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‘Forza’ creators revving up ‘Fast & Furious’ video game

LOS ANGELES – “Fast & Furious” and “Forza” are hitching a ride together.

The hugely successful movie franchise is teaming up with the critically acclaimed “Forza” racing series for a video game featuring cars and missions inspired by Universal Pictures’ “Fast & Furious” film series. The downloadable title will serve as an expansion to “Forza Horizon 2,” the latest open-world edition of Turn 10 Studios’ “Forza Motorsport” game franchise.

“We’ve been talking with the folks at Turn 10 for a number of years and have always wanted to work together,” said Bill Kispert, executive vice-president of digital licensing at “Fast & Furious” studio Universal. “It was a matter of schedules, capacity and a film coming together at the right time. It finally has, and we’re excited to collaborate with Turn 10.”

“Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious” will launch March 27 for Xbox One and Xbox 360. The stand-alone title will not require “Forza Horizon 2” and will be available for free until April 10 to promote the April 3 release of “Furious 7,” the latest installment in the film series. After that date, the “Fast & Furious”-themed expansion will cost gamers $10.

Set before the movie, the game casts players as a driver in France tasked with sourcing vehicles for mechanic Tej Parker (portrayed by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges in the films and game). The automobiles are virtual renditions of those in the “Fast & Furious” movies, such as the iconic 1970 Dodge Charger R/T driven by Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto.

“We weren’t interested in doing yet another movie-based game,” said Alan Hartman, studio head at Turn 10. “That’s not what our franchise is about. When we started talking about this with Universal years ago, it was really about bringing both of our franchise’s strengths to the table. We’re building on top of everything we’ve done over the last decade.”

Hartman said Universal and the “Fast & Furious” filmmakers provided access to the series’ cars, production designs and footage in order to virtually reconstruct them in “Forza Horizon 2.” He noted that the vehicles in the “Fast & Furious” expansion would be recreations of cars from the film series — right down to their scratches and customized options.

The game will include such “Furious 7” rides as a 1998 Toyota Supra, 1970 Plymouth Road Runner, 2012 Nissan GT-R, 1970 Plymouth Cuda, 2013 Jeep Wrangler, 2014 Maserati Ghibli S and 2015 Dodge Charger.

While the “Fast & Furious” series has been depicted in a few poorly received console and smartphone games, this partnership is a car pool featuring a couple of dynamos: the “Fast & Furious” film franchise has made more than $2.3 billion at the worldwide box office, and “Forza” games are the most-played racing simulations on the current generation of consoles.

“It’s kind of been a grand experiment,” said Hartman. “I hope what we’re doing here is a model for what we do in the future. It’s been a great relationship, and I don’t want to end it after this, so we’ll see what’s possible in the future.”

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Online:

http://www.forzamotorsport.net

http://www.thefastandthefurious.com

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang .

Sports

UEFA wants latest possible World Cup final date in Qatar

NYON, Switzerland – UEFA supports playing the 2022 World Cup final on Dec. 23 to help protect international qualifying matches in its own competitions.

Earlier Wednesday, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke revealed UEFA made the final date proposal which has angered British football officials, who feel it threatens their traditional Christmas holiday program.

UEFA confirmed its preference for Friday, Dec. 23, because a final several days earlier in Qatar “would have more impact on European qualifiers.”

FIFA’s move toward a November-December 2022 tournament to avoid Qatar’s summer heat will force top-level European football to stop in early or mid-November.

That cuts UEFA’s options for the first half of the season. It needs to schedule three doubleheader weeks for national team matches, plus six midweeks for Champions League group matches.

Last year, UEFA launched the Nations League to replace most friendlies in even-numbered years.

Group matches are planned from September to November, including likely in 2022. The standings will decide which teams advance more than a year later to qualifying playoffs for major tournaments.

UEFA showed its commitment to the new competition by taking central control of its commercial rights.

Still, UEFA’s suggestion has upset the English Premier League, whose chief executive Richard Scudamore was part of the FIFA working group which met on Tuesday in Doha to recommend playing in Qatar’s winter.

“Our particular concern is that a World Cup that finishes late in December could result in damaging one of the English game’s great traditions and attractions, with the removal of the entire Premier League, Football League and FA Cup Christmas and New Year fixture program that season,” Scudamore said in a statement.

A Friday final would break with World Cup tradition since 1970 of playing it on Sunday. A Sunday, Dec. 18 final in 2022 would be more favourable to the British, and also fall on Qatar’s national day celebrations.

UEFA also notes that Friday is suitable for the final because it is “a weekend (day) in Qatar.”

The 2022 World Cup dates will be approved by the FIFA executive committee next month.

FIFA wants a shorter 28-day tournament — removing some rest days from the current 32-day schedule — within the Nov. 19-Dec. 23 period.

National News

Trial postponed for men accused in Bosma case

HAMILTON – A trial was postponed to early 2016 for two men charged in the death of a Hamilton father, who disappeared after taking a pair of prospective buyers on a test drive of a truck he was trying to sell online.

Dellen Millard, 29, and Mark Smich, 27, are accused of killing Tim Bosma, whose remains were found about a week after he vanished on May 6, 2013, burned beyond recognition at a southwestern Ontario farm belonging to Millard.

The trial for the two men was expected to begin this fall, but is now scheduled for January next year.

Pretrial motions in the case will be heard this September, according to a lawyer who has been representing Millard.

Deepak Paradkar said he was still in the process of being retained, so additional time was required to prepare motions.

The change came after Millard and Smich were in a Hamilton court Monday when Justice Stephen Glithero ordered the public out of the courtroom before a three-hour hearing.

Tim’s father, Hank Bosma, was there along with family friend Peter Lowe when the judge made the unusual move.

Lowe said he wasn’t surprised or upset.

“There’s not this huge fear that we don’t know what’s going on — we’ll just find out later,” he said.

Millard, dressed in jeans and a grey blazer, and Smich, dressed in a white-and-black striped shirt, sat beside each other in court, but didn’t make eye contact, Lowe said.

Smich and Millard were also charged in Toronto with first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock, with whom Millard was romantically linked. She disappeared in June 2012 and her body has never been found, her family has said.

Millard, an heir to his family’s aviation dynasty, is also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father, Wayne, which was originally deemed a suicide.

He is also charged with forcible confinement and theft of a vehicle in Bosma’s death.

Police believe Bosma, 32, was killed the same night he went missing, but haven’t said where it happened.

— By Liam Casey in Toronto.

National News

Four children die, mother saves 3 in house fire

KANE, Man. – A mother was able to save three of her children as flames consumed a rural Manitoba farmhouse early Wednesday morning, but four of her sons died in the blaze.

The fire broke out near the tiny community of Kane, about 95 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

“The adults escaped. The three youngest children were saved by the mother. The four older children who were in the second level of a two-storey home perished in the blaze,” said Ralph Groening, reeve for the RM of Morris.

Groening said volunteer fire crews unsuccessfully tried to put up a ladder to the second-floor window as the home burned.

“The fire was too far advanced. They were unable to go into the building. It simply wasn’t safe.”

Little remained of the 90-year-old farmhouse after the fire was out, although a storage shed 20 metres away and pine trees surrounding the blackened foundation appeared untouched by the flames.

Friends have identified the parents as Jake Froese and Doralee Eberhardt. Several local media outlets identified the four dead boys as Henry, Danny, Timmy, and Bobby. They ranged in age from nine to 15. People grieved their loss on Facebook.

Froese and an older son Steven both work at Tri Koating Inc., an industrial painting business in Winkler, Man., and were there when the fire started.

The municipality’s volunteer fire chief, Bernard Schellenberg, said the father made the emergency call about 12:15 a.m. when he saw smoke as he and his son returned home.

About 20 volunteer firefighters from nearby communities responded in four trucks, said Schellenberg. The house was engulfed in flames and an addition that had recently been built had already collapsed when crews arrived.

Temperatures in the area were as low as -27 C with the wind chill over night.

“They went into a defensive strategy and they could not make entrance into the house due to heavy smoke and fire conditions,” Schellenberg said.

The fire is under investigation by the Manitoba Fire Office and the RCMP, Schellenberg said.

The parents were receiving medical care and the surviving children were staying with friends, Groening said.

Tri Koating president Frank Krahn described Froese as a family man and said everyone’s thoughts are with him and his family.

Pauline Lafond Bouchard, superintendent of the Red River Valley School Division, said the four boys who died attended two different rural schools in the area, Lowe Farm and Rosenort.

She said crisis counsellors were called in Wednesday to help staff and students get “through the day.”

A “critical incident stress debrief” was also being set up to help the volunteer crews who responded, “so they can go through some of the emotions that come with a call like this,” Schellenberg said.

“Our crews did the best they could with the conditions they had.”

Groening said the children’s deaths have hit the community hard. Help for the family was pouring in, including the offer of a house.

“I can only imagine what the parents are going through, what the three children who are saved are going through, how they are responding to the loss of four siblings,” Groening said.

“It is a tragedy that will take a long time for them and for us to recover from.”

— With files from John Cotter and Chris Purdy

Sports

Olsson of Sweden wins 15K freestyle race at Nordic worlds

FALUN, Sweden – When a viral illness ruined the early part of his season, Johan Olsson wasn’t sure whether he’d even get a chance at one more world championship title.

Turns out the struggles worked in the Swedish cross-country skier’s favour. Olsson took advantage of an early start number — determined by his low World Cup ranking — to win the men’s 15-kilometre freestyle race Wednesday for his second world title.

While Olsson said he put together “perhaps the best skating race of my life,” he also benefited from his bib number as warm temperatures softened the snow and made things harder on the later starters.

“I knew that my starting number at 17 would be an advantage in these kinds of conditions,” Olsson said. “So I tried to make a really fast first lap to rely on that.”

It worked perfectly as no one could match Olsson’s speed on the second lap on the 7.5K course. Olsson, who also won the 50K classical race at the 2013 worlds, finished in 35 minutes, 1.6 seconds to beat Maurice Manificat of France by 17.8 seconds. Anders Gloeersen of Norway took bronze, 1.4 seconds behind Manificat.

The 34-year-old Olsson also helped Sweden win the relay gold at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, but has often struggled with illnesses that have disrupted his seasons. After the Sochi Games, where he took silver in the 15K race, he decided to come back for one more season for the chance of competing at the home worlds.

But when he was ill for all of December, he wasn’t sure he’d even make it to Falun. In January, he decided to isolate himself from his family and friends as he focused on getting healthy and fit for what he hoped would be a career-defining moment.

“From New Year, I don’t think anyone has put in as much effort as I have. I haven’t seen my kids for seven weeks,” Olsson said. “That’s quite stressful to have two small kids back home and not being able to see them. Every now and then you think, ‘Is this really worth it to be away from your kids?’ On these kinds of days, of course, my wife and I are convinced that it is worth it.”

Manificat was one of the few late starters who were able to challenge the Swede and held a slim lead at the halfway mark, before tiring on the second lap. However, he had enough energy to sprint to the finish and narrowly beat Gloeersen’s time to secure the silver.

“I like this soft snow and it was no problem,” the Frenchman said. “I felt that it was worse (on the second lap), but it was OK. It was more difficult physically.”

Defending champion Petter Northug of Norway, with bib No. 65, was nearly 50 seconds back at the 7.5K mark and then cruised the rest of the way, finishing 4:44 behind Olsson in 62nd place.

Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was the top Canadian in 20th.

Olympic champion Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who went out last among the seeded skiers with bib No. 71, also lost more than a minute on the second lap, finishing 18th.

Thursday’s program at the Nordic skiing worlds includes the women’s cross-country relay, the men’s large hill ski jump event and the Nordic combined large hill competition.

Sports

Greek soccer league again suspended over violence

ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s top soccer league has been suspended for a third time this season because of continued violence at matches.

Stavros Kontonis, the deputy minister for sport in Greece’s new left-wing government, said Wednesday that the decision would be reviewed next week, but that games would again be called off if clubs failed to respond to government demands for improved security.

The action followed weekend violence at a league match between rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, and a brawl between officials of the two clubs on Tuesday at a board meeting of league organizers.

“This violence is an insult to all of us and our national heritage,” Kontonis said after meeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “When it comes to addressing the issue of violence in football, we will be unrelenting.”

Kontonis previously told Tsipras in televised remarks that “drastic measures” were required to pressure the 18 clubs in the top league to introduce improved security, including smart-card ticketing and security camera systems at matches. League organizers had committed to introducing such measures several years ago.

The Greek league has already been suspended twice this season because of violence, and the government said it had taken Wednesday’s decision after consulting with top football officials and a police department that deals with major crimes.

There was no immediate reaction from Greek clubs.

Giorgos Borovilos, chairman of the topflight Super League, expressed his opposition to the government’s tough line after a meeting with Kontonis — before the decision was formally announced.

“I stressed that this is not an adequate solution to deal with the problems facing Greek football. But he was unrelenting,” he told reporters.

“I am not blind. There are problems and responsibilities in football … But they should be dealt with through dialogue and application of the law.”

Olympiakos currently leads the league with 58 points from 25 matches, three clear of second-place Panathinaikos.

Sports

18 months in prison for chemist in baseball steroids case

MIAMI – A chemist working out of his suburban South Florida garage was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison for supplying banned performance-enhancing substances to a clinic whose customers included professional baseball players such as New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Paulo Berejuk had hoped for probation and home confinement after pleading guilty in December to conspiracy to distribute testosterone. But U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with prosecutors that Berejuk’s role in the case was too vital and his co-operation with investigators too limited to warrant such a sentencing break.

“I cannot in good faith sentence Mr. Berejuk to probation,” Altonaga said at a hearing. “This involved a serious crime. I have to consider deterrence to others.”

Investigators said Berejuk was the key drug source for Anthony Bosch, who ran the now-closed Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables that sold steroids to baseball players and other athletes, some only in high school. Berejuk admitted in court documents that between 2007 and 2013 he supplied up to 10,000 units of steroids to Bosch and others for as much as $20,000 a month.

“This defendant is one of the most important people in the conspiracy,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharad Motiani.

The doping scandal resulted in suspensions last year for 14 professional baseball players and criminal convictions for Bosch and others. Rodriguez, who got the stiffest Major League Baseball suspension at a full season, recently apologized to Yankee fans in a written statement and previously admitted in interviews with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents that he used Bosch-supplied steroids.

Rodriguez also would be a key government witness if the remaining two people charged in the case — Rodriguez cousin Yuri Sucart and former University of Miami baseball coach Lazaro Collazo — go to trial as scheduled April 6. Both have pleaded not guilty to drug conspiracy charges.

Berejuk, 51, apologized in court for his actions but said he took full responsibility. Berejuk faces possible deportation to his native Brazil after serving his prison sentence.

“I really regret what I did, but no excuses. I recognize when I’m wrong,” he said.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

Lifestyle News

Cat-costumed crusader among animal film fest funny features

LOS ANGELES – When abused, homeless animals appear on TV and the melancholy melody starts playing, many of us reach for the remote.

Those upsetting commercials inspired Michael Oosterom and his wife, Zachary Barton, to make short, funny films featuring a cat-costumed crusader who battles evil against animals. The Los Angeles couple were tired of calls to action that make viewers feel even worse about the plight of some pets.

“Most people turn away because it’s too distressing,” Oosterom said. “If you care about animals, that’s the last thing you need to see. We figured we could achieve the same thing with humour.”

Enter “AdvoCat!”— two-minute movies about a middle-aged cat lady who can’t find the courage to help pets in peril until she dons a risque cat costume, complete with a tail.

Oosterom and Barton know that movies don’t have to be serious to help animals, and they are among the filmmakers taking that message to the second animal film festival produced by California’s Center for Animal Protection & Education. The event highlights the growing role of pets not only in animal lovers’ everyday lives but also in their entertainment choices.

Some call it the animal version of the Sundance Film Festival — sans the star power — where the bulk of its entries came in the experimental category that doesn’t garner awards. Short, funny films dominated, making up 277 of the 324 submissions. The competitive movies and six funny shorts — including “AdvoCat!” — will be screened Saturday.

In a trio of episodes, Barton plays the black-clad hero who saves a dog running off a leash near busy streets, a pooch burning the pads of its feet on sunbaked pavement, and a cat losing its home because a woman’s new boyfriend is allergic.

She puts the offenders in their place, even stuffing people-sized cone collars on the couple trying to dump their feline, before hanging up her cat suit for another day.

Festival director Shelley Frost championed lighter fare such as “AdvoCat!”

“When people think about animal movies, they worry they might be sad or difficult to watch,” Frost said. “Let’s face it, animals go through horrible things, whether they are in a factory farm or laboratory, and that’s why we offered the funny short category this year.”

Frost said she and J.P. Novic started the event after their own movie was rejected by several film festivals. The pair had launched the Center for Animal Protection & Education 23 years ago, establishing adoption programs and a sanctuary in Grass Valley, a city in the Sierra Nevada foothills an hour northeast of Sacramento.

But the festival isn’t all about laughs. Two feature-length films are finalists and delve into serious issues: “Cowspiracy,” which claims environmental groups look the other way as the livestock industry damages the Earth; and “Sea the Truth,” about depletion of the world’s oceans. There are also two contenders for the student film prize and 14 for the short feature.

Winners get framed certificates, gift bags and vegan food. Though funny shorts aren’t up for awards, which are chosen by a panel of filmmakers, television producers, teachers and community members, they could win the popular vote from attendees.

For many makers of funny films, the festival helps with exposure and money for their next movies. But mostly, it’s about helping animals, said Oosterom, who’s a Disney puppeteer by day.

“This is our way of handling some of our frustrations and turning them into something funny that we can share with as many people as possible,” said Oosterom, whose shorts appear on YouTube and Funny or Die.

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Online:

— www.animalfilmfestival.org

US new home sales fall slightly in January

WASHINGTON – Sales of new U.S. homes were basically flat in January, evidence that recent job gains and relatively low mortgage rates have yet to spur the real estate market.The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales slipped 0.2 per cen…