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LOS ANGELES, July 26, 2018 (News Wires) — HBO will debut the final season of its international hit Game of Thrones in the first half of next year and it aims to start production on a prequel in 2019, a network executive said Wednesday.

Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, speaking at a Television Critics Association event, declined to provide details on the eighth and final Game of Thrones season or to provide a more specific premiere date.

The Emmy-winning medieval fantasy series is HBO’s biggest hit ever with some 30 million viewers in the United States and an army of devoted fans worldwide.

HBO, a unit of AT&T Inc, also is in the process of searching for a director and cast for a Game of Thrones prequel, Bloys said in response to questions. He said he hopes the prequel pilot will begin filming next year.

The network announced in June that it had ordered the pilot and would proceed with a full series if the pilot goes well.

The as yet untitled prequel will take place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones. It was created by British screenwriter Jane Goldman with author George R.R. Martin, whose novel series A Song of Ice and Fire is the basis for the Game of Thrones television series.

It will chronicle “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour,” and look at the secrets of the history of the warring families in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, the network has said.

HBO considered five different scripts before settling on the approach for the prequel.

“The reason we did multiple scripts is out of five, we’d be lucky to get one we are very excited about,” Bloys said.

The remaining four scripts are either dead or still in the works, he said.

LOS ANGELES, July 24, 2018 (News Wires) — The sun is out, the oceans are warmer, and sharks are out in force on television and in the movies.

More than 40 years after Jaws sank its teeth into popular culture, sharks remain one of summer’s biggest attractions on the big and small screen, despite concerns by marine scientists that some programming harms efforts to protect a dwindling population.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” kicked off on Monday featuring celebrity encounters with the animals, a “SharkCam” which captures their lives in the Bahamas, and a scientific trip to waters off Cuba where some of the world’s biggest great whites have been sighted.

“There is something about it being summer vacation. A lot of people are going to spend some amount of time on the beach, and ‘Shark Week’ just connects,” said Nancy Daniels, head of Discovery Channel.

“Shark Week” is one of Discovery’s biggest successes, attracting a US audience last year of more than 35 million viewers.

The mix of information, entertainment and scientific research can be a tough balance, but Daniels said “Shark Week” starts from a place of wonder.

“We have really tried to partner with the scientific community to make sure it’s not just a scare fest but is actually teaching the public about these animals so they can learn more and respect their behaviour,” Daniels said.

“Shark Week” has inspired rivals, like National Geographic’s current two-week “SharkFest” with documentaries such as Mayhem in Mexico and The Whale That Ate Jaws.

Syfy channel weighs in next month with the sixth instalment of the cult film Sharknado, a disaster-comedy about a cyclone that lifts man-eating sharks out of the ocean and dumps them in suburban Los Angeles.

In August, movie The Meg seeks to rival Jaws with its tale of a 70ft long Megalodon shark that reappears off an American beach after being thought extinct for millions of years.

Marine biologists note that of the 400 shark species in the world, none see humans as their preferred food. Their main job as predators is to keep ocean populations healthy by weeding out the sick or unfit.

“The portrayal of sharks in certain media has probably added to the myth of sharks as a dangerous killer,” said Hans Walters, a field scientist at the New York Aquarium.

“If you have ever swam in the ocean you have most probably swam with sharks. The really interesting thing to me about shark attacks is not how often they occur, it’s how often they don’t occur,” Walters said.

The world’s shark population is plummeting, with estimates of 100 million lost every year to fishing, often just for their fins, or from becoming entangled in nets.

Despite public fascination with shark attacks, marine biologist Luke Tipple hopes that shows like “Shark Week” spread the message that they need protecting.

“It also inspires people to get out and go see sharks for themselves, or maybe to be marine biologists or scientists, or to contribute to conservation,” Tipple said.

BEIJING, July 18, 2018 (Reuters) - A low-budget Chinese movie about a leukemia patient who turns to smuggling cheaper cancer drugs from India has struck a chord with Internet users and even the country’s leaders, spotlighting national anxieties about unaffordable hospital care.

For years, China has promised healthcare reforms to dispel concerns about overpriced medicines and widen distribution of resources that tend to focus care in big inner-city hospitals, but progress has been slow.

“Dying to Survive”, which is loosely based on the real-life exploits of a cancer patient jailed for leading a Dallas Buyers Club-style group that illegally imported drugs, raked in $390 million in its two-week run, box office tracker EntGroup said.

Internet users welcomed how the film, one of the year’s top-grossers, tackled a flashpoint social issue head-on, a rarity in strictly censored China, with some saying the film-makers struck a careful tone to steer clear of censors.

The film directly hits “a social wound” about not being able to get hospital treatment, said Gao Wei, an industry expert at the China Centre for Globalisation.

“As a film that criticises what is actually happening, it could only become popular because it got the level of criticism right to pass China’s censors.”

China has a universal medical insurance program for the bulk of its population, although coverage remains thin and highly focused on basic medical care.

The film has sparked heated debate about the cost of medical care, with patients struggling for access to drugs to treat serious diseases, and often paying from their own resources.

Beijing has been trying to force down the cost of drugs, especially those used to treat cancer, by cutting import tariffs, negotiating steep price cuts with global pharmaceutical firms and putting more medicines on its reimbursement list.

New drug approvals also lag far behind developed markets such as the United States, which has long forced patients to look overseas via gray markets to get access to medicine.

“Dying to Survive” features a struggling shopkeeper who imports cheap Indian drugs banned by Chinese authorities to earn a quick buck, but soon finds himself sympathising with patients’ plight, and risking everything to help them.

Even Premier Li Keqiang cited the film in an appeal on Wednesday to China’s regulators to “speed up price cuts for cancer drugs” and “reduce the burden on families”, made in an official statement on the government’s website.

“This little step might actually be a big step for domestically-made films,” said critic Yang Eryu in comments on the popular WeChat account of the magazine Vista Story.

LOS ANGELES, July 15, 2018 (News wires) — The US actress, known for her performances in Marvel films Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as TV's The Walking Dead, is in talks over a role for Warner Bros' 2020 monster movie.

If negotiations prove successful, Danai Gurira will be joining the young Julian Dennison (Firefist in Deadpool 2) as well as fellow Walking Dead aluminus Van Marten, Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things in Godzilla vs. Kong.

The movie is some way off, fourth in Warners' MonsterVerse franchise, which started with 2014's Godzilla reboot and took a second step forward with 2017's Kong: Skull Island.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is scheduled for 2019, introducing Brown, Ziyi and others to the franchise, alongside Kyle Chandler who returns from 2005's pre-reboot King Kong movie.

Adam Wingard of Death Note and Blair Witch directs, with Godzilla vs. Kong announced for a May 29, 2020 release. Before that, Godzilla: King of the Monsters arrives on May 31, 2019.

PRAGUE, July 8, 2018 (News Wires) — I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, a film by Romanian director Radu Jude, won the top prize at the Karlovy Vary film festival which ended on Saturday.

The Crystal Globe award winner tells the story of an ethnic massacre committed by the Romanian Army in 1941.

Rain Man director Barry Levinson and Shawshank Redemption star Tim Robbins also received Crystal Globes for outstanding contribution to world of cinema at the 53rd edition of the Czech festival.

Twilight star Robert Pattinson received the Festival President’s Award.

The festival in the spa town of Karlovy Vary, around 120 kilometres west of Prague, ran from June 29 to July 7 and attracted 140,135 cinemagoers, roughly the same number as in 2017.

LOS ANGELES, July 4, 2018 (News Wires) - Long before filming began, actress Evangeline Lilly had an idea of the fighting style she wanted to display with her Marvel superhero character, the Wasp.

Lilly, known for her role on science-fiction television series “Lost,” said she worked with stunt women to distinguish the Wasp’s moves from those of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow or Marvel’s male superheroes.

“I wanted her to move in a way that honored the comic book, which meant she would move in a very elegant, feminine, graceful way, and still look lethal,” Lilly said in an interview ahead of the release of “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which starts rolling out in worldwide theaters on Wednesday.

The movie is Marvel’s 20th feature film and the first to spotlight a female character in the title.

“It’s about time, right?” said Paul Rudd, who plays Ant-Man and was also one of the film’s writers. The pair modeled their relationship after on-screen crime-fighting duos with “this charged, kind of playful and mildly annoyed at one another dynamic,” he said, adding: “She’s as bad ass as it gets.”

Lilly also wanted audiences to see her sweat as she and Rudd raced to rescue vitally important stolen technology, according to director Peyton Reed, who worked with the actress even before the script was written to develop the character.

“Evangeline was very specific,” Reed said, “like ‘I don’t want to be glam. I want to sweat after I fight’ ... and ‘I want it to feel real like what a woman would feel like in this suit.”

 

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is a sequel to 2015 movie “Ant-Man.” In that film, Lilly’s character, Hope van Dyne, does not learn until the movie’s end that her father has built a suit that gives her power to transform to various sizes and fly. The characters often shrink to insect-like proportions to avoid obstacles and detection.

After April’s over-the-top epic “Avengers: Infinity War,” Marvel also downsized the story for “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” focusing on a small group of characters and a quest to reunite with Hope’s mother.

“In some sense, this is an old-fashioned family movie,” said Michael Douglas, who plays Hope’s father, Hank Pym.

The movie does give a clue as to how Ant-Man and the Wasp fit into the events of “Infinity War.”

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