On Wednesday, we returned to the city of champions.
By that, I mean Atlanta. Naturally.
Episode 3 of So You Think You Can Dance brought us back to the illustrious city that produced Melanie Moore, the most recent Favorite Dancer of the Year: the dirty ATL, home to one of my only loves, Mr. Decatur-Till-I-Die . For the occasion, Cat wore a giant gray leopard, and this week’s fabulous guest judge was Debbie Allen, better known as Jackson's mom and Richard’s play thing from Grey's Anatomy. Love her.
It’s easy to see how this city produced our most recent champ: These people can straight up dance. It truly wouldn’t be surprising if half of the finalists came from this crop.
First up was The Girl Who Farts With Her Elbow (don't ask), Audrey Case, who was a beautiful dancer — she possessed the most admirable combination of balance and flexibility we've seen thus far in Season 9, and her personality was infectious — so it's a shame that she'll forever be known as That Girl Who Farts With Her Elbow. Alas, everyone must have his or her thing. She got a standing O from the studio audience, Nigel called her magical, and she was granted an auto-ticket to Vegas.
The three hip-hop dancers who followed — all of whom live in a tiny apartment with "millions of other people" (actually seven) — were a bit more exciting. Boris Penton, the first of the three to audition, performed a stilted, robotic routine to a piano version of "Love the Way You Lie.” I’m always so impressed when the dancers can maintain a completely still countenance even while the audience is going nuts. Actually, Boris kind of reminded me of a cheaper version of The Exorcist. (Yes, I will bring him up in every recap until Vegas begins and we are finally reunited.)
Nigel was absolutely smitten with this dude, and Debbie even pulled out the Kara DioGuardi Special and used the word "artistry" at least five times in her 30-second critique. Unsurprisingly, he got sent straight to Vegas. The funny thing about this audition is that Nigel made a big show of worrying that Fart Girl wouldn’t be able to adapt to other styles of dance, whereas he didn’t even bring it up with this guy, who seems like a pretty clear-cut hip-hop specialist.
The next roommate to take the stage was Andre Rucker, whom we shall call Chris Bosh. After he began his routine by hatching from an egg, he took the robot motif a step further and gave us what was easily one of the most impressive performances this season. In his intro package, he said he wanted to create a style that was completely new and innovative, and he definitely achieved it; he honestly, truly looked like a robot. Even his mouth moved in this weird, stilted way.
NEXT: Glitch in the system.
The third and final roommate, Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer, aimed to move like a "robot anime popper," and you had to figure that the one the producers saved for last had to be the best. You would be right. Cyrus was the most natural, the most fluid and also the most dramatic and artistic of the three. Robot anime characters would definitely look like that. I'm a sucker for dubstep as it is, but Cyrus truly moved like he was being manipulated by some crazy video editor’s magic mouse. He was scary and awesome and impossible to look away from; in fact, he might have even seized The Exorcist's throne.
Actually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The judges saved their most effusive praise for Cyrus and sent him straight through to Vegas. The moment was compromised by some unfortunate pit stains, but we shall ignore that.
Eighteen-year-old Joshua Alexander was one of the best male dancers we've seen so far, at least as far as ballet goes. He was so graceful, so fluid – there was so much ease in his movement that it was impossible to ignore his raw talent, plain and simple. He also looked so darn happy while he was dancing. When he was finished, each judge wordlessly held up a ticket to Vegas, and Joshua accepted all three, which confused me because there was only one of him.
The most pimped audition of the night — the one we've been seeing in promos all week — was that of Tim Conkel, who used karate to conquer childhood bullying. Before long, he transitioned from the martial arts into dancing in the hopes that it would help him get girls. In fact, he brought his favorite girl onstage with him in the form of a purple Selena Gomez backpack.
Despite the fact that the secondhand embarrassment I experienced rivaled anything I’ve ever felt while watching The Bachelorette, there was no denying that Tim Conkel was absurd. True, he made the white-girl-dancing face several times, but it didn't matter. He was half-break dancer, half-insane gymnast. The worst parts of the routine, weirdly, were the karate moves, which seemed like afterthoughts thrown in at the end and simply didn't mesh.
The judges were all concerned that Tim couldn't dance any other styles, so on the spot, they asked him to put his limited ballet training to the test, which provoked a series of deafening belly laughs from the lady judges. Nevertheless, he got the ticket to Vegas. I still don't think he's making it out of there alive, but we'll see.
NEXT: Fire in the belly.
Another standout was Palestinian belly dancer Janelle Issis, who was discovered in church (yes) and performs regularly at nursing homes. That must get the blood flowing. Yes.
Her routine was easily my favorite of the night. It was somehow modern — probably because of the hip-hop track — yet still authentic, and every part of her was invested, physically and emotionally. It was impossible to look away. Nigel, too, was grossly infatuated and sent her to choreography, where she prevailed and earned the ticket to Vegas.
Danielle Dominguez came to the audition with her mom, and her sit-down with Cat revealed her to be the real-life girl from SNL who thinks her parents are the coolest people in the world. She also had a really gross infatuation with bacon, which she enjoys eating by the plateful. Literally, the plateful.
Because Danielle is willowy and thin, Nigel suggested that perhaps she could begin a Bacon Diet movement — you could feel the hole forming before he even began his next thought — and he then suggested that Mary and Debbie take part in this groundbreaking diet. Both female judges were then predisposed to hate our friend Danielle, a self-described "weird dancer” whose routine didn't seem incredibly technical; it was more of a collection of sensual movement, enhanced by her double-jointedness. The judges, alas, liked her uniqueness and sent her on to Vegas.
Courtney Kirby actually did pull a Bachelor when she brought her grandmother to the audition to distract Nigel. Nigel invited Grandma to sit in his judge's seat, and they spent several minutes giggling and nuzzling before Courtney began her routine. Do we need to go over this? She made it straight through to Vegas.
Now, for the routine: Her technique was excellent, but it was a bit much for me in the hairography department, and the ending was straight-up weird. It was far from the most impressive thing we saw all day, but sometimes, cute grandmas get the best of our emotions.
The most intriguing audition of the night was that of Asher Walker. He dressed like a frat boy and talked like a cast member from Straw Dogs, and the self-professed redneck taught himself to dance in his garage by watching videos. Now, he aspires to be a Justin Bieber backup dancer. Truth.
He may not have had a grandma with him, but he had the charm to make up for it, and the chops, too. Aside from the fact that he could move at all in such tight skinny jeans, which already should’ve earned him a ticket to Vegas, his routine was all rhythm and hip-hop and a little bit of corndoggery but, alas, charming. He quite obviously didn’t have as much technical skill as most of the other hip-hop enthusiasts we've seen this season, but he certainly has raw talent and he's totes adorbs. Mary likes to throw out this phrase a lot, but this really is the guy people are going to pick up the phone and vote for. On to Vegas he goes.
Brittany Ortner, who needed seven takes to record her pre-audition interview, is from a tiny town in Florida and believes Uncle Nigel is the only genie in the world who can save her from Chicken Town. This girl was half-Taylor Swift, half-Miley Cyrus – a deadly combo – but she was pretty good. Kind of raw, but skilled. On the scale of Anna Faris to Kate Winslet, she was a solid Shailene Woodley. The judges liked her personality, but they sent her to choreography and eventually on to Vegas.
At the end of the night, we were treated to the resurgence of Damon Bellmon and Deon Lewis, who auditioned for Season 8 and performed a “tribute” to a Les Twins routine, which was "misinterpreted" as dance plagiarism. In their defense, they admitted in their pre-audition sit-down last year that their routine was inspired by group, but the producers cut it.
This year, they did their own routine – pinkie swear – to "Moves Like Jagger," which was alternately awesome and unwatchably corny. The best part came during a dubstep break in the middle, where they were really able to use their buddy-cop routine to their advantage. They got a standing O from the audience, but Nigel wanted to see how good they could be with female partners rather than each other, so they went on to choreography. Damon proved that he can indeed roll with the ladies, but in a dramatic turn of events, Deon was cut. He was happy for his bro, anyway.
What did you think of The Dirty? Was the robot anime trio worth all of the pimping it got from the judges? Who didn’t deserve the ticket to Vegas? And most importantly, what animal-printed couture will Cat treat us to next week?
[Image Credit: FOX]
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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.
The box-office success of such films as Shrek, Jurassic Park III , Planet of the Apes, The Fast and the Furious, with Paul Walkerand The Mummy Returns may make it difficult for big movie stars to negotiate $20 million movie deals, according to Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office trackers Exhibitor Relations. Noting that this year's summer movies will likely set a record without the likes of Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford, Dergarabedian told Wednesday's New York Daily News: "The summer is more about explosions and special effects than acting. ... These [hit] movies have done well on sheer marketing and word-of-mouth. Look at how much awareness there was for Planet of the Apes. People are going to go see that movie regardless of who's in it."
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
The senior pastor of Harlem's Canaan Baptist Church has chastised the
Rev. Jesse Jackson for inviting television news crews into his church to
cover a sermon despite an agreement not to do so.
An article by Peter J.
Boyer due to appear in Monday's edition of the New Yorker claims
that the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker extracted a promise from Jackson to keep
the service closed to the press and to show penance for fathering an
Instead, the article said, the service was broadcast
live and Jackson never mentioned the child.
In a letter to Jackson,
excerpted by the New Yorker, Rev. Walker wrote: "Your addiction
to the need of media attention seems to be fatal and you have fallen
into the practice of using people for your advantage and personal
Although most critics generally love to pounce on fright films, several are
giving high marks to Joy Ride, starring Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and
Leelee Sobieski. Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe & Mail writes:
"Joy Ride is just that -- it's nothing more or less than scary
noirish fun, low on thematic ambition but giddily high on the fright front."
To Jay Carr in the Boston Globe, it's "a nice, nasty little B-movie
that keeps things simple and keeps things scary." Joe Morgenstern in the
Wall Street Journal agrees, saying that "there's plenty of scary
pleasure to be had from this clever, compact thriller." But several critics
remark that they were taken aback by the ending. "Nobody acts in the
character that they have established; instead, they become generic ciphers
like the crowds of fleeing extras when the beast in the '50s monster movies
hits town," writes Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post.
George Orwell's "Big Brother Is Watching You" warning may sometimes ring true, but the reverse did not on Saturday night as the second episode of Big Brother 2 failed to attract ratings that were any larger than those for a mediocre summer rerun. The show's 3.6 rating and 8 share in the 8 p.m. hour was identical to the numbers for a repeat of Walker, Texas Ranger a week earlier. (In fact, aside from a rerun of Cops on Fox, the show produced the worst ratings for any primetime show airing Saturday night.) By contrast, NASCAR racing on NBC proved to be a smash as it produced a roaring (for a summer Saturday) 5.9/12 in the 8 p.m. hour, then went on to finish with a 7.2/14 in its final half hour at 10:30 p.m. Earlier in the day, the Big Brother Web site showed five contestants naked in a hot tub, licking whipped cream off one another. The steamy goings-on were presented on the last day that the Web site was available for free. It now costs $19.95 to access it for the three-month run.
Paramount is hoping to entice George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford to team up again for a fourth Indiana Jones saga, the New York Post reported Thursday, citing an unnamed source. "Paramount had meetings last week about the movie," the source told the newspaper. "They want the original credits." According to the newspaper, the studio is wrestling with the question of how it can make money from a film that is likely to cost $150 million--especially when the producer, director and star are likely to demand a big piece of the film's box-office take. But one industry exec laughed at the prospect of a new Indiana Jones flick. Noting that Harrison Ford is likely to be in his 60s by the time the movie starts shooting (he turns 59 on July 13), one industry exec told the Post: "What are they going to do -- put Harrison Ford in a walker?"
PlanetOut.com, the gay online film site, announced Monday that two films, a drama and a documentary, had tied for the $10,000 Grand Prize in its second annual Short Movie Awards contest. Aaron Walker won for the dramatic short Summer Light and Eva Saks, for the documentary Family Values. PlanetOut.com's Jenni Olson said in a statement, "We're thrilled to reward talented queer short moviemakers resources while offering our customers access to media they just can't get in their hometowns." The awards will be presented during the 10-day Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which opens July 12.
In an effort to improve its demographic base, CBS announced Wednesday that it is scrapping Diagnosis Murder, starring 75-year-old Dick Van Dyke, and Walker, Texas Ranger, starring 61-year-old Chuck Norris. Dropping each of the 8-year-old shows will result in making CBS's fall schedule "a lot younger, a lot more affluent," CBS chief Les Moonves said Wednesday in presenting the network's fall schedule. CBS currently attracts more 50+ adults than any other network and the fewest number of 18-49-year-olds. Moonves also said that the next Survivor series will debut in October in the same Thursday-night time period as it did last month -- opposite NBC's Must-See-TV lineup.