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Phillip Phillips, the most recent of the crowned "American Idols," has a bar to raise. Previous guys-with-guitars-styled singers like Kris Allen and Lee Dewyze are struggling for their album sales and criticisms to match their FOX show success. What this 22-year-old has going for him on his debut album "The World from the Side of the Moon," besides a title charmingly impossible to remember, is his natural, warm growl and the mixed blessing of always sounding like somebody else.
Namely, Phillips splits time on "The World" between Dave Matthews Band rockers and Mumford & Sons roots numbers. This comes as no surprise to the listener, who would easily mistake his chart-breaking single "Home" for the latter's earnest heartbreaking. As for the inveterate DMB, Phillips picks up where 2001's "Everyday" left off: these are not band-written songs, this collection is shot after shot at the Next Big Single, with a frontman never stepping away from the center. Some melodies will achieve exactly the radio single sound Universal undoubtedly hoped Phillips could achieve. "Gone, Gone, Gone" has enough BPMs to differentiate it from "Home" while still dipping into the same pool. Closer "So Easy" could easily head to Adult Top 40 as "Get Up Get Down" will leave both Matthews and Maroon 5 shaking that they didn't have first dibs.
Phillips is game for all these, but it's not unfair to say he has some serious limitations, too. Dynamically, his vocals remain pleasant, lightly challenged, but rarely changing. Those performances cause tracks like "Drive Me" and country stomper "Cant' Go Wrong" to fall flat. He most emotionally expressive on "Home," still, and abstract "Fool's Dance."
The next challenge is to take Phillips' likeable brand further, without entirely disassociating him from the television show. Some songs are strong enough, and his fans can follow this set pretty easily. Now it's up to the marketing team. Happy holidays, guys.
LONDON - You may remember that two years ago, Julia Roberts attracted some attention in awards-watching circles when she held a private industry screening of "Biutiful" in aid of Javier Bardem's Best Actor campaign -- not because she was in any way involved or invested, but simply because she believed the performance was worthy of recognition, and wanted more of her colleagues to see it. We'll never know how much of an influence Roberts' efforts had, but together with the attached publicity, they certainly didn't hurt: Bardem came from behind to score a nomination for a challenging, little-seen foreign film, and in a competitive category to boot.
This trend of peers effectively campaigning for each other looks set to continue, and we had this season's first instance of it last night at London's Soho Hotel, where Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie hosted an intimate reception and screening of "The Impossible" -- chiefly to talk up the performance of her friend Ewan McGregor. (Before you hit IMDb to jog your memory: no, they've never worked together.) I was lucky enough to be in attendance.
For true Beliebers, it's been a pretty good month. Justin Bieber may (or may not) have gotten back onto the market following his (maybe on, possibly off again) split with Selena Gomez. Hey, it's sad, but he might be single! Or not! And now we learn he's done a sit-down with Oprah. Her interview with Bieber will air on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” Sun., Nov. 25 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Don't worry if you miss it, though. The episode will then air internationally on TLC, Home & Health and Real Time networks starting the same day.
This week, we get to meet our latest housewife, Porsha. It seems fitting that Porsha battles with our other new housewife, Kenya, over an extremely trivial matter, and it all ends in name calling and hurt feelings. This is how our beloved housewives roll, so it's nice to see the new kids picking up the ball so quickly. Of course, they aren't the only housewives on the show, though the other housewives seem too tired and battle-worn to get fired up about much of anything this early in the season. Still, it's nice to check in with them, check their temperatures and make sure they haven't become too Zen and conflict-averse (NeNe, I'm looking at you). Maintaining housewives is like training pitbulls. Once they lose their taste for blood, they might as well become housepets.
I mentioned this on the podcast Friday and in a column recently, I think, but the lull has been considerable this year, it seems. The waiting for late-season contenders, I mean. It's subjective. Maybe I'm just coming from a weird perspective. But enough of it has to do with the four big remaining entries -- "Django Unchained," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Les Misérables" and "Zero Dark Thirty" -- having been watched like a hawk as they race toward completion.
There has been this and that in the interim. Since the New York Film Festival dropped "Flight," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln" onto the season we've gotten "Hitchcock" (which I liked), "This is 40" (Judd Apatow's richest work) and "Promised Land" (which has been shown a few times -- I'm seeing it today). But mostly it's been anticipation for what the aforementioned quartet will have to offer the season.
We all know genre films don't usually get the respect they deserve from the Academy, and the same goes for the actors in them: when pressed for options, voters will nominate a Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens," but they're generally more comfortable filling out the ballot with sundry biopics and prestige dramas. Geoff Berkshire wishes that would change this year, citing Liam Neeson in "The Grey," Mark Ruffalo in "The Avengers" and Christopher Walken in "Seven Psychopaths" as examples of actors who "elevated the material" with their performances. (Perhaps the problem lies in the perception that genre material even needs elevation?) I'd throw Elizabeth Olsen in "Silent House," Javier Bardem in "Skyfall" and assorted supporting players in "Killing Them Softly" into the mix -- how about you? [The Vote]
LOS ANGELES - Last Thursday, "Twilight" fans everywhere were anxiously getting ready to take their final bite of Bella, Jacob and Edward. And, as we soon discovered, history fans across the country were scouring to see if "Lincoln" was playing in a multiplex close by. I, on the other hand, ended up revisiting one of this season's expected awards season players, "Anna Karenina."
Fox Searchlight had a strange predicament on its hands. How do you hold a U.S. premiere for a movie when your leading man - the actor who plays the title character of the picture no less - is an ocean away? Thankfully for the mini-major, the director and producers of "Hitchock" found a supporting cast with prestige credentials and paparazzi appeal.
With Anthony Hopkins in London, the New York premiere for "Hitchcock" featured the film's co-lead, Dame Helen Mirren, "Avenger" Scarlett Johansson, Toni "shouldn't I have another Oscar nomination by now?" Collette and Jessica "she's more talented than she gets credit for" Biel. And yes, James D'Arcy and director Sacha Gervasi were there too, but this special screening surpassed the world premiere at AFI Film Fest earlier this month because there were actual stars in the house.
And when you're opening on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 16 theaters a little attention from the press ain't such a bad thing. Check out the talented ladies in the gallery embedded in this post or read my AFI review here.
Are you looking forward to seeing "Hitchcock"? Do you think Hopkins and Mirren have a shot at nominations? Share your thoughts below.
A quick review of tonight's "Tremé" coming up just as soon as the third beer is talking...
A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as it's like the starship Enterprise in here...