The gender disparity continues on American Idol, where the girls present quite the conundrum for the judges in week two of the sudden death rounds.
While this whole process (eschewing group numbers and integrated sexes for individual, last ditch performance rounds for two entire weeks) seems so very un-Idol, it is doing one very important thing: it’s giving a strong appreciation of a few ridiculously strong ladies (and on the guys’ night, an overzealous distaste for the men in the competition). Luckily, Wednesday night was one for the ladies. Still, that doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed girls who can do no wrong.
First up is Melinda Ademi, who’s back for a second shot on Idol. Like Angela Miller before her, she sings “Nobody’s Perfect” by Jessie J, and if her Lisa Frank wardrobe and over-the-top performance aren’t enough, the fact that Nicki can only compare her to the flawless Angela is a surefire way to follow the yellow brick road on home. Melinda, who told the judges she was only trying to use “her artistry,” is cut from the competition.
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The first girl to earn a spot to continue on is our returning singer Candice Glover, who sings “(You Make Me Feel) A Natural Woman” in a very Kelly Clarkson sort of way. It’s almost effortless, it’s old fashioned, but it’s easy to see how Glover’s voice might work on a pop song. Now, like Randy mentions, we’ve seen incredible things from Candice and for her, this was just alright. Still, if this is Candice’s “alright,” just imagine what she can do with one of Randy’s “moments.” Naturally, she stays.
Next up is my own personal heartbreaker. Fifteen-year-old Juliana Chahayed sings Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper,” and while she delivers a fantastic, moving performance the young lady doesn’t stay. She slows the song down and makes it her own (and far more enjoyable than the original), but her voice is thin and she experiences pitch problems here and there. Unfortunately, it’s not something the judges can get past with the ladies (though it would result in a gold star for the dudes). Sweet little Juliana is sent home, but at least she’s got plenty of time to get this whole thing down and try again. Let's remember, she's only 15.
Next, Jett Hermano sings a slow version of “Only Girl” by Rihanna while sitting at a piano. It was an intriguing performance and one marked by Jett’s ability to belt out some serious notes. And while Keith loves the “sexier” arrangement, Nicki and Randy want more, supposing that she was going to pull out the biggest stops at the end of the song. She doesn't and they lose their faith, so much so that Jett is sent home by the end of the night.
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On her last shot at the Idol title is 29-year-old Cristabel Clack. And unfortunately her journey ends too soon. She sings “No One” by Alicia Keys, trying so hard to make it her own, but she gets a little too squeaky at the beginnings of phrases and a little out of control, adding runs here and there because she’s trying so hard to differentiate herself from Keys. I’m interested to see her sing something that isn’t by someone so close to her style so she can show us who she is rather than just trying to cover up her similarities to the artist she’s covering. Unfortunately for the mother of three, she’s headed home. And the next contestant stupidly tries Beyonce on for size.
Aubrey Cleland sings “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce and while she also slows the song down like Jessica Sanchez did last season when she rocked it, it doesn’t quite work here. Aubrey is a fantastic singer and she looks great on stage, so she gets a spot in the final five, but the slow rendition of the song quite literally takes away the difficult part of singing it, much of which is the simple aspect of keeping up with the incredible pace at with Beyonce is able to perform.
Finally, the almost-reject from Hollywood week, Rachel Hale takes her shot with a song we’ve already heard her sing: “Nothing But the Water” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. She gets to her big moments at the end of the song, but everything leading up to those moments is abysmal. Eventually, the song gets to be very nice, but there’s no way any successful singer could turn you off that much at the beginning of a song and have you stick around for the thrilling conclusion. Randy and Nicki both love it, which is makes it all feel a little strange when they decide to cut Rachel and keep Janelle Arthur, who sings a sweet (but boring) Lady Antebellum song.
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Powerhouse Breanna Steer takes on “Bust Your Windows” by Jazmine Sullivan, and while the arrangement she uses makes the song sound like nothing more than good karaoke ballad, Randy and Nicki are sure she’s “sexy on a stick” and ready to be signed to a label (not that they’re willing to do that instead of throwing her through the Idol ringer). Still, it’s no wonder she’s got a spot in the top 10 ladies group.
Janelle Arthur scrapes by on the skin of her teeth with the overdone cover of “Just a Kiss” by Lady Antebellum. It was nice, but it wasn’t the right song to wake up non-country fans who might just want to hear something they can connect to. Her good voice keeps her on the show, but she’s still just another sweet blonde country singer. She has pitch issues here and there, but that’s not the issue. She’s just bland. The strange thing is, the judges all seem to agree, but they keep her on.
Finally, we learn why the judges wanted Zoanette Johnson all along: she’s actually really, really good. With her blond afro picked out as she sings “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, it makes sense as to why she’s still on show. She can sing, actually. Where we would hear screeching before, now there’s simply a rich voice that makes sense in this competition - even with all the outside nonsense. How the judges knew that was in there from Day One is a mystery I’ll never understand, but it’s a risk that may just actually pay off, especially now that Zoanette is staying on.
The cuts were incredibly harsh tonight, do you think any of the rejected ladies deserved to stay?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Michael Becker/Fox (2)]
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
When all-American girl Susan Murphy is inadvertently hit by a falling meteor on her wedding day she grows to be nearly 50 feet tall. The U.S. military gets wind of this renames her Ginormica and locks her away with a slacker group of other “monsters” in a top-secret compound. But when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc these good-hearted but inept creatures are called into action by the President and must band together as a team to save the world from certain catastrophe.
WHO’S IN IT?
As usual Dreamworks has assembled a stellar A-list voice cast led by Reese Witherspoon as Susan/Ginormica. Playing one of the rare female animated heroes Witherspoon’s sweet/confused demeanor — in light of her highly unusual status as a fearsome freakazoid — hits just the right tone generously letting her zanier colleagues steal scenes from right under her (a long way down by the way). Chief among these are a not-so-bright gelatinous blue mass named B.O.B. hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen; the genius Dr. Cockroach Ph.D in the capable hands of House doc Hugh Laurie; and Will Arnett’s half-ape half-fish The Missing Link. In the human roles there’s Stephen Colbert as the idiotic U.S. President Kiefer Sutherland as the monster’s prison guardian Paul Rudd as the ego-driven weatherman fiancé of Susan; and a deliciously villainous Rainn Wilson as Galaxhar the alien determined to take over Earth.
Superb 3-D effects aren’t overdone and add immeasurably to the ginormous fun of the film but even seeing it in theaters that only show it in regular 2-D doesn’t spoil the pure joy of this cartoonish War of the Worlds. Throw in parodies of every cheap '50s sci-fi movie you can think of and you have the ingredients for a silly monster mash sure to appeal to just about anyone who wants to laugh. Despite the impressive production elements it’s the smart and clever script that really sets it apart from its competitors — and that even includes the similar Monsters Inc. from Pixar.
Like any kid-oriented comic ‘toon today the action can be a bit too frenetic and Monsters vs. Aliens piles a lot of it on in its trim 95 minutes. Still the lovable characters carry the day and somehow make it all palatable.
When Susan now Ginormica brings her new friends home to meet her parents chaos ensues and so do the laughs. Also impressive are the large action scenes that make fine use of CGI animation breakthroughs.
BEST SUPPORTING BLOB:
It's easily the one-eyed lame-brained blue lug of a people hugger named B.O.B. perfectly matched to the talents of Rogen. He rolls away with the movie and inevitably the merchandise tie-ins.
A “bedtime story” is a fairly succinct way to describe Lady. Of course a bedtime story being told by M. Night Shyamalan can go into any number of weird and wild directions. The writer/director says the idea for Lady was based on a story he’d told his kids which began with “Did you know that someone lives under our pool?” and revolves around Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) a lowly superintendent for an apartment building who inadvertently finds Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) a mysterious nymph-like “narf ” living in the pool. She’s there to complete a task and now that it’s done she needs to go home back to the Blue World. But that’s easier said than done. She only has a small window of opportunity and apparently there’s a ferocious beast called a “scrunt” lurking in the grass around the pool waiting to kill her if she tries to leave. Now Cleveland and a few of the other tenants—who find themselves intricately tied to Story’s plight—must help her escape to freedom. Thank god for Sideways. Without it Giamatti would have gone on playing under the radar without the recognition—and juicier parts—he deserves. He is truly a wonder as Cleveland a sad little man with a stutter who is quietly trying to hide from a tragic past. It’s only when Story comes into his life does he face his personal tragedy and learn to live again. Howard on the other hand who wowed most of us with her stunning performance in The Village doesn’t have nearly as much to work with as the pale water nymph. The mystical character is fairly one note—befuddled and cheerless. But the rest of the apartment tenants shine: Jeffrey Wright (Syriana) as a single dad who has a penchant for crossword puzzles; Freddy Rodriguez (HBO’s Six Feet Under) as a weight builder who only lifts weights on one side of his body; Bob Balaban (A Mighty Wind) as a pompous film critic (and as a critic I’m not at all offended when he gets his comeuppances); Cindy Cheung as a Korean college student who is key in telling the epic bedtime story; Sarita Choudhury (She Hate Me) as a quippy young woman looking for her mission in life and Shyamalan himself as her brother the person Story is meant to inspire to write something extraordinary. There’s never a dull moment with this crew around. In a way M. Night Shyamalan has become his own worst enemy having to live up to this reputation as a master of suspense and surprise twists. His last effort The Village left many of his fans feeling unsatisfied—and unfortunately he may alienate more with Lady in the Water. But the fact of the matter is he is still one of Hollywood's more brilliant minds on par with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for originality who has an innate talent for crafting ingenious stories filled with genuine human emotions. So maybe this time around he’s made a movie more for those most ardent of his fans who simply revel in the way his mind works no matter how incomprehensible and frivolous it may seem. So what? The diehards might feel compelled to defend Shyamalan’s choices with Lady—how he has come up with an entire universe where things like “scrunts” and the “Tartutic” (simian-like creatures who form an invincible force that maintains law and order in the Blue World) and “Madam Narfs” interact with humans in the real world. If the story actually took place in the Blue World then maybe it’d be easier to swallow. But that’s sort of the genius of Shyamalan. It’s as if with Lady in the Water he’s crafted a child-like movie for those adults who remember being told wildly creative bedtime stories who then in turn tell the stories to their kids.
September 16, 2004 12:22pm EST
In 1930s New York Chronicle investigative reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets a lead on a story she's been covering about prominent scientists from around the world who are mysteriously disappearing. When Manhattan is attacked by giant robots Polly reluctantly seeks the help of an old flame ace aviator Captain Joseph Sullivan aka Sky Captain (Jude Law) to get the scoop and find out who's behind these strange events and discovers an Oppenheimer-type science man named Dr. Totenkopf has abducted the scientists in a mad bid to build a doomsday device to annihilate what he believes to be an already damned human race. Assisted by Captain Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie) who runs a secret mobile airstrip thousands of feet in the air Sky Captain and Polly head out to stop Totenkopf and save mankind. How could such a visually dazzling film where the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of three dashing Hollywood stars be so ... unexciting? Much stronger storylines could have evolved from supporting players Dex Sky's right-hand man (Giovanni Ribisi) and especially daredevil Franky and her amphibious squadron all of which are used too sparingly throughout the film.
Paltrow in the lead role of Polly completely captures the witty rapid-fire dialogue of the era immortalized by Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. But while her performance is nearly flawless Polly's self-centeredness turns the would-be heroine into an antagonist; it's hard to like a character who can't put humanity's needs before her own career ambitions. Polly's rabble-rouser persona should bring some exciting tension between her character and Sky Captain's Boy Scout guise but it doesn't--in fact there's a complete lack of chemistry between the two leads. But Law's performance as Sky Captain brilliantly matches Paltrow's as the actor encompasses the new-yet-old type of movie hero one more suave than macho. Less platonic however is the on-screen relationship between Law's Sky and Jolie's Franky. The script's purposefully ambiguous take on the characters' history adds spice to the film's otherwise bland relationships. It's too bad Jolie's performance probably the highlight of the film isn't brought more to the forefront. Ribisi injects some light comedy to the heavy story and Omid Djalili impresses as Kaji a friend of Sky Captain's who helps them during a leg of their journey to find Totenkopf. To their tremendous credit all the cast members delivered seamless performances especially considering all their scenes were shot in one room using a blue screen.
The production behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is what this film is really all about. Based on a six-minute test reel created on his home Mac writer/director Kerry Conran was able to nab studio backing and secure major names--not shabby for one's feature debut. The final product delivers too--a retro sci-fi picture where nearly everything onscreen except for the actors was painstakingly computer generated in post-production. It's amazing how the actors blend flawlessly into the film's animatic backdrops. Every shot makes the most of its visual effects and the film has a dark and dramatic comic book feel a sort of Gotham meets War of the Worlds. Conrad pays homage to literary masters such as H.G. Wells New York's 1939 World's Fair and films including The Wizard of Oz: Sky Captain tracks down Totenkopf like Dorothy searched for her sorcerer and although they are not in Kansas and there is no yellow brick road there is a mysterious genius hiding behind the curtain. But unlike Wizard of Oz Sky Captain doesn't hold its momentum. There's a chase scene for example that goes on way longer than it should have and an overly weighted storyline about Polly and Sky Captain's defunct love affair. Did he cheat on her when they were together years ago? Did she sabotage his airplane? Who cares! Luckily the ending somewhat redeems the story thanks to a couple of surprising little twists.