J.K. Rowling Sent Harry Potter Books To 7-Year-Old Fan In War-Torn Aleppo, Syria

Bana Alabed, a 7-year-old girl who made headlines because of her tweets about life in Aleppo (that she writes in English), is a big Harry Potter fan. Bana and her mother Fatemah could not find a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in their part of the world after they both watched the movie.

So Fatemah reached out to Rowling to let her know she and her daughter enjoyed the movie, and that Bana would like to read the book. After Rowling’s encouraging reply, Bana asked the author if there was any way she could get her hands on the first installment in the Harry Potter book series.

Rowling wasn’t certain if she could do anything to help them, but her literary agent, Neil Blair came to the idea to send an eBook version to Bana, which would arrive safely regardless of road blocks and conflict. That way the girl and her family, including her two younger brothers, will be able to enjoy the story of Harry Potter.

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Hidden secrets in Disney movies

Disney animated movies always had an abundance of inside jokes and Easter eggs. Some of these “secrets” were the material of fan theories for years. Here’s a few of them that you may have missed…


In 1992’s Aladdin, there’s a character at the beginning  whom you never see again after he introduces the story to the audience: it’s a short, wacky-looking peddler. For years, the fans have theorized that this peddler is actually the Genie (after he’s been set free), as the two characters share some features. But beside both of them having four fingers on their hands and same curly beard, perhaps the strongest evidence is that both characters are voiced by Robin Williams. This fan theory was confirmed in 2015 by the co-directors of Aladdin, Ron Clements and John Musker, so that’s one instance where a fan theory turned out to be true.

The Lion King

There’s an interesting trivia about 1994’s The Lion King. Two of its voice actors already worked together in similar roles before the Disney movie. Namely, James Earl Jones, who provided the voice for Simba’s father Mufasa, and Madge Sinclair, who voiced Simba’s mother, Sarabi. The two have played a royal couple in the 1988 movie starring Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem, Coming to America – Jones played the role of King Jaffe Joffer, and Sinclair was his wife, Queen Aoleon. Obviously, Jones and Sinclair make a perfect royal match.


One of the many Disney references that are easy to miss comes on in 1997’s Hercules. While Meg sings “I Won’t Say I’m In Love”, the singing Muses quintet at one point transform into five stone busts, arranged like Grim Grinning Ghosts – the five stone busts from Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride.
Also in Hercules, we’re treated to an unexpected cameo by another movie character. During “Zero to Hero”, we see Hercules overcoming some of his legendary tasks, among others, killing the Nemean lion, a fearsome beast that no man could slay. But if the Nemean lion looks familiar, he should – that’s Scar, the villain from The Lion King. Too bad Mufasa never hired Hercules.

Big Hero 6

A lot of Disney fans may be unaware of the fact that Big Hero 6, a movie made in 2014, featured Marvel Comics characters. The origins of Big Hero 6 are in a comic book that debuted back in 1998, but the most interesting thing about this is that there’s a cameo featuring Stan Lee in Big Hero 6, during the movie’s post-credits scene. For those who aren’t huge Marvel fans, Lee is the co-creator of Iron Man, the Hulk, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four, among others, and has been in almost every Marvel movie since 2000 and X-Men.

Wreck-it Ralph

In 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, there’s an abundance of video game characters and references. Obviously, appearances of Sonic the Hedgehog, King Koopa and Zangief are hard to miss, but there are also references that are hidden better. During the scene where Sgt. Calhoun and Fix-It Felix are preparing to enter Sugar Rush, you can see the graffiti written on the walls have various inside-jokes from games. There’s a tag saying “Sheng Long was here”, which is a reference to Street Fighter II, then “Aeirth Lives”, which, of course, references Final Fantasy VII, and also, there’s the inevitable “All your base are belong to us.”

The reference that stands out the most in Wreck-It Ralph is certainly the one when King Candy wants to hack Sugar Rush’s code. Entering the vault, he looks at the napkin he pulled out that contains these instructions: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. Anyone who played Nintendo games during the ‘80s will probably know what this is: the “Konami Code,” a sequence of commands that appeared first in 1986 in NES games Contra and Gradius, used to get extra lives and power-ups. The Konami Code later found its way into many games and earned almost a mythical status among fans.

Disney AND Pixar favorite

You might have noticed the appearance of a combination of letters and numbers, A113, in many Disney movies (and all of Pixar’s). To name a few: Meet the Robinsons, The Brave Little Toaster, Lilo and Stich, The Princess and the Frog. The reason is that A113 is the classroom number at the California Institute of Arts, a place where many of the Disney and Pixar animators started out. First-year graphic design and character animation class was held in the classroom A113, and the code also appears in some episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy.
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Artists speak out after reports Kanye West is suffering from 'exhaustion'. Forbes magazine predicted that teh cancellation of his tour would lose him around $10m.

Recent reports on Kanye West state that he has been admitted to hospital due to exhaustion, and musicians are rallying to support the rapper.

After a week of strange behavior during a few of his shows in the US, namely, causing controversy by admitting that he admired Trump’s campaign and leaving another show after only three songs performed, the remainder of West’s Saint Pablo tour has been cancelled.

According to the press, after the news of the tour cancellation, West has been admitted to a hospital on Monday following an emergency services call. BBC announced that the police had received a “disturbance call” on Monday afternoon, and it has been confirmed by the police, although they did not name the singer.

Ever since his stage outbursts started, other artists have stated their support of West, urging people to show compassion to the rapper as he goes through a difficult time.

One such example is Kid Cudi, who was in rehab for suicidal urges and depression. He posted a thank-you message to everyone who kept him in their thoughts during his difficult period, including Kanye.

magazine places Kanye West 11th on the list of highest paid stars in hip hop with $17.5 million earned this year, but they also predict that he will lose around $10 million due to this tour cancellation. According to Fortune magazine, the figure is going to be even higher, as West has reportedly been earning $1.4 million per night just from the ticket sales, so he might stand to lose around $30 million.
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Kanye West sings a few songs, rants against Beyoncé and Jay Z, then leaves angry audience on Saint Pablo tour

Despite the negative reactions he got after he declared his support for the President-elect, Kanye West’s made sure to create controversies once again during his next performance in Sacramento, California on Saturday night.

According to people who went to the concert, not only did West get to the stage more than an hour late, but he also went on a rant about Beyonce and Jay Z, his former mentor and frequent collaborator. There was a series of rambling tirades, some of which included the defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

West only performed three songs during the concert, and ended it with a mic drop, saying: “Get ready to have a field day press because the show’s over.” The crowd then proceeded to boo him.

The only positive thing that fans got from the show was West bringing out Kid Cudi for one of the three songs he performed.

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Asian Movie Market Is Expanding - Through Casting Hollywood Stars

The Chinese blockbusters are made to rival the popularity of their Hollywood counterparts, and as such we’re seeing the expansion of Hollywood star appearances in Chinese movies. It seems the presence of Hollywood faces is necessary for scoring global releases and enchanting international audiences.

Even though China’s box office slowed down somewhat, by 21% during the first half of 2016, the market is still seeing a significant rise when you look at the past five years, and it might be on its way to rival North America for the privilege of being the world’s number one movie market.

We’ve also seen a few interesting purchases from Chinese companies in Hollywood – for example, in 2012 when AMC theater chain was purchased by Dalian Wanda Group, or the purchase of Legendary Entertainment in January.

Despite this, however, the Chinese cinematography hasn’t had much recognition internationally in the recent years. We all remember Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” that won a foreign-language Oscar in 2000, but that one was billed as a Taiwanese film. Other than that, only Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” has earned some recognition by being nominated in 2002.

“China wants to export its films to the world — especially the U.S. — as an achievement of its soft power, but no one wants to watch its films,” says producer and director Peter Tsi, who has helmed projects in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. “On the other hand, Hollywood is excited about getting into the China market, but the only way to achieve that is through co-production, and they must find subject matter that can resonate with the Chinese audience.”

Peter Tsi, the producer and director who has helmed many projects in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China, claims that China wants to export its movies to the world, but that no one wants to watch them. The problem is solved, however, by working together with Hollywood, which looks to expand to the China market – so co-production is the answer. However, the subject matter of the movie needs to resonate with the Chinese audience.

Still, there are controversies – the latest being the casting of Matt Damon as the lead in “The Great Wall”. Zhang Yimou, helm of the first project that emerged from Legendary Entertainment’s Legendary East, had to defend his decision to cast Damon as he was accused of “whitewashing”. This was Yimou’s first English-language production and it cost $135 million.

According to Tsi, if the Chinese market is to rival the North American and Chinese movies to be distributed internationally, Hollywood stars have to be cast. “The only way to make it work is to arbitrarily cast a Hollywood actor or two so that U.S. distributors and exhibitors might consider screening them,” he says.
Example in point: Stephen Chow’s fantasy blockbuster “The Mermaid”, the all-time highest-grossing film in the country that reached the $500 million box office benchmark only had a limited release in the U.S. with 35 screens under the distribution of Sony.

Even so, “The Great Wall” is hardly the first example of a Western star appearing in a Chinese movie. In fact, what’s being called the “Americanization” of Eastern products began back with the original Japanese “Godzilla” of 1954, when a segment starring Raymond Burr was edited in and later introduced to American audiences, in 1956, as “Godzilla: King of Monsters!”

In more recent years, Hong Kong led the trend in early 2000s. In a Hong Kong action blockbuster of 2000, “Gen-Y Cops”, Paul Rudd was cast as an FBI agent. The movie was produced by Hong Kong’s Media Asia and Regent Entertainment, and released in 2002 in the U.S. under the name “Metal Mayhem.” Also in 2000, the action triller “China Strike Force” produced by Astoria Films (an American company) and Golden Harvest (Asia) starred Coolio in the role of a drug dealer.

According to Gregory Rivers, the Hong Kong-based Australian actor who’s been working on Hong Kong TV and films for almost 30 years, writers in Asia were not used to writing Western characters into their stories, which lead to many of them looking arbitrary.

Still, for breaking into bigger markets, it became unavoidable for characters of various nationalities to become included in Chinese films. We had Donald Sutherland starring in “Big Shot’s Funeral”, the 2001 Feng Xiaogang comedy which was a collaboration between the Asian department of Columbia Pictures based in Hong Kong and a number of Chinese companies including Huavi Bros.

More and more Hollywood faces have been appearing in Chinese productions in the past few years. Namely, Christian Bale (Zhang’s “The Flowers of War” in 2011), Adrien Brody (Feng’s “Back to 1942” in 2012 and “Dragon Blade” in 2015 alongside Jackie Chan and John Cusack), Mike Tyson (“Ip Man 3” in 2015 in the role of the property developer that had fight scenes with Donnie Yen), etc.

Before “The Great Wall” is released, however, we’ll see what kind of attention the WWII epic starring Bruce Willis, “The Bombing”, will get. Reportedly, the movie had a $90 million budget and was jointly backed by the China Film Group and private investors. Starring alongside Willis is Brody and an ensemble Asian cast with names such as the Korean star Song Seung-heon, mainland actor Liu Ye and Hong Kong actor and singer Nicholas Tse. As for “The Great Wall”, it will be released in China in December, and in the U.S. in February by Universal.

“You want a movie that hits all markets at the same time and so you want to add a Korean or an American in the cast,” Rivers says. “But sometimes it doesn’t work like that.”
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The Five Biggest Games of September 2016

This month we have a big list of games on the horizon. Big enough that five isn’t enough for this month’s Big 5. We may have to go bigger! This month we’ve got five games, a couple special mentions and a highly anticipated game in the Indie Spotlight. It’s a bit sports heavy this month but as you all know we’re on the slow climb to the holiday season. Look for October to really shine. Let’s get started, shall we?

NHL 17 – EA Sports – Sept 13 (Multiplatform)

Lace up your skates for the latest entry in the NHL franchise. Believe it or not, NHL 17 is the 26th entry in the NHL series and this year the cover is graced by St. Louis Blues forward, Vladimir Tarasenko. As always there are a host of improvements, many of them based on player feedback. One of the new modes this year sees ‘Be a GM’ changed to ‘Franchise Mode’. In ‘Franchise Mode’ you go one step further to become the team’s official owner. Relocate the team, build a new stadium, and rebuild your dynasty. Wind up that slapshot on Sept. 13th!

FIFA 17 – EA Sports – Sept 27 (Multiplatform)

From lacing skates to lacing up your cleats, it’s FIFA 17. The beautiful game prepares to debut its 2017 edition this Sept 27 and this year brings the Frostbite Engine to the series. Play through the league modes or take ‘The Journey’ which tells the story of Alex Hunter and his rise through the Premier League. Gracing the cover this year is German striker, best known for his versatility and crazy speed, Marco Reus.

NBA 2K17 – 2K Sports – Sept 16 (Multiplatform)

Three games in and three sports titles on the list. Like we mentioned above, this month is heavy on the sports. With EA’s NBA Live 17 being pushed right into 2017 there’s no competition for NBA 2K17, never mind the fact that Live hasn’t been competition for years. We’re now 18 installments into the series and 2K is never content to sit back without pumping in some new ideas every year. Cover duties are shared by Paul George on the Standard Edition and Kobe Bryant on the ‘Legends’ Edition and it will be available this coming Sept 16th.

ReCore – Microsoft Studios – Sept 13 (X1/PC)

Alright, we’re moving past the sports section into something different! Keiji Inafune and Armature Studio bring this new IP to life for the Xbox One and PC (via Xbox Play Anywhere) on Sept 13. Following the story of Joule and her robot companions, it is a fast paced and at times relentless platformer. We got some hands-on time with ReCore at an event in Toronto and summed up our thoughts in a preview piece. Coming in at a lower price point than most AAA games it offers a good incentive to jump in and check it out.

Forza Horizon 3 – Microsoft Studios – Sept 27 (X1/PC)

Start your engines for the next installment to the Forza Horizon series with Forza Horizon 3. The Horizon Festival has moved to the great continent of Australia and it’s brought over 350 of your favorite vehicles with it! With a map touted to be over twice the size of that in Horizon 2, you’ll visit iconic locations like Surfer’s Paradise and Byron Bay all while playing with your friends. Developed by Playground Games and dropping with more races and modes than ever you can get it on Sept 27th.

SPECIAL MENTIONS : BioShock: The Collection – 2K Games – Sept 13 (Multiplatform), Destiny: Rise of Iron – Activision – Sept 20 (PS4/X1)
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Frank Ocean’s Blonde Reaches Number One

The long-awaited LP Blonde  by Frank Ocean accomplished great success, as it became the Number One in its debut week. The album, formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry, sold 276,000 copies, out of which 232,000 came from the traditional iTunes-only album sales and the rest from Apple Music exclusive bulk streams.

This is the third-best opening sales week of this year, only behind Beyonce’s Lemonade and Drake’s Views. And, it’s Ocean’s first Number One album, after his Channel Orange got to Number Two back in 2012.

Earlier it was announced by Billboard that Ocean’s visual album Endless will be missing from the chart – not eligible due to only being available as one continuous stream, instead of as individual tracks, among other things. Endless, however, fulfilled Ocean’s contract with Def Jam, which made Blonde the first Billboard top 200 album that was independently released since 2013, when Garth Brooks’ box set Blame It On My Roots came out.

Other than Blonde, a few other new releases made it into the Top 10, namely the debut LP of Tory Lanez, I Told You, which entered at Number Four with 52,000 copies sold, and at Number Five, there is Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough with 49,000 copies.
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