Face Off: Freak Show (Review)

Face Off - Season 9Last week Evan won the Judgement Day challenge by a mile. This week, his creation almost got him sent home and Ben, who nearly left the competition last week went on to win the Freak Show challenge this week.

The remaining competitors: Scott Fensterer, Nora Hewitt, Benjamin “Ben” Ploughman, Stephanie “Stevie” Calabrese, Jordan Patton, Megan “Meg” Wilbur, Evan Hedges all had to work on a Foundation Challenge before moving on to the main test with the sideshow theme.

The theme of the foundation dealt with tribal warriors using tattoos, scars and so on to intimidate their enemies in the field of battle. The artists had to use the weapons held by their models to inspire their makeup for  the warriors.  Face Off uses these challenges to show the audience just where the creative juices come from. Each contestant goes through their thought process and we learn what goes into their creation.

In the first Foundation portion, Meg and Scott impressed the guest judge, Oscar winning Robin Mathews, for her work on the film Dallas Buyers Club, who provided some tips and words of motivation before looking at the final products. Although each artist got praise for the makeup applied on the two warriors it was Scott who won and earned immunity for the next challenge.

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Scott’s warrior with “clay” mud makeup.

The next challenge had the artists choosing their circus characters by a wheel of fortune and the choices were varied. As per usual, each one had to come up with their version of a sideshow “freak” but to develop a character that mixed human with fantasy.

Characters ranged from “Lobster Larry” to Inside-Out Oscar (Meg Wilbur’s creation). Each artist has to come up with an idea for their character and once again we see the thought process of these creative and talented people who are able to make magic with prosthetics, paint and powder.

Nora ends up starting all over during the sculpting phase but ultimately her decision pays off at the end when she just squeaks into second place with her Lobster Larry. Stevie, Scott (who had immunity) along with Jordan were all safe after the judges did their “up close” inspection of the creations.

This left Nora, Ben, Meg and Evan as the best and worst of the challenge. As the four explained their thought process on the characters Nevill Page got the quip of the show.

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Nora and her “grilled lobster.”

Nora put gold teeth on her Lobster Larry and when it was Neville’s turn to comment on her creation he stated  that this made him a grilled lobster. Fellow judge’s Glenn Hetrick and Ve Neil were both a bit derisory at Page’s humor, albeit good-naturedly, and Nora got a kick out of the humorous remark.

While Ben Ploughman wowed all the judges, Meg Wilbur’s Inside-Out Oscar failed to meet their expectations and the creation sent her home. Glenn  had words of encouragement and  McKenzie Westmore looked very sad to see @cupcake_meg sent off.

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Meg’s creation did not work for the judges this week.

The challenges have increased in difficulty and even though Meg left, she did so with her head held high. Evan may have been on the bottom again, but he did remember to thank his model this week and this shows the basic essence of the competition. Each contestant learns something each week, or grows in some fashion.

The competitor’s numbers are shrinking, as they do each season, and as the pressures increase on the artists, it is fascinating to see how they respond. Scott took time to help Meg get her mold apart and as usual these creative and imaginative people support one another in a host of other ways.

Face Off season 9 airs Tuesdays on SyFy, miss this show and you miss what goes into the magic of movie making.

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Pictured: (l-r) Scott Fensterer, Nora Hewitt, Benjamin “Ben” Ploughman, Stephanie “Stevie” Calabrese, Jordan Patton, Megan “Meg” Wilbur, Evan Hedges.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Laws of Nature (Review)

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The season three opener of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Laws of Nature” sees Fitz searching compulsively for Jemma, Hunter avoiding Bobbi and Phil getting used to his missing hand and arm, along with trying to remember that Skye is now Daisy. It also gives Coulson’s team a new “nemesis” in the shape of  “Rosalind” (Constance Zimmer).  The episode starts with a man surrounded by armed troops who melts anything he touches.

The poor chap is an Inhuman, but he does not know it yet. As the armed men and women move in to either capture or kill the man, Daisy, Hunter, Mack  and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents step in and rescue him. The new inhuman, Joey (Juan Pablo Raba) is confused, scared and unhappy. Daisy attempts to calm him down. 

Phil wants Fitz (Iain De Caesteckerto come in and Bobbi calls him. Leo is out of pocket; he is in Tangier, Morocco searching for a scroll that tells what the Monolith is.  While Mack complains to Bobbi/Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki) Fitz forces a terrorist to cough up the parchment. The scientist has hardened up since Jemma went missing, almost Bond-ian in his resolve and actions.

Daisy and Mack go to see Lincoln in the hopes he will help with the new Inhuman problem. Bobbi shows Phil where he can get in touch with his new “adversary” Rosalind.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Laws of Nature (Review)

As Lance and Rosalind verbally spar and show just how much they know about each other “read the homework,” Lincoln tells Daisy that he does not want to play. Both Coulson and Rosalind learn that neither of their agencies (Rosalind is the head of ACTU) are responsible for the dead Inhumans being found.

At the hospital, there is an unwelcome visitor, Lash, and it  takes Daisy, Lincoln and Mack to turn him away from the intended task of collecting Lincoln. It appears that Lash is the one responsible for killing the Inhumans.

Phil and Lance escape from Rosalind’s team.  Lash (Matthew Willig), the unwanted hospital visitor escapes after proving that he is more than a match for the three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Hunter tells Bobbi that he will hunt down Ward and make him pay for what he did to her.

Fitz comes back and Phil tells him that they must come to grips with Jemma’s death. After he opens removes the parchment in the container, Leo learns that it has one word on it. The Hebrew word for death.  He goes down to the monolith and screams at it. After the credits roll, we learn that Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is trapped on some alien world and that something is hunting her.

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At the hospital…

This proves that Fitz’s theory is correct, the Monolith is some sort of blackhole made solid that can “warp space/time”  to another world. Sadly, he cannot prove it.

May is still gone and the team has gotten very small.  Roles have changed, Skye is now Daisy – Inhuman. Fitz has recovered but now is frantic to get Jemma back. (Leo standing in front of the block of rock, pounding it with his fists and screaming at it to “Do something” is real tissue box material, or at the very least “lump in the throat time.”)

Mack may be the only one of the team who has not changed. He is still the voice of reason. It appears that Rosalind, the head of the ATCU (an organization so big that the president of the United States answers to her apparently) will be the thorn in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side this season.

*Sidenote* Nice to see William Sadler (who plays the president in the news clip) looking a bit better than he did in the role of wagon master in “Z Nation” last week.

Phil has a “new arm and hand” with his old one kept in a glass case in the lab. The team have a new vehicle:

Phil: “Plus, this new aircraft can stay in the air much longer than the old plane. Days, really, so rapid response anywhere is… ”

Daisy: “You love your new toy, don’t you?”

Phil: “I very much love my new toy, but even with the mind-boggling range on this puppy…”

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Joey, the latest Inhuman to be rescued…

There was not a lot of the usual humor in this episode although the exchange between Coulson and Rosalind on the subway was not without a few chuckles, especially when Phil questions where the ACTU leader has taken the conversation:

Wait, is this still cagey banter, or are we being honest all of a sudden?

Season there of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is continuing to entertain and enthrall.  All the players keep the viewer tuning in for more. So many questions remain. When will May return? Will Fitz rescue Jemma? And most importantly why is Lash killing all the Inhumans?

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and see where the team are heading in an continued fight against HYDRA and now ACTU, or just to see how kick-a** Daisy has become since her transformation.

Scream Queens: Chainsaw OTT Fun Continues (Review)

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The pilot of Scream Queens last week started off the over the top (OTT) fun with Ariana Grande’s character, Chanel #2,  tweeting about being murdered by the Red Devil.  Something that Denise Hemphill brings up later in the second episode and then the scene follows up with a gag about Instagram and an obviously dead Chanel #2 posting to the social network.

Chainsaw, the second episode of the Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk project,  is apparently Brennan’s baby, written and directed by, and he has obviously channelled his inner Wayans’ and Zucker’s into this installment. The first look at the series, in the pilot, contained a lot of Scary Movie type humor, but now the show has shifted into overdrive with its clear homage to all things Animal House as well as the more comical side of every sorority house slasher ever made.

Emma Roberts continues to slay her role as Chanel #1, aka Chanel Oberlin (“Hello Idiot Hookers”) who manages to make every insult that comes from her mouth hysterically funny. The actress can literally deliver the goods with each gem that spills from her vitriolic lips. The makeover prelude with Lea Michele is brilliant.

Speaking of Lea Michele…the whole makeover scene is her baby. While Roberts starts off as the lead, Michele as the new Chanel #6 steals the entire set piece. Looking beyond stunning after coming down the stairs, one of the girls tells the pledge how great she looks. Hester (Michele) replies that she is in agony without her brace but it is worth it; all delivered between gritted teeth shaped into a smile. Brilliant.

In this installment, Denise Hemphil (Niecy Nash) continues to play the female version of Marlon Wayans’ character in Scary Movie, without the drug intake. Her lines throughout the series thus far are funny but one winces while laughing wondering when the PC police are going to strike.

Abigail Breslin has completely left her Little Miss Sunshine and Zombieland days behind her. The scene between Chanel #5 (Breslin) and Roberts is eyeopening and also requires a bit of wincing. Realizing that the young lady who is boasting of being “Eiffel Towered” is the same one who competes in the talent  contest in “Sunshine” is a little disturbing…but still so funny.

There are so many sexual innuendos that one can easily lose count. One of the best has to be the Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) line, “Cause munching box is what killed Michael Douglas…” (Note, Douglas is not dead for those who may have just panicked a little.) Later #3 comes out with a line that has nothing to do with sex but is still memorable. Discussing her family lineage she says to Sam (Jeanna Han) “You know Swenson? Swenson the frozen dinners, like Swanson’s for poor people…”

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Chad in The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, West Side Story, boy band scene…

There are so many comic moments that it is hard to keep track. The whole The Warriors thing with Chad and his frat boys carrying bats and calling out the Red Devil but looking like A Clockwork Orange with their cricket whites on. Grace’s dad showing the film analysis class the Tobe Hooper 1974 original classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his strange rambling summation of the film’s ending after.

Also the completely random but, oh so funny, battle between Coney the new mascot and the Red Devil after Aaron Cohen’s off screen monologue about how great it is being Coney and how he is never taking the costume off.

Back to Cody’s baseball bat carrying friends and their moment in the street against the two killers…Was that a riff on the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  The “Come back and fight scene?” Answers in the comments please, or on a post card if you are over a certain age…

Scream Queens not only takes on all things from the slasher genre and makes over the top fun of it but also includes as many pop culture references as possible. Even the cast are culturally relevant. Ariana Grande,  Jamie Lee Curtis, and KeKe Palmer (one of the busiest young performers in the business apparently) are an example of the awareness of the casting directors and the show’s producers.

*Sidenote* How many folks instantly hear that YouTube kid’s song (Jenna Rose “My Jeans.”) when they see Palmer on screen? You know the one, “KeKe Palmer is wearing my jeans.” Never heard of the actress till that song…

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Wes, Grace’s dad, presents the best movie ever…

Back to the show, Curtis is still knocking it out of the park even when the dialogue and the action enter and  then go beyond ridiculous. The whole white noise gag bordered on idiocy yet both actresses managed to play it straight which made it work…after a fashion. A little too OTT chaps…just saying.

The show is still working though. The bit of almost Airplane! dialogue between Grace and ZayDay (Palmer) at the start :

“You want to put syrup on chips? You can’t be serious, right?”

“Yes, I’m serious.”

“You’re insane.”

Everything about episode two screams comedy. Dean Munsch’s  “Take back the night” speech and (disregarding the comedic Barfman and kelp in ice cream gag) Lea Michele’s character Hester’s rapt look while listening to the dean. Michele pretty much owned this installment on the sorority sister side. Watch that scene and you will see why.

The taser in the “nuts” gag, the chainsaw under ZayDay’s bed, the frat boy street battle…Chainsaw shoved comedy up front and slipped the horror under the bed with Williams’s granny’s protection present.

Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) and Roger Bart (Desperate Housewives, The Producers) as Ariana Grande’s Chanel #2’s parents worked brilliantly for obvious reasons.

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Roger Bart and Charisma Carpenter…

All in all,  Scream Queens still manages to deliver in the comedy stakes even if horror took a reluctant backseat in Chainsaw. The show airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune in to learn the latest slang words for sexual acts and non pc humor and to laugh uncontrollably.

 

Minority Report: Mr Nice Guy (Review)

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Episode two of Minority Report continues on the “fish out of water” theme (or more accurately the “precog out of the milk bath” theme). Mr. Nice Guy sees Dash working on another case with Lara Vega.  By the end of the episode, Arthur seems to be on board with illegally helping Det. Vega. This series is pretty much a “vision of the week” set-up with episode two being a woman’s murder seen in flashes by Dash.

Mr. Nice Guy starts with Lara (Meagan Good) and her boss Blake (Wilmer Valderrama) taking part in a training exercise. The two show just how they work together, Vega ignoring Blake and him calling her out on it. While they are no longer partners, Blake was promoted, they still act like they are.

Dash (Stark Sandsstill desperately wants to be a cop and solve crimes. The precog sees Vega as his partner. Agatha (Laura Regan) warns Dash about his actions and Arthur (Nick Zano) tells him he is being naive. Ignoring both of them Dash continues working with Vega. The precog’s old caretaker Wally (Daniel London) helps Dash in his quest to be a “good guy” and stop murders in the city.

The flashes that Dash see in his vision are traced to a single’s club. Lara and Dash check it out and at the club some comic scenes ensue. While the show focusses on Dash’s lack of social skills, it also relates some amusing dialogue. Vega moans about the lack of romance in the world, Her mother, she says, tells of the interaction “back in the day” where people actually communicated. They sent  texts and pictures, Lara marvels at how that must have been.

Lara and Dash refuse to use Arthur initially and end up casing the wrong suspect.Arthur gets the names and more facts than Dash.  Tyson Cole,  an author, something that is a rarity in the future apparently, is the man they believe will kill the woman seen in Dash’s vision. The writer, who specializes in dating etiquette and pick up techniques is followed by them until they realize that the visions Dash had were misleading.

While all the clubbing is going on, Blake volunteers his section and personnel to the new Hawk Eye program, the replacement for Precrimes.  As the duo struggle to avoid being found out by Vega’s boss Blake, they realize that the murderer is the bartender at the singles club.

The two arrive to save the woman just in the nick of time. Before the end credits roll, Vega has enlisted the services of Arthur. With two precogs helping,  more information will be available. Since the two siblings can gather more inclusive data, future cases will be, presumably, easier to solve.

Thus far, Minority Report is moving slowly forward with its story arc. The characters are likable enough but so far not too overly dimensional. Vega is attractive,  assertive and interesting. She is not, however, too deep.  Dash is focussed on how much he does not know versus what he can do.

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FOX have brought their Philip K.  Dick series to the small screen and the series may work over the long run. However, the network counting on the film adaptation connection to provide an instant fanbase may turn out to be overly hopeful. There is none of the tension from the film, or the big names,  and the series lacks the feeling of Dick’s bleak dystopian world from the short story.

Minority Report airs Mondays on FOX. This one may not make it past the first season but time will tell whether the series  can or will find its feet.  One thing that might help would be more Laura Regan and this may eventually happen. Until then tune in and see what happens next with the “freewheeling” precog.

 

Blindspot: A Stray Howl – Connections (Review)

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In the pilot of Blindspot, Jane Doe and the FBI found their first clue amid the myriad of tattoos on her body. Behind Jane’s ear was a Chinese tattoo with an address on it.  The residence revealed a connection between the ink and  a man named Chou who wanted to blow up the Statue of Liberty.  Jane has her first “triggered” memory; target practice in the woods.

At the start of A Stray Howl, Chou dies from a “stroke” after surgery (the man was shot  in the pilot episode) and later it is discovered that he was murdered. Patterson (Ashley Johnson) finds another tattoo that is connected to the first tattoo (that Jane translated).

The newest tattoo spotted by technician is deciphered using the vigenere cipher which is a poly-alphabetic substitution code. It spells out a name, USAF Major Arthur Gibson (Robert Eli). The Jane Doe team go to Gibson’s Brooklyn address. Gibson answers the door and refuses to speak to the group on his doorstep.

As the FBI and Jane leave,  the house explodes. There is no body and it turns out that Arthur is up to no good and has kidnapped a little girl in order to steal a government drone which he uses to kill those who turned against him.  As Gibson continues to target people, Weller rushes to find the child and Jane has more memories pop up in her mind.

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The drone pilot kills his former commander and tries to kill the colleague who turned him in to authorities.  As the FBI team rush to shut him down, they learn that Gibson plans to kill all the other domestic drone pilots along with thousands of other employees at the government facility.

Kurt Weller’s past is brought up via a discussion with his sister. Their father was accused of abducting and murdering a childhood friend of Kurt’s 25 years ago; Taylor Shaw. Although his dad was cleared of the crime, because the child was never found the stigma has hung over the man for years.

The missing  girl was Kurt’s best friend and he has been full of guilt about her disappearance for years. The issue of Shaw has also clouded his relationship with his father.   Weller sees the scans that Patterson did of all the tattoos on Jane’s body and he notices a scar which identical to one that the girl Taylor had.

A scar that the young Kurt inadvertently gave to his childhood friend. The presence of this identical wound, convinces the  FBI agent that Jane is Shaw. Later his boss orders  DNA tests done to see if he is correct.

Jane has another “triggered”  memory while shooting several weapons at the range. One, a silenced pistol,  prompts a flashback of shooting a nun. Jane is horrified by the memory and is concerned that she may be a terrible person. As the episode progresses, the flashback lengthens and she sees that the “nun” was a man disguised as a holy figure and in the memory she is receiving a flash drive from the body.

Weller and Jane team up to tackle the vengeful Air Force pilot. They track the man to a tall building, with the help of Patterson, and Kurt goes up to  face Gibson.  The Major is armed and the two men exchange gunfire.  Gibson escapes and uses the elevator to get away from Weller.

Once he reaches the ground floor, he fires an entire clip of ammo at Jane, who is in Weller’s car. The man drives off and Jane quickly follows.

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A Stray Howl, which could apply to Gibson as he was a would be whistle blower, reveals more about Jane Doe. She is proficient with many different weapons and can drive using advanced techniques. For example, when she is pursuing Major Gibson in Weller’s SUV she uses a pit maneuver (a police pursuit tactic) to stop his vehicle. Weller saves the girl that Gibson kidnapped after Jane crashes the SUV.

By the end of the episode Weller is convinced that Jane is his missing childhood friend. Agent Reed (Rob Brown) exhibits some major trust issues with Jane Doe. Jane sees the man from her flashback, played by Jimmy Whitworth, and later he shows up at her apartment. 

Jane recognizes that she and Weller have some connection and Kurt tells his sister that he believes the tattooed woman is Shaw.  Sarah (Jordana Spiro) tells her brother that their father is dying of lung cancer and he needs to see him before it is too late.

This is a taut and well constructed thriller which may boil down to a “tattoo a week” set up, but thus far it is working brilliantly.  Alexander’s character  is a giant cipher which appears to work as a crime prevention tool.  The chemistry between Sullivan and Jaimie is spot on.

Blindspot: A Stray Howl - Connections (Review)

On a sidenote, it seems that so far Jaimie Alexander is doomed to have her face covered with dirt in many of her scenes.  It should be pointed out at the “Lady Sif” actress may be one of the few female performers who still looks gorgeous covered with muck.

Blindspot airs Mondays on ABC. This is a well-crafted thriller that has a more than capable cast and an interesting premise. Tune in and see where this illustrated woman’s journey takes her.