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+)

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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.”

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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)

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