Legendary U.S. athlete Alice Coachman, who became the first black woman to win Olympic gold, has died at the age of 90. The track and field icon went into cardiac arrest and passed away at a hospital in Albany, Georgia, on Monday (14Jul14), months after suffering a stroke.
Coachman won her place in the Olympic history books at the 1948 London Games, where she competed in the high jump and was awarded the gold medal.
She was presented with the prize by England's King George VI, the late father of current monarch Queen Elizabeth II, and was later invited to the White House, where she was congratulated on her sporting achievement by U.S. President Harry S. Truman.
The sportswoman, who was later known as Alice Coachman Davis, also made history as the first African-American to earn an endorsement deal in 1952, when she signed on to promote Coca-Cola.
She was officially recognised as one of the 100 greatest Olympians in history at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
Soul queen Aretha Franklin is tackling hits by Adele, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer on a new album of diva covers. The Respect legend has teamed up with label boss Clive Davis for the as-yet-untitled project, which will include Aretha's renditions of songs by powerful female singers.
The tracklist features Adele's Rolling in the Deep, Summer's Last Dance, People by Streisand, and Gladys Knight's Midnight Train to Georgia. Franklin is currently working on the record with top producer Babyface and Outkast star Andre 3000.
She tells the New York Daily News, "It's wonderful, wonderful music."
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
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To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
Universal via Everett Collection
For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Rapper Gucci Mane has been charged with federal gun charges and could face up to 20 years in prison. The hip-hop star, real name Radric Davis, was indicted on two counts of possessing a firearm as a felon by a federal grand jury last month (19Nov13).
The charges stem from two incidents in September (13). Davis, who was a felon at the time, was found in possession of a firearm and just two days later he was caught carrying a different gun. Both times, he acted erratically and made threats to police and his attorney, according to the federal prosecutor.
Consequently, he was detained by cops on suspicion of disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed weapon. Since he violated his probation in the incidents, he was sentenced to jail and is currently serving six months behind bars.
Each charge of carrying a firearm as a felon carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 (£152,000).
Davis has been dogged by legal troubles for years - he walked free from his most recent jail stint for a separate issue with his probation, linked to a conviction for aggravated assault, in May (13). He is also due to stand trial later this year (13) after pleading not guilty to allegations he hit a soldier over the head with a bottle in an Atlanta, Georgia nightclub in March (13).
Embattled rapper Gucci Mane has been ordered to surrender his weapons to the authorities, according to a U.S. report. The hip-hop star, real name Radric Davis, has reportedly been ordered to hand over his two guns, a .40 caliber Glock and a .45 caliber Taurus, to U.S. government officials.
According to editors at TMZ.com, the order relates to the rapper's arrest in September (13), when he was detained by cops in Atlanta, Georgia on suspicion of disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed weapon.
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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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Embattled rapper Gucci Mane is suing his former collaborator Waka Flocka Flame and his manager mother over allegations of fraud, accusing them of sabotaging his career. The Icy hitmaker hired Waka's mother, Debra Antney, to serve as his manager for four years from 2006, but the hip-hop star, who has been in and out of jail, now claims the pair released his music and collected royalties without his knowledge.
In legal papers obtained by TMZ.com, he accuses Antney of allegedly taking more than the usual manager's fee of 20 per cent, resulting in a loss of money and damage to his reputation.
Gucci Mane, real name Radric Davis, is suing for damages on charges of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. He is also demanding a judge freeze the assets of both Waka Flocka Flame and Antney, and force them to return a ring and neck chain his ex-manager allegedly took from him.
Gucci Mane served as Waka Flocka Flame's music mentor early on in his rap career and signed the 27 year old to his 1017 Brick Squad Records label in 2009, but the two stars reportedly fell out the following year after Mane parted ways with Antney.
It's the latest legal drama in Mane's life - the rapper, who is battling an addiction to prescription cough syrup, is currently serving a six-month sentence behind bars for a probation violation related to an arrest in Atlanta, Georgia in September (13).
He previously served time for a separate issue with his probation, linked to a conviction for aggravated assault, while he is due to stand trial later this year (13) after pleading not guilty to allegations he hit a soldier over the head with a bottle in an Atlanta nightclub in March (13).
Peter Gabriel's lost home video footage from the 1986 Amnesty International A Conspiracy Of Hope U.S. tour has been unearthed and restored for an upcoming DVD. The rocker kept his video camera running on plane and bus trips from venue to venue and backstage, capturing candid moments with tourmates like Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and U2, but he thought he'd lost the footage when he was approached by RELEASED! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 producer Martin Lewis, who was putting together a visual celebration of the star-studded Amnesty International Concerts.
Lewis tells WENN, "Peter Gabriel was obsessive with the camera but when I asked if I could use the footage he told me it (camera) had got nicked (stolen) and he had no idea where the footage was.
"I found some of the tapes in a barn in upstate New York and then set about condensing and restoring his footage from the 10-day 1986 tour into a three-minute film to be included as an extra segment for the package.
"It was amazing. I had read that the musicians on the tour staged an impromptu jam session in a Ramada Inn in Atlanta, Georgia. That was there and there were 11 minutes of U2 jamming with members of Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed's bands."
The six-disc DVD box-set and two-disc companion CD will be available from 5 November (13) and features performances at the human rights organisation's groundbreaking musical events throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It includes concert footage featuring U2, The Police, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Youssou N'Dour, Tracy Chapman and Alanis Morissette.