British Prime Minister David Cameron's former media adviser Andy Coulson was jailed for 18 months on Friday (04Jul14) for his role in the U.K.'s phone-hacking scandal. Coulson was editor of Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid News of the World from 2003 until 2007, during which several members of staff on the paper routinely tasked a private detective to intercept voicemail messages of the rich and famous.
He had denied any knowledge of the practice under his leadership but was last month (Jun14) convicted of conspiracy to intercept communications.
Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of Murdoch's News International, was cleared of all charges relating to the scandal.
Victims of the hacking included British Princes William and Harry, Sir Paul McCartney, and actors Jude Law and Sienna Miller. Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 at the height of the furore.
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend warned Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair not to court friendships with celebrities ahead of his famous 'Cool Britannia' event in 1997. The U.K.'s current leader David Cameron mimicked Blair's stunt by hosting his own star-studded bash at the Foreign Office in London on Tuesday (01Jul14), welcoming guests including actress Helen Bonham Carter and Townshend's bandmate Roger Daltrey.
However, Townshend, who was not invited to Cameron's event, insists politicians should not seek approval from stars, and reveals he warned Blair against his party plans.
He tells Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "My advice was: 'Don't let f**king Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher come and talk to you, because as soon as things go a little bit difficult - and as soon as they get their tax bill - they'll drop you like a stone.' Which is exactly what happened."
A Downing Street spokesperson said this week's (beg30Jun14) event, which was also attended by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes among others, was held to mark the creative industry's contribution to the economy.
British funnyman Russell Brand, rocker Sting and tycoon Sir Richard Branson are among the notable figures who have signed a letter urging the U.K. government to review the country's drug laws. The stars are backing the Support, Don't Punish campaign by U.K. charity Release to change the way lawmakers deal with drug users.
The letter, signed by 90 celebrities, lawyers, and health experts, will be sent to British Prime Minister David Cameron and claims 1.5 million citizens have been unnecessarily convicted on drug possession charges in the last 15 years.
The charity's bosses want new rules to help addicts rather than treat them like criminals.
As part of the drive, a protest has been scheduled to take place in Parliament Square in London on Thursday (26Jun14).
Brand, a former heroin addict, has long campaigned for the decriminalisation of drugs, and he was a speaker at a United Nations panel on the subject in Vienna, Austria in March (14).
Police in the U.K. have launched an investigation into the abusive hatemail aimed at J.K. Rowling after the Harry Potter author made a big donation to an anti-Scottish independence campaign. The writer, who lives in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, courted controversy last week (ends13Jun14) by handing over $1.6 million (£1 million) to the Better Together Campaign ahead of a referendum in September (14) to determine whether the nation should leave the U.K.
She expressed fears the country would be left isolated and its economy irreversibly damaged if it breaks free from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but her outspoken views upset Scottish nationalists who slammed the multi-millionaire on Twitter.com, accusing her of siding with the British elite.
The Internet backlash prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to condemn the nasty messages, insisting there is "never any place for abusive behaviour in whatever sphere of life", and now Scottish authorities have started looking into the incident over allegations of "online criminality".
Scotland's senior prosecutor claims those responsible for posting "grossly offensive" messages aimed at Rowling will face police action.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has waded into a row over J.K. Rowling's donation to an anti-Scottish independence campaign after she was bombarded with abuse online. The Harry Potter author took the controversial step to hand $1.6 million (£1 million) of her own money to the Better Together Campaign ahead of a referendum in September (14) on whether Scotland should leave the U.K.
Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, explained she fears the country could be left isolated and its economy irreversibly damaged if it breaks free of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but she received a huge backlash on social media.
Scottish nationalists took to Twitter.com in their droves to slam multi-millionaire Rowling, accusing her of being a crony of the British elite and claiming she had no right to tackle the topic as she is English.
Now Cameron, whose Conservative party Rowling opposes, has spoken out to denounce the online anger, insisting there is "never any place for abusive behavior in whatever sphere of life".
Rowling is yet to comment on the abuse, but in an article on her official website, she explains her decision to hand over the money in detail, writing, "It is because I love this country that I want it to thrive. Whatever the outcome of the referendum on 18th September, it will be a historic moment for Scotland. I just hope with all my heart that we never have cause to look back and feel that we made a historically bad mistake."
Angelina Jolie's London summit to end rape in war zones has won the support of stars including Thandie Newton, Kathleen Turner, model Cara Delevingne, and even Catholic leader Pope Francis.
The Hollywood actress launched the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in the British capital on Tuesday (10Jun14) and the event's slogan #timetoact has sparked a social networking frenzy. The phrase has become a trending topic on Twitter.com as more and more stars post pictures of themselves holding a sign bearing the words.
Newton, Turner and Delevingne have all joined in, with the model backing Jolie in a tweet, writing, "Yes Angie! #timetoact #stoptorture". Others who have backed the drive include Harry Potter actress Bonnie Wright, fashion designers Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood, singers Paloma Faith, Mollie King and Eliza Doolittle, and Pope Francis.
The head of the Catholic Church writes on Twitter, "Let us pray for all victims of sexual violence in conflict, and those working to end this crime. #TimeToAct."
Actress Angelina Jolie is still hoping her long-delayed Cleopatra film will hit the big screen. Filmmaker James Cameron first revealed he was interested in developing a 3D movie about the Egyptian queen in 2010 and he wanted the Salt star to take on the role.
Following the news of Cameron's involvement, it was reported David Fincher was in talks to direct the film, but he reportedly declined to take on the project in 2012.
Life of Pi director Ang Lee was also added to the list of potential filmmakers, but he still hasn't signed on.
While Jolie admits the process has been difficult, she feels the film can still come together.
She tells People magazine, "I've been working on (it) forever. It's the hardest one to get done, so it's either going to be one of those that you just walk away and say, 'It was too hard', or it comes together beautifully and you really take it on."
Simon Pegg, Ricky Gervais and Barry Manilow have joined British Prime Minister David Cameron in mourning the death of a brave teenager who lost a battle with cancer after raising millions for charity. Brit Stephen Sutton, 19, brought in more than $5.1 million (£3.2 million) for the Teenage Cancer Trust by launching an online campaign after he was given a terminal diagnosis by doctors.
He died in his sleep in the early hours of Wednesday morning (14May14), and a number of high-profile stars offered their condolences following his passing.
Star Trek actor Pegg writes in a post on Twitter.com, "Very sorry to hear about the passing of Stephen Sutton. A brave young man who raised a lot of money for cancer research, despite everything," while funnyman Gervais adds, "RIP Stephen Sutton. A true hero & inspiration to us all."
Manilow calls him a "hero" and an "inspiring and beautiful soul", while British pop rockers Lawson, who donated the proceeds from one of their gigs to Sutton's fundraising effort, write, "So saddened to hear of (Sutton's) passing but so inspired by the difference he made. You can still donate."
British leader Cameron adds in a statement, "I'm deeply saddened to hear that Stephen Sutton has died. His spirit, bravery and fundraising for cancer research were all an inspiration."
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether.
The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way.
This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something.
Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.
In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks.
Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that.
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Pop star Gary Barlow has been urged to hand back a top honour from the British Establishment over claims he invested in a tax avoidance scheme. The singer and two of his Take That bandmates - Mark Owen and Howard Donald - are reportedly facing the possibility of paying millions in back taxes after a partnership they invested in was branded a tax scam by a judge.
All three singers have declined to comment on the report but several leading politicians have called for Barlow to hand back the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal he was awarded in 2012 for services to entertainment.
Margaret Hodge, leader of the U.K.'s Public Accounts Committee, says Barlow "might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE", and another Member of Parliament (MP), Charlie Elphicke, tells The Times newspaper, "People who have seriously abused the tax system should be stripped of their honours."
However, Barlow has since received the backing of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who told TV show Good Morning Britain, "I don't think that's necessary, frankly. Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country... He's raised money for charity, he's done very well for Children in Need so I'm not sure (he should hand back) his OBE in respect of the work he has done."
Barlow, Donald, Owen and their manager are said to have invested $105 million (£66 million) into a partnership company that was later allegedly exposed as an elaborate tax avoidance scheme.