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Thanks to exams and a subsequent week of vacation, I haven’t had time to write Idol recaps the past two weeks, but here’s a look at how Shania Twain week went down on American Idol.
I had my doubts about this week’s theme, but I should’ve learned by now that it’s often the unexpected themes that make for the best nights on Idol. All of the competitors did well with the Shania Twain catalogue (and Shania herself was a fun presence as the bubbly mentor), and it’s a tough call as to who will and should go home tonight.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve said goodbye to Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens, and Tim Urban (just another of the many ways that Idol gives back). And though I liked Andrew and Katie, it now feels much more like a real competition amongst the six remaining contestants. Here’s a rough ranking of how I thought the performances went down, from best to worst:
1. Lee Dewyze (“You’re Still the One”) – It’s no secret that I’m a Lee fan, but I thought he had one of his best performances yet with this mega-hit. It was nice to see him do a vulnerable ballad, but still add his usual intensity to it. He’s gaining confidence, and it showed up more than ever in this engaging performance. Besides a slight misstep vocally with “Hey Jude”, he’s had a strong run the past few weeks.
2. Casey James (“Don’t”) – Wisely returning with a ballad after last week’s much-maligned version of “Don’t Stop”, Casey earned raves from the judges. I thought it lacked a bit of the heartfelt connection that “Jealous Guy” had, but vocally, it was probably his strongest performance yet.
3. Crystal Bowersox (“No One Needs to Know”) – Oddly, Crystal was the only contestant who received negative feedback from the judges. I agree that it may not have been her most powerful performance, but I liked seeing her change things up with a lighter country tune. I also loved that it was a message from Crystal for her boyfriend to “man up” (and that said boyfriend looked suitably sheepish – and adorable! – in the audience).
4. Aaron Kelly (“You’ve Got a Way”) – Just when I thought that Aaron had mentally checked out of the competition, he came back with a heartfelt performance of this Shania ballad (which he tearfully revealed afterwards was for his mother. Hold for a collective “aww”). The lower register was a bit wonky, but his voice otherwise suited the song, and some of the high notes were beautiful.
5. Michael Lynche (“It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing”) – Mike’s take on this ballad was typically a strong technical performance from him. But I found my thoughts drifting throughout. I liked his performances of “Eleanor Rigby” and “In the Ghetto”, but this felt dull.
6. Siobhan Magnus (“Any Man of Mine”) – I liked this performance far more than the previous three or four that she’s given, and I liked that she picked an up-tempo song (the rock edge suits her far more than R&B balladry). I would even go as far as to say that I enjoyed her fun (if not slightly manic) performance. That is, until the ending predictably hit. I did not welcome the return of The Scream, which I’d hoped she’d retire. It seemed far too calculated and really detracted from the looser vibe of the song.
Should Go: Michael Lynche
Will Go: Michael Lynche?
It seems like a whole slew of new movie trailers have been released in the past week or so. Here’s a look at a few films that we have to look for to (or dread).
The Other Guys
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Farrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Coogan, Eva Mendes
Movies with huge, star-studded casts usually end up sucking (prove me wrong, Inception!), and while it has some funny moments, the trailer for The Other Guys makes it look like this film won’t be an exception. The funniest parts come from Farrell’s patented freak-outs (the bad cop/bad cop scene looks pretty funny), but this will likely be more Step Brothers than Talladega Nights (whatever, I liked that movie). I’d be happy to have it prove me wrong, though.
The Kids Are All Right
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Julian Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska
This story about a lesbian couple whose children want to meet their biological father could’ve made an Oscar bait-y drama, but I’m really glad to see that The Kids Are Alright seems to be taking a much lighter-hearted approach. I love Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, and Josh Hutcherson, and they all seem to be in fine form here. This movie got good reviews out of Sundance, and the trailer makes me want to see it more.
Dinner for Schmucks
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Zach Galifianakis
It made the #5 spot on my “Most Anticipated Movies of 2010) list thanks to its cast, but after watching the first trailer, my excitement has decreased exponentially. The introduction to Carrell’s character made me chuckle (“He’s eating paper!”), but the rest of the trailer was just way too obviously. Hopefully Paul Rudd can save it, but unfortunately, it looks like this might be a disappointment of a summer blockbuster. And anything with Jeff Dunham automatically sucks, in my opinion.
Director: Kevin Asch
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Ari Graynor
Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland) is proving to be quite the likeable actor, and in this film, where he plays a Hasidic Jew who gets involved in a drug-running scheme, he seems to be playing another version of his bumbling self. The trailer is alright, but makes the film look rather formulaic. It didn’t immediately grab my attention, but I’m still interested in seeing how Eisenberg and Bartha do in these roles.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
The U.S. trailer for the latest film by Amelie director Jeunet was just released. While whimsical and visually impressive, it makes the film seem to be all about quirkiness, rather than the heart and wonderful story that was behind Amelie.
Sex and the City 2
Director: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis
Having seen only a handful of episodes of the TV show and skipping the first movie, maybe I’m not allowed to judge the sequel. But I was actually alright with this trailer until it turned into we-ran-out-of-storylines-so-it’s-time-to-go-somewhere-foreign fare. And seeing Kristen Davis in an exotic location gave me bad flashbacks to Couples Retreat.
Ramona and Beezus
Director: Elizabeth Allen
Starring: Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel, Sandra Oh
I loved the Beverly Cleary book series as a kid, but I have no idea what to make of this trailer. It introduces more than a dozen characters in less than two minutes and looks way too cutesy and precocious for its own good. And why is Josh Duhamel in every crappy-looking movie coming out this year? However, there is a small spark of genuine charm mixed in there somewhere, and it looks like the kid playing Ramona is likeable enough. It’ll likely be a half-decent kids/family film, but its appeal will probably end there.
In-studio antics made for the most entertaining show of this season of Idol. But how did the singing stack up?
Everything about Lennon/McCartney night on American Idol seemed a bit tilt, but mainly in a good way. From some dude in the audience yelling “BOOO!!!” seemingly every time Simon opened his mouth to Crystal’s decision that a didgeridoo would be an appropriate accompaniment on “Come Together”, things seemed a bit zany.
Smartly foregoing a guest mentor (I’ve never been a big fan of the guest mentor idea. Though I AM a fan of Adam Lambert mentoring next week!), the producers instead allowed the other idols to weigh in on each contestant in the clip reel before their performance. The best moments of the packages came not from ego-boosting praise, but the gentle ribbing that several contestants received. Crystal’s suggestion that bro-pals Lee and Andrew should get married and have “Danny Gokey babies” was hilarious, and the contestants’ suggestions of alternative soap opera names for pretty boy Casey (“Trevor”, “Drake”) was fun, too.
As for the actual singing, there may have been a short supply of “wow” moments, but for the first time, everyone gave a performance that was at least decent. Maybe there’s hope for season 9 yet.
Here’s my ranking of the performances:
1. Casey James (“Jealous Guy”) – Casey was one of the few that delivered a bold re-arrangement of the song. And while I have to question his slight change to the melody of the chorus, he delivered a moving take on the John Lennon solo tune. It was the least self-conscious that he’s appeared on the Idol stage yet. After a few weeks of too-similar performances, this raw performance did just the trick. The guitar playing was fantastic, too.
2. Crystal Bowersox (“Come Together”) – MamaSox also made a smart decision by choosing an up-tempo, fun (it’s been the theme of the season!) song that highlighted her soulful style. Her personality (or, at least, her television persona) is becoming even more charming, and I’m glad that she’s managed to maintain her early momentum.
3. Lee Dewyze (“Hey Jude”) – After last week’s best-in-show performance, Lee came back with more confidence than usual, even encouraging the audience to clap and sing along with the anthemic Beatles classic. However, the first half of the song featured more than a couple of sloppy note endings, and the second half featured a distracting bagpiper angelically descending from a staircase in the background. It was strange, and not Lee’s strongest, but still a reasonably solid performance.
4. Mike Lynch (“Eleanor Rigby”) – If you’ve read my other recaps, you’ll know that I am not a fan of Mike. But despite the fact that he added a few too many runs and still did his cheesy gestures, I liked his performance tonight. Obviously, it pales in comparison to David Cook’s, but I still liked this version.
5. Andrew Garcia (“Can’t Buy Me Love”) – Yes, it was corny. But I loved that Andrew was one of the few to pick an upbeat, fun song. His vocals were generally solid, and he offered an engaging performance.
6. Katie Stevens (“Let It Be”) – As the judges said, this was her best, least robotic performance yet. It was nice to see her pick a song that she genuinely connected with, and she was far less pitchy than usual. If she’s going to be on the show, I’m glad she’s improving.
7. Siobhan Magnus (“Across the Universe”) – Armed with tears and a strict “no screaming” policy, Siobhan gave a weirdly subdued performance. She was correct to hold back on the histrionic singing, but I think that she went too far the other way. She had a strong start to the top 12, but has been slowly dropping off my radar since.
8. Aaron Kelly (“The Long and Winding Road”) – The man who they apparently call Yoda took an extended lashing from the judges (and was condescendingly told to “Speak into the mic, sweetie” twice), but I thought that his performance was solid, if not a bit dull.
9. Tim Urban (“All My Loving”) – Teflon Tim Urban knows how to play the game. He picked a simple song with limited range, strummed a few chords on a guitar, and beamed his infamous smile the whole time. It was a perfectly pleasant performance, but at this stage, it’s not enough.
Should Go: Tef
Will Go: It could be Aaron Kelly
This list is clearly skewed young, but here are ten actors (plus a few honourable mentions and rising stars) that I love watching onscreen. Feel free to discuss my choices or share you own lists in the comments!
1. Robert Downey Jr.
Essential Filmography: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Tropic Thunder (2008), Chaplin (1992), Zodiac (2007)
Underappreciated Work: Wonderboys (2000)
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Essential Filmography: Capote (2005), Magnolia (1999), Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Underappreciated Work: Almost Famous (2000)
3. Daniel Day-Lewis
Essential Filmography: There Will Be Blood (2007), My Left Foot (1989), Gangs of New York (2002)
Underappreciated Work: The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)
4. Ryan Gosling
Essential Filmography: Half Nelson (2006), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), The Believer (2001)
Underappreciated Work: The United States of Leland (2003)
5. Casey Affleck
Essential Filmography: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Underappreciated Work: Lonesome Jim (2006)
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Essential Filmography: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1992), The Departed (2006), The Aviator (2002), Titanic (1997)
Underappreciated Work: Romeo + Juliet (1996)
7. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Essential Filmography: Mysterious Skin (2004), 500 Days of Summer (2009), Brick (2006)
Underappreciated Work: The Lookout (2007)
8. Ethan Hawke
Essential Filmography: Before Sunrise (1995), Dead Poets Society (1989), Training Day (2001)
Underappreciated Work: Reality Bites (1995)
9. Joaquin Phoenix
Essential Filmography: Walk the Line (2005), Gladiator (2000), Two Lovers (2009)
Underappreciated Work: Signs (2002)
10. Colin Firth
Essential Filmography: A Single Man (2009), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Underappreciated Work: Girl With a Pearl Earring(2003)
Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking)
Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)
Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass)
Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire)
Edward Norton (The Score)
Guy Pearce (Memento)
Sam Rockwell (Snow Angels)
5 Promising Newcomers
Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk)
Ben Whishaw (Bright Star)
Sam Riley (Control)
Michael Angarano (Snow Angels)
Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma)