Madonna to help African children affected by AIDS
Mphandula, Malawi - The village headman here has never heard of Madonna, the pop star. But he knows Madonna the philanthropist.
Madonna has announced plans to raise at least $3 million for programs to support the nearly 1 million children in Malawi who have lost parents to AIDS. Mphandula's headman, who bears the same name as his village, said Thursday he was contacted last month by organizers and told some of the money will build a feeding and education center for orphans in this village, 30 miles from the capital.
"The orphanage project is about serving humanity. It will mean so much to us. We can only ask God to bless this person for her kindness," he said.
Malawi is among the poorest countries in the world, hit by years of drought and an AIDS epidemic. According to the National AIDS Commission, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has left close to 1 million orphans in this southern African country.
Madonna is expected to visit in October. She joins a growing list of entertainer-activists who have focused their attention on Africa, including Bono, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney.
The 47-year-old singer outlined her plans in an interview with Time magazine to be published Monday.
Most of the farmers of Mphandula, where Madonna's orphan center is planned, live in mud-and-thatch huts, wear shoes only on special occasions and rarely can afford to eat meat. The village has no electricity, and only a few households have radios.
James Cameron movie to have New Zealand effects
Wellington, New Zealand - A new movie from Hollywood director James Cameron - the sci-fi epic "Avatar" - will feature the magic of New Zealand's visual effects studio Weta Digital.
The studio will produce computer-generated visual effects for Cameron's $200 million movie, set for release in 2008, the Dominion Post newspaper reported Friday.
"Avatar" is about a war veteran fighting aliens on another planet, and visual effects will dominate the film, Cameron has said.
Among the techniques to be used is one refined by the studio known as "performance capture animation" in which an actor's movements form the basis for a computer-generated character.
The technique was used to create the creature Gollum in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the giant ape Kong in "King Kong." Weta Digital is owned by Jackson and special effects duo Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk.
Studio spokesman Joe Letteri told the newspaper that "Avatar" would also require the development of new techniques. He did not specify what they would involve.
Jackie Chan wants to continue to be role model
Manila, Philippines - Jackie Chan says he doesn't want to promote violence and sex in his movies because he wants to continue serving as a role model for children.
"I have a lot of action but no violence. I have a lot of comedy but it's not dirty comedy," the 52-year-old actor told reporters Friday during a visit to Manila, where he signed a franchise agreement for his coffee-shop chain - Jackie Chan's Java Coffee.
Chan also said he doesn't want profanity in his dialogue, and had to persuade Brett Ratner, his "Rush Hour" director, to remove offending words from the script.
"I never say (the) 'F' word," said Chan, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. "I have to be very careful because I'm a role model for many young children."
A statement issued by Chan's group said his company was in discussion with investors to set up coffee shops in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, with Manila holding the first franchise.
Acting teacher to the stars honored on Walk of Fame
Los Angeles - Family and former students of Stella Adler gathered in front of the her namesake theater as the actress and acting teacher was honored with a posthumous star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Adler started acting at age 4. In 1949, she founded a school now known as the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Her student list reads like a who's who of Hollywood: Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Candice Bergen, Warren Beatty and Benicio Del Toro, among others. She died in 1992.
"I owe way too much to Stella Adler," Del Toro said Friday at the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard. "One of the things I owe her for is the seriousness and intensity to how she approached acting."
Another former student, actor Mark Ruffalo, said he "could barely put two sentences together" when he started studying with Adler.
"The fact that I'm here is a testimony to Stella," he said.
The Stella Adler Theatre celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.
Leno fills in for Ebert
Chicago - Jay Leno's thumbs are about to get a workout.
"The Tonight Show" host is filling in as a guest critic on the movie review show "Ebert & Roeper" while regular co-host Roger Ebert recuperates from cancer surgery.
Leno's appearance with Richard Roeper will air nationally Saturday and Sunday. He will be the first of at least two guest hosts - director Kevin Smith is slated to host in a show airing Aug. 12-13. "This promises to be a special experience," Roeper said in a statement. "He's (Leno) been a great friend to our program over the years, and it's a real privilege to have him join me across the aisle."
Ebert, 64, is at a Chicago hospital, where he's in good condition "and improving each day" from surgery last month to repair complications from a previous cancer surgery, the show said in a statement.
This week's episode of "Ebert & Roeper" was taped in Los Angeles to accommodate Leno's schedule.