All posts filed under: CELEBRITIES

Let’s make Mississippi an ‘American Idol’

In light of the controversial events that have transpired because of Mississippi’s House Bill 1523 locally and nationally, with protests by notable Mississippians and some companies refusing to do business in the state, the yin and yang of the universe decided that on the last season of one of America’s top-rated television shows, two Mississippians were selected to showcase their artistic talent – one of the fine things Mississippi is very well known for – and a Mississippian won the contest. Within every place and every person, you can find both good and bad. For far too long, Mississippi has had a reputation of ranking last in many categories. It has become trite to recite the list. The state has the highest high school dropout rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the highest obesity rate, highest poverty rate, worst economy, and the lowest life expectancy in the country. Mississippi students have ranked last in school performance, and the state has one of the highest unemployment rates. We read these studies over and over again, and …

The Force is always with Star Wars fans

By LaReeca Rucker In 1983, I saw my first Star Wars film. “Return of the Jedi” was my introduction to the movie franchise, and I was hooked, because I wanted to look like and become Princess Leia. I wanted to ride speeder bikes through the thick, green forests of Endor; hang out in a village with adorable Ewoks, save Han Solo from the carbonite chamber, and command The Force as skillfully as a seasoned Jedi Knight. Throughout most of my childhood, I lived in a Star Wars fantasy world inhabited by me and my next door neighbor, who believed he was Luke Skywalker. Almost every day, we went on adventures to other planets in a galaxy far, far away. He often saved me from disgusting aliens like Jabba the Hut, and I was a beautiful princess who sometimes saved him – a feminist before I knew the word. We piloted space ships, killed alien creatures, and battled other evil forces with lightsabers, all underneath the big oak tree in my grandmother’s backyard. She often watched …

As I Lay Dying

James Franco has spent time in Mississippi adapting some of William Faulkner’s books into movies. I haven’t seen “As I Lay Dying Yet,” but I got to interview a couple of the actors in the movie last year when they made appearances at a film event in Jackson. This is Ahna O’Reilly and Tim Blake Nelson. You may remember Ahna from “The Help” and Nelson from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save

Mississippi native Faith Hill answers questions via Facebook

“Mississippi Girl” Faith Hill took a moment last week to answer fan questions via Facebook. Here’s what they asked, and here are some of her answers: Q. What is your favorite Tim McGraw song? A. How could I choose? He has a million! “My Best Friend” is a really great one. Q. Faith, you are my inspiration to follow my dream of being a country singer! I’m a bit curious as to what your inspiration was? A. I was one of two people who listened to country music at my high school. I definitely wasn’t part of the “cool group” at the time! But when I saw Reba for the first time in concert, I wanted to do whatever it took to make it as a musician. Lots of hard work! Q. What’s your favorite gospel song? A. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Q. What is your favorite memory from the past shows at the Venetian? A. Other than the time on stage with my husband in front of such an intimate crowd, …

Mississippi native LeAnn Rimes and hubby next couple to try reality TV

Many couples have done it, and for some, it has ended badly. Starring in your own reality show isn’t always good for relationships. Just ask Jessica Simpson and a slew of other celebs who put their private lives on national TV and later divorced. But maybe things will be different for LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian, who will soon have their own VH1 reality show. “We are really excited to be working together on a unique show that will give you a glimpse into who we really are, or better yet, who we’re really not,” said the Rimes in a news release. Rimes and Cibrian have been tabloid targets thanks to Cibrian’s ex-wife, Brandi Glanville, who stars on Bravo’s “The Housewives of Beverly Hills,” where she has often publicly discussed frustrations about her ex-husband and his new wife. Rimes Tweeted Thursday: “Thx for all the love about our new show. We are very excited to do something new and unique.” Rimes, a Pearl native, who has won multiple Grammy Awards, has been in the spotlight …

Priscilla Presley says Kanye won’t be buying Graceland

Some Elvis fans were are all shook up earlier this year about the possibility that Kanye West might be purchasing Graceland, but Priscilla Presley, ex-wife of the late Tupelo native, said it isn’t going to happen. “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor about selling Graceland,” Presley said on Facebook and Twitter. “From what I understand, this gossip came out of the tabloids in London. This will NEVER happen.” Presley received a slew of comments from fans. “Amen! No amount of money will ever see Elvis’ beloved home belong to anyone other than the Presleys! Thank you for saving Graceland all those years ago Priscilla, & Thank you Lisa for sharing your home with all of us,” said one fan. Others thanked Presley for preserving the home. “Thank you for the assurance Priscilla,” said Melissa Laster via Facebook. “I made a lot of childhood visits to Graceland while my brother was undergoing cancer treatment at St. Jude, so Graceland is a place very close to my heart. I am SO thrilled to hear that …

Oprah shares screen with all-star cast and other Mississippians in ‘The Butler’

It’s been more than a decade since Kosciusko native Oprah Winfrey worked as an actress in a major motion picture, but she’s back as the wife of “The Butler” in a film about an African-American (actor Forest Whitaker) who witnesses notable events of the 20th century while working for years as a butler in the White House. The story was inspired by a Washington Post article about an African-American man who served as a butler to eight presidents in the White House for more than 30 years. IMDB.com reports that the “film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family.” Oprah isn’t the only Mississippian in this all-star cast. Keep a look out for rapper David Banner, of Jackson, who plays “Earl Gaines” in the film, and Mississippi-based actress Tarra Riggs has a role as “Sophie Wilson.” According to IMDB.com, Riggs landed her first film role as “Marlee” in “Ballast,” a movie shot in Mississippi, specifically …

Lohan’s career falls deeper into ‘The Canyon’ with latest movie

Last week, I was given the opportunity to pre-screen “The Canyons,” by Independent Film Channel (IFC) Films. I was interested in seeing whether or not Lindsay Lohan, one of the stars, had gotten her act together in both real life and on screen and was rooting for her, but Lohan’s decent performance could not salvage this film. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be seeing an interesting film or a Sharknado-style, awesomely bad one considering the cast. One would suspect it might be amazing. The film is directed by Paul Schrader, who wrote “Taxi Driver” and the screenplay for “Raging Bull,” among other notable films. It was written by Bret Easton Ellis, who may be best known for “American Psycho.” It’s obvious Schrader was trying to find a good fit for a Christian Bale/”American Psycho”-character in “The Canyons,” but it just didn’t work out. From the beginning, I found this movie difficult to watch, mainly because of lead actor James Deen. If he had asked me, I would have advised him not to steal the similar …

Jackson native produces ‘The Way, Way Back’

In fourth grade, Jackson native Tom Rice told his classmates that he wanted to be a film director. “I was a very creative-minded person growing up in a school that was very sports-centered,” he said. “If you didn’t play sports you were kind of a fish out of water. “I tried to fit into the sports scene without playing sports. I was the school mascot. It was a way to fit in and adapt. But I had a family who loved me, an interest in artist endeavors, and I was on my own to find out where I would find that creative satisfaction and find out who I was in the same way Duncan does.” Duncan is the lead character in Rice’s latest film. The Jackson creative who eventually founded his own production company is celebrating the opening of his latest project — an indie with an all-star cast that includes actors Steve Carrell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell called “The Way, Way Back.” In it, you meet Duncan, a 14-year-old boy who travels with …

‘Bling Ring’ star from Mississippi lands new role in music video

Mississippi native Israel Broussard, who won a leading role in director Sophia Coppola’s recent movie “The Bling Ring,” is now starring in a new music video directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. Howard is an actress who starred in “The Village,” Lady in the Water” “Terminator Salvation” and “The Help,” which was filmed in Mississippi. She also happens to be the daughter of director Ron Howard, aka Opie Taylor. Broussard is featured in the video with Lily Collins, daughter of musician Phil Collins, who also has a Mississippi tie. She starred as Collins Tuohy, daughter of Sandra Bullock’s character Leigh Anne Tuohy, in “The Blind Side.” The music group M83 released the video for their track “Claudia Lewis.” It’s is about a blue haired girl who appears out of nowhere and attends a local high school, where she doesn’t seem to understand what her peers are experiencing, like love and pain. When she finally receives a kiss from Broussard, they are magically transported somewhere in the universe. You can watch the video here. Got a comment? …

‘The Bling Ring’ review: If you’re ‘Pretty Wild,’ karma often comes with cuffs

There were two reasons I wanted to see “The Bling Ring” this weekend. 1. It stars Mississippi native Israel Broussard as one of the teen thieves who broke into Hollywood homes and stole designer clothing and jewelry from famous celebrities. I got a chance to interview Broussard by phone last week, who is a very polite and mature young man. I’m sure he has a good film career ahead of him because landing your first major role in a Sofia Coppola movie “ain’t” too shabby. 2. I had previously watched the E! reality television series “Pretty Wild,” starring Alexis Neiers and her two teenage “sisters,” which I think – as reality shows go – may be one of the most absurd and entertaining ones I’ve ever seen because of how oblivious these girls and their parents seem about everything taking place in their lives. I’m not sure how this happened since their mother tried to home school them using metaphysical consciousness principles with a curriculum based on the “The Secret” or laws of attraction. But …

They’re having a "(Hotel) Hell" of a time at Starkville’s Hotel Chester this week

Sometimes running a business is hell. It certainly will be through Sunday when Starkville’s Hotel Chester welcomes Fox reality star and chef Gordon Ramsay, who will be filming an episode of “Hotel Hell” at the establishment. Can owner David Mollendor handle the wrath of Ramsay, who typically tries to offer salvation to some of America’s most horrendous hotels, troubled inns and struggling resorts? Will Ramsay fan the flames and cause controversy, or will Mollendor humbly accept that the devil is in the details? “We received a phone call from The Conlin Company (casting company) several months ago asking if our business needed improvement, and if so, would we like some assistance,” said Mollendor. “We said yes to both, and things developed from there.” Built in 1925, the restored hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places features 36 rooms and suites. It also has a Library Restaurant that serves seafood, steaks and sushi and a 3,000-square-foot meeting space. It was voted Best Hotel in Mississippi in 2012 by Mississippi Magazine. “I think the production …

What do Jethro and Bobbie Gentry have in common?

Well, today’s the third of June, and Mississippians all know what happened on that day. Yep, that’s the day Choctaw Ridge resident Billie Joe McAllister tragically jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Why? We may never know. Just like we may never know what he and Bobbie Lee Hartley (the female lead character in the movie adaptation) fictionally tossed into the water before his suicidal plunge. Quick movie fact: Did you know that the film “Ode to Billy Joe” – based on Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 song – was directed and produced by Max Baer Jr.? Yep, that’s right – Jethro from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” It was made for $1 million and grossed $27 million at the box office. Not bad for 1976. And at least part of it was filmed in Mississippi. Google it, and you can find news articles about filming in Vaiden. Another commenter just told me part of it was shot in Itta Bena. Last night, I heard the song “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (1968) for the first time in years, and it made …

Movie review: Why Southern women may appreciate "The Great Gatsby"

I understand what it feels like to hear that a movie you love is going to be remade. It sometimes evokes strong emotion, you can’t imagine improvement, and it’s a reminder that a chunk of time has evaporated, at least one generation has passed, and your memories are somehow threatened. I get it. I would imagine that some feel that way about the remake of “The Great Gatsby,” but I am not one of them. Having seen both films for the first time recently, the 2013 film is an improvement with an explosion of modern artistry that blends the classic 1920s words penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald with contemporary technology almost 100 years later. I enjoyed the new film much more than the original. Here’s a quick synopsis: Daisy Buchanan was the beautiful belle of the ball in Louisville, Ky., who could have had any man she wanted. Suitors were tripping over themselves to gain her affection and hand in marriage, and one was Jay Gatsby, a man of modest means with whom she fell …

Keep your eye on rising star Katherine Bailess, a Mississippi girl who has "Hit the Floor" on VH1

Keep your eye on Kat Bailess, a Vicksburg girl who just got a lead role on a new VH1 scripted series called “Hit the Floor.” Katherine definitely steals the spotlight with her comedic timing. And on a personal note, she was very kind and down-to-earth to talk to during our recent interview. Check out her official website, to see a showcase of Katherine’s acting, singing and dancing. She also released this video and song that she co-wrote called “Missin’ Mississippi.” You may remember Katherine Bailess, 33, from the first “American Idol” movie “From Justin to Kelly” in 2003 when she played the singing, dancing vixen Alexa. Or maybe you’ve seen her in that recent viral video “$@!# Southern Women Say” that’s circulated the Web. But come Memorial Day, the Mississippi native will “Hit the Floor” as one of the stars of VH1’s new one-hour scripted series about the drama and comedy of a fictional professional dance team called the Los Angeles Devil Girls. The first of ten episodes aired Monday. Born in 1980 in Vicksburg, …

Want to hear William Faulkner’s Mississippi drawl? Check out this rare 1952 film.

‘Early in his life, William Faulkner had an epiphany: ‘I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about, and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.’” – From openculture.com A website called “Open Culture” published a 1952 film this week shot shortly after Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for literature. Take a look at it to see footage of Oxford and its residents more than 60 years ago with glimpses of the square, the Ole Miss campus, Faulkner’s friends, The Oxford Eagle, and you’ll hear Faulkner’s Southern drawl, something I had never heard before watching it. Click the “Open Culture” link to watch the whole film that is broken into five, three-minute segments. Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save

Nichols explores what lurks in the "Mud" of the Mighty Mississippi

All the ladies who plan to buy a movie ticket this weekend to see a shirtless Matthew McConaughey in a G-string like they did in director Steven Soderbergh’s sociological experiment “Magic Mike” that drew lines of women to a R-rated, cinematic strip show, may be a little disappointed in “Mud.” While McConaughey is fully clothed in most of this movie, (even wearing a symbolic, signature, white button down shirt), you will be rewarded with a pectoral scene or two, but this film is different kind of sociological exploration. Just as Soderbergh’s films seem to focus on the underworld or behind-the-scenes players who don’t always color within the lines of society, director Jeff Nichols’ third film explores the rural South, its residents and some of the uncontrollable things they encounter. In “Mud,” we are introduced to two adventurous 14-year-olds, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who against their parents wishes, brave the Mississippi River on a motorboat to explore an uninhabited island. They trek through through the forest and creeks until they arrive at an …

Pearl native LeAnn Rimes is a "Spitfire" in new album

Pearl native LeAnn Rimes Tweeted links to three new videos from her latest album “Spitfire” this week, and the title track, which has an old country, folksy feel, is great. “I know that you’re a dirty little liar. I’m not gonna get stuck in your muck and mire. You make me want to spit fire,” are the lyrics. It’s really one the best songs I’ve heard from Rimes’ in a long time. For a while, it seemed she was stuck singing crossover songs that weren’t really identifiable as country music, but there’s no mistaking this one. Her voice is so much better suited for pure country, and with these three, she doesn’t use popular vocal acrobatic tricks like Christina Aguilera and others who get caught up in proving their own range so much, they seem to forget about the actual quality of the song they are trying to perform, something I’ve seen Rimes do in the past. I’m sure “Spitfire” and some of the other songs on the album, on some level, are about the …

More of the story: Sela Ward talks Mississippi

Many Americans first met Sela Ward through her breakout, Emmy-award winning performance as Teddy Reed on the television series “Sisters,” that ran from 1991 to 1996. Then, there was that “little” role as Harrison Ford’s wife in “The Fugitive.” Today, many know her as Jo Danville, a DNA evidence investigator with a background in criminal psychology, who uses her wits to catch the bad guys. But to some, Ward is just a Mississippi girl who grew up in a little neighborhood in Meridian with two lakes where she learned to swim, and a cave in which she participated in séances with neighborhood children. “We really played outside until it was time for dinner,” said Ward, recalling her Mississippi childhood. “It was a lovely neighborhood. We spend most of the summer there. I go back for family reunions around Thanksgiving, and I usually get there one other time (during the year) for Hope Village.” She’s coming back to her hometown April 20 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Meridian charity she founded in 2002 called …

More of the story: Mississippians believe in faith, family and “Duck Dynasty”

It’s obvious when checking my Facebook  feed, that there are many Mississippians who relate to and love the reality show “Duck Dynasty.” I have watched a few episodes myself, but didn’t quite understand why this show was liked by so many people I know until I interviewed several of them recently and learned that it appeals to their most cherished values – having a strong work ethic, having a strong family and having a strong faith. All of those values are apparently wrapped up in the reality show about a family who struck it rich by selling duck calls. Here’s another interview with Justin Byrd, a youth worker at a Corinth church, that didn’t make it into today’s story because of deadlines. Byrd, a Corinth native who attended Alcorn Central High School and Northeast Mississippi Community College, who is now attending Grantham University while serving in the Mississippi Army National Guard, said he became a fan of “Duck Dynasty” when the series premiered. “I am a die hard duck hunter, and have been for about …

More of the story: Christian artist Brandon Heath comes to Mississippi and talks about “Blue Mountain”

When many Mississippians hear “Blue Mountain,” they think of the 135-year-old, private Christian college supported by the Mississippi Baptist Convention in the Appalachia region of Northeast Mississippi. It’s a place Christian singer Brandon Heath never knew existed when he created a fictional location called Blue Mountain set in Appalachia that is the theme of his new album by the same name. As a child, Heath often visited his parents who lived outside of Knoxville, and on the drive, he’d soak up the sights and sounds of Appalachia. Struck by the mountains, his imagination ran wild as he envisioned that they were the backs of dinosaurs. For his latest album, Heath wanted to write character-driven songs with their own stories, but he needed a framework. He conceptualized the album theme after a friend recited a C.S. Lewis quote about Blue Mountains. “In the distance, they are mysterious and majestic, and you can’t touch them,” he said, “but when you get up close to them, you realize they are just brown and green. They aren’t blue at …

Tweet your thoughts on the Oscars tonight: #CLoscars

Our Weekend story published Thursday took a look at the 85th Academy Awards, and we asked a mix of theater and film professors, as well as working writers, actors and producers, about their Oscar predictions. Most agreed that Daniel Day-Lewis will be hard to beat this year, and Ben Affleck was robbed of a Best Director nomination for “Argo.” Here are more of their thoughts: Chris Offutt Chris Offutt is an assistant professor of English and screenwriting at the University of Mississippi, who earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Iowa in 1990. He has written for HBO’s “True Blood” and Showtime’s “Weeds.” Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen this year? A. I’ve seen all of the nominees for best picture. Unfortunately, it was not a year for great movies. Individual performances surpassed the films themselves. This was most evident in “The Master.” Two movies were loosely based on real events — “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln” — and, as such, lose some of the (ending) …

Kardashian khaos kaptivates Mississippians

The city of Ridgeland and Northpark mall were well prepared for “reality” television star Kim Kardashian’s appearance tonight. An ambulance, a fire truck and at least two police cars were parked outside the entrances to Belk, where Kardashian was inside signing autographs for those who purchased her $95 bottle of perfume, True Reflection.  Because we had posted a couple of stories on The Clarion-Ledger website about her upcoming appearance, and they were followed by a slew of negative comments from readers, I wondered just how popular she would be in Jackson, and how many people would show up at the mall to see her. Despite the negativity, I suspected there would be quite a few, since she is – like it or not – one of the biggest celebrities of the day. Kim Tweeted a few comments about her Mississippi visit before making her grand entrance at Northpark, and posted the picture above before the Belk event held from 6-8 p.m. It’s how I was able to recognize her from a distance. Her Twitter comment: …

Mississippi native’s film ‘Big Sur’ about the life of Jack Kerouac premieres at Sundance

Thirty years ago, director Ridley Scott’s film “Blade Runner” presented a dystopian vision of the future where genetically engineered robots that look like humans are hunted down by police. It was the first film that made a significant impression on Mississippi native Orian Williams, 47, putting him “On the Road” to Hollywood, where he is currently in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival promoting his latest project. His film, “Big Sur,” based on the life of author Jack Kerouac, debuted this week at Sundance. “‘Blade Runner’ really sort of set me on my path for seeking out a job or something that would have anything to do with combining great elements that I’m passionate about,” Williams said. “The music was timeless in this futuristic world. It had a love story, which I thought was incredibly important. There were so many things incorporated into that film that I wanted to pursue.” After graduation from Baylor University in Texas with a degree in telecommunications, Williams moved to Los Angeles. “I headed west, not only to …