Dead of Summer: She Talks to Angels – Ferocious Finale (Review)

 ELIZABETH LAIL

Dead of Summer gave us a ferocious season one finale.  “She Talks to Angels” whittles the number of survivors down to three and allows Amy to enter full “Jason” mode. Although to be fair she is possessed by a demon and does not need a hockey mask. She is now the  corporeal form of Malphas  and  seemingly unstoppable.

Jessie, Garrett and Alex end up being chased by Amy and her new minions. (All the people that Amy killed throughout the first season return to help her defeat Jessie.  Even the headless, and bodiless, Blotter shows up to help Malphas win.)

Drew and Blair get the kids out safely and believe that everything is over.  Anton (Allan Fishertells them things are far from over and that they need to return to Camp Stillwater.

Garrett is wounded and has to stay behind while  Alex and Jessie try to defeat Amy.  The all powerful demon takes out Alex, but Drew and Blair come to the rescue.  So too, does Deputy Sykes who actually saves the day with a little postmortem help from Joel.

PAULINA SINGER, RONEN RUBINSTEIN

Amy/Malphas is caught by the last of the pure lake water and Jessie dispatches the demon with extreme prejudice.  Unlike Friday the 13th there is no “double” twist at the end. No rotting Amy corpse rises up to scare the bejesus out of the audience.  The good guys have won this one, for now.

The last look at the camp shows it is for sale once more, as a commercial property.  The demon may be caged  but one gets the impression that this could change. Evil never really dies and the eerie music leaves us with the feeling that Malphas is waiting for another opportunity.

Speaking of music, the eery bit used in this episode was spot on. It evoked a clear feeling that everything had gone completely and utterly south and that Amy was going to be victorious.

There were a couple of “jump-scare” moments.  Both were done well and were completely unexpected. Dead of Summer has not delivered many of these during the season.

The last episode had Amy as full-on boogeyman, once she dropped the facade of being exorcised of Malphas. As she stalked Jessie, the possessed girl never moved faster than a walk, shades of both Jason and Michael Myers here, and dispatched four state troopers with apparent ease.

In terms of continuity; as the show started Amy seemed to chop at Deb a few extra times and Jessie’s hair seemed to have grown a lot in terms of bulk.  The body of Deb was remarkably pristine after being chopped by an axe last week.

As the heroine  Jessie holds her own against the all powerful demon, with a little help from her friends. Initially it is Alex and Garrett who help Braces out but it is the cop who “comes back” to really help stop Malphas in its tracks.

ALBERTO FREZZA, PAULINA SINGER

At one point it seemed that flashbacks equalled death. All three of the survivors at Camp Stillwater had memories of events prior to the camp and two of them died shortly after.  Garrett has a visit from his father who tells him, somewhat cryptically, that “nothing is by accident.”

Alex remembers a confrontation with his mother where he called his dead father weak. She slaps the boy and tells Alex his father was selfless.  Alex proves he learned his mother’s lesson well when he sacrifices himself for Jessie.

Dead of Summer offered up a final episode that was ferocious compared to the slow build up through the rest of the season.  Was it worth the wait? Quite possibly. There was a  villain that seemed to be  omnipotent and incapable of being stopped.  The episode took us right up to the very edge before allowing Amy to be conquered by Jessie.

Kudos for upping the game of FX.  That shot of the axe in the head was very effective.

So Dead of Summer defeated the boogeyman, or woman, and HolyOke was destroyed in return, although a portion of his “light” remained in Jessie and Garrett.  There is a new guardian of the lake now that HolyOke is gone should the demon ever come back.

All in all the series managed to end on a high note.  There was enough tension and action to impress and Elizabeth Lail gave great demon.  To Edward KitsisAdam Horowitz and Ian B. Goldberg, well done. You three really managed to make it all come together, albeit a little rushed in some areas.  

Will the series come back for another season? The show ended with Camp Stillwater for sale. Could a new owner wake Malphas again? It could well be that the demon escapes its cage but it seems unlikely.

Besides,  without the presence of Tony Todd would the show be as scary?  That would be  a definite no. Camp Stillwater and Dead of Summer is most likely a “one off” and should perhaps stay that way.

CAST:

Mothers and Daughters (2016): Mellow-Drama (Review)

Selma Blair in Mothers and Daughters

In many ways Mothers and Daughters should have been a  runaway chick flick hit.  It had a bevy of very talented and beautiful actresses in the lead roles and all have chops for days.  A cast that featured two Oscar winners and one Oscar nominee should have been near perfect.  However the film is more mellow-drama than flat out drama and felt little more than a television “movie of the week.”

The performances were well above adequate, but the storylines were, perhaps, too many to focus on properly.  Thematically too, the film could have been problematic. Daughters and mothers do have very prickly relationships, quite possibly the film hit too close to home for the females in the audience.

Another problem could have been a lack of eye candy for the ladies. Christopher Backus (who has been rocking it as Rick in Showtimes’ Roadies and is the real-life spouse of Mira Sorvino) was not onscreen for long at all. The same fate befell Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. regular Luke Mitchell. (Not only does Mitchell  have even less screen time than Backus, his character turns out to be  bit of a rotter.)

Mothers and Daughters is an anthology film, which means several storylines, or vignettes are meant to be linked by a common thread.  The movie starts with Rigby (Selma Blair) photographing singer Nelson Quinn.

She is a professional photographer who specializes in musicians.   Rigby writes a letter to her mother about her youth and discovery of passion for picture taking. (Natalie Burn plays the young Rigby’s mother.)

Mira Sorvino’s character Georgina is seen next with her boyfriend  Sebastian. Sharon Stone plays a fashion magnate whose daughter has more in common with Georgina than with her own mother.

Courteney Cox  and Christina Ricci have relationship that feels like the female version of Jack Nicholson’s upbringing. 

Susan Sarandon plays opposite her real-life daughter Eva Amurri Martino in a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo. Although Ms. Sarandon rocks her few seconds on camera. 

Directed by Paul Duddridge and Nigel Levy (Duddridge provided concept that Paige Cameron based the screenplay on.) the film tries to cram too much drama into a 90 minute time frame.  But for all the different storylines the overall feeling of the film’s tone is tepid versus tragic.

Blair (A personal favorite since “discovering her” in “Hellboy.”)  has an interesting arc and plays a character we can get behind.  Actually all the characters are “likable” per se but none of them get enough screen time for the audience to really connect with them.

Mothers and Daughters is, in essence, a drawing room drama. One heavy with dialogue and, except for the Cox/Ricci storyline, pretty normal.

A woman has the child she gave up for adoption get in contact with her.  Another gets pregnant and must decide if she wants an abortion or not.  Yet another learns something about her mother that shakes her to the core.

Despite having performers who are brilliant at their craft, each vignette spends too little time on the respective storylines. We never really get a chance to warm to any of the characters.

It is Rigby that we really connect with but that may well be down to her particular storyline and Blair’s portrayal of a woman who lost touch with her mother.

This is not a bad film, far from it, it is just not a great one.  At 90 minutes it is not overly long nor is it boring.  The pace is a little up and down, mostly down, but overall it still entertains.

There are moments where the viewer may need to grab for the tissue box, but not many.

Anthology films, when done properly, like “Love Actually” for instance, are good value for money.  However, this film just does not quite deliver, even with such a capable cast.

On the bright side, Sharon Stone looks brilliant and proves that she can still act, despite the travesty of her role in Agent X.  Blair is endearing, as is Sorvino.

Mothers and Daughters is a solid 3 star film.  Not bad, nowhere near it, but nothing to prompt repeated viewings either. The film is streaming on Netflix right now. Head on over and check it out. Until then take a look at the trailer below.

Difficult People: Cedar Cove – H is for Heimlich (Recap/Review)

Difficult People poster

This week on Difficult People, both Billy and Julie almost get that all important break. “Cedar Cove” sees Julie blag her way into  Christian Siriano’s “clown” fashion show, using comediennes instead of models. Billy gets an acting gig as a baby beaver singing about  toilet functions to children and gets invited to be a “Ten, Ten.”

Last week’s focus on Broadway was left behind as the action also moved on from Hannibal Lector territory and a quote, or two, from The Producers.  “Hashtag Cats” featured off-Broadway theatre, this week it is New York fashion week.

After the show’s open, where Julie is giving blood and demanding more cookies, while Billy complains that gays are not allowed to give blood, the episode segued into Fashion Week. The friend’s bluff their way into a fashion party, “Hey Donatello!”  Once inside, Julie insults the first “fashionista” she sees and ends up getting a modeling gig for Siriano.

This was a tightly written episode.  Billy’s Truman Capote reference in the prologue crops up later in “The Shining” sequence and the Heimlich also shows up at the fashion show.

The baby beaver advert seemed to be a brilliant parody of Barney the Dinosaur. (That big purple creation loved by children and despised by their parents.)  It also served to put Billy into an awkward situation. He went for the job as it was union and would reinstate his medical insurance. Unfortunately, his face will show and this was not the game plan at all.

It was hard to pick a standout scene in this episode. All were incredibly funny, with the exception of the “F*ck you” barrage against the Heimlich instructor.  Two gays and a transgender being incredibly hostile and rude towards one woman was not funny. Like the old saying goes: It was not big, nor was it clever.

Julie gets ill.

Walking down the hallway to her apartment,  the area transforms into the halls of the Overlook from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  She sees Truman Capote with the dog from the hotel room scene in both the film and the book.  He tells her that sex before 1978 was indeed magical.

She then sees her two beagles decked out as the twins from the film.  At long last she reaches her apartment door. It swings open to reveal Arthur and Siriano. The fashion designer calls her Julie and expresses delight that she is there.

Julie turns into Danny from “The Shining.” Moving her finger she croaks, “Julie isn’t here, Mr. Siriano.”

Hysterically funny.

Arthur and Marilyn bond while doing Julie’s recaps of reality television and the sick woman sneaks off to do the fashion show.  They call Billy who rushes off, in costume as the baby beaver, to help Julie.

As he arrives at the show, Julie is choking on a cough lozenge and requires the Heimlich maneuver. Billy leaps on stage, still in costume, and performs the maneuver causing the lozenge to shot into the lap of a Ten, Ten. (Aka, the Ten Ten’s.)

Julie then vomits into Billy’s beaver diaper.  Siriano misses this as he left when the cough drop became airborne.

Billy picks on Kevin Spacey this week. Implying that he is gay, pretending to be straight. The best gag was the Choking Chucky one where Billy says the open mouthed dummy is Spacey’s pool boy when not doing its day job.

This was brilliantly funny with many “belly laugh” moments.  Although, as mentioned above, they could have lost the “F*ck you,” sequence.  The signposting of Capote and Billy’s Heimlich really made this episode work well.

Difficult People airs Tuesdays on Hulu.  This series left Mike’s Film Talk cold last season but season two has turned the show into a “must see.”  Catch this one and see what you think.

CAST:

Guest starring Christian Siriano as himself and Austin Pendleton as the baby beaver director. 

Jimmy Kimmel Live! Terence Howard, #WhatIHate & Lip-Syncing

Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy KImmel Live! featured Terence Howard, Wolf Blitzer and musical guest Bonnie Raitt.  Jimmy’s monologue included #PickleGate, the MTV VMA awards,  and lip-syncing. He also started the show with another #WhatIHate video.

There were jokes about Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian missing Beyonce’s eclectic, and long, performance at the VMA awards, (They were backstage on their smartphones, presumably uploading that picture that Kim took of Kanye’s smile…)

The highlight of the monologue was the lip-sync gag that Kimmel used to poke fun at Britney Spears’ performance at the VMA. Spears is the lip-sync queen but she was  not alone in her recorded performance. Rihanna was also “syncing” for her opening number.  Nikki Minaj may have been during her bored duet with Ariana Grande.

Regardless of who was or was not singing live, Jimmy’s lip-sync speech was better than either Spears or Rihanna’s attempt on the night. See for yourself:

Kimmel also did another #WhatIHate video. This time it focussed on restaurant servers, which must be millennial speak for waiters and waitresses… It was amusing what these hardworking men and women found annoying about customers and tips, or lack thereof:

Kanye West was also under fire for doing what he does best, boring audiences for prolonged periods of time before either performing or, as was the case on the VMA, showing his latest video. As Kimmel pointed out, West needs to adapt his style to match his Millennial audience.

Jimmy’s first guest was Terence Howard, star of Empire, new father and new grandfather. Howard showed off his “party trick” of writing backwards with either hand. Impressive, although a huge number or airmen in the USAF can write backwards…

Howard was there to plug the new season of Empire, which is entering its third season on FOX (September 21, 2016 is the premiere date.) but Terence did not talk about the show at all. It was all about circumcision and man-boobs.

Journalist Wolf Blitzer was guest number two. Subjects included Bernie Saunders repeatedly getting Wolf’s name wrong and how much Blitzer looks like Jimmy’s dad.

The biggest subject covered was #PickleGate. Wolf expressed disappointment that he missed the story when it broke. Jimmy confessed that it would have been funny if Hillary had not been able to open the jar.

Kimmel asked if Wolf would open a pickle jar to see it the lid “popped.” Blitzer even opened the jar, “very slowly.”

The lid popped.

Granted it was not very loud but there was a pop. Jimmy predicted that social media would now go wild. (In this instance Kimmel was wrong as we checked Twitter and Facebook and #PickleGate is not trending on either platform.) Like, Howard, Blitzer also has a new grandchild. Unlike Terence, he does not have a new child as well.

Bonnie Raitt closed the show with her song “Need You Tonight.” The ’70s blues artist gave a splendid performance that left the audience wanting more.

There was of course no time for Matt Damon. Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at Kanye West and Britney Spears, out of the two, one can easily see West turning to Twitter in retaliation. Spears does not tweet, she is reported to have staff do this for her, so she may remain silent.

It will be interesting to see if #PickleGate continues…

Gene Wilder: The Candy Man is Gone

Gene Wilder in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Gene Wilder, who starred in 29 films including Bonnie and Clyde,Young FrankensteinWilly Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryBlazing Saddles and Silver Streak died of complications caused by Alzheimers in his home on Monday. Wilder was 83 and had not acted for years. It was his role as Willy Wonka, the candy man who invites the holders of golden tickets to his factory that Wilder is best known.

But the actor, writer, producer and director was a personal favorite for his work in not just “Young Frankenstein” but “Blazing Saddles” and the original “The Producers” holding his own against Zero Mostel who played Max Bialystock to his Leo Bloom.

It was his Victor Frahnkenstein however that proved this gentle actor could effortlessly play the comedy, as he alway had, straight and brilliantly.  When “Young Frankenstein” was released in 1974 I and a group of friends watched the film repeatedly. We got so all of us could recite lines from the entire film. (i still know quite a number of them.) It became a contest, to see who could watch the movie the most.

Yes it had a cast to die for, and sadly almost all the cast have passed on. (With the exception of Cloris Leachman – Frau Blücher, “neigh,” and Teri Garr  – Inga,  “What knockers! Zhank you Herr Doctor.”) But it was Wilder who made the film connect, his penchant for comedy was the cohesion the film needed. (The scene where Inga worries he has not “touched his food” and Victor slaps his hands onto the plate and snarls, “There. Happy now?” is just brilliant and example of his magic.)

Wilder had an aura of gentle sadness that pervaded any role he played. With Victor he was an eventual megalomaniac who creates life.  At the start of the film, he is calm and even a little cold, but not genteel or sad. His Frankenstein was different from the other roles he played.

As Wille Wonka, Wilder emitted a sort of whimsical melancholy that shielded a deeper and, sometimes, quite sinister side to this benevolent benefactor.

The love of Gene Wilder’s life was Gilda Radner, an  original alumnus of Saturday Night Live and they were married for five short years before she died from cancer. Wilder eased away from acting after her death and never really returned to his former status.  His last acting role was the voice of Elmer in Yo Gabba Gabba!.

Wilder worked with Mel Brooks three times and costarred with the comedian Richard Pryor in four films.  Brooks, like Pryor brought out the best in Gene. Each had a chemistry together, Pryor and Wilder’s on screen and Brooks and Wilder working as a team in front of and behind the camera.

The iconic comic actor was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989, the same year his wife Gilda died.

Wilder wrote and directed, as well as starred in, four films. Arguably these were not on par with his collaborations with Brooks or some of  his movies with Pryor but all were funny. The World’s Greatest Lover, a Valentino-type spoof where Wilder becomes the “new” Rudolph Valentino “Wow, look at those gams…” was poorly received by critics of the day but was a commercial success for the actor.

Gene Wilder may not have been overly prolific but his roles were all memorable. From his first role as the undertaker kidnapped by Bonnie and Clyde in the 1969 film of the same name to his role as Willy Wonka, Wilder crept into the hearts of fans the world over.

He was truly a “one of a kind” actor who has never been replicated.  Wilder had a persona that seemed to be an extension of his “real” self. A kind and gentle man who made people laugh in the cinema.

RIP Mr. Wilder. You made me laugh numerous times at the movies.  Your personal tale of woe with the talented Gilda Radner made me cry.  You were already missed, by your absence on our screens, although you did appear sporadically, it was never enough.

Gene Wilder, gone at 83.  An iconic comic performer who stole our hearts with his Candy Man;  Willy Wonka and made us weep with laughter with his mad scientist Victor Frankenstein has left the stage and can never be replaced. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.