You learn the story of the Tortoise and the Hare at such an early age, but rarely if ever is its central lesson actually validated in real life. Fast people win the race! Whether it's a business meeting or the Olympics (where fastest literally wins the race), rarely if ever does the notion of slow and steady pay off in any significant way. Certainly not in America, home of the Ford Escape. And yet here we are, finally arrived at the end of a 12-leg, month-long race around the world… and it's the slowest, steadiest team in the pack that emerge as the ultimate winners. Anyway: Congratulations, Beekmans!
But first let's rewind two hours to Mallorca, Spain, where four teams still competed for the top prize. After a little preamble from Phil, giving us everyone's stake in the race (family medical bills, mortgages, jet skis) and a quick preview of the passive-aggressive taunting to follow, we were off and running. Or driving, in the ALL-NEW FORD ESCAPE WHICH EVERYONE LOVED. "Awesome!" said the Twins. "That's crazy cool." "I want one." "Get me one." And that was before everyone found out about the car's hands-free back hatch! In fairness, The Amazing Race does a far better job than most shows at keeping its product placement to a dull roar. No one's peddling REFRESHING PEPSI at a Marrakech Bazaar or struggling through the GO DADDY WHO'S YOUR DADDY? lost kid challenge in Burma, and for that we should be perpetually grateful. If keeping your production costs down means showcasing a car I'm sure my mom wants, along with all the other cool moms? Do your thing, van Munster.
En route to Loire Valley, France, Twins couldn't shut up about how much the Beekman Boys "coasted their way" to the Final Four, "taking up a spot" that belonged to someone else. Okay! Once Trey and Lexi and Chippendales started chiming in, too, the conversation was loud enough to be heard by the nearby Beekmans. They sat down with the rest of the group in what looked like the race's most uncomfortable yearbook photo yet. The high school pettiness continued as teams grabbed their FORD ESCAPES to Chateau de Villandry, the Beekmans removed from the trio's planning. Twins once more intimated how frustrating it is to have a team like them around, by which I think they meant a team they're forced to compete with? Or more specifically a team that knew the local language when no one else did, which had its advantages.
I've got something to say about Speed Bumps, which is: They're stupid. Tie up some lady's corset? Five more minutes of physical activity, tops, and that's factoring in travel time (here a brisk walk from the route marker everyone was at anyway). A real challenge might present more geographical inconvenience, or force a team to actually think in the abstract. But rote physical tasks at a nearby location offer nothing by way of a dramatic impediment. I mean, I get it — you've got a team viewers like that the producers have a vested interest in keeping around. Why offer a challenge that ensures their definite dismissal? But on a show whose reality credibility is so often head and shudders above everyone else's, those more orchestrated moments really stand out.
Anyway, the joys of watching the Chateau's "Lady of the House" get corseted by two screaming Sri Lankan twins in Lululemon gear paled in comparison to those same twins screaming at their alliance not to help Josh and Brent. "Don't let them ride on your coattails!" they called out, literally running next to the non-Speed Bump teams as they made their way toward the Ford fleet. "Don't even talk to them!" This was 30 minutes before they'd be eliminated, and even then I wasn't totally sure what to make of the Twins. On the one hand, I think they're insane? On the other, they seem genuinely able to take whatever craziness they're dishing out. The latter was on display at the Detour they and the Beekmans chose, where teams were tasked with weighing, cutting, and sorting various types of meat for a small army of hunting dogs. "You're the evil gays today!" they threw at Josh and Brent, accusing them of faking a leg injury, too. The Beekmans took it in stride and threw trash-talk right back, getting in the Twins' heads about their dwindling alliance. A Mean Girl detente? "If we lose again to them I'm going to kill myself," Natalie threatened. Then laughed. As the dogs howled and howled.
The Chippendales and Team Texas plowed a field, and did it well. There is not much more to say.
GALLERY: Best and Worst TV Gamechangers Post-Detour, all four teams headed to La Cave des Roches, where dark, musty tunnels provided the perfect growing environment for 10 varieties of mushrooms teams needed to collect. ("ERRYDAY I'M TRUFFLIN'" I sadly muttered at the TV.) Lexi nailed the configuration on round one; Jaymes got it on round two. Meanwhile I pondered how much it would suck to die in a mushroom cave. Twins and Beekmans arrived at practically the same time, the latter I have to imagine on the coattails of the former. And while it was Natalie and Nadiya who snuck out of the cave first — while Brent still struggled to find the exit — that wouldn't be the end of the race. Because for what felt like the first time this whole season, teams actually struggled with directions and translation! Trey and Lexi fumbled their way to the pit stop. Twins actually just went the wrong direction entirely. Where creative editing might in the past have suggested that Beekmans' "will they pull it out?" was phony, that was… not the case tonight. Josh and Brent pulled off something miraculous and, miracle of miracles, earned their way into the Top Three. On elimination, Twins noted that Beekmans "have tricks up their sleeves." But they also acknowledged their own shortcomings, namely needing to "harness our reactions into more positive directions." You're often shrill and circle more than few entries on the DSM-IV, ladies, but dammit if you're not full of life and, surprisingly, honest reflection. We're going to miss you for the next 500 words! …And we're back! A postcard kicks off the FINAL LEG OF THE RACE, featuring a boardwalk scene with the inscription "Wish You Were Here!" Being that teams know they're heading to New York, it can really onlybe Coney Island, but I was pulling for one team to confuse boardwalks and head to Seaside Heights, NJ. THAT would have been a hell of a Speed Bump. But no one blinks, and everyone smoothly makes their way to the Big Apple. How do you feel heading into this last stretch, Trey? "We've been battling the Chippendales these last few legs and… I think this leg is going to be sort of the same." Wiser words, buddy. While the music department worked overtime to provide a score that screamed FASTER AND WITH MORE INTENSITY, the three remaining teams scanned the boardwalk looking for the scene from their clue. The dog in sunglasses some cameraman found along the way basically made the entire race, but before we could learn more about him teams had figured out that they needed to head to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and do something related to Houdini. Could it involve a straitjacket? YES. Race has, and has long had, this weird habit of starting and ending the season with these wickedly terrifying gravity-focused challenges. In between, you sell energy drinks to Japanese businessmen and search caves for friggin' mushrooms, but when money's really on the line? You're dangling 15 stories high trying to get out of a straitjacket before you're let go, plunging toward earth. It's understandable that anyone might freak out a little. Once upon a time, a challenge like this might actively deter a team, presenting a near-insurmountable obstacle, but Trey, Brent, and Jaymes all made it through okay. Next up: pizza at Little Italy's oldest pizzeria, Lombardi's. Could you memorize orders for and deliver 10 pizzas around lower Manhattan? Trey and Lexi could, no problem, but like me, the Beekman Boys had difficulty matching pies and places. To be fair, their itinerary was a list of generic New York settings anyone might confuse: the hair salon! A bike store! Probably a firehouse and taxi dispatcher, too, though we didn't see them. Residences they delivered to were opened by New Yorkers who, not surprisingly, did not look thrilled to be greeted by Amazing Racers. "Whatsamattahyou?" everyone said, I think. When Josh and Brent were forced to revisit some of the locations they screwed up, Chippendales made up more ground. And the Race tightened, and the music quickened and everyone sat up in their chairs except me who had accidentally Googled "Beekman Boys" to see if I was spelling their name correctly and, time delay viewer that I am, had the ending totally spoiled for me. The remaining 15 minutes were just caked in misery. GALLERY: Best and Worst TV Episodes of 2012 A familiar symbol led everybody next to the UN Headquarters, and the trickiest challenge of the leg (and maybe the race): identifying the expressions for "hello" and "goodbye" used at every Pit Stop along the way and matching them to their country of origin. Because NO team had bothered to write down any of these during the race. Thanks to public school language requirements, everyone of course got "hola" and "adios." After that… two-and-a-half hours passed and the sun set before the three teams, pretty much totally even, got down to their final few flags. Josh approached his set like a "math problem," he said, rotating as many word choices through as quickly as possible in an organized trial and error. Lexi, meanwhile, was knocked around by her flags and complained that the challenge was "out of her control." I think you are using that expression incorrectly, Lexi! Josh down to Bangladesh. James down to his last flag. Even match-up! The Beekmans finished. Chippendales finished shortly after. Gotham Hall. Pit Stop. Finish Line. GO BABY GO BABY G-- Without any jerk editing or falsely planted excitement, the outcome was clear before they entered the building (but after they came in second-to-last in nearly every of the preceding legs of the race): Beekman Boys had done it. After a truly great smooch I'd been waiting for all season, Josh and Brent turned to Phil and all their friends/enemies/Twins in the crowd of defeated Racers. "If you just keep going, people will help and at some point you will win." Josh spoke of how their money will help pay off the farm mortgage and allow them to stay closer, longer, than they've been for several years. What they didn't say — but I will! — is how their victory demonstrates the merits of a level head and kind heart. Remember their perpetually sad alliance with Abbie and Ryan? The way they stuck with their partners through to the end? I have to imagine that was cosmically rewarded in some way tonight, just winkedat by some Higher Power. None of which is to say the Chippendales (2nd) or Lexi and Trey didn't deserve it just as much, maybe more, but that good things happen to good people. This season, we've noted, was one of the flat-out NICEST on record. Backstabbing only occurred in the eyes of the slightly delusional (hi Abbie and Ryan!), and most often teams were looking out for one another -- trying to make the racing experience as pleasant for those around them as they could. And hey — Chippendales still got two GREAT FORD ESCAPES out of the deal! While the world, Jaymes suggested, maybe got a "different view of Chippendales. For better or worse." Trey and Lexi didn't have much to say. Twins, who I figured would pipe up and offer some criticism of the way Beekmans conducted themselves on the mat, said nothing. It was Monster Trucker Rob, in his infinite wisdom, who offered his assessment of the race's conclusion: "It's not for me to judge anyone on their lifestyle." Okay! Next Week: Counting down the Mayan Apacolypse [Image Credit: Jonathan Littman/CBS] More: Amazing Race Finale: Who Will Win? — POLL Amazing Race Recap: Beekman Rising Amazing Race Recap: Nice Guys Finish (First Through) Last
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What I’ve always admired about Adrien Brody is his project-choosing process. He takes on big studio flicks like King Kong and Predators from time to time but for the most part he’s a maverick sticking to independent or avant-garde fare in which he’s able to express himself with artistic integrity through unorthodox narratives. Such is the case in Wrecked his new film that sounds like Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours on paper but is far more disconcerting than that true tale of survival.
The story begins at the bottom of a featureless ravine inside a broken-down car that’s apparently been run off the road. In the passenger seat is an unnamed Man (Brody) who is trapped in shotgun while the body of a stranger rots in the backseat. Adding to this disturbing scenario is memory loss – the Man can’t recall how he got there or who he is. As dehydration starvation and exhaustion set in the line between reality and delusion blurs and the audience goes on a strange trip of rediscovery with the enigmatic prisoner.
While the linchpin in Boyle’s film is James Franco’s performance Wrecked relies more on the atmospheric direction of Michael Greenspan who makes his feature debut with this surreal picture. That’s not to say that Brody doesn’t deliver an unnerving portrayal of a man in a grave situation. As he moans and writhes in and out of his seat you can’t help sympathizing with him though screenwriter Christopher Dodd concocts a backstory that removes whatever remorse you had for him at times while piquing your curiosity at others. He heightens the anxiety of the unknown with a spooky score longer-than-average shots and a few bizarre situations. The natural environments and minimalist screenplay aid the filmmaker in creating his eerie tone despite the picturesque setting which would be calming if not for some perplexing hallucinations related to the Man’s past predicament.
Unfortunately the bare bones script is also the biggest problem with Wrecked as the film like its protagonist doesn’t really go anywhere. The revelations come far too quickly resulting in a boring anti-climactic effect. Even though there’s some distressing fun to be had while getting to the finish line it’s a sterilized psychological thriller that brings to mind films like Brad Anderson’s The Machinist but fails to achieve that level of ambiguous magnetism.
S10E6: One thing is for sure, the L.A. auditions were definitely the opposite of the Austin ones. Instead of a slew of boring, yet decent singers, we saw the absolute worst of the worst. By the end of the episode, I found myself afraid to go outside because I’d surpassed my quota for crazy and looped back around so many times that my brain was starting to melt. I guess that’s what you get when American Idol starts accepting auditions from MySpace. Yep, this is the episode where they finally did something with those internet auditions they’ve been pushing since late summer. Too bad all it did was prove that the Rupert Murdoch-owned (hello, shameless self promotion of the Murdoch empire) dying social networking site can’t even get a jump start from an endorsement on the show that has millions of Americans watching intently every time it hits the tube. There’s a reason The Social Network wasn’t about Tom Anderson.
“Talk about delusional people.” –Randy
“Well, this is L.A.” –Steven
First up was the initial sign that the volume on my television should have been on mute and should have stayed there for most of the episode. Victoria Garret showed up onscreen touting that God brought American Idol auditions to L.A. specifically for her so she could win. Yes, because God has favorites, you’re one of them, and American Idol is clearly his first priority. Has this girl ever even seen a newspaper? There’s really shit going down out there; God is not worried about Idol. Trust me. With an intro like this, we knew she wouldn’t be good. Her voice was just painful, yet Steven is taking his spot as the new Paula very seriously and took a moment to tell her that her voice was “sweet.” Yeah, if by sweet you mean one of those ridiculous jalapeño lollipops with a dead cricket in the middle.
“It lacked balls.” –JLo
To give our poor ears a rest, the next contestant sang like a human – a rare occurrence during the L.A. auditions. Tim Halperin sang a beautiful version of “She Will be Loved” that lacked a bit of power (or balls) – did anyone else notice how close his name is to Jim Halpert, or am I just obsessed with John Krasinski? Don’t answer that. Anyway, Randy tells the cutie pie “nope,” leaving the deciding vote on JLo’s shoulders. It also happens that Tim’s been in love with Lopez since he was a young boy, and here we go again; Idol lets someone’s idol be the one to save their ass. Is it Hollywood week yet? This is becoming obnoxious.
Of course Tim had more balls than Justin Carter, whose name happens to be a hybrid of monumental late 90s pop music royalty. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you should get reacquainted with Google. Try it. "Late 90s boy bands." Go.
“It’s almost like you’re relatively tone deaf.” –Randy
Yeah, it’s almost like that. Idol continued its couple-happy trend, but this time with two best friends. One half of the duo, Issac Rodriguez, has been duping his poor mama (and himself) by dropping out of college to be the next American Idol. It actually broke my heart to see his sweet mother bragging about her son being in college. Both Rodriguez and his friend Daniel Gomez were some of the worst singers we've seen all season. What I want to know is how they’re best friends but Gomez let Rodriguez drop out of college with that awful voice. Usually tone-deafness only applies to hearing your own voice, but there’s something wrong when you can’t tell someone else is off key. Yikes. Someone needs to get some of those balls JLo was talking about and reiterate Randy’s instruction for neither of them to ever sing again. Ever. (Pardon the crappy recording below.)
“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting other artisses.” –Contestant
Now for the MySpace folks. There were two yeses from this bunch; Karen Rodriguez from New York who apparently sang to Lopez once on TRL and Heidi Khzam who wiggled her way to a golden ticket. THIS IS NOT AMERICAN RUMP SHAKER. Randy and Steven need to keep it in their pants and stop voting for these hot girls with zero talent.
Now for the moment we all anticipate from the second we learned Idol would be using MySpace for auditions. Tynisha Roches wasted 400 bucks to fly out to L.A. from New Jersey to stumble through the words to her own “Frank Sinatra Tribute.” Not only were her creepy fake eyebrows and intense bangs scary, she was just plain crazy. She wouldn’t stop singing and ended up chasing Randy around the room until he wrested her mic (which she brought from home) away from her and called security. This BS went on for far too long; we know this girl is just egging it on, let’s not reward her okay?
“I’m a freelance music producer.” – Contestant
“Who do you produce?” –Randy
“I produce for millions- uh, a bunch of artists.” – Contestant
And this is where the competition dove head first into plain old overdone exploitation of delusional people. Maybe there’s too much sunshine in L.A., because the crazies are out in full this episode. One of the craziest is MSFP, or Matthew Scott Frankel Produc...ing. This guy was not only delusional about how cool he was but also the fact that he was (not) a famous music producer and his ability to rap as his “Sasha Fierce” character: Big Stats. His rap name may as well have been T1-83 Calculator. Big Stats? What’s your signature rap? Compiling the number of people who are dumb enough to believe you’re really being serious about this? Needless to say, the dude couldn’t sing or rap and Randy’s truthful commentary left him bitter. “(Randy) You and I are beefin.’” Something tells me Randy’s okay with that.
After MSFP practically burned down the stage with his mad crazy rhymes, we got to suffer through a montage of more insane people attempting to communicate with dogs through song. One guy pulls his pants down; another girl pulls a muscle doing the splits. Of course, if you got all the way to the end like I did, you know it got so much worse.
“It was god-like, the way you guys sing.” –Steven
He’s definitely being a bit hyperbolic, but compared to everything else that came through Los Angeles (which, if you remember correctly is a city FULL of talent, supposedly) was so dismal that I’d have been praising the lord for these guys too. Brothers Mark and Aaron Gutierrez mark the only “couple” audition that hasn’t been so sickeningly sweet that I wished I’d swiped the barf bag from my last flight to California. They sang a duet of “Lean on Me” and everything about it was completely adorable, down to their cleverly matching outfits. Let’s just hope they’re just as adorable when they each sing solo or it’s sayonara for these dudes.
“My name is Cooper Robinson and I’m here to take your city from ya.” –Contestant
I didn’t think there could be a worse way to end one of these episodes than with another tear-jerker, but I was wrong. In the vein of the “hey look at these assholes” show that seemed to take over the entirety of the L.A. auditions, Idol ended on its most demoralizing note yet. In an attempt that I can only guess was a failed attempt at finding the 2011 version of “Pants on the Ground” guy, who was genuinely funny and knew he was on the show attempting to become a YouTube sensation, Idol brought Robinson into our homes to make fun of him and make the rest of us incredibly uncomfortable. He was clearly not in the best mental state, donning Mardi Gras clothes and attempting to channel James Brown while shouting complete nonsense. At one point, Ryan Seacrest ran from him. Not only did this go on too long, but it made me feel like an awful person for watching it.
I already question the idea that the show deludes people into second auditions only to show tear them down once they meet the judges, but this was just sad. Auditions are always the most monotonous part of this show, but they just solidified themselves as the most disrespectful and distasteful part of the Idol process. Hollywood week can’t come soon enough.
Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.