Vallery Jean/GettyLady Gaga's ARTPOP, Katy Perry's Prism, Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2: most of the big-hitters have now hit the shelves in time for the Christmas rush, but there are still several albums that will only see the light of day in December that are worth getting excited about. Here are five of the biggest.Britney Spears – Britney JeanThe first two singles from Britney's eighth studio album haven't really struck a chord outside her loyal fan base. But featuring collaborations with everyone from William Orbit to T.I. to her younger sister Jamie Lynn, her self-described most personal record to date also sounds like it could be the most intriguing.R. Kelly - Black PantiesFollowing his unlikely alliance with French synth-pop outfit Phoenix and his first US Top 20 hit in seven years with Lady Gaga collaboration "Do What U Want," the self-proclaimed Pied Piper of R&B looks like continuing his musical rehabilitation with a typically sexually-charged studio effort which he's described as "the new 12 Play."Leona Lewis – Christmas, With LoveLast year's under-rated but hugely troubled Glassheart didn't even get a US release so The X-Factor UK's most gifted vocalist will now be hoping to revive her career with a carefully-chosen collection of Christmas classics ("Winter Wonderland," "White Christmas") and original festive compositions.Rebecca Ferguson – FreedomPoised to take over from Lewis as The X-Factor UK's biggest soul star, 2010 runner-up Rebecca Ferguson follows up her Billboard Top 30 debut album, Heaven, with another effortlessly elegant array of heartbreak anthems co-written with the likes of piano man Aqualung and Jay-Z cohort Mr. Hudson.Childish Gambino – Because The InternetThe Community star has had to fight to get his second studio effort released in time for Christmas following record label concerns that it would get lost amongst all the blockbuster releases. Featuring guest appearances from Jhene Aiko, Chance The Rapper and motormouth Azealia Banks, Because The Internet might not be challenging for the number one spot but it could be a late contender for hip-hop album of the year.
Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson had to be asked to move along by police last week (13Nov13) after staging an hours-long gospel celebration on her Hollywood Walk of Fame star shortly after the unveiling ceremony. The Dreamgirls star was presented with the pavement plaque on 13 November (13) and she reveals she took her family back to the sidewalk spot that evening to gaze at the honour.
The get together quickly became a church-style event as family and friends joined the Oscar winner for a few hymns and spirituals.
The impromptu gathering, which lasted into the early hours, attracted strange stares from cops patrolling the area - and they eventually managed to convince the group to head home.
She says, "It was so fun. I tried to fly my whole, entire family to the ceremony so I had everybody with me, and it's just such an amazing honour...
"I ended up back at the star (afterwards)... I had to go make sure it was still there...! Like, this is really real. I took my whole family and we ended up having church (sic) on the star, singing. We stayed out there until like, two in the morning until the police removed us! We prayed and we sang... Well they (police) didn't kick us out, but they was (sic) about to by the third time they came around!"
Hudson was joined by her fiance, David Otunga, their four-year-old son David Daniel Otunga, Jr., music mentor Clive Davis, R&B star Raphael Saadiq and songwriter Diane Warren at the ceremony, where she paid an emotional tribute to her late mother, Darnell Donnerson, who was murdered in 2008 by the singer's estranged brother-in-law.
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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Actress Kate Hudson showed off her dancing skills during a night out in Los Angeles by taking to the floor for an impromptu routine with professional Derek Hough. The Almost Famous beauty enlisted the help of the Dancing with the Stars regular earlier this year (13) to help incorporate ballroom skills into her workouts.
Hudson was keen to demonstrate what she has learned so far by hitting the dancefloor at a Cuban restaurant with Hough last Friday (15Nov13).
The pair span around the floor in front of cheering diners in a complex routine, before returning to their table.
Hudson previously displayed her talent during an appearance in Glee and in musical movie Nine.
Jennifer Hudson's son made an unscheduled cameo appearance in her new movie by sneaking into a shot without permission. The singer/actress recently revealed her little boy David, four, makes a brief appearance in her holiday movie musical Black Nativity, and now she has admitted he wasn't meant to be in the film at all.
She tells New York Post gossip column Page Six, "He kind of snuck (sic) into the shot and ended up just sitting there, and the camera was rolling, and it's like now you can't move, now you're on the clock... He saw the movie and he's like, 'That's it? Where's the rest of my shots?'"
Hudson also struggled to explain the concept of her onscreen son to David, adding, "(He) doesn't get the concept of me having another son in the film. He'll say, 'No, mommy, I'm your son. That's not your son.' He's only four so he's still trying to grasp all that."
For all its faults, no one can accuse Smash of having an awful cast. Despite what we thought of the show as it wrapped up its second and final season, we knew we were going to miss seeing Megan Hilty and Jack Davenport on our screens every week. They, along with Will Chase, have joined other projects: Sean Saves the World, Breathless, and Nashville. We might not miss Katharine McPhee’s flat performance as Karen Cartwright or the overdramatic plot developments: Surprise death! Surprise pregnancy! But we do miss these very talented people on our TVs every week.
As a Tony Award-winning star, his talents were underutilized on Smash. We’d like to see him in something with a little more staying power.
Leslie Odom Jr.
Who didn’t love Sam Strickland? Odom Jr. made us all fall in love with Sam (even though he was more interested in Tom,) so we’d really love to see him land a long-term role instead of a couple guest spots.
We cried when Kyle died. Not because those episodes were well written, but because Mientus was leaving. His time on Smash was cut short and we’re still angry about it.
We’re happy for Rodriguez because she’s starring on Broadway with Zacahary Levi in First Date, but we’re selfish and we’d like to see her back on TV.
Again, we’re happy Jordan landed a part in the movie adaptation of The Last Five Years — especially because he gets to play opposite Anna Kendrick — but we miss him and his voice (and, let’s be honest, his face.)
Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson fought back tears while speaking about her late mother as she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday (13Nov13). The Oscar winner was surrounded by family and friends when she unveiled the 2,512th star on the iconic Los Angeles sidewalk, but Hudson pointed out that there was one person she wanted by her side for the special moment - her late mum Darnell Donnerson.
Welling up during her acceptance speech, Hudson said, "I knew I would get emotional and I'm sure my mom is in heaven like 'Jenny stop crying' but now's the time to cry mama, it is. This is an amazing honour as we all know and I did not see this coming. I'm so honoured to be here with so many that I love and I feel as though we're all a family."
Donnerson, along with Hudson's nephew and brother, was shot dead by her sister's estranged husband William Balfour in 2008.
During the ceremony, music executive Clive Davis, was also on hand to praise the former American Idol contestant.
He recalled, "I didn't sign her to a recording contract at the very beginning, but when I saw her, I saw her screen test for Dreamgirls, I knew that she was truly a unique original artist whose career would be nothing short of spectacular so I did sign her, then I was stunned by her acting range, she was the real deal... and that voice.
"I had been privileged over the years to work with two of the greatest voices of all time: Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. I never thought I'd hear another voice to compare and yet staring me in the face was a new voice that did compare. It literally sent shivers up my spine."
Hudson was also joined by her fiance, David Otunga, their four-year-old son David Daniel Otunga, Jr., R&B star Raphael Saadiq and songwriter Diane Warren at the ceremony.
Engaged stars Kate Hudson and Matt Bellamy opened up their Pacific Palisades, California home for a wedding at the weekend (09Sat13), but not their own. The actress hosted the ceremony for her fiance's pal Thomas Kirk, who is the media manager for Bellamy's band Muse, and his bride Jaclyn Ferber.
The candlelit ceremony and reception was planned by wedding organisers from Bash, Please, who took over the front yard of Hudson and Bellamy's home, where the creative actress had set up a Teepee Lounge, full of pillows and blankets.
The hostess and her fiance have been engaged since 2011, but have yet to name the day for their wedding.
"People think we own all these dresses but we borrow them! I can't afford to buy that stuff. There are certain things I splurge on, but it's very rare, especially when you have two kids and school tuition. I'm not a big high-end fashion shopper." Actress Kate Hudson insists she never spends her hard-earned cash on red carpet gowns because they are simply too expensive.
Singer Beyonce was eager to land a role in The Princess And The Frog, but refused to audition for it. The Halo hitmaker was one of the frontrunners who were considered for the role of Princess Tiana, Disney's first black princess, in the animated 2009 film, but she lost out to her Dreamgirls co-star Anika Noni Rose, because she wouldn't audition.
Confessions of a Casting Director author Jen Rudin tells the New York Post, "Beyonce expected an offer, but wouldn't audition and so she didn't get one.
"Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson wanted it. Alicia Keys auditioned three times... They had to sing, so we made it clear they needed sheet music.
"Tyra came in with a CD, but it didn't matter because she was so pretty and nice. It went to Anika Noni Rose, who was the most qualified."