All posts for the month July, 2014

Face Off Season 7 Episode 2: The Original Gangsters

Published July 30, 2014 by vfdpixie

After the shock of the first episode’s final audition, the artists checked out their cool house, excited for the season and christened themselves by jumping into the pool.

The next day found them on New York St. on the Universal Studios lot.  McKenzie told them these historical back lots were sets for classic gangster films like The Sting and Dick Tracy, which led them to their next Spotlight Challenge:  to create old school gangsters inspired by their nicknames.  In teams of two, they were to choose from items like peanuts, sharks, and tuna to create an over-the-top crime boss inspired by real gangsters.  To advise them before they started was Doug Drexler, an Oscar winner and 17 year Star Trek makeup vet.  He told them to go more than literal with their concepts but not go too far away from the objects.  He would join them again on the reveal stage with the judges.

Barry and Sasha picked a clock which represented Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum.  When it came to concepts, Sasha’s grandfather clock face versus Barry’s rat face theme created a difference of opinions for sure.  Barry won out because Sasha wanted to be cooperative.  Mr. Westmore kind of slammed the concept on his walk-through, telling them that a rat didn’t represent the clock in their gangster name.  They decided to create a time bomb which Sasha worked on.  On the reveal stage, the judges loved the bomb, but that was it.  Lois wasn’t sure if the face was rat or rabbit-like, and the paint job was muddy.  The bomb was the only thing that spoke to the challenge.  They were in the bottom.

George and Cig picked a tuna, which represented Tony “Big Tuna” Arcado.  Their concept was to go big, and use a giant tuna as a bat, which the real life gangster used.  They worked well together, and Cig created a fat suit that provided entertainment (for mainly himself) in the lab.  When the judges got a look at it they loved it.  They thought the placement of weight with the fat suit was really good, and details like gills as rolls of fat, and the “Goodnight” stencilled on the tuna because his victims would be “sleeping with the fishes”.  Lois thought it was “the catch of the day”.  They were in top looks.

Gwen and Drew picked the shark jaw, which was there to honour the premiere of, God help us, Sharknado 2:  The Second One.  Their gangster was Michele ” The Shark” Sindona.  They also worked well together, creating an awesome shark toothed jaw and a harpoon as a weapon.  The judges thought it was really good as the cowl and head blended really well.  They ended up being safe.

Rachel and Vince chose a typewriter which represented Charles “The Typewriter” Nicoletti.  Their concept involved brass knuckles made out of typewriter keys, and names of his victims typed into his skin.  It was an ambitious concept with a lot of detail which ate up their time.  Mr. Westmore warned them that the typed words needed to be legible in the skin.  There was a nice moment where their mold needed some major cleaning, and all the contestants pitched in to help.  The judges also like this concept, but felt that they needed to have a tighter paint job and sculpt.  Over all, it was a solid idea and Doug though it cut a successful figure.  They were also safe.

Dina and Jason went for a peanut, representing John “Peanuts” Tronolone .  Mr. Westmore stressed that their paint job was really important on the peanut head concept.  As always on this show, a mold has to get stuck and crack, and this time it was Dina and Jason’s turn.  It turned out o.k., but their seams were all a mess so they had to work to make the makeup look presentable.  On the reveal stage, it didn’t make much of an impact.  Neville wondered if it was sculpted with a hammer, and it was too literal of an interpretation.  They wanted to see a better paint job as well.  Dina and Jason ended up in the bottom looks.

Keaghlan and Damien picked a truck for Opal “Mack Truck” Long.  They created a unique gangster-truck hybrid with headlights on his hat and a chest piece that looked like the grill of a truck.  The judges liked the paint job and Glenn thought it looked like Boardwalk Empire met The Wiz.  It was a really great concept and my favourite.  I liked the exhaust pipes in the jaw line and cheeks.  They were safe.

Stella and Doc went with needles, representing Leonard “Needles” Gianola.  Mr. Westmore suggested quills coming out of the gangsters fingers, and they went with that idea.  They had a quill skull-cap that didn’t quite blend, so Stella cut a hard edge and used paint to enhance it, hoping for the  for the best.  The judges liked the quills and thought it was a strong character and cool idea even though the hair looked like a swim cap to Lois, and the concept was almost too literal.  They too were safe.

The winning team?  Cig and George with their “Big Tuna” concept.  Glenn said their clever idea, great team work and technique lead to a successful makeup.  Cig was the winner of the challenge for his fat suit design.

Sasha, Dina, Jason and Barry were in the bottom.  The judges felt Barry and Sasha didn’t capture the essence of the gangster name, and that Dina and Jason’s character was uninspired.  In the end, Barry was sent home since the rat concept was his.  All I can say is that I thought Sasha’s design would have been interesting to see, and that sometimes us women can be agreeable so we don’t rock the boat.  I hope she speaks up next time and stands her ground because in this competition, instincts are key!

Face Off Season 7: Life and Death!!

Published July 23, 2014 by vfdpixie

So season 7 started out with a bang with host McKenzie Westmore announcing a “never been seen before, Life and Death” Season.  16 eager contestants were ushered into the Vibiana Event Space which was a Cathedral in the past where baptisms and funerals took place, illustrated by a lavish light and dark set.  What better place to stage a Sudden Death Challenge!  McKenzie (looking fabulous as always!) told the group that they were not actually on the show yet.  This challenge would be a final audition to determine who the final 14 contestants would be, meaning  2 people would go home.  They were all floored but jumped to the challenge as they scrambled to work stations representing Life and Death with boxes containing an item they had to use in the makeups.  The artists had to create characters that showed their personality as an artist and the subject matter of the challenge.  As they tried to overcome nerves and work with what was provided, they were stopped mid-way by McKenzie so she could introduce a second part to the challenge…and ROBERT ENGLUND, the actor behind legendary character Freddy Krueger!  Everyone was floored once again as he offered them advice, and I think he made even McKenzie blush as he kissed her hand!  What a charmer!  They had to incorporated a new item into their makeups as many times in the industry, directors and producers will often change things at a moment’s notice as the scripts change.  Mr. Englund told them to pay attention to and use their models’ features in order to create a successful makeup.  He said Freddy’s claw inspired him as an actor to bring the character to life, so the props were also important.

When the 4 hours were up, Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick came out to do a preliminary judging on their looks.  The standouts for me were Dina, a cake decorator who changed careers.  She created a forest nymph that was really beautiful, and Cig, who has been working in the industry for several years who created a great paint job on his “life warrior”.

The next day, they reconvened on the Reveal Stage, where they were joined by Neville, Glenn and Ve Neill, who had been absent the previous day due to her work on The Hunger Games set.  She would not be around too much on the show because she was to be working, so they had Lois Burwell, Oscar-winning artist for Braveheart, join the Face Off team.  The final contestants would be lucky to have such incredible judges!

They were split up into 2 groups:  Group 1 would be safe and Group 2 would be the best and the worst for this challenge.  Group 1 consisted of Cig, Rachelle, Stella, Damien, George, Drew, Barry and Doc.  The second group included Keaghlan, Scott, Sasha, Jason, Dina, Gabby, Gwen, and Vince.  In the middle of their critiques, the judges decided to call out the first person to go home.  It was a unanimous decision to ask Scott to leave.  He had used a neck prosthetic as a face piece which went against the challenge, and the judges thought his skill set wasn’t up to par for the competition.  Disappointed but not defeated, this late bloomer who started makeup classes with his son, left the show determined to continue his passion.

As the judges continued on, they chose Dina with her forest nymph, Vince who created a unique mutated zombie demon and made good use of rib bones on the face of his character, Sasha and her “Raven Maven” graveyard dweller which was a complete character even though she ignored a key prosthetic, and Keaghlan with her creative muse with had a great colour scheme as the top in Group 2.  The bottom consisted of Gwen who created a death character that looked good from afar but was muddy.  They felt she didn’t make bold decisions.  Jason’s well creature was “buried” in makeup and had a muddy paint job, and Gabby, who admitted that her makeup was sub par, didn’t design around the piece she was given.  In the end, Gabby, a self-taught makeup artist, was sent home.  She too would not give up her passion and was fueled to carry on.

The remaining artists breathed a sigh of relief as the realized they were the 14 contestants for season 7 of Face Off!  I am very interested to see how Vince performs.  He was an Emmy award winner and worked under Mr. Westmore on Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.  This artist took a 15 year break to raise a family, so I can’t wait to see how he does this season.  Dina has also peaked my interest.  Her innovative use of a piping bag to create veins for her forest nymph shows she has untapped creativity that I think will blossom as the show progresses.  Cig has great painting skills, so I think he will deliver.  And finally, Gwen looks like she has promise, but must build her confidence if she wants to survive on the show.   This should be an exciting and more intense season as the challenges get crazier!

Snowpiercer Serves Up Some Kick-Ass Express

Published July 20, 2014 by vfdpixie


Snowpiercer (2013, 2 hrs 6 mins)

Trains have been an interesting setting for horror and sci-fi.  An enclosed space, no control over where you stop, and limited escape routes gives you a lot of room for terror and suspense.  With Horror Express, we found zombies, aliens, a Rasputin look-alike, a poodle and Telly Savalas, speeding through the Russian winter on the Trans-Siberian Express.  Then there was The Midnight Meat Train that provided us with a murderous slice and dice ride on the late night subway.  But what if you are 17 odd years in the future, and due to a botched effort to stop global warming that makes the earth a frozen, uninhabitable iceblock, your only salvation is to be crammed onto a high-speed train that circles the globe endlessly for the rest of your life?  And what if instead of living in luxury at the front of the train, with a pool, sauna and nightclub, you end up at the back of said train where it ain’t so pretty?  This premise brings us Snowpiercer, a dystopian Wizard of Oz from Hell taken from a French graphic novel called Transperceneige by Jacques Lob.  This is a story of a snaking and disturbing microcosm where society has actually gotten worse as limited space and supplies determine who gets what and lives where on this train; a place where the underdog claws and crawls to what they hope is a chance at equality.

Curtis (Chris Evans) is a back of the train dweller, and ready to revolt.  Supported by Edgar (Jamie Bell), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), Gilliam (John Hurt), and his fellow impoverished car-mates, they tire of eating gelatinous blocks of, er, protein, deplorable living conditions and gulag treatment by a military force and Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton).  Their goal is to make it to the front of the train in order to confront resident puppet master Mr. Wilford (Ed Harris), the creator of the “Sacred Engine” that moves them in an eternal circle. In order to execute their plan, they must release a prisoner, Namgoong Minsu (Kang-ho Song), the drug addicted security specialist who created the prison-like locks on the train car gates, hoping that he will help their cause.

I didn’t know what to expect with this story, but I liked this first English language film for Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who brought us one of my favourite monster movies, The Host (and for all you Oldboy, Thirst, and Stoker fans out there, one of the producers of this film is none other than legendary director Park Chan-wook).  The film was weird and visually enticing, keeping the graphic novel feel as the characters moved through the train and encountered different aspects of life encapsulated in the train cars.  The performances were pretty good too.  Chris Evans really surprised me with his range as he tapped into the anger, outrage and shame that his character dealt with.  He is proving that he’s not just a pretty face.  Octavia Spencer delivered as the determined mother looking for her child, and Tilda Swinton can do no wrong in my eyes.  She slayed as the toothy, ruthless Minister Mason, and I also enjoyed the pyjama-clad Ed Harris as the mysterious, Malthusian Mr. Wilford.  Bong also throws in a dash of comedy as he is known to do.  Just trust me on this one and watch for the drug addled raver scene.  I have to commend the costume and set design too, as well as the close quarters fight sequences.  The axe-wielding balaclava clad security unit fight, in the dark no less, has to be seen.

There was a kerfuffle/rumor about the release of this film and what version viewers would see due to some controversy caused by the Weinstein camp, but many articles on the web have reassured that the final cut is the one Bong had approved.  I don’t think it got a wide release, but it is available on demand and currently playing at The TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre here in Toronto.  So check it out if you are in the mood for a different story, some great fights, a touch of black comedy, and a serving of long pig.  Better yet, make it a triple feature, starting with Horror Express, The Midnight Meat Train and Snowpiercer. It’ll be a one-way, sci-fi/horror ticket to a fun Saturday night!

Deliver Us From Evil: God Cop, Bad Cop

Published July 8, 2014 by vfdpixie


Deliver Us From Evil (2014, 1 hr 58 mins)

Scott Derrickson, director of one of the most eerie and disturbing possession films around, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and the shocking Sinister, has come out with another good vs. evil story.  Deliver Us From Evil is loosely based on the experiences and book written by real life police officer, Ralph Sarchie, and his battle against demonic forces that run amok in the Bronx.  As far-fetched as it sounds, Sarchie, now retired from the police force, spends his time as a demonologist and assists with exorcisms to this day.  The film was an interesting ride with some highs, lows and a surprisingly great demonic performance.

Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a seasoned cop in the 46th Precinct in the South Bronx.  His partner Butler (Joel McHale) provides snappy and snarky rapport as they investigate unusual crimes  that start out in a dark and spooky Bronx Zoo, and the evidence leads to weirder and more supernatural clues as Sarchie searches for answers.  He tumbles down the rabbit hole after he finds some ex-military types running rampant (and possessed) as they bite and snarl their way around town.  Add his disenchantment with God, a fractured family life, a gorgeous Jesuit priest, and The Doors, and you have a cop drama/family drama/horror movie mashup that keeps you guessing who will jump on the Devil’s bandwagon next.

I had been looking forward to seeing this film ever since I heard the chatter about it in 2012.  The working title then was Beware the Night, the same title as Sarchie’s book, and I had high hopes for it, since I love me a good possession film and I have become a fan of Derrickson’s.  I actually liked the finished product a lot.  Despite being visually dark as many of the scenes took place at night and in the rain, that only added to the suspense and uncertainty.  It let the viewers react along with the characters as the action happened; literally shedding light only on what they saw and not foreshadowing too much.  It also illustrated Sarchie’s journey: lost in his own personal limbo and his redemption.   I did have an issue with the pacing (a touch slow at times) and Sarchie’s unexplained disdain for cats; and some of McHale’s comedic relief was unwarranted, but the second half of the film made up for it all and it was an interesting take on possession with a true story background.

And can we talk about that Jesuit priest, Mendoza, played by Zero Dark Thirty’s Edgar Ramirez?  Can we please?  How gorgeous was he?!  Those perfectly tousled curls, those riveting eyes…it’s just wrong to make him a priest!  Seriously though, Ramirez did a great job as the tarnished man of the cloth, conveying a world-weariness that played well alongside Bana’s lost faith as Mendoza became an unlikely partner.  But the most memorable performance came from Sean Harris, who played the possessed soldier Santino.  Filled with brimstone and menace, his slim build took up space as he terrorized Sarchie’s family and colleagues.  His makeup was brilliant too.  Hats off to the fx department for a creepy and gruesome concept and look for Santino’s character.

To sum it up, Derrickson takes the devil and puts him in a gritty film noir-like police drama.  Emily Rose this ain’t, but check out Deliver Us From Evil for one of the creepiest toys ever, a good-looking cast and some good jump scares.  Definitely worth a watch if you are trolling for some summer horror!



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