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“The Hobbit” new still puts Martin Freeman in Mirkwood Forest

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So far, the only proof we’ve had that “The Hobbit” films will include some serious bad-assery was the series of images released that introduced audiences to the series’ battle-ready dwarves.

That’s why the new image released by The Los Angeles Times is such a breath of fresh air. The previous images and trailer released tended to focus on the light-hearted, colorful, kid-friendly aspects of the story, while this new still switches gears. Seemingly taking place after Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) has used his sword Sting for the first time in Mirkwood Forest, the photo is dark, dirty and gritty, just like elements of “The Hobbit.”

“The story is very much a children’s story so deciding how to tell this was one of the first things we had to do,” co-writer and producer Philippa Boyens said in an interview with the Times. “It is very distinctly different, tonally, to ‘Lord of the Rings’ until the very end and then you begin to see the world of Middle-earth opening up.”

Apparently the key to keeping the two separate in the minds of the viewers was focusing on what makes “The Hobbit” different from “The Lord of the Rings,” instead of what makes them similar.

“We felt that it is the same audience [who will come to see the films] and then you start to worry because it is easy to repeat yourself. It is quite a similar journey, you’re going from the Shire to a large, dangerous mountain,” she said.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” hits theaters on December 14. It stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage and Aidan Turner, among many, many others.

What do you think of the shift in tone in this new image? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Face Melting Cameos

The 10 Most Metal Pop Culture Cameos

Glenn Danzig drops by Portlandia tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Glenn Danzig rocks harder than granite. In his 60 years, he’s mastered punk with The Misfits, slayed metal with the eponymous Danzig, and generally melted faces with the force of his voice. And thanks to Fred and Carrie, he’s now stopping by tonight’s brand new Portlandia so we can finally get to see what “Evil Elvis” is like when he hits the beach. To celebrate his appearance, we put together our favorite metal moments from pop culture, from the sublime to the absurd.

10. Cannibal Corpse meets Ace Ventura

Back in the ’90s,  Cannibal Corpse was just a small time band from Upstate New York, plying their death metal wares wherever they could find a crowd, when a call from Jim Carry transformed their lives. Turns out the actor was a fan, and wanted them for a cameo in his new movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The band had a European tour coming up, and were wary of being made fun of, so they turned it down. Thankfully, the rubber-faced In Living Color vet wouldn’t take no for an answer, proving that you don’t need to have a lot of fans, just the right ones.


9. AC/DC in Private Parts

Howard Stern’s autobiographical film, based on his book of the same name, followed his rise in the world of radio and pop culture. For a man surrounded by naked ladies and adoring fans, it’s hard to track the exact moment he made it. But rocking out with AC/DC in the middle of Central Park, as throngs of fans clamor to get a piece of you, seems like it comes pretty close. You can actually see Stern go from hit host to radio god in this clip, as “You Shook Me All Night Long” blasts in the background.


8. Judas Priest meets The Simpsons

When you want to blast a bunch of peace-loving hippies out on their asses, you’re going to need some death metal. At least, that’s what the folks at The Simpsons thought when they set up this cameo from the metal gods. Unfortunately, thanks to a hearty online backlash, the writers of the classic series were soon informed that Judas Priest, while many things, are not in fact “death metal.” This led to the most Simpson-esque apology ever. Rock on, Bartman. Rock on.


7. Anthrax on Married…With Children

What do you get when Married…with Children spoofs My Dinner With Andre, substituting the erudite playwrights for a band so metal they piss rust? Well, for starters, a lot of headbanging, property destruction and blown eardrums. And much like everything else in life, Al seems to have missed the fun.


6. Motorhead rocks out on The Young Ones

The Young Ones didn’t just premiere on BBC2 in 1982 — it kicked the doors down to a new way of doing comedy. A full-on assault on the staid state of sitcoms, the show brought a punk rock vibe to the tired format, and in the process helped jumpstart a comedy revolution. For instance, where an old sitcom would just cut from one scene to the next, The Young Ones choose to have Lemmy and his crew deliver a raw version of “Ace of Spades.” The general attitude seemed to be, you don’t like this? Well, then F— you!


5. Red and Kitty Meet Kiss on That ’70s Show

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Carsey-Werner Productions

Long before they were banished to playing arena football games, Kiss was the hottest ticket in rock. The gang from That ’70s Show got to live out every ’70s teen’s dream when they were set loose backstage at a Kiss concert, taking full advantage of groupies, ganja and hard rock.


4. Ronnie James Dio in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (NSFW, people!)

What does a young boy do when he was born to rock, and the world won’t let him? What tight compadre does he pray to for guidance and some sweet licks? If you’re a young Jables, half of “the world’s most awesome band,” you bow your head to Ronnie James Dio, aka the guy who freaking taught the world how to do the “Metal Horns.” Never before has a rock god been so literal than in this clip that turns it up to eleven.


3. Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat

It’s hard to tell if Ozzy was trying his hardest here, or just didn’t give a flying f–k. What is clear is that, either way, it doesn’t really matter. Ozzy’s approach to acting seems to lean more heavily on Jack Daniels than sense memory, and yet seeing the slurry English rocker play a sex-obsessed televangelist is so ridiculous, he gets a free pass. Taking part in the cult horror Trick or Treat, Ozzy proves that he makes things better just by showing up. Because that’s exactly what he did here. Showed up. And it rocks.


2. Glenn Danzig on Portlandia

Danzig seems to be coming out of a self imposed exile these days. He just signed with a record company, and his appearance on Portlandia is reminding everyone how kick ass he truly is. Who else but “The Other Man in Black” could help Portland’s resident goths figure out what to wear to the beach? Carrie Brownstein called Danzig “amazing,” and he called Fred “a genius,” so this was a rare love fest for the progenitor of horror punk.


1. Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World

It’s surprising, sure, but for a scene that contains no music whatsoever, it’s probably the most famous metal moment in the history of film. When Alice Cooper informed Wayne and Garth that Milwaukee is actually pronounced “Milly-way-kay” back in 1992, he created one of the most famous scenes in comedy history. What’s more metal than that? Much like Wayne and Garth, we truly are not worthy.

New “Prometheus,” “The Avengers,” “The Hobbit” pictures hit the web

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Today you can thank USA Today for officially getting you stoked for the film slate in 2012. The newspaper got their hands on a ton of new stills from some of the 12 movies they think fans should be most excited for in the new year. Fortunately, we couldn’t agree with them more.

Arguably the coolest picture is for “The Bourne Legacy,” which offers a first look at Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross in the continuation of Matt Damon’s “Bourne” trilogy. Other than looking angry and severe in the image, there’s not too much we can gather from it about the movie. Still, we’re glad just to have something to start hyping the film’s August 3 release date.

The media gallery also includes new images for “The Avengers,” “Prometheus,” “The Hobbit,” “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Brave.” The “Prometheus” one offers a clear look at Noomi Rapace in the film. And just was is it that she’s holding in her hand?

“The Avengers” image is a variation on the many shots we’ve seen of Captain American and Thor released over the past few months. The superhero duo are in the middle of a big battle in New York City, though we can’t help but wonder where Iron Man and Hulk are during all of this.

Rounding out the big new releases, “The Hobbit” still features Martin Freeman looking, well, like a hobbit. His hairy feet and pointed ears might not be the most flattering aspects of his new look, but at least we can give him props for his sense of style. Seriously, can it be December 14 already? The next 11 months can’t fly by fast enough.

The still from “Snow White and the Huntsman” continues to showcase Charlize Theron as the real reason to be excited for this film. She looks fantastically evil here on her throne as the appropriately titled Evil Queen. And the “Brave” image is similar to the shot we’ve seen in the trailer of Merida and her family discussing some of their favorite Scottish legends.

Which of these new pictures is your favorite? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Christopher Lee talks about Saruman in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

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There are going to be plenty of memorable reappearances by some of our favorite “Lord of the Rings” characters in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” that didn’t happen within the pages of the novel the film is based on. Frodo, for instance, will make a return through some tricky manipulation of the “Lord of the Rings” timeline, and Legolas will make an appearance even though only his father Thranduil actually shows up in “The Hobbit” novel.

Such is the case with Saruman, the white wizard who doesn’t show up in “The Hobbit” story though later J.R.R. Tolkien literature reveals that he was actually pretty busy at the time Bilbo Baggins’ tale was taking place. Actor Christopher Lee will be reprising his role as the head of the Council of Wizards, and he posted a Christmas message to YouTube in which he talks about the upcoming role.

“The Hobbit” takes place many years before “The Lord of the Rings,” so needless to say we’ll be seeing a different side to Saruman than we did in the later stories. According to Lee, Saruman is “indeed, still, Saruman the White” and will be “a good and noble man and the head of the Council of Wizards, as he always was.”

It’s nice that that is how director Peter Jackson has chosen to portray Saruman in the movie. A quick brush up on our “Lord of the Rings” mythology has Saruman attacking the evil Sauron at Dol Guldur to prevent his rise to power. Sounds like a good guy, right? Unfortunately, the context of that attack was for Saruman himself to try to gather more information about the possible location of the One Ring — which Bilbo ends up finding at about the same time as Saruman’s attack — so he’s maybe not as good and wholesome as Lee is making him appear to be.

Discrepancies aside, Lee added that several “Rings” characters won’t be making an appearance in “The Hobbit,” including Aragorn and the Rohirrim. A bummer, to be sure, but that will just be a sacrifice we have to pay to meet some new faces around Middle-Earth.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” hits theaters on December 24, 2012.

Are you happy to hear we’ll be seeing Saruman in a positive light? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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