Category: Entertainment


Coronation Street bosses have explained the decision to make the late Vera Duckworth appear to her dying widower Jack, saying it reflected real accounts of people’s final moments.

Coronation Street bosses explained the decision to make the late Vera Duckworth appear to her dying widower Jack in the soap

Eleven million viewers tuned in on Monday to watch Corrie stalwart Jack, played by Bill Tarmey, share a last dance with Vera (Liz Dawn) before dying in his chair after three decades on the cobbles.

Discussing the inclusion of Vera in the scene, producer Phil Collinson said: “It’s something I’ve heard a lot. People say, ‘When my mother was dying she saw my father’, or ‘When my grandmother was dying she said she saw her mother’.

“It’s a story I’ve heard a few people say. We’re storytellers at the end of the day. Yes it’s Coronation Street and yes it reflects real life, but we’re storytellers.

“I suppose a little romantic in me would like to imagine that somebody comes at the end for us all who we love. And it somehow made Jack’s exit so much more epic and about more than just a man who lived in a back street, and yet that’s all it was about.”

The producer made his comments at a screening and discussion panel at the BFI Southbank in London to mark the soap’s 50th anniversary.

The show’s creator Tony Warren echoed the remarks and said his own father claimed to have seen his departed parents shortly before he died in hospital.

“I went home and said to my mother, ‘I think we should make up our mind he’s not going to come out’. And he didn’t. He died that night,” he said.

Corrie’s executive producer Kieran Roberts said he would be surprised if anyone thought it was the wrong decision to reunite Jack and Vera on-screen.

He added: “I think it was absolutely right that at the end of Jack’s life it was Jack and Vera. They’re one of the great television couples. I think it was the right thing to see them together in his final moments.”

Treyarch takes the reins on the Call of Duty franchise once more…and delivers the game of the series.

What is it?
A first person shooter set during the cold war period, developed by the team behind Call of Duty: World at War.

What we like
The complex but satisfying plot and evocative cold war setting; explosive set pieces and non-stop action; fantastic environments, motion-capture and voice-acting; the deep and fresh-feeling multiplayer.

What we don’t like
The scripted, linear missions won’t be to everyone’s taste. Vehicles are sometimes difficult to control while shooting.

Judgment
Call of Duty: Black Ops sees Treyarch finally step out of Infinity Ward’s shadow, delivering a game that looks beautiful, is heart-stoppingly intense to play and offers an expansive multi-player mode to boot.

Review
Peace, love and rock and roll – that’s what the 60s were all about, right? Not if you were a member of a top-secret CIA squad. The life of a black operations specialist revolved around covert missions in Cuba, Russia and Southeast Asia, where the communist threat was repelled with all manner of fearsome weaponry. Records relating to their activities were strictly classified.

This bloody underside of the hippie era forms the setting for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Treyarch’s follow-up to 2008’s World at War. Alex Mason, a member of the CIA’s Studies and Observation Group, is your character for the majority of the game’s 15 single-player missions.

The game opens with you strapped in a chair in a shadowy interrogation room, surrounded by monitors flashing random numbers. After administering a little electric shock treatment, your captors force you to describe some of your former missions. It is these memories that make up the game’s single-player campaign.

This clever framing device lets the developers explore a wide-range of settings, from the steamy jungles of Laos to the frozen wastes of the Ural Mountains. The MacGuffin driving the plot is a substance called Nova-6, a deadly chemical weapon that Russian terrorist Dragovitch hopes to unleash upon the West.

The action jumps through time and countries almost in the blink of an eye as Mason and his CIA colleagues chase Dragovitch around the world, yet the narrative remains coherent and enjoyable throughout – a definite improvement on previous entries in the series.

Enemy action
Enemies come at you thick and fast from the outset, spitting bullets with ferocious accuracy. They’ll dive out of the way of your return fire, turn over tables and pop the snout of their gun over the top. Taking them down requires liberal use of cover, grenades and other tactical options. Their demise is often horrifically gory. Shotguns tear limbs to bloody stumps, the wounded enemy staggering around in shock before you finish them off.

Get in close and you can instigate a melee kill, usually involving your knife, their jugular and plenty of the red stuff. Brutal, certainly. But the violence feels horribly real rather than simply gratuitous.

Call of Duty: Black Ops(Activision)

Bombastic but hugely enjoyable set pieces are a hallmark of the Call of Duty series, and Black Ops doesn’t disappoint. For example, one mission starts with you trapped inside a crashed helicopter slowly sinking to the bottom of a lake, while another sees you rappel through the window of an enemy base in slow-mo, cap the bad guys, then base jump from a cliff in order to avoid an avalanche. It’s all a serious work out for your adrenal glands.

Weapons wise you’re spoilt for choice: a huge roster of guns is available. The scoped crossbow, which can fire explosive arrows that stick to enemies, is particularly brilliant, while a SPAS-12 shotgun equipped with Dragon’s Breath shells proves scarily destructive during the ‘Crash Site’ mission, set in Hue City, Vietnam, at the height of the Tet Offensive.

On the move
Vehicular combat has also been tuned up in Black Ops. In ‘Payback’ you escape from a game of Russian Roulette, steal a Hind helicopter, and take to the skies for some fully controllable air combat, launching missiles at command towers, gun turrets and enemy helicopters.

A Motorcycle prison escape also features, as does a patrol boat cruise down the Mekong Delta, Sympathy For The Devil playing as you strafe enemy encampments – very Apocalypse Now. The controls during these vehicle sections can feel slightly awkward; it’s sometimes tricky to shoot and manoeuvre accurately. But overall they’re well integrated into the core run-and-gun action.

Call of Duty: Black Ops(Activision)

The graphics are some of the best we’ve seen on this generation of consoles. Every location is vivid and distinct, brought to life by a multitude of tiny details. In frozen Russia the breath of soldiers on the back of a truck mists as it leaves their mouths, and in Laos freshwater snakes weave past your teammate’s ankles as he swims toward a Vietcong boat. Treyarch has polished this game until it shines.

Character models and motion capture are particularly impressive. Faces are amazingly detailed and expressive, lined with tiny wrinkles and pockmarks. Some superb voice acting helps bring them to life, with Ed Harris as Jason Hudson, Mason’s CIA colleague, and Gary Oldman as Viktor Reznov, your Russian brother-in-arms.

At points throughout the game you’ll play as both these characters, as well as an SR-71 Blackbird pilot during a virtuoso mission that sees you setting waypoints for troops on the ground from the cockpit, then zooming in to play through the orders you’ve just issued.

Multiplayer
Treyarch has obviously worked hard to make the multiplayer as good as the single-player missions. All the standard modes one would expect are included, such as capture the flag, team deathmatch, etc. But the brilliant new wager matches are the real highlight.

They enable you to bet COD Points, an in-game currency earned by completing contracts, on their outcome. Place in the top three and more money will be yours to spend on weapons and upgrades; fall outside and you’ll be handing over hard-earned points to the other players.

Call of Duty: Black Ops(Activision)

Different emblems can be unlocked and purchased with your COD Points to make a unique player card. Points can also be used to purchase face paints, weapon camo, and over 40 different recticles, making Black Ops multiplayer ideal for customisation nuts.

Fans of the ‘Zombies’ survival mode from World at War are also in for a treat. Beating the game in campaign mode unlocks a map set inside the pentagon, with up to four players taking on the roles of JFK, Nixon, Castro and Robert McNamara and fighting off wave after wave of the undead. It’s great fun and hugely addictive.

In the past Infinity Ward’s instalments in the Call of Duty franchise have tended to garner the most praise and the biggest fan base, with Treyarch’s efforts putting in respectable if less stellar showings. Not any more. Black Ops is an outstanding achievement that easily measures up to, and in many respects outstrips, the Modern Warfare titles. If you’re a fan of first person shooters it’s an essential purchase.

Alex Reid has apparently told his Mrs, Katie Price, that they need to spend some time apart after he is getting tired of her demanding ways.

Alex Reid: "Jordan, We Need Time Apart"

One source told Closer magazine: “Alex has put up with a lot from Jordan, but things have got so bad that he has finally snapped. He told her he can’t take the stress of her mood swings and the pressure for her to get pregnant, and needs some time apart. He thinks the only way the marriage can survive is if he stays with family or friends for two nights a week to give them both breathing space.”

Yikes, I bet Katie isn’t used to having someone stand up to her like that, especially as another insider added: “Jordan is a bit despairing about the whole situation – but as usual she’s putting on a front and pretending that she doesn’t care. She was a bit stunned that Alex has finally stuck up for himself. But he said it was either time apart or something more drastic, so she has accepted it for now.”

Alex is supposedly furious that Katie put the brakes on the plans for him to go into the jungle for I”m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and he has asked for two nights a week off to go to his parents place or to stay with a mate.

Cheryl Cole has graciously accepted a custard pie in the face as royalty and fellow stars honoured some of the nation’s unsung heroes.

X Factor judge Cheryl Cole graciously accepted a custard pie in the face

The pop star and X Factor judge volunteered for the treatment from schoolboy Cameron Small, who won Young Fund Raiser of the Year at the Pride of Britain awards.

The 12-year-old said he was “shocked” to be embarrassing the singer, adding: “I threw it hard and it hit her right in the face. Then she put some of it on me.”

But Cheryl said: “It was a small thing to do for such a brave young man.”

Cameron, from Preston, was named Littlewoods.com Young Fund Raiser of the Year after raising more than £95,000 for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

He won his chance to throw the pie after former X Factor contestant Darius Danesh won a charity auction with a £6,000 bid.

Host Carol Vorderman asked for volunteers from the audience to be the victim, and Cheryl bent down to receive the flan in the face.

Cameron said: “She took it quite well. She said it was the first time it’s ever felt good when that had happened.”

Michael Jackson’s father has confessed for the first time that he used to beat his children with a strap.

Rev Al Sharpton and Joe Jackson give a press conference outside of the Jackson family home in Encino. Flanked by body guards and also accompanied by music producer Marshall Thompson the trio walked out of the front gates and spent a moment looking at the make shift fan memorial that has been set up outside of the family home. Joe announced that Marshall would be forming a new record company to oversee Michael Jacksons songs. Michael died suddenly at the age of 50 after collapsing at his Beverly Hills home.

During a sensational interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jackson was initially defensive about his relationship with son Michael, insisting: “I don’t think he was afraid of me. What he was afraid of, he may do something wrong and I’d chastise him, but not beat him. I never beat him like the media tried to say.”

But he was forced to reveal the truth when his wife, Katherine, interjected: “You might as well admit it. That’s the way black people raised their children.”

She added: “He used a strap.”

Jackson then revealed: “I would have punished him by whipping him with a strap or something when he did something wrong. It would have kept him out of trouble.”

The King of Pop’s parents were interviewed by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey at their home in Encino, California, for a special edition of the show.

During the emotional interview, Katherine also revealed that she had confronted Michael – who died last June after his personal physician, Conrad Murray, injected him with the powerful anaesthetic Propofol – about his addiction to painkillers, but he denied having a problem.

She told Winfrey: “I spoke to him about it once, when I had heard it, and he denied it. I was telling him I didn’t want to hear one day that he had overdosed because it would break my heart – it would kill me too.

“But he kept saying he wasn’t. He kept saying, ‘My own mother don’t believe me’. There was part of me that wanted to believe him, but I didn’t.”

Kym Marsh has criticised Cheryl Cole’s controversial decision to sit on the fence and said “a judge’s job is to judge”.

Kym Marsh says Cheryl Cole should have voted on The X Factor on Sunday night

The Coronation Street star, who rose to fame through a forerunner of The X Factor, said Cheryl “should have voted”.

Cheryl’s refusal to vote cost contestant Treyc Cohen a place on the show and saved Katie Waissel who was less popular with viewers. If she had voted for Treyc, the decision would have been thrown over to the votes of viewers.

Kym said: “I do think she should have voted. It could potentially have changed the whole outcome, and fans of Treyc are probably fuming.

“You can see why people are annoyed. I do believe she should have chosen because if you’re going to be a judge your job is to judge. Whether that’s your own acts or someone else’s, in my opinion that’s what she should have done.”

Cheryl said she did not want be forced to choose between Katie and Treyc, who had finished in the bottom two and were both acts for whom she had been mentor.

Kym said it was clear that Katie was proving unpopular with viewers as she had finished in the bottom two on three occasions.

“They should be listening to the people. It’s obvious the people will keep putting her in the bottom two. Next week she’ll probably be in the bottom two again. It’s obvious the people don’t want to see her in the final.”

Kym was speaking as she backed the Childnet International campaign for safe and responsible internet use. The charity has produced a leaflet to help parents at childnet.com/downloading

 

Doctor Who star Matt Smith has revealed more details about the show’s upcoming Christmas special.

The festive instalment will feature Harry Potter star Michael Gambon and singer Katherine Jenkins in key roles.

Smith told USA Today: “I had great fun making [the episode] because obviously it was the middle of July and there’s loads of fake snow. There’s lots of snow, crackers and turkey, and that goes hand-in-hand with the spirit of The Doctor and Doctor Who.”

He added that the special would focus heavily on The Doctor’s own festive spirit.

“It’s showcasing humans at their most open and giving and kind,” he said. “It’s everything The Doctor’s about.”

Smith also referred to his role on the sci-fi drama as “the greatest part I’ve ever played”.

“What’s so wonderful about playing The Doctor is it’s all based on invention,” he explained. “You’re given this white canvas to invent and paint on, and he can be any colour. I really want to push the boundaries of this part into next year now and keep raising the bar.”

The as-yet-untitled Doctor Who special will air on BBC One this Christmas.

Cheryl Cole refuses to vote

The manner of Treyc Cohen’s X Factor exit has sparked controversy and furious debate.

X Factor's Treyc Cohen

X Factor's Treyc Cohen

Treyc Cohen has made a controversial exit from The X Factor. The 26-year-old found herself in the bottom two alongside fellow sing-off veteran Katie Waissel.

Their mentor Cheryl Cole refused to choose between her acts.

After Simon Cowell opted to keep Katie, Cheryl made it clear that she would send the competition into deadlock, depending on how Dannii Minogue and Louis Walsh voted.

However, the Girls Aloud singer didn’t get her chance because presenter Dermot O’Leary said they’d go with the majority vote; Dannii Minogue voted to send Katie home and Louis Walsh picked Treyc to go.

Treyc had attempted to save herself with Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart, while Katie opted for soul classic Don’t Give Up On Me by Solomon Burke. She did it – Katie survived again.

It was [supposed to be] American Anthems week on The X Factor, but once again the judges, by and large, didn’t get the message. Compositions such as Kids In America, sung by Brit pop star Kim Wilde and written by her brother Ricky and father Marty, made it into the show.

Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole went another round in their bickering. The music mogul aimed a couple of barbed comments in Cheryl’s direction as he critiqued her acts.

While commenting on Cher Lloyd, he said: “I think your mentor got a little bit lazy.” Take a look through the gallery to see how each act fared in another very dramatic weekend of The X Factor.

Cheryl Cole and Cher Lloyd are in dispute, according to reports, over what to call the aspiring X Factor singer.

Cher Lloyd is reportedly considering using the stage name Cher-L

Cher Lloyd is reportedly considering using the stage name Cher-L

 Cher Lloyd is reportedly considering using the stage name Cher-L

Cheryl Cole and Cher Lloyd are in dispute, according to reports, over what to call the aspiring X Factor singer.

The Sun said that Cher, who impressed judges with her rendition of Shakespears Sister ballad Stay on Saturday night, wants to be known as Cher-L but that her mentor, Cheryl, feels the new name is too similar to her own.

A show insider told the newspaper: “Cher has already been called a mini-Cheryl and now she could end up with almost the same name.”

Music chiefs came up with the idea of using the name Cher-L, using the first letter of her last name to rebrand the 17-year-old rapper, after the ITV series ends.

The singer cannot use the name Cher because of the US star.

The source continued: “X Factor chiefs want Cher to change her name after the show to give her something a bit edgier and more fitting to her image.

“They don’t like her having two names and think she should have something a bit different. She can’t be known as Cher so the idea of Cher-L came up – but her mentor didn’t like it as it was so similar to her own name.

“Cher loves Cheryl and values her input and ideas but it doesn’t look like she’ll get her way on this one.”

Why Everyone Loves Cheryl

Why do we love Cheryl Cole? Obviously this is a question we’re asking of Cheryl Cole lovers. People who don’t love Cheryl Cole are the type of people who don’t love sunsets, kittens or Battenberg cake, and who wants to know what they think?

Cheryl holds a unique place amongst pop stars and celebrities by being someone we love to love. So rarely do we hear anyone making catty or unkind remarks or, as is traditional with famous attractive women, casting aspersions on her intelligence or talent.

It’s widely accepted amongst those familiar with her work in Girls Aloud and as a judge on TV’s The X Factor that Cheryl Cole is an intelligent, talented and genuinely lovely woman. She appears to have it all and, by rights, we should resent her for it.

But we don’t.

Cheryl Ann Tweedy grew up in Northern England, in the shadow of the bitter 1980s miner’s strike. Preferring ballet to boxing, she trained in secret – finding dance a much-needed escape from problems at home.

Oh no, hang on, that’s the plot of Billy Elliot. But it’s not far off.

Cheryl was actually raised on a notoriously heroin-blighted council estate in Newcastle, not far from Byker (where PJ & Duncan went to youth club). One of five children, she joined the Royal Ballet’s summer school at the age of nine, as well as taking a variety of child modelling assignments (including a couple of British Gas adverts).

So it’s something of a rags to riches story, though not one we imagine Elton John would write a musical about (though we’d be first in the queue if he did).

The wannabe starlet entered our lives in 2002, when she appeared on reality TV show Popstars: The Rivals. She sang S Club 7’s Have You Ever, one of their less memorable hits, for a fairly forgettable audition where Pete Waterman seemed more impressed with her features than her singing, declaring: “You have the most beautiful skin and eyes I think I’ve ever seen in my life!” (And this from the man who brought us Rick Astley).

Cheryl seemed terrified but determined. Refreshingly, she lacked the conviction-bordering-on-psychosis that so many current X Factor contestants display – as if it’s their destiny to have a Number One single. Even when she made it through to the final ten, Cheryl still spoke of the possibility of being sent home (though, by then, few viewers doubted her chances of being in the final band.)

Despite a tentative start, Tweedy proved to be one of the stronger singers in Girls Aloud. Hers was a classic pop voice with just enough of her Tyneside accent creeping through to give it distinction. Most importantly she had charisma by the bucket-load and a defiantly down-to-earth spirit. Cheryl had ‘working class Geordie’ written through her like a stick of rock.

Her transformation from humble, pretty, talent show winner to superstar sex kitten seemed to happen overnight (or however long it took to shoot the Sound of the Underground video).

As slinky as Shakira, the camera loved her and by the time of her cleavage-baring, car-draping, appearance in No Good Advice, the men’s magazine industry were standing to attention.

But for us there’s one video above all that illustrates why we love her so much. Actually, it’s just one and a half seconds of Love Machine, Girls Aloud’s 2004 hit single. Readers, please take out your DVDs and fast forward them to the two minute mark. As our heroine sings the line, “We’re only turning into tigers when we gotta fight back”, she makes a clawing movement with her hands, as her eyes flash knowingly.

This isn’t just the key to understanding what makes Cheryl special as a performer, it’s a perfect demonstration as to what differentiates a pop star from someone who merely sings songs for a living. It’s all in the details.

What we admire about Cheryl Cole is her ability to carve out a successful music and TV career while remaining independent, opinionated (without being gobby) and in control, whilst exuding an old fashioned showbiz glamour and pizzazz that makes her a compelling and rewarding performer to watch.

And while there’s been controversy and scandal, people have continued to care about Cheryl because she has, at all times, seemed genuine and honest and has worked hard to get to where she is.

As her debut solo single Fight For This Love becomes the biggest-selling single of the year, we don’t think we’re out of line in suggesting it’s not simply the quality of the music that’s made it a success – it’s the Cheryl-factor.

The artist Lee Jones (who painted Ms Cole as if she were Antony Gormley’s famous Angel of the North sculpture) summed it up best when he said: “I see her as a new icon of popular culture for the 21st century, a beacon of light in these bleak times – a fine example of a northern lass making good.”

And we suppose she’s not bad looking either, in a certain light.