November 10th, 2009
07:09 PM ET

Gamers, here's a real 'Call of Duty'

Plenty of hard-core gamers called in sick to work or school today, having been in line at midnight to grab a copy of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."  As expected, the reviews of the latest title in the series are glowing, with one taking special note of the realism of the opening scene at a U.S. Army base, and praising the believability of the setting.

But there's realism, and then there's reality - and no one's likely to make a videogame about the real difficulties many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines face making the transition back into civilian life.  It can be extremely tough to find jobs, especially in this economy: according to Activision Blizzard, the publisher of the Call of Duty series, more than 500,000 unemployed veterans live in the United States.

So the game isn't the only thing Activision Blizzard launched today.  The Call of Duty Endowment, or CODE, is designed to raise awareness of the issue, and help fund organizations that provide veterans with job training and placement.  Activision says CODE will receive the proceeds from sales of "Modern Warfare 2," which should jump-start its fundraising nicely.  The non-profit's first grant: $125,000 to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, to help build a new vocational services center in Boston.  CODE's directors say they hope to raise millions more for such projects.

We glorify our fighting men and women in games like "Call of Duty."  We honor them when they fall.  And many of us will take at least a moment tomorrow to remember them on Veterans Day.

Let's remember them in between those times, as well.

November 10th, 2009
05:01 PM ET

John Travolta's daughter Ella Bleu steals the show

John Travolta and his daughter Ella Bleu Travolta received mad love in Hollywood last night! The Los Angeles premiere of Travolta's upcoming comedy "Old Dogs" happened at the El Capitan Theatre with a sea of A-listers showing up in support of the film.  In addition to Travolta, his wife Kelly Preston and daughter Ella Bleu, Robin Williams also stars in the film. The movie centers around two bachelors and business partners, played by Travolta and Williams, whose lives change dramatically after one of them becomes the legal guardian of twins.

Williams, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Seth Green, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Nealon, Lori Loughlin, Dax Shepherd, Jenna Elfman and Billy Idol all showed up to the premiere along with Travolta and his family. And like all premieres the stars of the movie were complimented, but the spotlight wasn't on them, but rather on Ella Bleu Travolta whose co-stars acknowledged her good acting skills  and generally agreed she shined in the role.

Williams said: "His daughter is really good. She really was good in the film and just watching him watching her was really good to see. " And Green said "I do think it's great that their daughter is genuinely a good actress and takes it very seriously. She did a good job."  Loughlin, who co-stars in the film, doted on her as well, "I think this is a really wonderful opportunity for Ella to make her film debut with both of her parents and I think it's so special for John and for Kelly to have this forever on film with their daughter at such a precious little age".

Sounds like Ella is on the fast track to becoming the next "IT" girl!

November 10th, 2009
04:05 PM ET

At the Alan Jackson store

Alan Jackson (left) sizes up the store full of his paraphernalia.
Alan Jackson (left) sizes up the store full of his paraphernalia.

Last week, it was an abandoned feed store in downtown Nashville. This week, it's an Alan Jackson pop-up store featuring hats, shirts, mugs, coasters, barbecue sauce and other items bearing the country music legend's name or likeness.

There are replicas of his signature white cowboy hat ... a miniature version of his touring trailer for $44.99 ... and a jacquard throw with a picture of Jackson's face woven into the fabric (perfect for those impromptu games of pin the mustache on your favorite country star).

The temporary Cracker Barrel outpost will last for the duration of CMA week - and then it'll be gone.

Interestingly, Jackson doesn't plan to attend the 43rd Annual CMA Awards tomorrow. Because he's off-cycle (which means he didn't have an album that was eligible), he's not nominated this year. The singer-songwriter says he's been in the studio putting the finishing touches on a new album that's due out in early spring.

"This one's pretty much the same ol' me," he deadpans.

He was more outwardly enthusiastic when talking about his partnership with Cracker Barrel. "My kind of food, my kind of people," he said.

His favorite meal? "I'd have to lean toward breakfast - the biscuit, and the sausage and the hash brown casserole thing that they have. For lunch, I like that meatloaf sandwich."

Bon appetit, AJ!

November 10th, 2009
01:53 PM ET

Demi Moore prefers 'puma' title

Seemingly ageless actress Demi Moore turns 47 tomorrow and she is blaming her age on the loss of all the good blockbuster movie roles.

“The frustrating part is that the type of roles I'd be interested in are not really coming to me. I hate to say it's a function of my age – but yes, I think in some ways it is,” Moore told W magazine in their December issue. "The majority of [female] roles are geared between 25 and 35. I know I have an eccentric, obsessive-compulsive side. I'm looking for roles that reach into that quirkier place."

Moore has become more famous in recent years for her marriage to “That '70s Show” actor Ashton Kutcher, 16 years her junior, than for her acting chops. But even though she accepts all the press criticism with a quiet grace, the actress told the magazine she doesn’t understand why she has been singled out as the poster child for May-December relationships since she isn’t the first older woman to marry a much younger man in Hollywood.

“I’m certainly not the first person to be in a relationship with a younger man, but somehow I was plucked out as a bit of a poster girl,” Moore said of her six and half year relationship with Kutcher. “I don’t know why that is. But I just kind of step back sometimes and say, ‘There is some reason, and what is it that I have to share in a positive way?’”

The “Ghost “ actress also told the magazine if people feel the need to assign her a label she prefers the title “puma” to the more derogatory “cougar.”

While Moore may not be getting the big studio roles she does star in two upcoming independent films, “Happy Tears” and “The Joneses” with David Duchovny. She is also the face of Helena Rubinstein’s new “Wanted” perfume.

Filed under: Celebrities • movies
November 10th, 2009
01:15 PM ET

Your pop culture cheat sheet

Here's what's happening in the world of entertainment today:

Oscar buzz continues to build around "Precious," and movie studio Lionsgate plans to expand it to 1,200 theaters over Thanksgiving, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The studio's president told the paper that the word of mouth for the movie is higher than that of most "prestige films" this early on.

Speaking of Oscar buzz, the chances for this past summer's "Up" to be nominated for Best Picture continue to look good. The Hollywood Reporter says that if that happened, it would be the first time a movie has been nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature. "Beauty and the Beast" was the last animated movie nominated for Best Picture in 1991.

Donald Trump and first season "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa are getting back together, Variety reports. The pair are working on a reality dating show called "Omarosa's Ultimate Merger." Omarosa also appeared on the first season of "Celebrity Apprentice."

Another one bites the dust: ABC has decided not to renew new series "Eastwick," reports. However, another new series, "The Forgotten," just got an additional five episodes ordered.

On DVD today: the aforementioned "Up," "The Ugly Truth," starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, Ashton Kutcher in "Spread," "Andy Barker, P.I.: The Complete Series" and "Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days."

November 10th, 2009
11:45 AM ET

Backstage pass at the CMAs - Rehearsals

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Nashville rolled out the welcome mat with a big twang, as Brooks and Dunn turned up their amps for a rockin' rendition of their latest hit, "Honky Tonk Stomp."

The superstar country duo - who call it quits after a farewell tour in 2010 - were deep in rehearsals at the Sommet Center for Wednesday night's "43rd Annual CMA Awards."

Among those boogieing down from the audience - Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush from Sugarland, the pair who finally ended B & D's 14-year winning streak as CMA "Duo of the Year." It'll be a showdown between Sugarland and Brooks and Dunn once again, with Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn the sentimental favorites among some of the voters.

"If they come back for the reunion tour next year, there will be some you-know-what to pay," teased Nettles. Bush added, "If they come back as Dunn and Brooks - it's over! We're taking the gloves off!," he laughed.

As Jason Aldean stepped into the spotlight to rehearse his recent number one single, "Big Green Tractor," Darius Rucker admired his performance from the back of the room. "Man, listen to his voice!," he marveled. "He sounds as good live as he does on the record!"

Rucker is up for two awards - "Best New Artist" and "Male Vocalist of the Year."

We spoke backstage after last year's ceremony, just as the Hootie and the Blowfish frontman was reinventing himself as a solo country artist. Barack Obama had just been elected President of the United States, and Rucker was reflecting on how an African-American could become of the Leader of the Free World, as well as a country singer. "Just shows how far we've come," he said. "We're prime examples of how you can be whatever you want to be in this country."

Conversation turned toward the hotly-contested category of "Entertainer of the Year" - where Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban will square off against 19-year-old country-pop sensation Taylor Swift. "It's up for grabs, but I think it could be Taylor's year," predicted Rucker. "She's just so big right now. I think she's transcending country music, and she'll probably take it." Aldean concurred when he got off the stage. "If you looks at numbers - nobody's had a bigger year than her. I don't know how you can discredit that," he said.

In a press release yesterday, the Country Music Association announced that Swift will be the opening performer on Wednesday's telecast. With any luck, she'll also be closing the night with a win for "Entertainer of the Year."

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