Hobbiton Movie Set Tours

 

Discover the real Middle-earth on the most picturesque private farmland near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand, where you can visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy in a fascinating two-hour guided tour. The set has been completely rebuilt and will remain as it was seen in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm.As the Hobbiton Movie Set is located on a real New Zealand farm, we also offer you the opportunity to cuddle and bottle feed the pet lambs. You can relax and soak up the unique atmosphere with a great cup of coffee or a light meal in The Shires Rest Cafe, which is also available for functions, conferences or other occasions.

 

Nada Haj Khidr

How different countries celebrate Christmas?

It is interesting to see how different countries celebrate Christmas. We asked some of our friends to explain what happens in their countries.

This is what they told us:

Belgium

On 6th December Sinterklaas or Saint-Nicholas is celebrated, which is an entirely different holiday from Christmas. Santa Claus in Belgium is called de Kerstman or le Père Noël and he does come around on Christmas day to bring children presents. There are different cultures in Belgium, the Northern part being Vlaanderen (speaking a Dutch dialect), the Southern part being Wallonie (speaking a French dialect) and the Eastern part speaking German.

Small family presents are given at Christmas too, under the tree, or in stockings near the fire-place, to be found in the morning. Christmas breakfast is a special sweet bread called 'cougnou' or 'cougnolle' - the shape is supposed to be like baby Jesus. Some families will have another big meal on Christmas day.

Brazil

Father Christmas is called Papai Noel. Many Christmas customs are similar to USA or UK. For those who have enough money, a special Christmas meal will be chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, often with beer. Poorer people will have chicken, rice and beans and will also drink beer and coke. For dessert people enjoy some Brazilian sweets Brigadeiro made of condensed milk and chocolate. Both rich and poor have Christmas trees. A poor person's Christmas tree is made of plastic or is just a dry tree branch. As we don't have snow in Brazil, poor people put cotton over their Christmas tree branch to simulate snow. Christmas time varies a lot from south to north region.

Finland

Finnish people believe that Father Christmas (Santa Claus) lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi, north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. There is a even big tourist theme park called 'Christmas Land' in the north of Finland, near to where they say that Father Christmas lives. Everyone cleans their houses ready for the three holy days of Christmas - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Christmas Eve is very special, when people eat rice porridge and a sweet soup made from dried fruits. It´s eaten in the morning or at lunchtime. They will then decorate a spruce tree in the home. At mid-day, the 'Christmas peace declaration' is broadcast on radio and TV from the Finnish city of Turku by its Mayor. In the evening, a traditional Christmas dinner is eaten. The high moment! After that comes Santa Claus (if there are children) or the presents that are under the Christmas tree are opened. In some families where there are no small kids, the presents are not put under the tree, but collected to big sacks, which are carried near the front door. Then a family member might say, Did I heard sound of reindeers and bells... Or Did I hear Santa Claus... When they go to check, there are big sacks full of presents there. So it was Santa after all. Then people drink coffee and eat cakes, cookies and other sweet things. Enjoy present and play games. Small kids go to bed but others stay up late. Many families will visit cemeteries and grave-yards to place a candle onto the burial graves of family members.

Hungary

Susanna Denes, a Hungarian friend contributed the following:
Santa Clause (Winter-grandfather) (Tel-apo or Mikulas) comes on the 6th of December. Children should clean and put their shoes outside next to the door or window before they go to sleep. Next day candies and/or small toys appear in them in red bags. For children, who don't behave well, a golden birch placed next to the sweets, a symbol for spanking... (but don't worry, it is just for fun, and not for actual punishment.)
On 24th of December, children go to their relative or to the movies, because little Jesus brings the tree and the presents that evening to their house. It is customary to hang edible things on the tree, like golden wrapped assorted chocolates and meringues beside the glass balls, candles (real or electrical), and sparklers.
Families usually cook festive dinner for that night. An example would be fresh fish usually with rice or potatoes and home made pastries as dessert. After dinner, the tree would be viewed by the children for the first time. It was very exciting. Christmas songs are sung and then the gifts under the tree are shared.
Older children attend the midnight mass with their parents.Festive food is enjoyed on the second and third day too.

Portugal

People adhere to the tradition that Father Christmas brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. The presents are left under the Christmas tree or in shoes by the fireplace. A special Christmas meal of salted dry cod-fish with boiled potatoes is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Sweden

The most important day is Christmas Eve. A special Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve - ham (pork), herring fish, and brown beans - and this is the time when families give presents to each other. Many people attend a church meeting early on Christmas Day.

United States

The USA is so multi-cultural that you will find many different ways of celebrating Christmas. All year long children are told to behave, or they will get coal in their stocking. On Christmas Eve, they hang highly stylized stockings on the mantle of the fireplace, then go to bed early so that they will find presents in the morning. They are told that at midnight Santa will come, bringing a huge bag of toys. He will come down through the chimney, leave candy in the stockings and presents under the Christmas tree (anything from a Pine or Fir to a Spruce), then 'plug one nostril' and shoot up through the chimney. Cookies are traditionally left for him, and a carrot is commonly left for Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, very much a part of Christmas tradition (Santa will land on the roof with his sleigh and nine reindeer). On Christmas morning, things such as cinnamon rolls or coffee cake are served for breakfast, and for dinner there is typically ham (and occasionally regal plum pudding). That is it for celebration — Boxing Day is never celebrated, Epiphany is only celebrated by Catholics, and Advent not commonly celebrated. On the first Sunday following January 6, grandmothers tell again the story of the Magi who came to Jesus presenting their gifts following his birth. All the children are fondly remember leaving carrots and sugar for all of the reindeer, along the milk and cookies for Santa!

 

Butheina Alnounou

 

Britney Spears, Taylor Swift are top-earning women in music

Pop star Britney Spears edged past Taylor Swift to claim the title of top-earning woman in music after bringing in an estimated $58 million from her album, endorsements and a perfume in the past year, Forbes said,according to Reuters.

Country-pop singer Swift, 22, was a close second with an estimated $57 million paycheck thanks to her tour - which made more than $1 million each night - a contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, her own line of fragrances and her new album "Red."

R&B star Rihanna, 24, earned an estimated $53 million to put her at No. 3, two places up from last year, followed by Lady Gaga, 26, who slipped from No. 1 in 2011 to fourth place with $52 million.

Katy Perry, 28, the only musician other than Michael Jackson to produce five No. 1 hit singles from one album, rounded out the top five with about $45 million in earnings.

"I think people love the comeback story - Britney never really finished her run as a superstar," Steve Stoute, marketing expert and author of "The Tanning of America" told Forbes.

Spears, 31, who was No. 10 last year, earned most of her money from her latest album "Femme Fatale" and her tour, according to Forbes, which compiled the list with estimated earnings from May 2011 to May 2012.

In September, Spears became a judge on the reality TV singing show "The X Factor," reportedly for $15 million.

Despite their huge incomes, only eight of the top women music earners were among the 25 best-paid musicians, which Forbes attributes in part to career breaks to have children.

 

Madonna made the list in ninth place with an estimated $30 million in earnings, which did not include profits from her latest tour because it was outside the time period considered for the ranking.

Forbes compiled the list after estimating pretax income based on record sales, touring information merchandise sales and interviews with concert promoters, lawyers and managers.

H.Sh

 

Barbra Streisand on 'Gypsy': What's age gotta do with it?

Barbra Streisand’s got one thing to say to anyone who thinks she might be too old to play Mamma Rose in the anticipated film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ legendary musical Gypsy: “What’s [age] got to with anything?”

Ever since Universal announced plans last March for a Gypsy update — written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes and co-produced and starring Streisand — some critics have drawn attention to the difference between Streisand’s age, 70, and that of the real-life woman portrayed in the musical. The Academy Award-winning actress would not only have to depict a woman who, in parts of the production, is between 30 and 40 years younger than she is, she’d have to play the mother of children who are as many as 60 years younger than she is.

But that’s not standing in Babs’ way. “Age is just a number,” she told EW, when promoting her upcoming film The Guilt Trip (co-starring Seth Rogen and out Dec. 19). “Some people look old at 45. Some people look younger at my age…. I saw CGI of an actor that made him go from 60 to 30, by the way. What they can do now, technically.” Streisand added that she was “still working out one rights issue” for the movie, and that “it should happen, but it just takes forever.”According to  Entertainment Weekly

M.W

 

Samantha Barks, EponineIn 'Les Miserables,' On Winning One Of Hollywood's Most Coveted Roles

Before Samantha Barks was cast as Eponine in Tom Hooper's film adaptation of "Les Miserables," she was reportedly competing with Lea Michele, Scarlett Johansson and Taylor Swift for the role. Not that the 22-year-old actress, who makes her screen debut in "Les Miserables," was at a disadvantage against those A-listers: Barks starred as Eponine for a year in a West End production of "Les Miserables" and also played the character in the 25th anniversary production acclaimed musical. That show was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, one of the people who eventually hired her to play the lovestruck-but-duplicitous second-act scene-stealer in Hooper's new film.

Barks, who is among the possible contenders for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about belting out Eponine's signature song, "On My Own," why she was sweating so much after meeting Hugh Jackman, and how starring in "Les Mis" was the best experience of her life.

Some big names were up for the role of Eponine. What was the audition process like?

It was a long one. I spent months and months going in and was really put through my paces. It was a big gamble to cast me because I've never done a film role before and I wasn't an A-list star like the other stars being cast. So I really had to prove, through my audition process, that I could adapt this role on the screen. Tom said this was the hardest film he ever had to cast. He had to find the perfect cross-section between screen actors who could really play these roles and also sing every take live; to do these songs every day, have that stamina and perform these songs to a degree that honors the way they are written. For some people, they had never done musicals. Like Eddie [Redmayne], who has a huge film career, and so much experience, had never done a musical. He had to prove he could take on the musical side. Whereas I was coming from the musical side and proving that I could do it from a film sense. We fought so hard to get these roles and they mean so much to us on a personal level. On day one, we felt like holding each other and saying, "Yay! We're all here!" When I was a 7-year-old girl, in my bedroom, on my karaoke machine, I would sing "On My Own" or do a one-woman version of "Les Miserables." To be doing this role is not just a dream come true, it's bigger than my mind ever dared to dream.

How difficult was it to adapt the role from stage to screen?

There are different challenges and different perks about both. There's nothing like the buzz of live theater. You put it out there and receive an instant reaction: laughing, crying, yelling, applauding. In the film world, you finish it and you're like, "Oh, no. I hope it's going to come across well. I hope it read." The thrill comes from sitting in the theater months later and hearing a cinema actually applauding a musical number. That's a thrill like I have never experienced before. In a musical theater show, you're performing to like 2,000 people. This, you're performing for nobody. You're living in the moment. Every individual flicker of the eye reads. Every detail reads. It allowed us to have that freedom to add more intricate details.

That's why it was so phenomenal to have the novel by Victor Hugo at your finger tips -- to pull stuff from that an add depth to your character. The exciting part were the differences between Eponine in the novel and Eponine in the stage show. I played Eponine in the stage show, so I knew that girl. To me, it was learning about the girl in the novel. You see more of the darker character [in the novel]. She's a criminal. Her parents are so dark, and they're hilarious with it, but she's a product of her environment. She's got this twisted morality which comes from observing her father, who is very cruel but very clever and manipulative. Marrying the two characters together and allowing myself to look into her background more to see Eponine come from a darker place [was great]. The challenge is trying to build that relationship with the audience in a short space of time. The central storyline is Jean Valjean, and there are storylines that weave in and out of that story. So, it's about creating a very real character. You want these storylines to not detract from the main story, you want them to add strength to the central storyline of redemption, hope and love.

 

You mentioned how often you sang "On My Own" growing up. How did it feel to do it in the film?

It felt incredible. I used to sing it all night. My family despised me for it. My brother is a pilot and I remember him knocking on my door at 3 a.m. saying, "Seriously? Seriously?" At least now they can say it was worth it! [Laughs] No matter how many times I sing that song -- I sang it eight times a week for a year -- just to hear the opening bars of it invokes a reaction in me. On that set, I felt like I was performing it for the first time. Singing live allowed us to do something unique with it. You could be even softer than you ever dared you could be in a theatrical performance. It was thrilling to get to do something like that with these iconic songs.

You're a newcomer in this cast of major stars. Who were you most excited to meet?

I never have celebrity crushes. But! I always used to say Hugh Jackman because he's the most beautiful man and his Wolverine is the coolest guy onscreen. When I first met Hugh Jackman, I was really nervous. I was sweating and running on a treadmill. I got a tap on the shoulder and it was Hugh Jackman. I was like, "Ohhhhhhhhh man, this isn't the way it was supposed to happen!" [Laughs] He's just an amazing, all-around guy. This world is very new to me and I'm at the beginning of my career. To see someone like that, with his level of success, maintain such a balanced lifestyle and mind is inspiring. You never hear anyone say a bad word about Hugh Jackman and if they do it's a lie!

Have you given any thought to the possibility of being nominated for an Academy Award?

I think because it is a huge big change in my lifestyle, the way I kind of get through that is by trying to not freak myself out. Trying to not over-think too far and take every day that comes with gusto. The fact that there is a buzz around the film makes me burst with pride. I am honored to be involved in a project like this. To be involved in a moment of history for theater -- and for theater to be translated onto film in this way, with a cast like this and a director like this -- is the proudest moment of my life.

Hanan Shamout