Wednesday, March 20, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Monday, Jan. 21, 2019
"Gotti" leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor
This image released by Vertical Entertainment shows John Travolta as John Gotti from the mobster biopic “Gotti." The film will premiere at Cannes as a special gala screening at the Palais des Festivals on May 15. The Cannes Film Festival begins May 8. (Vertical Entertainment via AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

John Travolta's John Gotti biopic "Gotti" has topped the 39th annual Razzie Awards with a co-leading six nominations, while President Donald Trump also earned a nod for worst actor.

In nominations announced Monday, "Gotti," the Will Ferrell comedy "Holmes & Watson," conservative provocateur Dinesh D'Souza's "Death of a Nation" and the R-rated puppet comedy "Happytime Murders" all earned six nominations.

Nominated for worst picture are "Gotti," ''The Happytime Murders," ''Holmes & Watson," ''Robin Hood" and "Winchester."

Along with Johnny Depp in "Sherlock Gnomes" and Travolta in "Gotti," the Razzies nominated Trump in "Death of a Nation" and Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9" for worst actor. It also nominated Trump and "his self-perpetuating pettiness" for worst screen combo. Melania Trump was nominated for worst supporting actress.

Winners will be revealed Feb. 23.

  • Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Hungarian-American film producer Andy Vajna dies at 74
In this Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 photo government commissioner in charge of the development of Hungary's film industry, Andy Vajna, participates in a discussion in the headquarters of the Hungarian National Film Fund in Budapest. (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP, file)
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- 

Andy Vajna, a Hungarian-American film producer who worked on several "Rambo" films with Sylvester Stallone as well as Madonna's "Evita," has died. He was 74.

Vajna, who produced many other films, died Sunday at his Budapest home after a long illness, Hungary's National Film Fund said.

Vajna was also owner of the TV2 Group, a Hungarian company which owns several television channels, including TV2, one of Hungary's two main broadcasters and politically aligned closely with Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government.

"We are bidding farewell to the greatest Hungarian film producer," Orban posted on his Facebook page. "Hasta la vista, Andy! Thank you for everything, my friend!"

Since 2011, Vajna had been a commissioner in the Orban government, in charge of developing Hungary's film industry.

Hungarian films have won several top prizes at recent international festivals. In 2016, "Son of Saul," financed mostly by Hungary's National Film Fund, won the Oscar for best foreign language film.

Vajna, who enjoyed a state-granted monopolistic concession on Budapest casinos, was recently listed by the Hungarian edition of Forbes magazine as the 18th richest Hungarian, with a net worth estimated at nearly $240 million.

The producer was born Andras Gyorgy Vajna in Budapest on Aug. 1, 1944, and escaped Hungary's communist regime in 1956 with help from the International Red Cross. After some time in Canada, he was reunited with his family in Los Angeles.

After studying at UCLA, Vajna operated cinemas in Hong Kong, where he also established a successful wig-making company.

In the mid-1970s, Vajna set up Carolco, a film production firm, with Mario Kassar. Besides the Rambo series, the two men were also behind films like "Victory" — starring Stallone, Michael Caine and Pele; "Red Heat" and "Total Recall," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and "Angel Heart" and "Johnny Handsome" with Mickey Rourke.

After leaving Carolco in 1989, Vajna's films included "Die Hard with a Vengeance," ''The Scarlet Letter," ''Nixon" and "I Spy."

He also produced several Hungarian films and was co-owner of Korda Studios, in the village of Etyek, near Budapest, where "The Martian," ''Inferno" and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" were filmed.

Late last year, Vajna was among several businesspeople close to Orban who donated most of their media holdings to a non-profit foundation overseen by an Orban ally, a move which put over 470 publications under even closer political control.

Vajna is survived by his wife, Timea.

  • Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019
Report: Facebook's privacy lapses may result in record fine
In this May 1, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. Facebook may be facing the biggest fine ever imposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations that breached a commitment to protect the personal information of its social network’s 2.2 billion users. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

Facebook may be facing the biggest fine ever imposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations involving the personal information of its 2.2 billion users.

The FTC is considering hitting Facebook with a penalty that would top its previous record fine of $22.5 million , which it dealt to Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple's Safari browser, according to The Washington Post. The story published Friday cited three unidentified people familiar with the discussions.

In an automated response, the FTC said it was unable to comment, citing its closure due to the U.S. government shutdown. Facebook declined to comment.

The potential fine stems from an FTC investigation opened after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had vacuumed up details about as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

The FTC has been exploring whether that massive breakdown violated a settlement that Facebook reached in 2011 after government regulators had concluded the Menlo Park, California, company had repeatedly broken its privacy promises .

The FTC decree, which runs through 2031, requires Facebook to get its users' consent to share their personal information in ways that aren't allowed by their privacy settings.

Since the Cambridge Analytica erupted 10 months ago, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users' data. Nevertheless, its controls have remained leaky. Just last month, the company acknowledged a software flaw had exposed the photos of about 7 million users to a wider audience than they had intended.

The FTC's five commissioners have discussed fining Facebook but haven't settled on the amount yet, according to the Post.

Facebook's privacy problems are also under investigation in other countries and the target of a lawsuit filed last month by Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine.

  • Friday, Jan. 18, 2019
Glenn Close, Betty Pecha Madden to be honored at Costume Designers Guild Awards
Glenn Close poses in the press room with the award for best performance by an actress in a motion picture, drama for "The Wife" at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
LOS ANGELES -- 

The Costume Designers Guild announced that Golden Globe Award-winner Glenn Close will be honored with the Spotlight Award, and costume designer Betty Pecha Madden will receive the Distinguished Service Award, at the 21st CDGA (Costume Designers Guild Awards). Executive Produced by JumpLine, the annual star-studded gala will take place on February 19, 2019 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
 
The Spotlight Award honors an actor whose talent and career personify an enduring commitment to excellence, including a special awareness of the role and importance of Costume Design. Past recipients include Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Halle Berry, and more.
 
Costume designer Anthony Powell, who worked with Close on 101 Dalmatians, 102 Dalmatians, Hook, and all of her Sunset Boulevard performances, stated, “Glenn Close is a costume designer’s dream. Her commitment to creating character is awe-inspiringly total: nothing fazes her, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable. Time and time again she has said to me, ‘I don’t know if I can manage it, but I’ll try,’ and always she succeeds triumphantly. She inhabits every role she plays, and becomes that person. It is an honor and privilege to have worked with such a unique artist, and to count her as a friend (in spite of the tortures she has suffered at my hands)!”
 
The Distinguished Service Award honors individuals whose specialties and talents contribute to the craft and art of Costume Design. Past recipients include Maggie Schpak, Sharon Day, Lois DeArmond, Edwina Pellikka, and Mary Rose.

Over the course of her 40 plus year Costume Designers Guild Local 892 membership, Madden has costume designed over 200 commercials, 32 music videos, 16 films for TV, and 29 feature films. She currently serves as labor delegate to the International Alliance of Theater and Stage Employees and writes monthly labor reports for the CDG E-board, and quarterly labor reports for the CDG newsletters and magazine. Additionally, she is a CDG representative to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, attending monthly meeting and serving as Sergeant at Arms.  A lifelong political activist, Betty devotes her time to improving the quality of life for working families in the areas of universal health care, a living wage, and affordable housing to end homelessness.
 
Close and Madden join previously announced honorees Ruth E. Carter and Ryan Murphy who will be honored with the Career Achievement Award and Distinguished Collaborator Award respectively. The ceremony’s host and presenters will be announced in the coming weeks.
 
The annual CDGA gala celebrates excellence in film, television, and short form Costume Design as voted on by the Guild’s membership. The CDG includes more than 1,000 costume designers and illustrators working in motion pictures, television, commercials, music videos, and new media programs throughout the world. 

  • Friday, Jan. 18, 2019
Harvey Weinstein breaks with his criminal defense lawyer
In this Dec. 20, 2018 file photo, Harvey Weinstein, left, arrives at New York Supreme Court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman in New York. Brafman filed court papers on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, asking to withdraw as Weinstein's lawyer. The high-profile criminal defense lawyer is leaving the movie producer's rape case weeks after failing to get the charges dismissed. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Harvey Weinstein is recasting his legal team a month after losing a hard-fought bid to get his sexual assault case thrown out.

Weinstein and high-profile defense attorney Benjamin Brafman said in a statement Thursday that they "have agreed to part ways" and that new lawyers would be introduced next week.

The disgraced movie mogul's trial is tentatively scheduled for May 6.

He is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. A conviction could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Weinstein, 66, denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Thursday's announcement came after days of speculation about Weinstein and Brafman's future together.

"Both parties have agreed to part ways amicably and Mr. Brafman has agreed to cooperate fully with new counsel for Mr. Weinstein so as to ensure an orderly transition," the statement said.

A judge must still approve the move.

Brafman, whose other celebrity clients have included Sean Combs and Jay-Z, has been by Weinstein's side since he was arrested and paraded out of a Manhattan police station last spring.

The 70-year-old Brafman, a tactical and pugnacious litigator, appeared to embrace his role as the "Pulp Fiction" producer's chief attack dog.

After Weinstein turned himself in on May 25, Brafman came out swinging, telling reporters: "Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood" and that "bad behavior is not on trial in this case."

He then scored a victory in the courtroom, getting part of the case dropped in October after evidence surfaced that a police detective had coached a witness.

Last month, however, he failed to convince a judge to dismiss the rest of the charges.

"Mr. Weinstein praised Mr. Brafman for his legal work to date and Mr. Brafman reiterated his belief that Mr. Weinstein would be exonerated of the charges that have been filed against him," their statement said. "Brafman personally wished Mr. Weinstein the best of luck as he defends the case and the accusations that Mr. Weinstein has vehemently denied."

Weinstein has played a leading role in shaping his own defense, commuting from his Connecticut home to work with Brafman at his Manhattan office as a de facto paralegal.

"He's a hands-on client," Brafman told Esquire in a profile rushed online this week. "He's relentless."

The magazine reported that Weinstein was running Brafman's strategy past other lawyers and advisers.

In the days before a Dec. 20 hearing on their failed bid to dismiss the case, Weinstein was peppering Brafman with emails and voicemails and showing up at his office after dark to work on strategy, the magazine reported.

Last week, in a statement responding to a Daily Beast article that he was looking for new lawyers, Weinstein said he was "looking to augment the team, not replace anyone."

"Harvey is the type of guy who gets a second opinion on his tuna salad," Brafman told Esquire.

In 2001, Brafman won an acquittal for hip-hop star Sean Combs after he was accused of toting an illegal handgun into a crowded Manhattan nightclub. In 2011, the lawyer helped former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn beat an attempted rape charge. The District Attorney's office ultimately dropped the charges, saying there were inconsistencies in the accuser's story.

Brafman used some of that playbook in Weinstein's case.

He also piled onto police and prosecutors, seizing on the detective's alleged misconduct and accusing Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. of bowing to public pressure in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Explaining his role in the Weinstein case, Brafman told The Associated Press last June: "I'm trying my best to save him in somewhat of an impossible situation he finds himself in."

Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

  • Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019
Ex-CBS CEO Les Moonves to challenge severance denial
In this July 29, 2013, file photo, Les Moonves arrives at the CBS, CW and Showtime TCA party at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Former CBS CEO Les Moonves is fighting the company's decision to deny his $120 million severance package following his firing over sexual misconduct allegations.

Moonves is demanding binding arbitration proceedings to challenge the decision, CBS announced in a filing Thursday with the Security Exchange Commission.

The company's board of directors denied Moonves his severance last month after concluding that he violated company policy and did not cooperate with an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations.

Moonves, one of television's most influential figures, was ousted in September after allegations from women who said he subjected them to mistreatment including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted.

The former CEO's legal team declined to comment Thursday. His lawyer, Andrew Levander, has previously said that Moonves cooperated fully with the investigation, which was conducted by two outside law firms. Moonves has also denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.

Moonves, who had earned praise for turning around the fortunes of CBS when he took over as entertainment chief in 1995, had been one of the highest-paid executives in the nation, making about $70 million in each of the past two years.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019
Carell, "Office" producers reteam for "Space Force" comedy
In this Oct. 8, 2018 file photo, Steve Carell arrives at the premiere of "Beautiful Boy" in Beverly Hills, Calif. Carell will reunite with his creative team from "The Office," Greg Daniels and Howard Klein, for the new Netflix comedy series "Space Force." (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Steve Carell is starring in a new workplace comedy that could be out of this world.

Netflix said Wednesday that Carell is re-teaming with "The Office" producers Greg Daniels and Howard Klein on the series "Space Force."

It's about the people assigned to create a sixth branch of the armed services focused on space, the streaming service said.

The premise is grounded in reality: Last year, the Trump administration directed the Pentagon to form a Space Command aimed at the creation of a Space Force branch.

Carell and Daniels are the sitcom's co-creators and will serve as executive producers along with Klein.

Daniels co-created NBC's 2015-13 "The Office," based on the original Ricky Gervais-Stephen Merchant U.K. mockumentary series.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019
Jason Reitman to direct Ghostbusters sequel for summer 2020
In this Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 file photo, Jason Reitman attends the 2018 Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film Honoring Hugh Jackman at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Goleta, Calif. Four-time Oscar nominee Reitman is set to direct a new installment in the Ghostbusters series for Sony Pictures set to come out in the summer of 2020. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Ivan Reitman is passing the Ghostbusters torch to his son.

Four-time Oscar nominee Jason Reitman is set to direct a new installment in the Ghostbusters series for Sony Pictures set to come out in the summer of 2020. Reitman tweeted Tuesday night that he's "finally got the keys to the car."

Ivan Reitman directed and produced the original "Ghostbusters," which came out in 1984, and its sequel in 1989.

The studio says that this new Ghostbusters will be going back to its roots and will be the next chapter in the original story. Sony attempted to reboot Ghostbusters in 2016 with gender-flipped leads, but the costly film disappointed at the box office.

Entertainment Weekly first reported the news. Production begins this summer, but no word yet on the cast.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019
Netflix renews "Grace and Frankie" ahead of season 5 debut
This image released by Netflix shows Lily Tomlin, left, and Jane Fonda in a scene from the comedy series "Grace And Frankie." (Ali Goldstein/Netflix via AP)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

As the fifth-season adventures of "Grace and Frankie " begin, viewers can rest assured there's more to come.

Series creator Marta Kauffman and Netflix said Tuesday that the series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin has been renewed for season six, due in 2020.

Kauffman said she was hopeful the comedy would keep going, given that "we certainly feel the love" from streaming service Netflix.

But the decision announced before Friday's season-five release "is greatly appreciated," she said. "I don't take it for granted."

When last seen, Grace and Frankie were fleeing a retirement community in a golf cart to resume life in their oceanfront home — only to find a "sold" sign in front of it.

What's in store for the mismatched pals, who were thrown together when their respective husbands Robert and Sol (Martin Sheen, Sam Waterson) declared they were longtime lovers and moved in together?

"Everybody said, 'Oh, that was a real cliffhanger when you lost the house last season,'" Tomlin, who plays Frankie, said. "Well, wait until you see this season."

Kauffman also weighed in, carefully, on how Grace and Frankie will fare in the upcoming 13 episodes.

"Without spoilers, they're going to spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to get their house back," she said. "But honestly, what they get to very quickly about life at that age is the idea you can finally just say (expletive) it."

"Friends" creator Kauffman had such an epiphany of her own two years ago, at age 60, that she describes as a "startling discovery." It spoke volumes.

"I don't have to finish every book I start," she said. "There are too many books in the world. I mean that's a very small piece of it. But that that is my version of it. ... I am at a certain age and I don't have to put up with anybody's (expletive)."

She was mum on how that plays out on the series, sharing only that romance may lie ahead for the women and the men will have experiences separate from the world of their exes.

For Tomlin, happiness is a given.

"I'm always excited for the show. Because I love Jane, I love playing with her. We have a great family on the set," she said.

AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019
Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray to reunite for "On the Rocks" via Apple, A24
This combination photo shows filmmaker Sofia Coppola, left, and actor Bill Murray, who will reunite 16 years after their Oscar-winning film, “Lost in Translation” for “On the Rocks,” a New York-set film starring Rashida Jones as a young mother who reconnects with her larger-than-life father, to be played by Murray. The film, which Coppola also wrote, will begin this spring in New York. (AP Photo)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray will reunite 16 years after the Oscar-winning "Lost in Translation" in the splashiest feature film yet announced by Apple.

A24 said Tuesday that Coppola's "On the Rocks" will be the indie studio's first project under its joint deal with Apple, which is pushing into original content. The New York-set film stars Rashida Jones as a young mother who reconnects with her larger-than-life father, to be played by Murray.

"Lost in Translation" earned Coppola an Oscar for best screenplay and numerous nominations including Murray for best actor. Coppola also directed Murray in the Netflix holiday special "A Very Murray Christmas."

Apple and A24, the boutique studio behind films like "Moonlight" and "Lady Bird," last November signed a multiyear production deal. Neither company has yet said if their films together with have traditional theatrical releases or debut directly on Apple's planned streaming platform. The iPhone-maker has previously acquired two documentaries: "The Elephant Queen" and "Wolfwakers."

Production on "On the Rocks," which Coppola also wrote, will begin this spring in New York.

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