Campaign. Lucy joined other celebrities in launching a petition urging the New Zealand government to sign on to a 40 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Lucy and other New Zealand actors/performers were ambassadors for a campaign by the international environmental group "Greenpeace" aimed at United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

In April 2010, Lucy and Robyn Malcolm launched Greenpeace's campaign against mining in New Zealand national parks. The New Zealand Government plans to open up 3,000 acres of previously protected land, for mining. Lucy launched the campaign at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, 50 km. Southwest of the proposed mining sites. She asked tourists what they thought of coal mining in the Paparoa National Park— one said it would completely "ruin" New Zealand's natural legacy.

Lucy Lawless has also confirmed that she will be attending the San Diego Comic Con this year. She'll be part of the Spartacus panel on Friday, July 22nd at 5:45 p.m. in Room 6BCF. Be sure to snag a seat!