Frank Hoensch/Getty ImagesFollowing on from their triumphant performance at the London Olympics Closing Ceremony, the majority of the Spice Girls have managed to switch their attention from trashy reality TV, weight loss adverts and clothing lines long enough this year to reignite their solo careers. Melanie C recently scored an unexpected UK Top 20 hit thanks to a duet with X-Factor winner Matt Cardle. Geri Halliwell will premiere her first new single in eight years on Australian TV next month. While only last week, Mel B unveiled her surprisingly half-decent comeback track, "For Once In My Life." Here's a rundown of each Spice Girl's solo material from worst to best.
5. Mel BThe first member to venture outside the Spice Girls bubble, Melanie B opened up her solo career in style with the futuristic R&B of 1998 Missy Elliot collaboration, "I Want You Back." Unfortunately, she failed spectacularly to sustain such a strong start. An ill-advised cover of Cameo's "Word Up" became the first ever Spice-related single to miss the UK Top 10. 2000 debut album Hot appeared to catch the likes of producers Rodney Jerkins & Teddy Riley on an off day, while 2005's disastrously low-budget L.A. State Of Mind suffered the ignominy of selling fewer than 500 copies in its first week.
4. Victoria BeckhamLike Mel B, the most high-profile Spice Girl initially started off well. Jumping aboard the two-step garage bandwagon of the early '00s, her inspired hook-up with Truesteppers may have lost one of the biggest chart battles of all time to Spiller's "Groovejet" but it still sold half a million copies. However, 2001's self-titled debut album, a lacklustre affair filled with anodyne R&B and drippy ballads, badly underperformed. And although the tongue-in-cheek disco-pop of swansong "Let Your Head Go" restored a bit of dignity, most agree that she makes a much better fashion icon than pop diva.
3. Geri HalliwellThe only solo album to reach the Billboard charts, Geri Halliwell's 1999 debut Schizophonic was arguably the record that Spice Girls should have recorded instead of the hopelessly generic Forever. Three of its four singles topped the UK charts, while her jaw-dropping entrance at the 2000 BRIT Awards proved that despite her 1998 departure from the group, the spirit of Ginger Spice certainly still lived on. However, she boxed herself in with a ridiculously camp cover of The Weather Girls' "It’s Raining Men," while both 2001's Scream If You Wanna Go Faster and 2005's Passion lacked any of the spark that made her such a brilliant if slightly bonkers pop star.
2. Melanie CWidely regarded as the Spice Girl with the best voice, Melanie C was supposed to be the Robbie Williams of the group. 1999's near-million-selling debut Northern Star, a hook-laden but mature mix of electronica, R&B and pop-rock featuring the likes of William Orbit, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes and Butch Vig, initially proved this to be the case. But a three-year wait for follow-up Reason completely destroyed any momentum and she rapidly became a fanbase-only artist with several increasingly bitter albums of plodding indie-rock. However, she remained the only Spice Girl to persevere with a solo career and 2011's return-to-form, The Sea, suggests she's still capable of recapturing her early glory days.
1. Emma BuntonEasily the most unassuming Spice Girl, Emma Bunton unexpectedly delivered the greatest solo single with the driving pop-rock of "What Took You So Long" in 2001 before going onto produce arguably the most well-executed album with 2004's Free Me. An inspired pastiche of '60s pop which featured everything from potential James Bond themes to Bacharach-esque ballads to covers of Brazilian samba classics, it was the only Spice Girl sophomore to sell more copies than its predecessor. And although a lazy rendition of Petula Clark's "Downtown" sank the similarly-themed third album, Life In Mono, her back catalogue is easily the most consistently enjoyable.
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Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.
Nate Johnson (Cedric the Entertainer) an insurance agent thinks it would be a great idea to take his estranged wife and three children to his family reunion in Missouri by car from California. Nate's motives are sincere enough: He is separated from his wife Dorothy (Vanessa Williams) who has custody of teenagers Nikki (Solange Knowles) DJ (Bow Wow) and Destiny (Gabby Soleil) and hopes the road trip will help them bond as a family and with any luck re-ignite that loving feeling with the mother of his children. But everything that can go wrong does even before the trip begins. Nate brings his SUV into the shop to have an 8-track tape player installed in order to listen to his old Motown classics but what he gets is something straight out of MTV's Pimp My Ride although not even West Coast Customs would do something this gaudy. Off they go in their Burberry-outfitted low-rider Lincoln Navigator complete with four TVs and 26-inch Spinners. Vehicle with up-to-the-minute gadgetry notwithstanding the Johnsons encounter every clichéd road trip disaster including running out of gas and needing a pay phone. It's hard to figure out what's more trite--the journey to Missouri or what happens when they actually get there.
Cedric the Entertainer's trademark observational comedy which made him stand out as a cast member of The Steve Harvey Show simply isn't enough to carry an entire film. Cedric is truly the only funny thing Johnson Family Vacation has going for it and he has a few gags that are simply hilarious including a scene in which he bans CDs from artists who have been shot like Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. from being played in the car. Imagine his dismay when his wife points out that also includes Marvin Gaye "who was shot by his daddy--twice." But the comedian's arsenal of jokes--no matter how witty--do not a story make. Speaking of wasted talent the casting of stunning Williams as Nate's wife Dorothy is quite baffling. While Cedric the Entertainer could be married to someone this hot poor Nate probably couldn't. Nonetheless the quick-witted Williams holds her own next to one of the Original Kings of Comedy. Seventeen-year-old Bow Wow has worked hard to prove that he's not just a flash in the pan--and it's worked for the most part. He proved with Like Mike that he can act but the role of DJ here gets buried in this lousy film.
Christopher Erskin who makes his directorial debut here delivers a mess of a movie despite having squeezed out everything he could from his stars. Visually the sets resemble skits on a TV variety show rather than professional feature film sets the worst being the sequences where the family is in the SUV--almost half the entire film. To wit: you see them driving with the same scenery in the background--it's like in the The Flintstones when Fred would drive past the same palm tree next to the same rock house again and again. You can't help but picture the actors sitting in the Lincoln Navigator prop car in front of a large blue screen windows rolled down with a wind machine pointed at them. Matching the abysmal visuals are writers Todd R and Earl Richey Jones' ill-paced script. The film drags as the Johnson family encounters unoriginal setbacks and the end is not even a payoff; it's punishment. See the film doesn't end when family finally reaches Missouri: Moviegoers must the sit through the actual reunion and the Johnson family's Brady Bunch-style musical performance costumes and all. The only moment of brief relief is Steve Harvey's guest appearance as Nate's brother. But wait! It doesn't even end then--we have to follow the family back home to California.
January 25, 2004 2:05pm EST
The Sundance Film Festival, which is backed by actor Robert Redford and his Sundance Institute for movies, comes to an end today in Park City, Utah. Saturday night's awards ceremony saw the sci-fi drama Primer, win the top grand jury prize, while the jurors awarded DIG! the top prize in the documentary category. Debra Granik took the dramatic directing award for Down to the Bone, about a lower-middle-class wife and mother's struggles with cocaine addiction.
Many celebs have attended the festival since it kicked off 11 days ago, including Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Kevin Bacon and Jane Fonda. And while the stars littered the streets of the snowy mountain town, studios were busy making acquisitions.
Among the purchases this week were the The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon, for Newmarket Films; Garden State for Miramax Films and Fox Searchlight; and CSA: Confederate Sates of America for IFC Films.
Warner Independent Pictures, the new indie arm of Warner Bros., acquired We Don't Live Here Anymore, a drama about two couples whose marriages are on the rocks. The film stars Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern and Peter Krause.
But despite their success at Sundance, films that win the festival's top awards have a difficult time finding broad audiences and, more often than not, become the year's most talked-about art-house titles rather than box office hits.
Of course, the ultimate Sundance success story to date has to be that of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's The Blair Witch Project. The film cost about $25,000 to make, was acquired by Artisan Entertainment for a cool $1 million and raked in $140 million at the box office. But when it debuted at Sundance in 1999, Blair Witch never won a single prize. In fact, it wasn't even in competition.
That said, it is nearly impossible to predict a film's success, or failure, outside the festival grounds. But films such as November, starring the well-known Courteney Cox, are sure to garner buzz.
First-timer Jason Wishnow, whose pic Oedipus stars vegetables instead of actors, told Reuters Sunday that more than anything, the festival is about exposure.
"The goal is getting [the work] out to find agents, producers or someone who will take you to the next level," he said.
The top winners in the independent film festival screen for one last time today.
Here is a complete list of winners:
Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: Primer, directed, written, and produced by Shane Carruth
Documentary Grand Jury Prize: DIG!, directed and produced by Ondi Timoner
Documentary Audience Award: Born Into Brothels, directed by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
Dramatic Audience Award: Maria Full of Grace, directed by Joshua Marston
Documentary Directing Award: Morgan Spurlock , Super Size Me
Dramatic Directing Award: Debra Granik, Down To the Bone
World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award: Seducing Doctor Lewis, directed by Jean-François Pouliot
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Larry Gross, We Don't Live Here Anymore
Documentary Special Jury Prize: Farmingville, directed by Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval
Dramatic Special Jury Prizes: Brother to Brother, directed by Rodney Evans; and Vera Farmiga for her performance in Down To the Bone
World Cinema Documentary Audience Award: The Corporation, directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott
Excellence in Cinematography Award: Ferne Pearlstein, Imelda from the documentary competition; Nancy Schreiber, November from the dramatic competition
Freedom of Expression Award: Repatriation, directed by Dong-won Kim
Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking: When the Storm Came, directed by Shilpi Gupta; and Gowanus, Brooklyn, directed by Ryan Fleck
Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking: Tomo, directed by Paul Catling
Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking: Curtis, directed by Jacob Akira Okada; Harvie Krumpet, directed by Adam Elliot; Krumoed, directed by David LaChapelle; Papillion d'Amour, directed by Nicholas Provost; and Spokane, directed by Larry Kennar
2004 Sundance Online Film Festival Viewers Awards: Bathtime in Clerkenwell, directed by Alex Budovsky (Animation); Wet Dreams False Images, directed by Jesse Epstein (Short Subject); and The Dawn at my Back: Memoir of a Texas Upbringing, directed by Carroll Parrott Blue and Kristy H.A. Kang (New Forms Gallery)
Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award: Gyorgy Palfi, Taxidermia from Europe; Andrucha Waddington, House of Sand from Latin America; Miranda July, Me You and Everyone We Know from the United States. Kosuke Hosokaim, director of Tepid Love from Japan received an honorable mention
Top Story: Celebs Roast MTV's Carson Daly
Madonna, Britney Spears, Nelly, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Adam Carolla are just some of the celebs who took part in Saturday night's inaugural MTV Bash, the comedy roast of the network's Carson Daly. But it seems some of the jokes had more sting than humor. According to The Hollywood Reporter, host Jeff Ross took advantage of the show's commercial breaks to apologize to Nicky Hilton for saying that it's ironic "two sluts are named after a cheap hotel." Sarah Silverman was also spotted hugging Jennifer Love Hewitt an advertising break after blurting out that the actress really can't sing. But it was Daly that had the most wounds to lick, with celebrity friends taking jabs at everything from his relationships with actresses Hewitt and Tara Reid. "I thought I was a nice guy, but I've come to realize I'm just a big douchebag," the newly roasted Daly said. "Thank you so much for being here, let's do it next year ... to somebody else." The event will be broadcast on MTV July 13.
Putin Welcomes Seagal to Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed action star Steven Seagal to his country residence outside Moscow, The Associated Press reports. Seagal, along with Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida and France's Fanny Ardant were in Moscow for the Moscow International Film Festival, which ends Sunday. Putin, a staunch Judo enthusiast, thanked the stars on behalf of Russian fans for taking part in the festival and said he hoped they would return despite this year's relatively cool Moscow summer.
Scott Foley Returns to Scrubs
Actor Scott Foley, who recently starred in the now defunct NBC comedy A.U.S.A., is set to reprise his role on the network's Scrubs, Reuters reports. Foley appeared on the hit medical sitcom in its freshman season as an insecure patient who developed a crush on his doctor, Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke). Foley will guest star in six episodes this fall, beginning with the show's season premiere.
ABC Pulls Plug on Port Charles
ABC is canceling its daytime soap opera Port Charles as of Oct. 3. Reuters reports that although the show performed adequately in the ratings, it has been hampered by erratic scheduling on ABC affiliate stations because of its half-hour format. Port Charles, a spin-off of the network's long-running General Hospital, debuted in June 1997. ABC Daytime president Brian Frons said the network expects to place actors and crew throughout other ABC Daytime shows.
DMX Arrested in St. Kitts
Rapper DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was arrested in Basseterre, St. Kitts, in the Caribbean Saturday for using profanity during a concert the night before, the AP reports. DMX was released on bail of $376 and left the island on Saturday afternoon, but pledged to return for his court date Monday. Organizers for St. Kitts' annual music festival said they warned DMX not to use obscenities on stage and added that the rapper signed a contract not to use indecent language on stage. DMX, however, said he never signed such a contract and would not have performed had he been forced to censor his language.
Lenny Kravitz Forms Record Label
Singer Lenny Kravitz, who remains signed to Virgin Records as a recording artist and will release a new studio album, has formed a company called Roxie Records whose distribution will go through Warner Bros. According to Billboard.com, the first signees include vocalist Dan Dyer, who is at work with engineer Matt Knobel on his debut album. Knobel worked behind the scenes on Kravitz's 2002 album, Lenny. The newly formed label is named for his late mother, actress Roxie Roker.
Clear Channel Launches Music Mag
Radio and concert giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. is launching an ad-sponsored magazine for the summer concert season. According to Reuters, Music Guide Live!, which will feature stories on recording artists, music news, touring schedules and other local information, will make its debut over the weekend at a few concerts and ultimately be distributed in more than 30 markets during the summer at Clear Channel radio station events. The company has also discussed the possibility of eventually distributing the publication through music retailers.
Role Call: Zwick Helms Fat Albert, Dangerfield Goes Back to School
My Big Fat Greek Wedding director Joel Zwick is in talks to take the helm of the live-action feature Fat Albert for 20th Century Fox. The project is based on Bill Cosby's famed '70s CBS cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. The original draft of the screenplay was written by Charles Kipps and Cosby, who will also serve as the film's producer ... Comedian Rodney Dangerfield will remake the 1986 hit comedy Back to School for MGM. Dangerfield, who retained some rights to the movie when MGM bought the film library the original distributor, Orion Pictures, will not reprise his starring role in the comedy.
If you have ever been embarrassed by your big loud family then you will certainly relate to Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) the narrator and main character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. After all her suburban home is modeled after the Parthenon and her father (played by Michael Constantine) believes a squirt of Windex can cure anything--including bursitis--and that every word in the English language derives from a Greek root. At 30 Toula is still living at home and kowtowing to her strict father--who believes that every Greek woman's ambition should be to marry a Greek man have Greek children and feed everyone until she dies. Suffice it to say he is less than happy when Toula becomes engaged to Ian (played by John Corbett)--a non-Greek. What ensues is a hilarious tale of what happens when two families--one loud Greek Orthodox the other conservative Episcopalian--must reconcile their differences for the sake of their children's happiness. Vardalos' narration of the events that are occurring--and how she feels about them--helps draw the viewer into Toula's world.
Vardalos is great as Toula and presents her character's traits and peculiarities fittingly well like her low self-esteem and the way she slouches. More importantly Vardalos made Toula's character believable. When Toula begins taking classes at a local college her confidence improves she puts on a little makeup combs her hair and voila! She's transformed into a beautiful person oozing happiness. It's quite charming. Corbett is well cast as the sweet and accepting fiancé but he comes across as a little bland. That really dated haircut certainly doesn't win him any points either. Constantine as Toula's strict father is chauvinistic and thick-headed but he plays his cards just right so you can never really hate the character straight out even though he treats his wife and kids like a Neanderthal would. As Aunt Voula Andrea Martin is by far the most hilarious of the bunch and she delivers each line with zany conviction. For all you 'N Sync fans Joey Fatone has a small role as Toula's cousin and has maybe three lines in the film.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is based on comedy writer Vardalos' one-woman show. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson saw the show and apparently liked it so much they decided to produce it through their Playtone studio. Directed by Joel Zwick the film is not the first to deal with big weddings and what happens when too many family members get involved. Ang Lee did it better with the 1993 romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet about a gay Taiwanese-American man who marries a young Chinese woman to satisfy his parents as did Mira Nair with last year's Monsoon Wedding about an arranged Indian marriage. But Zwick who has directed a slew of TV shows from Happy Days to The Wayans Brothers keeps things fresh and funny despite the tired storyline. Set in Chicago but filmed in Toronto the film feels authentic especially the scenes in the family's diner Dancing Zorbas their house and their neighborhood. But the movie could have done without the cartoonish old-world granny with anti-Turkish sentiment.