Thirteen hours of betrayals, shankings, geriatric prison escapes, and nun protests later, Orange Is the New Black wrapped up its sophomore season in spectacular fashion, creating a more self-assured and deeper season of television than the first. While the show corrected some of the first season's biggest stumbles, there are still some adjustments to be made in creating an even better third season. Here are our thoughts on the best and the worst aspects Orange Is the New Black's second round in the clink.
Good: VeeLitchfield was hardly ever a place of racial harmony and tranquil repentance, but whatever semblance of peace that did exist in those grey walls, Vee smacked it in the head with a giant lock in a sock. Vee was the spark that lit all of the tensions floating around Litchfield ablaze, and her war with Red reverberated through every cell and bunk in the prison. It's going to be tough to find a villain as twisted and alluring as Vee for Season 3.
Bad: SosoVee wasn't the only new face at Litchfield. There's a really tricky balance at play when creating a character who is purposefully annoying. OITNB struggled to find that balance with its other new inmate, Brook Soso, whose long asides about Bonnaroo, gluten, cancerous deodorant quickly dovetailed from enjoyable to insufferable.
Good: Season 1's villains are given more depthOrange Is the New Black managed to find strands of humanity in the deep black pit of bigotry and gloom that is Mr. Healy, and even the bible-thumping psychosis of Pennsatucky. Even a character like Caputo is revealed to have a good amount of integrity. There's a war of good vs. evil brewing in every soul, and OITNB excels at creating dynamic, flawed characters that are believable.
Bad: ...But Larry is still terribleFirst, it should be known that I was a staunch defender of Larry during Season 1. His screw-ups were just as mean and twisted as Piper's, so really they were both semi-horrible people that were made for each other. Unfortunately, Larry has somehow found a way to become even more insufferable in Season 2. Larry's storyline took up a lot of real estate that would have been better used at the Litch.
Good: More PousseyIn Season 2, Poussey graduated from wisecracks and witty asides (as fun as those were) and became much more of a fully realized character. Her strengths, flaws, and passions were all on full display as her friendship with Taystee was stretched to its breaking point.
Bad: Less SophiaWhile Possey received a boost in screen time, we got a lot less Sophia. Sure, we got to see the sassy stylist give a full crash course on female anatomy, but the character was sadly left IN the background for most of the season. We did get a tender moment between her and her son, but not much else. Here's hoping we see more of her once Season 3 rolls around.
Another Bad: Where's the Big Boo backstory?We thought this season was sure to deliver a Big Boo flashback, but the season came and went without a glimpse into the character's past. We got a Black Cindy flashback for heaven's sake, but still no info on Big Boo's life before the Litch. A character as raw and entertaining as Boo certainly needs some fleshing out.
Good: The show is even more of an ensembleWhile the rundown to the Season 1 finale was very much about the battle between Pennsatucky and Piper, Season 2’s emphasis is much more focused on the other inmates at Litchfield. There's a mosaic of characters, rivalries, friendships, and relationships in place and Piper is but one little piece in a much larger and vibrant picture. Inmates that were mostly background fodder in Season 1 had their characters and stories fleshed out in Season 2, and the world of Litchfield feels deeper and richer because of it.
Bad: Piper's storyline was pretty gratingWhile the series did well stretch its focus to the other inmates this season, it feels like Piper's storyline got the short end of the stick. Next to the tense face-off between Vee and Red and Caputo's mission to expose Fig's corruption, Piper's little squabbles with Larry and her attempts to get furlough seemed petty and dull in comparison. There were simply way more interesting things going on this season.
Good: It's funnier and weirder than everThe world of Litchfield has managed to get even weirder in Season 2. Carrier cockroaches, hunger strikes, the gaggle of nuns at the front gate, and catholic candles straight killing people with the power of Jesus all helped make season 2 even weirder than the first.
Annapurna Pictures via Everett Collection
Looks like spring break really is forever. According to ScreenDaily, a sequel to Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is in the works, and is currently in the middle of acquiring a cast and funding. But if you're looking to see Brit, Candy, Cotty, and Faith go on more insane, illegal spring break adventures, we've got some bad news for you: Spring Breakers: The Second Coming will focus on brand new characters. Though there will be a few allusions to the girls from the original film, the sequel will introduce a new group of spring breakers, who must take on "an extreme militant Christian sect that attempts to convert them."
Writer/director Korine is also not returning for the next installment, and those responsibilities are being taken over by Trainspotting novelist Irvine Welsh and famed music video director Jonas Akerlund. There's been talk about a possible sequel to Spring Breakers for some time now, although the most common rumor was about a prequel centered on the friendship between James Franco's Alien and Gucci Mane's Archie. However, Korine has seemed reluctant to make a sequel, so his absence from The Second Coming isn't surprising, but it does mean that Akerlund and Welsh are faced with the challenge of essentially creating a Harmony Korine film of their own.
The biggest challenge facing the pair is matching the tone of the first film. Spring Breakers relied on a balance between a commentary on pop culture and society, the shock value of the sex-drugs-gun culture that these girls embrace, and the neon-colored aesthetics of a spring break party movie. Therefore, it would be easy for The Second Coming to lean too heavily in one of these directions, resulting in a cheesy, stereotypical film about spring break, or a movie that attempts to be even more outrageous and controversial than the original at the risk of losing the message underneath the debauchery. Without that balance, the artistry of Korine's film is lost, and the cultural commentary becomes less important than the controversial surface. It's not the ridiculous behavior of the characters that makes Spring Breakers a successful film, but the way it uses that ridiculousness to make a point.
Though Korine's method of shooting tends to differ from project to project, all of his films feature some shared stylistic elements that characterize them as a "Harmony Korine film." While his use of abstract images and non-linear storytelling might seem easier to emulate than a director with a very rigid, direct cinematic style, it also means there is more room for interpretation, and therefore will be harder for Akerlund and Welsh to match Spring Breakers in tone and style. Since the sequel features both new characters and a new creative team, the tone of the films is needed to keep them connected; otherwise, it's just a film about college students on vacation, that happens to be using the Spring Breakers name to gain attention.
However, both Akerlund and Welsh have an advantage over many other directors and writers who might ahve signed on for the project, thanks to their individual styles and experience. Spring Breakers utilized both pop music and pop culture references and imagery in order to comment on modern culture, and so Ackerlund's time working with artists like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears makes him a great choice to take over the directors chair and bring the neon-lit world of spring break back to life. His videos tend to have a distinct style - dramatically lit to give the clips a distinct mood, artistically shot, and featuring plenty of abstract imagery - which is very similar to the kind of pop video imagery that Korine used. His glossy, high-concept style will be balanced out by Welsh's gritty realism, as his most acclaimed work proves that he won't shy away from the darkness and debauchery of the spring break culture, and isn't afraid of depicting the grim reality of a situation, even if it's controversial.
Which means that while we wait and see whether Ackerlund and Welsh's styles will combine to make another entertainingly insane installment of Spring Breakers, we can focus our attention on predicting which actor will whisper about spring break through their grills this time around.
It turns out, the Internet was right — people like cats.
Some people, anyway. Historically, the issue of feline affection is more divisive than most political elections. But enough people are on the tabby bandwagon to have voted the domestic silvestris into a revered community: Monopoly pieces. Last month, Hasbro opened a public vote to decide which of its original pawns would be ousted, and which of a set of five candidates would be brought on board (pun excessively intended). The results, as of Wednesday morning, have named the cat as Monopoly's newest addition — beating out a robot (with a mustache!), a diamond ring, a guitar, and a helicopter.
But, more importantly, our focus shifts to the retired veteran: the iron, which is losings its spot among its longtime colleagues (the Scottie dog, the racecar, the top hat, the boot, the battleship, the wheelbarrow, and the thimble — perish the thought that our dear pitted needle safeguard be doomed to oblivion).
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For many, the dismissal of the iron marks celebration, highlighting a new, progressive attitude inhabited by the board game — in fact, #LiberalMonopolyPieces began trending on Twitter when the change was announced. But as the iron is cast into the fire, we must look toward a new era of Monopoly. One for which we might not be adequately prepared.
Monopoly serves now as the perfect communion for any diverse family or clique. Suggestions to play are met with a universal, "Yeah, okay," during middle school sleepover parties or winter getaways when everybody is too tired to go skiing. Everybody's fine with it, because it has something for everybody. Not the gameplay, necessarily — only your a**hole friend Troy, who always wins despite the fact that he was a freakin' fine arts major, seems to actually be having fun — but the pieces. More so than your choice of favorite ice cream flavor, summer song, or Ninja Turtle is your go-to Monopoly piece wholly telling of your character.
The Scottie Dog: You're playful, the heart and soul of the group, more interested in a whimsical adventure around Atlantic City than in any cold-hearted buy-and-sell nonsense.
The Racecar: You're ambitious, the cutthroat go-getter, the one who'll probably take the victory via any means necessary (and brandish your company with shame as a result).
The Top Hat: You're wry, a trickster of sorts, whose skills in Monopoly come from mindgames and a probing understanding of your weak-willed cohorts' fragile psyches.
The Boot: You're brutish and determined, but honest to a fault — you'll vie for the win with hard-work and dedication, rather than deceit and manipulation.
The Battleship: You're wrathful, tortured, haunted. You're not out to win, but you are out to make sure your sworn enemy (everybody has one in their group of friends) loses, and you'll team up with racecars and top hats alike to take down that nefarious jackass you so despise.
The Wheelbarrow: You don't really know what's going on. You're pretty drunk.
The Thimble: You're weird, and everybody loves you for it. Except maybe battleship, whom might want you dead.
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And then there was the iron — the compassionate sort with a clean head on his or her shoulders, one to level the playing field when racecar sped ahead (for the good of the group), one who kept battleship's warfare in check, one who enabled Scottie dog's childlike yelps and scampers, one who held wheelbarrow's hair back during mid-game vomit fits. But now, iron is gone... and we have cat.
And we have to wonder what this might do to the group dynamic. Can those likely to opt for cat uphold the responsibilities of iron's good nature? Or will cat-choosers, like the featured mammal itself, instead adopt their own brand of cunning, duplicitous, antisocial gameplay (I'm a dog person, sue me), thrusting the entire well-manufactured harmony of Monopoly into chaos?
Fear for your lives, slumber party-goers and cabin vacationers. What was once a marginally fun pastime might now erupt in Armageddon. And here I always thought it'd be Don't Wake Daddy that'd be our undoing...
[Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP; Hasbro]
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This week marked a few very pivotal moments in our world’s history. Not only did we experience the very last repetitive date (12/12/12) of our lifetime (you know, unless you plan on living a really, really long time), but we also witnessed an event that is both near and dear to every reality show junkie’s heart: The X Factor semifinals!
That’s right, folks. Believe it or not, we’re now down to the final four of the competition, where even one little mistake can mean the difference between safe and signora. Their musical careers are actually hanging in the balance (and for once it has nothing to do with our crappy economy). It has to do with America’s votes. And with the finals only a week away, these guys (and gals) were willing to put it all on the line and take a few risks.
This week’s Semifinals round featured each act performing two musical numbers: one chosen by the acts themselves and the other chosen by their mentor. So which contestants shined above the rest and which ones failed to impress? Check out our recap below and find out!
Tate Stevens (Over 25s — Team L.A. Reid):
This lovable cowboy kicked off the night with his song choice, “Bonfire” by Craig Morgan, in appreciation of his great family and friends back home. Our favorite country crooner did what he does best and sang from the heart with as much twang as possible. As always, he’s adorable and impossible not to root for (as America has proven week after week). Britney wasn’t all that thrilled by the song choice, however, Demi called it a “winning performance” while Simon remarked that he looks like a man who can win this competition.
Tate’s second song, “Fall” by Clay Walker, was greeted with just as much — if not more — praise than the first. He gets so absorbed in every single song he sings, it’s hard not to get swept up into all the emotion. Seriously, if he put any more feeling into his performances it would be a Nicholas Sparks book. If you want to swoon over someone, ladies, swoon over this guy. Britney called his performance a direct hit and Simon told Tate that he is just as likely to leave this competition as Simon is to fly to the moon. No doubt about it, this guy deserves to be in the finals.
Carly Rose Sonenclar (Teens — Team Britney Spears):
There’s no doubt that Carly Rose is a talented singer. I mean, being able to successfully cover songs from some of the biggest Pop Queens in the world is no easy feat, yet she somehow always manages to pull it off without fail. And this week was no exception. The 13-year-old superstar tackled a piece from one of the fiercest divas of them all: Elton John, singing his popular hit song “Your Song.” It was a risky song, but once again, she managed to nail it and make the performance her own (ugh, 13 people!). I guess those awkward teenage years just don’t happen for some people. Overall, the judges loved it. Demi said it was predictable, but still considered it her best song yet, whereas Simon thought she was a little hesitant and felt she could do much better. That’s probably just the bitterness talking though…I hear Scrooge Simon gets like that around this time of year.
For her second song, Carly Rose sang John Lennon’s classic hit, “Imagine.” Normally, I’d advise against singing two super slow songs back to back, but this girl just seems to make it work no matter what. She always defies the norm. And, as an X-tra bonus, we got to see her play the piano, which was pretty cool. L.A., Demi, and Britney all thought it was incredible, but Simon felt there was just too much going on. Yeah…awesomeness! Vote for this girl, America. She deserves it.
Emblem3 (Groups — Team Simon Cowell):
Never missing an opportunity to make teenage girls swoon, Emblem3 opted to sing “Baby I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton, in honor of simpler times. To be honest, it felt more like a fangirl serenade than anything nostalgic. I don’t know why I can’t get on this boy group bandwagon, but they just don’t do anything for me. They’re cute and know how to work a crowd, but Simon’s over-cockiness seems to be rubbing off on them and I just don’t feel any real emotion from their performances. (At least there were no awkward solos this week, right?) L.A. called it their $5 million moment and Britney said they’re way more than just a boy band (though I’m not really sure what that means…The next Bachelor? Future DWTS contestants? Who knows!)
Their second number of the night, Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude,” was performed with some actual emotion, which almost redeemed themselves in my eyes. Almost. But the amount of praise they received from the judges was a little hard to digest. Aside from the regular positive feedback we’ve grown accustom to hearing, L.A. actually remarked that they are teen heartthrobs like The Beatles. WHAT THE WHAT?! Yes, these guys can kind of sing and work a crowd, but they should NOT be getting compared to one of the most legendary boy bands of all time. That’s like comparing apples and oranges. It will take a lot more work for them to get to that level. These guys can’t by my love that easily.
Fifth Harmony (Groups — Team Simon Cowell):
For their first song, Fifth Harmony tackled “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding, which is pretty appropriate since, at this point, anything could happen. You know, except the fact that they’re definitely the ones who will be going home this week. They just don’t have the same singing capabilities as Tate and Carly; and Emblem3 has too big of a fan base to be eliminated. They actually did do some harmonizing though, which L.A. was very pleased to see (or should I say hear). He called it their best vocal performance they’ve ever done and Britney thought it inspired girl power. (Spice Girls reference everyone!) And as far as risks go…that girl’s bow was really something…
But some risks don’t always work out the way you want them to. The girls rounded out the night by singing Shontelle’s “Impossible,” a song they already performed earlier this season at the judges’ homes. They also chose to sing parts of the song in Spanish to bring their own unique flair to the competition. However, regardless of whether it was in Spanish or English, this not-so-risky song choice didn’t seem to sit too well with the judges. L.A. called it lazy and Britney said she would be very surprised if they make it to next week’s finals. Sorry ladies, repeating a song you’ve already performed is no bueno.
So what did you think of Wednesday night’s round of performances? Which acts do you think stand the biggest chance of making it to the finals? Sound off on your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to tune in for Thursday night’s results show where the Top 3 will be revealed and on to the finals!
Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyBean0415
[Photo credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX]
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By both critical and commercial measures live-action anime adaptations boast a record of futility second perhaps only to videogame adaptations. Some essential aspect of the source material is irretrievably lost during the process of translating Japanese cartoon to Hollywood tentpole something that even the most bloated visual effects budget can’t conceal. Think Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer.
And yet Hollywood keeps trying lured by tantalizing visions of cash-cow franchises fed by loyal built-in — and most importantly international — audiences. The latest casualty of this misguided ambition is The Last Airbender based on the hit Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. To be fair Avatar isn’t anime in the orthodox sense in that it was conceived and produced in the States but its style and soul are almost exclusively anime-inspired. As such its big-screen fate is similarly sealed.
Who could possibly break such a rueful trend? For some reason the minds at Paramount thought M. Night Shyamalan that notorious purveyor of ponderous and increasingly shlocky supernatural thrillers might succeed where so many other directors had failed. Even worse they saw fit to hire him to pen the screenplay as well ensuring that every vital aspect of the film would feel the crushing weight of his heavy hand. With such a hacky burden to bear it comes as no surprise that The Last Airbender never really takes flight.
The film's story is set in a world divided into four tribes each aligned to an element: Air Earth Water and Fire. Certain gifted tribe members known as a “benders ” can manipulate the properties of their assigned element to suit their ends. In order to do so they must first perform an elaborate and utterly ridiculous kung fu dance after which a torrent of fire water or whatever arises to obey their command.
For the better part of a century the oppressive and warlike Firebenders have besieged the other nations gradually thinning their respective ranks. The Air Nomads have faired the worst of the lot and are presumed to be extinct until Water peeps Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) trapped in a giant ball of ice. Not only is Unfrozen Kung Fu Warrior the last remaining Airbender (thus the title) he is also an Avatar the only being on the planet capable of wielding all four elements. And only he can bring an end to the Firebenders’ evil reign.
Blessed with an opportunity to reinvent himself in a new genre and with a new demographic Shyamalan can’t avoid falling back on old habits most notably his penchant for awkward and cumbersome dialogue. It’s difficult enough for adults to deliver his lines but it’s absolute hell for The Last Airbender’s youthful protagonists whose not yet fully-developed temporal lobes can’t hope to adequately process the inanities of Shyamalan-speak. One can almost see the smoke coming from little Noah’s ears as he labors to complete each portentous sentence. Poor kid. Where are the Child Labor people when you need them?
But bad dialogue is only one of a litany of problems that plagues The Last Airbender which suffers from mediocre CGI inexplicable casting decisions (caucasians actors none of whom are especially talented are tabbed for asian roles when sufficiently mediocre race-appropriate actors were surely available) and a plot comprehensible only to the most ardent fans of the Nickelodeon series. Much as Aang bends the air Shyamalan tries to bend the laws of quality cinema to his will but they refuse to yield to the force of his ego. I only wish the execs at Paramount had been as stalwart.
The star takes on a part in time-travelling drama Harmony, which is set for release later this year (10), and admits she struggled with the role as she has rarely experienced being drunk.
She says, "Playing an alcoholic was very interesting since I'm not a very big drinker. I thought, 'How can I experience getting drunk?' I've got a mechanism in me that goes 'I don't want anymore alcohol' so I very, very rarely can remember getting drunk, but I did attempt to get drunk to know what the feeling was like on this film. I don't recommend it.
"Whilst you're playing drunk you feel like you need to be sort of slightly overly relaxed and not in control of what you're doing and yet actually when you are quite drunk you're trying to take control so you're a lot more studied and concentrated, so it was trying to get that balance which was quite interesting."
X-Men star Rebecca Romijn was devastated when tabloids slammed her for gaining weight, because she had never felt better in her life.
After years of maintaining a strict diet for her modeling career, she stopped her intense gym workouts and started enjoying romantic dinners and lazy weekends with fiancé Jerry O'Connell.
She explains, "I was focusing on my personal life for the first time in years and really enjoying myself.
"But getting attention from the tabloids for my 'relaxation period' was awful and confusing.
"I'd never felt better emotionally and physically, and yet I was being told I was fat!"
The star had to get back into top form after agreeing to appear on the cover of the 2006 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Romijn lost the excess weight and eventually found a way to strike a balance between her career and newfound personal happiness.
She adds, "I just want things to be really easy and peaceful. I feel like I've found harmony."
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