Kiefer Sutherland's 24 character Jack Bauer has topped a new poll to find U.S. TV's Greatest Action Hero. The tough guy has beaten out Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy Summers and Adam West's Batman in the new TV Guide magazine survey.
Richard Dean Anderson's MacGyver and Diana Rigg's Avengers character Emma Peel round out the top five, while The Six Million Dollar Man's Steve Austin (Lee Majors), Alias' Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) make the top 10.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
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British TV star/actress Gaby Roslin has married for a second time. The 47 year old exchanged vows with David Osman, her partner of seven years, at a farm in England. She was previously married to musician Colin Peel.
Welcome back to The Voice! With the departure of Dez Duron, Christina has become the first coach in the show’s history to see all her team members eliminated before the finale. Nevertheless, Xtina seems cheerful, though she is dressed all in black — and as I’ve learned from Downton Abbey, sequins and fishnets were traditional components of post-Edwardian mourning clothes. This week, the six remaining contestants will each perform twice — one song chosen by their coach, and another chosen by themselves.
Up first, Nicholas David performs a track picked by coach Cee Lo Green: Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September.” Train’s Pat Monaghan covers for Cee Lo (who is out sick) in rehearsals this week. As Nicholas walks in, Pat warmly jokes, “I know you from TV.” Nick smiles blankly, and I am instantly sure that he — old-soul Minnesota hippie that he is — has no idea who Monaghan is. Gold.
Pat, who I’m surprised doesn't speak in falsetto, encourages Nicholas to take risks and explore the furthest reaches of his vocal range. After all, there is an entire verse of “Hey, Soul Sister” that only dogs can hear.
The disco energy represents a stylistic departure for Nicholas that I enjoy — but as Adam points out, he lets his background singers almost entirely handle the chorus, the clear highlight of the song. What would “September” be without its glorious bah dee ya’s?
With the success of her “Over You” cover in mind, Blake Shelton assigns Cassadee Pope another country song. She performs Rascal Flatts’ “Stand,” for which each audience member has been mysteriously equipped with a tampon-esque glowstick. She nails it, garnering rave reviews from the coaches — especially Christina, who has officially restyled herself as Cassadee’s “co-coach/supporter.”
Apparently concerned that all this country will make us forget how Punk Rock she is, Cassadee has incorporated blue streaks in her hair. I gather the bottle of dye must have been communal, because — up in the Sprint Skybox®™ — we see that Melanie Martinez’s trademark two-tone scalp is now half blue as well.
In a rare stroke of genius, Adam Levine asks Amanda Brown to perform “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.” The power, finesse, and exuberance she brings to the song are killer. I would pay money — several monies, even — to see this in concert. “There’s nothing I adore more than to see a woman feel natural,” Cee Lo comments, because it’s been a few weeks since he’s said something truly creepy.
Terry McDermott elects to perform Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” inspired by the loss of his mother. The pared-down production design suits the emotional gravity of the song: alone on a dark stage with only a cellist and pianist,Terry is visibly overcome with feeling as he sings. It’s certainly good, but by no means my favorite of Terry’s work (to be fair, I kind of can’t stand this song).
Another gem for the Blake highlight reel: He refers to that cello first as a “whatever that violin thing’s called,” and then as “a Cee Lo.”
Trevin Hunte takes on “Walking on Sunshine” (Cee Lo’s choice), resulting in the spontaneous formation of ska circles in living rooms across the country. We’ve seen the disaster that resulted from Trevin trading ballads for beats — remember Ushergate? — and similarly, I never would’ve guessed that such a poppy song would work for him.But that’s the reason why Cee Lo’s a coach on The Voice and I’m not (the only reason). It’s a charismatic, vibrant performance, and Trevin ably meets the challenges of the fast-paced original.
Melanie takes a risk with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” — i.e., Cee Lo’s biggest hit that doesn't contain an expletive in its title. But what’s really crazy here is the staging: She plays a miniature pink keyboard with one hand, surrounded by faceless, guitar-holding mannequins with bows in their non-hair. It’s weird. The performance is a little pitchy, but her trademark coo is less overdone than usual.
I’m sure you have a long career ahead of you, Melanie, but promise me this — whatever your manager says, please don’t get your adorable teeth fixed. Dat diastema.
Terry is back with Rod Stewart’s “Stay with Me.” Well played, coach Blake. This is a smart choice: It’s a classic rock staple, but with the playfully dirty, bad-boy edge that asexually adorable Terry generally lacks. Unfortunately, the sound mixing seems slightly off, and McDermott’s voice blends too much into the rest of the track — it’s a fun song, but far from an ideal showcase of his talent.
In his second outing, Trevin takes on Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You.” The man-diva (divo? Devo?) we fell for in the blind auditions has returned. This performance gives me goosebumps. I’m officially back on the Trevin train, and so is Christina, who promises to take him “under her wing” after the show’s over.
Coach Cee Lo feels so confident in Trevin’s chances that he requests “a moment of silence” to “mourn” the other contestants (awkward for teammate Nicholas David, don’t you think?). The season is over now. You can go home.
Adam attempts to recapture the rock-and-roll magic of Amanda Brown’s “Dream On” cover with Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” It’s good, and gritty, and she works the lady-falsetto like a pro.
For her second performance, Melanie offers Lenka’s “The Show,” chosen by Adam to highlight her “playful side.” Vocally, it’s a strong showing for Melanie (the song is a great fit), but I find everything else about this unsettling.
The set is straight out of Sesame Street. Hammy, grinning stagehands carry out giant painted cut-outs — a car, a sailboat, a rainbow — for Melanie to interact with. It’s way too cutesy, way too “little girl,” and even a bit disturbing, in a Baby Jane sort of way.
Part of the problem is that Melanie is obviously embarrassed — instead of playing up the props, she acts like her parents are making her pose for a lame face-in-hole photo at the county fair. God, Dad, leave me alone!
In other news, I’m increasingly convinced that the blue cup in front of Christina contains something stronger than water, as she has now resorted to singing her comments for attention.
Cassadee is back with her “dream song,” Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You.” This was inevitable. She reminds me so much of Avril; when “Cassadee” is finally eliminated, she’ll peel off her mask and wig to reveal her true Canadian superstar form.
It’s a nice cover — a string section and the country flair to Cassadee’s voice bring out the song’s sweetness. She’s probably not the best singer in the top six, but she might have the most commercial potential of all her competitors.
Nicholas David closes out the night with his mother’s favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It’s nice to see him back behind a piano, and he presents a gently funkified version that retains enough of the timeless original melody to be satisfying. But all of this pales in comparison to Cee Lo’s characteristically bizarre closing remarks, in which he wishes a happy birthday to someone named Mr. Beans.
Now go to bed, kids. Mama needs private time to watch Blake Shelton’s Not-So-Family Christmas Special, or as she has renamed it, 50 Shades of Blake.
The Voice returns tomorrow night at 8 p.m., when the two artists with the fewest audience votes will be eliminated. Follow Molly on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC (2)]
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For anyone who has ever watched an episode of any of the Real Housewives franchise, they know that the program is supposed to be about rich ladies, all of their things, and how they attain wealth. Well, those things...and throwing drinks at anyone who dares call you phony. Sure, some of these fake-titted blondes are dealing with bankruptcy, unemployment, and spouses who can't pay child support, but they still do it from the inside of their onyx McMansions, hiding the moral and financial poverty behind a facade of bling. So what happens when you have the realest Real Housewife of all? And what happens when she loses everything, including the biggest house in America?
That's the question that director Lauren Greenfield asks in her new documentary The Queen of Versailles. The movie follows Jackie Siegel and her husband David Siegel, owner of Westgate, who made his fortune selling time shares mostly to working class and middle class families, as they build the largest single home in America. When we first meet Jackie she's exactly out of Real Housewives central casting: she likes small dogs, dresses her twins in matching outfits, and has an unhealthy penchant for low-cut tops and animal prints. She has eight children with Siegel and the two of them were building a 90,000 square foot replication of the palace at Versailles for their family outside Orlando. It is all marble, antiques, taxidermy, and the sort of things that even a Real Housewife might find gaudy. But at the center of it all is Jackie, who Greenfield first met at a party in Miami when she was shooting Donatella Versace. "Jackie is a charismatic character," Greenfield says of the woman from blue collar upstate New York who worked as a model and was Mrs. Florida before marrying Siegel. "In a way, she’s full of contradictions, even though she lives this kind of fantasy life of jets and castles, and she also has a kind of down-to-earth quality and a generosity of spirit and an openness, and was willing to share her life." The funny thing is, as Jackie and David shared their lives with the camera starting in 2008, when America was still riding high on the real estate bubble, their lives started to change. When the economy crashed, mostly due to junk mortgages, it turns out that David's company was running mostly on junk mortgages. As their fortunes decreased, Versailles was put on the market half-finished and the once flush couple had to struggle with life without the countless maids, nannies, and staff members. Their once glitzy house was now covered in dog turds and Jackie tells the camera that she never would have had so many children if she didn't think she'd have the staff to care for them all. For any Real Housewives fan, it seems like we're finally getting our revenge and the rich are getting their due. But Greenfield never intended the movie to be akin to reality television. "I don't really watch much TV," she says. "I’m really interested in our cultural obsession with wealth, and I put reality TV into that category. I do watch a lot of Keeping Up with the Kardashians at the gym, and I’m fascinated by the way we sensationalize and idealize wealth. In a way, that is one of the reasons I wanted to start [this movie], to show wealth in a different way, to show it in a real way, in cinema verity way, not a constructed 'Isn’t life wonderful?' totally fake way." The film is going to get a chance to shed some light on that fake world of perceived wealth. Bravo, the home of the Real Housewives and other big-house-glorifying shows like Million Dollar Listing, has purchased the TV rights to air Queen of Versailles. "I think it’s so great," Greenfield says about the acquisition. "It’s not preaching to the converted in the art house, it’s regular people who love watching these people all the time, this kind of person, and then to get to peel back the onion and see a real life. For me, it’s really about what the implications of our obsession with wealth and consumerism are. And I think that part of the reason we’re so interested in more and more stuff is because of the influence of popular culture, and I put reality TV and advertising in that group." But it's not all champagne riches and caviar dreams for Greenfield. She, Bravo, Magnolia Pictures, and others are facing a lawsuit from David Siegel himself, who doesn't like the way the movie ends. Greenfield says he wants it to end with him being triumphant and returning back to his riches. Instead, it ends with his company facing bankruptcy, his current house in disarray, and his dream house half-built and decaying, his dream of seeing the fireworks at Disney World through his window nothing but a fantasy that the audience sees, but he never will. It's like the tragedy that is lurking below the surface of every episode of Real Housewives, but it's a tragedy that Greenfield brings right up to the surface and makes it relatable for the audience, no matter how big their house. If it says anything about where Jackie stands, she's helping Greenfield promote the movie and just appeared on the Today show to get people out to the theater this weekend. Oh, and she's interested in being in Real Housewives. I'd expect nothing less. Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan [Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures] More: Sundance 2012: 'Queen of Versailles' Is the Ultimate 'Real Housewives' Tale Summer Movie Alternatives: It's Not Just Comic Book Action Blockbusters 'Real Housewives of New York' Recap: Fake Leg Fall Down