Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Talk: Looking forward

J: It's the last Thursday Talk of 2010! What entertainment things are you looking forward to in the new year?

Jennifer: I'm looking forward to the last Harry Potter movie, of course. On TV, the final seasons of Greek and Friday Night Lights, and the new Masterpiece series Downton Abbey. I'm also very curious and somewhat concerned about the American remakes of the British series Skins (MTV) and Being Human (SyFy). I'm hoping they're decent but am prepared to pretend that they don't exist!

Mira: I'm looking forward to the last installment of HP, too! On TV, I'm excited about Glee's post-Super Bowl episode. I also am interested in how they'll end Greek. One other thing I'm curious about is Spiderman, the musical. There's been all this press about injuries and crazy stunts; hopefully this show will actually get on ground and maybe one day (probably not 2011), I'll get to watch it. Songs written by Bono and The Edge. That's all I can think of for now. :)

Happy 2011! Stay tuned for a slight change in our Thursday Talks...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Talk: Movies and TV of 2010

J: Continuing to wrap up 2010...what were your top movies and TV of this year?

Jennifer: As usual I didn't watch a whole lot of movies in theaters this year, but my favorites were Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Inception. Scott Pilgrim had perfect perfect casting, great music, great video-game-esque action, and was just FUN, while Inception was cerebral and mind-twisting and pretty visually stunning.

On TV, I'm not sure , I think the show I found most entertaining was certainly The Vampire Diaries. Runners up: Community and Parks and Recreation (can't wait for it to come back in January). Continuing excellence: Friday Night Lights and Mad Men. I also really enjoyed Sherlock, Justified, and Parenthood.

Mira: I saw very few movies this year, too. In fact, I get the vague feeling that I only saw two movies in the theater this entire year: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I and Step Up 3D. Haha. I get the feeling that most of my movie watching is on airplanes these days. I did get to watch Despicable Me, Sex and the City 2, Knight and Day, and Going the Distance on the way to and from Europe recently. And on the way to and from Rome in July, I saw... I don't remember. :) Okay my favorite of those movies... Harry Potter. The movie series has only gotten better with each subsequent movie.

My favorite on TV for the year would be Glee (because there is no TV I look forward to more than this show). In particular, my favorite episode was "Duets."

Top Chef: Match Point!

Whenever I see a big "event" on Top Chef, I assume it means catering which I don't think really produces the best food so I was happy to see that the Elimination Challenge was NOT catering, but kind of a culinary tennis game held at Flushing Meadows with a middling pro tennis player as a judge, which had chefs from two teams "serving" up dishes head to head. The food ostensibly had to be geared towards athletes but that seemed pretty open to interpretation.

So let's talk about Jamie. She hasn't necessarily changed since her season, she was smug and defensive back then and she still is. But as Blais pointed out, she's "got a story going on." This is the second time in four weeks that she hasn't put out anything. I don't think I'm alone in finding this...problematic. A Top Chef should win because they consistently cooked great food, not because they're great self-preservationists. She's clearly not a team player and her general air of "whatever" is extremely tiresome.

As for Spike, I actually thought his strategy made sense...the problem was that none of the chefs were going to admit that their dish was the weakest and automatically put themselves up for elimination. And I don't know why he let Angelo bulldoze his dish. It sounded like the shrimp was his downfall though and that was all him. Angelo seemed to kind of screw up Tre's dish as well...I don't think he's deliberately trying to sabotage people but it is a little odd that his own dishes win challenges but when he interferes with another chef, they end up on the bottom.

Really happy for Carla! She'll always be underestimated because she just has a kooky personality but her soup was one of the more interesting things I've ever seen on Top Chef and I'm glad she's breaking out a little earlier this season.

Odds and ends:
- Have we ever seen the chefs socializing outside of their house? The opening segment with them at the "bar" must have been in the morning or something because they seemed to be drinking coffee and eating like...fruit and bread.
- The Quickfire was wacky but kind of comic gold. Using the handle of pan, a cob of corn, a big piece of bacon, a celery stick as stirring utensils? Whacking everything with anything? Apparently a pepper grinder is not a tool though.
- It's "undone-te."
- Mike's childishness vs. Marcel's childishness. Mike is the crazy fun kid that makes everyone laugh. Marcel is the annoying kid everyone wants to smack.
- Mike got a free pass this episode too but nobody really said anything about that...
- Did the "tennis fans" watching get to eat anything?
- Tennis is one sport I actually know the rules of. They were following normal tennis scoring but if they had gotten to 40-40 with only one chef left on each team then I guess they would have skipped the whole deuce thing...
- Next episode looks EPIC. Cooking head-to-head with Tom and then serving dim sum to crotchety Asians? Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sing-Off Finale!

So...finales of these kinds of performance reality shows are always kind of a mixed bag. I don't have all that much to say about the group performances with the special guests and judges....I loved Street Corner Symphony with Ben Folds singing "Gone" because I do love that song but everything else didn't really register with me.

The public voted based on the performances from last time so this week's individual numbers don't really matter but I'll review them anyway.

Backbeats - "Firework" by Katy Perry
Is it weird that I haven't actually heard this song before? Maybe that (and the fact that it's Katy Perry...) contributed to why I didn't enjoy this all that much. It was nice to hear Kenton actually sing...this is supposedly "his" group after all. I thought they should have cut last week so not too attached to them.

Commited - "Hold My Hand" by Michael Jackson and Akon
I didn't know of the existence of this song either, but it sounded very much in their wheelhouse and I liked it. Great harmonies and sharing of the lead vocals as usual and their gospel roots really came through.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - "Love Train" by O'Jays
I have tons of respect for these guys but I have to admit, if this were a longer competition, I'd probably have gotten tired of them soon. They do what they do really well but it doesn't seem like they have a whole lot of range. Which isn't a problem in the real world, just in the world of TV reality competition...

Street Corner Symphony - "Fix You" by Coldplay
I was actually a fan of Coldplay's first album but then they somehow got really annoying and I kind of stopped paying attention to them. But this is a pretty great song and these guys definitely did it justice. Not sure why all the other groups had to come and join in halfway though?

And the winner is...Commited! I think I was personally rooting for Street Corner Symphony but there's no question of Commited's talent, so I'm quite happy for them.

How GREAT is it that this show is already over??

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Talk: Books and Music of 2010

J: 2010 is almost over, so of course that means coming up with end-of-the-year lists. Let's tackle books and music this week. What was the best book you read this year and what was your favorite song/album/artist of 2010?

Jennifer: I finally read Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest) this year and while some parts were a little slow going (a lot of pretty detailed stuff about the government and the police and business), overall they definitely lived up to the hype. Once they got going I couldn't put them down! I also read all the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and LOVED them. Funniest thing I've read in a long time.

In music, my favorite song of the year, hands down, is Robyn's Dancing On My Own. Robyn's been around for years but I never thought I liked dance music -- I don't dance or go to clubs. But this song is infectious. The lyrics are so simple and emotionally bare and I also kinda love Robyn's crazy dance moves in the video. For albums, my picks are The National - High Violet (listen to "Bloodbuzz Ohio") and of course Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (check out "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)").

Mira: (Will answer when she returns from vacation!) Finally answering! My favorite song of the year is Neon Trees' "Animal." It's one of those songs that for some unexplainable reason it makes me really happy to listen to. "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers is another such song. A close second is "The Only Exception" by Paramore. Favorite album, I pick Ingrid Michaelson - Everybody. It's actually from 2009 but I've listened to that album a whole lot the past year. (I first was introduced to her music at a concert in late 2009 and saw her again in 2010 because I like her that much.)

For books, I pick The Hunger Games trilogy. This actually is relevant to 2010 because the final book of the series, Mockingjay, was released in August. I had heard a lot of positive reviews for the series but had held off on reading them until the series was complete so I could read all three together. I also had a lot of school and very little time for fun reading. In any case, it was totally worth the wait and the books were fantastic. They were so good I read 2.5 of the 3 books on my loooong flight from Rome to Atlanta; didn't even nap!

2010 Resolutions: How Did I Do?

Back in January, I blogged about my entertainment-related resolutions from 2010. Let's see how I did!

1. Aim to blog at least once a week.
Well, we didn't miss any Thursday Talks, so I'm going to claim success on this!

2. Stop watching trashy TV, e.g. The Bachelor, most things on MTV.
Check! I gave up the Bachelor/ette and didn't watch a single episode of Jersey Shore, The Real World, or any RW/RR Challenges. I did watch a few episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker here and there though...but at least that has more standalone episodes, not the same idiots every week.

3. Catch up with Lost before the series finale (yes, I started watching it again, but more on that later. I just started season 5).
Another check! I caught up just in time to watch the series finale live.

4. Catch up with Doctor Who (currently on season 4) and Torchwood (still on season 1, though I watched Children of Earth).
Fail. I'm still on the David Tennant specials and haven't started on season 5 of Doctor Who yet. And I haven't touched Torchwood.

5. Make a better effort to attack my Netflix queue (currently nearing 300) and stop keeping discs over a month (waste of money).
Fail. My queue is up to 341...

6. Read more, especially books that I own but have never read/finished.
I'll claim success on this one too, but next year I think I'm going to keep a list of every book I actually finish.

7. Go to at least 1 concert this year. Everyone makes stops in DC but I haven't been to any shows since I moved down here.
Technically success, as I did go see Weezer and Ben Folds. But it's been years since I've been into their music. I'll have to try this one again next year.

So...5/7. Not too shabby!

Top Chef: Getting serious!

Interesting how they're beginning each episode with an extra little elimination recap from the past week. I guess there's more interest since we already know these people and theoretically every elimination should be a shocker since these are the All-Stars?

After some silliness last week, Top Chef gets down to business. This week had the kind of challenges that are usually reserved for later in the season. The Quickfire was the a twist on the now-class mise en place relay race: each team of 4 prepped 3 ingredients simultaneously, then had to create a dish with the ingredients, but time expired for all the teams 15 minutes after the first team finished their mise en place. Superstar NYC chef David Chang was the judge, who I'd been waiting to come on the show (especially since he and Bourdain seem to be pretty chummy), but I thought he was kind of wasted here. At least he was part of the Elimination too. Anyway, two teams elected to do carpaccio since they didn't have enough time to actually cook the lamb, but the team with most time ended up on the bottom. No immunity.

The Elimination challenge was kind of awesome but definitely tough. The chefs were split up and sent to 4 top NYC restaurants: Marea (Italian), WD-50 (molecular gastronomy), Ma Peche (French Vietnamese), and Townhouse (eclectic American, emphasis on eclectic). They sat down for a special meal, then had to create their own dishes that would fit in with their assigned restaurants' menus.

On top: Dale T, Antonia, Angelo, and Tre. Asian Dale capitalizes on Wylie Dufresne's obsession with eggs and wins despite not using any of WD-50's crazy techniques or equipment. Very smart. Nice to see Tre starting to break out a little bit, and man, Angelo is kind of killing this competition so far.

On the bottom: Fabio, Tiffani, Dale L. and Stephen. All of them were pretty aware that they messed up, so no Jen-like outbursts. Two were eliminated this week, so bye-bye to Dale L. and Stephen. I can't say I'm all that upset--while I like Dale as a person, I never really saw him as having as much competitive drive as some of the others. I hear that he and Sara Nguyen from his season have a new restaurant in Chicago that's doing extremely well, so good for him. As for Stephen, he's obviously more of a front-of-house guy now. Nothing wrong with that, but this is a cooking competition.

I'm thinking Fabio's days are numbered, but obviously anything can happen, especially as it seems we're returning to the world of catering next week. But really, he's been on the bottom 2 of 3 eliminations and he's not even saying that many amusing things anymore!

Random observations:
- I can't stand how Angelo must describe all his food as "beautiful." Let the people eating decide if it's beautiful or not, ok?
- The green team's aprons did not look particularly green to me.
- Why am I not surprised that Jamie made soup?
- I can't remember a single Bourdain quote! There's something wrong with that.
- 6 night trip to New Zealand is pretty sweet...but not nearly long enough!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Sing-Off Night 4

Thanks Mira, for getting me totally hooked on this show! Round 1 of Night 4 had the groups put together a "superstar medley," which led to some pretty varied results.

On the Rocks - Elton John
So last time I declared my love for Peter of to-be-eliminated Groove for Thought. Now I totally have a thing for the Peter in this group! Loved his solo on "Kyrie" last time and continued to love him with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" tonight. The judges never seem to mention this, I guess because it's secondary, but these guys have pretty great choreography. They cover the stage and change up their formations and I think they've been getting much cleaner and tighter.

Committed - Usher
Good choice for them, as I think gospel voices transition really well to R&B. They had fantastic transitions between songs and their harmonies are just sick. I personally don't really like Usher so I can't say I loved this but I so respect their talents.

Street Corner Symphony - The Beatles
"Eleanor Rigby" is my favorite Beatles song but I kind of hate when people try to cover it because it just never sounds quite right. No exception here. The rest was really good was nice to hear some of the other guys get their solo moments during "Help" and Jeremy was great as usual with "Hey Jude."

Backbeats - Lady Gaga
The judges are really in love with Courtney, huh? I thought the "Paparazzi" segment was the best, "Poker Face" was way too fast and had too much going on, and "Just Dance" was fine but nothing special.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - Otis Redding
This was very, how do you say it, "in the pocket." This was very classic, no percussion or beatboxing but still sounded wonderfully full. Again, nice to hear someone else besides Jerry take the solo in the middle section (don't know the name of the song...I admit ignorance on this genre of music).

Aaaand On The Rocks is eliminated??? Sigh, I was just starting to really like them. LOVED their quippy last words referencing all three judges and "The Final Countdown" as their "swan song."

Ok, Round 2: Judges' Request.

Committed - "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
Loved this. Very clean and restrained with great trading off of the vocals. It's like Talk of the Town: the Next Generation.

Street Corner Symphony - "Down on the Corner" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
If Nashville is full of these kind of guys, in the words of Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there." They're just so laid back and cool and this was a great choice for them. They're so great when they get into the choruses and sound like they're just...jamming.

Backbeats - "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac
The judges are really going for the classics huh? I know I've been kind of down on Backbeats in general but this was really quite good. Kenton being the "cello" kind of cracked me up a little bit and how they started crying at the end was a little ridiculous but Joanna is always great and they didn't make it too complicated.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - "House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals
Pretty fantastic...almost haunting. It's kind of hard to say bad things about them...

Ugh, fakeout with the second elimination. It was slightly cruel to make Talk of the Town think that they had gotten eliminated for that split second.

Odds and Ends:
- Opening song was alright. "Use Somebody" still my favorite so far.
- This is neither here nor there, but my favorite color is purple, so I love how much purple all the groups are wearing, especially the guys!
- Liked the little holiday song segments.
- Ben Folds is awesome. So is his Sing-Off blog.
- Not going to vote, but not sure who I'd vote for anyway.
- Bizarrely enough, I think this is the most on-time blog I've ever written...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sing-Off Night 3

As Mira is on vacation, I might as well step in and take over our Sing-Off coverage. I think the best thing about this show is its limited run: just 2 weeks, 5 episodes. Short but sweet! (Just for the record, the worst thing is Nick Lachey. I assume his ridiculous puns and such are written for him, but his blandly cheesy delivery doesn't help.)

Anyway, night 3 had the groups singing two numbers each: a rock song and a "guilty pleasure" song. Here's my rundown:

Backbeats - "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi and "Love Shack" by the B-52s.
Catherine takes the lead vocals for the Bon Jovi song and while there's nothing really wrong with her voice, I find her sound to be slightly...empty. Kinda reminds me of all the teenage girls on American Idol trying to sing big "diva" songs. I thought they did a much better job with "Love Shack"...kinda crazy with the arrangement and dancing and costumes but I think that's what they were going for anyway.

Street Corner Symphony - "Creep" by Radiohead and "Come on, Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners.
They're one of my favorites and I'm a big Radiohead fan so I was super psyched to hear them do "Creep", and I LOVED it. Radiohead and a cappella, who knew? "Come on, Eileen" was fun but rather messy. I'm surprised none of the judges mentioned their sloppy dancing. I love their lead singer's voice though.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town - "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones and "Easy" by the Commodores
These guys are just so professional. I really don't have anything bad to say about them. I don't always love their song choices but they win me over every time. And they're so cute!

Groove for Thought - "Changes" by David Bowie and "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall & Oates
Their jazzy style is just not my thing, but um, I think I kinda have a crush on their lead singer, Peter. His vocals are so smooth and he does that sideways mouth singing thing and he wears those hats and glasses and skinny ties...haha, I'm ridiculous. Possibly why I wasn't a big fan of the David Bowie song as Amanda sang the solo on that. Their second number was definitely fun but yeah, that doobeedoo stuff just doesn't do it for me in general.

On the Rocks - "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard and "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister
I originally wasn't sure about this group. I thought they were kinda all over the place with Bad Romance in the first episode and Live Your Life from last time just seemed silly but I really enjoyed them this time.  They're still silly, that's basically their vibe, but with so many members they definitely know how to really put on a show. "Kyrie" had the boys getting a little more serious with a more typical college male a cappella sound (complete with collegiate sweaters and letter jackets and rugby shirts) and I think it was my favorite performance of theirs so far.

Committed - "Every Breath You Take" by the Police and "I Want it That Way" by the Backstreet Boys
The judges kinda reamed the Police song for not being "rock" enough, but I am still really impressed by this group. It seems like every one of the guys is capable of a solo and their arrangements just seem really intricate. Neither performance tonight was a knockout but they're definitely solid.

Oh, and as for the opening song...I kind of dislike "21 Guns" and I don't love Catherine's vocals, so it was just meh for me.

I've been in agreement with all the eliminations so far. Groove for Thought was my least favorite group so I was fine with their leaving. I think I can do without Backbeats next, but it's going to be hard to pick among the rest...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nikita: Midseason report

I've only kept up with two new shows from this fall season, Hellcats and Nikita (both on the CW...take from that what you will). Hellcats is just mindless fun but Nikita I think is something more. At times it can get a little repetitive but overall I've been really impressed with its quality and pacing and especially the acting.

I mean, this is definitely my kind of show: we have not one, but two female heroines, high stakes and lots of action and conspiracies, but the world of the show still feels intimate and personal. One of the things I didn't like about The Event or V or Flashforward or any of the other networks' attempts at doing action/mystery shows is that they have these huge, disconnected casts of characters and as a viewer, you're kept in the dark about what's going on. Even on Dollhouse, I hated how in the beginning Ballard was just on the outside doing his own thing...I just wasn't interested. But on Nikita, the setup is actually very tight: there's everyone in Division, there's Alex, and there's Nikita. No wondering what the point of certain plotlines are or where they're going to converge.

That said, it is slightly ridiculous that Nikita and Michael seemingly come face-to-face every single week and at the end of the episode, nothing has really changed. This week's midseason finale finally turned everything around though: Division finally finds out how Nikita has been getting information from the inside (but not from whom), Nikita is actually captured by Division (but then escapes of course), and most importantly, Alex graduates from recruit status.

And dammit, they killed Thom! How it happened did totally make sense and the fact that Alex did it, even unintentionally, does make it a really powerful plot point. Alex and Thom obviously had a connection (and chemistry too...their kiss from a few weeks back was HOT), which might now give Alex more drive, similar to how Daniel's death affected Nikita, but I just really liked Thom as a character and hate that he's gone now. Couldn't they have killed off Jaden instead??

I've liked Maggie Q as Nikita from the beginning--she's sexy and dangerous and decisive but with just enough pathos. She was such a good choice for this series. Lyndsy Fonseca as Alex was a little less convincing to me at first, but she's really grown on me. I like Alex a lot, she's smart and tough but still vulnerable. Xander Berkeley sometimes puts on the evil a little thick, but I don't think Percy is the kind of villain we're supposed to like. That's Michael's domain, and I think Shane West has been acquitting himself pretty well despite my original misgivings. I've also liked Devon Sawa (yes, it's Casper all grown up and buff) as Owen when he's popped up. He and Nikita are kind of hot are Nikita and Michael. Lots of simmering sexual tension on this show!

I think there's still a lot of potential here and am very interested to see how things will operate now that Alex isn't chained inside Division. But sigh, no new episodes until the end of January!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday Talk: Guest Question!

Burkie: Congratulations! You've become a big celebrity for some reason and you're appearing on Letterman & Leno and presenting at the big awards shows! That means you need a theme song that has to be played every time you're introduced and walk out onto the stage. What would your theme song be?

Jennifer: Um, I don't really know what criteria should be used in choosing a walk-in song...I figure it should be kind of upbeat and at least represent my taste in music? So my pick is Stillness is the Move by the Dirty Projectors. It's got kind of a quirky sound, and I mean, obviously I'm not going to pick something mainstream. The video is weird even for me though...

Mira: I'm going with a song that makes me happy and makes me want to walk with a happy beat. Okay, no, not walk with a happy beat, it darn makes me want to dance to it. And I'm not a dancer. :) "Photograph" by Weezer!

Top Chef All Stars: Dinosaur time?

It's definitely been awhile since I've blogged weekly about a show...we'll see how long this lasts!

Wow, Jen. I was really a fan of hers during the Las Vegas season. Her performance wasn't that consistent and she had this tendency to psych herself out, but I liked that she was a strong, confident woman in the kitchen and held her own against some of the best chefs of any season (Kevin and the Voltaggio brothers).

But man did she come back with a chip on her shoulder! I was totally cringing watching her be so vocal at Judges' Table and in her confessionals. I'm sure there'll be a reunion this season and I wonder if she'll change her tune after seeing this episode. Also, her dad kind of sounds like a dick.

Honestly none of the dishes in this challenge seemed very inspired. The Brontosaurus team had food that didn't seem very breakfast-like but did seem to have an advantage in terms of plenty of ingredients. I was kind of glad to see that someone finally made good gnocchi though. The T-Rex team did seem to have it a bit rough only being able to use meat/eggs/dairy but it seems like execution was as much a problem as conception of the dishes. All Stars or no, Top Chef is always still Top Chef. These are professionals who would love to do plated fine dining every week but that's not how this competition goes...

Last season I started getting kind of annoyed at the judges (mostly Tom) for being so disapproving all the time. I mean, I guess if the food's bad, the food's bad, but they can be kind of all over the place with their criticism. Usually they appreciate when a chef knows what their mistakes were but Tom blasted Tre for not fixing his sauce. And Katie saying that they shouldn't serve something if it's not good was ridiculous...a missing component can ruin a dish as much as a flawed one. I guess it's unrealistic to expect them to be consistent all the time though.

As for Jamie leaving to get two stitches in her thumb? That did seem a little lame...if it was later in the season I think that could have factored into the judging.

Random tidbits:
- Dale T. thinking that Joe Jonas was a pastry chef
- That one kid examining Spike's chips and dip with a hilarious expression of confusion/disgust
- The return of the robotic Katie Lee (sans Joel)
- Stephen trying to describe his "uncomfortability" about sleeping on cots in the Museum of Natural History (which sounded super cool to me, by the way...I LOVE that museum)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

this is my december sytycd :)

Of course I'll be on break from blogging next week cuz I'll be traveling (Budapest-Vienna-Prague, yay!)... Anyway, night 2 of Sing Off!

I love the 8 group performance of "Use Somebody," by the way.
I also enjoy that they brought back Nota -- the winner last year! We had been wondering what happened to them since they won last year.

On the Rocks - Love their song choice two episodes in a row -- "Live Your Life." Not only were they singing a rap song, which cannot be easy a cappella -- but they were singing Rihanna's part! I love how complete that song sounded, when it's a song that has so much going on in it. "Bad Romance" was fun, but this was great!
Street Corner Symphony - Such a good fit for them, especially cuz watching their lead singer in "Use Somebody," I was saying he's the kind of guy who with that voice should be the frontman for a Train-type of band. :) My only complaint is the lead vocals for this performance was a little tinny sounding rather than full... I love the switch up in the middle of the song; I love changed interpretations!! :)
Eleventh Hour - Sigh, this didn't really work for me. It just felt a little flat in a lot of ways and got a little too busy...
Talk of the Town - They really made "Mercy" their kind of music, not popular America's Top 50's kind of music. :)
Backbeats - They just remind me so much of the SoCals or whatever that group from USC was called last year. And I didn't really like that group that much throughout the competition last year; I was surprised how far they made it. But "Breakeven" was pretty good. Definitely better than the high schoolers...
Committed - I'm so excited about everything they will do in this competition. We have now heard solos from 3 out of their 6 members. And omg, everything they do is amazing.
Groove for Thought - I managed to miss the fact that they were a group of music teachers. That is pretty cool. I think all I liked about this was the bass and the lead vocal, which was a perfect voice for this song. Everything else was just kind of annoying for me.
Whiffenpoofs - I don't know how I felt about that. The last performance was really fun for me, but this one was so... busy for me. But sometimes it was so loud at the audience.

I feel like it would be fun if they made the two bottom teams actually do a sing off to see who leaves. :) It was a lot less obvious to me who would be leaving in the second group of 4. Wonder how they decide who goes in the first group of 4 and the second group of 4?

My favorites: Committed, On the Rocks, Street Corner Symphony.

Monday, December 06, 2010

why i love sing-off!

1) I love Glee.
2) I love a cappella (which Glee goes away from often)
3) Three legitimate judges!

In any case, Season 2!!!
Eleventh Hour - Loved that the high school group did Justin Bieber and they did it so well. And it's funny that they're identity is truly being a "real life Glee." The "homecoming queen" girl really is very talented.
On the Rocks - The University of Oregon group performing "Bad Romance" was really awesome. It was a little cluttered to my ear and the transitions went pitchy, but the performance and dance was so entertaining! Plus it is a great a cappella song.
Groove for Thought - They have an interesting sound but I'm not sure how it can translate to the rest of the competition. I'll have to see more of their stuff.
Pitch Slapped - Love the group name! Cobra Starship, "Good Girls Gone Bad" -- nuts! That is not an easy song to sing, not a cappella!!! I thought they were kinda awesome. But oh well, gone!
Talk of the Town - So cute! Man, another reason why I enjoyed this show so much last season -- the different types of a cappella represented on the show. I really hope they do well and show a unique twist to everything later.
Whiffenpoofs - This season's Beelzebubs? :) Of course they were the "first a cappella" group and all. Okay I was prepared to hate them for being pretentious and I was expecting that all I would like of them would be the white gloves. But somehow they won me over. They took something that was... seemingly boring, and made it fun! [I love that Shawn called the guy out for being beyond pretentious about the Whiffenpoof history.]
Men of Note - I like them. They're adorable and dorky. :) Ben Folds agrees with me! I said it was rushed, Ben felt it was rushed.
Street Corner Symphony - Southern a cappella! Love the idea! I was hoping they'd sing "Ring of Fire" but I really like what they did with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."
The Backbeats - Haha, I knew I recognized people in this group! I am really enjoying the song choices for this first episode. It was good, but I feel like this group is like the group that the blonde girl was on last year, the one that did the Journey medley. They were good but not standout for me.
Committed - I had such high expectations of this group (from commercials). And they were totally met! I love when a group can take a song you know and make it completely theirs! This is a lot more common in the later rounds where they're given challenges. This was definitely one of my favorite performances of this premier.

Some notes --
I was hoping to see Berklee at least once more. I'd like to see how they do when given a challenge because their arrangements surely would be sick.
No all female groups this year but A LOT of all male groups.
I wish they would stop calling the goodbye song the "Swan Song," or at least not make such a big deal about calling it that.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thursday Talk: Time Travel

J: Time travel as a plot device can be really fun or it can be really bad. What are your favorite movies, books or TV shows involving time travel? And which ones were just stupid?

Jennifer: As a sci-fi/fantasy fan, there are just so many good options! In movies, I have to go with the classic Back to the Future. It's so hilarious when Marty's mom starts hitting on him! My book pick is A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle. It's incredibly imaginative with a fascinating made-up history and just lots of great characters. Oh and of course Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both the book and the movie (because we apparently HP is an appropriate answer for almost every Thursday Talk question). For TV series, I'll plug Being Erica again and of course Doctor Who. I'm generally more a fan of the episodes where they go into the past (like the classic "The Girl in the Fireplace") but the future/alien worlds can be really great too. As for the bad, I really cannot let go of the terrible, terrible last half season of Felicity...

Mira: Well... Favorite blog entries on time travel was definitely this: pooryoricksadventure. ;-) Favorite book for me was Time Traveler's Wife, though I haven't reread it in a while and apparently barely remember the tragedy that hits Henry. Nor have I watched the movie yet (though I love Rachel McAdams!). Jasper Fford's Eyre series does a very interesting thing with time traveling/space traveling. Favorite movie was: 13 Going on 30. It sorta counts as time traveling, right? Least favorite of all time traveling things: I agree, Felicity SUCKED.

Top Chef All Stars

Just a few weeks ago I mused on why I haven't been blogging about Top Chef. It's still an excellent show (and I'm really happy it finally won the Emmy) but it was getting to be too much of the same. Apparently the producers felt this too because they did exactly the right thing: an All-Star season!

They did a really phenomenal job casting the cheftestants from seasons past who either barely missed out on the title or were cut cruelly early or were just popular personalities. There are a lot of contenders. I'll do a rundown later in the post but let's talk about the first episode challenges first.

I liked the concept of the Quickfire, making a dish that represents the city their season took place in, though I thought it was possibly unfair that some seasons had only 2 people while others had 4. I didn't really form many opinions here, although, it's so strange knowing everyone already. Usually the first few weeks of a season I don't know who anyone is and I'm just kind of waiting for the cream to rise to the top. Here, I want to absorb what every single person is doing!

The Elimination challenge, though, was ridiculously brilliant and also a little evil: the chefs all had to recreate the dishes that sent them home. They all looked pissed when they saw what they had to do. And then there's more: they're split into two groups and each will get to eat the others' dishes. And then there's more: they get to watch the critiques. Oh, and by the way, Anthony Bourdain is a regular judge!

It was so interesting to see how different the challenge was for everyone. A lot of the chefs who were booted earlier in their seasons had truly terrible dishes to salvage: Spike's frozen scallops, Dale T.'s butterscotch scallops, Mike's vegetarian dish, Jamie's salty celery. Since they had a lot to improve on, I actually think they fared better than the chefs that made it to their finale. More often than not, the finalists had great dishes conceptually that they just failed in the execution of so I think the difference was probably less noticeable. The exceptions were Angelo, who went on to win, and Richard Blais, who might have won had he not bizarrely continued to garnish his plates after time was up. I did feel bad for Stephen, who was kicked off during Restaurant Wars for being front of house and had three dishes he didn't even really make the first time around.

And the first one out is Elia. I was surprised that she didn't do more with her dish, but she was definitely being a little too proud, thinking that it shouldn't have eliminated her in the first place. I wasn't a huge fan of hers originally but she's obviously talented and being out first really really sucks.

Here's my breakdown of the rest of the chefs:
Stephen (S1) - I remember hating him during the season but at the reunion and various specials he somehow redeemed himself. I see him as more of a sommelier and plating guy though, so not sure how far that will take him.
Tiffani (S1) - I rooted for Harold to win over her because of her sometimes unpleasant personality but I wouldn't mind seeing her do well. I'm curious to see how she matches up against people from later seasons where the talent was seemingly increased.
Marcel (S2) - Still hate him.
Casey (S3) and Dale L. (S3) - I like them both but don't really have an opinion beyond that.
Tre (S3) - He placed 8th in his season, the lowest of all the All-Stars, so we didn't get to see very much of him at all. Definitely looking forward to him proving himself.
Richard (S4) - My first instinct was that he's going to win this. Hopefully his mistake in the first episode was a fluke. All-Star seasons of reality shows can be strange though with top contenders falling early (see Survivor and The Amazing Race).
Antonia (S4) - Meh. The only chef that I don't really remember anything about...
Spike (S4) - I've been to his burger place in DC and it's pretty damn good. I don't know how exactly that translates to the fine dining type stuff of Top Chef though.
Dale T. (S4) - I was a fan of his for some reason despite his anger issues. Hopefully he can keep it together this time (though I'm sure it'll be entertaining if he doesn't).
Carla (S5) - She was the underdog in her season and she's still that now. I imagine her dessert skills will come in handy again.
Jamie (S5) - Don't make scallops every week again! She definitely went home too early the first time around.
Fabio (S5) - I imagine he's kind of just there for the soundbites.
Mike (S6) - I've been to his former restaurant in DC, Zaytinya, and I loved it. Hopefully he'll keep the misogynistic comments to a minimum.
Jennifer (S6) - There's only been one female Top Chef so far. I think a dream top 3 for me would be Tiffani, Jamie, and Jen.
Angelo (S7) - He grew on me throughout his season and being sick during the finale was really sucky, so I guess I'm glad he's getting another chance. It's too soon for me to really be happy to see him again though.
Tiffany (S7) - I got the impression that her season was relatively weak in general, so another case where I wonder how she stacks up against everyone else.

Oh, and I have to say, the season preview looks pretty awesome. Especially....going head to head with Tom Colicchio! Finally putting where your money mouth is, Tom!