Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Movie review: Marriage Story

© Netflix

Marriage Story breaks and warms the heart in a story about people losing each other
by Jeremy Fogelman

A lot of movies have an autobiographical vibe to them, sometimes subtle or subconscious, sometimes obvious and intentional like Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. Obviously all of Woody Allen’s movies are that sort of nonsense, but I think that usually adding more of a layer between fiction and reality often works better. And the emotions can still be truth.

Marriage Story comes from director/writer Noah Baumbach, inspired by his own separation from Jennifer Jason Leigh a few years ago. Here we follow a couple at the end of their marriage as they try to figure out how to handle the new trauma of divorce. Scarlett Johansson plays Nicole the wife, an actor who was known for a hit college movie when she was younger and is now mainly working in the theater in New York City where they leave. Her frequent collaborator and director is Charlie (Adam Driver), the husband, who has his own issues.

Although the two start off thinking that they’ll handle it all easily and without lawyers, things change when Nicole moves back to Los Angeles with their son Henry to accept a new, exciting acting opportunity and where all of her family lives. Although Charlie often visits, and gets along with his soon to be ex for the most part, he gets served papers from Nicole in an awkward, amusing scene, as Nicole has decided to get a lawyer after all.

This is Nora (Laura Dern), and she presents a more potentially acrimonious and destructive side that gets mirrored when Charlie considers a lawyer of his own, first the equally harsh Jay (Ray Liotta) but then later the milder, less intense Bert (Alan Alda). As the two battle back and forth in ways small and large, old pains and arguments arise and things get inevitably worse. There’s an underlying theme and questions of LA vs NY, a fight of exaggeration and the secrets only someone who was truly close could say.

© Netflix
The couple isn’t simply hateful and angry, they still have something there between them, even if it isn’t romance any longer. Neither is a cliché or caricature, both seem like real people, caught up in the drama of the divorce but mainly wanting not to lose their son entirely. The movie builds and builds until it explodes, but it feels so real.

This a movie built on naturalistic dialogue with a hint of romanticism, impeccably acted by two attractive people fallen out of love with each other. Adam Driver plays his role as a man trying to balance precariously without falling over, always with a hint or patina of fear below his actions. I’ve been a fan of the dude for a while, and he’s someone who’s always had a great sense of his own physicality and how to channel emotion through it.

Scarlett Johansson continues her year of great performances (after Avengers: Endgame and Jojo Rabbit) with a wholly different role but one with significant emotional depth. Her loyalty to Woody Allen is really the only thing that I can possibly say against her favor, because she’s such an underrated talent, dramatically and comedically.

The movie skips along with an excellent pace despite being over two hours; this is easily my favorite of Noah Baumbach’s movies (I sometimes have found them a bit pretentious at times), but this feels the least cruel, cold, or hipster. This is a movie where you can’t help but root for two people that are fighting each other because they have no other idea what to do.

This is that time of year where there’s an awful lot of good movies coming our, and Marriage Story is definitely a good one to see. It may hurt at first, but it won’t leave you that way. 

Marriage Story has a run time of 2 hours 16 minutes and has is rated R for language throughout and sexual references. Click on the image below to view the trailer.

Marriage Story trailer
 

Monday, December 2, 2019

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Movie Review - Away

© Subliminal Films
'Away' offers a minimalistic, immersive adventure in an escape from reality
by Jeremy Fogelman

Some movies are stuffed with too much plot to even preview in a review, but others have so little or are so basic that it’s basically a sentence or more to explain what it’s all about. The entire nature of a filmmaker being involved with a film often involves many layers between them and their final output, the various producers, studio notes, etc. There is something a bit different when the vision is an elevated student film.

Away comes from director Gints Zilbalodis, who also wrote and animated it. The style of the animation is all colors and no lines, although it’s not particularly impressionistic. There is no dialogue, only mild sound effects and an ever-present score. The movie follows a young boy crash landed (or so it seems) on a mysterious island by himself and with little help. In the style of a classic video game, he finds useful tools like a water canteen and a small motorbike, and the movie also switches between “stages” in a similar way.

You see all biomes here, desert and forest, jungle and mountain, snow and plains. Thus the feeling of showing off a different style of overcoming obstacles and solving puzzles. With a stark note of empathy, the boy rescues a small yellow bird, which is something to clearly pay dividends later. But as he explores, he sees a mysterious dark giant, shadowed and with two enormous white eyes, heading towards him.

It’s obvious that it’s something sinister or dangerous, or so it seems. The ultimate “point” or meaning behind the giant is a bit muddled, simplified to an extreme design and nature, assisted by the occasionally creepy score. Just like a game, the boy passes through various circular gates of stone, symbolic of the new places he must visit, with title cards to indicate the newest adventure or puzzle to be overcome.

The movie isn’t very long at all, more impressive as a feat of coherent story together than anything like a wonderful feat of animation and meaning since it came from one person. To me, the fact that there is a particular vibe and energy to the movie speaks well to the creator, a sort of sleepy, heightened reality of mysterious circumstances.

There’s a lot of design choices that remind me of all the various mysterious islands I’ve seen over the years, but this movie is more interested in trying to get you to empathize with the boy with no name who never speaks. For the most part, this is successful, even if some of the weird parts don’t quite work; they are often too weird or not weird enough.

Still, I think the ambience flows well and the movie isn’t boring, leaving an impression of something with mild substance if not depth. I think it bodes well for the future of the animator/director/creator.

© Subliminal Films

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Dancing With the Stars S28E10: Semi-Finals

© ABC
DWTS Semi-Finals Night Was Redemption Night for Front-Runners
By Kim Krober

It was Semi-Finals Night on Dancing with the Stars. The first round was the Redemption Round, during which each couple was given the chance to redeem a previous dance the judges felt could have benefited from more precision or traditional dance content. The second round was a regular round of competition. Rather than experiencing the usual pang of sadness, I'm almost relieved that the competition will be over next week, as this season has felt exhausting to rally behind at times. Let's see how your favorites did during this tenth week of competition:

© ABC
Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Paso Doble
Lauren and Gleb were tasked by Len to redeem their Paso Doble. Set to Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger", their redemption Paso Doble was full of attack. Len felt it had a lovely mix of expression and aggression with improved shaping. Bruno admired the way Lauren handled all of the men in the routine, saying she looked more centered and so much stronger than the last time. Carrie Ann could tell how far she has come, saying she commands the dance floor now. Erin Andrews complimented her for owning her black velvet outfit, to which I would have to agree.
Score: 27

© ABC
Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Tango
Kel and Witney were asked by Bruno to redeem their Tango to The Temptations' "Get Ready". I didn't care for the disjarring way Kel kept changing facial expressions between intense and fun-loving Kel. Bruno was proud of him though, saying he delivered on everything he asked, praising him for ejecting his personality into the dance. Carrie Ann admired the way he's become more refined in his movements and how he applies every criticism into making  improvements. Len said it had an intensity he liked and he complimented Kel for really attacking the dance.
Score: 27

© ABC
Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Viennese Waltz
Ally and Sasha were asked by Len to improve their turns in the Viennese Waltz. Set to Ed Sheeran's "Perfect", it looked pretty perfect to me. Len thought it was wonderful with a lovely gentleness and better technique, saying she went from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Bruno enjoyed the emotion, saying it was a joy to watch. Carrie Ann commended her ability to convey so much emotion in the dance. It earned her two 10's and a 9 from Len.
Score: 29

© ABC
Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Rumba
Carrie Ann challenged Hannah and Alan to redeem their Rumba from Week Three, which failed to show enough hip action. I could appreciate how Hannah felt about the judges personally attacking her week after week. At times, their critiques did feel a bit harsh this season. Set to Sam Smith and Normani's "Dancing with a Stranger", it sparkled beyond just their outfits, as Hannah proved she has earned her spot in the Semi-Finals. Carrie Ann appreciated seeing Hannah's journey, saying she was more noticeably open in her movements. Len thought she married the hip and arm actions perfectly. Bruno said it worked for her, praising the serious body motion. It was another trio of 9's.
Score: 27

© ABC
James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Cha-Cha
Len tasked James and Emma to improve their Cha-Cha from Week Two, which marked his lowest score of the competition. Len told him to cut out the gimmicks and concentrate on the dance moves. Set to "Canned Heat" from Jamiroquai, James' redemption Cha-Cha was a lot of fun with a disco vibe. Len didn't seem to love the routine ... he apparently felt it still had too many gimmicks. Bruno called it a disco Cha-Cha extravaganza, but he noticed James was off the beat. Carrie Ann felt it was entertaining, although she thought his posture was broken during the dance. Why did the judges suddenly throw a trio of 8's at the show's clear front-runner?
Score: 24

Round Two

© ABC
Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Viennese Waltz
Set to "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw, Lauren's Viennese Waltz illustrated why she deserves to be in the Semi-Finals. Her pink dress and movements were absolutely gorgeous. Len thought it was elegant and graceful, while Bruno called it classy and sophisticated with a sizzling chemistry. Carrie Ann said they had become one and admired Lauren for growing up and blossoming in this competition.
Score: 27

© ABC
Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Contemporary
Set to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You", Kel's Contemporary was dedicated to the memory of one of his close childhood friends whose life was cut short by gun violence. Contemporary dances are always full of raw energy and emotion, and Kel did not disappoint. Bruno called it pure art with fluid lifts and a sincerity about it. Carrie Ann was brought to tears by the riveting storytelling. Len did something truly surprising and gave Kel a standing ovation without any words. Unsurprisingly, he earned a perfect score for his Contemporary.
Score: 30

© ABC
Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Charleston
Set to "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Benny Goodman, Ally and Sasha's Charleston was full of swing. I'll never understand why she's been in the bottom two so many times this season, as she's clearly one of the best dancers on the show. Carrie Ann praised it for being an in-sync show-stopper, while Len said it was fun, fabulous, and joyful with lots of Charleston references. Bruno called it a tonic for the spirit with elements of swing, Lindy Hop, and classic Hollywood musicals. It was another amazing bit of choreography on Sasha's part and another perfect score from the judges.
Score: 30

© ABC
James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Foxtrot
I had a feeling James' bad news was going to be that he and his wife, Kimberly, lost the baby they were expecting, but it didn't stop my heart from pouring out tears on his behalf after they confirmed that suspicion in his package. Dancing a Foxtrot to "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, James dedicated his dance to his wife for pushing him out on the dance floor this week, saying, "When there are no words, you dance." Len admired his ability to come out and dance with so much feeling, with Bruno echoing the sentiment and praising his flow and lines. Carrie Ann said she felt silly for talking about his posture after everything he was going through but wanted to compliment him for it anyway. He may not have been at the top of his game, but I still think he has the heart of a champion. He didn't deserve to be at the bottom of the leader board this week.
Score: 27

© ABC
Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Contemporary
Dancing a Contemporary routine to "Lose You to Love Me" by Selena Gomez, Hannah was able to channel a lot of emotion for one of her best dances this season. Bruno liked the wonderful dynamic with the lifts and drops. Carrie Ann loved seeing the trust between Hannah and her partner. Len admitted he doesn't normally like Contemporary dances, but he felt this was a great dance with a real connection between the couple. It was a great end - or maybe a beginning - to her journey.
Score: 27

© ABC
With five deserving couples remaining, I knew this was going to be the toughest elimination yet (although I didn't know just how tough). It was revealed that Ally & Sasha and James & Emma were in the bottom two. Carrie Ann and Bruno both voted to save Ally and Sasha (Len chimed in he also would have saved Ally and Sasha for the record). In one of the most noble and sincere gestures I've ever witnessed on the program, a visibly shaken Ally kept asking if she could go home instead of James, but of course that isn't allowed (not that James would take that honor away from her anyway).

Ally earned her spot in the Finals so I'm not upset by the judges' decision, but James also deserved to be there. He may not have had the best week, but he was dealt some of the most heartbreaking news a person can be given and still came out and gave it his all. No disrespect to any of the other couples, but this was the final straw that broke the camel's back. I think I need a break from this show. I'm torn between rooting for Kel & Witney and rooting for Ally & Sasha next week, but in my heart of hearts, James & Emma deserved to be in that third spot duking it out for the Mirror Ball Trophy and you're never going to convince me otherwise. Any win is going to feel a bit empty now.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Dancing With the Stars S28E09: Boy Band & Girl Group Night


© ABC
DWTS preps for Semi-Finals with Boy Band & Girl Group Night
By Kim Krober

Dancing with the Stars dusted off some familiar favorites for the star-studded opening of Boy Band and Girl Group Night, but the best thing was seeing guest judge Joey Fatone dancing and lip syncing to an *NSYNC song (right before he split his pants in an ambitious jump). Scheduling conflicts prevented Baby Spice from appearing. The Semi-Finals are next week, and everyone found themselves scrambling to learn two routines this week. Let's see how your favorites did during this ninth week of competition:

© ABC
James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Jive
James set an enthusiastic pace for the evening with his opening Jive to "I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters. Len thought the kicks were sharp and aggressive, while Joey admired how easy he makes it look week after week. Bruno loved the frenzied excitement, but he did note it could have had more pumping in the legs. Carrie Ann said he once again achieved a smooth excellence, but she thought he was a hair ahead of the music.
Score: 36

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Argentine Tango
Jenna (filling in for Lindsay) was back with Sean to dance an Argentine Tango to Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills". I think he looked better this week, striking a serious facial expression for a serious dance made him look less goofy. Joey said his frame was good from the waist up, but his feet could use work. Bruno said it was more of an Argentine straggle than an Argentine Tango. Carrie Ann appreciates his hard work, but she said the artistry and storytelling through the nuances of the dance are missing. Len said the best thing about it was that it wasn't very long.
Score: 26

© ABC
Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Salsa
Hannah's Salsa to TLC's "No Scrubs" looked difficult to me, but she seemed to be enjoying herself. Bruno said it was good to see her confidence continuing to grow, but her timing was off. Carrie Ann called it fierce, but noted the lifts were out of sorts. Len liked the lifts, but he could tell she was ahead of the beat. Joey could tell the tricks were a bit sloppy, but felt she did a great job overall.
Score: 32

© ABC
Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Samba
Ally channeled her inner Spice Girl for a Samba set to "Wannabe". I really hope she isn't in the bottom two again! Carrie Ann said being in a girl group paid off, although she called Ally and Sasha "The Wonder Twins" for dancing perfectly in sync. Len said there was plenty of recognizable Samba and fantastic technique. Joey told her she did an amazing job, while Bruno said he wanted more of that - a proper, technically right Samba. It was another perfect score from the judges!
Score: 40

© ABC
Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Quickstep
Lauren and Gleb got to do an adorable Quickstep to The Supremes' "Can't Hurry Love" and Mary Wilson was back to show support. Len loved the spin turn and some other special steps though the dance wasn't perfect, while Joey thought the energy was good but the frame wasn't quite right. Bruno said she captured the joy of a timeless classic perfectly, but the precision of the Quickstep just wasn't there. Carrie Ann called it fantastic, saying she loved it. It was enough to garner two 8's and two 9's from the judges.
Score: 34

© ABC
Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Paso Doble
Kel's Paso Doble to "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue was full of attack. Is there anything Kel can't do? I wasn't aware that he was also a youth pastor. Joey thought it was an awesome job. Bruno said he set off the seismographs in California with the power of the performance. Carrie Ann told him he needed to free his arms and dance bigger, while Len told him it had too many gimmicks and not even Paso Doble content for his world.
Score: 34

© ABC
James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Jazz
James used to hang out with *NSYNC when they were underage? I loved his Jazz routine to "Bye Bye Bye". Len said it was too much of a Boy Band routine with too much aggression and too much solo dancing. Joey said if he could give it a 100, he would. Bruno loved it and the body language, though he did admit he could've paid a little more attention to Emma. Carrie Ann admired his perseverance, although his elbows didn't quite match everyone else's. It was a mixed reaction from the judges. Thankfully, Joey was there to give him a 10.
Score: 36

© ABC
Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Tango
I've never heard of the current Boy Band that Hannah's Tango was set to, but I thought her dance turned out well. Joey thought it was the best dance of the night. Bruno was purring like a kitten afterwards, calling it pure, undiluted pleasure with elegance and passion and old school glamour. Carrie Ann could feel the pressure of the competition, thanking her for bringing back her "A" game, while Len said it had great frame.
Score: 39

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Foxtrot
Sean and Jenna attempted a Foxtrot to One Direction's "Story of My Life". I loved their costumes. Bruno said his dancing always goes in one direction, but it was a bit clumpy instead of fluid. Carrie Ann could tell he lost his step, but she knows he's doing the best he can. Len said it flowed, and then splattered with a few drips, before flowing again and then ultimately stopping. Joey admires his ability to keep going and that he's been on a journey.
Score: 24

© ABC
Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Rumba
Lauren and Gleb did the Rumba to Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way". Carrie Ann was blown away by how much she's grown during the competition, admiring her vulnerability and artistic explosion. Len liked the surefooted movement. Joey said he would give it a 0 based on the song choice, but all joking aside, told her she did a great job. Bruno called it smoldering, saying if you were ordering a hot Rumba, call Lauren because she delivers.
Score: 36

© ABC
Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Viennese Waltz
Kel looked debonair for his Viennese Waltz to Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You". Len thought it was terrific, calling it a polished performance. Joey said it was amazing, while Bruno told him he danced like a perfect gentleman with a soft touch and musical phrasing. Carrie Ann agreed, admiring how he incorporated her comment about his arms from the first dance into this dance.
Score: 40

© ABC
Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Jazz
A Jazz routine to New Kids on the Block's "Step by Step"!? Yes! Joey said their energy was amazing and he loved the fun storytelling. Bruno called it "pure pop delight" and praised Ally for channeling his friend Paula Abdul. Carrie Ann felt it was flawless, while Len could tell her bubbly personality was reflected in the fun routine.
Score: 40

© ABC
Lauren and Sean were in the bottom two. To the surprise of no one, the judges saved Lauren and Gleb, although they admired Sean for being a good sport. Finally, Sean went home! How is it time for the Semi-Finals already? How did your favorites fare this week?

Dancing With the Stars S28E08: Dance-Off Week

© ABC
DWTS continues to derail on a crazy train
By Kim Krober

Dancing with the Stars didn't seem to have a theme this week, other than each contestant had to dance their usual round followed by a special dance-off with another competitor. I think I was more excited about the Frozen II and The Little Mermaid Live! previews than any of the dances this week, but maybe that was just me. Let's see how your favorites did during this eighth week of competition:

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Jazz
I felt bad for Lindsay who couldn't compete this week because her mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. Jenna was available to fill in for her for a Jazz routine with Sean set to Styx's "Come Sail Away" that was more campy than anything else. Len hit the nail on the head when he remarked how the judges keep trying to throw him out of the boat, but the viewers keep throwing him a life preserver. He made me laugh when he said the mermaid had better footwork than Sean. Bruno said Dory in Finding Nemo has a better sense of direction, while Carrie Ann said what I've been saying for weeks: he looks like he's doing the same dance week after week. However, she complimented him for learning to dance with someone new, and so quickly. He gave it his best ... I think. It was enough to earn two 7's and a 6. Maybe if the judges could refrain from being so snarky, Sean would stop getting sympathy votes. Just a thought, as this train wreck goes on and on and on...
Score: 20

© ABC
Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Jive
Lauren and Gleb's Jive to "Hound Dog" by Elvis was everything I could have asked for and more. Her dress was adorable! The Jive suited her bubble gum personality perfectly and came at a pivotal moment for her in the competition. Bruno said it was an authentic performance with a bright, optimistic '50s feel fit for The King ... except for a few mistakes. Carrie Ann noted she looked to be in her power, but she pointed out that she had a major setback. Len said she deserves to stay in this competition and he hoped it won't be a Heartbreak Hotel moment later. Even with a seemingly flawed performance, she still received three 8's. I loved it, but I'm not as picky as the judges.
Score: 24

© ABC
Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Salsa
Kel and Witney brought the nostalgic factor with a Hip Hop Salsa set to Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It". I can't begin to speculate how many times I used to listen to that song on repeat in the '90s. Kel also took Witney to see the set of the new All That, which he is an executive producer on. Carrie Ann loved watching him as a leading man, calling it "all that and a bag of chips". Len told him he was on a roll with plenty of junk in the trunk, saying he was large and in charge. Bruno complimented him for being the main attraction, which isn't easy to do when you come out with several dancers from the troupe in tow. The first 10 of the season went to Kel (courtesy of Bruno)!
Score: 28

© ABC
Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Paso Doble
Ally got to do something not many on DWTS get to do - dance a Paso Doble to her own song "Higher" and give back to her alma mater. I thought the opening with her singing felt a little long, but it was a nice touch to a routine that was on fire. Len said it was a mix of good technique and high performance. Bruno called her "Miss Silver Lightning", saying it was a Paso Doble full of beauty, power, and artistry. Carrie Ann complimented her for being a superstar and for commanding all of the ballroom's attention. It was the first perfect score of the season for Ally. Long overdue?
Score: 30

© ABC
Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Quickstep
Hannah admitted she has felt disconnected to the dance and herself in a moment of truth before taking Alan back to Sweet Home Alabama to reconnect with her roots. Was her Quickstep to Tom Petty's "American Girl" enough to keep her around in the competition? Bruno said it was a game-changer, admiring her footwork and command of the floor. Carrie Ann hugged Hannah, praising her for letting her true self shine in the "comeback of the season". Len admired the clarity, calling it a fabulous dance. Two 10's and a 9 from the judges? Maybe Hannah will come out of her shell more often now.
Score: 29

© ABC
Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov, Jive
Kate dedicated her fun and fancy-free Jive to Linda Ronstadt's "Heat Wave" to her sister Nancy who passed recently and who was a huge Ronstadt fan. I enjoy watching her progress in this competition. Carrie Ann felt the celebration of her sister's life, saying she was smiling down upon Kate. Len said the two of them are an absolute joy to watch every week, but he admitted it wasn't Kate's best dance. Bruno loved the clever choreography and the playfulness of the steps, though he did notice she was out of step a few times. Kate found herself in the middle of the pack again.
Score: 24

© ABC
James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Contemporary
Because James and Emma have the highest cumulative score this season, it was revealed they weren't going to participate in the dance-off round (fair). Set to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", his Contemporary was absolutely brilliant. Len likened it to a good book with something for everyone to hold their interest from start to finish, saying to expect a happy ending. Bruno admired the emotion driving the motion, saying the fluidity of the lifts was flawless. Carrie Ann also praised the lift that was executed with finesse and beauty, calling it pure artistry in motion. James finally received a well-deserved perfect score (I don't understand how the judges held out this long)!
Score: 30

© ABC
Kel & Witney vs. Ally & Sasha, Jive
A Jive to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" seemed to be evenly matched between Kel and Ally, though I was more entertained by Kel. Len thought it was fantastic, calling it a "Jive to survive" with fast, full-on footwork. Bruno said it was almost impossible to call because they both had a lot of content and personality. Carrie Ann said they didn't make their job easy. That was one of the more difficult dance-offs to judge! Carrie Ann and Bruno both picked Kel, while Len was the sole holdout for Ally.
Winner: Kel

© ABC
Sean & Jenna vs. Kate & Pasha, Cha-Cha
Sean thinking he could "crush" anybody really gave me a good chuckle. They had their work cut out for them with a Cha-Cha set to "Gonna Make You Sweat" by C + C Music Factory. I think the producers strategically handed an extra two points to keep Kate in this competition after her bottom two scare last week. Bruno said it was very entertaining, noting that someone grabbed his attention and someone noticeably improved. Carrie Ann had respect for one couple doing the Cha-Cha, while she said the other couple had fun faking it. Len thought both couples did a good Cha-Cha with plenty of hip action and movement. It was unanimously Kate!
Winner: Kate

© ABC
Hannah & Alan vs. Lauren & Gleb, Salsa
"The Battle of the Southern Belles" was another even match. Dancing a Salsa to "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" by Gloria Estefan, I couldn't even proclaim a winner so I didn't envy the judges. Carrie Ann called it a girl fight with the A game brought out, especially amazing considering neither of these couples had danced the Salsa yet. Len said it was fantastic and he wished he could award them both the same points. Bruno had steam coming out of his ears as he praised them both for being sexy. It was unanimously Hannah!
Winner: Hannah

© ABC
After such an exhausting but fun dance-off round, it was difficult saying goodbye to anyone. The bottom two were revealed to be Ally & Sasha and Kate & Pasha. I sound like a broken record, but I don't care - neither of these couples deserved to go home this week. Carrie Ann and Bruno both voted to save Ally and Sasha, and Len made it unanimous. Farewell, Kate. I will miss your sense of humor and strong personality! Baby Spice and Joey Fatone will be guest judges next week during Boy Band and Girl Group Night. Why should I bother watching if Sean never goes home? How did your favorites fare this week?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dancing With the Stars S28E07: Halloween Night

© ABC
DWTS Had a Frightfully Fun Halloween Night
By Kim Krober

The opening for Halloween Night on Dancing with the Stars called upon many horror favorites, ranging from an eerie old-time hotel with bellhops to Frankenstein and a zombie group dance. Halloween is always a frightfully fun time on this program. I enjoyed seeing everyone's costumes, including the judges. Bruno brought out his inner devil, while Carrie Ann channeled everyone's favorite evil queen, Maleficent. I'm not sure what Len was supposed to be, but when he called out Tom Bergeron for not dressing up, Tom quipped the perfect response (as always) back, saying he came as a gray-haired Ryan Seacrest. Let's see how your favorites did during this spooktacular seventh week of competition:

© ABC
Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Jive
A Jive to "The Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show? What a fantastic start to Halloween Night! Len told Kel he was rockin' and it left him reelin'. Bruno loved that he and Witney took a cult classic and re-imagined it with original choreography. Carrie Ann thought it was incredible, saying Kel was off the hook. I agreed for the most part except I wasn't sure about the snake makeup...
Score: 27
 
© ABC
James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Viennese Waltz
James was just as unsettled by Len's "tutti frutti bootie" comment last week as the rest of us. This week, he and Emma brought out their inner demons for a haunting Viennese Waltz to "I Put a Spell on You" by Annie Lennox. Bruno called him the Prince of Darkness, pulling all the strings in a powerful performance that was perfection until he made a misstep. Carrie Ann spoke for America when said she was falling for him for his flawless execution. Len thought the dance was terrific with lovely movement and great footwork. All three judges had to rub it in that it would have been a perfect 10 if not for that one mistake. Talk about tricks and treats.
Score: 27
 
© ABC
Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Tango
Ally had a long list of fears, but she looked fearless during her Suicide Squad-inspired Tango with Sasha to Ava Max's "Sweet But Psycho". Carrie Ann called it another on-point dance pushed to the edge with a visceral feel, while Len enjoyed seeing Ally come back to life after being in the bottom two last week. Bruno said it was a premier Tango with a wicked attitude, full of content and done correctly for the most part. Is everyone destined for all 9's tonight?
Score: 27
 
© ABC
Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Jazz
Hannah and Alan came back with a Jazz routine set to "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer. I loved her dead beauty queen costume, but disco seemed like such an odd choice for Halloween Night. Len told her she's a terrific dancer, saying he enjoyed her performance. Bruno said nothing was scary about that because it was lively and theatrical, but he called her out on her technique. Carrie Ann agreed with Len that it was crisp and clear, but she also agreed with Bruno that something's missing and Hannah's still disconnected with her movements. Alan said he got what the judges were saying, admitting that he thinks Hannah is still a little unconfident in her abilities though she needn't be.
Score: 25
 
© ABC
Karamo Brown & Jenna Johnson, Paso Doble
"Survivor" by Destiny's Child seemed like a fitting choice for Karamo - and his reaction to dancing to a Beyoncé song was priceless. Can we talk about his amazing transformation this week in fierceness and intensity? I didn't even recognize him in that makeup! Bruno said there was no lack of power or focus during that performance that left the studio shaking. Carrie Ann called him a sonic boom, appreciating that he opened up and let loose this week. Len congratulated the hair, makeup, and wardrobe department and said the dance had plenty of power and intensity, though it needed more shaping. I swear, I don't think I've ever seen anybody more genuinely thrilled to be there.
Score: 25
 
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Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Argentine Tango
Lauren made a beautiful vampire seductress, dancing a steamy Argentine Tango with Gleb to Sarah Vaughan's "Whatever Lola Wants". Carrie Ann loved it, praising her for a true transformation in this competition. Len saw plenty of what he wanted with full-on Argentine characterization and a spirited performance. Bruno wanted a bite, saying it was sexy and that it reminded him of watching Marilyn Monroe crossed with Madonna playing a vampire. Hmm, I think that was a good thing. I can't believe she danced that intensely with three broken ribs!
Score: 27

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Jive
The producers finally found a purpose for Sean this week. I may not enjoy watching him dance, but he made a helluva Frankenstein monster with the character being the perfect mask for his stiff movements. I loved the monsters in the coffins, Lindsay's adorable Bride look, and that it was a Jive set to perennial favorite "The Monster Mash". However, is it just me or does Sean seem to dance the exact same dance no matter what he's supposedly doing? Len said Halloween is all about the supernatural, but this wasn't super or natural, lacking Jive content. However, he once again told him that he appreciates that Sean comes out and tries his hardest. Bruno thought the monster part was perfection, but remarked that the Jive was about six feet behind, telling Sean that timing is not his strong suit. Carrie Ann said it was a dance only his mummies could love. She said it was not his best dance, but she continues to admire his spirit. Did 6 6 6 take on a new meaning on the judges' paddles this week?
Score: 18
 
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Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov, Rumba
I loved Kate's Little Red Riding Hood-inspired costume and Rumba set to Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game". Bruno called it beautiful and haunting, admiring her ability to tell a story and capture the audience's attention. Carrie Ann agreed with Bruno, noting a tiny misstep, but complimented her for feeling so good about the choreography that she shines brightly in the competition. Len loves Pasha's choreography, taking the time to give credit where credit's due. He also told Kate she came out confidently with a knock-out performance. I love Pasha too - I hope he sticks around on the show past this season.
Score: 24
 
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Team Trick (James, Hannah, Lauren, and Ally)
The pressure is always on when the celebs have to learn a second routine in a week. James, Hannah, Lauren, and Ally managed to make Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" have a creepy vibe I never really got while listening to the song or watching the campy video. Len thought it was a lovely touch of Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble, and more with interesting choreography. He was full of nothing but admiration for the celebrities. Bruno loved its elegance and drama, saying it brought out everyone's personality. Carrie Ann loved seeing everyone in sync. It was a triumphant performance with a trio of 9's from the judges.
Score: 27
 
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Team Treat (Kel, Karamo, Kate, and Sean)
I loved the opening sequence with the Pennywise costumes from It! Kel, Karamo, Kate, and Sean's dance set to Beyoncé's "Beautiful Nightmare" (that's twice the Beyoncé! for Karamo) was a thing of beauty to behold. Bruno said it was nightmarishly entertaining, though not everyone was always on time (gee, I wonder which dancer that was). Carrie Ann loved the concept, giving Kate the most valuable player award for reigning in the men when the celebs had to dance without their pro partners. Len liked the fun of it, congratulating them on a job well done. However, Team Treat fell slightly behind Team Trick with a trio of 8's from the judges.
Score: 24
 
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The bottom two were revealed to be Karamo & Jenna and Kate & Pasha. Carrie Ann chose to save Karamo based upon his pivot in this competition. Bruno said it was almost impossible, but chose to save Kate based on her consistency. It was up to Len saying neither couple deserved to be in this position, but he had to save Kate ultimately. You could tell he sent Karamo home with a heavy heart, though Karamo went out with as much flair and enthusiasm as he brought every week. I will sorely miss him, and I'm starting to hate America for voting for Sean.

How did your favorites fare this week?