Monday, July 4, 2011

Olivia Wilde: The Next Faye Dunaway?

She's one of the most eligible bachelorettes in Hollywood, and Olivia Wilde was busy keeping up on her figure with a trip to the gym in Los Angeles on Saturday (July 2).

The "House" hottie showed off her inner-hippie while donning a Grateful Dead t-shirt and black tights as she and a gal pal took to the fitness center for the holiday weekend workout.

In related news, Miss Wilde happens to be featured in the new copy of the Los Angeles Times magazine - in which she recalled an experience during her regular trips to Haiti on behalf of Artists for Peace and Justice ever since the Caribbean country was leveled by a massive earthquake in 2010.

She told, "I was crouched outside this cholera clinic, sitting on a cinder block with my phone, [about] to help hand out rice at a refugee camp and figure out how our students can build more classrooms. It was hard for me to be on the ball during that call, but I had to remember that acting is actually my job. Whenever I want to say, ?F?k Hollywood,? I have to remember that the reason I am even useful in Haiti is because I have a job here.?

In the article, Olivia also received kind words from her "The Change-Up" director, David Dobkin, who firmly said that she is ?going to blow up. She doesn?t just fulfill a role. She?s smart. She?s cutting-edge. She is her own thing. I feel like I?m looking at another Faye Dunaway, breaking big.?


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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries -- Bible Study

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are spending their free time in a surprising new way -- they're studying the bible ... but like all things these days, it has to do with their upcoming nuptials.

Sources close to the couple tell TMZ they've been going over their favorite passages in hopes of picking a few to be engraved on their wedding bands. We're told Kim will pick a passage for Kris' ring, and Kris will pick one to be engraved on Kim's.

According to our sources ... they are each taking it very seriously and they both want to pick something "with meaning."

As we previously reported, Kim already has a bible verse engraved into her massive engagement ring.

Can we get an amen?

Tags: Kim Kardashian,�Kris Humphries


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Novak Djokovic Tops Rafael Nadal for Wimbledon Men's Title

With the top two players in the world facing off against one another, the Wimbledon Men's Final took place at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England on Sunday (July 3).

Turning into quite the heated battle after a runaway start, Novak Djokovic ended up holding onto his big lead to top Rafael Nadal in four sets by a score of 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

The top-ranked Serbian jumped out to a quick lead, as he breezed through the first two sets before his Spaniard competitor found new life while taking the third set in dominant fashion.

With famous faces including U.S Open golf champion Rory McIlroy, along with actor Alan Rickman and race car driver Jenson Button watching on, Djokovic ended up regaining his composure while claiming the fourth set for the coveted title.

Novak joins Petra Kvitova as this year's Wimbledon champions, as Miss Kvitova topped Maria Sharapova in straight sets the previous day for the Women's title.


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New disc reviews including Gillian Welch, Jim Lauderdale, The Wilders and Trampled Under Foot

Gillian Welch

"The Harrow & The Harvest" 4 stars

Acony Records

It's been eight years since Welch and partner David Rawlings last released an album of new material. The wait was too long to say it was worth it, but "The Harrow & The Harvest" is pretty darn wonderful. The duo still breathe new life into shrewd mash-ups of folk traditions while sounding like completely authentic - if unusually worldly - rural types. That's an especially impressive trick Welch has been pulling off from the start of her career; she grew up in L.A., where her parents wrote music for "The Carol Burnett Show."

Reflecting the album's title, this time Welch sounds almost as interested in life's pleasures as in the darker themes that dominated most of her previous, dour laments. Which is not to say that she's gone soft. "Of all the little ways I find to hurt myself, you might be my favorite one of all" she sings with wry resignation on "Tennessee," and that same spirit of heading to hell with a satisfied smile lends much of this disc an intriguing perspective. How's this for a new subgenre? Gillian Welch party music.

Jim Lauderdale

"Reason and Rhyme" 3 1/2 stars

Sugar Hill 1/2

Americana stalwart Lauderdale's second collection of collaborations with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter (the first was last year's "Patchwork River") is pretty much head-on bluegrass. Hunter got into the spirit of the project by tempering his tendency for baroque verbal imagery; nevertheless, many of these tunes about haunted love, dropkick indifference and pointlessly passionate conflict bear a more sophisticated ring than your average, high-lonesome lament.

Lauderdale's voice, never exactly a marvelous instrument, is right for these kind of songs, and sounds about as good as it ever has in the mountain music idiom. He is, of course, backed by a superb string band, which includes album producer Randy Kohrs on resonator.

The Wilders

"The Wilders" 3 stars

Free Dirt Records Apparently, this long-running Kansas City group has been known for producing "hillbilly riot honky tonk," and that's been recently overshadowed by a more introspective approach and country rockish gait. There's been some controversy about that, but I wouldn't know; this self-titled album is the first Wilders I've heard, and it sounds pretty good to me. Ballads such as "Ordinary People" and "Mid November" are wistful and wise and appointed with nice, Celtic/classical string fills. And when they do hit the riot button, the Wilders certainly live up to their name. This set should send everyone home happy.

Trampled Under Foot

"Wrong Side of the Blues" 3 stars

Vizzitone Also from Kansas City, the three Schnebelen siblings were raised on the bluesier side of town. Their parents are members of the legendary K.C. blues community, and at this point it's probably become genetic. TUF bassist Danielle shouts and suffers with Joplinesque majesty, and brothers Nick (guitars) and Kris (drums) can be formidable vocalists themselves. The trio's writing skills are impressive, too; "Wrong Side" touches on every variation the genre can conceivably accommodate, and more songs than not sound like classics in the making.


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MLB deals A-Rod a poker probe

Alex Rodriguez denies allegations that he played in an illegal poker ring.

Robert Sabo/News

Alex Rodriguez denies allegations that he played in an illegal poker ring.

Yankees�slugger Alex Rodriguez is batting down a report he took part in Tinseltown's top-secret Texas Hold'Em circuit.

"Mr. Rodriguez has not participated in these poker games," spokesman Richard Rubenstein told the Daily News after Star Magazine reported A-Rod was one of the A-list ring's clandestine card sharks.

Star claimed to have three sources placing A-Rod at a high-stakes game at the home of one of the ring's regular high rollers.

"Initially, A-Rod came to the game and simply watched," an unnamed source told Star. "But once he knew what it was all about, he (bought) into the game. He played two or three times, I would estimate."

A-Rod's denial comes six years after the Daily News reported his visits to illegal poker parlors in New York and his vow to walk away.

"This is the first we have heard about this and we will look into it," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said when asked about the allegation.

Poker player Adam Bilzerian also told Star he played with A-Rod in Las Vegas a few years ago and at a private home in the last 18 months.

It's unclear if the home was in Los Angeles.

"Alex busted everyone except me. I was like whoa, this guy can play. He had an amazing run. He won about $20,000 and left with everyone's money," Bilzerian, 27, said of the encounter at the Bellagio in Vegas.

Bilzerian, a pro poker player who renounced his U.S. citizenship, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Back in 2005, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was "very unhappy" with A-Rod's poker club visits, telling sources they sent the wrong message to young fans.

Hollywood's secret poker ring was exposed recently in a flurry of bankruptcy lawsuits tied to convicted Ponzi schemer Brad Ruderman.

The lawsuits claim the "exclusive" games were invitation-only and took place at high-end hotels, clubs or private residences with players betting hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Actor Tobey Maguire is being sued for his winnings, and other A-list names reportedly in on the games were Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.


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Dennis McCarthy: Fireworks show brings Valley together

People enjoy the City of San Fernando's annual fireworks show at Recreation Park on Sunday, July 4, 2010, in San Fernando. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Sometimes, we take things for granted. The big Fourth of July fireworks show at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills tomorrow night is one of them.

Last year, more than 50,000 people (like a sold-out Dodger Stadium - remember those?) crammed into the one-square-block park to picnic, enjoy live entertainment and a great fireworks show.

The crowd got so big, LAPD officers had to close off traffic on Topanga Canyon Boulevard to ease the pressure inside the park.

Families poured out onto the six-lane boulevard with their blankets and chairs for a better look at the sky.

The same will happen again this year because people know a good deal when they see one. You can't beat a free show, especially when it's a great one.

Is there anything better than lying on a blanket in the park next to your children and grandkids on the Fourth listening to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other patriotic songs as the sky lights up with fabulous shooting colors that bring oohs and aahs from every blanket?

Take a look around at the faces. Young or old, doesn't make a difference. Complete awe.

I don't care where you live in the Valley, what race or religion you are, how much you have in the bank, or what your politics are - when lying on that blanket with your family tomorrow night in

the park everyone's feeling the same thing.

Pride in our country and how lucky we are to live in America.

Corny? Maybe, but so what? It's true.

It's hard to imagine that 16 years ago we almost lost this incredible Fourth of July celebration. Took it for granted.

The show was ending its 22-year run at Pierce College because of money problems. The repair and maintenance costs were higher than the $20,000 the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce was paying to rent the campus for the night.

With little advance warning, the show went from free to families showing up having to pay $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors (plus a parking fee) to view the fireworks from the stadium and college grounds outside the stadium.

There was widespread resentment, including groups of angry gate-crashers. Happy Independence Day.

A scaled-down fireworks show was held for a few years at Valley College, but then nothing until 2001.

"I had just gotten elected and one of my campaign promises was to bring back a free, patriotic Fourth of July show to my district," says the guy who rode in on the white horse - Councilman Dennis Zine.

Actually, it was a Harley-Davidson, but the former LAPD officer proved good on one of his first promises as a politician.

He hooked up with Jim Kinsey, CEO and president of the Valley Cultural Center, which was putting on concerts in the park during the summer months.

"Dennis approached me with the idea, and it made sense. But we never imagined it would get this big," Kinsey said.

"About 10,000 people showed up that first year and we were shooting the fireworks from off the ground, which was scary."

Now the crowds are five times as large and the fireworks are shot off the roof of a nearby parking structure under the watchful eye of the city fire department.

Sponsorships, donations and some discretionary funds from Zine's office pay the $85,000 tab for the Fourth of July extravaganza.

About a third of the money goes for fireworks and the rest for live entertainment, security and cleanup.

"This show takes us all back to our youth," says Zine. "It brings families together in a positive, patriotic environment, and it doesn't cost them a dime. We want people just to enjoy it."

If you're going, get there early. Entertainment begins at 6 p.m. with the fireworks show starting at 9:05 p.m. It is suggested you take the Orange Line to Warner Center because parking is limited.

The park is located at 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills.

Dennis McCarthy's column appears in the Los Angeles Daily News on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.


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Chord Overstreet Out On ?Glee?

chord3 Chord Overstreet Out On Glee

The television series ?Glee? will be returning for its third season in September, but have announced that Chord Overstreet?s contract will not be renewed.

This announcement has come on the heels of a strange post by Overstreet on Twitter, where the 22-year-old actor writes, ?Well it?s been a good year. Too bad its over. Time for summer and starting fresh.?

Overstreet has been kicked to the curb but stars Darren Criss and Harry Shum, Jr. (Blaine and Mike) will be made regulars of the series for this season.

Glee creator Ryan Murphy said cast members Cory Monteith, Lea Michele and Chris Colfer will ?graduate? this year on the show.

?We didn?t want to have a show where they were in high school for eight years,? Murphy told KIIS-FM?s Ryan Seacrest in an interview. ?We really wanted to be true to that experience.?

Murphy said he isn?t trying to get rid of any specific cast members, clarifying his statements to TVLine.

?The show to me is about the way you express yourself as you start to move out into the world as a fresh, young person.� Do we really want to have an eight-year [high school] senior? The only way somebody could stay on the show is if they flunk, and that is always a possibility. I think [Heather Morris' character] Brittany is pulling straight Fs.?

What do you think of Chord Overstreet?s exit from the show?

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Daily News Editorial: Rewriting the Founding Fathers dumbs down their achievement: creating an independent nation through hard-fought compromise

THE Fourth of July is a time for Americans to celebrate the genius of the Founding Fathers, who adopted the Declaration of Independence 235 years ago Monday and later crafted the Constitution and governed the young United States.

But too much of the public discussion of the Founding Fathers these days does them less honor than they deserve.

Voters are getting used to hearing politicians invoke the words and deeds of the men in the powdered wigs to support this or that present-day policy. Sometimes, these are made-up words and deeds, or are only vaguely relevant to the issue at hand. Often, the other side fires back with an equally dubious quotation or anecdote.

Listeners are left confused about what the Founding Fathers actually stood for.

This isn't only about the recent cases of politicians trying to rewrite history: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin making it sound as if Paul Revere rode to deliver a gun-rights message to the British, and Rep. Michele Bachmann's doubly disputable claim that John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father who fought to end slavery.

This isn't only about oversimplification: Tea Party conservatives pulling out the phrases that emphasize the principle of economic liberty, while liberals reach for evidence Thomas Jefferson and Co. stood for socialism.

And this isn't only about divisive religious overtones: Claims the Founding Fathers intended public life to be completely divorced from faith. Claims they intended the United States to be a "Christian" nation. Reverence for the words of the first American leaders as if they were handed down from God.

This is about the disservice done when great men are reduced to political mascots.

The Founding Fathers were not deities, but neither should they be dragged through the mud of modern politics by sound-bite artists who seem to be trying to shut down debate instead of elevate it.

Their genius was the way they turned grand social philosophy into a functioning system of government. They achieved it through hard compromise of a sort unfamiliar to today's elected officials.

Neither the process nor the results were altogether pretty. In the most familiar case, to win southern states' support, the Constitution protected slavery.

We must be mindful of the complexity of the Founding Fathers' task, and the good and bad examples they set for future generations of leaders, lest we reduce their work to bumper-sticker slogans.

Let's honor those first American idols the right way as we mark the birthday of the nation that is the enduring monument to their brilliance.

A Los Angeles Daily News editorial. To read more editorials from the Daily News, go to


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Essence Music Festival kicks off

NEW ORLEANS --- From harmonious Boyz at the beginning to heavenly Jennifer Hudson in prime time to hot and heavy Usher in the midnight hour, the 17th Essence Music Festival rocked the Super Dome with six decades worth of prime R&B and urban pop. Friday night's kick-off to the three-day run drew a dressed-to-the-nines crowd that paid as much as $125 to hear 15 acts in four intimate "super lounges'' and on the vast main stage. Gospel- and soul-inflected sounds from the 1960s, via Irma Thomas and Mavis Staples, mingled with the tough contemporary R&B of Fantasia, the older-school approach of Charlie Wilson and the hard-edge funk of the local Soul Rebels Brass Band. USA TODAY's Jerry Shriver surveyed the scene from the steamy Big Easy.

  • Usher performs at the 2011 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

    Gerald Herbert, AP

    Usher performs at the 2011 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

Gerald Herbert, AP

Usher performs at the 2011 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

Sweet start: Opening the festival in the 6:45 p.m. main stage slot is a daunting task - the Super Dome is vast, the crowds are slow to arrive, and when they do they're picky. But Boyz II Men gamely met the challenge and thrilled their loyalists with an upbeat greatest-hits set. The trio, with two decades of their career and some 60 million in album sales behind them, are dressing middle-aged these days -- gray sweater vest over a tie and white shirt - but their vocal harmonizing still sounded relatively youthful on hits such as On Bended Knee, I'll Make Love To You and A Song for Mama. At one point, Wanya Morris commented that "there must be some Boyz II Men babies in the house,'' noting that while they were recording two decades ago, future parents were otherwise occupied. A wistful End of the Road drove home the point.

Hard charger: American Idol season three winner Fantasia will portray New Orleans' famed gospel pioneer Mahalia Jackson in a biopic later this year, but for her dynamic set she seemed to draw her inspiration more from Tina Turner and James Brown. Hers is not the prettiest of voices, and she's not an all-star dancer. But she projects strength, fierce energy and confidence as she drives home her songs. And she knows how to vary the pace to keep an audience's attention: Upbeat opening number It's All Good gave way to the old-school sounding recent single Collard Greens and Cornbread, and they were followed by a sexy take on Prince's Kiss and an intense, if truncated, version of Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry. Her empowerment-themed I'm Doin' Me won the biggest ovation.

Soft engagement: Curiously, Jennifer Hudson, who appears to possess the most innate talent of any performer on the bill, had the most difficulty holding the audience's attention. Her voice is a thing of beauty, and she used it to fine effect on numbers such as Where You At? and Angel. But she sang against a neutral-colored curtain, her dancers wore mostly black and white outfits as they flitted in and out, a Weight Watchers plug seemed slightly out of place, and the progression of songs lacked cohesion. Given the lack of production values (especially compared to the Charlie Wilson and Usher extravaganzas that immediately followed), it took all Hudson had to hold the stage. A duet with fellow American Idol alum George Huff on the Jackson 5's I'll Be There and a poignant reading of her own I Remember Me helped immeasurably.

Good-time Charlie: For the third year in a row, former Gap Band leader Charlie Wilson showed that he is perhaps the best true song-and-dance man in R&B today. He may be a 58-year-old recovering crack addict and prostate cancer survivor, but when he half squats with his hands on his knees and does the slow grind with a wicked grin under his pastel-colored hat, hearts tend to melt. His shows are true productions: the energy never lags, the music hardly ever stops, the dancers move with precision and purpose and Charlie projects non-stop cool and satisfaction. Jazz-tinged funk and non-stop party jams like There Goes My Baby, You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Party Train and Charlie, Last Name Wilson kept the crowd on its feet throughout.

Space man: Usher played a well-received show in the city about six months ago but that didn't stop him from reprising many of the sci-fi trappings for the Essence crowd, many of whom come from outside the region. So jaws dropped once again as black curtains dropped from around an area in the center of the Super Dome, smoke billowed and Usher ascended on a crane-driven platform that bore him at least 25 feet above the crowd and slowly delivered him to the stage. Once that stunt was accomplished (he repeated it toward the end of the show during Burn) the sexy, silky singer treated the crowd to a feverish, stylish performance that mixed sci-fi imagery, upscale urban dreamscapes, smart choreography, and edgy but not raunchy sexual fantasies. His shirt came off at the end of Confessions Part II, but only briefly; at other times the wardrobe borrowed from Michael Jackson, Stanley Kowalski, Barry White and those guys in GQ every month. Though the backing music was bombastic at times, Usher's agile vocals held their own on burners such Love in This Club, Lil Freak, U Got It Bad and There Goes My Baby. And in a touching and novel gesture, he didn't sing during his tribute to Michael Jackson, who died two years ago on the eve of Essence. Instead, Usher showcased brilliant dance moves as the band played instrumental versions of Wanna Be Startin' Something, Rock with You and Billie Jean.

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DVD Extra: 'The Lord of the Rings' extended edition

By Steve Jones, USA TODAY

Ten years after the release of the first film in director Peter Jackson's beloved The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the franchise based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien gets a Hi-Def video treatment that is as expansive as Middle-earth itself.

  • Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are on a quest to destroy The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    New Line Cinema

    Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are on a quest to destroy The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

New Line Cinema

Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are on a quest to destroy The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The 15-disc boxed set The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition ? Blu-ray (2001-2003, Warner Bros., PG-13, $120) restores nearly two hours of deleted scenes to 2001's The Fellowship of the Ring, 2002's The Two Towers and 2003's The Return of the King. The running time for the three films alone exceeds 11 hours, and there is an additional 26 hours of bonus material.

The fantasy tale tells the story of the hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) who battles to save his world from the evil Dark Lord Sauron. He and a band of heroes undertake a treacherous journey through a war-torn Middle-earth, a world peopled by all manner of humans, dwarfs, elves, wizards and other strange creatures, to find and destroy Sauron's greatest source of power, The One Ring.

Tolkien's vision is brought to life by groundbreaking special effects and an all-star cast that includes Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm and Sean Bean.

The films were wildly successful critically and commercially. They earned a combined 30 Oscar nominations and won 17. The Return of the King won all 11 for which it was nominated (tying Ben-Hur and Titanic for most received). The movies were all filmed concurrently in Jackson's native New Zealand at a combined cost of $281 million. They wound up earning $1 billion at the box office in the USA and $3 billion worldwide.

In the boxed set, five discs each are devoted to the films. The movies themselves are split into two parts on separate Blu-ray discs, and three DVD discs of bonus material accompany the movies. Each gets a feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary created by filmmaker Costa Botes (Saving Grace) on the sets of each movie.

Other discs feature commentaries by the director, cast and crew members, discussions on how the screenplay was developed from the books, the creation of the elaborate sets, how the hundreds of special effects were integrated, and an interactive Middle-earth atlas.

Jackson is not done with Tolkien and neither are many of the actors from the Rings movies. In March, the director began filming The Hobbit as a two-part epic prequel to the trilogy: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit:There and Back Again. Filming again is taking place in New Zealand. The movies are scheduled to be released in December 2012 and December 2013, respectively. Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage stars as Thorin Oakenshield. Wood, McKellan, Bloom, Weaving, Holm, Lee and Blanchett will reprise their roles.

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