Mariah Carey's 1994 hit All I Want For Christmas Is You has topped Billboard's first Holiday 100 chart of the year, as it did last year (12). The song, which Carey performed at the 81st annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony on Wednesday (04Dec13), hit the number one spot with 29,000 downloads and big airplay figures.
Brenda Lee's 1958 classic Rocking Around the Christmas Tree comes in at two and Bobby Helms' Jingle Bell Rock is at three on the first U.S. festive chart of the year.
Ariana Grande claims the chart's top holiday song released this season with Love Is Everything at number 15, while her cover of Wham!'s Last Christmas is at 32. The original takes the 11th spot on the countdown.
Meanwhile, on the U.S. Christmas albums chart, Duck Dynasty stars the Robertsons' Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas ranks number one, just ahead of Kelly Clarkson's holiday compilation Wrapped in Red.
Mary J. Blige's new album A Mary Christmas is at three, Michael Buble's 2011 release Christmas is at four and Susan Boyle's Home for Christmas rounds out the new top five.
Morrissey and Jake Bugg have joined Mary J. Blige and James Blunt on the bill at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Norway on 11 December (13). The concert, which traditionally takes place the day after the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, will be hosted by actress Claire Danes. Morrissey will reportedly perform three tracks at the prestigious show.
Gwyneth Paltrow hosted a festive charity dinner in London on Monday night (25Nov13) to raise money for underprivileged kids. The Iron Man star teamed up with fashion designer Matthew Williamson to host the event at Aqua Shard to bring in money for the Kids Company organisation.
The event featured a Christmas tree decorated with baubles specially designed by stars including actress Sienna Miller and singer Mary J. Blige.
The sparkly ornaments will be auctioned off to raise money for the cause.
After the event, Paltrow took to her Twitter.com page to thank Williamson for his help, writing, "Thank you Matthew Williamson for supporting Kids Company UK."
Mary J. Blige used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of her personal life at the beginning of her career, revealing she was "spinning" out of control. The Family Affair singer is now clean and sober and even gave up the occasional glass of champagne following her friend Whitney Houston's death - but there was a time she was "struggling to survive" as she tried to balance her professional career with her out-of-control personal life.
In a candid new interview with the BBC, she explains, "I was singing for my life. I was singing to get my family out of the projects. I can't really say I was having fun... All I remember was being onstage, singing hard and moving fast.
"Early on, I don't remember what was going on... I was just there singing. Everything was wrong. There was no support; I was a deer in the headlights. I was just spinning and trying to survive.
"That included everything - alcohol, drugs, anything to keep myself numb from seeing what the truth was, which is nobody cared."
Mary Poppins choreographer Marc Breaux has died, aged 89. Breaux put Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews through their paces as they rehearsed for the 1964 movie musical and the actor was so impressed with his work, he hired him for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also designed the choreography for Andrews' film The Sound of Music and devised the iconic opening scene, which features the actress, as nun Maria, spinning around on a hilltop.
The dance master always worked with his wife Dee Dee Wood, who appeared with her husband onstage in Broadway's Li'l Abner in 1956.
In some cultures, selling your newborn babies to a corporation is frowned upon. But in the United States, we consider exploitation to be the wisest of investments. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen first won us over on Full House playing Michelle Tanner, a sassy young chimpanzee, notorious for scolding adult men while simultaneously filling her diapers. The Olsens went on to build an empire making a barrage of movies and television shows, most with a fictional plot of searching for one or both of their parents after being abandoned by them in some way or another. So it's no surprise that after their entire 27 years in the spotlight and acquiring a net worth of $300 million, Mary-Kate and Ashley have announced that they are retiring from acting.
"I think people looked at us with the perception of 'Oh, you just have everything. You can do whatever,' " Mary Kate recently told Allure magazine, the cover story for the December issue. She later stated that she's "not great at not being able to control the end product." Essentially, she wants to convey to the public that things haven't been handed to them; but if they aren't in complete control of a project, they aren't going to be a part of it. Got it? Ashley also told Allure: "I was reading scripts, and ultimately I just said to the people who were representing me, 'I need to do things 100%. I don't feel like I can give you 100% of my time." Everybody knows that if you're serious about something but you can't give 100%, just give 0%.
But don't say goodbye to Mary-Kate and Ashley quite yet. They still own the production company Dualstar Entertainment Group, which they have used to create their own clothing line, The Row. They will be swinging their focus to high-end fashion pursuits, and are currently planning to open their first retail store in Los Angeles. If this story sounds familiar, it's probably because nearly two years ago, Ashley announced to UK Elle that she was retiring from acting to focus on fashion. So we get it, guys, you're reeeally retiring. And we're really going to miss your roles on, uh. Uhh..
Mary Poppins star Karen Dotrice has finally watched the film nearly 50 years after she shot to fame as young Jane Banks. The British actress became well known for playing the magical nanny's young charge in the 1964 Walt Disney musical film opposite Dame Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
However, Dotrice, now 58, admits she had never watched the movie all the way through until last week (ends17Nov13) when she was invited to a screening to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of the film's release.
She says, "The amazing thing is I've never actually seen Mary Poppins all the way through until last week at this 50th anniversary premiere. And it's absolutely a corker... I took my kids. They've never seen the film either... They were proud and I think they were a little bit shocked, actually, because that was their mum. I think it was a bit discombobulating, but they loved the film."
Dotrice insists the reason she never saw the whole film was because she was forced to leave the 1964 premiere early as she had to go to school the next day.
She adds, "I was a little girl and I had to go to school the next morning. My parents were very good at keeping (my) feet on the ground. I think I got away with not doing homework that night, but I had to go back to school so I only stayed for about a half an hour... I was sitting in between Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth. I just couldn't believe I was looking at real jewellery and real royalty. I wasn't watching the film at all."
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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Mary J. Blige was shocked into sobriety following the sudden death of fellow R&B superstar Whitney Houston last year (Feb12), revealing she was "crushed" by the unexpected loss of her friend. The Real Love hitmaker, who battled drug addiction during her youth, reveals the tragedy forced her to re-evaluate her lifestyle, prompting her to quit boozing and adopt a healthier diet in an effort to avoid a similar demise.
She tells Shape magazine, "Others may be able to drink and have a great time, but it doesn't work for me at this point. I haven't had a drink in a year and three months. I had quit for a long time but started again about five years ago. I'm off it completely once more, and now I feel stronger than ever.
"Whitney Houston's death really crushed me. I saw someone so incredibly talented just diminish, and I refuse to go out like that!"
Blige shows off her new bikini body on the cover of the magazine and credits her trainer, J.R. Allen, and a strict work-out plan for her toned physique.
As part of her exercise routine, Blige has also achieved her lifelong goal of learning how to swim.
She explains, "I never swam as a kid and that always bothered me. At first, it was very hard, but once I got in the water and figured out how to breathe, it was so liberating. Now it's helping me with every aspect of my life - personally and professionally. Conquering that fear was a huge boost to my confidence. I'm as proud of this accomplishment as I would be if I had graduated from college, which I never got to do."
And Blige is more than happy with the results of her hard work: "I had an 'aha!' moment recently after a swim. I was walking by a mirror and I saw my abs, and they were crazy toned, and my arms looked unbelievable - in a good way, I was thrilled and so proud of myself... When I'm fit, I can conquer the world. I love the way I look and feel right now and I am truly comfortable in my own skin."
Houston died in her hotel bathtub in February, 2012. Her passing was ruled an accidental drowning, combined with the effects of heart disease and cocaine use.
Mary J. Blige, Grace Jones and Boy George rubbed shoulders with the fashion crowd in London on Tuesday (19Nov13) at the launch of an exhibition in honour of tragic style journalist Isabella Blow. The stars descended on the U.K. capital's Somerset House, where Blow's outlandish outfits are on display.
The collection was purchased by socialite Daphne Guinness after the style icon's suicide in 2007, and heavily features pieces by her protegee Alexander McQueen, who also took his own life in 2010.
Guinness says, "The decision to put Isabella's wardrobe on display was a natural progression; it felt like what she would have wanted. I bought the collection because I couldn't bear for it to be dispersed; it was her life's work - her legacy. What better way of celebrating that legacy than allowing the world to view it?"
British royal Princess Beatrice, designer Jasper Conran, model Liberty Ross and Bond girl Gemma Arterton also attended the glamorous launch event. The exhibition runs until March (14).