Welcome back to The Voice! Last night’s episode marked another installment of the battle rounds, and another two hours of performances in a boxing ring — spoiler alert — without a single version of “Eye of the Tiger.” Sometimes I don’t know why I bother.
Team Blake’s Julio Cesar Castillo and Terisa Griffin are up first. Mariachi Castillo and soul singer Griffin are evenly matched on Gloria Estefan’s “Conga,” a Latin dance classic that nevertheless relies on powerful female vocals.
As the pair rehearses, Julio struggles with learning the song’s rapid-fire lyrics. “No one in the history of the world really knows the words,” advisor Michael Bublé consoles him. I love “Conga,” but I’m not sure it’s the best choice for The Voice. Breath control may be important, but spitting out all those lyrics seems more like a party trick than a true showcase of vocal ability (I can recite the name of every U.S. president in order in under 15 seconds, but for some reason I still haven’t been offered a reality show).
In their live performance, Julio and Terisa finally nail the song’s breakneck pace. Julio wins, but Cee Lo is quick to steal Terisa for his own team. Eyes wide with terror, Blake immediately realizes his mistake: fiery Terisa isn’t going anywhere, and “she’s gonna want to shove that in [his] face.” What did you expect? She won’t be ignored, Blake.
Christina Aguilera matches up male Bratz doll Dez Duron and I’m-so-sorry-I-don’t-remember-you Paulina on “Just the Way You Are.” When Dez admits he’s nervous, mentor Billie Joe Armstrong encourages him with his characteristic brand of surreal, Stuart Smalley optimism: “Be nervous — it’s your friend!”
Rehearsals are rough, especially on Paulina’s end. As the performer improvises yet another incongruous, pitchy riff into the song, Christina finds a diplomatic solution. “I don’t think you, in particular, need to create ad lib situations,” Xtina tells Paulina, which is really just a kinder way of asking her to sing less.
The live performance isn’t a disaster, but both teammates lack charisma — even in comparison to Carson Daly, who emcees as commandingly as a confused audience member who wandered on stage while searching for a bathroom.
Christina chooses Dez, the lesser of two mediocres. Spotted backstage: Papa Duron and his clinically verifiable fivehead.
Adam Levine has racecar driver Benji take on bar manager Sam James (who appears to have lost about 10 pounds since his blind audition).
Benji and Sam cover Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” — this means that, as a resident of New Jersey, I’m legally required to stand and remove my hat for the entirety of this segment (if it were Springsteen, I’d have to write my recap in blood). Sam admits he’s “not really a ‘Bon Jovi guy,’” which is another way of saying he’s an evil terrorist who hates America.
Their duet is a lot of fun; they aggressively swagger across the stage and interact with great, playful energy. Meanwhile, one of The Voice’s more unfortunate chyrons identifies “SAM JAMES’ GIRLFRIEND AND MOM” in the audience, and I at first mistakenly interpret this caption as referring to one woman (and an unusual family arrangement).
In the end, Adam picks Sam, and — although all the other coaches had been singing (boom!) his praises — Benji heads home.
Nicholas David, memorable for his five o’clock shadow (that being five o’clock in a very, very distant time zone), and Todd Kessler team up for Cee Lo on “She’s Gone.”In rehearsals, Cee Lo and Rob Thomas worry that Nicholas is too nice. He wants to collaborate with Todd, not compete with him — if Billie Joe were their mentor, they’d be sporting matching friendship bracelets by now.
Ultimately, Todd’s reedy pop voice pales in comparison to Nicholas’s flair for deep and nuanced blue-eyed soul. Besides, Blake tells David, “You look like Jesus, and people love that.” Bye, Todd.
Next, Blake and Bubbles pit Louisiana native Lelia Broussard against music teacher Suzanna Choffel (girlfriend killed it on “Landslide” a few weeks ago). Blake believes these “kinda indie artists…with gypsy souls” were an inevitable match-up — though to be fair, Blake considers anyone who doesn’t perform in cowboy boots to be an “indie artist.”
Lelia’s pitch wavers in rehearsals for “Dog Days Are Over,” while Suzanna finds herself preoccupied with technical details. But by the live performance, the kinks have been worked out — the performers’ styles beautifully complement one another. While I’m a fan of Broussard’s, her teammate is arguably my overall favorite, so I’m relieved when Blake chooses Suzanna.
For the last battle of the night, Christina picks 17-year-old Joselyn Rivera and Egyptian-born Sylvia Yacoub. The ladies are tasked with Beyoncé’s “Best Thing I Never Had.” If The Voice’s producers would finally break down and hire me as a consultant (and/or executive producer), Sylvia and Joselyn would have performed the song in identical, ornate wedding dresses.
In rehearsals, Sylvia steamrolls Joselyn, but their final performance escalates gorgeously, with neither singer overpowering her partner. The duet is 90 seconds of pure girl power that makes one of my fallopian tubes reach over and high five the other (the female body is a beautiful and mysterious thing, Paul Ryan).
Christina, loving Sylvia’s “fire,” sticks with Yacoub. But the episode ends on a high note (boom!) when both Blake and Adam vie to steal Joselyn — turns out she can’t resist the man-dimples of Team Levine.
The Voice is back tomorrow night at 8 PM. with more battles. In the meantime, find me on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Image Credits: NBC]
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At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
Sleepwalking? More like Sleep-sitting-up-in-your-seat. The mind-numbing drama unfolds with Joleen Reedy (Charlize Theron) a busted-up single mother homeless when her boyfriend is arrested; she also has a surly 11-year-old daughter named Tara (AnnaSophia Robb). Thankfully Joleen’s good-natured but slow brother James (Nick Stahl) brings them in to his apartment. Shifty Joleen who has scatter-shot intentions soon goes M.I.A. with another guy leaving James with Tara. When he loses his job she is put into foster care. But James springs Tara and they go on a road trip to his father's (Dennis Hopper) farm for support. Acting like father and daughter they fly under the radar. Once arriving at dad's house James lies and says that he is married and Tara is his daughter. Problem is his father is a violent SOB. He starts beating Tara and James whom he had abused as a child. James is forced to stand up to his dad and fireworks ensue. Hopper's performance as an abusive dad is about Sleepwalking's only saving grace from complete drivel. He is a villainous juicy terror whose evil is etched in his lined leathery skin. Hopper is a veteran and knows the territory of maximizing his character's nastiness even if it seems like a rehash amplified. However Stahl and Robb's chemistry which consumes most of the movie's substance is DOA. Sleepwalking loses momentum when they share time on screen. Stahl (Terminator 3) with a beard that adds age to his 28 years doesn't intrigue us with his sleepy character. He comes off dreary and uninspired. Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) while only 14 is in over her head in this actor-driven piece which depends on the utmost subtlety. Her pain and suffering and conflicted feelings about her mother just aren't believable. Theron is mostly supporting a departure from her leading-lady status. Four years removed from winning an Oscar for Monster she goes back to being drab in Sleepwalking strung out like a junkie and emotionally vulnerable. But her character is not big enough to add any complexity. Woody Harrelson as James' peripheral friend Randall is comic relief as a doltish workman. Theron also produced Sleepwalking which premiered at Sundance 2008 from a script by Zac Stanford (The Chumscrubber). Newbie director Bill Maher--not to be confused with the host of HBO’s Real Time--can’t quite hit the right notes with Sleepwalking. This movie's goal of creating significance in half-consciousness is a tall order and requires a masterful touch to make it compelling. Maher simply does not have that. Besides the scenes with the abusive dad the other characters seem to have odd timing in their delivery as though Maher misinterpreted the script. Sleepwalking is a drama in which the actors' contributions are largely undervalued due to the lack of consistency. Scenes with little or no relevance are tied to each other alienating the audience members and frankly boring them to tears. But hey if you’re having trouble sleeping…