Naomi Watts to play Princess Diana in biopic

LONDON: British-Australian actress Naomi Watts is to play Britain's Princess Diana in a movie about the late royal's final two years, filmmakers have announced.

Producers said "Caught in Flight" would focus on a period when Diana, the former wife of heir to the throne Prince Charles, found "true personal happiness" shortly before her death in a 1997 car crash in Paris.

Diana wed Charles in a glittering ceremony in 1981, but the unhappy marriage ended in 1996. Charles wed his long-time companion Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.

Watts, who won widespread critical acclaim for her role as Betty Elms in the 2001 psychological thriller "Mulholland Drive", said it was an honour to be able to play the "iconic role" of the woman known as the "People's Princess".

"Princess Diana was loved across the world and I look forward to rising to the challenge of playing her on screen," said the 44-year-old, who also won an Oscar nomination for her role as a recovering drug addict in "21 Grams".

The movie about the Princess of Wales, who was just 36 when she died, will be directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, best known for his epic 2004 film "Downfall" about the final days of Hitler. (AFP)

Jackson visited skin doc regularly, emerged slurring

LOS ANGELES: Michael Jackson went regularly to a Beverly Hills dermatologist and sometimes emerged from the sessions talking slowly, witnesses said Wednesday at the star's manslaughter trial.

The pop icon at times went almost every day to the doctor, Arnold Klein, said his head of security and his personal assistant, who testified on the second day of the trial of his personal doctor Conrad Murray.

"There were times when he was going almost every day it fluctuated," said security chief Faheem Muhammad, who also referred to a "cream" that Jackson "wouldn't want the world to know about" removed from the room where he died.

News channel cited lawyers for Murray as claiming that Jackson became addicted to another drug, Demerol, from the visits to Klein, and that this could have prevented the singer from sleeping, even with heavy sedatives.

Jackson died from an overdose of medical anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009, allegedly administered by Murray to help the singer cope with extreme insomnia.

Jackson's personal assistant Michael Amir Williams, who worked for Jackson during the last two years of his life, also said the visits to Klein's office were regular. "At a certain point, it was very regular," he said.

On Tuesday the trial heard a chilling audio clip of an apparently heavily-drugged Jackson slurring almost unintelligibly, in a phone conversation with Murray only weeks before his death.

Williams said Jackson sometimes talked slowly after emerging from his sessions at Klein's office -- although never as slow or unintelligibly as the audio recording played in court.

"He would talk slow like that. I never heard it that extreme, but I can definitely say he has come out, and he's a little slower," he said.

Another witness, Paul Gongaware of concert promoters AEG, said he noticed that Jackson had "a little bit of a slower speech pattern, just a slight slur in the speech" after a visit with Klein.

A spokeswoman for dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Klein said the doctor had no comment on the case, adding that he was not scheduled to be a witness at the trial.

Williams meanwhile said that Murray asked him, in hospital shortly after Jackson died, to take him back to the house to that he could remove "some cream in Michaels room .. that he wouldn't want the world to know about."

Reports over the years have speculated about the gradual lightening of Jackson's skin over the years, and his brother Jermaine recently said that he suffered from vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disorder.

In other testimony, Muhammad said that several days before his death on June 25, 2009, Jackson had asked him to call a nurse after having strange symptoms, in which one of his hands was hot and one foot cold.

The security chief said he could not recall if he had managed to speak to the nurse, but said he understood that Murray was contacted by someone else to see to Jackson about the problem. (AFP)

Salman Khan gets back his lucky charm

MUMBAI: Actor Salman Khan and his beloved bracelet are almost inseparable. It was his father, writer Salim Khan who had gifted the turquoise blue bracelet to Salman few years back and the actor has never stopped wearing it since then.

Fans saw it first in the 1998 hit film ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ and since then we are sure almost all of them have got themselves something resembling it. Sallu considers it to be his lucky charm and has seldom parted with it, both on and off screen.

However, the star had to keep the adored object away for his super hit film ‘Dabangg’. Director Abhinav Kashyap had requested him to part with his bracelet as he felt that it would not go well with the image of a desi cop. As a result, Salman had to remove the bracelet whenever he was called for shots.

In his upcoming film ‘Bodyguard’, Salman portrays the role of a no-nonsense bodyguard and dons a proper stitched suit and glares to get the macho effect. This time again, it was being said that he would have to part with his bracelet for the demand of the script. However, recently few of the posters of film exhibit the bracelet in his hand.

'Another Earth' is a thoughtful sci-fi romance

LOS ANGELES: Can't bear to sit through yet another robot or superhero-filled extravaganza or R-rated raunchy comedy this summer? "Another Earth" offers the discerning moviegoer a welcome alternative.

This indie drama -- a prizewinner at this year's Sundance Film Festival -- is a sci-fi romance. But there's not a single alien in sight. Rather, the movie's all-too-human characters are more than a little alienated from their own feelings at times, trying their best to push down and mask painful emotions.

It's about exactly what the title says: a second Earth, complete with its own moon, has suddenly appeared. It hangs, shimmering on the horizon, visible from our Earth day and night and tantalizing all with its possibilities.

This other Earth first appears on the very night that a smart high-school senior, Rhoda Williams(played by newcomer Brit Marling, who co-wrote the script with first-time feature director Mike Cahill), is out celebrating getting accepted by M.I.T. Driving home after a night of partying, she runs a light and slams into a car carrying respected composer John Borroughs (William Mapother), his pregnant wife and young son.

When Rhoda gets out of prison a few years later, she seeks out John, the only one in his family to have survived the accident. She and John are both mere shells of their former selves, cut off from others emotionally by the after-effects of the tragedy. Without revealing her true identity, she inserts herself into his life. Slowly, these two help each other to begin to return to the land of the living.

Throughout the movie, there's constant talk on the radio and on TV about the other Earth and plans to journey there. Shades of TV's "Fringe": Could it be that everyone on our Earth has a doppelganger on the second Earth, an identical twin to yourself who just might be a happier and more successful version of you? It's a question of special appeal to both Rhoda and John.

Marling is a rangy blond with a long face that is just this side of interesting rather than being blandly beautiful. There is a muted intensity to her performance, which is all the more hauntingly effective for its restraint, especially as Rhoda begins to shed her emotional numbness.

It's a measure of "Another Earth's" ability to move a viewer that when you come out of the movie, you'll find yourself gazing upward, checking almost hopefully to see whether a second Earth hasn't made an appearance. (Reuters)

Lady Gaga wows Taiwan, vows Asia tour next year

TAIPEI: Lady Gaga promised her legions of fans on Monday that she would be back to hold an Asian tour next year, after thousands of "Little Monsters" turned out for her first-ever performance in Taiwan.

The American pop star, dressed in typically flamboyant style in a black suit and a wig with three white roses attached, said she had been taken aback by the huge crowd that came to hear her in the central city of Taichung on Sunday.

It had officially been declared "Lady Gaga Day" in her honour, with 6,000 people packed into an open air theatre on a humid night and another 40,000 watching on a huge screen outside.

Organisers had previously expected a turnout of 4,000 fans -- known as "Little Monsters" -- at the gathering, which was part of a promotional tour of Taiwan for her new album "Born This Way".

The 25-year-old diva, ranked this year's most powerful celebrity by Forbes magazine, is among the most popular international entertainers in Taiwan and her visit made the front pages of major newspapers.

She was to leave Taiwan late Monday, one day earlier than scheduled, organisers said. She takes in Singapore next.

Rishi, Juhi will be seen together again

MUMBAI: Let it be 'Bol Radha Bol' or 'Eena Meena Deeka' - audience enjoyed their cute performances. And now it seems yesteryear prince charming Rishi Kapoor and beautiful Juhi Chawla will be back together on professional front.

The credit for bringing them together again goes to none other than the comedy king, director David Dhawan.

Birdies revealed that Rishi will feature in Saeed Jaffrey's role as that of panwala Lallan Mian while Juhi will play a character that is a new addition to the film's story.

 ‘Pirates 4’ still top pick at box office

LOS ANGELES: The fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie ruled the foreign box office for a second weekend, fending off strong debuts by the "Hangover" and "Kung Fu Panda" sequels.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," playing everywhere overseas, captured $123 million during the weekend, raising its total to $471 million -- more than three times its domestic gross ($153 million).

"The Hangover, Part II" pulled in $59 million from 40 markets. Warner Bros. said the opening is three times higher than the comparable opening gross of the original 2009 hit in the same markets.

The comedy drew huge numbers from its No. 1 U.K. bow ($16.4 million), while Australia chipped in $11.6 million and France $5.8 million. Germany and Russia will open this week.

"Kung Fu Panda 2" in 3D followed closely with $57 million from just 11 markets, mostly in Asia.

The sequel to 2008's "Kung Fu Panda" finished in the top spot in nine markets, with China ($18.5 million), Russia ($15 million) and South Korea ($13 million) leading the list.

This week will see "Kung Fu Panda 2" adding 11 markets as it rolls out gradually over the summer months to capitalize on school holidays.

No. 4 on the weekend was "Fast Five," which grossed $13.3 million in 61 territories, pushing the foreign total for the turbo-charged street-racing sequel to $346 million.

"Rio" came in at No. 5 with $3.8 million from 37 markets for an overseas total of $321.9 million. 

Dabangg bags Best Film award, Salman thanks fans

MUMBAI: Bollywood superstar Salman Khan thanked his fans on Thursday for making 'Dabangg' a grand success after his film was honoured with the prestigious National Award. The film won the coveted honour for the 'Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment' category. Khan showed his gratitude before hundreds of fans after receiving the award.

The 58th National Film Award ceremony was held in Mumbai where Salman attended the function along with music director Pritam Chakraborty and singer Shibani Kashyab. While addressing the cheering audience, Salman thanked his fans and called it a reward.

The lead actors in the film included Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna.

`Thor' hammers competition with $66M opening

LOS ANGELES - "Thor" kicked off the summer movie season by smashing the competition at the box office with a $66 million opening weekend.

The 3-D action picture from Paramount, based on the Marvel comic, was by far the No. 1 movie, according to Sunday studio estimates.

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth stars as the arrogant god of thunder who's sent down to Earth as punishment. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh, best known for making films based on Shakespeare plays such an epic "Hamlet," and featured a supporting cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard.

In second place was a holdover from last week, the car-racing sequel "Fast Five" from Universal Pictures. It made $32.5 million for a total of nearly $140 million in just 10 days.

Although the opening for "Thor" wasn't as enormous as those of other superhero movies, it still exceeded studio expectations, which were around $55 million. It was the third-highest opening for a Marvel franchise launch, behind "Spider-Man," which made $115 million in 2002, and "Iron Man," which made $98.6 million in 2008.

Don Harris, Paramount's executive vice president for distribution, thought the film held appeal for both men and women; 37 percent of the audience was female.

"Chris Hemsworth looks like he's going to be a movie star," Harris said. "Kenneth Branagh made a very smart movie, and the idea that the man who's most closely identified with Shakespeare is making a Marvel superhero movie, I always thought was pretty interesting. Audiences connected with the Natalie Portman relationship, between her character and Thor. The movie looks spectacular on the screen. It was fun, and it's a big, epic movie." box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian thought "Thor" had a pretty respectable opening given that it's a lesser-known comic book title.

"Expectations always get wildly overblown with superhero movies - a superhero movie has the biggest opening weekend of all time: `The Dark Knight,'" Dergarabedian said of the hit in the Batman franchise. "Expectations are always extremely high, especially on the first weekend in May, which is traditionally a huge weekend."

"It may have a solid hold," he added. "Sometimes it's not just about opening weekend. Sometimes it's about playability."

The next big competition for "Thor" comes in two weeks, on May 20, with the opening of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," the fourth film in the blockbuster Disney franchise. On Memorial Day weekend come the sequels "The Hangover Part II" from Warner Bros. and "Kung Fu Panda 2" from Paramount.

Opening in a close third and fourth place were two wedding-themed movies, both of which served as counter-programming to the effects-laden spectacles in theaters.

"Jumping the Broom" from TriStar Pictures came in third with $13.7 million, higher than studio expectations, which were around $10 million. Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine star as the mothers of two families that clash as they're about to be united in their children's marriage.

In fourth place was the Warner Bros. romantic drama "Something Borrowed," based on the Emily Giffin best-seller, which made about $13.2 million. Ginnifer Goodwin stars as a lawyer who realizes she's in love with the fiancé of her best friend, played by Kate Hudson.

In limited release, Summit Entertainment's "The Beaver," starring Mel Gibson as a depressed man who communicates through a beaver hand puppet, made $104,000 at 22 theaters. Directed by and co-starring Jodie Foster, the dramedy marks Gibson's first major role since a series of off-screen rants and scandals tarnished his reputation. It expands nationwide May 20.

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

1. "Thor," $66 million.
2. "Fast Five," $32.5 million.
3. "Jumping the Broom," $13.7 million.
4. "Something Borrowed," $13.2 million.
5. "Rio," $8.2 million.
6. "Water for Elephants," $5.6 million.
7. "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family," $3.9 million.
8. "Prom," $2.4 million.
9. "Soul Surfer," $2.1 million.
10. "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil," $1.9 million.

Hollywood has Osama death in its sights

LOS ANGELES: Osama bin Laden's death is blockbuster news for Hollywood, whose attempts to dramatize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have largely bombed.

Instead of churning out little-seen films about death and destruction wrought upon civilians and military personnel, the studios can now tap into resurgent American pride with movies about the hunt for the world's most wanted man.

If only John Wayne were still alive or Arnold Schwarzenegger were younger to star in a gung-ho film about the daring strike by dashing Navy SEAL operatives on a compound in suburban Pakistan. Picture "Black Hawk Down" with a happier ending, or "Die Hard" in Islamabad.

Coincidentally, the Oscar-winning director of "The Hurt Locker" -- an Iraq war film that earned just $17 million at the box office -- has a chance to reach a wider audience with an aptly named follow-up, "Kill Bin Laden."

According to entertainment news Web site, Kathryn Bigelow and her "Hurt Locker" screenwriter Mark Boal have been working for some time on their project about an earlier, unsuccessful mission to nab bin Laden.

Details about the film's plot were sketchy, Deadline reported, but the filmmakers will likely need to rework the script to take into account real-life developments. A spokeswoman for Bigelow said she was not talking.

Television will likely rush out a few quick movies if history is any guide. Within six months of the successful Israeli hostage rescue mission in Uganda in 1976, two television movies had been broadcast. The rescue of U.S. soldier Jessica Lynch by Special Operations forces in Iraq also got a similarly quick turnaround time in 2003.

The Navy SEALs -- short for SEa, Air and Land - were notably depicted in a 1990 action thriller of the same name starring Charlie Sheen.

The film's director, Lewis Teague, said that a new movie should be similar to "United 93," a semi-factual real-time depiction of events aboard one of the ill-fated 9/11 flights, or to "Touching the Void," which blended documentary footage and recreations to show a mountaineering mishap.

Ideally, the filmmakers should get full cooperation from the Navy SEALs, especially since Teague said they videotape all their operations.

And don't forget a few good jokes, said Teague, a Middle East expert who spent about a year working closely with Navy SEALs in San Diego on his project.

"I would definitely do it with humor," he said. "It takes a very peculiar character to be a Navy SEAL -- courage, stamina, dark humor, a witch's brew of a warrior's mentality."

Can't wait for the film? How about the book? In another strange-but-true coincidence, former Navy SEAL sniper Howard Wasdin is bringing forward the publication of his memoir by two weeks to next week.

"Seal Team Six" is about Wasdin's Navy SEAL training and his service in Somalia during the 1990s. Even though the book has nothing to do with bin Laden, Hollywood studios barraged Wasdin's agent on Monday.

"This story is really on everyone in Hollywood's mind right now so it is probably going to be a race about who can do this type of story," Scott Miller said. (Reuters)

 Earnestness of `Prom' grows on you

It's not just prom, it's Disney's "Prom." And so no one smokes, no one sneaks in peach schnapps in a flask and no one - that's right, no one - gets lucky in the back of a limo.

This is all about that magical night when everyone gets together, regardless of the social hierarchy that had been firmly in place for the past four years, and dreams come true. Wholesome, earnest dreams for wholesome, earnest kids - except for the resident bad boy, that is. But naturally, he'll turn out to have a heart of gold.

Yes, director Joe Nussbaum's film, from a script by first-timer Katie Wech, is chock full of high-school movie clichés - sometimes knowingly and amusingly so. There's a tall, misfit character named Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) who resembles "Say Anything ..."-era John Cusack - a tall, misfit character named Lloyd. His awkward attempts at landing a prom date represent the film's most consistent source of laughs.

Of course, straight-arrow good girl Nova (Aimee Teegarden) will get stuck working with motorcycle-riding rebel Jesse (Thomas McDonell), and they will see through their respective prejudices to not only get along but fall for each other. Various other couples will suffer through missed opportunities and miscommunication and come out better for them in the end.

"Prom" is so steadfastly family friendly, even the dude who's clearly stoned the whole time - his nickname is Rolo, like the candy - never even comes close to taking any sort of drugs. He's just laid-back and wisecracking. You're welcome to draw your own conclusions.

There is a plot, sort of. Members of the Brookside High School senior class are getting ready for prom. Along the way, the shed where the decorations are being stored burns down. Nova, the prom coordinator and Molly Ringwald figure here, must reconstruct the whole extravaganza with the help of Jesse, the Judd Nelson figure in the equation who's been thrust upon her because he's a delinquent. Making papier-mâchÃ(c) moons and stars will straighten him out, the principal figures.

Essentially, this feels like a Disney Channel TV show stretched out to fit the big screen. No one pops out as a major star quite like the actors did in the "High School Musical" series, but they're all harmless and good-looking and the school is sufficiently multicultural to make everyone feel comfortable and included.

Still, the sweetness and guilelessness of "Prom" is actually strangely charming, and for its target audience - girls who are several years away from having to pick out that perfect dress - this will be a safe, enjoyable and validating little diversion. The fact that it's not snarky and too-hip is unexpectedly refreshing.

Like the 3-D Justin Bieber movie, you have to look at it through the prism of the viewers for whom it was intended. Adults know prom sucks - they went to prom. Pre-teen girls are still idealistic (we hope). Let them enjoy their vicarious fun.

"Prom" means well - and it grows on you. And it's much less of a hassle than schlepping to the real thing. (AP)

Time to pony up for a ticket to 'War Horse'

NEW YORK - At the end of "War Horse," the crowd at a recent curtain call rose to cheer a couple of real thoroughbreds.

Not actors - horses.

Humans are almost beside the point in Lincoln Center's staging of "War Horse," the astonishing World War I epic that opened Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater following an award-winning run in London. The biggest claps here are reserved for a pair of equine puppets.

Based on the best-selling 1982 children's novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted by Nick Stafford, "War Horse" tells the story of the friendship between an English farm boy and his clever horse Joey set against the Great War.

The puppeteers - three for the big horses, one or two for the others - provide the whinnies, snorts and snuffles of the animal in such an astonishingly lifelike way that their human manipulators - visible in period clothing - melt away.

Created by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, the puppets are really more like exoskeletons with shredded leather for tails and pointy ears and limbs manipulated by levers and buttons inside. For adult horses, two humans are hunched inside the body and one stands alongside its neck offering the main sounds and moving its head.

The audience meets Joey for the first time as a fearful foal and watches his relationship with his young owner, Albert (a hardworking Seth Numrich), deepen. When Britain is sucked into war, Joey is sold to the British cavalry and later captured by Germans on the Western Front. Albert - sent a sketch pad of drawings from the British soldier taking care of Joey - then joins the Army to find his beloved friend, risking his life among the barbed wire and cannon fire in the Somme Valley.

The cast of 35 includes people - British, German, soldier and civilian - and puppeteers who manipulate four horses; some actors pull double duty as both horse and human. The stage at Lincoln Center can barely contain all the action and, indeed, both horses and human characters race up and down the aisles.

The acting - human, that is - is a little over-the-top, but that's to be expected from material inspired by a kids' book. The reason to go see the show is its inventiveness, visual punch and its obvious reverence for the way animals move and behave. Look for a wayward goose to almost steal the show.

Directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris have their hands full juggling both beast and Homo sapiens, and they have been aided by a reunion of the production's acclaimed London design team.

A projection screen - cleverly in the shape of a torn piece of the sketch pad - hangs over the stage, showing lovely animated videos by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer. The music by Adrian Sutton and songs by John Tams alternate from battle melodies to moving violin-and-accordion English folk. Paule Constable's lighting - particularly in the battle scenes - is heart-pounding and stunning. And put your hooves together for Toby Sedgwick, who is director of movement and horse choreography.

The show opened in 2007 at the National Theatre of Great Britain and transferred to the West End two years later, where it is still selling out. Steven Spielberg is readying a film adaptation of the story with real horses.

Layered on top of the boy-and-his-horse tale is an exploration of the way warfare changed during the war, as machines began replacing cavalry horses on the battlefield. One the most beautifully realized scenes in "War Horse" shows Joey facing off against a British armored tank. Columns of horses in another scene are cut down my machine gun fire.

Joey and a rival-horse-turned-friend Topthorn make it across the enemy lines and find themselves in German hands, but they manage to charm a horse enthusiast and decent bloke named Fredrich (a fine Peter Hermann), who takes the sting out of a play which portrays German soldiers as mostly bloodthirsty. "I'm afraid magnificence isn't worth a damn, here," Fredrich tells his animals amid the mud and trenches.

There are few dry eyes in the house at the conclusion of this tale and that includes both weeping gray-haired Lincoln Center subscribers and sniffling high school field trippers.

And why not? There's no shame in crying over a love story between a boy and his horse, even if that horse is made up of cane and plywood. Plus, there's another secret ingredient in those puppets: plenty of heart. (AP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Audiences to flock to 'Rio'

LOS ANGELES: After collecting more than $50 million in its foreign debut, Fox's animated "Rio" lands in North America this weekend and should perch right at the top of the domestic chart with receipts of about $30 million.

This G-rated tale of a domesticated macaw that sets off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro has a lot going for it, including its obvious appeal to families and kids on spring break, very effective use of 3-D, strong reviews and that impressive following under way overseas.

Horror films typically have a built-in fan base and Weinstein Co.'s successful "Scream" franchise has had a following of devotees ever since the groundbreaking first film hit theaters in December 1996. Combining horror thrills with irreverent humor and an attractive teen cast, the film went on to become the 13th highest grossing film that year. The last installment in 2000 opened in the low $30 million range and "Scream 4" coming over a decade later should scare up a gross in the $25 million to $30 million range.

Universal's "Hop" was the first film released in 2011 to top the chart for two consecutive weekends and has truly benefited from an Easter theme that has endeared it to family audiences to the tune of $70 million thus far. Even with increased family-film competition in the marketplace this weekend, the irresistible appeal of Russell Brand as the son of the Easter bunny will still attract likely business in the $10 million range.

"Hanna" from Focus Features had a solid opening weekend last week, which saw the film jump from third to second place when the final numbers were tallied on Monday. Holding up extremely well and generating solid word-of-mouth, the intense action film features a terrific cast, including Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, and Saoirse Ronan in the title role. "Hanna" will likely see a modest second weekend drop with a gross in the $8 million to $10 million range.

This leaves Warner Bros.' comedy remake "Arthur" and Sony's inspirational true story "Soul Surfer" to battle it out for fifth place, with expected second-weekend grosses in the range of $5 million to $7 million. (AP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


'Arthur' a muddled remake of a classic comedy

LOS ANGELES: It's still an open question whether in this day of increased concerns about alcoholism and health you can do a remake of 1981's "Arthur," a comedy about a lovable drunk.

The new "Arthur," with Russell Brand playing the Dudley Moore role, is a mere burlesque riffing off the old "Arthur" rather than an actual remake that has reconceived or rethought the original film.

The story hasn't changed much, nor have the characters. But the comedy is now crude instead of whimsical and its characters overblown caricatures instead of screwball personalities. A movie has been reduced to a sketch.

One's enjoyment of "Arthur" -- and its box office chances -- may depend on a new audience having little if any knowledge of the earlier work. As a Russell Brand Show, fans and followers may enjoy his extravagant mugging and nuttiness.

The original film -- let's call it Old "Arthur" -- came out of nowhere. TV veteran Steve Gordon created an ineffable, charming comedy that defied movie traditions even of that time. Comic intoxication was usually reserved for the "Animal House" kind of comedies, and rich guys were seldom heroes. Gordon insisted that his incredibly rich and drunk protagonist was a gentle soul, looking for love but willing to accept a night of fun if that didn't pan out.

Moore, who had just hit it big as a leading man in Blake Edwards' "10," gave "Arthur" a sweetness to go along with his prankster personality. It was a knowing performance, full of wit and grace and savvy observation.

Brand shares a British heritage with Moore, but his comedy is much different. The guy is a talent, no doubt. Only last week, he put an undeniable comic jolt into Universal's animation/live-action mix Hop. But there is edginess to Brand's humor, even an aggressiveness. His Arthur creates scenes, not laughs. He's a pathetic, bratty little boy who refuses to grow up rather than a genial alcoholic who wouldn't harm a fly.

Peter Baynham's new script has done even more damage to the key relationship in Arthur's life. Perhaps the filmmakers thought it was very clever to turn Hobson (John Gielgud), Arthur's fatherly butler, into a nanny, played by Helen Mirren. It certainly does further emphasize Arthur's infantilism. But unlike Gielgud's character, Mirren's Hobson is in constant conflict with her aging charge. She prods sharply where the butler steered with the gentlest of touches. Old "Arthur's" butler was subtle and unflappable, while Mirren's nanny has a bit of Mary Poppins in her.

The story again revolves around a billionaire parent (Geraldine James) demanding Arthur grow up enough to enter into a loveless marriage to a rich WASP (Jennifer Garner), mostly for business purposes, or he'll be disinherited. (Here again the New "Arthur" insists on a gender change from a male to female parent.) At the same time, Arthur meets the love of his life in unlicensed Grand Central Station tour guide Naomi (indie film stalwart Greta Gerwig).

So both "Arthurs" present a thoroughly conventional romantic-comedy about love vs. money with a predicable outcome. This humdrum story line therefore allows, or at least it should, a completely unpredictable and outlandish character to take over.

Neophyte feature director Jason Winer turns things over to Brand all right, but it's a rough, out-of-focus performance. Not helping matters, the movie relies on its props far too much -- from an incongruous Batmobile, borrowed from a fellow Warner Bros. movie, to a magnetic floating bed. These tend of underscore showiness over comedy, brashness over subtlety.

Perhaps encouraged by his props and toys, Brand goes full bore in every scene, almost as if the movie isn't so much about a drunk as an eccentric billionaire, who would be loopy if he drank only lemonade. In fact, no one working on New "Arthur" seems completely comfortable with this protagonist. So you get AA meetings and lines tsk-tsking over "free spending during a recession." The movie keeps throwing up PC signs along the way to demonstrate how shocked everyone is, to borrow from Casablanca, that gambling is taking place in a casino.

Guys, your character was always going to be a profligate drunk if you remake "Arthur," so get over it. And Hobson's admonition to Arthur to scrub his private parts to prevent disease following unprotected sex just blows your mind. This is the advice of his sagacious nanny?

When tragedy overtakes Arthur as Hobson falls fatally ill, the film becomes cloying rather than touching. There's no heart in any of this as the tenacious bond between the man-child and his governess has never been convincingly established.

In Old "Arthur," all supporting players had great moments; in New "Arthur," everyone hits his marks, and that's about it. The spontaneity and gentle whimsy is missing. And so is the luxurious wit of Gordon's original screenplay. Baynham's script prods along without memorable lines or scenes even when it imitates Old "Arthur" as closely as it can.

In the end, it isn't so much that the "New Arthur" isn't the Old "Arthur." Rather it's the anti-Arthur. (Reuters) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert top ACM Awards

LAS VEGAS: Miranda Lambert won four prizes at the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday but lost the coveted entertainer of the year honor to Taylor Swift in a major surprise.

Swift, who picked up four nominations, had watched from her seat throughout the ceremony as rivals Lambert and Lady Antebellum went up to the stage. She was stunned when her name was finally called for the final prize, a fan-voted honor.

"This is the first time that I've ever won this and I'm just losing my mind," Swift said, as she fought back tears.

Lambert retained her crown as top female vocalist and her wistful tune "The House That Built Me" was honored for single, song and video of the year at the 46th annual awards ceremony.

The award for single goes to the artist and producer, whereas the trophy for best song is given to the artist and composer.

Lambert, a 27-year-old Texan, went into the ceremony with a leading seven nominations, including two in the video category.

The country trio Lady Antebellum won trophies for album and vocal group of the year and Brad Paisley was named top male vocalist for the fifth consecutive year. The award for top new artist went to The Band Perry, a sibling trio from Mississippi.

Kenny Chesney, with five nominations, and Keith Urban, with three, went home empty-handed.

The announcement of winners took second place to a string of performances divided between two hotel venues, the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. The winner of the first award was not revealed until almost an hour into the three-hour ceremony.

The show was hosted by Reba McEntire for the 13th year. She was joined by first-timer Blake Shelton, Lambert's fiance.

Winners at the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards from Las Vegas:
• Entertainer of the year: Taylor Swift
• Top male vocalist: Brad Paisley
• Top female vocalist: Miranda Lambert
• Top vocal group: Lady Antebellum
• Top vocal duo: Sugarland
• Top new artist: The Band Perry
• Top new solo vocalist: Eric Church
• Top new vocal duo or group: The Band Perry
• Album of the year: "Need you Now," Lady Antebellum
• Single record of the year: "The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
• Song of the year: "The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
• Video of the year: "The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
• Vocal event of the year: "As She's Walking Away," Zac Brown Band Featuring Alan Jackson
(Reuters/AP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 Tame bunny tale 'Hop' skips into blandness

"Hop" has one of the cutest bunnies you'll ever see and plenty of other eye candy among its computer-generated visuals, yet there's not much bounce to the story behind this interspecies buddy comedy.

Letting bad-boy Russell Brand supply the voice of the Easter bunny sounds like a promising way to add spice to a warm and fuzzy family flick. Too bad the movie winds up about as bland as carrot-flavored jelly beans.

Its gooey sentiment and hare-brained gags are likely to appeal only to very young kids. The filmmakers trip up on their scattered attempts to inject some hipness to "Hop" for older children and parents (a bit about a rabbit apparently cooked in a pot is handled so tepidly, it barely registers as a halfhearted allusion to the boiled bunny in "Fatal Attraction," while a couple of Hugh Hefner-Playboy bunny riffs are just dreary).

Directed by Tim Hill, a veteran at blending live action and digital animation on "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties," "Hop" skips and jumps between the fantasy land beneath Easter Island (clever location scouting, huh?) - where rabbits and chicks manufacture holiday candy - and the human world of Fred O'Hare (clever character name, huh?).

Fred (James Marsden) is a grown-up slacker living with his parents, who hound him to get a job and move out. As a boy, Fred caught a forbidden glimpse of the Easter bunny making his rounds, and his destiny seems tied to the rabbit realm.

He's not the only disappointment to his parents. Down under Easter Island, young E.B. (voiced by Brand) is about to take over the family business from his dad, the Easter bunny (Hugh Laurie). But E.B. dreams of becoming a rock 'n' roll drummer and runs away to Hollywood to follow his bunny bliss.

E.B. just happens to come across Fred at a mansion where he's house-sitting. Let's see, mischievous, screwy rabbit, fridge full of carrots, rooms loaded with plush, pricey bedding. Inevitably, E.B. unleashes mayhem on Fred, who seems to be the only person surprised that a talking rabbit is running loose in Hollywood (in a couple of weirdly self-referential but very unfunny scenes, David Hasselhoff is among those who take a talking bunny in stride).

Written by the "Despicable Me" team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, along with Brian Lynch, "Hop" mostly is a lot of slapstick adventures between E.B. and Fred. They gradually form a kinship, find common ground and go through all the other usual things that arise when man befriends rabbit, including taking on scheming chick Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), who wants to turn Easter into a poultry-run holiday.

The vocally dexterous Azaria brings some pep to "Hop," but most of the actors, among them Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins as Fred's parents, are left to doze as if they'd been up all night hiding goodies for the big Easter egg hunt.

After playing stick-in-the-mud mutant Cyclops in the first three "X-Men" movies, Marsden has gotten to show comic charm in such romps as "Enchanted" and "Hairspray." In "Hop," he comes across as a genuinely nice guy - keeping in mind that genuinely nice guys can be genuinely boring. Marsden's Fred is genuinely boring.

That leaves the movie hanging on Brand. His slightly spacy Anglo mutterings lend a strange warmth to E.B., whose adorable face could inspire an entire line of cuddly plush toys.

The animation is the movie's strong point, presenting a rainbow-colored world that should satisfy young children's cinematic sweet tooth. But Carlos' legion of chicks look like downy replicas of the yellow minions of "Despicable Me," while a trio of commando rabbits known as the Pink Berets are really annoying, down to their own dreadful theme song that plays over the end credits.

"Hop," a Universal release, is rated PG for some mild rude humor. Running time: 94 minutes. Two stars out of four. (AP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Happy birthday Lady Gaga

NEW YORK: It feels like Lady Gaga has been around for ages, so it’s hard for us to believe that the pop star is only celebrating her 25th birthday today Monday!

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, born March 28, 1986, better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American pop singer-songwriter. After performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side in 2003 and later enrolling at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, she soon signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records.

During her early time at Interscope, she worked as a songwriter for fellow label artists and captured the attention of Akon, who recognized her vocal abilities, and signed her to his own label, Kon Live Distribution.

Gaga came to prominence following the release of her debut studio album The Fame (2008), which was a commercial success and achieved international popularity with the singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face".

Gaga is well-recognized for her outré sense of style in fashion, in performance and in her music videos. Her contributions to the music industry have garnered her numerous achievements including five Grammy Awards, amongst twelve nominations; two Guinness World Records; and the estimated sale of fifteen million albums and fifty-one million singles worldwide. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Liz Taylor buried near Jackson

LOS ANGELES: Film icon Elizabeth Taylor was laid to rest in the same celebrity cemetery as her long-time friend Michael Jackson -- and demonstrated a keen sense of humor to the end.

The legendary actress, who died Wednesday aged 79, was sent off with an hour-long private ceremony at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park on Thursday, where generations of Hollywood stars are buried.

But her last wishes were respected, and announced after the service had finished.

"The service was scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm, but at Miss Taylor's request started late," said a statement by her publicist.

"Miss Taylor had left instructions that it was to begin at least 15 minutes later than publicly scheduled, with the announcement: 'She even wanted to be late for her own funeral,'" it added.

The film legend and violet-eyed beauty, famed as much for her stormy love life as her five-decade Oscar-winning film career, died early Wednesday from congestive heart failure at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai hospital.

Thursday's funeral was reserved for a few dozen family and friends, brought in a fleet of black stretch limos to the verdant cemetery, where stars including Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and Jean Harlow are also interred.

During their lives, the pop icon and Hollywood legend were at times inseparable, with homes near each other in the plush Bel Air and Beverly Hills neighborhoods west of Hollywood.

"I don't think anyone knew how much we loved each other," Taylor said after his death. "I loved Michael with all my soul and I can't imagine life without him. We had so much in common and we had such loving fun together." (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Akshay to shoot ‘Housefull 2’ in Antarctica

MUMBAI: Bollywood star Akshay Kumar will be shooting in Antarctica where no Indian actor has shot before.

Akshay Kumar wants to make his return to action in Housefull 2 remarkable, so the introductory fight scene will be shot in Antarctica, with Akshay bare chested!

"Yes, I'm shooting Akshay's introductory action sequence for Housefull 2 in Antarctica. It's the coldest place in the world. Only documentaries have been shot there. Housefull 2 will be the first feature to be shot in that continent," director Sajid Khan confirmed.

43-year-old Akshay will feature shirtless in the fight scene. Filming the 10-minute scene in Antarctica is Akshay's idea and producer Sajid Nadiadwala and director Khan are game.

Filming will begin in May 2011. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


`Battle: LA' conquers box office with $36 million

NEW YORK: Hollywood would like to skip spring and head straight to summer.

The summer-style blockbuster "Battle: Los Angles" performed like one at the box office, opening to a strong debut of $36 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The film stars Aaron Eckhart as a veteran soldier leading a platoon of Marines in combat against invading aliens.

For Columbia Pictures and Sony, the sci-fi action film recalls its 2009 Oscar-nominated hit, "District 9." "Battle: Los Angeles" hasn't received nearly as good reviews, but it benefited from a 68 percent male audience and a very successful marketing campaign.

"It's kind of like having a summer film in the spring," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony. "From the beginning, this was a film we were excited about."

Bruer added that there's "definitely a connection" between "Battle: Los Angeles" and "District 9," which opened to $37.4 million and was also helmed by a South African filmmaker. Neill Blomkamp directed "District 9," while Jonathan Liebesman directed the similarly handheld-heavy "Battle: Los Angeles."

In its second week of release, the animated Western spoof "Rango" came in second, adding $23.1 million for a cumulative total of $68.7 million. The critically acclaimed Paramount Pictures film appeared on its way to surpassing $100 million.

The weekend's other new releases didn't fare as well.

"Red Riding Hood," the updated fairy tale starring Amanda Seyfried and helmed by "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke, debuted to $14.1 million for Warner Bros.

Worse was Disney's animated 3-D family film "Mars Needs Moms!" It opened to a disappointing $6.8 million, well below expectations. With a voice cast including Seth Green and Joan Cusack, it also opened on more than 200 IMAX screens.

Based on the book of the same title by Berkeley Breathed, "Mars Needs Moms!" had an estimated production budget of $150 million. Such a poor start means it's likely to be a significant loss for Disney, though that pain is somewhat alleviated by its surprise hit, "Gnomeo & Juliet." It has taken in $89 million in five weeks.

Overall, moviegoing business was still down from the corresponding weekend last year. Since November 2010, such down weekends have been the norm except for one up weekend. The box office for 2011 was 21.5 percent off last year's pace. analyst Paul Dergarabedian said the weekend business was "good news for aliens, bad news for the overall box office."

"It's a cyclical business, but this is a long downturn," said Dergarabedian. "The industry is holding its collective breath for summer to start."

With myriad blockbusters planned for both the summer and holiday seasons, Hollywood has reason to expect better business as the year continues.

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

1. "Battle: Los Angeles," $36 million.

2. "Rango," $23.1 million.

3. "Red Riding Hood," $14.1 million.

4. "The Adjustment Bureau," $11.5 million.

5. "Mars Needs Moms!" $6.8 million.

6. "Hall Pass," $5.1 million.

7. "Beastly," $5.1 million

8. "Just Go With It," $4 million.

9. "The King's Speech," $3.6 million.

10. "Gnomeo & Juliet," $3.5 million. (AP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 'Red Riding Hood' inspires dread

LOS ANGELES: A film of grimm banality, "Red Riding Hood" puts a bloodthirsty "Twilight" spin on a fairy tale already possessed of an unusually macabre climax.

As it thuds along from one wolf attack to the next, Catherine Hardwicke's first film since taking leave of Bella and her toothy friends adamantly refuses to provide any wit, humor or fun, concerning itself mostly with the heroine's taxing dilemma of picking between the rural village's two best looking boys.

Still, with Warner Bros. delivering a massive campaign aimed at a ready-and-drooling target audience, some big opening numbers lie in wait this weekend.

"Red Riding Hood" is in the vanguard of what appears to be an onslaught of live-action fairy tale-derived studio features over the next year or so. What triggered this trend remains unclear, but one can only hope that the level of cleverness and invention improves, as things hardly get off to an inspired start here.

Restricting the action almost entirely to a small Ruritanian community where everyone but the visiting Gary Oldman speaks in mundane American accents, the script by David Leslie Johnson ("Orphan") pivots on two central creative ploys -- to turn a mere wolf into a werewolf and to transform the ancient story into a whodunnit in which the lovely young Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) must figure out who among the locals nocturnally mutates into the massive black hound that killed her sister and converses to her, hoping she'll run away with it.

Is it Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the cute but poor woodcutter who has been her true love since childhood and himself would love to take her away? Might it possibly be his rival, Henry (Max Irons), the prosperous blacksmith Valerie's mother (Virginia Madsen) has arranged for her to marry? Could it be Dad (Billy Burke, the sad-sack father from "Twilight"), who boozes it up with regularity? Or, heaven forbid, is the wolf perhaps Grandma herself (Julie Christie), a bohemian eccentric who lives on her own out in the forest and has yellowish-brown eyes quite like those of the wolf itself?

Officially taking charge of the case once the wolf begins attacking humans for the first time in 20 years is Father Solomon (Oldman), an itinerant werewolf hunter in cleric's robes who resembles his Biblical namesake far less than he does Torquemada, so convinced is he that his inquisitional techniques can elicit a confession of lycanthropy.

As in "Thirteen," "The Nativity Story" and "Twilight" before it, "Red Riding Hood" allows Hardwicke to focus on the emotional trials of a teenager thrust unceremoniously onto the rocks of extreme grown-up dilemmas and feeling her way toward solutions.

Unfortunately, the context here is hokier than in any of the director's previous films and, as she's not a stylist or genre specialist, she has little to bring to this sort of material other than a natural empathy for the lead character. The dialogue exchanges possess no spark, the action is indifferently covered by random camera moves and cuts and the only jolts are provoked by cheap shock-cuts to the growling or roaring wolf.

The only memorable image is the fortunately frequently appearing one of Seyfried with her blond hair flowing from beneath the eponymous scarlet cloak that matches her pillow lips. Otherwise, the young actress has seen better days than this before and assuredly will again. The local men are boringly one-note but the casting of Christie was smart, as she bestows her iconoclastic spirit upon the ambiguous grandma.

The Vancouver-shot production, mostly confined to a studio set, has a rather dreary look spiced here and there by unusual production and costume design details that lend modern touches. (Reuters) AddThis Social Bookmark Button




'King's Speech' steals Oscars spotlight

HOLLYWOOD: Royal drama "The King's Speech" was crowned with Oscars gold on Sunday, taking three of the top Academy Award prizes, including best actor for self-mocking Englishman Colin Firth.

The movie grabbed the coveted best film and best director awards as well as Firth's gong for his portrayal of a stammering King George VI, helped by an Australian voice coach to rally wartime Britain.

Best original screenplay completed a four-Oscar haul -- the same as hi-tech thriller "Inception" and one more than Facebook movie "The Social Network," which had a disappointing night after being tipped as possible best film.

Screenwriter David Seidler used his acceptance speech to jokingly thank Queen Elizabeth II, among others, as well as stutterers everywhere.

"I would like to thank Her Majesty the Queen for not putting me in the Tower of London" for putting swear words in George VI's mouth. "And I accept this on behalf of all the stutterers throughout the world.

"We have a voice, we have been heard," said Seidler, who himself suffered from a stammer, echoing a line from the movie.

"The Social Network," nominated in eight Oscars categories, ended up going home with only three, and none of the major ones: film editing, original score and adapted screenplay for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin paid tribute afterwards to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose portrayal in the movie is not overly flattering.

"I think he's been an awfully good sport about this," he told reporters. "I don't know if any of us want to have a movie made about when we were 19."

"Inception," starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a hired hand who penetrates people's dreams, won four Oscars: cinematography, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing, while a heavily pregnant Natalie Portman, as expected, won best actress for her role in disturbing ballet thriller "Black Swan."

Boxing movie "The Fighter" took two gongs -- best supporting actor for Christian Bale, and best supporting actress for Melissa Leo, who had both been favorites to win.

In a rare edgy moment on an otherwise drama-free night, Leo's use of the F-word in her acceptance speech had to be cut out of the time-delayed broadcast.

"I had no idea, I apologize to anyone I offended," she later said.

"The King's Speech" director Tom Hooper related the extraordinary story of how he only came to make the movie thanks to the help of his Australian mother, who was in the audience.

"My mum in 2007 was invited by some Australian friends -- she's Australian -- in London, to a fringe theater play reading of an unproduced, unrehearsed play called 'The King's Speech'," said the 38-year-old Brit.

He explained: "She's never been invited to a play reading her entire life before. She almost didn't go because it didn't sound exactly promising, but thank God she did.

"She rang me up after, said, Tom, I think I found your next film. So, with this tonight, I honor you and the moral of the story is, listen to your mother."

In other prizes, "Toy Story 3," the third instalment of the family-friendly franchise starring Woody, Buzz Lightyear and co. won best animated feature Oscar as expected.

And the best foreign film prize went to "In a Better World" by Denmark's star director Susanne Bier, who vanquished movies from Algeria, Canada, Greece and Mexico.

The Oscars is the culmination of the multi-billion movie industry's awards season and has been preceded by months of frantic campaigning for the coveted gold statuettes.

The ceremony marked the second year that 10 films were competing for the best picture prize, up from five previously. The academy expanded the category in a bid to include more popular films. This year, most of the top contenders crossed the $100 million mark at the box office.

Firth, who had been seen as a shoo-in for best actor, made a typically self-deprecating acceptance speech, opening up with: "I have a feeling my career's just peaked.

"I'm afraid I have to warn you that I'm experiencing stirrings, somewhere in the upper abdominals, which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves," he went on.

"Joyous as they may be for me, it would be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get off stage," he added, referring to his role in the ABBA-inspired musical hit Mamma Mia!.

He won over Jeff Bridges -- who beat Firth to the best actor Oscar last year -- in "True Grit," Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network," James Franco in "127 Hours" and Spanish heart-throb Javier Bardem in "Biutiful."

Portman's rivals for best actress were veteran Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right," Australia's Nicole Kidman for "Rabbit Hole," Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone" and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine." (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Film about Algeria wins best film Cesar award

PARIS: Director Xavier Beauvois on Friday won best film award for his ‘Des Hommes et des Dieux’ in France's version of the Oscars, the Cesars, and said the movie about monks kidnapped and murdered in Algeria shed some ‘intelligence’ on the 1996 event.

Accepting the award Beauvois described the film as a "message of equality, liberty, fraternity".

The best director award went to Roman Polanski for "The Ghost Writer" while Eric Elmosnino was best actor in "Gainsbourg (vie heroique)" and Sara Forestier picked up the best actress prize for her part in "Le nom des gens."(AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Ali Zafar to star in YRF’s Dhoom: 3?

A media report says the Prince of Pop, Ali Zafar will soon play a key role in Dhoom: 3, the third installment of the Indian action film series, which is being produced by Yash Raj Films (YRF).

Rumour has it that the producer of the film Aditya Chopra, has been so impressed by Ali Zafar who is currently working in his movie Mere Brother Ki Dulhan opposite Katrina Kaif that a possibility has risen that he will cast Ali in a key role in Dhoom: 3, reports Times of India.

Ali, whose Tere Bin Laden, scored overwhelming response has at least read 40 scripts post his debut film success in Bollywood. Rumour also has it that Ali Zafar has become very pally with Aditya Chopra and considers him a guide in Tinseltown.

Dhoom 3, which will be directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya (Victor), will feature Aamir Khan playing a negative character while Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra will reprise their previous roles.

The film would go on floors at the end of 2011 and is slated for a December (Christmas) 2012 release.

Aamir Khan is very keen on playing a villain in the film and says that the script is really amazing. He said, “Victor’s script really won me over and I look forward to working with him.”

Yash Chopra, the founder of Yash Raj Films adds, “Dhoom: 3 is possibly one of the best scripts coming out of our production house.”

If the rumours are true then it would be a great opportunity for the Prince of Pop to make his mark on the Indian film industry and to learn something from Aamir Khan who is known by the title ‘The Perfectionist’.

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