Now that American Idol has come down to the top five contestants, the competition is getting even more vicious than it’s been all season, even more than in the weeks when Colton Dixon was voted off and Jessica Sanchez narrowly escaped a similar fate. Only but a few people in this world (only 10 of them, to be exact) know what it feels like to traverse this difficult chasm and come out on the other side with a record deal and the AI title. Kris Allen is one of them. Hollywood.com caught up with singer/songwriter — who was named the champ in season 8 — to pick his brain about this current crop of talent, success after Idol, and his new album.
“Song choice is the biggest thing, making sure you pick the best song you know how to sing,” the 26-year-old said regarding the remaining contestants and how they can make it until the very end. Allen even offered up advice to ensure that being comfortable with the audience doesn't turn into being "stagnant": “At this point, you kind of have to take a risk every week … and do things outside of the box that way you’re gaining fans instead of just keeping yours."
The current contestants should take heed, considering Allen is one of AI's biggest success stories. His latest album, Thank You Camellia, will be released May 22. “I got to spend a little more time on it, got to kind of put a little more of myself into it,” he said of his latest effort, “When I listen to the record, I think ‘This is what I wanted it to be.’ I don’t really think about it … I just put out the music that I know how to make.”
Still, Allen thinks season 11's final five is solid. “For me it was like, ‘I have to wow people every week,’ and these contestants do that. It’s going to be a surprise whoever goes off next from here on out.” Of course, Allen had the chance to meet the contestants when he stopped by to perform the week Colton was shockingly eliminated.
“Sadly, I talked to Colton after he got eliminated and he seemed to be in really good spirits," he said of the unfairly booted cast-off. "I tried to reaffirm him, let him know that he’s going to be fine. He knows exactly what he wants to do. As long as he has that in mind, he’s going to make music that people are going to want to listen to." Okay, if the thought of these two singers having such a sweet conversation doesn’t melt your heart, you probably need to go back and read that quote again.
So what did the AI champ think of Colton's faux rival Phillip Phillips' controversial move to perform a lesser-known Dave Matthews Band song that all but sent judge Jennifer Lopez into a panic? Allen, who described Phillips as "really good," told Hollywood.com, “I feel like he kinda does what he wants to do, and that’s a good thing,” Allen said, "[But] if you’re going to pick a song that no one knows, you kind of have to make it epic and I don't know if it was as epic as it should have been. But kudos to him for doing what he wants to do and playing the music he wants to play and letting everyone know what kind of artist he wants to be.”
Does that mean Phillips' gutsy move has Allen's vote? Sorry gossip hounds, but the singer, who said he's been watching all season ("I can’t say that I have the past couple of years") is staying decidedly neutral until the very end. "I think they’re really, really talented … I’m rooting for all of them.”
Do you agree with Allen’s advice? Do you think Phillips' performance should have been a little more “epic”?
Allen’s album hits stores May 22 and Idol’s Top Five hit the stage May 2 at 8 PM on Fox.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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[Image: Leann Mueller]
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.