Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympics Redux

Confession--I am sitting watching the Closing Ceremony as I type, but that's only because I want to see these ladies perform:
Maybe this is a post of confessions, because what I need to follow this up with is that I saw Spice World. In the theater. It was the dollar theater, and I saw it more as a joke, but I saw it, and I was entertained. I'm not ever super into the Closing Ceremony and The Spice Girls got me to watch, at least for a few minutes, so props to them.

Now, my thoughts on the Olympics this year. It can be summed up in saying that I loved them as I always do. But here are my more specific thoughts/commentary/what have you:

  • I get the bind that NBC is in with delaying televising the events. It doesn't really bug me all that much as what else can they do?  What really bugs me is that sites like MSN and everywhere else post results, just out there. Like what--you can't put Click Here for Olympic Results, and then have people do that without spoiling it?  I had to go to great lengths to not get the Phelps/Lochte results.
  • I thought NBC's coverage was okay. Yes, the 1 hour devoted to Phelps was annoying but other than that I really like the little life stories they show in between covering the events. I wouldn't say the coverage was amazing only in that it was a little routine. I mean, I can't image the Olympics without Bob Costas but it wouldn't hurt to jazz it up a little. And Ryan Seacrest didn't quite jazz it up enough. He was fine, he just felt like Bob Costas--though I might say as a Seacrest fan that speaks to his versatility.  (My suggestion: Add a sideline reporter ala Erin Andrews. It would bring a different feel. My dad suggested someone funny like Kenny Mayne.  I think both are good.)  
  • Favorite parents:  I think my favorite parents are gymnast Aly Raisman's. I appreciated how nervous they got. And that I think her dad looks like David Strathairn, who I happen to love (River Wild or Sneakers, anyone?).

  • Sad moments:  I feel bad when people don't medal. Like when Tyson Gay didn't medal, Jordan Wieber didn't make the all-around, and the US men's gymnasts especially Jon Orozco. I just hate stuff like that. 
  • British moments:  I loved when Brits had their moments. My favorites were British men getting the Bronze in gymnastics, and Andy Murray winning Gold.
  • Speaking of medals, I don't like that it's all about winning the Gold medal. Any medal is something to be proud of. Just being there is something to be proud of. I also don't like how the press treated some of the athletes. Gabby Douglas' hair and Ryan Lochte's mom saying he has one night stands (which he and she corrected but got less attention) shouldn't be the focus. As Olympic athletes, they should all be respected and treated better. 
  • Favorites of the games:  
    • Lochte. I've become a big Lochte fan--grill and all. And if you haven't watched this yet, watch it:
    • The Fab 5 gymnasts.  I like all of them but I think my favorite is McKayla Maroney--her "not impressed" picture kills me. 
    • Tyson Gay and Jon Orozco. 
    • Really all of the US swimmers--Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones, Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Beisel, Matt Grevers, literally all of them. 
    • Even Hope Solo has grown on me. Not to favorite status, but I like her a little more.
Basically I am excited for The Winter Olympics. And Rio. I like that most of the swimmers will be back. I predict now that some of the stories will be Lochte being 32 and Adrian and Franklin. And last confession of the night: I realized I like swimming so much I'm going to start watching it more in between Olympics.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

NY Med

My life this past week has basically been spent staying up late every night to watch the Olympics. I'm taking a break tonight as while I like Michael Phelps I didn't want to watch a one hour special on him in the middle of prime-time when they could have shown, I don't know, any other event. I will be doing an Olympic recap at the end but overall can say that I have enjoyed it.

Because of the Olympic watching I'm one week behind on a show that I really enjoy:

NY Med is a documentary tv series set in a few New York City hospitals that runs for like 8 episodes.  Each episode focuses on a few cases and you get to know the doctors and nurses of the hospitals.

Four years ago ABC started this with the series Hopkins (which took place at Johns Hopkins), then followed it up two years ago with Boston Med (in Boston hospitals), and now this.  I've loved all of them. This season is interesting in that Dr. Oz (as in Oprah) is on it. I actually don't like this aspect as much just in that some of it focuses on him being famous, though I've had some friends say they like it because you get to see him actually be a doctor. He isn't in that much of it either way. I'm not exactly sure why--it might be Dr. Oz or it might have been that Boston had really likable doctors and nurses to follow--but for whatever reason at this point Boston Med has been my favorite.  Either way I'm enjoying NY Med and will be sad when it is over.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm Feeling Very Olympic Today

I love the Olympics. I mean, really love them. This was instilled in me by my parents as we would watch them, my first memory of watching them being the 1984 Olympics in LA. When it was announced that the Winter Olympics were coming to Salt Lake, I had friends call to congratulate me as it meant that I could actually go. When the individual tickets for Salt Lake went for sale, I sat on the phone hitting redial over and over to get a ticket, which I ended up getting to ski jumping. Now this is where the story gets a little sad.  I flew down to Salt Lake from Washington State, only to have ski jumping be rescheduled due to weather. Unfortunately for me, it was rescheduled for AFTER I flew back, so I never got to see it. The bright note was that my sister and some friends and I sat outside the Opening Ceremony in a kind of obscure place and got to see the parade of nations, so that was cool. But yes, my quest to see the Olympics continues.

With that in mind, I am very excited for Friday when the Olympics start. In honor of that, here are some of my favorite Olympic moments from both the Winter and Summer Olympics. (Last night they did a top 30 best Olympics moments on NBC, which I DVR'd but have yet to watch. I'm sure that I am missing some but these are the top 5 off of the top of my head.)

5. Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board--and still winning the gold.
I don't get as into watching diving anymore. But back when he was competing, I would watch. And this was amazing.

4.  Dan Jansen finally winning the Gold Medal
After his sister dying and all the mistakes and then him finally winning in the race that wasn't his best--it was fabulous. I'm still think it's sad that he and his wife ended up getting divorced. 

3.  Figure Skating

I love watching figure skating. In fact, if I had to choose only one event to be able to watch, this would be it. I watch all of it. I could have picked any number of years to show....if I could have found a cool picture of Oksana Baiul doing that cool spin, I would have put that one. In the end, I'm putting the most recent. I loved that Evan Lysacek one, and that Joanne Rochette, the French-Canadian skater whose mom died before she skated, got the bronze.  When Scott Hamilton is crying while commentating, you know it's a good Olympic moment.

2.  Michael Phelps
I had three favorite Phelps races from last Olympics.  The relay where Jason Lezak came from behind to win, the one where Phelps beat the guy by a fingertip, and the last race to win his 8th. I was at a party with some friends, and we actually left the party to be able to watch Phelps race that last one. 

1.  The Kerri Strug vault
I worked as a cashier at Shopko at the time, so I missed this happening live because I was at work, but my family had recorded it for me. So when I got home we put in the VHS tape and watched the whole event culminating in that vault. And then watched it again a few other times. I still get excited when they show it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Brave: Be Careful What You Preview

In the preview for Brave, the latest Disney Pixar full length animated film, you see Princess Merida as a fiercely independent young girl being forced to host possible and acceptable suitors at a Scottish tournament. The preview reflects her independent desire to not be subject to 'games' for her hand - when she herself would rather participate with her amazing archery skills, than sit idly by and clap.  By the end of the preview, it isn't clear what the picture is about - but it seems like it is another Princess movie about ending up 'happily ever after' -which would include a Prince (albeit one that accepts and understands her independence).  After enjoying Disneys last triumph, Tangled, so much I was excited to see it.

The movie isn't about what the preview leads you to believe.  AT. ALL.  Well, yes, Princess Merida is faced with a tournament to win her hand - but that is just a springboard for a fable about mothers and daughters.  One that can get far too scary for the 8 and under type.  The fable involves magic, a witch and transformation...and scary moments with a bear - and oddly - far too many bare animated behinds (is there such thing as just enough cartoon butt?  I say one is too many - and this one had several).  The dialogue is old fashion story-telling  - not the quippy comedic dialogue that entertains both Adult and child we have become accustom to in the animated features in recent years.  The tale is not a bad one, just a weird one and definitely an unexpected one.  It was too scary for several of the tots I went with and I was a little bored.

Brave is an animation amazement.  Scotland looks amazing...and Merida's red hair has a personality and life all its own.  The voices are great - its fun to have them all be Scottish.  And its always fun to listen for John Ratzenberger (who has voiced at least 1 character in all of  Pixars full length animated features) - and he was in there.  But, all in all - I felt let down. I did not feel particularly inspired by the story. I really do like the unexpected - and in theory should love the fact that this is not a typical princess  'happily ever after', but I don't.  In fact, I missed the Prince.  I wanted the story to take a more traditional turn after all the weird magic fable stuff.  I really wanted her to find a fantastically independent Scottish Prince AND make peace with her mother.  But, alas it was not meant to be and after all the hype - this is really not the picture the preview hints that it is. 

See it before taking your young ones.  Sadly, Red Box this baby.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman "Casts" an Enticing Web

I read a review on Rotten Tomatoes that started: "Spiderman goes all cutesy-pants on us" (Bob Grimm) - True. He meant it as a bad thing.  I think its a good thing.  In fact, cutesy-pants(a less frivolous term may be endearing) is probably why I loved it.

I love Andrew Garfield.  I love Emma Stone.  I love Martin Sheen.  I love Rhys Ifans.  I love Sally Field.  And I have come to love Denis Leary.  I also love C Thomas Howell and Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, who have smaller roles in this one - yet I was still so happy to see them. The cast of Spiderman is a perfect mix of players for me.  I really enjoyed this movie.  The story is typical spiderman fare.  I'm not familiar at all with the comic book or the 'real' spiderman story - is Gwen Stacy part of that story?  I thought Mary Jane was his counterpart.  Not that it matters.  Andrew Garfield is funny, empathetic, angry - perfectly simmering and he has great chemistry with real life love Emma Stone.  There is something so soothing in Martin Sheens voice - I find him to be a really great choice for Uncle Ben.    The point is - I really love this cast.  This cast made me love Spiderman.  Great storytelling, great acting.  First time I actually felt this story.  Though the story was not strikingly different than the retells before it - it had a different villian and I just really, really enjoyed it more.  More emotional - I like it! This cast plus the amazing CGI effects in this movie - wowza- made this an unexpectedly enjoyable and enticing movie experience. 

Here's to cutesy-pants Andrew Garfield and this lovable cast!  Full price.  Big Screen.  Check and go to the showing in the biggest theater with the most upgraded sound.  Summer Movie Delight.

PS - couldn't do the typical movie poster pic - had to get the cast hi-lighted!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Movie moods: Rock of Ages and Battleship

A lot of things can affect my experience watching a movie and can oft times color my opinion of the films.  Sometimes - if there are physical distractions - the theater is hot or loud - other people are obnoxious - the film gets interrupted - you are watching at home and fall asleep...etc can all be determining factors on how or if the movie is enjoyed.  For me - if I walk into a movie in a particular bad or funky or sad or disappointed mood - the movie has an uphill battle to impress me - and I usually find myself distracted or hyper-critical.  My movie moods sometimes have caused me to not enjoy otherwise enjoyable films - all because my tempermant was off.  But, I LOVE movies - and am always willing to think it through and give many flicks a second chance.  Mood and outside circumstances greatly affected my viewing of these two movies.

Rock of Ages: Not for Me

Movie Mood:  I was out of town.  I went with my little brother.  The theater itself was not crowded and actually awesome.  I was in the desert where it was hot and had been really hot, but then went into a really cold theater...and was freezing.

My overall reaction to this movie is a general sense of ick.  It felt more rated R to me than PG-13 - mostly because my little brother was with me and I felt sensitive to every strip club scene and over-the-top-exposed-tongue-makeout -scene.  I felt a little bit like I thought I was taking my little brother to a hamburger joint - but found out after we had ordered that it was actually a strip club.  I'm fully aware that I was overly sensitive to these things - because of my movie mood. 

That said - wow - this show was a train wreck.  Adam Shankman, known by most as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, directed this  and also previously directed the movie-musical Hairspray.  In Hairspray - the numbers are intended to be amped up and shiny - high energy and big smiles.  It seems he encouraged the same kind of amping up in Rock  of Ages - but the material - sex, drugs, rock n roll - 80s -didn't lend itself to amping up to this degree or in the unintentionally shiny way it was intensified.  It made the show feel campy instead of sincere - but perhaps that was the point. And while most of the cast amped up 100% - Catherine Zeta Jones amped up 1000% - playing an overly intense politicians wife with an agenda to rid the city of its Rock 'n Roll center - the Bourbon Club owned by Alec Baldwin.   Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand run this club where Stacy Jaxx (Tom Cruise) started his career and returns to play. 

Baldwin and Brand fully surrender to the ridiculousness of their moronic characters and this silly show.  And when they sing "I can't fight this feeling" to each other and Alec Baldwin was twirling Russell Brand on an empty disco floor - I was impressed with their commitment to the comedy and laughed outloud.  I was sad to see Mia Michaels did the choreography - who is amazing on SYTYCD - I really didn't enjoy her work in this - mostly because of that overly amped up feeling of the whole movie. Hit Me With Your Best Shot was particularly troublesome and cheesey over-the-top and over literal.   I like Julianne Hough on Dancing With The Stars - in this...she's a great dancer...I really find her vacant in the acting department and adequate to decent in the singing department.  Diego Boneta is somewhat enjoyable for me - especially when they had him dressed ridiculously and joining a boy band.  I did a little bit love that this movie morally equated boy band-ery with stripping.  It is amusing to watch this talented and unexpected cast in the musical environment. At one point I leaned over and said to my little brother, "Is Paul Giamatti SINGING?" Tom Cruise is the most intense presense in the film, but I felt he was performing a master class in physical rock star movement.  In most scenes I was distracted by his specifically bent back and body - to appear stoned and aloof? He is the best thing in this film and did embody - the nuances of (I'm assuming) Axyl Rose.  Most of his singing was fine, but when his scenes turned particularly campy - in his scenes with Malin Ackerman, he lost some of that presence and decent singing ability.    

I will say that the movie does  have retro active effects on those of us who lived and enjoyed the big hair band - rock music of the 80s.  It does effectively conjur up fond memories of fun music - and I think that is the intent - to make us forget the story and enjoy the music and the flash of hideous clothing and characters from long ago.  I did enjoy seeing a group of protesting rockers that included Debbie(Fine, Deborah) Gibson (Sorry - she will always be Debbie to me) Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon) and Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger).  Also fun to see Constantine Maroulis, who received a Tony nomination for the Diego Boneta part in the stage show - in a brief cameo.  Go American Idol!   I know we are supposed to be loving the return to cheese - but I just didn't. I was particularly affected by my movie mood on this one - and could not surrender to the silliness and the camp.  Because this is a movie version of a broadway/stage production - I think the adaptation was too literal and some of this campiness that I hated would probably work in a live production with moving scenery, a live band and a lesser known cast.  For some reason I was thinking this show would work on both stage and screen like The Wedding Singer did - and I love both the movie and stage productions of that show.  The stage show is more cheesey and yes, campy - but that genre really lends itself to it.  I think it must be easier to adapt from screen to stage than from stage to screen. 

I say wait til the edited version shows up on cable or listen to the the 30 seconds snippets from the soundtrack on iTunes for free. 


Movie Mood:  Saw this late at night at the dollar movie.  My mood was tired and a little uncomfortable.  I walked in not super excited to see this - but (with Rachel) felt the need to support my Friday Night Lights friends - Peter Berg, Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons

Immediately following this movie - I had only negative things to say about it - It felt long - aliens, snoozefest of an action movie?! But, when I sat down and thought about writing this - I think I really liked this one.  I loved its use of and hi-light of the Navy.  Taylor Kitsch is great...Liam Neeson is great.  Even Rihanna - great.  Jesse Plemons - funny. And I am always delighted to see Hamish Linklater anywhere - and found him to be his usual dry and perfectly sarcastic funny self. I love the relationship between the Japanese ship and the main ship and their commanding officers. It is a clever way to bring the Hasbro game to life.  The story mostly made sense even though it included aliens.  I love the real life touches -  specifically real life war hero Lieutenant Gregory D Gadstone - a double amputee.  He was amazing.  Purposefully loud and flashy and big, it is a great film for what it is intended to be - action adventure summer movie fare. My movie mood totally threw me off on this one - and my tiredness and less desirable locale (though great company) made me struggle through it a little - unnecessarily so. 

I say - dollar movie is great for this one - if you miss it at the dollars - definitely red box it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yes!: People Like Us

I don't want to say too much about this film - because I just want you to go enjoy it, especially if you have siblings.  I thought so much about my brothers and sisters while I watched this film, about the bond we share and why.  I was in a great mood going into this movie - having snuck away from work in the middle of the day  - exhausted and eager to be anywhere else.  I was ready to escape and I did.  I escaped into the great performances by Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde and the amazing, young Michael Hall D'Addario.  I love the subtle, retro quiet look of this film, the direction, the story.  I really did fall in love with this film.  All I can say is Go See It!  Pay full price.  See it with your siblings, if you can.  Or maybe you will just want to call and say hi afterward.


PS- Chris Pine is really pretty.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Writers Revisted: Bunheads and The Newsroom

 I love words.  I am particularly invested in pop culture writing and have some favorite writers.  Aaron Sorkin is by far my favorite TV/Movie/Play writer.  BY FAR.  He writes a lot of words, a lot of conversation - all of it with a certain rhythm that is identifiable solely to him.  Sports Night, in my mind, is the best show that has ever been on television.  West Wing is in the top few.  And I don't know what everyone was complaining about, I loved Studio 60 on the Sunset StripThe American President stands as one of my all time favorite movies - and I usually cry at the end.  A Few Good Men, Social Network and Moneyball are also favorites.  All Sorkin.  All Beloved.  Amy Sherman-Palladino also writes a lot of words - with her own, different rhythm.  And while I do not have a Sorkin-sized love for her (The Return of Jezebel James - just didn't work) - Gilmore Girls is probably in my top 15 series ever on TV.  I have watched the entire series multiple times - and I still DVR it every day on ABC Family and rewatch  - I like to put these shows wth a lot of words on to listen to in the background whilst I'm doing anything mundane - cleaning, paying bills, organizing - etc.  The rhythm of all the conversation keeps my mind occupied - and I enjoy this.  So, I know all of these TV programs well.  Really well.  I could probably quote entire monologues of both Gilmore Girls and Sports Night if I tried.

All of this said - Aaron Sorkin(AS) and Amy Sherman-Palladino(ASP) introduced new series this month.  I was excited to watch both. 


 Set in a (another?) small town called Paradise, the premise has Sutton Fosters Michelle, a classically trained dancer, wasting away as a Vegas showgirl.  She marries a man on a whim just to change up her life.  She arrives in 'Paradise' only to find that the man she married still lives with  his mother (the amazing Kelly Bishop) and runs and owns a dance studio.  Spoiler Alert - in the first episode - Michelles husband dies in car crash - and she inherits  the home, dance studio, frustrated mother-in-law and the on looking ballet students.  These ballet students are  not fully formed characters,  They are being revealed slowly - but I honestly couldn't tell you one of their names. 

 In many ways Paradise is very akin to Stars Hollow.  Both small towns with lots of quirky residents and a place where everyone knows everything about each other.    I really can't watch Mr. Mitchum Huntzberger (Gregg Henry) as a hippie bar owner.  Weird.  I understand that Sean Gunn is soon to guest star - who played the quirkiest and weirdest of the Stars Hollow residences on Gilmore Girls and hasn't done anything since - so I feel a worry about what they will do with him. And while I would really watch Kelly Bishop do ANYTHING - her character on this show is VERY similar to Emily Gilmore.  Its like running into Emily's cousin, Fanny Flowers and being entertained by how like my good friend Emily she is.  Sutton Foster is one of my all time favorite broadway stars and voices - and she just won a Tony for her amazing dancing and singing in Anything Goes in 2011.  In my mind - this is perfect casting for this role.  Perhaps it was the story - but initially I wasn't in love with her.  In fact, for a moment, I just wondered if only Lauren Graham could achieve the expert level in ASP dialogue delivery.  But, after three episodes - I have been charmed.  She is much, much drier in her delivery than the GGs - but it works - especially now in the series - where the whole town (and us viewers) are watching her to find out what she will do next with her new found inheritance.  She is the odd man out in this small town - and she, with us, is taking in all the nuances of Paradise.  She isn't quite sure what to think.  Well, the viewers aren't sure what to make of it either.  I'm sticking it out for awhile with this one.  It is really like the whole show is GGs long lost cousin and I really am entertained by continually noting how akin to my dear Stars Hollow friends they are. Here's the thing, I really, really, really want to love this show, but as of yet I really don't. Because of my sheer love for ASP, Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop - I'm still watching, but the jury is still out.  I say if you liked Gilmore Girls, you will like this.

The Newsroom

If Bunheads and Gilmore Girls are cousins, The Newsroom and Sports Night are siblings...fraternal twins maybe...or perhaps if The West Wing and Sports Night had a love child, it would be The Newsroom.    What I like about the AS world is- his characters are noble and are giving angrily righteous speeches right and left about how things are and how they need to be better. His shows are always about a team of smart people - who are flawed but who are united in trying to do their best and champion the causes. I'm not always personally in favor of said causes or the politics - but I really like the idealistic notion of coming together and working it out and trying to do better.  There just isn't enough of that kind of carry through and support these days. Idealistic of me - yes, I know. Because at the end of the day in Sorkinland - everybody does make it better, makes the right choice and nobility and honor reign.   The Newsroom fits succinctly in this Aaron Sorkin world. 

The show is set in the newsroom (go figure!) of News Night, a cable newshow.  The series starts with an uprising and exit of most of the crew of News Night as its anchor, Will McAvoy (the perfectly cast Jeff Daniels) is understood to have 'sold out' to ratings - and is considered arrogant, unappreciative and an all around tool.  The head of the news division, Charlie Skinner (the amazing Sam Waterson) decides to fix whats broken and calls in Wills Ex MacKenzie MacHale (standout and amazing Emily Mortimer) to rebuild his show  (and Wills idealism) after the mass exodus of the unhappy crew.

Aaron Sorkins world has always been an idealistic one and a hyper - articulate one - both of which I enjoy and enjoy here...even if the critical masses tend to frown on both.  Emily Mortimer's British accent brings a different rhythm to the very specific and rhythmic Aaron Sorkin writing - it took me a minute - but I really like it and her.   Some of the references are dated - 'Punjab?' Really?  It may have been believable in 1998 (When Sports Night was on) that the brilliant producer MacKenzie would be confused by how to work e-mail - but its just not today.  Even their background 'newsroom talk' is filled with old references (I understand they are mispronouncing one of the acronyms for sound editing?) - All of these things present an air of regergitation.  Its as if AS did not update his research for this show and just pull out his old Sports Night file and said "I know how a news room works!"

This show is Sports Night...with an edge and a more serious tone - speckled with the politics and general feel  (and almost identical opening credits and main title/music) of The West Wing .  There are so many similarities I can not count.  Charlie Skinner is Isaac Jaffe.  MacKenzie MacHale is Dana Whitaker.  Maggie is Natalie and Jim is Jeremy with a hint of Leo McGarry.   Will is a grumpy combination of both Dan Rydell and Casey McCall with a dash of Toby Ziegler.  Neal is Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn all wrapped up together (Isaac, Dana, Natalie, Jeremy, Dan and Casey = Sports Night Toby, Leo, Josh, Sam = West Wing).  Is Sorkin only capable of writing this mix of characters for TV, only these specific voices?  How many times can these characters be reincarnated?  This should bug me, but it doesn't. The only thing negative about this for me - who is sooo familiar with AS work that every familiar/rehashed plot point, character and line is that it  has caused me to directly compare the actors in the similar roles.  I am loving Emily Mortimer - but Felicity Huffman really did a pitch-perfect job playing the brilliant-professionally -  yet flighty, daffy and not-quite-together personally EP.  Robert Guillaume versus Sam Waterson?  Yikes!  Its hard not to compare.  Nevertheless, I'm not complaining.  While I understand the critics - and I do see that there is probably a better - more updated - more researched  - less preachy show lurking beneath, it feels like the best kind of familiar - an old friend got a face lift - is a little more life worn - but is back and regularly stopping by to visit.  Aside from the fact that HBO clearly told them to amp up the edgy factor...and I'd like them to clean up their language - I'm happy to have them all over.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kardashian Preferences

My sister had a baby a few weeks ago, and I stayed with her for a few days. Having a newborn allowed for some TV watching of the best (and most random) kind... The Golden Girls at 1am, Princess Diaries 2, and a Keeping Up with the Kardashians marathon. Watching the Kardashians marathon helped solidify what I have thought for many months now, which is that I have favorite- and least-favorite Kardashians.  I'm not going to take the time to rank order all of them for many reasons, the least of which is that I don't spend that much time thinking about them to know that. But I do have my least favorite and top 3, so here they are:  

Least Favorite:  Kris Jenner.  I can give the woman props for making a whole lot of money for her family. But I also find the whole thing to be slightly disturbing, especially seeing the two youngest girls on TV and out there as they are. She reminds me of Jessica Simpson's dad Joe, and that's not a compliment. She's also all over the place emotionally on the show. (And yes, I get that this all sounds a little hypocritical as I watch the show sometimes.) 

3rd Favorite:  Rob Kardashian. I will say that Khloe and Lamar were both in the running for this coveted spot, but Rob ultimately took it. He manages to let all of the craziness around him roll off his back most of the time. Plus, I liked him on DWTS.

2nd Favorite: Kourtney Kardashian. She seems the most real to me, even with the contrived situations that they have on the show.  She also seems to be the most even keel, and she's not as blunt as Khloe.

Favorite: Scott Disick

Scott is by far my favorite. He is the funniest (we watched when he tries to be Ryan Gosling from The Notebook and I laughed out loud) and will do crazy things and still be likable. He's come a long way from his alcohol days, and I'm glad because for me he makes the show entertaining.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One for the Money--A Bad Movie

I like several Katherine Heigl movies, quite a bit in fact (27 Dresses and Life or Something Like It). One for the Money is not one of those movies. In fact, it is far from it. I saw it many weeks ago, in the theater. Now, I had read reviews that were not favorable and so the only reason that I saw it was because it was at the dollar theater and I had a gift card, which made it free. I was glad that I didn't spend money on it as it falls into a category that fits just that--see on cable only.

What made it so bad?  Katherine was not good in it.  She should have had a New Jersey accent and instead mostly had no accent with a hint of something in and out. The plot wasn't good. It just wasn't well made. Following the movie my friends and I had a discussion of the worst movies that we have ever seen. It didn't make the list but prompted the discussion, which should say something. The bright spot was Sherri Shepherd, who I happen to really like and was funny in it.  In deciding whether I suggest to never watch it or not, she pushed it to the cable movie.

One for the Money:  Cable Movie

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Bachelor and Bachelorette Cycle

I have discovered that I have a little cycle that I go through with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. It goes something like this:  I watch and enjoy a season of one of the shows (examples:  Andrew Firestone, Andy Baldwin). I then decide to watch one of the next seasons, and sometimes enjoy that. Eventually something happens that is either ridiculously dramatic (the Jason/Molly/Melissa debacle) or that I think is stupid (Jillian choosing Ed over Reid). At that point I will usually say I'm not watching this show anymore. If I haven't gone that far, they put someone in as The Bachelor who helps me choose not to watch (Jake Pavelka or the most recent Bachelor, Ben).  But then the summer happens, and there is no new tv on. If The Bachelor or Bachelorette seem at all likable, I end up watching.  And the cycle begins again.

I'm currently at the summer watching point of the cycle.  Truth be told, I'm kind of enjoying it.   Emily is likable enough and there are at least a few guys that seem datable so it has kept me watching. I do think that it is a little odd how much they show her daughter on the show, and as always there are some very strange guys. But once again, I continue to watch. 

I'm currently rooting for Jef. He's likable. And as a Utahan I'd like to add that it's nice to have someone from Utah on who is not the season's villain. I'll enjoy it until it annoys me and I take another hiatus.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Reading Thus Far

I like most books that I read.  Sometimes I find a book that I can't put down, sometimes one that I finish but would say is "blah", and occasionally find one that due to boredom or content I stop reading. But overall I would say that I enjoy most of them. As a result, I won't be rating books here. I'll point out if one fits into a category other than I liked it, and if I'm talking about a few of them, I'll pick my favorite.

So here's what I've read this past month:

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly--This was my first Bill O'Reilly book experience. I get that it isn't the typical Bill O'Reilly book.  Regardless, I really liked it. It focused on the two weeks leading up to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the few days after that. It was nicely written so that I learned a lot and it still kept my attention. He is writing a book called Killing Kennedy and I plan to read that now, too.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby--This is a book about a man who had a stroke and has something called locked-in syndrome where he was only able to blink his left eye (no talking or anything).  He has since passed away though prior to this wrote the book by blinking his eye. It was beautifully written and somehow managed to be uplifting.

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline--I get ideas of books to read primarily from family and friends, magazines, or browsing in stores including Target. This was on the popular reading for awhile so I read it. It's about a woman who adopts a baby to find out that he was basically the boy on the milk carton. This was a "blah" book for me. I finished it and it was fine but nothing spectacular.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley--I really liked this book. It's about an 11 year old girl who works to solve a mystery to help clear her father in a murder investigation. It was entertaining, sweet, I laughed, and I stayed up reading it to see what happened next.

Ali in Wonderland: and Other Tall Tales by Ali Wentworth--This is a book of stories from Ali Wentworth's life. Her parents were involved in politics, she was on In Living Color and Oprah, she's married to George Stephenopolous. She has interesting stories to tell. And I love George S--and his book--so I enjoyed hearing about things like how they met and their marriage. It was well written and funny. Another like.

So not bad for the start of summer reading. I enjoyed most of them, but if I have to pick a favorite (which I'm making myself do), I pick this one:

It's just a nice little story, unique and well written. People should read it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jimmy Fallon and "Call Me Maybe"

i need to say from the start that i love jimmy fallon.
loved him on snl, loved him hosting the emmys, love his show, and (as a red sox fan) loved fever pitch.
he does great stuff on his show about current pop culture stuff. and it's funny.
see the history of rap, whip my hair, charlie sheen winning, and slow jam the news as examples.
here's one of his latest--singing with carly rae jepson.
it's obviously not a review of anything.
just something pop culture to enjoy.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tony Award Watch: For the Love of Jeremy Jordan

This tony awards are on tomorrow.  I love the Tonys as its the outside-NYC-worlds opportunity to glimpse Broadway in full, and oft times, fantastic performances.  Big name stars have taken to Broadway and break out singers are discovered.  The show is always funny and is being hosted again this year by Neil Patrick Harris. He is the host with the award show host extraorinaire.  But, my favorite Tony host will always be Hugh Jackman and last years 'host off' between the two  (Harris and Jackman) of 'Anything you can do I can do better" was hilariously fun!

This year I feel I have less investment in any of the nominated shows than ever before - Last year was the year of The Book of Mormon (too much to say - not enough hours in the day to tackle this topic).  This year - seems more broad - less specific.  Save one show:  Newsies.  Who doesn't love this Christina Bale classic film?  I love that they made this in to a musical - I would love, love, love to see it.  I can't believe it took them so long.  Jeremy Jordan plays the Christian Bale - lead role from the film and is nominated for a Tony for it.  I'm pulling for him here's why:

1.  His name.  Jeremy Jordan has some amazing namesakes.  A porn star...and a mid-90s pop star that I fondly remember singing 'Right Kind of Love" over the end credits of Beverly Hills, 90210 one season. Love that this Tony nomination has given him the celebrity edge in the most famous Jeremy Jordan competition.

2.  His voice. Perhaps this should be number one.  Love the soundtrack, loved his performances I've seen on talk shows with this Newsies company.

3.  Joyful Noise.  I just watched this stinky, stinkety, stinker this week - not realizing he was in it.  Oh, boy did I hate this movie.  Cloying and intent on ruining some perfectly good pop songs, this movie felt incredibly long and Dolly Partons fitted choir robes were the topic of discussion for most of it.  The one saving grace: Jeremy Jordan.  You would think among Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, that his vocals and acting performances would not be noteworthy - but they were.  If he can rise about this material and shine - he is a star.

4.  Newsies.  What a great show.  What a great idea to make this into a Broadway musical.  A win for him would mean more positive attention for the show and I'm all for that.

5. Bonnie and Clyde.  He actually starred as Clyde in the Tony nominated Bonnie and Clyde this season as well.  The show closed after only 30 days  - but it was still nominated for 2 awards.  So, he is doubly present in the nods this year.

I just reviewed the nominee list and there are a lot of big names up for Tonys: Audra McDonald, Stockard Channing, Cynthia Nixon, Linda Lavin, Judith Light and Andrew Garfield.  I'm pulling for Andrew Garfield or Christian Borle from Smash to take home their category.

I do so love the production that is the Tonys...and for the love of Jeremy Jordan - I really hope its his year.

Friday, June 8, 2012

MIB 3 aka Josh Brolin is fantasic

I saw Men in Black 3. I enjoyed the other two movies and this one fit right along with the other two.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones make for a great pair. Emma Thompson was funny in the 5 minutes she was in it. There were plot holes and other things but overall it was entertaining. A nice, popcorn summer movie.

What stood out is Josh Brolin. He was excellent as a young Tommy Lee Jones. From his voice to mannerisms, it was impressive. The movie seemed to pick up energy once he was on-screen. Don't get me wrong--he was very good in True Grit. And, of course, Goonies. I just never realized how good he really is. It's worth seeing this movie just to see him.

Men in Black 3:  Dollar Movie

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Movie Doppelgangers - A List

What is the deal with all the movie pairs - 2 movies out within a year with essentially the same or very similar plot or theme.  When I began to think about these two Snow White stories (review below) - I started making a list of all the movies with a doppleganger.  The question is which is the real deal and which one is a copy.  I think I have concluded that one can always be deemed to be better and one will always be an inferior copycat.  Though, sometimes - its a pretty close call.  I'm sharing my list - it got kind of long - as I got serious about it.    The real deal first - followed by its doppelganger.

1982:     Tootsie - Victor/Victoria - Best. Guy. In. Drag. Ever.
86/87:    Short Circuit - *batteries not included - Johnny 5
88/89:    Oliver & Company - All Dogs Go To Heaven - Billy Joel. Huey Lewis.
1989:     K-9 - Turner and Hooch - Sorry, Tom - saw K-9 on my first date - sentimental real deal
1989:     Like Father Like Son - Vice Versa - Dudley vs. Judge? 2 words: Kirk Cameron.
93/94:    Tombstone - Wyatt Earp - 134 mins
1995:     Rob Roy - Braveheart - Liam Neeson
1997:     Dante's Peak - Volcano - Remington Steele 007
97/98:    Prefontaine - Without Limits - Jordan Catalano
1998:     Armageddon - Deep Impact - Gazelle

1998:     A Bug's Life - Antz - Dave Foley. California Adventure.
98/99:    Saving Private Ryan - The Thin Red Line  - Steven Spielberg
98/99:    The Truman Show - EdTV - Good afternoon, Good evening and good night
01/02:    Treasure Planet - Titan AE - Disney
03/04:    Van Helsing - League of Extraordinary Gentleman - Wolverine! by hair over 007
03/04:    Finding Nemo - A Shark's Tale - Just keep swimming
2004:     Troy - Alexander - Sorry Jordan Catalano, Brad Pitt - Brad Pitt - Brad Pitt
2004:     Chasing Liberty - First Daughter - Matthew Goode. Jeremy Piven.
05/06:    Capote - Infamous - Phillip Seymore Hoffman
05/06:    Madagascar  - The Wild - You got to move it.  Move it.
05/06:    Sky High - Zoom - Kurt Russell. Linda Carter!

05/06:    Garden State - Elizabethtown - Sorry Cameron Crowe - I  love you, but JD killed it.
2006:     Open Season - Over the Hedge - Ashton Kutcher
2006:     The Prestige - The Illusionist - Wolverine vs Batman with Magic
2010:     Killers - Knight and Day - by a hair  - Tom sort of creeped me out
2011:     Friends with Benefits - No Strings Attached - JT. Flash mob.
2012:     Snow White and the Huntsman - Mirror Mirror - Close call - serious and earnest wins!

Why does this happen?  My guess is that plots get pitched to multiple studios and multiple studios green light the same ideas?  Its an intersesting phenom.  One I'm sure will continue.

What movies and their clones did I miss?

Mirror Mirror Vs Snow White and the Huntsman

Same story.  New twists.  Totally different approaches.  3 months apart. Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman may be telling the same story, but they are vastly different and weirdly have really, really opposite endings.   

Mirror Mirror:  Fun and family friendly.  Willfully silly.  Julia Roberts clearly having the time of her life as the Evil Queen - in funny, sarcastic - but not very sinister fashion. The sets are bare and sometimes obviously in studio - but the costumes are incredible, other wordly - so artistic and beautiful.  There is a scene where the queen is playing live action chess - with her 'subjects' and the costuming is divine!  Lily Collins is fresh faced and cute and ultimately adequate for this light fair.  Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane help bring the funny - but none seem to lend it any credibility.  It feels more like a made-for-TV movie - with a really great and winsome cast and some crazy artistic and amazing costumes.  I have no idea why but I kept thinking about the 1965 made for TV Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren mashed up with the 1997 version with Brandy and Victor Garber in comparison to this film...both TV movies. It takes a few liberties with the original story.  But a very literal adaptation with the Dwarfs - and Snow Whites presence among them.  On Rachels rating scale: Redbox this one with your kids.

Snow White and the Huntsman: A more dark and serious telling of Snow White.  Earnest in its creation of this world.  Visually stunning - with some incredible CGI - albeit - sometimes un-necessary.  Visual seems to be the priority - I have no idea why Charlize Therons magnificent Evil Queen needed to suddenly in silence take a milky white bath and emerge covered in some smooth white plaster like substance and stand there looking like a statue - but it looked really cool.  I also didn't know exactly why fairies needed to emerge from the bellies of birds - but it looked jarringly cool. All of the stuff with the Evil Queen was visually fantastic - and Charlize gives new meaning to the word sinister and is by far the best part of this movie.  There are so very many problems with this script - do I really need to know the back story on the Evil Queen - she was abused?  Am I supposed to understand her behavior, then? 

Kristen Stewart - is a little better than adequate for this material and is lovely as Snow White - but there was no real arc for her.  Yes, she teams up with the hunstman (the ever yummy Chris Hemsworth - wielding an axe instead of a hammer) - but he did not really train her.  He gave her a knife and 15 seconds of direction - no arc.  So,  how she emerged this strong warrior after being locked in tower all her life - is unknown.  Her speech in front of the people was not commanding nor the words inspiring or coherent, really.   I like the few twists and variances from the original fairy tale- but the end fell very flat. I like this view of Snow White and the Dwarfs.  I think there were actually 8 dwarfs in this film - mostly British actors shot to appear small - led by the fantastic Bob Hoskins  - but this Snow White was not about to do any cooking and cleaning nor tidying up of any kind. She is a warrior and a leader - and I generally like this outlook - if only the writing had supported the attitude and visuals  better - this would have been a great movie.  Instead its just a good one.  Its great on the big screen - see it at a matinee.

Casts both good.  Snow Whites both adequate.  Visuals in their own way both striking.  Both lacking.
Snow White and the Hunstman wins by a dwarf for its earnestness and general outlook and look, though the comedic Mirror Mirror is not terribly inferior - just incredibly different.

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Show - Two Views: Dancing With the Stars: All Stars

Rachel's View
 In general I'm a fan of All-Star reality TV shows. I think they're fun. I'm really a pro of the idea of DWTS All-Stars.  I think the potential is there for a great season.  What I'm really a pro of is the stars being re-paired with the pros they were with.

Here's why:

First and foremost is to see see the chemistry and camaraderie in the pairings. As my friend says, "You want to recreate the magic." And I guess that is true. I think a big part of the stars and show being so likable is due to relationships between the stars and their partners. It's a gamble to bring in the same stars and assume that that same rapport and chemistry will be there with another partner. You see it in the various seasons with pros--pros are more likable in some seasons based on who their partner is, what their partner brings out in them, and vice versa. Quite frankly, I don't want to find out what the relationship with a new partner would be. There have been a lot of great pairings, and I want to see those pairings again in All-Stars. Not all new ones. I'll see new ones the next time they bring on new stars.

Next, I'm a loyal person. I think it's weird for a viewer to have rooted, and possibly voted for, pairings, and then have those same people be split. Is it because I root for the pro?  This many seasons in I do have favorite pros (Maks and Tristan), but I don't just vote for a pro regardless of their partner (here's looking at you, Hope Solo). When you vote on-line you aren't just voting for the star--it's for the pairing. I think it will potentially be odd as a viewer. I think it could also potentially be odd for the pros and partners to not be working together, having spent so much time together previously and most likely having a strong bond as a result. That dynamic could throw off the vibe of the show. 

Finally, the show is about dancing.  For this season, I want to see the best dancing possible. You are going to see the best dancing in bringing together stars and pros who have danced together before. There is already a baseline both of having some dance experience and previously being partners. This will get the best dancing. 

Top 5 Dancers I want to return (factoring in that they will have the same pro, of course):  Gilles Marini, Mel B, Mario Lopez, Sabrina Bryan, and (this is a dream I know), Apollo Ohno.

Who I don't want to return:  Bristol Palin, Nicole Scherzinger

I am ultimately excited for DWTS All-Stars.  I will watch it even if they have all new pairings. And I will even watch if Bristol or Nicole is on.  

JED's View
 I am excited to have an All Stars version of this show - but I really don't think the All-Star celebs should be paired with their same DWTS pro.  File it under 'Been there. Done that."  There is typically an arc of growth and better dancing throughout each season that culminates with almost all the dances getting 3 10s or very near to it in the last few episodes.  If a contestant and their partner has reached perfection - I don't think it can be topped and creates far less of a challenge, far less interesting TV.  If the 'star' got eliminated unexpectedly early - that is another thing - if they haven't enjoyed the arc - I say it wasn't connecting and working anyway - because they got voted out early, so bring on someone different.  

There are obvious logistical hurdles in trying to pair the stars with their original dance pros - Mark Ballas, Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, Cheryl Burke, Kym Johnson, Maksim, Louis, Edyta, Tony... - each have danced with so many different partners across different seasons - that if they get 2 stars coming back that had the same pro - it just wouldn't be possible.  Also - there are some failed romances in the mix - that would just be a bad idea to bring together - Karina Smirnoff and Mario Lopez - Derek Hough Shannon Elizabeth...Reunited would NOT feel so good.

I also think that new pairings would make for better TV.  There is a curiosity about new matches - there is a reveal involved.  Was it the pro that made the celebrity good? Tricky choreography that hid the flaws of the celebrity? Or was the celebrity just a natural - and maybe the original pro should not get as much credit as they originally did.  There is something to not knowing how the chemistry will be - and if they really became good dancers or not.  It makes for a stronger more equal competition.  I thought for a bit that I might be in favor of having both options - some with their originals and some with the new pros - specifically to give new professionals a chance to be involved and to solve the logistical problems - but I'm not.  I don't think that would be fair to have some with the familiar pro and some not.  I want to see them all challenged.  I want to see them all on as equal footing as possible - and that means all new pairings. It will make for a good show and great TV.  And I do so love a good show.  New Star/Pro pairings, in my view: Its a MUST!

I had the hardest time - picking my 5 star wish list - so I have my list plus some honorable mentions.  My returning star wish list:  Kelly Osbourne, Stacy Keibler, Rob Kardashian, Mario Lopez and because she got voted out WAY too soon this season - Sherry Shepherd.  Honorable mention wish list: Evan Lycasek, Gilles Marini, Jennie Garth, Lisa Rinna, Joey Lawrence and because I just always wanted to see her with a taller pro - last seasons amazing Kathryn Jenkins

Please no: Nicole Scherzinger, Hines Ward, Brooke Burke, Shawn Johnson, or I'm sorry to say Jerry Rice.

PS: I just read Rachels view and list - and I have to say Mel B would make my Wish lists - I'm just not sure who I would bump to honorable mention.

PPS:  Whats your view?

Rating System and The Avengers

I need to explain how I rate movies. I don't do it by letters or by stars. I do it in terms of dollars and time.  The rating is as follows, from best to worst:  Full Price, Matinee, Dollar Movie, Redbox, Cable, Never.

Now that that is explained, I saw The Avengers.  And I loved it. It was a great all-around movie, and I was entertained from start to finish. I have never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any other Joss Whedon show, but I have to say that I am slightly intrigued at he wrote a good script. It was funny, well paced, the acting was good, and it was well cast. This even includes casting Scarlett Johansson, who sometimes drives me crazy, but in this did not do so.

There was one flaw for me, which I can forgive but is still a flaw. There was a plot hole involving The Hulk. (Spoiler Alert) You have The Hulk chasing Scarlett Johansson around, trying to kill her as he can't control himself as The Hulk. Then suddenly he is able to control himself, helping save the world and Iron Man. All it would have taken was a little scene where someone talks to Bruce Banner and helps guide him on how to channel that energy.

I was also sad about one other thing. It's not a flaw, it just makes me sad. (Spoiler Alert) Clark Gregg died in it. He's popped up in Iron Man and all those little movies and I was sad that he died. In fact, I specifically sent a text to a friend following seeing it that said, "Saw Avengers. Loved it. Sad Clark Gregg died."

The Avengers:  Full Price

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fix It: Duets

The original title of this post was Don't Duet! Which was my feeling after the first outing of what I thought to be a complete reality competition TV fail.  I'm not saying its a success after viewing its second offering - but I'm saying its fixable.  I had high hopes for it.  I mostly like the mentor/judges/celebrity dueters - whatever you want to call them.  I really love Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Nettles.  I can appreciate John Legend, but have never understood nor enjoyed Robin Thicke and his music. So, I was curious, interested and hopeful going in.

My first reactions in short- the judging system is terribly flawed and doesn't work, the established ground rules are unclear and  this show is not even trying to help amateur  unknown singers- just promote its Celebrities.  I've already detailed how much I dislike the over-celebrity promotion of the judges/mentors/whatevers on these shows - and I really like to see that each one has a purpose and can offer something that benefits someone other than themselves.  But, this show is set up as self-promotional in every way - when each musical number is announced - the host, Quddus (the fantastic, nicely human and best part of this series) - announces "Celebrity with their duet partner ________"  Which sums up one of the shows greatest flaws - it always puts the stars first - it in no way enhances the strengths of its contestants - and so far serves only to promote its celebrities.  Even the first week, where the contestants were forced to sing a hit of their celebrity - had an undermining effect on these contestants - as there was no way a worked up 'duet' version of (i.e.)Kelly Clarkson's Stronger is going to sound better than the bona fide hit itself---starring just Kelly Clarkson.  All of the numbers were far less enjoyable than the originals- save Robin Thickes.  Because I don't care for his style, his singing or songs - I thought his stuff was much improved by his duet partners- who both sounded better to me than him.  All this belly aching aside - there is hope for this show.  I am really enjoying the banter and interaction between the celebrities and the host. And I was happy to learn that not every week required songs by the mentoring celebrities - which served to help - but here is a short list of ways to REALLY fix this show.

1. Fix the scoring.  The non-performing three judges give each contestant a score out of 100 and the contestants are ranked after each performance.  There is no way I can be convinced that a celebrity mentor will not have a natural bias for their even though they don't vote for them - if they know they are in first place- they will be more conservative in their scoring with the other contestants.  Additionally 100 possible points gives way too broad a spectrum for there not to be problems.  I think Kelly Clarkson is the nicest of the bunch and consequently would naturally give the highest scores in when she is NOT voting (on her contestants) they are already at a disadvantage...and it showed in week 1 as her 2 contestants were the bottom 2 (though they were the most amateur of the bunch-more on that below).  Give the performing judge a score - that is equal to their highest score for any other contestant.  Or give the studio audience a 50% weigh in score.  Give the celebrities a scale of 1-8 to vote on. Have them rank everyone at the end.  Many options - just fix it.
2. Clearly establish the ground rules.  I think each judge looked for a different level of amateur - Kelly sought out the most amateur, Robin sought out the ones that most effectively went with his overall 'vibe'.  Jennifer Nettles went with the best singers she could find regardless of past recording contracts and John Legend sought singers who sounded best with him and sounded most like him.  Perhaps this is supposed to be the draw of it- how effectively can these celebs find contestants...but that is revealed in the first episode.  Kelly's 'diamonds in the rough' inexperienced amateurs can not compete with Jennifer's established singers nor John's mini-mes.  I think they need to have a group meeting on what to look for...if there is another year of this.  I like the fact that they didn't show audition rounds and they made each celebrity find contestants with no established way to do this- but I think some advising would help.  I get that leaving it in the judges hands makes it more like a competition for the judges - and The VOICE does this in some fashion - but still finds a somewhat equal level of talent to compete with.  Find amateurs - or find established singers who are merely unknown and use their celebrity to make them know.  I think the latter would work best - but ultimately uniformity in this regard would make for a more competitive environment.
3. Make the show about the contestants and not their duet stars.  Quit introducing the contestants as secondary.  Help the audience know their names.  Give the contestants more of a say in what they are singing.  (I know Jennifer Nettles picking "You're the one that I want" was unconventional and because J Rome is a natural performer - it worked and was a win - but, it did nothing to help him - it didn't show his range - and it wasn't at all the kind of artist he will be- but she sure looked and sounded like Olivia Newton-John and the duet really worked for her) I think it would be interesting if the celebrities had to sing a duet of the contestants choosing...and see how these 'stars' adapted to that - instead of the other way around.  Let the contestants shine - make it about them.
4. Change up the set.  The set with each celebrity having their own entourage lounge behind them for their contestants to sit in - is awkward- its just another way to show off the stars and make their contestants play second fiddle visually.  Its a weird Godfather-like set up.  Let the contestants stay off stage or sit on either side of the celebrity - equal to them.

It can be fixed.  Jennifer Nettles is awesome.  John Legend is wonderfully critical and I think right on the money with some of his comments.  Robin Thicke is a character and fun to watch - even if I don't like to hear him sing.  Kelly Clarkson is more sweet and silly than I expected...but still very likable. And it has Quddus as host - a human and interactive host - yay! Ultimately though, all I know of this show is its celebrities - I can only tell you the name of 1 contestant - J Rome - because its unique.  I need to see how this  can benefit the contestants.  Because right now, it doesn't.  Fix it, please.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Judging DWTS

A few friends and I have taken to judging Dancing with the Stars right along with the judges. Sometimes we agree (typically this season with Len), and many times we do not. We this season almost being over, we did a little judging of the show on our own.
                                   Jed                                       Koko                                 Rachel
Judges                          8                                            8                                          7
Stars                             7                                            7                                          8
Pros                              9                                            9                                          9
Outfits                           6                                           5                                          7 (for humor)
Dances                          8                                            7                                          8
Tom Bergeron              10                                          10                                        10
Brooke Burke               6                                             5                                         6
Spray Tans                   9                                              6                                          7
The Orchestra               9                                             7                                          8
Theme Nights               9                                             9                                          9
Overall Season             7                                             8                                          8

So overall a good season. Our consensus is more Tom and Len, less (or no) Brooke and Carrie Ann, and we love the pros, especially Tristan, Maks, and Peta Murgatroyd (who we feel might have one of the greatest last names ever). Though none of us know anything about dancing, we could be good replacement judges.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Basketball and The Voice

This week is the finale of The Voice. I confess that I have not been into Idol or any of the singing competition shows before so this is a first for me.  I was, in fact, one of the people who watched The Voice after the Super Bowl, was entertained, and kept watching.

A few weeks ago my brother wrote this on Facebook about the show:  "The Voice is a lot like March Madness. The first round is by far the most exciting with each round becoming less and less interesting." I'm pretty sure I hit the like button when I saw that he wrote this and did so for two reasons--1. it's funny and 2. it's true.  The most entertaining part of the show is when the Judges spin their chairs around. It's interesting to see the audition, which Judges turn around, who it's for, the bantering over which Judge should be picked, and then seeing who the singer picks.

What I have found is that while I agree with the statement, the show has still been interesting enough to keep me watching--even more so then happens with March Madness. I attribute this to many things...the singers themselves (I'm rooting for Tony Luca), the show format, Carson Daly (he's not quite Seacrest but he's quite good), and in particular, the judges. Adam and Blake alone are a reason to watch (see: the post below). CeeLo is quirky and I like him on it. And Christina--well, I don't think she's very likable (see: Tony Luca), and yet, it works for the show.

So the post-Super Bowl time slot got me to start watching the show, but the show is good enough to keep me watching. So good, in fact, that I'll be watching again next season. Well done, NBC.

The Voice Grade:  B+.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Judging the Judges

Whats the difference between a judge and a mentor?  How about a mentor, a judge and a team leader? A celebrity judge? A permanent judge? New Judge? Old Judge?  Fired Judge?  Hired Judge?  I have no idea.  When I sat down to write about reality TV judges, I came to realize how the role of judge (or mentor or whatever) has become a vast sea of different talent, purpose and intent.  The length of the list of names of current reality tv judges, past ones, ones from shows that aren't on any more - revolving chairs on ones that are - is astounding.  Reality TV judge has become a full-time casting gig. The bigger the paycheck, the bigger the name - all the producers trying to find the one name that draws the most viewers in the demo - by offering controversial, yet acceptable insite to the talent/task at hand.  I don't want to talk quantity of judges fame - I want to talk quality of judges of judging.

 Different shows want different things from the judges - Dancing With the Stars wants judging and scoring and knowledge of dancing.  The Voice wants big name, willing to perform and promote themselves and their 'team'.  American Idol wants someone to keep Randy company while enduring all those hours on the road weeding.  Project Runway wants someone with some sense - perferrably the fashion kind.  Top Chef requires someone with great taste...buds, and an expansive foodie vocabulary.  The Sing Off wants someone with a good ear to tell the viewers when 1 voice singing with 20 is off key.    X Factor wants someone who can make it seem like its not American Idol 2.0 - and who won't fight with Simon. Americas Got Talent wants...I'm actually not sure...someone who speaks, maybe?  That said - I've compiled a list of my favorites and why...past and present.  I did take into account the intent and expectations of the show they are one - but mostly - I just care about the judging.

********************************My Top 10*************************************

9/10. - Adam Levine & Blake Shelton, The Voice- This bromance works. They are both really good at what they do - great to watch perform and great to hear them talk about their profession. Adam is better for the male contestants than the women. And Blake is better for the women. Adam needs to connect to his team members - in order to offer his best insights. I think he doesn't like to navigate the world of emotional artistic women. He is plenty nice to them - but does better for the men. He bears Queen Christina's incessant critiques and constant fight picking well. He picks great songs and is a 'mentor' and a bonafide talent worth listening to. Blake judges on emotion - down home, southern - I-liked-all-ya'all- emotion. He's the only judge on this list to be an emotional judger. He's on this list because he is the yin to Adams yang. He does better with the women because he is supportive and by the end becomes the truest and most endearing fan of each of the members of his team. This really appeals to the women - even the women in the audience (we all want to be on his team!) His emotional conversation does little to help the male contestants - even the country ones. But, he still a favorite. He's so nice and so darn cute and buoys up his contestants in the best way to help them truly shine - so I just love him - how can I not?

8. Gail Simmons Top Chef -I love Gail in the same way that I love PR'sNina & Michael - for her strong, mostly not positive opinions of everything. She is a culinary expert and she knows it...and she shows it with every bite.

7. Kara Dioguardi, American Idol & ? - I don't think she is judging anywhere currently (and yes she still gets a place on this list) - she was judging a song writing competition - but I never saw it. She is still my favorite Idol judge to date - she knows about songs - and it was a great idea to have her judging singers. She is really qualified to do it. Not in the 'I used to be a pop artist - and I can dance - Paula Abdul' kind of way...but in a 'I write songs and look for people to sing them and I know what to look for' kind of way. I thought her critiques were most helpful. I miss her on Idol.

5/6. Nina Garcia & Michael Kors Project Runway- they aren't really a team and are often times not on Runway together or at all. But both are vocal about what they like and don't like and don't mind standing on their own to express it. I love when they really disagree. I love when they just tell designers how horrible their creations are. I mostly love that they know why something works (or doesn't) and they can totally back it up. Fashion and Style aren't exactly universally objective. So, it is helpful to hear Nina & Michaels firm, if not oft times catty, opinions.

4.Simon Cowell X Factor- I didn't fully appreciate Simon until he left Idol. I always thought he was too mean - and sometimes ridiculously so. Did he have to say it in such extremes? Awful. Dreadful. Horrible. I The guy is the original British curmudgeon. Grumpy, moody - but discerning. When he left Idol - there was no discerning voice - and America needs to be told whats what - when emotions are high. His arrogance seems staged on X-Factor. They amp it up. But, he still knows what he is talking about.

3.Nigel Lithgoe So You Think You Can Dance- I'm not sure if he's in this group because of his judging or because of his show. He has been the most consistent on the SYTYCD panel - he has endured all of Mary Murphy's screaming, is British (a seeming requirement for every show), has doubled as Executive Producer to Idol- all the while offering actual dance insight and appreciation. He is also the one to fill the revolving judges chairs on that panel - and I love him just a little bit more for this. Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Debbie Reynolds, Christina Applegate were great in their guest spots. I simply LOVE the revolving guest judge chair! The choreographers are great fill-ins on this panel. I just really like the whole lot of them. So - Nigel is number 3 - Nigel and his show and his panel, really all that is SYTYCD. (Except Mary Murphy's screaming and Tyce DiOrios smugness - those I could do without.)

2.Len Goodman Dancing With the Stars- One of the least notorious of the British curmudgeon judges, Len is the hardest to please, the least emotional (but he can get there) and is the most properly discerning dance judge on TV. He calls himself an old fuddy duddy - and his refusal to accept more modern versions of ballroom classic dance - proves that he is. But, DWTS is best served by this grumpy gus and his funny metaphors.

1.Ben Folds The Sing Off- He is by FAR, one of my favorite judges ever. He knows music so well, can identify what is good in a performance more specifically than anyone -and  he can be down right critical without being mean.  He may not be the most controversial judge - but I really think he can help in ways no one else can.  His immense communication and knowledge of music and structure make him an expert - and he's fun and funny too.  **Side note - I'm not judging these judges based on their 'real careers' clearly - Ben Folds is an amazing musician - who can't sing very well.  His performances are fun - but his singing is not good - and he sings every season.

In summation:  I like the British grumpy guys and the ones I think are actually experts in their field and who aren't JUST trying to jump start their 'real careers' or get in the limelight once again.  Excellent judging comes from knowledge not name.   There is a plethora of reality tv judges and more to come. What about the new mentors for this summers Duets?  I think Kelly Clarkson will be a fast favorite. Is it possible that Howard Sterns or Britney Spears could be good at this? They both seem more name than knowledge...and who else will X Factor pick?  I say go with someone who has something to say - not something to promote.

PS - The worst of the judges can be summed up in 2 words: Nicole Scherzinger.  More discussion on this and her worst of this field cohorts another day.