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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Rapper Drake turned his OVO Festival in Canada into a star-studded affair on Monday night (05Aug13) by introducing Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Tlc to the stage and reuniting Sean 'Diddy' Combs with his former protege Ma$E. The Best I Ever Had hitmaker closed out his fourth annual event with a headlining set at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in his native Toronto and he made sure fans were given a show to remember by packing in the guest appearances from his hip-hop peers Wale, Big Sean, A$AP Rocky and French Montana, as well as R&B singers The Weeknd and Miguel.
West took over the stage to perform Can't Tell Me Nothing and New Slaves, and heaped praise on Drake, crediting the rapper with inspiring the Stronger star to team up with Jay Z for their 2011 collaborative album, Watch the Throne.
He said, "Me and Hov (Jay Z) would have never made Watch the Throne if this n**ga wouldn't have been pushing on us like that (sic)."
Lil Wayne then joined Drake for renditions of their joint songs The Motto, HYFR and Love Me, before the audience was taken back to the late 1990s with a surprise set by Combs and Ma$e, who teamed up for covers of Notorious B.I.G.'s Mo Money Mo Problems and It's All About the Benjamins.
The surviving members of TLC also took part in the nostalgic gig with Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins and Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas running through No Scrubs and Waterfalls, while Lil Mama - who will portray tragic rapper Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes in an upcoming TV biopic - also made an appearance onstage, although she did not perform.
The big gig ensured the OVO Festival ended on a high after singer Frank Ocean was forced to pull out of headlining the first night of the event due to a tear to one of his vocal cords. His absence prompted organisers to scrap Sunday's (04Aug13) line-up and instead expand Monday's show.
Bill Murray may have made a guest appearance last night on The Late Show with David Letterman, but it was his hologram that won all the attention. That's right, the actor debuted a hologram of himself that could perform at concerts all over the world while the real Murray stays at home (not a bad deal). Either way, the stunt was pretty cool to witness — but also a little bit creepy.
Murray is just the latest (and living) in a series of holograms that have made their debuts throughout 2012, including the likes of Tupac, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elvis. Check out the video below and witness the wonders of digital technology.
[Photo Credit: CBS]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
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 Simpsons' creator, Matt Groening, is denying a report that appeared Monday in British newspaper The Financial Times that implied he was winding up the series because it was getting harder and harder to surprise the audience. "I was misquoted and misunderstood," Groening said in a telephone interview with Reuters. "I don't want anyone to think I am predicting the demise of the Simpsons. They will live on with new adventures for years to come." The cartoonist added that his comments were ones he often made before but were taken out of context and misunderstood. "After 300 episodes, it is more difficult to remain true to the characters. We are trying to top ourselves after all those great shows, and the shows are as good now as they have ever been," he said.
Eccentric Icelandic singer Bjork and her American filmmaker boyfriend, Matthew Barney, are expecting a child in September, Reuters reports. Bjork, 36, joined the band Sugarcubes in 1987 but later quit the band to go solo. She has a teenage son from her marriage to fellow Sugarcubes band member, Thor Eldon.
Aussie darling Nicole Kidman won a spot on the cover of People magazine's "The 50 Most Beautiful People" special issue, which hits newsstands Friday. Also included in this year's list are celebs Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford, Denzel Washington, Britney Spears, Mandy Moore and Sharon Osbourne.
In the Biz
Seinfeld writer/producer Larry Charles is making his directorial debut in Masked & Anonymous, which is scheduled to go into production in Los Angeles this July, according to Variety. The film's cast so far includes Penelope Cruz, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson and Bob Dylan, with Jeff Bridges in negotiations to join.
Brett Ratner, who helmed the hugely successful Rush Hour 2 starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, is in early negotiations to direct Paycheck for Paramount Pictures, Variety reports. The film, a futuristic tale about a man who has part of his memory erased, is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.
Meanwhile, Jerry Bruckheimer and the Walt Disney Co. are in final negotiations with director Gore Verbinski to helm Pirates of the Caribbean. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film focuses on a daring attempt to rescue someone from dangerous pirates trying to reverse an ancient curse.
Steven Spielberg will be wrapping up the shoot on his thriller Catch Me if You Can in Canadian cities Montreal and Quebec City over the next few days, Reuters reports. The big-budget film stars Tom Hanks as an FBI agent who tracks down the young con artist Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is slated for a late fall release.
Fans of MTV's phenomenal reality series The Osbournes will finally be able to find out what exactly Ozzy Osbourne is mumbling between bleeps. The show is being closed-captioned for the hearing "non-impaired," Knight Ridder Newspapers reports.
Following the success of its drama Queer As Folk, the Showtime network is teaming up with MTV to launch a new gay-oriented premium service, the AP reports. The two Viacom outlets will be racing against Canada's existing Pridevision TV to reach the gay market first in the United States.
In a bid to save the recently canceled ABC series Once and Again, fans have purchased a billboard ad in West Hollywood, Calif., that reads: "Dear ABC, Bring back the magic 'Once and Again.'" The ad, which cost fans more than $12,500, will stay up for a month, according to the AP. The series, which stars Sela Ward and Billy Campbell, was canceled because of low ratings.
MTV has scheduled a free concert for 7-10 p.m. May 10 in New York's Battery Park in lower Manhattan as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, the AP reports. Performances at MTV's Rock and Comedy Concert include those by Sheryl Crow, the Counting Crows, Robin Williams and Jimmy Fallon. The festival, which is organized by Robert De Niro, runs from May 8-12.