After 11 blockbuster seasons of American Idol, it's hard to believe the reality series' Season 1 finale was virtually star-free (of course, with the exception of the gigantic star the show was in the process of creating). We only had Top 2 Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson, joining forces with their fellow Top 10 to perform schmaltzy performances that looked as uncomfortable as Ryan Starr's wardrobe. Now, 10 years later, the top-rated series attracts top promotion-minded talent like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Jack Black. (Wait, what?)
While Season 11's finale boasts performers slightly less buzzy, we're still in for a respectable line-up tonight: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gladys Knight, Gloria Gaynor, Kristen Chenoweth, Thelma Houston, Sheila E., Nelly Furtado, and Jennifer Holliday will be paying tribute to the late Donna Summer, while members of our Top 12 will duet with names like Holliday (Jessica Sanchez), Jordin Sparks (Hollie Cavanagh), Reba McEntire (Skylar Laine), Fantasia (Mantasia), and John Fogerty (Phillip Phillips).
Of course, we Idol fans are a fickle bunch who will never be satisfied until we're given complete power of attorney over the series — so naturally, I have to suggest a few Idol-star duets I'd be dying to see in tonight's finale. For all that is holy (like a Haley Reinhart and Tony Bennett performance of "Steppin' Out With My Baby"), please, Idol gods, find a way for these duets to happen in the next 12 hours (and our thoughts are still with you, likely-not-to-appear Jermaine Jones):
Jeremy Rosado: Oh gosh, who to pair with the extremely forgettable 13th place finisher with? Why not throw in Idol MVP Barry Manilow, who's appeared on the series five times? Let's make it an even six!
Shannon Magrane: To avoid awkward staging, let's get someone height-appropriate for the tall Idol contestant. The 5'11" Taylor Swift would also help baseball baby Shannon stray away from the too-mature material she seems to focus on. If you build the youth appeal, they will come. (Record companies, that is.)
Erika Van Pelt: Erika turned out to be one of the season's more uneven performers, delivering songs in styles ranging from dance pop to dated soul. And, as Wikipedia reminds me, Erika has a passion for "rhythm and blues, soul, country, jazz, rock, and classical." So what genre-jumping musician could we pair her with? The duet-friendly Kid Rock. Don't laugh — sure, it's as crazy as "Bawitdaba," but it could work.
Heejun Han: Billy Joel. So he, too, can take a piss out on "My Life."
DeAndre Brackensick: As much as we'd like one of the DeBarge brothers to come to the Nokia Theater to recreate DeAndre's "I Like It," the contestant sorely needs to prove himself as a contemporary, relevant artist. Let's get Robin Thicke to beef up his record sales-friendly profile.
Colton Dixon: Creed. Just kidding — I wouldn't even wish Scott Stapp on Tim Urban. And it wouldn't hurt Colton's accessibility to distance himself from his religion. Instead, let's pair him with another piano-friendly band, The Script.
Elise Testone: I'm tempted to pick Joss Stone for Elise — they both boast a hippie-funk style — but Elise's lack of refinement would make us feel like we're comparing apples to much tastier and shinier apples watching the pair. Instead, why not couple Elise with the ultimate hippie, Willie Nelson, whose laid-back style would allow Elise's powerhouse vocals to dominate the Idol joint (heh)?
Skylar Laine: Cheers, Idol. You actually got this one right, pairing the contestant with Reba McEntire, a star who both looks and sounds so like our fifth-place finisher, I'll be wondering if our finale wine is simply making us see double. That said, I'm still eager to one day hear the "Gunpowder and Lead"/"Diamond-Studded Pistol" mash-up from Skylar and Miranda Lambert.
Hollie Cavanagh: Miley Cyrus might be the obvious choice — Hollie always took up the opportunity to sing "The Climb" faster than she could say "[garbled, confusing British-American statement here]" — but she has far more in common with fellow reality series vet Leona Lewis. Doesn't hurt that Hollie's "Bleeding Love" was one of the few standouts of her season.
Joshua Ledet: The judges insist that Joshua is one of the best singers they've seen in 50 years. So let's test their expertise and couple the third-place finisher with the best singer of the past 50 years, Aretha Franklin.
Jessica Sanchez: Even though holograms are all the rage this 2012, let's not hope for a Whitney Houston duet. (Too soon. Too soon.) Though it's an obvious choice, we'd be crazy in love with the great TV that would come from watching a 16-year-old sing with her own greatest idol, Beyoncé.
Phillip Phillips: No, Phillip should not duet with Dave Matthews Band. Instead, he'd be best served paired with another artist with a distinguishable voice that's distinguishable from his own. The dream duet: Phillip proving he's the Better — nay, best — Man for the Idol crown via a finale performance fellow guitarist Eddie Vedder, who has recreated a song or two in his lifetime. I'm not Hiding My Love Away from that pipe dream!
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
[Image Credit: FOX]
More: Phillip Phillips Backstage at Idol: 'I Was Scared to Death' American Idol Recap: Opposites Attract American Idol Recap: Blame the Judges!
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.