March 3rd, 2010
05:35 PM ET

Tim McGraw: A 'Southern voice' for the troops

Tim McGraw is no stranger to philanthropy.  The Grammy-winning country star has done benefit concerts and other charity work for years, and in 2004, he and wife Faith Hill founded Neighbor's Keeper, which funds local organizations assisting communities in need.

The latest recipient of his determination to help is Operation Homefront, which supports U.S. troops, veterans and their families.  McGraw has recorded a public service announcement for the non-profit, and T-shirt sales on his current "Southern Voice" tour will benefit the group.

McGraw's tour sponsor, Outback Steakhouse, is spearheading the campaign, pledging $1 million to the organization.  It's hardly the first time Outback has dished up support for the military: over the past eight years, the restaurant chain has provided meals to more than 150,000 U.S. troops around the world.  That's a lot of Bloomin' Onions!

If you're moved to add your voice to theirs, you can donate directly by texting "HERO" to 50555.

February 25th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Where are the women?

Kathryn Bigelow could very well make history next month, becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.  But while that would certainly be a triumph for the talented director of "The Hurt Locker," it wouldn't necessarily signal a sea change in Hollywood gender equality.

Women may be half of the population – slightly more, actually – but according to a new study, actresses had just under 30% of the speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing movies of 2007.  Stacy Smith of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who conducted the study, found things even more unbalanced behind the camera: 83% of the directors, producers, and writers on those films were men.  Rebekah Spicuglia of the Women's Media Center says that last year, just 7% of the top 250 movies had female directors, and only 8% of feature film writing slots went to women.

Naturally, subject matter dictates the casting of some films, whether a war pic like "Hurt Locker", which had almost exclusively men on screen, or a movie like 2008's "The Women," which had an entirely female cast.  But such oddities aside, what's going on here?  If most movies aim to capture a slice of life, why is that life so overwhelmingly male?  Most people expect Hollywood's version to be more glamorous and violent and funny and heartbreaking than everyday life, but skewing it by sex doesn't seem to make sense.
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February 10th, 2010
07:46 PM ET

Ludacris helps students get a 'Step' ahead

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$1.5 million in scholarships is at stake, and some college students seeking a share are just steps away – literally.

Fraternities and sororities from around the U.S. have been taking part in the Sprite Step Off, a national step competition hosted by rapper/actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, who's also a producer behind the contest and the resulting MTV2 documentary series.  It's the biggest step competition in history, and the finalists will square off in Atlanta for a shot at the top prize: $100,000 in college scholarships.
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February 10th, 2010
03:55 PM ET

Former Rep. Charlie Wilson dies

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Charlie Wilson, the flamboyant Texas congressman portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War," died today at the age of 76.  A statement from a Texas hospital said Wilson passed away after suffering from cardiopulmonary arrest; he'd had heart transplant surgery a few months before the film's premiere in late 2007.

Wilson earned the nickname "Good Time Charlie" for his love of alcohol, women and, well, other diversions.  But he was serious about driving the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, and used his congressional power to ensure the U.S. properly armed the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets.  George Crile wrote a book about the unlikely chain of events, which was made into the movie starring Hanks as Wilson, along with fellow Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  In 2008, Wilson told CNN.com's Todd Leopold he was pleased with the film's portrayal of the period.

Wilson served 12 consecutive terms in the U.S. Congress, representing Texas' second district.  He is survived by his wife, Barbara.

February 9th, 2010
06:56 PM ET

Tom Cruise gears up for another 'Mission'

Fans of superspy Ethan Hunt and the IMF, mark your calendars for Memorial Day weekend, 2011: Tom Cruise is gearing up for "Mission: Impossible IV." Paramount announced today that J.J. Abrams, who directed and co-wrote "M:I III," and Cruise will produce the film, have collaborated on the story, and are searching for a director.

Obviously, Paramount has faith that Abrams can revive a flagging franchise: his reboot of "Star Trek" last year brought in $385 million in worldwide box office, four Oscar nominations, and generally good reviews.  Not that the "M:I" films are failing – the first three combined for $1.4 billion worldwide, though "M:I III," back in 2006, had the biggest budget and the lowest grosses of the trio.  No word yet whether Ving Rhames will return as Ethan's longtime pal and cohort (and my favorite character in the series), smooth computer expert Luther Stickell.

February 8th, 2010
07:14 PM ET

Charlie Sheen charged with assaulting his wife

More than a month after their alleged Christmas Day fracas, Charlie Sheen finally has been charged with domestic violence against his wife, Brooke Mueller.  Today in Colorado, the "Two and a Half Men" star was charged with a felony count of menacing, as well as two misdemeanors: third-degree assault and criminal mischief.  Court documents allege Sheen had a knife in the pre-dawn tussle.

Sheen wasn't required to enter a plea today, and he didn't.  He and Mueller were both in court, and even hugged and kissed before leaving the courthouse.  The restraining order has been loosened, and they can live together as the process goes forward, though restrictions in the order against firearms, alcohol, and drugs remain in force.

So now what?  Sheen's next hearing is March 15, and between now and then, it's a safe bet Sheen's attorney and the district attorney will be negotiating a plea deal.  Mueller's attorney says his client committed to getting whatever help she needs, and that Mueller hopes all of the charges will be dropped.  Stay tuned.

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