Boston, Apr 17 (AP/UNB) — The co-executor of Michael Jackson's estate said Tuesday that he's confident the late superstar's supporters will be able to protect his legacy in the wake of an HBO documentary featuring the disturbing stories of two men who say Jackson sexually abused them as boys.
Longtime entertainment attorney John Branca called the documentary a one-sided "made-for-TV-movie" and accused the film's subjects of being motivated by money. Branca acknowledged that Jackson's estate has faced "challenges" since the documentary's release, but said he doesn't believe there will be a long-term impact.
"People love Michael. They love Michael's music for sure. And if the investigation is effective, which I think it will be, in showing that there is severe doubt about what may or may not have happened, we will be back to people feeling 'It's OK to say I like Michael,'" Branca said on a panel hosted by the Harvard Institute of Politics.
It's the latest attack by Jackson's estate against "Leaving Neverland," featuring Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The estate has slammed filmmakers for not interviewing any of Jackson's family members or other defenders, who insist the singer never molested a child.
The film's director, Dan Reed, has repeatedly defended the film. Robson and Safechucks's accusations are not new, but have put Jackson's legacy under fresh scrutiny amid the #MeToo movement.
A lawyer for the men said Tuesday that Branca and lawyers for Jackson's estate are seeking to discredit the singer's accusers out of their own financial interest.
"Their recent comments are just part and parcel of the same thing they've been doing for years, which is protect the estate so they can continue to profit off of it," attorney Vince Finaldi said.
The men first came forward with their stories years earlier in lawsuits. Both of them had previously denied the singer sexually abused them, but said having their own children and Jackson's 2009 death forced them to face the truth. Their lawsuits were dismissed for technical reasons and their appeals are expected to be argued this summer.
Jackson, who was cleared in 2005 of charges that he molested another boy, acknowledged that he befriended numerous children, including some he invited into his bed, but denied molesting any.
Dhaka, Apr 16 (UNB) – ‘Bagania’ (Garden of Memories), a documentary by Humaira Bilkis, will be screened at the auditorium of Goethe-Institute on Thursday.
It will be screened at 5pm under the ‘Through Her Eyes’ initiative which provides a space to watch and discuss films with the country’s women filmmakers. It will be followed by a discussion.
Bilkis has used her long-term relationship with the migrated tea plantation workers of north-east Bangladesh as the subject matter of ‘Bagania’.
The Dhaka-based documentary filmmaker’s interest in filmmaking is anthropocentric and she interested in finding qualities in a non-fiction genre by using creative treatment of actuality.
Currently, she is working on her documentary ‘Bilkis and Bilkis’ based on her relationship with her mother in the changing context of Bangladeshi society.
Los Angeles, Apr 16 (AP/UNB) — Georgia Engel, who played the charmingly innocent, small-voiced Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and amassed a string of other TV and stage credits, has died. She was 70.
Engel died Friday in Princeton, New Jersey, said her friend and executor, John Quilty. The cause of death was unknown because she was a Christian Scientist and didn’t see doctors, Quilty said Monday.
“I know the world will be sad and sorry. She touched so many people,” said her agent, Jacqueline Stander.
Engel was best known for her role as Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” the character who was improbably destined to marry pompous anchorman Ted Baxter, played by Ted Knight.
Engel also had recurring roles on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Hot in Cleveland.” She was a five-time Emmy nominee, receiving two nods for the late Moore’s show and three for “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
She was “the sweetest, kindest, dearest woman. And crazy talented. I will miss her,” Valerie Bertinelli, who starred in “Hot in Cleveland,” said in a Twitter post.
Georgia Bright Engel was born in July 1948 in Washington, D.C., to parents Benjamin, a Coast Guard officer, and Ruth Engel. She studied theater at the University of Hawaii.
Her prolific career included guest appearances on a variety of series, including “The Love Boat,” ″Fantasy Island,” ″Coach” and “Two and a Half Men.” Her “Hot in Cleveland” role reunited her with Betty White, her co-star in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1972-77) and “The Betty White Show” (1977-78).
Engel appeared on Broadway in plays and musicals including “Hello, Dolly!”, “The Boys from Syracuse” and, most recently, “The Drowsey Chaperone” in 2006-07. She starred in an off-Broadway production of “Uncle Vanya” in 2012.
Engel could be as upbeat as the fictional Georgette, as was demonstrated during a panel discussion last year promoting the 2018 PBS special, “Betty White: First Lady of Television.”
She recalled that a possible “Everybody Loves Raymond” spinoff set to include her and Fred Willard never come to fruition, which she called a great disappointment.
“But if that hadn’t happened,” she said, “I wouldn’t have been able to star” in writer-actor Bob Martin’s “Drowsey Chaperone,” which led to her custom-tailored role in Martin’s “Half Time.” The musical, about older adults who school themselves in hip hop to perform in half-time shows, was staged in New Jersey last year.
“It’s given me such joy,” said Engel, who had hoped to see it move to Broadway.
Her real-life voice was as sweet as the one familiar from her screen roles. “What you see is what you get. That’s not a character voice — that’s our girl,” a smiling White said in a 2012 interview with Engel, calling her a “pure gold” friend and colleague.
Engel’s final credited television appearance came last year in the Netflix series “One Day at a Time.”
Funeral services for Engel, whose survivors include her sisters Robin Engel and Penny Lusk, will be private, Quilty said.
New York, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — A rush of newcomers couldn't shake "Shazam!" from the top spot, as the superhero comedy led the box office for the second straight weekend with $25.1 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Lionsgate's "Hellboy" reboot, the animated Laika Studios release "Missing Link," the college romance "After" and even the long-delayed "Mary Magdalene," originally to be released by the Weinstein Co., all opened in theaters. But the strongest new release of them all was, predictably, the Will Packer-produced one: "Little."
The body-swap comedy "Little" came in second with $15.5 million for Universal Pictures. Made for just $20 million, "Little" is just the most recent profit-maker for Packer, the "Girls Trip" producer.
The film, directed by Tina Gordon Chism, stars 14-year-old Marsai Martin as the child an abusive tech executive (Regina Hall) reverts to after a magical spell is cast on her. Martin, the "black-ish" star, also executive produced the film, the youngest ever so credited in Hollywood history.
"Little" drew a largely female (65 and African American (43%) audience. Jim Orr, Universal Pictures distribution chief, credited the cast, Chism's direction and Packer's overall know-how.
"He's done it with different kinds of films. 'Breaking In' was a thriller, 'Girls Trip' was an R-rated comedy. 'Little' is kind of an all-ages film, PG-13 rated,'" said Orr, whose studio signed a first-look deal with Packer in 2013. "He's a brand. And he has a great idea of what is going to be successful at the box office."
It was an out-of-body weekend at the box office. The body-swap comic-book adaptation "Shazam!" — about a teenage boy (Asher Angel) who can turn into an adult-sized superhero (Zachary Levi) with a simple command — held solidly in its second week. Capitalizing on good reviews and word-of-mouth, "Shazam!" is Warner Bros.' New Line's latest DC Comics success. It has grossed $94.9 million through Sunday with a worldwide total of $258.8 million.
Lionsgate and Millennium's "Hellboy" had been expected by many to vie with "Shazam!" on the weekend. But on the heels of terrible reviews (just 15% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), it flopped with $12 million against a $50 million budget.
That's significantly less than the debuts of the 2004 original ($23 million opening) and the 2008 sequel ($34.5 million opening). Those films were directed by Guillermo de Toro and starred Ron Perlman; the new "Hellboy" stars David Harbour ("Stranger Things") and is directed by Neil Marshall.
"Missing Link" also missed. It opened with a disappointing $5.8 million, marking a new low for Laika, the maker of eccentric animated tales such as "Coraline," ''ParaNorman" and "Kubo and the Two Strings." ''Missing Link," distributed by United Artists Releasing, is about the discovery of a creature in the Pacific Northwest. Its voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman and Zoe Saldana.
Expectations had varied widely for Aviron Pictures' "After," an adaption of Anna Todd's 2014 best-seller. The young-adult drama fared well with $6.2 million in 2,138 theatres.
And "Mary Magdalene," starring Rooney Mara as Mary and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus, finally opened, more than three years after production. Harvey Weinstein had once conceived of the film, directed by Garth Davis ("Lion") as his next Oscar contender.
After the fallout of Weinstein and the bankruptcy of the Weinstein Co., IFC Films acquired the biblical biopic. Critics dismissed it (44% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences mostly did, too. It grossed about $62,000 on 62 screens.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.
1. "Shazam!" $25.1 million ($35.9 million international).
2. "Little," $15.5 million ($1.9 million international).
3. "Hellboy," $12 million ($10.1 million international).
4. "Pet Sematary," $10 million ($12.6 million international).
5. "Dumbo," $9.2 million ($22 million international).
6. "Captain Marvel," $8.6 million ($8 million international).
7. "Us," $6.9 million ($4.4 million international).
8. "After," $6.2 million ($11.7 million international).
9. "Missing Link," $5.8 million ($8.9 million international).
10. "The Best of Enemies," $2 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. "Shazam!" $35.9 million.
2. "Dumbo," $22 million.
3. "P Storm," $19.6 million.
4. "Pet Sematary," $12.6 million.
5. "After," $11.7 million.
6. "Wonder Park," $11.2 million.
7. "Andhadhun," $10.4 million.
8. "Hellboy," $10.1 million.
9. "Captain Marvel," $8 million.
10. "The Crimes That Bind," $4.4 million.
Los Angeles, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — Devoted "Game of Thrones" fans who've watched and re-watched all 73 episodes of the HBO series, and read and reread all 4,000 pages of the books by George R.R. Martin, will at long last get the ending they've craved with the series' eighth and final season that starts Sunday.
But will it be the "real" ending?
The plotlines of the show have long since shot past what's in Martin's books, whose own finale may be many years away. While the endings will likely be similar, Martin, the master of this universe, could take a very different path to get there, making the coming end of the HBO show with its showdown between the humans of Westeros and the invading White Walkers possibly just a preview.
For some it all just means twice the fun.
"It doesn't bother me. I don't think they need to be one and the same," said Adonis Voulgaris, a fan of both formats who lives in San Francisco. "For me, it just means more content I get to immerse myself in."
The show premiered in 2011, the same year Martin's fifth book in his "A Song of Fire and Ice" series was released. Fans have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the sixth, "The Winds of Winter," ever since, and many wonder whether the 70-year-old author will live long enough to finish all seven planned books in the series.
"George is not a fast writer," said book-and-show devotee Andrew Stachler, 44, of South Pasadena, California. "So if you were following along, I think it was pretty evident early on that the show was going to get ahead of the books."
That did indeed happen, and by season six warrior and king-in-the-making Jon Snow had been resurrected and went back to trying to save the world, while he still lies stabbed to death in a mutiny in the books.
Martin, an executive producer on the TV series who has written episodes but is sitting this season out while he works on the book, gave HBO showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss an outline of where his long-planned plot goes, including the fates of characters like Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Arya Stark.
Armed with that roadmap, Benioff, Weiss and other writers have been telling the tale without books to back them. Fans are divided about the results, and how true they are to Martin.
"It doesn't seem any less planned out to me," Stachler said. "It's absolutely a continuation of his vision. I always felt like the show cleaned up the narrative in tighter, better-paced ways anyway."
Other readers feel the showrunners' vision and style have taken over.
"I think you've seen that in the last couple of seasons where you don't have the book as guide, you just go from one big event to another to another, without that feeling of the backstory," said Gabriela Perez, 44, of Mexico City. "It's sort of like drinking a Diet Coke, it has all the flavor and all that, but you can tell the difference."
Voulgaris, 27, said "last season was absolutely on fast-forward. The rate at which people would travel from one place to another was incredible. But that makes it fun to watch, it makes it accessible to any viewer."
But the quibbles seem to go out the window when it comes to the giddy anticipation that comes with the six episodes, most running well over an hour, that make up the final season.
"Oh, I'm still super excited," Perez said. "I want to know what this version of the ending is."
And wanting to be a part of a massive shared event may dwarf any thoughts that this is less than final. Some 12.1 million viewers tuned in to the season seven finale, with 4 million more streaming it the same night and many millions more in the following days. The May 19 series finale is sure to draw a bigger audience, and a social media maelstrom.
"I do think this last season is going to be the largest cultural moment we've had in a long time for any kind of branded property," Stachler said. "I don't know what to compare it to. I don't know when we'll see something this big again."
And with no book to spoil it, readers and non-readers alike get to be, and expect to be, surprised.
"Everybody has an idea," Voulgaris aid. "It literally could go in any direction."
Martin's world probably has a future on TV. He and Jane Goldman have scripted a pilot, set in Westeros thousands of years before the timeline of "Game of Thrones," that is in production for HBO. The cable channel has other possible spinoff scripts in the works, too.
Martin has released sample chapters of "The Winds of Winter" to sate hungry fans, and in them characters are in very different places than where the show put them, suggesting the endings might diverge too.
And the author is subversive enough that he may change his mind about the ending once the show is done.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he went down a totally different path, just because he's bored," Perez said. "For the type of writer he is I can see him doing it, thinking, 'You know what? that's been done. I'll do something else.'"