Soul man Smokey Robinson has become the latest music veteran to announce plans to record an album of duets. Smokey & Friends will feature new renditions of the singer's biggest hits with stars like Sir Elton John and James Taylor.
Elton will join Smokey on The Tracks of My Tears, while Taylor will guest on a cover of Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar, which Robinson co-wrote.
Former American Idol judge Randy Jackson will produce the album, which is scheduled for release in September (14).
More guests for the album will be announced in the coming weeks.
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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Michael Jackson's mother Katherine is set to return to the witness stand next week (begs16Sep13) as her wrongful death lawsuit against concert promoters AEG Live draws to an end. Defence lawyer Marvin Putnam plans to call the Jackson family matriarch to give evidence in Los Angeles County Superior Court for a second time as he wants to question her about the "absurdity of the damages" she is demanding from AEG amid claims company bosses were responsible for hiring Dr. Conrad Murray as the King of Pop's physician. The medic is currently serving time behind bars after he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering the fatal dose of anaesthetic propofol which caused the superstar's death in 2009 - weeks before he was due to make his live comeback with a string of concerts in London.
Katherine Jackson, who is suing along with the singer's three children, is seeking more than $40 billion for loss of future earnings and other damages.
She previously testified in July (13), when she broke down on the stand and admitted she had no idea who Murray was when she first heard his name. She also told the court that she did not believe her son had any responsibility for his own death.
AEG Live executives maintain Jackson had prescription drug and addiction problems, and that they're not to blame for the King of Pop's demise. Two bosses, Randy Phillips and Paul Gongaware, were excused from the trial earlier this week (09Sep13), after Judge Yvette Palazuelos insisted there was not enough evidence to hold them personally accountable.
Defence lawyers are expected to rest their case following the 83 year old's testimony on Monday (16Sep13).
"He was on my talk show for VH1 and I went a year without dating anybody. So I don't know if I was really randy or really ready but he was there and I gave him my phone number, which I've never given a guy (before)... but I was interested. It took two weeks for him to call me back and I thought for sure he was playing for a different team, if you know what I'm saying." Model/actress Jenny Mccarthy felt sure her new boyfriend Donnie Wahlberg was gay after handing him her digits.
Michael Jackson's brother Randy has called for the late superstar's daughter Paris to be released from psychiatric care as he fears the teenager has been held by doctors for too long. The King of Pop's only daughter was hospitalised in Los Angeles on 5 June (13) and spent several weeks at the UCLA Medical Center after she allegedly attempted to take her own life.
She was discharged in July (13), but was moved to a residential treatment centre instead of returning to the Jackson family compound in California.
Paris' uncle, Jackson 5 star Randy, has now voiced his concerns for the 15 year old's wellbeing, as he is afraid such a long stay in hospital will actually worsen her mental health.
He tweets, "I don't like that Paris is still in this facility. It's not right. She's been there much too long. She is not psychotic. There is no reason for her to be in a psychiatric hospital this long away from her family. I just hate the fact that you will probably still be there on my brother's birthday (29Aug13). This is not good. There's something more to this, there's something going on I don't like it I'm afraid for her.
"Psychiatric hospitals often... make you feel as though you're psychotic when you're not. Sometimes they make matters worse. I'm going to look into this. Stay tuned."
Country singer Randy Travis has left a Texas hospital following emergency surgery earlier this month (Jul13) and will spend the next few weeks undergoing rigorous physical therapy. The Honky Tonk Moon hitmaker was admitted to the hospital on 7 July (13) for idiopathic cardiomyopathy and was put on life support for 48 hours. During that time, Travis suffered a stroke and had to undergo emergency neurosurgery.
The 54 year old left the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano in Texas on Wednesday (31Jul13), and was transferred to a physical therapy facility to focus on restoring functions such as walking and talking.
The star's fiancee Mary Davis says, "Thanks to all the fans and friends for your continued prayers and support as Randy continues on the road to recovery."
Gary Erwin MD, the pulmonary and critical care specialist at the hospital, has posted a video clip on YouTube.com, in which he reveals it will take Travis "months to recover" from the stroke.
Country singer Randy Travis is awake and in stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery following a stroke last Wednesday (10Jul13). Surgeons operated on the star at the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano in Texas to relieve pressure on his brain and the Honky Tonk Moon hitmaker is now recovering and interacting with family and friends, although his doctors anticipate the 43-year-old will need to stay in hospital for several weeks before undertaking aggressive physical therapy.
In a video posted on YouTube.com, Gary Erwin MD, Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist at the hospital, says, "Mr. Travis is no longer requiring any mechanical devices to support his heart... but he remains on (a ventilator). In terms of his stroke, he has responded well to the surgical procedure... and we are seeing improvements... He is awake and alert, interacting with his family and friends and beginning to start doing some early physical therapy... (but) we anticipate it will take months to recover form the stroke."
Travis' fiancee Mary Davis also spoke in the video and thanked fans and medical staff for their support, adding, "I just want to thank the friends and family, the outpouring of love and affection that has shown up at the hospital and at home... I know that those prayers have helped to mend his heart alongside the skilled hands of the (medical staff at the hospital).
"Randy feels the love of his fans. His friends and family have all been touched by that... He is responding well to voices and he sees and he understands and he's miles beyond (what) we ever thought he would be a few days ago. It's heartwarming to see that we have such a strong person under there... We ask for your continued support and I know that Randy will be so touched by that."
The 54 year old has been receiving medical treatment since last Sunday (07Jul13), when he was admitted to hospital with a heart condition he developed after battling a viral respiratory illness last month (Jun13).
Last Tuesday (09Jul13), Travis underwent a procedure to have a pumping aid device placed in his heart, shortly after which he suffered the stroke.
Ailing country music star Randy Travis has suffered a stroke in hospital. The 54-year-old singer's health took a turn for the worse on Wednesday (10Jul13) and he was taken into the operating room for his second procedure this week.
A statement from his representative reads, "As a complication of his congestive heart failure, Mr. Randy Travis has suffered a stroke and is currently undergoing surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. He is in critical condition. We will have updates as they become available. His family and friends here with him at the hospital request your prayers and support."
Travis was admitted to a medical centre in McKinney, Texas on Sunday (07Jul13) to treat congestive heart failure and a "presumptive cardiomyopathy", a heart condition he developed after battling a viral respiratory illness three weeks ago.
The Grammy winner underwent surgery to have a special pump fitted in his chest to improve his blood flow and was then transferred to another hospital.
His stroke came just hours after doctors treating the star put out a news release suggesting Travis has been showing "signs of improvement".
Ailing Randy Travis is showing "signs of improvement" as he recovers from heart problems which left him in a critical condition on Sunday (07Jul13), according to doctors treating the country star. The Honky Tonk Moon hitmaker was admitted to the Baylor Medical Center in McKinney, Texas over the weekend with "congestive heart failure" and a "presumptive cardiomyopathy", a heart condition he developed after battling a viral respiratory illness three weeks ago, reveals Dr. William Gray, who claims the singer had been in "excellent" health prior to the infection.
He underwent a procedure to help improve his blood flow and stabilise his heart earlier this week (begs08Jul13) and has since been transferred to the nearby Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, where medics have continued to monitor his condition.
His status remained critical on Tuesday (09Jul13), but now his doctors have given fans hope Travis will pull through.
In a videotaped statement released on Wednesday (10Jul13), Dr. Michael Mack adds, "His condition has stabilised and he has shown signs of improvement...
"On behalf of Mr. Travis' family, friends and associates, we would like to express our extreme gratitude for the overwhelming affection and support that Mr. Travis has received."
The 54 year old had to cancel a show in Deadwood, South Dakota on Wednesday (10Jul13) as a result of his illness.
Michael Jackson was so ill prior to his death he could barely perform his signature dance moves during his concert rehearsals, a Los Angeles courtroom has heard. As the eighth week of the court battle between Jackson's mother and kids and executives at gig promotion company AEG Live looms, jury members were shown footage from the King of Pop's Staples Center work-outs on Friday (14Jun13) as the Jackson family lawyers attempted to prove the star was in no fit state to perform in the weeks leading up to his death in June, 2009.
Katherine Jackson and her three grandchildren maintain AEG bosses ignored clear signs that the Thriller singer was not well as he prepared for 50 This Is It dates in London.
Jurors watched comparisons of Jackson's performance of Billie Jean in 2001 with rehearsal video from June, 2009, which clearly showed the pop star was far from his best.
Email correspondence from This Is It production manager John Houghdahl to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips also suggested there were major concerns about the ailing King of Pop.
In June, 2009, Houghdal wrote, "I have watched him (Jackson) deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last 8 weeks. He was able to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He'd fall on his a** if he tried now... He was a basket case... The company is rehearsing right now, but the DOUBT is pervasive."
The worried production manager also told Phillips, who has spent the past week on the witness stand, that tour director Kenny Ortega was "concerned he (Jackson) would embarrass himself on stage, or worse yet, get hurt".
Jurors were told that Phillips met with Jackson, Ortega and the pop superstar's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, after reading Houghdal's correspondence, but AEG's lawyers contend the doctor Murray assured the CEO nothing was wrong with the singer. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson a dose of anaesthetic which led to his death and he remains behind bars.
The trial continues.