American Idol's Season 11 runner-up and tiny vocal powerhouse Jessica Sanchez made her Glee debut at Regionals during Thursday night's finale, and she was really good. But was she too good?
The Gleek Perspective: Sanchez Should Have Won That TrophyThis might be un-American of me to admit, but I’ve never seen a single episode of American Idol. Gasp! I know, crazy right? On the other hand I have seen every single episode of Glee multiple times and can easily have hour-long discussions on the simplest of McKinley High moments. So when I learned that American Idol superstar Jessica Sanchez would be joining Glee in the Season 4 finale as a rival singer, I really didn’t have an opinion and here’s why: every year, Glee tries to scare us at Sectionals, Regionals and Nationals with these guest stars who have great voices and killer dance moves. And every year, the New Directions narrowly beat out their amazing competition, thus always remaining the heroic underdogs.
I knew that Sanchez would be good, but this year Glee made a huge mistake — she was too good. Sanchez lead the Hoosier Daddies in two heart-pumping, hip-shaking, perfectly choreographed numbers and just as the New Directions feared, she had a hugely wonderful voice. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the glee club had their old powerhouse singers of the past — Rachel, Mercedes, and Santana — but this year, Sanchez blew our group out of the water. What’s worse is Glee awarded the first place trophy over to the New Directions thinking that we’d be happy that our group of misfits once again snagged the top spot. Like I said, I’ve never seen an episode of American Idol, but if Fox wants Glee fans to actually get excited again, maybe they should bring on more of their reality stars over to the halls of McKinley — we could certainly use some of the talent right now.
The Idol Fan Perspective: Jessica Sanchez is Better Than Rachel BerrySorry, Lea Michele. But aside from the glory of Season 1, no Regionals performance you were ever involved with reached this level. Idol fans know Sanchez can work a stage like no other performer, gobbling up each inch of spotlight with her infectious brand of sass. But it's not just about attitude. Sanchez has faced off against multitudes of talented singers before ever stepping foot in McKinley High to combat the New Directions, and she almost always emerges the victor (unless her competitor is an impossibly cute folk singer like Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips). Sanchez has got incredible pipes, and some of the best vocals I've ever seen on this show and on Idol.
Did they really think we'd buy the New Directions beating out this tiny dynamo for the trophy? Because I can tell you one thing, Glee writers, I sure as hell didn't.
What's your take? Was Sanchez really better than the New Directions? Were you happy to see her onstage again, Idol fans?
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
S2: E4 After all of creator Ryan Murphy’s promises of new Glee club members over the summer, I was starting to get a little worried that it was all a bunch of hype. But thanks to Puck’s idiotic idea to drive his mom’s Volvo through a convenience store to steal the ATM (of course he can’t be like most high school bad boys who get caught smoking pot behind the bleachers, he’s got to get sent to juvy with a bang), New Directions is down a member. Schue says he doesn’t know when Puck will be back. Damnit, Murphy. I’m going to miss that bad boy eye candy. FREE PUCK!
Anyway, Schue’s got a brand new replacement for Puck. Fresh on the DL (disabled list, ladies) after getting pummeled on the football field last week, Sam (a.k.a. Justin Bieber, Surfer edition) swoops in to take his place – albeit with some awful jokes. (Really? A “Sam I Am” joke? Come on, blondie. You can do better than that.) Now that Schue’s managed to bring the team back to an odd number, he announces that the team will compete to see what duo can perform the best duet. Kurt has a theory that newbie Sam is secretly gay (he dies his hair, duh!) and asks him to be his duet partner which starts to worry Finn.
Then there’s a scene that I’m pretty sure just made the rest of the episode a blur for most dudes; Cheerleader make-out! Yep. Brittany and Santana are making out because Santana’s lost her usual make-out buddy, Puck, to the slammer. Santana makes it perfectly clear that there’s no lesbian storyline and denies Britt’s request to do a duet to a Melissa Etheridge song (subtle, sweetie), and instead strong arms Mercedes into being her duet partner because their voices go together so well. (Remember their musical face-off over Puck? It did kind of rock.)
Finn asks Kurt to leave Sam alone, and trudges up their fight from last season over Finn’s homophobic issues. Though Kurt’s ready to completely tune him out, Finn brings up the fact that Kurt’s overzealous approach to his previous crush on Finn was too much and that if Kurt acts the same way with Sam, that the newbie will take so much flack he’ll want to quit glee. But it’s not just Finn. Kurt’s dad, who’s recovering from his heart attack, even says that Kurt was too pushy with Finn last year, which brings up how incredibly difficult and lonely life is for Kurt as the only openly gay student at his high school. He’s the only one who can’t hold hands in the halls with someone he likes, which in high school, is pretty close to torture. They’re really keeping the tough storylines coming, aren’t they?
Finally it’s time for the first duet – Rachel and Finn – and while they usually put me in a sugar coma, they were actually kind of cute. Really! They rehearse Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” and Rachel realizes that they’re “totally” going to win. It makes her realize that she’s really selfish – no, really? She’s inspired by Finn’s goodness, and decides that they have to throw the competition so that Sam will win and thus want to stay on the team. Even though Finn points out that she’s technically doing this just to win at nationals and thus she’s still being somewhat selfish, I’m still pretty impressed with her sudden bout of self awareness.
Tina and Mike Chang (and his abs) are fighting. (Asian fusion’s not so strong any more, eh?) She wants to win the competition because the prize is dinner at Breadsticks and she’s tired of always having uber-Asian dates. Mike wants her to go to “Asian couples therapy” to which she replies, “Why does the couples therapy have to be Asian?” Thank you. I was getting a little tired of the constant references to their Asianness – we get it, and we’re over it. Move on.
In the meantime, Brittany tells Artie she wants to be his girlfriend because she wants to push him around in a stroller (what is with her and babies?). Artie gets to make Tina jealous and Brittany gets to get back at Santana for refusing to be her duet partner. No more cheerio make-out sessions, sorry dudes.
Finn tries to convince Sam not to sing with Kurt, but Sam doesn’t see the problem (he heard him singing and thought it was Faith Hill). Finn explains that he’ll be tortured if he does, but Sam says he gave Kurt his word and that’s the end of it. He quickly learns that being a gleek is torture because he gets slushied as soon as he leaves the locker room. Quinn swoops in and helps him wash off the red slush, making a reference to the time she got blue slushie in her underwear and how it turned her nether regions blue. (Do you usually talk about below the belt issues when you first meet new dudes, Miss Head Cheerleader?) Sam responds by complementing her eyes in Na'vi – the Avatar language? Yikes, this kid has no game.
Back in glee club, we get round two of the Mercedes and Santana show; they rock out “River Deep, Mountain High” and they really do work well together. If Santana wasn’t so incredibly bitchy, a performance like that might have actually made me like her. (Besides, if she doesn’t stop adding an S to the end of every word, I’m going to throw something at my television. “We’s be goin’ to Breadsticks.” Yeah, well not if you can’t learn to speak like a normal person.)
Kurt decides to set Sam “free” (but he chooses to tell him that while Sam is in the shower…awkward), and instead Kurt performs a duet…with himself. He does a full-on Broadway caliber production of Victor/Victoria’s “Le Jazz Hot.” It’s pretty incredible that a character who was a last minute write-in is stealing the show from queen-bee Rachel (he wasn’t slated to be a character on Glee until Murphy met him and wrote him a part). Kurt is quickly becoming the best performer on the show, even if his duet was “vocal masturbation.” Don’t worry Kurt, Santana’s just jealous.
Now that he’s free, Sam partners up with Quinn. When they rehearse, he tries to kiss her and she freaks out, saying she can’t handle a relationship. Finally she references how hard dealing with last year’s pregnancy has made her life, they had been letting that huge issue slide into the background. It’s kind of a big deal, the girl gave away her baby, people.
Though Tina asked Artie to be her duet partner (he denied her, snap!), she and her hard-abbed boyfriend perform a duet, and newsflash kids: Mike can’t sing. So that’s why he’s so quiet. No problem, Tina’s picked the perfect song, “Sing” from A Chorus Line. Mike gets to talk and do what he does best – dance – while Tina acts as support and sings. It was actually done pretty nicely, the gleeks are really getting down with the Broadway tunes again and I have to admit I kind of like it.
After Tina’s great performance, Artie is working extra hard to make sure he and Brittany can top it. He realizes that Brittany just doesn’t have the same skills and that he’s not over Tina. Brittany wants to help him, so she picks him up (like a baby, seriously the girl’s got an obsession) and takes him to the bed. “Before we duet, we’re gonna do it.” Nice one, Britt. Artie eventually tells Brittany that he feels used because his virginity means something to him, but sex means nothing to her. She apologizes (she even learned how to eat spaghetti like the pups in Lady and The Tramp!) but he can’t handle working with her or dating her anymore and he breaks up with her and withdraws from the competition. Bummer, I was actually looking forward to what they were going to sing together.
Finn and Rachel decide that they need to do a bad, offensive version of a song in order to be sure to lose. Conniving Rachel and Finn are actually really entertaining, keep ditching the smultz, guys. This is way more fun. The couple performs “With You I’m Born Again” dressed as a (slutty) nun and a priest. Yikes. Even Quinn says the song made her want to punch them both in the face. (Key word here is “both” – she always wants to punch Rachel.) Mission (and total alienation) accomplished.
Before their purposely awful performance, Rachel and Finn convinced Sam and Quinn to get back together as duet partners. The blond duo do a sweet rendition of Jason Mraz’s and Colbie Callait’s “Lucky.” Super cute, or “So freaking charming” as Santana would say. Poor Kurt, he looks so heartbroken watching the cutesy pair. Ryan Murphy, please give Kurt a boyfriend character, I don’t know how much longer I can watch his heart break.
The duet competition ends and everyone votes…for themselves. Typical musical theater kids. Thanks to Rachel and Finn’s vote, Quinn and Sam win by just two votes and get to go on a Breadsticks date. Sam continues the bad jokes – I guess it’s part of his character folks, we’re just going to have to get used to it. Quinn finally realizes that she doesn’t have to stop being a teenager to move forward with her life, so she tells Sam he has to pay for the dinner instead of using the gift certificate because they’re on a real date. (Brat, did it ever occur to you that you’re in high school and that a 17 year old probably doesn’t have enough money on him to suddenly buy you dinner? But they’re cute, so I’ll shut up.)
Finally, Rachel approaches Kurt in the hall and says what the rest of us knew all along – that he’s the other star of glee club. She also tells him that while she understands that he must feel all alone because he’s the only gay student at school, but that he has the members of glee who all love him and that he’s not truly alone. (And they’ve made me cry for the second week in a row. I’d better stock up on Kleenex for the rest of the season.)
Kurt and Rachel close the episode with a duet (this time for the pure joy of singing instead of an attempt to win dinner at an unlimited Breaksticks restaurant). They belt the Barbra Streisand version of “Happy Days are Here Again/ Come On Get Happy” – Rachel really is a Barbra mini-me sometimes. It was a little mature for high school kids, but it may have even been better than Babs’ version. Glee is back on a roll, and that even without single second of Sue Sylvester in the entire episode. Wow.