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  • MPAA Revives Its Fight against Chinese Piracy

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    pirateXunlei, the Chinese video site that is backed by Google, is facing new civil actions from the Hollywood Studios.

    The lawsuit regarding piracy and copyright infringement is not the first time Xunlei has faced a legal battle with the MPAA. In 2008 the Studios filed a suit relating to the same charges: piracy. In 2011, copyright infringement issues kept Xunlei from filing its IPO.

    It looked as if progress was being made last year when the MPAA and the video site reached a Content Protection Agreement (CPA) in an attempt to protect online content. The company promised to tighten up its regulations and launched an education campaign to show users how to gain access to legal content.

    But it became apparent over the course of the year that progress was not really being made. The MPAA issued a statement in October stating that they did not think that Xunlei was living up to its obligations. And on Monday, the civil suit was brought forth in China’s Nanshan District Court.

    Although issues still exist with Xunlei, the environment in China as a whole is certainly improving when it comes to piracy. Over the last few years the country has put in place new copyright protection legislation and created specialty copyright courts.

    It seems like the battle for copyright protection is going to be a long one, but things are moving in the right direction as more and more legitimate video sites in China are reaching legal licensing agreements with Hollywood.

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    January 20, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3740

  • Coen Bros. First to Share the Chair in Cannes History

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    coen brosIts organizers announced this week that the 68th Cannes Film Festival will, for the first time in its history, have two Presidents of the Jury, and they’re the Coen Brothers. The Oscar-winning directors have a long history with Cannes, having nine of their films presented at the prestigious festival and having won the Palme d’Or in 1991 for Barton Fink, the Grand Prix in 2013 for Inside Llewyn Davis and two best director awards—in 1996 for Fargo and in 2001 for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

    The Cannes Festival will run from May 13 – 24 this year, with its official selection of films as well as other members of the jury being announced sometime in April. The Festival is renowned for its selective pedigree of movies, ranging from independent to foreign films to Hollywood blockbusters. The Palme d’Or is one of the highest honors a film can receive; the winner of the prize is selected by a jury of luminaries that changes every year. As co-Presidents, the Coen Brothers will have a large say in both the selection of films and the winner of the award.

    It’s no accident the Coens were selected for this year’s festival. 2015 is the 120th birthday of the cinematograph, a landmark invention in the art of film, designed and built by Louis and Auguste Lumiere. In honor of the revolutionary camera and the brothers who made it, the Cannes organizers have selected a theme of “cinema brothers.” It was a no-brainer then to invite Ethan and Joel Coen to chair this year’s festival. Unlike Donny, they will not be out of their element.

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    January 20, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4481

  • New Studies Shine Spotlight on Gender Inequality in Hollywood

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    Gine Prince-Bythewood on the set of Beyond the Lights

    Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw on the set of last year’s Beyond the Lights. (Photo: 2013 Blackbird Productions, Suzanne Tenner)

    In the wake of last Thursday’s Oscar nominations—and the public protest they incited over the predominantly white and male nominees—a number of studies were released both right before and after the nominations that offer a significant insight into how the lack of gender and racial diversity is perpetuated both on and behind the screen in Hollywood.

    While the fact that the Academy’s voting members are 93% white and 77% male has been repeated incessantly since the Oscar announcements, a trio of recent studies highlight the fact that an equally pressing issue lies in who is working behind the camera. With this year’s Oscars representing the whitest group of candidates since 1998, little advancement has also been made in the number of minorities and women employed in key behind-the-scenes roles, with women making up 17% of the directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers on the top 250 films of 2014. As the Center for the Study in Television and Film at San Diego State University highlights, this is exactly the same percentage as those employed in 1998.

    This goes a ways to explaining why only 37, or 15% of the top-earning films of 2014 featured a lead female protagonist, which is the same percentage as 2013 and a statistic that has remained steady since 2002. And while many of the top-grossing films—including The Hunger Games Mockingjay – Part I, Maleficent, and Gone Girl—of 2014 all featured female protagonists in the lead role, showing that there is a significant appetite amongst filmgoers for female-led movies, there exists a clear resistance amongst those making the choices of which films get made and who is working behind the camera.

    The lack of diversity behind the camera also stretches to the small screen, as a five-year study ranging from 2009 to 2014 by the Directors Guild of America found that only 18% of first-time directors of episodic TV shows were women, with minorities only making up %13 of first-time television directors.

    These statistics showcasing the lack of women behind the camera are especially pertinent when considering that research shows that there is a 10.6% increase in female characters on screen when a woman is directing and an 8.7% increase when a woman is the screenwriter. With women making up only 7% of directors—down from 9% in 1998—and 13% of screenwriters on the top 250 films of 2014, it is clear that an increase in the presence of women behind the scenes would likely lead to a growth on screen.

    And while these recent findings paint a bleak picture for women looking to entering the film and television industries, there are many advocates and organizations out there aiming to reverse this trend and provide avenues to help jumpstart careers. One particularly promising addition to the film festival landscape of 2015 is the inauguration of the Bentonville Film Festival, led by actress and renowned gender activist Geena Davis, which not only showcases only female and minority films, but also awards the inners with theatrical, TV digital, and retail home distribution, making it the only film festival to do so.

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    January 20, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 5169

  • ’50 Shades of Grey’ Breaks Record for Advanced Ticket Sales

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    50 Shades of GreyProving that the nation’s aunts have finally learned how to fully utilize the Internet, advanced ticket sales for Fifty Shades of Grey hit an all-time high this week. This was reported by box office website Fandango, which stated that since tickets for 50 Shades became available for pre-order last Sunday, the enormous sales have made the movie the fastest selling R-rated film in history.

    50 Shades of Grey releases February 13, obviously hoping to attract a Valentine’s Day crowd. The steamy, sex-filled film is an adaptation of the best-selling novel, itself a surprise hit considering it was originally conceived as erotic fanfiction for Twilight. It’s enormous success spawned two sequels and an entire genre of modern romance novels, many self-published as ebooks like 50 Shades originally was. It has since made author E L James over $100 million.

    R-rated films typically make less money because of their restricted demographics. Previous R-rated movies that have had explosive pre-order sales on Fandango include Sex and the City 2, Gone Girl, and The Hangover Part II and Part III.

    50 Shades of Grey already made news earlier this week when a new trailer was released during the Golden Globes. It stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson and was directed by Nowhere Boy’s Sam Taylor-Johnson.

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    January 16, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 5338

  • No More Sundance in London (At Least for Now)

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    sundance film festivalSundance London, the offshoot of Robert Redford’s Utah-based independent film festival, has been cancelled. At least for this year.

    The festival was launched as an experimental expansion lasting four days back in 2012. And it did well enough to have 2 subsequent events. All three were held in London’s O2 arena.

    The festivals showcased a variety of independent movies. In 2014, Sundance London showcased 21 films that were represented at Sundance. The festival combined film screenings with a strong musical presence.

    While a spokesman for the festival said they hope to be back soon, it is unclear why Sundance London is going on hiatus in the first place. Or whether it will ever come back at all.

    Without much reason, there is plenty of speculation ranging from financial issues to lack of demand. Some speculate that the venue – the O2 arena – isn’t the ideal location. The venue is typically used for more corporate events rather than independent film screenings. And it is far from the center of London – the epicenter of the arts scene.

    While the original Sundance festival has been going strong since 1978, it would be great to see its expansion in order for American independent films to gain exposure abroad. Hopefully the 2015 cancellation of Sundance London is not a permanent one.

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    January 16, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3617

  • Obama to Screen Selma at the White House

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    David Oyelowo and Ava Duvernay on the Selma set

    David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay on the set of Selma. Photo: Paramount Pictures

    While Thursday did not go as largely expected for the cast and crew of Selma, who despite winning nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Song, did not receive nominations for its director Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo, one additional accolade the film received yesterday was being picked by President Obama for a special screening at the Executive Mansion tonight, January 16. DuVernay and her cast were all invited, with Oyelowo, Common, and John Legend all slated to attend.

    The screening was announced late Thursday afternoon, hours after the nominations came through from LA and following growing rage on both social media and amongst activists who decried the total lack of performers of color from the Oscar nominations, with the Reverend Al Sharpton calling the nominations “appallingly insulting.”

    However, DuVernay sought to keep the mood positive, tweeting earlier in the day, “Happy Birthday, Dr. King. An Oscar gift for you. To SELMA cast + crew led by our miracle David Oyelowo. To Common + Legend! Kudos! March on!” Rapper Common and singer John Legend were nominated for their song “Glory” which picked up a Best Original Song award at Sunday’s Golden Globes and Common also shared his joy over his joint nomination on Twitter.

    This continues a tradition of Obama holding Hollywood screenings at the White House, with past screenings including Lincoln and Mandela: Long Walk Of Freedom. Furthermore, black business leaders across the country have joined together to sponsor free screenings of the civil rights film that chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to over 90,000 middle school and high school students across the country.

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    January 16, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4531

  • VH1 Classic Will Marathon 40 Years of SNL

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    snl

    Venerated sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live turns forty years old this October, but no doubt pop culture will be celebrating its birthday all year. VH1 Classic may be giving the earliest, biggest gift—a marathon of almost all 433 episodes of the series, aired back-to-back, starting January 28.

    Showing over four hundred episodes will last longer than your typical marathon of course, so the comedy block won’t finish until February 15. If you plan on watching every episode, you’re probably going to have to take some time off and get a lot of caffeine. Especially if you want more after the marathon is over—it’s timed to end right before NBC’s own 40th anniversary special of the show.

    Because of music rights and a few other issues, not every sketch will be shown in its entirety, with VH1 executives hinting that some episodes may be excised in full. To help make up for it though, VH1 Classic will also air classic movies starring SNL alums every Saturday night during the marathon. The network will also be scheduling special-themed blocs. For instance, if you’re a big Eddie Murphy fan, you’ll be able to watch the Eddie Murphy years most of January 11, or on January 31 you can watch six straight episodes featuring Justin Timberlake. There will also be blocs featuring SNL players who came back to host and a tribute to Chris Farley, among several other themes.

    The SNL Rewind: 2015 – 1975 Mega-Marathon gives away its most interesting gimmick right there in the title. Unlike most marathons, VH1 Classic will run the series in reverse, starting with the most recent episode and finishing the two-week long run with Saturday Night Live’s original pilot—hosted by the late, great George Carlin. It might be SNL’s birthday, but we’re getting all of the presents.

    What are some of your favorite Saturday Night Live moments? Let us know in the comments!

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    January 15, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 5167

  • Science Geeks Rejoice: Here Comes A Netflix Just For You

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    curiosity stream

    In a move that signals just how much media has changed, Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks has announced plans to launch CuriosityStream, a video on demand service that will focus on providing factual content.

    30 years ago Hendricks launched the cable network. And in just a few months he will be launching the internet-based video service that will be comprised mostly of short-form content that is 8 minutes in length or less.

    CuriosityStream will also conduct 20 monthly interviews with well-known experts such as Deepak Chopra and Sheryl WuDunn.

    Not all content will be original, however. Curiosity Project, LLC – the company behind CuriosityStream – has secured licensing rights for international content from sources such as ZED (France), NHK (Japan), and BBC Worldwide.

    Subscribers will also be able to choose from several different price points based on the streaming resolution. Standard resolution starts at just $2.99 per month, 720 HD is available for $3.99 per month, 1080 HD resolution will be $5.99 per month, and 4K Ultra HD resolution will set you back $9.99 monthly.

    The service will be available through any internet-enabled computer or mobile device, along with common streaming devices such as AppleTV, Roku, and Google’s Chromecast.

    It seems that Hendricks, who retired from Discovery Channel’s board last year, hasn’t played all the cards in his hand quite yet, as he is looking to further disrupt media in the factual content niche.

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    January 15, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3968

  • And This Year’s Oscar Nominations Are…

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    A collage of the 2015 Oscar Best Picture Nominees

    The 2015 Best Picture Oscar nominees, clockwise from left: The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Selma, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, American Sniper

    The nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced Thursday, Jan 15 with all of the nominees being announced live for the first time, with directors J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón announcing the first batch and actor Chris Pine and Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs announcing the second group of nominees. And while this year had predictors preparing for a by-the-numbers slate of nominees, the Academy threw more than a few curveballs our way, with Selma getting largely snubbed and Boyhood and Birdman cementing their likely domination come Oscar night with The Grand Budapest making a surprisingly strong showing with nine nominations, tying with Birdman for most nominations.

    Starting at the top, the nominees for Best Picture dropped to eight candidates from nine in the previous years with American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash competing for the main prize. While this category largely came down as expected, one can’t help but wonder if Foxcatcher was dropped to make it an even eight, not to mention the surprise that both Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel maintained momentum throughout the year despite early releases and buzz (the Academy tends to favor films released during the Fall).

    In the Best Actor category, the five nominees had all been favorites throughout awards season, though Bradley Cooper’s turn in American Sniper seemed to take out late-season favorites David Oyelowo in Selma and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. The full list of nominees are Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Michael Keaton in Birdman, and Steve Carell in Foxcatcher.

    Competing for best actress, the nominees, similar to their male counterparts, were mostly favorites throughout the season though one can’t help but imagine how Marion Cotillard managed to squeeze out Cake’s Jennifer Anniston for her turn in the Belgian film Two Days, One Night. One thing is for sure, both actresses gave incredible performances and as there can only be five, someone is always going to get the short stick. The nominees are Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Reese Witherspoon in Wild, and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.

    However, the big shocker came in the Achievement in Directing category as Selma’s Ava DuVernay was snubbed, seemingly in favor of relative newcomer Morten Tyldum and his The Imitation Game. Also, for American Sniper making such a surprisingly strong showing, one can’t help but wonder if Bennett Miller and Foxcatcher pushed out Clint Eastwood. The nominees are Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman, Bennet Miller for Foxcatcher, Morton Tyldum for The Imitation Game, Richard Linklater for Boyhood, and Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

    One of the bigger surprises came in the form of Robert Duvall for his turn in The Judge, a role that had seemingly zero Oscar buzz going into the nominations. J.K. Simmons was of course nominated for Whiplash, where he continues to be the front-runner, with Edward Norton in Birdman, Ethan Hawke in Boyhood, and Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher rounding out the category.

    Finally, in the Best Supporting Actress category, the nominees were largely as expected, though Laura Dern’s flashback-heavy role in Wild edged out other late contenders like Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year and Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Dern will be competing against Emma Stone in Birdman, Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, Meryl Steep in Into the Woods, and Patricia Arquette in Boyood.

    A few of the other big surprises coming out of LA this morning was The Lego Movie not even being included in the Best Animated Feature category, which was long considered to take the award. On the bright side, the fantastic “Everything is Awesome” was included in the Best Song category. Furthermore, while Rosamund Pike did score a Best Actress nom for Gone Girl, this early awards season heavyweight joined Selma in the snubbed category. Finally, in the Best Documentary category, the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, also considered to be a lock for the award, failed to even score a nomination.

    All in all, Oscar night just got a lot more interested and we hope you’ll join us when we Live Tweet the ceremony on February 22nd.

    Click Read More to see the full list of nominees below.

    Continue Reading

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    January 15, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 6948

  • ‘Strangers on a Train’ to Get a New Look

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    strangers on a trainWhile there are always mixed feelings about remaking classic cinema, it’s certainly a plus knowing talent like Ben Affleck and David Fincher are attached to Warner’s newest venture, Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. The idea for the remake had been kicking around for some time, but after the box-office success of Gone Girl, the green-light was a no-brainer.

    The film will be produced by Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street under the title Strangers. Not only will the title get an facelift, the story will as well. Rather than taking place on a train, Affleck will play a movie star (not a far stretch for him) in the middle of an Oscar campaign during awards season. After his private plane breaks down, he is given a ride to Los Angeles on another plane by a wealthy stranger…cue the twist.

    Despite Affleck’s hectic schedule — directing and starring in the Dennis Lehane novel adaptation Live By Night in the spring and starring in Justice League in 2016 —  Strangers will be going the fast-track route.

    Given Fincher’s stellar filmography as a director with films like Fight Club, Seven, and Gone Girl, we’re anxious to see how well he’ll pull of the twist in this Hitchcock classic.

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    January 14, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3844