Latest Blog Posts

Album Review: Joss Stone returns with 'The Soul Sessions Volume 2'

Album Review: Joss Stone returns with 'The Soul Sessions Volume 2'

Can she make lightning strike twice?

It was in 2003 that teenage British lass Joss Stone released “The Soul Sessions,” a collection of primarily obscure ’60 and ‘70s R&B covers delivered with an almost preternatural maturity and vocal prowess.

Nine years later, Stone is all grown up and it shows on “The Soul Sessions Volume 2,” out July 31 on Stone’d/S Curve Recordings.

Often such sequels are bad ideas and feel like a calculated way to try to recapture the unplanned magic that made the first effort soar. However, this time Stone has done the near impossible: she has caught lightning in a bottle twice.

Her remarkably lush, throaty vocals seems even stronger, but more importantly, the 25-year-old Stone has sufficient living and heartache under her belt to bring the needed bite to songs like The Honey Cone’s “While You’re Out Looking For Sugar.” And there’s certainly no way a 16-year old should have been singing a cover of Sylvia’s breathy “Pillow Talk.”

Recorded primarily in Nashville and produced by S-Curve chief Steve Greenberg, who helmed “Soul Sessions” with Betty Wright,  “SS2” features such soul stalwarts as Ernie Isley, Delbert McClinton and Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section pianist/keyboardist Clayton Ivey. They ground Stone in a sense of time and place and authenticity in a way that more modern players likely could not (although a special nod has to go to Raymond Angry, best known for his work with Christina Aguilera and the Roots, whose B3 work here drenches the album in his own delectable brand of soul honey). It’s possible to feel transported back to another era as she sears through tunes like Eddie Floyd’s “I Don’t Wanna Be With Nobody But You.”

Just as she included The White Stripes’ “Fell In Love With A Boy”  on “Soul Sessions,” Stone expands the definition of soul here to include a striking cover of The Broken Bells’ “The High Road.” While she remains faithful to most of the soul originals, she upends “The High Road,” infusing it with a sultriness totally non-existent in the Broken Bells’ version, and discarding some of the song’s mournfulness. 

Stone proves adept on all numbers here, but she’s at her best when she’s belting with a purpose. A revamp of soul and country classic “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” with just acoustic guitar and strings, shows off her softer side, but it’s the sassy, take-no-prisoners Stone that will keep listeners interested, such as on the spritely, vengeful “First Taste Of Hurt” (one of four extra songs on the expanded deluxe version) or the funked out “Stoned Out Of My Mind.”

As much depth as she’s able to infuse these songs with now, it would be incredible to have Stone record a new edition of “The Soul Sessions” every decade. In about 20 years, when life has kicked her around a bit more as it does all of us, Stone should really be able to give them some heft.  In the meantime, “The Soul Sessions Vol. 2” will have to suffice and it does so masterfully.

Read Full Post
<p>The &quot;Sparkle&quot; soundtrack</p>

The "Sparkle" soundtrack

Credit: RCA

Review: Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks lead 'Sparkle' soundtrack

A remake, a tribute, spiritual, profane, a labor of many masters

The remake of the 1976 musical film “Sparkle” isn’t intended to serve as a historical document, but it does attempt to invoke the sounds and feel of the Motown era along with race relations in 1960s Detroit. It’s “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks’ first significant film appearance as its title role, and was to be the late Whitney Houston’s return to the big screen (and now it serves as her swan song). It gets further wattage from freshly penned contemporary R&B songs from R. Kelly, as well as an ample opportunity reintroduce Curtis Mayfield classics like “Something He Can Feel.” It's got the sacred, the profane, and some soul.

Thus, the soundtrack to “Sparkle” ends up serving more than one master, which makes for a muddled effort. The first pieces to arrive from the set were both from Whitney Houston, to effectively link her to the project as the movie’s promoted. She sings with Sparks on “Celebrate,” which has gotten a hard push at adult top 40 and contemporary formats at radio, but her weathered pipes sound harsh compared to the youthful saccharine of the AI star’s vocals. Houston is much more suited to heart-filled spiritual classic “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” with its slow speed, rusty lower range and all the room in the world for her religious pining.
Read Full Post
<p>Contrary to popular belief, it is not a good thing when Liam Neeson gets his hands on you.</p>

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a good thing when Liam Neeson gets his hands on you.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Liam Neeson continues his killing spree in full domestic 'Taken 2' trailer

A clever conceit allows for a bigger body count in the sequel

When "Mission: Impossible 3" was released, the thing I enjoyed most about it was the way it took a convention of the series and spun an entire bad guy plot out of that.  In almost every episode of "Mission: Impossible," the team would grab some low-level nobody, knock him out, tie him up, and use their magic elastic masks to steal the guy's face.  Hunt's mistake in the movie was doing that to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who decided to pay him back.  It would be like a "Star Trek" film where the bad guy was some anonymous red shirt who was pissed off because Kirk left him for dead on an alien planet.

When I look at the trailer for "Taken 2," it feels like the same sort of interesting riff on the conventions of the genre, and I really like the set-up.  In the first "Taken," Liam Neeson killed about 10,000 dudes who were all part of the same criminal organization.  It's pretty standard action movie behavior, but what seems new is the idea that those guys actually mattered to someone, and so in this film, we see them strike back at him.  It's very personal, and unlike a sequel like "Die Hard 2," where pure coincidence is the only thing that brings John McClane back into the action, this is very much a reaction to what John Taken (or whatever the hell Liam Neeson's name was in the first film) did.

Read Full Post
<p>David Nevins of Showtime</p>

David Nevins of Showtime

Credit: Showtime

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: Showtime Executive Session with David Nevins

We're not sure what news there could be, but follow along...

BEVERLY HILLS - After The CW in the morning, it's time for Showtime, with Entertainment President David Nevins.

It's unclear if Showtime has anything controversial or newsworthy or even vaguely interesting, but click through...

Read Full Post
"Beauty & The Beast"

"Beauty & The Beast"

Credit: The CW

Press Tour 2012: 'Beauty & The Beast,' Kristin Kreuk get animal

New CW show blends police procedural with romance in this '80s show reboot

Some fans of retro TV may remember "Beauty & The Beast" as an '80s TV show starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton, but the CW hopes a new reboot premiering Thurs. Oct. 11 (9:00 p.m. ET) will freshen up the concept. This time around, the beast isn't a lion living underground, but a former soldier (played by Jay Ryan) who's been subjected to experiments while serving in the military. "We talked about the idea… of a super soldier gone bad," Executive Producer Sherri Cooper told an audience of press tour journalists. And don't get too comfortable with this beast basically being a good guy, either. "He's going to become beastlier [as the series continues] and we're going to explore story wise what the reasons are [for him to change]. He is going to get worse…"

Read Full Post
<p>Will Robert De Niro come out of the fests looking like a Best Supporting Actor sure-thing in &quot;Silver Linings&nbsp;Playbook?&quot;</p>

Will Robert De Niro come out of the fests looking like a Best Supporting Actor sure-thing in "Silver Linings Playbook?"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Fall fests set to fire the Oscar starting gun

Plus: The annual Telluride guessing game

Now that the first wave of festival announcements has hit, let's take a look at things.

Toronto came out of the gate first with a typically stuffed program. The high marks that could easily figure into the awards race include Ben Affleck's "Argo," Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on Hudson," David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski's "Cloud Atlas," Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Meanwhile, films looking for distribution that could come out of the fest with a buyer, staring at the season, include Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," Mike Newell's "Great Expectations," Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini's "Imogene," Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" and Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder."

Read Full Post
<p>Matchbox Twenty in &quot;She's So Mean&quot;</p>

Matchbox Twenty in "She's So Mean"

Watch: Matchbox Twenty's video for 'She's So Mean'

'Mean' equals 'hot' in band's new clip

Warning: Several vinyl albums were harmed in the making of this video.

“She’s So Mean,” Matchbox Twenty’s video for the  first single from its first album of all-new material in 10 years, should be retitled "She's So Hot." As the lyrics state, “You want her, but she’s so mean,” as they detail a girl who wreaks havoc but you just can’t let her go. “Mean” = “Hot.” Trust me, no guy in the world would put up with this femme fatale’s antics if she weren’t a 10. Some guys like the cray-cray, but only when it comes wrapped in a very pretty package.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the ensemble of &quot;The Master.&quot;</p>

Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the ensemble of "The Master."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Master' will premiere at Venice - is Toronto next?

The festival scene gets a bit more exciting this year

Long rumored, but discounted by some, the Venice Film Festival has officially announced that Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" will make its highly-anticipated premiere at the prestigious European fest.

Anderson's follow up to the Oscar-nominated "There Will Be Blood," this new drama centers on a young drifter (Joaquin Phoenix in comeback mode) and the founder of a cult-like religion (Philip Seymour Hoffman) which is beginning to finally gain traction with the general public.  The filmmakers and their surrogates continue to deny the connection between the fictional religion and Scientology, but as more footage is revealed the allegory is becoming harder to discredit.  The picture also features Amy Adams and Laura Dern.

The Weinstein Company is releasing "The Master" in the United States and recently moved the film's limited opening up to Sept. 14.  Along with the Venice news, it's a slam dunk that the film will also screen at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival which takes place a week before its release date.

Read Full Post
Chris Brown releases cover art to next single 'Don't Judge Me'

Chris Brown releases cover art to next single 'Don't Judge Me'

Aw.

Chris Brown's "Don't Judge Me" will be his next single, but the song isn't necessarily what you'd think it's about.

"And I've been through this so many times / Can we change the subject? / You gonna start asking me questions like..."

Will you continue to be a man-child in every interview you do? Will you hit a lady again? Can you please not slut-shame Rihanna? Why did you and Drake get in a public fight at a nightclub?

"...Was she attractive? Was she an actress?"

Oh, yes. That. Those are the kind of questions I'd ask Chris Brown.

Here is the emo cover art to "Don't Judge Me," off of his album "Fortune," out now.

Chris Brown's Don't Judge Me artwork

Read Full Post
Watch: Green Day wants you to 'Let Yourself Go' in new live video

Watch: Green Day wants you to 'Let Yourself Go' in new live video

Energetic clip showcases material from 'Uno'

Green Day continues to give fans peeks into “¡Uno!,” “¡Dos!,” and “¡Tre!”, the three albums coming out over a four-month period starting next month.

Today, we get a live video of “Let Yourself Go,” filmed Nov. 17 at a club in Austin, Texas.  The Alternative Press exclusive is a little slice of punk pop that is a straight-down-the-middle fastball from the trio: it’s propulsive, snarly, and energetic. Plus, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt are appropriately scruffy, looking like they’re running on no sleep and caffeine for days on end in the black and white clip.  The live version stretches out a bit after a great, anthemic start. We’re hoping the album version is a tightly-wound, 2:30 version.

[More after the jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Arrow&quot;</p>

"Arrow"

Credit: The CW

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: The CW Executive Session with Mark Pedowitz

Expect updates on 'The Selection' and possibly 'Battle Royale' and more

BEVERLY HILLS - It's time for the last of the network executive sessions from the Television Critics Association press tour.

Woo! 

Click through to see what Mark Pedowitz has to say about the network's present and future...

Read Full Post
<p>Karl Urban gets his kill on in a scene from 'Dredd 3D,' which will have its gala premiere at this year's Fantastic Fest</p>

Karl Urban gets his kill on in a scene from 'Dredd 3D,' which will have its gala premiere at this year's Fantastic Fest

Credit: Lionsgate

First wave of Fantastic Fest 2012 titles features 'Dredd' premiere

Strong revival programming also features heavily in this batch of titles

It's the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the year.

Sure, most people sing that phrase as part of a Christmas carol, but for me, September is the month when I get all my presents, and once again, it's looking like it's going to be a month overstuffed with pleasure.

Last week, we heard the first batch of titles that were announced for the Toronto International Film Festival, an amazing overabundance of movies I am absolutely dying to see.  That's what Toronto normally is for me, a collection of things I've already heard about that I'm eager to finally lay eyes on, while Fantastic Fest tends to be the opposite.  That's more about me discovering films I've never heard of and would otherwise never see, and I simply trust that the programming team, which has done an amazing job each and every year so far, is going to once again lay out a buffet of amazing treats that I'm going to savor.

This morning, we've got the official announcement of the first wave of titles, and while I don't recognize many of them, it sounds like a really weird batch of titles.  Sure, they announced that "Frankenweenie" would open the fest recently, but there's a lot of truly low-budget and obscure titles mixed into some amazing revival titles in this announcement.  In other words, it sounds like Fantastic Fest.

Have I mentioned that I can't wait?

Read Full Post
BLOGS BY NAME