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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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
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.