Castle: Tone Death – Carrie, Reality TV and Secrets (Recap/Review)

NATHAN FILLION, STANA KATIC

Castle returns with Tone Death, where Beckett and Rick are carrying on a  secret dating relationship, mainly to keep Castle safe from Kate’s “extra curricular” investigations, and having a wonderful time.  Before the couple begin their day though Martha is rehearsing her show and as she begins “The Things We Do For Love” a stage hand starts the snow machine and a “Carrie” style blood shower hits the backup singers.

A human corpse is the source of this blood “bath” and she was part of a reality TV musical contest. The victim was also an ex con. Castle’s mother is very upset by the death of the girl, whom she met the day before. She asks Richard to personally look into who murdered the young performer.

The dead girl’s name is Robyn King and it looks initially like her mother may have something to do with her death until Ryan discovers that King’s mom died when she was a child. So the woman who turned up and argued with the girl, whom she called “momma” is a stranger.

Kate and Rick have a fake argument in front of Ryan and Esposito tells the three who “mamma” is, a drug dealer that Robyn worked for back before the girl’s prison sentence.  The cops also learn that King was going up to Spanish Harlem regularly. Mamma’s alibi is tight and as Rick and Kate talk, she slaps him when Ryan turns up to maintain their “cover.”

Martha wants to help Rick to find Robyn’s killer and he reveals the emoji message on the dead girls cell phone  that he took a picture of.  Alexis has to help translate the text as neither Castle nor Martha “speak” emoji.  The three solve the puzzle and learn where in Spanish Harlem Robyn was going. Alexis and Rick head down to investigate.

MOLLY C. QUINN, NATHAN FILLION
Alexis and Rick investigate…

Castle gets rattled and texts “911!!!!” to Espo just before finding a group of young people rehearsing musical numbers which segways into a “riff-off.”  After Ryan and Javi turn up with the cavalry, Alexis and Rick learn that Robyn belonged to an ex-con group of singers, the ACA Cons, who are competing in the AAC (All American A cappella  competition) and that one of the group was angry with the dead girl after being kicked out.

The kicked out singer, Agnes Malina becomes a new suspect and while the cops look for the missing woman Kate speaks to the sponsors of the ex-con group to get more background on the singers and the dead girl.

During the investigation, since Ryan saw Kate slap Rick, he and Javi decide that Castle has been cheating. To get the guys off his back (or chest) Richard lies and says he is having an affair with a Russian fashion model.

The three men find Agnes at boyfriend Dexter’s apartment (a pretty funny scene where Rick keeps looking in the wrong spot for the hiding girl) and  when she is questioned about Robyn it turns out that she is innocent. Later, Javi and Ryan sympathize with Kate about Svetlana, and offer to throw Rick down the stairs.

The investigation takes Esposito, Ryan, Beckett and Castle to the competition rehearsals where they speak to the head of the singing reality TV contest, Dr. Larson (John Billingsley)  and then Javi (Jon Huertas) gets into a sing-off with Hunter (Corbin Bleu) which Castle messes up. 

Kate hears Rick in the next room and it turns out that Hunter, who initially runs until Kate stops him mid-flight with a clothesline maneuver, paid off Dr. Larson to fix the competition so that Robyn’s group would not win.  As Larson is questioned by Ryan and Esposito he reveals that the ACA Cons  intro video upset the victim and she cut short the meeting with the head of the competition.

STANA KATIC, CORBIN BLEU
Kate clotheslines Hunter…

This last bit of evidence leads the detectives and Castle to the killer as they track down what happened the night that Robyn was arrested. Evidence showed that the dead girl was innocent and when she went to confront the real culprit she was murdered.

Tone Death allows for some nice bits of comedy with Ryan and Espo telling Kate that in the  break up Beckett “gets them.” It also allows Jon Huertas to show off his “pipes” in the mini sing off.  Seamus Dever proves that he is still adept at comedy with his various reactions to the Kate and Rick separation.

The entire “secret dating” schtick cannot last long, however, as it requires too much stupidity on the part of Kevin and Javi.  Although Beckett’s fake boyfriend “Doctor Livingstone” provides a cute ending to the episode.

Susan Sullivan (Martha) gets a chance to make up for her lack of time on the new season thus far and in this episode, Molly C. Quinn also gets a fair amount of screen time as her character Alexis helps out dad and grandma.

Sadly, the newest addition to the Castle family Toks Olagundoye (who plays Hayley Vargas) gets credit but no screen time, hopefully this will change in upcoming episodes. It also appears that Kate’s investigations have been put on hold for the time being. 

One item of complaint has to be that Nathan Fillion is playing his character of Richard Castle increasing for laughs, losing that “cop by osmosis” plot thread that had appeared. Surely there must be a happy medium where the actor does not feel compelled to constantly engage in prat falls and silliness.

Kudos to John Billingsley (who this writer watched in action on another set, woking on another show; Stitchers) who managed to make his cameo a masterpiece performance  despite having little screen time. What a consummate actor.

JON HUERTAS, SEAMUS DEVER
Javi and Kevin upset at “mommy and daddy” splitting up…

Castle airs Mondays on ABC.  Tune in and see where Rick and Kate are headed next in their relationship while they solve crimes together…Like the good old days.

 

The Magicians Renewed by SyFy Before Fourth Episode Airs

The Magicians - Season 1

SyFy has announced that before its fourth episode has even aired that The Magicians has  been renewed for a second season. This early approval is  not too dissimilar to the recently finished The Expanse, which the network also approved for a second season, of 13 episodes, before the series had concluded.

The network stated on Feb. 8, 2016  that they would be showing another 13 episodes of the Universal Cable Productions program will air in 2017. The show’s production team has an illustrious roster of names that includes: Executive producers  John McNamara (Aquarius), Sera Gamble (Supernatural), Henry Alonso Myers (Covert Affairs) and Groundswell Productions’ Michael London and Janice Williams (Milk).

The series is adapted from the bestselling literary franchise  written by  Lev Grossman. The Magicians has only just started airing its first season, it started in December 2015 and will air episode 104 tonight at 9PM ET/PT.

SyFy & Chiller President Dave Howe said in the released statement that  it was down to an  “extraordinarily  gifted creative team of executive producers” and the networks’ Universal Cable Productions partners that the new show had become such a “buzzed-about” hit. Howe went on to say that the adaptation had caught up the fans of the books and is helping to bring new, younger viewers to the network.

In terms of viewing figures, the series has pulled in, during its first three episodes, an average of  1.7 million viewers per episode. Demographically, out of this number of viewers,  853K  were Adults 18-49 and 910K were Adults 25-54 (based on L3 data). The Magicians has also pulled in an impressive amount of a younger demographic, with Adults 18-34 increasing exponentially per episode to average 180% over Syfy’s prime time delivery in that demo.

According to the press release from SyFy Feb 8, 2016, the show’s first episode was digitally,  sampled more than 6.7 million times during its pre-linear launch (January 8 to January 25) across Syfy.com and  other select partner sites, as well as On Demand cable, satellite and telco TV platforms.

The Magicians stars Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwater), Stella Maeve (Julia), Olivia Taylor Dudley (Alice) Hale Appleman (Eliot), Arjun Gupta (Penny) and Summer Bishil (Margo). The series is focussed upon  Quentin, a brilliant grad student  picked to attend Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, a secret upstate New York university that specializes in magic.  Once he begins the young man and his friends  learn that the fantasy setting of magic from their childhood is all too real. This lesson is hammered home when they inadvertently bring an evil entity from the “other side” into the real world.

Two other cast members will be returning for season two;  Rick Worthy (Dean Fogg) and Jade Tailor (Kady).

The Magicians  is yet another popular addition to an impressive 2016 lineup on SyFy that includes the previously mentioned space mystery/thriller The Expanse as well as the upcoming new scripted series Hunters (which was just plugged on another SyFy series Face Off)  from “The Walking Dead” executive producer Gale Anne Hurd. Hunters will debut on April 11.

12 Monkeys, a critical success for SyFy is also coming back on April 18 and the science fiction thriller Incorporated, created by  Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Todd’s Pearl Street Films will air in the Fall of 2016.  SyFy has more scripted projects on the burner, including an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television; and David Goyer’s Superman prequel, Krypton.

The Magicians airs Mondays on SyFy. Tune in and see just why the network has approved a second season before episode number four.

Simple Mind (2012): A Three Punch Combo of a Film (Review)

Leone-esque close up of Timothy J. Cox

Written and directed by Phil Newsom, this 2012 film, starring Timothy J. Cox and Kristi McCarson tells the story of Bob, the “Simple Mind” of the title and it delivers a three-punch combo of a film.  In essence, Newsom and his story give the viewer an ending worthy of O. Henry on steroids but with a few brilliant and disturbing twists along the way.

We see Bob at the start of the film running, his face misshapen with what seems to be fear. He is running from something as he moves out of camera range the film fades to black and the title.  Coming back, Bob is now seated at a bench that is situated by the very path he was running down seconds before.

Something red is shoved under his hip and he clutches black book. Bob’s posture is almost child-like (something that will make sense by the film’s conclusion) and he is obviously excited. He is waiting for a woman (Samantha) who he is describing in detail  to another woman via voice over.

In this “memory” as Samantha comes near, he hides his face behind the book. As she passes by, Bob hurriedly closes the book and rushes to follow the woman “of his dreams.”  All the while, the offscreen dialogue continues with the other female presence asking him about the female he is pursuing.

As the film progresses, Bob’s reminiscences take different forms; a love story, the passion of a stalker, a voyeur who gets too close. As each layer is peeled back, Bob’s truths change, becoming darker and more disturbing.  Eventually an ultimate truth is revealed;  one that has all the power of a sucker punch.

Simple Mind is anything but simple. In an extremely short span of time Newsom and his intimate cast weave an intricate spell where one man turns out to be many things.  Obviously the writer and director has a background in psychiatry as his knowledge of “serial killers” and their motivations along, his knowledge of,   schizophrenia gives us a disturbing look at how dark the mind becomes when faced with an unacceptable truth.

Shot and edited by Paul Nameck (in his first effort as DP) the film looks polished and everything, from the lighting to the focus, is spot on.  Nameck does a close up of Cox, as Bob, at one point which distorts just enough to validate what we suspect already, that the main character is odd and off-kilter.

There are a number of “Leone-esque” close-ups where Cox’s visage are the object of focus.  Shots like these increase the unease the viewer feels with Bob’s narration of events. At one point, his eyes twitch, uncontrollably it seems, at something off camera.  It is, like his other extreme close ups, disturbing. There is a lot going on in this man’s mind as he talks to his therapist (Kristi McCarson).

Cox and McCarson interact with a perfect blend of give and take that slowly evolves into something else. As Bob, Timothy changes, ever so slightly, as the film’s narrative moves along and  his motivations shift from what appears to be infatuation and love to something  both scary and upsetting.

As the film comes to a close, the significance of those red things that Bob is sitting on at the start becomes painfully clear as does the deep seated and not so thinly veiled hatred in Bob’s mind. This man’s story is anything but simple and this short film is a masterful exploration of how frustration affects the psyche.

Simple Mind is a 5 star short film which does have the same impact as a one-two-three punch combo.  Clever and  intelligent (watch the film immediately after the ending to see all the clues signposted throughout the movie) with performances from Cox and McCarson that really help sell the story.

Catch this one if you can.

SNL: Larry David, Bernie Sanders and Zoolander Too (Recap/Review) Kate McKinnon Killed It

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41

SNL with guest/host (see the monologue) Larry David whose open was perhaps the best of this season, where he spoke of being both a schmuck and  a prick, also featured two brilliant cameos; Bernie Sanders and Zoolander 2 stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. This particular episode was top notch in terms of comedy and could, like David’s monologue, be a season best.

Granted the Quantico sketch was fairly middle of the road.  When then title appeared it seemed that the SNL gang could have made fun of the NBC glamor-fest of a series that airs on Sundays. Sadly, the writers opted to ignore this chance and instead offered Larry David a chance to have fun.

The Bernie Sanders set was funny, with its theme of a cranky Sanders and 2 percent (see what they did there)and could have been called the “Bleep” sketch. Keeping with the Bernie theme, the “Titanic” skit was topped off with a “not so surprise” cameo by the man himself.  The build up to Sanders’ arrival was funny however.

For example, David’s character called a kid a midget and was told off by Keenan’s character:

“Not cool sir!”

“I can say that, it’s olden times!”

This shipwreck gag was followed by what must be the best sketch ever in SNL history, combining the old comic commercial format with a brilliant television show tie-in.  Vanessa Bayer plays the snack advertising wife who provides her husband and his friends with endless munchies while watching the big game.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
The X Files sketch..

As she brings the pizza snacks into the room, where the men have all been cheering and shouting out phrases in unison, she sees a blank television screen. Starting to freak out, the woman calls for her daughter and grabs a pair of scissors as the men, with their pupils all black and taking up the whole  eye, face her.

Cue the advertisement for The X Files.  Just brilliant.

Next up was The 1975 with their first number.

Kate McKinnon absolutely killed it in this episode.  First knocking it out of the park in the Weekend Update feature as Sturdy Barbie:

“Almost all nipple”

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Sturdy Barbie, Kate McKinnon

McKinnon came on after the real-life footage of the Republican Debate stage debacle  and while the entire sketch was very funny, Sturdy Barbie and the appearance of Stiller and Wilson in a brilliantly shameless plug for Zoolander 2, were the highlights of Update full stop.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Zoolander and Hansel, aka Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller.

Standout Moments in Weekend Update (apart from Zoolander and Sturdy Barbie):

Michael Che’s Vaginal pot suppository and the munchies punchline

Jon Rudnitsky and the entire Dirty Dancing skit, and his response to Colin Jost’s “you’re a SNL regular:

“Literally nobody knows that Colin.”

After the update, Pete Davidson and Larry David butt heads in one of the weaker, yet still funny, sketches about song writing class.

The ebony and ivory skit where “Cam Newton and Peyton Manning” do a duet in honor of tonight’s Super Bowl was clever and funny.

Cue the second number of The 1975 which one site felt sounded like a David Bowie “Fame” homage (or rip-off…).

The second McKinnon moment, that proved Kate really did rule SNL episode 1695, was also  the  last comedy skit of the night.   In the barfly sketch she matched, and over-took, guest Larry David, throughout the skit.  Final proof of this was when her character pulled up his toupee and started planting sloppy lipstick kisses on his bald pate. David could not keep  straight face.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
McKinnon rules…

Perhaps there is hope for this long running comedy program after all. Despite season 41 having a few misses and rehashing old gags from yesteryear, this episode absolutely rocked it. McKinnon literally ran with the ball and the writers all come up with stunning set pieces. Although not every sketch was comedy gold, the ones that worked literally evoked tears of laughter.

SNL with Larry David was a win.  A clear-cut Kate McKinnon, The X Files, Bernie Sanders and Zoolander 2 win.

 

 

 

Walking and Riding in Place

IMG_3757
Note: Before becoming distracted by personal issues I was going to enter a writing competition on travel and how slowing down the mode of transport enables the adventurer a chance to learn about foreign peoples and their culture. Missing the deadline of January 15, meant that the essay was languishing unread on my laptop. This is, of course, entirely unacceptable. Here then is the written piece titled:

Walking and Riding in Place.

After a lifetime of traveling as quickly as possible over great distances through various countries across the globe, it seems fitting that this latest journey should take place in the middle of nowhere. Leaving behind all transportation of the motorized variety and relying upon “shank’s mare” or the old reliable bicycle to move from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in one tiny place means a re-think. Although perhaps reprogramming is the better word, but regardless of the action or intent, the idea is the same; downsizing while rediscovering.

In the middle of the Arizona desert lays a smallish burg populated by the few year-round residents and a good number of “snowbirds” and transients. The former all seem to be retirees who are going through some sort of second childhood. The latter all seem to be split into small factions of drug addled vagrants, alcoholics, crazies, new age hippies and some unidentifiable others.

The snowbirds have all manner of motorized, electronic conveyances. They have toys that can take the place of the automobile in all its different forms. The wanderers, aka transients, all walk or ride bicycles, some with hand crafted trailers, and by necessity this group move more slowly across the great arid American landscape.

Moving to this tiny community and slowing down has had the same effect as literally stopping in one spot. Travel has changed from a fast, impatient journey to a specific, or conversely, unknown destination to one so slow that the feeling is akin to walking or running in place.

Travel is now akin to moving on a treadmill or fixed-in-place exercise bicycle. With time shuddering to a stop, the trapped traveller becomes enmeshed in the local population’s life. Faces and lives that would, by necessity, be foreign and fleeting now are familiar.

After living in England for 32 years, the American side of my nature has been diminished. For all intents and purposes I identified, and still do to a massive extent, with the “Brits” in attitude and lifestyle. Getting used to civilization where even the furthest villages from city centres were accessible via bus, or train, or a combination of the above meant the the very space of America was disconcerting.

 IMG_0181

While a car was used for most of my time there, it was not a necessity. When first arriving, back in the early 80s, I rode my thumb, bussed or took the train or tube to get around. Later, I got my first car and while it was a necessity for a family. after the heart attack and subsequent surgery, the latest model was sold, to pay bills, and once more it was public transport or walking.

Fast forward to Las Vegas and an unscrupulous boss who provides a deathtrap of a vehicle to drive about in and little pay. This same individual who beat up his wife and ignored bills due seemed well on track to stitching up this ex-ex-pat so a quick escape was in order and this former denizen of “real” civilization; where one can get shopping delivered at home, take a “double-decker” to the corner shop or the train to London for some serious spending, fled to the Arizona desert. Once there, I became trapped in Quartzsite, Arizona (the final resting place of Hi Jolly) sans motorized wheels.

This slowing down, of not just traveling mode but also life style, enabled me to become involved to a huge degree in the lives of the locals. The feeling of belonging to a community steadily increased as each day, which consisted of a minimum of 12 miles round trip, allowed a leisurely look at the folk who populate this quaint yet odd little town.

On top of being away from the country of my birth for so long, ending up in this seasonal town, where snowbirds flock to attend a short but intense rock show full of overpriced BBQ and wood-fiered pizza stalls, amongst other costly snack vendors, living here is really like being in a foreign country. Just the scenery of the desert with its myriad of plants and cacti that flower throughout the year easily distract when traveling at a snail’s pace.

Animals that live along the road, and deeper in the desert, are so used to being inundated by scores of the active elderly that most caution toward the two-legged creatures has dissipated. Ground squirrels may still act a bit mad, but after a mad dash to what must feel like a safe distance, the creatures stop and watch as people walk by.

Lizards also move rather quickly, but like their furry compatriots stop and watch placidly. Coyotes come very close although once movement is detected from their human neighbors, they move away. Mountain lions, rabbits deer, bob cats, wild cats and any number of different species of fowl all come within mere feet of their greatest enemy.

Riding to town and back everyday on a red Schwinn allows the traveled adequate time to see any number of beautiful things. During the day, animals, plants, oddly shaped clouds and the odd mirage, not to mention the occasional dust devil.

IMG_3775

At night flaming meteors, falling stars, unidentified lights in the dark sky and the random fallen Chinese lantern, laying like some exotic corpse by the roadside. These once majestic fiery sights are damned creepy looking after dark, looking like some weird animal huddled and waiting.

Coyotes are seemingly everywhere after dark. Calling to one another, in packs, it is a bit disconcerting to be walking or riding the Schwinn at night with what sounds like hundreds of coyotes all moving closer and signally their presence with the yipping and howling one associates with western films.

The wildlife is not the only thing one gets closer to. The people who live in Quartzsite year round, and the odd snowbird, all become very familiar. After a year of moving slowly through the local’s lives, one becomes accepted as a part of the norm. Little bits of the denizen’s lives become known and shared willingly.

Moving to Quartzsite a year ago meant a slowing down…of everything. This is a world of “yesterday” where the local folks still stop to watch, or rush outside to experience the sensation of, a monsoon-like rain. The Internet provided by TDS is substandard, a step up from early dial-up (it is also overly expensive for what they provide.) and the only alternative is equally expensive satellite or 4G.

While this enforced slow down can be frustrating and not a little infuriating it does have advantages. The illusion of walking and or riding in one place is a mixed blessing of sorts. Having the time to feast one’s eyes on all the glory of nature makes up for a lot of irritation at the “crappy” Internet.

On the other hand, having the luxury to closely observe the desert also allows one to see just how filthy a lot of these seasonal two legged visitors are. As the population of people increases, so too does the manmade rubbish strewn across the hardpan floor. Plastic bags flutter from cactus tines, like a poor relative to the huge plastic Chinese later carcasses that dot the landscape.

IMG_2704

Empty water bottles, plastic vodka bottles, fag ends (dog ends, aka cigarette butts) and empty cigarette packets litter the roadside as do odd bits and bobs of RV life. Bolts, screws, nails, unidentifiable plastic parts and ripped rubber strips from prospector’s tires.

Walking the desert roads, or riding via a bicycle, daily for a 12 to 14 mile round trip may not be the most exciting type of travel, but it is a mode that allows for close scrutiny, intense reflection and a chance for engaging in zen transportation.

This slow mode of transport also allows the traveller to reacquaint himself with this foreign country where the traditions seem odd and the culture has changed from the land he knew in his youth.

Dr Ken: Dave’s Valentine – Ken Meets Community (Recap/Review)

SUZY NAKAMURA, KEN JEONG, JOEL MCHALE

In Dr  Ken this week, Dave’s Valentine focusses on:  The kids, Pat and Damona’s continuing “it’s complicated” relationship,  Topher and Julie. In this episode  Dr Ken meets Community as Joel McHale and Danny Pudi turn up as guest stars.  Pudi plays Topher (Dr. Julie’s often mentioned but never seen boyfriend)  and McHale is the lawyer who tried to take Ken to the cleaners, and failed,  and also father of Dave’s crush.

Dave wants to ask the “ambulance chaser’s” daughter to the Valentine’s Day dance. Ken and Allison provide guidance that differs in content and Molly steps in to help.  Later, when Dave (Albert Tsai) gets Emma to say yes, her father then forbids the boy to approach her at the school event. 

At the start of the show, Pat (David Foley) and Damona (Tisha Campbell-Martin) continue their oddly apt relationship and the hospital administrator reports their liaisons to Irene from human resources; repeatedly and embarrassingly.  Both of them, however, rush to tell Irene that they are not “dating.” 

Later, Pat invites his new squeeze out for a liquid libation during  the upcoming weekend, which Damona reminds him is Valentine’s Day.  In keeping with his weirdly suggestive way of speaking, Pat refers to it as VD, much to Damona’s irritation.

TISHA CAMBELL-MARTIN, DAVE FOLEY, JOY JACOBSON

At Dave’s school, Ken bumps into Ross Kirkland “the valley’s sleaziest lawyer” and the two swap insults with Ross picking on Ken’s size and bragging that he has his own island:

“Kitchen Island!”

Before the two antagonists meet, Ken talks Dave through “walking the walk” and on how to ask Emma out:

“Are you a parking ticket? Cause you got ‘fine’ written all over you.”

Before the school action,  Julie reveals that her Valentine’s Day party is now a President’s Day one  as Topher (Pudi) has cancelled at the last minute.

Dave learns that Emma has been banned from dancing with him at the school dance.  Ken and Allison talk about the problem and Ken verbally attacks his wife’s lasagna.

Back at Welltopia, Clark (Jonathan Slavin) reveals he has a hot date on “VD.”   He also warns Damona about getting involved in the Topher/Julie romance. Molly takes Dave over to the lawyer’s house in an attempt  to help with the Emma (Isabella Kai Riceproblem. Once there she falls hard for the older brother of Dave’s almost date.

Standout Moments:

The “presidents” sexual innuendo between Damona and Pat:

“A sitting president? That’s just disrespectful.”

Ken’s three C’s talk to Dave which is the polar opposite of the one given to Molly (Krista Marie Yu).

Molly’s advice to Dave:

“If you listen to anyone, listen to mom…then again, look who she ended up with…”

ALBERT TSAI, KEN JEONG

The “baller strut”  that Ken shows Dave and then the boy’s re-creation of it.

Dr Julie’s “Memory sheriff line.”

The interaction between Ken and Ross, specifically the on-line school gag.

Jonathan Slavin’s “Tony’s” story.

Damona ripping Topher when he shows up at the party and Clark showing up to help save the day.

JONATHAN SLAVIN, KATE SIMSES, DANNY PUDI

The whole Molly and Ross’ son on the couch scene.

Overall Thoughts:

There was a real feel-good moment when Clark arrives to help Julie withstand the Topher-stare.  The two “Park” kids were great in this episode, Dave and Molly both appearing to be similarly afflicted when bowled over by the opposite sex was very funny.

Visually, the whole “kid” gag between McHale and Ken Jeong worked brilliantly. The Community actor is six feet four inches tall. Added to McHale’s already formidable  height was a hairstyle that gave Joel an extra three inches, making him look like a giant next to Ken.

At the end of the show, when Molly is caught with Ross’s son, the boy runs (at Molly’s suggestion) proving that even at five feet five inches tall, a father is still terrifying to a teenage boy.

Dr Ken continues to provide consistent comedy with characters that deliver. Pat and Damona have become the show’s newest double act and the two Park children have now solidified into a cohesive comic unit. Both Albert Tsai and Krista Marie Yu exude a believable sibling chemistry while still popping the comedy chain.

Ken: “Hello Gorgeous.”

Dave: “Hello.”

 

This ABC comedy airs on Fridays and has yet to misfire on any episode. Ken Jeong, apart from managing to kill it each and every week, has melded brilliantly with Suzy Nakamura who plays his wife Allison.  The cast work as an effective ensemble that all bring something to the comedic table.

Tune in and bliss out.

You, Me & the Apocalypse: An Erotic Odyssey – The Comedy Continues ...And It Is a Black Horse...

 You, Me and the Apocalypse - Season 1

You, Me & the Apocalypse continues its journey to the comic end of the world with An Erotic Odyssey.  The simultaneous timeline of the twin brothers, Father Jude and Sister Celine, Rhonda and Leanne moves along with hilarious consequences. Added to the mix this week are the president, Scotty McNeil and General Gaine.

In England Jamie searches for his birth mother and in America Ariel lets Spike’s mother go,  once he learns that she did not hack the NSA, the president learns of a top-secret plan and in Italy Father Jude gets a change of mission.

Sidenote: Honestly. One leaves the country for two short years and suddenly the Lloyds horse becomes white when in reality it was always black.  Perhaps the silver horse, and knight, for Anglia TV was the equestrian image that popped up in this writer’s mind’s eye…Thanks to Susan Marshall who pointed out the incorrect colour of the previous article and also explained that these are the English episode with a bit of ADR work for American sensibilities.)

In the US, Rhonda (Jenna Fischeris on the run with Ariel (Mathew Baynton) and Leanne (Megan Mullally) until he releases her. Jamie (Baynton) stops to speak to his adoptive mum (Pauline Quirk) and get a lead to his birth mother. His roommate  Dave (Joel Fry) accompanies him to the “hippie commune” where Jamie’s real mum was last seen. 

You, Me and the Apocalypse - Season 1
Dave doing “Teen Wolf.”

Father Jude (Rob Lowe) is taken from his current duties of sullying potential saints and their reputations and is sent out to find the messiah.  The skeptical priest decides that the first order of this new tasking is to find the false messiah who will appear before the real one. Jude warns Sister Celine (Gaia Scodellaro) about how harrowing this mission will be, but she decides to accompany the “renegade” priest regardless of his fears. 

Back in America, Rhonda’s brother Scotty (Kyle Soller) briefs the white house and the president on what will occur when the comet hits the Earth.  Scotty and the general also reveal a secret program (located under the Blue Ridge Mountains) and a fake one; that is designed to give the world hope. 

In England, Jamie and Dave leave the crowded, narrow, roads where the drivers start attacking one another, and encounter a naked couple who are embarking on their own bucket list (an erotic odyssey in this instance) and as the two attempt to drive around the fornicating couple they run out of petrol.

You, Me and the Apocalypse - Season 1
Jamie caught in an end of the world traffic jam…

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Rhonda has returned and released Leanne from the wrecked ambulance and  leaves. Later the two women reunite. The white supremacist has appropriated a truck and the librarian mother takes over the driving duties. It seems that their journey may not be a happy one:

Leanne: “This is going to be fine, like Driving Miss Daisy, only without all that civil rights bullsh*t.”

Rhonda: “Shut up!”

Jamie and Dave arrive at the deserted commune and as they discuss their next move are shot with tranquilizer darts. The two men wake up in a bathroom, Dave is  in the tub, and a heavily pregnant blond woman comes in. The expectant mum obviously thinks Jamie is Ariel. As the two chained men look on in horror, the woman asks if there is any reason why she should not remove “Ariel’s” balls…

Standout Moments:

The entire Father Jude/Sister Celine storyline.

Dave’s “Teen Wolf” backstory…story.

The “They will need a leader” gag where the president agrees to the 15 women and one male plan.

Father Jude (again) and his “freak out” during and after reading  Revelations.

Final thoughts:

This very English comedy, despite having storylines in three different countries, is funny, clever and, not unlike Shaun of the Dead, gives the viewer a slice of Britannia. At the same time it reveals an American “everywoman” who is desperate to save her son and an unlikely priest with a very strong sidekick.

You, Me and the Apocalypse - Season 1
Rhonda (Jenna Fischer) releasing Leanne…

You, Me & the Apocalypse airs Thursdays on NBC.  Tune in and see this English series, with an American “overhaul,” and enjoy the show.

Shades of Blue: Equal & Opposite – Woz, Sex and Huge Appetites (Review)

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Shades of Blue: Equal & Opposite begins with  Woz’s crew participating in warrant day and one of the outstanding fugitives chased down has a car trunk full of heroin. Before the end of the episode, sex becomes a factor for more than one character and Matt reveals to Raul Mendez that he has huge appetites and no hangups concerning his bisexuality.

At the end of the episode Woz is still looking for his rat, but Raul Mendez is sorted.  Matt uses the drug dealer’s homophobia against him removing any power that the funeral director felt he had over Woz.  Mendez is also removed from the city and placed in Philly by the new dealer in the neighborhood.

Tufo  spots a tail while waiting for his partner Saperstein; who is getting language lessons from a Brazilian hooker.  Donny Pomp has members of Internal Affairs watching Woz’s crew in an attempt to find the rat. Harlee informs Stahl who steps in and tells Pomp to back off.

Harlee keeps stringing Stahl along with partial information and complains to her handler’s boss about what she sees (rightly) as stalker type behavior.   In the meantime, Santos discovers her daughter’s secret boyfriend and loses the plot a little.  The detective also calls in a favor from her old trainer, Caddie who she springs from jail a week early.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Harlee aggressively questions the “boyfriend.”

The former cop/trainer sets up surveillance at Stahl’s place before shooting up again and Harlee just misses learning just how inappropriate her handler’s interest is in her.

Woz, on top of his issues with Raul pushing boundaries,  catches Trish in bed with Espada.  Matt is understandably upset, but at least he realizes that this is why Nazario has been acting “sketchy” and not because she is the rat.  Woz tells Trish that:

“Men are dogs.”

After his little talk to Nazario, he tells her to stop the affair with her partner. Harlee gives her daughter a chance to come clean about the boyfriend and Cristina opts to continue the lie.  Trish and Espada talk after Woz caught them together and she tells her partner that Woz was right, men are dogs.

Santos believes that Stahl has placed a bug in her house and after checking does not find any evidence to support her suspicions.  She misses the FBI agent telling a $500 an hour escort that he will be calling her “Harlee,” during their “date.”

This episode opens things up with many of the characters. Ray Liotta as Woz reveals layers and his   crooked bisexual cop shows that he is not afraid to use sex to destroy the opposition. When Raul Mendez attempts to use Matt’s sexual preferences against him, Woz turns the tables and destroys the drug dealer.

Jennifer Lopez, as Harlee Santos, continues to work through that “glamour” issue and Warren Kole is spot on as the stalker-y douche who really does have an  inappropriate interest in his mole.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Warren Kole as FBI Agent Stahl…

Shades of Blue has gotten darker with the reveal that Stahl rehearses in front of a mirror before his hooker arrives in order to sound “natural” and Woz has his drug dealer forcibly”sodomized” by his replacement (and video-taped)  as punishment for his homophobic attack on the crooked cop.

This series has tightened up a good deal since starting and while Lopez may still be too gorgeous to convince visually as a cop, she plays her part with a truth that takes away from the glamour factor. The question of just how much the crew instigate for the “greater good” is too far outside the law.

Mad props to the other crew members of Woz’s little gang. Drea de Matteo, as Trish, has managed to bring her character back from the edge of “crazy” that threatened to destroy the woman desperate to save her marriage and Hampton Fluker is spot on as Marcus Tofu, the jokey cop who never knows when to leave it alone. 

Shades of Blue steps into dark sexual territory in this episode. Stahl is seen preparing to feed his appetite (for Harlee via proxy). Woz is seen to be a voracious bisexual and apparently Cristina is active with the secret boyfriend.  Sex is also used as a weapon against Raul.

This drama airs Thursdays on NBC. Tune in and see where this series heads next and just how dark things will turn.

Face Off: Covert Characters – Mission Impossible Meets Gale Anne Hurd (Review)

Face Off - Season 10

Last week on Face Off, Yvonne won and Ant was sent home. This week with the Covert Character focus challenge a new standard is set on the reality competition series where Mission Impossible meets Gale Anne Hurd. The contestants had to create characters for a challenge inspired by Hurd’s new SyFy show Hunters.

Michael Westmore appeared outside of his usual role of guidance provider and revealed that in his career as makeup guru and icon that he created disguises for real life covert operations. The challenge was for the artists to disguise their agents enough that they could not  be recognized.

The main issue this week was for the hopefuls to design and apply realistic looking makeup that could pass scrutiny in real life versus on camera.

Face Off - Season 10
The contestants and the “Agents of HUNTER” Challenge…

On this Face Off  challenge the contestants met their models before they began the sculpting and molding process.  While there was a certain amount of creativity in the products that were designed, each one had to  hide the identity of the model.

To anyone who has watched Mission Impossible where characters were “made up” to look like real people, this challenge will strike a chord. While the artists were not duplicating another person’s look, they did have to hide the model’s face well enough that they could not be recognized and have their “cover blown.”

Michael Westmore and McKenzie came around during the sculpting process to dispense wisdom and guidance.  This particular challenge brought out strengths and weakness of all the contestants. It also brought to the fore at least one’s  sense of misplaced confidence.

The covert makeup created by the competitors ranged from gender change to race transference and in one case, both. Another contestant, Melanie Licata, played  the gender change card with an added element of old age makeup.

Face Off - Season 10
Samuel “Njoroge” Karumba setting the bar way too high.

While all the artists recognized that the focus challenge had to be perfect, by the end of the episode, with last looks and then final judging, not everyone was up to the problems that realistic makeup brings about. Interestingly, the one competitor who went on to win, clearly had it together throughout the entire process and was the only one who really “got” the challenge.

Rob Seal’s creation, as pointed out by all the judges, was nothing spectacular and Neville Page went so far as to call the makeup boring. This was, however, the point of the disguises that the contestants were meant to create. Something that would pass unnoticed in a crowd and not stand out.

Face Off - Season 10
Rob Seal in the middle of “nailing” this challenge.

Interestingly, all the judges, including Gale Anne Hurd who sat on the  panel this week, gazed at the creations with stoic expressions that revealed nothing in the way of initial impressions. It was not until the panel members took a closer look that anyone actually reacted to the disguises.

Clearly the realism required escaped many of the competitors, with a number of creations suffering poor paint application and edges being too rough. At the end of the judging,  Robert, Njoroge, Rob, Melissa, Kaleb and Katie were the best and the worst. The rest of the competitors were s allowed to go back stage being safe from expulsion this week.

At this point none of the contestants have been given the immunity card.

Face Off - Season 10
Robert Lindsay, the other “Rob” to knock the challenge out of the park this week.

Njoroge was the hopeful  sent home this week after failing to understand just why his creation did not work. Once again the judges expressed their usual brand of compassion for the winners and the loser in the competition.

Face Off provided a great  tie in to The Walking Dead‘s Gale Anne Hurd with her new SyFy show Hunters and offered a brilliant deviation from the usual challenge on the reality competition show. The series airs Wednesdays on SyFy, tune in and watch the work behind the magic.

The Expanse: Season Finale – Wholesale Carnage (Review) The Lonely Death of Lionel Polanski

The Expanse - Season 1

The last few episodes of The Expanse, including the two episode season finale of Critical Mass/Leviathan Wakes featured an amped up amount of wholesale carnage.  Unlike the start of the series, where death came in small doses, against a squalid and bleak background of suppression and racism, the end of season one offered up death in economy sized quantities.

A few questions are answered amidst all this morbidity.  Not least of which being who was behind the destruction of the Cant and the Martian vessel (Donnager)  that Holden and his small crew escaped from by the skin of their teeth. The horrific death of Julie Mao is also revealed as is the connection between the Earther who became an honorary Belter and Anderson Dawes.

The pacing of the show increased as Holden and his survivors discover the Anubis with its deadly cargo from Phoebe (in the episode Salvage). They also learn of the existence of Lionel Polanski (Mao) and that the lone crew member to escape the Anubis was headed to Eros; the place where the U.N.N. plans that James Holden (Steven Straitwill die.

The Expanse - Season 1
Julie Mao, aka Lionel Polanski

The Expanse may not manage to top that huge shoot-em-up aboard the Donnager, where the entire crew of the Martian vessel fought ferociously for Holden and his crew  to escape the stealth fighters attacking the ship, but it comes close in the final three episodes. In terms of death count, the carnage may not be as bloody or spectacular but the body count, in the season finale,  is massive.

After Mao’s body is found, lying on the floor with the Phoebe organism infused throughout her corpse, the dead girl’s father gives his scientist (Dresden) the go ahead to infect all of Eros while irradiating the entire populace as well.  In Salvage,  Miller (Thomas Jane)  teamed up with Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos in the middle of the tech shootout set up by the Tycho spy, who gets away before the battle starts.

This new team stick together and once the Dresden experiment begins, where the population are herded into shelters for infection and death,  Holden and Miller scramble to escape Eros as Namoi and the rest head to the Roci.

As the finale moves to its conclusion, the former cop and the Earther team up to learn what is happening in the shelters and receive fatal doses of radiation for their trouble While  Naomi, Alex and Amos, along with Semi, head toward the Roci,  The two dying men fight their way to the ship hoping to get there before Naomi takes off.

They have three hours.

Amid all the carnage on Eros, quite a lot of it actually; with denizens killed wholesale in shelters, criminal gangs killing those who refuse to go into the areas, Holden, Miller and Naomi killing off a number of baddies and the Phoebe organism consuming everyone else, there is a moment for poignancy and a chance to consider poor Julie Mao.

The Expanse reveals the lonely death of Lionel Polanski (Florence Faivreand it is horrific as it is tragic. As this world moves toward war, players in this drama are scrambling to stay safe. Christen Avasarala decides to hide in plain sight while everything unravels around her.

Some questions are answered about the less important curiosities in the series. For instance Miller’s hat has a backstory (turns out to be Semi’s hat and not Miller’s at all) and a small slice of the ex cop’s childhood is revealed.  (A brilliant scene that takes place in a pachinko parlor.)

The Expanse - Season 1
Miller got backstory…

By the end of the season finale, The Expanse sets things up for its second season with finesse.  Miller has joined forces with Holden, Amos has shown he follows Naomi without question when it counts and that Julie Mao’s father may have shed a tear when she died, but her death will not stop his plans to exploit the Phoebe organism.

The cast have all performed impeccably in terms of fleshing out their characters and making them memorable. Kudos to Cas AnvarWes ChathamDominique Tipper and Shohreh Aghdashloo who gave their roles moments of splendid truth. 

SyFy have approved the series for a second season and one can only hope that it entertains as thoroughly as this one.