Welcome to The Voice, the reality singing competition show that’s done for chairs what La-Z-Boy did for music. Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Cee Lo Green are back to duke it out in the fourth installment of season three’s blind auditions.
Throughout the episode, Blake giddily brandishes his Male Vocalist of the Year award from ACM, the Academy of Country Music (pro tip, Blake: if you need to explain an acronym four times, it becomes exponentially less impressive). He keeps his trophy tucked behind him as a bargaining chip, and one can only imagine that he’s commissioned a specially designed nook for it in the shower.
Seventeen-year-old Melanie Martinez, our first hopeful, is a human cartoon character: half-Pebbles Flintstone and half- Sailor Jupiter, or maybe just a Tim Burton-redesigned Powerpuff Girl.She offers a completely unexpected cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” playing guitar while keeping time on a tambourine with her feet (lending further credence to my Flintstones comparison. Her sexy, playful voice bears — as Adam says — some similarities to Björk’s, and the judges praise her for sounding as unique as she looks.
Melanie’s Result: Team Adam
Backstage, Cupid has dozens of contestants and their families line-dancing to his “Cupid Shuffle,” the 2007 novelty song that crowned him king of bar mitzvahs and roller rinks across the land. “Does this whole idea of being a one-hit wonder just eat at you?” asks Carson Daly, whose community college Intro Psychology class is going well, thank you.
Despite The Voice’s insistence on playing B-roll of him dancing alone in front of a mirror — something no human male has been able to pull off non-creepily since The Silence of the Lambs — Cupid seems like a kind, genuinely talented man, but sadly proves to be his own worst enemy.
Although he longs to be taken seriously, Cupid bizarrely chooses to audition with the “Cupid Shuffle” (forever the poor man’s “Cha Cha Slide”), the very song that both “defines” and “confines” him.
Bad call, bro. Cupid’s adequate performance draws no interest from the judges, but when their chairs turn, Cee Lo recognizes him instantly. “That’s him, that’s his actual song,” Green cries, and the awkward, auditorium-wide silence that follows has permanently replaced the naked-in-front-of-the-whole-class scenario as my subconscious’s go-to nightmare.
At Cee Lo’s request, he sings something else — a fantastic a capella “Let’s Get It On” — but Cupid’s arrow has already missed its mark.
Up next on The Voice, Marcia Griffiths and Los del Rio.
Cupid’s Result: Team Nobody
A single father, Brian Scartocci delivers a powerful, capable version of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” that’s a little John Legend, a little Michael Bublé. I find him inexplicably annoying in spite of his obvious talent, mostly because he’s wearing a scorpion belt buckle that is as hideous as it is large (very).
In wooing Brian to his team, Adam can’t help but note that he has actually had the chance to meet Stevie Wonder, as well as to sing with Stevie Wonder, and has he mentioned that he knows Stevie Wonder personally?
Brian’s Result: Team Adam
Married couple Shawn and Natasha perform together as Rhythm Amplitude — I mean, Tempo Bandwidth — I mean, Beat Frequency. With Shawn’s shaved head plus indoor sunglasses and Natasha’s crimped, bleached hair plus purple eyeshadow, it’s like a celebrity look-alike agency sent over a third-rate Pitbull and a fourth-rate Xtina.
Some of Beat Frequency’s harmonies on Katy Perry’s “E.T.” are gorgeous — in particular, Natasha’s voice can soar — but Shawn’s take on Kanye West’s rap is downright cringe-worthy.
Beat Frequency’s Result: Team Christina
College athlete Tyler Lillestol decided to pursue singing when he gave up on baseball — yup, that’s the music business for you, good old reliable plan B.
Tyler recently sang the national anthem at Dodger Stadium. After his performance, Carson Daly appeared on the Jumbotron to invite Lillestol to the blind auditions, and then spent the next 10 minutes unsuccessfully soliciting someone, anyone, to appear on the Kiss Cam with him.
Tyler’s “U Got It Bad” demonstrates a smooth, silky voice, but not one of professional quality.
Tyler’s Result: Team Nobody
You can tell Liz Davis is a country girl because she likes “to get on the back of a four-wheeler and ride around for no reason,” which is one aspect of Southern life that I’m pretty sure they glossed over in Gone with the Wind.
Despite being a pretty 25-year-old with kind of a young- Jean Smart thing going on, Liz belts “Here for the Party” like a brassy, middle-aged barfly — which is to say, exactly as the song is meant to be sung.
Liz’s Result: Team Blake
(During the commercial, I discover through some characteristically neurotic Googling that Liz previously competed on something called P. Diddy’s Starmaker, a reality music contest that she ultimately won — so I guess the show’s title was a little misleading, am I right, guys?
But get this. Liz actually performed the same song on that other show. And that’s not all. It turns out that Beat Frequency briefly appeared on The X Factor, singing — wait for it — “E.T.”
I feel so dirty.)
Despite Senator Ted Stevens’s (R-Alaska) infamous insistence that the Internet is but a “series of tubes,” Anchorage native JR Aquino is a web sensation — his homemade music videos have logged more than 45 million views on YouTube, where he’s one of the top 100 most-subscribed musicians in the world.
JR’s beautiful falsetto sounds uncertain on the highest notes of “Just the Way You Are,” but his voice has a sweetness that would make Bruno Mars proud.
JR’s Result: Team Cee Lo
Carson surprises Agina Alvarez — not to be confused with her brother, Enis — with an invitation to the blind auditions while she folds towels at the tennis club where she works. Signed to Sony Records and then an indie label as a teenager, she released a Latin album before her second record company shelved her.
Agina’s screechy disco voice brings lots of power to “Turn the Beat Around,” but all in all, is far from the most pleasant (or least feline) thing I have ever heard.
Agina’s Result: Team Nobody
Our next contestant is Nicholas David: stay-at-home dad by day, musician by night. Nicholas struggled with his drinking and his weight after college — ballooning to 300 pounds — but worked his way to back to health with the love and support of his fiancée. It’s phenomenal that he was able to “shed the weight” and “shed the booze,” but what about the facial bird’s nest that he mistakenly believes to be a beard?
Nicholas’s soulful, jazzy version of “Stand by Me” wins him a place on Team Cee Lo, though it’s clear to me he’s really a lost member of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
Nicholas’s Result: Team Cee Lo
Alessandra Guercio is a 17-year-old LaGuardia student — that’s the Fame high school, not the airport. LaGuardia Arts blends a normal high school curriculum with rigorous performing arts training, a drama geek wildlife preserve where no slushies are thrown (is it just me or does Alessandra have a little Rachel Berry going on in the face?).
Her cover of “The Climb” is impressively strong and controlled, but almost clinical — exactly as if she’d learned to sing in a classroom.
“It was just a great…vocal performance… It was just, like, awesome,” Cee Lo stammers, presumably occupied with desperately trying to recall the age of consent in the state of California.
Alessandra’s Result: Team Adam
Dancer Avery Wilson has never had a singing lesson. Turns out he was right to save the money — his panty-dropping “Without You” is unpolished but beautiful. His voice oozes with personality; Wilson is, stylistically, Alessandra’s inverse.
Adam calls the crowd’s boisterous response to Avery the show’s “most spirited” yet. The judges are equally captivated, and Avery earns the episode’s only four-chair turnaround.
Avery’s Result: Team Cee Lo
The Voice is back tonight at 8 pm for more blind auditions. Will there ever be anything but blind auditions, or will this “season” end next week with each coach hosting a 16-guest musical sleepover?
Get at me on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Image Credit: NBC]
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Maintaining the fantastical but dropping any semblance of whimsy Snow White and the Huntsman transforms the classic fairy tale into a bleak Lord of the Rings-esque hero's tale full of sword fights monsters and forces of evil bent on wiping out humanity. Instead of creating a unique world or conflict for its revamped characters to explore SWATH plays it safe and sticks to the familiar beats coming off like an amalgamation of every fantasy film that's ever graced the silver screen. Director Rupert Sanders sticks to flashy special effects (some of which are truly stunning) over his greatest asset: the charismatic cast. Kristen Stewart Charlize Theron Chris Hemsworth and eight familiar-faced dwarves try their best to elevate the thin material on display but the film is under a sleeping spell — and no one steps in to wake it up.
Once again an evil queen manipulates her way into the castle and heart of a widower king only to cut his throat and throw his beautiful young daughter Snow into the tower to rot. Years later a magic mirror reveals to the wicked Ravenna (Theron) that the now-of-age Snow White (Stewart) is the answer to her waning magic and wrinkly skin. But as Ravenna's slimy brother Finn comes knocking at Snow's door the imprisoned princess pulls a fast one escaping and opening the door for a large-scale adventure through the forests mountains and swamps of the mystical kingdom.
SWATH's action feel particularly shoehorned in each set piece drifting by without any weight or purpose. After fleeing the tower Snow takes shelter in The Dark Forest (there wasn't a better name? or a name at all?) where she's tracked by the Queen's freelancer The Huntsman (Hemsworth). A few fleeting character moments later the two are on the run together duking it out with otherworldly trolls and joining forces with a group of pint-sized ex-gold miners who believe Snow White is "the one." The epic speak commonplace in fantasy films plagues SWATH — without any details as to how or why the world works the way it does most of the dialogue amounts to characters screaming about "destiny." The lack of specifics filters into the journey too: at one point Snow White stumbles upon a forbidden forest bustling with fairies moss-covered turtles and an antlered creature that's never been seen by humans. The beast is a sign that Snow is savior of their world. Why? Anyone's guess.
The generic quality brings down the talent on screen namely Theron's delightfully wicked Ravenna who goes full on Joan Crawford/Mommie Dearest as she pulls strings to entrap Snow White. Naysayers of Kristen Stewart will have plenty of fuel after SWATH but it's the material that fails to serve the actress in this case. The actors in the film barely get to smile — the drab overcast look of the movie clouding even the performances — but the moments when Stewart's Snow brightens up things suddenly come alive. Hemsworth lightens the mood too showing off a sliver of his comedic prowess from Thor. Between the movie's instance for doom and gloom the patchwork script and Sanders' overuse of up-close-and-personal shakycam there's rarely a moment for the actors to do their thing. It's barely worth mentioning the handful of British character actors who pop up as the Dwarves who hobble around mumbling unintelligible quips. They quickly form a bond with Snow White — or so the movie strong-arms us into believing.
Snow White and the Huntsman is stuffed with imaginative spectacle but the artistry is lost on a hollow story. Crystalline mirror shard warriors the Queen's youth-sucking powers or landscapes that look like live-action Miyazaki animation — it all looks amazing but they're never more than spiffy special effects. The movie wants to be above the visuals teasing a smart tough Snow White but the potential is squandered by never allowing the heroine to stride beyond the conventional world. If Snow White's tale is a shiny red apple then modern tropes of fantasy are the poison.
Like Madagascar the story starts at the New York Zoo. Samson (Kiefer Sutherland) the lion is once again the star of the show but unlike Madagascar’s Alex Samson claims he came from the wild. He regales the other odd assortment of zoo denizens--including a talkative giraffe (Janeane Garofalo) a lisping anaconda (Richard Kind) a snarky Koala (Eddie Izzard) and a take-charge squirrel (Jim Belushi)--with tales of danger and excitement abroad. Of course Samson can’t tell the real truth that he was actually born in captivity and is making it all up because everyone including his rebellious teenage son Ryan (Greg Cipes) would think less of him. But when Ryan runs away thinking he can’t live up to his dad’s reputation and is mistakenly shipped off to the wild Samson has keep up the charade as the gang embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue him. The lion does come clean at some point in case you were wondering. Another vocal roster of big names another dollar. This time around we’ve got Sutherland Garofalo Belushi all doing the animal thing. There’s also William Shatner as a villainous wildebeest headed for the loony bin after deciding he’s tired of being the prey and turns predator. He’s even got his herd of wildebeest dancing a Busby Berkeley number around a volcano á la Lion King. Sigh. Luckily there is one saving grace--sort of: Izzard as the wisecracking Koala bear Nigel who gets mistaken for a god by the wildebeest and milks it for all its worth which isn’t a whole lot. Still if anyone has seen the British comedian’s hilarious HBO special Eddie Izzard: Dressed to Kill you can just imagine him strutting around as a Koala dressed in women’s clothing and doing his shtick. The Mouse House once again proves it doesn’t have an inventive bone in its body--or even the gumption to realize that had something with potential. Apparently the pitch from writers Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin had been mulling around Disney for about nine years before it got made giving the likes of Nemo and Madagascar a head start (I’d be peeved if I were those writers). But even if The Wild did come first it still wouldn’t be able to measure up mostly because the story is insipid. Wildebeest turning into predators? What’s THAT all about? The CGI-animation is spot on of course but we are definitely taking all of that for granted these days. No now what we want is a good compelling story. If not that then at least we should have a couple of really funny characters--like commando penguins or a fish with short-term memory--to help things move along. The Wild doesn’t have either so while children may be left mildly entertained for an hour and a half parents will be left twiddling their thumbs waiting for it to be over.
Oscar-nominated actor/director George Clooney has boosted the spirits of New York City strikers by refusing to break picket lines to shoot forthcoming film Michael Clayton.
Workers at the Crown Plaza LaGuardia hotel have been on strike for 16 months after management refused to recognize their August 2004 vote to join the New York Hotel Trades Council.
Union official John Turchiano tells the New York Daily News an associate producer from the film contacted him yesterday to say the Clooney camp had refused to cross the line.
However, Clooney's spokesman Stan Rosenfield counters, "It is true they contacted us, and it is also true that the decision not to shoot there was made well before they contacted us."
But Turchiano believes the Good Night, And Good Luck director has given the strikers new hope: "This is such a big, emotional lift for the hotel workers."
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Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.