S10E9: Holy over-the-top drama. Last night was a long episode. Granted, group week is usually my favorite because it’s when everyone’s crazy starts to come out, and boy did it ever. The folks at Idol flipped the usual group week antics upside down. When students of the show got ahead of the game by forming groups during the first round of auditions, dreaming up routines and practicing whenever they could, the judges announced that this year the rules had changed. Every group would have to be part Day 1 contestants and Part Day 2 and they’d have to choose songs from a pre-set list. Well crap. Of course, tears and pandemonium ensued – as well as some serious heartlessness. Here’s a tip Idol hopefuls: you aren’t going to win the hearts of American voters if you kick a 15 year old sweetheart out of your group at midnight.
After nearly an hour of set-up, watching the groups flounder to get members, and subsequently fight for space to rehearse, the judges were finally ready to begin the judging. And away we go.
“He came out gangbusters…I think they all went off.” – Steven
Right out of the gate, the groups were shaping up to be pretty good. First up was a trio made up of Pia Toscano, Alessandra Guercio and Brielle Von Hugel singing “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. The New York natives did an adequate rendition of the song and fulfilled the choreography requirement by pretending they were in a Destiny’s Child video from 1999, but that was enough and they all made it through.
Then came the first sign of trouble after all the pre-audition drama. Jordan Dorsey, who will likely not be getting many votes after this display, ditched his group, 440, after playing prima donna all day and telling every potential new member they weren’t good enough. His new group, who changed their name to 4+1 in honor of the recent addition, also featured audience favorite Robbie Rosen and did an nice version of the Jackson 5’s “ABC” that allowed them to make it to the next round. (And even though Rosen aligned himself with the Jordan bozo, I’m still hoping he sticks around.)
Next, of course, because Idol loves the drama, was Jordan’s abandoned group 440 singing the song also known as “Fuck You.” (Take that TV sensors.) Because Idol cuts up the songs so we only see the faces they’re interested in, we saw both Adrian Michaels and Lauren Turner belt it out despite their frustrations due to the wrench Jordan’s decision threw into their routine. They were able to hold their heads high afterward because after a dramatic display of making them each step forward one by one, they all made it through.
“Oh you guys. I’m so scared of this group.” –JLo
Oh, Tiffany Rios, you nutcase. After searching tirelessly for someone, ANYONE to join her group, Tiffany had scored Jessica Yantz as her partner in crime, but no matter how hard they tried (including serenading the unwilling listeners in the auditorium) they couldn’t find a third person to meet the requirements. So they performed a duet and it was horrific. I didn’t know that “Irreplaceable” could sound so much like a horror movie. Then again, I didn’t think she’d make it past the first audition back in New Jersey, so what do I know? Buh-bye, ladies.
From “Irreplaceable” to irresponsible we go as Kevin Campos completely screws his group, Spanglish, by sleeping in until noon. Ass. The good thing about this little screw-up is that it gives Steven a chance to play the drums to pass the time while everyone waits for Kevin to get his act together. (Did anyone else think he looked like Animal from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?) When the group finally got up there, Jovany Barreto, Jorge Gabriel and Karen Rodriguez were obviously shaken up by their teammate's dumbassery, but only Jovany and Karen managed to continue on after Steven accidentally told them they’d all make it (and after their onstage celebration made their rejected teammates cry even more). Yikes.
“You fell off the melody…” –Steven
“And forgot all the words.” –JLo
Well, you can’t argue with that; and things continued to underwhelm the judges. Lauren Alaina and her group tried something a little different: they brought Steven up onstage and sang directly to him, even getting him to sing along with them at the end. It was pretty cute. Unfortunately for everyone but Alaina, the judges were impressed with the creativity, but not the vocals. Yeah, you know that little thing that the whole competition is based on. At least Lauren’s teammates were sweet about it.
Then things started to get really, really ugly. The “Nashville Stars” featured crowd favorite Matt Dillard as well as Colton Dixon, but by the time they were done singing the judges were holding their heads in frustration it was so bad. Colton managed to hold his own amongst the muck and walked away as the only one to continue on. This bad streak continued (so brace yourself) with a string of our favorites going off key and piercing ear drums left and right. Shannon Livewell, Brianna Tyson, Janelle Arthur, and Caitlin Koch were all sent packing. Steven’s protégé, Alyson Jaydos, was also sent packing after she just couldn’t cut it (but we could have told you that after her first audition). Many of you may be surprised by Paris Tassin’s expulsion from the competition, but to be honest, her performance of “My Heart Will Go On” last week was actually kind of awful. We all want her to succeed because of her backstory, but the fact is, her voice isn’t strong enough to keep her there.
“I was bathing in your vocals” -Steven
After Ashley Sullivan faked her group out about leaving the competition at nearly 2 a.m., the performed quite well, giving them all a chance to see Ashley’s INSANE happy dance. (I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot more of that.)
Then came more rivalries! Gee, their forming quickly. “The Minors” and the “Deep Vs” are in a bit of a rift because James Durbin of the Vs is pissed about The Minors receiving help from their moms, and then there’s the whole issue of the two groups singing the same song. Too bad no amount of mama’s help could have saved the Vs from their terrible audition. Only Caleb Johnson and James Durbin made it through (although I still think his voice is just downright unpleasant, and now he’s a whiner to boot). Just like JLo predicted, Emma Henry gets swallowed up in the competition and is sent home. It’s a wonder she made it past the sudden death round, to be honest.
The Minors, who included Jalen Harris, Sarina Joi Cole and Deandre Brackensick were absolutely fantastic. I highly doubt that they suddenly gained extra pure talent in those 10 hours of rehearsal. It must suck to be Durbin and have all that whining put on national TV only to be proven wrong. Sorry, dude.
“You goin’ to hoot for us?” –Steven
Corey Levoy and Hollie Cavanaugh’s group makes it through despite half of them forgetting the words. Then one dumbass is stupid enough to ask the judges why they were sent through. DON’T LOOK A GIFT STEVEN TYLER IN THE MOUTH DUDE. It’s scary.
The next two groups braved a capella auditions. The first was pretty awful, yet Julie Zorilla from Colombia and Casey “Fraggle Rock” Abrams managed to shine and continue on. (Can I just say again how much I love Casey Abrams? Dude can really sing…dawg.) Next was Naima Adedapo’s group; she and teammate Jacob Lusk were the only fantastic ones (Lusk adding an interesting little twist to the end of the song) but they all made it through and I’m still not sure why.
“I don’t know that song.” –Jacee Badeaux
“Well, you can learn it.” –Brett Lowenstern
“The Four Non-blondes and That Guy” featured Devyn Rush (who famously lost her job after auditioning for Idol), Carson Higgins, Caleb Hawley, and Chris Medina. The only standout here was Carson Higgins who was like an awesome singing cartoon. Only Devyn was sent home and she cried about how wrong they were – and sometimes they are, but thems the breaks homeslice.
Finally, we get to the group that accepted sweet little Jacee Badeaux after his original group rejected him in the wee hours of the morning. He didn’t know the words to “Mercy” but made his own little jingle (he only had a few hours to learn it!) and the judges had mercy on the poor kid and sent him and his group members who included Denise Jackson and Brett Lowenstern who is not only an awesome singer, but one of the sweetest people in that auditorium. It just warms my heart. (Oh no, I sound like my grandma.)
Jacee’s rejectors, let by the mega-annoying Clint Jun Gamboa, have to fumble on stage while the judges grill them about screwing over the sweetest little boy, but they manage to pull out a decent performance and they all continue on. Of course, now that he has to face the problem, Scotty McCreery is all teary eyed and sorry that he didn’t stick up for Jacee. Why don’t you go apologize to him instead of CRYING INTO THE CAMERA LIKE A PRIMA DONNA.
“Can we do it like a million more times and then we’ll move on?” –Jaqueline Dunford
Last group! We made it. Thanks for sticking with me. Three’s Company was the group of couples whose plans were dashed when Nick Fink was sent home (good riddance). Chelsee Oaks and her ex Rob Bolin partnered with the abandoned girlfriend Jaqueline Dunford who quickly took over everything. By the time they reach the stage, Rob is so tired he can’t remember the words and completely gives up on the competition. Buh-bye. Something tells me that he’s totally okay with that. Maybe it’s that vacant look in his eyes. Oh well. The girls make it through, although personally I think Jaqueline’s voice is unpleasant and she should have been sent packing with her boyfriend.
Now, let’s all rest up and get prepared for tonight, when the contestants will each fend for themselves and we’ll see who gets to make it to the Idol stage.
P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan follows J.M. Barrie's story almost to the letter. A girl on the brink of womanhood Wendy Darling (newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves telling her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) stories of dastardly pirates as they sit in their nursery under the watchful eye of their St. Bernard Nana. Her 19th-century Londoner parents however believe the time has come for the young girl to grow up especially her father. Then a cheeky wild-haired boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies through the nursery window one night with his trusted yet jealousy-prone fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) telling Wendy he can take her to a place full of adventure where no one ever has to grow up. She readily accepts the offer and with a few happy thoughts some fairy dust and her two brothers in tow she flies off to Neverland. (Not the ranch…the real place.) Once there Wendy encounters mermaids Indians and the Lost Boys (who refer to her as "mother") and gets the whole pirate experience in Peter's ongoing feud with arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs). But Wendy soon becomes conflicted because on the one hand she likes hangin' with hottie Peter but on the other she misses her mother. She decides it's probably best to go back and grow up but in her hurry to leave she ends up in Hook's clutches. A rescue ensues. Swords clash ticking crocodiles are fed and fairies are saved as our clever fly boy zooms Wendy and company back to London on a giant pirate ship. But does he stay and grow up himself? Hell no he's a Toys 'R Us kid forever!
All the kid actors in Peter Pan are highly watchable and appealing with angelic faces peaches-and-cream complexions and pouty cherry lips. This is the first time Peter is being played by a real-life boy a fact much hyped by the filmmakers and 12-year-old Sumpter (Frailty) does his best to live up to the expectations. (He's soon to be swoon-worthy material for sure.) He's got a mischievous gleam in his eye and a great sly smile but he really lights up when he's looking into Wendy's adorable face. Hurd-Wood the first-time actress who plays the spirited girl earned her role after a long and involved casting process it's well deserved; she fits the typical English-girl profile perfectly and gets the hang of her craft quickly infusing the character with a natural cheerful energy. It's also refreshing to see the young actors play up Wendy and Peter's feelings of first love which prior films always hinted at but never fully realized. Isaacs in a dual role as the firm-but-loving Mr. Darling and the frightening comical lonely charming needy reprehensible Captain Hook draws on his experience at playing exquisitely awful baddies (The Patriot Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and really sinks his claws into Hook. In a stand out supporting role French actress Sagnier (Swimming Pool) is really fantastic as the vivacious non-speaking Tinkerbell portraying the fairy's conflicted emotions with a silent-film over-the-top technique.
Director/writer P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and his team try to distinguish their film from the other Peter Pans of the world by using all the technical and special effects wizardry at their disposal. Hogan says his Peter Pan is the way its author Barrie intended to be when he wrote it as a play over a 100 years ago--full of fantasy and wonder. In a way he's right and production designer Roger Ford and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar take his vision and run with it giving audiences a very lush Neverland with waterfalls fluffy pink clouds crystal-blue waters and a gorgeous fairy world. But despite the bells and whistles there really isn't anything original and different in this Pan. Even its look at the dark side of Neverland has been done in Steven Spielberg's 1991 semi-sequel Hook which showed the dangers of Neverland. In this version lives really are at stake and the pirates are not cute and fun. Even the mermaids are mysterious and malevolent with scary faces and murderous intentions a far cry from the beautiful if somewhat mean-spirited creatures of the 1953 classic Disney animated adaptation another inescapable influence on the audience. When the crocodile draws near for example tick-tocking away the croc's signature tune from the Disney film comes immediately to mind. People may love those Disney films for those cutesy catchy songs but Peter Pan really is a good story. Heck it's a great story. But it's just been done.
Two decades ago Burt Reynolds made a mark with The Longest Yard a not great but entertaining football movie that melded comedy with violence. Mean Machine attempts to do the same but with far less success. "Mean Machine" is the nickname of Danny Meehan (Vinnie Jones from Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) a onetime soccer star turned reprobate drunk who fell from grace when he intentionally threw a major international match. After he beats up a couple of cops in a drunken rage Danny's given a three-year sentence in one of England's toughest prisons. There he meets your standard garden-variety group of inmates: the big-time crook who runs the place the wise old lifer the jolly bumbler the wily con the grouchy black inmate whose respect must be earned a sadistic and dishonest lot of jailers--the list goes on. The corrupt prison head (David Hemmings) wants Danny to take charge of the guards' soccer team and get them ready for the upcoming season; knowing that's the wrong side to be on in this lockup Danny suggests he organize the inmates for a match against the guards. (A footnote: Can ya guess what they dub their team? Yep Mean Machine). What follows is an all-too-predictable tale in which Danny must win over the prisoners to create a united team the Mean Machine must succeed by a hair in the Big Match and Danny must travel the road to moral self-improvement.
However much Vinnie Jones is liked for his roles in various Guy Ritchie films he ought to think about what he can do to break out of the grim tough-limey bit especially when he's required to do a little real acting. His Danny is supposed to be something of a thinker with more going on behind his dour demeanor. Featuring pretty much two expressions throughout the movie dour and dourer there's not much to Vinnie's performance. (At least Burt Reynolds had some charisma.) If it feels like we've seen all these guys playing the same characters in other recent movies it's because we have. Since the idea of doing this remake came from Matthew Vaughn producer of numerous Ritchie movies the usual Brit suspects reappear along with Jones: Snatch's Jason Statham as a wild and crazy prisoner-turned-goalie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' Jason Flemyng as the inmate who provides most of the movie's laughs and Lock's Vas Blackwood as Danny's right-hand man. Nobody stands out nobody steals the show--unless it's Hemmings' silver handlebar-lookin' eyebrows that are so long they seem to reach for the sky in every scene. (Ralph Brown though is quite effective as the underhanded head warden.)
The problem with this movie in addition to the clichéd characters rote story and mediocre performances is that soccer inherently isn't as violent and interesting to American audiences as our much more familiar sport of football. There's just something about a bunch of massive glowering linebackers brutally crunching helmets during a scrimmage or taking down a running back in a punishing tackle that you just don't get out of a soccer movie no matter how aggressive and dramatic you try to make it. Director Barry Skolnick throws in a couple of overly violent moments during the movie to make up for this but relies on a lot of slo-mo as the players dribble down the field and go for goals during the big showdown between the inmates and the guards. Yawn. Skolnick tried to capture the essence of a Guy Ritchie movie--herky-jerky camerawork edgy stylistics--but somehow it still feels rote and uninspired. However the film does give you a terrific sense of the isolation and dank dreariness of prison life (Machine was filmed in one of England's oldest prisons).
Diamond thief Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) must deliver a huge rock to his boss Avi (Dennis Farina) in New York via London. Franky's delivery is botched of course when he's asked to place a bet on an illegal boxing match in London by Boris the Blade (Rade Serbedzija). To add to the mayhem enter local jewelers Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Sol (Lennie James) and their plump getaway driver Tyrone (Ade); novice unlicensed boxing promoters Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham); ruthless boxing promoter and pig farm owner Brick Top (Alan Ford); an unreliable and unintelligible gypsy boxer (Brad Pitt); a squeaking dog (really) and other uniquely Ritchie characters.
This year is shaping up to be another great year for Del Toro. After his mesmerizing turn in Traffic that is certain to land him his first Oscar nomination he commands attention when he's onscreen in Snatch. Unfortunately he's only onscreen for the first third of the film. Nonetheless there isn't a weak link in the cast. Particular standouts include a much tattooed and ripped Pitt who speaks in hilarious gibberish the dimwitted Graham who provides comic relief and old fart Ford one mean son of a bitch who creates tension whenever he's around.
Ritchie strives to be an original talent and although comparisons of Snatch to Pulp Fiction might be inevitable he certainly has created his own sense of directorial style. Snatch mixes it up with lightning-fast editing (Avi has his passport stamped his drink polished off and his flight from New York to London completed in a matter of seconds) great music and plot twists and turns (the boxing matches the pig farm the gypsy camp car chases the pawn shop … how do they all intersect?). And the scene of the final boxing match with Pitt is ahem a knockout.