<p>This is Alyson Ragona.</p>

This is Alyson Ragona.

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 13 Auditions #4 - Atlanta

It's time for Keith, J-Lo and Harry to head to the Dirty South

Once again, the Sundance Film Festival has been good enough to take the entire evening off so that I can recap "American Idol."

Once again, I am lying.

However, it's time for some "American Idol" auditions from Atlanta.

Click through for my full reaction to Thursday (January 23) night's episode.

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<p>&quot;Love Child&quot;</p>

"Love Child"

Review: 'Love Child' looks at online addiction in South Korea

Sundance doc puts an unspeakable tragedy in cultural context
I don't know if Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia's "Web Junkie" is the perfect complement to Valerie Veatch's "Love Child" or if "Love Child" is the perfect complement to "Web Junkie," but I know that a being able to intellectually pair the two documentaries is one of the biggest advantages to this year's Sundance Film Festival programming obsession with the dangers of the Internet.
 
Of course, once audiences get away from Park City, it's unlikely that "Web Junkie" and "Love Child" are going to be viewable in tandem. "Love Child" is an HBO Films documentary and thus will get visibility through the premium cable giant, while HBO, unlikely Sundance, will probably be discerning enough to think that programming two documentaries on Asian countries and their explorations of the notion of Internet addiction might be overkill.
 
That wouldn't be exactly true.
 
It turns out that while "Web Junkie" lacked, "Love Child" confidently delivers, while what "Love Child" lacks is the thing "Web Junkie" does best. With careful editing, the two docs could be melded into one emotional and authoritative documentary on a captivating subject, but then you'd have a three-hour movie. [I'll be completing The Oy Vey The Internet Is Freaky Trilogy with "The Internet's Own Boy" tomorrow evening. I suspect it will be sufficiently its own thing that it will stand alone. We'll see!]
 
Click through for my full review of "Love Child," which is going up against "Web Junkie" in the World Documentary Competition at Sundance…
 
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<p>The stars of &quot;Land Ho!&quot;</p>

The stars of "Land Ho!"

Credit: Andrew Reed

Review: 'Land Ho!' offers understated charm and comedy

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson shine in Sundance favorite
Fortunately, it isn't my job to figure out what Sony Pictures Classics is going to do with its brand-spanking-new Sundance pickup "Land Ho!"  
 
The part of me that attempts to ponder the commercial possibilities of film festival acquisitions looks at "Land Ho!" and sees a tonally challenging international roadtrip comedy about a couple senior citizens played by a pair of stars who aren't just unknowns to mainstream audiences, they're barely-knowns even to art house snobs.
 
Fortunately, that's not a hat that I'm ever called upon to wear, at least not in practical terms. 
 
All I know is that "Land Ho!" plays. 
 
It's a funny and moving film about aging, but it's also a wacky journey across Iceland with two characters who are instantly likable and ultimately quite lovable. And with Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson, it's a perfectly cast buddy romp.
 
Getting audiences to see Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz' writing-directing collaboration won't be easy -- "Land Ho!" is playing in the NEXT program at Sundance and up until yesterday, it was flying way under the radar -- but once you're watching, it's hard not to be taken in my charm.
 
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<p>FOX tells me this is Melanie Porras and she'll appear on Wednesday's &quot;American Idol.&quot;</p>

FOX tells me this is Melanie Porras and she'll appear on Wednesday's "American Idol."

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 13 Auditions #3 - Detroit

The judges head to Motown for two more hours of auditions

Greetings from Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival comes to a screeching halt so that I can recap the Wednesday, January 22 episode of "American Idol."

Yup. The Festival has stopped all screenings for two hours tonight just for me.

Isn't that sweet of them? And then I'll head over to see "Land Ho!"

So click through and follow along for all of the Detroit auditions, or all of the Detroit auditions our condo wifi will allow me to watch...

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<p>&quot;The Voices&quot;</p>

"The Voices"

Credit: Sundance

Review: Surprising 'The Voices' offers Ryan Reynolds and a Scottish talking cat

HitFix
B+
Readers
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Marjane Satrapi's Sundance premiere is a disturbingly funny treat
Some movies stumble into cult status by accident, aiming for mainstream approval, but landing wide of that mark. 
 
Other movies just shrug and steer self-consciously into a cult-friendly niche with every fiber of their being.
 
It isn't easy to do the former, but it's probably easier than the latter. Weirdness-for-the-sake-of-weirdness often just ends up trying too hard. It's almost like you need a certain earnestness to make a cult film seem genuine, rather than over-calculated.
 
"The Voices," which is premiering out-of-competition at the Sundance Film Festival, is designed pretty purely as a cult movie. It probably should never play in 3000 theaters and it's certainly not going to make $100 million. From the first frame to the last, it's begging audiences to raise a collective eyebrow and go along for the ride, knowing that if you're in from the beginning, you'll probably be in for the duration, but that if you don't crack an immediate smile within 30 seconds, it probably won't get better. 
 
"The Voices" is trying to be a cult film with a capital "C" and you can feel its effort in that direction... But it mostly works.
 
Carried to no small degree by wildly and successfully against-expectations direction from "Persepolis" veteran Marjane Satrapi, "The Voices" is "Psycho" by way of "Wonderfalls" by way of Francois Ozon. 
 
Perhaps a little more successful when winking at genre expectations than when playing things straight, "The Voices" is funny, disturbing and whimsical, anchored by an "Oh right, he can act" performance by Ryan Reynolds, an "Oh duh, she's effortlessly appealing" performance by Anna Kendrick and an "Oh wow, that's what it takes to make her interesting" performance by Gemma Arterton. 
 
More after the break…
 
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<p>&quot;Happy Valley&quot;</p>

"Happy Valley"

Credit: A&E Films

Review: 'Happy Valley' is a confounding look at Penn State post-scandal

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Amir Bar-Lev's Sundance doc should spark post-screening debate
Amir Bar-Lev's "Happy Valley," a documentary premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is not a film about the sex scandal that rocked Penn State University in late 2011, 
 
Make no mistake, you won't come away with any ambiguity regarding the allegations against Jerry Sandusky or the crimes for which he was convicted and sentenced to what amounts to a life sentence.
 
But this is not a documentary about interviewing witnesses, investigating timelines or attempting to get to the root of Sandusky's criminal behavior.  The accepted supposition is that Sandusky did what he was accused of doing and, with one major exception, the victims probably aren't ready for extended feature-length interviews (plus, it's all on the record anyway).
 
As its title might indicate if you happen to have any awareness of Penn State and Penn State football, Happy Valley is about a place and about a state of mind, both of which were crushed and vilified by the Sandusky case and its repulsive and saddening revelations.
 
And that's going to prove an immediate barrier-to-entry for many potential viewers who really won't be incorrect if they say, "Yes, it's unfortunate that many innocent people associated with Penn State saw their university's good name spoiled by this and it's probably disappointing to some fans of a powerhouse sports program that innocent athletes are being punished for the actions of a reprehensible assistant coach and it's arguably unfair to blame an entire community for this ugly mess, but... Sexual abuse. Children. Let's concentrate on the actual victims here and maybe down the road we can get around to restoring the joy of the tailgating experience for bushy-tailed coeds."
 
It's not that "Happy Valley" cheapens what happened to the victims in any way, but there are definitely people within the documentary whose sense of perspective is a wee bit askew and they're given ample platform. And there will certainly be viewers who think that any focus that looks away from Sandusky's actions is invariably a focus in the wrong place.
 
That's why "Happy Valley" is probably going to leave many viewers, possibly most viewers, angry. The question is just at the direction of the anger. Many people will just have a generalized anger because if the Jerry Sandusky scandal doesn't piss you off, you're not paying attention. But I know some people with Penn State sympathies or affiliations who are going to feel like "Happy Valley" is too hard on the show and I'm certain that many people outside of the bubble are going to feel it's too lenient.
 
Probably that's what director Amir Bar-Lev wants, though he continues to be a director who sells himself short by rushing to cover big stories.
 
[More after the break...]
 
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<p>Rae Spoon of &quot;My Prairie Home&quot;</p>

Rae Spoon of "My Prairie Home"

Credit: Maya Bankovic

Review: 'My Prairie Home' introduces viewers to Rae Spoon

Chelsea McMullan's Sundance doc defies expectations as does its subject
"Gender" and "genre" share a common root in the Latin "genus." It means "kind" or "type" or "sort" and that's how both gender and genre function. They allow us to classify things. They give us categories into which we believe it's easy and beneficial to slot plants, animals, people, literary forms. Gender and genre are systems through which we think we've made it simpler to view the world.
 
Of course, very few classification systems work all the time.
 
The slippery slope at the intersection of gender and genre is at the center of Chelsea McMullan's "My Prairie Home," which is premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in the World Documentary Competition.
 
I suppose that intro probably makes "My Prairie Home" sound more academically challenging than it is. "My Prairie Home" is also a small, poetic, quirky portrait of a very fine artist, a singer-songwriter who happens to be difficult to fit in any traditional boxes, as a person or as a musician.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>&quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother&quot;&nbsp;was Monday's highest-rated show.</p>

"How I Met Your Mother" was Monday's highest-rated show.

Credit: CBS

TV Ratings: 'Sleepy Hollow' gets FOX narrow Monday win

'The Bachelor' unscathed by controversy, 'The Blacklist' down

Fast National ratings for Monday, January 20, 2014.

The season finale of "Sleepy Hollow" carried FOX to a narrow demographic victory on  Monday night, while "The Bachelor" was virtually unaffected by the recent controversy, "The Blacklist" continued to slide without "The Voice" as a lead-in, and "Intelligence" remains DOA on Mondays.

For the night, FOX averaged a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49, and 6.9 million viewers overall. It was followed by ABC (2.2, 8.2 million), CBS (2.0, 7.6 million), NBC (1.7, 5.9 million) and the CW (0.4, 1.1 million).

8 p.m. -- "How I Met Your Mother" (3.0, 8.8 million) got the best demo rating of any broadcast show on the night, and together with "2 Broke Girls" (2.7, 8.9 million) helped CBS win the hour. "The Bachelor" ratings (2.2, 7.8 million) were virtually identical to last week, even after Juan Pablo's comments about gay people. The first hour of the "Sleepy Hollow" finale (2.2, 6.8 million) was third for the hour, followed by "Hollywood Game Night" on NBC (1.3, 4.7 million) and the CW's "Hart of Dixie."

9 p.m. -- The second half of the "Sleepy Hollow" finale slid into first place (2.4, 7 million), followed  by more "Bachelor" (2.3, 7.8 million), "Mike & Molly" and "Mom" on CBS (2.0, 8.4 million), more "Hollywood Game Night" (1.5, 4.2 million) and the CW's "Beauty and the Beast" (0.4, 931,000).

10 p.m. -- "The Blacklist" finished first, but with numbers (2.3, 8.7 million) notably lower than it was doing with "The Voice" as a lead-in. ABC's "Castle" was second (2.0, 8.9 million), followed by "Intelligence" (1.1, 5.6 million), which repeated last week's terrible demo number while losing about a half million viewers.

All ratings information comes from preliminary Fast National Nielsen data, which includes live and same-day DVR viewing. All numbers are subject to change.
<p>Roger Ebert</p>

Roger Ebert

Credit: Kevin Horan

Review: 'Life Itself' does right by Roger Ebert's life and legacy

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
Steve James' Sundance doc honors Ebert, but doesn't canonize
When people want to minimize this thing I do for a living, they like to quote Jean Sibelius, "Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic."
 
It's a bit of a lie, but that hasn't stopped social observers as keen as Chad Ochocinco from making the cliched declaration.
 
While it may not be cast in bronze or carved from marble, Steve James' "Life Itself" stands as a cinematic monument to its subject, a much more fitting celebration of Roger Ebert than anything that might have been produced by Rodin or Brancusi.
 
One could hardly find a more amenable audience for "Life Itself" than a Press & Industry Screening at the Sundance Film Festival, but I think this is a documentary that will play beyond rooms of ink-stained wretches. "Life Itself" is a moving tribute to one exceptional critic and, by extension, his profession, but it's also a celebration of celebrating movies and, at its heart, a salute to any life lived fully.
 
More on "Life Itself" after the break…
 
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<p>Mitt Romney of &quot;Mitt&quot;</p>

Mitt Romney of "Mitt"

Credit: Netflix

Sundance Review: 'Mitt' gets all-access to Mitt Romney with bland results

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Behind-the-scenes doc will premiere on Netflix on Friday
One of the hardest documentary approaches to wrap your head around is the one in which the filmmaker goes to a lot of trouble to show you that beyond the public facade of a subject matter, the previously unseen reality is... exactly what you already thought you knew.
 
I got into multiple good-natured fights last year with R.J. Cutler, including an amusing back-and-forth in the snow on Main Street in Park City, about whether or not the former Vice President's stubbornness in "The World According To Dick Cheney" was a lack of introspection or a display of self-conviction and how that shaped the rest of the film. I'm sure Cutler was right, but what made "The World According To Dick Cheney" work was that no matter your ideology, your feelings on Cheney were confirmed but tweaked in interesting ways. What you didn't get from "The World According to Dick Cheney" was enlightenment, but that's a product of the kind of man Dick Cheney seems to be and the kind of access R.J. Cutler had. 
 
In the fittingly titled "Mitt," Director Greg Whiteley was granted unprecedented access to Mitt Romney from 2006 through 20012 and he was able to follow him from the beginning of an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 and an unsuccessful run for the Presidency in 2012.
 
At an early fundraiser in 2006, Romney tells potential backers of the risks  of unsuccessful runs for high office. 
 
"We just brutalize whoever loses," he says. 
 
It could just be my own perception, but I don't feel like Romney was ever "brutalized," per se. At his absolute nadir, he wasn't viewed as anything worse than a slightly robotic, slightly ideologically insecure man who weathered a few major gaffes and pulled off one debate surprise, but still wasn't able to convince the majority of Americans that he deserved to be president. There were jokes about his interchangeably huge family and certain people never forgot accusations of abuse regarding a family dog and rumbling about his Mormon faith was occasionally in the background, but a fundamental blandness prevented any real long-lasting vilification. I could be wrong, but I don't think Democrats are likely to use "Mitt Romney" as the punchline for jokes in the way that, say, "Michael Dukakis" has been getting laughs from both parties for decades.
 
So Greg Whiteley's "Mitt" has to combat an image of bland innocuousness and, at the end of 92 minutes befitting its surplus of access, we're left with a portrait of Mitt Romney that is... blandly innocuous. I was not a Mitt Romney supporter, but I'll agree without hesitation that he comes across as a sturdy guy and a good family man here. And for Romney family members and supporters, I think there may be a feeling that this documentary shows the side of Romney that maybe America didn't get to see in 2012, which I don't quite think is true. I think "Mitt" shows the side of Mitt Romney that everybody was willing to accept on faith was there in 2012. We just didn't care.
 
[More on "Mitt," premiering out of competition at Sundance, after the break.]
 
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