Artist Feature: Jay-Z

Even though he’s brokering multi-million dollar deals and selling out world concerts, the Shawn Carter you see today is essentially the same Shawn Carter we first met 15+ years ago when Jay-Z unleashed the classic debut CD Reasonable Doubt on the world. The Jay-Z today is still hungry and still focused. And though he’s got R&B queen Beyonce on one shoulder and a diaper bag on the other now, he’s still aiming to be the best MC we’ve ever seen… Get the full story on Hove at ReDigi.

Movie Review: Sparkle

There’s a tired look about Whitney Houston’s face for much of this movie. In this remake to the 1976 urban classic, Houston’s portraying Effie, an overly protective mom of three musically inclined daughters she doesn’t want falling into the trappings of secular ways. “Keep dancing like that and you’ll bring home a baby you can’t feed,” she snarls during one scene. She’s speaking from a place of experience and regret. But Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), “Sister” (an unforgettable Carmen Ejogo) and “Dee” (Tika Sumpter) aren’t really thinking about men; they’re mostly concerned with the music. And boy, in 1968 Detroit, the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and CeeLo Green (yep, that CeeLo!) are everywhere. At night, with Effie snoring on the couch, they’d sneak out to perform at local clubs. Sister led, Sparkle wrote and Dee kept everyone in check. They’d meet some good folk (Derek Luke, Omari Hardwick) and a few scoundrels (Mike Epps at his dastardly best) on their road up the charts, but sadly, not every sister would make it on the musical journey without hitting a few bumps. As for Houston’s character, she’d wise up to the daughters’ dealings after a while. That tired look turned into one of resentment. But after a powerful “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” solo one Sunday and a late moment of self-reflection, the radiant Whitney we’ll always remember makes an appearance. The Dreamgirls-ish film is just a so-so coming-out party for Sparks. However, it’s a poignant, appropriate going-home celebration for Houston, one of the greatest entertainers the world will ever see. (C+)

2012 NCAA Football Preview

The college football landscape is changing before our very eyes. This season the SEC expands to include Missouri and Texas A&M. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the ACC in 2013. In 2014, of course, we finally get the four-team playoff system we’ve dreamed about. But the more things in the NCAA change, the more they stay the same. Perennial powers LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma won’t budge in this year’s top 5. All three stacked squads will compete for a national title, but INsite feels the USC Trojans (QB Matt Barkley pictured) are the ones on the verge of something truly historic—becoming the first Pac-12 team ever, and first non-SEC school since ’05, to win a BCS championship. See, some change is good. Check out the top 25 here…

Talkin’ Shoes and Shady Fans with Josh Smith

When Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith reflects on his home court, Philips Arena, his feelings are understandably mixed. The A-Town native loves it when a packed house goes bonkers after he throws down one of his monster jams; he just hates it when that same packed house of fickle fans erupts just as loudly for Blake Griffin or Dwyane Wade.

“This year we were rated the worst sports town in all the United States,” Smith says. “I feel like we do deserve a little gratification from the fans. We’ve been good for five, six years now. I know it’s probably hard because of the recession to be able to get good seats, but you know, people inspire me in the nosebleeds. I just want to see you in the stands.”


The Rick Ross You Never Knew

Rick Ross’ latest effort, God Forgives, I Don’t, was the No. 1 album on iTunes in early August for a couple of reasons. Sure, one of the reasons was because every other blog or Twitter post hyped the release. The other is simply because the CD thumps throughout. But Rozay fans know that’s nothing new. For five albums now, Ross has balanced club anthems with deep, introspective moments like few others on the mic ever have.

Many of Ross’s tracks were major radio hits; others only managed mediocre mainstream love. This list, put together for pre-owned digital music site ReDigi, is for the latter.  Drawing from his first four albums, these are the 10 best Rick Ross songs that were never singles but deserve to be singled out on your next mix.

10 Threatened Rivers for Your World Travel Bucket List

According to U.S. scientists, July 2012 was the hottest month in recorded history. Crops have dried up, and most people’s utility bills have shot up. North America’s epic drought has placed a chokehold on the country’s lakes and rivers. The Hudson River, a cherished waterway stretching through New York, has seen its levels drop two feet this year alone. Sadly, the news is even worse in other parts of the world (like with the Ganges River above), where environmental changes, human abuse and urban development have left once-thriving rivers mere puddles of their former selves. Here are 10 Threatened Rivers For Your World Travel Bucket List, none of which we’ll recognize for much longer if we don’t find answers to all the years of neglect.


Movie Review: Total Recall

With movies like The Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2 releasing, August is ripe with glossy flicks to entice the action lover in your home. For Total Recall to get its piece of the testosterone-stuffed pie, producers hope three things work in their favor: Colin Farrell, nostalgia and cool special effects. Seeing as how Farrell’s one of Hollywood’s most overrated names (the last three movies he’s headlined, Fright Night, Pride & Glory and In Bruges, grossed a combined $41.8 million), we’ll just cross that first one out now. As for nostalgia, this reboot to the ’90 cult sci-fi fave starring Arnold Schwarzenegger has many of the original’s beloved elements: unbelievable cars, three-breasted chicks and a central story about a possible spy (Farrell) who can’t differentiate dreams from memories after visiting a mind-manipulating bar. The new Recall does stray from the first version by skipping the trip to Mars. It stays on an Earth divided into two sections: the flourishing United Federation of Britain and the crumbling Colony. But don’t worry about the original’s campiness being swapped for deep social messaging this time. Director Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) only hints at anything of heft; instead, he tries to captivate with busy fight sequences. He’ll accomplish his goal on two occasions –There’s a rapid-fire chase scene with some sliding elevators and a rather unique shootout at zero gravity- but mostly, there’s just a lot of clunky dialogue and running around on The Matrix Reloaded backlot. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, who literally fight for Farrell’s attention a third of the movie, are easy on the eye, but, ultimately, they’re unable to make Total Recall producers’ dreams of a fantasy winner much of a reality either. (C)

10 Athletes the World Should Be Watching in London

Few events attract the eyes of the entire world like the Summer Olympics. Beginning Friday, July 27, every moment of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be shown live on NBC’s family of networks and its website. For those counting at home, that’s some 5,535 hours of coverage. Over 17 exciting days, familiar sports icons like LeBron James and Usain Bolt will be heard time and again. But for every Michael Phelps and Serena Williams, there are literally thousands of other athletes around the globe with amazing talents and fascinating stories to share (including Brazilian soccer sensation Marta). Here are 10 largely unknown Olympic athletes we’ll be keeping up with over the spirited weeks ahead in London, as well as a guide to the best times to see them each in action.

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

In the last Spider-Man movie series, Tobey Maguire was great as the awkward Peter Parker, fawning over Mary Jane Watson and delivering pizzas. In this take, Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) is awkward for about five minutes in a high school hallway–director Mark Webb must have looked at some footage and realized Garfield was too handsome to pull the shtick off for a whole movie– but quickly turns into this camera-wielding, skateboard-riding mystery who defends fellow students from bullies. But fanboys will appreciate the fact that Parker’s high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), is really his first crush from the Marvel comics. Of course, in between saving kids from cafeteria torture and staring at pictures of Gwen, Peter’s waging an internal struggle with the loss of his father, scientist Richard Parker. His uncle (Martin Sheen) and aunt (Sally Field) give Peter love, just not the answers he seeks. But a mysterious briefcase shows up in the basement, and its contents lead to Oscorp, an ambitious research outfit led by Richard’s old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). As you know, Peter goes snooping around the building and ends up bitten by an atomic arachnid. Scenes where Parker acclimates to his newfound powers, especially one cool moment on the train, are pretty special. In fact, Peter’s early fights against street thugs and his quiet spells with Gwen almost leave you questioning your loyalty to Tobey. It’s only when Dr. Connors’ screen time increases that this new version loses something. We know the doc wants to re-generate his missing limb, but why does he want to take out his frustrations on New York, too? We realize his failed experiment changes him into Lizard, but why does his alter ego have to look like something out of The Dark Crystal? We see the rotten reptile and Spidey get into a knock-down, drag-out at the school, so how does the place appear immaculate just a few scenes later? Not really sure. All we’re certain of is that the web-slinger’s flights are awesome. The behind-the-mask action shots are dynamic. The lovebirds’ chemistry is evident. But as a franchise reboot, there’s just not enough about this Spider-Man for it to be considered truly amazing. (B-)

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