Thursday, October 25, 2012

South Park Season 16, Episode 12

It's a Graveyard Smash!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 1:11 AM

It's been quite some time since "South Park" has done a Halloween episode: "Hell on Earth 2006" was the last time the show celebrated the holiday (and caused waves of controversy over a was-it-too-soon-or-not Steve Irwin joke), and it's about time the show returned to some Halloween themed hoodwinks.

Of course, a lot has changed in 6 years, both in the real world, and in "South Park," and apparently everybody but Randy knew this. Taking the Marsh family's savings and investing it in a Blockbuster Video, Randy was sure they were bound to become rich, even as Stan rode in the car watching movies on his iPad.

Hulk Smash!
  • Hulk Smash!

"South Park" has been known for really running jokes into the ground recently, and while it didn't show much restraint in hitting home the Blockbusters are old and ancient territory, it was a good nod to see Randy immediately sick of the jokes and mocking both Stan, and the ghosts who started showing up in the Blockbuster (Blockbusters are so ancient they have ghosts...well, you get it). Stan delivered the line of the night, though, with "Renting DVDs is more ancient than Madonna's boobs!," and I mean, let's face it, he was probably right.

Meanwhile, Kenny, Kyle, and Cartman are waiting on Stan to go trick-or-treating, but Randy won't let Stan leave the store because he is convinced that on Halloween, of all nights, people will come in to rent scary movies. You've got to love that within the humor and the jokes "South Park" always manages to cut right through the shit to the heart of the problem: It is a little sad that people aren't renting movies anymore, even if, as Randy lamented to Sharon, many rural neighborhoods aren't equipped with fast enough internet for streaming so renting DVDs or blu rays still presents the best movie watching experience. Poor Randy, and poor DVDs.

Ironically, it was technology that saved the day, as Stan started up a FaceTime chat with Kyle, who tied his iPad to a skateboard so the four could still be the Avengers. I mean, Stan was Captain America, and you can't just dress up as the Avengers without Captain America! The group was also hoping to win the costume contest, which was a nice nod to Halloween episodes of the show way back in the day. (So far back, I think I actually watched the episode on a DVD, spooky shit!).

The boys ran into real trouble though, as they tried to stop some burglars robbing the Kum & Go (snicker, snicker). Turned out that they were a group of thieves running around town trying to get rich by breaking into Red Box machines, only to find them as well suffering from that bastard invention that is the internet. The thieves captured Stan (still in iPad, video chat form), which was a running gag that only got better the longer it went it. The thieves scratched the screen of the iPad trying to make Stan rat on his friends. He did, leading the Avengers and the thieves all to the big Monster Mash, and yeah, I know it was silly, but the few line Monster Mash jokes of the cops was just great. It's a graveyard smash! It gets on in a flash!

The Mash continued the show's strong, stand out moments, including the very cute Were-rechaun costume of Butters, and the clever Gangnam-stein (We are going to see so many Gangnam style costumes next week just like the show predicts, I fear).

Back at the Blockbuster, Randy continued to go crazier and crazier (so crazy he was stuck staring at "Ted" on the movie screen, and we all know how much Matt Stone and Trey Parker can't stand "Family Guy" material) with a quite funny scene of him sneaking up on Sharon. He took Stan's iPad away from him just as he entered the Monster Mash, leading to Randy ravaging town as Gangnam-stein attacking people watching movies on streaming devices.

Unfortunately, the twenty some-odd minute limit of the show was fast approaching, and we got a funny scene with Stan dying (you know, those iPad batteries don't last forever), and then everything wrapped up quick, with Shelly burning down the Blockbuster and Randy freezing outside and being unwilling to admit he was wrong (And an odd placed McDonalds joke). We never find out about the costume contest, and the concept was so strong, I'd love to see it go on into next week's episode (which is actually Halloween), but it looked like Matt and Trey chose to wrap it up fast rather than expand it for another whole episode. There were a few slow moment, but the time limit of the show and the rushed/botched ending was the only real problem here, and I just have to say it: Butters like two lines this week were funnier than everything he said last week.

Willie is dressing up as Gandalf for Halloween next week, because yes, he is sure you all really really want to know. He probably won't be doing a Gandalf Style dance though, but you can always try requesting it to him on Twitter or Facebook.

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American Horror Story Season 2, Episode 2

"You're not squeamish are you?"

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 1:05 AM

"American Horror Story" was a smorgasbord of sensory proportions tonight: but like any good feast, sometimes enough is enough, and you wish you hadn't had that last bloody slice of meatloaf.

Appetizer: Jab, swish, stab! We pick up mere seconds after last week, with that silly little couple face-to-face with Bloody Face (and whoever is playing him/her). Poor Leo (Adam Levine) got beaten into the ground and quite brutally stabbed, making it, if I had to guess, quite harder to breathe.

But tense right? Hell yeah it was, and then we jump right back to Briarcliff and 1964, but not before a quick detour to another haunt of Bloody Face's, stalking the girlfriend of Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson). My only note there was how he fit in through an open window that small, but I'll leave that be for now.

First course: How about some electroshock therapy? Lana, damn nosy journalist that she is, was caught by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) keeping notes (as every good journalist falsely captured and thrown in a mad house should!) and needed to be punished. Jude is worried that poor Lana's memory is really her worst enemy, and what better way to clear that than with some good ol' Frankenstein electroshock therapy? It was interesting to note-and I'm glad that Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) brought it up-that this was somewhat out of character for Jude, who we've seen is more about the power of God and prayer than science and technology. But, looking to make a point, or just worried, Jude ordered the treatment done, and if you can sit still and not squirm when Lana is strapped down and shocked the shit out of, you're a stronger person than I am.

Second course: Anybody order some exorcism hors d'oeuvres? As if Briacliff wasn't already full of enough problems, Jude now has to deal with a poor boy who was brought to her because he went crazy and started speaking in strange languages and eating animals. Yeah...time to call in more priests for an exorcism! We also got introduced to Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) who is setting himself up to be a good foil to Jude, and is the court appointed psychologist in charge of deeming if Kit (Evan Peters) actually killed or those women or is telling the truth about those rascally aliens. That plot line kind of took the side step this week to the whole possessed boy, who gave another quite intense and stressful scene as the priests tried, and failed, in chasing the demon out. Don't think we've seen the last of the wily demon either, as it looked like he has now switched hosts to Sister Eunice (Lily Rabe). Rascal.

Joseph Fiennes as Monsignor Timothy Howard in Season Two, Episode 2 of FX's "American Horror Story: Asylum." - MICHAEL YARISH/FX
  • Michael Yarish/FX
  • Joseph Fiennes as Monsignor Timothy Howard in Season Two, Episode 2 of FX's "American Horror Story: Asylum."

We got some of it this week when the demon was talking to Jude in the middle of the exorcist, but the one thing I want out of this season is to really dig deep down and see what makes Jude tick. Part of it is Lange killing it and stealing the show, but Jude is also one of the more interesting characters: Her piety, though cruel, seems sincere, but if the demon was telling the truth and she really is a murderer and ex-whore, that could explain her devotion to repentance and salvation. By the end of the season, if I at least get at who she is and how her mind works, I'm going to be content.

Now, that's more than enough already, but let's not forget all the other lose ends flying out in the wind: Dr. Arden apparently has a BIG fetish for girls of a certain habit, IE: nuns, and hired a prostitute to dress up in the holy smock, only for her to find pictures of dead women hidden on his dresser, bite him, then run away. (Is HE Bloody Face?). Sister Eunice is still running about feeding those things in the woods, which we apparently aren't going to find anything out about yet, Kit and Grace (Lizzie Brochere) are up to something all right, and I would be surprised it it wasn't more than just trying to escape with Lana, who doesn't trust Kit and then called security on them so they didn't get away. What. A. Bitch.

Already full? Yeah, well, don't forget your buns for dessert. Ending on a bottom, and rather odd, note, the last scene had Jude lashing Kit's dairy-air (Ladies, please, it's just a butt) while Lana and Grace got the ever-so-lovely honor of watching. All of these secondary scenes kind of jutted out of the narrative and seemed out of place and tacked to the end, and the pacing was all over the place, missing the poignancy that the earlier scenes had. Spreading that out could have done wonders, but so could limiting just how much the show is shoving down our throats. I have a feeling several of these plots are going to disappear as the show tries to figure out what is working and what isn't, but even for a show as over-the-top as "American Horror Story," sometimes less truly is more.

Willie Clark is a giant scaredy cat, and if he can watch "American Horror Story" and still sleep at night, so can you. But, you can always cuddle up with him in the dark of the night on Twitter or Facebook.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" Episode 1: Pair shaped

In which teams are selected, and I fall in love with Tammie Brown all over again

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 12:15 AM

A regular season of “Drag Race” is a ridiculous reality-TV spectacle like no other, so an “All Stars” season has the potential to be…pretty much the gayest thing ever. A dozen of our favorite queens (well, at least 11 of our favorite queens) are back for another chance at the “Drag Race” title and $100,000. Season 1’s Nina Flowers, Shannel, and Tammie Brown! Season 2’s Raven, Jujubee, and Pandora Boxx! Season 3’s Alexis Mateo, Yara Sofia, Manila Luzon, and Mimi Imfurst! And Season 4’s Chad Michaels and Latrice Royale! In case you’re keeping track, that’s every runner-up and every Miss Congeniality in the show’s history. The competition is stiff. Or it would be, if it wasn’t so tightly tucked.

But all of our armchair shade throwing over who could or SHOULD take the tiara was rendered moot when the big “All Stars” twist was revealed: the 12 queens would be split up into six teams of two, and competing as duos for the entire season. That explains how they were going to work the short season (I’ve read that “All Stars” will only run six to eight episodes), but it really changes the entire dynamic of the show. If one member of a team screws up, both members go home. Meaning a very strong contender could get bounced early due to a weak partner (I can already think of one team where that’s likely). The queens seemed genuinely shocked at the team announcement, and several of them were downright pissed. Chief among them: Rochester’s own Pandora Boxx. As it turned out, she had very good reason to be.

The teams were selected by each queen picking one of her competitors. If two queens picked each other, they were automatically paired. If there wasn’t a match, they kept picking competitors until they got their wish. Here’s how the teams shook out:

Team Rujubee: Raven and Jujubee (first round match)

Team Shad: Shannel and Chad Michaels (first round match)

Team Brown Flowers: Nina Flowers and Tammie Brown (first round match)

Team Latrila: Latrice Royale and Manila Luzon (second round match)

Team Yarlexis: Yara Sofia and Alexis Mateo (second round match)

Team Mandora: Mimi Imfurst and Pandora Boxx (de facto pair)

Most of the teams seemed to get along well, but as soon as the draft was done the mood changed for Team Mandora. Specifically, Pandora retreated into her shell and Mimi’s insecurities at not being picked by ANYONE started to get the best of her. (And as we all saw in Season 3, Mimi’s insecurities are a self-propelling engine of personal destruction.)

Here’s the thing: Pandora’s already been getting a lot of heat on social media because of her sullen reaction to the teams in general, and being paired with Mimi specifically. Even Pandora’s been making fun of her behavior in the episode on Facebook. Having seen the episode, I didn’t think she came off nearly as badly as I was expecting. Seemed to me that what you had here was someone who was an underdog in Season 2, who became embraced by the show’s fans, and who was legitimately excited to come back and show off her stuff now that she had more polish, more resources, and -- key for Pandora -- more confidence. The team twist took her unaware, and suddenly she was no longer in control of her own performance on the show (well, even less in control than usual on a reality show). I can’t blame her for being shellshocked, although the same could be said for all of the returning queens.

The rest of them, however, didn’t have to work with Mimi. Coming into this I was willing to give Mimi the benefit of the doubt. After her notorious boot in Season 3 -- which I always read as a DQ for physically assaulting another competitor -- I sympathized with Mimi. I felt like she was an insecure person who got caught up in the reality-TV machine. So when they said she was coming back for “All Stars,” I hoped that she would have pulled herself together and become an unlikely dark horse. Say what you will, but Mimi IS memorable and has a unique style and point of view.

Instead, Mimi quickly unraveled and it was back to the same hysterical antics as her first time around. If you only watched the main episode you missed her full-blown meltdown aired on “Untucked,” when she tried to walk off set before the lipsynch because her dirty laundry was being aired publicly and the other queens were taking her to task for apparently poaching Alexis’s gig at a Florida club. She apparently DID walk off after the elimination, since only Pandora was around to take down her portrait from the “All Stars” wall. I’m sure it sucks to go home first, but that kind of behavior, along with poor showings in the photo-shoot challenge, a bad outfit on the runway, and a desperate lipsynch, just underscored that our first impression of Mimi was, unfortunately, pretty much on point. She’s emotionally volatile, immature, and a terrible sport. Tough to root for her, much less work with her.

And so, because of the team nature of this season, that meant Pandora got axed too after Mimi went up against Chad Michaels in a lipsynch to Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat’s “Opposites Attract.” (Side note: I call bullshit on Team Shad being up for that elim instead of Team Yarlexis. Yeah, Chad and Shannel blew the photo shoot, but they killed on the runway. Yarlexis looked tacky and cheap on the runway and their photo wasn’t much better.)

That’s really unfortunate for Pandora and her legions of fans. The trick with all-star seasons of these shows is that by coming back, fan favorites run the risk of damaging the reputation they earned the first time out. Pandora was not portrayed positively here -- although she also wasn’t nearly as bad as the gossip would have you believe. If anything her failing was not taking control of the crazy train that Mimi was apparently hellbent on riding, although Pandora DID manage to talk her into going through with the lipsynch. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders what would have happened had Mimi walked away. Would Pandora have lipsynched by herself? Would they have allowed a one-queen team? I guess we’ll never know.

Speaking of teams, I’ll briefly handicap the rest of them. To me the duos to beat are Rujubee and Shad, which are evenly matched with two very strong queens apiece. Team Latrila -- which won this week’s challenge, thanks in part to dressing like fucking Teletubbies, thank you show -- is the wild card here, because the two of them are so different that they may actually raise their respective games. Team Yarlexis is easily the weakest of the bunch, while Team Brown Flowers has one very strong competitor in Nina and one seemingly weak contestant in Tammie.

HOWEVER! If this episode was any indication, I want them to give the tiara to Tammie Brown right now. Many people wondered why Tammie, the second queen ever eliminated on this series, was brought back for “All Stars.” This episode and “Untucked” made it clear: because Tammie is fucking nuts in the best possible way. She was the breakout star of this first episode, leaving my entire viewing party doubled over in laughter every time she opened her adorable kooky mouth. I think that Tammie operates on a different psychic plane than most mere mortals, even other drag queens. It’s like she’s speaking in tongues, but the babbling is in English, and riddled with pop-culture non sequitirs. I want to clarify, I don’t think Tammie is actually crazy. I just think she’s cuckoo, and I fell in love with her all over again tonight. “Teletubby, take us to MARS!” Instant classic.

To top it off, over on “Untucked” -- which was actually more entertaining than the actual “Drag Race” episode -- we got to check in with our beloved Willam, and got one of the funniest/meanest segments I’ve ever seen when half the queens absolutely eviscerated S1’s Rebecca Glasscock without saying a word. God, I missed Jujubee and Raven. Sassy bitches FTW.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

"The Walking Dead" Season 3, Episode 2

Well, shit happens

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 12:09 AM

Well oh golly gee, when did Rick (Andrew Lincoln)'s balls drop?

My main complaint this season is probably going to be that we don't know exactly when they did (given the show skipped over a few months and even more character development), but in an episode much stronger than the premiere, we really came face-to-face with Rick's new style of hands-on -- and axe-on -- leadership.

Picking up right where last week left off, we find Rick and crew trying to move now-one-legged Hershel (Scott Wilson) to safety, while also deciding what to do with the group of inmates they ran into in the prison. It was an interesting confrontation -- the inmates had been locked in the cafeteria for 10 months (which I don't think lines up timelines wise, but oh well) and weren't aware with just how ugly things had gotten on the outside.

The real ugliness, though, was on the inside. It felt like almost every character had a moment that would have been startlingly out of character for them last season, yet we are just supposed to accept it was, "Well, they changed over the winter!" syndrome. Little Carl (Chandler Riggs) gave Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) quite the talking to, Carol (Melissa McBride) is stepping up and killing walkers and trying to learn how to give C-sections now that Hershel might not be able to deliver the baby, and even Beth (Emily Kinney) is actually getting some lines, even if they were just her yelling at Carl for back talking to his mother.

OK, 1...2...3..Push! - GENE PAGE/AMC
  • Gene Page/AMC
  • OK, 1...2...3..Push!

While Glen (Steven Yeun), Carl, and the ladies were back in the cell block keeping an eye on Hershel (and it was touching to see Maggie (Lauren Cohan) say goodbye and let go of her father, although a little too soon), Rick, T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) agreed to help the prisoners clear another cell block in exchange for half the food in the cafeteria.

It was such a drastic shift for Rick: when facing down the other group's leader he didn't buckle or offer to give them a lot of weapons and hold their hand and give them back rubs. No, that was season 1-2 Rick. New Rick and his, wait for it, Rick-tatorship, wasn't going to give an inch, and when he laid that blow on that prisoner's head, SPLAM! It was like you could hear his balls hitting the floor. Rick isn't screwing around anymore, that's for sure.

Even if it was a little on the slow side, the back half of the episode following Rick's dramatic kill was quite good, mostly due to some good pacing and a constant string of tense moments: Big Tiny (Theodus Crane) getting attacked by a pick-axe/bony walker who learned to dislocate his hand and then getting brutally, brutally killed; the aforementioned Rick throw down; Hershel coming to life and almost attacking Lori in a zombie-attack fake out; and Carol trying to cut open a walker (note: apparently yes, walkers still wear underwear) while being watched by somebody (Merle? Michonne? Not sure on this one). Individually they might not have stood out, but stacked up one after another made for a tense hour of television.

The ending was a little odd. Given the show had several good strong moments it could have ended up, instead it chose to close after Rick gave Lori the coldest shoulder possible when she tried, again with these silly women, to talk about their feelings and their failing marriage. She joked that it wasn't like they could hire lawyers and get a divorce -- and sure, Rick laughed at that, but maybe deep down he wished that he could. Lori put it best by saying that despite what could have happened, "Today was a good day." And also a little slower, but very tense and solid week for the show.

Oddly enough we saw no mentioned of either Michonne (Danai Gurira) or Andrea (Laurie Holden), but next week's preview showed the return of that famous chopper (it lives! it lives!) and Andrea and Michonne meeting up with the Governor (David Morrissey) as well as a flash of Merle (Michael Rooker), so I'm not sure if we'll see any of Rick and crew or not or the show is going to alternate weeks for a bit.




What did you this of this week's episode? And who do you think was creeping up on poor Carol? Banter away in the comments below, and I'll pick some of the best ones to feature in next week's review.

Willie isn't always a stickler for details, but when he is, it bothers him. For example, he isn't sure how come Hershel grew a giant beard but Rick seems to keep his stunning 5 o'clock shadow, which at least showed a little growth this week. But has he been hiding a grooming kit this whole time? If these kind of things keep you up at night too, you can use that time to follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

South Park Season 16, Episode 11

A Hawaiian roller coaster ride

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 10:18 AM

I’ve never been to Hawaii, so perhaps my falling out with this episode just comes from not being a native and just not understanding.

Don’t get me wrong:I love Butters. Butters-centric episodes are usually great, and he has had some great moments both recently and throughout the show’s history (Who can forget Butters’ very own episode or pimp Butters?). But his random anger outbursts at school were totally out of character, which yes, was kind of the point, but it just felt forced having Butters angry and screaming and yelling at everybody for no good reason.

watch-southpark-1611-going-native-now.jpg

The 'twist' was quite choreographed too: Butters' parents pulled him out of school to deal with his anger issues privately and with his own kind, which turned into them sending him off to Hawaii to have his coming of age ceremony with his native Hawaiian family. And then those silly tourists tried to ruin everything, the native's special reward cards were cancelled (How else will they tell the difference between a tourist and a native?!?) and Kenny, after initially failing to pass the introduction ceremony, ended up finding a lost reserve of vodka and tropical island drinks, saving the day. Or something like that. It was pretty typical "South Park" fare, and never really amounted to anything that breakthrough or entirely memorable.

The running joke of course was that none of these people were actually native Hawaiians (and there was some infighting as well, leading to one tourist yelling at another that since they had come on a plane and not a cruise ship a few months later they had less claim to be a native), and yes, the fun play on native traditions, down to which hotels they would stay at and which restaurants they would eat at or avoid due to tourists, were all cute and whimsical connections, but nothing that's going to have you rolling in stitches or lauding the show's creativity. What was funny was pretty easy, run-of-the-mill, and didn't really at all come from Butters, which is odd, given that the whole episode was his.

There were a few soft good moments here and there: The ghost of Elvis showing up, the tourists attacking a cruise ship with golf balls, and a few one liners about Ben Affleck and "Argo" (and a quiet "Airplane" reference for those who caught it) but with Butters not really being Butters, the episode just didn’t work that well. It was quietly funny at best, and yeah, we get that tourists are annoying, but basing an entire episode around the idea, and wasting Butters on it, just felt random, out of place, and not that enjoyable. And compared to the hysterical antics that Butters usually has, it just didn’t hit the bar for what I was expecting the episode to deliver on.

But then again, if anyone wants to send me to Hawaii and learn the ways of the natives myself, I’ve always wanted to drink out of a real coconut.

What did you all think? Did it live up to what you expected from a Butters episode?

A whole episode about Hawaii and not one mention of Stitch? Poor guy doesn’t get any love, I mean come on, who doesn’t love a Hawaiian roller coaster ride? But seriously, if you want to take Willie to Hawaii, feel free to let me know on Twitter or Facebook.

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"American Horror Story: Asylum" Season 2, Episode 1

Sex, drugs, religion, science, blood, murder, aliens, and crazies. What else is left?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 12:28 AM

If you aren't a rabid follower of all things "American Horror Story," the premiere of Season 2 may have left you a little confused. Any questions you still had burning from Season 1? Well, you're going to have to live with them, as for better or for worse, S2 is a fresh start for the series.

It's an interesting approach -- resetting the cast and setting each year -- and throughout the course of the season we will see how well it pays off for the show. Can a series completely reinvent itself and tell only season-long arcs? Can the actors and actresses be versatile enough to play completely different people? It's a bold experiment for the show, but if there's one thing "American Horror Story" is, it's bold.

The show kicked off in what can only be assumed is "current" time, with a newlywed couple, Leo (Adam Levine, yes, that guy from Maroon 5) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) on their honeymoon, touring the most haunted spots in America. It brought them to the run-down Briarcliff facility, an old mental institution, where the couple irreverently jokes and fucks around (and literally fucks) until, gasp!, Leo went putting his hand where it didn't belong and it got chopped right off. That'll teach you to go from music to acting.

The show then cut back to 1964, where it seems like most of the actual story is going to be taking place (which is an interesting decision, given that Season 1 stayed mostly in the present and had things in the past unravel via flashbacks), during the height of the asylum's power as run by the church and the iron first of Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). A starry-eyed, and lesbian, reporter, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), began investigating the facility, feeling that something strange was going on, and after being attacked by some sort of beast (who knows at this point), she was committed by Sister Jude (forcibly, of course). Fan-favorite Evan Peters returns to the show as Kit Walker, who just got committed, and named Bloody Face for his apparent murdering and skinning of several women, including his African-American wife. Adorable as always.

You know, black tears are normal, right?
  • You know, black tears are normal, right?

Of course, Kit is convinced that the whole thing was the work of, what? Aliens. What I'm wagering is going to be the most controversial new inclusion is the very heavy alien encounter vibe, even to the point of some kind of chip removed from Kit's neck. I'm not sure how well it will fit into the mythos as a whole, but I'm a sucker for alien paranormal shenanigans, so I'm all for it at this point.

We also got introduced to Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), who is clearly up to no good and conducting questionable experiments of some kind or another on the patients, and Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), who just can't seem to get anything right, but is feeding some mysterious forest monster somethings at the command of Arden. The show sure knows how to set up suspense and tease, that's for sure.

Where Season 1 worked best for me was as one giant metaphor and condemnation of modern culture. Sure, the show is over-the-top sexually, full of moments that will make you cringe and shudder, but the scariest parts were the inner demons tearing apart the Harmon family. One episode into Season 2 it appears that the themes have shifted. The sex is still there, more so then ever, but Sister Jude has a fierce religious and spiritual element thrown into the mix, and her confrontations with Dr. Arden are lining up the religion versus science debate already. And clearly what is real and what is imagined is going to play a huge part in everything, as we've already seen two patients committed for what could be innocent reasons, or at least for things we could not commit people for today.

The choice to include most of the events in the past, with only a little time spent with our newlywed (and newly three-armed) couple, seems like a disconnect from the spirit hauntings that, well, haunted the first season. It does allow the show to dive into the horror that is America's past, and the ending of the episode showed that events from the past, and Bloody Face, are still somehow around in the present. I'm a little worried that it's sticking to a formula and trying to hit some of the same notes -- Rubber Man has been replaced by Bloody Face, for example, and whatever was clawing its way around the room that was being cleaned at the end smells vaguely of early interactions with the infantata. But, setting the locations side-by-side, an asylum, and the human mind, are rich territories for the show to delve into, and have way more potential then a simple haunted house ever did. And the places that Season 1 went were hardly foreseeable from the get go. Season 2's kick off was a successful foray into new territory: it whet my appetite for what's to come, but it's going to take some time for the show to prove to me that theme can trump characters, plot, and location season after season.

What did you think of the premiere? Is Season 2 off to a good start so far? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Willie Clark is a giant scaredy cat, and if he can watch "American Horror Story" and still sleep at night, so can you. But, you can always cuddle up with him in the dark of the night on Twitter or Facebook.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Face Off" Season 3: Borg this way

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Well, THAT was a bummer. Last night's "Face Off," in which we went from five contestants to four, felt more like a slump to the finish line than a race to the finale. Burnout is to be expected at this stage of the competition, but it's really starting to affect several of the competitors, and one in particular basically demanded that the judges send her home.

The task this time saw the Final 5 - Derek, Nicole, Laura, Roy, and Sarah - sent to a junkyard, where they had to salvage wreckage. Their found objects then had to be incorporated into a cyborg look. Perhaps I'm being ridiculous here, but I found "build a cyborg" a little bland as far as challenges go. We've had some cool tasks on this show, and some bizarre tasks (remember last season's animal/plant hybrid?), but this seemed...uninspired. Cyborgs. I feel like we see something at least related to that on a weekly basis on this show.

The only plot points worth noting before we got to the final looks were Sarah's continued implosion and Laura's surprising falter. As to the latter, we've all come to expect Laura to send out impeccable, interesting work every week. Up until last night I don't think she created a make-up all season long that wasn't extraordinary. But competition fatigue must be setting in, because last night she was all over the place. She couldn't settle on a concept, going between two very different ideas and then foolishly trying to merge them together at the last minute. She created this really ugly, poorly constructed fabrication piece for her model's back. None of it worked, and I actually worried that she could be sent home - she's my favorite to win the whole thing.

As for Sarah, I really have no idea what happened to her. In the beginning of the competition she was killing it week after week - her "Star Wars" and her pirate looks were exceptional. But for the past month at least she has churned out weak make-up after weak make-up, doing considerably less work than most of the other designers and barely skating by. Her go-to excuse is that she doesn't get the references they're asking for, because she had a fairly sheltered childhood. She used that line last night related to cyborgs, and again in the "Alice in Wonderland" zombie challenge. I guess I don't understand how you go on a show like this, which is so steeped in sci-fi, without making sure that you have a pretty good grasp on major genre conventions. That seems very foolish to me.

The remaining three designers - Derek, Roy, and Nicole - all turned in very good work. Derek's head sculpt ended up being my favorite, with the light-up Cyclopean eye, and I loved Roy's peel-away scalp to reveal brains (plus his giant fabricated mech pack). But it was a resurgent Nicole and her glamorous yet deadly cyborg queen that got the win. I thought it was a cool make-up. Very sexy, very dangerous, and as judgeVe Neill said, ready for filming. But it did not read "cyborg" to me. That may be why Nicole won - it was an unfamiliar take on a familiar concept. Anyway, that's two wins in a row for the returned contestant. She admitted that the second time through she's making work she would like to see, as opposed to what she thinks the judges want. Smart answer!

Ultimately, for I think the first time in the show's history (possibly any reality show, actually), there wasn't even a Bottom 2. The judges said there was just a straight-up Bottom 1. They dragged Sarah out to the middle of the stage and basically said, "Baby, it's over." She knew it was coming, and I think she was partially relieved, as well as partially frustrated. I would like to read an interview with her, because I suspect she ended up psyching herself out to a fantastic degree over the past few weeks. There's no question she's got the goods. I mean, come on - that urchin pirate was creative as all hell. How do you go from there to a handful of wires? It makes no sense.

Too bad, because I initially figured she'd be in the finale with Roy and Laura. Now it'll be an interesting battle for third between Derek and Nicole - unless Laura's slide continues next week, which would absolutely break my heart.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

"How I Met Your Mother" Season 8, Episode 4

Booty booty booty booty rocking everywhere

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 11:05 PM

Huzzah! No baby Marvin! With a nanny in place "How I Met Your Mother" can return to drinking beer and complaining about relationships. Right?

Wrong. With the whole gang still sticking to last season's "Don't Bother Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) unless the emergency is a 8 or higher rule," they were excited to find the new parents with a baby-free night. But, Ted (Josh Radnor) decided his and Victoria's problems weren't important enough to share, and Robin (Cobie Smulders), despite giving us a two-syllable DAMN for Smulders in a leather biker outfit, decided her problems with Nick (Michael Trucco) were equally not that important. (The irony is, neither of them really were.)

It didn't really matter anyway: Marshall and Lily only spent a few minutes out before deciding they needed alone time, then almost got hit by a cab, and spent the rest of the night making their wills in case they happened to die. In the will making process, the pair realized they couldn't agree who should be Marvin's godparent. Did somebody say plot point?

Enter Ted, Robin, and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) ever competing for the love of Marshall and Lily. We got some good bits out of it (Barney's Bro McDonald and other various tunes were by far the best, as was his Bro-ller, down-shirt glory and all), as everyone tried to prove that they would be the best godparent for Marvin.

The only logical way to settle this? Who Wants to be a Godparent, the game show edition!

CLIFF LIPSON/CBS
  • Cliff Lipson/CBS

As crazy as it sounds, it was a good idea. We finally got a plot that not only was baby-centric but without the baby, but was still an "adult," "real-life/real world" (that won't last long, though) situation that parents have to go through, even if it was taken to "How I Met Your Mother" levels of extreme. From this bit we got funny anecdotal stories from everyone, but Ted's Professor Info-saurus (used to teach Marvin about sex and bullies and everything else) by far stole the dinosaur cake, and every time they brought the poor dinosaur puppet back made for another instant laugh. The game show did show how bad each of the characters will be as parents, and didn't serve anything but to set everyone up to fight about how Ted/Robin/Barney felt that Marshall/Lily weren't giving them the attention they needed as friends.

I mean, wah wah wah, cue the violin. They have a BABY, and I certainly hope that there was some meta-moments going on here, as the show is realizing that sitting around the bar going through relationship problems isn't a plot device that can work forever (if it hasn't run its course already).

At least this episode felt fresh, but as funny as it was, the ending kind of nailed the coffin for me: I just had a feeling the whole time that Marshall and Lily were going to pick EVERYBODY to be Marvin's godparents, and sure enough, that's what happened. I mean, come on now. First off, that's probably not even legal, and as much as I enjoyed the game show, why did we just waste all that time trying to make a decision if they were going to pick all three? It was a cop out. It was also the second time this season that the end-credit roll, this week the return of Barney's bro-ller ,was an avenue that seemed like it left many a possibilities unexplored.

But, I'm still loving Professor Info-saurus, so it wasn't all bad.

What did you all think? A few episodes in, how is this season tracking so far? Be sure to sound off in the comments below.

Willie Clark was a noob to the world of HIMYM until last December when he magically found the strength to marathon all six and a half seasons in a few short weeks. Now, he knows his slap bets from his ducky ties, and is in love with the bang song. He also wants that purple and blue suit Marshall wore this week. If you want to sing along, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 1

The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 1

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 1:12 AM

Season 2 of "The Walking Dead" was hit or miss for me. Parts of it dragged on, but the last few episodes were some of the strongest in the show's run, giving us confrontations the show had been waiting a long time for (BOOM! Rick vs. Shane), getting us off the farm (SPLAT! Lots of zombies), and giving us several big series revelations (SHOCK! We're all infected).

Season 3 picked up much slower than I thought it would. We joined up with the group after the winter, and several changes were already quite apparent. Carl (Chandler Riggs) has grown up fast, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is quite pregnant, Hershel (Scott Wilson) is sporting quite the beard, and everyone seemed quite adapted to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) calling the shots and taking complete control of the group.

After the ending of last season's Rick-tatorship monologue, I was a little surprised that the show gave us the end result of him taking over, but skipped showing us how him and the rest of the group got there. The stress seems to have fallen largely on his and Lori's relationship -- Lori kept trying to reach out to talk to Rick only for him to shut her down, but yet his main motivating factor still seemed to be keeping Lori and the baby safe. The rest of the group seems to have fallen completely in check. I just wish we saw more of that instead of zipping right past it.

But apparently we didn't miss much: the winter was spent running in circles and moving house to house, and the group eventually Rick stumbled upon the infamous prison. The time shift in the show is shown off in another way: the group is functioning more and more like a well-armed zombie strike team. As much as there was a lot of zombie killing, sitting safely behind fences and picking them off one by one was kind of a slow build for the show. Let's see some flash and spectacle for the season premiere, people!

TWD_GP_301_0514_0367.jpg

The show also has two groups to balance now, and did so very poorly. Screen time heavily leaned toward Rick and his crew, while newcomer Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Andrea (Laurie Holden) got a few (precious few, to be exact) minutes, mostly of Michonne kicking ass with her katana, but also of Andrea appearing to be dying of something. The flu? Exhaustion? It was unclear, and I was surprised we didn't see more of either of them.

The S.S. Rick continued to delve deeper into the prison, leading to a pretty bloody sequence with the group securing a cell block with some good old melee hand-to-hand combat. We even got some zombies in riot gear -- head shots wouldn't work on these guys -- which mixed things up a bit. They secured one cell block, but then went to push even further in, leading to a dark hallway runaround where Hershel literally tripped over a walker that then bit him, and Rick then (yeah, I flinched) amputated his leg in hopes of saving him. That was moments before Daryl turned around and found an on-looking group of other survivors in the prison, ending the premiere on somewhat of a mysterious note.

To me, this just didn't feel like a season premiere. It set a lot of things up: the whole "Lori's baby could come out a zombie" concept, whatever the hell is going on with Andrea, if amputating a leg will really stop the disease from spreading (but come on, peg-leg Hershel could be pretty baller; he already has the pirate beard), but it wasn't as fast and furious and, "Hey, this is the first episode of the season, let's hit the ground running" as it could have been. I'm also not a fan of the time shift: I don't like when writers skip over development and then hint back at it (which is what looks like is going to be the case here). I find it somewhat lazy as a storytelling mechanic, and I feel like I'm lost trying to figure out where everyone is now that I've been out of the loop.

But, enough from me. What did you all think? Were you happy with the premier, or did it just leave you want more? Sound off in the comments below.

Random thought: Daryl (Norman Reddus) and Carol (Melissa McBride)? Is that really going to become a thing? I got uncomfortable just seeing them try to flirt with each other.

Willie isn't always a stickler for details, but when he is, it bothers him. For example, he isn't sure how come Hershel grew a giant beard but Rick seems to keep his stunning 5 o'clock shadow. Has he been hiding a grooming kit this whole time? If these kind of things keep you up at night too, you can use that time to follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"The X Factor" Season 2: Top 24 Judges' Houses performances

In which we ask, Show, why so serious?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Having slogged through this week's three hours of "The X Factor," spread over two shows in which we winnowed the contestants down to 24 from 60, something struck me: how goddamned boring this show is. It just kept going and going and going, but it felt so repetitive and dull. The funny thing is, we got some of the best singing yet. But because of the incessant docu-drama interviews with the same contestants saying the same thing over and over again, and watching same dozen or so acts sing song after song - almost all of them with the same dreary tempo -- this felt less interesting to me than any episode of "Idol" ever did. The production values on this show are slick, but my god are the results as dull as the crayons my nephew keeps shoving up his nose.

Following a massive culling at Boot Camp, the remaining 24 contestants -- including three entirely new groups created by a bunch of offed eliminated solo performers -- were divided into their four categories. This year they're a bit different. They're not splitting up the young adults by gender anymore. Instead it's by age, with an entire Teen category (I guess the cut-off was 17), Young Adults (cut off at 24), Over 25s, and Groups.

Britney Spears will be mentioning the Teens, which makes perfect sense. Demi Lovato will be mentoring the Young Adults which, again, makes perfect sense. Simon Cowell acted like he was taking a bullet by handing the Groups, but Simon is a sneaky bastard. Given the success of One Direction and The Wanted I think it's pretty obvious that we're on the brink of another boy-band boom; these things are cyclical in pop culture. And Simon knows it. I think he's positioned himself perfectly to once again be the judge "responsible" for the winner of the show. And in a bit of terrible fake editing, L.A. Reid acted like he'd just been served a steaming plate of shit when told that he'd be handling the Over 25s. That is such a talented group that he should have no problem keeping at least a few of those horses in this race. But then, this is the man who boosted Astro.

I'm not going to go through every single individual performance from the two nights, because again: repetitive. So repetitive. But I will give you my general sense of where the contestants stand, and which 16 acts I believe should advance to the live rounds when they start on November 1. (Speaking of, how are they going to stretch this process out for another half a month? Unbelievable.)

Young Adults: The six acts still in the running are Cece Frey (duh), Willie Jones (utterly ridiculous, as he totally blew his last two Boot Camp rounds), Jennel Garcia (another ringer), Nick Youngerman (best remembered as the boy who made Britney dance by rapping "Ice Ice Baby"), Paige Thomas (arguably the most-pimped contestant this season), and Jillian Jensen, who has grown on my significantly since her initial audition. They all did well in their latest round of auditions, with Willie and Paige really impressing me with vocals I thought were far, far beyond their capabilities. Demi had some good advice for most of them -- she talked to Cece about her likability issue, which Cece took like a champ (bet she's LOVED her edit on the show thus far) and to Jillian about the grotesque faces she makes while singing. Joe Jonas was...there. My prediction is that we'll lose Nick, who is indeed entertaining but basically a novelty act, and Jillian, because this season has no lack of powerhouse female vocalists, and I think she falls just a bit short of Jennel, Cece, and golden girl Paige on that score.

Over 25s: Those still in the running as of this week were the Liberace reincarnation known as Jason Brock, Daryl Black (loved his original audition, don't think we've seen him since), David Correy (ringer), Tara Simon (so hateable, but perfect for this show), Tate Stevens (unremarkable to me in any way), and Vino Alan. On Thursday's episode they all performed for L.A. and, of all people, Justin Bieber. I thought Jason really screwed himself with his song choice ("Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie), which came across overly shouty. Tara oversang as usual, but also sounded good, and David and Vino totally crushed it. Tate again did another 90's r'n'b song, which is so confusing to me, because he's trying to be Country Guy. My guess is that they will let go of Daryl, who is immensely talented but doesn't make much of an impression, and either Tate or Jason. Tate is the less interesting performer, but Jason did himself no favors with that last song.

Groups: Oh, this mess. Still in the running as of this week were the much-hyped Emblem 3, Sister C, and Dope Crisis, plus three new groups formed by cut individual contestants: Lyric 145 (combo of rapper Lyric da Queen and group One45), Playback (random teen boys), and LYLAS (assorted teen girls). Keeping track of who is in the latter two groups was basically impossible, I'm sorry. There were tons of them and they were all over the place. What you need to know is the Emblem 3 continued to talk massive amounts of shit about everyone else, despite the fact that only one member of that trio has any discernible talent. The rapper who is allergic to shirts? Awful. I'm just saying it right now. That's a case where the group should be dissolved and the lead singer should go solo. He'd be incredible. I'm still not a fan of the weird minor harmonies Sister C always goes for, and their likability issues have already been mentioned on multiple occasions. Dope Crisis made zero impression on me in their audition. Competent but unexciting. Lyric 145 was a mistake; Lyric da Queen should have advanced as a soloist, because she blows the other two guys out of the freaking water. Playback is very energetic, and the lovelorn boy who will not stop talking about that Tori girl is a fantastic lead singer, but their shared parts were VERY rough. LYLAS have enormous potential. Every girl in that group is a stellar vocalist. The trick will be directing them on how to work as a group, as opposed to five individual singers who just sing in harmony on choruses. If L.A. can manage that they could be astonishing. My guess is that Dope Crisis is toast, and probably Sister C.

Teens: Left in the running: Beatrice Miller, James Tanner, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Diamond White, Reed Deming, and Arin Ray, which I still think is bullshit, since he was a finalist last season. To me this was the clearest group as to who should stay and who should go. James Tanner is another rapper, and his audition lasted maybe 30 seconds. Even Britney admitted that while she found it entertaining, she wasn't really sure if it was anything close to being good enough. Reed Deming seems like a very nice boy, but he is still very much a BOY, and it's uncomfortable having him sing songs that are way beyond his emotional/physical levels of maturity. The only other one I'd put on the chopping block would be Beatrice Miller, who did OK on her last audition (that falsetto was rough, though), but who is simply outclassed by Carly Rose in every way. Beatrice is already crumbling under the pressure, and that's only going to get worse.

The final point I'll make: why did every single contestant - literally every one, except the rappers - take mostly current upbeat pop songs and turn them into these dreary mid-tempo arrangements? The show must have forced this given their sparse accompaniment, but it was driving me NUTS listening to, say, "Domino" or "Brokenhearted" turned into borderline dirges. Show, how is that entertaining? Is this what it's going to be like? Why do you hate fun?

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The Peking Acrobats @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater

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Over 20 performances and 140 works of art. Held at 936 Exchange...
Holly Gage  PMC Workshop @ Studio 34 Creative Arts Center

Holly Gage PMC Workshop @ Studio 34 Creative Arts Center

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