Natalie Portman, Colin Firth to Be Honored at 22nd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala! 

Colin Firth and Natalie Portman will be respectively presented the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Actor and Actress at the 22nd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. The Awards Gala will kick off the 2011 awards season on Saturday, January 8 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

This award is very fitting for both actors. Firth is receiving major Oscar buzz for his performance as King George VI in "The King's Speech," and Portman for Darren Aronofsky's "The Black Swan."

I'm excited for these two actors, and I'm excited for the Film fest. I'm a Palm Springs resident so this is good news! Here's the complete press release:

The 22nd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Colin Firth and Natalie Portman with the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Actor and Actress, respectively. Presented by Cartier, the Awards Gala will kick off the 2011 awards season on Saturday, January 8 at the Palm Springs Convention Center and will be hosted by “Entertainment Tonight’s” Mary Hart. Firth and Portman will join previously announced honorees Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence and Carey Mulligan. The Festival runs January 6-17.

“We are honoring two of the finest actors to grace the screen, both of whom deliver Oscar-quality performances in their most recent films,” said Palm Springs International Film Festival chairman Harold Matzner. “Colin Firth brings a regal versatility to each of his roles, but his portrayal of King George VI in his latest film, The King’s Speech is extraordinary. Natalie Portman, who started dancing at age four and acting at age 11, tests the full range of her significant talent with a powerhouse performance as the obsessed ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.”

Colin Firth will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Actor Award. Firth will next be seen starring in the feature film The King’s Speech as King George VI, father of the current Queen Elizabeth II, who reluctantly assumes the throne after his brother, Edward VIII, abdicates. King George VI struggles to overcome a nervous stammer with the help of a speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush. The King’s Speech will be released by The Weinstein Company later this month.

Firth won the BAFTA Award in 2010 for his performance in Tom Ford’s A Single Man, which also earned him nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award. He received international critical acclaim for his starring role as George Falconer in the film, based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel, including being honored with the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 2009 Venice Film Festival and Performance of the Year Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, as well as the London Critics Circle Film Award for British Actor of the Year.

Firth is currently in production on Working Title’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In). The ensemble includes Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch. His other film credits include Genova, Mamma Mia!, Then She Found Me, When Did You Last See Your Father?, Easy Virtue, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Love Actually, The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare in Love, The English Patient, Where the Truth Lies, Trauma, Nanny McPhee, Apartment Zero, My Life So Far, Fever Pitch, Circle of Friends, and Valmont. Firth is an international ambassador for Oxfam.

Past honorees of the Desert Palm Achievement Actor Award include Jeff Bridges, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, Jake Gyllenhaal, Liam Neeson, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and James Stewart.

Natalie Portman will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Actress Award. Portman will next be seen starring in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, a supernatural thriller that centers on a veteran ballerina who finds herself locked in a competitive situation with a rival dancer, with the stakes increasing as the dancers approach a big performance. Fox Searchlight will release the film this December.

Portman made her debut in Luc Besson’s The Professional in 1994. She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Mike Nichol’s Closer. She has starred in over 25 films, including Heat, Beautiful Girls, Everyone Says I Love You, Mars Attacks!, Anywhere But Here (Golden Globe nomination), Where the Heart Is, Cold Mountain, Garden State, Free Zone, V for Vendetta, Paris je t’aime, Goya’s Ghosts, My Blueberry Nights, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, The Other Boleyn Girl, New York, I Love You and Brothers. She also starred in three of the Star Wars films: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

Portman’s upcoming projects include Ivan Reitman’s untitled romantic comedy, starring opposite Ashton Kutcher, slated for release by Paramount on January 21; David Gordon Green’s Your Highness, co-starring Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel, slated for release by Universal Pictures on April 8; and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, slated for release by Paramount on May 20, 2011.

Past recipients of the Desert Palm Achievement Award include Anne Hathaway, Halle Berry, Marion Cotillard, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet.

About The Palm Springs International Film Festival

The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, welcoming 130,000 attendees each year for a lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The Festival is also known for its annual Black Tie Awards Gala, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who in recent years have included Clint Eastwood, Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ron Howard, Anne Hathaway, Jeff Bridges, Danny Elfman and many others.

The Festival’s 22nd Annual Awards Gala is presented by Cartier and sponsored by Mercedes Benz and Entertainment Tonight. Renewing sponsors of this year’s Festival are Title Sponsor The City of Palm Springs and Presenting Sponsors The Desert Sun, the City of Indian Wells, Spencer’s Restaurant and KPSP Local 2. Major Sponsors include Bank of America, Penfolds, Regal Entertainment, Diageo, Desert Regional Medical Center, Integrated Wealth Management, Wessman Development, Guthy-Renker, Wells Fargo, Chihuly Art Glass, and Ocean Properties Development.

For more information, call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or visit

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More "Muppet" Cameos Announced! 

Signaling that this could be the greatest Muppet movie ever made, Disney has added more high-profile cameos. The Hollywood Reporter told us that "Alan Arkin, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Zach Galifianakis and Jean-Claude Van Damme are being recruited to make guest appearances in the new feature, currently shooting around Los Angeles under the direction of James Bobin."

These actors will be joining Jason Segel, whose passion for Muppets was very evident in his narrative arch in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Segel will be playing a human who helps reunite the Muppets so they could put on a show to save a movie studio.

Segel co-wrote the script with his "Sarah Marshall" director, Nicholas Stoller. Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones are also among the human actors. Adams will play Segel's girlfriend while Cooper is the Big Bad. He hates Muppets and he wants to buy the studio so he can dig for oil. Meanwhile, Jones will star as an ABC executive.

Last week we told you that Jack Black, Donald Glover (Community), Jane Lynch (Glee), Danny Trejo (Machete), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), John Krasinski (The Office), Ed Helms (The Hangover), Lady Gaga (yes Lady Gaga!), and Paul Rudd were joining the cast.

BUT so far, Lynch denied being part of the cast.

Here's what we know -- Arkin will play a tour guide, Black will star as a kidnap victim, and Galifianakis will play a hobo.

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So Many Animated Films But Only Three Slots for 2010 Oscar Race! 

What's your favorite animated film of 2010 so far? I have many but among the 15 films being considered, I'm going for Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3," Disney's "Tangled," and DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon." And I'm going out on a limb here by predicting "Dragon" will win! Why? Because Pixar has won, so many already, and "Toy Story 3," as much as I adore that film, wasn't really an original. That leaves us with the breathtakingly original "Dragon." Yay!

Here are the 15 features that have been accepted for consideration in the Animated Feature Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards:

* “Alpha and Omega”
* “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”
* “Despicable Me”
* “The Dreams of Jinsha”
* “How to Train Your Dragon”
* “Idiots and Angels”
* “The Illusionist”
* “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”
* “Megamind”
* “My Dog Tulip”
* “Shrek Forever After”
* “Summer Wars”
* “Tangled”
* “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”
* “Toy Story 3”

So why only 3 nominees? According to the Academy's rules for this category, if there are 8 to 15 animated features, a maximum of 3 motion pictures may be nominated. If 16 or more, then a maximum of 5 may be nominated. Last year, 20 films qualified so there were five movies nominated.

And remember how the unheard wonder "The Secret of Kells" sneaked past other contenders to be a final nominee last year? Don't be surprised if some of the unheard wonders this year get nominated such as the indie "Idiots and Angels," the Chinese-produced "The Dreams of Jinsha," the Japanese-produced "Summer Wars," and the great French flick "The Illusionist" inspired by the great French comic Jacques Tati.

Oh, and films submitted in the Animated category may also qualify for other categories including Best Picture.

We have to wait until January 25 to see the full nominations of the 83rd Academy Awards. The Oscars will be presented on Sunday, February 27.

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Sorry Denzel, "Megamind" is Bigger Than You! DreamWorks Animation Flick Remains No. 1 Movie in America! 

Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott were no match for Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt! "Unstoppable," starring Washington and directed by Scott, failed to unseat "Megamind" from the top position.

The DreamWorks Animation 3-D adventure continued to dominate the box-office remaining at No. 1 with $30 million in its second week in theaters. So far, the film featuring the voice of Ferrell, Pitt, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill has made $90 million total. (Check out my movie review of "Megamind" right here)

Washington's "Unstoppable" debuted at No. 2. The stop-the-train action drama starring Washington and Chris Pine opened with $23.5 million.

Previous weekend's No. 2 film, "Due Date," must settle to the No. 3 position with $15.5 million. The cross-country road trip flick starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis has made $59 million in two weeks. (Check out my movie review of "Due Date" right here)

"Skyline," the sci-fi thriller that Universal refused to show in advance to critics, debuted at the No. 4 spot with $11.7 million. Another new movie, Paramount's "Morning Glory" debuted at No. 5. The dramedy set in a network morning show starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, and Diane Keaton opened with $9.6 million. (Check out my "Morning Glory" review right here)

Here's the estimated Top 10 Box Office Films for weekend of Nov. 12th:

1. "Megamind," $30 million.

2. "Unstoppable," $23.5 million.

3. "Due Date," $15.5 million.

4. "Skyline," 11.7 million.

5. "Morning Glory," $9.6 million.

6. "For Colored Girls," $6.75 million.

7. "Red," $5.1 million.

8. "Paranormal Activity 2," $3 million.

9. "Saw 3-D," $2.75 million.

10. "Jackass 3-D," $2.3 million.

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For My Filipino Peeps! Back-to-Back Movie Reviews of "Noy" and "Sa 'Yo Lamang" 

For my segments shown in Balitang America every Friday on The Filipino Channel, I made special movie reviews for "Noy" and "Sa 'Yo Lamang."

First, let's talk about "Noy." It's the Philippines entry for the Best Foreign Language Film competition at the Academy Awards. Will this Filipino independent film make the short list? One thing is for sure, Coco Martin heads an impressive ensemble cast. Take a look at my review:

Now, let's talk about "Sa 'Yo Lamang" starring Lorna Tolentino, Christopher de Leon, and once again, Coco Martin. It's directed by the award-winning Laurice Guillen ("Tanging Yaman") and it is Star Cinema's offering for its 17th year anniversary. Did I enjoy the film? Take a look:

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