American Idol: Chastize me over Elvis Presley’s grave

As guest blogger, I will open in the only way I should: by offering my sincerest apologies for not getting the blog for last night’s “American Idol” completed in a more timely fashion. I’ve been battling an allergy attack since yesterday (the result, I feel certain, of all the dust I kicked up in my office while scouring the joint for tax receipts), and, quite frankly, I feel like crap. But I know Mike’s got a lot going on these days, what with his big move and all, so I was always going to do this for him. I just had to build up my strength, which I have now done, so with my cup of hot lemon tea with honey sitting by the keyboard, let’s get to talking about who got the boot.

Things kicked off last night with a medley of Elvis Presley songs – “Burning Love,” “Teddy Bear,” “Return to Sender,” and “Viva Last Vegas” – which neither did damage to the reputation of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll nor did it any favors. The best part about “Burning Love” was the cute moment where we saw Katie working her knees for all they were worth, and Lee’s vocals on “Teddy Bear” sounded like those of a lounge singer, but I actually kind of dug it. Otherwise, though, I was pretty underwhelmed by the performances, and when “Viva Las Vegas” kicked off, all I could think of was how much better the Dead Kennedys did the song.

From there, the program went green for a minute or so as we were treated to a Ford-sponsored commercial with several of the contestants performing a version of…wait for it…the Polyphonic Spree’s “Light and Day / Reach for the Sun.” How completely and utterly surreal, but it sounded a damned sight better than any of those Elvis covers.

Moving on to the first of the night’s departures, Cap’n Seacrest narrowed down the playing field to three contestants:

* Casey, whose version of “Lawdy Miss Claudy” Mike described as “not bad at all vocally, but just a so-so rating on the entertainment meter.”
* Aaron, who offered a take on “Blue Suede Shoes,” which Mike called “cheesy but not horrible.”
* Andrew, who Mike buried in the Not So Good column last night, saying, “It wasn’t awful, but not at all star quality and easily the worst of the night.”

So long, Andrew…and, really, was there ever any doubt that you’d be one of the two players leaving the game tonight? But, hey, at least we got your version of James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” as a farewell, which served to remind us that, all things considered, America probably made the right decision.

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American Idol: the mediocre rise to the top

Last night on “American Idol,” the guys had to take their turn because Crystal Bowersox of the ladies’ contingent had to spend the night in the hospital with an undisclosed illness. The girls will sing tonight, and hopefully Crystal is feeling better and will be back on stage. As for the guys, though, it was another bland night, and they proved once again that the judges did an absolutely lousy job of picking the semi-finalists this year. A few of the guys improved from last week, and those that did looked very good based on the bar being set extremely low. Here is our take on the performances….

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American Idol: can we just start over?

Okay, folks. After seeing the crop of 24 semi-finalists in Season 9 of “American Idol,” I’m convinced that the judges are high. They call this the best group of singers ever? Um, far from it…I think it may be the worst crop in years, possibly the worst since the first couple of seasons. Every single contestant this year has at least one flaw, and most of them have multiple flaws and glaring weaknesses. Anyway, the guys sang last night, and honestly, most of them were pretty awful. But the judges selected a few to prop up even if they were just okay…maybe it’s the way the field is, but this is not good. Here is the recap of last night’s dude-fest:

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24 7.23-24: Make decisions that you can live with

Man, I saw more trailers for upcoming movies in tonight’s season finale of “24” than I did during the Super Bowl. Seriously, weren’t there ads for seven or eight movies? And do you know how many I stopped fast-forwarding through the commercials to watch? One: “Public Enemies.” Just sayin’, it does not look like a promising summer at the googoplex.

Maybe it’s just me, but I liked the second hour of tonight’s show more than the first one, which is odd, because they usually wait until the final minutes before fucking everything up. Remember the oil rig? The secret recording of President Logan? The last time the final seconds of “24” were truly nerve-wracking was when Jack hacked off Chase’s arm. (The best endings, of course, were the death of Teri Bauer and the poisoning of David Palmer by Mandy the bisexual assassin.) Tonight’s ending didn’t pack that kind of punch, but I like that they left us to wonder what Jacqueline Bauer did to Alan Wilson in the interrogation room (too late to give him a nickname, though I lean toward Coach Yoast, his character from “Remember the Titans”), and even having Jack end the season in a coma. Yes, we all know that he will be back for an eighth day, but perhaps Kim will die from complications while donating the stem cells that ultimately save his life. Hey, a guy can dream.

Having said that, Kim did not spend these two hours playing the damsel in distress, and in fact performed very admirably under the circumstances. She stabbed the girl in the leg and gave the cops a clean shot at her, and she saved the laptop that led the Feds to the location of Jack and Tony (more on that in a minute). No bear traps or Kwik-E-Mart holdups for our little Kimmy! Wow, maybe she isn’t as helpless as I made her out to be, but that’s no excuse for recycling a plot thread from the show’s first season, when Jack had to shoot Senator Palmer in order to save Kim and Teri. Silly, silly, silly, and that is the only reason I want her to go away. She brings out the worst in the writers.

As for that first hour…

Man oh man, I can’t tell you how many times I either laughed out loud or said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Jack is doing the bidding of Mystery Girl (real name Cara) against his will, and tells Jackie that they’re threatening to kill Kim if he doesn’t cooperate. Seconds later, he tells Cara that he’s awaiting her next instruction…and she gives it to him, without a word of protest. I’m shouting, “Didn’t she just hear what he told them?” Those words should automatically trigger Kim’s death, yes? The only way around this that I see is that Cara would never actually have Kim killed before getting Tony, so it was an empty threat. Which is smart, because if Jack thinks that Kim’s dead, he kills Tony, then he kills Cara, then he hunts down every relative of Cara’s and kills them, their loved ones, their loved one’s neighbords, and their pets. Hell, Jack had a clean shot at her from inside the paddy wagon. He could have just killed her right there. I’m frankly surprised he didn’t.

“So what’s it like being the second-hottest woman on this show?” “That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

And speaking of Jack taking shots, dude had pretty good aim when he shot Tony in the hand. This despite the fact that he’s suffering from a biological agent that attacks the nervous system. Funny how composed Jack could be when the moment called for it, and vice versa.

Then comes Tony’s big push to meet Alan Wilson. Ho, ho, and indeed ho, as our colleague Will Harris would say. Just like that, his motives became so transparent. He wants to take the big guy out! Could he be on the side of good after all? Well, no, as it turns out, but as retrofitted motives go, it could have been worse, especially when we discovered that…Michelle was pregnant when she was killed. Holy shit. As a father of two, I have to say that I would have elaborate revenge fantasies as well, had I been in his shoes. Kill my wife, and you only, only, have hell to pay. Kill my wife and son, well, you’re gonna wish the Devil was looking for you instead. I feel for you, Tony, I really do. But I still want to kick your ass for killing Dudley Do-Right.

Now back to that raid on the bad guy lair: Tony is about to hatch his evil scheme to blow up Jack and Alan Wilson with a bunch of C4, when the FBI not only finds them – last I remember, Chloe and Janis were still trying to crack the encryption on Bad Actor’s laptop – but they’re actually able to sneak up on them…by helicopter? Aren’t those things audible from a mile away? Classic moviemaking technique, that. If you don’t see it, then you can’t hear it. I also loved Jacqueline’s side saddle bit on the SUV, followed with the jump and roll. I’d love to see the real-life version of that. Jackie: Pew pew! Bad guys: Pip pip pip pip pip! Jackie: Dead.

But in the end, I’m not sure that anyone found themselves in a more difficult position than Madame President herself. After Kanin checkmated Hillary Clinton with the whole memory chip thing (which we all saw coming), I was surprised that Hillary actually showed genuine remorse and human emotion when confessing everything to her parents. I even felt a little sorry for her, which is something I never thought I’d say a week ago. But thank God that Hillary’s teary confession wasn’t enough to sway Madame Prez from doing the right thing and sending her sorry excuse for a daughter to the slammer. When she walked away from the First Man at the end, I was half-expecting her to have the First Dude escorted from the premises. After all, it’s not as though her marriage is going to survive a decision like that. On an unrelated note, I hope they bring Secret Service Agent Tim Woods back for another season. Not sure how you write him in, but he seems to be playing for the right team.

My hopes are not high that we will see our beloved Jacqueline Bauer again – odds are, she’s getting 20 years in the hole for whatever she was about to do to Wilson – and that makes me sad. I quite liked her character, and she can do Hell-hath-no-fury scorn like no other. Tony, of course, is still alive, but he may as well be dead since he’s just pissed all over the carcass of the Good Tony Almeida that we thought was killed years ago. I hated seeing them bring him back like this. Good people do bad things, yes, but they are still good at their core. I might be capable of committing unspeakable acts against anyone responsible for harming my family, but I wouldn’t kill half a dozen FBI agents to get to that person. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not hardcore enough. I can live with that, I guess.

So there you have it, another 24 hours of our lives, gone. I’m not sure if this show is ever going to give me what I want. Does it sound morbid to want more death and destruction? I don’t have bloodlust; I just want a show that doesn’t cry ‘Wolf!’ nine times out of ten. I think that all serial writers, the “24” writers in particular, should take a good long look at “The Dark Knight,” and how they mercilessly ratcheted up the tension until the very end, and none of it felt like a bluff or a false promise. There is a reason that movie made half a billion dollars at the box office, you know.

It is now three in the morning, and I have to take my son to day care in five hours. Time to head to bed. Thanks to all you wonderful 24-philes for reading my column, and I’ll see you all in seven months.

  

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24 7.22: If you build it, Kim Bauer will fall into it

Previously, on the “24” Blog:

Now watch us find out next week that it was Hillary’s contract killer that blew up the car. Wouldn’t that suck? I mean really, how boring, how logical.

Damn, damn, damn. I work up this super-fun conspiracy theory, only to discover that the reason they kept Janis around is for one last catfight with Chloe. Ugh. Even after Janis had won the battle, I pumped my fist in the air when Chloe told her that she’s not the person you come to for validation. God, I could kiss her. I’d still like to know why Janis was the one helping in Jonas Brother’s transfer, though. Was it just to get her some additional screen time? Or to mess with bloggers like me? I’m still holding out hope that there is still a chance that she’s a mole, but I realize that it’s not very likely.

I am amused, though, at how completely and totally fucked Hillary Clinton is at this point. There is practically a trail of bodies that follows her wherever she goes. Even Old Yeller is susipcious of her – which surely began the moment he shared an elevator with her after she’d just had sex, as one Mr. Codding astutely observed – to the point where he called Warden Norton to see if the digital recorder stashed in the office was still running. How awesome was Norton’s response: “I’ll be there within the half-hour.” It’s SIX IN THE MORNING, but Warden is both ready and willing to exact his revenge. How about that, the system works after all.

I was glad to see the whole canister thing get resolved – man, how about that beatdown Jack gave Tony? – but as Jibraan locates the bomb and begins to scramble out of the station, I’m thinking to myself, “Leave the bomb inside the subway car and tell the authorities to close the goddamn doors.” It wouldn’t be airtight, but once you’ve scared everyone off, it wouldn’t matter. Hell, John McClane would have thrown it down the subway tunnel, then shot it to pieces. Dunno, it just seemed like overkill to me.

“And Iiiiiiiiii-eeeeee-iiiiiiiiii-eeeee-iiiiiiiii will always, love youuuu-hooooooooo-ohhhhhhhhh…”

All right, Kim Bauer fans, it is time for you to come to Jesus. Why is it, exactly, that you like her so much? Because she’s cute? No question, Elisha Cuthbert is a lovely woman, but Kim Bauer is death incarnate. Look at how they handled those scenes of her at the airport. It was both clumsy and convenient at the same time. She’s suspicious of the federal agent – here’s an idea: have the agent walk up to Kim and tell her that Jack asked him to look after her, and get Daddy on the phone if she’s unsure – and then she just happens to befriend the two people assigned to abduct her? Meanwhile, the male goon, who’s the worst actor ever, kills the agent in the bathroom without anyone walking in on them, which is ridiculous on two levels. For one, that agent had a gun. Grab it and shoot the guy! The other problem with that scene is that it’s rush hour at a DC airport. Those bathrooms aren’t empty that time of day, ever. So now Jack has to break Tony (his smirk once Jack hopped in the van is some of the finest acting Carlos Bernard’s ever done) out of FBI custody again in order to save Danger-prone Daphne for the seventeenth time in the show’s history.

Kim Bauer is not worth this much trouble.

Remember, the girl of a thousand disguises can only hear Jack, which means she can’t see him speak to someone else using sign language or write a note saying “HELP ME!” Ugh. So much conflict, so little need. The only way they can make up for this is if the bad actor goon is strangled to death by a cougar trap, then shot by a guy who just held a standoff at a Kwik-E-Mart. Seriously, resolving the bomb attack two hours early was a severe tactical mistake. Now we have to pretend to care whether Kim Bauer lives to see the final clock tick, and I gotta be honest, I don’t care what happens to her. The rest of the time will be spent covering the downfall of either Hillary Clinton, Madame Prez, or possibly both of them, which would be a gross injustice to the show’s finest President since David Palmer. Can’t say that either of those prospects excites me. Sigh.

  

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