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- 04/08/14--16:04: _Diggy Simmons Is Al...
- 04/08/14--16:05: _The FIRST Review fo...
- 04/08/14--16:16: _Cara Delevingne's f...
- 04/08/14--16:23: _Beyonce for Out Mag...
- 04/08/14--16:51: _Crystal Reed & Boyf...
- 04/08/14--16:51: _Lady Gaga may judge...
- 04/09/14--14:35: _Leonardo Dicaprio s...
- 04/09/14--14:37: _Degrassi: 13x29 "Sp...
- 04/09/14--14:53: _Katy Perry X Cover ...
- 04/09/14--14:53: _Has BB King finally...
- 04/09/14--14:55: _Diane Kruger and Jo...
- 04/09/14--14:55: _The cast of Firefly...
- 04/09/14--14:56: _S Club 7: The Brit-...
- 04/09/14--15:33: _'The Normal Heart' ...
- 04/09/14--15:36: _Champions League Ro...
- 04/09/14--15:47: _Beyoncé, Jay Z, and...
- 04/09/14--15:47: _Alan Cumming, in 'C...
- 04/09/14--15:48: _Reign 1x17 clip and...
- 04/09/14--15:48: _The Wolf Among Us R...
- 04/09/14--15:55: _Why 'Captain Americ...
- 04/08/14--16:04: Diggy Simmons Is All Grown Up
- 04/08/14--16:05: The FIRST Review for The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- 04/08/14--16:16: Cara Delevingne's famous brows are white blonde in family photo
- 04/08/14--16:23: Beyonce for Out Magazine
- 04/08/14--16:51: Lady Gaga may judge 'RuPaul's Drag Race'
- 04/09/14--14:35: Leonardo Dicaprio snubs Jordan Belfort
- 04/09/14--14:37: Degrassi: 13x29 "Sparks Will Fly" part 1 promos
- 04/09/14--14:53: Katy Perry X Cover Girl
- 04/09/14--14:53: Has BB King finally lost it?
- 04/09/14--14:55: Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson enjoy a low-key breakfast date
- 04/09/14--14:55: The cast of Firefly/Serentiy at comic con
- 04/09/14--14:56: S Club 7: The Brit-pop group's 5 best songs
- 04/09/14--15:33: 'The Normal Heart' Covers The Hollywood Reporter + Cast Pictures
- 04/09/14--15:36: Champions League Round-Up: The Semi-Finalists
- 04/09/14--15:47: Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Blue Ivy Vacation in Dominican Republic
- 04/09/14--15:47: Alan Cumming, in 'Cabaret,' Finds Decadence Is Hard Work
- 04/09/14--15:48: Reign 1x17 clip and producer's preview
- 04/09/14--15:55: Why 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' is an anomaly for Marvel
Dir. Marc Webb. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Denis Leary, Marton Csokas. 12A cert; 142 mins
How amazing can Spider-Man be at this point? It's a question we're often wondering during The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as our webby hero (Andrew Garfield) solves the mystery of his parents' murder, tries to decide if dating Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) contravenes his promise to keep her out of danger, and takes on the scary voltage of a new baddie with electric eels up his gusset.
We all know Spider-Man can multitask – those wrist-mounted gizmos fling out the sticky stuff every which way. But can his director? Marc Webb, returning after the last instalment, again shows a better feel for the relationships than he does for juggling all the overlapping story elements. At times, with its many villains, this one veers perilously close to the overplotted trouble zone of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises: a case of too many crooks spoiling the broth.
Jamie Foxx's Max Dillon is a particular problem. First seen with a gap tooth and greasy comb-over, this minor lackey in the Osborn Corporation is transformed into Electro, thanks to an on-cue accident in the boiler room. Disgruntled that no one gives a fig, he's soon assailing Times Square with knockabout pyrotechnics in a large-scale, mid-moviesequence that slightly disappoints. The effects team must turn Foxx a luminous electric blue and only half succeed – he looks like the love child of Dr Manhattan from Watchmen and Mr Freeze from Batman and Robin. The shortcuts to pathos in his character feel milked and blatant.
The thing is, all the electricity Webb needs is right before him, in the continued perfect match of his leads.Andrew Garfield's killer timing is the least of his ideal Spidey qualities– he remains a rare combination of funny, sexy and awkwardly charming, nailing every part of Peter Parker's clear agenda to be the coolest superhero ever. He could hardly do better than Emma Stone as his dream soulmate – she's button-cute and smart enough to steal his heart. They light the film up with a sparkle and sadness it couldn't live without.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is released in the UK on April, and in the US on May 2
She is one of the world's most famous models - and for good reason.
But cover star Cara Delevingne has proved that her beauty is all natural by posting adorable photographs of her childhood online.
The 21 year-old catwalk queen can be seen looking cherubic alongside her two sisters, Chloe and Poppy, and her mother, Pandora, in the three pictures uploaded to Instagram on Tuesday.
Naturally, the snapshots have been warmly welcomed by fans who follow the star online.
But, of course, she has since morphed into a stunning woman who is often hailed as the heir to Kate Moss' throne.
Post your baby/childhood pics
If you pooled the collective memories of the staff at Parkwood, the small, can-do entertainment company that Beyoncé built, you would have enough material for the world’s longest biography. That it would also be a hagiography goes without saying; for those who work closest to her, Beyoncé is, quite literally, flawless. Again and again you will hear that she is the hardest-working person in showbiz, the most demanding of herself, the least complacent. And all of this, you will realize, is most likely true. But in all of the accolades and glowing character references, you will also find little shafts of light that fall on their subject in illuminating and lovely ways.
There is Angie Beyince, vice president of operations, who grew up spending her summers with her cousins, Beyoncé and Solange. “They loved Janet Jackson,” she tells me. “We’d talk all night and watch Showtime at the Apollo and my snake, Fendi, would just be crawling around. He’d sit on our heads while we watched TV.”
There is Ed Burke, visual director, who had never heard of Beyoncé when he met her 10 years ago, responding to a request from a friend to shoot her for a day. He spent the next seven years trailing her around the world with a camera. In Egypt, he and Beyoncé scaled a pyramid together as the rest of their group gave up or fell back. “It smelled like urine because there are no bathrooms up there,” he recalls. “She looked like Mother Teresa, wearing this white dress and a head wrap, and when we got to the top she sang Donny Hathaway’s ‘A Song for You.’ ”
There is Ty Hunter, her stylist, who was working at Bui-Yah-Kah, a boutique in Houston, when he first met Beyoncé’s mother, Miss Tina, on the hunt for outfits for Destiny’s Child. The two clicked. That was in 1998. “Miss Tina reminded me of my mother,” he says. “I call Bey and Solange and all the girls in Destiny’s Child my sisters. The family is just, you know, humble—not what people think it is. The picture [of Beyoncé] is ‘diva, diva, diva,’ but I’ve been here this long because she’s not.”
There is Lee Anne Callahan-Longo, the general manager at Parkwood, whose Boston childhood was informed by the music of Carole King, James Taylor, and Carly Simon. It was Callahan-Longo who came up with the arm motions that Beyoncé uses in her video for “XO.” “It’s so hilarious—I have a credit in the DVD for choreography,” she laughs, throatily. “If anyone knows me, I’m not a dancer. Never have been and never will be.”
And there is Yvette Noel-Schure, the publicist, a kind of den mother to them all. She grew up on the Caribbean island of Grenada, and has a soft, floral accent to prove it. “The only music in the house was Catholic hymns,” she recalls. “Once in a while I heard some calypso on the radio.” Noel-Schure was with Destiny’s Child in Los Angeles on September 11, 2001, when news of the attacks on New York and D.C. reached them. “My mom’s not here, so I guess you’re our mommy today,” she remembers Beyoncé telling her. “And I said, ‘My kid’s not here, so I think you guys have to be my kids today.’” She breaks into a faraway smile. “With or without this job, I will probably always feel connected to those young women in some way, shape, or form.”
If you want to get to know someone, it helps to get to know the people around them. In Beyoncé’s case, there was no alternative. The opportunity to write about her materialized with an unusual condition: There would be no face-to-face interview. The musician was in the midst of an intense international tour, dramatically overhauled to accommodate 10 songs from her new, eponymous album. And although I would get to fly to Glasgow to see her perform the revised set, I would have to settle for an email exchange for this story. But—and this was the silver lining—I would have unprecedented access to Parkwood Entertainment, the tight-knit, furiously devoted team at the heart of Brand Beyoncé. This was more than a concession—this was being invited into Bey’s inner sanctum.
That sanctum is hidden in a nondescript Midtown office block in New York, high enough to have good views of the city, and a short walk from Macy’s. Decorated like a boutique hotel—plush sectional sofas, hardwood floors, an enormous contemporary chandelier—the most visible sign of Beyoncé are the 17 Grammys that line one end of the conference room and a cool portrait of a young Michael Jackson, her idol. It was in that room, on the night of December 12 last year, that the staff at Parkwood (named for the street Beyoncé grew up on) gathered to mark the countdown to the surprise release of Beyoncé, her fifth album. For such a solid hitmaker, the new material was a departure, suffused with a raw, earthy sexuality that was more personal than fans were used to—and less polished. And by managing to keep the album under wraps until the moment of its release, Beyoncé was able to do something that has become all too rare for a global star: control the way in which her fans experienced her music. It’s hard to remember a major album of the past few years that wasn’t leaked in advance, or that didn’t reach the critics and overly opinionated bloggers before it reached the fans. As Noel-Schure likes to say, “Perception unchallenged becomes reality.” That’s actually a line from Motown: The Musical, but when she heard it earlier this year, it resonated. “The Internet is equivalent to a nice big jar of glue,” she tells me in her office. “It doesn’t go away.”
But there is a corollary to this: The Internet is one big beehive—or BeyHive, as Queen Bey’s vocal, possessive fans are dubbed. Like Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, they are a powerful force if you know how to use them. In the 12 hours after its surprise release, the new album generated 1.2 million tweets, reaching a high of 5,300 tweets per minute at its peak. Within three days, Beyoncé had sold 828,773 digital copies, making it the fastest-selling album ever in the iTunes store (the fact that it was an iTunes exclusive helped; in response, Amazon and Target refused to stock the CD, a pissing contest they will likely not risk a second time. Amazon has since relented; Target hasn’t.). In the following weeks and months it would be augmented by a tsunami of viral fan stunts: three grandmas reading the lyrics to “Drunk in Love” (and confusing Jay Z for Kanye West in the process); the a cappela outfit Pentatonix abbreviating the entire album into a brilliant six-minute medley; and the inevitable appropriation of lyrics into the everyday vernacular. Right now, “I woke up like this—flawless” and “surfbort” seem to be tracking nicely to be on par with “put a ring on it” or “bootylicious.” (It’s a testament to Parkwood’s canniness that they had Flawless and Surfboard sweatshirts ready to sell soon after the album’s release.) And all of this was achieved without resorting to the traditional marketing machine: the endless rounds of interviews, the elaborate release parties, the in-store promotions. Instead, by appealing directly to the people who mattered most—the fans—Beyoncé and her team at Parkwood conquered the age-old challenge of politicians, business titans, and Hollywood moguls: to control the message.
But there was something else, too. Beyoncé was designed to be the most personal statement of the musician’s career, an album not crafted to fulfill the usual dictates of the industry. Beyoncé, in an emailed response to one of my questions, described the process as “much freer than anything I’d done in the past. We really just tried to trust our instincts, embrace the moment, and keep it fun.” As an illustration she singled out the video for “Drunk in Love,” a fan favorite. “We were in Miami for Jay’s concert, and it was just the two of us, on the beach, amazing weather, and one outfit! It’s beautiful in its simplicity. If you want something to feel real and urgent, you can’t overthink it.”
Of course, other artists—Adele comes to mind—have shown that the more visceral and personal an album, the less there is a need for bells and whistles. But Adele was still building her career when she released 21, and had less to lose. For Beyoncé, after 10 years at the top, the most obvious direction to go was down. Instead, with the aid of her stealth team, she pulled off a career high. “I really feel that 20 years from now—50 years from now—people will remember December 13, 2013,” Noel-Schure says. “People are going to remember because it will have shifted the way business is done in the record industry.”
This may seem like so much hot air in an industry that thrives on it, but you need only compare Beyoncé’s game plan to Lady Gaga’s, with Artpop, to realize just how successfully Beyoncé has managed to insulate herself from the brutal cycle of hype and backlash that has become the industry norm.
Out: Your new album is also your most sexually liberated project. The confidence and maturity and the fantasy speak to women almost as if in code. How do you create this conversation?
Beyoncé: I’d like to believe that my music opened up that conversation. There is unbelievable power in ownership, and women should own their sexuality. There is a double standard when it comes to sexuality that still persists. Men are free and women are not. That is crazy. The old lessons of submissiveness and fragility made us victims. Women are so much more than that. You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist—whatever you want to be—and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.
It is a Friday night in February in Glasgow, Scotland, and the wind is whipping brutally around the corners of the Hilton, where team C of Beyoncé’s tour group is staying (team B is in the more charming Malmaison Hotel; the whereabouts of team A, which presumably includes Beyoncé, are a closely guarded secret). I have arrived from New York that morning, and after a quick excursion for a sandwich and a coffee, I make my way along the rain-lashed highway to the Hydro arena, where Beyoncé has been rehearsing for most of the day.
Although it is technically the 110th date of her eye-popping extravaganza the Mrs. Carter Show, it is only the second night of her dramatically revamped lineup. A few nights earlier she pulled an all-nighter to rehearse her new material before dashing to London for a last-minute appearance at the Brit Awards, only to dash back—still in her ball gown—to finish choreographing the show. This was no minor tweak—10 new songs were added to the lineup; others were abbreviated or turned into medleys to make room. Most artists would spend months working out the kinks. Beyoncé took three days. “She’s completely relentless in her pursuit of perfectionism,” her creative director, Todd Tourso, tells me as we sit backstage. “It sounds cheesy, but that’s why I’m willing to work so hard for her. When you have this type of leadership and muse and mentor, I think the sky’s the limit.”
Of the 15,000 fans snaking into the venue that evening, the vast majority are young women, mostly white (it is Scotland), and primed for a big night out. A good number wear flashing plastic bows in their hair, echoing the one Beyoncé sports so fetchingly in the video for “XO.” (In the damp Glasgow air they look less adorable.) The evening’s warm-up act is Monsieur Adi, the Italian-born, Paris-based producer whose remixes of Britney Spears, Lana Del Rey, and Madonna have elevated him to a club favorite. Adi wears a permanent grin, like a kid who can’t believe his luck. A former architecture student-turned-fashion designer, Adi stumbled into remixing after a friend heard the music he’d made for his website. Now he was DJing his first concert tour. Two months earlier, he’d woken up in the early hours of December 13 to an email from Courtney Anderson, Beyoncé’s dance curator and A&R consultant. (“I always dressed to the beat of my own drum,” Anderson tells me. “I was that person who’d put on pajamas, a sarong, a T-shirt, and some flip-flops and go to school.”) Anderson wanted Adi to call him. “I gave him a call and he said, ‘Yeah, we’d like you to remix two tracks.’ ” says Adi. “I said, ‘Two tracks? Are you sure? I’m speechless…’ ”
Like most of the staff at Parkwood, Anderson was in the office at midnight when the album dropped. “I’ve never had so many grown men and women send me ‘OMG’ tweets,” he says with a laugh, recounting the hours he had spent handing out remixing assignments to his favorite producers. “The initial reaction was, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ And I was like, ‘But it’s here! Isn’t it great? What’s your favorite track?’ And then the conversation quickly switched to the music.”
Which had been the point all along.
Out: On certain songs, like “XO,” your voice is a lot more raw (and beautiful) than fans are used to. Was it a conscious decision to be less polished?
Beyoncé: When I recorded “XO” I was sick with a bad sinus infection. I recorded it in a few minutes just as a demo and decided to keep the vocals. I lived with most of the songs for a year and never rerecorded the demo vocals. I really loved the imperfections, so I kept the original demos. I spent the time I’d normally spend on backgrounds and vocal production on getting the music perfect. There were days I spent solely on getting the perfect mix of sounds for the snare alone. Discipline, patience, control, truth, risk, and effortlessness were all things I thought about while I was putting this album together.
If you want to understand the origins of Beyoncé, start with Angie Beyince, vice president of operations at Parkwood Entertainment, and Beyoncé’s first cousin. The similarity in their names is no coincidence: Beyoncé’s mother—Beyince’s aunt—is Tina Beyince (the name comes from their Creole ancestry), and the cousins were so close growing up that they spent every summer together. “The last day of school, Aunt Tina would pick me up and I’d spend the entire summer at her house, and then be dropped back home the night before school started again,” Beyince recalls, quickly finding her stride as we sit in her glass-walled office one frigid afternoon in February. A big Chanel purse sits next to her desk; she wears bright orange nail polish with lipstick to match. When I ask what shade of orange it is, she shakes her head playfully. “A lady never tells!” she quips. “They call me the fourth member of Destiny’s Child. I’m like the original diva. I don’t tell my lipstick colors, my perfume. I’ve been wearing the same perfume for maybe 14 years, and I’ve never uttered the words to anyone.”
Back in the mid- to late ’90s, before she started wearing that mystery perfume, before she could afford a Chanel purse, Beyince was a fixer of sorts: tour accountant, travel booker, media liaison, laundry washer—if it needed doing, she would do it. She recalls hours spent finagling rooms at cheap hotels by trading T-shirts and autographed photos, washing outfits by hand or in machines at whatever semidecent hotel they’d booked themselves into, and hectic nights as a dresser, changing the girls’ clothes during the show. “I’d finish the show and go to the cash office with all the promoters and I’d count out the money, which is funny because I’m a very petite woman.” She shrugs. “But I refer to myself as a lioness. I’m a bad chick. I don’t play. I went in there with all male promoters, and I’d count that money out. The first day I did that they were a dollar short. And I said, ‘I’m missing a dollar.’ They said, ‘Oh no, baby girl,’ everything to shrink me, to diminish me—‘Oh no, sweetie pie, oh no, honey, no, no.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll count again.’ ” Beyince mimes the actions of counting bills, explaining that this whole process would typically take hours—she is abbreviating for me—but of course she eventually got her dollar.
“I shared a room with the choreographer at the time, and while she was sleeping I would stay up and count all the money, do the payroll, all the expenses,” she says. “I only got maybe two or three hours of sleep each day. Then I’d be back at that cash office: ‘Five dollars short.’ At the end of the tour, every single dollar was accounted for.”
Beyince is, of course, a perfect evocation of the kind of female resourcefulness and grit that Beyoncé was referring to when she described herself recently in Vogue UK as a “modern-day feminist.” The claim has been much debated on blogs, and you have to admire Beyoncé for daring to go there. A minor skirmish has erupted around a lyric in “Drunk in Love”: “Eat the cake, Anna Mae,” apparently lifted from a scene of abuse in the 1993 Tina Turner biopic, What’s Love Got to Do with It? For some, this strains Beyoncé’s credibility, but Beyoncé’s masterstroke was to find a way to ensure that none of this mattered, by getting her music to the fans before the critics, professional and self-appointed, had time to weigh in. That, too, is power.
Themes of money, gender, and power have coursed through Beyoncé’s music since 1999’s “Bills, Bills, Bills,” with Destiny’s Child, but the in-your-face sexuality of her new songs is reminiscent of Madonna’s Sex. “Gone are the days of people making you feel guilty because you’re sexual,” says Noel-Schure, who recalls the younger staff watching carefully for her reaction the first time she listened to the album. “This is not the old days. We need to teach the young responsibility, but you’re not gonna tell somebody, ‘Don’t be sexual.’ Let’s just call a spade a spade.”
Spade-calling is something of a nascent role for Beyoncé, who unleashed her inner activist on Instagram last year, posting messages of support for marriage equality and the Justice for Trayvon Martin campaign. Like Madonna, she appears to have found her voice as she’s grown and blossomed into a global star and businesswoman. It’s no small feat for a black woman to be able to express both her power and her sexuality without being reduced in the process to a whore who has forgotten her place. As she says in a new campaign designed to help young girls develop self-esteem, “I’m not bossy—I’m the boss.” It’s a hackneyed sound bite, but on stage, where Beyoncé is at her best and most powerful, you witness how that same confidence resonates and connects. With her all-female backing crew, the Sugar Mamas, Beyoncé gave her Scottish fans a show to remember that night, but she gave them something else, too: a role model.
Out: Your fifth album has been noted for being feminist, but a number of people in the LGBT community also identify with it. Were the lyrics ever written consciously with different groups in mind?
Beyoncé: While I am definitely conscious of all the different types of people who listen to my music, I really set out to make the most personal, honest, and best album I could make. I needed to free myself from the pressures and expectations of what I thought I should say or be, and just speak from the heart. Being that I am a woman in a male-dominated society, the feminist mentality rang true to me and became a way to personalize that struggle…But what I’m really referring to, and hoping for, is human rights and equality, not just that between a woman and a man. So I’m very happy if my words can ever inspire or empower someone who considers themselves an oppressed minority…We are all the same and we all want the same things: the right to be happy, to be just who we want to be and to love who we want to love.
When you talk with the team at Parkwood, it’s striking how often Thriller comes up in conversation as a kind of Holy Grail for the music industry. “The way music is distributed is so greatly different than it was in the ’80s and ’90s,” Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood, head of digital, laments one afternoon. “You don’t have those three or four iconic albums a year; you have 400 albums that came out in a year, and you have to remember what you listened to.”
At Beyoncé HQ, as the team embarked on the project of releasing the fifth album, the specter of Thriller became something of a catalyst—the model of a cultural moment that the music industry no longer seemed capable of engineering. Part of the challenge was how to win attention long enough to give the music a chance. “I watched a 20-year-old lady go through the Miley Cyrus record in less than 35 seconds on iTunes when it came out,” says Jim Sabey, head of worldwide marketing, grimacing at the memory. “She listened to seven seconds of each song, and I looked at her and she’s, like, ‘Ugh, it’s terrible.’ I said, ‘How do you know? You didn’t even listen to it.’ ”
This, then, is the flipside of the limitless new world in which musicians find themselves. No longer under the thumb of out-of-touch record executives, they find themselves instead at the mercy of ADD-afflicted music fans, surfing multiple sites at one time. You can imagine the anxiety at Camp Beyoncé as summer turned into fall, and they witnessed first Lady Gaga, then Katy Perry, stumble. Both those artists’ albums, ArtPop and Prism, came freighted with expectations, and both were leaked prematurely and almost immediately pronounced disappointments. “Beyoncé put two years of her heart and soul into this album,” says Sabey. “Any artist—a 13-year-old in Atlanta who puts together an album and puts it on YouTube—wants you to go on the journey. They want you to experience the art the way they intended it.”
But the 13-year-old in Atlanta doesn’t have the support team that Beyonce has so assiduously nurtured—a team that has known her for much of her adult life, and in some cases longer. “She’s kept true to the people who have kept true to her,” says Kwasi Fordjour, creative coordinator. “I think that’s amazing—you rarely see artists who keep hold of their A-team throughout their career.” (In an email, Beyonce returned the compliment, saying, “I call them the underdogs because so many people doubted the team I put together.”)
Much of Beyoncé was recorded in the summer and fall of 2012 in a purpose-built studio in the Hamptons. “It was kind of like Survivor or The Real World,” recalls Melissa Vargas, the brand manager. “We slept in there. Everyone had a room. There was only a certain number of people that could come, so if you were vibing with her and everything was going great, you would stay for longer. We had a chef, and every single person in that house sat down at dinner with Jay and Beyoncé.”
It was Beyoncé who decided not to preempt the release of her album with a single, or the typical campaign. She would simply upload it to iTunes, in one go. A big part of the challenge was how to fit the making of all those videos around Beyoncé’s global tour, which had kicked off last April. “Honestly, I was, like, ‘You want to do what?’ ” recalls Vargas. “How are you going to shoot videos when she’s on tour? I mean, directors need to prep.” Beyoncé, too, worried she was losing control toward the end of the process. “I was recording, shooting videos, and performing on the tour every night, all at the same time. At some point I felt like, What am I doing? Is this too ambitious? Even the day the record was to be released I was scared to death. But I also knew if I was that scared, something big was about to happen.” Vargas found herself on a plane to Paris to shoot videos for “Flawless” and “Partition” with the English video director Jake Nava (who’d made the video for 2003’s “Crazy in Love”), and proceeded from there to hopscotch around the world—Puerto Rico, Brazil, London, Paris, Australia, New Zealand, and Houston, where the video for “Blow” was filmed in a much-loved roller rink from Beyoncé’s childhood.
“What the visual album did for people was, they stopped and they watched the entire thing,” says Sabey. “There was no way you could listen to the first six bars of Beyoncé and skip to the next song. You were going to experience this album as a body of work.”
Or, as Carl Fysh, Beyoncé’s U.K. publicist, tells me over a pint of beer after the show in Glasgow: “My generation remembers the excitement of knowing an album was coming out—you saved your pocket money, you went to the record store, you queued up, you got the album and took it home, but you hadn’t heard a thing about it. You looked at everything, you put it on, and you played it 85 times. I think Beyoncé, by doing what she did, let this generation have that experience—of having the album to yourself.”
Crystal Reed keeps it super cute as she attends the Alex Perry presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2014 held at Carriageworks on Monday (April 7) in Sydney, Australia.
The 29-year-old actress was accompanied in the front row by her Aussie TV host boyfriend Darren McMullen.
“Stranded in the GC. All flights weather grounded. What happened to “Beautiful 1 day,perfect the next” Queensland?” Darren recently tweeted.
The month before, the couple stepped out together at the 2014 ASTRA Awards after Crystal's character was killed off her hit TV show Teen Wolf.
Spoiler alert! Lady Gaga may be a guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race alongside drag queen diva RuPaul.
Enstarz is of the media outlets reporting that Lady Gaga could make an appearance on the show.
On Friday, the show’s official Twitter page posted a photo of RuPaul posing with the “Do What U Want” singer. The singer asked to appear on the show, with the account captionining the image, “Can I PLEASE be a judge on Drag Race! RuPaul… these women taught me how to serve!”
The pair was featured in a makeup room presumably backstage.
It hasn’t been confirmed whether or not the singer will be providing feedback to the drag queens, but she does show support based on her Twitter page. In a photo posted to the feed, Gaga poses next to Bianca Del Rio and holds a rose in front of her face.
“GAGGING. @ladygaga can’t get enough of our girls, including @TheBiancaDelRio," the tweet was captioned.
LEONARDO DiCaprio has kicked Jordan Belfort to the curb!
The actor brought Jordan’s story to life in The Wolf of Wall Street, but now that the film is done, their professional relationship is over.
Jordon was dining at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel on April 3 with two movie producers, arguing about how the Oscar-nominated actor stopped returning his calls, despite a promise to help get Jordan’s acting career on track, according to America’s Star magazine.
“Jordan was yelling and really upset about the whole situation,” the spy says.
“He was saying how he spent countless hours with Leo to help him prepare for the big role, and in return, Leo has done absolutely nothing.
“Jordan is dying to better his acting skills and make money while doing it, and he figured that if he was good to Leo, Leo would be good to him.”
The source adds that Leo promised to give Jordan pointers and tips, but has been MIA since the movie died down.
“He feels like Leo completely used him to make money on the movie,” the insider adds. “
And he is not happy about it!”
Katy Perry @ Cosmopolitan - May 2014
excuse for a beauty post tbh. fav mascara/nail polish/lip gloss etc ?
No one lasts forever. But if you read the review by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it's pretty clear the 88-year-old blues legend is losing it.
King’s shows in recent years have featured as much talk as playing, and the 88-year-old musician is obviously slowing down, just as anyone would. But the balance slipped way out of proportion at this show. King sat center stage and spoke, sometimes in non sequiturs, sometimes inaudibly. He flirted with women in the first few rows and made a few ribald comments, without apology. “I like to have fun,” he said. “I love who I am and what I do.”
For a while, the audience was with him, laughing at his jokes and asides. But it was 45 minutes into the show before King performed anything resembling a song. Even then, his playing was shaky. He explained that he and the band had been off for two months, causing him to lose confidence.
After a capable run-through of “Rock Me Baby,” he played “You Are My Sunshine” and asked the crowd to sing along. The house lights came up and King began noticing individuals and waving to them. As the song went around again and again, nattering on for — and this is not a misprint — 15 minutes, audience members began to heckle, yelling out requests or simply calling for King to “play some music!” Some walked out.
King sensed trouble, but he couldn’t understand the things being yelled at him. Eventually, the music stopped and the show ground to an intensely uncomfortable halt.
The review has gone on to further explain his review HERE.
Nothing would kill me more than to see my aging favorites become a mere shell of themselves. It's why I hope Lemmy knows when it's time to hang it up.
Diane Kruger made the most of her limited time with boyfriend Joshua Jackson on Tuesday, heading out for breakfast together before she headed to the airport solo to catch a flight.
With their careers often taking them to opposite parts of the country, or even the world, the couple
of eight years enjoyed a low-key date at The Oaks Gourmet Market in Los Feliz, California, before once again going their separate ways.
With not a lick of make-up on and her signature blonde tresses pulled back from her face in a no-fuss low ponytail, the German-born beauty, who is the face of Chanel skincare, looked simply stunning as always.
She was dressed comfortably so there was no need for an outfit change to board her flight, simply grabbing a warm black jacket as she headed to colder climes.
The petite star displayed her slim pins in skinny blue jeans, tucked into black biker boots, completing her ensemble with her favourite loose-fitting black I heart Neuva York T-shirt.
The 37-year-old shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun with large dark sunglasses and carried a matching black leather handbag, with her iPhone and a juice balance in her hand as she emerged from the eatery.
Following close behind was her leading man, who was dressed equally casually in a black V-neck T-shirt, blue shorts and black and white checked slip-on canvas shoes.
His dark mane was shaggy and unstyled, while he was sporting a fair amount of scruffy facial hair.
The in-demand actress and model is juggling a busy schedule of late, slotting a role in the film Fathers And Daughters into her brief downtime from FX series The Bridge, which is set to head into production on the second season imminently.
Co-stars Aaron Paul and Amanda Seyfried have been getting friendly with the locals as they shoot the drama in downtown Pittsburgh, tweeting out the location of bars they're frequenting with an open invitation for fans to join them.
Also joining in on the fun was Amanda's boyfriend, Justin Long, who happily participated as he paid his lady love a visit at the end of March.
Russell Crowe also stars in the drama, set for release in 2015, though neither he nor Diane have been spotted on set yet, with the actor busy promoting new flick Noah in Europe at present.
Meanwhile, following the end of his hit sci-fi series Fringe last year, which wrapped after five seasons, Joshua is set to return to TV once more, with new Showtime series The Affair announced during the Television Critics Association press tour in January.
Co-starring Dominic West, Maura Tierney and Ruth Wilson, the 35-year-old actor will play Cole, dubbed a 'hard-edged cowboy who manages a ranch on the eastern tip of Long Island that has been in his family for generations', according to the Huffington Post.
The show delves into the psychological effects of the affair on all involved.
Former Luther star Ruth takes on the role of Cole's wife, Allison, a waitress who leaves her husband for teacher Noah (West), who spends his summers at his in-laws' estate and is also married, to Helen (played by Tierney).
Currently in post-production, it's likely to premiere in the second half of the year.
Last day at Wizard World St.Louis Comic Con was the opportunity for Summer Glau to meet her fans once again and also to join her Firefly co-stars Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk for a Firefly/Serenity group photo. The moderator of the Firefly panel mentioned Summer Glau could not attend the panel because she had to catch an early flight (watch the video below), probably to film an episode of Arrow.
Do you know what
When S Club 7 in Miami came to the States on Fox Family (yes, Fox Family) a few months later, I had no idea who these people were or whether they were famous in Britain. Back then, children couldn’t look up transcontinental artists on Wikipedia, and there was certainly no Encarta entry for S Club 7. But for whatever reason, I accidentally grew to love this utterly random show about seven British band members who go live in Miami for some reason. By they time the group got the hokey second series S Club 7 in L.A. a year later, in which they rented a Venice beach house from the demon girl in The Exorcist, I was completely hooked on this absurdly optimistic and painfully happy band.
Haters be damned, allow me to look back on a truly under-appreciated band which I have refused to forget. To celebrate the anniversary of my first encounter with the Club, indulge in my list of the group’s best tunes:
5. “Love Train”
Remember Paul jamming by the swimming pool/art patio/dungeon kitchen? Because I do. Paul was arguably my first real crush, which is a shame since a quick Google Image search will show how things turned out for Paul in the modern era.
4. “S Club Party”
“Hoochie mamas, show your na-nas.”
Remember when I said S Club songs were about being happy and positive and having a lovely outlook on life? Reach for the stars, bitch. This is the cheer-up to end all cheer-ups.
2. “Never Had A Dream Come True”
Oh, what’s that in the last chorus? A key change? Yes, please.
1. “Bring It All Back”
The Citizen Kane of S Club 7 songs.
Taylor Kitsch fell in love on the set of HBO's The Normal Heart —with a pair of 1980 Calvin Klein jeans.
The jeans' key attribute? They accentuated his — ahem — crotch quite nicely.
"I'm not flattering myself, but they had to get the crotch elongated," Kitsch said, moving his hands farther and farther apart to demonstrate.
"You just flattered yourself, there's no two ways about it," protested Normal Heart co-star Jim Parsons. "The first time you walked off the set in those jeans, I went, 'What brand are those?' And he goes, 'Don't worry about it.'"
Added Mark Ruffalo with a laugh: "Those are amazing!"
Kitsch said he wore the jeans "as many times as they let me," adding that he and director Ryan Murphy had "mini-battles" over how often the pants could appear in the film.
Kitsch and his co-stars, including Matt Bomer, grace the cover of the April 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, which chronicles the 30-year struggle to get the AIDS drama made. (Read the cover story here.) The stars were photographed by Austin Hargrave on March 5 at Hotel Silverlake in Los Angeles.
Real Madrid CF reached the last four of the UEFA Champions League for the fourth season running despite a 2-0 quarter-final second-leg defeat by Borussia Dortmund.
With the injured Cristiano Ronaldo watching helplessly from the bench, Carlo Ancelotti's men looked in serious danger of relinquishing their three-goal first-leg advantage as Marco Reus struck twice in a frantic opening period. However, Madrid – beaten twice in Dortmund last term – withstood the German side's second-half pressure to eliminate the 2012/13 finalists 3-2 on aggregate.
Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp had clearly instructed his charges to enjoy themselves in potentially their last game in the competition this season, and they did just that. Roared on by the famous Yellow Wall, the hosts worked the ball out well from defence but lacked the necessary incisiveness further up the pitch.
Their failure to score early on was very nearly punished on 17 minutes as Łukasz Piszczek was penalised for a hand ball in the box. Roman Weidenfeller dived to his left to block Ángel Di María's spot kick, though, and the thunderous cheer which reverberated around the stadium reinvigorated the Bundesliga team.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the first to go close for Borussia when he side-footed just wide following good work from Robert Lewandowski and Reus. It was the latter who broke the deadlock on 24 minutes, pouncing on Pepe's backward header before skipping past Iker Casillas and threading beyond the scrambling Sergio Ramos.
Sensing an opportunity, Dortmund soon created another opening as Mats Hummels powered a header goalwards from Reus's free-kick. Casillas got two firm hands behind it, but he was helpless again five minutes later as Reus capitalised on another loose ball in midfield, rolling left for Lewandowski whose finish came back off the far post before Reus followed up to smash high into the net.
As Madrid attempted to match Dortmund's tempo after the restart, Gareth Bale brought a rare save from Weidenfeller, but from there BVB peppered their visitors' goal with chances. Mkhitaryan spurned a fantastic opportunity to level the tie on aggregate, rounding Casillas only to plant his finish against the post with the goal beckoning.
It was Casillas who proved the Liga side's hero as he showed quick reactions to repel another Mkhitaryan effort and again moments later to deny Kevin Grosskreutz as the Blancos kept their Décima dream alive.
Demba Ba came up with the golden touch with three minutes remaining to blast Chelsea FC into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals and break the hearts of a Paris Saint-Germain side who were so close to pulling off a famous triumph.
The strike, ensuring Chelsea's success on away goals, sent José Mourinho hurtling down the touchline to celebrate with his players. Considering the woodwork twice intervened to prevent them adding to substitute André Schürrle's first-half goal sooner, no one would question Chelsea's right to a seventh semi-final.
It had the makings of one of the great European nights at Stamford Bridge with both sets of supporters in good voice and the tie promising heady drama. It was no surprise to see Samuel Eto'o recalled to the Chelsea colours while Frank Lampard's return could only enhance their goalscoring potential.
First the home team had to free themselves from the Paris shackles. Quick into the tackle, the visitors restricted Chelsea's room to work. A source of Chelsea progress was likely to be via the quick feet of Eden Hazard but the Belgian international was struggling from early on and replaced by Schürrle after 17 minutes.
The change would not have dimmed Paris's confidence and only their loose passes back to Salvatore Sirigu were a cause for alarm at this stage. Until the 28th minute, that is, when Lampard's free-kick deflected off a Paris head and forced a rapid reaction from the goalkeeper. It heralded an increase in the Chelsea tempo with Schürrle seeing plenty of the ball. He chose an opportune time to open his European goal account for the club, side-footing in after David Luiz had helped on a long throw.
Thiago Silva recovered from a heavy collision with Eto'o to continue at the heart of the Paris resistance. His experience would be needed as Chelsea renewed their pursuit of a second goal with vigour. Oscar carried the fight to the edge of the area and when Willian pulled the ball back, Schürrle was so unlucky to see his first-time effort crash against the crossbar. Two minutes later and Oscar's free-kick met the same fate while at the other end Ezequiel Lavezzi's set-piece delivery was palmed out by Petr Čech, the keeper's first serious involvement.
As the game became stretched so Edinson Cavani came more into the picture. He was found with a couple of exquisite passes, firstly from Blaise Matuidi then from Yohan Cabaye. He took the shot on but each time cleared the bar.
Ba and Fernando Torres came on to beef up the attack. It paid off when César Azpilicueta's strike was diverted to Ba who managed to scoop the ball high into the net with his outstretched leg. Cue pandemonium.
Club Atlético de Madrid reached their first European Cup semi-final for 40 years after an early goal from midfielder Koke took the Rojiblancos through at the expense of FC Barcelona.
After an absorbing first leg had finished 1-1, Atlético seized the initiative during a first period in which they hit the woodwork three times; from the first of those attempts, in the fifth minute, Koke volleyed in from close range after the ball had been retrieved. That proved enough for Diego Simeone's team to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1973/74, ending Barcelona's run of six successive last-four appearances in the process.
As if playing to predictions, Atlético began by allowing their opponents to patiently probe. The game's outlook soon changed dramatically as, with the hosts suddenly bursting forward, the four-time European champions back-tracked. Groans rang out among the home crowd when Adrián López – in for the injured Diego Costa – thumped a shot against the crossbar. The ball eventually reached David Villa on the left, and when his centre was headed back across the goal by Adrián, those moans turned to roars of delight as Koke volleyed in at the far post.
"Win, win and win again," read the mosaic that greeted the players as they took to the field and the message seemed to have reached its target as Atlético went in search of a second. The alert Koke fed Villa for an effort that beat José Manuel Pinto only to strike the post. The visitors stirred and Lionel Messi found himself free in the area but could only nod Daniel Alves's header wide.
Barça's respite was brief, Villa bursting clear of Marc Bartra before smashing against the woodwork once again. Having not missed out on the last four since 2006/07, the Blaugrana responded to Atlético's energetic display through Neymar's left-wing trickery, yet the Brazilian's good work came to nothing when Messi drove his pass wide. Having already scored twice against Atlético this term, Neymar continued to menace, although he was denied after the restart by Thibaut Courtois's scooped clearance. The Atleti keeper looked on in relief when Xavi Hernández diverted over shortly afterwards.
The drama and tension that filled the air was unrelenting, substitute Diego – Atlético's marksman at Camp Nou – squirming away from Sergio Busquets to draw a near-post save from Pinto. The visiting custodian then deflected Gabi's low attempt wide after the Liga leaders had once more broken away. Although Neymar flashed a header wide for Gerardo Martino's men, it was Atlético who appeared the likelier team, Pinto repelling Cristián Rodríguez in the final seconds – but his side would not be denied.
FC Bayern München reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the fourth time in five seasons with a 3-1 second-leg victory against Manchester United FC.
With the sides poised at one apiece from last week's match, the title holders controlled possession throughout the first period but were stunned when Patrice Evra crashed in a superb opener towards the hour. Josep Guardiola's charges swiftly levelled through Mario Mandžukić, however, before Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben completed the turnaround to end Bayern's winless run at home to English clubs and send them through 4-2 on aggregate.
It was no surprise to see Bayern set the tone early, and with Mandžukić leading the line, they were keen to get the ball wide into crossing positions. Robben looked particularly motivated and flashed three shots off target, but Wayne Rooney spurned arguably the best initial chance when he sneaked in behind at the other end, going for goal himself when he might have found the supporting Shinji Kagawa.
Antonio Valencia did have the ball in the net for David Moyes's men though his finish was ruled offside, and otherwise Bayern had little to deal with defensively. The trouble was in attack. Their forward traffic came almost exclusively via the flanks and, with Müller and Mario Götze uncharacteristically uninventive with their movements in the centre, the hosts were limited to long-range strikes.
While Franck Ribéry hit the side netting with one effort and Toni Kroos curled narrowly over, it was all very uncharacteristic of a Bayern team whose many goals this term have come almost entirely from within the box. The German champions were almost lulling themselves into a daze with all their possession, and United pounced.
Evra's rocket of a strike had the visiting fans in raptures, yet the Frenchman's spectacular goal served only to awaken the home side. Just as in the first leg, Bayern equalised within minutes of falling behind as Mandžukić dived to head in Ribéry's cross.
Things might have panned out differently had Rooney converted a glorious opportunity from close range shortly afterwards. Instead it was Bayern who seized their moment, going in front when Müller converted Robben's low centre. Robben himself then made absolutely sure of Bayern's place in the semi-final draw with a trademark run and deflected finish with 14 minutes remaining.
Who knew seedy was such a hard look to pull off? Alan Cumming, who is reviving his role as the Emcee in Cabaret in New York, takes an hour every night to apply make-up, scars, bruises, tattoos and track marks—and slip into his kinky costumes.
In both the 1966 Broadway musical and 1972 Bob Fosse film of Cabaret, Joel Grey played the Emcee as impish and asexual, in a top hat and tails. In contrast, Mr. Cumming gives us a sexually omnivorous Emcee in suspenders and a bow tie over his bare chest, and a cod piece under his pants.
Mr. Cumming says that when he first took the role, he was unprepared for the blitzkrieg of attention: "I had just come to New York, this was the first show I'd ever done here, and the whole explosion was a little daunting." The 1998 show got a Tony for Best Musical Revival, and Mr. Cumming and co-star Natasha Richardson, who played cabaret singer Sally Bowles, won awards as well.
In this production, Michelle Williams is playing Bowles. Mr. Cumming, who has performed opposite a bevy of Sallys, says she is the "most mysterious" of them: "She plays it like this eccentric little waif."
Behind the scenes, staff are reviving their roles as well: Mr. Cumming's dresser from 16 years ago, Kimberly Mark, is back to help him in and out of his trousers each night. "It's like an assembly line," she says of their carefully choreographed routine. "I help him untie a boot, he'll do the other one, then I'll pull his feet up and pull the pants over them, and then while he's standing I get behind him and pull up the suspenders."
And when he's done MC'ing the Kit Kat Club, Ms. Mark MC's his dressing room: waiting for him each night with a vodka soda and a protein shake (not in the same glass) and chatting with his friends and fans as Mr. Cumming transforms back into himself.
and here's Cumming being cute on his instagram:
Developer Telltale Games’ series based on Bill Willingham’s Fables comics has been a bit emotional so far. We had the super impressive first episode, and then we had the slightly less-good — but still really good – second part.
Well, the third installment, A Crooked Mile, is out now for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 3 (and later this week for Xbox 360 and iOS), and I didn’t know what to expect when I started it up on my 360. It’s probably better that I went in that way, though, because I hate to think of the kind of day I’d have to have before I came to expect the emotional and physical brutality that runs throughout this two-hour game.
It’s all good, mind you. Just … damn.
What you’ll like
You know the drill by now
I could just copy and paste the “What you’ll like” section from the first two reviews, but my bosses don’t like that. Something about not wanting to pay me twice for the same work. Misers.
So I’ll just briefly recap that the writing, characters, art direction and music are all still among the best you’ll find anywhere. The decisions feel weighty and significant, and the world is full of character and personality. Sure, the personality is often unpleasant. It’s a bit jaded and mean, and occasionally it has to punch people in the neck to get its point across. But that’s what makes it interesting.
It juggles dialogue and action well
I loved the fight and chase sequences in the first episode of The Wolf Among Us so much that I missed them when Episode 2 focused more on dialogue and investigation. Episode 3 has found a reasonable middle ground.
And it’s funny that I say that because A Crooked Mile doesn’t have any more fighting than Smoke and Mirrors did. Other than having Bigby punch a few bothersome Fables in the snout, I can only recall one brief quick-time event and one (incredibly one-sided) fight.
But why it works here is that the dialogue is incredibly loaded in this episode. Even if you play Bigby as the most good of all good cops, everyone else is either talking about, implying, or committing some violence. The longest (and best) conversations unspool in a fog of tension and ill will, culminating in often shocking bursts of brutality. Like Hitchcock’s films or the writing of Ambrose Bierce, the best scenes play out deliberately and hypnotically, the tension insidiously creeping in and building up to the final horror.
And speaking of which ….
The feeling of escalation
It’s reasonable to expect that a series like this would raise the stakes as it goes, but every episode must also be relatively self-contained with its own story arc so that players feel like they’ve actually experienced and accomplished something.
A Crooked Mile brings up the intensity and complexity of the entire series with new revelations, a sinister and unseen criminal mastermind, and an ever-deepening pit of conspiracy. But more immediately, it offers that same sense of increasing tension and peril within itself. Quiet moments end with startling revelations or sudden outbursts, and every scene builds on the horribleness of the last until the final bloody showdown.
And this even extended to how I played Bigby. At the beginning of the chapter, I was doing everything I could to make him act as reasonably un-big and not-bad as possible. “My” Bigby is trying to put his evil past behind him and move on. But the increasingly dire events wore on him (meaning me), and when I had a chance to do something truly horrible at the end, I took it because I had reached my “screw everything” point.
This happened over the course of two hours. It’s pretty great storytelling, is what I’m saying.
What you won’t like
You still can’t lose those prompts
I mentioned this in the last review, but it bears repeating: The Wolf Among Us won’t let you turn off the immersion-breaking little cues that appear when characters mark your actions (e.g. “Snow will remember this.”). They’re distracting, and they make me feel like the game is reducing my hard-weighed decisions to ticks on a scale. And even worse, their appearance makes some decisions more meaningful than others.
In one scene, however, Telltale uses the pop-ups to make a cute joke, and it was funny. But I would find a way to live without it if it meant that I didn’t have constant indicators of which of my choices actually mean anything.
After the ever-so-slightly lackluster Smoke and Mirrors, A Crooked Mile brings the series back up to its promising beginnings. The plot is increasingly dire and bleak, but it’s also one of the most sharply written games in recent memory. Here, just past the halfway point, I’m completely on board, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: A Crooked Mile is out now for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 3; tomorrow for Xbox 360; and an iOS version is coming soon. The developer provided GamesBeat with a free Xbox 360 download code for this review.
I did not interrupt Snow's eulogy
I investigated the Trip Trap Bar first
I offered a job to Flycatcher
I did not burn Greenleaf's tree
I killed Tweedle Dum
"Captain America: Winter Soldier, " the latest exercise in character kitchen-sinkdom that is the Marvel Studios universe, did a few things in theaters this weekend. It was, most prominently, a major box office hit, destroying the April record by more than $10 million and, at $96.2 million, falling just short of the magic $100-million mark.
The Chris Evans film was also a critical success, garnering largely plaudits, if occasionally some reservations, on its way to an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But it also did something else that is nearly unique in the studio's collection of films from comic books of yore: It was better than the original.
Like Tony Stark in a giant garage, Marvel has been building sequels as fast as it can gather the parts. "Iron Man" quickly spawned "Iron Man 2" and then "Iron Man 3"; "Thor" gave rise to "Thor: The Dark World"; and " Captain America" has now yielded "Captain America: Winter Soldier," offering a nod to the comics and Thomas Paine and also offering the prospect of other seasonally themed spinoffs ("Captain America: Autumnal Mercenary"?).
What it hasn't done with all these sequels is build something better than the original. "Iron Man 2" was a redundant collection of Stark witticisms and weaponry, and functioned in part as a setup for "Iron Man 3," which, though better than "2," itself was a further reminder of how removed we were from the novelty and freshness of "Iron Man." "Thor: The Dark World" took the fish-out-of-water pleasures of the original and clubbed us with a lot of head-throbbing action using the subtlety of its trademark hammer.
This wouldn't be surprising -- many sequels lose the creative momentum of the original -- if not for the fact that most of the superhero movies made by other studios actually improved on what came before.
"Spider-Man 2" was a leaps and bounds jump over "Spider-Man"; "X2" gave us much of what "X-Men" didn't; and "The Dark Knight" was a modern classic compared to the merely solid entertainment of "Batman Begins." By all accounts we're looking at a similar evolution on "Amazing Spider-Man 2" when that sequel comes out next month. [Update, 6:51 pm Monday: An earlier version of this post noted these were Marvel characters instead of superhero properties generally.]
The difference, as you may have already surmised, is that each of these sequels was directed by the same filmmaker as the first movie, which allowed not only for a continuation of style and themes but made for the building of an epic in the first place, a fulfillment of a single vision a director needed more than two hours to execute. (Why the third film tends to run out of gas is another question.)
"Captain America: Winter Soldier" was different than those Sony, Fox and Warner Bros. sequels. In keeping with the Marvel Studios sequel tradition of switching in directors -- in this case the TV-veteran Russo brothers -- "Captain America: Winter Solder" nonetheless managed to build on the original excitement and layer in some topical and not insubstantial conspiracy and privacy questions above it.
It wasn't the fulfillment of a vision but the result of new blood that made the sequel so satisfying -- an entirely different proposition.
Swapping out directors is a risky move, but the nice thing is that if you don't have a Christopher Nolan or a Sam Raimi, you can take a mulligan of sorts. There was no guarantee that directors whose only film credit was "You, Me & Dupree" were going to be able to pull off this “Captain America,” but there was also the refreshing possibility that they would do more with the character than Joe Johnston, who directed the first film, was able to do.
Marvel is making an (understandable) exception to its own rule with "The Avengers." On its face, that’s more in line with Marvel movies made by other studios, and offers hope that Joss Whedon can pull a Nolan or Raimi and make the follow-up better than original. But after this weekend, the sequel lesson may be that you don't need the same director to make it good, just a good director not to make it the same.
I think its been too long since the last post...