This week on Dancing with the Stars was classical week, which meant the orchestra doubled in size and rock violinist David Garrett and mezzo-soprano, Katherine Jenkins performed, while the dancers and their celebrities continued to bear their midriffs and dress like mobsters and bobcats.
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower danced the Paso Doble, which is a notably aggressive dance. And since Romeo’s biggest challenge on the dance floor is embodying the character of the dance, Chelsie asked him when in his life he has been particularly tough. Romeo answered that whenever he plays basketball he becomes “a beast,” and Chelsie explained that his passion for shoving his crotch in dudes’ faces in the name of obtaining two points was exactly what she wanted to see come out of him when he danced this week. Their dance was very good, even though it ended with Romeo taking his shirt open blazer off and pouncing on Chelsie’s body that lay on the floor. Len Goodman told Romeo to have a bit more decorum, and that even though the dance was passionate and aggressive, he needed to work on his precision. The judges gave them 23 points.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff danced the Waltz to the theme of Romeo and Juliet, and Karina went into practice knowing she had to work harder at making Ralph sexier and helping him lose what the judges refer to as his “spatula” hands. Their dance wasn’t outstanding, but the judges commended them for the dance’s believability. The judges gave them 25 points.
Petra Nemcova and Dmitri Chaplin were assigned the Paso Doble as well, and again, the aggression in the dance proved to be difficult for Petra to convey. So to help her, Dmitri arranged a photo shoot for her, where she could practice some Paso poses with mean faces and develop a character to bring out during the dance. Their dance was pretty fun to watch, even though Petra looked pretty rigid throughout it. The judges gave them 23 points.
Chris Jericho’s wrestling background meant he had very little trouble portraying the dominance of the Paso Doble. Although during rehearsals, Cheryl Burke criticized his tiny steps and the fact that his chest wasn’t far out enough because it made him not look masculine enough. Thankfully by dance time, Chris had grown a mustache and found his courage to whip Cheryl around the way he needed to. Len was correct in pointing out, however, that the music conquered their routine. The judges gave them 23 points.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis van Amstel danced the Viennese Waltz to Conte Partiro. Louis explained their routine included three big tricks because he wanted to show the judges that Kendra was a really big contender. But upon hearing the song, Kendra said she was bored of these kinds of dances, but was only going to do a routine because the song reminded her of Al Capone, and she was excited to dress up like a guy in the mob. So clearly they’re equally dedicated to the competition. It was a bit sloppy, lacked elegance, and Kendra’s moves did not convey the heartbreak or lost love of the song. The judges gave them 18 points.
Hines Ward was assigned the Paso Doble this week, but was upset that he didn’t have as much time to practice as everyone else because he had several events to attend that week. As usual, their dance was great and Hines remains one of the male dancers in this season. The judges gave them 25 points.
Sugar Ray and Anna danced the Viennese Waltz, and Anna tried to prepare Sugar Ray for it by enrolling him in a ballet class. The dance didn’t require a lot from him, and there was no evidence that his dancing skills had improved since week one. The judges liked it anyway, because it was entertaining.
Kirstie Alley and Maks danced the Waltz, and they were determined to make it better than last week’s dance, where both of them fell to the floor. As they were rehearsing, Kirstie’s hip began giving her problems, but she remained determined to dance choreography that would be given to a 25 year-old. When it came time for their actual dance, Kirstie’s shoe fell off in the middle of the routine, and it’s confusing how in all 12 seasons of this show’s history (not including the British version or any other country’s version), she’s the only one to have experienced mishaps. The judges criticized her for not looking present throughout the choreography and gave her 22 points
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas danced the Viennese Waltz TO THE THEME FROM HARRY POTTER. They both moved very well and the dance was very youthful, which Len didn’t appreciate because the dance is 300 years old and their job was to interpret it, rather than make fun of it. Carrie Ann and Bruno, however appreciated their energy, but I have to agree with Len in that very little of what they did was waltz. The judges liked it anyway and gave them 26 points.
Last night on Dancing with the Stars, the competition got underway. Some of the celebrities who did well were the ones we expected to, while other people we assumed would be good were letdowns. Let's take a look at the dances we saw last night.
Mike Catherwood and Lacey Schwimmer danced the Jive, and can we just take a moment and acknowledge how gloriously pigeon-toed this fellow is? He’s so pigeontoed that he held a guitar for a few bars in the beginning of the song so he wouldn’t have to dance. (Skip to 3:08 for turned in feet at their finest.) I assume that this is part of the reason why his dancing looks so clunky. The judges gave them 17 points.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas also danced the Jive, which consisted of some moves that Chelsea only felt comfortable doing because Mark said she had a nice brain, which she admitted was the only compliment it has ever gotten. Their dance was pretty great, but only because they’re young and don’t have 30 years of canapé weight on them. However, the judges didn’t see enough Jive in it and gave them 18 points.
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke danced the Quikstep, and his biggest issue during rehearsals was holding his massive Turducken frame upright. Chris explained what he was taking away from practicing with Cheryl, and it was that he was the frame and she was the picture, and the Mona Lisa can’t be in a bad frame, right? Obviously she forgot that he’s a wrestler and doesn’t know anything about working hard to make someone else look good. Their dance was decent, but not as exciting as some of the others. The judges gave them 23 points.
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower played a couple in the 60s or 70s who were going to prom for their Quickstep. Chelsie kept telling him to be charming, and Romeo kept not understanding what that meant “because [he] was born in the 90s.” Understandable! Their dance was more interesting than Chris Jericho’s, but not by much. Maybe the quickstep is the fro-yo of the desert category. The judges gave them 23 points.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff danced the Jive, and he was nervous during rehearsals because his Foxtrot last week scored so high. So Ralph called in his family to critique him but that only made him over-think things more. Luckily, their dance was great. Ralph is one of the only male celebrities that actually knows what to do and doesn’t have to look at his dancing partner for guidance. The judges gave them an underwhelming 21 points.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson also experienced difficulty in rehearsals because of how muscular Hines’s upper body has become from all those years of football. But instead of critiquing him with the intensity of one Cheryl Burke, Kym spent her time learning Hines’s “slang.” Their dance was pretty good, but seriously, this Quickstep shit is fucking boring. Hines and Kym got 23 points.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis van Amstel worked on getting rid of Kendra’s tomboy nature in preparation for their Quickstep. It turned out that this aspect of Kendra’s self-esteem was a major issue, and the fact that Louis was asking her to be more feminine made her discouraged. But I like Kendra a lot – she’s brings great personality to her dances. She’s probably not going to win the Disco Ball, but she’s more enjoyable than other celebrities who have been on this show. For their dance, Kendra and Louis got 19 points.
Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani also danced the Quickstep, and while they were practicing, Wendy expressed concern over how her breasts would handle all the jumping around that the dance requires. Tony said being timid about her body was exactly what the judges told her not to do last week, and that it was really important that she dance with a little more freedom this time. It was light-years better than their dance last week, but it was still pretty minimal. The judges gave them 17 points.
Sugar Ray and Anna Trebunskaya danced the Jive, and it’s amazing how fit this man is. Anna was smart enough to try and employ some of his boxing moves into their dance, which was meant to distract us from how his footwork still isn’t as precise as it needs to be. The judges gave them 17 points.
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin also danced the Jive, which Len warned us was a tough dance for tall people. During rehearsals, Dmitry told Petra to jump up and down on a trampoline so she could overcome her fear of falling. And Len was right. Their routine was a little cooky and bland. The judges gave them 18 points.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy ALSO DANCED THE QUICKSTEP BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER DANCE TO DANCE. When they were practicing, Kirstie expressed dismay over the trouble she was having with the speed of her feet. She asked Maksim if it was her fatness that was slowing her down, but he reassured her that even skinny girls have trouble with that specific dance, and he did so quite skillfully. Their dance was great, and they even kissed at the end. They got 20 points.
The best episode of Dancing with the Stars is usually the first one, as the celebrities aren’t nervous about going home because they don’t have anything invested in the competition yet. It’s their time to enjoy themselves, which is fun for us to watch. They’re not looking to pick a fight with each other because they’re all too interested in their own appearances and whether or not they’ll get to wear a dress that has tassels. The dancing isn’t that great though, because the first week is always when their professional partners are still determining their skill levels. In other words, it’s just an opportunity for us to enjoy the show without the extra bullshit of what we’ll see later in the season, which is injuries, and instances when the wrong person is sent home and someone like Bristol Palin sticks around. And all that is exactly what we got last night when the 12th season of the show premiered: everything was pretty relaxed, and we got an idea of who we can expect to make it through the next few rounds.
I do not know who Chelsea Kane is, but she seems to think I should because she’s on the Disney Channel and has kissed Joe Jonas. Her reason for joining the show is because she was homeschooled and never had the experience of dancing with a guy. So why wouldn’t she cut her hair short and then run her fingers through it constantly so it looks like she just fucked Jack Nicholson, right? She grew up suffocated! She is partnered with Mark Ballas, who pins the ends of his bowtie to his shirt instead of actually tying them together. They danced the foxtrot. It was really good and they’re going to start dating. But because they’re so young and the judges are unable to have sex in two seaters anymore, they got 21 points.
WWE wrestler Chris Jericho believes wrestling and dancing are exactly the same thing because they’re both all about form. Curiously enough, he did not point out that they’re both strictly choreographed, too. He’ll be dancing with Cheryl Burke this season, whose biggest worry about her partner is that his muscular shoulders will make it look like he doesn’t have a neck. So obviously, he’s going to be the one with the deep V-neck shirts. They danced the Cha Cha Cha basically in one spot. They got 19 points.
Hines Ward is the receiver for the Pittsburg Steelers, and he’s one of the most charming athletes that has been on this show. He seems to be really laid back, but is obviously aware of the hard work that will be required of him in this competition. So in that regard, he has an advantage. However, he seems to be goofball, and this could eventually ware on his partner, Kym Johnson (who described herself as being known for taking “big clumsy men and turning them into graceful dancers”). After all, she probably doesn’t want to be eliminated in the first round again, like she was when she was partnered with David Hasselhoff last year. Kym and Hines danced the Cha Cha Cha, and even though it was a little cheesy, he can definitely swivel his hips better than a girl who’s claim to fame is making out with a Jonas brother. They got 21 points.
Kendra Wilkinson is known for fucking Hugh Hefner and then finding someone else who would marry her. Considering how much time she’s spent talking to the press about how discouraged she is to have been unable to lose weight after giving birth to her son, she probably joined DWTS to get back to the physique that got her a room in the Playboy Mansion. But that’s not a problem! She’s partnered with Louis van Amstel, who has never won Dancing with the Stars trophy, and their Cha Cha Cha was good but not great. Kendra looked lost at various points during the dance, and also had trouble keeping up with the music. I believe Louis asked too much of her, which is exactly something Hugh Hefner avoided by having Holly and Bridget around. The judges gave them 18 points.
Mike Catherwood hosts a radio show with Dr. Drew Pinsky, and he’s partnered with Lacey Schwimmer this season. I cannot find anything interesting about him, except for the fact that he believes the combination of having no dancing experience and being the least-known celebrity on the show gives him an advantage. He and Lacey danced the foxtrot that confusingly had some finger pointing in it. The judges gave them 13 points.
Kirstie Alley flat out joined this show to lose weight. I am sure of it because she essentially said that’s why she joined the show. And why wouldn’t she do Dancing with the Stars to lose weight? She’s tried having a show called Fat Actress, where her gay friends would weigh her and then make her feel bad about her weight so she would try and lose some of it. But that didn’t work so naturally, this is the next option for her. Can you see how one would lead to the other? Anyway, Kirstie is partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy this season, and you know he’s disappointed and would much rather have a woman who actually resembles Kirstie Alley. They two of them danced the Cha Cha Cha to “Forget You,” and Kirstie's spunk was largely responsible for the 23 points they got as their score.
Petra Nemcova almost withdrew from the competition so she could go help victims of the tsunami in Japan, but finally shot down all rumors that she was still unsure of what she was going to do when she danced the Foxtrot last night with Dmitry Chaplin. She dedicated her performance to the people of Japan, and danced quite beautifully and smoothly. The judges gave them 18 points.
Ralph Macchio is 49 years old! Granted, Kirstie Alley still has 11 years on him, but it was crazy to see him interacting with other people and proving that he isn’t, after all, allergic to daylight. It was also surprising to see how well he’s aged, and that Cindy Crawford hasn’t asked him to come help her promote her anti-aging melon cream that’s made from French melons yet, because this guy still looks young enough to be campaigning to get a guinea pig. Katrina Smirnoff, Ralph’s partner, expressed concern that he thinks too much, and told him what her dancing teacher told her when she was learning, which was that “over analysis creates paralysis.” His dancing was better than I thought it would be, which was that it would be filled with the insecurity of a recently released from convict. But it was actually very good. They got 24 points.
Romeo was partnered with Chelsie Hightower, and his problem in rehearsals was “getting in touch with his feminine side” and moving his hips. And during their performance of the Cha Cha Cha, there were many chances for him to show his capacity to swivel, but he kept a low profile instead. The dance wasn’t bad though – it was fun to watch. But it wasn’t anything outstanding. The judges gave them 19 points.
During rehearsals, Tony Dovolani watched as his partner, Wendy Williams, dried her tears with her braids as she tried to explain how she doesn’t cry because she’s sad…but rather, because of stress. Their Cha Cha Cha turned out to be an abomination, though, and Wendy’s insecurity and belief that she didn’t know the steps enough prevented her from enjoying herself. Her hands rarely left her hips, and when they did, it was to grasp Tony’s hands or to caress the bodice of her dress. The judges gave her 14 points.
Finally, we watched Sugar Ray Leonard dance with Anna Trebunskaya, and during rehearsals, we got more of “boxing is dancing for people with dicks.” And yet, Sugar Ray wanted to cry when Anna asked him to glide across the dance floor a bit! Their Foxtrot lacked any amazing tricks, and mostly consisted of Sugar Ray waiting for Anna to need him to complete a dip. The judges gave them 17 points.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Pixar makes it ten gems in a row with this enchanting animated story of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen a recent widower who decides to fulfill his (plus his late wife’s) lifelong dream of tying thousands of balloons to their house and floating off to a mountaintop in South America. But he soon discovers a stowaway in the form of Russell a precocious eight-year-old “Wilderness Explorer” who he reluctantly allows to accompany him on his journey. Together the unlikely pair embark on the adventure of a lifetime encountering Kevin a rare 13-foot tall-flightless bird; Dug an overly-friendly talking pooch; and Charles Muntz a once-famous adventurer who now lives alone in a massive airship surrounded by a pack of attack dogs.
WHO’S IN IT?
Sticking to their general custom of casting actors not big stars in key voice roles Pixar assembled a superb cast for Up led by veteran TV star Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as the aged Carl who takes flight in his house and finds there is a lot to learn about life even as you near death. Asner’s grumpy delivery provides the perfect counterpoint to nine-year-old Jordan Nagai’s Russell a bright and optimistic kid who proves an invaluable assistant to Carl throughout their journey. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) is authoritative and intriguing as the obsessed Muntz and John Ratzenberger (Cheers) extends his streak of Pixar films to 10 as a construction engineer who tries to convince Carl to sell his house. Bob Peterson does delightful double duty as two of the key dog voices lovable Dug and the menacing Alpha head of the pack.
Like Pixar’s previous Oscar-winning masterpiece Wall-E Up is a ‘toon that is not content to explore the same places we’ve seen in previous animated blockbusters. Centering an action comedy around a 78-year-old man isn’t a strategy you’ll find in the youth-obsessed Hollywood recipe book but it pays great dividends here with a moral that life’s greatest adventure is the one you share with someone you love. The non-humans — particularly Kevin and Dug — are hilarious and unique and a silent sequence detailing the courtship and marriage of the Fredricksens is a sweet touch that could have come straight out of a Charlie Chaplin movie.
With a string of critically-acclaimed hits that includes Toy Story Finding Nemo The Incredibles Ratatouille Wall-E and now Up Pixar is ruining it for everyone else. There is simply no way they can be topped when it comes to pushing the boundaries of animated movies. Bad for other studios. Good for us.
Could Up which just became the first animated film to open the Cannes Film Festival also become the first to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar since Beauty and the Beast in 1991 (before the Animation category was even established)? At this point in the year it’s actually a good bet. Whatever the case expect Up to earn several nominations come Oscar time.
A swashbuckling swordfight across the skies between two near-octogenarians? It’s the best action scene in a summer full of ‘em.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Oh pleeeeeease! Get to a theater fast. Up is also available in 3-D at select locations. Either way it’s a must-see.
In an almost completely wordless first 40 minutes we meet the workaholic robot Wall E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) as he goes about the daily tasks--organizing an abandoned junk yard with remnants of what life was like before mankind was forced to leave earth (or die) in the 22nd century. Apparently no one remembered to turn his switch off so he continues to do his thing in the shadow of an eerily empty city. One day a spaceship lands and drops off a spiffy search robot named EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). EVE strikes up a touching even romantic relationship with little Wall E his first contact with anything or anyone (other than a pet cockroach) in about 700 years. When EVE discovers that Wall E may have come upon the living proof that Earth is once again inhabitable she blasts off to tell the humans aboard the Axiom--a massive shopping mall-like space station--that it may finally be safe to return home. Not wanting to let her go Wall E hops on during takeoff and blasts into the outer reaches of the universe where he experiences the surreal future and brings hope from the past. Be prepared to fall in love with the most engaging and original new movie star in ages. The extraordinary performance here is a robot who utters sounds not words and comes brilliantly alive through state-of-the-art CGI animation and expert vocal design by legendary sound wizard Ben Burtt (R2D2 of Star Wars). He makes this non-human love-struck piece of tin the most human element in the film. Wall E does not need words to express his understanding of affairs of the heart. In fact the early sequences in which he repeatedly watches an old video tape of the 1969 musical Hello Dolly (the only one is his obviously limited collection) we totally understand where his notions of romance come from--and from an 800 year-old semi-flop Hollywood movie no less. The trip into space brings encounters with some misfit robots as well as the rotund immobile humans competently performed by vets like Jeff Garlin as the ship’s captain Fred Willard John Ratzenberger Kathy Najimy and Sigourney Weaver as the ship’s computer. But the real acting voice-over prizes belong to Burtt and his sound design colleagues this time. Oscar take notice: Pixar has done it again. Co-writer/director Andrew Stanton won an Oscar for Finding Nemo and has worked in some capacity on just about every Pixar triumph from Toy Story; through last year’s Oscar winning Ratatouille. His creative need to stretch and explore uncharted ‘toon territory results in the offbeat Wall-E which abandons the talking creature formats for a surreal touching and environmentally-conscious love story. The film sets off alarms for the future of our planet but also offers hope that it’s not too late. Stanton’s most daring notion is to create almost a silent film for the first half and in so doing gives us an animated cinematic experience the likes of Chaplin Keaton and Jacques Tati would have loved. The achievement of keeping an audience glued to the screen watching incommunicative non-humans who learn to communicate and care for each other is no easy thing. Stanton creates beautiful visuals and a well-crafted story to go with them. This is one from the heart.