Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Almost Human

This review is going to be a bit shorter than most. First, because it is such a gross, rainy, cold day and all I want to do is crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head. And also, I don't think it's going to take a lot of words to get the point across.

Almost Human is a fun buddy-cop sci-fi drama series. It's I, Robot meets Alien Nation with a pinch of Lethal Weapon thrown into the mix. It's great-looking, from the actors to the sets, and you can tell FOX really wants it to be a hit.

From the FOX website (so watch out for hyperbole):
Almost Human is an action-packed police procedural set 35 years in the future, when police officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. The year is 2048. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), is a cop who survived one of the most catastrophic attacks ever made against the police department. After waking up from a 17-month coma, he can't remember much – except that his partner was killed, he lost one of his legs and he is now outfitted with a highly sophisticated synthetic appendage. Suffering from PTSD and the “psychological rejection of his synthetic body part,” John returns to work at the behest of longtime ally, the police captain (Lili Taylor).
By mandate, every cop must partner with a robot. And despite his passionate aversion to androids, John is paired up Dorian (Michael Ealy), a discontinued android with unexpected emotional responses. Although such responses were deemed flaws, it is in these “flaws” that John relates to Dorian most. After all, John is part-machine now, and Dorian is part-human. John and Dorian's understanding of each other not only complements them, it connects them.
Almost Human will follow the week-to-week missions of John and Dorian, as they fight crime across this futuristic landscape, while the mysteries surrounding John's attack and the larger mythology of this new world unfold. 
See? Get it? They're both ALMOST human. So we can explore all these hard-hitting questions about what it  means to be human, and what makes a person, and can an android truly feel.

Or we could also just blow a lot of shit up. I am particularly fond of that part.

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering about the premise here. Future cops, mismatched partners, blah blah blah. But what Almost Human has going for it are the lead actors. Karl Urban has gone from a little known New Zealand actor who popped up in Xena: Warrior Princess....

Hey there, I'm Cupid.

....to a full-blown movie star whom you probably recognize from Lord of the Rings and JJ Abrams' Star Trek movies. I've liked Urban for a while, but Michael Ealy, who plays the android partner, Dorian, was unknown to me.

I am happy to report that they are both great in this, especially Ealy who has the difficult task of playing an android who can feel. He has to walk a fine line between robot and human, but does it seemingly without effort. When watching the show, I actually believe that he is an android, and for a tv-watching cynic like me that's a hard feat to pull off. The two actors have great chemistry together and when you toss Lili Taylor into the mix, you have a first rate cast.

Three episodes have aired and while I haven't found the plot particularly riveting, it's the actors that are the real draw here. Oh, and the previously mentioned explosions. Hurray for blowing things up! I am also hopeful that we'll learn more about the "futuristic landscape" the characters inhabit since that seems pretty interesting, but a focus on the relationship between the characters is ok by me too.

In short: I recommend the show, especially for fans of sci-fi and buddy cop movies. Ratings have been solid, (not spectacular), but I am reasonably certain that we'll at least get a full season out of it. So if you are afraid of commitment to a show that might get cancelled, I think you're safe with these guys. You can also watch the complete episodes on the FOX website so catching up will be easy.

Almost Human airs Mondays at 8pm EST on FOX.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oh, great--more vampires.

Back in September 2012 (a younger, gentler time), I told you that FX was developing a new vampire television series based on the The Strain trilogy of novels, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

Guess what? FX has ordered a 13 episode first season of the series which will air on FX in July 2014.

Call me crazy, but there's nothing particularly scary about this title art--it could just be normal NYC subway graffiti.

Some interesting things about the show: del Toro and Hogan wrote the pilot episode (promising) and del Toro directed the pilot (very promising). Carlton Cruse of LOST fame will act as the show-runner. This last piece of news doesn't have me quite as excited--sure, Cruse's current work over on Bates Motel is great, but we all know LOST went off the rails there at the end. And with his fingers in so many pies (Cruse is also working with ABC to create a series called Point of Honor set in Civil War-era Virginia and ANOTHER vampire series, The Returned, with A&E), does he really have the time to run another show?

But, whatever. The big question here is do we really need or want another vampire-themed television show? Y'all know I am a vampire fan, but even I am starting to get a burned out with True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and Dracula (and those are just off the top of my head). I read The Strain book series and enjoyed it--though they weren't without their problems. So the concept doesn't exactly light me on fire with eager anticipation. For those not in the know, here is a plot intro:
A plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport with lights off and doors sealed. Epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team are sent to investigate. On board they find two hundred corpses and four survivors. The situation deteriorates when the bodies begin disappearing from morgues. Goodweather and a small group of helpers find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the entire city, from an ancient threat to humanity.
On a positive note, the novels don't shy away from the likely realities of a vampire outbreak (let's just say things get dark pretty quickly and go really bad for the humans), but the whole vampirism as a virus isn't anything new. And I think I read somewhere that del Toro has come out and said that The Strain was basically an attempt to rehash the ideas and themes he had for Blade 2 that were crushed down by the movie studios.

Much like the vampires in Blade 2 (pictured), The Stain vampires have mandibles and a stinger that transmits "the vampire virus." There's also lots more gross stuff about how you make a vampire, but I will let you discover that on your own.

I am going to do my best to withhold judgment until you show actually airs. I am sure I'll be first in line to watch it...but I remain skeptical that it will actually bring anything new to the genre.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Your Crinoline Is Showing, My Dear

So, I have a confession to make. 

I've only read one Emile Zola book in my entire life. It was horrifically depressing and ended with the heroine of the novel being found dead several days after she'd died from OD-ing on absinthe. Absinthe. That's what's missing from television these days.  Hey, at least she didn't throw herself under a train, amirite? God, Victorian ladies. Just get the right to vote already. 

I don't have any rights in 19th century Europe, but a girl can give side eye. 

But fear not! Those brave folks over at BBC One -- knowing how much we Yanks like to watch British people in fancy dress plot against and snark at each other -- have released an adaptation of Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames, translated into English as The Paradise, airing on a teevee or interwebz near you. 

So, I spent this past weekend watching the episodes that aired on Masterpiece Classic. Visually, it is definitely a treat. The lighting and coloring of the shoot are all very soft, and the 1870s-1880s costumes are killer. It's kind of like watching an Impressionist painting come to live. Except maybe with fewer tongue-in-cheek hooker jokes.  

Le Américain Jerry Lewis est un génie

The Paradise more or less what one comes to expect from a UK costume drama: frippery; unrequited love; unadvised attractions to one's social inferiors; pearl-clutching; children of questionable parentage; fainting; and the liberal employment of smelling salts.  If you simply cannot wait for the return of Downton Abbey in January, you simply must imbibe.

I was kind of surprised that this was based on a Zola novel, because Mr. J'accuse is kind of a downer.  So, I checked the Wikipedia to see how loosely based this was on Zola's novel, and I discovered that it was originally a novel series, set in Paris. Sticklers might dislike that the novel has been relocated to York, but as long as it doesn't all end with the heroine being found several days after rigor mortis has set in, I'm kind of okay with the Anglo reboot. 

The show is similar in concept to ITV's Mr. Selfridge, which aired on PBS earlier this year. I tried really hard to get into Mr. Selfridge earlier this year and it just wasn't doing it for me, sick costumes notwithstanding. The Paradise is all beribboned and bebustled, but the things that it has going for it that I feel Mr. Selfridge doesn't are: good acting; good writing; sympathetic characters; a likable and interesting supporting ensemble cast; and a likable leading man who succeeds at coming across as rakish and charming instead of pervy. And where else, I ask you, can you hear such words as"'haberdashery"?  Get on this posthaste.

Fraulein, were you this much trouble at the abbey?

The show follows the exploits of Miss Denise Lovett (Johanna Vanderham), who arrives in York to work in her uncle's shop. She will serve as our Ingenue/Princess-in-Disguise. Unfortunately, her uncle's Edmund's business is suffering because the Victorian equivalent of Wal-Mart has opened up across the street. 

Since slavery ended in the States, we've discovered this delightful little thing called exploitative textile mills. They employ children! It's quite, quite charming!

Edmund tells Denise that there's no work for her at his shop, so she applies for a position at the The Paradise, the large department store across the street. The Paradise is owned and operated by Mr. John Moray, our aforementioned Rakish Leading Man. Denise is hired to work in ladies' wear, but quickly gains the attention of fashionable clients like Katherine Glendenning, who purchases an expensive frock at Denise's insistence. This causes strife between Denise and Miss Audrey, the head of ladies' wear, and Clara, a fellow shopgirl who feels slighted continually after Denise's arrival. 

Denise also attracts the attentions of Moray, who begins to rely on Denise's suggestions for improvement at the store. He also begins to make made calf eyes at her pretty soon after their introduction. This complicates matters because Moray's ostensible girlfriend (and potential future fiance), Katherine Glendenning, is a regular patron at the store. Her father, Lord Glendenning, is a financial backer of Moray's adventure. Moray insists that he's in mourning for his dead wife, and that's why he hasn't proposed, but really it's that he's Just Not That Into Katherine. He's also hot for Denise. There's also that. 

Hell hath no shopping sprees like a woman scorned.

Moray, it seems, was also bedding Clara, and then broke things off because .. well ... because, why not? I guess it's Denise's job to reform him, save him from himself, etc. Get excited, girls. 

It has always been a girlish dream of mine to love a man called Ernest.

If I can have a personal geek-out moment. I can? All right then. One thing that got me super excited about The Paradise was the presence of a few cast members from the BBC's now-defunct Lark Rise to Candleford, which I feel the Beeb took off the air way too soon (and likely lost that viewership to ITV and Downton Abbey). The stinkin' adorable Ruby Bentall (Minnie on Lark Rise), once again cast as a working class Victorian girl (TYPECASTING) appears as Pauline, one of Denise's allies in ladies' wear. 

Hey, I'm going to ride this goofy and quirky train as long as the paychecks keep rolling in.

Fellow LR alum Matthew McNulty (Hottie McHotHot Fisher Boom on LR) appears as Dudley, Moray's business partner. Also putting in an appearance in Episode 1 is Olivia Hallinan, who portrays Katherine's histrionic and somewhat vampy friend -- a departure from her wide-eyed, innocent turn as Laura Timmins.

It's true, Katherine. I came in...like...a wrecking ball. I'm so sorry.

You can watch The Paradise online at PBS.org.  It is airing on Masterpiece Classic here and there, so check your local listings for dates and times.  Rumor has it that the BBC has commissioned a second series.  You may now flail about and squee. Let's hope they keep this one on the air, shall we?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Recapping AHS: Burn The Witch!

Yes, there’s a lot of zombie stuff we need to get into, but before we do that, let’s take a quick detour back to Halloween, 1833, shall we? Madame Lalaurie is hosting her All Hallows Eve gala and has decided to do the whole peeled grapes in the bowl as eyeballs thing. Only, this is Madame Lalaurie and her endless supply of actual body parts, so she’s kind of done it in reverse. All this grossing out the eligible bachelors has got Madame’s daughters bummed out – they’re never going to land a good man with mother making the men stick their hands into tureens of slave entrails, after all. Borquita, the eldest daughter, in particular is getting sick of mom’s shit and suggests to her sisters that maybe they should end mother’s life a little early. Of course, Madame’s no fool and has all three of her daughters taken from their beds that night and locked into the same torture cages as the slaves in the attic, promising to leave them there for “no more than a year” if they’re good. Borquita, in particular, has earned a “special present.” Delphine promises to stuff her mouth full of shit on Christmas day. All of which is to say that we can understand a why the three daughters, now properly zombified by Marie Laveau’s spell in the modern day, are leading the zombie horde that’s invading Miss Robicheaux’s in the hopes of maybe having a few words with Delphine. Payback, she is a bitch.

Which one is the ugly one again?

Speaking of bad mother/daughter relationships, Fiona has barely managed to get Cordelia to a hospital following her attack. The acid has burned through Cordelia optic nerve, effectively making her blind. Fiona isn’t taking it well, between the emotions and the pills she’s popping and the alcohol from earlier.

At the house, Nan figures out that the zombies are, actually, zombies since she can’t hear their thoughts. Zoe takes command, turning off the lights and telling the girls to bar the windows. Cute boy Luke figures it all for a prank, however and goes outside to confront the zombies, believing them to be kids playing pranks. When he goes outside, the zombies… do nothing. We’ve seen shambling zombies and running rage zombies, but these are apparently the boring variety. At least they are until a levitating Marie Laveau suddenly issues a command and the zombies spring to life and begin to devour passersby. At which point Luke finally loses his shit, but not before being attacked. Nan’s having none of it and runs outside to help. Zoe, meanwhile, orders everyone upstairs before heading out to find Nan and Luke, who have managed to get into a car that’s being swarmed.

"Fear not, powerful ladies. I, a man, am here."

Fiona wanders around an increasingly creepy hospital, searching for…I don’t know, absolution? Distraction? More drugs? More drugs. She finds the physicians’ store and, using magic to get in, helps herself to a few new designer cocktails before heading back into the hallway, just in time to see the robed figure that attacked Cordelia wandering through the hallway in the distance.  Before she can catch up with it, though, she’s distracted by a woman screaming in a room by herself. The woman has just delivered a stillborn baby and because this is the most criminally understaffed hospital in all of New Orleans, the staff has just left the baby’s corpse next to the traumatized women and left them both in the room. Fiona picks up the infant’s corpse and forces it into the mother’s arms, demanding that she hold her new daughter and tell her how much she loves her. Fiona is trying to exorcise her own demons and in the process has just instilled about twenty new ones into this poor young woman. The young mother, terrified, complies with Fiona’s insisting that she tell the baby how beautiful she is, how she’ll never leave her, etc. It’s ridiculously creepy right up until the point when Fiona places her hand on the child’s blue corpse and the dead baby suddenly comes life. Yay?

Inside the school, Delphine is getting ice for Queenie, who’s still suffering from that Minotaur goring/sexing, when she spies one of the zombies through the window of the kitchen. Who should it be but none other than ZombieBorquita! Delphine instantly opens the door to her, proving that being alive for 250 years still doesn’t proclude acting like an idiot. Not that Delphine’s ever made good life decisions, but there we are. Delphine begs Borquita to “come back to me”, asking her to remember in some part of her that Delphine is her mother. Thing is, Borquita does remember that, which is not great news for Delphine or her throat as the zombie lunges.

Upstairs, Queenie and Spaulding hide in a room while Borquita advances toward them. Queenie attemps to use her powers to harm Boquita, but while being a human voodoo doll is probably great against humans, it does crap all against something that’s already dead. Things are looking dire, right up until Delphine herself shows up behind Borquita and shoves a poker through the zombie’s heart, bringing her down finally. “She had a monster for a mother,” Delphine sobs. “This last act was the only kindness I ever did for her.”

Back in that car, things are looking worse for Nan and Luke until Zoe distracts the zombies by literally banging a pot and pan together and getting them to run after her. They chase her into a storage shed, proving that even witches turn into classic Final Girl clichés when they’re in horror movies. Nan and Luke take advantage of the distraction and try to run, but Luke’s bleeding out and the zombies are approaching. And then bring on ZOE, the MOTHER FUCKING ZOMBIE SLAYER with her motherfucking CHAINSAW! (Also, well done to Spaulding for keeping a well-stocked lawn shed, apparently.) Zoe mows down the zombies wicked hardcare, right up until the last one when the chainsaw stops working. Zoe is backed into a corner, but suddenly gets cool and calm, uttering words in a foreigh language and shutting down the zombie. At the same time, a levitating Marie Laveau plummets to the floor. “Shit,” she says, picking herself up. “I don’t know what that was, but they got some real power at that witch house now…”

In the hospital, Hank has come to Cordelia’s side, giving Fiona a chance to trash him. He tries to argue that he’s the moral one here which, you know, heh. Fiona tells him he has fifteen minutes with her alone and then he needs to be done. “You can go on your own or my way,” She tells him. “I don’t care which, although I prefer the latter.” Hank goes to touch Cordelia’s hand and instantly Cordelia screams awake – and sees everything that Hank did to the redheaded girl last episode.

"Well, shit."

The next morning, it’s time for clean-up, which always sucks on November 1st, but really sucks now because it involves burning dead bodies. “Maybe we should get some more cedar chips to cover the stench?” Zoe suggests to Nan as they throw more body parts onto a fire in the backyard. Fiona thanks Zoe for what she did to keep the Coven safe and just then, the Council arrives. Again. Time for more Witch Court!

Myrtle Snow should really know by now that Witch Court against Fiona is never going to go the way she wants it to.  Yes, Madison is still missing. Cordelia is assaulted. The Council insists that since everything’s happened since Fiona has come back to New Orleans, Fiona needs to abandon her position as Supreme and give authority of the Coven to the Council. Fiona, however, claims that Myrtle is up to more than she let’s on. “Our enemy hides in plain sight,” she insists and names that enemy as Myrtle herself, accusing her of being the person in the robe who attacked Cordelia and reveals that Myrtle was even in town before Madison went missing, hiding out in a cheap hotel and plotting to overthrow Fiona, even maintaining a serial killer wall of pictures of Fiona, which Fiona has helpfully gotten pictures of on her cell phone. As the final proof, Fiona yanks off Myrtle’s glove to reveal that her hand is burned and disfigured by the same acid that was used to attack Cordelia. “You give us no choice,” the Council members say when confronted with the evidence. “Burn the witch.”

Myrtle resigns herself, saying she’s been swimming against the tide all her life and she will go proudly to the fire. The thing is, this is all very literal. The next day, Myrtle is marched out to a quarry with a pitch that’s already been set up. The Council, Fiona, the students and the albino black men cart Myrtle up to the pitch and douse her with kerosene. (Sidebar, I kind of love that this is so matter-of-fact. Like, this is such a normal part of witch life that there’s just a pitch already made up for these occasions.) Myrtle uses her last words to decry everyone as being like toads in a pot that Fiona is slowly bringing to a boil. “I’d rather burn that boil,” Myrtle declares just before Fiona lights her up with her cigarette LIKE A BOSS.

"Come on, Baby, light my fire…"

Later, the truth (such as it is) comes out. Queenie comes to Fiona and tells her that she’s not sure they did the right thing. Turns out, those burns on Myrtle’s hands? They were made by Queenie burning her own hands in the acid and putting the wounds on Myrtle. Queenie is doubting her actions, but Fiona sweet talks her, complimenting her on her strength and her bright future. “You could arise to heights you dare not imagine,” Fiona tells her. “Maybe that’s what this Coven needs – a Supreme of color.”

Upstairs, meanwhile, Spaulding is covering his attic of dolls with disinfectant and deodorant, covering the stench of Madison’s rapidly decaying body. When he tries to her move her from the chest he’s got her stored in, he accidently rips off one of her arms. Comedy!

Back at the burning pitch, meanwhile, who should stumble onto the charred remains of Myrtle snow but Misty Day, out from the swamp on her…I don’t know, constitutional? Or something? Earth child Misty bends down, places her hands on Myrtle’s charred corpse and Myrtle opens her eyes.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013






About friggin' time. 

Last week, to much feathers, fanfare, and aplomb  (well, maybe not so much with the fanfare but there were feathers and aplomb aplenty), Tate, Laura, and Roy became the last three Face/Off Season 5 contestants. They went on to compete in the finale for a grand prize of cash, cars, make-up, and an all-you-can-eat KFC buffet. Because birds.

It was a little nail-biting toward the beginning of last week's episode, because I wasn't sure if the three people I wanted to be in the finale would get there. Things came together in the end for our intrepid make-up designers. As expected, Miranda couldn't take the pressure and didn't time manage effectively, and so she was eliminated. 

The challenge last week was to create a human/bird hybrid. 

Tate won that challenge, and Roy narrowly edged out Miranda for a spot in the finale. As you may recall, during Roy's season, he lost a spot in the finale due to Nicole, who ultimately won. I think most people could admit that Nicole has some skillz, but did she really deserve to be in that finale, and did she really deserve to win? I don't think so, and I think most fans are in agreement with me on this. 

So, onward to the finale. 

For the final challenge, THE FOWL THEME CONTINUES. There will be more feathers! I say MOAR FEATHERS, son. I say, I say. MOAR FEATHUZ. 

I was very into this finale, because not only was I pulling for Laura throughout and this was right up her alley, but I really liked the challenge itself. The finalists were tasked to create a swan and an evil sorcerer look that would be applied to ACTUAL BALLET DANCERS from the Los Angeles City Ballet. These make-ups had to stand up to a specially choreographed performance of Swan Lake

Bad things will happen to you if Laura doesn't win. Very bad, very bad things.

Onward to the challenge! 

The first day, the finalists wake up and are treated to a Skype call with their loved ones. Roy talks to his wife; Tate talks to his parents, who look like the most adorable pair of aging hippies ever; and Laura, wearing what I can only assume is a leather vest that she picked up off Tate's floor that morning (SHIPPING!!!),  talks to her mom and husband. D'awww! Seriously. That vest with the chains on it. Yeah, that way belongs to Tate.

I may need hugs.

At the workshop, Fairy Princess of DOOM McKenzie Westmore informs the neophytes of their final challenge. Then, they're allowed to pick teams comprised of the last six eliminated contestants. They are instructed to choose one vet and one newbie. Laura goes immediately for Miranda (duh). Miranda can't take the heat, but she's a damn good sculptor. Her newbie is Eddie. On Team Tate, it's Alana and Lima. On Team Roy, it's Frank and Scott.  It's kinda too bad that Laney walked out, because she does have talent and she might have made a difference in Roy or Tate's looks.

The swan and sorcerer have to take on the theme of a certain time period.  Their choices are: Industrial Revolution, The Roaring 20s, the Italian Renaissance, and the Ming Dynasty. Laura takes Renaissance, Tate takes Industrial Revolution and Roy takes Ming Dynasty. I don't know why they all avoided the Roaring 20s theme like the plague because they could totally have done an Art Deco thing, unless they were afraid the only thing they could think of for that would be a Tom Buchanan sorcerer casting a spell on a helpless Daisy swan. Or maybe they'd make an F. Scott Fitzgerald swan with the sorcerer being a giant bottle of gin. Oh, the possibilities. They are endless.

I'll buy her from you, old sport.

Roy, I felt, was the underdog in this challenge. He struggles to come up with a concept on Day 1. He comes up with a sorcerer who looks not unlike Confucius, but comes up with a mechanical/automaton swan. This is really a huge step out of Roy's comfort zone, and the two other dudebros on his team aren't much help. The clock's a-tickin' and they start sculpting, even with a kind of weak concept. Team Laura gets a head start with a solid concept by Laura. On Team Tate, the concept is still a little vague, and he has some issues with Lima and her feather effect sculpt. Papa Westmore stops by to hand out some fatherly advice, and it's onto Day 2.

Day 2 starts bright and early, and Roy decides to change his concept.because he feels like his mechanical swan is too much like Tate's steam punk swan. Tate's changed his concept a little bit and sets aside Lima's work from the day before. Laura and Miranda, meanwhile, are booking right along with her sculpts, and Laura sends Eddie to the mold room to start casting. Things go wrong for Roy on the swan's cowl. He sent Scott to mold it, and Roy can't get it out of the mold. So, Scott will have to remold and recast the cowl on Day 3. 

On Day 3, Laura molds her cowls, and Roy starts fabricating.his armor. His armor is really cool, but there's really no way a dancer can move in that. On Team Tate, Alana is trying to open the mold for the cowl, and she finds that the mold didn't turn out. The inside of the mold is full of holes, and he's worried about the overall look of the swan.  It turns out in the end that he didn't need to worry about his swan, because his swan was awesome. But, it cost him time to work on the sorcerer, and his sorcerer didn't turn out as well as it could have. Laura had issues with the edges on her cowl, so she and Miranda spent some extra time cleaning the edges, and Laura decided to hide some of the edges with a pearl necklace she found. 

We're just going to add a little bling to this evil spell you're under, m'kay?

Everything more or less comes together in last looks, although Tate is still upset that he didn't have more time to finish his piece for the sorcerer. McKenzie Westmore (in a solid silver mini-dress), Glenn, Ve,  and Neville are waiting at the auditorium for the performance and final critiques. 

And now we dance!

It's not a question of where he grips it. It's a simple matter of weight ratios. A five-ounce bird could not hold a one pound coconut.

The specially choreographed Swan Lake performance is basically Tchaikovsky Cliff Notes. It's not really Swan Lake if you have three different swans, but they have a corps de ballet, and each coupling has a chance to do a featured pas de deux and that is where we can see the make-ups in action. The ones that are the most effective in the performance, and the ones which hold together the best, are Laura's. Roy's fabricated sorcerer cage is cool and all, but he had to have known the guy couldn't dance in that. 

I love how during the Face/Off finale, they have an audience there for like fifteen minutes, and then during the judging portion, they kick them out. I hope those folks are being paid to sit there and didn't buy tickets or anything. At least they gave up on that letting 'Muricka vote idea. 

If these images aren't large enough for you to see in detail, you can check out all of the finale looks here

Here are the swans:




Here are the sorcerers:




Overall, I think Laura had the most cohesive look. Her make-ups fulfilled the task, and neither of them had to be altered so that the dancers could, you know, dance. Tate's swan, as you can see, is FREAKING GORGEOUS, and if the outcome were just based on that look alone, he would have been the winner. I know Roy had issues, but his swan is generic and conventional. I wish he'd done more with the gold paint on the swan's chest and neck. As it stands, it looks like something that was in the wardrobe trailer on the set of Black Swan. Just not terribly innovative, especially when compared to Tate's swan. I really loved the breastplate and the overall aesthetic of Laura's swan. Neville wanted more feathers on the head because I guess he's into that sort of thing. 

I'm serving up Natalie Portman tarring and feathering the populace realness.

As far as the sorcerers are concerned, I felt that Laura had the strongest sorcerer. Hers fit into the same world as her swan, and nothing needed to be removed from her make-up that would have been in the dancer's way, at least not as far as I saw. Tate's sorcerer wasn't doing it for me at all. I realize he had issues with the cowl, but the way his mouth was stuck open like that kind of made him look more like a bum you'd run into in Central Park who was wearing a Windsor Castle-shaped hat than a sorcerer per se. Roy's sorcerer is stunning, but the dancer had to remove that entire fabricated piece from the front so he could dance, and what was left kind of just looked like Yul Brynner. 

After kicking out the audience and some deliberation by the judges, and some some guy-liner-filled intense stares from Glenn, Laura is declared the winner!! Hurray!!!


New season of Face/Off starts in January, with all new contestants and some WILD AND CRAZY LOCATIONS BECAUSE IT'S REALITY TEEVEE, PEOPLE. 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Recapping AHS: That Voodoo That You Do

Happy (belated) Halloween, everyone! Here's the second of two recaps that I'm behind on. The first one is below.

Picture it. New Orleans. 1961. The halcyon days of America’s innocence are pretty much non-existent if you’re black and southern as a young black boy finds out when he’s chased down his street in broad daylight and lynched by four white men. Guess New Orleans has a Stand Your Ground law. Know who doesn’t take kindly to this whole Emmitt Till shit? Marie Fucking Laveau. 

"Aw no, Mama gonna do somthin' 'bout this."

After painting symbols on the floor and some drumming and some serious snake killing, Marie casts a spell. The white men, out in a field somewhere that night bemoaning the “n**gers that just keep coming” are, understandably, surprised when outside their barn hands start to come out of the ground. Hands attached to bodies. There’s snarling, growling and…wait...yes… WE HAVE ZOMBIES PEOPLE! WE HAVE FULL-ON ZOMBIES EATING THE RACIST ASSHOLES! (Including, hilariously, a long-dead Confederate Civil War soldier.) Well done, zombies.

In the modern day, we get an idea of what Spaulding, the house’s butler, likes to do in his free time, which is to play old-timey photographs and have wickedly creepy tea parties in a room full of dolls. Spaulding hears Fiona and Madison coming home and arrives in time to watch Fiona slice Madison’s throat open. Spaulding rolls Madison up into the carpet, per Fiona’s request. “I’ve always enjoyed our little talks together,” Fiona tells him. “Particularly since you lost your tongue. Makes you seem wiser, somehow.”

Just then, Fiona hears a window breaking out back and finds Queenie laying on the ground, gored through her stomach and weeping as the Minotaur rises behind her. Cut to Fiona, looking bloodied, bringing Cordelia to treat Queenie who is rapidly dying. Cordelia and Fiona argue over both of their attempts to see Marie as they try to heal Queenie using magic. Fiona fears that a war is beginning again. “I went there to show strength,” she tells Cordelia, “And you undermined me.” In Fiona’s bedroom, Delphine is terrified and confesses that Marie sent the Minotaur to kill her and that Queenie saved her. Fiona assures her that she knows and that the Minotaur isn’t coming back. How does she know?

Well, in Marie’s salon the next day, as Marie does up a neighborhood woman for free in preparation for the Mayor’s annual Halloween ball, a large box arrives delivered by “some freak who didn’t say a word.” Marie opens the box and screams, finding the Minotaur’s severed head. Oh, it is ON. Marie begins to plot when one of her compatriots tries to convince her not to begin war again, reminding her that it was Marie and Fiona’s Supreme who signed the original peace agreement in the late 60s that allowed the witches and the voodoo to coexist without fighting.

Oh, Minotaur. We hardly knew ye.

Back at the House, Kyle is still getting more out of the banging his head against the wall parts of life than anything else and Zoe is about at her wits’ end for what she’s done to him. She offers to make him some food and in the process finds a box of rat poison. You know, as you do. Figuring maybe there’s a way to Put All This Right, she mixes some into the oatmeal and then heads back upstairs to find Kyle missing and the front door wide open. Kyle is on the loose on Halloween, just as the kids are coming out for Trick or Treating. Because of course he is.

Meanwhile, Fiona is getting Delphine to help her get ready for Halloween. Delphine HILARIOUSLY has some outdated ideas about what “the end of harvest” means, including lighting the traditional bonfires and leaving out offerings to keep away demons, because people out of time are riots! Fiona, meanwhile, doesn't have the time to even deal with this shit and bring Delphine up to speed, not when she's got a holiday to celebrate. 


Cordelia is missing her husband, Hank. Hank has told Cordelia that he is out of town on business in Baton Rouge. He’s not wrong, it’s just that business means having loud, screaming, sweaty sex with another woman that he met online in a hotel outside of town. During the naked afterglow, the two talk about Halloween and the girl wants to know what Frank was last year for Halloween. “I was a monster,” he tells her.

Subtle, guy.

Back at the house, Queenie is doing better, but there are problems. Three of them. Yes, kids – The Council has arrived, lead by Myrtle Snow who’s still “mad about Tartan.” Cordelia tells them that she’s got everything under control, the assault on Queenie was terrible but she’s doing better. Oh wait, that’s not why you’re here? Oh God. I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking attempting to treat with Marie Laveau for fertility spells. Um. That’s not what you’re here for either? Basically, Cordelia sucks at playing anything close to her vest. No, the reason why the Council has arrived is because they were summoned by Nan, who believes Madison has been murdered because she can’t hear her thoughts anymore.

Judges Dowdy, Fabulous, and Dapper presiding. 

And it’s time for Witches Court! Hilariously, one of the three council actually acts as stenographer. They routinely question each of the women. Cordelia fucks it up again by basically admitting that she has no control over Madison. Zoe looks like she’s about ready to crack again. Queenie couldn’t give a shit. “If she’s dead, it’s probably because she got wasted and offered the Grim Reaper a hand job or something,” she tells the Council. Nan, however, confesses that Madison was demonstrating new powers suddenly, a telling sign for a witch that is starting to become more powerful.

Back at the Hotel, Frank and the girl talk after their marathoning sex. She’s sweet, although clearly sheltered. She praises him for being “quite the world traveler, big shot USDA agent,” for having been to exotic places like San Diego. Apparently they met on a website for people who like to collect Thomas Kincaid paintings. She’s utterly smitten, praising him for not immediately asking for her nude pics. She really likes him and just asks that he doesn’t break her heart. He just smiles, holds her close, and pulls out a gun and shoots her through the head.

Back to Court! Myrtle Snow is not pleased with how Fiona has been comporting herself in her job. Fiona hasn’t been living up, not doing the things that a Supreme is supposed to do, is the only one who has been the last person to see a missing witch alive in this very house over the past 40 years, yadda yadda yadda.

To the Flashback! At the School in 1971, a young Fiona was able to convince the Council of the day that Anna-Lee went missing, possibly at the hands of Marie Laveau. The Council announces that Fiona will be the Supreme-elect after she begins the Tests of the Seven Wonders, a kind of Sorting Hat for this coven. Meanwhile, a young Myrtle is not pleased, muttering that she can’t believe Fiona is getting away with murder. As Fiona competes in the Tests, Myrtle concocts a plan – she’s noticed that young Spaulding always seems to be cleaning up after Fiona, so she enchants Spaulding’s tongue such that when the Council asks him about Fiona, he’ll have no choice but to tell the truth. Later that night, the girls all discover Spaulding in a bathroom with his tongue cut out and Fiona standing over him.

Back in 2013, Myrtle is clear that she wants Fiona to burn, calling the final witness – Spaulding. She reminds Spaulding that he’s been living under the rule of the witch who has abused him while making him brew her tea for 40 years. She tells Spaulding that he needs to only to write down the name of the witch who is responsible for severing his tongue. Spaulding calmly hands Myrtle a note – it reads “Myrtle Snow”. Turns out, back in 1971, Spaulding knew of Myrtle’s attempt to enchant him and took pre-emptive measures. Calling Fiona to the bathroom that night, he confesses that he has always loved her before cutting out his own tongue to save her.

Myrtle is… not pleased, screaming that Fiona keeps killing Supremes and getting away with it. And that’s when Cordelia drops the bomb – Madison wasn’t the next Supreme. The hallmark of a Supreme is “glowing, radiant health” and Madison had a secret heart murmur, making her ineligible.  Myrtle has been barking up the wrong proverbial tree all these years.


At Marie’s the spells and the drumming and the snakes are in full force yet once again as the kids take to the streets for Halloween. In a graveyard somewhere, bodies begin to rise from the ground.

Delphine is stern-talking the trick or treaters for being “street urchins” and stealing too much candy. The girls debate what’s happened to Madison and Zoe wants to go looking for her (and Kyle), but Fiona has warned them not to leave the House. Upstairs, Spaulding is back to playing his records and having his tea party, all the while getting dressed…in robes… and dresses. Oh Wait. This isn’t good. And that’s when we find out where Madison is – what’s left of her is a frozen corpse, left to attend Spaulding’s tea party while he picks out a new dress for her.

I mean, at this point, I know I shouldn't be surprised, but still. Ick. 

Somewhere in the city, Fiona and Cordelia drink in celebration and, slightly tipsy, agree to play a game where they each ask the other three questions. One of Cordelia’s questions is did Fiona kill Madison. “And no lying!” she tells her. Fiona lies straight through her teeth, saying she’s innocent and trying to get out of Cordelia who she thinks the new Supreme is. Later, Cordelia is feeling the after affects of all that alcohol and gets sick in the ladies room. As she comes out of a stall from throwing up, a figure in a hood waits for her, throwing some clear liquid into her eyes, which begins to burn Cordelia.

Back at the house, the cute boy from next door has brought over cookies, but not for Madison – they’re to thank Nan for her cake. Just then, knocking at the door. Delphine opens it to see the corpses of her three daughters joined by an entire lawn-full of zombies shambling toward the house.

And yes, that was FX just giving the middle finger all over the place to AMC. 

Recapping AHS: Kill Your Masters

Happy (belated) Halloween, everyone! To celebrate, here is the first of two recaps from the past two weeks of American Horror Story. Enjoy!

Fiona can’t sleep, so she wanders down to the liquor cabinet, as all good insomniacs do, to search for something to help. Along the way, she remembers Anna-Lee, the Supreme who ran the school in 1971 when she was a wee lass herself. Turns out Supremes aren’t born – they’re made through election and “mastery of The Seven Wonders.” Fiona believed she was ready to be the next Supreme, using as evidence that Anna-Lee had been fading, falling sicker with Diabetes and heart failure while Fiona was getting stronger.  Anna-Lee felt that Fiona wasn’t the right choice to be the Supreme. Fiona felt differently and decided to take things into her own hands by cutting open Anna-Lee’s throat in the living room of the school while Spaulding, the butler watched. The problem is, in modern times, Fiona is starting to resemble Anna-Lee way more than she does her younger self. She is still desperate to become younger and has made an appointment with a plastic surgeon for a facelift.

Elsewhere, Zoe has hunted down Kyle’s mother, a salt-of-the-Earth woman who smokes weed while talking with Zoe about how she misses her son, sleeping in his room now that he’s gone. Mom tells Zoe how Kyle was the one who took care of them both, on top of going to school and being a tutor and probably walking elderly ladies across the street and saving kittens from trees. She’s clearly miserable, confessing that she was actually about to kill herself out of grief when Zoe called her. Zoe tries to comfort her, promising that she’s see Kyle again.

"Again, like, in a totally not fundamentalist Christian kind of way."

Back at the school, the neighbors are moving in. The neighbors, BTW, include the requisite stud-muffin who takes off his shirt provocatively while moving heavy boxes while Queenie, Nan and Madison watch eagerly. The ogling is not unnoticed by the lad’s hyper religious mother. Upstairs meanwhile, Delphine is watching Barack Obama giving a speech and sobbing. “LIESSSSSSSSSSS!” she hisses at the TV when Fiona tells her about all the progress black people have made.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us this scene.

Anyway, Delphine has to make a living in the modern world. Fiona has decided to make her the new Maid. As her first task, she berates Queenie when Queenie asks for a sandwich, calling her a “foul negress”. A fight almost breaks out until Fiona intervenes, deciding the best way to resolve this particular problem is to make Delphine Queenie’s “personal slave.” Oh Delphine – the future isn’t always bright, is it?

In the swamp, Misty cuddles on the bed with ZombieKyle and signs along to Stevie Nicks. Honestly, I kind of love these two together, more than Kyle and Zoe. The show is clearly going to force us to go with the boring pairing when this one is way more interesting. Either way, Zoe arrives to find that Kyle is mostly bodily healed, even if he’s still nonverbal. Misty wants them both to stay for dinner, probably because she’d like to talk more about Fleetwood Mac with someone other than a reanimated alligator, but Zoe insists that she has to get Kyle back to civilization. Misty tries to keep Kyle, but Zoe separates them, promising to come back for Misty. “No you won’t,” she mutters sadly to herself as they leave.

Nan and Madison are bringing a cake to the cute boy next door. Madison has dressed her best “I’m here to get laid” dress, but cute boy Luke seems impervious to her sexy talk, preferring to talk with Nan about the cake. It’s lemon cake, “I knew it was your favorite,” Nan tells him. Luke is totally into it, although his mother is quick to shoo the girls out, saying they’re on their way to church, despite it not even being Sunday. “You know that’s a crock of shit,” Madison tells them, seductively holding the cake knife. When the mother struggles with it, Madison causes the knife to go flying across the room and the curtains to spontaneous light on fire. “I didn’t know you could do that,” Nan says. “Neither did I,” Madison responds.

Cordelia is back at the doctor’s getting bad news. At the same time, so is Fiona. Both of them have concerning blood work. For Cordelia it means no baby. For Fiona, it means no elective surgery, and possibly something else. Later, as Fiona is contemplating her fate, she gets a visit from Joan Ramsey, the religious mother next store who has brought her a copy of the Bible, something she always does when she visits a new place. She’s not happy with the girls “invading” her property and dressed so scandalously that she fears for her son’s virginity. She also spills the beans about the knife and the curtains, which raises Fiona’s interest. Madison enters the room to taunt Joan, scaring her away. Fiona, however, wants a longer talk with Madison.

"I do what the Good Book tells me. Like judging people indiscriminately and casting stones."

Zoe, brain trust that she is, has brought Kyle to his old home, left him on the front porch and rings the doorbell. Apparently “The Monkey’s Paw” is not on the curriculum at Miss Robicheaux’s. Either way, Kyle’s mom is ecstatic to see her son again. Perhaps too much so. That night, Kyle lays in his bed and his mother is still trying to figure it all out. She sits next to Kyle, asking how it is that his body looks different than she remembers it. Why does she have such attention paid to her son’s body? That’s odd. But it doesn’t matter, she insists, laying next to him and kissing him lightly. Then more than lightly. Then moving her hand over his chest. Then farther down. Then OH DEAR GOD, PEOPLE – WE HAVE INCEST! WE HAVE MAJOR INCEST HAPPENING! OH GOD IS NOTHING SACRED?!?!

Cordelia has gone to the other side of the tracks to get a meeting with Marie Laveau. Marie is sitting on a throne (literally) made of gold and alligator bodies and bones and lots of other things. Awesomely, she’s also playing Solitare on her iPad. Loves it. Cordelia wants to know about Marie’s world-famous fertility spell. “You know that spell ain’t no picnic for anyone involved,” Marie warns. We see Cordelia led to a fire while Marie dances while eating the hottest pepper on Earth and throwing a mason jar of Cordelia’s husband’s “Baby gravy” over the fire while Cordelia is covered in the blood of a goat’s slit throat. Just Kidding! That’s what would have happened if Marie was feeling up to helping the daughter of her now-sworn enemy, Fiona.

"It's for the best. It takes days to get rid of White Eye."

Zoe gets a call from Kyle’s mother, saying Kyle’s come back but it’s not him. She then tells Kyle that she knows that she’s “been possessive” but it’s time for him to move on with his life, even if she knows that he needed it as much as she did. Kyle has moved from blank nonverbal to threatening nonverbal as his mother tries to begin the make outs with him again. “That girl doesn’t know how please you, not like I can,” she tells him as Kyle finally manages to remember the word for “NOOOOOOOO!” and grabs one of his sports trophies and begins to smash in his mother’s head. Later, Zoe arrives at Kyle’s darkened house to find a pulpy mother and a bloody Kyle.

Fiona and Madison are having brunch. Fiona is eager to teach Madison what she’s needs to know, telling her that she’s going to be the next Supreme. As a test, she tells Madison to make a man standing across the street walk into busy traffic. Madison manages it, though the man is unhurt when the cars stop around him.

At home, Queenie has made Delphine make her dinner, including Peach Cobbler. Delphine tries to tell Queenie to stop eating if she wants to even land a man before noticing something in the darkness outside. Suddenly the Minotaur appears at the window and begins to bang against the door with his horns. Delphine spills the beans that she’s not just some racist maid, but she begs Queenie to save her from the Minotaur in any case. Queenie cuts open Delphine’s palm and obsorbs some of the blood onto a towel before sending her upstairs for safety and then heading outside. Terrified, but strangely excited as well, Queenie lures the Minotaur to an alley behind the house. “You just wanted love, and that makes you a beast,” she tells it. “They called me that too, but that’s not who we are. We both deserve love like everyone else. Don’t you want to love me?” Because why not, American Horror Story? Why not also have necrophiliac bestiality in the episode about incest?

Availing ourselves fully of the "parental discretion advised" warning tonight, I see.

Madison and Fiona have been having quite the day, ending it now at a pool hall and cleaning up while drinking and flirting with men. For a coke-head, Madison can’t really hold her liquor. They come home boozy and Fiona lays her cards on the table – Madison is going to be the next Supreme. She knows because her exploration into surgery has revealed that she has terminal cancer, which she attributes to her powers waning because the new Supreme, Madison, is taking her lifeforce, just as she herself did to Anna-Lee 40 years ago. Madison wants to help Fiona, but Fiona doesn’t want to go out of life ugly, bald and on chemo. “I’ve led a disreputable life, but I’ve done it in style and I’ll die likewise,” she tells her. Fiona recognizes that she’s been a shitty Supreme, wasting her power on herself instead of promoting the other witches like Anna-Lee did.

Fiona admits that she cut Anna-Lee’s throat right where Madison is standing with this very knife. Fiona tries to give the knife to Maidson, asking her to do to Fiona what Fiona did to Anna-Lee. Madison struggles, insisting that she can’t and doesn’t want to and suddenly Fiona is opening Madison’s throat, just like Anna-Lee’s. Spaulding is even right back in the room, watching like before. Madison bleeds out all over her white dress and onto the white rug on the floor before collapsing onto it. Fiona looks equal parts horrified with herself and pleased. “Bury her deep,” she tells Spaulding. “This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme. It needs a new rug.”

Well, this didn't go as planned.