Dolly Parton, Leann Rimes, Reba Mcentire and Kenny Chesney are among the country stars who put their Christmas decorating skills to the test to raise funds for their favourite charities. Charlie Daniels, the Zac Brown Band, Brenda Lee, Little Big Town, Sara Evans and The Doobie Brothers also joined forces with bosses at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee to make sure their indoor gardens look fun and festive for the venue's A Country Christmas event this holiday season.
Each tree will be auctioned off after the display ends later this month (Dec14), with money benefiting each stars' chosen organisation.
Winning bidders will also be treated to a slew of other prizes offered by the singers, including a meet and greet session with Parton at her Dollywood theme park, an autographed guitar and cowboy hat from Daniels, and a private lunch with Lee at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Fans can bid on the trees at OprylandParadeOfTrees.com until 31 December (14).
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o has been added to the cast of the new Star Wars movie. The 12 Years A Slave star joins Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, John Boyega and original franchise stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker in Episode VII, which began shooting at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England on 16 May (14).
Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie will also join the cast for the much-anticipated film, which is set to hit theatres in December, 2015.
Announcing the new casting news on Monday (02Jun14), producer Kathleen Kennedy says, "I could not be more excited about Lupita and Gwendoline joining the cast of Episode VII. It's thrilling to see this extraordinarily talented ensemble taking shape."
It has begun. After what felt like an eternity of rumors, casting calls, blind hearsay, and yet even more rumors, Star Wars: Episode VII is finally finally filming. In the wee hours of the morning, Director J.J. Abrams signaled the start of filming with a tweet from the Bad Robot twitter account showing a picture of a production clapper bearing title of the sequel, along with the caption "#dayone." Like the pop of a marathon gun, the race to shoot a great Star Wars sequel is on, but now comes the hard part. Shooting a blockbuster, and especially shooting a Star Wars blockbuster, is not a task for the faint of heart, and series creator George Lucas struggled mightily to complete his epic space opera. The production of the original film was plagued with setbacks, and it's frankly a miracle that we're even celebrating the creation of a seventh Star Wars film given the barriers Lucas had to overcome to get his originall film made. Take a look at all the stumbles, issues, and setbacks involved with creating the first Star Wars.
The film was rejected twice before finding a distributorBack when the billion dollar franchise was just a few scrawled notes and a big idea, George Lucas approached United Artist with a pitch for a space opera called The Star Wars. The studio passed on the idea, and Lucas went on to make American Graffiti before returning to his Star Wars project two years later. After tinkering with the story, Lucas wrote a 13-page treatment for the project and presented it this time to Universal, who similarly rejected it, deeming it too strange and complaining that science fiction wasn't popular enough at the time to merit such an expensive film. The film was eventualy picked up by 20th Century Fox, and the rest was history.
Filming in Tunisia was a painLucas originally envisioned Tatooine as a lush jungle planet, but the idea of shooting on location in a jungle seemed more problematic than it was worth, so Lucas decided to change the home of the Skywalkers into a desert planet instead, and began filming in Tunisia. Unfortunately for Lucas, the switch in shooting locations wasn't without its own issues. Shooting fell behind schedule when the set was hit with a rare Tunisian rainstorm. The set was also plagued with electronic breakdowns and prop malfunctions, one of which injured C-3P0 actor Anthony Daniels.
And no one seemed to care about the project except for LucasBefore Star Wars began making actual dividends, the film had it's fair share of doubters, as any film would, but even the cast and crew had a hard time taking Lucas and his epic space opera seriously. Much of the crew laughed off the project as a kid's film and rarely put in their all into filming. Kenny Baker, who played R2D2, thought the film would be a massive failure. Even Harrison Ford had his doubts, remarking how weird some elements of the film were, including Princess Leia's buns and Chewbacca, who he claimed looked like a "giant in a monkey suit."
Lucasfilm Ltd. via Everett Collection
Lucas' own frustrations hampered the filmFacing a film that was grossly overbudget and well behind schedule, the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking became almost too much for Lucas. The director frequently clashed with his crew over creative differences and was largely dissatisfied with the look of costumes and sets, most of which failed to live up to his vision. He became visibly depressed and passed on his frustrations to his actors while providing little in the way of direction. Things got so bad that during post-production, the filmmaker was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion, and was warned to slow down by doctors.
The first cut was a complete disasterAfter struggling to get his film finished on time, Lucas was disappointed to learn that the first cut of the film was, in his eyes, a "complete disaster." The first edit by film editor John Jumpson was so bad, it is said that 30 to 40 percent of the footage didn't make it to the final version of the film. Lucas ended up switching his editing team, employing his wife, Paul Hirsch, and Richard Chew to finish the job right.
The greatest directors of the time weren't crazy about itIn 1977, Lucas screened a rough cut of the film for some of his directing buddies, a list that now reads like a who's who of legendary directors, including Steven Spielberg, Brian De Pama, and John Milius. The cut was the very definition of rough. James Earl Jones signature baritone wasn't the voice behind Darth Vader, paper arrows stood in for blaster beams, and instead of a space battle between the Millennium Falcon and TIE fighters, footage of WWII dogfights was spliced in. Reaction to this early cut of the film was lukewarm at best, with Spielberg being the only one of the directors who clearly enjoyed the film. On the other hand, the studio execs greatly enjoyed the early cut of the film, with producer Gareth Wigan saying, "This is the greatest film I've ever seen."
The official cast of Star Wars: Episode Vii has been revealed. Original Star Wars icons Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill will return to the franchise, as expected, while Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) will reprise their beloved characters too.
Also announced are Attack The Block star John Boyega, actress Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow.
The casting news was posted on the Star Wars Facebook page on Tuesday morning (29Apr14), just days after speculation about Ford, Fisher and Hamill's involvement in Episode VII reached fever pitch after it became clear that all three were in London, where filming on the blockbuster is about to begin. Over the weekend, they were spotted at a cast dinner with Driver and Serkis.
A statement from director J.J. Abrams reads: "We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud."
The film is due to hit theatres in December, 2015.
20th Century Fox Film
Hi, Nancy.Hi, Helen.What's the story, morning glory?What's the word, hummingbird?Have you heard about Hugo and Kim? They were cast in Star Wars: Episode VII, although there's no confirmation just yet. I think Kim's playing Bib Fortuna.
That's pretty much what the last year and change has felt like — rumors upon rumors upon rumors of who might be cast in J.J. Abrams' upcoming addition to the Star Wars series. We've heard tell of Clone War veterans reuniting for the film, blockbuster fixtures like Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis, rising indie mavens drawing notice from their turns in Coen Bros dramas and HBO series. But the waiting is over. Courtesy of TheWrap, we have official news of the 12 performers cast to headline the next Star Wars movie. Here's who they are, where you might know them from, and what we can expect from them in the new film.
Mark HamillBest known as: Luke Skywalker, power converter spendthrift and daddy issues-haver.Age: 62.In the new movie: We know very little of what Hamill will be brought on to do in the upcoming film, though with his standing as the Original Trilogy's central hero and his family rallied at the head of this story (presumably), we imagine that Hamill will have a good amount to do.
Carrie FisherBest known as: Princess Leia Organa, rigid adversary of the nerf herder lobby.Age: 57.In the new movie: We've been told, in only the most tenuous terms, that Star Wars: Episode VII will focus on Han and Leia's kids. So even if she and Ford are sidelined as the parental figures who've seen it all before (hey, it's kind of like that new Boy Meets World spinoff), then they'll likely be around for a healthy sum.
Harrison FordBest known as: Han Solo, alleged Kessel Run record holder and reformed atheist.Age: 71In the new movie: On top of the above, new rumors allow that Ford will have a pretty significant role in the new film. Considering his latter days screen presence, we imagine something in the vein of an extended carbonite nap. A few are actually predicting that Han might bite the dust in VII.
Peter MayhewBest known as: Chewbacca, devoted Life Day celebrant and family man.Age: 69 (though that's only like, 14 in Wookiee years).In the new movie: Some people are already pretty livid that Chewbacca's in the film at all, considering his death in the Expanded Universe, but you don't bring out the Wookiee suit just to have him play canasta.
Anthony DanielsBest known as: C-3PO, buzzkill.Age: 68.In the new movie: I don't know, probably a lot of kvetching.
Kenny BakerBest known as: R2-D2, frequent film extra and Robot Hall of Fame inductee.Age: 79.In the new movie: Doot beep beeeooo doot.
Oscar IsaacBest known as: The titular misanthropic folk musician in the Coen Brothers' 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis.Age: 35.In the new movie: Isaac's role is anyone's guess at this point, although two call-outs in a casting release from last year speak to his nature. He might be playing "a late 20-something male. Fit, handsome, and confident," or, more likely, "a 30-something male, intellectual. Apparently does not need to be fit."
Adam DriverBest known as: Adam, the Lena Dunham's oddball love interest on the HBO dramedy Girls, or the space cowboy from Inside Llewyn Davis.Age: 30.In the new movie: Rumors surrounding Driver's initial mention in regard to the film had him pegged to be the villain. We had some fun with that one.
Andy SerkisBest known as: Gollum from The Lord of the Rings movies.Age: 50.In the new movie: Considering his mo-cap history, Serkis is probably playing an alien. And that's awesome.
Max von SydowBest known as: Blofeld in Never Say Never Again, the older priest in The Exorcist, or the guy from all those Ingmar Bergman films.Age: 85.In the new movie: Last fall's casting call advertised the film's search for "a 70-something male with strong opinions and a tough demeanor," exempting the necessity for physical fitness. We can't get more specific than this but it seems like von Sydow is going to be taking on some kind of authoritarian position. Maybe at the Academy (training the Solo kids, per chance), or as the penny-pinching new owner of the Cantina.
Domhnall GleesonBest known as: Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies, or the fellow from About Time.Age: 30.In the new movie: Gleeson could rival Isaac in either of the character descriptions mentioned above, though he does seem more the intellectual type (if only for the British accent).
John BoyegaBest known as: The kid from Attack the Block.Age: 22.In the new movie: Boyega could be playing the character Thomas that was advertised in a casting call last year:
"Young man to play 19-23 years old. Must be handsome, smart and athletic. Must be 18 or over. Has grown up without a father's influence. Without the model of being a man, he doesn't have the strongest sense of himself. Despite this, he is smart, capable and shows courage when it is needed. He can appreciate the absurdities in life and understands you can't take life too seriously."
Daisy RidleyShe's pretty new.Age: I don't know — 20? In the new movie: Could be Rachel, who was introduced in the same casting call:
"Young woman to play 17-18 Years old. Must be beautiful, smart and athletic. Open to all ethnicities (including bi- and multi-racial). Must be 16 or over. Was quite young when she lost her parents. With no other family, she was forced to make her way alone in a tough, dangerous town. Now 17 she has become street smart and strong. She is able to take care of herself using humor and guts to get by. Always a survivor, never a victim, she remains hopeful that she can move away from this harsh existence to a better life. She is always thinking of what she can do to move ahead."
So there you have it: still a whole lot of grey area! But at least we know something!
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The name Peter Mayhew for the most part only rings bells for the most ardent Star Wars enthusiasts. The 7-foot-2 actor, who donned the costume of Chewbacca in the original trilogy, was lumped in with Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels and David Prowse, the faceless group behind R2-D2, C3PO and Darth Vader, respectively –recognizable only if you're a regular Comic-Con attendee.
Mayhew, however, has suddenly found himself with a legion of new followers on Twitter (@TheWookieeRoars) after he recently began tweeting photos that he has from the sets of the Star Wars films. There have been hundreds of pages devoted to George Lucas' brainchild, yet the photos that Mayhew has put out there for public consumption highlight a personal aspect that is frequently missing. It took a Wookiee to remind us that the people behind Star Wars, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, are just human beings, after all.
In particular, Mayhew's obvious affection for Fisher is on display. In one photo, Fisher plants a playful kiss on Chewbacca and the actress is never without a smile in the snapshots. In a picture that sent older fan-boys into near cardiac arrest, Fisher is seen sunning herself in the famous Princess Leia slave outfit, along with her identically dressed stunt double. The picture stands in stark contrast to Fisher's long-standing complaints about having to wear the costume.
Equally arresting are the pictures featuring a younger, jovial Ford. It's been a long, long time since the erstwhile Han Solo was willing to let his guard down, but Mayhew's shots of Ford flashing the lopsided grin that made him famous help remind us why he became a superstar apart from Star Wars.
There are also shots of the other hidden players in and out of costume, including Daniels in his C3PO costume trying to stay out of the hot Tunisian sun.
It's like looking at someone's family photo album, only populated with famous people and iconic characters. Seeing Mayhew's picture of Ford and Hamill just sitting on a couch in sweaters looks like it could've come from anybody's stash of pictures from 1979, which is the beauty of it. Unlike publicity photos or even ones taken by a set photographer, Mayhew's shots are really just his pictures of himself with some friends. The fact that it's all taking place on some of the most famous sets in the history of cinema is completely secondary.
Mayhew's original tweet before uploading the treasure trove of pictures said that he was "feeling nostalgic." The man behind Chewbacca was kind enough to share the trip down memory lane with Star Wars fans everywhere and in the process put a human face back on the sci-fi epic. Hopefully, writer-director J.J. Abrams remembers to do the same with the forthcoming Episode VII.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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A long time ago...in a galaxy far, far away...everyone loved the original Star Wars movies, their mere mention evoking a pleasant rekindling of childhood nostalgia for an entire generation born before 1980 or so. However – quicker than your tauntaun freezing before it hits that first marker on Hoth – that all changed with the next trilogy. In fact, little Anakin wasn’t through one-loop of that pod race on Tatooine before many already bailed on the new installments, subsequently brushing off the series as a whole. Now, while for this writer’s money, the last half of the latter trilogy is as good as anything in the first, now is not the time for stoking the fires of Mustafar. That ship has sailed. Instead, we gaze ahead to the future. To 2015. To the new movies from Disney – and things every Star Wars fan should rightly fear.
Lucasfilm via Everett Collection
"The boy has no patience."
Was Yoda talking about Mickey Mouse? Perhaps so, given the studio’s insistence on a 2015 release. Don’t just make it to make it, guys. Make it good.
The Jar Jar Factor
It’s undeniable. The shadow of the classic misstep from trilogy two looms larger over even these flicks. Will Disney go for cute or cool with new characters?
To sing the impossible song
Surely I can’t be the only one to wonder if Disney will throw in more music into the Star Wars saga. Its animated offerings are chock full of this stuff. Shudder.
And we thought Obi-Wan was old
Can the original stars still kick Imperial butt? Will the Force still be strong with Hamill, Ford and Fisher? Or will that just be the stench of Ben Gay coming from their trailers?
Less is more. More is less
Will more mixed-reviewed Star Wars flicks further sully the series? A cash cow that literally wrote the rules on merchandising, maybe Lucas was right to sell when he did.
Country star Naomi Judd has taken aim at organisers of the 2013 CMT Music Awards for failing to stage a proper tribute to the late George Jones during last week's (ends07Jun13) prizegiving. The country industry was plunged into mourning in April (13) when news of the music icon's death broke, and celebrities including Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, Charlie Daniels and Brad Paisley flocked to The Grand Ole Opry House on 2 May (13) to bid a final farewell to the superstar at his funeral.
However, Jones' passing was only briefly mentioned during the CMT Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee on 5 June (13), with ceremony bosses recruiting rockers The Mavericks to play a rendition of the late singer's The Race Is On as the show went into a commercial break.
The lack of recognition left Judd furious and she has expressed her outrage in an open letter to the editor of local paper, the Nashville Tennessean.
Judd writes, "George Jones is to country music what The Beatles are to pop, the Rolling Stones to rock, Elvis to rockabilly, Mozart to classical (music) and Aretha to soul. Yet, the 'Country' Music Television awards show allowed only a 'by the way' mention of Jones' death and legacy. Incongruously, they chose alternative music group the Mavericks to perform their short version of George's The Race Is On.
"True country music fans are a loyal bunch and are passionate about our roots and heritage.
In the note, Judd goes on to suggest the CMT Music Awards, which this year (13) featured performances by Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, are fast becoming irrelevant to its target audience, insisting, "Every year, CMT includes artists of unrelated genres, many of whom some country music fans don't even know. I suggest the CMT Awards show change its name. Perhaps to 'the Multi-Genre Awards Show, Featuring Artists under 30.'"
Signing off, the defiant star writes, "I realize speaking out will cause me to now be forever banned by CMT. But I'm tired of folks messing with my country music. Especially when it involves my dear friend George Jones."
Kid Rock, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson are among the stars who will perform at George Jones' funeral in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday (02May13). The 81-year-old country music icon passed away in hospital on Friday (26Apr13), and the cream of country music will head to The Grand Ole Opry House to pay their respects to the veteran.
A post on Jones' website reveals Kenny Chesney, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd and Randy Travis are also among the stars who will perform or speak at the ceremony, while former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush will also step up to remember the legend.
Jones' publicist Kirt Webster states, "The calibre of speakers and performers is a testament to what George Jones meant to everyone in the world. (Wife) Nancy is overwhelmed by the love and support of not only George's fans, but also the music community, public figures and friends."
A private memorial for Jones' loved ones and fellow performers is scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening (01May13).