Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Robin Thicke Directs and Stars in Short Film 'Mercy' (Exclusive)

Robin Thicke is heading behind the camera.

The "Blurred Lines" singer wrote, directed and stars in the short film Mercy, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.

Thicke's wife Paula Patton (Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, Precious), Robert Patrick (Walk the Line, Gangster Squad) and Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) also star in the film.

Based on true events, Mercy follows Tom (Thicke), a family-focused limo driver, and his wife, Cynthia (Patton), a woman who is plagued by alcohol and drug addiction. Patrick plays Randall Cross, a man full of regrets who cannot sit idly by as he is on the verge of losing his home after his wife succumbs to cancer. Stenberg plays Tom and Cynthia's daughter, a talented violinist and former student of Randall's dying wife.

Mercy was filmed in Los Angeles earlier this year and was produced by Jump Films' Mick Partridge, with Thicke and Jordan Feldstein executive producing.

Thicke, who was part of a controversial MTV Video Music Awards performance with Miley Cyrus, is no stranger to the worlds of TV and film (his father is actor Alan Thicke). He next stars in the indie Abby in the Summer with Jaime Pressly and appeared in BET's satirical comedy Real Husbands of Hollywood. He also served as an adviser on the third season of NBC's The Voice and was a judge on ABC's singing competition Duets.

A North American tour in support of Thicke's sixth studio album, Blurred Lines, begins Feb. 21, 2014. Thicke will perform at the Grammy nominations concert Dec. 6 and will be a headliner on the first Jingle Ball U.S. tour, which kicks off Dec. 2.

Thicke is repped by CAA and Career Artist Management.

Twitter: @insidethetube

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Sanctions relief would be proportionate to Iran nuclear steps: U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Iran disagree on what sanctions relief, if any, might be provided if Iran takes steps to curtail its atomic program, and any easing would be proportionate to Iran's actions, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also said the Obama administration has not yet decided whether to urge the U.S. Congress to refrain from imposing additional sanctions on Iran - a request it made ahead of this week's talks on the issue.

Six major powers and Iran wrapped up talks in Geneva about the Iranian nuclear program on Wednesday and diplomats said Iran appears ready to scale back activity that could be useful in the development of nuclear bombs, suggesting Tehran is willing to compromise in return for relief from harsh economic sanctions.

Details of Iran's proposals, presented in two days of talks with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, have not been released and Western officials were unsure if Iran was ready to go far enough to reach a breakthrough deal.

In a clear sign of hope, however, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was agreed to hold the next round of negotiations in three weeks in Geneva, and Iran's chief negotiator praised this week's meetings as "fruitful."

"There remain differences (about) what sanctions relief might be appropriate," Psaki said at her daily briefing in Washington. "Anything we would do would be proportionate" to Iran's steps on curbing its nuclear program, she added.

As with a U.S. official who briefed reporters in Geneva, Psaki struck a somewhat upbeat tone.

"We have never had detailed technical discussions at this level before," she said, adding that the Iranian delegation had laid out "what they might do as a first step, and also, what should be in a final step." She provided no details on these steps.

Psaki said technical experts from Iran and the major powers will meet before the November 7-8 talks but did not say when or where.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Adidas unveils $399 fitness smartwatch with GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring

Yesterday was Nike's day in the spotlight, but today Adidas is officially joining its rival in the wearable devices category. The company has announced its own smartwatch, which it says will appeal to runners thanks to built-in GPS tracking, Bluetooth connectivity, and pulse-based heart rate tracking — a feature that FuelBand users have long clamored for. Speaking at the GigaOM Mobilize conference, Adidas VP Paul Gaudio said that the watch will be able to offer tailored heart rate training, even sending out audio coaching to any Bluetooth headphones that are connected to the device.

But if you were hoping for a smartphone app or a community matching that of Nike+, you may be underwhelmed with what Adidas is offering. The $399 watch reportedly doesn't communicate with or forward notifications to your smartphone, nor can users stream music from their mobile device. Instead, the Adidas smartwatch is a standalone device that includes onboard flash storage to house your running mix. It's slated to go on sale November 1st, but at $250 more than both the Pebble smartwatch and Nike's just-unveiled FuelBand SE, it may be a tough sell for fitness-minded consumers. But if heart rate training is crucial to your workout regimen, Nike's latest won't do the trick anyway. ""We’re not trying to make a smartwatch, per se, but the smartest running watch," Gaudio said.

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gamesGRABR Launches Equity Funding Campaign To Be ‘Pinterest For Games'

You’ve seen “Pinterest for X” style startups before I’m sure. Well, gamesGRABR is a new style “social network for gaming” which is aiming to become a sort of ‘Pinterest you games’. But before you turn away, take a look, as this is more than just an interface, it allows the user to curate games collections, discover, engage, play and share them with other users, on any gaming platform. Today it’s launched an equity crowdfunding campaign, to raise £150,000 for startup capital.

Led by serial gaming entrepreneur Tony Pearce, the campaign aims to raise interested investors for equity in parent company TeePee Games. Funding will be supplemented by an additional £200,000 raised by Pearce and his team from existing investors. The company closed a seed funding round of £250,000 in March 2013, used to develop and launch the site as it is today.

He tells me: “I suppose Pinterest could be a competitor but no gamers would be seen dead on Pinterest. We are still the only company to focus 100% on games in a pinboard style UI with social and cross platform discovery and recommendations. Other gaming sites such as Playfire you can see what your friends are playing but just on console games.”

Since a beta launched in June it’s been gaining traction and claims to have hit 100,000 uniques, continual growth and an average of 35% returning. The platform has over 50,000 games across all platforms and new features such as platform and genre filtering, the ability to play, buy or download any game in one click plus more social integration.

It’s also interesting that they chose Crowdcube which is essentially a much quicker way to raise equity funding – assuming they make it of course.

Pearce has in the past raised over £15m in VC funding, starting 3 companies with 2 successful exits. He co-founded Player X, Europe’s largest mobile games distribution company in Europe that was acquired by Spanish mobile content company Zed in April 2009.

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'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' finds humor in humanity


18 hours ago

The cast of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine:"  L-R: Stephanie Beatriz, Joe Lo Truglio, Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg, Melissa Fumero,Terry Crews and Chelsea Peretti.

Fox Broadcasting Co.

"I grew up around a ton of cultures and ethnicities and sexual preferences in Berkeley," says "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" star Andy Samberg. "To have that be the tone of the show is very comfortable for me, and I'm very happy that people have taken note and said it's a big deal in that it's not treated like a big deal."

Andy Samberg’s “Brooklyn Nine Nine” character, Detective Jake Peralta is seated at his desk at the police precinct, head in hands and hung over when he receives an antidote from fellow detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), one handed down by her grandfather: a glass of raw egg yolks. “You look like the corpse we just pulled out of the river,” says their commander, Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), as he walks in. Jake plays it off by claiming the drink is part of his fitness routine.

“You should drink it all,” Holt deadpans and pauses. “For your guns.”

It’s an amusing line the way the Emmy-winning Braugher dryly delivers it during a recent taping on the show's Los Angeles set. Samberg is inspired to improvise different endings that involve consuming the drink, insulting Santiago’s grandfather and trying to one-up Braugher. Soon, both actors are cracking up.

The exercise proves that Fox’s new comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” isn’t going for edge. “Parks and Recreation” producing team Dan Goor and Mike Schur have teamed up again to create a throwback workplace comedy that features daily life in a Brooklyn precinct without a laugh track a la “The Big Bang Theory” or a fake documentary crew like “Parks.”

But the show is quietly breaking ground (it has yet to crack five million viewers) with one of the most ethnically diverse casts on broadcast television. Samberg’s star detective is a goofball but skilled investigator whose two bosses are black men—one of whom is gay—and two of his detective peers are Latinas. In the same way that ensemble dramas like “ER,” “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” paved the way for multiculturalism without tokenism, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” defies stereotypical comedic expectations and finds the humor in humanity—not skin color or ethnic background or sexual preference.

“The worst kind of comedy, the worst kind of stand-up to me is when they talk about what you’re looking at—‘I’m Jewish’ or ‘I’m wearing glasses,” Samberg said. “You want to hear jokes about life and things you can relate to. I don’t think this show will ever go out of its way to make comments in that regard.”

Instead, the laughs are found in how the stoic and hard-to-read new commander Holt reacts to Peralta’s antics or how badly Santiago wants to beat Peralta’s closure rate—not where they come from or who they sleep with. Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is in love with hard-to-get detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), a tough cookie who doesn’t speak with an accent or acts particularly sassy. Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) is a hulk of a man who has become petrified of fighting crime since he became a father of twin girls; office secretary Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) is just plain insane.

“I was working on this thing for a month before I realized that there’s two black guys running the precinct—and I work on the show!” said Crews during an interview with NBCNews in his dressing room. “I didn’t even think about that, which is so cool because, oh my God, we have all been there. I’ve turned down a lot of stuff where the message was ‘We’re going to be diverse!’ Give me a break. We’re in Brooklyn. If you don’t make it diverse, it looks funny. We are what ‘Friends’ should have been.”

During an interview in the set’s evidence room, Beatriz, who played Sofia Vergara’s character’s sister on “Modern Family” earlier this year, teared up as she described what it means to her to play a Latina whose ethnicity is not the butt of the jokes or the essence of her character.

“I remember as a kid watching TV and looking for myself and not being able to find myself very often,” she said. “There were very few shows I could see myself. I get a little emotional about it because it’s very important. Back in the day, people would go to theater to watch the human story. Now we’re watching it from our houses; to know that there are people who are watching it who can see themselves is a good feeling. I don’t talk about being Latina every day. I also don’t talk about what kind of deodorant I use. It’s something that happens or is a part of me. And it’s the same on the show. It’s almost monumental in its normalcy.”

The producers and casting director Allison Jones assembled the cast of veterans and fresh faces by staying open-minded during auditions. Once Samberg was cast in the lead role, Goor said his team went about making the Brooklyn precinct as realistic as possible without committing any characters to certain backgrounds or ethnicities. “Parks,” which is set in a small Indiana town, also boasts a multi-ethnic cast that includes Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones, Retta, and Aziz Ansari alongside star Amy Poehler.

“Our feeling was not calling attention to their ethnicities and not calling attention too much to Captain Holt being gay,’ Goor said. “We just feel like in real life you’re in a workplace and the Latina lady is not referencing the barrio. She’s a person, just like you’re a person. To a certain extent, it’s just writing toward reality.”

For example, Beatriz auditioned for the role of “Megan.” When the producers decided they wanted to hire her, they renamed her “Rosa.” That the two top officers in the precinct turned out to be black men, Goor said, was a function of wanting to work with Crews from the outset and being pleasantly surprised that Braugher, who is known for his dramatic heft, wanted to test his comedy chops. The role of the commander was always written as gay because the writers wanted the new leader to be a hard-working, ambitious policeman who had been held back because he had come out of the closet in the 80s.

“I’m not playing a gay police captain,” Braugher of his first comedic television role. “I’m playing a police captain who happens to be gay. The distinction is large in my mind. The gay police captain is eventually going to be wearing hot pants and singing ‘YMCA.’ The police captain who happens to be gay is going to be a huge collection of personality characteristics and motivations. I’ll get a husband one of these days but he’ll be my sweetheart as opposed to that man candy we bring in for stunt casting.”

In that same way, detective Boyle (Lo Truglio) is trying to win Rosa’s heart without any mamacita jokes or “spicy” references. “I love that these are traits that don’t define the characters,” the former “Reno 911” star said in an interview. “They shouldn’t. The reality of a police precinct in Brooklyn today is what you see here.”

Braugher jokes that he was lost in the “woods of drama” when “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” found him and won him over with its realistic treatment of diversity. “Broadcast TV is very conservative and they’re always concerned about reflecting the audience’s prejudices rather than reflecting the world as it is. When you’re going into people’s homes, there’s a big pressure to be lovable and acceptable. But life is made up of all these juicy parts. I’m not necessarily a fan of that kind of conservatism. I would like to start by holding a mirror up to life. And this is a show that does that.”

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JDS on Boxing the Klitschkos: “I Can Beat Them”

If you’ve ever participated or listened in on a ”best boxing in MMA’ discussion, chances are you’ve heard names like Frankie Edgar, BJ Penn, Nick Diaz and Junior dos Santos dropped. As after all, they, and several others, have buzzed audiences on more than one occasion with their fists. When it comes to the heavyweight division, however, dos Santos is consistently named as one of the sport’s top pugilists, and for obvious reasons. Not only is dos Santos gifted in terms of his agility and footwork, but he also possesses fearsome power.

Well, while appearing on the latest edition of “The MMA Hour” to promote his UFC 166 fight this Saturday with Cain Velaquez, JDS relayed he’d like to step into the boxing ring. Not only that, but “Cigano” apparently believes he can hang and then some with renowned heavyweight boxers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. Here is what the former UFC champ had to say about the subject.

“I’ve said that sometimes,” dos Santos said while discussing his desire to box. “I’m a boxing guy. I love to box with my training partners and everything but now everybody is saying this, everybody wants to fight with boxing guys. It’s become not sincere. When I say that, I’m sincere.”

“I think if they give me four months to get prepared, I can beat them,” JDS said while referring to the Klitschkos. “In the beginning of my all my camps, I do just boxing. I love to train boxing and I think I have enough skills in boxing. I know how to see a good fight. Four months, that’s what I need.”

So could this ever happen? Never say never, but chances are Junior’s MMA career is going to occupy much of his time in the foreseeable future. He did add that he’s discussed the possibility with UFC President Dana White, but that it wasn’t a serious discussion.

For now, it will be interesting to how much “Cigano’s” boxing skills come into play this Saturday in Houston. Stay tuned to MMA for all your UFC news and coverage.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Amazon Has Reportedly Teamed Up With HTC For Its New Line Of Smartphones

HTC isn’t exactly doing  great these days, but that may change if a new (and secretive) partnership pans out. A new report from the Financial Times alleges that HTC has partnered with none other than Amazon on a handful of devices that could make their way to the e-tailer’s virtual shelves as soon as next year.

That is, if they make it to market it at all. The FT points out that the launch timeline for one of those smartphones has always been mucked around with once, and there’s no guarantee that Amazon will ever sell the thing.

If true though, this could be a huge huge deal for the Taiwanese phone maker. Putting strange choices like the recently revealed One Max aside, there’s little question that HTC is capable of putting together some top-notch hardware. And to hear the company tell it, a lot of its problems stem from consumer perception — the HTC brand isn’t nearly as prominent or memorable as Apple’s or Samsung’s, an issue the company has tried to turn around with the launch of an expensive marketing campaign featuring Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.

And for what it’s worth, it wouldn’t be the first time that HTC has entered into a curious, potentially game-changing partnership. The Taiwanese company linked up with Google in 2008 to product the very first publicly available Android device, and that relationship also saw HTC push out the inaugural Nexus smartphone some two years later. Then more recently there was the tie-up with Facebook which ultimately yielded the HTC First, the first (and so far only) device to ship pre-loaded with the social networking giant’s Facebook Home interface. In fact, the company’s seeming eagerness to ink these sorts of deals almost seems like a trait encoded in the company’s DNA considering its humble origins as a maker of white-label gadgets that other companies could slap their livery all over.

The notion of an Amazon smartphone is one that’s been floating around for years now too, though the report is bolstered by recent leaks that indicate that more than one device is currently under development. According to earlier reports, the company was at least considering acquiring RIM in late 2011 in a move that would ostensibly provide the online retail titan with the development know-how and IP portfolio to have a spirited go at cracking the crowded smartphone market. As I noted some years ago though, an Amazon smartphone needs to have a hook to help bring customers on-board, and the company is in a better position than ever to do just that.

Its very brand is going to be enough to induce some people to dive in, as are the potential price tags — this line of devices is expected to run the pricing gamut just as the current line of Kindle Fire tablets do. And then there are the seemingly little things. Imagine if Mayday, the video-call-in-distress feature that debuted on the Kindle Fire HDX wound up on a phone. Since Amazon isn’t likely to flood carrier supply channels with these its phones, the notion of an on-demand assistant to help with initial setup and subsequent problems would be a staggering benefit for people itching for a friendlier sort of smartphone. Throw in a reported “3D” interface that responds to user head movements and we have the makings of a device (or devices) that could really make some waves.

At this point it’s starting to seem like all the pieces are finally coming together to make a series of Amazon phones happen, and it’s not hard to see how both Amazon and HTC could benefit. And this could be just what HTC needs to turn things around, so it had better Hope To Christ (or, you know, whatever deity whose newsletter they subscribe to) that this deal turns out fruitful.


April 4, 2002, TPE:2498

HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Phone 8 operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in late 2006, the company has introduced hundreds of HTC-branded products around the world. Its current flagship product is the Android-running HTC One. Founded in 1997 by Cher Wang, Chairwoman, and H T Cho - former CEO who is a chairman now, HTC made its name as the company behind many...

→ Learn more, Inc. (AMZN), is a leading global Internet company and one of the most trafficked Internet retail destinations worldwide. Amazon is one of the first companies to sell products deep into the long tail by housing them in numerous warehouses and distributing products from many partner companies. Amazon directly sells or acts as a platform for the sale of a broad range of products. These include books, music, videos, consumer electronics, clothing and household products. The majority of Amazon’s...

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