Arts and Entertainment Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a scene from 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Dir. Peter Jackson;  Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, 161mins

'Hobbit' movie in jeopardy as director Guillermo Del Toro quits

If you thought reading a JRR Tolkien novel was time-consuming, try turning one into a film. Two years and hundreds of painstakingly designed monster costumes after he started work on The Hobbit, the Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro has suddenly quit, complaining about endless delays in getting his eagerly-awaited film green-lit.

Sir Ian McKellen to star in zombie costume drama

Sir Ian McKellen, who has mastered a dazzling panoply of Shakespearean roles on stage and is considered one of the most serious screen talents of his generation, is to star in a low-budget zombie costume drama set in the rural backwaters of Britain.

Macbeth, Shakespeare's Globe, London

The play hasn't started and you're already saying, with Marlowe's Mephistopheles, "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it." The smoke is billowing, the bells are tolling, the bagpipes are wailing and, down below in the pit, the heads of the groundlings are peeking through a black tarpaulin like the lost souls on Judgment Day.

Not all villains must be British, says Mirren

From middle earth to a galaxy far far away, there exists a truth universal since the dawn of Hollywood time: bad guys speak with British accents. But it is a truth that British actress Dame Helen Mirren has become fed up with.

The Music Room, By William Fiennes

It was for his observation of the pattern of migratory birds in the award-winning The Snow Geese (2002), and for its insight into the theme of human belonging as well as the titular birds, that William Fiennes gained his reputation. Conversely, his latest memoir, concerned this time with humans (specifically, Fiennes's elder brother Rich's struggle with epilepsy), is rich in descriptions of nature. He strikes upon truth when he reaches it obliquely.

McKellen speaks out against vetting scheme

The actor Sir Ian McKellen has become the latest high-profile artist to speak out against the Government's vetting scheme for all adults working with children.

Gay rugby star hosts 'coming out' party to thank friends

Sport and stage stars turn out to show solidarity with Wales's 'role model' player

Pandora: Tolkien family feud heads for the courts

For all the success that the Lord Of The Rings trilogy enjoyed on the big screen, the ongoing bad blood between film executives and the family of JRR Tolkien, who wrote the books, has proved an unfortunate sub-plot.

Wogan takes back breakfast radio lead

Sir Terry Wogan was re-confirmed as king of breakfast radio today, pulling clear of rival Chris Moyles in the latest official listening figures.

Faster-paced 'Da Vinci Code' sequel premieres in Rome

The movie sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" is being greeted as a faster-paced, more gripping film than the original and is respectful to Catholics, director Ron Howard said at its Rome premiere.

The Rough Guide to Shakespeare, By Andrew Dickson

There's nothing rough at all about this confident and readable guide to plays, poems and author from a young critic who matches energy and erudition with truly Elizabethan zest. From the "special intensity and charm" of All's Well That Ends Well through Measure for Measure (that "unsettling comedy of sex in the city") to the "almost mythical resolution" of The Winter's Tale, Dickson's play-by-play survey combines sound accounts of plot, stage history, critical debate and screen adaptations with striking photos, illuminating interviews (from the likes of Simon Russell Beale, Ian McKellen and Zoe Wanamaker) and up-to-date bibliographies. A stylish cockade in the Rough Guides' cap, this is a must-own volume that Bard veterans and apprentices alike will punish - and reward - with daily use.

First Impressions: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)

The word for The Da Vinci Code is a rare invertible palindrome. Rotated 180 degrees on a horizontal axis so that it is upside down, it denotes the maternal essence that is sometimes linked to the sport of soccer. Read right side up, it concisely conveys the kind of extreme enthusiasm with which this riddle-filled, code-breaking, exhilaratingly brainy thriller can be recommended.

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