Absolutely Fabulous off to corking start with £4.4m weekend at UK box office

Andrew Radion | ,

Brexit gloom, football counterprogramming and decent reviews help sitcom land in second place in UK charts

Absolutely Fabulous off to corking start with £4.4m weekend at UK box office
Bolly good start … Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders at the Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie world premiere in London. Photograph: James Shaw/REX/Shutterstock

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has scored the biggest UK film opening since Spectre, taking £4.4m over its debut weekend.

The film made more than double the three-day total for the Dad’s Army movie, which took £2.1m in February; it also beat recent healthy homegrown performers such as Eddie the Eagle and The Lady in the Van.

However, it still falls some way short of the opening weekend totals for both Inbetweeners movies, as well as the most recent James Bond movie, which took £6.3m on its opening day alone.

The sitcom spin-off is said to have benefited from better-than-expected reviews, while releasing during Euro 2016 was always going to boost a film whose target audience is predominantly female.

The film, which is marketed as an unchallenging and celebratory adult comedy, may also have been aided by current political uncertainty and national despondency.

Absolutely Fabulous’s international rollout is protracted: it arrives in the US on 22 July, in Australia on 4 August and territories such as Singapore and Germany later in the autumn, before a Russian release in October.

ITV to reload Lethal Weapon in primetime slot

Andrew Radion | , ,

Reboot of 1980s Mel Gibson and Danny Glover classic marks broadcaster’s return to heyday of LA Law and the Equalizer

ITV to reload Lethal Weapon in primetime slot
The new faces of Lethal Weapon. Photograph: ITV / Warner Bros

ITV has bought the TV adaptation of Lethal Weapon and will show it in a primetime slot, marking a return to the days when it used to have US shows such as LA Law and the Equalizer at the heart of its schedules.

The reboot of the classic buddy cop series of films sees Damon Wayans take on Danny Glover’s role of Roger Murtaugh and relative unknown Clayne Crawford fill Mel Gibson’s shoes as Martin Riggs.

ITV said the series will appear in a primetime slot, a tactic it has all but ignored since the days of high-profile US shows such as LA Law and the Equaliser, starring Edward Woodward, in the 80s and early 90s.

A more recent US drama, Pushing Daisies, was also given a peaktime berth by ITV but was hamstrung by the broadcaster’s bizarre handling of the show.

Another US acquisition, spy drama The Americans, was moved increasingly later on a Saturday night before being shuffled off to one of its digital channels.

ITV director of television Kevin Lygo said: “It’s rare that we find an acquisition with that sweet spot potential – the best production values and hugely entertaining drama, that we think can appeal to the biggest and broadest audiences and take up a place in ITV primetime.

“We saw Lethal Weapon and were immediately excited by what it could add to the ITV schedule, and we’re really looking forward to bringing the series to UK viewers.”

The broadcaster has acquired the series from Warner Brothers international distribution division and will air it on its main channel following its US debut on Fox this autumn.

Jordana Brewster, who has appeared in recent instalments of the Fast and Furious franchise, and Mad Men’s Kevin Rahm will also star.

The original Lethal Weapon series debuted in 1987 and was followed by three more instalments, finishing in 1998 with Lethal Weapon 4.

Spice Girls reunion 'not happening'

Andrew Radion | ,

Mel C and Victoria Beckham have reportedly scuppered plans for the girl power group to reform next year

Spice Girls reunion 'not happening'
Viva Forever? … the Spice Girls in 1997 (from left): Melanie Brown, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell. Photograph: ITV/REX Shutterstock

Despite reports that the Spice Girls were in talks to reform next year to celebrate 20 years since Wannabe first stormed the charts, the reunion may no longer happen at all.

All five members of the girl power group have not been persuaded to return to the stage. It is believed that Mel C and Victoria Beckham have refused to get behind the reunion. According to a report in the Mirror, the remaining three are unwilling to reform without them, despite talk of interviewing replacements.

The source told the Mirror: “Mel C has been telling friends it’s not happening – not for the anniversary and not next year. She’s not interested in revisiting the band, and neither is Victoria. Their decision has made it impossible for the other three to go ahead with plans to tour again.

They added: “They know it wouldn’t be quite the same to get on stage as a threesome. Doing it without Victoria would have been a shame but might have been a possibility, but two missing is too many. The Spice Girls’ last reunion worked because it was all five of them and they gave their fans what they wanted.”

Singer-turned-chef Kelis pops up in London restaurant

Andrew Radion | , , , , , ,

In a collaboration with chef duo Le Bun, Kelis Rogers turns her talents to food after training at Cordon Bleu

Singer-turned-chef Kelis pops up in London restaurant
Kelis Rogers with chef Andy Taylor from Le Bun in the kitchen of their new pop-up restaurant at Leicester House, London. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

In a cramped kitchen off London’s Leicester Square, Kelis Rogers is shredding herbs into a vast saucepan where kilos of pork flank simmer away. Behind her three whole pineapples blacken over open coals and a pan bubbling with guava and ginger fills the kitchen with a sweet steamy fragrance. She pauses to inhale the colliding aromas for a moment, then turns her attention to throwing handfuls of turmeric into a blender.

Yet immaculate white apron aside, Rogers is no ordinary chef. Most know her simply as Kelis, the New York-born singer who has sold six million records around the world, won a Brit award in 2001 for best international newcomer, been nominated for a Grammy and collaborated with Björk. And while it is her hit single Milkshake that notoriously brings all the boys to the yard, after taking a hiatus from music to train at the prestigious Cordon Bleu cookery school in 2008, her culinary repertoire now extends well beyond ice-cream-based drinks.

Indeed, cooking is now so much of a passion for Rogers that she is opening a pop-up restaurant in London for the first time in July, collaborating with the cooking duo Le Bun. She will then take her cuisine on the road, serving it up at festivals around the UK.

“I cook like my character – it’s loud and colourful and really in-your-face,” says Rogers, as she flits about the kitchen stirring and sprinkling. “But keeping things super balanced, bringing together flavours I’ve experienced from all over the world, is what I think makes me stand out as a chef.”

Having spent 20 years in music, Rogers admitted she gets a very different kind of joy when cooking for people from singing for them. She says: “It is totally different. I really do feel that music is a very selfish thing. I’ve always made music very specifically for myself. The fact that it has been a success for me is really God-given because I could not care less what people like.”

Singer-turned-chef Kelis pops up in London restaurant
Kelis on stage at Somerset House in London. Photograph: Nicky J Sims/Redferns via Getty Images

She adds: “There’s also something aggressive about music – it attacks your ears even when you don’t want to listen – whereas food is the total opposite. Food is a choice and I think because of that, there’s a certain level of respect that has to go into it.”

Rogers developed the menu for her Soho pop-up over three days with Andy Taylor, one half of Le Bun. Rather than opting for a single style of cuisine, the plates and ingredients nods both to Kelis’s own Caribbean and American heritage, and the hundreds of dishes and styles she experienced travelling the world, having spent “the best part of 20 years on tour”.

Rogers will be cooking up her own take on the arepas of Venezuela and Vietnamese meatballs bánh mì, and experimenting with the pineapple and yucca beloved of Caribbean cuisine. Her menu also features pork infused with both Asian and Puerto Rican flavours, Latin American-style seabass ceviche, a new take on southern staple cornbread and chilli and even burgers laced with truffle mayo, the speciality of her collaborators Le Bun.

On the plates, the dishes are a clash of oranges, greens, pinks and rich brown. “I just love colours in food,” she says. “I’m always drawn to the purple potatoes and the speckled yams, all those strange bright fruits and I love that I can incorporate all these things into my menu. I’ve even found a special purple masa [maize] to make the arepas, which is just beautiful. It’s just fun – literally all things that I love and that I want in my life.”

Growing up with a mother who ran a catering business in Harlem, food was always a central part of Rogers’ life. However, having signed her first record deal at 17, she spent the next 10 years on an “unstoppable treadmill” of the music industry. After fighting to get off her music label for four years, Rogers was finally released from her contract in 2008. Sitting alone in her kitchen one Friday, she phoned up the Cordon Bleu who told her the next course was starting on Monday. She signed up immediately.

“Cooking school revolutionised everything in my life,” she says. “I had spent four years tied to a label I hated, which was like an arranged marriage. I felt exhausted, under-appreciated and really disrespected and it sucked. And then all of a sudden, I realised I could walk away from music and my life won’t shatter.”

Given the choice, after graduating from Cordon Bleu Rogers would have thrown herself fully into the world of food. However, in 2009, when pregnant with her first child, she divorced her then husband, the rapper Nas.

“Everything turned upside down and I didn’t know how to support myself through food yet, so I had to go back to what I knew, which was music,” she says. “And it was kind of heartbreaking – I couldn’t even bear to watch any cooking shows.” The singer’s longing to return to cooking was even reflected in the tracklisting of her 2010 album Food, which featured songs such as Breakfast, Jerk Ribs, Cobbler and Biscuits and Gravy.

Yet six years on and the culinary side of Rogers’ life is gaining momentum, while she admits her music, which still takes her around the world,is currently on “autopilot”. As well as the London pop-up and the UK festival food truck this summer, she has a cookbook and her own rage of sauces in America – and her ambitions are still expanding.

“I want a farm where I can grow my own ingredients and have control over the whole process,” she says. “And yeah, for sure, one day I’d love to have my own restaurant.”

Kelis x Le Bun will be at Leicester House, London WC2, on 6-17 July, and at Standon Calling, Hertfordshire, from 29 to 31 July.

Back in black: car fan finds lost British star of La Dolce Vita

Andrew Radion | , ,

Triumph TR3 used in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film was found and repainted in Italy and is due to go on display in Rome

Back in black: car fan finds lost British star of La Dolce Vita
Marcello Mastroianni and co-stars in the Triumph TR3 in La Dolce Vita. Photograph: Blue Box Toys/EPA

In one of Italian cinema’s most famous moments, a daring Anita Ekberg wades into Rome’s Trevi fountain with actor Marcello Mastroianni in her wake. The couple, the stars of La Dolce Vita, arrive at the scene after driving through the city in a British sports car – the Triumph TR3.

More than half a century later, that Triumph has been rediscovered in Italy by a former senator with a passion for vintage cars, and is now set to return to Rome.

“For about a year I searched for a Triumph TR3. Because it’s a fascinating car – an English car,” said Filippo Berselli, surrounded by the paper trail that helped him discover the vehicle’s past.

The black number plate was the first hint of something special, he added. “Out of every 100 Triumphs in Italy, 98 arrive from the US and have a white number plate. One or a maximum of two were kept in Italy.”

Berselli traced the Triumph’s ownership back through the decades and found it was once owned by Riama Film, a Rome-based production company. A certificate from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust shows it was built on 6 February 1958 as a pearl white model, with red trim and a black hood, and shipped to Italy.

Back in black: car fan finds lost British star of La Dolce Vita
The Triumph TR3 used in La Dolce Vita. Its colour has been changed back to black from white. Photograph: Filippo Berselli

By the time it appeared on the set of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, which won the 1962 Oscar for costume design and the Palme d’Or at Cannes two years earlier, the car had been painted black.

“It was the most important and beautiful of Fellini’s films, and the most well-known Italian film in the world,” said Berselli, who regards Mastroianni as the best-loved Italian actor.

Berselli found the Triumph in Pesaro, central Italy, where he bought it for €30,000 (£24,700). After its film stint it had been sold in 1963 to a buyer in nearby Viterbo, before being bought in central Forli six years later, only to be sold on in Pesaro in 1970.

Now Fabrizio Pompilio, the owner of Racing Color mechanics near Rimini, has been charged with restoring the TR3.

Its colour has been changed back to black from white, a task that involved removing three layers of paintwork. “I stripped away everything I could to bring her back – perfect, beautiful, marvellous – to how she was in the years the legendary maestro Fellini used her,” said Pompilio.

After about a month of work the car body is now gleaming but was still in pieces on the garage floor when the Guardian visited this week. New electrics have been installed and red upholstery has been ordered from the UK in keeping with the 1950s original.

Back in black: car fan finds lost British star of La Dolce Vita
Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in the Trevi fountain in Rome. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features

Pompilio said: “I’ve done all the work in the old-fashioned way … The new way is excellent, it works well, it’s just that she – the Triumph TR3 from La Dolce Vita – is something else. She’s from another planet.”

The Italian mechanic, who has spent 35 years in the trade and also has a 1930s Balilla and two Fiat 500s waiting to be restored, added: “It’s in my DNA, to bring old cars back to how they were when they were born.”

He is working on the Triumph for free with separate experts brought in for the tyres and electrics. Pompilio has until 14 July to complete the work before the car is taken to Rome and put on display until the end of the month.

This time, the Triumph will not be driven along Italian roads by an actor posing as a hedonistic journalist, as Fellini had it. Instead, rather more prosaically, it will be placed in a truck.

Pompilio says the risk of an accident is too high to allow the TR3 on the road, adding: “It’s as if we’re bringing something that doesn’t have a price; a piece of history that no one can touch.”

Lions Gate to buy Starz in $4.4bn deal

Andrew Radion | , ,

The company behind the Hunger Games and Orange is the New Black could play its films and TV shows on Starz channels after deal closes end of the year

Lions Gate to buy Starz in $4.4bn deal
Lions Gate distributes the Hunger Games franchise. Photograph: Allstar/Lions Gate

Film and TV studio Lions Gate is buying cable channel operator Starz in a deal worth $4.4bn.

Lions Gate is the company behind the Hunger Games movies and the Orange Is The New Black TV series. Starz runs its namesake cable channel, as well as Starz Encore and MoviePlex. Together, Lions Gate said it can tap its library of movies and TV shows and air them through Starz’s channels.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

Lions Gate said Thursday that it will pay holders of Starz Series A stock $18 in cash and 0.6784 of a Lions Gate share. Starz Series B stockholders will receive $7.26 in cash and 1.2642 of Lions Gate stock.

Santa Monica, California-based Lions Gate is not new to the cable business. It owns stakes in Epix and Pop and also had a small stake in Starz before the deal was announced. Starz, based in Englewood, Colorado, also owns Anchor Bay Entertainment, which distributes movies on DVDs.

The glory days return to one of British cinema’s spiritual homes

Andrew Radion | , , , , , ,

Saved from demolition four years ago, Twickenham Studios is thriving again. Movie-loving businessman Sunny Vohra explains how he has managed to attract the likes of Ridley Scott and Stanley Tucci

Lions Gate to buy Starz in $4.4bn deal
Twickenham Studios have had a renaissance since being taken over by businessman Sunny Vohra. Photograph: Alamy

Four years ago the historic Twickenham Studios, home to some of the best-loved moments in British cinema history, stood on the brink of oblivion. The site seemed set for demolition and redevelopment as prime residential land in west London and an era of film history appeared to be drawing to a close.

That disaster was averted is thanks in large part to British businessman and cinema-lover Sunny Vohra. As the studios prepare to announce major investments in independent British films and television dramas, business is booming again. Studios that were suffering six-figure losses before he acquired them are now in profit and film-makers are plying their trade in south-west London.

Those being drawn to Twickenham include Sir Ridley Scott (for Alien: Covenant, the next instalment in his science fiction series), Stanley Tucci (for The Final Portrait, starring Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush as artist Alberto Giacometti), and John Madden, whose previous films include Shakespeare in Love (for Miss Sloane, a gun-control drama).

For Vohra, financing the Twickenham renaissance was a no-brainer. Asked whether he was under some obligation, having purchased the site, to keep it as a film studio, he said: “Technically, no. Morally, I was – because of the history.”

Carol Reed, Sam Peckinpah and Richard Attenborough are among the directors who worked at Twickenham. Seminal films made there include Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Italian Job and The Eagle Has Landed. Vohra has spent big in an attempt to bring back some of the spirit of the glory days. So far, in what he describes as “a labour of love”, Vohra has invested £16m.

“Before we took it over,” he says, “[the studios] were losing about half a million pounds a year. The first year we had it, we lost half a million. Then we turned it around and made a small profit. A large part of it was changing the management and … the infrastructure.”

Actress Vanessa Redgrave now has an office there, making documentaries, and Angelina Jolie has just spent several months on site producing her next film, First They Killed My Father, a true-life drama about Cambodia’s deadly Khmer Rouge regime. Stephen Frears, director of The Queen, starring Dame Helen Mirren, opened an office there last week for his new film, Victoria and Abdul, about another monarch – Queen Victoria – and her unlikely friendship with an Indian clerk. Dame Judi Dench is returning to the role she played in Mrs Brown.

Lions Gate to buy Starz in $4.4bn deal
The 2015 film Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep, was shot at Twickenham Studios.

Frears shot most of his period comedy Florence Foster Jenkins, with Meryl Streep as a socialite with ambitions to sing, in Twickenham. Asked why he was returning, he told the Observer: “The modesty of it is very nice. At Pinewood, you’re overwhelmed by James Bond and all the American films. Twickenham is much more domestic and feels appropriate to the films we’re making.”

Born in Kenya, Vohra came to Britain aged 13. His family built up their business, which includes the Rembrandt hotel in south Kensington, from a bicycle shop opened by his Indian grandfather in Kenya. “That’s why I like riding bicycles,” he said. His grandfather emigrated from India to Kenya to work on the railway: “He was one of the workers that laid the tracks. Then they bought a bicycle shop.” The family still have that shop. “We will never close it,” he said, repeating his grandfather’s words: “Remember where everything started.”

He added: “We’re probably the biggest retailers and wholesalers of bicycles in Kenya, and probably Africa.”

A film studio, of course, is a very different proposition from a hotel. “The operational side is different,” said Vohra, “but, in the hotels, we’re renting out rooms for people to sleep in. Here we’re renting out offices, stages and sound theatres for people to come and work in. But it’s still the same thing – commercial space available for rent.”


Twickenham came to his attention after a chance visit to a friend’s office there. While the friend tried in vain to persuade him to invest in movies, Vohra told him that, if the site itself ever became available, he “could be interested”. The friend told him: “Actually, they’re in trouble.” Twickenham was eventually placed in administration, but post-production supervisor Maria Walker organised a campaign to save it, drawing support from Steven Spielberg and other major film-makers.

She said: “I’d worked here a lot and knew it was a great facility. But it was obvious to an outsider that no money had been spent on it. The owner had died about seven years before and it was just a rudderless ship. So I started the campaign. I was so angry, I just couldn’t imagine it not being here.”

Vohra was so struck by her passion that, on acquiring the studio, he appointed her as chief operating officer. He said: “The studio had the wrong management in place. That needed changing. The first thing to do was to bring the right person in.”

From the outside, a series of unprepossessing studio buildings, some rundown and ramshackle, give little clue to the state-of-the-art technology and facilities at the UK’s oldest studio.

But if there is one film that Vohra would have liked to have invested in, it is Casablanca, the classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman: “I have watched that movie once a month for the past 40 years.”

Asked about his budget for investing in independent British films, he said: “There’s no set figure. We’re going to look at every project that comes along. We want to attract strong scripts. It’s about going to the cinema and being able to say: ‘You know, that movie was done at Twickenham.’”



Merged with Alexander Korda’s Denham in 1938 by Sir Charles Boot and J Arthur Rank. Will open five new sound stages this week.

Famous for: The Red Shoes, Carry on Sergeant, Dr No.

Recently home to: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Victor Frankenstein.


Synonymous with comedies and thrillers in the 1940s; revamped last year with new plans and money.

Famous for: The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers, Passport to Pimlico, Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Man in the White Suit.

Recently home to: Downton Abbey, Weinstein Company’s One Chance and Working Title’s The Two Faces of January.


Its 15 sound stages are part of the Pinewood Studios Group.

Famous for: The Third Man, I’m Alright Jack, Oliver!, The Day of the Jackal, The Elephant Man, Blade Runner, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Billy Elliot, Bend it Like Beckham and Atonement.

Recently home to: Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Into the Woods and Gravity.


Just received planning clearance for an expansion to be completed late next year.

Famous for: The first British talkie, Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail, The Hasty Heart, with Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan, the original Star Wars trilogy, The Dirty Dozen and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Dam Busters used the water tank.

Recently home to: The Danish Girl and Paddington.

Warner Bros, Leavesden

A newcomer first built as a factory more than 70 years ago.

Famous for: Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Sleepy Hollow and all eight of the Harry Potter films.

Recently home to: Tarzan, Pan, In the Heart of the Sea.

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, dies aged 77

Andrew Radion | ,

Michael Cimino, the director of the Vietnam war classic The Deer Hunter and the infamous epic western Heaven’s Gate, has died. He was 77.

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, dies aged 77
Michael Cimino at the Rome Film Festival, in 2008. Photograph: AGF s.r.l./REX/Shutterstock

Thierry Fremaux, the director of the Cannes film festival, tweeted the news on Saturday, saying: “Michael Cimino has died, in peace, surrounded by friends and the two women who loved him. We loved him too.”

Cimino directed eight films, starting in 1974 with the highly rated Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges-starring crime movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, for which he also wrote the screenplay. The Deer Hunter, a harrowing story of friends from working class Pennsylvania played by Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, in which a young Meryl Streep also appears and her then fiancé John Cazale takes his final role, followed in 1978.

The film was a critical and commercial success. On its re-release in 2014, Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw saluted The Deer Hunter’s “combination of sulphurous anti-war imagery, disillusion and patriotic melancholy”.

“A simple, much-forgotten fact slaps you in the face after watching The Deer Hunter,” Bradshaw wrote. “Vietnam was different to Iraq and Afghanistan in one vital respect: the soldiers were drafted. They had no choice. The idea of sacrifice permeates everything, along with the cruelty and horror. This is Cimino’s masterpiece.”

Heaven’s Gate (1980), starring Walken and Kris Kristofferson and loosely based on the Wyoming Johnson County war of 1889-93, was a critical and commercial failure which hastened the demise of the United Artists studio and coloured the rest of Cimino’s career.

The film has since undergone something of a critical rehabilitation. In 2013, Bradshaw called it “colossally ambitious and mysteriously moving, with an unhurried, unforced pace, beautifully photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond”, the cinematographer who died in January at the age of 85.

Cimino’s other films included Desperate Hours (1990), a thriller starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins, and the gangster film The Sicilian (1986), which was adapted from a novel by Godfather author Mario Puzo.

In 2001 he published his only novel, Big Jane, a story of the 1950s and the Korean war. Speaking to the Guardian, he said of his ups and downs in film: “Hollywood has always been crazy. It’s controlled anarchy. But how can you loathe something that has given you so much?

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, dies aged 77
The famous Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter. Photograph: Picture library

“I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had without movies. Anybody who says they’re bitter is sick in their soul. They’ve given up.”

On Saturday, the writer, producer and director Christopher McQuarrie, tweeted: “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Deer Hunter and yes … Heaven’s Gate. Michael Cimino. May the rest of us do half as well.”

The director William Friedkin said: “I wish I had paid tribute to Michael Cimino while he was alive. He was an important and masterful film maker. We will always have his work.”

Calls for boycott after Cinemark requests legal fees from victims of 2012 shooting

Andrew Radion | ,

Cinema chain is asking victims of attack in Aurora, Colorado, to pay $700,000 legal fees after they unsuccessfully sued the chain

Calls for boycott after Cinemark requests legal fees from victims of 2012 shooting
A vigil for victims of the July 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The relatives of people killed by James Holmes at a 2012 screening of The Dark Knight Rises have called for a boycott of Cinemark following news that attorneys for the cinema chain are demanding they pay $700,000 (£526,000) in legal fees.

The request comes after jurors in May ruled in Cinemark’s favour over 28 victims and their families, who argued that the chain – the third-largest in the US – should have done more to prevent the attack that killed 12 people and left more than 70 injured. They sued in state court, saying security lapses allowed for the 20 July 2012 attack at a midnight premiere of the new Batman film.

Cinemark’s lawyers told a judge they need the money to cover the costs of preserving evidence, retrieving and copying records, travel and other expenses, according to court documents filed this month. The request was not immediately ruled upon, yet Colorado courts allow the winning side of a court case to recover legal fees.

An appeal by the victims is said to be pending; some family members of those who were killed or injured in the shooting are now calling for a boycott of the chain, which recently posted quarterly revenue of $704.9m (£530m).

“Please boycott Cinemark,” tweeted Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was among those killed. “Don’t add to their $194m profit while they come after Aurora victims who have lost everything.”

The hashtag #BoycottCinemark began trending in the US on Thursday night with California’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, among those registering distaste at the chain’s actions.

Among those the cinema is requesting repayment from are the families of two men who saved others in the cinema.

A judge last week dismissed a similar lawsuit in federal court, saying Cinemark’s lack of security was not a substantial factor in the deaths.

In both lawsuits, victims cited a lack of guards and no alarm on an emergency exit door that would have sounded when James Holmes slipped into the crowded cinema and started shooting.

Cinemark argued it could not have foreseen the attack, and nothing could have stopped Holmes, currently serving multiple life sentences after jurors could not unanimously agree on whether he deserved the death sentence.

Lindsay Lohan keen to visit Kettering after 'offensive' EU vote tweet

Andrew Radion | ,

Actor says she is happy to turn on the town’s Christmas lights to make amends for ridiculing it on referendum night

Lindsay Lohan keen to visit Kettering after 'offensive' EU vote tweet

The consequences of last week’s EU referendum are still unfolding for most of the country, but for one Northamptonshire town the decision to vote leave has already had an unexpected perk.

Kettering found itself on the receiving end of a “fierce and offensive tweet” by Lindsay Lohan on election night, as she criticised its voters for backing Brexit.

But in a turnaround, the American actor said she would accept an invitation from the local MP, Philip Hollobone, and the Commons leader, Chris Grayling, to turn on the town’s Christmas lights.

Lohan had tweeted strong support for Britain to remain in the EU and singled out areas that had voted leave, writing: “Sorry #Kettering but where are you?”

Hollobone was so offended that his constituency had been “slagged off” by the Mean Girls star that he took the issue up in parliament, and listed the town’s distinctive qualities.

“Apart from the fact it might be the most average town in the country, everyone knows where Kettering is. It’s famous as the home of Weetabix breakfast cereal, Cheaney’s and Loake’s shoes, and Kettering Town football club has scored more goals in the history of the FA Cup than any other football team in the country,” he said.

“So would you support my invitation to Lindsay Lohan to come and switch on the Christmas lights in Kettering this Christmas, thus redeeming her political reputation and raising money for good causes?”

Grayling joked in his reply that the offer could be what Lohan needed to reinvigorate her career.

“Lindsay Lohan – as a star of child and teen movies a very entertaining actress at the time – hasn’t necessarily fulfilled her professional potential and perhaps now we know the reason why,” said Grayling.

“She should visit the fine town of Kettering and find herself returned to stardom.”

Unexpectedly, Lohan tweeted to accept the offer almost immediately, telling Grayling and Hollobone to send her a direct message with the details.

“Would be happy to light the Christmas tree in # Kettering,” she wrote.


Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters

Andrew Radion | , ,

As part of new measures, Ampas has promised merciless action if members attend ‘any screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote’

Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters
Party’s over … the Elton John AIDS Foundation party after the 1996 Oscars. Photograph: KMazur/WireImage

The Academy for Motion Pictures and Sciences has taken drastic action to try and prevent further accusations of latent prejudice among its members.

On 29 June an unprecedented number of new members – 683, more than double the usual figure – were invited to join, in the hope that their improved levels of diversity (46% women and 41% people of colour) might help avoid another year in which no ethnic minorities were nominated for acting awards.

But other measures, announced on Thursday, were also approved at the board of governors meeting on 28 June, chief among them measures that draw a clearer line between social events and lobbying.

In an attempt to level the playing field for less well-funded films, the new campaign regulations state that “Academy members may not be invited to attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote”.

The consequences of non-compliance includes losing membership; the onus falls on members themselves, as well as those seeking to butter them up.

“Members who fail to comply with this regulation,” explain the rules, “will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations and expulsion for subsequent violations.”

The Academy has also outlawed any screening that includes a live performance of a song from a soundtrack that is eligible for an award. As the Hollywood Reporter has pointed out, this could become problematic when many members are required to attend crossover events, such as the Producers Guild of America awards, at which this year Lady Gaga performed Till It Happens to You. That song lost out to Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall at the 2016 Oscars.

More stringent requirements were also demanded of features, which must now not only complete a week’s run in Los Angeles before the deadline but also guarantee at least three screenings a day, including one at prime time. A similar rule concerning documentaries and New York has been loosened, however, so that those which complete the required run in any of the city’s borough’s are now eligible.

Burpy, baldy, deafy … auctioned artwork reveals rejected Snow White dwarves

Andrew Radion | , , ,

Bonhams sketches flesh out 16 potentially offensive characters that didn’t make the cut for the final seven in classic Disney animation

Burpy, baldy, deafy … auctioned artwork reveals rejected Snow White dwarves
Tired and emotional … a detail from Albert Hurter’s concept drawings for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Photograph: Bonhams

A display of concept drawings by the seminal movie artist Albert Hurter have shed new light on some of the rejected characters who didn’t make the cut in Walt Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The final lineup – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey – was selected from a pool of around 50 brainstormed by his team; in the Grimms’ original 1812 story, the dwarves are anonymous.

Although many of the ultimately rejected names – including Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzey, Hickey, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby, Nifty, Sniffy, Swift, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty and Burpy – were already known, the artwork reveals how close some of them came to actual animation. The drawings were sold as part of an auction of 400 pieces at Bonhams in New York that raised a total of £500,000.

Burpy, baldy, deafy … auctioned artwork reveals rejected Snow White dwarves
The full selection of eight Albert Hurter concept drawings, auctioned at Bonhams. Photograph: Bonhams

A sketch of Deafy shows a tunic-clad chap cupping his ear and leaning unhappily towards the noise. Baldy, meanwhile, appears to be attempting to conceal his lack of hair with a huge hood, while also distracting the attention with an impressive tum and some unfortunate tights.

Dr Catherine Williamson, director of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams, said: “I think the guys at Disney will be relieved that the names of the dwarfs were changed at the last minute.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t have offended sensibilities back in the 1930s but it would be a different story today. The original ones aren’t as good as what they eventually came up with.

“The great thing about the names they used is that they’re not just physical references, they’re emotional. It’s good that they made it more about personality than physicality.”

The film is widely regarded as one of Disney’s finest. Its success turned around the studio’s fortunes, and its legacy is still apparent in cinema today. A live-action revisionist spinoff, told from the point of view of Snow White’s sister, Red Rose, was announced by the studio earlier this year.

Justin Timberlake 'uses black culture', says hip-hop star Vic Mensa

Andrew Radion

Rapper says Timberlake benefits from African-American music improving his sound but has failed to offer any support over Black Lives Matter

Justin Timberlake 'uses black culture', says hip-hop star Vic Mensa
Justin Timberlake … ‘We’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him.’ Photograph: Joel Ryan/AP

The emerging rap star Vic Mensa has criticised Justin Timberlake for his attitude towards African-American culture, saying: “We’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him and turning a blind eye when it could be dangerous.”

Mensa was speaking about cultural appropriation on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. His remarks followed Timberlake’s response to a speech delivered by actor Jesse Williams at the BET awards on Sunday, which had a section on cultural appropriation. “This invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold,” Williams said. “Ghettoising and demeaning our creations then stealing them; gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”

Timberlake had tweeted his support for the speech, saying it was “inspired”. But Mensa pointed out that Timberlake had done just what Williams had highlighted. “Our problem here is that Justin Timberlake himself, you know, is definitely benefiting from using black culture for his sound, his dance moves, his dancers and blowing up off of it,” Mensa said.

“But if you roll down Justin Timberlake’s Twitter for the past two years, which I just did, you see nothing that supports black people when it’s more difficult; when there’s a struggle. With everything that’s going on and everybody that’s been killed by police on camera in the last couple of years, there’s no ‘#BlackLivesMatter’, there’s no ‘praying for Baltimore’, there’s no ‘praying for Flint’, you know, because that’s a dangerous subject for him to touch. And we’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him and turning a blind eye when it could be dangerous.”

Mensa later tweeted that he was not attacking Timberlake personally.

Immediately after Timberlake tweeted about Williams, an African-American journalist tweeted him to ask: “Does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture?” Timberlake was criticised for responding with: “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.” He followed up by saying: “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway.”

Apple considering takeover bid for Tidal, Jay Z's music-streaming service – reports

Andrew Radion | , , , ,

Technology giant is mulling a bid to acquiring Tidal because of its strong ties to popular artists such as Madonna, reports Wall Steet Journal

Apple considering takeover bid for Tidal, Jay Z's music-streaming service – reports
Jay Z bought Tidal to rival Spotify following criticism of the royalties it pays. Photograph: MediaPunch/Rex/Shutterstock

Apple is reportedly considering a potential takeover bid for Jay Z’s music-streaming service, Tidal.

The technology giant is exploring the idea of acquiring Tidal because of its strong ties to popular artists including Kanye West and Madonna, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sources told the newspaper that “exploratory talks” were continuing and they might not result in a deal. But a Tidal spokesman denied its executives had discussed a deal with Apple, the Wall Street Journal said.

Jay Z joined forces with a host of music stars in March last year to unveil Tidal as a rival to Spotify, following criticism of the amount they pay acts in royalties.

Swedish technology company Aspiro, which owned Tidal, was bought out by the rap mogul for $56m.

Jay Z was joined at a launch event in New York by West, Alicia Keys and his wife, Beyonce, who have stakes in the company, along with fellow Tidal co-owners Calvin Harris and Chris Martin, who appeared via video link.

Last month West used Tidal to unveil the controversial video to his song Famous, featuring depictions of a host of naked celebrities including Taylor Swift.

Tidal is also the only streaming service offering the back catalogue of the late music superstar Prince, who died in April after an accidental overdose.

In the UK, the site’s flagship monthly subscription fee – which includes high definition audio and HD music videos – is double the amount of the highest Spotify monthly cost. Tidal also offers a monthly deal in line with its rivals.

Old Man Trump: Tom Morello gives new life to Woody Guthrie's protest song

Andrew Radion | , ,

Three artists are finishing and producing Guthrie’s song criticizing Donald Trump’s father and reflecting on race – a very current topic in his campaign

Old Man Trump: Tom Morello gives new life to Woody Guthrie's protest song
Guthrie penned Old Man Trump at a time when he was thinking deeply about race and segregation in the US. Photograph: Eric Schaal/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

More than 60 years ago, Woody Guthrie bemoaned his landlord – Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump – in unrecorded song lyrics. Now a group of artists has turned his writing into a modern protest song as Trump’s son Donald continues his candidacy for US president.

Three artists have collaborated to finish and produce Old Man Trump, Guthrie’s song inspired by Fred Trump. The track, which had never been previously recorded, was released last week by Firebrand Records just months after the lyrics were re-discovered and publicized. Old Man Trump was recorded by riot folk singer Ryan Harvey with Ani DiFranco and guitarist Tom Morello.

“You’ve got Donald Trump talking about making America great again … and so here’s Woody Guthrie, one of the definers of American history, coming out after his death and saying ‘No, it wasn’t a great era and in fact your father was part of the problem,’” Harvey said.

Guthrie, a pillar of American protest music most famous for the alternative national anthem This Land Is Your Land, signed his Brooklyn lease with Trump senior as his landlord in 1950. The real estate developer inspired song lyrics and other writings, whose existence and relevance remained forgotten until recently.

In January, Will Kaufman, a Guthrie expert and professor at the University of Central Lancashire, brought to light Guthrie’s impassioned writings about Trump. Kaufman said he found the Guthrie’s writings before Donald Trump had announced his candidacy while doing research for an upcoming book about Guthrie. After Kaufman re-publicized Guthrie’s writings, Harvey began looking to record the song for the first time because of the lyrics’ enduring relevance, he said.

“It’s about how stuff was racist in the 50s and how stuff is racist now,” Harvey said of the song. “This is a modern song that just happened to be written in the past.” Harvey found enthusiastic collaborators looking to stand against the “politics of hate”.

In a video introduction to the song, guitarist Morello implores listeners to “stand up” against Trump.

“When it comes to race relations, he’s like an old-school segregationist. When it comes to foreign policy, he’s like an old-school napalmist. When it comes to women’s issues, he’s like a frat-house rapist,” Morello says in the video. “So let’s not elect that guy.”

The elder Trump was Guthrie’s landlord for two years in the 1950s. The public housing complex, named Beach Haven, was built near Coney Island and almost exclusively housed white tenants. (Kaufman described the neighborhood as “lily-white”.) Trump, who built Beach Haven using federal loans, made significant profits from the project.

In 1954, after Guthrie had already moved out, Trump was the subject of a federal investigation for overstating the cost of developing Beach Haven and pocketing the $3.7m difference. A Village Voice investigative series published in 1979 looked at the Trumps’ real estate empire, including the cases brought by the US justice department alleging “racially discriminatory conduct by Trump agents”.

Guthrie’s writings focus in particular on the racial segregation within the housing complex: “I suppose/Old Man Trump knows/Just how much/Racial Hate/he stirred up/In the bloodpot of human hearts/When he drawed/That color line/Here at his/1800 family project”.

Guthrie penned Old Man Trump at a time when he was thinking deeply about race and segregation in the US, Kaufman said. In a letter to his friend activist Stetson Kennedy, Guthrie described the Beach Haven complex as a “JimCrow [sic] town”.

“His landlord Fred Trump is in essence the mayor of ‘JimCrow town’, this segregated town,” Kaufman explained. Guthrie lived in Beach Haven for two years until his wife broke the lease with Trump when Guthrie became increasingly ill after being diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Kaufman said he returned to Guthrie’s writings on Fred Trump as Donald Trump began to discuss race on the campaign trail. Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from the US and said an Indiana-born federal judge was biased because of his Mexican heritage.

“I think it is really important that Woody is speaking to us from beyond the grave now,” Kaufman said.