<p>For rapper Jermaine Cole, better known by his stage name J. Cole, success did not come easy. After spending hours on end in his room, crafting lyrics and putting them to homemade beats, Cole'...
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Superstar couple Jay Z and Beyonce got caught in the middle of a bust-up between Sean 'Diddy' Combs and his rap pal J. Cole at an MTV Video Music Awards afterparty on Sunday (25Aug13). Combs and Cole clashed following a heated exchange of words at the bash at New York's Dream Hotel, and the 99 Problems hitmaker had to intervene and pull the warring pair apart, according to the New York Daily News.
Cole, real name Jermaine Lamarr Cole, was escorted out of the building following the scuffle, but Combs later took to Twitter.com to play down the incident, dismissing it as a loud argument between two friends.
He writes, "I usually don't address rumours but I got too much respect for my bro J. Cole. We are friends. We just yell in public sometimes."
The red-and-black themed party was attended by a host of celebrities including Rita Ora, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Russell Simmons and Busta Rhymes.
Rapper Kendrick Lamar has risked the wrath of his hip-hop peers by taking aim at the likes of Drake, Wale and J. Cole in his new verse on Big Sean's track Control. Even his song collaborator isn't immune to the lyrical jabs as Lamar spits: "I'm usually homeboys with the same n**gas I'm rhyming with/ But this is hip-hop and them n**gas should know what time it is/ And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale/ Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake/ Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller/ I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you n**gas/ Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n**gas/ They don't wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you n**gas."
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.
Jermaine Jackson's tribute concert for his late brother Michael has been cancelled -- because not enough big-name stars signed up to perform.
The show was scheduled to take place in Vienna, Austria, on Sept. 26, but has now been put back to next year and moved to London after organizers failed to secure enough acts in time.
In a series of press conferences this week, Jermaine appeared to confirm a string of stars including Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown and Natalie Cole had signed on to perform at the concert.
Just a day later, Brown's reps denied he was involved in the gig, while Blige revealed she would struggle to make the show because she had prior commitments in Italy.
Cole also called time on her appearance -- her spokesperson confirmed she was scheduled to be at an event in Memphis, Tennessee, with the Dalai Lama on the day of the King of Pop extravaganza.
Now, just two weeks before the show was due to take place, organizers have axed it. Instead, the tribute to the "Thriller" icon will take place in the U.K. capital in early 2010.
The show's producer Georg Kindel says, "Maybe we underestimated these (scheduling) issues. It was very difficult to put up the show, which normally needs six months.
"Due to this fact, we decided to reschedule the event for the first half of June 2010 -- but not in Vienna, in London."
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
MORE NEWS: Tierney Quits TV Show to Concentrate On Beating Cancer
Shamed singer Chris Brown is to make his musical comeback by headlining the upcoming tribute concert to Michael Jackson in Vienna, Austria.
The R&B star was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to serve six months hard labor after pleading guilty to a vicious assault on his ex-girlfriend Rihanna in February.
The "Kiss Kiss" hitmaker has not performed in public since the incident, which occurred after a pre-Grammy Awards party.
Brown is now ready to make his return to the stage -- he has been announced as the first headline act for the star-studded Jackson tribute concert set to take place on Sept. 26. The news was revealed by the King of Pop's brother Jermaine at a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday.
The Jackson 5 singer told reporters, "Michael was his idol and he (Brown) dedicated his first No. 1 hit in the U.S. to Michael. Chris is a very, very talented artist."
Other artists on the bill include Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole and Sister Sledge, as well as boy band US5. The rest of the lineup will be unveiled in a series of press conferences to be held over the course of this week, with scheduled stops in both London and Berlin.
Jermaine revealed that the tribute concert, which will take place in front of 65,000 fans at Vienna's former imperial Schoenbrunn Palace, will feature a multi-cultural line up -- because his brother's music touched people all over the globe.
He adds, "We have many, many surprises. This is growing more and more, and we have more names to announce. We want this to be a dignified performance for Michael -- he attracted people from around the globe so we need to have a diverse mix of talent."
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
Release of debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story.
Appeared on Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3.
Signed with Jay-Z's Roc Nation.
Release of second album, Born Sinner.
<p>For rapper Jermaine Cole, better known by his stage name J. Cole, success did not come easy. After spending hours on end in his room, crafting lyrics and putting them to homemade beats, Cole's primary audience was the few people that just happened to stumble upon his music on social networking sites like Myspace. Determined to expand his audience, Cole made a mixtape in 2007 called <i>The Come Up</i>, which he tried to hand over to his future mentor and longtime idol, Jay Z, in person. However, it would be another two years of hard work and sacrifice before one of Cole's songs, "Lights Please," made its way into the hands of the hip-hop icon. Jay Z liked what he heard and signed Cole as the first artist on his newly formed Roc Nation records label. For J. Cole, it was the start of a promising career as one of the hip-hop world's most interesting young talents. </p><p>Born in Frankfurt, West Germany to a white mother and African-American father, Cole settled in Fayetteville, North Carolina after his father abruptly left the family, leaving his mother and aunt to raise him. While growing up in Fayetteville, Cole escaped the realities of his life by dreaming of becoming a rap star. He started penning his own lyrics while still in his early teens with the help of a drum machine given to him by his mother. Realizing that his chances of landing a record deal in North Carolina were slim, Cole enrolled in St. John's University in New York City, majoring in communications and minoring in business. While attending college, Cole continued making music, posting his work online under the pseudonym Therapist. After failing to give Jay Z a sample off his debut mixtape, 2007's <i>The Come Up</i>, Cole decided to finish his education, graduating magna cum laude from St. John's. </p><p>After a brief stint working as a bill collector, Cole worked tirelessly over the next two years on his follow-up mixtape, 2009's <i>The Warm Up</i>. This time Jay Z did manage to give it a listen. Seeing great potential in the young rapper, Jay Z signed Cole as the very first artist on his newly formed record label, Roc Nation. That same year, Cole also made a guest appearance on Jay Z's multi-platinum selling <i>The Blueprint 3</i>. Before long J. Cole was gaining a reputation as a hit songwriter, helping pen tracks for top artists like Beyoncé Knowles and Kanye West, among others. In September of 2011 he released his debut album, <i>Cole World: The Sideline Story</i>, which shot up to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its very first week. After nearly two years touring the world in support of the album, Cole released his follow-up, <i>Born Sinner</i>, to mostly positive reviews in June 2013. </p>
St John's University
Was the first artist signed by Jay-Z for his Roc Nation record label.
Began posting songs on the Internet under the name Therapist while still in his teens.
First album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in September of 2011.