Friday, January 31, 2014


  The American media love anniversaries to celebrate---they fill space in newspapers and magazines
and provide TV programming at little or no cost.
  That explains the burst of Beatles articles and TV programs coming up to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9. Anyone who hasn't seen that clip of Sullivan introducing them and their brief performance must have been asleep for the past 50 years as its been shown repeatedly ever since. The telecast still ranks number 11 of the most watched non-sports telecasts in TV history, with an astounding 73 million viewers.
  Nonetheless, its always good to see film clips of the Beatles at their peak and Tom Hanks, who was ten years old when they stopped touring, has produced two specials for CNN focusing on the 60s and particularly the lads from Liverpool. In addition, on February 9 CBS will commemorate the landmark with the concert special The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles, and a boxed-set release of their U.S albums is kicking off fresh promotion of the band's music that will run for years and bring new Beatles titles to the marketplace. There are strong rumours that their first movie, A Hard Day's Night, will be re-released shortly.
  Incredibly, more than four decades after they broke up, the Beatles remain the biggest-selling band in history and the two remaining members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still touring regularly.
  In Las Vegas, the Beatles music has been packing people into the Cirque du Soleil's flamboyant proudction of "Love" at the Mirage for more than seven years and will continue for at least another three.
  Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamare says the production has so far played to 6 million people and grossed $800 million.
  He sums it up when he says: "I think the Beatles are going to be relevant forever."
  Coming soon....the anniversary of the Beatles appearance at Shea Stadium? their performance at the Hollywood Bowl? their last U.S concert? their break-up? etc. etc.
  As John Lennon would have said: "Let it Be." 

Friday, January 17, 2014


With Theo on the red carpet
  Can't let the Golden Globes pass by without a tribute to the new, first-time HFPA president Theo Kingma, who worked virtually 24 hours a day in the build-up to the show to ensure it was the success it turned out to be.

  As well as proving to be a hotshot awards show organiser, he is also a committed journalist and during the past few months landed several world exclusive interviews, including one with the fugitive Julian Assange.

  He has big plans for the coming year and it is a safe bet that next year's Golden Globes show will be at least as successful as the one just gone.


  Amid the drinks, parties and madness of the Golden Globes I bumped into Maxine Leonard, a British publicist I have known since she arrived in Los Angeles some 20 years ago. Maxine was still embarrassed at having been asked as a favour to temporarily represent the producers of the hit film Lone Survivor and sit in on an interview they gave to L.A. Weekly.

 But the interview didn't turn out as she expected because according to L.A Weekly---and Maxine's shocked amazement--- the producers,  Remington Chase and Stefan Martirosian, are convicted cocaine dealers and have ties to Russian oil and an alleged contract murder.
Remington Chase, Stefan MartirosianHollywood financiers Remington Chase and Stefan Martirosian (at left, Chase, with actor Gerard Butler and Martirosian)

 The two burst onto the Hollywood scene in September 2011. From the L.A Weekly story:
They had set up a company, Envision Entertainment, along with a $250 million fund to produce films in partnership with two low-budget action producers, Randall Emmett and George Furla. In 2012, another announcement boosted the fund to $525 million.
The announcements were not exactly true. There was no “fund,” and the numbers were chosen for effect more than accuracy, according to Grant Cramer, an executive VP at Envision. But the pair was pumping serious money into production. Soon they were getting executive producer credits on big-budget films.
 The producers admit to having lost more than $50 million on the dozen movies they have backed so far, including “2 Guns,” with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, and “Escape Plan,” starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Among their projects now in development are movies based on two Hasbro board games: Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Martirosian’s past with cocaine is detailed in court papers, according to the story:
In May 1993, he arranged financing and traveled to Costa Rica to check on suppliers. Unfortunately for him, the DEA had infiltrated the suppliers. Over the course of several meetings with an undercover agent, Martirosian agreed to help transport 800 kilos to St. Augustine, Fla. They agreed that Martirosian would send $200,000 from L.A. to Colombia, and that the cocaine would be shipped from Colombia to Costa Rica and on to Florida. Instead, in September 1993, he was arrested in a St. Augustine hotel room.
In all, nine people were indicted. In Costa Rica, the head of the federal police held a press conference and announced that the group had controlled much of the Costa Rican drug trade, according to an article in La NaciĆ³n.
 Both men say that they were never involved in the drug trade despite the convictions. They claim they were wrongly ensnared by law enforcement officials who at one point caught Martirosian with a duffel bag filled with four kilos of cocaine and a Russian newspaper on a bus outside a Texas border patrol checkpoint.
 “I’ve never seen any cocaine in my life,” he told the LA Weekly, blaming it instead on a group of Egyptian travelers.
 They’re also caught up in an investigation into the killing of Kasca Kalandarishvili, a Russian oil and gas businessman, who was shot in the back of the head in 2009 while walking his dog in Moscow.  A convicted murderer named Istvan Kele tells the weekly that he was offered $100,000 for the murder and that Martirosian gave him two guns to do the job.
  Meanwhile, Chase acknowledged that he was an FBI informant in the case of the killing.
“[Kele] and his team were going to come there, murder whoever was in the condo and take the money,” Chase says. “When I learned of the events, I contacted the FBI. Let me ask you: What would you do?”
  Maxine told me: "I was so shocked and embarrassed. They weren't even my clients. I was only do it as a favour for a friend." 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


 First came the standing ovations, the critical praise and the almost unanimous predictions that the
movie, the stars and the director are on the fast track towards Oscar nominations.
 Now, several months after Steve McQueen's latest movie 12 Years a Slave was unveiled to audiences at the Telluride andToronto Film Festivals, the critical acclaim is still coming – not least in the form of a hefty seven Golden Globes nominations. But so, too is a marketing backlash which could affect the movie's performance in most European and South American countries, where it has not yet been released. 
 The £16 million movie, based on a true story, is set in the pre-Civil War United States and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free black man who is abducted and sold into slavery. It depicts the evils of slavery in brutally unflinching ways, which has prompted analysts and marketing experts to predict that it is likely to have a tough job finding audiences.
 Scenes of stunning cruelty include whips ripping the flesh off backs; women being raped and mutilated; men, women and children being stripped naked and inspected like chattel and, later, lynched with impunity. It is not sort of subject matter to attract people who go to the cinema for a couple of hours of escapism.
 In an attempt to play down the harsher aspects of the film, Fox Searchlight, its distributor, has been screening television advertisements featuring Brad Pitt, whose company co-produced the film and who has a small role as a benevolent abolitionist who takes a great risk so that justice might be done. Other advertisements play up the slave’s determination and humanity, and the studio is touting endorsements from black entertainers Kanye West and Sean “Diddy” Coombs.
 But the movie and its director received some unwelcome publicity when the New York Film Critics' Circle's most infamous critic, Armond White, a writer for CityArts, berated McQueen when he took the stage at the group's awards dinner this week to accept his best director award. 
 The African-American critic yelled, “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man! Kiss my ass.”
 He also reportedly yelled “White liberal bullshit!” at the stage during McQueen’s remarks about “12 Years a Slave,” which White had ripped in a review stating that the film “belongs to the torture porn genre with ‘Hostel,’ ‘The Human Centipede’ and the ‘Saw’ franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend ‘a conversation about race.’”


  It's always a pleasure seeing Nicole Kidman, whom I first met 21 years ago on Batman Forever. A lot of water under the bridge si...