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American Idol: two go home

That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back, but more on that in a minute. Last night’s “American Idol” results show was a bit different than usual, as they had contestants perform in small groups rather than in those larger, pageant-type numbers. And I liked it.

They kicked off with the two country singers, Lauren and Scotty, performing “I Told You So,” and it was really, really good. Then Ryan Seacrest told them that they were both….safe!

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SXSW 2011: Paul

If you never knew how big of geeks Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were in real life, you will after watching their new film, “Paul,” because it’s bursting at the seams with geeky sci-fi references – particularly the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg, which plays a big role in informing the world of the film. But while there are a lot of winks and nods directed at fanboys, “Paul” is a much broader and more accessible comedy than the duo’s other movies. That pretty much ensures it will perform better at the box office, but despite a steady stream of laughs throughout, the film too often relies on easy and crass jokes, and quite frankly, it’s beneath everyone involved.

Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are the best of friends – a pair of British sci-fi geeks who have travelled to America to attend San Diego Comic-Con and then take a cross-country road trip across the U.S. Heartland on a tour of UFO hotspots. But when they witness a car crash on the highway and stop to make sure everyone is okay, they’re surprised to see a green alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) emerge from the shadows. Though they’re hesitant to trust him at first, Paul – who’s been marooned on Earth for over 60 years – wins the pair’s trust and help in getting back home. Along the way, they accidentally kidnap a Bible-thumper named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) who reluctantly joins their cause, all while being pursued by a dogged FBI agent (Jason Bateman) ordered to capture Paul for government testing.

paul

There’s a host of other characters that play a part in the adventure – including Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio as a couple of bumbling agents assigned to Bateman, John Carroll Lynch as Ruth’s overprotective father, and Blythe Danner as the little girl who pulled Paul from the UFO wreckage 66 years earlier – but the heart and humor of the movie comes almost exclusively from its three stars. Pegg and Frost pick up right where they left off in “Hot Fuzz” with a natural onscreen chemistry that feeds off their real-life friendship, while Rogen really shines in the title role. This is a buddy movie not just about Graeme and Clive, but the bond that they form with the alien hitchhiker as well, so Paul’s relationship with them has to be completely believable (from the photo-real CGI to his human-like mannerisms) for it to work, and Rogen plays a big part in its success.

Where the movie falters, however, is in how poorly it utilizes the rest of its talented cast, because Graeme, Clive and Paul are so fully realized that everyone else appears one-dimensional in comparison. Kristen Wiig is particularly annoying as Graeme’s love interest, who experiences a drastic personality change shortly after meeting Paul when she abruptly gives up religion and starts swearing like a sailor. It’s meant to be funny, but it gets old really quick, and that’s the biggest problem with “Paul.” The script is needlessly lazy at times, and the only reason some of the jokes even work is because Pegg and Frost have such a great rapport. Fans of their previous work will definitely enjoy seeing the duo reunited once again, but while “Paul” is a solid action comedy featuring a standout performance from Seth Rogen, it’s a film that will make you wonder how much better it might have been with frequent collaborator Edgar Wright in charge.

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The Next Food Network Star: tipped off?

During this week’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star,” we may have been tipped off about who would be eliminated this week before they were eliminated. But more on that later.

The Final Four made it to New York City, where they would be duking it out for real to see who would have their own show on Food Network. The finalists? Aarti, Aria, Tom and Herb. And this week they would be battling Iron Chef-style. Alton Brown was waiting for them, as well as Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto. They would be competing in groups of two, making three dishes each based on the secret ingredient. When they weren’t competing they would be floor commentators ala Kevin Brasch.

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The Next Food Network Star: you either have it or you don’t

Last night’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star” featured two unique challenges. The first was a chili pepper challenge, in which the 9 remaining chefs had to stake their claim to a specific type of chili pepper on a table and then create at dish with it to present on camera for 30 seconds. The winner would have their dish featured at all three of Bobby Flay’s restaurants.

Paul made a scallop dish with habanero and coconut sauce; DAS made some sort of sushi with tuna; Aria made a pork tenderloin with chili marinade; Herb a yellow chili spring roll with crab salad; Brianna made chili and chicken kabobs; Serena had Anaheim peppers and made a salad with mango and avocado; Tom made poblano with chorizo; Aarti made a steak with serrano chutney; and Brad made chicken and shrimp with coconut peanut sauce using Thai chiles.

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The Next Food Network Star: more Hollywood testing

Nothing like being thrown into the fire. On episode 3 of “The Next Food Network Star” last night, the contestants were again given very difficult challenges that asked them to show their stuff on camera. Being that the show is being filmed in Hollywood this season, it makes sense, but they are really going to make someone earn it this time around.

The episode began with Guy Fieri, who won Season 2 of this show and has seen his career launch into the stratosphere, introduced as guest judge this week, filling in for Bobby Flay. He and mentor Giada Di Laurentiis asked each chef to pick from a box of popcorn in front of them, a movie genre that they would then have to create a dish around and present to an audience.

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Paul Rudd, Mac, and McDonalds dance contest

My guess is that few, if any of us, remember the movie “Mac and Me.” A movie staring an alien that is separated from his family, searches for them, evades the government and dances in a McDonald’s, all with the aid of a child in a wheelchair (think “ET” but without being able to ride a bike). A post on Filmdrunk shows a clip from “Conan” where Paul Rudd plays a scene from “Mac and Me” instead of one from his movie “Role Models.” It has apparently been a rolling joke on the show, with Paul Rudd going straight to this scene from “Mac and Me,” forgoing the promotion of the film in which he’s starring.

As a way to further jog your memory, here is a behind the scenes clip with the painted one himself, Ronald McDonald, who introduces the movie:

With all the shameless self-promotion done in the name of the golden arches, I’ve come up with a formula for “Mac and Me.” It goes something like this: Ronald McDonald + “Mac and Me” + McDonald’s dance party in “Mac and Me” = the greatest product placement movie in history.

Gives new meaning to the phrase Mac attack.

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