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Congratulations to all the winners!!

Michael Redhill, Bellevue Square author, wins Giller Book Prize

Michael Redhill has won the Giller Prize, Canada’s richest literary award, for his novel Bellevue Square.

Redhill was named winner of the $100,000 honour at a televised Toronto gala Monday night, the first Giller Prize awarded since the death of founder Jack Rabinovitch in August.

Bellevue Square tells the story of a woman who tries to track down her doppelganger following rumours that someone who looks like her hangs out at Bellevue Square, a park in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

Redhill seemed shocked as he accepted the prize and gave a tearful speech thanking his supporters as well as the late businessman Rabinovitch.

“I was a little more emotional than I was expecting to be — but life doesn’t prepare you for receiving a $100,000 cheque and then addressing people live across the nation, so I think I will probably have no memory of this evening in about 20 minutes, just to protect myself,” he said with a laugh in an interview after the awards ceremony.

“Living as a writer, you sometimes surf on credit and goodwill, and this will make me a much better risk for the various people who may have to help me in the future,” he said. “But right now, I can row my own boat.”

Redhill will be interviewed on CBC Radio’s q Tuesday morning.

This year’s shortlist included first-time nominees as well as past contenders. The four remaining finalists receive $10,000 each.

– Rachel Cusk for her novel Transit
– Ed O’Loughlin for his novel Minds of Winter
– Eden Robinson for her novel Son of a Trickster
– Michelle Winters for her novel I am a Truck

Redhill started out as a literary writer, poet and novelist but branched out in the mystery genre in 2006.

Bellevue Square was inspired by the things he learned when he was a mystery novelist and centres on a park in Kensington Market that “is a strange kind of clearing house for humanity,” he said.

“It’s been 11 years since I published a book under my own name, so it’s fun to come out again,” said Redhill, who was born in Baltimore, Md., but grew up in Toronto.

“This is more of a literary novel that explores what is a person, what is consciousness, how do we know we are who we think we are and all those kinds of things.”

Rabinovitch, a Montrealer who dreamed up the prize with longtime pal Mordecai Richler, established the award in 1994 as a tribute to his wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, a year after her death. His aim was to create a literary prize that honoured her memory while also celebrating excellence in Canadian fiction (both novels and short stories).

“For the price of a dinner in this town, you can buy all the nominated books. So, eat at home and buy the books,” Rabinovitch famously recited, as his signature line, at every Giller Prize gala.

The prize has also sparked a so-called “Giller effect:” a significant boost in sales and exposure for both nominees and, especially, the winners.

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More sad news. May he rest in peace.

Country singer Mel Tillis dies

NASHVILLE — Mel Tillis, the affable longtime country star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles, has died.

A spokesman for Tillis, Don Murry Grubbs, said Tillis died early Sunday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. He was 85.

Grubbs said Tillis battled intestinal issues since 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure.

Tillis, the father of country singer Pam Tillis, recorded more than 60 albums and had more than 30 top 10 country singles, including “Good Woman Blues,” “Coca Cola Cowboy” and “Southern Rain.” Among the hits he wrote for others were “Detroit City” for Bobby Bare; “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” by Rogers and the First Edition; and “Thoughts of a Fool” for George Strait.

Country music stars Charlie Daniels, Crystal Gayle and Blake Shelton offered their condolences on Twitter.

“He once spent an entire day at his place in Tennessee showing me all the memorabilia he’d gathered over the years where he gave me a pair of his stage boots,” Shelton’s account said. “He even took time to talk me through some hard times in my life on a couple phone calls.”

Although his early efforts to get a record deal were rebuffed because of his stutter, he was a promising songwriter in Nashville in the 1950s and 1960s, writing tunes for Webb Pierce and Ray Price.

In all, the Country Music Hall of Fame member wrote more than 1,000 songs and in 2012 received a National Medal of Arts for bringing “his unique blend of warmth and humour to the great tradition of country music.”

He also dabbled in acting, appearing in such feature films as Clint Eastwood’s “Every Which Way But Loose,” and the Burt Reynolds movies “Cannonball Run I and II” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.” He starred in several television movies and briefly had a network TV show, “Mel and Susan Together,” with Susan Anton.

In 2007, Tillis became a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry country music show.

“You know what? Another part of the dream has been fulfilled,” he said at the time. “It’s been a long, hard road.”

Tillis was raised in Pahokee, Florida, and developed his stutter as a child while being treated for malaria. He dropped out of the University of Florida and instead served in the Air Force and worked on the railroad before relocating to Nashville in 1957.

Musical from an early age, he started performing in the early 1950s with a group called The Westerners, while stationed in Okinawa and serving as a baker in the Air Force.

He held a variety of odd jobs before breaking out, including being a truck driver, a strawberry picker, a firefighter on the railroad and milkman, which inspired his breakthrough song. Feeling down one day he began singing to himself, “Oh Lord, I’m tired. Tired of living this ol’ way.” He turned his lament into “I’m Tired,” which became a hit for Webb Pierce.

Price, Skaggs, Brenda Lee and hundreds of others would cover his songs.

Tillis, meanwhile, became a major success on his own in the late 1960s and toured for decades, often using his stutter as a source of humour — though his stutter disappeared when he sang.

“One of the reasons I worked it into my show is that it’s my trademark,” he once told The Associated Press.

He said that when he was in the Air Force as a flight leader, he marched airmen right into a wall.

“I couldn’t get out the word ‘halt,”‘ he said.

Grubbs says the Tillis family will release information about funeral services in Florida and Nashville.

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I went to JUSTICE LEAGUE with low, low, low expectations and thought it wasn’t bad. It’s not great but it’s not as awful as it could have been.

Justice League underwhelms at box office with $96 million opening

DC Comics’ mightiest heroes are uniting on the big screen for the first time, saving the world from certain doom, and topping the box office in Justice League — but the highly anticipated film is nonetheless falling short of expectations. Warner Bros’. superhero team-up is on track to gross an estimated $96 million in the U.S. and Canada during its first weekend in theaters, dominating the competition but coming in well below analysts’ projections of about $110 million.

The fifth installment of the DC Extended Universe marks the franchise’s first sub-$100-million domestic debut, trailing Wonder Woman ($103.3 million), Suicide Squad ($133.7 million), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166 million), and Man of Steel ($116.6 million). It’s also not in the same, ahem, league as Disney and Marvel’s The Avengers ($207.4 million) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million).

While $96 million is no small sum, Justice League reportedly cost a hefty $250 million-$300 million to make, and it’s intended to be a linchpin of one of Warner Bros’. signature brands. On the plus side, the film is faring well overseas, where it’s poised to take in $185.5 million.

Directed by Zack Snyder — with extensive reshoots overseen by Avengers alum Joss Whedon while Snyder dealt with a family tragedy — Justice League met with mixed to negative reviews (better than BVS but much worse than Wonder Woman) and received a mediocre B-plus CinemaScore.

The film stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and Henry Cavill as Superman, with Ciarán Hinds voicing the villain Steppenwolf.

In second place, the new Julia Roberts drama Wonder is exceeding expectations with an estimated $27.1 million, to go along with an A-plus CinemaScore and solid reviews. The modestly budgeted Lionsgate release had been pegged for an opening in the ballpark of $10 million.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky and based on R.J. Palacio’s middle-grade novel of the same name, Wonder centers on a young boy (played by Jacob Tremblay) coping with a facial deformity and trying to fit in at a new school. Roberts plays the boy’s mother, and Owen Wilson portrays his father.

Disney’s superhero threequel Thor: Ragnarok is holding steady in third place with an estimated $21.8 million in its third weekend. That brings the domestic total to $247.4 million, and the worldwide total to $738.1 million.

Rounding out the top five — and continuing their battle from last week — are Paramount’s paternal comedy Daddy’s Home 2, with about $14.8 million, and Fox’s whodunit Murder on the Orient Express, with about $13.8 million.

This weekend’s other new wide release, Sony’s faith-based animated movie The Star, is poised to take in an estimated $10 million, good for the No. 6 spot.

Sony also began rolling out Dan Gilroy and Denzel Washington’s legal drama Roman J. Israel, Esq., which will gross about $65,000 from four locations, for a a per-theater average of $16,250. The film, which has received mixed reviews, will expand into about 1,500 theaters Wednesday.

According to ComScore, overall box office is down 4.3 percent year-to-date. Check out the Nov. 17-19 figures below.

1. Justice League — $96 million
2. Wonder — $27.1 million
3. Thor: Ragnarok — $21.8 million
4. Daddy’s Home 2 — $14.8 million
5. Murder on the Orient Express — $13.8 million
6. The Star — $10 million
7. A Bad Moms Christmas — $6.9 million
8. Lady Bird — $2.5 million
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri — $1.1 million
10. Jigsaw — $1.1 million

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She played Lana on Three’s Company and was always great. May she rest in peace.

Ann Wedgeworth Dies: ‘Three’s Company’, ‘Sweet Dreams’ Actress Was 83

Ann Wedgeworth, a Tony Award-winning actress most widely known for roles on sitcoms Evening Shade and Three’s Company, died Thursday following a lengthy illness at a New York area nursing home, her family has announced. She was 83.

Wedgeworth, who won a National Society of Film Critics Award for her tough but poignant performance in 1985’s Sweet Dreams – she played the mother of Jessica Lange’s Patsy Cline – won the 1978 Tony Award for best featured actress in a play for Neil Simon’s Chapter Two.

Born in Abilene, Texas, Wedgeworth moved to New York City in the late 1950s and soon joined The Actors Studio. She debuted on Broadway in 1958’s Make a Million, and went on to take roles is such stage productions as Period of Adjustment and Blues for Mister Charlie. She appeared in A Lie of the Mind, Sam Shepard’s off-Broadway play, in 1985. Her costar in the production, Geraldine Page, had married Wedgeworth’s ex-husband, actor Rip Torn.

Wedgeworth’s other credits include Scarecrow, Bang the Drum Slowly, Thieves, Steel Magnolias, Hard Promises, Love and a .45, and 1977’s Handle with Care, for which she won her first National Society of Film Critics Award.

Among many TV roles, including Filthy Rich and Roseanne (she played the mother of John Goodman’s Dan), Wedgeworth’s Lana Shields of ABC’s Three’s Company became one of her best know. The character was essentially a substitute for Audra Lindley, who had been spun off for her own sitcom The Ropers.

Wedgeworth is survived by husband Ernie Martin, daughters Danae Torn and Dianna Martin. Tony Torn, Danae Torn’s brother, tweeted news of Wedgeworth’s passing yesterday.

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Sad news. So many great riffs and songs. May he rest in peace.

AC/DC co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young dead at 64

Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitarist and guiding force behind the bawdy hard rock band AC/DC who helped create such head-banging anthems as Highway to Hell, Hells Bells, Thunderstruck and Back in Black, has died. He was 64.

AC/DC announced the death Saturday on its official Facebook page and website Saturday. A representative for the band confirmed that the posts were true. The posts did not say when or where Young died, but said the performer had been suffering from dementia. He was diagnosed in 2014.

“It is with deepest sorrow that we inform you of the death of Malcolm Young, beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother. Malcolm had been suffering from dementia for several years and passed away peacefully with his family by his bedside,” one of the posts read.

The family put out a statement posted on the band’s website calling Young a “visionary who inspired many.”

While Young’s younger brother, Angus, the group’s school-uniform-wearing lead guitarist, was the public face of the band, Malcolm Young was its key writer and leader, the member the rest of the band watched for onstage changes and cutoffs.

AC/DC was remarkably consistent for over 40 years with its mix of driving hard rock, lusty lyrics and bluesy shuffles, selling over 200 million albums, surviving the loss of its first singer and creating one of the greatest rock records ever in Back in Black, the world’s second best-selling album behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

The Glasgow-born Young brothers — who moved to Sydney, Australia, with their parents, sister and five older brothers in 1963 — formed the band in 1973.

They were inspired to choose the high-energy name AC/DC from the back of a sewing machine owned by their sister, Margaret. Angus experimented with several different stage costumes at first — including a gorilla suit and a Zorro outfit — but the school uniform was a natural, since he was only 16 at the time.

The Youngs went through several drummers and bass guitarists, finally settling on Phil Rudd on drums in 1974 and Englishman Cliff Williams on bass three years later. The original singer was fired after a few months when they discovered Bon Scott, who was originally hired as the band’s driver.

By 1980, the band was on a roll, known for its high energy performances and predictably hard-charging songs. Their album Highway To Hell was certified gold in America and made it into the top 25 Billboard album charts, and the single Touch Too Much became their first U.K. Top 30 hit.

But on Feb. 18, 1980, everything changed — Scott died of asphyxiation after choking on his own vomit after an all-night drinking binge.

The band decided to keep going and hired English vocalist Brian Johnson at the helm. The newly reconfigured group channeled their grief into songwriting and put out 1980’s Back In Black, with the songs You Shook Me All Night Long, Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution and Hells Bells.

The cover of the album was black, in honour of Scott’s death. The band continued with a studio or live album every few years, blending their huge guitar riffs with rebellious and often sophomoric lyrics — song titles include Big Balls, Beating Around the Bush, Let Me Put My Love Into You and Stiff Upper Lip.

AC/DC won only a single Grammy Award, for best hard rock performance in 2009 for War Machine.

Rolling Stone said in 1980 that “the AC/DC sound is nothing more and nothing less than aggressively catchy song hooks brutalized by a revved-up boogie rhythm, Malcolm’s jackhammer riffing, Angus’ guitar histrionics and Johnson’s bloodcurdling bawl.”

In the book The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC by Jesse Fink, Angus Young said the formula worked.

“We’ve got the basic thing kids want,” he said. “They want to rock and that’s it. They want to be part of the band as a mass. When you hit a guitar chord, a lot of the kids in the audience are hitting it with you. They’re so much into the band they’re going through all the motions with you. If you can get the mass to react as a whole, then that’s the ideal thing. That’s what a lot of bands lack, and why the critics are wrong.”
AC/DC’s infectious, driving sound stretched further than rock arenas. The song Shoot to Thrill was heard in the film The Avengers, Back in Black made it into The Muppets, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was played in Bridesmaids and their songs were included in the Iron Man franchise.

On TV, the band’s music was heard in everything from Top Gear to the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, Glee, CSI: Miami and The Voice.

Though the band championed good-natured hell-raising, it had to weather suggestions in the 1980s that it was a threat to the moral fabric of society. There were rumours the band’s name stood for Anti-Christ/Devil’s Children and many were shocked when it was learned that serial murderer and rapist Richard Ramirez identified himself as a fan and left an AC/DC baseball cap behind at a crime scene.

In 2014, the band released Rock or Bust, the first AC/DC album without Malcolm Young. Even so, he is very present on the record since the 11 songs are credited to the Young brothers (Angus said he built the album from guitar hooks the two had accumulated over the years).

Around the album’s release, Angus Young told the Associated Press that Malcolm was doing fine, but that he couldn’t perform anymore.

“It was progressing further, but he knew he couldn’t do it,” Angus Young said of his older brother’s dementia. “He had continued as long as he could, still writing. But he said to me, ‘Keep it going.”‘

The fate of the band was also put into doubt by the retirement of Williams, legal trouble for Rudd and Johnson’s hearing loss, which forced him to leave. The band enlisted Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose to sing on tour in 2016.

Several musicians paid their respects to Malcolm Young on social media, writing about his influence and impact in music.

“It is a sad day in rock and roll. Malcolm Young was my friend and the heart and soul of AC/DC. I had some of the best times of my life with him on our 1984 European tour,” Eddie Van Halen tweeted on Saturday. “He will be missed and my deepest condolences to his family, bandmates and friends.”

“The driving engine of AC/DC has died. A tragic end for a sometimes unsung icon. One of the true greats. RIP,” Paul Stanley of Kiss wrote on Twitter.

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I didn’t like the first one at all, and I know the sequel is going to be horrible, but I still want to see DADDY’S HOME 2.

Thor: Ragnarok continues box office reign; Daddy’s Home 2 edging Orient Express

The god of thunder is still making rain. Thor: Ragnarok is on track to gross an estimated $56.6 million during its second weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, continuing its box office domination as Daddy’s Home 2 and Murder on the Orient Express battle for the No. 2 spot. That activity should come as welcome news in Hollywood after a sluggish October.

Bolstered by strong reviews and good word of mouth (as evidenced by an A CinemaScore) Ragnarok is poised to decline 54 percent from its debut weekend, bringing its domestic total to $211.6 million after 10 days in theaters. The film, which marks the third installment of Disney’s Thor franchise and the 17th film in the Marvel cinematic universe, has also grossed about $438.5 million overseas, with $75.9 million of that coming in this weekend.

Taika Waititi directed Ragnarok, which finds Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-wielding superhero teaming up with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk to battle the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett). Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, and Jeff Goldblum also costar.

In a showdown for second place, Paramount’s comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2 is edging out Fox’s whodunit Murder on the Orient Express, with both movies coming in at the higher end of analysts’ projections.

Daddy’s Home 2 is on track to take in about $30 million — higher than the estimated $28.2 million of Orient Express but 23 percent lower than the $38.7 million managed by the original Daddy’s Home in 2015. Like its predecessor, Daddy’s Home 2 has been shredded by movie critics, although it fared better with moviegoers, earning an A-minus CinemaScore (an improvement on the original’s B-plus).

Once again starring Will Ferrell as a mild-mannered stepfather who engages in a rivalry with with his wife’s macho ex-husband (Mark Wahlberg), Daddy’s Home 2 ups the ante by bringing in those characters’ own dads, played by John Lithgow and Mel Gibson. Sean Anders returned to direct.

Murder on the Orient Express, meanwhile, is close behind despite receiving mixed reviews and a tepid B CinemaScore. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, the mystery comes as the second big-screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel about a seemingly inexplicable slaying aboard a snowbound train. The ensemble cast includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, and Leslie Odom Jr.

In line for fourth place is another comedy sequel, STX’s A Bad Mom’s Christmas. It’s on track to gross about $11.5 million, which represents a decline of just 31 percent from its debut last weekend, suggesting the film could have staying power. Lionsgate’s horror reboot Jigsaw rounds out the top five with an estimated $3.4 million.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s critically acclaimed black comedy Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri is poised to take in about $320,000 from just four locations; that works out to a per-theater average of $80,000, one of the highest such figures of the year. Directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), the film stars Frances McDormand as a grieving mother who calls out local authorities for their lack of progress in finding her daughter’s killer.

Also on the specialty front, Greta Gerwig’s buzzed-about directorial debut, Lady Bird, is set to crack the top 10 in its second weekend, with an estimated $1.2 million from just 37 theaters. A24 released the coming-of-age tale, starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Tracy Letts.

According to ComScore, overall box office is down 4.9 percent year-to-date. Check out the Nov. 10-12 figures below.

1. Thor: Ragnarok — $56.6 million
2. Daddy’s Home 2 — $30 million
3. Murder on the Orient Express — $28.2 million
4. A Bad Moms Christmas — $11.5 million
5. Jigsaw — $3.4 million
6. Boo 2: A Madea Halloween — $2.1 million
7. Geostorm — $1.5 million
8. Blade Runner 2049 — $1.4 million
9. Happy Death Day — $1.3 million
10. Lady Bird — $1.2 million

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More very sad news in an already tough week. May he rest in peace.

Magnum P.I. and Chinatown actor John Hillerman dies at 84

John Hillerman, best known for his portrayal of stuffy Brit Jonathan Higgins, the foil to Tom Selleck’s unconventional detective on Magnum P.I., has died at his home in Texas from unknown causes, according to The New York Times. He was 84.

Born on Dec. 20, 1932 in Texas, where he was also raised, Hillerman ironically became most associated with a British character, Magnum P.I.’s by-the-book Higgins. He also portrayed the same character on episodes of Murder, She Wrote and Simon & Simon.

Hillerman began his career as a stage actor until he caught the eye of director Peter Bogdanovich, who cast him in his film debut as a teacher in The Last Picture Show. He went on to have memorable roles in films including Paper Moon, Chinatown, and Blazing Saddles.

As an actor, he is best known for his career on television. Beyond Magnum P.I., he also made memorable impressions as cocky radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the Ellery Queen series and as difficult boss Mr. Connors on One Day at a Time. Additional TV roles included stints on The Love Boat, Valerie, and The Betty White Show.

He made his final screen appearance in 1996’s A Very Brady Sequel and then retired back to his home state of Texas.

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I knew it!!

Sorry, Christmas music might be bad for your health

Stressing before Christmas? Listening to the cheerful, jolly music will not help you relax, a British psychologist said.

In fact, listening to Christmas music could harm a person’s mental health, clinical psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News.

Blair said the continuous playing of Christmas music in the car or at stores reminds people of all the things they need to do before the holiday arrives.

“You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing,” Blair told Sky News.

Blair said store workers were “more at risk” of being mentally drained by the array of cheerful music. The same songs being played constantly makes it hard for employees to “tune it out” and “unable to focus on anything else.”

“Christmas music is likely to irritate people if it’s played too loudly and too early,” Blair told Sky News.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Best Buy began playing holiday music on Oct. 22, making the electronic store the first to stream the songs. A few days later, other stores such as Sears, Ulta and Michaels followed suit.

Mood Media’s programming executive, Danny Turner, told the Tampa Bay Times that he urges stores to stop playing novelty music because it could annoy customers.

“The one I have in mind is ‘The 12 Days of Christmas,’” Turner told the Tampa Bay Times. “Once I’m at the third day, I’m counting how many days are left. You don’t want any songs that feel like they last for 12 days.”

The newspaper also conducted a poll about the most appropriate time to start playing Christmas music. More than half of the participants said it was best to begin listening to holiday music after Thanksgiving.

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Very cool news!!

RIAN JOHNSON, WRITER-DIRECTOR OF STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, TO CREATE ALL-NEW STAR WARS TRILOGY

For director Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was just the beginning of his journey in a galaxy far, far away.

Lucasfilm is excited to announce that Johnson will create a brand-new Star Wars trilogy, the first of which he is also set to write and direct, with longtime collaborator Ram Bergman onboard to produce.

As writer-director of The Last Jedi, Johnson conceived and realized a powerful film of which Lucasfilm and Disney are immensely proud. In shepherding this new trilogy, which is separate from the episodic Skywalker saga, Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.

“We all loved working with Rian on The Last Jedi,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “He’s a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.”

“We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on The Last Jedi,” Johnson and Bergman said in a joint statement. “Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can’t wait to continue with this new series of films.”

Johnson’s upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in U.S. theaters on Dec. 15, 2017.

No release dates have been set for the new films, and no porgs were available for comment.

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Remember, every one of these negative stories that come out will all promote the release of the album. It’s all part of the huge publicity machine lined up behind this album.

Taylor Swift in Trouble With the ACLU After Threatening Critic

Taylor Swift’s album rollout is not going as planned. On Monday, the ACLU of Northern California sent a letter to Swift’s attorney stating that her camp had tried to silence and intimidate a critic. The story is incredible and bizarre: Apparently, Swift’s attorney threatened a writer at the little-known leftist culture blog PopFront over a blog post about the alt-right’s embrace of Swift’s music. How Swift’s camp found the article in the first place, and why they decided to use threatening legal tactics to suppress it, remains unclear. The writer, however, is facing Swift head-on: PopFront’s Megan Herning said in a statement Monday, “The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon. These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”

According to a press release from the ACLU, Swift’s attorney William J. Briggs, II, sent Herning a letter last month instructing her to retract her article titled, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” Briggs wrote that the post was “provably false and defamatory” and that Herning should remove it from all sources, including social media. He added that Herning could not publicize his letter because of copyright law, and that if Herning did not comply with his requests, “Ms. Swift is prepared to proceed with litigation.”

The ACLU says Swift has no case: Herning’s post simply states her opinions, and it is not defamatory. ACLU attorney Michael Risher said in a statement, “This is a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech.” Another ACLU attorney, Matt Cagle, added, “Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable. Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.” In a letter to Swift’s attorney, the ACLU had more fun with Swift’s lyrics: “Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation.”

Swift’s new album, Reputation, is set to be released on Friday. This is probably not how she wanted to start a big press week. We have reached out to her for comment and will update if we hear back.