AI6 – Round of 20 – Men

American Idol logoIt was certainly a better week for the guys this week over last. I’m not sure there were any real show stoppers in the bunch, but it was still a giant leap forward, and showed that a lot of the contestants actually listened to the judges and chose better songs.

Just to pad the show out to a full hour and a half, they also included long video packages before each song in which the contestants dedicated their performance to someone special to them. In other words, lots of grandmothers, parents, etc. Very schmaltzy, and used well by some contestants to gather a few extra votes from the softies in the audience.

Phil Stacey dedicated his performance to the military. He went with “I Ain’t Missing You At All,” which sounded strong, even if it didn’t deviate much from the original. He had nice control and a good tone. And it scared me that after I wrote that down, Paula commented on his tone and Simon called him “a very good karaoke singer.” The judges and I agreed on a lot last night.

Jared Cotter dedicated his song to his parents. He went with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which I thought was very strong. He’s a good looking guy, and you could really tell that he “got” the song and put the right emotion into it. Strong performance. I thought Simon was going to give Jared grief over his face-grabbing move at the end of the song, but Randy beat him to it. Paula thought he might have tried too hard with the song.

A.J. Tabaldo went with his parents, too, and sang “Feelin’ Good.” I’m sure lots of people were bored with it, but I really liked the soft almost a capella opening to the song. It’s only when he got moving in the second half of the song that he lost his pitch once or twice. He ended on a very strong power note, but I’m not sure if it’ll be enough. Honestly, most of the guys were good last night. You need to do something to stand out and inspire votes. And that’s where our next performer has it in spades:

Sanjaya Malakar came out dressed up like a bad Michael Jackson impersonator, c. 1988. He went on to sing some old time song, “Stepping Out With My Baby.” It was horrible. His voice was weak throughout the song. He looked like a 10 year old in a talent show. Sanjaya just doesn’t know who he is yet. We don’t know who he is. And that’s going to kill his run in this competition eventually.

For now, he’s likely safe. He was so godawful that his fans will be voting up a storm. He inspired votes in the most devious way. No, he doesn’t deserve to move on, but that’s IDOL for you. . .

Oh, and lest I forget: crash and burn. Thanks.

Chris Sligh dedicated his song to his wife. And it’s clear that he married up. She’s really cute. He sang “Trouble” and sounded strong. I was worried that the song might have been too repetitive and boring at the beginning, but the judges sure enjoyed it. His ending sounded a little like Taylor Hicks, and that only was reinforced when Ryan pointed out that Taylor did the same song last year, though slightly differently. It fits his voice, obviously.

Nick Pedro went back to his more natural sound and did “Fever.” It was right in his wheelhouse and he did, indeed, make it his own. He didn’t get so adventurous that he went for the high notes, but he did good.

Even more fun, though, was his dedication. It was to his girlfriend. Never once did he use the word “love.” He circled all around it, talking about how special she was or how much she meant to him. He never said he loved her. He blew his dedication on a girlfriend that he’s not so sure he’s serious about. He’s toast with the voters.

Blake Lewis broke out the beat box, as I said last week that he would. He picked a good Jamiroquai song, “Virtual Insanity,” and did well with it. I thought it was a bit karaoke in one or two spots — as did Simon — but I think he was memorable and people will want to see him again next week. Randy then gushed over Jamiroquai, wondering if anyone in this country knows who they are. Don’t worry, Randy. We do. He’s the guy with the Dr. Seuss hat who liked to dance on people movers in his video, at the MTV Video Music Awards, etc.

Brandon Rogers went with “True Colors” “Time After Time” and just did not pull it off. I love the song, but they did so much more with it on ROCKSTAR: SUPERNOVA last year. This was a flat-sounding and pitchy performance that picked up in the second half only after it was too late. Even worse was his weak defense that he tried to put his heart into the song instead of trying to oversing it. That set Simon off. And when Brandon wished his father a happy birthday, Simon wished his mother a happy birthday in November. “And I love puppies,” he added. Simon was having none of Brandon last night. Very entertaining.

The judges were very chatty last night. I guess when you get to run off at the mouth without worrying about running overtime, you wind up with some very fun moments. That’ll change as we get to the live shows and the judges get cut off more often.

Chris Richardson still thinks he’s Justin Timberlake, but sang Jason Mraz’s “Geek In The Pink.” I don’t get the song at all. I couldn’t understand any of it. I didn’t recognize it. But the judges loved it.

Sundance Head wrapped things up on a strong note, dedicating “Mustang Sally” to his newborn sun, which is sure to pick him up a few extra votes. This is another excellent case of a contestant picking the right song. It’s in his range. It’s in the style the judges want to hear him sing. And he knocked it out of the park. Granted, he’s only one cheeseburger away from not finishing the song due to heart attack, but it was definitely his best performance last night. Timing is everything. He’s safe tonight.

Brandon and Sanjaya are the two who deserve to go, but I think Sanjaya will get the votes he needs. I’m left to pick Brandon and A.J. as the two unfortunate souls who won’t see any TV time next week. (Nick is my backup candidate. And Phil might succumb to the curse of going first, but I think the military vote will save him, and deservedly so.)

New DVD Releases, 27 Feb 2007

For an awfully long time now, I’ve done a rundown every Tuesday of the interesting DVD releases that are appearing on store shelves that day. What once started out as a list of just the things I was planning to buy has expanded to a list of things of interest, major releases, things I can make fun of, etc.

This week is different.

It’s such a blah week all together than I can’t even bother highlighting just for an easy gag. Nothing.

Next week looks a lot better, though, so please stop back then. In the meantime, take this occasion to go watch something gathering dust next to your TV.

Posted in DVD

24 Season Six – 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Jack Bauer has feet

Update:: First, a digression: Who amongst us hasn’t considered changing his name to Jack Bauer. Well, someone in England now has. He’s this week’s hero/resident loon. Back to the show. . .

Charles Logan returned at the very end of last week’s episode, which raised a fair number of questions:

  • Where is he?
  • Why isn’t he in jail?
  • What does he know and when did he know it?
  • And where’s his wife?

We got most of those answers last night. and though I might not have mentioned my theories in that post, I got most of them right. =)

We also had the ticking time bomb of the plot to kill the president, a Soviet general out to pit the West versus the Middle East, and a CTU analyst with a drinking problem. And Jack changes clothes!

Discuss it all in the comments below with full spoiler flags flying. Just please do not discuss coming attractions for future episodes. Thanks!

Posted in TV

Oscars 2007

For the first time in many many years, I completely boycotted the Oscars last night.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I just didn’t care. I had better things to do with four hours of my time. I had just spent all weekend at the New York City Comic-Con, and I needed to catch up on other things. And since I had seen so few of the movies up for nomination and since the winners were all but a foregone conclusion, I sat this one out.

As it turns out, they weren’t all locks.

Most were, but —

HAPPY FEET over CARS? Is this Pixar backlash, or the Academy choosing to go along with the Al Gore theme of the night they knew they wanted? I mean, really, they even gave it Best Song for the year, though I supposed you could argue for vote-splitting in the DREAMGIRLS camp. . .

I was also happy to see that PAN’S LABYRINTH won some art/technical awards. It’s always good to see Films By Geeks do well.

But, there, I just saved myself nearly four hours of television viewing with two minutes at I feel better about my life today.

Grease Live: Week Three

Grease You're the One That I Want on NBC (C)2007The ratings for the show must be doing well. They’ve found a new way to stretch it out, by only featuring the Sandy wannabes this week. Next week, we’re only voting on the Danny contenders.

During the last week, the girls had to pair up with a guy to do a scene test to show their acting chops. Then, they took to the stage last night with the guys as backup dancers for all the world to judge. We saw clips of the acting sessions as the show went along, but you need to rely on the judges’ comments to figure out who’s capable of what. Acting isn’t an exciting thing to show off on live TV, as it turns out. Just singing and dancing.

The bottom four this week were Chad, Kevin (2 weeks in a row), Kate (my favorite), and Kathleen (her second week in a row, also.) They’ll be doing the sing-off — later in the show.

Things start, instead, with Ashley Spencer, who had “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” Her singing was strong, but I didn’t buy her overall act. There was something missing for me there to make it truly believable, even if only producer David Ian agrees with me.

Allie Scott got stuck with a Bjork song. That’s a fate worse than death. However, she made “It’s All So Quiet” work as a humorous thing. She had so much running around to do, it’s amazing she didn’t miss more notes or lose her breath. It was convincing, though, and the countdown to her top dropping reached zero just at the end of the song. Don’t worry – the top that fell was covering the top of her dress. Nothing was exposed.

Laura (“Small Town Sandy”) did “Fever,” which didn’t do anything for me at all. I’ve heard better on IDOL with this one. My problem may have just been with the music mix, I don’t know. The judges loved her, though. In fact, they voted unanimously on her as their favorite of the night at the end of the show.

Then, we had the sing-off. Kevin and Kate, we learned, got the least votes from the public. And the judges chose to vote them off. It’s the biggest travesty of this contest so far that Kate was let go in favor of weaker singers and dancers. Kathleen, the one who made it through, is the perpetual crier. They saved her because she acted emotionally in her scene during the week. UGH.

Kathleen (“Spiritual Sandy”) crashed and burned completely on “Let’s Hear It For the Boy.” She was constantly panting for breath. She missed half the notes. She was too emotional from the near-miss of elimination to bother competing with her song. I was embarrassed for her. If Kate had made it through, at least we would have had a decent singer on stage, capable of controlling her tears long enough to do the show.

I think the guys had it harder on the night than the girls. They had to learn six different dances. Maybe they didn’t need to memorize lyrics, but they still acted and danced and did a little background singing, I think, too.

Finally, Frankie Avalon came out to sing “Beauty School Dropout” with the ladies. He wore all white, except the tall heels of his shoes. Those were painted black to help hide them. I’m guessing he’s not much taller than 5’6″ in real life and needs all the help he can get to look taller next to the leggy girls he had to sing next to on the show. Isn’t it crazy the things you notice sometimes?

I would bet on Kathleen being in the bottom again next week. The judges can’t ignore three appearances in a row at the bottom of the stack. She’ll be next to do.

The unfortunate thing is that after her, we have four very talented and capable singers up on that stage. Everyone who leaves from here on out has a strong voice and decent dancing/action chops. It’s only going to get tougher.

Posted in TV

Random Sunday Link Dump

AI6 – Round of 24 – Results

American Idol logoAI had 32,000,000 votes this week, which sounds very impressive until you realize it was split over two nights. I’m not saying that 16,000,000 a night isn’t impressive, but we’re just starting to build up to the finale, where the final vote tally will likely be more than 32,000,000 in one night, albeit with four hours of voting.

In any case, the 24 remaining contestants did their best Up With People-esque group song to start the night after the usual bevy of clips to show us what we had just watched in the previous two nights. Ryan Seacrest announced a slew of guest mentors for this season, including Tony Bennett (standards night?), Gwen Stefani (dance music night?), Jon Bon Jovi (80s night? Rock night?), Diana Ross (disco night?), Martina McBride (country night returns, no doubt), Peter Noone, and —

Jennifer Lopez?!?

This is how insane the world has gotten. J-Lo can’t sing. It’s rumored she doesn’t even sing on her own albums, and lip synchs in her live performances. At least one person has come out to take credit for being the actual voice of “J-Lo.” And now she’s supposed to be guiding the Idols? It is to laugh. I won’t give her crap for hosting a dance show on MTV, but teaching people to sing? You might as well bring Kevin Covais back for that.

It could all be scurrilous rumors, though. Perhaps the anti-Scientology crowd made all that up? It’s traditional for the guest mentors to sing live on results night, right? I challenge IDOL to do that with Lopez and let’s see what we get.

And, hey, Burt Bacharach’s name didn’t come up on the list. What’s up with that?

We start with the guys and, sure enough, Chris Sligh is given his opportunity to apologize to Simon. He doesn’t quite take it. He talks about how much he loves Simon and how he didn’t mean for what he said to be taken so negatively. Maybe he’ll keep his mouth shut next time, or just pick on himself, instead. People love the self-deprecating humor, after all.

And then the back row is lined up on stage for Ryan to fire through like a St. Valentine’s Massacre. Paul Kim takes the bullet. It’s his own darn fault — he wore shoes last night. Thankfully, Ryan didn’t ask if he was wearing his lucky underwear. And, as is Idol Tradition, they put him through the painful process of re-singing the awful song he did earlier in the week that got him eliminated. It wasn’t any better.

Yes, Paul Kim wanted to be the American Idol to prove that not all Asians sing like William Hung. And he’s the first voted out. Somewhere, there’s irony singing a song for moments like this. (“Some people wait a lifetime. . . “)

The back row of girls is lined up next, with Antonella is standing next to Ryan, the exact same spot where Paul was standing when he got kicked off. She looked petrified throughout the entire process. Ryan milked it really well, before telling her she was safe. Then he invited Amy Krebs up on stage and booted her butt out of the building. The funny thing is, I thought she sounded better singing her song last night than on Wednesday. (She made Sanjaya cry.) There are two schools of thought here, I guess: Either you sing better because the pressure is off and this is your last chance in the limelight, or you stink because you’re upset to be leaving. We saw both in the first two contestants.

IDOL now has a DEAL OR NO DEAL contest thing going now, too, where you can answer an obvious IDOL trivia question via a text message for a chance to win $10,000 and tickets to an upcoming IDOL show. Waste of time.

To stretch things out to their full hour, Fantasia pops out on stage, looking awful in a bad blue dress, her short hair, and — well, she’s just not very attractive, is all. Pin-headed is a good term, I think. She’s there to announce that she’s joining the cast of THE COLOR PURPLE on Broadway in April, and Quincy Jones is there to support her. But Quincy is quickly cut off by Ryan after saying five words and we move on with the show. Fantasia sings, and sounds like Fantasia always sounds.

Then it’s time for the second girl to go. Haley looks a little nervous, understandably. She tried dressing younger to answer Simon’s complaints that her performance was “old,” but the sparkly blue sweater just made her look like she stepped out of the 1988 time machine. I know the kids do that today, but I don’t think she looked much younger. She’s safe, though. We can cut straight to the chase now:

Nicole is gone, and Alaina is safe. This is a travesty. Nicole has some potential. She picked a really funky song, but the girl can sing. Alaina is not in Nicole’s league. In the end, they’re both likely cannon fodder, but Nicole stood a chance of turning it around next week. I think Alaina won’t last.

Nicole sang her song again and we cut to commercial. I forget which girl it was, but one of them asked to sing a different song. Ryan checked with Ricky Minor and the band and told her that wasn’t happening.

Finally, Rudy gets kicked off. He suffered from going first on the night and not being memorable. There are worse guy singers in the group, but it was all timing for him. He’s out.

Somewhere in the latter portion of the show, there were a couple of great cuts to the judges. In one, Simon had his head in his hands and was trying desperately to stay away. In another, Paula is digging breath mints or something out of her jacket and popping them in. Given her ups and downs on stage, I’m hoping it’s just mints.

So, to sum up: I predicted Amy and Alaina would go this week and was half right. I predicted Sanjaya and Rudy. I was half right there. Sanjaya only sticks around because he was SO bad that whatever fanbase he has was motivated to vote twice as much as anyone else’s.

Let’s shot for .750 next week with the predictions. It should get a little easier as we narrow down the choices, right?

De Blieck Out!

Thursday Link Dump

Miscellaneous Tech Geekiness:

AI6 – Round of 24 – Women

American Idol logoWow, what a difference from the guys to the gals. There’s a lot to talk about here. Sit back. I’ve got 2500 words in me today.

First of all, this show could be done in an hour and a half if they cut the video packages recapping the last month’s worth of episodes in half. It’s bad enough that we get the blatant filler just before the first commercial break of seeing a montage of clips of the finalists’ auditions, but then we get to see them again with voice overs before each contestant sings. It doesn’t take that long to walk from the Coca Cola Red Room to the stage. . .

On the other hand, I like the breathing room the two hours gives them. We get more comments from the judges. There are times in the IDOL season when the judges are forced to push out one sentence commentaries due to a shortness of time. And that’s always bad when the Big Number is pushed as the last contestant of the night and then the judges don’t have time to lavish appropriate praise because there’s an episode of HOUSE that has to start airing in 60 seconds.

In any case, the guys were brutally bad Tuesday night, but the girls were being very political about it. They all talked about how Tuesday night’s performance showed them that the judges want a lot out of them, not that any of the guys couldn’t hold a note or anything. No, that would be mean. And we don’t like being mean, do we? ::sigh::

Stephanie Edwards, 19, started the night off. She’s the 30s jazz singer that Simon liked in the original auditions. She’s very smart, too, because she stuck with that sound (“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore”) on her first song. She sounded effortless and her voice was strong. There was no stage fright or hesitation. She just got up on stage and belted it out. She was better than at least 10 of the 12 guys the night before, if not all of them. It’s hard to believe she’s 19, too. She’s very mature for that age.

Amy Krebs, 22, lapsed back into the same problem areas that the guys had the previous night. She picked a slow and boring song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It was too safe. She had no personality. She missed a couple of notes. She didn’t add enough R&B sounds to the song, though it was clear she wanted to. It was a waste. Simon called her “this thing that sings.” Ouch.

If she makes it through to next week and repeats this dreary performance, it’ll be the start of an all new Krebs Cycle. (Yes, I’m now doing bio humor.)

Leslie Hunt, 24, is a professional dog walker. She’s also the prerequisite Top 24 red head in the mold of Amy Adams and Vanessa Olivarez of seasons past. She’s quirky, which I think is my nice way of describing her stage presence. Her dancing is just spastic. Simon called her “ungainly,” which might not be far from the truth. I liked her rendition of “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman),” even if it was too big a song for her. You could hear her straining for the power note.

In the end, most people will only remember her for those boots. You can picture them right now, can’t you? Don’t lie to me. Sabrina Sloan, 27, is a professional singer. It showed. Her voice was big enough to handle her chosen song. She absolutely nailed it, and became the first contestant of the season so far to really wow the audience and the judges completely. Plus, she did her homework. She knew that in seasons past, ballads often got people bad marks. I’m glad someone on that show has learned lessons from previous seasons. She didn’t play it safe and it paid off.

I also need to point out that she has curly hair. I’ll explain why that’s important in a little bit.

Antonella Barba, 20, had the misfortune of following Sabrina directly, without so much as a commercial break to buffer her. And the, she crashed and burned. She might make it through this week because people loved her pictures yesterday, but she’s completely out of her league in this competition and needs to go home. If it’s not this week, then next week. There are more than six other women singers better than her.

Her attempt at “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was shaky, at best. Maybe it was just nerves, but she was also ahead of the music a couple of times and pitchy. She completely lost the melody in an attempt to make the song her own, but it backfired. It was a complete mess.

As Simon said, “The good news is that you’re attractive.” I have even better news for her. She did so poorly that whatever fan base she has will be energized to vote. The Save Antonella Vote will be out in full force. On the other hand, as large a media market as this NYC area is, we’ve never been one to be active voters in things. Whether it’s All Star Games or Idol, I’m not sure we can sustain a contestant the way the closer-knit Southern states can.

Jordan Sparks, 17, is amazing at her age. She went with Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” and did well with it. It started off a bit breathy and soft, but she pulled it through in the second half. What was about to become stale and repetitive because a strong performance. She has a big voice and needs to find better songs to showcase those power notes a little more. But, then, as we found out later in the night, there are a lot of big voices in this competition. We might be marching towards another Battle of the Divas this year.

Ryan, standing next to the 17 year old, then pointed out the obvious: “Again this year, I’m short.”

Oh, and she has curly hair. Stay tuned — it’s relevant. I swear.

After the break – The WTF performance of the night. The roof is thoroughly blown off the joint twice. Jim Steinman’s music returns to Idol. And a whole lot more. Click through, won’tcha?

Continue reading

AI6 Women Teaser

Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell of American Idol fameFull writeup tomorrow morning, so hold your comments until then.

But – WOW.  Polar opposite from the guys, and there’s a TON of stuff to talk about.  We had a Jim Steinman tune, Eric Carmen, Aretha, Celine, and more.  Craziness all around, and never a dull moment.  Even the dull moments provided plenty of notes.

And Ryan is short. Stay tuned. . .

AI Girls Gone Mild?

Kids today are learning lessons the hard way. What you put up in public for all the world to see will eventually be seen by all the world should you ever become a public person. And digital cameras make quick photo transmission far too easy.

Our Five Million, four hundred eighty-three thousand, forty-second example of this lesson is AMERICAN IDOL Top 24 Finalist, Antonella Barba. Click through on her name to see her partying up a storm, sitting on the toilet, covering up her chest with naught but her hands, etc. You know, the typical behavior for those who think the only social life they’ll ever have is on the Jersey Shore.

There’s nothing pr0n going on there, but I’m sure they’re pictures that the IDOL people would rather not have out there. They’re not exactly family-friendly. And MySpace and Flickr makes finding these kinds of shots just too easy.

Oh, and all those beers in her hand?  She’s not legal yet.

AI6 – Round of 24 – Men

American Idol logoDid you notice that they call the male contestants “Men” now instead of “Boys?” With the average age skyrocketing up, I suppose it makes sense. After all, IDOL is quickly becoming the desperate last ditch haven for failed musicians approaching their 30s.

I could probably save myself an awful lot of typing right now and write, “They all sucked” and be done with it. Thankfully, there are various shades of suckage to deal with here, so they’ll all get a writeup.

Paula got her hair done for the show. I think she was inspired by Britney Spears’ wig.

Ryan wore a delightful ensemble of jeans with a vest. And you thought that style went out after the second season of FRIENDS. Silly you.

Rudy Cardenas, 28, started out the night with “Free Ride.” I think that’s the name of the song. I had some serious problems with song titles last night. Of the songs I did recognize, I couldn’t give you the exact title for half of them. And IDOL doesn’t flash them up on the screen or introduce them properly yet. There were some songs I vaguely recognized, and one or two I’ve flat out never heard before. If they’re current songs, then it appears I’m not missing much. I had to look up a couple for the sake of this writeup. Back to Rudy: He lists his occupation as professional musician, and it’s clear he’s very comfortable on stage. He had good presence, and danced around very easily. But aside from a little shouting at a couple lyrics in the song, nothing stood out about him. Going first, he’s in danger of being forgotten and getting no votes after a two hour IDOL marathon episode.

On the other hand, he might just get the longest writeup from me, as my fingers haven’t tired yet. One down, 11 to go.

Brandon Rogers, 29, is another professional musician. He’s the guy who’s done backup vocals for Christina Aguilera, Usher, etc. He did Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” with a nifty rejiggered slower opening that I didn’t recognize at first. He’s good, but nothing spectacular just yet. His voice was a little too soft to start, but Simon’s overall analysis — “safe and predictable” — was dead on the money.

Do the contestants watch previous seasons? I can’t help but think they don’t, because they repeat all the same mistakes. They play it too safe. They pick ballad after ballad after ballad. They don’t make the song their own. They do karaoke. UGH

Sundance Head, 28, bills himself as a machinist. He got through for his soulful style, and completely abandoned that after he got to Hollywood. He sang a song whose title I don’t know. “White Satin?” Interesting song choice for American Idol, but not one that worked to his advantage. He sang the power parts fairly well, but the rest was pitchy and all over the place. The judges cut into him pretty hard, too.

The other odd thing about him was the way he held notes. He always held them on the final consonant. Most people would tell you that you’re supposed to hold the final vowel sound and end it on the consonant. Not Sundance. Three singers down, and we have an average age of 28 so far.

Ryan gets the quote of the night after the judges’ comments: “This is going to be a long year.”

The judges were not too harsh at all last night, despite repeated comments on the show. In fact, they were lenient. Paula did her best nurturing thing, but the contestants were all so bland that there wasn’t much good to say about them.

Tons more after the break, including a comparison to a Duck, the first crash and burn, misplaced humor, and a scary rocker. Continue reading

General Mayhem and Wii Link Dumps

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