Shia: Smashed Hand Causes Exit | Did Coldplay Steal Their Big Hit? | Paging Brangelina: Nbr Award Winners Announced | Defiance: 007 as Ramberger

Shia Quits Film Over Smashed Hand

Indiana Jones would probably call him a wuss. Actor Shia LaBeouf has been forced to drop out of a new film because of his smashed hand.

LaBeouf was supposed to star in director Neal Burger’s new feature, "Dark Fields." Burger, the man behind "The Illusionist" and "The Lucky Ones," was supposed to start shooting this fall.

But the shoot was postponed because LaBeouf had smashed his hand in a car accident last July. He had hand surgery, according to reports, and the injury was worked into "Transformers 2," which was held up for a month while LaBeouf recuperated.

Burger had signed him for Dark Fields, in which the 21 year old star of "Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was supposed to play a man who stumbles on a one of a kind smart pill. The screenplay, by Leslie Dixon, is based on a novel by Alan Glynn.

But now I’m told that LaBeouf has withdrawn completely, and the search is on for a new leading man. "Shia’s hand is totally shattered, it’s much worse than anyone thought," says a source, indicating the area around the thumb needs more surgery.

So stay tuned, as all the young actors in Hollywood line up to take Shia’s place.

Did Coldplay Steal Their Big Hit?

Joe Satriani, the famed and respected guitarist, has filed suit again Chris Martin and Coldplay.

The issue: that their soaring, magnificent song, “Viva La Vida,” also the title track from their Grammy-nominated albumof the same name, is plagiarized.

Satriani says a major portion of the song comes from his 2004 instrumental, “If I Could Fly.” The song is on his 10th album, “Is There Love in Space?” Listen to it and decide for yourself. And a You Tuber has already done the comparison work if you’re interested. Yikes!

Frankly, the similarity is shocking. It’s not going to take a musicologist very long to testify on this one. Not only are the two strikingly similar, the melody, the chord structure is surprisingly reminiscent of “Viva La Vida.” Listening to it, you can only wonder why it wasn’t a hit in the first place. That, of course, is another story altogether!

The Coldplay record is credited to all four members of the group. So the question will be, which one of them heard “If I Could Fly” and transposed it over to the group, either by accident or intentionally.

In the meantime, this should pose a dilemma for the Grammy Awards. One listen to that link above by the committee that bestowed nominations on Coldplay and they’re going to be in a bind. Of course, the obvious answer is to let the courts decide the outcome. But right now the Grammys are set up almost as a coronation for Coldplay come February 8th. It’s not good.

Of course, there are other instances of this sort of thing that remain so far out of the courts. As I’ve written before, the family of the late Curtis Mayfield is furious about John Mayer’s hit, “Waiting on the World to Change.” It sounds eerily close to Mayfield’s classic, “People Get Ready.”

So far, Mayfield’s publisher, Warner Chappell, has told the Mayfields they don’t want to get involved. But recently Hall & Oates sued Warner Chappell for not protecting “Maneater” from being lifted for a new song.

Paging Brangelina: NBR Award Winners Announced

The National Board of Review has posted its award winners for 2008, and it’s a wacky list as usual.

The NBR’s safe bet: naming “Slumdog Millionaire” Best Film. It’s going to win the Oscar, and they’ll say they gave it its first award. Fair enough. But then, well, let the good times roll.

For one thing, insiders tell me that NBR director, er, dictator Annie Schulhof “wanted Brad and Angelina” very badly to come to their January 14th soiree. As most industry insiders know, the NBR is all about their party, what big names they can get to come to it, and to get the studios to buy expensive tables for dinner.

They’ve already sent out a call to the studios this afternoon looking for money for their 100th anniversary program book. The centerfold, in color, goes for $7,500; in black and white, $5000. A full page ad is $3,500. The back cover, which they note is reserved for Best Film, is $5,000—so Fox Searchlight had better get out that checkbook now.

The call for money went out with the release of their winners, of course.

They include: the completely strange choice of David Fincher for Best Director, of “Benjamin Button.” The theory is that the NBR will ask Brad Pitt to introduce him, and Brad, a good guy, will do it. “Button” is also on the NBR’s top ten list for the year, and so is “Changeling,” Angelina Jolie’s Clint Eastwood movie that no critic in their right mind would pick for a top 10 list.

But the theory is that Angie will be asked to introduce Clint, whom the NBR has named Best Actor, for “Gran Torino.” They’ve also put “Gran Torino” on the top 10 list to make sure Eastwood, the group’s golden boy, will be there with many tables bought by his two studios, Warner Bros. and Universal. Well done! Luckily, the group’s Jeanine Basinger, who teaches at Wesleyan University, has written extensively about Eastwood, produced a PBS show about him, and brought his archives to her school. The actor told Variety last March: “You just don’t say no to Jeanine Basinger.”

Apparently, not. In 2006, they chose “Letters from Iwo Jima” as their Best Picture.

One person the NBR must not like: producer Scott Rudin. They totally snubbed both “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader.” They ignored Kate Winslet’s two performances, and went for Anne Hathaway’s junkie in “Rachel Getting Married.” Instead, at least of three of their top 10 choices are plain weird: “Burn After Reading,” “Defiance,” and “The Dark Knight.” They also gave a top 10 nod to “Benjamin Button,” although that might have to do with the subject matter of growing young backwards in life.

The group weighed heavily toward the big studios to make sure of dinner ticket sales. Warners, Universal and Paramount did the best. The NBR’s Annie Schulhof, who runs the group like a politburo, has close ties to Warner Bros. Last year the studio scored three of the top 10 including the godawful “Bucket List.” At least they’re consistent!

The rest of the NBR choices are a scattershot through the business to make sure everyone gets something. They threw “Milk” a Best Supporting Actor nod for Josh Brolin, and a top 10 slot, guaranteeing a second Universal table besides the one for “Changeling.” Disney’s “Wall-E” got two awards, to make sure Disney shows up. And so on.

But it’s their list of top 10 “independent films” that really boggles the mind. Two of the ten have never been heard of or seen by anyone. One of them, called “Mr. Foe,” is a Scottish film starring Jamie Bell and listed on the imdb as “Hallam Foe.” It’s grossed $55,000 since its September release. The other one, “In Search of A Midnight Kiss,” is just finishing a run of C-level markets around the country. Go figure. There’s no doubt some connection between these films and NBR members. In time, I’m sure, we’ll hear what it is.

Defiance: 007 As Ramberger

It’s not a great title, but Defiance, the new film by ‘thirtysomething" creator Edward Zwick, is a better than pretty good film based on a true story.

Don’t call it Rambo, but rather, Ramberger. Because Defiance is based on the true story of a group of Jews who hid from the Nazis in the forests of Belarus in the 1940s. It’s one of several movies with Nazis or World War II themes this winter, and certainly the main competitor in that spot with Tom Cruise’s "Valkyrie."

Luckily, "Defiance" has the jump on "Valkyrie" by a couple of weeks. It also has real heroes, a pair of Jewish brothers — played by Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber — who become vigilantes and dissident leaders in order to save thousands who were at the mercy of the Nazis.

So far, Defiance has not had strong buzz. But at a screening last night, we finally got to see it – and were more than impressed. The stereotype Jew in films is nebbishy Woody Allen, who can’t do much beside make reservations and crack wise.

But the men of Defiance are hard core survivors who learn to kill their enemies and defend themselves very quickly. The story is based on a book by Nechama Tec called "Defiance: The True Story of the Bielski Partisans."

Zwick has cleverly directed "Defiance" like an old fashioned war thriller, sort of "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" pushed up against the realities of the German invasions. There are plenty of good explosions, battle scenes as good or better than the ones he staged in "Glory" and "The Last Samurai." And the script is never less than action packed.

The Bielskis are played by Schreiber, Craig, Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliot fame) and 16-year-old George McKay, who looks more like 12. There’s some nice supporting work, too, from Mark Margolis, Mark Feuerstein, and Alan Corduner.

But the movie belongs to the three elder Bielski’s and they don’t disappoint. Craig is significantly more animated and less constipated than in his James Bond outings. Schreiber commands ever scene he’s in, and remains a presence even when he’s off screen. Bell, who’s now just 22, believe it or not, proves he’s not all "tapped" out, but looks like he’s on the verge of a big adult sized career.

"Defiance" may not be one of the top five at the Oscars, but look for it to pull some good sized audiences when it finally debuts on NewYear’s Eve and then goes wide in January.