March 26, 2009

Guest Commentary: AI, Top 10

Guest commentary from Jessica on this week's episode. I have editorialized by adding in YouTube clips of my own personal favorites.

Top 10. You'll just have to wait...for more talent to come along. Maybe next week!

Wasn't last night's show--Motown Night-- extremely dull for something with so much potential? After waiting an extra day for the performances, I was really hoping that last night would make up for my overall sadness with Alexis leaving. What are the Idol producers thinking?

Anyway, we all know about the "treasure trove" of great Motown hits that these guys had to choose from...and still, the biggest critique was song choice. I've had it! Enough! This should be the last complaint of the judges, because it is something they have control over. Why don't we have a judges pick week just so we don't have to hear that any more?
  • So, the night started with Matt "I haven't shaved in a week and a half and it makes me feel sexier than I am" Giraud. He chose the classic "Let's Get It On" and I have to say, "No thanks." His pace was boring and his jeans were so tight...I don't know who dressed him! The judges dug him – I didn’t.
  • Kris "My wife is cute as a button" Allen chose to blow Smokey Robinson away with "How Sweet It Is" and I liked it, of course, but what was his awful shirt? The performance was a little corny but the judges loved it, overall. Simon asked him for more confidence and attitude – I would like a different shirt. :)

  • Scott "I am not singing a ballad" took a different approach with having the backup singers come close and going up-tempo. I thought it was cheeeeesy. The judges were eh, too. He just needs to go! I love how he said, "I am single right now," and everyone just glossed over it. Yipes! Pink pants!
  • Megan "Joy" Corkrey (enough with that!) sang "For Once in My Life" and it was so blarghy blah blah I can't even comment. What happened, Meggie? You were much too low and don't seem to know how to use "your instrument." The judges said blah too...I think you'll get through on your looks, this time!
  • Anoop gave a kind-of boring performance of "Ooh, Baby, Baby" with tons of falsetto. The judges took this chance to give him lots of different advice none of which I found important enough to remember....sooo.....he'll be fine.
  • Michael "Something is going on with his bite" Sarver sang "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and my notes were murhhhrgh. Simon thought he was shouting and Paula referred to a Vegas Lounge Act...but no worries! Michael is "just havin' a blast!" Who cares! Since when do I care whether or not the contestants are having fun? I want them to be stressed, struggling, missing their families, giving their all to fulfill their dream of performing at the TD Banknorth Gardens of the world. I don't want you to be having fun! Next time someone says that...I'm gonna...well, I don't know…rant about it here!
  • So, you can see how so far this show was not meeting expectations. Aside from the pink pants, not even the outfits were worth commenting on. This is not what I expect. I expect costumes of Dreamgirls caliber! And here it is...Lil "Love my new hair" Rounds! She came out dressed in CHARACTER, which is what I want to see! I had really high expectations of her "Heatwave," but the key was weird. She looked great though, and she knows she's a good singer? (Is that what this has come to?) Ugh!
  • Adam "I borrowed Ken's outfit and hair for tonight" Lambert did Smokey's own "Tracks of My Tears" and it was good. Finally. The judges dubbed it the best performance, and I would have to agree for tonight. At least it was interesting!

  • Danny "I am great at choreography" Gokey pulled off a good performance...I think it was solid. The judges shafted him by cutting his critique short, but it was typical for him and entertaining in that highstrung way he has. Melissa and I especially enjoyed how he ignored Smokey's advice in the beginning! Ha!
  • Finally, Allison "I'm only sixteen" Iraheta got lots of love from the judges for "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." She managed to keep her lyrics together in the performance and everyone loved her. Cute!
For a show with a lot of potential, I was semi-bored the whole time. Key causes:
  1. The show is two hours: Give me more substance! Interviews about contestants, insights into their personalities, anything – I know nothing about these guys! Cut time from judging!
  2. Enough critique of song choice. The point is that they should be able to sing anything. That is no longer going to fly with me.
  3. My wisdom teeth were removed on Monday and I have been on drugs this whole time. Ha!
Let's hope this all improves for next week!

March 25, 2009

Oh the places our minds go.

Last night, as we discussed the Lance Armstrong news, Trevor said, “I hate Lance Armstrong for the same reason I hate Tiger Woods. They’re both the only people anyone cares about in that sport.” I disagreed – why would you play Tiger like that? – and said that I could name at least 7 other golfers (I said that I couldn’t name a single other cyclist, but that’s a lie – I just like to not think about Floyd Landis and the shame he brought upon New England.). Trevor said: ‘So, name 7 golfers.’

Now, I know he didn’t mean to insult/challenge me, but I was on the instant defensive. The only name I could think of was Vijay Singh. My grandfather would have been so disappointed! Then I started panicking. ‘Ashley. Focus. If you can’t name 7 golfers, think about another sport you don’t care about. Name 7 quarterbacks. You can do this.’ My mind was a total blank – complete white out. ‘Name 7 pitchers, anything!’ This is when I realized I just do not respond well under “pressure” and/or to direct questions. While feeling attacked, I could not even recite the names of 7 Major League Baseball pitchers to myself.

I eventually let it go and went to sleep, but this morning on the bus I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I whipped out my iPod and made the following note:

  1. Sergio Garcia
  2. Vijay Singh
  3. Fred Couples
  4. Davis Love III
  5. Phil Mickelson
  6. Michelle Wie
  7. Lorena Ochoa
So there! Yes, I may have slightly blurred the line by diving into the LPGA, but as far as I’m concerned, I have fully redeemed myself. I can even think of 7 quarterbacks, without even needing to curse Brett Favre for retiring: Tom Brady, Ben Rothlisberger, Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler. PHEW.

Movie Review: Frozen River

I had no idea what ‘Frozen River’ was about. All I knew was that its lead actress and its screenplay had been nominated for Oscars. Solid credentials, even if it was never out in a theater within 100 miles of here. It’s had a Long Wait on Netflix since February, but we finally got our turn last weekend.

‘Frozen River’ is about a woman who lives in an up-up-upstate New York town that borders a Mohawk Indian Reservation and the Canadian border. To say she’s down and out might be an understatement. She’s a middle-aged woman with 2 kids, tattoos and a chain smoking habit, and a husband who’s recently run off to gamble away their savings – again (a problem because it’s almost Christmas, and there’s one final payment due before their new home – a doublewide trailer – is officially theirs). While searching for her AWOL husband, she stumbles upon a money-making opportunity: smuggling illegal immigrants across the border with the connections and help of a Mohawk woman with a mysterious past and questionable motives.

I have no real complaints about the movie. It’s the kind of quiet, deliberately paced movie that might make it seem like nothing is happening: The characters develop slowly, and it wasn’t until the end that I realized I understood them. The movie was definitely anchored around Melissa Leo’s character and she carried it well.

I’d certainly recommend it, if you're interested in a real, independent movie (As in: Produced totally independently, debuted at Sundance, released by a major studio. They’re harder to find these days than you’d think), or if you’re in the mood for a portrait of a family, a desperate mother (or 2) and the desolation of a rundown town.

7.25 Twix bars!

Who's lamer, Coulier or Saget?

I have no idea how this has not yet been a blog post. It’s a debate that has raged (around my condo) for years. Who is more pathetic – Dave Coulier or Bob Saget?

Now, if you’re anything like the people I’ve had this discussion with before (Or, equally likely, if you ARE the people I’ve had this discussion with before), I know what you’re thinking: “Dave Coulier? I haven’t thought about him in years. That makes him LAME.”

Allow me to present a counter-argument: Dave Coulier has embraced the fact that he’s a has-been. Please see Skating with the Stars, Season 1:

Comparatively, Bob Saget has been trying for years to prove that he’s not Danny Tanner. If I have to listen to one more person “reveal” that Bob Saget’s stand up comedy is actually pretty raunchy, I think I will barf. He’s overcompensating, and it’s so pathetically obvious. Yes, that’s right. I am saying that a guest spot on ‘Entourage’ does not a cool Bob Saget make. Also, I find it creepy how it's pretty clear he would like to be dating the Olsen twins:

Look at that face. Ugh.

And finally, let’s not forget to be grateful for the following:

What catch phrase did Danny Tanner ever give us?

March 23, 2009

TV Review: Kings

‘Kings’ is the kind of high-concept television show that might not be long for this world. Built as a religious allegory (the premise is the David story – as in versus Goliath, as in the eventual King of Israel), and heavy on symbolism, if this were on HBO and dirtied up with a healthy dose of cursing (The first episode, at least, centers on war. What’s war without swearing?), it’d probably be the next big thing. But, on basic cable – and airing at 8PM on top of it – its early fans have reason to be worried.

‘Kings’ has the feel of a post-apocalyptic movie, but where ‘Children of Men’ and the upcoming ‘The Road’ are all grain and grit, this is clean and glossy (and demanding of HD). With its setting in an unfamiliar civilization in an unspecified alternate future, the pilot reminded me quite a bit of Battlestar Galactica, but without the niche sci-fi plot that scares too many people away. Before we dive into it, can we just discuss how much the actor playing David looks like Rolfe from ‘The Sound of Music’?

Okay. About the actual show. There’s a King (Deadwood’s Ian McShane, keeping his brogue contained for the most part), who was called upon to lead the people of a nation called Shiloh. This country has been in existence for about 50 years, and has been at war the whole time. There’s an entire generation of children who lost their fathers during the “liberation” war, who have now grown to fight a new war against their enemy to the North, Gath. David was one of these fatherless children. In a move of questionable heroics, he breaks with military protocol to rescue 2 kidnapped soldiers. One of the men he saves happens to be the son of the King. The King is now eternally grateful to David, brings him to the capital city, and seeing some kind of potential in him (As a future leader? Or as a convenient puppet?) makes him military liaison to the press.

The big reveal at the end of the pilot is that, with the move that got him this new position of power, David wasn’t actually standing up to the tanks, but surrendering. “I wasn’t being brave,” he confesses to his brother. “So be brave now,” his brother advises him with his dying breath. And so David decides to stay in the city, and take on this new leadership role, under a possibly corrupt, possibly decent, possibly about-to-be-ousted King. And we have a new television show to add to the viewing schedule.

As with any royal family, there’s a host of intrigue behind the scenes that could keep the show going for years. In the first 2 hours alone, we find out that the King has a second family hidden away in the country (yes, the reveal scene was very ‘Mad Men’) and that he only married the Queen to gain access to her brother’s company’s money, which is essentially financing the entire country. Oh, also that the King is disgusted by his son the heir’s after hours sexual liasons (“If you were my second born son, I wouldn’t care”) and that David’s in love with the king’s daughter. And there’s a preacher who I really haven’t figured out yet.

I’m hesitant to issue a Twix bar rating, since I’ve only seen one episode (aka: Don’t hold me accountable if the next 5 episodes wind up sucking), so consider this a conditional 7.5. The 2-part pilot is available for free download on iTunes, and you can stream the first three episodes on, so check it out and let me know what you think. Here's a summary trailer for the season:

Movie Review: I Love You, Man

I was destined to love this film for 2 reasons: #1: The title reminds me of ‘Almost Famous,’ and an eleven year old William Miller: “Take good care of her in San Francisco. Man.” #2: I love Paul Rudd. So, I went in with high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. It just came out last weekend, so I won’t spend too much time fawning all over it, so y’all have a chance to see it and decide for yourself (this is a spoiler-free review).

The premise of the movie is that Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones are going to get married. He realizes he has no real guy friends. The search for a Best Man is initiated:

Here are three things I loved about the movie:
  1. It continues the lovely trend of blurring the line between “chick flick” and “man’s movie” - movies that are hilarious (the chest waxing scene in ‘40 Year Virgin’ while also being pretty sweet (The resolution of ‘Knocked Up.’). Think about it: A "bromance" buddy movie is a romantic comedy gussied up with some gross-out humor and a guy-on-guy relationship. They’re movies that every segment of the population can enjoy. (Speaking of guy-on-guy relationships – I truly appreciate how Not Homophobic this movie was. It could have gone there – the way a lot of buddy films do, and this one truly reflected the time and cultural context by not.
  2. Paul Rudd’s character was such a dork in this movie – dorkier than you’d expect to relate to (he fences!) – but it’s just so endearing.
  3. Featuring JK Simmons (he of ‘Juno’ and ‘Spiderman’, Andy Samberg, Jane Curtin, Jon Favreau, Jaime Pressley, and almost everyone who’s ever appeared on the Daily Show, the supporting cast was hilarious (Especially Jaime Pressley: I don’t want to love her, but I always find myself falling for her – even in ‘Not Another Teen Movie.’ Not that I saw that.).
Here are three things I didn’t love:
  1. I know that Rashida Jones isn’t Karen (aka the almost-destroyer of Jim & Pam on ‘The Office.’) I know that. But, it still requires a serious effort for me to not automatically react with hatred to everything she does. This movie helped. But she looks much too pretty in bright yellow – a color most of us can come nowhere close to pulling off.

  2. Dear Jason Segal: Your teeth are awful. Please stop smoking. Love, Ashley
  3. There was this guy in Paul Rudd’s office – “Tevin.” The casting director clearly wished this character was being played by Bradley Cooper. I was distracted by that. Oh, also: I don't know anything about Rush, the band the two eventual BFFs bond over.
Yeah, not too many serious bones to pick. 8 Twix bars!

March 20, 2009

Seeing Starz

My first thought upon seeing this ad was: "Why is Amy Poehler looking at me like that?" Then, upon seeing that it's an ad for the Starz Original Series, 'Head Case,' I thought: "Actually, this woman looks more like Laura Linney. Oh, and then, "What? Starz has original series?"

What do you think?

March 19, 2009

Movie Reviews: Playing Catch Up

As I mentioned, I've been a mega-slacker when it comes to movie reviews of late. Let's catch up:

American Gangster

Denzel Washington is my perennial Man of the Month. Since I was 13, I’ve loved this guy. And as much as I love Denzel Washington, that's how much I dislike Russell Crowe. The only film with Russell Crowe that I've ever enjoyed was ‘LA Confidential’. I think he takes himself way too seriously and I hate his hair. With that in mind, I think of 'American Gangster' – where Denzel’s gangster and Crowe’s cop battle it out for the streets of New York – as symbolic of the 2 men battling for my heart. I won’t say ‘American Gangster’ resolved my longstanding Russell Crowe issues – I will probably never see ‘Body of Lies’ (look over your glasses at me one more time, buddy) – but it was one hell of a ride. Both men embodied pretty unlikable characters, but made them real and well-rounded. It was quiet in all the right parts, so the in-your-face mobster parts could really be impactful. Good-borderline-great, recommended for all, even Russell Crowe haters (Or Denzel ones? Those don’t exist, right?). 7.75 Twix bars!

In Bruges

I always assumed I didn’t like Colin Farrel. Mostly because of Britney Spears, and the disappointment that was ‘Phone Booth.’ Also, I really hated the movie version of ‘A Home at the End of the World’, but I don’t think I blamed him for that. Anyway. He’s fully redeemed in my mind for his completely likable role – and subsequent Golden Globe speech – in this little film. Brendan Gleeson is also incredibly likable in this one, and not just because of my warm fuzzy feelings associated with him and ‘Harry Potter.’ How strange that the weakest link in the acting credits would be Ralph Fiennes. It wasn’t particularly his fault – the character just didn’t really go anywhere. The movie was a little uneven (I felt like the director couldn’t decide how violent, and then how surreal, he wanted to make it), and frustratingly abstract towards the end, but overall very enjoyable. Be warned: Despite what the marketers behind it wanted you to think, this isn’t a comedy. 7 Twix bars!


We moved this to the top of the queue when it seemed all but guaranteed that Mickey Rourke would leave the Academy Awards with a gold statue (Though, if you’ll remember, I posited that Sean Penn might deservedly take it home). I was dying to know what he really used to look and sound like, to warrant all the hullabaloo around his comeback. Well, let’s get one thing straight. The hullabaloo is well warranted, because I honestly never would have recognized him. Let’s just review again:

I understand that 25 years passed between 'Diner' and 'The Wrestler,' but for comparison's sake, let's just consider Dustin Hoffman, who made 'Tootsie' the same year that Mickey did 'Diner':

Okay, moving onto the movie. ‘Diner’ was Barry Levinson’s first film (He’s gone on to bring us ‘Rain Man,’ ‘Good Morning Vietnam,’ 'Sleepers’ and – this one’s for Megan – the underrated ‘Liberty Heights’). To oversimplify it, it's the 60s-set story of a group of hometown buddies in their mid-20s, trying to figure their s**t out. It’s all about the script, and actors who have long-since become has-beens just like Rourke – including Tim Daly, Steve Guttenberg and Daniel Stern – prove they deserved the fame they once had. ‘Diner’ so clearly influenced all the John Hughes movies that followed it, I feel a little bad I saw those ones first. 7 Twix bars!

March 18, 2009

Top 11: You were always on my mind!

The guest commentary continues with Jessica's take on last night's Top 11 performances on American Idol.

Last night’s Idol pushed me to make a few firm decisions:
  1. There are many country songs I just luuuu-uuuv. (Two syllables.)
  2. I miss the Idol format of yore, when the mentor served as a guest judge.
  3. I could be a better judge than last night’s Randy, Kara, Paula, or Simon. They all performed miserably.
  4. There are certain contestants I don’t give a what about.
To elaborate:

That’s right, I love country.

Maybe cuz back in West Virginia, it permeates the atmosphere so much more. But hearing some of my favorite Garth Brooks or Dolly songs, I was really glad that they did the Opry week. There is nothing more miserable than those people that say they “just hate all country” music. I feel like people just say that because they don’t like certain singers or groups. They should be exposed in this cheap way to more country music. In other news--I would like to assert that Carrie Underwood may be having an impact on modern country, but seeing that it was Opry night I was disappointed in the lack of variety that the program offered. Why wasn’t each song by a different artist? Or more contemporary artists like Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Darius Rucker (that’s right, Hootie), or Sugarland represented? Or more well known classics by George Jones, Reba McEntire, or Faith Hill picked because those are the songs people really get into? With song choice becoming the judges favorite thing to pick on besides the tightness of a contestant’s pants, I’m really beginning to wonder who the Puppetmaster is that is pulling some strings and cutting others—and is responsible for THREE artists getting TWO of their songs picked. When we are talking about HUNDREDS of country musicians over the years.

Whew. Anyway…to make a long story short: Carrie Underwood is Overrated. At least give a nod!

Last night made me sad for Randy Travis.

Why didn’t anyone sing one of his songs? In the old days, the mentors were a judge too, and now that’s just been pushed into a little pre-performance video package that actually doesn’t matter at all. And the actual judges never even deign to mention this mentorship. In the past, the mentor/judges were always overly gracious, but also perfect candidates for hilarity and entertainment value! Imagine these artists trying to remain tactful and polite when really on the spot—I would have loved to see R. Travis truly grade the performances. Let’s have 50 Cent, or Katie Perry, or Pete Wentz come on as a guest judge. They’d be bound to be amusing, at least. Which leads me to my next point…

Enough with the fake fighting and banter, I’m done with it.

Last night, the judges were ridiculous. They added NOTHING to the show. They didn’t help me form opinions. Let me charm you with some direct quotes…
“You could sing the alphabet well.” –Kara to Allison

“Tender moments from my dawg Kris.” –Randy

“You’re like someone singing at a wedding..” –Simon to “Little”

“Hot! Crazy! Unbelievable!”—Randy to Scott (!!?!?!!!?)

“More effective…” –Paula to Alexis

“Artists…” –Kara

“Artists like you” –Paula

“blah blah blah artists blah” –Paula

“A true artist” –Kara

“Artist shmartist” –Jessica

“You did it!” –Kara

“You should have flu every week.” –Simon to Megan

“What I applaud you most is your honesty, authenticity, how you are a true artist…” –Paula to Matt

“Mad skilz” –Randy
THESE FOOLS? You are looking to them to help you, America? I can do soooo much better! These people don’t even speak proper English! (Not that I always do, but you see, that’s because I am trying to get you to understand my oral colloquialisms, pacing, enunciation, and word choice through the written word, which is quite difficult sometimes. I mean, how can I use words to express how flabbergasted I am by the idiocy Simon and Paula exhibit as they grab each other constantly, fighting like five-year-olds? It’s tough.) Okay, so anyway, like I was saying, allow me to tell you what I thought.

Which brings me to…I don’t give a damn, I don’t give a what.

Michael: Good performance of a fun song, but you were a little mumble-y. You didn’t get to express your full voice with the song, but I think you should be okay this week. And please, don’t say that “you had fun”. I hate that. And don’t be so sassy back to me when I judge you. Despite the success of the Osbournes, America doesn’t really appreciate sassy.

Allison: You surprised me. Nice way to edge a little bit away from pure Barbie and the Rockers style music. I loved your look, it was age appropriate, and you didn’t take the song lyrics overly seriously, which is good because you’re talking about one of country’s famous subjects, which no 16 y.o. should know too much about—the lyin’ cheatin’ two timin’ double dealin' heart.

Kris: Swwoooooooooooooooon. Swooony swoon swoon sigh. Mmmm mmmm yummy nibbles. Swwoooon. Great song. Can I record the duet with you?

Lil: Oopsy daisy, girl. I find it adorable that you said, “Leeks” for “licks, but the song was not so good. You still put too much R&B flavor in it, and it’s just not that believable. I could picture it in the beginning, wich, by the way, the judges said was the worst part, but I thought was the best. We know you can sing though. I just think it wasn’t enough impact.

Adam: What the hell?!? Sorry, Ashley, I know you want me to be supportive, but it was weeeeeirrrrrd. The crowd LOVED it, but I just thought it was super creepy and was totally skeeved out by you. I think he sexualized a song that isn’t, and even though I like new arrangements and all that, he should have stuck with the original. His voice is unique enough, he doesn’t have to go to all the theatrics all the time. Talk about someone that needs to do something vulnerable.

Scott: I seriously don’t give. Ashley and Trevor suggested I write something down in my notes. Here they are: Jacket=same as Allison’s. Hair=better. Piano playing=gifted performer with his instrument. Jessica=bored.

Alexis: Maybe not your best night, but minus the boobs, you looked just like Dolly, even if you didn’t sing like her. You’ll be fine!

Danny: Sooooooo turned off by that song “Jesus Take the Wheel”. Blah blah blah. Dressed like Benjamin Linus to turn the Donkey Wheel. Don’t give a what.

Anoooooop!: Everyone has to say your name that way. You might as well have it legally changed. Include the exclamation! You did gr8. 4 sum reason I rlly want 2 write ur entry in txt speak just so I can say u sang, “u were alwayz on my mind”. I know, it’s a weird thing. NEwayz, gr8 job! U r 2 cool.

Megan: woooooowza, honey! You got away with MURDER this week. Can I say, I totally guessed that’s what you were going to sing? I knew it! Everyone else was really nice to you because you have Influenza B, but I think you did too much affectation with your voice and should have chosen a higher key to start in. You should have been sweeter—the song lyrics would have been more believable. Maybe you should have channeled your ex-love for your ex-husband to help you imagine what it’s like to “see a weeping willow, crying on his pillow”?

Matt: I wrote “DEAD TO ME” in my notes. You interpret.

Sooo….I hope I am right and Scott goes home tonight, after I watch my love (and Kimberly Williams’) Brad Paisley tonight and suffer through what is sure to be some horrible group number (Predictions? Before He Cheats? Something by Randy Travis maybe?) and an equally poor production that is meant to be a Ford commercial. Until then!

Lots of love and leather jackets and spurs,

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

I’ve been a movie review slacker. Since the Oscars, we haven’t been to the theater (but hopefully will hit up ‘I Love You Man’ this weekend), but we’ve been pretty busy on Netflix. We’ve started watching Season 1 of ‘The Wire,’ and several weeks ago now, we watched ‘Burn After Reading’.

Like with most Coen Brothers films, I have a feeling that if I see this a second and third time, I will like it infinitely more (the exception being ‘Big Lewbowski’ which I liked instantly – even if I was 10 years late in seeing it.). As is, I found 'Burn After Reading' mildly amusing, but also troubling. Troubling because I was put off by George Clooney.

Now, the guy’s played some pretty unlikable characters in his day (I mean, let’s be honest – Doug Ross himself was pretty unlikable for most of his character arc) so it’s not that (Though, this character certainly was unlikable – and they made sure we knew that by giving him the ridiculous gold chain necklace.).:

I’m pretty sure the problem actually lies here:

And here:

Does this face look familiar? Because it should:

'O Brother Where Art Thou'
How about giving the eyebrows a rest for a while, George? Because a world where I'm sick of you isn't a world I want to live in.

Oh, the rest of the movie? Meh. 7 Twix bars!

TV nuggets

I’m not going to wax on long about ‘American Idol’ since guest commentary is pending; I just want to say a word about pools, and how they lead to such emotional conflict. Take Anoop, for example. I have him getting kicked off this week, because of how far he fell in the judges’ esteem last week with ‘Beat It,’ and because I just wasn’t sure how Grand Ole Opry would translate on him. But I love him, and the judges were right – his performance last night was among the best. Conflict, I tell you.

So you can keep me honest, here are my official AI pool predictions, as submitted yesterday (The person listed with each corresponding week marks the person I’m predicting gets kicked off):
  • Week 11: Anoop
  • Week 10: Megan Joy
  • Week 9: Michael
  • Week 8: Scott
  • Week 7: Allison
  • Week 6: Matt
  • Week 5: Alexis
  • Week 4: Kris
  • Week 3: Lil
  • Runner Up: Danny
  • Winner: Adam
Dare I say Alexis and Lil are really in danger after last night? But I’m confident that if either of them gets booted by the popular vote, the judges will save them. According to our pool rules, that will give us the chance to rearrange out predictions. One week in? Yeesh.

In other television news – the CW had me wait 6 weeks for a new ‘Gossip Girl’ for that crap? (Note to show’s writers: Chuck is best when interacting with people we know. Weird high class hooker with out a heart of gold? Not so much.) It feels like 6 weeks since the last ‘Lost’ even if it just missed last week. Looking forward to seeing what Paul Giamatti’s doppelganger has in store for the (Um, major spoiler alert!) newly returned Oceanic 6.

March 17, 2009


'Away We Go' was high on my list of movies I'm looking forward to in '09, largely because of the kind-of-out-of-nowhere pairing of John Krasinski and Dave Eggers. Entertainment Weekly's on-board now too - and look, a trailer:

Did you know?

One of the great things about living in a state that’s been around, well, as long as states have been around, is that there are some really long-standing traditions. Some of these traditions are truly meaningful and lovely, like the Boston Pops, which began making sweet music in 1885. And some, like the blue law that says more than 7 women living together in one house makes it a brothel, are just silly (Though, the word around the interweb is that this "law," widely pointed to as the reason that sorority houses don't exist on college campuses, is actually just a rumor. Time to really re-evaluate some of my long-held beliefs!).

To the rest of the world, today might be St. Patrick’s Day, the day where we all get to be Irish, as long as that means short luck-bearing men and green beer (Did you know that Blue was actually traditionally the color associated with St. Patrick?). But in Boston, today is Evacuation Day, where we celebrate the day British troops were expelled from the city during the American Revolution. Coincidentally, both are celebrated with copious amounts of drinking and hanging out on the street. (Or, as Wikipedia says: “[Both] celebrations are notoriously spirited.”). Kind of like that other beloved tradition, Patriot's Day. What, you've never heard of it? It marks the beginning of the American Revolution (which kicked off next door in Lexington). Some people celebrate it by running 26.2 miles in the Boston Marathon. And the rest of us celebrate it by lining the streets of those 26.2 miles with keg cups (Or, equally likely, wishing they were drinking out of keg cups, but actually stuck at work). Ah, yes. Traditions.

March 13, 2009

He's got my back.

When I was growing up, my family had the Best Dog in the World. Murphy, a cocker spaniel who slept in my bed every night, sure had some quirks – he was impossible to walk, had no idea how to play with a tennis ball, and howled when left alone – but what lovable family pet doesn’t? He brought out the quirky in me too – until I was too old to admit, I would insist that Murphy was my future husband. But of all the things I’m grateful to Murphy for, perhaps the most unexpected is this week’s resolution of a long-standing joke argument between Trevor and I.

You see, unless I’m having the best hair day ever, when I return home after work, along with my contacts being removed, and, most of the time, pajama pants being put on (yes, at 6:30PM), I put my hair up like this:

Despite the fact that Trevor & I have lived together for 4 years, meaning it's happened approximately 832 times, this action consistently garners the same reaction from him: Eyeroll + “Yuuuuup, there it goes.” Typically, I respond with a loving remark along the lines of “Shut up! You have no idea how hard it is having this much hair!”

But this week, I received the She’s-Always-Done-This-Let-It-Go backup I’ve needed, from the always loyal Murphy (By “received” I mean “noticed,” being as this photo has sat on my dresser for the last 3 years):

I realize the quality of the photo makes it look like 1967, but this is actually photographic proof from approximately 1997. Or, as I like to call it: Vindication!

March 12, 2009

Weeks have passed.

A few weeks back, I participated in a Spin-a-Thon. Perhaps you saw my extensive blog about the subject. Well, I just attended a company-wide meeting that involved me sitting on a window sill, and, about 10 minutes into sitting on that very not-pleasant surface, I realized that, yes, in fact, my butt still hurts.

Here endeth the TMI portion of the blog.

Don't make me come over there.

As anyone who’s taken public transportation knows, normal etiquette rules go out the window when you're crammed on the bus or subway with 50 others. (Under regular circumstances, it’s always best to keep your head out of someone’s armpit, and, really there’s no reason to ever have your leg touching someone you don’t know.) There are, however, some basic rules that too often get ignored, and can result in pointed scowls, passive aggressive elbows, and loud 'Dude, are you KIDDING?' exclamations. Want to avoid these? Let me share some Public Transportation Best Practices:
  • Greet your driver. This isn’t always possible, but if it is, a simple smile and hello goes along way. You'll be surprised by how often, and how pleasantly, they'll say it back, and your whole ride will be better.
  • Move to the back. When only the front doors of a subway car or bus opens, people tend to congregate in the front. There is more space in the back. And – guess what – there are exit doors back there too! Go!
  • Act your age. This means that if you are 20 years old and healthy, your seat belongs to someone else. Do not stare at the ground, pretend to be engrossed in a book, or feign sleeping while someone with a cane, limp, guide dog or gray hair tries to hold onto the pole and remain upright. Seriously. Come on,. dude.
  • Don’t stand in front of a door. I know it looks like the perfect place to stand, what with all that space and all, but you’re just creating a hazard. If you must stand there (and I’m a realistic person, I know there’s no choice a lot of the time) – MOVE to let people exit. Do not just stand there, with 3 inches of space in front of you and a blank look on your face as people try to get out.
  • No, really. Move away from the door. This is especially important on the bus. Bus doors open IN when they open. You should ONLY choose to stand here if there is no one else there, because those doors that open in? They force anyone standing in that area to step forward out of there way. When there are two people sharing that space, all exit pathways are effectively eliminated. If you’re standing there, you’re going to get karate chopped in the arm, either by the mechanical doors, or by the angry exiting people. It’s going to hurt, and you’re going to deserve it.
  • Seats are made for people, not your laptop bag (or your gym bag or your extra purse).
  • Stay put. You know how when you’re crammed in next to someone on a seat during a crowded part of the route, and then a dozen people get off, and there’s an open set of seats across from you? Don’t switch seats. You might think you’re doing everyone a favor. You’re not, you are being rude. You may not have realized it, but you entered into a relationship when you selected the seat you did – Regardless of better opportunities, you are committed to sitting next to that person until death do you part. Or, until one of your stops, whichever comes first.
  • You are what you own. At least on public transportation. Everything attached to your body is your responsibility to keep under control on the subway or bus. Don’t just pretend like your backpack isn’t sticking 12 inches out, right into someone’s face.
My last point isn’t so much a best practice, so let’s just go ahead and un-bullet this.

Let’s get another thing straight. The subway is not “better” than the bus. The bus is not scary and it’s not sketchy. It is convenient, and allows you access to places beyond the regimented world of rails. You can almost always get a seat on the bus. Not to mention the fact that the bus is cheaper than the subway and runs on an actual schedule. And if you’re still not convinced, think about it this way: The bus can take you to malls unreachable by subway (Did someone say Forever 21 in Watertown?). Don’t tell you you’re scared of the bus, or that you don’t “do” it. I hate that.

Whether or not you're a public transportation frequenter, I'm sure you have your own opinions on these matters. Feel free to chime in - advice on how to avoid any passive aggressive body part jab is always appreciated.

March 11, 2009

Guest Commentary: American Idol, Top 13

Today, Jessica takes over the reigns for 'American Idol' commentary. I will restrain myself as much as possible from inserting my own thoughts, and when it can't be helped, it will be marked with a very convenient [Editor's Note:]. Without further adieu...

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwn…oops! Hello, and we’re back with the American Idol Top 13! (Pan across image of nervous contestants doing over-the-top grinning and gesturing at the camera…)

Here they are folks! After a LONG road to Hollywood/the Big Stage/Top 13/when-America-realizes-the-new-season-has-started, we finally get the chance to get some more info on these ingénues and see how they react to the setting.

For those of you that haven’t been watching, get ready. This week is like the scouting week—starting tomorrow after we get the results, I’ll send out the details of the pool for you to send in your picks. Until then…here’s my little recapitulation of last night’s demonstration.

Below are the top four (why four? I dunno) facts that you need to know about these guys. Here’s a picture to follow along:

Front to back, left to right: Megan, Jasmine, Danny, Alexis, Kris, Michael, Adam, Allison, Jorge, Matt, Lil, Anoop, and Scott. In their performance order from last night’s show:

Lil Rounds:
  • Comes from a place that loves music & barbecue (tell me, where isn’t that?)
  • Survived a tornado, similar to Dorothy, which may be the inspiration for her high-waisted, pleated, white pants (something a farm girl might wear to a picnic)
  • Doesn’t realize her name is ridiculous
  • Gave a decent performance of 'The Way You Make Me Feel,' but didn’t “blow it up” like she has every other time. Performed best at the end of the song, but I forgot it after the commercial break!
Scott MacIntyre:
  • Is the only person that enjoys learning obscure Michael Jackson ballads on the piano
  • Is blind. Okay, we get it.
  • Appears to be magical, according to Paula.
  • Raises some unique questions about how much hair gel one should use when you can’t see your hair. Do you judge by feel? Avoid the super crispy to the touch?
Danny Gokey:
  • Has a family that sings everything. Something I’ve wished for many times in my life, if only my older sister could carry a tune.
  • Must have a secret endorsement deal with LensCrafters
  • Can really sing. Even though I don’t want to love him, he’s wearing me down!
  • Chose PYT for his song. AWESOME.
Michael Sarver:
  • His performance made Simon use the words, “You brought passion, heart, and gave it 110%.” WHA?!?!
  • Gives the vibe of an R&B swagger to Randy
  • Was boring.
Jasmine Murray:
  • Is from Mississippi. (MAN, that is fun to type!)
  • Has a lot of sisters.
  • This is her whole story.
  • At least the arrangement they did of “I’ll Be There” included HARPSICHORD!!! Awesome!
Kris Allen:
  • He is my insta-crush this year. I swooned. I CAN’T HELP IT, people. I am wired to love it. You can ask Ashley—even though I criticized his shirt during the opening, when he came out with his guitar and smile and sang a sassy version of “Remember the Time” I immediately got a little goony eyed and started thinking about Elliott Yamin, Chris Richardson, Jason Castro, and the amazing lovefest we could all have if only Kris makes it another week…
  • He’s married to a really cute little wife? Hmph.
  • Paula called him “kinda-adorable-sexy”. One word.
  • I HATE this spelling of Chris and may actually have to change it in future recaps. Which there will be. Because I voted for him like 16 times last night. Sigh…..
Allison Iraheta:
  • Sings for fun at a giant furniture clearance warehouse???
  • I’m over her.
  • Done with it.
  • Aliwhaaaa? Blah, blah, she’s 16, she’ll be around. Gina-Glocksen wannabe!
Anoop Desai:
  • Only child.
  • Dressed like Blake Lewis. (Not a bad thing).
  • Got a hair cut.
  • Sang Beat It and the judges were PISSED. No idea why, I thought it was good!
Jorge Nunez:
  • Oh, my friend. Lucky you got Puerto Rico on your side!
  • He’s really sweet and cute and loves to sing! And thinned out his eyebrows!
  • At least ended his boring performance with a sassy conclusion!
  • Hmmm…my notes end because I was distracted by talking about the possibility of bracelet or three-quarters length sleeves on blazers for men… due to Jorge’s pushed up sleeves, I guess….
Megan Corkrey:
  • Okay, she sang the worst song (“Rockin Robin”). But wasn’t it like to be cute, or screw the judges, or because she could funkify it? I caaaaaan’t help, lovin’ that Meg o’ mine…
  • Tattoo arm is KILLING me. Wear sleeves.
  • You are a horrible dancer.
  • Your mom=HOT.
Adam Lambert:
  • His performance merited an instant replay. To see if it was as good as the judges thought. (Editor's note: It was.)
  • THEeeAteerrrrrrr!
  • He did this awesome little version of the moonwalk that was more like a chicken walking backwards and pecking out his head…I loved it!
  • 'Black & White'- not my fave MJ song. Burmpt.
Matt Giraud:
  • Again with these songs…CHOOSE SOMETHING WE KNOW.
  • I can’t help but feel that he is trying really hard to be Justin Timberlake, and although it’s probably true that you can never get too much T-Lake, I somehow feel that I don’t want it from this guy.
  • Simon said something about his performance being meat and potatoes, which made me think about meat and potatoes. I give him a ham-steak and scalloped rating.
  • Kara should just sleep with this guy. She loves him so much.
Alexis Grace:
  • Her song choice of 'Dirty Diana' was completely right!
  • I am NOT INTO PINK HAIRRRRR—can I say it one more time?!
  • Simon doesn’t want to boost her ego just yet.
  • She forces her little daughter to repeat things she says, which is awesome. I would have made her say, “mommy, don’t wear onesies on tv”.

So, anyway—tonight two go home and my picks for the bottom are: Scott, Michael, Jasmine, and Allison. Prove me wrong, America! Ha.

March 10, 2009

A special announcement

For the last three years, my dear friend/confidante/trashy TV co-conspirator Jessica has been entertaining the steadily growing masses with her American Idol commentary. She diligently follows up each performance show with whatever is called for – be that haikus, fashion commentary or a good ol’ fashioned rant about how stupidly unfair Simon was.

With the Top 13 kicking off tonight, I’m pleased to announce that Jessica will officially be syndicated here on Rockin’ to the Gentle Beat (R2GB?) for Day After commentary. Welcome her warmly, read her loyally, and, most importantly, if you disagree with her, make sure to send the mean comments directly to her at

Yours in AI spirit,

On their way in '09, Part 4

And to conclude this series on Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, let’s dive into those that I’m definitely the target audience for, but there’s just something holding me back from. For lack of a better title, we’ll call it The Wishy Washy Chapter.

The Brothers Bloom (May 29) – Quirky, bright colored movies that get better with each watching – that is my type of movie (I even love that American Express commercial by/with Wes Anderson.), and that is the type of movie this trailer is trying to convince me ‘The Brothers Bloom’ is. But, just how the Duplicity trailer makes me squirm because of how forced the Steven Soderbergh-wannabe pacing is, I just am not quite feeling it with this one.

The Year One (June 19) – This is brought to us by Harold Ramis, the genius behind ‘Ghost Busters’ (And Caddyshack and Meatballs and Stripes), and he co-wrote it with the writer of some of the finest episodes of ‘The Office’ around (including ‘Michael’s Birthday’ and ‘The Convention’). It stars Michael Cera, being given a chance to break out of his puppy love teenager skin, and Jack Black who I actually still find very funny. So, I have high hopes that this will in fact be so-stupid-it’s-brilliant and the back-in-time hit that ‘Land of the Lost’ wants to be. (Total aside: When you search for 'The Year One' on IMDB, the first recommended title is 'The Talented Mr. Ripley,' complete title: "The Mysterious Yearning Secretive Sad Lonely Troubled Confused Loving Musical Gifted Intelligent Beautiful Tender Sensitive Haunted Passionate Talented Mr. Ripley")

Funny People (July 31) – If you’re Judd Apatow and you’re famous for taking minimally known actors and turning them into brilliant leading man comedians in unexpectedly hilarious roles, doesn’t casting Adam Sandler seem kind of like a step backwards? Maybe not – if the point of his character is that he’s the high-ranking comedian mentoring Seth Rogen. Aside from that, this looks about par for the course for Judd Apatow movies: Bromance + Poignant plot that people will forget about in the face of some out-of-nowhere gross-out humor. Has the magic worn off? TBD. But Judd Apatow’s movies – specifically ‘Knocked Up” and ’40 Year Old Virgin’ –always feel about 10% too long, and that’s exactly how I feel about this trailer.

Julie & Julia (August 7)– Meryl Streep and Amy Adams are clearly best friends for life, and I like both of them very much. This is a movie about redemption through cooking (or it should be, if it’s an accurate adaptation of the book, which is described as: “The story of Julie Powell's attempt to revitalize her marriage, restore her ambition, and save her soul by cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, in a period of 365 days.”), and I love the idea here. It should also be noted that I think this is the first mainstream movie based on a blog (sure, the blog was turned into a book, which is now being turned into a movie), but how’s that for Adapted Screenplay? I would have much higher expectations for this movie if: A. I had gotten around to reading the book yet, and, B. I hadn’t seen ‘Doubt.’ As is, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Taking Woodstock (August 14) – The description is generic enough – “A man working at his parents' motel in the Catskills inadvertently sets in motion the generation-defining concert in the summer of 1969” – but coming to us from Ang Lee, you know the movie will be anything but. This is a man who directed the quiet, period piece ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ the special effects-laden, indescribable ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and the sweeping epic ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ He’s only taken a misstep with ‘Hulk,’ so expect good things here, especially with a cast featuring Emile Hirsch and Paul Dano, young actors who are incredibly smart in their role choices (‘There Will Be Blood,’ ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ ‘Into the Wild,’ ‘Milk’…Yes, we’ll forgive you for ‘Speed Racer’, Emile).

Inglourious Basterds (August 21) – As is the case with most things Quentin Tarantino, I can’t tell how much I’m supposed to be laughing. This one is going to be all review-dependent, as with ‘Grindhouse’ (nay) and ‘Kill Bill’ (yay) before it.

The Informant (October 9) – They should rename this, because not only is it the world’s most generic title, it also sounds too much like the year’s early bomb, The International. But this is a pairing of Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon, so I’m hoping for ‘Bourne Identity’ action in a ‘Traffic’ pace.

March 9, 2009

On their way in '09, Part 3

So far in our series on 2009 movies, we’ve discussed those I’ll be first in line to see, and those that I can’t even be bribed to see. Now, let’s discuss those that could go either way, depending on that precise mathematical equation of (Peer Pressure + Industry Buzz) / Emotional Reaction to Trailer.

First, what I'll call "Movies I’ll Pretend to Not Be Interested In, But Which Will Be Very Easy to Convince Me To See":

The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – When I saw the preview for this, I don’t think this is what it was called. It’s is a horrible title, and – like the rest of the world – I am over Matthew McConaghey and his varied attempts at playing himself. But my love for Jennifer Garner is pure and a Breckin Meyer comeback has been a long time coming.

The Proposal – I’m equally intrigued by the I’m-Wacky-and-Loveable Sandra Bullock vehicle, ‘All About Steve,’ coming out, but for some reason (**cough cough ‘Definitely Maybe’ cough**) I prefer Ryan Reynolds over Bradley Cooper. Plus, let’s be honest, this is directed by the woman who did ‘Step Up,’ a movie franchise I watched some of every day of this past weekend. I’m there.

Fighting – I really wanted to see that kickboxing movie ‘Never Back Down,’ but never quite made it. Good thing I waited, because this upcoming one has really upped the ante, by replacing high school with the streets of New York, the annoying Dino from ‘Life as We Know It’ with Channing Tatum (speaking of ‘Step Up’), and Djimon Hounsou with Terrence Howard, who gives one heck of an NPR interview. Unfortunately, there’s no Volchek, but there is Luiz Gusman.

Fame – Kherington from last season’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ is the only semi-recognizable one among the students in this upcoming remake, but some (me) might argue that it’s exactly that type of cast that made ‘Center Stage’ so wonderfully craptastic and addictive. No trailer yet, since this isn't coming out until the Fall.

Hey, wha' happened?

Yesterday, Trevor & I took a walk to go to brunch, ran some errands, and then spent an hour on the roofdeck - enjoying an afternoon beer and playing Scrabble. This is because it was a delightful, sunny and clear 65 degree day.

Today, it is snowing.

Despite my admonitions to myself to not get sucked in, I fell for it. It's as if I finally agreed to go on a date with that ex who I thought had changed...and then the next day I find out he has a girlfriend.

March 5, 2009

Where's the Gossip?

Seriously. Is ‘Gossip Girl’ even ON anymore? I can’t remember the last episode I saw (that awful one, where Chuck is piecing together his night and Blaire is trying to exact revenge on that teacher? Ugh.)! It skipped February sweeps altogether and more than once I’ve had a mini-panic attack that I somehow missed the season finale. Anyone else feeling the void?

I had to dig around quite a bit, but it appears new episodes are back on beginning March 16. In the meantime, I will sustain myself by totally inappropriately visiting to watch (and probably rewatch) this interview with the adorably British Ed Westwick, who plays Chuck Bass.

On their way in '09, Part 2

Over 250 movies come out every year – clearly one can’t see everything. Even if it were my job to watch movies (sigh, if only), I could barely pull it off, and would have to watch 6 movies a week in order to make it (accounting for the 4 week vacation this dream job would offer me, of course). Because it’s important to be selective, I almost appreciate the drivel that some studios release, because it makes the decision process so much easier. Here are the movies I'm expecting to fill that role in 2009.

If I Ignore You, Will You Go Away?
  • Fast & Furious – While I genuinely praise the creativity of removing the “The”s to name this sequel (the - ugh - 4th!), I actually find it sad that the original cast has reunited for this, since it essentially proves their success in the first one was a fluke. What words of wisdom might Vin Diesel impart on us this time (Though I don’t see how you could improve upon “I live my life one-quarter mile at a time.”)?

  • Observe & Report – I thought I already didn’t see this movie. When it was called ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop.’ Also, I want to like Anna Faris, really I do. But having seen 'My Super Ex-Girlfriend' and 'House Bunny' - I just don't know if it's in the cards.

  • Land of the Lost – I know nothing about this television show, and as much as I love Will Ferrell, I am annoyed by him in the preview. But not as much as I'm annoyed by the Matt Lauer presence. No matter how much Diablo Cody wants me to, I am not seeing this.

  • My Sister’s Keeper – Like everyone else my age and in a book group, I read this. It was better than the other Jodi Piccoult we read, and sparked a very interesting conversation (the story revolves around a family with a terminally ill child, and a daughter who's expected to provide the bone marrow donations necessary to keep her alive), but I won't see this movie for three reasons: From the summary alone it sounds like some pretty liberal creative liberties were taken. It will make me cry. A lot. And, Cameron Diaz really does not belong here (Abigail Breslin's mother? Really?). No trailer yet available.

  • The Ugly Truth – You might not believe me, but I really don’t want to see this. Parenthetically, Gerard Butler is this year’s Clive Owen - a strapping, scruffy Brit, breaking out of thinking person action films into romance, and the hearts of women everywhere.

There are oh so many other films that I could not be paid to see, but which don't warrant full summaries - conveniently, they fit into categories:
As Martin Lawrence taught us, there is a thin line between love and hate. Coming tomorrow: details on the movies I'm just not sure about.

No spoilers here.

How much makeup do you think was necessary to make Evangeline Lilly look this makeup-free?

Would you look at that - a whole (albeit short) post about 'Lost' with absolutely no spoilers!

March 4, 2009

The final 12

I don't know, dawg. This is a weird night for me. Oh, I'm sorry - I couldn't help but channel Randy Jackson for a second there. Last night was the final performances of the Top 36, and it's a tough one to call.

First off, it’s official. I hate Kara. I’m sorry, Neil Patrick Harris, I saw you on Ellen when you were talking about you two are very good friends, but I just can’t do it. She can never remember she has a mic in front of her (enough with the pounding on the table and immediate commentary that we’re not supposed to hear!), and she repeats herself – and the other judges – constantly. Done.

Now, onto the performances. Pretty weak showing from the girls, huh?

Von Smith: Good that you took advice from Simon. Bad that you wore that awful suit (photo to follow as soon as I can find it). Decent performance, too bad you had to go first.

Taylor Vaifanua: I can’t even remember you this morning, but from my notes I remember that you’re a crier, and I like that about you.

Alex Wagner-Trugman: I love that you’re a smart ass. As Trevor said, “It's so weird that he can sing” – he’s kind of like Anoop in that way, where you really don’t expect that voice to come out of him. Aside from the growling thing, I thought the performance was actually pretty good, but I might have been distracted by Trevor, who was making some kind of argument about how he didn't hate Taylor Hicks that much, he just hated the Soul Patrol people, which is just not true. In any case, the crowd loved Alex and he's my dark horse prediction for this week (because that turned out so well for me last week?)

Arianna Afsar: She who doesn't want to be known for being "cute as a button" sang the first ever ABBA song on 'American Idol.' I have no idea how that's possible, but that was the only thing remarkable about her peformance.

Ju'not Joyner: Even though you sang ‘Hey There Deliliah’ (I just got this freaking song out of my head after all the Hollywood Week performances of it!), I liked this. You are very likable, your son is pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, and I liked the slower rhythm (could there be a harder word to spell?) of the song. I'm rooting for you, big time.

Kristen McNamara: There’s little I can say to expand on my notes from last night: “She was on Next Country Star or whatever. She is whiny and annoying. Your old hair was better – what are these bangs? I hate you. You're plastic and I feel like you're the most fake person in the world. Note how no one is dancing for her.” Pretty much sums it up. Goodbye.

Nathaniel Marshall: For some reason, he elected to sing Meatloaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything for Love,’ a song half the people watching associate with a Dr. Pepper commercial, so that’s an interesting choice. Listen, you’re better than I wanted you to be, but, on behalf of all the flamboyant, tattooed, prone to drama boys I've ever known, I'm insulted by your headband and your dancing. (Speaking of headbands: RANDY. For the love of GOD. ‘Physical’ is by OLIVIA NEWTON-John, not Elton John. I cannot believe no one is correcting you on this!)

Felicia Barton: She’s the contestant who was called back after Joanna Pacitti was disqualified, and she stepped up, singing the second Alicia Keys song of the night. Even though she did nothing original with it, I think she did enough to earn a Wild Card berth from the judges. The highlight, however, was how thrilled Paula was that she was able to talk about “the universe” with someone (As in: "Felicia, isn't it funny how the universe works? You know? Everything happens for a reason.")

Scott MacIntyre: Even moreso than with Danny Gokey (he of the recently deceased wife), the judges are going to tiptoe around this contestant, who is blind. They can’t say anything about his outfit or hair, or encourage him to dance/have more stage presence, because he can’t see. On that note, I wonder if he is less nervous, because he can't see everyone? Is that a tacky question? The performance itself was pretty good, and you could almost feel the collective hope of the rest of the performing guys deflate.

Kendall Beard: She’s the other blonde one.

Jorge Nunez: It was just an Elton John kind of night. Paula & Kara had made him so paranoid about his accent, you could visibly see him concentrating – that left little room for an actual performance, but the vocal was good. I am forever grateful to Simon for pointing out that there is more than "American" accents in the world, and that Spanish performers can actually be - gasp! - successful! My second favorite Paula quote of the night: “God, I just want to squeeze you.”

Lil Rounds: Tonight’s Producer’s Pet played it pretty safe (She couldn’t be oblivious to the fact that she was performing last, a prime spot bestowed upon early favorites who have sailed through in the first 2 rounds.), but she blew all the other girls out of the water, no question. Trevor: Nice beat. Ashley: Nice dress.

Let’s make some predictions: I think Lil Rounds and Scott MacIntyre will snatch up the gender-specific slots. I’m really not sure about that last one, but I’m willing to bet it goes to Ju’not Joyner or Alex Wagner-Trugman, leaving it up to the judges to put Jorge Nunez, Felicia Barton, Nathaniel Marshall and maybe Von Smith through to the Wild Card round.

Praise be, by the end of this week, we’ll have our Top 12 and the competition can really heat up. Stay tuned for guest commentary and rules to the American Idol drinking game.

March 3, 2009

On their way in '09

The Oscars and Sundance are over, so it’s time to start really getting revved up for the year in movies. The industry has fully recovered from the strike, and the stream of releases will be steady. Some will look familiar (sequels, book adaptations, remakes). Some will sound familiar (Perhaps you’ve seen a romantic comedy before?). A few will even be all new. Over the next few days, I’ll be highlighting those I’m looking forward to, those I’m looking forward to hating on, and everything in between.

First up – what I really can’t wait for:
  • Sunshine Cleaning (March 27) – I cry at this preview every time. And then laugh out loud when Emily Blunt falls on the stained mattress. Heartwarming story about a quirky family, starring Amy Adams and featuring the totally underrated Steve Zahn? (I’m not even being sarcastic about that last part). Can’t wait.

  • 17 Again (April 17) – I have been waiting for this movie for almost 6 months now. I dare you to watch the preview and feel differently.

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 17) – This is a no brainer. Warner Brothers – the big meanies – pulled this from their 2008 schedule, because, due to the strike, they were missing a big summer blockbuster. The second to last book (for the movie versions, the 7th and final book is being divided in two), this one gets even darker, and is being directed by David Yates, who did the 'Order of the Phoenix.' I have a feeling it will be worth the wait.

  • Away We Go (June 5)– I hadn’t heard of this movie until this morning, and the plot description left me wanting: A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. But, it’s directed by Sam Mendes, stars John Krasinski and was written by…Dave Eggers?!? I’m there.

  • (500) Days of Summer (July 17) – Not even accounting for her acting choices, with an album produced by M. Ward, and an engagement to Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard, Zooey Deschanel has done a pretty good job at proving she deserves the title Indie It Girl, and this movie should further cement it. Considered one of the best films at Sundance, the “offbeat romantic comedy” pairs her with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is the first-time directorial effort of a well-regarded music video helmer (think Spike Jonze but in the 2000s).

  • All Good Things (July 24) – The cast includes Ryan Gosling, Frank Langella, Kirsten Dunst, Philip Baker Hall and…Kristen Wiig? It’s the first feature film from the documentarian who brought us ‘Capturing the Friedmans’, and because it’s from the studio who released ‘The Visitor’ and ‘Milk’ in 2008, I’d expect it to be an early Oscar favorite.

  • Nine (November 27) – This one I’m really curious about. It’s a musical from the director of ‘Chicago’ and stars Daniel Day-Lewis (He replaced Javier Bardem. About both of them, I say: He sings?), as a famous film director struggling to find harmony, professionally and personally, with the women around him. Those women include: Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Kate Hudson. For those of you keeping track at home, that would mean every single cast member, save Kate Hudson, is an Oscar winner. She’s needed to up her game for a long (long) time now – could this be a career reboot for her?
Come back tomorrow for more on what's coming in 2009, including movies I completely intend to ignore (Hint: I didn't see 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' the first time around.)

March 2, 2009

Man of the Month: March

Ever since Ashton Kutcher came on the scene (and I was annoyed because I thought he looked too much like Josh Hartnett and I didn’t see the point), our “relationship” has been a series of Hm-That’s-Unexpected moments that all add up to – that’s right! – Man of the Month. To be honest, I didn’t see this one coming. Special credit to Trevor for pointing out the crush that was right there staring me in the face.

See, I started following Mr. Demi Moore on Twitter last week (@aplusk), and, well, I’m kind of addicted – Could it be love? (He posted throughout the Oscars, including at the party that his wife threw, where he got his hands on Penelope Cruz's Oscar. I find something strangely adorable about this.)

He's earned this title. A rundown of the other unexpecteds that got us here:
  • During the heyday of ‘That 70s Show,’ I read that he had been, like, a biochemistry major at the University of Iowa before becoming an actor. I love crap like that. Like how Lisa Kudrow went to Vassar – would you ever expect that?
  • Wilmer Valderamma, Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson (who, sure, is a Scientologist, but the non-threatening, Beck kind) own a restaurant together. Aw. Furthermore, ‘That 70s Show’ was on for 8 years, with an ensemble cast of largely 20-somethings, none of whom protested their salary, got arrested, or was reported as being in some feud or another with a fellow cast member. I find this completely refreshing.
  • ‘Punk’d’ was a brilliant idea, and is kind of to thank for my love of Justin Timberlake. I never gave JT the time of day until his guitar got broken – and he was so upset he called his mom – on the prank-celebrities show.

  • He’s an assistant football coach at some LA high school, solely because he likes the sport and always wanted to coach. He interviewed for the job, attended football practice five times a week and everything.
  • He married Demi Moore. Let’s be honest – no one saw that coming.