Jumaat, 29 November 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China to question movie director's agent on family planning allegations


SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Authorities will question the agent of acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou after the director went missing following allegations he had fathered seven children, a breach of China's one-child policy, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The agent for Zhang, the director of epics "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers", was summoned to the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi to answer allegations against him, Xinhua said late on Friday, citing the local family planning bureau.

In May, online reports surfaced that Zhang, who dazzled the world in 2008 with his Beijing Olympic opening ceremony, had at least seven children and could be liable for a 160 million yuan ($26 million) fine, Xinhua said.

The Xinhua report gave no further details about the case.

Authorities said this month they were unable to locate Zhang and had dispatched teams to track down the director and his wife Chen Ting.

The Wuxi family planning commission "has done everything possible to contact Zhang Yimou and Chen Ting and dispatched a work team that rushed to Beijing to look for Zhang Yimou, but there were no results, they could not find (him)", Xinhua said.

Zhang, 61, was once the bad boy of Chinese cinema, whose movies were banned at home but popular overseas. He has since become a darling of the ruling Communist Party, while long being a subject of tabloid gossip for alleged trysts with his actresses.

The government said last week that it would allow couples to have a second child if one of the parents was an only child. It was the most significant relaxation of its population control regime in nearly three decades.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Honduras's defiant left asks for presidential election recount


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The party of Honduras' defeated leftist presidential candidate Xiomara Castro demanded a full vote recount on Friday, offering examples of poll fraud that supporters say robbed her of victory this week when conservative Juan Hernandez was declared the winner.

Hernandez, who is head of Congress and enjoys close ties with incumbent president Porfirio Lobo, was declared winner on Monday, promising to tame violence that has made Honduras the world's murder capital.

Castro, wife of former ousted leader Manuel Zelaya, has refused to accept the results, setting the stage for a protracted conflict.

On Friday, Castro's Liberty and Refoundation Party, demanded a full recount of 16,135 ballot boxes, arguing that certificates signed by the parties and submitted to election authorities with local vote tallies had been falsified.

"We have uncovered a disgusting, monstrous fraud, through which the Honduran people have been robbed of the presidency of the Republic," said Castro. "We will not accept the results."

With 89.80 percent of the votes counted, Hernandez garnered 36.59 percent of the vote compared to Castro's 28.84 percent, electoral authorities have said.

Zelaya, Castro's husband, was deposed in a 2009 coup, which plunged the Central American country into deep crisis and turned Honduras into an international pariah.

(Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Senior Chinese official sacked in corruption probe


SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's Communist Party has fired a senior provincial official for "suspected serious disciplinary violations", the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, making him the latest target in acrackdown on corruption.

Guo Youming, the vice governor of the central province of Hubei, was removed from his post after China's corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), announced a probe into the official this week.

The Xinhua report, which cited the ruling party's central Organisation Department, gave no further details, but the term discipline violations is generally used to denote corruption.

Guo's dismissal comes a day after China launched a pilot programme to make new officials disclose their assets as part of an anti-graft campaign, a step critics say is critical to weed out official corruption.

The government this week also announced that two other officials were being probed over graft allegations.

Xu Jie, a deputy head of the petitions office, has been sacked for suspected graft issues, while Cai Rongsheng, head of admissions at Beijing's prestigious Renmin University, is under investigation, in what state media said was related to "corruption cases involving large amounts of money".

President Xi Jinping has made fighting corruption a top theme of his new administration, and has vowed to pursue high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies" to assuage anger over corruption and restore faith in the party.

Guo is a long-time official in Hubei, where he served in the water management bureau and as party secretary in Yichang city, near the $59-billion Three Gorges Dam project.

His official biography says he was in charge of "follow-up work" on the dam, as well as elements of the controversial North-South Water Transfer Project, which aims to divert river water to the industrialised north.

Authorities have already announced the investigation or arrest of a handful of senior officials, among them former officials of oil giant PetroChina, in what appears to be the biggest graft probe into a state-run firm in years.

In May, Liu Tienan, the former deputy head of China's top planning agency, was removed from his post after online accusations of corruption were posted against him, and a criminal investigation began in August.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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Marsha Milan: Moving on up


Marsha Milan has come a long way since Akademi Fantasia. Now, she gets animated in Frozen.

HAVING arrived late for our appointment – for which she and her manager apologised profusely – there was little time left to prepare Marsha Milan Londoh for the planned photo session. But, as it turned out, she needed little direction – all that was required was to inform her of the shots we wanted and she started striking different poses immediately, allowing the photographer to wrap up quickly.

This very quality of knowing what is wanted of her is one of the things that has gotten Marsha noticed by directors like Osman Ali and Erma Fatima. Osman has cast Marsha in three of his projects so far – a minor role in the film Cun! gave way to the role of an antagonist in a 26-episode drama serial Bicara Hati and a supporting role in last year's feature, Juwanita.

"FROZEN" (Pictured) ELSA. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Her latest 'role' is as Princess Elsa in the Bahasa Malaysia version of Frozen.

According to Osman, Marsha's talent was especially impressive in Bicara Hati.

He said: "I enjoyed working with her as she was very committed to her role. She would run what she intended to do in a scene by me and I would guide her accordingly. She's adept at playing different types of emotions – serious, funny, melancholic and psychotic. She made her character in Bicara Hati someone the audience loved to hate."

Osman first spotted the actress, who turns 28 on Dec 6, when she appeared as one of the contestants in Akademi Fantasia (AF) back in 2005. "I liked how she carried herself on that show. And it was apparent that she is talented," said the director.

It was this reality show that opened doors for Marsha. However, Marsha recalled the only reason she was even at the audition for Akademi Fantasia was because she was accompanying a friend who wanted to take part. Marsha said with a laugh: "It ended up with me getting in the show, but not him."

Marsha came out third runner up – Mawi was crowned champion that season – and her life has changed forever.

"My mother wanted me to go to India to further my studies and not participate in Akademi Fantasia. But I was adamant in finding out my chances on AF ... and I am still here."

Marsha is still keen to continue her studies but it has to be some time in the future as she is just too busy with her career now.

Also, she figured: "I was supposed to study music, but I thought since I am already in the industry, I have an advantage over other students."

At the moment, she is polishing up on her composing skills so she can write her own songs for an album which she hopes to complete next year.

Born in Michigan, the United States – where her parents were studying (the family moved back to Tamparuli, Sabah, a few months after she was born) – Marsha grew up singing in her town's church.

Having developed a love for singing and playing the piano, she was surprised to find out she loved acting too.

Multifaceted: Well-known directors like Osman Ali and Erma Fatima like working with talented Sabahan, Marsha Milan Londoh, because she is dedicated to her craft.

Multifaceted: Well-known directors like Osman Ali and Erma Fatima like working with talented Sabahan, Marsha Milan Londoh, because she is dedicated to her craft.

Acting was something she discovered when she was signed up with Astro's production company after Akademi Fantasia (AF top winners are contractually committed to the broadcasting company in the first few years of their career).

"There were some modelling gigs too, but I realised I am too short to be a fashion model," she said, not sounding too disappointed.

It was during this period with Astro that she started on voice acting. Her first voice acting job was for the Bahasa Malaysia version of High School Musical (2006).

Fast forward to the present, Marsha is now cast as the voice of Princess Elsa in Frozen.

"This one is different because she's a Disney princess," Marsha said, drawing a comparison between her role in High School Musical and Frozen.

"I feel honoured as I always wanted to be part of Disney (animated films). And to play a princess, it's great!" she enthused, adding that some of her favourite Disney films include Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and Cinderella.

"Usually I look at the scripts when choosing a project because I do not want to play the same role over and over again. But for this Disney project, I didn't even ask to look at the script. I said yes immediately because Disney is something that everyone loves."

Frozen revolves around two sisters, Princess Elsa (Marsha) and Princess Anna (Liyana Jasmay), who truly love each other. Elsa, however, is a little different – she has the powers to create snow and ice with just a touch, something that delights her sister to no end.

But on the day she is appointed the queen, Elsa accidentally unleashes her power leaving her kingdom in a perpetual state of winter. Fearing she would do more harm than good to her family and subjects, Elsa runs away to live in isolation. Not about to give up on her sister, Anna decides to look for Elsa and bring her home.

Marsha said: "Elsa is the Snow Queen, but she is not evil. She is just stuck in a place where she has no one. The film has more to do with the love of two sisters who would do anything for each than a conventional love story."

In the English version, the voice of Elsa is provided by Broadway actress Idina Menzel. So, for the dubbed version, it was crucial the voice came from someone who could sing and act.

Elsa has four numbers in the film, including one theme song named Bebaskan (Let It Go). To sing these songs, Marsha had to ensure she conveyed emotions like anger, boldness, happiness and sadness.

But there was a slight snag. On the day Marsha entered the recording studio to record the songs, she had just came back from the dentist.

"I had just removed my wisdom tooth. So I was singing when my mouth was swollen and I was in pain. It was a struggle, but knowing it's for a Disney film, it was all worth it."

As our interview ended, Marsha's fans who were waiting patiently nearby requested for a photo with the actress. Not surprisingly, she struck lovely poses for them.

> Frozen, both the English and Bahasa Malaysia versions, opens in cinemas nationwide on Nov 28.

Kristen Bell-e of the ball


Kristen Bell realises her dream of being a Disney princess in Frozen.

THERE are things her most devoted fans know about Kristen Bell that people who didn't help fan-finance her big screen Veronica Mars movie might not.

She can sing, for starters.

"When you're too small to play sports, you compete in solo and ensemble singing competitions," the diminutive Bell says. "At least, that's what I did. It turned me into a musical theatre junkie. I sang only in Italian, for a while. Then I discovered musical theatre. I studied that in New York in college. Musical theatre is what led me into the ocean that is film and television."

She sings, and more than holds her own with Broadway star Idina Menzel, in the animated Disney musical Frozen, which opens today.

"Any time music is a part of my performance is a good time, in my book. This was a really 'lucky get'."

The 33-year-old Michigan native is an alumnus of New York University in the United States, and a Broadway veteran in her own right. She was in a revival of The Crucible and the musical The Adventures Of Becky Thatcher.

Your highness: Kristen Bell is elated to be a Disney princess in Frozen.

Your highness: Kristen Bell is elated to be a Disney princess in Frozen.

She just got married – to longtime love and When In Rome and Hit And Run co-star Dax Shepard. She had a baby this year, and they named her Lincoln.

But even hardcore fans might not realise that she let Shepard talk her into naming their child after his "baby" – his 1960s vintage souped-up Lincoln Continental.

"Well, FIRST of all, he's BIG. I don't LET him do anything. He just does what he wants," Bell says with a laugh. "I think it was a combination of the president and the car, we just liked the sound of it. 'Lincoln'."

And Bell counts herself very lucky that she had her daughter just in time for her most kid-friendly movie ever. Frozen, a Disney cartoon based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, lets Bell become a Disney princess.

"This was a dream for me, ever since I was a toddler, really. But I knew if I was ever going to be a Disney heroine she'd have to be someone I wanted to see, I could relate to.

"I wanted to make her very adventurous, to not be a 'typical' animated heroine. I wanted her to talk too quickly and too much. I wanted her to put her foot in her mouth, to be clumsy and awkward and have all of these characteristics that I feel I had as a kid. I was always talking too much and too fast, speaking before I thought."

So her character Anna, younger sister to the ice-cursed Elsa (Menzel), doesn't so much talk as blurt. She acts before she thinks, and when her sister heads off into self-imposed exile because everything she touches freezes, plucky Anna sets out to find her and bring her home.

"Anna's such a goofball – sincere, an eternal optimist but just weird. I really like that, because I have been weird and proud of it forever."

Reviews are full of praise for the movie, for Bell's surprising singing and her "vigorous" vocal performance (The Hollywood Reporter), which fills Anna with Bell's own personality.

"I hit those lines the way I hear 'em and they sort of fall out," Bell says. "I did study music in college and music is such a big part of my life that I hear dialogue at a certain tempo."

The other big project in her crowded life is the Veronica Mars movie that she and series writer Rob Thomas pulled together and turned into the most famous Kickstarter (crowd-financed) movie ever. They raised millions from fans of the teen private investigator TV series, which aired from 2004-2007.They reunited much of the cast and made a feature film that is due out next year.

"Veronica is so much a part of who I am that it wasn't hard to get back into character," she says. "It was everything I wanted it to be. We have talked about the movie we'd want to do pretty much since the day the TV series got cancelled. We'd all allowed ourselves to dream of doing it. But I'm not sure any of us ever dreamed it would ever be a reality.

"But throwing it out on Kickstarter and asking the fans if they wanted it, and if they wanted it enough to fund it? That was surreal ... We were so lucky to have fans that loyal. One day we were still wishing, the next day we had a green light to go make the movie."

She's sensitive to the criticism that suggested this wasn't what Kickstarter projects – typically tiny-budget affairs from aspiring filmmakers, musicians and artists – are supposed to be. But "we didn't force anyone to give money to this idea ...We wanted to give as much back to the fans as we could because they've been very good to us. It's their movie. They wanted it."

And if they'd all had to wait on a studio to finance it, Veronica Mars, the movie, never would have happened. It's just another way Bell goes about her life and her business along the road less travelled, from marrying the gawky car-nut co-star to naming their child after his car to becoming a Disney princess over 30.

"I'm not a very conventional person. And that bleeds into everything I do." – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Josh Hutcherson is on fire


Josh Hutcherson has quickly formed a bond with The Hunger Games co-star Jennifer Lawrence.

Like his The Hunger Games co-star Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson grew up in the bluegrass-and-bourbon state of Kentucky, in the United States, which is about as far away from Hollywood as one can get.

The 21-year-old now finds himself fronting The Hunger Games, which is shaping up to be one of the biggest young-adult movie franchises since Twilight or Harry Potter.

Hutcherson's breakout role as Peeta Mellark – who is told he must fight and kill the girl he loves, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), in a cruel gladiator-style tournament – has made him a bona fide movie star.

And one adored, no less, by an extremely devoted fanbase who loves both The Hunger Games movies and the books they were adapted from. He admits that the fans can be a little "hardcore", but above all, "they are passionate".

"Every time we go to one of the events or premieres, they are there with their signs and their books. And really it's because of them and their passion that we were able to make the movies the way we do.

"The fact that so many people got to see the first movie means we were able to make the second one and, hopefully, they see the second one so the third and fourth ones aren't a bust," he says.

In the second film, Katniss and Peeta find themselves thrown together after winning the annual Hunger Games in the first film, and forced by the country's spin doctors to feign a blossoming romance while they tour the country as the first-ever joint victors.

Hutcherson thinks that the Kentucky roots that he shared with Lawrence, 23, played a part in him landing the coveted role opposite her.

"I think it helped because when I walked in the room, I had something to say to her. She had been cast as Katniss and I was trying to become Peeta, and I had something to talk about with her right away. I was like, 'Hey, you're from Kentucky'."

Hutcherson with his The Hunger Games co-stars (from left) Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence.

Hutcherson with his The Hunger Games co-stars (from left) Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence. - AFP Photo

Their common background was also handy in constructing their characters, who come from a poor, marginalised area in the fictional nation of Panem.

Their home district, District 12, is "a coal-mining sort of small town", much like the ones found in south-eastern Kentucky, says Hutcherson.

"Just knowing that world a little bit and kind of having that sort of sensibility as people, I think it helps the characters."

Just like their characters, it is clear that he and Lawrence – who accompanies him as he speaks to reporters in Los Angeles, and teases him like a brother throughout the interview – have grown close while making these films.

They will reprise the roles again next year and in 2015, when the next two sequels, Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, are released.

However successful these movies are, though, Hutcherson does not want to limit his career to this franchise.

He appeared last year in the science-fiction adventure comedy Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a sleeper hit that made more than US$300mil (RM955mil) worldwide and sparked a romance with co-star and now ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens.

He has also made a yet-to-be released film at the very other end of the spectrum of The Hunger Games: a small European-produced indie called Paradise Lost.

Set in Colombia and filmed on location in Panama, this movie also took him a long way from Kentucky, casting him as a surfer in love with a woman whose uncle turns out to be the famed drug lord Pablo Escobar, played by Benicio Del Toro.

Hutcherson notes, with pride, that he "was one of only three Americans in the whole movie, which I thought was awesome". – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

>The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is currently playing in cinemas nationwide.

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