By Nathaniel Grey
It's the holiday season, and that means Hill, Shire and Farm. I'm not talking about the sausage maker but the hills and farms of the Shire in Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opening this week. While other media sources are covering which Lord of the Rings trilogy cast members are returning for this prequel, there's a number of even more interesting facts from this production. For example, Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna, plays the Great Goblin. Doctor Who vet Sylvester McCoy is Radagast. Sexy Spartacus: Vengeance star Manu Bennett portrays Azog. Being Human's Aidan Turner as Kili is the hottest dwarf you'll ever see. Pushing Daisies lead Lee Pace plays Thranduil, and both stars of the hit PBS series Sherlock, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, are featured. For those who have missed the roster of returning LOTR alumni, and for those keeping score at home, there is Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen. Don't worry, Orlando Bloom is back, too, but he won't be seen until the third Hobbit film.
Keeping another franchise alive, Ian McKellen will return as the older Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He will be reunited with the original Professor X, Patrick Stewart, and original director Bryan Singer.
Aidan Turner is part of another future franchise for Sony Pictures, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The film version of Cassandra Clare's novel has been filming in Canada for The Karate Kid remake director Harold Zwart. The supernatural thriller features Mirror, Mirror's Lily Collins as a girl determined to rescue her mother after she is kidnapped by a demon. Joining Collins is an impressive cast, including Game of Thrones' Lena Heady, Cherry Bomb's Robert Sheehan, Legion's hunky angel Kevin Durand, Mad Men's Jared Harris and the two actors most mistaken for each other since Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney, Jamie Campbell Bower and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, guests on the Dec. 14 episode of Jay Leno. Bette is doing a promo tour with her upcoming new movie Parental Guidance. She joins Billy Crystal (who is also the film's producer) as a couple who babysit their spoiled grandchildren for the weekend and are forced to implement their own form of when-I-was-your-age supervision.
The annual performance special VH1 Divas returns to the former music video channel on Dec. 16. This year's line-up includes Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Jordin Sparks, Kelly Clarkson and even Kelly Rowland and Ciara. I guess Carly Rae Jepsen wasn't available. But where are the true divas, you ask? Well, there is at least one—host Adam Lambert.
Star Trek legend George Takei makes his debut as the uncle of Daniel Dae Kim's character Chin Ho on the Dec. 17 episode of Hawaii Five-O. Takei says this won't be the only time he guests on the paradise-set cop drama. Earlier that night, Alyson Hannigan reunites with some Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast members. This new one-hour episode of How I Met Your Mother will feature appearances by Hannigan's real-life husband and Buffy costar Alexis Denisoff and Seth Green, plus Covert Affairs star Peter Gallagher.
Milk director Gus Van Sant couldn't have been more vague when talking about his next projects when he appeared at the American Cinemetheque's Egyptian Theatre on Monday evening. The screening of his latest film, Promised Land, concluded with a dry and not-so-entertaining Q&A with the director. He said nothing about his documentary on Act Up! which is in post production, nor did he mention anything about his acting job in Paul Schrader's next film The Canyons. The latter is a thriller written by foot-in-mouth author Bret Easton Ellis and costars Lindsay Lohan with Glee's new Warbler, Nolan Gerard Funk.