It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’s no mistletoe or gifts under the tree, but there is a whole lotta drama brewing on television: it’s officially Hollywood week on American Idol.
And those of us who’ve watched year-in and year-out have honed a special sixth sense: the ability to tell by a few simple Hollywood week cues which contestants are destined for crashing and burning, instead of Idol glory. These, my fellow Idolizers, are the Hollywood week warning signs.
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During Season 5, future fan favorite Elliott Yamin was grouped with three fellow soulsters. Unfortunately, one of his group-mates, Terrell Brittenum, was a bit of whiner. After trying to get his group to stay up through the wee hours of the morning practicing their routine, Elliot joined one his teammates in getting some beauty rest rather than strain themselves and risk a sleepy performance. After their number, Terrell found it appropriate to air this grievance to the judges like a kid at daycare who didn’t get to play his favorite game.
The consequence of this Hollywood week error is pretty self-explanatory: Terrell’s bad behavior signaled his recession into the waters of “mildly annoying past Idol contestants,” while Elliott’s was the first of many crowd pleasers on the Fox series.
The Lyrical Minefield
More often than not, the producers throw in one irresistible song that’s actually a bit of a musical clusterf**k. It temps ambitious ingenues to take up the task of uttering a string of impossible lyrics. And when it comes time to cut footage for the Hollywood week episodes, guess who usually winds up making the actual episode? The girl who flubbed every last word.
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Even the infinitely likable Haeley Vaughn and Matthew Lawrence fell into the trap during Season 9 when they took on “Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani. If your favorite contestant picks a whopper like this one, you may want to pick a new horse.
The Curse of Unfair Juxtaposition
You could be the sweetest, cutest little singer this show has ever seen, but if you find yourself in a group with the next Adam Lambert, you should go ahead and plan on finding a new dream (or at least trying again next year). The group behind the eventual Season 8 runner-up were S.O.L. as soon as Lambert let out that incomparable voice of his. Sorry, kids. Showbiz is a bit of a cruel bi***.
NEXT: The cute boy curse.
Being the Only Girl in a Group of Cute Boys
It’s sad, but true. Idol loves a cute Southern boy, and when you’re the only girl in a group of adorable guys (a.k.a. Idol voter kryptonite), your chances of arresting our attention long enough to get a vote further on down the line are pretty slim. Hey, I didn’t say these rules were fair, but poor India Morrison knows firsthand that being outshined by the Kris Allens of the world is inevitable in the Idol universe.
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You’re Too Much. Actually.
During Season 11, we met balls of energy Creighton Fraker and Reed Grimm. Both guys had more music in their bodies than bones, and when they came together to become Groovesauce during Hollywood week the performance was explosive. So why didn’t viewers plead their case when it came time to vote for the top 12? Perhaps it was a case of musical information overload. The excitement was simply too much, and our systems shut way down.
Be Gone, Bully
Much like the contestant whose holier-than-thou rehearsal practices get them the audience cold shoulder, the Hollywood week bully almost never prospers. Just ask Clint Jun Gamboa from Season 10, who was the ringleader for the exodus of sweet, innocent Jacee Badeaux. Jacee wasn’t even strong enough to make it through the competition, but Clint’s swift move of heartlessness (and silence in the face of Scotty McCreery’s public apology on stage) cost him the favor of the judges and voters.
Simply Too Good to Be True
When Kimberly Locke and Frenchie Davis sang “Band of Gold” at a borderline professional level, we knew it was only a matter of time before the other shoe (or should we say, history of nude photos scandal) dropped. Know this, Idol fans: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
NEXT: The dangers of a stage mom.
Bring Your Stage Mom From Hell
There are bullies, and then there are angry mobs. When Brielle von Hugel brought her mother to Hollywood week, the going got ugly. The usual stress-induced disagreements reached a whole new level when Brielle’s mom joined the fray to work against young Kyle Crews during Season 11’s Hollywood week. Keep it civil, and keep your mom away, or no amount of Otis Redding covers can save you from the voting public’s wrath.
The Bully and the Butt of the Joke: The Deadliest of Circumstances
Season 11 also delivered an important lesson: if you’re the bully and the subject of another contestant’s hilarious wit, you’re not going to last long. Just ask Richie Law, whose antics drove Heejun Han to hilarious lengths. One of these two is remembered for being Season 11’s class clown, the other is simply a visitor from “cowboy town.”
heejun by mjsbigblog
Yep, That Girl is Crazy
From constant crying to the now infamous Tatiana laugh to the time she said “I’m gonna prove it to every guy who told me I have to sleep with him to get my album out, this is for all of you,” Season 8’s Tatiana Del Toro made her mark in Hollywood week as a bit of a drama queen. Voters were not impressed and her star didn’t rise past the semi-finalist mark.
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[Photo Credit: Fox]
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
It's graduation day for Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) but the celebration comes to an abrupt end when his girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk) dumps him by blatantly announcing she has been unfaithful to him--over and over again. At a graduation party that night Fiona makes her point by jumping on stage during rockers Lustra's performance of "Scotty Doesn't Know " which goes something like this: "Scotty doesn't know that Fiona and me do it in my van every Sunday..." Dumbfounded Scotty gets drunk and goes home to confide in his Berlin-based computer pen pal Mieke (Jessica Boerhs) who suggests coming to America for a "rendezvous." Scott rudely rebuffs him (and that's putting it mildly) not aware that Mieke is not a guy but actually a really hot high school girl. He tries to make amends but Mieke won't read his e-mails so his pal Cooper (Jacob Pitts) convinces him to go to Berlin and meet her face-to-face. Short on cash they take a cheap courier flight to London where they meet up with twin pals Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Jamie (Travis Wester) before hopscotching to Amsterdam Bratislava Rome Vatican City and finally Berlin. Of course the chase is always better than the kill and Eurotrip is no different: Whether Scotty gets Mieke is beside the point; the amusement is all in the journey there. Who knew for example that you could spend the night in a five star hotel and partake in a night of clubbing in Eastern Europe on $1.87 U.S.-and still have 27 cents left over when it's all over?
Newcomer Mechlowicz is perfectly cast as the lead here playing a character that is simple-minded daring sympathetic and charming. But it's Mechlowicz's personal spin--his bewildered expressions--that really nails the role for him whether he is witnessing the twins accidentally making out on the dance floor in a drunken stupor or waking up to find a strange passenger cozying up to him on a train. As his buddy Cooper Pitts (K-19: The Widowmaker) plays the wisecracker of the bunch and although he doesn't go over the top with the crassness there is a little too much David Spade influence in his delivery (and the similar haircuts don't help the matter either). Like the rest of the cast Wester is careful not to typecast his character Jamie a meticulous planner who can't travel without Frommer's by loosening him up slightly. Jamie for example knows when it's time do drop the book and experiment even if it means nude sunbathing. Trachtenberg (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) also infuses her twin character Jenny with the perfect blend of sexuality and innocence. The result is a cast of mishmash characters that are just so darn likeable. Look for a surprise cameo from Matt Damon as well as small but hilarious performances from Vinnie Jones as Mad Maynard a Manchester United soccer hooligan; Lucy Lawless as S&M mistress Madame Vandersexxx; and Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen credited as "the creepy Italian guy."
Jeff Schaffer makes his directorial debut here from a screenplay co-written with his longtime partners scribes Alec Berg and David Mandel. And ads touting it as a comedy "from producers of Road Trip and Old School " may be exactly what Eurotrip a comedy starring relative unknowns needs to draw the coveted teen crowd. After all Ivan Reitman the producer responsible for catapulting low budget comedies into box-office gold territory has secured quite a following--and fans won't be let down with this latest offering. Unlike its predecessors Eurotrip isn't afraid to be crass and while the characters are sweet the storyline is anything but. In this Euro-centric tale writing trio Schaffer Berg and Mandel proudly embrace every stereotype imaginable but do so at the expense of the inexperienced foursome which makes the material funny rather than offensive. Nude beaches the young Americans discover aren't necessarily packed with hot gorgeous women and Amsterdam's sex industry isn't exactly the stuff young male fantasies are made of. With one hilarious gag after another as well as funky map graphics with dotted lines that transport viewers from city to city the film maintains its fast-moving pace throughout. Surprisingly the film was shot entirely on location in the Czech Republic with Prague doubling as London Paris Berlin Amsterdam Rome Vatican City Bratislava--and even Hudson Ohio with landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower the Coliseum and Big Ben added using CGI. Accompanied by an awesome soundtrack featuring Lutsra's "Scotty Doesn't Know " Chapeaumelon's "My Generation" and The Salads "Get Loose " this film succeeds on all levels.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.