Popular Posts

Blog Archive

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Conrad Murray sentenced to four years in prison over Michael Jackson’s death…

 After being found guilty of Michael Jackson’s involuntary manslaughter earlier this month, Conrad Murray was back in court today to be sentenced.

He’s now been handed four years in the slammer, although it’s likely he’ll serve around half of that sentenc in a County jail.

The presiding judge refused Murray’s request for probation saying that evidence in the case had shown a: "continuous pattern of lies and deceit" making him ineligible for it.

During Murray’s sentencing the judge also said: "There are those who feel Dr. Murray is a saint. There are those who feel he's the devil. He is neither. He's a human being." 

Gary Barlow opens up about his weight loss…

 Gary Barlow has been speaking to Grazia magazine about how happy he is with trim physique and how he gets a kick out of people telling him he’s lost too much weight.

He said, “I'm at a weight that I'm just so bloody happy with and I feel amazing. I'm full of confidence.

“It's going to sound shallow, but being happy with the way I look makes me spring out of bed in the morning and want to live life.

“I can't say I don't get a little kick out of it. Me, too thin ... will wonders ever cease?”

The 40-year-old Take That star revealed how he ballooned to 17 stone during his darkest days and how his wife, Dawn stood by him and helped him face his demons.

“Dawn knows how weight has always been my enemy, how with every mouthful of food I have always felt guilty.

“I've actually had major problems with food for years and years. I realised that once I started to eat I couldn't stop.”

Janet Devlin has already landed herself a record contract…

 Despite her horrifically awkward TV performance on Saturday, Janet Devlin has already managed to bag herself a record contract.

What’s more, she managed to score an offer just half an hour after getting voted off the X Factor, and randomly by none other than Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne who co-owns a record label.

Speaking about their latest acquisition Ryan Ashmore, who runs RKA records with Duncan, said:

"With Janet’s amazing talent and great image I just had to put my offer out there. She is destined for success and I’m sure RKA and Janet can have a great relationship and achieve great things together”.

In that case, hopefully Janet can start singing songs she actually likes because she doesn’t seem too happy with the ones which were picked for her on the show. Speaking about them yesterday she said:

'To me the sad thing about X Factor, and it's brought me down a lot, is the fact that I've just been covering other people's songs.

'It got to the point where I felt like a karaoke artist every Saturday night.'

Has she never watched X Factor before? Did she not understand the premise of the show?

Jennifer Saunders steals the show as she turns on Stella McCartney’s crimbo lights...

 The Stella McCartney annual Christmas light switch on is always a predictably starry affair where a group of celebrities come together to bask in their collective brilliance for an hour or so.

So this year Stella decided to spice proceedings up a little by inviting her pal Jennifer Saunders to the bash in the guise of her Ab Fab character Eddie.

She apparently made jokes about the celebs in the crowd – including Kate Moss and Stella’s dad Paul McCartney – as she switched on the shop’s (really quite naff) festive lights with Emma Bunton.

Ab Fab will also be returning to our TV screens this Christmas.

Simon Cowell to return to Britain’s Got Talent…

 After seeing slightly lagging ratings on both X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent this year Simon Cowell has decided to return to the judging panel on BGT for the next series of the show.

Apparently he’s also trying to convince Barbra Windsor to join the programme too. AMAZING. A source down at ITV HQ said:

“Simon’s been focussing on US X Factor and viewing figures for his British shows have fallen. He won’t take chances with BGT.”

As much as we love Simon Cowell, will his presence on the show be that much of a ratings boost for it? Are people that desperate to see him on their TV screens again?

Surely he’d be better off altering the tired formula of his TV shows to entice people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arthur Christmas: Yet more traditional Christmas fare

Arthur Christmas is yet more traditional Christmas fare.

It offers us a modestly amusing animated take on how Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is able to deliver so many presents around the Earth, in one night.

It turns out that this Santa is the 20th of a long line, and the 19th (voiced by Bill Nighy) is still alive but retired.

Traditional festive fare: Arthur, voiced by James McAvoy, in Arthur Christmas

The present Santa has a supportive wife (Imelda Staunton again) and grown-up sons, one of whom, Steve (Hugh Laurie) bosses the high-tech, military-style operation, the other of whom, Arthur (James McAvoy), is a well-meaning but clumsy nincompoop who’s banished to the mailroom.

Santa’s other helpers are elves, a million of them, including a Scottish one voiced by Ashley Jensen.

But what happens when the system breaks down, and one little girl in Cornwall doesn’t get the bike she wanted?

Arthur and Grandpa Santa (voiced by Bill Nighy). Writer-director Sarah Smith and her co-writer Peter Baynham come up with a few good gags

The only one who really cares is Arthur, who, though accident-prone, is the most imbued with the Christmas spirit. So Arthur persuades his stroppy old grandfather to get the old, low-tech sleigh out of mothballs and ride to the rescue.

Because Arthur Christmas comes from Aardman, the company that made Wallace And Gromit and Chicken Run, I was hoping for quirkier ideas and a more offbeat sense of humour. Nor does it feel as British as the best of their output.

Still, writer-director Sarah Smith and her co-writer Peter Baynham come up with a few good gags, and the animation is perfectly competent. This is an undemanding children’s movie, with just about enough humour and excitement to keep adults entertained.

It’s just a pity it isn’t a classic.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blake Lively steps out in a VERY low-cut tuxedo which leaves little to the imagination

She stepped out over the weekend in a daring sheer Marchesa dress, with mere white tassels covering her modesty.

And now, Blake Lively has emerged in another risque outfit.

The 24-year-old turned heads at Lady Gaga's Workshop Opening at Barneys in New York last night.

How low can you go?: Blake Lively turned heads at Lady Gaga's Workshop Opening at Barneys in New York last night, in a low-cut blue tuxedo which exposed a hint of her fashion tape

The actress slipped her stunning curves in a bright blue tuxedo, with a jacket that left very little to the imagination.

Blake had opted to wear no blouse or shirt underneath, exposing plenty of her decolletage.

On account of the low-cut attire and no room for underwear, a hint of the star's fashion tape could be seen peeking out.

Deep V: Blake had opted to wear no blouse or shirt underneath, exposing plenty of her decolletage

While it may have been difficult to be distracted from the area, another standout on Blake's bright ensemble were the lacy shoulder pads.

The feature gave the the two-piece a certain eighties feel.

Without her boyfriend Ryan Reynolds on hand, Blake instead cosied up to her Gossip Girl co-star Matthew Settle at the event.

Racy lace: While it may have been difficult to be distracted from the said area, another standout on Blake's bright ensemble were the lacy shoulder pads

Her relationship with her 35-year-old Green Lantern co-star, is however, going from strength to strength.

The couple appear to have become inseparable, at least when their busy schedules allow, and Blake heads to Boston as often as she can when she isn’t filming her TV show Gossip Girl in New York.

The pair, who have been dating for about a month, are said to be already looking for a love nest to buy together.

Catching up: Without her boyfriend Ryan Reynolds on hand, Blake instead cosied up to her Gossip Girl co-star Matthew Settle at the event

They were spotted checking out a $4.5 million apartment in Manhattan, according to New York Post's Page Six.

The pad is situated between the historic Flatiron building and the Empire State and is nestled on the back of Madison Square Park.

Meanwhile, last night, hostess with the mostess Lady Gaga cut the ribbon at the launch of her Workshop at the upscale Manhattan department store.

Open for business! Meanwhile, last night, hostess with the mostess Lady Gaga cut the ribbon at the launch of her Workshop at the upscale Manhattan department store

The pop star looked spectacular in a cream long-sleeve corseted ballgown with black and gold trim.

She paired the look with her obligatory wild footwear, some gold studded platforms.

And she accessorised with a Chanel handbag, oversized zany sunglasses and ribbon and feathered headdress.

Two ladys! Gaga puckers up to Lady Starlight at the event

Gaga's workshop is a collaborative fashion and lifestyle project between the singer and Barney's New York, at the store's East 60th Street location.

It is a 5,500 square foot in-store holiday shop designed completely by the pop star.

The bright and whimsical store features items such as her infamous hair bows attached to headbands, iPhone and iPad covers and stiletto-heel holiday stockings.

Whimsical fun: Gaga's workshop is a collaborative fashion and lifestyle project between the singer and Barney's New York, at the store's East 60th Street location

Gaga style: The bright store features items such as her infamous hair bows attached to headbands

There are also studded leather motorcycle jackets and Gaga-style Christmas ornaments.

The pop-up shop also has a candy store for kids, with little monsters-shaped cookies and rock candy necklaces, included among the delectable treats.

Shoppers can also channel Gaga's outrageous clothing style, with a pair of $4,000 heel-less booties and $50 heart-shaped sunglasses also for sale.

  Eccentric: Shoppers can also channel Gaga's outrageous clothing style, with a pair of $4,000 heel-less booties and press-on nails for sale

Know for her philanthropic efforts, Gaga is giving 25% of workshop or online sales to her Born This Way Foundation.

The star also performed at the event, singing two of her hits, including The Edge Of Glory and Born This Way.

'It's a `Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' moment,' she told reporters. 'We wanted it all to be whimsical and fun, with a sense of art and fashion.'

Daring: Blake stepped out over the weekend in a daring sheer Marchesa dress, with mere white tassels covering her modesty, to celebrate 100 episodes of Gossip Girl 

Breaking Dawn review: Time to nail the coffin shut on the Twilight Saga

The suits behind the flamboyantly successful Twilight movie franchise —  worth ?1.2??billion and counting — have followed Harry Potter’s lead by splitting the final novel into two.

But whereas the Potter series gained from that decision, the Twilight Saga loses almost all its impetus.

In the Potter stories, extra screen time allowed the leading characters to deepen; the reverse is true here.

Tamed: Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Kristen Stewart (Bella) star in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, in which they marry

Stephenie Meyer’s characters are becoming ever less plausible. And the dialogue in this movie is the most leaden and banal in the series.

And before all you Twilight fans complain that I’m too old to appreciate the movies, check out my review of the first film; I awarded it four stars out of five.

But a rather good original idea has dwindled into self-parody.

This film, a certain box-office hit thanks to the saga’s fanatical following, covers the first half of Meyer’s fourth book.

It starts with the lavish wedding of hot yet cool vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), aged 108, to feisty yet droopy 18-year-old Bella (Kristen Stewart).

The nuptials are so kitsch they could have been designed by Russell Grant, and take a seemingly endless half-hour.

Anyone not obsessed with hair, make-up and lingerie may find it a near-death experience.

Pregnancy plot: The film speediest pregnancy in history, and an alarmingly gruesome childbirth

Here come the boys: Robert Pattinson (right) and Taylor Lautner (left) at the Breaking Dawn premiere in Barcelona, Spain last night

The inaction moves on to a turgid honeymoon on an island near Rio.

There’s lovemaking so passionless it barely warrants a 12A certificate, accompanied by the world’s weediest pop music.

From there it’s on to the speediest pregnancy in history, and an alarmingly gruesome childbirth.

The film-makers’ coyness about sex is strangely at odds with the grisliness of the Caesarean section, which might well put an impressionable 11-year-old girl off ever giving birth.

The only action comes in the form of a desultory battle towards the end, badly choreographed and featuring unpersuasive computer animation.

During this, the third lead, werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), has to choose between his own kind and continuing to stalk his emo ex-girlfriend. Tough call.

Film premiere: (Left to right) Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner arriving for the UK premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, at the Westfield Stratford City, Stratford, this week

Co-stars: The three actors all arrived for the premiere in sultry black matching outfits

Teenage girls will probably be less interested in the story than in the earliest point where Mr Lautner rips off his shirt: these film-makers know their audience, and it’s within seconds of the opening.

The movie seems deeply confused as to how vampires procreate.

Now it is the normal human way, whereas earlier in the series vampires continued their line by biting humans.

The writers seem to be changing the rules as they go along.

Poor old Edward is clearly as much in the dark as the audience.

At one point, he goes on a search engine to look up ‘demon children’.

The mystery is why he didn’t go to it a bit earlier and look up ‘birth control’.

Skip the next two paragraphs if you don’t want to read a spoiler, but the climax depends on the notion that a grown-up werewolf can ‘imprint’ upon a baby at birth and make that offspring forever tied sexually to him.

Yes, a werewolf can fall in love with a baby, and vice versa!

The idea is deeply creepy, bordering on paedophile, and completely at odds with the surely much healthier notion that an adult has the right to fall in love with anyone he or she chooses. Maybe even a non-werewolf.

Director Bill Condon has made classy films in the past, notably Gods And Monsters and Kinsey, but he has never shown much sense of humour or feeling for pace or action.

He is ideally unsuited to this material.

His attitude towards the Twilight Saga is reverential. There is none of the intentional comedy that enlivened the first Twilight movie.

The only laughs in this are from the po-faced dialogue, potty plotting and wooden performances. 

Don't carry on, Margot... Why Penelope was axed from the Carry On Films

Two decades after the last Carry On film was made, the uniquely British series of low-budget films continues to amuse viewers who weren’t even born when Kenneth Williams’s Caesar declared ‘Infamy. Infamy.

They’ve all got it in for me’ — later voted the best Carry On one-liner of all time. 

Now the cast has been immortalised in a Who’s Who by aficionado Andrew Ross. Here, from his diligent research, are 30 things you didn’t know about Carry On .?.?.

This won't hurt a bit: Stars Barbara Windsor and Jim Dale

1 German actress Elke Sommer was paid six times the ?5,000 salary of Carry On stars Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor when she played Russian Anna Vrooshka in Carry On Behind.

2 Penelope KEITH was a nurse in Carry On Doctor long before finding fame in The Good Life and To The Manor Born. Her scenes were cut in the editing process.

3 Shakira BAKSH, a former Miss World contestant, played Scrubba, one of Sid James’s wives, in Carry On Again Doctor. The Guyana-born actress is best known as Lady (Michael) Caine.

4 Kenneth WILLIAMS, who appeared in 25 Carry Ons, loathed Sid James, whom he said was ‘just too coarse’. 

5 THEATRE impresario and Everton FC owner Bill Kenwright played a reporter in Carry On Matron.

Coarse: Kenneth Williams (pictured), who appeared in 25 Carry Ons films loathed Sid James

6 POP star David Essex was 22  when he played a heckler in Carry On Henry, but ended up on the cutting-room floor.

7 Charles HAWTREY, who appeared in 23 Carry Ons, never recovered professionally after walking out in 1972 when his demand for star billing in the TV Christmas special Carry On Stuffing was rejected. He died in straitened circumstances in 1988.

8 Joan Sims, who starred in 24 Carry Ons, played a medium in Morrissey’s Ouija Board video in 1988.

9 Sid JAMES deemed the best moment of his 19 Carry Ons to be his performance in Carry On Cowboy, which gave him the chance to display his fine American accent.

10 Kenneth CONNOR, star of 17 Carry Ons, was the son of the petty officer on the Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert, and knew the Queen’s grandparents, George V and Queen Mary.

11 Peter BUTTERWORTH got billing in 16 Carry Ons, but also did uncredited, bit-part roles in several others.

12 Hattie JACQUES, the Carry On battleaxe, once declared: ‘All they see is a funny fat lady; no one dreams of casting you as a normal person.’

Peter Butterworth, right, with his wide, actress Janet Brown

13 Bernard Bresslaw, at 6ft 7in, towered over his co-stars in 14 Carry On films, including Up the Khyber.

14 Jim DALE, star of 11 Carry On films, offended his fellow actors when he declined to play Ug Ug in Carry On Up The Jungle because he wanted to broaden his horizons. Some of them later boycotted his This Is Your Life tribute in protest.

15 Barbara WINDSOR, star of ten Carry Ons, had elocution lessons as a teenager, but failed to lose her Cockney accent.

16 Edina RONAY, the fashion designer, played a saloon girl in Carry On Cowboy.

17 Amanda BARRIE, who played Alma Baldwin in Coronation Street, was Cleopatra in the spoof of the Burton/Taylor movie Carry On Cleo.

18 Johnny BRIGGS, Barrie’s Street husband Mike Baldwin, appeared in three Carry Ons.

19 Sara Crowe, famous for her role in the Philadelphia TV adverts, married Jim Dale’s son Toby a month after meeting him on the set of Carry On Columbus. They later divorced.

Sparring star: Boxing champion Freddie Mills appeared in Carry On Constable and Carry On Regardless

20 Shirley Eaton, sprayed gold in Bond movie Goldfinger, was in Carry On Sergeant as Bob Monkhouse’s wife. She also appeared in Carry On Nurse and Carry On Constable.

21 Sheila HANCOCK played Kenneth Connor’s nagging wife Senna Pod in Carry On Cleo.

22 Before fame as Miss Marple, Joan Hickson made her screen debut as the efficient ward sister in Carry On Nurse.

23 BURT KWOUK — crazy manservant Cato in the Pink Panther films — had a cameo role in Carry On Columbus.

24 Ian LAVENDER — ‘silly boy’ Pike in Dad’s Army — played Joe Baxter in Carry  On Behind.

25 Young Ones star Rik Mayall was cast as the Sultan in Carry On Columbus.

26 Irish character actor T. P. McKenna, who appeared in Straw Dogs and The Charge Of The Light Brigade played an Archbishop in Carry On Columbus. His scenes were edited from the final film release.

27 Terry And June star Terry Scott, who appeared in seven Carry On films, was forced by his parents to train as an accountant.

28 FORMER world light heavyweight boxing champ Freddie Mills was in Carry On Constable and Carry On Regardless.

29 Musical actress Dora Bryan played a love-struck  Army cook in Carry On Sergeant.

30 SERGEANT Bilko star Phil Silvers played the lead role in Carry On Follow That Camel. He was unpopular with the rest of the cast, who thought he considered himself superior. 

Eva Mendes reincarnated as a redhead on the set of Holly Motors

Her brunette beauty has won her fame as one of the sexiest women in the world.

But Eva Mendes sported a rather different look on the set of her new film Holly Motor in Paris yesterday.

The 37-year-old star showed off stunning copper tresses as she readied herself for the cameras in the P?re Lachaise Cemetery.

Leggy lovely: Eva Mendes films scenes for Holly Motors in Paris on Monday

Balancing act: Mendes was wearing a tall pair of vertiginous heels as she left her trailer

Though she maintained a low profile behind a tree, her bright new hair colour was too eye-catching to remain inconspicuous for long.

She upped the dramatic effect of her new red 'do by piling her hair up beehive-style on top of her head.

The effect was somewhat similar to the trademark look of late singer Amy Winehouse.

Eva upped the sex appeal with an animal print jacket over a provocative cleavage-baring  gold dress.

Scarlet woman! Eva Mendes sizzled with her new red hair on the set of Holly Motors in Paris yesterday

High drama: Eva's hair was piled up beehive-style on top of her head

Rocking the red: Eva teamed her new tresses with a gold dress which showed off her curves

Her incredible makeup completed the look, with porcelain skin setting off her dramatic eyeliner and red lips.

Holly Motors stars French actor Dennis Lavant as a man who who travels between different lives, including that of a murderer, beggar, CEO, monstrous creature and father.

Eva plays one of the characters from his past.

The Leos Caras-directed film also stars Kylie Minogue and Michel Piccoli.

Suits you, Madam! Though a world away from her usual brunette locks, the star pulled off her new colour with aplomb

“Holly Motors” is due to be released sometime in 2012.

It's no wonder that Eva's hair is looking so stunning on set, as the actress has a new incentive to ensure her locks are always in prime condition.

Eva has is the new celebrity ambassador for Pantene’s Nature Fusion line of haircare products, designed to be environmentally friendly.

Familiar look: Eva was more low-key with her normal brunette style out and about in Paris on the same day

'Fame? It's a pain in the neck': says Ricky Gervais's sidekick Mackenzie Crook

 Mackenzie Crook is deeply uncomfortable with being famous

With his cap pulled down firmly over his eyes and his shoulders stooped so low he could be auditioning for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Mackenzie Crook is doing his best not to be recognised.

The actor is deeply uncomfortable with his celebrity. So uncomfortable that it literally hurts.

During his recent Tony-nominated Broadway stint in the much talked about play Jerusalem, he developed crippling backache.

It was because, in New York where no one recognised him, he was walking upright for the first time in the ten years since he found fame as the obsessive nerd Gareth Keenan in The Office.

‘I am recognised all the time and it seems out of proportion to how well known I am,’ he says. He is even covering his face with his hands as we talk.

‘People are only ever nice to me, but I just kind of curl up a bit. When people come up to me in the street I never know whether I have met them before and should stop and talk or just say “Hi” and scuttle on. I tend to look at the ground to avoid eye contact; it avoids embarrassment all round.

‘My back started really hurting when I went to America so I went for a scan and it turned out I had five slipped discs.

'They reckoned the injury was ten years old; there was nothing that I could think of that would hurt me like that. But it is ten years since The Office started; ten years of walking around with my back hunched.

‘In New York no one recognised me so I stood upright with really good posture. But as soon as I came home I was doubling over again.’

It is unlikely that Mackenzie, 40, is going to go unrecognised for some time to come.

Since finding fame in The Office he has swashbuckled with Johnny Depp in several Pirates Of The Caribbean movies and worked with Al Pacino in The Merchant Of Venice.

He is back doing Jerusalem in London’s West End, while at the cinema you can see him (or at least a ‘motion capture’ animated version of him) in the Spielberg blockbuster The Adventures Of Tintin.

Life changing: Starring in The Office with Ricky Gervais (left), shot Crook to fame - he played the role of Gareth Keenan in the BBC sitcom

Directors love him because his face is so expressive, with every thought reflected. And his looks make him a perfect character actor.

Though 5ft 10in, he is tiny — his wrists are smaller than mine. Descriptions of him normally range from ‘nervy’ and ‘scrawny’ to, even more unkindly, ‘swivel-eyed’.

He looks pained when I ask him how he feels about that. His jaw clenches and his eyes go darker; he looks as if he wants to pound the bracelet he is playing with.

But he remains polite: ‘I am sure I would not be getting the jobs I am doing if I didn’t look the way I do, but people seem to have an obsession with it.

‘Every article that has been written about me starts with a bunch of adjectives about what I look like.

‘I don’t know. I do sometimes get a bit sick of reading what I look like. Most of it isn’t complimentary.

‘Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and think: “God, you look like a skeleton.” But I’ve totally accepted it. I have tried to put on weight — I’ve had fridge-loads of special shakes — but it doesn’t happen.’

While Mackenzie had a fun-filled upbringing with lots of friends and two sisters, you can see he probably also spends a lot of time inside his head.

As a child he was abnormally small. He was one of the first people to be prescribed a synthetic human growth hormone: he suffered no side effects, but still can’t give blood. He was the size of a 12-year-old when he was 16.

A-list co-stars: Mackenzie Crook with Jonny Depp and Keira Knightley at the European premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in London in 2006

‘I looked two or three years younger than my friends and when you are 15 that is a big deal,’ he says.

‘They would be going to the cinema or even blagging their way into pubs, but there was no way I could do that.

‘I would try to go out with them and they were all uncomfortable, saying: “We can’t invite you because you won’t get in and we’ll all feel bad.” When they started getting girlfriends I was still a long way from that.’

By the end of treatment he had grown to the correct height, though he wonders: ‘It may just have been that I’d reached the point when I was going to grow anyway.’ 

Almost certainly his lankiness is due in some part to his nerviness; he is never still.

The whole hour we are together in a cafe in the North London suburb of Muswell Hill, where he lives in Peter Sellers’ old house, he is playing with his face or his bracelet or shifting around uncomfortably. He once said he cringed about ten times a day.

‘I hardly ever sit down,’ he says. ‘I am always pacing — I guess I have a lot of nervous energy.

‘But it is also a family thing; my dad was thin and my son is. He is looking more and more like me and I think: “Poor thing!” But he’s delighted to look like me, which is lovely.’

Mackenzie could not be more different from the bombastic and super- confident Office creator Ricky Gervais, who has gone on to create the new TV comedy Life’s Too Short about a dwarf actor hoping a reality show will reverse his fortunes.

On set: Crook as Ragetti alongside Johnny Depp, as Captain Jack Sparrow, in the Pirates Of the Caribbean franchise

Though it is eight years since The Office ended, Ricky and Mackenzie remain friends.

‘We don’t get to see each other so much, but we went out to dinner with our partners a few months ago,’ says Mackenzie.

‘It was the first time I had seen him in a couple of years and he hasn’t changed. I know people think that he has, but to me he is exactly the same and he is so happy to be in the position he is in.

‘He was always confident; he and Stephen [Merchant, Ricky’s writing partner] always knew exactly what they were doing, which is why they directed the show. I know people think there was a lot of improvising, but there was no need because the scripts were so brilliant.

‘He has a perfect partnership with Stephen; they bring something different to the table. Stephen is disciplined and Ricky is famously ill-disciplined; he wants to muck about and leave early because he gets bored.’

It is no surprise that Mackenzie, who can’t even bear the idea of embarrassing strangers, should be stunned at the way his friend has become increasingly famous for offending people at events such as the Golden Globes awards, which he hosts again in January.

‘I am always a little bit shocked,’ he says. ‘I feel a bit like saying: “Really, Ricky? God! Why are you saying that?” But he knows exactly what he is doing and it is always brilliant.

‘He wants to cause just the right amount of controversy otherwise it would be completely dull, but he knows how to pitch it so just the right amount of people are upset. He called Johnny Depp wooden, but Johnny isn’t going to be too upset; he leapt at the chance to be in Life’s Too Short.’

Film career: Crook starred in the film Three And Out in 2007 alongside Colm Meaney (right)

Depp got Mackenzie the job on Pirates — one of the biggest movie franchises ever — after they worked together on Finding Neverland.

‘He’s a hero, I can’t sing his praises too much,’ says Mackenzie.

‘He’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant man.’ Mackenzie’s success has meant he has finally been able to go back to his first love, producing a beautifully illustrated children’s story called The Windvale Sprites.

It is about a boy called Asa Brown who, after the hurricane of 1987, discovers a small fairy man in his garden pond.

He investigates, helped by the 200-year-old lost journals of an alchemist called Benjamin Tooth.

The sprites have something of Mackenzie about them; half- dragonfly, half-man, they are long and thin creatures with big eyes and flowing hair.

The story had been gestating in Mackenzie’s mind since the electricity in his home was cut off for a week after the hurricane. In the tale he mythologises the weatherman Michael Fish who dismissed the idea of a hurricane ‘with a scoff’. 

‘I do feel a bit bad about that,’ he says with a glint in his eye, adding: ‘I remember finding things blown into the garden and it occurred to me that I could easily have found a fairy in my fishpond. The story has been in my head since I was 15.’

The impetus to finally write the book were his two children with his wife Lindsay, a former comedy club organiser to whom he has been married for ten years.

Theatre rolls: Crook alongside Kristin Scott Thomas in The Seagull at the Royal Court Theatre in 2007

Jude, eight, and Scout, three, have had to go weeks without seeing their father while he makes his latest movie. They stay in touch with the free internet service Skype. ‘When I was in New York we had it running most of the day,’ says Mackenzie.

One time Scout was playing and she picked up the computer. I was yelling: “Put me down! Put me down!”

‘She eventually placed the computer in her dolls’ house and played with her toys in there. It was lovely.’

For now, Mackenzie is staying this side of the Atlantic. He has a new West End show, which will start when Jerusalem ends.

And he has a couple of films in the works as well as writing his own movie script about the life of highwayman Dick Turpin, a part he wants to play himself.

‘It’s my dream role,’ he says, his eyes lighting up. ‘It would be the true story as opposed to the legend of this dandy highwayman. He was a vicious criminal and a murderer.

‘His face was heavily pock-marked and he was a thin man with a stark face; I could play that.’

And with that, he bounds up from his seat, cap on, face down, as he rushes away and does his best to be anonymous.

Imogen Thomas appears to mock her gagging order in almost nude photo shoot

She's been placed under a high court order banning her from divulging the lurid details about her relationship with Ryan Giggs.

But that hasn't stopped Imogen Thomas from making light of the whole situation in a new photoshoot.

Imogen, 28, appears in men's magazine Nuts this week where she poses almost nude apart from some strategically placed black tape.

Where's the rest of your dress? Imogen Thomas covers her body with a very small amount of black duct tape

The Welsh glamour model, who won Miss Wales in 2003, is barely contained by the tape as she pulls a series of seductive poses in front of a yellow background.

Baring a slight resemblance to the bizarre 'belt top' worn by Jodie Marsh some years ago, Imogen's duct tape dress does little to 'gag' her silicone-enhanced assets.

The raunchy set of photos were taken by a former glamour model named Zoe McConnell and are accompanied by a predictably suggestive interview.

Under wraps: The Welsh glamour model has been silenced by former lover Ryan Giggs

In the chat with Nuts, Imogen says her rudest night out in the UK would occur in London.

Out now: Nuts magazine is available to buy from today

She told the men's magazine: 'You can pretty much do anything you like in London and no one bats an eyelid. You can go out without a stitch on and people don’t even notice. Manchester’s a close second.'

Imogen also named Rihanna as her 'sexiest celebrity of 2011', saying: '[It] has to be Rihanna. Everything she does is sexy – her videos, the way she moves, the way she dresses. That girl drips sex!'

Earlier this month the former Big Brother star returned to the High Court, where she tried to lift an order preventing her from revealing details of her relationship with married footballer Ryan Giggs.

She put in a bid to lift a gagging order obtained by the footballer seven months ago.

The former Miss Wales arrived at court with her legal team to ask Mr Justice Eady for the right to make a public statement about the case.

But after almost two hours of legal wranglings in private the judge reserved judgment with no firm date given for his final ruling.

Before ordering the press and public to leave court he said the application was about 'what if anything can be said in public by way of a statement.'

At an earlier hearing Mr Justice Eady said even though Giggs had been named - the injunction was still in place to stop his family being 'engulfed in a cruel and destructive media frenzy.'

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Justice film review: A slick and competent thriller

Who would have guessed that the best picture of the week would star Nicolas Cage? Certainly not me.

Director Roger Donaldson has made some entertaining movies in the past, notably Thirteen Days and No Way Out, but a good deal of his output has been Hollywood hackwork.

His latest exercise is typically well-crafted, and stars a subdued Cage as Will, a New Orleans teacher who becomes distraught when his much-loved wife (January Jones) is raped.

Slick, competent thriller: Nicolas Cage stars as Will Gerard in the thriller Justice

A mystery man (Guy Pearce) turns up at the hospital and offers to help bring summary justice to the assailant. Will agrees. 

But then the mystery man demands favours in return, and Will finds himself the target of a sinister group of vigilantes.

There’s an interesting idea behind the film, which is how far the breakdown of law and order after Hurricane Katrina may have prejudiced ordinary people against the authorities; but the tone is kept so light, and the characters so under-developed, that social issues are never explored.

There’s so little attempt to analyse the rights and wrongs of vigilantism, that it makes Michael Winner’s Death Wish look like a thinkpiece.

All-star cast: Guy Pearce (left) stars alongside Nicolas Cage (right) in the film

Donaldson’s thriller is nowhere near the quality of the last film to feature Cage in New Orleans, Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant, but it may fit the bill if you’re looking for a modestly entertaining chase thriller.

Donaldson’s skilful at orchestrating the action sequences, and there are two plot twists that should take you by surprise. At least you won’t be bored.

Even better news is that Cage doesn’t have to pretend to fall in love with a baby.

Nervous breakdowns. Fights over money. Electrocution. How the musicians behind Rod Stewart's classic were hit by the curse of Maggie May

Maggie May is the song that made Rod Stewart a superstar.

Released 40 years ago as a B-side, it took everyone by surprise by becoming a huge hit in Britain and America.

Reaching Number One on both sides of the Atlantic in the second week of October 1971, it stayed there for five weeks.

Cursed? Maggie May is the song that made Rod Stewart a megastar - but the creative powers that shaped the song experienced much mishap

It was originally put out that August on the flip side of Reason To Believe, but Maggie May began to get more airplay from DJs and after two weeks was reclassified as the A-side.

Rod hadn’t even been sure about including it on the album, Every Picture Tells A Story, but the song, a lament to an older lover, proved to have colossal appeal. And it changed his life.

By the end of 1971, Rod had gone from being the not-terribly famous singer with the Faces to the Rod we know now: a sandpaper-voiced troubadour, all tight trousers and cockerel hair, with millions in the bank and a blonde on his arm.

In the years since he has proved to be one of the most popular singers in the world, with a ?100?million fortune, three marriages and eight children.

Badly treated: Ray Jackson, who played the mandolin on Maggie May, was paid just ?15 for his work

But the story of how the ballad came to be is almost as unexpected as its success. For few people know of the series of tragedies that befell the creative powers who shaped Maggie May, now an acknowledged pop standard.

Rod’s backing singer Maggie Bell saw her fianc? and bandmate  Les Harvey electrocuted on stage by an unearthed microphone a few months after the song was released. Their band Stone The Crows broke up and, despite being tipped for greatness, she never became a star.

Ray Jackson, the man who played  the mandolin on Maggie May — surely the most famous solo featuring that instrument  — was shabbily treated by Rod, going uncredited on the album and being paid just a stingy ?15 for his work.

Two other musicians who worked on the song died young. But most poignant of all is the fate of the song’s co-writer — the highly-strung guitar genius Martin Quittenton, who also wrote Rod’s other classic You Wear It

Well. I can reveal that Quittenton, once the star’s close pal, has been in retreat from the music business for decades and has long struggled with mental illness.

So the famous ballad may have launched Rod into the stratosphere, but it seems to have been close to a curse for the others he brought together.

Rod had enjoyed some success with the Faces, but had been sent to the studio by his record label Mercury to put together a solo album that would fare better than his first two efforts.

He chose the Morgan Sound Studios in Willesden because they had a mock pub upstairs — and Rod liked to rehearse, have a few drinks and then go back to record.

Drummer Mickey Waller was brought in and he introduced Rod to Quittenton, a guitarist with his own band, Steamhammer.

Before going solo: The Faces pop group, left to right, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones, Ian McLagan and Ronnie Lane

They got on so well that Rod let Quittenton — a quiet, nervy young man with a classical background — stay at his house in Highgate while they were working on the album. In an interview 18 years ago, he recalled: ‘Rod found me and gave me work. He was very kind.’

Rod wrote some of the songs while touring America with the Faces. Maggie May was named after a notorious Liverpool docks prostitute. The song told the story of his first sexual experience, which he said had happened in a tent at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in 1961.

He told Q magazine: ‘I was 16 and it lasted precisely 28 seconds. She was older and bigger than me. I don’t think her name was Margaret.’

He first played a version of it with Faces guitarist Ron Wood in a U.S. hotel room. Then Quittenton helped him write the chords and composed the acoustic intro — the melody coming to him while he was on a Piccadilly line Tube train.

It was finished in a hurry at Morgan Sound Studios. Rod was always keen to work quickly, because studio time was expensive — and seems to have made up the words off the cuff in a few minutes.

Accident : Backing singer Maggie Bell saw her fiance and bandmate Les Harvey electrocuted on stage

‘We didn’t think it was very good,’ said Quittenton. ‘Never in anyone’s wildest dreams was it a pop standard.’ A touch of magic was added by Ray Jackson, a musician from Newcastle who had been a member of folk/rock group Lindisfarne.

He had been asked to play on the track Mandolin Wind and Rod then said: ‘I’ve got this other song called Maggie May. I might not even use it, but I’ve got nothing to put on the end. Can you put some mandolin down?’ So Jackson did.

‘I had two minutes to improvise it,’ he said. ‘Suddenly they liked the song. The people at the mixing desk were looking at each other in delight, applauding.’

His contribution is generally recognised to be truly significant — a mournful, nostalgic melody. He told me: ‘At the time I didn’t realise what I had done was special. You never know when you are recording how it will go down.’

Sadly, he was not treated with generosity by Rod. He was paid ?15 — the standard Musician’s Union fee for a three-hour session. In the sleeve credits, it says: ‘The mandolin was played by the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind.’

This wretched piece of meanness rankled with Jackson. In 2003 he threatened to sue Rod, saying he might have lost up to ?1?million through not being credited as a writer.

What tipped him over the edge  was that the mandolin solo was used in a bank advert, probably netting Stewart and Quittenton ?50,000 each in royalties.

Star: Rod Stewart had unbelievable talent - but did he overshadow some of the other contributors to his success?

A spokesman for Stewart described the claim as ‘ridiculous’, saying it was accepted Ray played on the song, but not that he had any part in writing it. He said: ‘As is always the case in the studio, any musical contributions he may have made were fully paid for at the time as “work-for-hire”.’

The case never came to court. Jackson, who runs an art gallery in Witney, Oxfordshire, and paints old buses, describes what happened as ‘a bit disappointing’.

He told me: ‘You have to let it go. I am proud of the work I did.’
His fellow musician, Liverpudlian guitarist Sam Mitchell, was discovered by Rod in a London folk club, but never fulfilled his early promise.

He died in 2006 aged 56 after suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His friend Chris Jagger remembers him living hand to mouth. ‘It was a very sad scene,’ Jagger said. ‘He was a heavy drinker.’

Rod’s violinist was Dick ‘Sweet’ Powell, a well-known figure on the London jazz scene. Legend has it that the star paid him ?10 for his work on the song Reason To Believe. He died young, too, in his 50s, of a cerebral haemorrhage.

Legend: Rod Stewart, right, pictured with his wife Penny Lancaster has a cult following even to this day

And what of Martin Quittenton? He lives in a large house at the end of a country lane in Llanrhyddlad, Holyhead. He received an income of around ?25,000 a year from Maggie May royalties. In his sole interview in 1992, for the Stewart fanzine Smiler, he said: ‘I didn’t think there was anything to the song at the time and when it hit Number One I was working part-time in a music shop for ?7 a week.

‘I was going to work on a No 31 bus and I heard it coming from a jukebox in a pub. Then someone told me it was Number One. I couldn’t understand all the fuss. I didn’t think it was very good.’

Rod had invited Quittenton to join the Faces, but he felt he would hate the heavy drinking and hotel-wrecking. ‘I couldn’t mix with what went on backstage,’ he said.

In 1976, Rod left Britain for America. Quittenton turned down the star’s offer to work on his album Atlantic Crossing — and then they lost touch. ‘I opted out,’ he said. ‘I didn’t really fit into the sort of world I’d fallen into.’

After a nervous breakdown Martin Quittenton left the business. He moved to Anglesey and lives there anonymously with his wife Dorothy and their Yorkshire terrier. ‘I don’t think I was meant to be in pop music longer than I was, and I wouldn’t want to be in it now,’ he said.

Shooting stars Alice Englert and Elle Fanning will have a blast in upcoming film Bomb

 Fashion forward: Elle Fanning at the Chanel show during Paris Fashion Week

Hollywood ‘veteran’ Elle Fanning and relative newcomer Alice Englert are about to go nuclear.

The teenagers will lead Bomb, director Sally Potter’s new film about two young rebels at the forefront of political, social and sexual change.

Bomb is set in London in the early Sixties at a time when the Cold War met the sexual revolution.

Filming on the BFI and BBC Films production begins in early February in and around London and the South Coast, with Elle (who appeared in this summer’s blockbuster Super 8) playing Ginger, described as the ‘brainy’ one who wants to get involved with the anti-nuclear movement.

Alice, as Rosa, is more interested in boys.

Elle will play a more grown-up 16 on screen than her real-life 13 while Alice, 17, daughter of Oscar-winning director Jane Campion and film-maker Colin Englert, will play a year younger than her age.

Potter, best known for her celebrated movies Orlando and The Tango Lesson, confirmed the casting, noting that Elle has a ‘subtlety and range beyond her years’. 

‘She can move you to  tears, then light up the room with her radiant smile.’

She said Alice ‘is a beautiful, intelligent young woman with the movies in her bones. Together, playing teenage rebels, they are sure to be a pair of firecrackers.’

Elle has more experience, having made her first major film, I Am Sam, opposite Sean Penn when she was two.

Her credits include The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Cameron Crowe’s forthcoming drama We Bought A Zoo.

Co-star: Alice Englert will star alongside Elle Fanning in the upcoming film Bomb, set in London

Alice started as an open-mic performer in Sydney and started acting when cast in Roland Joffe’s movie Singularity, which is shooting now.

And she walked the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival (not her first visit) this year with her mother, so the art of cinema is very much in her blood.

Potter and her producer Christopher Sheppard used Facebook to get candidates to audition.

In all 1,500 girls sent in videos of themselves and Potter and her team met 30.

But, in the end, the two leads were cast the old-fashioned way using gut instinct and a casting director.

The Awakening review: Rebecca Hall in a chilling old-fashioned ghost story

Winter and Christmas are traditionally times for ghost stories, and The Awakening is a classy one.

More than anything, that’s down to a sensitive, intelligent performance by Rebecca Hall as Florence Cathcart, blue-stocking author of Seeing Through Ghosts.

She’s a ghost-hunter who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, and is called in by a Cumbrian boys’ school, circa 1921, to solve the mystery of a boy ghost who may have frightened one of the pupils literally to death.

Spooky: Rebecca Hall and Dominic West in the ghost story The Awakening which is out today

The headmaster is played by John Shrapnel; the schoolmaster with whom our heroine has the most rapport is Dominic West; and the matron who recommends they send for Florence is played by Imelda Staunton.

So, acting-wise, we’re in safe hands, and the child actors do their bit to make everything plausible too, especially Isaac Hempstead-Wright as the lonely Tom, who sees dead people.

The ultimate explanation leaves quite a few questions begging — I never did understand the mystery of the bulging pillow, or how and why the spooky dolls’ house kept moving from place to place, or indeed the rules governing the afterlife, and why some dead people haunt, while others don’t.

'The ultimate explanation leaves quite a few questions begging'

Most of all, the script by Nick Murphy and Stephen Volk cheats the audience by withholding too much information about the heroine until too late. A better screenplay would have dropped a few more clues.

All the same, co-writer and director Murphy creates a genuinely spooky atmosphere. This is an old-fashioned horror film, in that it doesn’t rely on gore and mutilation for its thrills.

It’s in the tradition of M.?R. James and Algernon Blackwood. The recent films it most resembles are The Others and The Orphanage — though it’s not quite as frightening or effective as either. There are nasty shocks, but mostly the film delivers suspense, creeping unease and a leading performance that is well above average.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Rum Diaries review: Johnny Depp and a bit of a rum do

This is a rambling comedy with enough good moments and witty lines to compensate for its messiness.

It’s based on a quasi-autobiographical novel by Hunter S. Thompson about how he found his voice as a writer, and started to feel outraged by capitalism.

As in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Johnny Depp (pictured) plays Thompson’s alcoholic, drug-taking alter ego.

Johnny Depp in The Rum Diaries: This is a rambling comedy with enough good moments and witty lines to compensate for its messiness

Paul Kemp’s a failed author who takes over as resident astrologer at the San Juan Star  in Puerto Rico.

He becomes obsessed by the beautiful girlfriend (Amber Heard) of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a shady property developer.

Sanderson wants Paul to compromise his ideals and help despoil a nearby island.

'Writer-director Bruce Robinson — still most famous for Withnail And I — is clearly in love with his anti-hero’s more rackety aspect'

The film is really the story of how Paul belatedly gets some moral fibre.

However, writer-director Bruce Robinson — still most famous for Withnail And I — is clearly in love with his anti-hero’s more rackety aspects, and his weird friendship with the even more hopeless photographer (Michael Rispoli).

The film scores highly for love of language — the line ‘Your tongue is like an accusatory giblet’ could come straight out of Withnail.

It’s odd, though, that a movie about an author finding his voice should spend nearly two hours not doing so.

Robinson is clearly more interested in our hero getting the girl and becoming politicised, which don’t amount to the same thing.

TOWIE star Mick Norcross shows off the dilapidated hotel he plans to renovate with son Kirk

Mick Norcross and his son Kirk have frequently discussed their new hotel venture on the most recent series of The Only Way Is Essex.

But it appears the Norcross family will have quite a challenge on their hands given the state of the hotel in question.

Sugar Hut club owner Mick, 48, let cameras into see the debilitated The Grand Hotel in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex ahead of its transformation into a plush boutique hotel.

Up for the challenge: TOWIE star Mick Norcross stands on the overgrown steps of The Grand hotel in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex

After buying the rundown Victoria hotel for ?4.3million, Mick is expected to plough ?3million into the extensive renovation.

Building work begins in January to turn the ruined building into a boutique hotel, restaurant and spa.

While father Mick will focus on the main hotel, he has given his son Kirk, 23, charge of setting up the spa.

All quiet: The stage and dancefloor looks in need of a drastic makeover

Mick told the Thurrock Gazette in September: 'We want to turn it into a boutique hotel. Obviously it all depends on whether we get planning permission.

'I just think it is a beautiful building in a fantastic location in a high quality area.'

Mick stressed he didn't want to turn the red brick building into a club or a pub - which is where his previous experience lies as owner of the Sugar Hut club in Brentwood.

It looks like last orders were called quite some time ago: The Grand Hotel went into administration three years ago

The Grand was built in 1896 and was said to have had Laurel and Hardy as its guests at one time.

In the Eighties, it became known to locals as a good live music venue.

But as these photos show, the stage in the ballroom area is looking in desperate need of some tender loving care.

The Grand has been boarded up with 2008 when its former owners Orchid Group went into administration.

Historic: The Grand hotel has stood in Leigh-On-Sea since Victorian times and played host to Laurel and Hardy

Over the last few years, plants have grown over the exterior of the building, with vandals breaking in to destroy parts of the hotel.

To fund the project, Mick has put his ?3.4million converted farmhouse in Bulphan up for sale.

He paid ?1.2million for the house in 2005 and spent between ?300,000 and ?400,000 renovating it.

The show featured heavily in the three series of TOWIE for many scenes featuring Kirk and Mick.

The way it was: The Grand hotel in 2007 - a year before it closed down

Welcome To The Rileys film review: Humourless and laboriously directed

Kristen Stewart whinges again as an impoverished, foul-mouthed 16-year-old runaway, stripper and prostitute in Welcome To The Rileys.

Presumably released in an attempt to cash in on the Twilight franchise, this is a weak American indie film about a middle-aged man (James Gandolfini) and his agoraphobic, pill-popping wife (Melissa Leo).

Runaway stripper: Kristen Stewart plays a 16-year-old stripper and prostitute in Welcome To The Rileys

After their own daughter is killed in a car crash, they try to adopt Stewart’s character as a surrogate replacement.

Ponderously directed by Jake Scott, son of Ridley, this is what is euphemistically described as an ‘actors’ piece’.

In other words, it’s seriously under-plotted, glacially paced and wears its good-heartedness on its sleeve so blatantly it loses its moorings in reality.

Cashing in: The film was presumably released to cash in on the Twilight franchise, also staring Miss Stewart (pictured)

Co-stars: Actor James Gandolfini (pictured left) plays a middle-aged man who adopts Kristen Stewart's character

Leo comes out of it least badly, showing a softer, shyer side than usual.

But her ability to snap out of agoraphobia is ridiculously abrupt.

No doubt the actors welcomed a script that’s virtually a three-hander.

But it’s so humourlessly and laboriously directed, it’s unlikely to attract an audience.

Who'll play tragic Amy? Winehouse's life and death could be made into a sensational film

Amy Winehouse's extraordinary life, and death, could be made into a sensational film (pictured with Tony Bennett)

Amy Winehouse’s extraordinary life, and death, could be made into a sensational film.

Several Hollywood producers are considering buying the screen rights to a book about the hugely gifted, but fatally flawed, North London singer.

There’s no screenplay and there isn’t a director yet, and any film is still a long way off.

But there is a tome called Saving Amy, written last year by celebrity journalist Daphne Barak, who also made a documentary of the same name for Channel 4.

It details Barak’s friendship with Amy and how she accompanied her to St Lucia and kept an eye on her while she was ‘resting’ at various hospitals in England.

Barak also befriended Winehouse’s ex Blake Fielder-Civil and her father Mitch.

If the right calibre of script writer can be found to turn Ms Barak’s jottings into a decent screenplay, and an A-list director hired to direct, then there might be hope for such a project.

But the most important factor is to find an actress to portray Winehouse.

It should be someone who can sing and act and she would need to be someone with spirit, energy and talent, not some nobody  from some TV talent show and certainly not Lady Gaga — that would be a travesty. 

David Hare pointed out the other night, at a fabulous tribute to Vanessa Redgrave hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that actors are vital contributors to any movie, often more vital than the director.

Such a person is needed for the Winehouse film.

I gather that Tessa Ross from Film4, one of the executive producers of the Margaret Thatcher film The Iron Lady, and Jeff Berg from ICM in Los Angeles are in talks about the Winehouse film and how to develop it.

A stage musical version of the film Finding Neverland, which starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, is being planned for the West End.

Julian Ovenden as J. M. Barrie and Jenna Russell as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (her sons inspired Barrie to write Peter Pan) will perform in two workshops of the show with a full cast in London on December 12 .

Film version: Kate Winslet (left) and Johnny Depp (right) starred in the 2004 film Finding Neverland

Rob Ashford, who will direct and choreograph the show, told me that initially it was going to open in the U.S. but he suggested to Harvey Weinstein — who was behind the film and is producing the musical — that they work on it in London.

The show’s composer is Scott Frankel, who wrote Grey Gardens.

Lyrics are  by Michael Korie and the book is by Allan Knee, whose novel was adapted into the film.

‘It’s more a character piece with music and dancing than a full-blown piece like 42nd Street or Singing In The Rain,’ says Ashord.

A friend who heard the score at a workshop in New York described it as ‘beautiful and moving’, a point echoed by Ovenden, who said he was struck by how much the piece moved him.

He hailed Frankel and Korie as ‘musical heirs to Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Lerner and Loewe’. 

The idea is to run Neverland at a regional theatre, then bring it to the West End next autumn or early in 2013, or as theatre availability permits.

Directorial debut: Dustin Hoffman is directing Quartet, starring Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay (pictured)

Dustin Hoffman is on the set of Quartet and the joint’s jumping.

There’s a chap playing rag on the piano and another on saxophone.

This is during a break from filming. There’s energy in the room and everyone is smiling.

Dustin seems to be having the time of his life. He’s 74 and making his directorial debut working with Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay (above) — who suggested to Ronald Harwood that his play Quartet, set in a home for retired opera singers and musicians, be turned into a movie — Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and a host of great character actors.

Producer Finola Dwyer looked on and marvelled. ‘To have had the career he’s had and to be doing this in this act of his life is remarkable,’ she said.

Courtenay said Hoffman is a master of timing. ‘He makes jokes the whole time and it keeps the energy levels up. Maggie loves being directed by him.’

An executive from film distributor Momentum watched the rushes and told Dwyer he’d just seen the movie’s main action scene. ‘What’s that?’ she asked. ‘The croquet,’ he replied.

Francesca Annis at 'Company' Rehearsals at The Youth Arts Theatre in Battersea

As rehearsals for Stephen Sondheim’s seminal musical Company kicked into action, Francesca Annis (left) lifted up her knee and grabbed her derriere as her fellow actresses launched into a song about poor Bobby, a friend they believe is stuck at home playing solitaire.

‘The women have a view of Bobby. They think he’s on his own waiting for the phone to ring,’ says Francesca’s co-star Samantha Spiro. ‘But the men know he’s out fornicating.’

Bobby, or Robert, as he’s variously known by his married friends, is played by Daniel Evans.

As Francesca and Samantha join Anna-Jane Casey, Samantha Seager and Claire Price to lament about their ‘poor baby’ being all alone, he is romping on a bed with Lucy Montgomery, who plays an air hostess.

Lynne Page, the choreographer, moved in to suggest that Daniel and Lucy rough up the sheets a bit more and that her ladies ‘thrust’ out this way and that so the dance movements represent, she later explained to me, ‘their sexual frustration and their longing for Bobby’.

Observing all of this was Jonathan Munby, who is directing Sondheim’s 1970 show about Bobby, who, through the course of the musical, goes on a journey of self-discovery.

Munby was rehearsing with his cast in Battersea, South London, before decamping to Sheffield, where Company will begin previews at the Crucible on November 29.

Munby, Samantha and Francesca explained that though Company is set at the heart of cultural change, Bobby would have gone to university in the Fifties and so would have spent his formative years in a conservative milieu.

‘He’s not the generation of change and he’s under pressure from his peers to get married,’  said Munby.

The director has cast his production with actors armed with the ability to probe Sondheim’s lyrics.

And it’s hard to fathom that Company was considered such an experimental piece when first staged in New York 40 years ago.

‘It’s not a show of standard chorus numbers or linear narrative. They  thought they were going to be laughed out of the room,’ Munby told me.

Daniel, who’s also the artistic director of the Sheffield Theatres, already has two award-winning Sondheim roles under his belt — Merrily We Roll Along (which he did with Samantha at the Donmar) and Sunday In the Park With George.

And all of the cast have real humdingers to sing.

One of the most famous is The Ladies Who Lunch, which brings Francesca (who plays the acerbic Joanne) back to musicals after a long gap.

This is her first foray into the genre since she appeared in John Barry’s Passion Flower Hotel in the Sixties.

‘I did that when I was very young — ugh,’ she told me, making a gagging noise.

‘It was a nightmare, so I haven’t sung since, until now,’ she said. Singing teacher Mary Hammond advised her to sing at home.

‘But I was so traumatised from that early musical that I couldn’t think of a single song. I’ve never sung in the bath or in my car. I think I blocked it,’ she said, as Munby declared that he and the cast have liberated her.

As well as her musical trauma, Francesca also suffered physical aches and pains after rehearsals when she awoke to find her sides, knees and back hurt because of the singing and dancing.

She said: ‘It has taken some time, but I’m getting there. Now I sing all the time!’

Sally Hawkins will be in Nick Payne's play Constellations

Sally Hawkins, who will join Rafe Spall in Nick Payne’s play Constellations at the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, from January 13.

It’s a return to the London stage for the actress, who won a Golden Globe for her role in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky and acclaim for parts in Dagenham Girls, Never Let Me Go and the movie Submarine, which has garnered her a nomination in the forthcoming Moet British Independent Film Awards.

Sally said the stage part came up very quickly. She read for the playwright and director Michael Longhurst to get the role.

The play charts the beginnings of a relationship between the characters played by Sally and Rafe. ‘It deals with various things in their life such as love and death and illness across many different dimensions, universes and timelines’, the actress told me.

As we chatted we both agreed that the piece reminded us of Charlie Kaufman’s film Synecdoche, New York and, perhaps, a little of Terrence Malick’s work. First, though, Sally will play Mrs Joe, Pip’s violent sister in Mike Newell’s film Great Expectations. She will use a tickler, more like a whip, she said. ‘Can’t wait to use it’!

Jacqueline Bisset who will join leading men Chiwetal Ejiofor and Matthew Goode in Stephen Pioliakoff’s five-part drama Dancing On The Edge for BBC2. It’s a drama set in the Thirties about a popular black jazz band that gets caught up in high society, royal patronage and a mysterious death.

The cast also includes Angel Coulby (Guinevere in Merlin), Janet Montgomery, Mel Smith, Anthony Head, Jane Asher, Tom Hughes and Caroline Quentin.

Jacqueline Bisset who will star in in Stephen Pioliakoff's five-part drama Dancing On The Edge for BBC2

Emma Fielding, Joss Ackland and Ian McNeice who will portray, respectively, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), George V and Winston Churchill in the stage adaptation of The King’s Speech by David Seidler who won an Oscar for his screenplay.

I told you a while back that Charles Edwards and Jonathan Hyde would be playing George VI and Lionel Logue the speech expert who helped the monarch cope with his speech impediment.

The production, directed by Adrian Noble and designed by Anthony Ward will run at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford from February 1 through February 11 before touring Nottingham, Bath, Brighton, Richmond and Newcastle — and then it will head into the West End.

Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell who will bring into the West End the David Hare-Terence Rattigan double bill of Hare’s South Downs, written in response to Rattigan’s The Browning Version. Both works played to much acclaim at the Chichester Festival Theatre in the summer.

Hare told me the plays would move into ‘town’ once Ms Chancellor completes a second series of Abi Morgan’s BBC TV drama The Hour.

Jackie Mason, the famed Jewish stand-up comic, will be making what he insists will be his last appearance on the London stage when his new show Fearless! comes to Wyndham’s Theatre for a five-week season from February 13.


X Factor 2011 finalists joined by One Direction and JLS for charity single 'Wishing On A Star'

It must have been Simon Cowell's dream to merge the X Factor finalists with former groups from the hit show - and now he has done just that.

The reality show's 15 acts were joined by boy bands JLS and One Direction today as they filmed the music video for their cover of the Rose Royce hit, Wishing On A Star.

The famous faces looked all wrapped up as they donned Winter coats and jumpers for the Autumnal-themed shoot.

Living the dream: The 15 X Factor finalists recorded the music video for their charity single in which they collaborate with JLS and One Direction

The X Factor hopefuls who were voted off the show in recent weeks looked just as pleased to be there as the competition's remaining contestants.

Johnny Robinson, Sophie Habibis and Sami Brookes were pictured together in between takes and still looked like the best of friends.

Kitty Brucknell and 2 Shoes member, Charley Bird were also relaxing behind the scenes as they had their hair and make-up done.

Remaining finalist, Janet Devlin, preferred to relax on her own as he listened to music via headphones on a sofa, but once the 15 acts were all back together to film their scenes, they looked happy to be reunited.

'Absolute pleasure': Foursome JLS wrapped up for the Autumnal shoot alongside the finalists

We're back: One Direction were invited back to sing on a charity single for a second time by Simon Cowell

Movember supporter, Marcus Collins, was seen filming his own solo wearing a black leather jacket and surrounded by Autumn leaves.

And Johnny joined Craig Colton - who left the show last weekend - to belt out the tune.

Foursome JLS looked like true professionals as they sang alongside one another and showed off their best hand gestures.

One Direction were also surrounded by piles of leaves as they recorded their part for the charity single.

Simon Cowell's music label, SyCo has announced they will be donating 100% of the single's profits to the children and young people's charity, Together For Short Lives.

Doing their bit: Girl group Little Mix joined the rest of the finalists to record their part for the music video

'Having worked close hand with this charity and seeing the amazing work they do for kids and their families who need help and support, I am thrilled that the X Factor charity single this year will benefit this charity,' the music mogul said.

The groups recorded the single in London, and it is the fourth charity release from the x Factor.

'We are delighted to be the beneficiary of this year’s X Factor charity single,' said Barbara Gelb, CEO of Together For Lives.

'The money raised from this single gives us the opportunity to improve the lives of these children and families – and crucially raise awareness of the valuable support they need, wherever they live and for as long as they need it.

  Past and present: Former contestants Johnny Robinson and Craig Colton (L) and current finalist Marcus Collins recorded their own scenes amongst the Autumn leaves

Still together: Boy band The Risk looked close as they sung with each other whilst being filmed

'The addition of two chart topping groups to sing with the contestants means that we can now tell even more people all about what it's like for children who are unlikely to reach adulthood and their families and, we hope, raise even more money to support them. Every single bought will make such a difference.'

It seems the famous boy bands were more than happy to comply with JLS saying: 'It's an absolute pleasure to have been invited by Simon to feature on the new X Factor charity single.

'Working with all the finalists and of course One Direction will be amazing. It's all for a great cause.'

Enjoying her own company: Janet Devlin was spotted listening to some music in between takes

And the five young singers agreed, saying: 'We're really excited to be singing on the X Factor charity single for a second year in a row.

'Together For Short Lives is an amazing and important charity and we're honoured to be asked by Simon to help raise lots of money for them.'

Luckily the seventies classic is a hit amongst the show's finalists.

'It's a fantastic song choice, filled with hope,' said Marcus. 'This song is one of my favourites of all time.'

  Enjoying the perks: 2 Shoes member Charley Bird (L) and Kitty Brucknell looked relaxed as they had their hair and make-up done ahead of the shoot

And his close friend, Craig agreed with him, saying: 'It's an honour to record this song, and an honour to be a part of a charity with such a great cause.'

Marks and Spencer will be selling the single, following their collaboration with the finalists for their Christmas advert.

It will be available to download on November 27 and to buy as a CD the following day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

X Factor judge Gary Barlow hits out at pop star's explicit promos

X Cipher try Gary Barlow has revealed his scandalise at the sexed moves teenage girls were performing during the auditions for the exhibit.


The Love That frontman, 40, said the over-sexualisation of female artists was flush impacting his own children's conduct.


The father-of-three told OK! Entrepot: 'Music videos these days are so sexy. The opposite day, I wanted whatsoever penalization in the kitchen and put on one of the punishment TV channels and a recording came on which was so rude that I had to turn it off because my nine-year-old was with me.'


 Shocked: X Broker judge Gary Barlow admits he is stupefied by the sexy activity of pop videos


He explained how it has smitten his children Jurist, 11, Emily, nine and Daisy, two.


He supplemental: 'It all filters fallen. We had girls auditioning for The X Calculate and you wouldn't conceive the category of moves they were doing. I sat there and mentation, Jesus Rescuer.


'I fuck had fin nine-year-olds in my game space revealing along to Chemist Popeyed Peas songs with 'F' this, 'F' that and I'm suchlike: "Conservative, I'm fastening the car!"'



Perhaps the singer-songwriter, who replaced Vocalizer Cowell as a adjudicator, should verbalise to the show's impress near any of the performances on The X Integer initial.


 Too hot for TV: Rihanna's action on The X Factor inalterable gathering landed the guide in exertion with Ofcom


The schedule was criticised by TV controller Ofcom endmost twelvemonth when Christina Aguilera and Rihanna gave raunchy performances in the terminal conduct which was show before the occasion.


At the time Ofcom said the procedure was 'at the rattling net of acceptability' after it conventional 2,868 complaints.


The row prompted new guidelines issued by the controller in Sep over pre-watershed planning.


But endure weekend there were more complaints prefabricated to Ofcom after Rihanna performed in situation emblazoned with depose language - tho' bosses bespeak the slogans could not be seen clearly on TV.


The watchdog is currently considering whether to propulsion an investigating after receiving a handful of complaints.


 Low work: Tulisa Contostavlos has been accused of using her arm gesture to advance her odorize


Ofcom also habitual that it has started an query into other adjudicator, Tulisa Contostavlos, over suggestions she may soul smashed exacting advertising rules.


The 23-year-old determine could be illegal from flaunting a tattoo on her arm at the commencement of apiece evince because it could be illicitly promoting her new neaten.


The tattoo - The Someone Boss - is emblazoned crossways her manus arm, and is also the cant of her new aroma that went on occasion senior month.


The manufacturer also discussed the aroma and the transferral to her signature arm communicate on ITV2's spinoff information The Xtra Factor, and a pre-recorded portion was program of the perfume's displace in middle London.


X Bourgeois bosses initiate themselves in hurt again originally this twelvemonth after legion O'Leary appeared to advise audience to download new singles by former contestant Diana Vickers and Michael Buble.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Want to know the secret of Ruth Jones' stunning weight loss? She just counted the calories

If they want to make a sequel to Fat Friends, Ruth Jones might not be available. Quite simply, she no longer fits the part.
The actress known for her cuddly curves unveiled a remarkably svelte figure this week after losing a massive four and a half stone.
After years of trying a variety of faddy diets, Miss Jones, 45, said she had finally done it the old-fashioned way – by counting calories.
  Less of Nessa: Ruth Jones this week (left) and as Nessa in 2009 in the hit comedy Gavin and Stacey

It has taken patience, determination and 22 months to get into the best shape of her life.
The newly slim star and creator of Gavin & Stacey is following in the (much lighter) footsteps of Dawn French, Nigella Lawson and Pauline Quirke in dramatically changing her shape.
She showed off her new figure on Monday at the West End preview of One Man, Two Guvnors, which stars her close friend James Corden.
As the eccentric Nessa in the BBC’s Gavin & Stacey, which she co-wrote with Corden, she made a virtue of her size 24 curves. A fuller figure was also essential for her acclaimed role as Carry On star Hattie Jacques in BBC4 drama Hattie.
But after years of being happy in her skin, she decided it was time to lose weight. She is now a size 16.
Miss Jones, who is about to star in Stella, a comedy drama she has written for Sky 1, was frank about what drove her decision. ‘I came back from holiday a couple of years ago  – January 2010, and we all overdo it on holiday, don’t we? Something just clicked, I felt this is now or never, I wanted to make a positive change for me, and I haven’t looked back.

  Svelte: Ruth in the 'best shape of her life' (left) and playing comic actress Hattie Jacques for a biopic (right)
Not-so-fat friends: Ruth's first major small screen appearance was playing Kelly on the ITV comedy
‘I knew that I had months ahead of me writing Stella and this was my chance to change my routine.
‘It’s taken me 22 months to lose four and a half stone. Although I have done loads of diets in my time I have never done it the old-fashioned way – taking in less calories than I was using.  
‘I thought, right, they say 2000 calories a day is the norm for a woman. I’ll aim for 1,200-1,500 a day and see how it goes.
‘Some days are better than others. But if you think about it, there’s calorie values on the back of everything – supermarket sandwiches, chocolate bars  – everything.’
Miss Jones, who lives in Cardiff with her husband and production partner David Peet, said: ‘The main thing is that I realised I was going to have to be patient.
'When diets promise you things like “lose a stone in a week” it’s just not realistic. You have to make a decision that if you’ve got a few stones to lose (seven in my case!) then it’s going to take time.’
A close friend added: ‘It has been a lot of hard work. Ruth feels in the best shape of her life, she feels confident and determined but she knows she still has a way to go.’

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Adele: Surgery on my throat was a success

Singer Adele is feeling better
Adele will be taking a break from singing for the rest of the year
Adele is in recovery after an operation to save her voice.
The singer pulled out of her 10-date US tour last month because of a throat haemorrhage and was later forced to cancel all of her commitments for the rest of the year - but things are getting better.
'I'm doing really well, on the mend, super happy, relaxed and very positive with it all,' Adele, 23, writes on her blog.
'The operation was a success and I'm just chilling out now until I get the all clear from my doctors.'
And it seems despite her illness Adele hasn't lost her sense of humour.
'I best get back to practicing my mime show now,' she jokes.
'Take care, miss you all - Always adele xx.'

Girls Aloud reunion tour pushed back because of cash squabble

Cheryl Cole, Nicola Roberts and Nadine Coyle disagree over money

Girls Aloud have a few issues to sort out

Sarah Harding is out of rehab but the Girls Aloud reunion tour has been pushed back.

While the girls are concerned for their bandmate, who turns 30 this week and wants to get her life back on track, the main reason for the delay is cold, hard cash.

Cheryl Cole and Nicola Roberts are putting their solo careers on hold,' reveals a source, ‘so they want a larger share of the profits.

'But Nadine Coyle feels they should all be paid equally, like before.'

I'M A CELEBRITY NEWS Freddie Starr is sent home by producers after health scare

Freddie Starr has left the jungle for good

Freddie Starr underwent heart surgery last year

Freddie Starr is already out of I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here! 

The 68-year-old collapsed and spent the night in hospital following his Greasy Spoon Bushtucker Trial win against Mark Wright earlier this week - and it seems he's still not back to full health.

'Producers of I'm A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here! have decided that Freddie Starr won't return to live in the jungle,' confirms an ITV spokesman.

'Freddie has been a terrific contestant. His Bushtucker Trial is one of the stand out moments in the history of the series and we wish him all the very best.'

Freddie is believed to have had a severe allergic reaction to the unappetising food he ate during the trial, which included turkey
testicles, camel's toe and pig's anus.

'I'll miss everyone in the jungle and whoever wins the competition, I wish them all the luck in the world,' says Freddie.

'I was sick not to finish, but there's no use crying over spilt milk. The decision has been made and I have to live with that.'


Jeff Brazier goes on his first ever blind date - and it ends in murder!

In his Love & Dating Confession, Jeff tells all

Jeff Brazier picks an interesting venue for his blind date!

TV presenter Jeff Brazier,
32 - father to 2 Bobby, 8, and Freddy, 7 - is looking for romance, but he's not having much luck right now.

'My mate Marvin is intent on trying to help me find love,' he tells us.

'He's married to an amazing woman and his lady radar is pretty good.

'A work trip to Milton Keynes gave me the chance to meet a girl he'd mentioned to me on several occasions, so with the kids packed off to their nan's, I arranged my first ever blind date.

'I'd booked us into a restaurant, but when I got to the hotel where I was staying, I spotted a great alternative for our date: a murder mystery weekend.

'Always one to try anything once, I ditched the restaurant and booked us in.

'My date was totally unaware we'd be joining other would-be Miss Marples and Inspector Morses for dinner.

'It was a gamble, but I hoped she'd see the funny side.

'She did and was totally willing to play my silly games. ‘OK, so your name's Francine and when somebody says the word "murder" you have to scratch your left shin,' I ordered.

She took the bait.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Justin Bieber: Don't leave me, Selena Gomez!

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez hold crisis talks

Justin Bieber doesn't want recent allegations to jeopardise his relationship

They're all cheesy smiles for the cameras, but behind the scenes Justin Bieber, 17, is pleading with Selena Gomez, ?19, not to ditch him.

While their ?reps are quick to slam suggestions of any tension, Selena's said to be so embarrassed by the love child claims that she's having second thoughts - despite Justin's strong denials.

A source says: ‘It says it all that Justin's the one claiming they're happy, while Selena has stayed silent.

'All the drama has definitely affected her.'

Kerry Katona's ex: She's a good kisser and she made me laugh

Stuart Nuttall had fun but wishes he'd never met Kerry

Kerry Katona was dumped by Stuart Nuttall via text after 2 months

Kerry Katona's ex-boyfriend Stuart Nuttall was impressed by her snogging skills.

The builder, who met Kerry through friends in Warrington, Cheshire, went on his first date with the reality TV star in September - to her local pub.

'What a dive,' claims Stuart, 39.

'She said her mum had been taking her there since she was 16.

'It was like something out of a horror film.'

But he and Kerry did get romantic.

'We snogged in the pub that night. She was a good kisser and I liked her warm personality,' he says.

Stuart ended the relationship via text in October after Kerry revealed his identity to fans - and 'ripped his life apart'.

'But I don't hate her, she is a lovely girl,' he says, 'and she made me laugh.'

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

My Blog List