<p>Actress and dancer Holly Taylor first surprised her parents-and two paramedics--by being born in an ambulance. The Canadian-born, New-Jersey-bred Taylor further surprised her family at the te...
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
David E. Kelley has created some amazing television series, including Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Boston Legal. He’s also married to the utterly stunning Michelle Pfeiffer. But before all of that, one of his early series was Picket Fences. This ensemble drama focused on a small town and included a legal component and how small crime cases affected the entire population.
Sherriff Jimmy Brock (Tom Skerritt) has to police the small town of Rome, Wisconsin. His wife Dr. Jill Brock (Kathy Baker) is the town doctor. They have two sons and a pensive teen daughter, Kimberly (Holly Marie Combs). He manages a precinct with sexy deputies Maxine Stewart (Lauren Holly) and Kenny Lacos (Costas Mandylor). Each episode, an unusual crime or legal issue will culminate in a court case presided over by Judge Henry Bone (Ray Walston) and defense attorney Douglas Wambaugh (Fyvush Finkel).
The series has a similar irreverence to Ally McBeal. The town features unique characters including the nosy 911 operator Ginny Weedon (Zelda Rubinstein) and the slightly creepy coroner Carter Pike (Kelly Connell). It also focuses on the legality of bizarre court cases including an assailant that likes to take baths in people’s homes, a case of spontaneous human combustion, and the legality of euthanasia.
The series has something for everyone. Each episode has equal parts family drama, the romantic interplay of the two sexy deputies, the procedural crime drama of the case of the episode, and the legal tension of court proceedings. There is also a ton of humor in the exchanges between Walston and Finkel. It also explores morality without being overly preachy. It doesn’t push an agenda but rather explores all sides of the issue.
Picket Fences offers a refreshing look back at a family drama that has a happy family. The Brock family is a united family unit dealing with the social issues, bizarre crimes, and dramatic tension of their offbeat small town. Despite the lack of internet and cell phones, the series does have some pretty relevant subject matter that holds up .
The series won multiple Emmy Awards both for the series and for leads Skerritt, Baker, Finkel, Walston, and Leigh Taylor-Young. It also featured notable appearances by James Earl Jones and Marlee Matlin.
This series makes great binge watching material, and the first two seasons are available for free on Hulu.
Netflix / ABC
The 2014 Screen Actor Guild Award nominees were announced Wednesday morning, and after losing out to Claire Danes for best actress in a drama at the Emmy's this past fall, we're sure Kerry Washington is glad she's got another chance at victory. If we've learned anything from Olivia Pope on Scandal, it's that you never give up (and obviously that you always look amazing while doing so).
Other TV nominees we can expect to see strutting down the red carpet are Kevin Spacey from Netflix's House of Cards, Jessica Lange from American Horror Story, Don Cheadle from House of Lies, and Matt Damon from Behind the Candelbra. Oh, and get ready to see the cast of Arrested Development running amok since they've been nominated for best ensemble in a comedy series.
Check out the film nominees here. The 20th Annual SAG Awards will take place on Jan. 18, 2014, at 8 PM.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk EmpireBryan Cranston, Breaking BadJeff Daniels, The NewsroomPeter Dinklage, Game of ThronesKevin Spacey, House of Cards
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes, HomelandAnna Gunn, Breaking BadJessica Lange, American Horror Story: CovenMaggie Smith, Downton AbbeyKerry Washington, Scandal
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 RockJason Bateman, Arrested DevelopmentTy Burrell, Modern FamilyDon Cheadle, House of LiesJim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang TheoryJulie Bowen, Modern FamilyEdie Falco, Nurse JackieTina Fey, 30 RockJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk EmpireBreaking BadDownton AbbeyGame of ThronesHomeland
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 RockArrested DevelopmentThe Big Bang TheoryModern FamilyVeep
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Matt Damon, Behind the CandelabraMichael Douglas, Behind the CandelabraJeremy Irons, The Hollow CrownRob Lowe, Killing KennedyAl Pacino, Phil Spector
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Angela Bassett, Betty & CorettaHelena Bonham Carter, Burton and TaylorHolly Hunter, Top of the LakeHelen Mirren, Phil SpectorElisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series
Boardwalk EmpireBreaking BadGame of ThronesHomelandThe Walking Dead
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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You pick up the newspaper (or iPad version of the Times because we live in the future now) the day after the Kentucky Derby and read the name of the winner. More often than not, it sounds like something a royally wasted guy in a nightclub might yell to his friends. "Mine That Bird! Thunder Gulch!" he might wail as he trips over his own knock-off Armani loafers. Perhaps, in the cab on the way home, he yelps "Gato Del Sol! Dust Commander!"
But, when you think about it, who's to say whether those names belong to prize-winning steeds or the latest offspring of Hollywood's starry-eyed (and sometimes loopy) elite? I mean, we're all fawning over a baby who goes by Blue Ivy Carter these days. How different could these names be? Not very, it turns out.
In anticipation of Saturday's most exciting two minutes in sports, we've decided to test your skills. Which of the names below are horses and which ones are celebrity babies? (Answers below. You're going to need them.)
And we're off!
1. Rainbow Aurora
2. Golden Soul
3. Governor Charlie
4. Bluebell Madonna
5. Indian August
6. Falling Sky
7. Black Onyx
8. Seven Sirius
9. Diva Thin Muffin
10. Charming Kitten
Let's take a quick break of disbelief before continuing on to the back 10.
11. Buddy Bear
12. Midnight Lucky
13. Alabama Gypsy Rose
16. Tu Morrow
17. Code West
18. Palace Malice
19. Moxie Crimefighter
20. Normandy Invasion
Feeling a little confused?
It's okay. I made this list and I can't even remember who's who.
Or maybe, you think you've got it all sorted out and you're wagging your head at the rest of us mouth-breathing simpletons. Alright, smartypants, compare your responses to the answers below and see how you fared.
1. Rainbow Aurora — CELEB KID (daughter of Holly Madison)2. Golden Soul — HORSE3. Governor Charlie — HORSE4. Bluebell Madonna — CELEB KID (daughter of Spice Girl Geri Haliwell)5. Indian August – CELEB KID (daughter of Casey Affleck)6. Falling Sky — HORSE7. Black Onyx – HORSE8. Seven Sirius — CELEB KID (son of Erykah Badu and Andre 3000)9. Diva Thin Muffin — CELEB KID (daughter of Frank Zappa)10. Charming Kitten — HORSE11. Buddy Bear — CELEB KID (son of celeb chef Jamie Oliver)12. Midnight Lucky — HORSE13. Alabama Gypsy Rose — CELEB KID (daughter of Drea De Matteo)14. Free — CELEB KID (daughter of Barbara Hershey and David Carradine)15. Orb — HORSE16. Tu Morrow — CELEB KID (daughter of actor Rob Morrow)17. Code West — HORSE (even if it sounds like Kanye West's future offspring)18. Palace Malice — HORSE19. Moxie Crimefighter — CELEB KID (daughter of comedian Penn Jillete, from Penn and Teller)20. Normandy Invasion — HORSE
Bonus Points if you knew that Mine That Bird, Thunder Gulch, Gato Del Sol, and Dust Commander were derby winners from 2009, 1995, 1982, And 1970.
How'd you do?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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I see now. This is why the American Idol guys' audition round was so boring. The drama was waiting on the girls' side.
Sure, a few of the guys got steamed here and there, and then there was Matheaus Fernandes's onstage meltdown, but for the most part, the dudes were rather tame. I'm probably a terrible person for saying this, but it's just more fun when the crying, fighting, self-righteous ladies do their thing during Hollywood week. And this season, apparently the judges sent through more women than men during the national auditions, so the competition is tight and making these girls lose all the oxygen in their brains. It's getting nutty.
First up are the rapid-fire auditions, and we lose a few familiar faces. We lose wacky girl Ashley Smith from Charlotte, who surprised everyone when her fake blonde wig and faux hipster glasses hid a girl with a real voice. Also gone are nominated singer Anne Defani from Nebraska and Sarah Restuccio, who wowed Nicki in New York by rapping "Super Bass" almost as well as those two fairy princesses on Ellen.
Finally, we get to Mariah Pulice whose story of overcoming anorexia by getting into music moved the judges during her audition is sent home after her version of "Gravity" fails to impress the judges. Of course, this is after she's caught on tape saying that the competition means everything to her because it's helping her stay on the right path. It's cruel editing that makes us feel guilty for agreeing with the judges that the girl wasn't strong enough for the competition. Still, it's a blessing the girl is sent home now instead of at the top 24 cut-off.
RELATED: 'American Idol' Recap: Solo Night, Or Nicki's Jar of Hearts
As a parade of girls is ushered through to the next round, including mini-Alison Williams Angela Miller, San Antonio's mariachi singer Victoria Acosta, Rachel "Always (seriously, all the time, always) Smiling" Hale from Long Beach, and perfectly sweet country girl Janelle Arthur all make it through, but then come some hard distinctions that are still a bit confounding. When Candice Glover, who's returning a second time, sings her solo, she bbrings the house down, and perhaps it is that juxtapostion, but it completely ecclipses anything Megan Miller, a.k.a. the girl who auditioned on crutches, and her strong, yet bland voice. Both go through, but only one feels like someone I'd buy a record from (duh, Candice).
Isabelle, the girl with only one name, wows the judges again, as does Briana Oakley, the young woman whose classmates bullied her after she sang beautifully on The Maury Show (the the joke's on them because they were home in the middle of the day watching The Maury Show).
Finally, we have Kez Ban, the androgynous woman from Chicago who's bluesy, grassy style won over the judges. This time, she's gotten a little high and mighty. She actually tells Ryan Seacrest, as if he's the valet of American Idol, to find her some space to practice alone for 30 seconds because she's blown out her voice cheering for her friends. Oh, and also she's really sick. Cough, cough. Kez's voice greatly suffers but the judges seem to be keen on keeping her for now because they let it slide and she stays on to create a good 33 percent of the Hollywood Week drama.
RELATED: 'American Idol' Recap: The Guys Are Just Alright
Group round is upon us and, once again, the producers have chosen the groups for maxium drama potential. To separate the trainwrecks from the choirs of singing angels, come the judges (minus Randy, who never misses a thing on Idol but is apparently getting too old for this s**t) in a fleet of shiny new Ford cars whose names are definitely not glistening on the screen unnecessarily when all we're hoping to do is see Mariah lean back like a figure on a Grecian urn and tell us, "Darling, we're finding stars today." She does that too, but it takes us way too long, and too many car shots, to get there.
Luckily, Ford didn't make any of the contestants drive around in these promo autos when they should have been practicing, so we're able to get right into the groups, their drama, and of course, their performances. The Swaggettes have truly got the swagger because they all went to bed on time. They didn't fight over harmonies or choreography, and they walk in looking refreshed and cheerful. Are we sure this is Hollywood week and not the uplifting part of a movie about a plucky young girl group, with its weird hipster-nerd chick thrown in for the "cool" factor? It's not. While Glover is the clear standout of the group, her cohorts Kamiria Ousley, Melinda Ademi, and Denise Jackson the steampunk princess nailed "Hit 'Em Up Style," also known as the song every group wants to sing but usually can't. But hey, you'd be amazed what you can accomplish when you've got serious swag. They all stay on for the next round.
Page 2: The ladies turn on each other in an instant...
We jump straight out of R&B into real country with Rasin' Kane, comprised of Morgan Leigh Boberg, Lauren Mink, Brandy Hotard, and another girl whose name we don't learn because apparently she doesn't make it very far. Decked all in cowboy boots, these girls are country to the very core, to the point I almost felt I was trapped in unknown territory because my realtionship with country music lives and dies with Taylor Swift. Apparently, I'm not the only one because Mariah's tepid smile betrays just how much she hates this honky tonk stuff. Still she knows talent when it sings to her, so all the girls stay on.
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But what is Hollywood week without a string of girls forgetting their words? This year, girls clearly knew the danger of group night because writing lyrics on their hands and arms became practically commonplace during the auditions, sending Nicki over the edge. But first one group probably should have invested in some sort of assistance because without the words, they fell apart completely. Savannah Votion (the mom with the belly shirt from San Antonio), Liz Weiss, Daysia Hall, and J'Leigh Chauvin take on "Somebody That I Used to Know," as many groups chose to do throughout the night, but the performances isn't even as melodic as a slinki hopping downstairs. Yes, a slinky is more pleasant listening material. Actually. In the end, Daysia is the only one who manages to sing when she forgets her lyrics, and she's safe. Naturally, her group members turn on her and the claws come out, but mainly from Savannah, who's claiming that because she chose the harmonies and because they "helped Daysia sing" onstage (which, as far as I know was not a thing that could actually be done, you either sing or you don't) that they deserve to stay instead. Let's be honest though, we're not looking for sportsmanship during Hollywood week. Got a blame shift? Or a catty comeback? This is where it belongs.
And at least one group knew what they were in for when they named themselves: The Dramatics. Cristabel Clack, Kriss Mincey, and Jane; Stiney are pushed together, and at first it seems perfect and easy. The girls get along, the harmonies make sense. But then Janel is concerned that they need to stay up all night because she hears the other good voices ("I hear them!I hear them!) and they need to be perfect. Her group gets some shuteye, but the next morning nothing has changed. She still wants to rehearse solo, until the moment of truth. Even in the group interview, Janel answers the group question by talking about herself. They keep trying to rehearse togehter and she keeps running away to work on her own. Come show time, the girls aren't too bad, minus Janel, who apparently didn't learn the words so well on her own. When Nicki asks what happened, Janel spews some story about not fitting in and lets out an avalanche of tears to boot. It's something Nicki quickly buys (even if I'm not) and she combats Keith's stalwart refusal to budge on the forgotten lyrics. Evenntually, and not by unanimous vote, the entire group is chosen to stay.
And again, Idol takes a step to convince us that it's not picking superstars based on looks, their opinion of puppies, and whether or not they think the sun is great or super swell. It's all about the voice. We meet Urban Hue, a group made up of Camp Mariah alum Tenna Torres, Kiara Lanier, and Seretha Gunn, whose daughter forged an eternal best friendship with Nicki during the Charlotte auditions. Unfortunately, the performance was awful. Seretha is all over place, and no where she should be. Kiara is forgettable and Torres seems off, even if the strength is clearly still present. But as Nicki said at the last minute, they've got to pick up their game... or they're out. Unfortunately for Seretha that chance passed a long time ago, and her shot at the top spots was is dashed as she is the only group member sent home.
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In case anyone forgot Zoannette Johnson, who auditioned with the "Star Spangled Banner" and a whole lot of stumbling, she's thrown into a cute country girl group called the The Pu-snaps? Poo-snaps? Pouschnapps? I'm not sure what theire name means or where it comes from, and I'm not sure I want to. When the process begins, Zoanette is constantly pouting, worried that these country girls will leave her behind. She sits before the vocal coaches pouting, later claiming she's just "over-passionate." When it comes time for the performances, Zoanette, and her group mates Erin Christine, Lauren Bettes, and (just) Isabelle sing their versus prettily, and I'll admit, I really don't get the Zoanette thing or why she's still here. She still sounds like broken down Fantasia and yet the only person going home this round is sweet, little (boring) Lauren. Perhaps the next episode will relveal Zoanette's special power, but until then, I'm going to remain with my brow throroughly furrowed.
As the night winds down, the groups start to get a bit cattier. One group with their knife-like little claws right out and ready to play is that of Liz Bills. She's with Shira Gavrielov, Alisha Dixon, and Courtney Calle who sings songs like she's a cheerleader for Raffi, acting out every gesture of the song as if our tiny little brains depended on it. This group hates Liz Bill. They hate her so much, they go into their group interview without her, they speak ill of her right up until she walks in, and they've somehow concocted the idea that they're above her. Of course, Liz gets to exact her revenge when the three girls wretched vocals get them sent home while Liz's barefoot hippie antics bring her a little bit closer to that top 24. Sometimes justice is swift like that.
But Shira isn't willing to take this decision for face value. She somehow brings herself back onstage to beg for another chance, only instead of begging, it appears that Shira is guilting the judges for missing out on a good thing. Not only is this just about the worst look possible, the girl came in with a sense of entitlement. She has no concept of the fact that she could be cut from the competition if you're not a right fit. And thank goodness we got rid of her now. The last thing we need is another person on television, trying to make us feel guilty for their failure to succeed.
And Shira wasn't the only one convinced that she didn't deserve her fate. Contestant Stephanie Schmiel convinces her group to switch songs the morning of the performance and then promptly missed the intro of the song, again "Somebody That I Used to Know." But it's clear the girls made a poor choice: Stephanie missteps, Alex Delaney screws up the lyrics so badly her dad grimmaces, and Kalli Therinae and Holly Miller are fairly solid, Holly with just a little more strength. Randy makes it very clear he does not want Stephanie to stay, calling her out for going off key, but the judges vote and Stephanie and Holly are allowed to stay, much to Stephanie's surprise, who thought "botched that one."
Before the grand finish with Kez Ban, we stop off in Barbie-ville, where Britnee Kellogg, Kree Harrison, Brandy Neely, and Haley Davis. As the one who's done the show before, Britnee takes the lead, a job she instantly resents. (Then why are you doing everything? Why don't you just stop doing things? When the Dolly Chicks finally get to the performance, only one of them has slep, Haley, who left practice early for a totally nonexistent "stromach virus." When she does hit the stage, she can't remember the words and what's worse is she's caught on national television wearing Uggs and short skirt like it's an acceptable fashion statement. Surprisingly, it's actually sweet little Brandy who's sent home while the girl who can't play by the rules or stick with her team goes on. That's Hollywood, for ya.
Finally, we get to Kez Ban and the Misfits. After arguing over "poppy floofy" songs and picking something that Kez will finally agree means something to her, they start rehearsing, but all is messed the up royally before too long. First Kez demands arrangement change constantly so that the song suits her voice, then she bails on practice to get dinner right in the middle of a vocal coach session. Finally, she doesn't show up for breakfast, misses the bus to auditions, and shows up alone, just in the nick of time. Basically, she's already living the rock star life. And it works, for her. The group sings "Somebody That I Used to Know" and Breanna Steer, Angela Miller, Janelle Arthur, and Kez somehow make the combination of discipline and chaos work. The judges love it and the whole group goes through.
But as fun as the nonsense of the Hollywood groups can be, tomorrow it's time for judgment. The girls will be singing solos, without the cushion of group members and dance moves, and only then will we be able to tell who's worth watching. Well... worth watching in a serious way, clearly we've got no shortage of reality TV gold in this set of Season 12 contestants.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Michael Becker/Fox (2)]
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The yellow one at the top of the White House Christmas tree was not the only star in the vicinity at this year's annual White House Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. The first family was joined by some of Hollywood's finest for the event.
Modern Family's Rico Rodriguez joined the First Lady Michelle Obama for a reading of the Christmas classic poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," more popularly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Rodriguez even joked that he would be joining the Obamas on their holiday vacation in Hawaii. Now, that's one modern family outing we'd like to see!
How I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris hosted the event, welcoming Barack, Michelle, and their two daughters Sasha and Malia to the stage. Is it just us, or does it look like Harris is giving the POTUS a once-over? We can't blame him — that man is one fine prez.
Barack led the countdown, and then his daughters pressed the button to light up the big tree as the 17,000 people in attendance oohed and ahhed. The event also featured festive musical performances from Jason Mraz, Phillip Phillips, James Taylor, and Babyface.
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
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If you thought the album cover for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was creepy and horrible, just wait until you see the music video for "I Think You Might Like It," the first single from their new Christmas album This Christmas. It sounds sort of like what a cowhand would be singing in the ABC Family Original Movie Showdown at the OK Carol, and everything about the video is just as cheesy as the song. The video is all the way at the bottom of this post, because some of these horrible things might change your mind about watching it before you get to the end.
This facial hair.
Whatever Olivia Newton-John has done to her face.
Everything that is happening right here.
Olivia Newton-John running.
This fake Danny and Sandy reunion.
Does this car not have a trunk for those gifts?
This video wants to make me pick on children. I will not do that.
This video wants to make me pick on old people. I will not do that.
The troops are returning. Troops returning is great, but don't put them in your video so you look all noble and patriotic and then people will think, "Oh we can't hate this because of the troops." Oh, we can still hate it. We disagree with the war and still support our troops.
These semi-matching sweaters.
They made the troops dance?!
That there isn't more of this kid.
They almost kissed!
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Rav Holly/Universal Music]
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There's an old expression amid the ancient people of Beverly Hills (which were really just a bunch of reanimated skeletons that started the movie industry by clickety clacking their bones together in front of a magic screen) that you can lead a Llama to a birthday party, but you can't make it spit. That is exactly what happened last night on The Real Alpaca Farmers of Sassafras Mesa. Lisa Vanderpump went to a party, but wouldn't get in a fight. They tried everything: they planned a party, they invited her enemies, they goosed up the expectation of her rival, they hired a petting zoo just for the occasion. But, just like a willful mouse that is leaving chocolate sprinkles all over your kitchen counter and tearing into your cereal boxes and not eating the poisoned peanut butter you left on the floor, Lisa did not take the bait. Good for you, Lisa.
Before we can get to Lisa staying above the fray we have to talk about Adrienne the evil Queen of the Maloofs (a race of mole people that live beneath a mountain). Queen Adrienne is mad at Lisa. Why? Who knows? No, seriously, I want to know who knows, because I don't think that even Adrienne knows anymore. It's like she just has this little bit of malignant anger that is making her feet feel all uncomfortable and tingly, like getting that pedicure where the fish eat all the dead skin off of your feet. It's there and ticklish in a bad way, but even though you can put your foot in it, you can't put your finger on it. Anyway, Adrienne is mad and wants Lisa to apologize to her.
Lisa also wants Adrienne to apologize to her, but there is a reason: Adrienne wrongly accused her of selling stories to the tabloids on national television. Yup, that seems like an apologizable offense. To make matters even worse, Adrienne keeps telling people that Lisa is immature for not inviting her to her Villa Blanca Naked People Serving Drinks soiree. Um, Adrienne is the one who sent a giant arrangement of spite flowers sticking out of three steaming piles of poop. Lisa didn't invite you to keep drama out of her party and Adrienne just couldn't stay away. Who is the one who is immature?
Alright I'm getting ahead of myself, because I don't want to get to the party yet. I just can't. We have so much to get to before that. First we have to talk about Taylor, who asked Kyle's husband Mmmmmauricio and Adrienne's jester Paullo the Chimp to walk with her in one of those stupid charity walks where people get to put on T-shirts for the cause and feel good about themselves, but how do they even raise money? The same way that Adreinne is angry at Lisa: no one knows. Anyway, Taylor knows about some walk in Sacramento (no one should ever walk in Sacramento) where the guys walk a mile in women's shoes. No, not figurative, literal. They walk a mile wearing high heels. Ugh, there is nothing worse than straight men in high heels. It always sounds like this, "Whine, whine, complain, my feet hurt, I need to sit down, whine, whine, whine. Honey, why don't you wear these stilettos to dinner?" The worst.
So Adrienne takes her chimp Paullo shopping for shoes and he tries on a whole bunch of pairs while still wearing socks. Ugh, straight guys in high heels are the worst. Don't you know the socks make it even harder to walk? Paul picks out two pairs of size 12 from the saddest tranny shoe store on all of Melrose Boulevard. (PS--Doesn't Adrienne have a shoe line? She should be like, "You are wearing my freaking shoes in this damn race. They come in size 12. Here, you are wearing these. Thanks for the advertising.") Paullo gets two pairs of shoes, one a sparkly red pair that looks like a cheap version of Dorothy's ruby slippers (sorry, Paullo, you are no friend of Dorothy) and another pair that is a sparkly silver platform boot that goth kids wear to see their favorite industrial bands at underground clubs. They're also a best seller in Germany. As soon as I see them with the two pairs of shoes I figure out exactly what is going to happen. "Paullo is going to pretend to wear the red shoes but chicken out and wear the androgynous shoes because he can't take the pain slash blow to his manhood," I said to myself.
After a private plane jaunt to Sacramento (never fly to Sacramento) the guys show up for the walk and there are all these dudes who are getting really into it. They're dressed in matching outfits and have on real shoes that they went and picked out at DSW like any self-respecting grown man who likes to wear ladies' shoes every once in awhile, and they're not complaining at all. They all know how to walk and some even run. These guys have been practicing. Mmmmmauricio gets a pair of loaner silver shoes (size 14!) and wears them with socks because he is a guy and an idiot. And, just as I thought, Paullo goes for those big silver boots and everyone is like, "You freaking cheater. That doesn't even count." And he walks about 10 city blocks (really, that probably equals a mile) and is like, "I'm doing it. I'm really walking in high heels." No you're not. You're dressed as Kiss for Halloween, that's what you are. So don't start getting all cocky thinking that you ended domestic violence by wearing the surplus stock from Hot Topic, because you did nothing but embarrass yourself. Yes, the only thing more embarrassing than wearing socks with high heels is not wearing high heels at all. Way to go Paullo. And we all know you only wore those platforms so you could finally be tall for one hour of your life.
Now it's time to get to Yolanda, a rubber tree that grew in the marshes of Indochina (do they have marshes in Indochina?) and was one day sprinkled with magic potion by the model fairy Eileen Ford and she sprouted limbs and posed in a number of different frocks and French cut bathing suits and neon green thongs in the fashion catalogs of the universe. Yes, it is now time to talk about her. She went to the set of a photo shoot to watch her seedling Gigli (who was the inspiration for the Jennifer Lopez movie of the same name) model clothing for a certain clothing company. Guess! No, that's the name of the brand, Guess! No, Who is on First, Guess is on Gigli.
This whole thing exposes Yolanda for what she really is: blithely awful in the way that most Real Housewives tend to be, even those who have a barky exterior and whose hair is made out of little wisps of blond twigs. The most popular crime of the Real Housewives (aside from batshittery and general bonkersness) is self-delusion. Yolanda thinks that she is not a stage mother. She thinks that, because she was a model, she can show up and give Gigli advice on just how to best show off her rib cage to the camera. She says she just likes to show up and be there for support and not have any input. She is not, I repeat, a stage mother. OK, maybe she'll comment on the makeup. And maybe she'll make a little comment about the wardrobe. Sure, she ignores her daughter when she tells her to stop, but she just wants to make sure that she has eye drops in her eyes so they don't get dried out because it will make her make a funny face. But she's not a stage mother. No!
And she certainly didn't stand over the photographer making suggestions and go through all the pictures and tell them which ones work. No, she did not do that at all. And she certainly didn't tell the makeup artist to round out her daughter's eye because she looked "too Chinese." She would never say something awful and racist like that! Gosh, no. "Chinese eye" is a technical term in the modeling world for when a makeup artist makes a Caucasian girl look like like an Asian. It refers to a precise technique of painting around the eye, it isn't racially charged. Gosh, don't you know that? It's probably because you're a stage mother. Yolanda, she is not. She is not a stage mother. No, she is not! And that Gypsy Rose Lee, man she got a raw deal. If only her children understood her. She wasn't a stage mother, she was a god damned angel and her eyes were round. They were the roundest.
Zoom on over to Kyle's house right now, because it is time for Portia's birthday party. Yes, it's just a little casual affair. Nothing special, just some kids in party hats and some cupcakes. Oh, and face painting and custom printed T-shirts. And we have to have a petting zoo with a llama and some ponies dressed up as unicorns. Oh, and did you see what Madison had at her party? We have to have those blow up toys and the kids can win them at carnival games. We have to have that. Oh, order a bouncy house. I mean, that just goes without saying. And what are the adults going to do? I guess we can have a photo booth. That's not too much, right? We're just trying to keep it casual this year. Nothing big. Oh, sure, I'd love it if you could bring some Funfetti cupcakes you made from the box. I'll just cancel the two-ton cupcake that Crumbs was sending over on a flat bed truck. Yeah, I was thinking that might be a little extreme anyway. Thanks.
Lisa is the first one to come to the party because she has a wine tasting at Villa Blanca that she just can't be late for. She arrives with two presents for Portia and leads an old llama around by its collar. Oh, wait. That's just her husband, Ken. Never mind. Sorry Ken! We didn't see you there.
Kyle doesn't believe that Lisa has a wine tasting and thinks she is just trying to avoid Adrienne. I don't know if that's true. It might be true and I don't care if it is. Leave it to Lisa to find a tactful way to get out of having to scream and cuss at Adrienne while there are children trying to eat out of the cotton candy fountain and cookie mountain in the middle of the tennis court. Kyle wants to have dinner with Lisa and Adrienne and broker peace. "Oh, no no no no no no," Lisa says in her soft purr. "Things always get fouled up when other people involved." If ever some scribe were to write down the commandments for the Real Housewives (put this in the story idea folder) one of them should be not to let other people into your squabbles because that's when they go from tiffs to explosions. That is just taking the pin out of the grenade and watching it explode, slicing everyone with shrapnel.
Lisa leaves and there is a parting of the clouds in the sky and a blinding light rains down from on high in those big sweeping beams that are almost visible like they were painted by Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light™ and everyone puts their hands up to their foreheads to shield themselves and turns away. Kyle puts her sunglasses on her face and says, "Oh, goodie! Camille is here!" Yes, it was St. Camille, the Martyr of Grammer, and she floated down through the hoary sky with her arms outstretched and her face just a little bit tighter. The light was at her back and everyone fell to their knees to greet her. She walked through the house past the genuflected masses making crucifixes with her right hand and letting her followers kiss the ring on her left as she passed. Her acolyte, DeeDee, walked behind her swaying an incense burner back and forth and little puffs of smoke emitted from it spreading a scent that many recognized. It smelled of righteousness and success. It was the smell of burning money. "Hello," Camille said. "I am here for a party!"
Kyle brought a complaint to Camille, the problem with Lisa and Adrienne, and she held her hand palm up to Kyle. "My lamb, we have to lead by example. Look at how well we are getting along now that the demon Satan was exorcised from my body after Season 1. We will show them how it should be done." Yes, Camille hung around, but she was really there as a figure head, a dignitary of years past. The action panned by her, but she did not engage. She just ate more cake (she did not really eat cake) and emitted halos of light from her brilliant head. Oh, St. Camille, how we have missed your benediction.
Dana/Pam was also there, walking around going, "Look. $25,000!" like it was last season and we still cared. Good luck with that, Dana/Pam. Brandi showed up wearing heart-shaped glasses because she just saw Lolita and has a new role model. Kyle was being strangely nice to Brandi, but I like that. These girls need to warm up to Brandi. Taylor totally snubbed her and then walked around saying, "Guys. Yolanda told me that Brandi said she slept with every guy in Beverly Hills. Did you hear that Brandi said she slept with every guy in Beverly Hills? I have talked to every guy in Beverly Hills, and they have all slept with Brandi." God, Taylor, you are such a goon. Don't you even hear yourself when you say this? It is obviously a joke. You basically just posted an Onion article on your Facebook page and said, "Can you believe that Ben Affleck is going to set Argo in Boston? It's an outrage!"
Anyway, Brandi was really nervous about being there with all her haters but after chilling with St. Camille and her acolyte DeeDee, she thought she better leave before there was drama. She told Kyle she was going to leave and Kyle said, "No, stay. Please stay." Brandi said she would, but then dipped out the front door while no one was looking and texted, "Sorry, I can't deal with drama at a kid's party. BYYYEEEEE!" Like Lisa, Brandi is smart to try to avoid the drama, but unlike Lisa, she created more drama on her way out.
Eventually Adrienne, Queen of the Maloofs, arrived with her jester Paullo the Chimp on his lease. "Where is Lisa!" she demanded while throwing her gloves on the floor and kicking Paullo once in the shin, just for good measure. "She's not here. She had something to do at work," Kyle says. "Yeah right, Adrienne says. How immature! Why is she making such a huge issue out of this?" Um, excuse me, Adrienne. Who is the one making the huge issue? Who is the one sending flowers and demanding audiences and apologies and talking to everyone she knows about this? You! Lisa is just sitting at home quietly waiting for you to apologize because you said a shitty thing about her in front of a bunch of cameras and still haven't done anything to make it better. Kyle knows that Adrienne is wrong in this fight (I hope that everyone with a brain knows) but won't say anything. She needs to just break it down for her squirelfriend and tell her to get on the horn, apologize, and then move on. The only reason it is a deal at all is because Adrienne is making it one. God!
Finally Kim Richards stumbled into the party blowing air kisses at everyone. She wasn't stumbling for her usual reason (if you could see me right now I'm making that motion where you extend your thumb and pinkie from your hand and tip your thumb toward your mouth) but from exhaustion. Yes, she had to get a present for Portia on her way over to the house so she stopped by her favorite store, which happens to be a children's clothing store. She looked at all the pretty dresses and sparkled tops and little T-shirts with princesses embroidered on them and just remembered all the happier times. She remembered when she would pull all the clothes off the rack and litter the floor of her trailer with them and just roll around in all the costumes, all the beauty. She wanted to find something like that for Portia. One of those little girl dresses that make them immediately swing around so that the dress gets full of air and spins out of control as they feel a little bit dizzy and like they're going to fall over.
She picks one off the shelf and it is just the most darling thing she's ever seen. It's sparkley silver thread on black fabric and it has a white bow tying off the waist in the middle. It looks like something Holly Golightly would have her daughter wear. She takes it up to the counter and plops it down. The cashier rings it up and runs Kim's card and then gets on the phone. After some hushed mumbles she hangs up and says, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but do you have another card?"
"No, I don't. I just have the one. Isn't there enough on there? It's debit."
"Well the balance is $313. 74 cents and..."
"$313! You have got to be kidding me. I could buy 20 dresses at H&M for that! I'm going to have to find something else. Give me all these dresses in the largest size you have."
"Ma'am are you sure? Are those going to fit?"
"Yes," Kim says and goes to the dressing room. This is always happening to her. She always wants to do her best and the world is just keeping it from happening. She puts her head in her hands and wants to cry but can't summon even the strength for that. She just lets her eyelids feel the inside of her lotioned palms.
"Here you go, ma'am." And hands her a huge pile of dresses.
Kim gets up and disrobes and squeezes into one of them. She's still small enough. Her hips barely curving, her legs stubbed, her body's development arrested in a sample size for a very large little girl. "Still got it," she says to the mirror before putting all the dresses on teh floor and lying down in them. She lies there for about 10 minutes, her head full of all those old memories, her skin itchy on top of all the fabric beneath her. There's a Target just down the block, she realizes. That is going to have to do. She picks herself up and puts back on her clothes – her adult clothes – and walks out. "Thanks," she says waving her right hand to the clerk as she walks toward the front door without stopping, "none of those were right."
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Bravo]
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
<p>Actress and dancer Holly Taylor first surprised her parents-and two paramedics--by being born in an ambulance. The Canadian-born, New-Jersey-bred Taylor further surprised her family at the tender age of 4, when she announced that one day soon, she'd be dancing on Broadway. Her prophecy proved correct and by the age of 11, after surprise success at an open call audition, Taylor was dancing on a midtown stage 8 times a week in the Broadway production of "Billy Elliot." Despite her dedication to dance, Taylor was also a highly successful student, invited to join a summer program at the Johns Hopkins University for Gifted & Talented Children. Taylor appeared in "Billy Elliot" in the role of stuck-up dancer Sharon Percy for 2 years before leaving the stage to pursue a career on television and in film. After starring in a couple of short films, Taylor was cast on the acclaimed series "The Americans" (2013) as Paige Jennings, the daughter of two KGB spies (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) infiltrating the U.S. government, alongside Keidrich Sellati as her younger brother.</p>