REVIEW: DOLLFACE – SEASON 1

 

Kat Dennings in Dollface (2019)

Starring

Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
Brenda Song (New Girl)
Shay Mitchell (You)
Esther Povitsky (Alone Together)

Brenda Song and Kat Dennings in Dollface (2019)

Recurring/ Notable Guest Cast

Shelley Hennig (Ouija)
Beth Grant (Speed 2)
Danielle Pinnock (Young Sheldon)
Connor Hines (Angie Tribeca)
Goran Visnjic (Beginners)
Macaulay Culkin.(Saved)
Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds)
Dave Coulier (Full House)
Malin Akerman (Watchmen)
Joey Lawrence (Melissa & Joey)
Tia Carrere (True Lies)
Brianne Howey (Batwoman
Ben Lawson (13 Reasons Why)
Camilla Belle (When A Stranger Calls)
Vella Lovell (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power)
Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)

Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell in Dollface (2019)

Some shows you just have to give yourself over to. You just can’t fight what it’s trying to do. Hulu’s new series Dollface asks for your cooperation almost immediately. After being summarily dumped by her boyfriend Jeremy (Connor Hines), a devastated Jules (Kat Dennings) boards a bus driven by a literal cat lady (Beth Grant). The bus is filled with other brokenhearted women and makes stops in places like “Rebound Town.”Kat Dennings in Dollface (2019)From the start, you have to decide whether you’re going to be in or out on the comedy’s frequent flights of fancy. In the third episode, Jules (a homebody), gets pulled into a game of “Should She Go Out,” hosted by the cat lady (naturally) where behind one door is the “baby shower of the former co-worker’s second kid.” That joke speaks to my very core because I’ve been there, and if you are a woman in these pivotal years, you’ve probably been there too. I easily decided to go all-in on the series, because Dollface—created by 26-year-old Jordan Weiss—does a fantastic job of balancing the show’s fever-dream segments with real human pathos.Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell in Dollface (2019)We learn that Jules and Jeremy were together for five years, and during that time Jules (who Jeremy called “Dollface”) made the mistake of letting her female friendships slip away. “Your personal relationships have all expired,” she’s told at the bus’s final stop. That means her two former best friends Stella (Shay Mitchell) and Madison (Brenda Song) are very resentful about being ignored. It also means she has no friends at work, and when she tries to have lunch with a group of Allisons, their lunch table keeps moving farther and farther away from her.Kat Dennings in Dollface (2019)The series plays out like Sex and the City for the millennial generation, but with less sex and more emphasis on friendships. There’s Izzy (Esther Povitsky) who is so desperate for friends that she morphs into whatever she thinks people want her to be. To play my Sex and the City analogy out, she’s the Charlotte of the group. Madison, the high achieving publicist whose current task is to launch a cookbook called “The Vegan Monologues,” is clearly the Miranda. Stella who has tales of sexual escapades and knows random celebrities (including both Uncle Joey and Joey Lawrence) is the Samantha, leaving Jules as the more grounded Carrie.Brenda Song, Kat Dennings, and Shay Mitchell in Dollface (2019)Dollface is full of pop culture references. Jules and Jeremy share cats named “Johnny Drama” and “Turtle.” Stella wants to hit the new bar owned by Armie Hammer and Niall from One Direction. Izzy orders a whiskey neat, which she declares to taste like “Don Draper and gasoline.” And Malin Ackerman is a hoot as the CEO of Womb, the company where Jules works—she wants Jules to be able to do things like upload the scent of a new spray into the computer. The guest stars are also fun. Goran Visnjic shows up in the fifth episode as the older man Madison is dating. She wants to impress him by inviting him to a dinner party with her friends, where acceptable topics for conversation range from the absence of the middle class to the TV show Frasier. Macaulay Culkin guests in the sixth episode as a man Stella met on a ski trip who she thinks is great, but Madison thinks may be a psychopath.Kat Dennings in Dollface (2019)Ultimately, the series really works because of the strong performances. Mitchell, who is perhaps best known for her seven seasons on Pretty Little Liars, brings a real sense of sadness to Stella’s perpetual party style. “There’s a version of settled-down me I’m interested in meeting,” she tells Jules. Song, who began her career on the Disney Channel, goes beyond the stereotype of a high-achiever. None of these actresses let their characters become a cliché. Anyone who has watched Kat Dennings (who, by the way, guested in Sex and the City as a spoiled 13-year-old planning her bat mitzvah) knows she deserves a TV hit. Her talents far exceeded the six seasons she spent on 2 Broke Girls. Dollface leans into Dennings’ innate charms. She’s a great everywoman trying to navigate the tricky landscape of female friendships in your twenties. She wants to rekindle those friendships, she just doesn’t know how. This is the journey that Dollface wants to take you on, so long as you are willing to give yourself over to it. And you should—bus-driving cat lady and all.

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: OUIJA

CAST

Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel)
Ana Coto (Disconnected)
Daren Kagasoff (Delirium)
Bianca A. Santos (The Duff)
Douglas Smith (Big love)
Shelley Hennig (The Secret Circle)
Lin Shaye (Insidious)
Matthew Settle (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer)

Ouija is a 2014 American supernatural horror-thriller film directed by Stiles White and co-written by White and Juliet Snowden. The film stars Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith and Bianca A. Santos.

The film opens with a young Laine Morris and Debbie Galardi playing with a Ouija board in Laine’s room, only to be interrupted by Laine’s sister Sarah. The scene then forwards to present day, where Debbie (Shelley Hennig) is playing with the board by herself and is so unnerved by what she experiences that she tries to burn the board and planchette before calling Laine (Olivia Cooke). Concerned, Laine comes over but is sent away by Debbie, who goes upstairs only to find the board on her bed. Her eyes turn white and she hangs herself. The following day, Laine is with her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) at a diner, where they meet up with their friend Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos).

Laine receives a text and goes home, learning of Debbie’s death. After the funeral, Laine finds Debbie’s Ouija board and decides to gather Sarah, Trevor, Isabelle, and Debbie’s boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith) to hold a seance. They make contact with someone who is identified as D, who Laine immediately believes is Debbie. Despite this, the group is too frightened to continue playing. A couple nights later, they’re drawn back to the board after each person finds the message “hi friend” in various locations. Upon further interaction with the board, the group discovers that the spirit is not Debbie. Laine looks through the planchette and sees a young girl with her mouth stitched closed, who then warns the group to run from her mother. The group heads home, only for a malicious spirit to follow Isabelle and murder her.

Trevor and Laine research Debbie’s house and find that a young girl was placed in a mental institution after killing her mother, who she claims killed her sister, Doris. The two travel to the institution and meet Paulina Zander, who states that their mother killed Doris and sewed her mouth shut because she believed that spirits were trying to communicate through her. Trevor and Laine head home and unleash the spirits of Doris and Mrs. Zander. Doris overcomes her mother and the group believes that everything has been resolved. Unfortunately, this is not true as Pete is later killed by Doris.

Laine confronts Paulina about this, only to realize that Doris and Paulina were the evil ones and that Mrs. Zander was trying to stop them. Laine’s grandmother tells them that the only way to stop the ghost is to burn Doris’s body and the Ouija board. Trevor is also killed before Sarah manages to locate the corpse. Both Sarah and Laine are attacked by Doris and it is only through the intervention of Debbie’s spirit that the girls survive and manage to burn Doris’s corpse and the Ouija board, destroying Doris. The two sisters return home, only for Laine to find the planchette waiting for her in her room.

Ouija is a great horror, but went so underrated by many horror fans.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE SECRET CIRCLE – MASKED

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CAST

Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Phoebe Tonkin (The Originals)
Shelley Hennig (Unfriended)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (50/50)
Gale Harold (Fertile Ground)
Ashley Crow (Heroes)
Chris Zylka (The Amazing Spider-Man
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GUEST CAST

Adam Harrington (Dexter)
Tom Butler (Blade: THe Series)
Zachary Abel (Night Club)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
JR Bourne (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Harmon (Caprica)

Image result for THE SECRET CIRCLE maskedAs Grandma Jane plans to head up to Henry’s cabin for the weekend, Faye convinces Cassie to throw a big Halloween party for the Circle. The pair rummage through an antiques store looking for decoration ideas, but odd things happen when Cassie pays the owner of the store. Jane confirms that Calvin is a witch, and she says there were more magical families in Chance Harbor before the fire. Meanwhile, Melissa is still mourning at Nick’s grave, and she and Jake exchange heated words.
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Back at the house, Cassie discovers a piece of the dagger that Simone used to try to kill her. She wonders if Calvin will know anything about the strange symbols on the blade, so she plans on going back to the shop. Jake magically sabotages her car and then pays a visit to Calvin himself. He warns the shopkeeper off from telling Cassie the truth and then concocts a potion which will permanently kill a witch. All he needs to do is set the potion alight, and Calvin will be dead. Once Cassie gets to the shop, Calvin doesn’t tell her a thing. Cassie spots another weapon in the shop with similar markings so she takes a pic of it.
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Later she, Adam, and Faye research the symbols online, and discover that they belong to an organization of witch-hunters. Jake is seen making the same killing potion for everyone in the Circle. He will have some help kidnapping the witches at the party. One of his fellow hunter is Luke.
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Jake and Cassie talk, and Cassie expresses her concern about the witch-hunter symbols she saw on the blade. Jake shows more knowledge of those symbols than he should. Cassie grows a bit suspicious of him. Meanwhile, Adam and Diana are still pining for each other, and Adam is angry at his dad for encouraging the break-up. Ethan shrugs it off, saying you can’t fight destiny.  At the party, Faye and Jake flirt, but members of the Circle are being picked off one by one. Melissa is taken away first. Cassie slips away from the party for a moment to head next door to rummage through Jake’s family’s house. She finds a witch-hunter knife in Jake’s things. Jake arrives and says that the knife was Nick’s. Calvin and Ethan talk about Cassie’s father, and whether she should know the whole truth about her dad. Calvin has a change of heart and contacts Cassie to warn her about the witch hunt and about Cassie’s special abilities. Before he can say too much, however, Jake sets fire to Calvin’s potion and kills him.
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At the party, Adam is still trying to get Diana back but she’s still refusing to say yes. Diana goes off alone and is taken by the witch-hunters. Cassie is finally taken, by Luke. The Circle are all gathered together, and Jake arrives to tell the other hunters that Cassie’s powers are special and she won’t be killed by normal means. The hunters ignore his warning, which is a big mistake, as Cassie sets Luke on fire. Jake cuts his arm open and pretends that he was one of the hunted as well. Jake tries to distract Cassie from the night’s events by visiting her. However, Cassie sees that someone has mailed a scroll to her. Calvin’s last act was to help Cassie. Meanwhile, Jane arrives at Henry’s cabin, and finds him dead. She searches his home for his crystal in the hopes of reviving him, but then someone knocks her unconscious – it’s Charles, who stole the Crystal.Image result for THE SECRET CIRCLE masked

Overall, The Secret Circle comes off as a fun teen-angst program that successfully utilizes its inherent appeal to the core demographic, without alienating anyone else that might be casually tuning in. It was a huge hit but then the CW decided to cancel it, and didn’t even release a DVD of it.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: UNFRIENDED

CAST

Shelley Hennig (Ouija)
Heather Sossaman (Days of Our Lives)
Matthew Bohrer (Goliath)
Courtney Halverson (Red Clover)
Moses Storm (Correcting Christmas)
Will Peltz (In Time)
Renee Olstead (13 Going on 30)
Jacob Wysocki (Pitch Perfect)

Courtney Halverson, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, and Moses Storm in Unfriended (2014)It turns out Unfriended uses a rather unconventional format, which is something I’m always open to: the entire movie is presented as a continuous real-time view of character Blaire Lily’s (Shelley Hennig) computer screen- not once does the movie ever away or even zoom in on anything. Blaire lives in Fresno, CA where a year ago fellow high school student Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) committed suicide after being humiliated by a video posted to YouTube (the movie wisely uses all real websites and services rather than any fictional ones) showing her passed out drunk at a party.

Her actual suicide at school also just happened to be caught on camera and uploaded on LiveLeak, which Laura looks at as the movie starts. She’s soon interrupted by a call on Skype from her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm), and the two flirt with each other until the call is suddenly joined in on by their friends Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki)- although neither of the two had done the proper clicking to bring them onboard. Even stranger is that there’s an additional silent participant in the conversation, shown only as Skype’s default avatar. None of the others can boot them out of the call, but the mysterious user soon identifies themselves (through typing) as- the deceased Laura Barns! Blaire starts getting private messages from her Facebook profile, eventually saying “I want your help”. (The movie’s title comes from Blaire “unfriending” her on Facebook, hoping that will stop the messages.) Of course the friends all think it’s really one of them playing a joke, but Mitch soon sends Blaire a link to one of the movie’s few fictional websites, which has accounts of others being messaged online by the dead and the bad things that had happened when they responded.

Blaire still thinks another of their friends is behind this, the rather stuck-up Val (Courtney Halverson) and rings her into the conversation. From here on the mysterious guest torments them increasingly, posting incriminating pictures and videos (of such shenanigans as cheating on one another) online under various names. This gets everyone agitated and some threaten to simply go off-line (the logical solution) but they’re messaged “If you hang up, all your friends will die.” The situation intensifies further when one by one, participants in the conversation mysteriously begin to disappear, with their video feeds glitching just as odd things begin to happen to them.

The entire movie runs just 82 minutes so it doesn’t  out stay its welcome before it ends. One’s enjoyment of Unfriended will still depend on the willingness to accept the computer screen as the narrative, as well as the characters themselves.  While not everyone will consider constantly staring at a computer screen compelling enough to warrant a movie it works well enough if you’re willing to go with it. Again I was impressed that most of the websites and such were real and not fictional, and there are plenty of details to go back and freeze-frame on and read if you’re the type who likes to examine details in movies.

REVIEW: THE SECRET CIRCLE

 

CAST

Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Phoebe Tonkin (The originals)
Shelley Hennig (Ouija)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (Smallville)
Louis Hunter (Out of The Blue)
Chris Zylka (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Ashley Crow (Heroes)
Natasha Henstridge (Species)
Gale Harold (Fertile Ground)

The Secret Circle (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Emily Holmes (Dark Angel)
Adam Harrington (Stargate SG.1)
Logan Browning (Powers)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Zachary Abel (My Alibi)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
JR Bourne (Arrow)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Joe Lando (Star Trek IV)
Luisa d’Oliveira (The 100)
Richard Harmon (Bates Motel)
Alexia Fast (Manhattan)
Chad Rook (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Andrea Brooks (Supergirl)
Elise Gatien (Smallville)

The Secret Circle (2011)

Following the death of her mother, Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) moves to Chance Harbor, Washington, to live with her grandmother. Her attempts to adjust to the new town are crushed when five of her classmates, Adam Conant (Thomas Dekker), Diana Meade (Shelley Hennig), Faye Chamberlain (Phoebe Tonkin), Melissa Glaser (Jessica Parker Kennedy), and Nick Armstrong (Louis Hunter), reveal to Cassie that she comes from a long line of witches and is the final member of their coven; with her they are able to unlock the full extent of their powers. Initially Cassie refuses to believe that she is a witch, even after Adam helps her to unlock her powers. It is only after she discovers an old leather-bound book of spells left to her by her late mother, Amelia, that Cassie begins to accept her power. Inside the book is a message to Cassie explaining that she kept their real family history and her powers a secret in order to keep her safe; as the circle soon finds out, their powers attract dark and dangerous forces that constantly puts them in harm’s way.Unfortunately for the would-be coven, Cassie’s presence may have come too late. The group’s bond is already breaking due to a conflict between the well-intentioned Diana and wild-child-in-the-making Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), who, after setting Cassie’s car on fire and summoning up a massive storm.The Secret Circle (2011)And, as always, teenage hormones add to the overall confusion as Diana’s boyfriend Adam (Thomas Dekker) takes a shine to Cassie – making an ill-advised pass at her while in the midst of making some water droplets float in air. However, all of this is small potatoes as the The Secret Circle’s real big bads are revealed to be many of the teen witches’ parents – headed up by Diana’s father Charles (Gale Harold) and Faye’s mother/high school principal Dawn Chamberlain (Natasha Henstridge).Britt Robertson and Shelley Hennig in The Secret Circle (2011)Overall, The Secret Circle comes off as a fun teen-angst program that successfully utilizes its inherent appeal to the core demographic, without alienating anyone else that might be casually tuning in. It was a huge hit but then the CW decided to cancel it, and didn’t even release a DVD of it.