Additions, and Corrections to Yesterday’s Idol Talk

Find my latest American Idol article here.

I need to start paying a little more attention.  First of all, I neglected to even mention Robbie Carico’s well done rendition of “One”.  It is always nice to see a rocker show that he can actually sing.  I am a little suspicious of him in the same way that I was suspicious of Bo, to seasons ago.  I looks like if you were to shave either one of those beards, you would be left with a pretty wimpy looking guy.

Second, yesterday I said that only Asia’h Epperson had impressed me among the girls.  After watching last night’s show, I realized that I had my names and faces confused, I meant to give that credit to Syesha Mercado instead (more on the girls in today’s second installment).

Third, I went back and watched Jason Castro’s performance again after several arguments with people whose opinions I respect.  I must say that it was better than it looked the first time.  He looked very comfortable.  He was on pitch the whole time with several accidentals thrown into the song, but his voice sounded a little weak.  This may have been a result of the style of the song.  It will be interesting to see if he has some real pipes in there.

Finally, I watched Colton Berry’s “Suspicious Minds” again, and I came to realize why I hated his version so much.  As I said before, he sang all of the notes on key.  The problem was that he took a great, soulful song and reduced it to a piece of bubble gum.  It was like what might happen if Hanson decided to sing an Elvis song.  This guy needs to infuse some style into his music.

Real men watch Idol

Aaahh! Idol season once again.  I have been a faithful viewer of American Idol over the past few seasons, and have really enjoyed the show.  A few guys at work and I have weekly “Idol Talk” where we talk about the show and make predictions.  Usually, we pick out top four (two guys and two girls) after the first week of the top 24.  This year, however, the talent seems to be a little better.

Yesterday, in the first installment of “the guys”, there was no one who stood out as terrible, as in past years, and there was also no one who stood out as great such as Melinda or Blake did early on last year.  For the most part they were all on pitch, and performed passable renditions of their songs.

Most of the time I like what Simon has to say and agree with him, but he needs to realize that when the contestants do a 1960’s episode, the songs are not necessarily going to sound contemporary.  It’s good to change a song and make it your own, but a contestant that does this is always running the risk of having the judges hate the version because it does not sound like the original.  At this point in the competition, it is best to sing a popular upbeat song, sing it well, and be as personable as possible while those who do not sing well, choose their songs poorly and/or argue with the judges fall by the wayside.

Watch out for David Hernandez.  His voice has been consistently the best of the guys so far, showing a refinement that most of the others do not have. If he survives the curse of going first, and singing a forgettable song this week, he could be a force to be reckoned with.  He also needs to improve his stage presence greatly.

Chikezie, who I will now refer to as Jacuzzi (thank you, Simon) performed a decent Motown song, but Simon hated his appearance.

If Danny Noriega’s singing ever drops off, it will be easy to hate him.  He definitely has a good voice, but his “Hound Dog” rendition was weird, and his arrogant expressions were extremely off-putting.  He will probably be this season’s Sanjaya or Kevin Covais except that he can sing.  All the little girls will love him and vote for him, and I will not be happy until he is gone.

David Archiletta was good, as expected, but it would not hurt him to sing something a little less effeminate than “Shop Around.”  With his talent, looks and “Aw-shucks” attitude, he should go far into the competition.

David Cook’s version of “Happy Together” was the highlight of the evening.  The alternative style of the song was unexpected and good.  After hearing him in Hollywood, I thought that he did not have much of a chance, but I may have to rethink that idea.

I will put Colton Berry in the forgettable category with his well sung, but lame version of “Suspicious Minds”.  He could be in trouble.

When I said before that no one stood out as terrible, I was, of course, not including the performance of Garrett Haley which was awful.   There was really nothing good about his performance of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” and Simon’s criticism, though mean-spirited, was absolutely accurate right down to his pasty, dead looks.  He should be the first to go.

I don’t know if I just didn’t get it, but it seems everyone liked Jason Castro’s “Daydream” but me.  When I find myself out on a limb like this, I generally back up and give it one more try before passing judgment, and this is what I choose to do today.  I will say, however, that he is the perfect example of why humans should not get hair extensions from muskoxen.  Someone, please take a curry-comb to that young man.  Jason, this next bit is for you.  Your stupid hair-do does not cover up that goofy look on your face, and together they make you almost unwatchable.  Haircuts are cheap, and a beard might cover that s— eating grin nicely.

In the “What the hell was he thinking?” category, Jason Yeager attempted to single-handedly destroy the show’s perennial #1 rating with his yawner of a rendition of “Moon River.”  Has this guy never watched Idol before?  And, his vocals would have been the worst if not for Garrett.  He will probably be the other one to go this week, and I will be sad to lose “skunk-boy” as a good companion to the “skunk-girl” who we will see tonight. 

Luke Menard, who has a good voice, sang “Everybody’s talking.’”  He did a good job on the song, but as Simon correctly pointed out, it was forgettable.  He could be in trouble for this very reason.

Michael John’s ended the show with “Light My Fire” by the Doors.  He sang it well, but in contrast to what the Judges were saying, it was not an original version.  He sang it straight up, but it sounded good, and was a good, upbeat choice.  I had him slotted as not-that-good after he sang a bunch of easy songs in Hollywood, but I may have to reevaluate him also.  His stage presence was one of the best of the night.

Tonight we get the girls.  So far, there has only been one who has impressed me, Asia’h Epperson, but of course there are several that they never bothered to show us in Hollywood so that they could squeeze another 15 minutes of that crying bastard with the fake British accent in on the previous shows.

Miami Vice

I recently watched the movie version of the 80’s hit Miami Vice with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx.  As with most remakes, the makers of this film had several choices: 1) Try to redo the series as closely as they could set at the same time, 2) Do a comedy version that pokes fun at the series and the time that it was done, or 3) Do an original and updated version of the series.

I am a child of the 80’s and I loved them.  The music was great (all of you 70’s lovers who constantly bash the 80’s need to learn this truth), and the attitude of America was positive.  The style was, however, lacking (at least among the fashionable).  In truth Miami Vice and Michael Jackson pretty much sum up what was bad about the 80’s.  The dress and mannerisms of Jackson and the characters on Miami Vice (the TV series) show a natural downward progression this occurs when disco meets the “me” generation.  These characters were sappy, vain and oversexed (and they dressed horribly, and yes, I had one of those god-awful Don Johnson cotton jackets and a Chess King shirt that would have looked equally good on Michael Jackson or any character from Star Trek). 

A true attempt to seriously redo the series would have failed because people do not want to be reminded of the things mentioned above.  On the other hand, comedy theatrical versions of serious TV shows are often beatings (see the Wild, Wild West- I just threw up in my mouth.).  And, movies like The Wedding Singer have already done a good job of appropriately poking fun at the 80’s.

No, the producers and the director (Michael Mann) did the right thing by recreating the show for today.  It was much edgier, and serious.  It was episodic which is always good for these types of movies, and the acting was good.  For the most part, it moved well for a 2 hour+ movie, but tended to get a little slow at some points as they used several sex scenes to attempt to build the characters.  One each would have been enough.  The Crocket character and his relationships got a little hokey, but all-in-all these characters were believable.

I did not go into this movie with high expectations and was pleasantly surprised in the end.  It’s not for the kids, but I really show not have to even say that about a movie whose title implies sex, drugs and violence, and this movie delivers on all three.

Smokin’ Aces

I was told that this movie was meant to be a little “over the top”.  If that was their desire, they got their wish.  I would say that this movie was too over the top.  However, in its defense, I did not at any point that I remember have to follow a bullet into anyone’s head.

I realize that one must suspend reality when watching certain films, but this can be pushed to the absurd.  Here we have another movie where guns never run out of bullets and characters never die no matter how many times you shoot them.

The movie is also problematic because of recurring questions involving character motivations.  The best example would be the main character, Richard Messner, played by Ryan Reynolds.  At one point his partner, played by Ray Liotta, has been shot multiple times (and I mean multiple) and is dying.  Don’t worry.  I’m not spoiling things too much for you.  There will be many other deaths for you to be surprised by.  Anyway, there is a point where Liotta’s character is obviously dying, his partner realizes this and appropriately begins to call for a medic (as if he were in the army).  Almost simultaneously, a girl with a 50 caliber sniper rifle in a neighboring hotel opens up on the open area outside the elevator where Liotta is.

You do not really have to exaggerate the effects of the 50 cal.  It makes a mess and keeps on going.  I forgot to mention that this area is full of FBI agents who begin to get in the way of the bullets with negative results for those who do.  I am not sure how many FBI agents are killed or wounded in this frantic scene, but it is a lot.  Reynolds’ character oddly only has eyes for Liotta.  He continues to scream, “Medic!” during the whole scene, and by the end it is clear that none of the other dead or injured agents are of consequence to him,… or the director.  They are just more fodder for the guns and the camera.

Later he meets Alicia Keys’ character in a stairwell.  She was present at the incident mentioned above, and was obviously materially involved to the point that she was firing at the agents outside of the elevator (she may have even killed one, I am not sure now).  They point guns at each others’ heads, but Keys’ character tells Reynolds’ Character, that she had nothing to do with his partner’s death.  What does a good FBI agent do in a situation that is totally out of control with a gun at his head?  Well of course, he accepts her at her word (without saying a thing), and they both simply move along.  This is logical, of course, because none of the dead agents was important but Liotta’s character.

On the positive side, there are several good acting performances.  Liotta was excellent, as was Martin Henderson as Hollis Elmore.  Alicia Keys was surprisingly good.  But, even though he got top billing for some reason, don’t expect a lot of Affleck.  He is in the movie for a total of about five minutes.

At the end, it seems like the director realizes that he has killed everyone that he wants to kill, and has to come up with an out.  I personally found the ending that they chose hokey and disappointing.  I loved the idea of the plot for this movie, but I was more than let down by the execution.  I would not recommend Smokin’ Aces, but I would like to see this plotline done well in another film.

Employee of the Month

You know at the end of The Sixth Sense or Deja Vu, after the “turn” in the plot when you realize the truth and look back at the events leading up to that point.  You can see how it all fit together.  The director masterfully sews up all of the loose ends, and the person watching the movie is left saying to himself, “Oh, yeah…, now I see.”  Well, Employee of the Month is nothing like that.  I will not talk a lot about the elements of the plot because there may be some people out the who actually want to watch this movie still, but I will say that there is a huge ”turn” somewhere in the movie.  The problem is that it leaves you thinking, “If that were the case, then why did the characters do this?” over and over.  Looking back at the beginning of the movie, it seems like the only motivation for actions of the character in some scenes was to throw the watcher off the scent of the real plot (note to the director, the characters are not supposed to know that they are being watched).

At the end of the movie, there are enough twists to fill an O. Henry anthology, and even more annoying is the fact that they are so telegraphed, you can see them coming a mile away. And, it’s sad, because the cast did well with Matt Dillon, Steve Zahn, and Christina Applegate giving believable and humorous performances.

In the end, I felt let down, but was buoyed by the fact that there will obviously be no sequel to this movie, that is, unless the director was leading me on the whole time and all those events at the end of the movie were just staged to look like something else, and what really  happened was….Noooooooo! 

Out of Africa

I file this movie under, “movies that I never made time to see.”  I think that anybody should take the time to see movies that win best picture or are nominated for best picture (I will except Brokeback Mountain and The Crying Game from this list.  You are welcome to see them if you like, but I choose not to.).  That does not mean that I have seen all of these movies, but if I see one of them roll around on one of the premium channels, then I record it, and watch it when I can.  This is what I did with Out of Africa.

Yawn…. Even thinking back on this movie starts to put me to sleep.  It is the story of a Victorian era woman who moves to Africa.  The main plot seems to be: Sometimes it can be somewhat hard for a woman to live alone in Africa.  A secondary plot is: When you make a bad investment, act like you are trying hard to make it work, but when the first real setback arises, throw up your hands and walk away.  After all, it was only your family’s money anyway.  And then the third plot (this is where Redford comes in) is:  Independent woman meets independent man and they fall in love (even though she is in a loveless marriage with another man) and eventually she tries to take his independence away, because we all know an independent woman could never handle having a relationship with a man she could not control.

Luckily for the viewer, this movie was only about 2 ½  hours long, but it seemed to age me as I watched it.  And, why did Streep have to talk like a female ESPN reporter for the whole movie?  It was off-putting.

I looked back at the nominees for best picture that year. They were: “OUT OF AFRICA”, “The Color Purple”, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, “Prizzi’s Honor”, and “Witness.”  Of course, The Color Purple was better, but this was still the time when Hollywood was going to be damned if it would give an Oscar to Spielberg.  Other notable films from that year were, Cocoon, Silverado, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, and White Nights.  I personally would rather have watched any of these films (or ant two of these films in the same amount of time) again than to have wasted the time that I gave to it.  If you find yourself being irresistibly drawn to watch this film, make sure that you bring something else to do, like a crossword puzzle or a Game Boy.

Definitely not my favorite.

Campaign Woes

If you have read the little bio that included my political views, it will comes as no surprise to you that I am unhappy with recent events concerning the Republican primaries.  I am not a John McCain fan because I feel that he committed the cardinal sin of working against a sitting president from his own party.  When a political party does not present a unified face, the opposing party sees blood in the water, and this encourages a feeding frenzy of dissent. 

Not only do I brand McCain in this manner, I believe his motives for doing so are as base as they come.  It would be one thing if his lack of support for the President were the product of some high-minded ideals (aka Mr Smith Goes to Washington stuff), But I believe that John McCain is about one thing, and that is John McCain and creating his own “legacy”, whatever that is.  He saw Bush as a political Johnny-come-lately who soundly defeated him, and then stood in his way for eight years.  The product of his selfishness was a host of clashes with the White House, compromises with the opposing party (unnecessary when you have both houses of Congress and the Presidency- squandered days we may never see again), and constant media events all designed to keep his (To’-up) face out there.

Good for you John.  It looks like it has all worked out fine for you.  You will be the Republican Nominee this year.  And, we (the Republicans) will lose.

This election is going to be 1996 all over again.  If you remember, in 1994, the American people were so disillusioned with Clinton that they turned out a democrat Congress that had been in power for 40 years.  It was a Republican heyday.  If America was this mad at the Dems, all we would have to do is determine who the nominee was, and we would win the Presidency.

We were given Bob Dole.  He was seen as a strong party guy, someone with experience, and a wounded veteran.  The problem was that he was an old fogy with a baby arm.  He was not telegenic and he was unelectable.  People would not vote for a President with baby arm, and they will not vote for a President whose face looks like a topographic map of the moon.

When I talk about politics, I often say, there are only 17 percent of voters who are undecided in any election.  These are people who have not bothered to educate themselves on how the candidates and party platforms match up with their own beliefs.  They have no moral compass (at least party dems know what the believe!).  Let’s face it.  The only reason that they still have the vote is that they have not committed a felony… yet (or the Meth lab is well hidden).  Most are too wrapped up in Desperate Housewives, Ultimate Fighting or their stories to educate themselves as to how they believe they should vote.  They hope for a Jerry Springer style campaign where they can decide who to vote for by picking the guy that the crowd shouts loudest for (not the guy getting all of the “boos”).  The best thing that can be hoped for is rain.  That is surely to keep them home where they will do the least harm.

But, I digress.  We are still in the primaries.  This is where the true party members take the time to express themselves.  I respect that, but what I do not respect is a group of one-issue voters who would rather lose than see a person from their own party who disagrees with them on abortion.  I’m pro life, but I knew that Romney was right when he said “A vote for Huckabee was a vote for McCain.”  But that did not matter to a bunch of backward, barely literate Southern Republicans who would never vote for a guy who was not the most pro-life candidate, and would never vote for a Mormon in any case.

So, Romney’s out (I assume that he is the VP candidate now), and I will be voting for John McCain.  And, we will lose.

Bitter.