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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tom Cruise Blackmailed Over Photos

In an age where photographs of celebrity weddings and birthing sell for million, Tom Cruise was asked to pay a hefty one million dollars if he didn't want photos of his wedding with Katie Holmes to hit the headlines.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of Arizona native David Hans Schmidt in the case, and revealed that the photographs were stolen.
Tattletale website The Smoking Gun says Schmidt is know as the 'Sultan of Sleaze' for his role in the distribution of sex tapes featuring celebrities. He was attempting to re-sell to Cruise a large cache of private photos from the actor's November 2006 wedding to Holmes, that had been stolen from Cruise's home.
When Schmidt made the initial approach earlier this year, Cruise's lawyers contacted the FBI, which then monitored developments and affected the arrest once all the evidence was in.

Schmidt is reported to have been behind the outing of the Paris Hilton sex tapes, which had spread virus-like across the Internet some years back. The Smoking Gun says Schmidt routinely contacts celebrities offering to sell them their own private photos and videos, while warning them that if they did not ante up, he would splash it all over the media.

Schmidt, whose indictment has been sealed, has also been identified as the agent for Kimberly Bell, ex-girlfriend of baseball star Barry Bonds.
Bell features, nude, in the November issue of Playboy, and will soon feature in an article that details her personal and sexual relationship with Bonds.
Smoking Gun says Schmidt has in the past peddled pornographic material relating to the likes of Jamie Fox, Gennifer Flowers, Tonya Harding, Fred Durst and Amber Frey.

At some point, he is learnt to have attempted to sell topless photographs of Jessica Lynch, the US soldier who was briefly held as a prisoner of war in Iraq and whose 'heroic rescue' later turned out to be a Pentagon plant.

Bow Barracks does not say much

What are you doing, man?'

'You're such a bugger, man!'
'I'm tired of living in this bloody building, man!'

In Anjan Dutt's Bow Barracks Forever, 'man' is a noun, exclamation, exultation and abuse.

The intent may be to convey how an Anglo Indian community converses in a in a run down paada (dwelling), Bow Barracks situated in a claustrophobic locality of Kolkata. The effect, however, is seriously taxing on the nerves.

Very few filmmakers have opted for community-specific scripts like Vijaya Mehta's Pestonjee or Shyam Benegal's Trikaal. But while these films were a journey in a way of life and thought, Bow Barracks Forever!, inspired by a true story, merely skims past the outrageous lives of its struggling albeit stereotyped tenants.

There's Peter-The Cheater (Victor Banerjee) a bermuda-clad, beret-sporting dupe who successfully passes off his junk as antique stuff to unsuspecting bakras.

A still from Bow Barracks Forever!Next, we have Emily Lobo (Lilette Dubey sleep walks as the no-nonsense but kindly 'Marmee' types yet again) -- a wine and cake seller, desperately aspiring to leave her wretched home and fly to her indifferent son in London [Images].

Her scrawny good-for-nothing son Bradley (Clayton Rodgers, lacks screen presence tremendously) is busy lending a crying shoulder to his domestic abuse victim neighbour Anne (Neha Dubey). The comforting inevitably leads to awfully picturised sex scenes.

An awkward Rodgers looks noticeably distressed showing off his butt, adding to our misery of enduring the entire sequence.
More adultery follows when the voluptuous Roza (Moon Moon Sen shams and pouts in turns) looks outside home for sexual gratification in her insurance agent. Having said that, seeing Moon Moon Sen in lingerie with a nearly naked stout guy in turquoise blue briefs is not a pleasant sight.

In between, there's a deaf guy and his strict wife always admonishing his insolent, philandering daughter, a Muslim family forever at the receiving end of other tenant's barks, a schoolteacher with a creepy sense of timing and a handful of reformers who want to gather repair money to save the dilapidated Bow Barracks from intimidating thugs.

Oh and singer Ushu Uthup makes a guest appearance too.

And finally then there are the cuss words. Beep this. Beep that. Funny thing is, the makers forget every now and then to filter the F-words. So don't be surprised if now you hear them and now you don't.

A still from Bow Barracks Forever!Dutt sidesteps content to make way for pretentious realism with the objective of stunning the viewer rather than relate with it.

The episodes that lead up to Christmas draw a suffocating picture of these folks with, at the same time, a submissive attitude that accepts their fate, nonetheless.

Bow Barracks Forever! never aims to be a triumph of spirit brand of cinema. It's unapologetically dark and even when respite comes at an offbeat price.

As effective as that sounds, the film is essentially tepid and boring. The performances don't touch the skin of the men and women they play. The actors seem alienated from the very world they portray making their act look like, well, an act. Except an intense Neha Dubey and gregarious Victor Banerjee (though he tends to go overboard a bit), the cast fails to make an impression.

The cinematographer (Tanmoy Chakraborty) and composer (Neel and Anjan Dutt churn a couple of breezy tunes including the title track) fair much better though.

The red-bricked walls and dingy lanes speak a language of their own in Chakraborty's imaginative angles. At the same time, he articulates the despondency in the messy rooms of every protagonist, reflecting the disorganised state of their own existence.

As you walk out the theatre, you wonder what does the film really say? It doesn't really answer any questions it raises or solve any problems. Until when it does, in a manner so implausible, it loses credibility. All Bow Barracks Forever! does is add 'man', 'bugger' and 'bloody' to your vocabulary.

Hollywood Gola Rating:

No soul is the Curse of this Golden Flower

There are films that appeal for its story line while others impress with the performances. Some simply blow your mind with their riveting visual palette.

Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower, with its multi-million dollar budget, works its magic on the eyes with breathtaking splendour and fierce combat scenes.

This is both good and bad news. As much as your eyes soak in all the awe-inspiring beauty, the costume drama fails to touch an emotional chord.

Curse of the Golden Flower doesn't have a linear story, as such. The narrative is exactly the way the film's characters are -- crafty and dubious.

Set in 10th century Tang Dynasty of China, the film chronicles the time of Emperor Ping (Chow Yun Fat) and Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) around the Chrysanthemum festival.

Their interactions, though cordial, are bitingly frosty and suggest mysterious undercurrents of resentment.

In sub text, it is mentioned that the Emperor isn't of noble birth. A high-ranking captain, he dumped his first wife to marry the young and beautiful Princess of Liang. The Empress is no moral beacon either, having indulged in a forbidden fling with her stepson, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye) for a good three years.

While Yan is now fooling around with the Imperial doctor's daughter Chan (Li Man), a clearly envious Empress is forced to swallow a daily dose of a weird-tasting medicine (for her anemia), on her husband's order. She eventually suspects him of poisoning her. Phoenix pours her grievances to her compassionate middle son, Jai (Jay Chou).

A series of rousing events, featuring spectacular fight sequences (shot superbly by cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding), leads to unexpected tragedies and startling revelations.

Revealing any more synopsis would spoil the twisted surprises that spring up in the due course of the film. Unless you are a Chinese period drama aficionado and have seen too many of this kind, you will be truly alarmed.

In the past, director Yimou's gift for magnificent imagery was complemented with layered, even if unpredictable, representation of the human side. He succeeded in blending the two quite capably in films like The Road Home, Hero and House of Flying Daggers. But in Curse of the Golden Flower, opulence and grandeur takes center stage, almost bullying the protagonists out of the scene.

Even so, Chow Yun Fat shines as the cold, ruthless ruler playing ugly domestic politics with his wife. Gong Li, on her part, is equally lethal as a royal on the verge of losing her mind. And they both look gorgeous in all those sheets of ornate brocade (Yee Chung Man's work with the wardrobe garnered a Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design).

Too bad, the royal soap drama doesn't evoke a single sense of remorse at the death of any of its characters. Their motives remain uncertain, and their actions appear vague and vain.

Finally, for all its exquisite eye candy, Curse of the Golden Flower doesn't have a rich soul. Maybe that's the problem. Or the curse.

Hollywood Gola Rating: