American Idol: lock them doors and turn the lights down low

Season 10 of “American Idol” is in the books. But before we get to the result, let’s talk about how bad the performances on the show were overall, in rapid-fire fashion….

The Top 13 performed Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way,” and we all expected GaGa to come out and join them, but she didn’t. Oh, but the performance was awful, and why do they make them wear all white like the Good Humor Man for these group numbers?

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Guaranteed to make English teachers weep

I know that’s how I feel. Take a look, at this trailer for the latest version of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” featuring Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, just don’t expect to laugh.

I honestly wish I could tell you that this new trailer for the latest version of Jonathan Swift’s classic has something, anything going for it. However, based on the evidence of this trailer, I really can’t. Nothing funny here. Nothing good here. Nothing.

I’m a bit shocked to learn that this was actually cowritten by Nicholas Stoller of the really fun “Get Him to the Greek” and the outstanding “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” How could it have gone this wrong? Could it be there’s actually something worthwhile in the movie and this is just the worst trailer ever? I don’t remember the last one being much better, but still. Man, between him and the cast, what a waste of real talent.

  

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A roundtable chat with director Stephen Frears of “Tamara Drewe”

Stephen Frears on location for Anyone who thinks that the only interesting directors are the ones with obvious personal styles needs to take a long, hard long at the filmography of Stephen Frears. Something of a contemporary, English throwback to such versatile craftsmen of pre-auteur theory Hollywood as William Wyler, George Stevens, Robert Wise, and Michael Curtiz, the Cambridge-educated Frears began his career neck deep in the English New Wave cinema of the 1960s as an assistant director on Karel Riesz’s “Morgan!,” and Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 surreal youth revolt drama, “If…” Later moving on to directing for the BBC, his second theatrical feature, 1984’s “The Hit,” was mostly ignored despite an all-star cast, but did gain a cult following of which I am a proud member. Frears’ follow up collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi, a then-bold cross-racial same-sex romance, “My Beautiful Laundrette,” co-starred a young Daniel Day Lewis and got more immediate results. It was a hit in arthouses on both sides of the Atlantic and helped make Lewis a star; it also paved the way for Frears’ smashing mainstream Hollywood debut, 1988’s Oscar-winning “Dangerous Liaisons.”

Since then, Frears has enjoyed success both here in the U.S. and at home in England with numerous BAFTAs and films as diverse as “High Fidelity” and “The Grifters” — for which he was nominated for an Oscar — as well as the ultra-English “The Queen” and “Mrs. Henderson Presents.” He’s dealt with modern-day cowboys (1998’s “The Hi-Lo Country”), English fascism (2000’s “Liam”), the monarchy (2006’s “The Queen”), and the illegal trade of human organs (2002’s “Dirty Pretty Things”). When George Clooney decided he wanted to try a live television remake of “Fail Safe” back in 2000, Frears handled the chore to no shortage of acclaim.

Frear’s latest, “Tamara Drewe,” has fared reasonably well with critics on the whole, though not so much with this particular longtime admirer. An adaptation of a graphic novel originally serialized in England’s The Guardian by cartoonist and children’s book author Posy Simmonds, the tale is a comic, modern-day homage to Thomas Hardy’s tragic 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd starring Gemma Arterton as a formerly large nosed “ugly duckling” whose swannish post-operative return to her family’s estate sparks chaos at a writer’s retreat in ultra-picturesque rural England.

Apparently taking the casualness of California fully to heart, the 69-year-old Frears, who bears some resemblance to the late Rodney Dangerfield, arrived unshaven and in a t-shirt that had seen better days. If the “just rolled out of bed” look was disconcerting, however, we needn’t have worried. Frears was in good spirits and clearly enjoys sharing his views with the press.

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“Hey, did you hear Obama’s gonna kill our grandmas?”

Jack Black is…Nathan Spewman, Professional Mis-Informant!

Or, at least, that’s the role he’s playing in a new series of videos that he and America Ferrera have filmed in order to show their support for HCAN (Healthcare For America NOW).

I’m very much of the “politics, schmolitics: funny is funny” mindset, so I’d laugh at these videos whether I agreed with the message it’s spreading or not, but the fact that they’re arguably the funniest thing Jack Black’s done since “Tropic Thunder” doesn’t hurt, either. Unsurprisingly, though, many are too busy grousing about the overall message of the videos to acknowledge their value as entertainment.

In an article on FoxNews.com, Patrick Dorinson, GOP communications strategist and founder/CEO of Dorinson Communications, was quoted as saying, “In 20 years, no one will remember these two ‘stars’ ever existed, but the debt we will pay for ObamaCare will still be here.” Having never really watched “Ugly Betty,” I can’t speak to Ferrara’s chances at career longevity, but given that Black has already been in the business for two decades, I think it’s fair to say that Dorison was really just scrambling to come up with something that would grab people’s attention.

Yeah, I know, there are people out there who really are stupid enough to vote for or against something just because Jack Black says they should. I’m not one of them, though. I’m just enjoying the laughs.

P.S. Don’t tell anybody, but Obama’s the Devil.

  

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It’s time for midweek movie news

I used to be disgusted, now I try to stay bemused…

* Yes, they weren’t kidding. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are teaming up to make a Les Grossman movie, declares Nikki Finke. I try never to prejudge films, and I really did think Cruise was hilarious in “Tropic Thunder.” However, I think writer Michael Bacall, Ben Stiller, and whoever winds up directing really have their work cut out for them in terms of this not turning into some kind of inverted ego-fest (“look at me — I’m willing to act all crazy!”) like what we saw on MTV a few nights back.

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* A new James L. Brooks romantic comedy by any name will probably be worth a look, and maybe better than that.

* It’s always seemed to me that the best part of the guilty pleasure appeal of “Entourage” — aside from Ari, Lloyd, and Johnny Drama, anyway — is the lightning fast pacing that nearly always leaves fans wanting more. Now, producer Mark Wahlberg is determined to give us more in the form of a movie to follow up from the conclusion of the television show. I’m concerned about whether he gets the concept of why you want to always leave an audience wanting more. If not, “Entourage”  could become the male equivalent of “Sex and the City” in theaters as well as the small screen.

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