Hello, America. Hurricane Sandy is no more, and your faithful Voice recapper has WiFi once again. My New Jersey town loses power whenever someone drives 10 miles over the speed limit, so any legitimately severe weather event results in a Revolution-style return to the Dark Ages (that’s right, free Revolution plug — send your girl some swag, NBC).
To recover from my week without electricity, I’ve spent the last 12 hours no more than three inches from my computer screen, consuming more cat videos and gamma radiation than any doctor would recommend — now I’m back, and more powerful than ever.
Last night’s episode of The Voice began the live playoffs, the first round in which viewers at home have a say as to who stays and who goes. I’ll be expecting my own miniature red button in the mail, thank you very much.
Audience votes will determine two winners from each five-person team, and each coach will choose an additional performer to save for the next round — with eight contestants to be sent home after the results show on Thursday. In this episode, Team Adam and Team Blake face off.
Team Adam opens the playoffs with Joselyn Rivera — Jesus, girlfriend sang “Love on Top” last week? I feel like a little kid who slept through Christmas morning.
It’s important to note that, since the bygone days of the blind auditions, The Voice has seemingly upgraded its production budget by a factor of 10. The contestants now find themselves performing before comparatively enormous audiences on an expanded stage.
Joselyn half-heartedly interacts with the crowd as the camera swoops hyperactively around the venue. It’s exhausting to watch. I’m impressed by the addition of a fuchsia streak in her hair that exactly matches her dress (which came first?), but Joselyn simply doesn’t know what to do with herself.
Christina offers characteristically cryptic praise: “Walking down the stairs,” she compliments Joselyn, “That’s hard to do in high heels.” The judges are also proud to learn that Joselyn brushed her teeth and zipped her coat up all by herself like a big girl, yes she did.
Only now do I realize that Joselyn’s lipstick is also perfectly coordinated with her hair and dress — but that’s still not enough to earn my vote.
Before he takes the stage, Team Blake’s Terry McDermott comments wryly on the importance of his performance in the playoffs. “There’s not much at stake: just my family’s future, and my pride,” he says, marking the first time a Voice contestant has said something intentionally funny.
Terry, King of Scots, performs Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’” automatically guaranteeing him 90 percent of all votes cast for tonight’s episode. This isn’t his best performance, but even so, Terry’s confidence and competence on stage vastly outshines Joselyn’s.
Melanie Martinez, Team Adam’s Great Indie Hope, unexpectedly covers “Hit the Road Jack.” There’s something to be said for her “subtle,” “jazzy” take on the song, but Melanie overplays her voice’s girlish, whispery quality — it’s like she’s doing a weak impression of Marilyn Monroe’s infamous “Happy Birthday” to JFK.
I’ve been a fan of Melanie’s all season, and this is the first time we’ve seen her falter. Here’s hoping she’ll have a chance to redeem herself.
As Blake’s only remaining country artist, Liz Davis — who, may I remind you, has already won a reality TV singing competition — is under a lot of pressure to perform.
She rises to the challenge with a rousing version of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” “Perfect timing for that song,” Christina notes, because in her world, this is apparently July.
I have waited until now to bring up the fact that Cee Lo is costumed as a heavier incarnation of Prince — wearing eyeliner and an impressive Jheri curl — because it took me this long to convince myself that it wasn’t a hallucination brought on by all the generator fumes coming from the neighbors’ backyard.
Former Hey Monday frontwoman Cassadee Pope is up next, singing “My Happy Ending” for Team Blake. My inner angry 15-year-old prefers the Avril Lavigne version, but Cassadee is clearly a pro — unconstrained by nerves, she capably delivers the dynamic energy this song requires.
Annoyed as I am by Bryan Keith’s ever-present fedora, his coach may have actually outdone him — in rehearsals, Adam wears something that is more holes than shirt.
Bryan performs the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” and he’s good — but his voice lacks the sweetness that made the original track so heart-breaking. Instead, he’s all smirking, raspy attitude. Adam raves about Keith’s “spirit and soulfulness,” but I’m not feeling it.
Michaela Paige, the mohawked teenage Internet radio host, sounds like a fictional voter I made up to frighten Mitt Romney. She takes on Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” for Team Blake, igniting the crowd with her preternaturally strong voice.
In my estimation, life-size troll doll Michaela is far and away one of the best singers on the show, but I find her a little off-putting — if only because she’s far more self-assured than a high school senior has any right to be (acne? prom? the Common App?).
My suspicions are confirmed when I visit her Facebook fan page and discover Michaela’s (apparently unironic) description of herself: “Singer/Songwriter. Radio Show Host. Visionary. Philanthropist.”
Julio Cesar Castillo returns to his Mexican folk roots with “El Rey,” in the traditional mariachi costume of a leather jacket, tie, and sweatpants.
Though I like Julio a lot — and I appreciate that Spanish-language selections offer the added bonus of preventing most audience members from singing along — I don’t particularly love this performance. The audience clearly disagrees, rewarding Julio (and coach Blake) with the first standing ovation of the night.
Adam readily acknowledges that Loren Allred has proved to be Team Levine’s sleeper hit. It’s clear that the producers didn’t see her coming either — she’s been featured by far the least of any of the remaining competitors.
Loren brings the sass on a solid but ultimately unexceptional cover of Lisa Stansfield’s “All Around the World.”
In Amanda Brown’s pre-taped intro footage, Adam excitedly touts her choice of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” as “probably the most iconic classic rock song of the night” — guess Blake hadn’t warned him about the Journey.
But no matter, because Amanda’s is easily my favorite performance of the night. She’s powerful, sexy, and capable of some amazingly kick-ass lady-falsetto.
I exercise my right to vote for Amanda not once, but two times, because The Voice is twice the democracy that America will ever be.
The Voice returns Wednesday night at 8 p.m., and so will I, if I survive the impending nor’easter — and maybe even if I don’t. (Ghosts?!)
Follow Molly on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Image Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC (2)]
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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.
When news broke on Tuesday that Bachelorette star Emily Maynard's ex Sean Lowe had been named ABC's latest Bachelor, fans had mixed feelings. While some of us jumped on the news, excited to hear that one of our favorite Southern gentleman would be returning to make his own journey to find love, others wondered how this sweet and calm Dallas entrepreneur could have been selected to carry television's most dramatic dating show. Will he be entertaining enough to carry a whole season of the famed series on his own? Hollywood.com spoke with two Bachelor experts — former Bachelorette star Trista Sutter and former Bachelorette winner Jesse Csincsak — to get their thoughts on how ABC and Lowe can possibly make this work.
Of course, for anyone who has watched The Bachelor/ette, or any reality show for that matter, you know that to "make it work" on the small screen, it's all about what's happening behind the scenes. Csincsak explains, "It doesn’t matter about his story. Guarantee you that they went to his hometown and filmed, and they are going to make the guy look like a rock star. That’s the magic of the editing room. They can make any guy look like Jesus on TV." The next stroke of divine magic comes from the casting. "They always have to cast interesting characters," Csincsak says. "There are going to have the villain, they are going to have the drunk, they are going to have the kook." While the show's producers know how to pick their archetypes, Sutter thinks Lowe has some standout qualities on his own. Namely, those good looks and Southern charm. "Number one, his dimples... [and] his all-American good boy personality is huge," Sutter notes. "The fact that he’s open to both the process and articulating his feelings, I’ve always said is kind of a requirement for someone to be in that position because ABC and the producers don’t want someone who isn’t going to talk about the experience with the viewers." Sutter adds, "I have a pretty hot husband and I’m not complaining, but the fact that he has a body that they will be able to show off, they are all over that. They are going to have him shirtless more than anyone." Lowe's good looks and wit explain why he attracted so many fans (124,044 Twitter fans and counting) in the first place. It's that very fan base that Csincsak believes convinced ABC to pick Lowe as the new Bachelor over other contenders like Ali Fedotowsky's ex-fiance Roberto Martinez and or Maynard runner-up Arie Luyendyk, Jr. "They strategically do nothing except look at the guy’s following once he comes off the show — and the guy with the most following becomes the next Bachelor," Csincsak says. "You go on Facebook and Twitter, you look at his following, he has over a 100,000 following. That’s ratings. That’s how they make money." So will Lowe's million dollar smile really bring the big bucks and even bigger ratings to ABC? Find out when the Season 17 of The Bachelor premieres in January 2013. Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat. [Photo Credit: ABC] More: Sean Lowe Officially Named The New 'Bachelor' Bachelorette's Sean: I'd Be a Better Bachelor Than Roberto Martinez 'Bachelorette': How Sean's Blowing His Chance with Emily
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.