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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One of the recurring complaints I've noticed about Girls (and, boy, are there many) is that nobody knows a Jessa. Even more, nobody who watches the show really likes Jessa.
Funnily enough, I actually have someone in my life who reminds me of Jessa (she has a unique outlook on the world, enjoys the truly bizarre, and whenever we hang out, I always find myself in the most unexpected places with the most unexpected people) but that's not why I bring this up. It's that, unlike Marnie and Hannah, whom we've learned plenty about from their background and back stories, There's still missing pieces of Jessa's puzzling life. (Of course, Jessa would prefer to keep it that way).
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Sunday night's episode of Girls, titled "Video Games", finally allowed us to put some of that together. In an episode reminiscent of "The Return" and to some degree, "One Man's Trash", Jessa and Hannah were taken out of their natural habitat and put into a rural landscape. After receiving a nondescript text from her father, which Jessa interpreted as a secret message and Hannah rightly pointed out was probably nothing more than a butt text, the two ventured to upstate New York to see him. Within five minutes we learned more about Jessa than we did an entire season-and-a-half. For one, she may have been molested as a child and uses defense mechanisms to cope with it, or at least has it somewhere in the depths of her mind to just say something like that for the hell of it. That, and her father is not only someone who is perpetually late, but is an slovenly eccentric (he has a car full of old typewriters and a theory that all Camry drivers "are c**ts") who could take off, leaving anyone behind.
Jessa's father seemed happy to see her and the two quickly fell into their own secret language that only family members could share. Hannah, already sticking out like a neurotic thumb (she worried about crossing a "third rail" on a country train track to go pee outside), was put in an even more uncomfortable situation when Jessa's fathers equally eccentric hippie girlfriend Petula (Rosanna Arquette), whom Jessa, hates tells her she's there as "cushion" for the group dynamic. She had some interesting theories of her own, like that life is like a video game (it isn't) and that it's completely normal to eat your pet bunnies for dinner every night (it isn't).
But it wasn't that it was just a strange, dirty house (literally, with dirt and old issues of Penthouse) that was the real problem, it was that it was filled with so much emotional clutter. The topic of Jessa's divorce was broached with the same amount of concern as him showing up late to pick them up and her father didn't spend more than three hours with her before taking off to go to a lecture. Jessa was abandoned again, but took off with Hannah, Petula's very bizarre son Frank, and Frank's cute, possibly gay friend/Frank's possibly gay crush Tyler for the night instead. An already disastrous trip, even more so when Frank, Tyler, and Jessa did whippets while speeding down a dark country road and Hannah, thinking she was some part of a sexcapade with Jessa, had sex with Frank in a graveyard the woods. (I image Hannah's cry of "I feel like I'm in Hocus Pocus!" delighted a lot of her younger fans to no end).
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Later, in the room Hannah and Jessa shared, Jessa confessed that she didn't feel good and that she didn't feel "in the right frame of mind" to see her father, Hannah tried to assure her that no one is ever in the right state of mind for that. Whether the words were meant to comfort Jessa or Hannah can't help but bring everything back to herself (more than likely the latter), Jessa made it clear that she did not have parents like everyone else and her upbringing couldn't be compared to everyone else. (As her father would later put it, "We're not like other people").
The next morning Jessa, looking sad, swung on a swing set. She is, and has been, a lost little kid. In one heartbreaking heart-to-heart Jessa called her father on his bulls**t for abandoning her and everyone else in his life. For not being a better parent to her, for not standing up for her, for not checking in on her, for not being able to have a conversation with her, and most of all, for not letting her be the child in their father-daughter dynamic. Instead of truly apologizing or trying to make things right, he invites her to stay for one more family meal, promising to make her favorite dinner and Jessa obliged.
Jessa and Hannah (who had just had an awkward confrontation with Frank) get dropped off at the general store to pick up items for the dinner. As they sat outside with their groceries, Jessa matter-of-factly said that her father wouldn't be coming back to pick them up, that this is what he does: he disappears. The friends take the long walk back to the house and when Hannah comes back from the bathroom she finds a note from Jessa that read matter-of-factly: "See you around my love." Because that's what Jessa does, she disappears.
Jessa makes promises to visit, never does, and then shows up unannounced. She leaves you alone the in country, making you find your own way home, alone. It's not her fault, really. It's all she knows and it's the only way she's learned to survive. That despite our best intentions, we make the same mistakes as our parents. You don't have to like Jessa, but you have to at least identify with that. (I don't think is the end of Jessa though, just a covenant, but not out-of-character way to put Jemima Kirke's character on hold as she left the series temporarily for her pregnancy. I sure hope Kirke returns, because between the scene with her father and her post-split breakdown in the bathtub, she continues to amaze on Girls).
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Even Hannah realized how difficult and delicate our relationships with our parents are, as she called her parents to tell her she loved them in a sincere, and surprisingly sweet Hannah moment, only to be met with a combination of brash (her mother) and a total softie (her father). Like I said, despite our best intentions, all of us, even Hannah who feels like she's floating out in space, have traces of our parents and whether we like it or not, will always need them.
While "Video Games" wasn't as effective as "The Return" often feeling like an easy comedy trope, despite Lena Dunham's pitch-perfect delivery (the city girl doesn't know how to handle the weird country life! she has a UTI! she had sex with yet another weirdo!). I appreciated yet another fascinating character study on Girls and how they masterfully handled a topic that everyone, not just twenty-something Brooklynites, can relate to in one way or another.
[Photo credit: HBO]
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Not all Young Adult Fiction adaptations are created equal.
Riding the Twilight wave has its advantages and disadvantages, the keystone of the Young Adult fiction genre working as a hook for enthusiastic readers, and a warning sign for those who caught the early exploits of Bella and Edward. Beautiful Creatures owes its cinematic existence to the uber-successful series, but the connective tissue ends there. Based on the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the movie is ripe with energy, drawing from its preserved, Southern gothic setting of South Carolina, two vivacious young romantics, and an ensemble of seasoned vets who chew up their scenes with twang. Beautiful Creatures doesn't wallow in relationships, it sparks them with frank sexuality and a dash of biting commentary. So long, Twilight.
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Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro) stars as Ethan, an ambitious resident of Gatlin, SC who dreams big and has a particular penchant for plowing through the town's banned book list (yes, even in modern times, there are people who don't see To Kill a Mockingbird as reading fit for teenagers). Waking him up from the doldrums of suburban life is new student Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert of Ginger & Rosa), niece of the towns' notorious Ravenwood family, who becomes the target of public shaming. Beautiful Creatures does not skirt around the strong Christian influence of Southern culture and, as someone the kids believe is a Devil worshipper, Lena is an instant outcast under violent, verbal attack. Quite literally, kids pray in the class room to protect themselves from Lena's bad vibes. If Ethan didn't find the girl attractive in her own right, her position at the bottom of the social ladder fuels his infatuation.
Because today's young romances demand a supernatural element, Lena eventually reveals to her courter that she's a "caster," the nice word for witch in the world of Beautiful Creatures. When Lena turns 16, she'll be subject to "The Claiming," a decision (made by the moon?) that will force her to either the light, nice and peachy side, or the dark, wicked and bloodthirsty side of casting. It's a countdown for Ethan, who realizes he has little time to connect with and possibly save his newfound love. Believing she has the ability to choose her fate, patriarch Macon Ravenwood guides Lena in the ways of the light — while disapproving of her relationship with Ethan.
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The magic logic is as ridiculous and overly complex as it sounds, but Beautiful Creatures writer/director Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, P.S I Love You) never loses track of his characters and their interesting quirks. Jeremy Irons is a master spinster of exposition — if his Macon is laying down a mythology-building speech or rattling off the "rules of the Ravenwood family curse," it all sounds like Shakespeare. Emma Thompson does double duty in this department, playing the disturbingly conservative Mrs. Lincoln with recognizable, motherly terror, and her alter ego, a version of Lincoln possessed by a banished witch looking for revenge on Lena. Thompson spars with Macon and cackles in all her thick Southern accent glory, jumping between personas without a misstep. It's glorious.
LaGravenese makes two inspired discoveries with Ehrenreich and Englert, who set the bar for performances in the genre. Ehrenreich is charming and warm, acting like an actual human being in the midst of a fantasy. He makes adorably awful small talk to woo Lena, he worries about her when she destroys the windows of a classroom with her mind, he becomes vicious when the Ravenwoods attempts to interfere with their relationship — all natural. Englert is like a young Kathleen Turner, her husky voice and sharp wit turning Alice into an unusually strong female lead. The young caster is vulnerable as her relationship blossoms, but fully capable of turning a family dinner into a merry-go-round from hell. The two are electric on screen, even at their campiest moments. Yes, they're destined lovers, descendants of a couple murdered during the Civil War, but even without the back story, Alice and Alden have a sweet, scary, and fiery romance.
At nearly two hours, Beautiful Creatures could stand to lose a few plot threads — Emmy Rossum arrives halfway through as Lena's Siren cousin, a painful attempt by the actress to steal the spotlight with exaggeration — but stands as proof that tween source material can be done right. As it does with the cast, the film is enhanced by its moody visuals and engaging soundtrack by alternative rock band Thenewno2, all setting the tone for Alden and Alice's fateful entanglement. The movie shows no fear depicting teens in love or the ramifications of America's belief system — touchy subjects that feel daring in a Hollywood production. That's the movie's real magic.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
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The curtain will fall on the beloved Phoenix Theatre show on 27 October (12), prior to a national tour.
The Olivier-winning musical written by Willy Russell follows the story of reunited twins separated at birth.
Blood Brothers debuted in the West End in 1983 and featured Barbara Dickson among the cast.
Petula Clark and former Spice Girls star Melanie Chisholm have both been a part of the show during its run.
Dorothy (Susan Lynch) is an ex-junkie living with her violent druggie boyfriend Tony (Iain Glen). Across town trophy girlfriend Petula (Rachel Weisz) is being beaten up by the equally volatile (but wealthy) guy she's with Brian (Tom Mannion). The two women might never have met except for a chance encounter one night when Dorothy on the run from crackpot Tony sees Brian beating Petula in a deserted alley. Rushing to Petula's defense Dorothy accidentally does Brian in. Frantic the women hatch a bizarre scheme involving an make-believe kidnapping a million pounds (or two) and a corrupt cop (Alex Norton) who wants a cut of the ransom dough.
The chemistry between the women is the saving grace of this film which otherwise falls apart at the seams thanks to the clumsy lines a lack of character development and an absurdly implausible story. Weisz is a ditzy platinum blond sexpot who thankfully doesn't play the Marilyn Monroe thing to extremes--she's a dingbat with depth. Smart spirited Lynch is the apparent brains behind the operation--she does what she can with her Dorothy but some of it doesn't ring true (she's sure no junkie). In a part written especially for him Glen as despicable Tony is as hateful a villain as you can ever imagine and Norton's cop is appalling. Problem is these characters are painted with way too broad a brush--every man is a leering loathsome individual with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
This movie had some great potential--the opening sequence grabs your attention and the scene where Dorothy's faithful dog gets hold of one of dead Brian's fingers is absolutely priceless. But for the most part the Thelma & Louise-meets-Bound story goes nowhere and its ill-conceived plot is so hard to believe it's distracting (you're left thinking 'Oh come on' for over an hour.) Ample opportunity for humor is left untouched even as the characters' actions and circumstances become more and more out-there; situations escalate to outrageously shocking levels but nothing about them is even darkly funny.
Hollywood's old guard came out in force Saturday to see their good friend Liza Minnelli get hitched for the fourth time.
The Tony- and Oscar-winning singer/actress and daughter of Judy Garland wed concert performer David Gest at the 147-year-old Marble Collegiate Church on New York's Fifth Avenue. This is the first marriage for Gest, who is best known for organizing Michael Jackson's tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in September.
During the hour-long ceremony, Elizabeth Taylor and Marisa Berenson, who starred with Minnelli in the 1972 Cabaret, stood by the bride as maids of honor. Michael Jackson and his brother, Tito, who are childhood friends of Gest, acted as the groom's best men. Minnelli was wearing a dress designed by Bob Mackie.
Others in the star-studded bridal party included actors Tony Franciosa and Robert Wagner, actresses Mia Farrow, Janet Leigh, Gina Lollobrigida, and singers Petula Clark and Michael McDonald.
"Everything was very delicate," actor/singer Robert Goulet told Reuters. "She is very much in love and you can see it."
Among the 200 guests were Diana Ross, Lauren Bacall, Luther Vandross, Carol Channing, Elton John and tycoon Donald Trump.
The event was hailed as one of the grandest New York social gatherings in recent years, but Reuters reported that local gossip writers made fun of the guest list, commenting that most of the celebrities attending the wedding had their heydays before pop princess Britney Spears was even born.
"At the party ... it was like a night of 1,000 facelifts, every person from 50 years ago," gossip writer Cindy Adams told CNN on Friday, poking fun at Minnelli's bridal shower.
Regardless, many friends are very happy for Minnelli, who has had a rough couple of years. Gest helped Minnelli shed 70 pounds and nursed her back to health after a painful hip replacement and back surgery, as well as helped her battle an addiction to painkillers.
"As long as she keeps trying, they will make it," actor Mickey Rooney told Reuters as he made his way to the ceremony. "Happiness is very elusive and we wish them the best of luck."
Minnelli and Gest will have a short honeymoon and then it's back to work for the singer as she prepares for a European concert tour.