Welcome back to text The Voice. Last night’s episode saw the top 12 reduced to only 10 — from now on, all that counts is your votes, with the worst-performing contestants to be eliminated regardless of which team they’re on. We’ve dissolved the electoral college, but I still can’t shake the feeling that Florida’s going to find a way to screw things up anyway. Also, don’t forget that live performances downloaded from iTunes count as a vote for that singer. (This, incidentally, is how Super PACs work.)
The episode opens with the live premiere of Christina Aguilera’s new single “Make the World Move,” which confusingly samples the horn intro from “Hips Don’t Lie.” The song features our very own Cee Lo Green, whose primary role in the performance is to stand around and wield a staff. He does it well. The song is good, and the whole production has a fun Gaga-in-Wonderland feeling.
The show briefly reverts to a favored reality TV trope, the confession cam, except everyone is sober, and no one is Snooki. The contestants share anecdotes about their newfound fame and being recognized on the street for the first time. “For some reason, moms love me,” Bryan Keith creepily boasts, while Michaela “The Mohawk Girl” Paige complains that she’s always referred to as “the mohawk girl.” Terry McDermott insists that his hairdo isn’t a mullet, and the cutest part is that he really believes it, too.
Carson Daly announces that the two artists who earned the most votes — and the first two to advance safely to the next round — are Sylvia Yacoub, Team Xtina’s diva supreme, and Bryan Keith, proving that moms represent a formidable voting bloc.
After the commercial break, Jason Aldean — who is, apparently, a very famous country star — performs “The Only Way I Know,” with backing vocals by Dez Duron and Bryan. In case his twang and cowboy hat weren’t enough to indicate that Aldean is Country Strong, an obligatory rocking-out reaction shot of Blake Shelton handily confirms it.
The next artists saved are Team Cee Lo’s soul man Nicholas David and animate Ken doll Dez of Team Christina. So far, every coach has had at least one team member advance to the top 10 (Christina has two) except Blake. Get it together, Shelton!
Aldean tells Christina Milian that he and Blake first met as opening acts for Rascal Flatts in 2006, and mentions that Blake once had the “gnarliest” mullet around. BRB FRANTICALLY GOOGLE IMAGING NOW, because you are useless, Milian. I’m not sure it’s a mullet per se, but whatever it is, it’s glorious. Blake’s devotion to Terry makes all the more sense now, and I will forever imagine his courtship with wife Miranda Lambert as a Southern, gender-reversed reboot of She’s All That.
Cee Lo and his team — Trevin Hunte, Nicholas David, and Cody Belew — offer a glorious cover of “Stayin’ Alive,” complete with leisure suits, disco balls, and a light-up dance floor. Before I watched The Voice my day was tracking at about a three out of 10, but this performance alone ramped things up to a 5. Trevin and Nicholas are great, but Belew absolutely excels, nailing a flawless Bee Gees falsetto.
Saved next: the 18-year-old pride of Queens (and Team Cee Lo) Trevin, and Team Blake’s (and Hey Monday’s) Cassadee Pope.
For his first performance of the season, Blake joins Cassadee, Mohawkla, and Terry McMullet (please send the Pulitzer directly to my P.O. Box, thanks) for “Life Is a Highway.” It’s a lot of fun, if tragically devoid of Cee Lo and Christina-brand insanity — it’s also nice to see how undeniably competent these pop-punk and rock artists are within a relatively unfamiliar genre. In other news, I bet Blake smells really, really good.
Mullet trumps mohawk — my word processor aggressively insists on capitalizing Mohawk, because it thinks I’m writing a thoughtful history paper on the Iroquois confederation — Terry McDermott is saved next, along with Team Adam’s Amanda Brown.
In the episode’s final moments, cutie-pie Melanie Martinez and cutier-pie Cody Belew become the last two contestants to advance to the top 10. Michaela and Adriana Louise are sent home, but not without a few obligatory close-ups of their strained, tear-stained faces. Are you not entertained?
The Voice’s top 10 performers return Monday at 8 p.m. Follow Molly on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Image Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC (2)]
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With election day just weeks away, President Barack Obama isn't the only one making the late night rounds in the hopes of scoring some more voters. His wife, Michelle Obama, stopped by Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! to do her own due diligence. And with the "Plan to Get People to Vote" video she debuted Thursday night, there's not a doubt that the First Lady will get some more people to the polls. She was even able to convince Kimmel! In her video, at least. And who wouldn't be swayed by a loud horn waking him up in the morning?
Here's what you missed last night on late night TV:
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
After The Good Wife star Julianna Margulies complained to Fallon about her four-year-old son Kieran's obsession with sports, she talked about how her husband, attorney Keith Lieberthal, tries to help her with her role on the show. As she plays an attorney on Good Wife, Lieberthal sometimes shares his legal expertise with Margulies. "He'll be like, 'Okay, that case would have taken 17 months,'" Margulies used as an example. Unfortunately though, her case has to be done in television time, which is about a 45-minute episode — so she sometimes has to remind her husband of that fact. "I'm like, 'Babe, it's entertainment,'" she said.
Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!
First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance on Kimmel. First, she shared her secret to yelling at her kids without people knowing. "You don't move your lips," she said. "You have that look and you're like, 'Hey, hey, hey. I said.' So you have to smile a little bit more when you're the First Lady. A little contact always helps. A nice little squeeze." Obama then talked about how her daughters get to trick-or-treat each year — and surprisingly revealed that the Secret Service doesn't have to taste that candy before the kids eat it. "As long as nobody knows it's them, which usually they don't know," she explained. "They go trick-or-treating every year. They go with groups of friends. Sasha will go this year. They have a very normal life." Obama also talked about campaigning for her husband, President Barack Obama, and the importance of voting. "We're encouraging people to vote early and use Election Day to help get other people to the polls who may need assistance," she said. And Kimmel better not have any excuse to avoid voting this year. Otherwise, Jimmy? Meet Michelle Obama's incredibly loud horn.
Plan to Get People to Vote Video
Late Show With David Letterman
It's only fitting that Donald Trump would do a late night appearance on a different show while Michelle Obama was on Kimmel. And of course he rattled on about President Obama's birth certificate. "It took Obama six years to get his birth certificate," he said. "John McCain wanted it. Hillary Clinton wanted it. It was never revealed until I got involved. I got a lot of credit for it." But his attack on Obama didn't end there. On Wednesday, Trump announced that he would donate $5 million to President Obama's charity of choice if the Commander-in-Chief would release his college and passport records. Thursday night, Trump reinforced his offer.
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno
Russell Brand dished on preparing for his performance at the Olympics. "Just before I had to go on stage.. all of a sudden, I thought, 'I'm an athlete now!' Before I did that, I did some limbering up exercise," he shared. "But because I don't know how to limber up properly, because I'm not really an athlete, I did it badly. I heard this noise, 'Quaaaippp.' My trouser tore a significant distance [in the crotch area]." Brand had to use scotch tape to hold his trousers together for his performance. Other than destroying denim, Brand also admitted that he is dating again now that he is no longer married to Katy Perry. "I've been devoting myself to single life so I can finally win that shagging Olympic medal," he said. "I'm putting in the training." Does Brand think he is Austin Powers now? No one "shags" anymore — this isn't the seventies.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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First thing's first: Magic Mike delivers on the eye candy. Club Xquisite the wildest male strip club in Tampa sports an ensemble of muscled men ready to flash their ridiculous moves in even more ridiculous dance numbers (this crew has never seen a pair of assless pants they didn't like). Bringing a few dollar bills to the movie is recommended — Magic Mike is shot up close and personal enough that flailing them about will come naturally.
But between the codpieces air humping and penis pumps Magic Mike tells a surprisingly relatable funny and poignant parable centered on a character all too familiar to anyone with an ounce of ambition. Mike (Channing Tatum) leads a triple life: By day he's a roof tiler; by night an exotic dancer; and in his dreams he's a furniture craftsman and entrepreneur. When Mike first crosses paths with Adam (Alex Pettyfer) his worries about the future are dispelled slipping right into mentor mode to show the 19-year-old the wonders of sex drugs and rock and roll. Adam's broke and without direction — the perfect state of being for a stripper-in-the-making. Mike's sales pitch is irresistible and when Adam unwillingly takes the stage for the first time he feels the rush of a dozen woman screaming groping and stuffing singles down his jock strap. There's no question: A stripper's life is a journey worth embarking on.
In his typical fashion director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic Erin Brockovich) defies conventions sticking with Mike's ups and downs rather than transforming Magic Mike into a Goodfellas-esque "newbie in over his head" story. Between playing protector to the mesmerized Adam and attempting to strike up an actual relationship with Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn) Mike finds himself for the first time looking inward. Does a job define a man? He's convinced it doesn't but as Adam loses himself to the profession becoming the Xquisite's cutthroat owner Dallas' (the wonderfully slimy Matthew McConaughey) right-hand man and parlaying the gig into more dangerous ventures Mike realizes breakdancing in thongs may be more poisonous to his dreams than he ever realized.
Exploitation Magic Mike is not. The film's dance sequences are sexy and sleek but only to clue the audience into the job's allure. Backstage is equally important; Soderbergh does an amazing job constructing the boy's club atmosphere that keeps Mike and Adam coming back. Lively characters like Ken (Matt Bomer) and Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) say little but speak volumes in the background of every scene. They're palling around and when they finally do reach out to Adam to profess their friendship it makes perfect sense. For a guy without a family the dancers are a perfect replacement.
While the cast is stellar Tatum continues his streak of star-making performances in the role of Mike. Obviously the man can dance — and he blows any memories of Step Up into oblivion. Beyond that he's perfectly in tune with Soderbergh's naturalistic style cool on his feet with the comedy and devastatingly subtle in the drama. His rapport with Horn who is equally striking in her casual approach is sweet and real a constant reminder that even a guy who lap dances in a fireman costume for a living has feelings too. Soderbergh enhances each of his performers with spot on photography: His Tampa is gritty and yellow-tinged the interior of the club a safe haven from the blase nature of reality. Magic Mike carries a full package.
Magic Mike hits all the right notes of comedy and drama that's completely unexpected in the summer blockbuster surroundings. Come for the stripping stay for the high-caliber filmmaking. Magic Mike is one of the year's best.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
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.