Sean Penn Slams Haitian Presidential Candidate Wyclef Jean

Tuesday, 10 Aug 2010 05:15 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Sean Penn Slams Haitian Presidential Candidate Wyclef Jean
2. Kate Gosselin to Appear on ‘Sarah Palin's Alaska’
3. Steven Spielberg Snubs Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding
4. Will Ferrell’s Go-to ‘Guys’ Heralds Comeback
5. ‘The Expendables’: Raucous, Retro, and a Really Fun Ride
 

1. Sean Penn Slams Haitian Presidential Candidate Wyclef Jean

Celebrities are increasingly wielding their fame to influence politics.

Wyclef Jean, an internationally known hip-hop artist and sometime partner of Shakira, is now also the front-runner in Haiti's upcoming presidential election.

Born in Haiti and raised in Brooklyn, the former Fugees frontman has risen to become one of the most famous names in his native country and has put forth a detailed plan to rebuild the Haitian economy.

Surprisingly, Jean is getting a bit of criticism from, of all places, Hollywood. It arrived courtesy of Sean Penn – the same Penn who typically has words of praise for Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez.

Penn accused Jean of not spending enough time in Haiti after the earthquake and of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jean’s charity, Yele Haiti.

Speaking on CNN's “Larry King Live,” Penn said he suspects that Jean may be backed by corporate interests and opportunists who want to take advantage of his celebrity. The actor acknowledged he does not know Jean.

“What the Haitian people need now is a leader who is genuinely willing to sacrifice,” Penn said. “And one of the reasons I don't know very much about Wyclef Jean is I haven't seen or heard anything of him in these last six months that I've been in Haiti.”

Penn recommended that Jean's donors receive very close scrutiny, because “this is somebody who is going to receive an enormous amount of his support, if he continues his campaign, from the United States.”

Penn also noted that the country has a history of American interests “coming in and underpaying people – this is a culture of one to two dollars a day that they were making.”

Appearing on CBS’ “The Early Show,” Jean defended himself, saying, “I just want Sean Penn to fully understand I am a Haitian, born in Haiti and I've been coming to my country ever since [I was] a child.”

The singer added, “He might just want to pick up the phone and meet, so he fully understands the man.”

“I have to take what I used to sing about – poverty, hunger, AIDS – and turn it into policy,” Jean said.

Penn didn’t say anything about an item that appeared on the Smoking Gun website. According to documents posted on the site, Jean owes more than $2.1 million in back taxes for 2006, 2007, and 2008. Sounds like a perfect nominee for an Obama Cabinet post.

Hip-hop stars are apparently paid extremely well.

To his credit, Jean promises to pay back the money he owes and put an accounting of his finances online.

Now that’s way over the line.


2. Kate Gosselin to Appear on ‘Sarah Palin's Alaska’

It may seem unusual for a potential presidential candidate to aim for the primetime TV spotlight. But that’s exactly what Sarah Palin has decided to do.

Guess it makes sense because nowadays we’re living through, or in some folks’ opinion suffering through, the reality show age.

Given the volatile relationship between daughter Bristol and Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah’s grandbaby, Palin is perpetually dogged by the press. She gets a lot of exposure as a Fox News contributor as well.

Now, though, Sarah is going where no former veep candidate has gone before. Discovery has announced that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” will premiere on TLC on Nov. 14, 2010.

The show’s debut date was revealed at a Television Critics Association event.

TLC President Eileen O'Neill had the real shocker: Reality queen Kate Gosselin and all eight of her children will appear in the first episode.

The program will reportedly feature lots of fishing and hiking, and maybe even a bit of moose hunting.


3. Steven Spielberg Snubs Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding

Longtime Hollywood film director and Democratic campaign finance source Steven Spielberg was a no-show at Chelsea Clinton’s recent nuptials.

The filmmaker received one of the coveted invitations to the high-profile, multimillion-dollar wedding bash but skipped the affair to spend the day at a British farm with little horsies and piggies.

Spielberg was at a 450-acre farm in Widecombe-in-the-Moor in Dartmoor to scout a location for a future movie, “War Horse.”

The script, reportedly based on a Michael Morpurgo novel, tells the story of a horse that was shipped to France during World War I.

Owner of the farm Philippa Hughes told Britain’s Daily Express, “We showed him around the farm, showed him the views and he met the animals, like our piglets and Dartmoor ponies.”


4. Will Ferrell’s Go-to ‘Guys’ Heralds Comeback

Filmmakers behind last weekend’s number one movie, “Inception,” probably never thought their film would be beaten by Will Ferrell.

After Ferrell’s “Land of the Lost” flop last summer, there was a bit of concern among Hollywood execs about the Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg release, “The Other Guys.”

No worry. It ended up exceeding expectations with a whopping weekend take of $35.6 million, according to studio estimates. It also knocked “Inception” off its first-place perch after a strong three-week run.

Ferrell, a former “Saturday Night Live” star, had his best debut since 2006's “Talladega Nights.”

In some good news for Sony, “The Other Guys” succeeded in drawing a large, predominantly young male audience.

Unfortunately, next week’s news may not be as sunny, as tepid viewer reaction takes its toll. Based on data from exit polling firm CinemaScore, the opening night audience gave the flick a B-minus grade.

Last weekend's second-place film, the Steve Carell comedy “Dinner for Schmucks,” experienced a box-office decline of 55 percent. It had received a grade of B from the market research firm.


5. ‘The Expendables’: Raucous, Retro, and a Really Fun Ride

These days the news can be really depressing. The economy is getting kicked around and our quality of life seems like it’s going in the tank.

Time for a good escapist movie, and luckily a throwback arrives this week that captures the excitement of 1980s action flicks. “The Expendables” is an ensemble project co-written and directed by Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone was able to gather an impressive group of action veterans to join him in the tribute to the genre. The cast includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, and Jet Li, as well as Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Steve Austin.

Stallone recently had some choice comments about his fellow actors. “I thought we had the ugliest group of guys on the planet in one movie. That is what I am so proud of. We all look like horseshoes or catchers’ mitts,” he told Fox News.

Now don’t expect any realistic historical detail, complicated spy stuff or serious drama. This is an unapologetic diversion, one that relishes simple glued-to-the-seat entertainment value.

The movie’s ragtag collection of rowdy dudes make up a team of highly trained mercenaries looking for their next paying gig after taking out a bunch of Somali pirates. Initially they turn down a mission to overthrow the totalitarian dictator of a South American island. But when team leader Stallone meets the dictator’s beautiful rebel daughter (Giselle Itie), money suddenly takes a back seat.

The plot isn’t new, but it is revitalized, thanks to the chemistry of the cast, nostalgia, tongue-in-cheek dialogue and breakneck pace.

You gotta love the names. Stallone is Barney “The Schizo” Ross, a paramilitary veteran. Statham plays Lee Christmas, an expert at close-quarters combat. Li is Yin Yang, a martial arts expert. Lundgren is Gunnar Jensen, a Swedish sniper. Crews is Hale Caesar, a weapons specialist. Couture’s character is Toll Road, a demolitions expert. Rourke is Tool, a former Expendable who is now an arms dealer. Willis plays the team’s employer, Mr. Church, and Schwarzenegger is Trench, Ross’ rival.

Stallone and his casting directors tried to bring in even more action stars. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal were offered roles but declined. The role of Hale Caesar was initially planned for Stallone's “Demolition Man” co-star, Wesley Snipes. The part was later rewritten for Forest Whitaker, who had a scheduling conflict, so it was passed to 50 Cent and then to former NFL player Crews.

The role of Mr. Church was originally offered to Schwarzenegger, who declined in favor of a smaller cameo because of his gubernatorial duties. The participation of the current governor of California actually had an impact on the film's Los Angeles premiere. Out in front of the theater were state workers protesting pay cuts amid the state’s $20 billion worth of red ink.

The role was then offered to Kurt Russell but ended up with Willis, Stallone’s friend and fellow former Planet Hollywood partner.

“The Expendables” has a fun comic book feel, but it also has its share of at-times brutal violence. The high body count rescue that opens the film is the first hint. Still, it’s fast, hard-hitting and versatile, and it has lots and lots of car chases for all to enjoy.

Unfortunately, a few all too typical Hollywood touches have been inserted – the bad guys engage in waterboarding, and a renegade CIA character is involved with the dictator.

For me, the most fun part is seeing so many screen legends “actioning” it up together. Like the scene in which Stallone, Willis and the moonlighting Governator appear. And those where you get to watch Li and Lundgren duke it out, Austin and Couture’s fisticuffs and Stallone and Statham fighting side by side.

Go see “The Expendables” for the fun of it. It won’t let you down.

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