Face Off All Stars: The Devil Is in the Details (Review)

Face Off - Season 11

The second episode of Face Off All Stars “The Devil Is in the Detail” saw the first team sent home and a different winner this week. There were some stunning examples of work by two different teams, Niko and Cat were neck and neck with Ben and Evan in this competition while Stella and Jasmine along with Logan and Adam were at the bottom of the spectrum.

Face Off All Stars feels a lot more streamlined this year. We see much less of McKenzie, she no longer accompanies her father during the sculpting phase of the competition, and Michael spends less time with the All Star competitors. (This may well be because they are former contestants.)

Everything seems to move faster, the processes themselves and the judging go much quicker, again it may well be down to the nature of the competitor’s themselves. All have been on the show before in various seasons and all know how things work.

Face Off - Season 11

The show this week focussed on devils and angels. A concept meant to reflect the teams’ foibles and strengths. The twist being that these were to be shown on the same model.

As usual there were issues for some of the team members. Stella and Jasmine could not get their act together enough to develop a cohesive plan. This put them behind and consequently a dodgy mold insured they spent more time rushing than creating.

Ben and Adam got off to a poor start when the cowl ended up looking like a “devil hoodie.” The two, who make an excellent team, wasted no time ripping off the offending bit of work and starting over. (They did so well that they almost won the competition. As it was, their effort took them out of the bottom spot they found themselves in last week.

Logan and Adam just missed the mark with their interpretation of the challenge and narrowly missed being sent home.

The winning team, Niko and Cat, were interesting to watch as they worked through each phase. As they passed sculpting. molding and application, Cat insisted that Niko focus all his attention to the wings. This, and the brilliant paintwork done on the face of their model, sold their creation and it was, as Ve Neill pointed out, beautiful.

Face Off - Season 11
Niko applying those exquisite veins

Emily and Tyler also finished in the top three this week with their creation.     Once again, the entire process in the second episode of Face Off All Stars with the judges seemingly only reacting to the efforts of the worst and best in this challenge.

They did all agree, however, that Emily and her teammate Tyler did a breathtaking job on the filigree corrosion of their character and it is clear that Niko and Cat will face their stiffest competition in the area of paintwork from these two.

Face Off - Season 11
Emily Serpico painting that marvelously detailed corrosion.

By the end of the episode, Cat and Niko won as much for their enormous wings as they did for the beautiful painting done on their model. Stella and Jasmine were the first team to be sent home. The two women were not overly pleased to be the first but as Jasmine pointed out, they were happy to have competed with the group of All Stars on the show.

Going into the next competition, Niko and Cat now have immunity while Logan and Adam have one “fail” to their credit. This series continues to show the creative process behind the magical makeup used to invent characters that fall outside the realms of reality.

Face Off All Stars airs Tuesdays on SyFy. If you love cinema and makeup do not miss this series.

Face Off - Season 11 SyFy (Photo by: Jordin Althaus
(l-r) George Troester III, Cig Neutron, Rachel Wagner, Gage Hubbard, Keaghlan Ashley, Melissa Ebbe, Jasmine Ringo, Stella Sensel,Emily Serpico, Tyler Green, Cat Paschen, Niko Gonzalez, Adam Milicevic, Logan Long, Evan Hedges, Benjamin “Ben” Ploughman

 

 

Timeless: Karma Chameleon – The Sting in the Tale (Review)

Timeless - Season 1

This week’s episode finalized, to a certain extent, Wyatt’s story. It also ended another, more peripheral character’s arc quite violently. In many ways the climatic sequence of events, where the sting in this tale is felt by more than a few major characters, feels somewhat preordained. Timeless has managed, in this episode, to hark back the the ’80’s and answer some intriguing questions.

“Karma Chameleon” also opens up a few questions.  We learn, in the closing moments that not only is Lucy’s father part of Rittenhouse but that the organization is in her blood.  Anthony, who was so freaked out by what Emma reveals about the plans of the nefarious organization that he decides to blow up the ship.

Bruhl’s plans come to naught, despite the huge explosion, and the bespectacled cohort of Flynn’s is found dead at the site. The main story, set up back in episode 10, is Wyatt’s desperate struggle to remove his wife’s killer from existence.

While the whole segment feels like an overlong homage to Back to the Future, sans the laughs, it is clear that Rufus and Wyatt both have some morality issues about taking a serial killer out of the circle of life.  Rufus only agrees to help his teammate after he promises not to hurt anyone.

This plan goes awry when the man who sired the killer accidentally dies while running from the man he perceives as a lunatic. That moment when the bartender sits up and blood shoots from the wound in the back of his head like a fountain, we feel as sick as Wyatt clearly does.

It is the combination of this quandary, which follows him back into the present, and the news that Jessica is still dead that obviously sends him over the edge. While Logan may not be removed entirely from the Mason program he will at least get one hell of a timeout.

The sight of the normally taciturn Special Ops soldier leaping and struggling against his captors while screaming that “she is alive,” was poignant enough to produce tears in the eyes of the viewer. This was the heartbreaking sting in this tale that overshadowed Lucy’s news.

The big shock was finding that Flynn was more than capable of killing Anthony. Just as surprising was the knowledge that Mason is all too happy to offer up Jiya as the replacement pilot of the backup time machine.

“Karma Chameleon” was an interesting followup to the Jesse James episode. The reveal that Lucy is part of Rittenhouse and has been all along explains a lot about the feisty historian. It was Lucy, after all, who shot James dead (in the back) when Wyatt was under the gun of Bass Reeves.

On a sidenote: It was fun to see all those old arcade games being referenced with Galaga getting a mention.  While it went towards setting up the time period, it also worked as a nod and wink to Tony Stark’s line in the first Avengers film, where he points out that a crew member is playing “Galaga. He didn’t think we’d notice but we did.”

Timeless continues to be a cracking series that, regardless of the odd faux pas, delivers on a regular basis. The mystery of what Rittenhouse’s ultimate plan is and how Lucy features in it have yet to be revealed. So far Flynn has proven to be a good guy who uses the villain’s methods to win and Lucy is somehow part of the baddie brigade.

The series airs Mondays on NBC. Tune in and see where this show goes next.

Cast:

Lucifer: Winter Finale – Vanishing Act (Recap/Review)

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This was, for all intents and purposes, an edge of your seat winter finale. Lucifer “A Good Day to Die” was a mixed bag of emotions, plot thread tie-ups and an ending that had Morningstar pulling a vanishing act. Lucifer also goes back to Hell in order to save Chloe but is almost trapped there.

Last week’s episode saw Decker poisoned by the professor. We learn that when she tackled the miscreant he injected her. The race is on to find an antidote before she dies.

This episode was all about guilt.  Lucifer’s guilt at killing Uriel;  whom he encounters in Hell. Charlotte’s guilt at using Uriel to mess about with Lucifer, and of course her guilt at manipulating her son. Amenadiel’s guilt at being a part of God’s plan to place Chloe in Lucifer’s path and of course Professor Carlisle’s guilt about letting his student die.

Carlisle’s punishment in Hell is to eternally relive the moment where he rescued his papers. Lucifer is trapped and must repeatedly kill Uriel and only Charlotte can rescue him.

The plan that Lucifer comes up with it quite clever. Staying in close proximity to Chloe makes him mortal. After tasking Amenadiel with keeping the dying detective in the room above him, Linda Martin agrees to kill Lucifer so he can return to heaven.

After he gets the formula for the antidote for Chloe Lucifer finds Uriel and is caught in his own personal Hell. Charlotte tells Linda, who volunteer’s to go after her client, that she will go instead. Without a moment of hesitation Maze stops Charlotte’s heart.

There are moments of hilarity. Ella telling Chloe and Lucifer that they are luck she remembered to put “pants on…eventually,” when they wake her to come to the station.

Dan getting beaten after blowing his approach to Carlisle’s henchman and Lucifer revealing that he could have gotten free at any time. Maze’s unflinchingly zapping Charlotte’s heart after she volunteers to go after her son.

The episode plays on the fear that Decker is going to die and then gives us a look at how Lucifer has become trapped by his own guilt in his former kingdom.  It ends with both Amenadiel and Charlotte, aka Mum, helping Morningstar to save Chloe and later Lucifer himself.

Decker survives and in keeping with her sudden conversion to being attracted unabashedly to Lucifer goes after her saviour when she is released from hospital. The detective finds the nightclub empty and Morningstar is missing.

This was always in the cards though. Lucifer was mad as hell (pun intended) that the whole Chloe Decker experience was orchestrated by “father.” Charlotte’s confession that she and Amenadiel also manipulated him infuriated him.

Looking at the teaser for the show’s return in May, it looks like the hunt is on for the missing Morningstar.

On a sidenote: Ella Lopez, already a personal favorite, is given more backstory in this episode. We learn that she used to boost cars and has a brother still in the business. She also sleeps sans pants…

There were some standout moments in this episode. Lucifer and his look of horror as he repeatedly stabs Uriel in Hell. Trixie hugging Amenadiel and his look of joy and later the angel fighting off security in order to keep his word to Lucifer. Ella and her brother meeting in the chop shop was also a standout moment.

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DB Woodside and Scarlett Estevez

The winter finale wrapped up some things and left other’s wide open. (All the better to keep the viewer coming back…) Kudos to Tom Ellis who proved once again that his acting chops are huge. Mad props to Lesley-Ann Brandt for making Mazikeen real and funny.

D.B. Woodside rocked it in this episode as well. This ensemble cast managed to pull out all the stops to make this an episode to remember.

Lucifer returns to FOX in May 2017.

Cast:

Guest starring  Tim DeKay as Professor Carlisle, Michael Imperioli as Uriel and Joe Williamson as Burt.

Gotham: Winter Finale – Face Off (Review)

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Gotham‘s Bruno Heller pulled out all the stops for the second season’s winter finale.  Bruce Wayne comes up against Jerome, aka The Joker, and there is a face off between Penguin and Ed Nygma that ends pretty much as we expected it to. Judging by the teaser at the end of this episode, Nygma’s killing of Oswald has pushed him toward becoming that green question mark known as The Riddler.

This was a real tour de force effort. Not only do we have a crowning moment in the genesis of Bruce Wayne’s journey to become the future Batman but we have yet another rug pulling act with the death of Oswald Cobblepot.

“The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” brings the Jerome Valeska storyline to a temporary close.  It not only allows Wayne to come within a grinning rictus of killing the future Joker but between Bruce’s pummeling of Jerome’s stapled visage and Gordon’s final assault on the mauled remains of Valeska’s face, the soon-to-be super villain has his face knocked off.

It is a crowning moment in this series and counts as one of the more grisly scenes in any of the three seasons on offer. Harvey makes a joke out of the whole thing but that split second shot of Jerome’s mangled face, with what appears to be hamburger leaking at the edges, was darned impressive.

(The face looked creepier and more realistic this week even before being smacked out of shape by Wayne’s furious attack in the hall of mirrors.)

Alongside the storyline of Jerome planning on finishing what he started in season two, the end of the Ed Nygma/Oswald Cobblepot affair came to a close.  Barbara and Ed underestimated Penguin’s love and despite proving that he really was able to sacrifice himself for Ed, the limping mayor of Gotham ends up being shot on the dock like so many others before him.

The acid vat over Isabella’s car and the melting block of ice was brilliantly funny as was the bumbling cop who stumbles over the scenario in time to save Cobblepot. Behind the two major storylines we saw the owl lady setting things in motion to have the Bruce Wayne clone take over.

Gotham also set up a teaser moment where we learn that Jim Gordon’s uncle is working for the secret organization.

This episode was full of chaos from its open. The GCPD fighting all those followers of Jerome and the station catching fire soon led to a series of riots in the city, not seen, and culminated at the Boardwalk Circus.

Great humor and the entire enterprise at the circus was  weird and wonderful allowing Jerome and Wayne to face off and indulge some character development.  (Another gruesome, yet amusing moment occurred with the poor guy fed to the tank full of piranhas.)

It was interesting to see Oswald justify killing Ed’s dream woman. Telling his former right-hand man and love interest that he would have killed Isabella just as he killed Miss Kringle may have infuriated Nygma but it may well have been true. Although that was not the real reason that Penguin killed the new woman in Ed’s life.

The bottom line was, that by the end of the episode, Ed did not care why Oswald killed his true love.  Penguin was going to die in the same manner as Fish Mooney and Theo Galavan. It seems certain that he will come back, though as did Fish, Theo, Jerome and many others.

One thing is certain. Bruce Wayne’s vow to “never kill” will become a major plot point when the series returns in April. The fake Wayne will most definitely mess up by killing someone and Alfred will naturally realize that Master Bruce is a fraud.

Gotham will be back later in the spring on FOX.

CAST:

Guest starring  Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska.

The Story of 90 Coins (2015): Sheer Perfection (Review) [Update]

Zhuang Zhiqi as Chen Wen

[Update] We have included a link to the film on Vimeo and the film’s Facebook page at the end of this review.

Every once in a great while someone will create something that is sheer perfection. An effort that marries concise storytelling with an unsurpassed beauty that speaks to the romantic heart beating in our chests. The Story of 90 Coins, helmed by first time director Michael Wong and starring a cast of relative unknowns is nigh on perfect.

Running just over nine minutes, the short film tells the story of Wang Yuyang (Dongjun Han) and Chen Wen (Zhuang Zhiqi) and, later, peripherally Andre (Jose Acosta) who intrudes on the couple’s relationship.

The film starts with Wang trying to convince a hesitant Chen Wen of his love. She resists a proposal by saying she does not feel the same way. He then suggests a 90 day period in which he proves his love to her. Chen Wen agrees.

Each day, YuYang gives his love a coin. At the end of 90 days, he says,  if she accepts him he will use the money to purchase their marriage certificate.  If she does not choose him, Wang says,  they can buy a few drinks where they first met and never see each other again.

Chen Wen narrates the 90 day process, where Wang gives her a “gift wrapped” coin every single day. She relates that they became a couple almost unconsciously. They do not,  however, marry as originally planned by YuYang, she is not ready just yet.

Enter the presence of Andre, a fashion designer who has his own designs on Chen Wen. Wang is concerned and jealous of this hopeful suitor. This leads to a break in relations and Chen Wen decides that perhaps Wang is not the soulmate she agreed to marry.

As she prepares to leave, she learns that inside each carefully wrapped coin is a love letter from YuYang. We are treated to a montage of funny, loving and touching moments that show just how special that 90 day time period really was.

In his first time in the director’s chair, Michael Wong has hit, in sports parlance, a home run. The Story of 90 Coins takes us through a plethora of emotions all in just over nine minutes.

The tale, and the actors who tell it, takes us back to that  one true love we all worked so hard to keep. We feel the euphoria of young love, the pain of breaking up and the bitter regret that follows.

Written by Bai Xuedan the short film is a thing of beauty. Cinematographer Liwei Jian presents each frame flawlessly. The trio of this intimate cast come across as gorgeously young creatures that we fall in love with. Even the interloper Andre is seen as an unbelievably attractive threat to Wang’s relationship with Chen Wen.

The editing is perfect and the ending, which according to the trivia found on IMDb was not as planned, leaves us forlorn and pinning for what we may never have.

At its very core, Wong’s romantic drama can be seen as an intricate take on the old bon mot of “women never knowing what they want until it’s gone.” Michael gives us a punchline presented so beautifully that we might just miss the implications at first glance.

The very power of this film to make us weep, both for joy at young love and for the loss of it later on, is a testament to the talent of this new director.

Out of the 5 star scale used by Mike’s Film Talk to score films, The Story of 90 Coins is a clear 6. Concise, stunning and poignant, this film does it all. With 11 festival awards and a further six nominations this is a brilliant first time effort. We cannot wait to see more from Michael Wong.

For more information about the film head on over to the official Facebook page. You can watch the film here:

The Story of 90 Coins from Michael Wong on Vimeo.