Soul legend Bobby Womack refused to retire last year (14) when his closest friends begged him to stop touring and enjoy life. The singer/songwriter passed away on Friday (27Jun14), aged 70, a year after revealing he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and pals like Candi Staton now reveal the Across 110th Street hitmaker had been ill for years.
A life of drug issues, personal dramas and a cancer battle had taken its toll on Womack, and Staton recalls her last meeting with her old friend in January, 2013.
She tells the Los Angeles Times, "He was in a coma for a while, and when he came out of his coma, I think I was one of the first people he called, and he told me what was going on in his life. I said, 'Oh Bobby, I'm praying for you. Are you OK?' He said, 'They thought I wasn't going to make it through, Candi'."
"I saw him for the last time last year. I think it was in January when I went to his show. He and Millie Jackson and I were in the dressing room together. He was sick then, just so sick. I said, 'Bobby, how long are you going to be out on this road sick like this?'
"He said, 'I'm going to be out here until I can't go no more'. I said, 'OK, Bobby, but you know you've written enough songs and made enough money that if you wanted to, you could go home and lay down and retire'. He said, 'Yeah, go home, lay down, retire and die!'"
In fact, Womack was planning a headlining slot at the WOMAD festival in England at the time of his death. A tribute is being planned for the event at the end of July (14).
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Well folks, the first night of the new American Idol has come and gone and now we get to discuss just how "new" this revamped Idol really is. There's good news and bad news. The bad news is: they lied. Every promo and interview has promised us a revolutionary Idol; one filled with hope, one where dreams begin, one where the days of sending the crazies through to the judges just because it's fun comes to an end. This was not that Idol, and believe it or not, that's also the good news. It's basically the same as it ever was but with a slightly different dynamic. Idol now delivers the same standbys we all know and (begrudgingly) love, but now with new flavors in the form of two novice judges and a newly empowered Randy Jackson.
"Oh my goodness gracious!…I wanna go home!" - Jennifer Lopez
The biggest shift is obviously the new blood at the judges' table, and for Lopez, the new post was a little troubling. She has no issue threatening to kill the host of the Golden Globes, but when it comes to telling some poor soul their dream is over, she couldn't take the heat. Of course, as the auditions wore on, her exhaustion afforded her enough gumption to start telling it like it is (kinda) but not before we were treated to a montage of her whining about how hard her job is. Jennifer, Ellen DeGeneres is pretty much the nicest celeb I can think of and even she didn't complain about this as much as you do. You're getting millions of dollars, you should be able to learn to say the word "no." Say it with me, N-O.
"Where is your pitchfork you little devil?" - Steven Tyler
Of course, for Steven Tyler the transition was a little easier (maybe because he's a little crazier than JLo), but this is no surprise. He's an aging rockstar who's trying desperately to prove he's still got it (and by "it" I mean insanity). He took to his post, bringing his signature raspy squeal and rock star sensibility to the room.
They may not be adding a 5 second delay to make sure his colorful vocabulary stays off the air, but that wouldn't help what seems to be the real problem (or delight depending on who you ask) which is the fact that S.Ty. can't seem to keep it his pants. Obviously the producers at Idol caught onto this fact and treated us to a cheesy little montage of all his over-the-top praises for the young girls reaching for their dreams, including one sixteen year old who he noted was "showing just the right amount of skin" like that creepy, and perhaps slightly unstable uncle who makes inappropriate comments at a family reunion. If you're like me, you thought when Jennifer couldn't be mean that we may be looking at another Paula Abdul on the panel, but I think that's a premature judgement. Besides, my money is on Tyler. He's a little loopy, he loves EVERYONE, can't seem to say anything productive about anyone's voice or singing ability and he screams at the end of all of their auditions. I got your new Paula RIGHT HERE.
"I think people would tell me if I sucked." -Contestant
"Really?" -Randy Jackson
As the old hand of the group, Randy is able to take the seat he's never been quite able to reach - Simon's seat. Okay, yes this is figurative and literal because he actually did take a seat in the chair that for the past 9 seasons has belonged to the Frost-miser himself, but he's also realized that now that he's the only Idol vet left, it's up to him to reign in the crazies. There's a little less "yo dawg" and a little more of that "you've got to be kidding me" sentiment and it's clear that Randy's got a little bit of the big man on campus complex that dudes get when they make the varsity football team or finally reach senior year of high school. We get it, you've been around the whole time, but guess what, JLo and Tyler are way more fun than you are. Still, we need him to lead the pack, otherwise we'd be left with an hour of Steven screaming and squealing at every contestant and JLo switching between trying to hide under the table or hug every contestant because they make her want to cry, and that will not stand. Sorry Randy, I guess no one warned you that you'd be babysitting.
"Did you eat paint chips as a child?" -Steven
Okay, now for the reason we're all here for an audition episode: the contestants. Of course the episode treated us to the usual barrage of faces some talented, some delusional, and some were actually entertaining. For those that weren't brought on just to make audiences cringe, youth and inexperience was the theme. Though we saw a few vets who've been trying to make it for years - we're talking to you singing waitress - it was hard to miss the sheer number of minors making it through to that glorious golden ticket moment. Perhaps showing us slews of 16 year olds with serious pipes is the show's way of proving that Idol is newer and more hopeful, but here's the thing, youth doesn't necessarily equate to hope. What we saw last night was a group of teens who definitely packed the goods but haven't yet learned how to use them - other than a feeble attempts to sound like Mariah Carey or Michael Jackson. They're all products of pop music, and hopefully when they finally step foot in Hollywood, they'll start learning how to use those voices or it's going to be a long, flat (or sometimes sharp) season.
Alright, now that we've got all those smiling faces out of the way, what about the crazies? Well, we had our share of the usual set: the next William Hung and Michael Jackson impersonator who can't sing or dance really, but is likely to become a YouTube sensation; the kid who shared with us his homemade video about ending the "texting while driving" epidemic before massacring a classic Sinatra song; and a girl whose audition was so bad that the judges gave up trying and just joined her in singing and clapping before swiftly crushing her every dream. Aw. My favorite of this set was one Buster Bluth (from Arrested Development, may it rest in peace) reincarnation who not only sounded like he had play-doh covering his vocal chords and whose notes landed anywhere but where they should be as he audaciously rolled through "Proud Mary." (Unfortunately the internet gods didn't find him as interesting as I did so you'll have to settle for the glimpse of him in the montage clip higher up in this post.) I was with the judges when they finally told him that he just "shouldn't sing anywhere." Sorry, dude. The truth hurts, but it's supposed to set you free, right?
"What's with those joo-joo-bies on your ooh-ooh-bies?" -Randy
Of course there were a few contestants that played exceptions to the rule; one who gave Snooki a run for her money and the other who seemed to embody all the trashiest elements of Britney Spears if BritBrit was a Liza Minelli fan. First up, the next Miss Jersey Shore gave a shameful display of Jersey stereotypes ushered onto television by MTV's biggest reality show, leading us all to believe she'd be awful - and she was at first. She sang her own original song including lyrics that claimed Fox needs her - specifically, for ratings - but then, because this is the nice Idol, they gave her a chance to sing another song (no wonder it's pitch black outside by the time they finish these auditions) and the girl, as trashy as she was with a bikini top bedazzled with giant silver stars to go with her grey business slacks, can actually sing. Boom, ticket to Hollywood (even though she's so obnoxious that her continued success in the competition may require that I start turning the show into a drinking game).
Then there was the trashy Broadway "star," who despite having a fantastic stage voice sang "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie like she had the devil inside her and he was trying to break out through song. Her face was that red. Of course, in their insanity most likely induced by the crazy girl breaking down crying and screaming touting that "Pop music needs to get with Liza Minelli," the crazies of the judging bunch let her through to Hollywood as Randy joined the rest of us shaking his head in disappointment (and let's be honest, total disbelief). This is where Simon would have said with a blanket of judgment wrapped around that prim British accent, "You have GOT to be kidding me." His eyes would then follow that up by rolling completely out of his head.
So there you have it folks. The first of many episodes that promise to make you yell at your TV, smack yourself in the face, gasp so loud your windows rattle, and make your hair stand on edge. Idol is back and it's just as ridiculous as ever, but that's really all we ask for, right?
David Rice (Hayden Christensen) was once just like every other angst-ridden parent-hating teenager--that is until he discovered his gift the greatest imaginable pastime/escape ever: teleporting. Since then David has been on the er run and living the ultimate dream. On any given day for instance David could have coffee in Paris and attend the NBA Finals in New Orleans all before lunchtime--which is precisely what tickles his whimsy in the beginning of Jumper. But teleporting like every other superhuman feat is not without its consequences. First he has to keep his special power a secret from his girlfriend Millie (Rachel Bilson); second he has competition from other Jumpers around the globe namely the cynical Griffin (Jamie Bell); and third there is a group called the Paladins currently led by Agent Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) that has been at war with the Jumpers for thousands of years and sworn to kill ‘em all. Suddenly what David thought was complete freedom puts his and Millie’s life at risk. Amongst other areas like writing and direction (see below) Jumper is a victim of its own miscasting. Star Wars veterans Christensen and Jackson lead the way in that department. Christensen has yet to prove that he can do much beyond his tense dramatic turn in Shattered Glass but unfortunately keeps trying. As Jumper’s heroic protagonist the only quality he can pull off is looking younger during flashbacks; otherwise he is stiff too intense and simply no fun in a role that calls for it. Jackson meanwhile stars in so many movies that he’s bound to misfire here and there (OK maybe more frequently than that). If you’re able to get past his ridiculous white hair enough to digest the acting you’ll see that his badass persona doesn’t jibe with a character who’s something of a villainous ghost buster. Resurging actor Bell (Billy Elliot) out-energizes everyone in his supporting role and seems to understand better than Christensen what was wanted from his character while former O.C.-er Bilson is hardly even noticeable. Michael Rooker (Cliffhanger) and Diane Lane are barely around as David’s parents with the latter ostensibly cast in the tragic event a sequel should arise. Uh no. For director Doug Liman sci-fi is really the only genre he is yet to conquer or try to conquer and was thus a logical next step in a successful career. He’s done dramedy (Swingers) action (The Bourne Identity) and crime-comedy (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) all with nice results. Well apparently he’s found his kryptonite: sci-fi (if this movie can truly be classified as such). Jumper based on Steven Gould’s novel of the same name is all about the snappiness that has become Liman’s signature but it’s actually far too quick and light on details in an age where Lost and Heroes fanboys and girls demand much more than special effects. The movie is itself something of a Jumper quick to use its premise as an escape route when things could potentially get intriguing. Surprisingly the empty story can be attributed partly to two contemporary masters of genre screenwriting David S. Goyer (Batman Begins The Dark Knight) and Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith X-Men: The Last Stand) as well as Jim Uhls (Fight Club). But ultimately the hollow look and feel of Jumper--including its second-rate special effects--falls on Liman who completely blows an opportunity to adapt a concept loaded with big-screen potential.