Thursday, August 22, 2019

So You Think You Can Dance S16E08: Final Cut - The Top Ten Girls

With this elimination the women are chosen
by Stephen Mosher

July 29, 2019: In the final push toward the live shows, SYTYCD brings it home with the last two episodes that will determine who the 2019 contestants will be. First up: The top ten girls will be reduced to five in duet dances with all-stars. This would be a make or break moment for the women who have worked so hard for this moment.

Mariah Russell, 19, contemporary, was teamed up with Jonathan Platero for a salsa choreographed by Mr. Platero’s wife, Oksana. Clearly the mentors here work well together because the dance, to the song 'La Malanga', drew hoots and hollers from the judges, and well deserved because the routine had mad tricks and lifts, all of which Mariah and Jonathan nailed. Mary called it “death defying” and Laurieann told Mariah that she had brought “the fire and the fight I’ve been looking for.” It was truly a shining moment for Mariah, who should advance to the live shows.

Melany Mercedes, 24, salsa dancer, was paired with Fik-Shun for a hip hop number choreographed by Randi and Heff, to the song 'Get Silly'. Melany is a good dancer who did well here but it was clear she was being outdanced by Fik-Shun (but who wouldn’t be?), and Laurieann told her that there was attitude needed, while Mary told her she took a step up, probably because she really did get silly, and Mary was clearly proud of her fellow Latin ballroom gal. It was a joy to watch but it looked like it might not be enough.

Ashley Sanchez, 24, ballroom, danced with Lex Ishamoto in a contemporary number by Jaci Royal. Ashley said she would “eat, sleep, and breathe this routine and cherish this moment” but when the time came for the number that was choreographed to the song 'Lovely', she was unable to come up to Lex’s level, and though Laurienne said she had had a breakthrough and Mary expressed her pride, it was a general consensus that Ashley had not brought the emotional content required by the dance.

Anna Linstruth, 19, hip hop, was matched with Marko Germar for a Ray Leeper jazz dance to the tune 'Backwardz', and she really brought the sass, causing Mary to remark that she “gave in to the movement” and Nigel to comment that “this was the time to pull it out … and you did.” Dominic told her that “a smart dancer is someone that can take something that they’re not used to and make it theirs” and that she had done that. Anna is a good dancer but not a great one, but what she brought in personality kind of balances things out. She has SYTYCD written all over her.

Madison Jordan, 21, contemporary, got to dance ballroom with Kiki Nyemcheck in a number created by Emma Slater and Sasha Farber. The routine, to 'Bola Rebola', was hot and sexy, if a little deliberate and lacking in some heat. Nigel didn’t like a particular “slow walk” across the floor that the women LOVED (frankly, so did I). Ultimately, the result was what we thought it would be: they love her. From the moment she auditioned for the show, it was clear she would make top ten. That clarity has not dimmed.

Sofia Ghavami, 20, ballroom, teamed up with Marco Germar for a Spencer Liff jazz routine to the song 'Rinse and Repeat'. The number was drab, slow and boring, and Sofia looked like she was marking time uncomfortably, using her facial expressions to make up for the fact that Marco was outdancing her and she knew it. It fell flat for Dominic, too, but Laurieann said she was glad it was tough because she felt Sofia. Honestly, any dancer who has not risen to the occasion felt Sofia while watching. It was clear that it was over for the ballroom dancer.

Sumi Oshima, 26, hip hop, got a chance to dance with Lex Ishamoto in a jazz number choreographed by Talia Favia, who urged the dancer: “don’t be scared.” The song 'Angels' gave Sumi an opportunity to change the game, but her emotions could not come up to the skills her body was showing, prompting Laurieann to observe “you fought to be must not dance in your head”, meanwhile Mary insisted that “there's something about you that commands attention.” Mary is right, Sumi is captivating, but dance is about a lot of things, and hopefully one day she will embody all of that.

Nazz Syldryan, 21, salsa dancer, was asked to dance some hip hop with Fik-Shun, courtesy of Luther Brown to the song 'Overseas'. The routine wowed the judges, who were hooting and shouting, they were so into it, she had so much stank on her. The connection between she and Fik-Shun was on fire, and the judges LOVED it. Mary told her she was “starring in that number” and she had “soul in the bowl!” It was a moment in the sun for Nazz, one that, in a perfect world, should send her to the live shows.

Sophie Pittman, 18, contemporary, was lucky enough to ballroom dance with Kiki Nyemchek, doing a cha cha cha by Sharna Burgess. The connection was great and Sophie brought something to the dance, though each of the judges had valid critiques of her work, the kind of critiques that help dancers to grow. Mary: “I never want to see you think.” Laurieann: “Don’t forget you and the magic that you bring.” Sophie does have something, but she is young and needs a little mentorship to bring it out.

Stephanie Sosa, 19, salsa dancer, had the good fortune to dance a Mandy Moore jazz dance with Robert Roldan to the song 'You Say', and it was the right time for Stephanie to deliver. The performance was stunning and emotional, though it wasn’t perfect, and the judges told her, straight up, what was missing from the offering. She took their critiques like a professional and it is clear she would do well on the show. Particularly of note was Laurieann telling her, “I was missing you surrendering to the vulnerability.” Nevertheless, they like her and it shows.

Finished with the performances, the judges played their dramatic elimination game, and they always do it to television suspense standards. In the end, though, five happy girls took seats and five unhappy girls left the stage. This writer doesn’t necessarily agree with the cuts, but I also don’t know who I would have given the boot to make room for Nazz, sadly, eliminated. I hope she will come back because of all the ladies who were cut, she is the one who, most, belongs on the show this season.


  • Melany Mercedes
  • Ashley Sanchez
  • Sofia Ghavami
  • Sumi Oshima
  • Nazz Syldryan

Advancing to the live shows:

  • Mariah Russell
  • Madison Jordan
  • Sophie Pittman
  • Stephanie Sosa
  • Anna Linstruth.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Why Women Kill S01E01: Murder Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry

© CBS All Access
Marc Cherry returns in great form
by Chuck Duncan

Way back in 2004, Marc Cherry became an overnight sensation when his new TV series Desperate Housewives premiered on ABC. The show was a rating smash and garnered its share of controversy with conservative groups who felt the show was immoral and launched boycotts of Disney and the show's sponsors. Cherry and Company got the last laugh as the series went on to a successful eight season run, ending in 2012. Cherry then created another show for ABC that seemed like another surefire hit, Devious Maids, but the network eventually passed and the series found a savior in the Lifetime cable network where it ran for four seasons beginning in 2013. It's been a couple of years since Cherry has had a new series on the air but he's back and firing on all cylinders.

Why Women Kill premiered on subscription service CBS All Access this week and it was a fabulous debut. The women of the title are played by Ginnifer Goodwin (Beth Ann), Lucy Liu (Simone) and Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Taylor), wives living in the same house in different eras: 1963, 1984, and 2019 respectively. Beth Ann and her husband Robert (Sam Jaeger) have just moved into a mansion in Pasadena, something they can now afford thanks to his job with NASA. Beth Ann feels terribly out of place and isn't impressed with her loud Italian neighbors ... but she puts on a good face.

© CBS All Access
Simone and her husband Karl (Jack Davenport) live in the same mansion which has just been redecorated in stereotypically (but normal for the era) gaudy 1980s style and Simone is ready to show the place off to her friends. She's taken aback though when she learns one of her 'closest' friends doesn't really like her and has not come to the party. In 2019, Taylor and her husband Eli are in the process of remodeling the mansion again -- and Taylor is not putting up with any of the contractor's shenanigans. This couple has an open marriage and Taylor is bisexual, having a female lover on the side. Their agreement is that neither will bring their hook-ups to the house, but an emergency call from Taylor's newest fling Jade (Alexandra Daddario) makes it necessary for her to have a safe space to get away from a stalker ex.

© CBS All Access
Of course with a title like Why Women Kill, there must be some reason that each of these women are the focus of the show. Beth Ann accidentally overhears her neighbor Sheila (Alicia Coppola) telling another woman at the grocery store that her husband saw Robert kissing a cute blonde waitress at the local diner. Beth Ann doesn't want to believe it -- he'd never do that because of what happened to their daughter, she tells Sheila (but we don't know what happened at this point) -- but she drives to the diner after Robert calls and says he has a late business meeting, and she sees him kiss the waitress. She confides in Sheila, who tells her to confront the girl, and Beth Ann finds the courage to do so ... and finds that she's really a sweet girl. Does she know Robert is even married? Beth Ann almost runs but April (Sadie Calvano) sees something is bothering Beth Ann and convinces her to sit and talk while it's slow at the diner. Beth Ann decides that April will be her new best friend ... but how will she deal with Robert, questioning aloud when he will die during an evening dinner of meat loaf.

Simone, after learning of her friend's hatred of her, finds an envelope on the dining room table with her name on it. Inside are a strip of photo booth pictures with Karl and ... another man. Not wanting to cause a scene, she drags Karl to the bathroom and shows him the photos, then realizes this is not a one-time thing. She tells him to discreetly go upstairs and begin packing while she makes an excuse that he's taken ill, and then he can leave after the party ends. But she later finds him in a stupor having taking a bottle of pills. She calls for an ambulance and while the neighbors gather she tells them all he fell and hit his head. But she sees the now former friend Wanda and realizes it was she who gave her the photos. A catfight breaks out and the EMTs have to break them up. Later, her friend Naomi's son Tommy (Leo Howard), who was a waiter at the party, came to check on Simone and admitted he saw the photos. She was horrified but broke down and he consoled her, giving her a tender kiss and telling her he'd been wanting to do that since he was 13. She asked how old he was now and he said 18 ... in two days: 'As much as it would cheer me up to commit a felony, I think you should go.' But Tommy assured her that he is ready to show her the love she deserves (in more vulgar and direct words). But she's still got Karl to deal with.

© CBS All Access
Taylor has a slightly different issue. It's not that her husband is cheating on her, but when she brings Jade home he is firm that she can stay a night, or the weekend, okay until Labor Day which is Monday. But Jade is stunning and it's obvious he's attracted to her ... and Taylor isn't blind. When they wake up the next morning, their disaster area of a house -- clothes are strewn everywhere -- is spic and span and breakfast is waiting. Eli is kind of enjoying having a 'wife' who actually cleans and cooks. Taylor is a lawyer and barely has time for anything while Eli struggles to write a new script. Jade, it turns out, is a huge fan of his movie and that only makes her more attractive to him. His friend says Eli needs to bring up the idea of a three-way with Taylor since they're both into Jade. Eli isn't sure Taylor would go for that but the notion is enticing. So far we don't know yet what exactly pushes Taylor to 'kill mode' but it's coming.

The episode opened with The Husbands giving their recollections of how they met their wives, talking about how happy they were until ... and the episode ended with The Wives questioning why a woman kills, and who does she kill: the other woman or the man who wronged her, perhaps the friend who exposed a dirty secret? And do we condemn her or sympathize with her? And most importantly -- does she get away with it? All good questions that will unfold over the next several episodes.

I wasn't sure how the show would be from watching the trailer which I felt was a bit flat, but the first episode was a hoot, blending that patented mix of drama and comedy Cherry does so well. The show also looks fantastic, presented in an extreme widescreen image, looking like a 1950s Technicolor CinemaScope 'woman's picture' by Douglas Sirk (Imitation of Life, All That Heaven Allows) accompanied by a whimsical musical score by Mateo Messina that feels heavily influenced by the work of Danny Elfman. The writing and the cast are all on point making Why Women Kill one of the most entertaining new shows of the year and I am fully on board for the rest of the ride.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

BH90210 S01E02: The Pitch

Maybe producing isn't genetic in the Spelling family
by Kim Tibbs-Krober

The second episode of BH90210 brought out the egos of everyone in full force. Tori and Jennie went to FOX to pitch their idea for the Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot, where Christine Elise (the original series' favorite recurring psychopath Emily Valentine) was a studio bigwig in a plot twist that didn't make a lot of sense. Jennie and Ian both found themselves in the midst of a divorce, while Jason struggled with the idea of pending fatherhood after learning he had a fertility issue. Gabrielle struggled internally with last week's forbidden kiss, while Brian found himself getting an acting gig because the movie's producers were interested in featuring his wife on the movie's soundtrack.

FOX was only interested in the reboot if Tori could get the entire cast to return, so the rest of the episode centered around her caving in to the demands of the others. Gabrielle wanted her character Andrea to explore her sexuality on the reboot, while Ian wanted product placement for a new line of health and beauty products he wanted to launch. Jason wanted to direct at least the pilot episode, while Jennie wanted them to cast her daughter in the reboot so she could take the aspiring starlet under her protective wings. Brian just wanted the chance to act again without fear of being in his superstar wife's shadow. These motivations seemed plausible, as everyone worked hard to come up with ideas to give 90210 "a facelift."

One of my favorite lines was uttered between Tori and her husband (portrayed by Ivan Sergei). He made a remark something to the effect of "Maybe producing isn't genetic," referring to the fact that Tori's father, 90210 creator Aaron Spelling, had the gift, but maybe the apple really did fall far from the tree this time. Since this episode felt very scattered to me, I'm having trouble finding the fault with that logic. I did enjoy watching Tori place 90210 dolls in a Peach Pit diorama she created, adding a doll every time she got a cast member to sign on for the reboot. It got me thinking about whether they really created a Peach Pit play set in the '90s, so my curiosity took me to eBay. It seemed Mattel did, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as the one Tori created. It seemed to retail for around $300 today (it must be rare to find a set with all the accessories still intact). My husband and I are avid toy collectors, so our thoughts always tend to travel in this direction. I also asked my best friend who was a die-hard fan of 90210 since day one whether or not she had a Peach Pit play set in the '90s. Sadly, she did not.

The next thing that left me feeling curious was the plot twist revealing the 90210 cast has a stalker who may be mentally imbalanced. At the end of the episode, he sent each of them a mutilated version of their character dolls. I think this was supposed to be upsetting, but it felt too cartoonish for me to take it seriously. I again took to the Internet to see if I could find any reports of disturbed 90210 fanatics over the years. As far as I can tell, this was more fictionalized drama created for the reboot. The most upsetting thing about it was how much a person could get selling an entire set of 90210 dolls on eBay today. What a waste of perfectly good figurines. How far will this stalker plot go? The train wreck continues to pique my curiosity with only four remaining episodes. One thing seems certain: Next week, it looks like they finally begin shooting the reboot, and that has me feeling excited!

BH90210 on FandangoNow
Purchase the complete season on FandangoNow

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Movie Review: ECCO

ECCO is a confusing Seattle-set spy thriller
© Citadel
ECCO offered a confusing narrative that requires a lot of patience.
by Justin Moore

It’s always cool to see a movie that was filmed close to where you live. The new Seattle-set thriller ECCO was shot on location throughout Washington. It was hard to recognize some of the locations in the movie but I found some spots I recognized like the Fishermen’s Terminal in the Port of Seattle. The film is written and directed by Ben Medina, who was born in Washington and attended University of Washington. Lathrop Walker (who also attended University of Washington) plays Michael, a former assassin living a new life in the shadows who must come out of hiding to discover the origins of his beginnings. People he is close to are being killed and he must ask himself who he really is.

Confusing is one word to describe ECCO. The film opens up with Michael aboard a plane acting as an assassin who shoots everyone on the private jet and then parachuting off the jet. The film then jumps to Michael working on a fishing ship playing cards with the crewmen. The film gives little explanation to the opening sequence and where Michael is at in his life right now. What makes this film so confusing is that there are constant flashbacks that appear abruptly. Two women are introduced in the film. One is Abby (Tabitha Bastien) and the other is Aubrey (Helena Grace Donald). Both women ask Michael the same question: Who are you? I couldn’t even answer that question for most of the film. Scenes for both Abby and Aubrey play a significant role in Michael’s life, but the way the scenes are handled makes it confusing as to what relationship came first. Aubrey is intrigued by Michael and proceeds to take many photos of him on a subway and the two become lovers. Michael’s flashbacks are also shared with Abby, who is his pregnant wife. The main question I had for a good majority of the film was who did Michael love first?

As the film progresses you get a better understanding of who Michael is, why he is being hunted, and the relationships he had with both women. The answers to Michael’s life came way too late in the movie though, which makes for a frustrating watch at times. Towards the end of the film, there are less flashbacks which makes the film easier to watch but the non-linear narrative doesn’t set up future scenes very well.

Walker did a fine job acting as Michael, who is a man of mystery and often keeps things to himself. Other characters in the film from his two lovers, crewmen, other assassins, and targets for Michael all act very stiff. There isn’t much emotion flowing throughout the movie, which could have worked from the women in the film. The severe lack of personality from certain characters makes the relationships in the film not strong enough for one to care about.

I was impressed with how Medina handled his scenes in the movie. In the first half of the film, Michael gets involved in a fight and the limited editing makes it the most intense scene of the film. Medina takes the vibrant setting of Seattle, Port Townsend and Skagit Valley and creates a bleak setting perfect for a spy thriller.

ECCO offered a confusing narrative that requires a lot of patience. The film felt familiar to other stories but the constant shifts from past to present makes it a difficult film to follow at times. Medina is a talented director though with some of his shots and how he handles action scenes, but the non-linear script is what makes the film confusing to watch.

 ECCO Trailer
© Citadel

Movie Review: A Faithful Man

A Faithful Man is a delightful rom-com in disguise
© Kino Lorber
'A Faithful Man' is a beautiful look at rekindling relationships but also manages to provide humor in the film.
by Justin Moore

The first time I saw Louis Garrel on screen was when he starred in the 2003 film The Dreamers. He starred alongside Eva Green, who played his twin sister. While living in Paris, they start a relationship with a California student named Matthew. The movie was full of threesomes and incest and all I can say that it was an experience.

While spending many years as a popular French movie star, Garrel took on a director’s position with his 2015 film Two Friends. Garrel stars, directs, and co-writes the story of his newest film, A Faithful Man, with legendary screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere. Garrel stars as Abel, a journalist living with his girlfriend Marianne in Paris, France. She informs him that she is pregnant, and he isn’t the father of the child. The father is a mutual friend and she wants Abel to move out within ten days so she can get married to the father of her unborn child. The conversation is very mature and happens all so fast that you don’t expect any hard feelings amongst the two.

The film fast forwards nine years later when Marianne’s husband, Paul, dies in his sleep. Abel attends the funeral out of respect and reconnects with his old flame. Her young son (Joseph Engel) is convinced that his mother poisoned his father which resulted in his death. From the beginning of the film to the start of Marianne and Abel’s new relationship, the film sets itself up as a drama focusing on rekindling love but all of that was a front for clever romantic comedy.

The scenes between Abel and Marianne were more on the dramatic side. Marianne, played by Laetitia Casta, who is married to Garrel in real life, has great chemistry with him. It is easy to say that they worked well together since they are married but the two do a fine job at falling back in love with each other, which is easily the most endearing thing about the film.

Most of the comedic moments come from Marianne’s son and Eve (Lily-Rose Depp), who is the late husband’s sister. Eve had a crush on Abel since she was a kid and now that he has returned and she is older, she sees it as a chance to confess her love. What is even funnier is Marianne’s young son is convinced that he his mother killed his dad and how he tries to persuade Abel of all of this. His interactions with Abel is what makes the film turn from a sweet drama to an engaging rom-com.

A Faithful Man is a beautiful look at rekindling relationships but also manages to provide humor in the film. Garrel packs a lot in this short film, which clocks in at 75 minutes long. Garrel is a talented actor, and he is a talented director. There were many moments when Garrel captured an intimate look at Paris by using long takes and wide shots. I was immediately impressed with how Garrel showed the city in his opening sequence and from there on he continued to craft a charming rom-com.

© Kino Lorber

Agents of SHIELD S06E11: From the Ashes

SHIELD tries to rise From the Ashes
Let's get to it already!
by Brandon Coulson

Was anyone else checking their phone through this one? After last week had such a strong bulk of an episode only to trip at the end, I expected things to really fly this week. Instead we got a slow plodding episode that barely moved the needle. All we really did this week was put the pieces into place for next week’s double sized finale.

It was nice that they remember about Benson and gave him something to do this week, though after having sidelined and basically forgotten him for so long, having him confronted with his dead husband just didn’t resonate with me. We never really got to know much about him or their relationship aside from the surface details.

This whole series of manipulation from Izel felt weak and obvious. The early trick where she was in Mack was so easy to see and Yoyo should have been smarter. Then while I did like Yoyo signalling Benson the threat from Izel, to kill his husband over and over in front of him, sounds like a horrible threat but I never felt it in the performances that this was enough to theoretically help her destroy the world.

Everything about Izel’s plan also feels a bit simple. A magic temple, a portal to another realm, needing Mack and Yoyo’s memories of the monoliths to rebuild them, it all seems a bit cheesy. Not to mention Izel has to be by far the worst big bad SHIELD has ever had. For someone who threatens to destroy everything in the universe, I couldn’t care less about her as a character. We’ve had Nazis and alien monsters, rogue agents and virtual gods, and while Izel is said to be the greatest threat of them all I find her utterly boring.

There were a few moments that made me sit up, mind you. Mack, possessed, killing an agent brutally was shocking. The way Benson gets dropped from the plane was a smart and well executed plan, but why didn’t Yoyo just hit the drop button with all three of them and the device in the cargo hold together? Perfect escape plan right?

On the other side of things, the team mulls over Sarge and whether or not he contains some vestige of Coulson. May as the hopeful side and Daisy sure he is only a monster but one they can use. Daisy pushing Sarge to use his power, and eventually killing him again seemed a bit extreme for her but I bought into it. I also really liked the way his power manifests with his skin sort of pulling away to reveal some other self underneath. The limits of his power are yet to be seen but he demolishes a steel door with ease so the inevitable battle for the finale should be fun.

Deke continued to become tolerable and even fun character as he and Fitz/Simmons figured out the whole harmonic resonance things and started designing a device to use against Izel. Tying the harmonics into the sword and knives was a nice touch.

I will say I called the Coulson resurgence as it seems Sarge is fully aware of Coulson’s memories as he calls Daisy Skye. Now while the scene itself was very nicely acted, the whole cheat to get Coulson back was my worst fear realized. He will definitely be sticking around next season.

This whole episode should have taken ten minutes tops but instead we were treading water and killing time until the finale. While I’m sure there will be some fun action, I don’t have the highest hopes for the finale blowing me away. The lack of focus and weakness of the villain are really wearing thin now.

Agents of SHIELD S06E10: Leap

SHIELD takes a Leap towards the end
A lot of good and a little bad...
by Brandon Coulson

So here we sit, two weeks and three episodes from the end of the season and with confirmation of next year being the final one there's much to be set up moving forward.

This week’s outing, 'Leap', asked us to take a leap in logic and give the writers a whole lot of leeway. It was fairly obvious what caused May to kill Sarge last week and I was happy to see that the team quickly and very smartly tracked the path of possession and figured out what had happened. It would have been so easy to drag the distrust and confusion angle of a body-hopping alien out for an entire episode, or even a few. Something I imagine in a twenty-two episode season would easily have become a much longer plot point.

But in a show, and a world, in which LMD’s, virtual worlds and people/aliens can fly, fire energy beams and even travel through time, the idea of body-hopping not only can seem plausible, literally every SHIELD team member buys into the theory as valid immediately.

Everything leading up to their confrontation with Izel was beautifully executed. Showing the path she took body to body, building tension, seeing the team put the pieces together, it all works. I was frankly set to be frustrated by a long May interrogation with no one believing her, which would have been irritating seeing how long this group has fought side-by-side, so color me impressed when every single person basically says 'this makes no sense, something made her do it.'

Deke and Fitz sorta kinda preemptively figured out what Sarge is (more on that later) but what I really enjoyed was their back and forth. Deke’s yearning for approval and flip-flopping on priorities in response to whatever Fitz says. I am actually looking forward to Deke now, I even want Snow to come back in the mix, have the whole weird family together.

Continuing the smartly written trend, Mack really showed good leadership and forward thinking. As soon as he gets what is happening, he locks down the lighthouse. Now of course we don’t see any other agents except our main crew *cough* No budget! *cough* but locking in Izel is the best thing to do. Then they immediately think of testing everyone with secrets that can be verified by other team members, this gives us a few funny beats and some character insight like Davis’s pen theft and Daisy sending money to Lincoln’s sister while serving to move the narrative forward.

Then the smartest thing Mack does is after clearing Daisy and Yoyo, separating them from the group and locking them up, preventing Izel from getting their powers. Just really good writing that shows he’s deserving of leadership.

Following that we got a pretty amazing sequence of Izel hopping from body to body showing how in control she is. The self harm angle played very well and built tension beautifully. Hitting two real heart-stopping moments as Piper shoots a giant hole in her hand, which was a bit more gruesome looking than I expect from this series, and then eventually making Davis dive to his death. I had a few thoughts on this moment. First, that it explains why Davis who has barely had lines in past seasons suddenly got promoted to the forefront, of course they were building him up so this would hurt more, it worked a little but I still wasn't devastated or anything. Also, while I know that falling on his head/neck directly is what killed him, the fact that it was just a one story drop kind of made it look a little silly, like no one could have tried and catch him? Maybe break his fall a bit?

That little bit aside, up until this point I was riveted. Just a fantastic episode …

But then we got more answers.

So as this was happening we got little looks into Sarge’s recovery, from death, as Simmons looks on in wonder and basically sidelined from anything interesting. We see Sarge survived the shooting and losing all of his blood, and as the episode wore on, fully heals without a scratch. Quick question: where is Dr. Benson during all this? You remember, that character they added like he had something important to add who is supposed to help with the weird science stuff. Yeah, dude disappeared quick, didn't he?

But back to Sarge, as he eventually escapes and meets up with Izel, who is going after the remnants of the monolith’s power that got locked up last year. This is where we finally get answers to all of our questions, and frankly it was the most disappointing part of the episode. After a quick Fitz explanation that we didn't see a fear dimension at all because he’s the smarter Fitz, and some loose tying of Izel and Sarge as beings like Ghost Rider, we found out the truth of Sarge … he’s in a duplicate body of Coulson because when Coulson went in that realm it xeroxed him? So he’s just another body-hopper who got in an empty copy but its trace memories confused him, though he didn’t actually have access to those memories for the last hundred years or whatever but now he suddenly does.

Damn it guys, this week was so good for eighty percent of it. Now this bull is what we’re going with heading into the final three? It feels so thrown together and half-baked. So you know what’s going to happen: Sarge will fully remember Coulson’s life, somehow tap into whatever his powers are and take down Izel. In the process burning out all but a few of his abilities and setting him up as an alien who will have parts of Coulson’s personality and memories  but will need to learn to live in the human world, at least that’s my bet for the plans heading into next season. For you Whedon fans this is basically the Illyria storyline from Angel.

I hope I get surprised, but this seems to be an obvious path for the last episodes of the season and it's a shame to have such an underwhelming reveal in such an otherwise stellar episode. First 80%  A+, last 20% C-.

Agents of SHIELD S06E09: Collision Course (Part 2)

SHIELD’s Collision Course comes to a crashing conclusion
Surprises abound!
by Brandon Coulson

There certainly was a lot to take in this week as 'Collision Course Part 2' was jam-packed with, well, just about everything! Sarge wasted no time in trying to take over the Zephyr and if I have one complaint this week it would be the sharp turn in character Sarge takes. After being a measured and seemingly always in control type he quickly unraveled through the episode.

You could argue being so close to Izel and completion of his mission drove him there but I just felt a couple of the outbursts and loss of composure felt very out of character for him. The biggest of course and what is likely what turns the tide for him was the coldblooded murder of his crew member Pax. The scene leading to this was actually quite clever though, as they actually do have a plan to keep Yoyo from stopping them in the form of a force field. The back and forth of their force field and then Yoyo baiting Jaco to lower it, however briefly, giving her the window to sneak Mack a key, all of that was very nicely laid out. It felt logical. Sarge realizing Pax was bait and executing him made no sense as the force field was already down and all he actually did was reduce his own team and in the end turned Jaco against him.

On the ground, the atom bomb diffusion scenes played very funny, with Deke’s failure to diffuse and Snow finally realizing her own mortality, but Daisy has easily become the deus ex machina of this series. First vibrating the bomb to keep it stable and later when inundated by countless Shrike she dusts them with little effort. It’s like why don’t they just have Daisy handle every problem to start? Yes, I know the bomb could have gone off, it was a last resort, blah blah blah. I just want to have a clear picture of what her powers are and their limitations. Oh and the 'are all women this powerful on your planet' line … a little on the nose but cute.

I did actually enjoy all of these scenes even with my gripes. I actually really enjoyed the whole episode and I loved some of the smaller touches throughout. The two two six code sequence made me very happy as of course SHIELD would have a trouble code, that’s a basic security protocol. The sequence itself was very tense with the code being delivered in both directions and both teams realizing they’re in the same frying pan. Oh and yes I did notice that in addition to the Truck’s 'Collision Course', we also get another with Sarge flying the Zephyr straight at the ship in orbit. You’re very clever, good for you.

Sarge and Mack fighting was a pretty entertaining fight even though the thought of any Coulson lookalike beating Mack is pretty laughable. But it was an appropriately sloppy dirty kind of fight. The back half of the episode was just sprinkled with lots of great moments. Jaco and Yoyo’s heart to heart, the attempt to take down Izel and then escape through Jaco’s coat portal was a great callback, and  his eventual sacrifice (in vain) actually made me sad to see him go.  For a character that started as a silent brute, Jaco ended up as someone I could have seen joining the cast.

Of course we all knew Izel wasn’t really killed as there was no final confrontation or reveal of her plan. What did shock me was May unloading a clip into Sarge’s chest, seemingly killing him. Now while he does appear dead, and we all but know Izel controlled May to do it, I feel like whatever Sarge is will be revealed with a resurrection or a cloning, and in some way, shape or form we aren’t done with Sarge yet. Especially since Izel teases that the reason he has no memories is because he never did. A lot of questions still to answer.

And our fake out ending also wrapped up the threads of Mack and Yoyo's obvious, eventual reconciliation though it still was very sweet. Almost as adorable as Deke and Fitz, or Bobo as he calls him, wanting his grandpa’s approval so badly. Deke was actually kind of endearing here and I’d love to see this dynamic continue on.

With four episodes left we certainly seem primed to run full steam to the finish and I honestly have no clue where things are heading, in the best way! I only hope the final reveal of Izel and Sarge’s true natures are worth the mystique they’ve built up so far.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

BH90210 S01E01: The Reunion

The characters we love to loathe are back ... sorta
by Kim Tibbs-Krober

BH90210 premiered Wednesday night on FOX, and an estimated 3.8 million viewers tuned in to find out what had happened to their favorite spoiled teens from the '90s. However, if you were expecting to catch up with your favorite characters to see what their lives had amounted to within the 20 years since the original show went off the air, you may have been sorely disappointed. I know I was. Yeah, it was good to see everybody again (Brandon Walsh, Kelly Taylor, Donna Martin, David Silver, Steve Sanders, Andrea Zuckerman, and even Brenda Walsh), but why did the show's producers decide to go with the format they chose? Your favorites are back, but they're playing washed-up alter-ego versions of the actors who portrayed the characters. It made the reunion feel bizarre and a tad uncomfortable at times. It was also confusing trying to weave fact from fiction. Why would real-life Jason Priestley and Jennie Garth hook up now in their mid-50s? Did Tori Spelling really lose her virginity to Brian Austin Green back in the day? What was that kiss about for Gabrielle Carteris, was that more of a commentary about her character Andrea or herself?

Maybe the show's producers thought it was a clever twist on the traditional reboot to offer us an Inception-like take on the reboot craze currently sweeping Hollywood. Maybe the show's forerunners thought it would be fun to play themselves this time instead of the angst-filled teens and 20-somethings they were forced to portray for a decade. Maybe they all felt like taking a creative risk to see if the gamble paid off. Whatever the reason, I'm not sure how I felt about the first episode of what promises to be a six-episode roller coaster of mixed feelings and waves of nostalgia. It felt like everybody was playing a gross exaggeration of themselves - the version painted by the paparazzi and the prying eyes of the public for the past 30 years. And it rang hollow in several places - hollower than the souls of this spoiled in-crowd once felt.

Since Luke Perry's stroke and subsequent death in March, I have made it my personal mission to binge-watch all 10 seasons of the original series that aired on FOX from 1990-2000. I remember when the show was on in its heyday and even when it lingered on the airwaves long past the time when anybody thought it was the cutting edge of cool. I graduated from high school in 2000, and I can say from personal experience none of my friends were still faithfully watching the series when it went off the air. It had become somewhat of a joke by then, riddled with too many repetitive storylines of date rape, drug addictions, failed engagements, petty lies, and one-night stands. Throughout the course of the show, I think everyone lived in Casa de Walsh at one point or another except for maybe Donna. And don't get me started on how many times it felt like the Peach Pit and After Dark changed hands. By its final season, Beverly Hills, 90210 had become a pale reminder of what it once had been, but it's also something that's hard to walk away from completely. It's been like this train wreck I couldn't stop binging all summer, as I waited to see how it would all end in anticipation of seeing where it would all go when it came back full circle.

I was actually looking forward to seeing if Janet and Steve were still married and how their daughter turned out. I wanted to know how many times David and Donna got divorced and remarried. I was curious if Kelly ever got back with Brandon and what kind of a blaze of glory Dylan McKay went out in since Luke Perry was no longer alive to reprise his breakout role. I wanted to see a cat fight erupt between Brenda Walsh and Valerie Malone (Tiffani Amber-Thiessen). I wanted to see Ray Pruitt (Jamie Walters) carrying pumpkins and humming 'How Do You Talk to An Angel?' again. And now I just feel cheated out of all of this because the show decided to go in a different direction for its reboot. However, it's still a train wreck of sorts that I can't look away from. God help me, but I'm curious to see where it goes. I'm also hoping it all makes sense and provides a sense of closure by the end.

There were a few stand-out moments during the premiere. I enjoyed watching the actors occasionally poke fun at themselves, such as their failed marriages, bad career moves, and their tendency to be overshadowed by more successful spouses (looking at you, Brian Austin Green, but I still love you). I loved it when Tori Spelling stole her former Donna Martin prom dress in an insane attempt to recapture something that was lost. And the moments in the end where the ensemble grew somber on the airplane felt eerily compelling. I think it was Tori who remarked something like, 'We're not all going to be around forever, but something we created will be.'

I think that sums up the show pretty well. Luke Perry the actor may be gone, but his rebellious heartthrob Dylan McKay still beats strong in the hearts of the generations who watched this show in the 1990s and the generations who haven't yet discovered the Aaron Spelling melodrama. Time marches on for everyone, even your favorite TV characters. Although Ian Ziering never seems to age at all. I swear he will be 80 and still sporting that mischievous Steve Sanders grin I've come to love. Out of the entire 10-year first run, his character is the only one I didn't grow to hate at one point or another. Who knew an egomaniac could be so likable?

Let's face it: Beverly Hills, 90210 was never the show winning all the accolades for its thought-provoking commentary or Shakespearean levels of acting. It's a fluff piece focused around some of the most selfish characters ever created. But they're the selfish characters we love to loathe or loathe to love, I'm still not quite sure. Ask me in another 20 years. Now cue the catchy theme song I'm going to have stuck in my head all week.

What did you think of BH90210? Tell us in the comments section below!

So You Think You Can Dance S16E07: The Academy Pt. 2

Emotions run high as dancers say goodbye and contestants say hello
by Stephen Mosher

Part Two of The Academy aired on July 22nd and it was a really fun, and really emotional, night for the dancers who, by this point, are cashed. In fact, at one point Mandy Moore told the interviewing camera that 'they are mentally at capacity ... and that’s when the best stuff comes out' - clearly the truth because some of the dancers absolutely rose to the occasion.

The first of the remaining 54 dancers to come out on stage were the contemporary boys, Jarrod Tyler Paulson and Luke Romanzi. Both dancers are talented and endearing but the judges chose to release them both and both men took it very well. Jarrod said he would leave with his head held high, while Luke declared he would come back even stronger and harder next year. Good sports, both of them, they are the type who will succeed, either on this show in a future season, or in life. Tyler, being the stand-up dude he is, waited around to see how Madison would do, because she was next onstage.

The contemporary girls were Madison, Juliette and Kaeli. Juliette and Kaeli were dismissed, with Kaeli sharing that she was 'proud of myself'. Madison, when asked how she felt about the performance, said she felt good about it before Mary told her that she was magical and that it was 'difficult for me to see anyone else.' Jarrod was waiting outside for Madison and when he got the news he could not have been more thrilled or more supportive. She states that she will, now, dance for the both of them. I hope Jarrod comes back next year, he really has something.

Down to 43, Mandy Moore and Robert Roldan get the entire gang onstage for a dynamic group routine that will combine all the dances they have done this week, to an entirely new piece of music. I love the way she talks to them - she is firm and demanding, but kind and supportive: 'I’m on your team!' And when she teaches them the dance, she is in it with them, making sure they are challenged and that they all meet the challenge. 45 minutes later, when she is finished with the choreo lesson, the dancers are all dispatched to the lobby and other areas of the theater to get it together, and it is a beautiful thing, watching all these young people help each other. They are all competing for a spot on the show, and they are helping each other. That’s not nothing. There were examples seen that, among these 43, there are 'a bunch of leaders' and those leaders helped to guide the team in, even if Eddie Hoyt does seem to be erring on the side of being dramatic and emotional, when he could just get his head in the game, focus, and do the work instead of complaining, which reminded my husband of a story he was told by a friend who danced on Broadway for many years:

During a grueling rehearsal with the legendary Chita Rivera, the dancers were on a break during which all were sitting around and lamenting the pain, the hard work, the complex choreography. Passing by, Ms. Rivera overheard the conversation and said, 'Are we complaining about dancing now? Is that what we’re doing? … Never complain about getting to dance.' Wise words from the greatest, if you ask me.

Returning to the competition, Nigel tells the camera that this stage of the game 'scares the hell out of them, and it should' and that 'every second counts.'. Well these beautiful young dancers waste no time, indeed, capturing viewers’ attention and the judges’ attention with a spectacular performance of Mandy Moore’s routine. It was truly magnificent. Of particular note to this lover of dance was how Madison was not only front and center, but how you couldn’t get your eyes off her, and it would have been the case had she been in the back. She just has that quality about her, as do Sumi and Bailey. This number was, in fact, so good that Dominic was crying. Had I been watching it live, I probably would have been crying, too.

The dancing done, the judges began another round of eliminations with Sophie being told by Mary that she brought magic that day and by Laurieann to 'stay in it!' Sweet Sydney was cut but was a good sport about it, while Mariah and Melany were told to prepare for their solo rounds. Other dancers staying included Ezra, Stefan, Stephanie, Eddie and Madison. Eliminations sent Desi, Jordyn, Elan, James and Caroline home, and the count was down to 33 as they gear up for the solo rounds. When Desi left Laurieann told her to 'Keep fighting and you’re gonna be fire' and Desi told the camera, 'I’m so proud of myself' -- one hopes she will come back again, she was a refreshing change from so many of the other departing dancers who were so bitter. It’s an unbecoming look.

As far as the solo round goes, I couldn’t breathe while Gino was dancing, there was so much color and light to his performance, while Sumi was all precision and stillness, dancing with every part of herself, even her face, in a most confined space on that huge stage. Dominic was destroyed, face in hands, unable to contain his emotions. Eddie came forth in a baffling costume that weighed him down, especially when one of his shoes came loose, but he kept on going, dancing like the artist he is - but he really needs to get control of his emotions. Bailey was the only remaining dancer to get a lengthy display of his solo because the program faded into quick showings of who got cut and who advanced -- but while Bailey was onstage it was a perfect display of talent, timing, personality and heart. The kid is marked for stardom.

By the end of the episode, some lovely dancers had to take hits and bad news, some handled it with grace and others, not so much. I am sorry for Stefan Yeritsyan to go but maybe he will be back, it would be nice. With these final eliminations, SYTYCD 2019 had its Top Twenty.

Girls: Anna, Sophie, Ashlye, Sofia, Nazz, Madison, Melany, Stephanie, Sumi and Mariah.

Boys: Bailey, Brandon, Benjamin, Ezra, Vlad, Nathan, Aleksander, Gino, Clocks, Eddie.

Now, I’ve been a SYTYCD watcher and fan since season one. I’ve studied the show and I am usually pretty good at predicting who will move forward. You can tell by how much time the camera and interviews give certain contestants that they will be on the live program, you can tell by the lackluster performances of dancers who get lackluster critiques and still end up in the Top 20 that their sole purpose on the show is to be one of the 10 who get cut, and you can tell by sheer grit and talent, who is meant to be on the show. I am going to predict (and I hope I’m right but if I’m not, I’ll own it) that the dancers who make it to the live shows are:

Girls: Anna, Sophie, Madison, Sumi and Mariah

Boys: Bailey, Benjamin, Ezra, Gino and Eddie.

And I can already tell you that Benjamin and Gino have captured, completely, my heart, but that the winner of the show should/will be either Madison or Bailey - probably Madison.

Let’s see how I did by coming back next week to see some real dancing!

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

So You Think You Can Dance S16E06: The Academy Pt. 1

Beauty and brilliance rise as the dancers bring their A-Game
by Stephen Mosher

We’ve seen five episodes of SYTYCD 2019 and this week the sixth brought the dancers and us to The Academy. In this first episode focusing on the toughest week of the competitors’ lives we see them begin the process of being broken. That’s what The Academy (previously Las Vegas) has always been about: weeding out the weakest of the pack. In three days and with four rounds, elite choreographers come in and work these kids within an inch of their lives and the panel judges them mercilessly (except when they don’t because one of their favorites did poorly and could be cut - in these cases they selfishly look the other way, cutting other dancers who actually brought their A Game) in a Lord of the Flies manner to achieve the survival of the fittest. 79 dancers have made it to The Academy. 20 will move on to the live shows. 10 will enter the competition. It’s crunch time. As the evening of sweat, sorrow and satisfaction begins, the viewers see Laurieann say, 'Make the choice to believe in yourself!

The hardest choice ever.

First up is the Hip Hop round and their choreographer will be Luther Brown, who declares he needs precision, energy and star quality. Brown is an old school choreographer who demands you keep up and keep quiet, so he jumps right in with complicated and 'hard hitting' moves, and the dancers either follow along or get lost, with Brown stopping only long enough to reprimand those dancers who are talking, like a school teacher or gunnery sergeant. It was actually beautiful to watch and I applauded the scolding. After only 90 minutes of learning the choreography (which my husband laughed at and said, 'NINETY MINUTES!  That’s a DAY!  Come to Broadway where a dance call moves a lot faster!' which made me laugh), the dancers are sent onstage in groups, where they take their destinies into their own hands.

The first dancers to hit the stage were the three female hip hop dancers, Dezi Saenz, Sumi Oshima and Anna Linstruth, who did such a bad job that Nigel commanded that they dance again. Anna was particularly lost in the choreography and Laurieann told them to 'dance like big girls!' which must have worked because the second time around they were better and all three were put into the next round.

Following the women are three hip hop dancers: one popper and two B-Boys. Michael Sales and Samuel Sweetser fared the worst, with Samuel simply stepping out of the routine when he forgot it.  Mary was yelling at him to 'stay in it!', Dominic urged him 'keep going' and he tried but the simple truth is he just gave up and during the critique Nigel told him, 'Never, never, never give up,' before the panel cut him and Sales, leaving only Brandon Ron in the competition.

When the judges cut Victoria Neukom and Lauren Luteran, they showed resilience and a determination to get better and come back next year, while Shamus Moriarty whined and pouted and said that the judges made a mistake which, clearly, they did not.

Sophie Pittman, Jay Jackson and Benjamin Castro are lucky with the judges, garnering compliments and advancement in the game, while other dancers earn nothing but vitriol from Nigel, who is so mean to them that Laurieann says to him, 'Slice and dice, why don’t you!'

The next segment features Howard Johnson (who needs to add a middle initial to his name and get away from comparisons to the hotel chain) and the adorable Edwards twins, Colton and Trent. Trent had a TERRIBLE showing at this stage of the game, unable to keep up with the other two boys, and constantly looking back at Colton to follow his moves. At the end of the round the judges advanced Howard and Colton but asked Trent to dance for his life, but he was not able to bring the magic that he exhibited during his initial audition. One of the judges blurted out 'What was THAT?' after a particularly sloppy move and, finally, Mary had had it and simply cut the music and the audition, at which point he was cut, and Laurieann murmered, 'Welcome to the real world.' It was sad to see the two best friends separated and Trent put up a stiff upper lip but it was clear he was crestfallen.

On Day Two, as the choreography round changes focus to Ballroom, there are 69 remaining dancers who are excited to see married dancing sensations Emma Slater and Sasha Farber walk onstage to teach them (the uber demanding) Cha Cha. Watching Emma and Sasha teach is a true joy - they lead through positive feedback, which a lot of choreographers eschew in favor of bootcamp training. The ninety minute intensive they put the dancers through is exciting to watch and the Dancing With the Stars alums wish everyone well as the competition resumes with three couples, ready to Cha Cha Cha their way onto the live shows.

Gino Cosculluela is paired with Ashley Sanchez and they are simply glorious to watch. Dezi Saenz dances with Darrell Allen and they hit some bumps in the road, especially Dezi. Sofia Ghavami teams up with Benjamin Castro and it is just magical. The judges confer and it is obvious Dezi is worried but Mary declares they are all amazing and going through to the next round.

Up on stage next are Maia Bliudniks and Frank 'Ghost' Crisp Jr, Lukas Bartunek with Mariah Russell, and Eddie Hoyt alongside Anna Linstruth. All in all, they aren’t very good, except for Mariah and Lukas who are just gorgeous and sexy and everything else. Ghost coasts through on massive amounts of personality and Eddie gets by with likability. When it comes time for the cuts, they release Maia, telling her she just isn’t ready, pass everyone else through, except for Eddie, whom they make fight for it. And he does. Eddie sticks up for himself and pretty much demands that they advance him. So they do!

In quick glimpses we see the judges cut Jalen Sands but she says she is holding it together and it’s pretty obvious she will be back next year, and they release Colton Edwards, who takes it on the chin and declares he will work harder and be back next year. This is the kind of spirit that belongs on SYTYCD, the kind that, frequently, rises to the top.  A tearful Bridget Derville-Teer departs under a cloud of defeatist self-pity. That never rises to the top.

The final round of Ballroom dancing featured Gianna Newborg and John John Tarrayo, Gabe Flowers and Sarah 'Smac' McCreanor, and Stefen Yeritsyan and Madison Jordan, whose boyfriend, Jarrod Tyler Paulson, was seen being advanced in a montage earlier in the show. John John wows the judges, while Gianna looks lost, Smac poses more than she dances but Gabe offers her attentive support, and Stefen and Madison are the clear standouts. A beaming Jarrod watches from the wings. When it is finished, Mary cuts Gianna who, smiling through tears, says it was the best experience she’s ever had. Fifty bucks says she comes back. John John, Stefen, Gabe and Madison all get put through to the Contemporary round but the judges are really unsure about Smac, so they ask her to dance for her life. After a slightly heated discussion it is decided that her talent does not come up to the level of her personality and she is sent home. She takes it well, which might be an indication that she knows she needs more training. One hopes she gets that training and gets herself onto the show next season.

54 dancers remain and the incomparable Talia Favia is kicking their asses for the Contemporary round. I LOVE the way she communicates with these dancers! She is an incredible teacher and choreographer who gets down on the floor and does the dance with them. She is freaking amazing.

First group! Samuel Nelson, Benjamin Castro and Jay Jackson. Samuel and Nelson are clearly extremely well trained dancers, while Jay is remembered for appearing last season in drag. But this season he showed that he has worked like mad during the last year. It was a wonderful run for Jay. Castro fared especially well with this piece, leading Dominic to tell him that he saw 'an authenticity in emotion and connection to this music.' When asked what he was feeling he said, 'It was a mixed feeling of being inspired, to surrender to the music,' and the judges sent him on to the next round. Samuel will join him, but Jay will not. The judges paid him much compliment and ask him to come back, but Jay informs that he is 30 and cannot return. 'This has been a dream come true ... It may not be what you’re looking for and that’s okay, because it’s what I was looking for the whole time, and that’s belief in myself.' In his departure interview Jackson said he loved his experience and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Bailey Munoz and John John are roommates and Filipino brothers and deliver what could well be the most astonishing performance of the evening, drawing out cheers, applause, physical and emotional reactions, and a standing ovation from the judges. Bailey in tears, he talks about being not just a B-Boy ... I’m a dancer.' The two besties are overcome with emotion when Dominic tells them, 'Every B-Boy that’s been on this show would be proud.'  Duh, natch they are both moving forward.

It was the perfect ending to the first day of The Academy. As Mary put it, 'I can’t wait to see what they do …' and neither can I. I’ve been with this show since the first season and I always have certain ideas about who will be chosen for the live shows. Last season I picked Slavik out of the back of a group before the show started paying real attention to him. I have some private notions on who will win one of the coveted 20 spots that will be narrowed down to 10 …

But for now I’ll keep those a secret. But if anyone wants to let me know who they are thinking will move forward, I am longing to know.

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, July 15, 2019

So You Think You Can Dance S16E05: Judges Auditions #5

It’s not the heat it’s the humanity
by Stephen Mosher

If Episode 4 of SYTYCD was about meeting interesting characters, Episode 5 is about that box of Kleenex you’re going to need!  Have Mercy, with the heartstrings and the tears. But the truth is that I loved every minute of it.

Andrew Avila (25) and Melany Mercedes (24), salsa. This twosome from the Bronx returned after last season, clearly having noted and listened to the critiques they were given! The judges were super excited by them and their street brand of Latin ballroom, loaded with sharp hits and fluid hips - so excited they ovated them after their number to ‘Sal A Bailar’.  The height difference between the two is so pronounced that Andrew barely had to exert himself to do a high kick over Melany’s head! Mary called their style authentic, and when it was remarked upon that they took the old critiques well, Andrew laughed and said, 'I smiled my ass off!' It will be a real pleasure to see what the duo brings to The Academy.

Dancer number two was Michael Sales, hip hop. Michael, 25, hails from Matawan, New Jersey and spends a few minutes sharing that he was bullied as a youth, wishing to be an athlete but unable to because people ostracized the young Filipino - so he found a Breaking Club in his school and it lead him to a life where he was named one of the Top 100 Best B-Boys of 2017. The personality-laden dancer delivered a dance to ‘Perm’ that lead Laurieann to thank him for 'paying honor to the groove', Nigel to use the word 'stunning' and Dominic to tell his fan 'I am inspired by YOU.'  After comments like that, it was a given he would be at The Academy.

Mariah Russell, contemporary, is a completely irresistible 19-year-old from Nashville who shared with everyone that her father has been in jail since she was 6 or 7 and that her Mother did all she could to provide for the family, including dance lessons. This young dancer is petite, but not when she is in motion - then she becomes a Titan, performing breathtaking feats of strong athleticism and lyrical fluidity, never once forgetting that the face is a part of the dance. Mariah gives good face. This was a true story she told us, leaving Laurieann in tears: 'I see myself in you … Don’t worry about what other people think … You got to fight,' and then she offers her would-be protege some great advice: 'You’ve got one dance … get there quicker.'  Nigel expressed, 'When the choreography hits the impact of the music it just exhilarates us.'  Mariah walked on the stage a girl and left a woman with a golden ticket to The Academy.

A montage showed contemporary dancers Shamus Moriarty(18), Olivia  Alboher (18), and Luke Phillips (19) delivering what appear to be dances good enough to send them to The Academy.

Phoebe Kochis, jazz. The adorable 19-year-old from Denver was born with Down Syndrome, and her Mother was told the girl would never do anything they expected. At an early age, though, the child showed a proficiency for dance and the parents enrolled her in class. Now it is her time to 'reach for the stars' and try for that which has been her dream since she was six. The winner of the Colorado Miss Amazing Pageant (for young women with disabilities) told Laurieann, 'I am overcoming to be a star on So You Think You Can Dance!' and, with that, won everyone’s hearts. Her number to ‘Tore My Heart’ showcased her limber abilities and her limitations, but the judges loved her. 'You’re my hero,' said Laurieann, while Mary told her, 'You’re a ham out there!' Dominic lovingly flirted with the Sass Master, and the wonderful, gorgeous, loving, gentle Nigel told her honestly that she would not be right for the competition but that he would love for her to be his guest at The Academy. There was no dry eye anywhere as the elated young woman left the stage with her Golden Ticket.

James Cody, hip hop. The 26-year-old Grand Prairie native has tried out for the show in Seasons 10, 11, and 12, making it to Vegas in season 12. He confesses that he has a diagnosis of Type 2 Bi-Polar, an illness that troubled his father, who took his life at the exact age James is now. 'Dance is absolutely something that helps -- it’s a mood stabilizer, a natural one.' His hip hop/robotics number to ‘Take/Give’ reminded me of the great clowns of the silver screen, and my husband called him a 20th Century Scarecrow from Oz. Mary 'Loved every second of it,' Nigel said, 'You annoy me because you are brilliant at what you do ... I don’t believe you have done your homework.'  Ever the poetess, Laurieanne offered, 'Your future self deserves for you to humble yourself and strategize for a bigger win' and though it was touch and go for a moment, they put him through to The Academy. Like they ever weren’t. The young man impressed by telling the offstage camera, 'I am going to work TO NIGHT.' Git ‘er done.

Maia Bliudnika, contemporary. From the moment her performance to ‘Rain Dance Marian Hill Remix’ started, it was clear that this 19-year-old from Leominster, Mass. is a diva. It’s immediate. You can see it. The precision leaves you awestruck, indeed Laurieann was slack-jawed with awe. Nigel: 'It never stopped being entertaining.' Dominic: 'Absolutely loved it.' Laurieanne: 'The lines went on forever' and Mary: '..played everything right … one of the most perfect auditions of the season.' They did not lie. She was a revelation - one headed to The Academy.

Last season we all met Eddie Hoyt, a tap dancer from Boscawen, NH.  Now 19 and living in Utah, teaching dance at a prestigious dance school, Eddie shares how much his life was changed when, last season, he came out on television. There were growing pains for him and his parents, but all is good now, evidenced by teary-eyed mom and dad sitting in the audience. Eddie shared his story with the audience through words and then did it again with a completely magnetic tap dance that left the entire panel of judges at a loss.Tears streaming down her face, Mary commended Eddie because he 'put so much into it' before declaring, 'I don’t think I’ve ever cried over a dap routine!' Laurieanne told the virtuoso performer that 'greatness needs no explanation', and it was clear he was going to The Academy. That is when the daring kid without boundaries shared the most amazing secret of all: the routine he had just done to ‘If You Want Love’ was not choreography - it was him freestyling. Laurieann threw her hands up and Dominic said: 'You’re gonna make me cry again, man!' And with Mary saying, 'It’s always been a yes for me,', he had his Golden Ticket to The Academy.

And that is it for the auditions. All the beautiful people who left it on the floor are on their way to The Academy, otherwise known as Hell Week. And, kids, we are all ready for it, when it happens Monday, July 15 at 9 PM.

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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