Country star Trace Adkins has joined the Christmas rush to release a holiday-themed album by announcing plans for a Celtic-enthused collection. The King's Gift will feature guests The Chieftains and Kevin Costner and his daughter Lily, and include a series of hymns like Adkins' versions of Wexford Carol, O' Come Emmanuel, Away In A Manger and We Three Kings.
He'll also team up with the Costners on Silent Night.
The gravel-voiced country star will tour with the new album, which will be released at the end of October (13), as part of what he hopes will become an annual Christmas Show.
A source says, "The tour begins a new Adkins holiday tradition for years to come. Envisioned as a theatrical production, Trace will alternate between fireside storytelling of anecdotes (both personal and historical) and performances of classic carols with a 12 piece ensemble - a quartet string section, female vocalists and a range of traditional instruments.
"The tour is inspired by Adkins' annual hosting duties at Disney World's Candlelight Processional, where his deep baritone narrates Christmas stories, while a full choir and orchestra performs. It has always been a highlight of Trace's year and he is thrilled to bring his own unique version of this concept on tour."
Dates will begin in Illinois on 15 November (13).
Kelly Clarkson, Jewel, Mary J. Blige and Susan Boyle will also be releasing festive albums in time for the holidays this year (13).
After decades of moviemaking years spent honing his craft and sifting through the industry's best collaborators to form a cinematic dream team Steven Spielberg is one of the few directors whose films routinely hit a bar of high quality. Even his more haphazard efforts are competently constructed and executed with unbridled passion reeling in audiences with drama adventure and big screen fun. There really isn't a "bad" Spielberg movie. His latest War Horse isn't in the top tier of the grandmaster's filmography but as a work of pure sentimentality and spectacle the film delivers rousing entertainment. Makes sense: a horse's heart is about eight times the size of a human's and War Horse's is approximately that much bigger than every other movie in 2011.
The titular equine is Joey a horse born in the English countryside in 1914 who triumphantly navigates the ravished European landscape during the first World War. A good hour of the 146 minute film is spent establishing the savvy creature's friendship with his first owner Albert (Jeremy Irvine). A farmer boy with a penchant for animal training Albert copes with his alcoholic father Ted (Peter Mullan) and their homestead's dwindling funds but finds much needed hope in the sprite Joey. After blessing Albert and company with a few miracles Ted makes the wise decision of selling Joey off to the war and the real adventure begins.
Like Forrest Gump of the animal kingdom the lucky stallion finds himself intertwined with an eclectic handful of persons. He encoutners the owner of a British Captain preparing a surprise attack. He becomes the ride for two German army runaways the prized possession of young French girl and her grandfather and the unifier of two warring soldiers in the battlefield's No Man's Land. From the beginning to the end of the war Joey miraculously sees it all all in hopes of one day crossing Albert's path again.
Spielberg avoids any over-the-top Mr. Ed techniques in War Horse but amazingly the horses employed to play Joey deliver a riveting muted "performance" that's alive on screen. The animal is the lead of the movie his human co-stars (including Thor's Tom Hiddleston The Reader's David Kross and Toby Kebbell of Prince of Persia) sprinkled around Joey to complicate his (and our) experience of war.
But even with a stellar cast working at full capacity War Horse falters thanks to its episodic nature. It is a movie of moments—awe-inspiring breathtaking and heartfelt—stuffed with long stretches of underdeveloped characters guiding us through meandering action. Spielberg's longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski makes the varying environments visually enthralling—from the dark blue hues of war to rolling green hills backdropped with stunning sunsets—and John Williams' score matches the film's epic scope but without Albert in the picture's second half War Horse simply gallops around in circles.
Spielberg is a master craftsman and War Horse a masterful craft but the movie lacks a necessary intimacy to hook us into the story's bigger picture. The ensemble's devotion and affection for Joey sporadically resonates—how could it not? Look at that adorable horse!—but even those emotional beats border on goofy (at one point Hiddleston's character decides to sketch Joey a moment I found eerily reminiscent of Jack sketching Rose in Titanic). War Horse really hits its stride when Spielberg pulls back the camera and lets his keen eye for picturesque composition do the talking. Or from Joey's perspective neighing.
In the 2006 animated blockbuster Happy Feet an alienated emperor penguin named Mumbles found empowerment through tap-dancing and in so doing managed to both attract a mate and stop the overfishing that imperiled his Antarctic habitat. Directed by George Mitchell – the same George Mitchell who gave us the post-apocalyptic Mad Max trilogy and the almost despairingly bleak Babe: Pig in the City – Happy Feet paired its broadly conventional narrative with a darker sensibility not often seen in talking-animal fare.
The film’s sequel Happy Feet Two finds Mitchell (co-directing with Gary Eck) both more jovial and more easily distracted. The story begins straightforwardly enough with Mumbles (Elijah Wood) now grown-up and by all appearances well-adjusted ceding the mantle of self-discovery to his son Erik (Ava Acres). Boogie fever has swept the once dance-averse penguin nation but in a cruelly ironic twist Erik has inherited none of his father’s nifty moves. But just as Happy Feet Two appears intent on recycling its predecessor’s basic storyline the film abruptly changes course and embarks on a series of detours that seemed geared more as fodder for throwaway gags and showy set pieces than anything else. The disparate narrative elements while enjoyable in isolation never quite coalesce into a meaningful whole leaving us entertained but unfulfilled.
As before Happy Feet Two features a variety of buoyant song-and-dance numbers with Alecia Moore (aka P!nk) lending her formidable pipes to spirited re-workings of “Rhythm Nation” and “Under Pressure ” among others. Robin Williams returns for double duty as both Ramon a diminutive oversexed Latin lover and Lovelace a fiery Southern-preacher type. (Lovelace later adopts a Rastafarian dialect allowing Williams to achieve the rare culture-caricature trifecta.) His voracious scenery-devouring is all the more impressive given the grandeur of the scenery. Not to be left out of the quasi-Vaudevillian comic shenanigans Hank Azaria lays on a thick Scandinavian shtick as Sven a charismatic Arctic émigré who presents himself as the only penguin in the world who can fly. Azaria is a hoot but the film’s best moments come courtesy of the cast’s highest-profile additions Matt Damon and Brad Pitt voicing Bill and Will (respectively) two tiny krill in search of meaning at the bottom of the food chain.
The idea of Neil Patrick Harris guest-hosting on Live! makes me envious of the unemployed, because they can stay home and watch a heap of NPH's daytime glory come the end of this month. After Regis Philbin's resignation from the show, Kelly Ripa will be enjoying a series of guest hosts, one of whom will be the film, TV and theater star Harris. The actor has enjoyed guest spots on Live! in the past, and he'll be regaling viewers with his magic once more from Monday, Nov. 28 to Friday, Dec. 2. -Deadline
We're not sure what Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23 is up to, what with its provocative title and James Van Der Beek starring as himself, but we're definitely intrigued. It doesn't hurt that Apartment 23 (or Don't Trust the B—...we're not sure which is the official shorthand just yet) is roping in a guest star from the glorious Mad Men. Young Kiernan Shipka, the AMC series' Sally Draper, will guest on the new ABC comedy, playing herself. In the reality of the show, Shipka will co-star with Van Der Beek in a "single dad" movie. DTTBIA23 (okay, that's definitely not the shorthand) will premiere on ABC as a midseson replacement. -EW
A new Christmas tradition is about to be set in place: Pamela Anderson has signed on to play the Virgin Mary on a Canadian comedy TV special called A Russell Peters Christmas Special. The program will be a sketch comedy show, featuring Anderson as the Virgin Mary in a sketch themed after the birth of Jesus at the manger. Those familiar with Peters (and those who comprehend why he chose Anderson) can expect that the show will be far from reverent. The special will air in the U.S. on Dec. 1. -THR
Clearly lacking anything resembling a job or significant relationship, Star Wars fanatics began their vigil outside of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, six weeks prior to the movie's premiere. Variety reports that approximately half a dozen fans are already in line, guaranteeing them tickets to the initial public screening of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. These unwashed Star Wars faithful say they plan to pass the time talking about the sci-fi movie series with passers-by and talking to the media--from a distance, one hopes.
Well, shut my mouth and call me Sally: Apparently the tabloids are wrong! According to the Associated Press, Spider-Man co-stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are NOT an item. Vanity Fair, though, quotes the charismatic pair as being professionally in love with each other. Dunst praises Maguire's ability to cry on cue, and Maguire says that there's "no vanity" in Dunst's acting.
Looks like Russell Crowe may end up in court--but not for something the easily irritated Aussie was charged for. Rather, the Oscar-winning actor may be called to testify against three men accused of blackmailing him with a videotape that allegedly involves the thespian in a street fight, the BBC reports.
New mom Liz Hurley got more good news yesterday. Mere hours after giving birth, a man who has been accused of stalking the international beauty was remanded into custody, the BBC reports.
In the Biz
As if times for the beleaguered John Travolta couldn't get worse. Variety reports that a rumor is floating around that the Battlefield Earth and Domestic Disturbance star (duds, both) will split with his manger of 17 years, Jonathan Krane.
Miramax Films has grabbed the rights to the waning Pokemon film series away from Warner Bros. Although the first installment grossed more than $85 million, the third episode (and latest) brought in just $17 million. Still, according to a source quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Miramax shelled out a cool $1 million for the rights to the next two sequels in the continuing saga of the pocket monsters.
E.T. was a sonic boom the first time it was released, but mere signal noise this time around. Re-released 20 years after its debut--and after it grossed more than £500 million worldwide--Steven Spielberg's opus grossed a miniscule £4.6 million over Easter weekend (26 countries), Britain's Screen Daily reports.
John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) has signed on to play the villain in the latest Rowan Atkinson comedy, Johnny English, a parody of spy films. Pop singer Natalie Imbruglia will join the boys in the film as a seductive temptress.
CBS is going back to the past one more time. Following last November's successful Carol Burnett Show special, next month the eye network will air a one-hour reunion with the cast from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Other networks are following CBS' lead: ABC is planning a Laverne & Shirley retrospective, Fox is looking into a Three's Company tribute and NBC is devoting the entire month of May to reunions and highlight shows as part of its 75th anniversary celebration.
Whew! R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was acquitted of all charges stemming from an alleged fit of rage while drunk on an airplane last April. Buck's successful defense was comprised almost wholly by the claims "It wasn't me" and "Free tickets for any juror who finds me innocent."
How cute: Kelly Osbourne is following in daddy's shoes, sort of. The daughter of shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne is covering Madonna's hit song "Papa Don't Preach" with the help of Incubus band members Mike Einziger and Jose Pasillas II, the AP reports. Kelly told MTV News she's worried about the single's success "because I don't think I'm a very good singer." Ah, like father, like daughter.
The spy business is dangerous, very dangerous. The AP reports that a stuntman on the set of Vin Diesel's latest movie, XXX, died while doing a parasailing stunt when he hit a bridge in Prague. XXX isn't the salacious movie described by its title; it's an urban spy thriller revolving around extreme-sports athletes.