New 'Avengers' coming
NEW YORK - Robert Downey Jr. has signed up for two more "Avengers" films.
Marvel announced Thursday that the actor will reprise his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark for "The Avengers 2" and "The Avengers 3." Downey Jr. has played the character in a trilogy of "Iron Man" movies, as well as the first superhero ensemble "Avengers" film, which made $2.7 billion worldwide.
Joss Whedon is to return as director of the next "Avengers" film. He is writing the screenplay now. Production is to begin in March, with a theatrical release in May 2015.
The 48-year-old actor had previously suggested "Iron Man 3" might be his last spin in a stand-alone "Iron Man" film. Marvel's announcement made no mention of an "Iron Man 4" release.
Kurtz heading to Fox News
NEW YORK - Media watchdog Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" for 15 years, said Thursday that he's jumping to Fox News Channel.
Kurtz will host another Sunday morning media criticism show to replace the current "Fox News Watch." He'll also appear as an on-air analyst across the network during the week and write a column for the network's website on social media news and industry trends.
His jump comes less than two months after Kurtz was interviewed on his own show to apologize for and explain a series of mistakes he had made in a story about basketball player Jason Collins, who had announced he was gay. Kurtz said the incident did not play a role in his exit from CNN, that the timing of it and his contract renewal were coincidental.
"The folks at CNN have been nothing but gracious to me during my 15 years of hosting 'Reliable Sources' but this is a chance to create a new franchise and play a larger role," he said.
Queen's horse wins
ASCOT, England - A beaming Queen Elizabeth II received the Gold Cup trophy on Thursday after becoming the first reigning British monarch in history with a winning horse in Royal Ascot's biggest race.
The 87-year-old queen clapped and smiled broadly in the stands as Estimate, the 7-2 favorite, crossed the line to become the first filly to win the Gold Cup since Indian Queen in 1991.
The queen, who has been on the throne for 61 years, has attended Ascot every year since 1945. Thursday's win was her 22nd overall at Ascot, but the first in the signature Gold Cup.
"It's a great honor to win for Her Majesty the Queen," Estimate's trainer, Michael Stoute, said. "We know how much she loves this game."
Munro done writing?
NEW YORK - Less than a year after Philip Roth announced he had stopped writing books, another literary great may be retiring: Alice Munro.
The 81-year-old Canadian author, widely regarded as one of the world's greatest short story writers, told Canada's National Post during a recent interview that she was "probably not going to write anymore." Munro made the comments after receiving the Trillium Book Award for the story collection "Dear Life."
"Not that I didn't love writing," she said, "but I think you do get to a stage where you sort of think about your life in a different way. And perhaps, when you're my age, you don't wish to be alone as much as a writer has to be. It's like, at the wrong end of life, sort of becoming very sociable."
Roth, 80, made similar comments last year in explaining his decision to quit. The list of voluntary literary retirees is tiny, with the vast majority of authors continuing for as long as health permits.
Langella to play Lear
NEW YORK - Frank Langella will be taking on one of Shakespeare's greatest roles - King Lear - and letting audiences in two countries see it.
Producers said Thursday Langella will debut his Lear at Britain's Chichester Festival Theatre this autumn and then take it to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York early next year.
"King Lear" will be directed by Chichester's Associate Director Angus Jackson. It will run at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester from Oct. 31-Nov. 30 and then in Brooklyn from Jan. 7-Feb. 9.
Langella was most recently seen in Terrance Rattigan's "Man and Boy" on Broadway. He has won three Tony Awards, most notably as Richard Nixon in "Frost/Nixon," a role he later recreated for the 2008 film version, earning an Oscar nomination.
Daniels in 'Dumb' sequel
NEW YORK - Nearly 20 years after "Dumb and Dumber" was released, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are reuniting for "Dumb and Dumber To."
Daniels said Carrey approached directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly two years ago about doing a sequel.
"Jim has been against all sequels, and you know, understandably so. ... But he turned 50 and that will mellow you out, and suddenly he's going, 'Let's have some fun. ... Come on,' and we're going, 'Great,' and so the Farrellys said, 'This isn't a money grab. Let's really write a great second movie that takes the original and then blows it up even further, and so I think they did that," Daniels said.
Daniels said he's read the script and calls it "painfully funny."
The original premise wasn't that deep. It followed two well-meaning but moronic friends, Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels), as they traveled cross-country to find the owner of a briefcase filled with money.
"We're middle-aged and still that stupid. Our IQ has not gone up one point combined," he said. "So it's a frightening thing. You're gonna see the two of us standing there trying to put thoughts together and you want to put underneath, 'Kids don't do this at home.' It's that stupid."
Brand scraps Mideast shows
LONDON - British comedian Russell Brand says he has cancelled Middle Eastern dates on his forthcoming tour after promoters said they couldn't guarantee his safety.
Brand had planned to take his "Messiah Complex" tour to Abu Dhabi and Lebanon.
Brand has said the tour focuses on icons including Che Guevara, Gandhi, Malcolm X and Jesus, and examines "the importance of heroes in this age of atheistic disposability."
But Brand told BBC radio Thursday that the Mideast venues "contacted us to say we can no longer guarantee your safety."
Jolie urges Syria diplomacy
ZAATARI, Jordan - Angelina Jolie said Thursday the Syrian civil war is the world's most acute humanitarian crisis and called on world leaders to make diplomatic efforts to end it succeed.
Jolie spoke at Jordan's largest camp for Syrian refugees, which she toured as special envoy for the United Nations refugee agency.
"I appeal to the world leaders - please, set aside your differences, unite to end the violence, and make diplomacy succeed," she told reporters, drawing attention to the U.N.'s World Refugee Day.
Jolie is returning to her humanitarian work after announcing last month that she had her breasts removed after discovering she has an inherited genetic mutation that puts her at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Her visit to Zaatari camp was her first visit public appearance with the United Nations refugee agency since the double mastectomy.