How's this for a Christmas miracle: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are collaborating on a Christmas album, featuring special guests like Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, and Kenny G. That's right, Danny and Sandy will be together again for the first time in over 30 years, and they'll be singing Christmas carols. Their holiday album, This Christmas, will be available November 13.
Along with the requisite Christmas tunes you expect to hear around the holidays (like "White Christmas" and "Silent Night"), this yuletide album will also feature a new original song from John Farrar, the guy who brought you the iconic Grease anthem, "You’re the One That I Want." The new song, "I Think You Might Like It," is a follow-up of sorts to the song that caused Travolta's and Newton-John's careers to skyrocket.
In the spirit of the holiday for which this album is about, Travolta and Newton-John will donate the artist proceeds from the album equally to their respective charities, the Jett Travolta Foundation and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia. So if you do buy this album — out of curiosity to see if Travolta and Newton-John still have what it takes to sing and sell records, out of nostalgia for the good old days of sock hops, T-Birds and Pink Ladies, or out of sheer love of the holidays — you can also check “donate to charity” off your holiday to-do list.
The one fault I can find with this bundle of holiday goodness is the lack of Hannukah songs. I know us Jews don’t really have catchy holiday jingles (I mean, there’s only so many times you can sing "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel" before you want to stick pins in your eyes), but they could have tailored the new song to appeal to other religions, too. Hey, if South Park can do it, Grease definitely can. I’m thinking it can easily be changed to something along the lines of “I Think You Might Like The Latkes…” Check out the track list for This Christmas below and sound off in the comments with any glaring omissions you spot.
This Christmas Track List:
1. Baby It’s Cold Outside
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (featuring Kenny G)
3. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (featuring Barbra Streisand)
4. This Christmas (featuring Chick Corea)
5. Silent Night
6. The Christmas Waltz
7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (featuring Cliff Richard)
8. Winter Wonderland (featuring Tony Bennett and The Count Basie Orchestra)
9. White Christmas
10. I Think You Might Like It
11. The Christmas Song
12. Deck the Halls (featuring James Taylor)
13. Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here (Medley)
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Who would have thought that Transformers: Dark of the Moon can join the ranks of a very elite list of threequel films that don’t suck. That might not be saying much considering the subpar Revenge of the Fallen but the third Transformers film is actually way more enjoyable than the first two combined thanks to non-stop pulse-pounding action sequences that showcase why like him or not Michael Bay was the perfect director for this saga.
In the early '60s during the Galactic Civil War of Cybertron between the oversized toasters an Autobot crash lands on the dark side of Earth’s moon. To cover up the investigation of what really happened President Kennedy authorizes NASA to put a man on the moon and in 1969 when Apollo 11 lands astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong investigate the crash site. Fast forward to a few years after the second movie. The Autobots and the U.S. Government are working side by side to ward off evil doers be it foreign domestic or Decepticon. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is unemployed and frustrated about it. After all the kid did save the world twice now. Luckily his frustrations are alleviated by new girlfriend Carly Spencer (newcomer/model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Things turn haywire for Sam and Carly when they head to N.E.S.T. headquarters to meet up with BumbleBee and the rest of the robopals to brainstorm the Autobots’ next move. Also along for the ride are Patrick Dempsey John Malkovich Frances McDormand and the returning John Tuturro to all beef up the films thespian quota making the the time between robot on robot violence scenes enjoyable.
As with any Bay movie action and spectacle trump story and in Transformers: Dark of the Moon there's so much of both there’s not even a proper synonym to use for it. Critics like Roger Ebert trash movies like this but that’s because they forget the film’s true audience are people who want to see the megaton mechs. So if you can check your brain at the door you’ll have a great time with the concluding chapter (?) of the Transformers saga.
Oddly enough the limited 3D edition is not cheesily named the "More Than Meets than Eye" Edition but damn it if it shouldn’t be. The film is available on every format imaginable except for the artifacts known as VHS Beta or Laserdisc. Armed with a conventional Blu–ray 3D Blu-ray DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy each version of the flick looks crystal clear and pumps sensational surround sound through whatever listening device you’re using. As for bonus content this is the most in-depth set of features on a Blu–ray I've seen in a long time. The only thing missing is a commentary track from Bay LaBeouf et al; but the sheer dearth of behind-the-scenes documentaries more than make up for it.
"Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon"
After Bay Shia and other members of the crew all but denounce Revenge of the Fallen the cast and crew of Dark of the Moon discuss the genesis and production of the film. This expansive making-of doc is the meat and potatoes of the special features. It takes you through the entire conception and filming process of the movie. Interesting tidbits from the doc are the concept cars behind the Autobots the funny story of how Bay got to shoot inside the Lincoln Memorial the perils of filming in 3D and many of the film’s out of control Inception–inspired set pieces along with a piece on the crew of Winged Suit Skydivers that flew through the streets of Chicago in one of the most exciting sequences of the movie.
"Deconstructing Chicago: Multi–Angle Sequences"
There are 24 scenes split between Previsualizations and Visual Effects with optional commentary by Bay VFX Supervisors Scott Farrar Matthew Butler and Pre–viz Supervisor Steve Yamamoto. They're all brief sequences but also intriguing to see in shot-by-shot comparisons.
"The Dark of the Moon Archive"
Here’s where the disc’s fun little puff pieces lie. "3D: Transforming Visual Art - A Conversation with Michael Bay and James Cameron" is the highlight of this group of miscellaneous features. If you’re a fan of action movies from the past thirty years chances are you have seen more than a fair share of films from these titans. Hearing them speak about the benefits of 3D technology gives me hope for the progression of the format. Also included in the archives are shots from the film's World Premiere in Moscow Russia another look at the spectacular birdman sequence and the importance of sound design. Rounding out the puffery is a heartwarming piece "Cody’s iPad" in which Bay presents his friend Cody who has special needs an iPad to use for communication.
If these three multi-part features aren’t enough for you the Dark of the Moon Blu-ray also contains concept art galleries teasers theatrical trailers and a look at NASA’s history.
To sum it all up the Transformers: Dark of the Moon Limited 3D Edition Blu-ray is the Blu-ray you pull out to showcase your entertainment system and make the rest of your collection jealous. If any of your friends scoff at the idea of watching this movie sit them down shut them up and crank your speakers up to level 11 for one of best balls to the walls action movies in a long time.
Publishers at Farrar, Straus & Giroux have announced plans to unveil Monroe's collected musings in a new book, called Fragments.
According to editor Courtney Hodell, the book will include poems and reflections on the late star's relationship with ex-husband Arthur Miller and other men in her life.
It will also include references to published works by authors including Samuel Beckett and James Joyce.
Monroe died in 1962.
The 28-year-old stepbrother of "Titanic" superstar Leonardo DiCaprio is in a Los Angeles area jail today on $1 million bail. The allegation: Suspicion of attempted murder.
Adam Farrar, himself an actor, who appeared in the controversial kiddie-bank-robber indie flick "Pups," was arrested about noon Wednesday at a home in Marina Del Rey, Calif., after an alleged attack on his girlfriend, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says.
Leonardo DiCaprio Upon being taken into custody, Farrar told deputies he was Leo's stepbrother. While the familial factoid is true (Leo's camp confirmed as much today), authorities say they're not sure why Farrar offered that by way of ID info.
In addition to the attempted-murder booking, Farrar was also accused of making "terrorist threats" against his (unidentified) girlfriend.
Farrar (listed in the credits of "Pups" as "Ferrar") and DiCaprio are not related by blood. They became family when Farrar's bodybuilder mother married DiCaprio's underground-comic-guru father. Farrar was the first star of the family, doing commercials as a kid. He later left acting for other pursuits, including a stint in the Army.
In 1999, he was named one of Hollywood's "30 Under Thirty" to watch by TNT's Rough Cut movie Web site (www.roughcut.com). "I would love to work with [DiCaprio]," Farrar told the site. "I'm leaving all my options open at this point."
It wasn't known if DiCaprio, 25, was aware of Farrar's current straits. "He has no comment," DiCaprio's publicist, Ken Sunshine, said today of the actor.
TRAGEDY: Mia Farrow is mourning the loss of her 19-year-old child, who died last weekend of a cardiac arrest, it has been revealed. Tam Farrow -- born in Vietnam and adopted by Farrow in 1992 -- had a history of medical problems. She was blind and had been hospitalized as recently as last week in Connecticut. Mia Farrow, 55, is almost as famous for raising a seemingly unmanageable brood of children as for her films ("The Purple Rose of Cairo," "Death on the Nile") or for her tabloid-friendly breakup with longtime love Woody Allen in 1992. Tam Farrow was one of the actress' 14 children -- 10 of whom are adopted. Farrow is also a grandmother by estranged daughter Soon-Yi. Allen, 64, and Soon-Yi adopted a child of their own in 1998.
OSCAR WATCH: Mel Gibson has enlisted to present, and supermodel Tyra Banks and MTV News' Chris Connelly have enlisted to co-host, ABC's red-carpet arrivals parade (now dubbed "Countdown to Oscars 2000") with "The View" gabber Meredith Vieira. Most disturbingly, Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah and baseball player Garth Brooks have enlisted to perform a "special song medley" on the main telecast. For this they ditched the dance numbers?
GOOD COUNTRY PEOPLE: Singer Faith Hill ("Breathe") lassoed eight nominations, including one for best entertainer, as the field for the TNN Music Awards was announced today. Hubby Tim McGraw scored five. Winners will be announced June 15 in Nashville.
THE SIMILARITIES ARE STARTLING? A Pennsylvania woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the author of the mega-selling-soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture "Harry Potter" series, claiming that J.K. Rowling ripped off her non-mega-selling-not-soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture 1984 novel, "The Legend of Rah and Muggles."
PEOPLE WHO GET PERMITS ARE THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: Barbra Streisand and hubby James Brolin have gotten the go-ahead from the Malibu City Council to rip down one of their houses and build a new one in its place. That's what rich people call spring cleaning.