Two of this season's best episodes of Saturday Night Live came when some of its most distinguished alums returned to Studio 8H. Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph brought back their same comic energy that made them breakout stars on the show and gave the 37th season of SNL a jolt it so desperately needed. The same couldn't necessarily be said for this season's third hosting alum Will Ferrell. While the (typically) funny man revived some old favorites, the whole affair felt surprisingly unceremonious.
Kicking off with a crowd-pleasing cold open which featured the actor doing his famed George W. Bush impression ("[Mission accomplished] is something I like to say when a problem isn't solved and I don't want to talk about it anymore," he heh-heh-heh'ed to Jason Sudeikis' childlike Joe Biden) the night seemed poised to have some more classic Ferrell moments. Mission not exactly accomplished.
After a sweet and silly opening monologue in which Ferrell brought his own mom on stage to wish her a Happy Mother's Day from the heart (or, from the "brain place to my mouth hole") and a hilarious faux allergy medicine commercial in which he played a man with a horrendously loud sneeze with a wife at the breaking point (a sketch-stealing Kristen Wiig) it was time to bring back another old favorite. Yes, with a little help from friend Ana Gasteyer, SNL fans were treated to another musical journey from the Culps. This time around our favorite middle school music teachers (still wearing their same fashionable getups, naturally) brought their unique musical stylings to an LGBT-friendly prom. It gets better: They performed the likes of Adele's "Rumor Has It," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It," and Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart." I was sort of hoping they would sing one of the runes from musical guest Usher (whose performances of "Scream" and "Climax" were solid, if not a little unmemorable) but it was still the best kind of high school reunion. But, that's all folks. At least, when it came to classic Ferrell characters. There was no Alex Trebec or James Lipton or even Robert Goulet. The rest of the episode was marked by originals and while they weren't all bad, we probably shouldn't be expecting a fourth Best of Will Ferrell DVD anytime soon. Especially not thanks to overlong sketches like the ESPN Classic Ladies' Golf Long Drive 1994 (though the return of fellow alum Will Forte is never a bad thing), the ho-hum 2012 Funkytown C-Span debate (relying on funny costumes and names does not a successful sketch make), the dreadful "Broadway Sizzle" (not even Ferrell's cry of "Fudge me to dern!" could save this one) or the dead-in-the-water awkward anniversary dinner speeches made by weird cousins (including Forte again.) Where's Bill Brasky to save the day when you need him? That son of b***h. In fact, the episode's highlights were from (mostly) Ferrell-less moments. While the funny man appeared in the epic 100th Digital Short bonanza, so did Usher and his mentee Justin Bieber, a rapping Natalie Portman, Michael Bolton /Captain Jack Sparrow, Justin Timberlake, and Jon Hamm (Sergio!) In honor of all things Digital Short, from Shy Ronnie to Laser Cats, Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone celebrated the best way they knew how by, well...you know what, just listen to the song yourself to find out: In case that wasn't enough star power for you, Liam Neeson dropped in for a visit during the always-funny Weekend Update "Get in the Cage with Nicolas Cage" segment. The stoic Taken star squared off against Samberg's wonderfully deranged take on the eccentric actor for the most hilarious moment of the night. (Even Seth Meyers couldn't stop giggling at the madness.) Neeson, or Tall Bono, if you will, could do nothing more than listen on as "Cage" wondered why he wasn't in Battleship ("It has all the elements of a Nic Cage movie. One, it's based on a children's board game. And two, you don't need to speak English to enjoy it") and describe himself as having "the skin of a sundried Gremlin and the hairline of a Puerto Rican Beetlejuice." For the record I would see both Cage's Hungry Hungry Hippos movie and one in which he and Neeson kidnap God. Check out the hilarious visit here: It's hard to call this a lackluster episode of SNL what with the star-studded 100th Digital Short and the Neeson appearance (turns out he has a knack for comedy after all) but it definitely needed something else for its host that was desperately lacking. Ah, yes, I think I know what it was: More cowbell. Am I crazy in thinking this was a disappointing episode of Saturday Night Live? Or would you agree that, in comparison to Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell didn't rise to the challenge quite the same? Which sketch was your favorite? Least? What did you think of Usher's performances? Did you think his funky appearance in the Funkytown sketch actually brought the most funk? Sound off in the comments section below. [Photo credit: NBC] More: Will Ferrell's Saturday Night Live Promo: Catch the Thrill! Will Ferrell vs. Zach Galifianakis: Cast Your Campaign Vote! Usher and Justin Bieber Releasing Two Duets
April 17's results show on Dancing With the Stars introduced a new element to the dance competition that has never been done before: the Dance Duel. For those of you who are familiar with American Idol, it is very reminiscent to the Judges' Save in that they have the power to prevent an undeserving contestant from going home. So the couples who received the two lowest votes are pitted against each other in a dance-off, performing a routine simultaneously in front of the judges, who decide — based on that performance alone — which couple is sent home.
Placing something like this in a voting competition can garner some pretty mixed reviews. On one hand, it's a great way to help preserve the integrity of the show and ensure that this remains a dance competition, not a popularity contest. But at the same time it also devalues America's voting privileges, which could potentially turn viewers off from the show. Both are equally fair points, but for this week I was definitely glad to have the safeguard in place.
It came as no surprise to see Gavin DeGraw end up in the bottom two once more, given his less than lackluster performance for Latin Night, however, it was a bit shocking to see Jaleel White join him in the hot seat. Not only has White remained consistently talented since Season 14 debuted, but he's also one of the most well known given his Urkel background, so his almost-departure came as quite the surprise. It's times like this when having the judges' level-headed logic comes at a great advantage. As lovable as DeGraw is, his dancing skills pale in comparison to White's, making him the more deserving of the two to be eliminated.
It's always hard to say goodbye to people on this show, especially since you know they're working so hard, but the Dance Duel was a solid way to ensure we won't receive another shocking upset like we saw with Sherri Shepherd.
What did you think of this week's result show? Are you a fan of the Dance Duel or would you rather leave the decision up to America's votes? Who would you have chosen to end up in the bottom two?
Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyBean0415
‘DWTS' Says Goodbye To Another Couple — See The Results Here!
'DWTS' Recap: The Top 9 Couples Make a Steamy Comeback
'DWTS' Rankings: The Top 9 Couples Sizzle For Latin Night
Update: Sorry Gavin DeGraw, but the show must go on... without you. After Gavin and Jaleel White faced each other in the show's very first Dance Duel as the bottom two competitors, the judges decided to send the singer home packing. Not entirely surprising, but still sad nonetheless. We'll miss you, Gavin!
Earlier: Last night's steamy round of performances on Dancing With the Stars left both the judges and viewers assured that this group of stars is up for a Latin challenge. But now that we've reached the halfway point of the competition it's getting easier to see who's most worthy of earning that coveted Mirror Ball trophy. Katherine Jenkins and William Levy are back at the top of the leader board where they rightfully belong, but given last week's shocking elimination, there's really no telling which two couples will face the dreaded hot seat.
But fear not DWTS fans, there's a much better chance of a more deserving person heading home come tonight's results show mostly because the fate of each star doesn't solely rest in America's hands. The couples that end up in the bottom two tonight will perform a dancing duel in front of the judges, and it will be they who decides which contestant should be sent packing.
However, that doesn't mean our favorites are entirely safe. Roshon Fegan and Sherri Shepherd wound up facing elimination last week even though their performances and scores outshone their competitors. The judges could still end up making a very tough decision they really don't want to have to make.
Gavin DeGraw's mediocre routine lacked a little passion and a lot of steps, making him receive the lowest score of the night. Will the singing star be able to charm his way out of yet another sticky situation? Surely his luck is running out. Gladys Knight has such a commanding stage presence, but her dance moves could still use quite a bit of work. Will her fan base save her once again from hanging up her dancing shoes? Votes haven't come that easy to Roshon, who's unfairly ended up in the bottom two twice now — will he share the same fate once again or will new couples face off in the final showdown? Given the many twist and turns that have already happened on this show, that possibility seems quite possible — but I'm hoping it comes down between Gavin and Gladys.
Who do you think stands the biggest risk of elimination? Is anyone safe on a season like this? Are you upset the judges will have a say in the matter this week? Sound off on your predictions in the comments below and check back here later tonight to find out which couple ends up being shown the door.
Dancing With the Stars' result show airs Tuesday nights at 9 PM (ET/PT) on ABC.
'DWTS' Recap: The Top 9 Couples Make a Steamy Comeback
'DWTS' Rankings: The Top 9 Couples Sizzle For Latin Night
'DWTS' Injuries Rank Amongst TV's Scariest
If Dancing With the Stars has taught us anything from the previous week it's that this competition is anybody's game. And while that's exciting to watch, let alone be a part of, it also means that everyone is at risk of going home.
So for Latin Night, the couples kicked things up a notch and got muy caliente out on the dance floor. If their confidence levels were shaken from their overall dip in scores (and spike in injuries), you wouldn't know it; based on this steamy round of performances, which consisted of either the Salsa, Argentine Tango, or the Samba, these guys were ready to get down and dirty with their sexy selves.
To make this night even a little spicier, the show higher-ups added a twist to April 17's results show. The couples who receive the two lowest scores of the week will go head-to-head in front of the judges in a dance duel — and it will be the judges who will make the final decision as to who goes home. Since this amazing group of contestants appear to be back and better than ever, it's going to be a very hard decision to make.
Check out the scores below (from highest to lowest) and see if you agree with the scoreboard this week:
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas
Score: 29 out of 30
William Levy and Cheryl Burke
Argentine Tango: "Buttons" by Pussycat Dolls
Score: 29 out of 30
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd
Score: 27 out of 30
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough
Salsa: "The Cup of Life" by Ricky Martin
Score: 27 out of 30
Roshon Fegan and Chelsea Hightower
Salsa: "Bumpy Ride" by Mohombi
Score: 26 out of 30
Jaleel White and Kym Johnson
Samba: "Rhythm Is Going To Get You" by Gloria Estefan
Score: 24 out of 30
Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus
Score: 22 out of 30
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Score: 21 out of 30
Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff
Samba: "Sweetheart From Venezuela" by Harry Belafonte
Score: 19 out of 30
What did you think of tonight's set of sizzling hot performances? Who stands the biggest threat of going home Tuesday night amid all this mucho talent? Sound off in the comments below!
Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyBean0415
Check back tomorrow night to find out who gets eliminated. Dancing With the Stars' result show airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC.
'DWTS': Melissa Gilbert & William Levy Saved by the Sympathy Vote?
William Levy Busts His Ankle, But Will Make It To 'DWTS' — EXCLUSIVE
Carrie Ann Inaba: 'We Miss Sherri Shepherd Already'
In the last seven years Denzel Washington has paired with director Tony Scott on four hyperkinetic ultra-saturated feature films: Man on Fire Deja Vu The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable. When he strays from the time-honored action collaboration you'd think the man would take a break from the format. Not so—as Washington's new film Safe House clearly demonstrates.
Daniel Espinosa director of the acclaimed Swedish crime drama Snabba Cash shoots his espionage thriller with Scott-ian flair complete with rapid camera movement a palette of eye-scorchingly bright colors and fragmented editing. If Safe House was emotionally compelling the stylistic approach might make the narrative sizzle—but the script is as simple and familiar as they come: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent with a monotonous gig. He's a safe housekeeper tasked with maintaining a stronghold in South Africa in case the feds need to stop by for some…interrogating. After a year of begging for field work and keeping the joint tidy Weston finds himself embroiled in the investigation of Tobin Bell (Denzel Washington) an ex-CIA notorious for selling information on the black market. A group of agents bring Bell in to Weston's safe house for a routine waterboarding but everything is thrown into chaos when the lockdown is infiltrated by machine-wielding baddies looking to put a bullet in Bell's head. To keep the captor alive Weston goes on the run with Bell in hand…never knowing exactly why everyone wants the guy dead.
The setup for Safe House provides Washington and Reynolds two fully capable action stars to do their thing and to do it well. The two characters have their own defining characteristics that each actor bites off with ferocity: Reynolds' Weston is a man drowning in circumstance built to kick ass but still out of his league and just hoping to get back to his gal in one piece. Bell has years of experience boring into the heads of his opponents and Washington plays him with the necessary charisma and confidence that make even his most despicable characters a treat to watch.
But the duo fight a losing battle in Safe House contending with the script's meandering action and ambiguous stakes that turn the Bourne-esque thriller into a grueling experience. Much of the movie is an extended chase scene where the object of the bad guys' desire is never identified. It's a mystery!—but the lack of info comes off as confusing. Safe House cuts back and forth between the compelling relationship between Weston and Bell and a war room full of exceptional actors (Vera Farmiga Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepherd) given nothing to do but spurt straightforward backstory and typical "there's no time Mr. ______!" exclamatory statements. Caking it is Espinosa's direction which lacks any sense of coherent geography. The action is never intense because you have no idea who is going where and when and why.
Safe House is a competently made movie with enough talent to keep it afloat but without any definable hook or dramatic emphasis it plays out like an undercooked version of the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott formula. Which is unfortunate as four solid ones already exist.
1. Career Advice for Tom Cruise
The problem plaguing Tom Cruise was clear. Everyone was angry with him for taking himself way too seriously. There was the whole "psychology is made up" strangeness, the video where he talked about how he was an authority on the mind, and the oddball Oprah couch zaniness.
Then he did Tropic Thunder in an effort to tell the general public "Hey, I can make fun of myself too! Look, I'm harmless!" And, you know, it kind of worked, though he’s not all the way back just yet.
So I'm proposing a radical solution for what ails Cruise, at least so far as public perception is concerned. I don't think the musical thing is the route to go. He needs to take a bold step, and that step is towards Paul Thomas Anderson's now dead anti-Scientology project. Finance that puppy and release a press statement that says the following:
"In an effort to support the freedom of expression, religion, and speech I've signed on to Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." I'm still a proud Scientologist, but I recognize that it takes different strokes to rule the world. I worked with Paul previously on "Magnolia," and though he does about 100 takes of the same scene, I'm willing to follow him down the rabbit hole once again. After all, the last time I was nominated for an Academy Award was with PTA, he's as gifted as they come. Hopefully, this project will show everyone I'm ready to act, seriously act, again.
Watch your back, Daniel Day-Lewis!"
This would work! Because the problem was that Cruise took himself too seriously, so we couldn't take him seriously. He parried with the comedy, allowing us to continue not taking him seriously. Now, for act three, he's got to go all Yoda on us. Back to serious craft, Mr. Cruise, and don't dilly-dally. Hit us with the good stuff, the "real" Tom Cruise, the guy who gave life to characters in The Firm, Rain Man, and A Few Good Men. People will support you T-sizzle, if only you give them half a chance.
2. About That Ghost Rider 2 Budget ...
I'm amazed that Ghost Rider 2 has a budget above $263 dollars. Because I see the expenditures as follows:
$100: To buy the original comics, which clearly no one read before shooting the original.
$50: Six tickets to see Paranormal Activity 2, which was made for FIFTY TIMES less money than Ghost Rider.
$63 Hair products for Mr. Cage.
$50 To Purchase vintage Atari 2600 to handle "flaming skull" CGI if unable to find the previous one they used.
Everything else in the budget should be donated to charity. Terrible movies shouldn't get sequels, and they sure as heck shouldn't get sequels that cost more than a trip to the Dairy Queen.
3. Taylor Swift, Jake Gyllenhaal, and the Return of Gangster Rap (Sort of)
I generally stay away from personal relationships and gossip, because really, who cares, but I'm forced to enter the fray for this particular thought exercise.
You see, Taylor Swift recently took a bat to Camilla Belle (10,000 B.C.) with the following song:
The lyrics to this hit piece are tremendous for a few reasons:
1. It's about Joe Jonas (pronounced Yo Yonas).
2. Joe Jonas dated Taylor Swift, and then dropped her for Camilla Belle, causing Swifty to write this little ditty.
3. She alleges Belle is best known for her work on the mattress? Hey now!4. The lyrics hold Jonas blameless, he's just a pawn in the larger Swift vs. Belle battle, the closest approximation we've got to Tupac vs. Biggie going at the moment.
5. In fact, Joe (Yo) Jonas (Yonas) is an object, because you can't "steal" a person.
6. She hates Belle's vintage dresses.
7. She despises Belle's continual frown.
8. She feels Belle's prep school upbringing didn't infer her a level of sophistication.
Simply delightful. Now then, to the news of the day, our girl Swift is dating none other than Jake Gyllenhaal. Clearly, I hope everything works out and they get married, as I hope everyone gets married, because I am married, and it is a cult. But if it doesn't work out, can you just imagine? Could we be headed for another classic Swift takedown? Might it go a little something like this?:
I just saw Brothers and you know that film sucked on wheels /
And when we dated I towered over you when I wore high heels /
But now we're broken because of sex scenes you did with Hathaway /
Guess she doesn't know that Swifty gonna make her pay/
And so on, and so forth. Taylor Swift could be the entertainment gift that keeps on giving, because very few artists are compelled to bring personal vendettas into their work. It was pretty much just rap and Carly Simon prior to this. Ideally, perfect world, Jake Gyllenhaal can then make a retaliation film called Swift Justice. C’mon, you know you’d watch that.
On that note, I hope you have a weekend free of angry relationship rhymes.
Check out last week's Movie Musings here
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.