Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 17 News List

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Moviegoers seeking a bit of seasonal entertainment are being offered blood and terror alongside Santa and his reindeer — much to the horror of US religious groups.

Film studio Dimension Films has remade a cult hit from 1974 about a group of female students being terrorized by a killer during Christmas and is releasing the film, Black Christmas, which hits screens in Taiwan today — tagging it as the "ultimate slay ride."

But religious groups have condemned the timing of the release of the R-rated slasher movie as tasteless and offensive.

"To have a movie that emphasizes murder and mayhem at Christmas, a time of celebration and joy around the world seems to be ill founded," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an organization dedicated to upholding religious freedom and traditional family values.

But Dimension Films was unmoved. In a statement, the company said, "There is a long tradition of releasing horror movies during the holiday season as counter-programming to the more regular yuletide fare. Black Christmas is a remake of a classic 1974 horror movie with a big cult following."

In a storyline as much Brokeback Mountain as Slap Shot, the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs, one of Canada's iconic teams, has lent its name and logo to a movie whose central character is a gay former hockey player.

The move has raised eyebrows within the normally conservative world of professional sports.

In the 89-year history of the NHL — the world's most elite ice hockey league with Canadian and US teams, known for nightly brawls between players — no active player has ever admitted publicly to being a homosexual.

The film, Breakfast With Scot, tells the story of a former Maple Leafs hockey player whose relationship with the team's lawyer is exposed when they become the guardians of a young boy with sexual identity issues of his own.

The movie is based on the 2001 novel by American writer Michael Downing and is produced by Canadian companies Miracle Pictures and Capri Releasing.

What astonished many observers is that the NHL cooperated in getting permission for the film makers to use their official logos and uniforms.

John Lashway, senior vice-president of communications at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Maple Leafs hockey club, said that the team was approached by the NHL and urged to lend their name and logo to the proposal.

"We really didn't want to make a statement about homosexuality one way or another, but we recognize that people have diverse lifestyles," Lashway said.

Movie studio 20th Century Fox will next month auction off more than 200 documents signed by stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando, Daily Variety reported on Wednesday.

Proceeds from the sale, set to take place in New York on Jan. 25 through auctioneer Swann Galleries, will benefit the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charity for Hollywood actors and other employees.

Among the offerings are a 1946 internal memo advising that Norma Jean Dougherty was changing her professional name to Marilyn Monroe; a contract allowing Presley to violate strict grooming codes and wear his hair however he saw fit for Love Me Tender, his 1956 feature film debut; and Brando's 1951 contract for Viva Zapata, which paid him almost US$125,000 for the film, the trade paper said.

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